In recent weeks I’ve felt my old nemesis stress creep up on me. This was, in part, why I took the decision to have a week’s ‘staycation’ last week. And, as I sit here on the eve of returning to work, I have to say it’s done wonders. Not only have I achieved lots of my writing goals – the other reason for my taking some time off – I have also created some much-needed thinking and breathing space. It’s frightening how hemmed in you can feel by life if you don’t do that from time to time, and as someone whose standard response is to run away when the going gets tough – usually by going off travelling every three years or so, when the daily commute gets so much I feel murderous – I’ve been delighted to realise that the mental peace and clarity I’ve been searching for aren’t always that far afield.
I’m writing this post because I want to hang on to this feeling of positivity, and to be able to refer back to it when I inevitably have moments of sinking back below the mire. I’ve also just been leafing through a little book called ‘Carpe Diem-Make the Most of Life,’ which was lent to me by a good friend and which is full of uplifting and inspiring quotes. Despite being a pessimist by nature, in moments like this I realise how wonderful life is, and what a monumental waste of time it is to be negative. As the page in the photo rightly says, ‘You are the hero of your own story.’ And nobody likes a negative hero, right?
I don’t know about you, but I often feel life moves too fast, and that I don’t have time to do the things I want to do (at least not as well as I want to do them). It’s easy to let such thoughts paralyse us, to get caught in the mangle that is the daily grind and lose sight of our dreams and ambitions, but in doing that we are failing ourselves in the worst possible way. Because, contrary to what some of us seem to believe, we won’t be around forever. Far from it, we are on this earth for but a fleeting moment.
A wise Jewish man called Hillel the Elder once said: “If I am not for myself, who will be? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when? Say not ‘When I have free time I shall study’; for you may perhaps never have any free time.”
Despite being centuries old his message is crystal clear: None of us have the luxury of forever. If we want something we must make it happen, not in the future but RIGHT NOW. Only then will we be able to look back on our lives when the end comes and say, with joyful hearts and voices: “I have no regrets.”
Today I have been mostly planning holidays. Well, one holiday to be specific, which has been booked on a carpe diem whim and is now shaping up to be something rather special. The catalyst for this trip was, as regular readers of this blog will know, the tragic passing away of a very special person who recently came into our lives. Now, in memory of his adventurous spirit, we are intending to have our very own adventure.
Starting in Hong Kong to celebrate the arrival of 2014, we’ll then fly to the Philippines where I’ll hopefully begin to tick off two items from my newly created bucket list; swimming with whale sharks and diving with sharks. We’re also going to do some trekking through rice terraces, visit a village that suspends its dead in coffins from the side of a cliff and, if time allows, also go to some bat caves and take a zip wire down from the highest bridge in the Philippines (a particularly tough challenge for me due to my fear of heights, but hell, why not. After all, you only live once).
I really couldn’t be more excited. It’s an opportunity to break away from the normal routine and recapture the essence of travelling that I miss so much in my everyday life. It will also no doubt give me a huge amount of inspiration for my writing – something that I’ve felt, much to my immense frustration, has been lacking in recent weeks. It may take a very (very) long time to pay this holiday off but I know it will be worth every penny. Life is for living and it is trips like this that make it feel so much more exhilarating.
Today I am taking the Eurostar to Brussels to meet my boyfriend. From there we will travel to Bruges, where we will spend two days and nights drinking Belgian beer, eating Belgian food (chocolate and mussels anyone?) and generally enjoying one another’s company, in recognition of the fact we have now ‘officially’ been an item for two years (unofficially about six months longer than that but, like most females of the species, I like to have a specific date on which to celebrate anniversaries). In light of our friend’s recent passing this weekend will be particularly poignant, and I’m determined not to let any of my numerous neuroses and worries creep into this special time we’ve set aside. Similarly, despite his current heavy workload, my boyfriend is planning to leave his work at the train door (he’s already half way there, having left his work mobile on the Eurostar yesterday – oops).
I’ve never been very good at living ‘in the now,’ but if ever there was a reason to do just that it’s Paul’s tragic death two weeks ago. I know I’ve mentioned it a lot on this blog, and I apologise for being repetitive, but it’s profoundly affected my outlook on life and strengthened my resolve not only never to take the people I love for granted, but also to grasp every opportunity that comes my way. This has been a shocking reminder of how short a time we walk this earth, and how quickly life can be snatched away from us, whether we’re ready or not. From this day forward I will do my best to incorporate Paul’s adventurous spirit into my own life choices, as a reminder to seize the day and squeeze every joyful moment out of life that I can.