Valentine’s Day Prayer

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“We pray today for those in love, those off love, those in between. And for those who are lonelier today than other days.
We pray today for those whose frozen hearts cannot love & those who feel so unlovely that they can’t love themselves.
We pray for the elderly man gazing today at a black and white photograph in a silver frame of a wedding in another time.
We pray for the the mum, who quietly bought herself flowers yesterday. And the boy who dared to send a card but didn’t get one back.
King of love come comfort and forgive us this cheap, gaudy, desperate, isolating thing we have made of you. Amen.”
Pete Greig – Valentine’s Prayer

One of our pastors shared this on Facebook. It’s awesome.

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Seek Out Laughter as You Age

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cat-shaming-pics-will-have-you-rolling-in-laughter-1I don’t laugh as much as I used to. We laugh and smile much less as we get older, studies reveal.

One reason  (for me) is that spending a LOT of time with the very elderly, such as my mum, is not always conducive to joy. Perhaps that’s why people love kids – they laugh such a lot and make us laugh. (I find pets do this for me.)

With this in mind I have made a conscious decision to seek out things that make me laugh every day whether that’s films, YouTube clips, radio programmes, memories. It’s gotta be worth a shot!

Letter to My Illness

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ax1h5dLast night of I wrote a letter to my illness.  It was full of expletives.

Among my sentiments were the words: “You are not here to teach me a lesson or humility.  You are not my friend.  You are a ridiculous ragbag of pathetic symptoms.  Go **** yourself, you miserable, mitochondria-disrupting loser.  You think you have won.  But the person I was before you stuck your poxy neb [nose] in is still within me.”

I continued: “Yes, that child who could run like the wind, the one who could dance all night, the girl who could run from the nightclub in the dark to her home in minutes, the one who called walk miles and miles, up mountains, across moors, around London.  How dare you disrupt all of that!  You robbed me of my life with of my husband, of children, of experiences, of opportunity, of peace.”

Sometimes I just don’t know what God is playing at!

(There was more but this gives you a flavour. I found the writing therapeutic.)

I then listened to the hate-filled but cathartic ‘Sorry’ by nu-Guns n Roses on my headphones and scribbled down some pertinent lyrics. The whole song suited my mood and situation but here are the first lines:

“You like to hurt me
You know that you do
You like to think
In some way
That it’s me
And not you”

 

 

Midsomer Murders and the ITV3 Generation

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eeb0e564c51ba8370576f5761e2081efI confess: I have a soft spot for ITV3, the ‘resting’ place of the elderly viewer. I love Endeavour, Foyle’s War, Inspector Morse and Lewis. Big fan of PD James’ and Ruth Rendell’s work in print and on screen. Not a fan of Midsomer Murders.

Living (temporarily) with an octogenarian makes me think a lot about the elderly. Not all old people fit into a stereotype, of course. Many are offbeat, fiery, questioning, and open-minded. But the Brexit vote has also made me think about other older people, especially the Daily Express reading contingent.  I am brought into contact daily with this filthy rag

Why is it that older people love detective dramas of the type I have listed? My thoughts:

  1. They are very British. English countryside, British actors. English towns and villages. English cars, mostly. Suits. Hats even!
  2. Easily identified characters. Idiosyncratic but not too weird, e.g., Morse.
  3. Old people seem to love characters who come in pairs (Lewis and Hathaway). The ‘buddy’ element.
  4. Often set in the past – or a present that doesn’t really exist (Midsomer Murders) caters to nostalgia factor plus sense that ‘things were better back then’.
  5. Crime dramas – very black and white in that there are good people and bad ones.
  6. Resolution. The bad guys are always caught, I think. Order is restored. All’s right with the world.

When age, infirmity and looming death/meeting one’s maker are on the cards, ironically, these murderous dramas offer a sense of safety and familiarity plus a chance to be indignant at the ‘goings-on’ (moral judgements) and behaviour of the ‘bad’ characters. It’s my belief that old people (some, not all, I must stress) do not like ambiguity and these reruns on ITV3 serve as a comforter.

 

A Fire Burns Tonight, Lent, Day 17.

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_65108948_peterfarrellHad an evening at a friend’s house with some of her friends. Well, actually, it is the house of her parents, a farm estate that’s been in her family for 200 years. She’s living back at home and what a very lovely home it is! The new things were that I met two of her friends who I’d never seen before.

I felt out of place, even quite shy, to start with as they are all about 10 years younger than me and have known each other years but I tried not to let that hinder me. Most of them are Christians, but not all, and they tend to belong to looser, more liberal churches than the one I go to (which is too fundamental for me but I love the place and the people and the pastors).

I really enjoyed the evening and ate my own body weight in Pringles, dips and spaghetti bolognese and loved the large, blazing woodburner.

The War Room, Lent, Day 15

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War-Room-Table

We had a film night at church tonight. We watched the Christian film, The War Room, which I had never seen. (Hence, it was NEW to me).

I did enjoy it but found its lack of subtlety difficult, and as my friend, JH, said, the ends were all very neatly tied up, rather unrealistically.

I found this review from The New Yorker interesting: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/the-sanitized-christianity-of-war-room

Sacred Space and Bliss

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“[Sacred space] is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

[…]

Our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older, the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you. Where is your bliss station? You have to try to find it.”
Joseph Campbell

New Play Tells Story of the Left-Behind Spouse

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republic of you

Went to see a play this week about a young woman whose husband leaves her. Sounds grim but it wasn’t at all.

The actress received a standing ovation. I think people, and much of the audience comprised women, were relieved to see this subject tackled honestly.  With 1 in 2 or 1 in 3 marriages (the statistics seem to shift, according to the source you read) doomed to end before death it’s all too easy for society to treat it as no big deal. It’s not. It wrecks lives – of the leaver and the leavee, of children, of parents and in-laws. The knock-on effects of divorce are enormous. There are financial, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual consequences. Few people outside of the church are really prepared to stand up and say this. even some of my friends won’t admit that divorce can be destructive (Marriage can  be too, of course.)

Even if a marriage is deeply, deeply flawed I believe that all efforts – and a joint effort at that, supported by a community that cares, as specified by Bill Doherty PhD – should be made to save it before calling it a day. If all efforts are made and still there’s no resolution then okay, divorce is the only sensible option.

Divorce may turn out to be a positive thing for me – eventually. (I still think it’s too early to say) but I do believe that divorce/relationship breakdown is a ticking time bomb.

If we are going to be living longer we need to rethink how we tackle marriage and the potential for marital breakdown. Marriage is still hugely popular.

How do we ‘marry’ our hopes for lifelong love with the reality of probable breakdown?

http://dohertyrelationshipinstitute.com/

The Age of Loneliness Programme Delivers

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06vkhr5

What a fascinating programme on BBC One just now about loneliness. I truly believe this is the affliction of our age. I loved how they profiled people of all ages and walks of life, including those who feel lonely who are surrounded by people.

One guy summed it up perfectly: plenty of people to do things with (friends) but no-one to do nothing with – after, say, a bereavement or relationship breakdown.

As 42 per cent of marriages in the UK will end in divorce it is no surprise that loneliness is on the increase. I have lots of friends who seem to genuinely care about me, and my mum, but loneliness is an issue in my life. I may not feel as bad as some of the people profiled, and I am quite extroverted, but I definitely have regular bouts of loneliness. Sometimes daily, sometimes just at weekends. Male Platonic Friend has helped me in this respect.

However, church groups and church attendance really help. This is not just because one is with people but also due to the fact that we talk about our vulnerabilities – in Life Group, for example. Also, in worship you are communing with God, even if at times you feel somewhat disconnected from God. Singing worship songs helps us feel connected to each other and to a greater being. (The great I Am).

I think some people I know may feel less lonely because they have a deep spiritual connection. But I may be making assumptions there.

 

 

Coincidences or Divine Intervention?

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Feeling awed! Mum and I were standing on her front doorstep in the town of my birth, waving off my very old friends, Bristol-based P and J, who I see just 1-2 times a year, when who should drive down our fairly out-of-the-way street but my friends/former neighbours, E and S, from the town where I now live (about 50 miles away.) E and S had NO IDEA my mum lives on this street and that this is the family homestead. Sheer coincidence.

Then… At the very same time my old hairdresser drove passed them in the same make and model and silver coloured car as E and S own, waving, AND at the same time mum’s neighbour, Brian, came out to tell me that I had a flat tyre – I had not noticed. There was a nail in it. He pumped the tyre up for me and I rushed off to Kwik Fit and got it replaced. Brian probably saved my life ‘cos I’ll be driving on the motorway tomorrow.
Coincidences or not?!

I had been feeling tearful and forsaken earlier in the day but these coincidences made me feel like there was some sort of pattern work going on!

 

 

 

To Sleep Perchance to Dream.

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The Radio 3 logo, introduced in 2000 along wit...

The Radio 3 logo, introduced in 2000 but replaced in 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am just listening to ‘Sleep’, which is the all-night world premiere performance of Max Richter‘s eight-hour epic piece on BBC Radio 3. Beautiful but eerie. As a chronic insomniac this intrigues me.

I don’t find praying very conducive to sleep as it makes me think about the things and people I am praying for too much! It’s actually too stimulating.

Sleep is such a precious thing, one I have trouble with, due to my chronic illness. I am doing a sleep course though.

Feeling Grounded Through Worship

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Worship Again

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)   

I’d had to miss church the previous two Sundays and I really felt the lack. I made it there tonight and I have to say I definitely feel more grounded, more centred, I guess, now.

Non-believers would say that it’s all down to doing something nice, like singing, with a group of people. But I disagree. While the singing aspect of a service is very releasing I think it goes beyond that; that there is something intrinsically healing to oneself and to others in group worship.

I don’t usually pray out loud in services when they ask you to feel free to offer up prayers, but I did this evening – just a prayer for all the people in my neighbourhood (which is not the same place my church is.)

Tonight’s message theme was social media, something I have a love-hate relationship with, as do many of us!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery – 101 Divorce Stories

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A Wedding Ring

A Wedding Ring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently bought this book – the first Chicken Soup book I’ve ever read. And I have very mixed feelings about this book. It did help me to some extent. I jotted down some great quotes that may help me to keep moving forward. I particularly liked the words of Kiera Peltz, who was just a child when she wrote them, and of Catherine Graham. Some of the stories were moving and inspiring.

But…the book seemed to be a celebration of divorce, and this was reflected in the cartoons. It’s pro-divorce and that doesn’t sit right with me and the things I have learned over the past five years, through my own experience and from encounters with others whose lives have been touched or shattered by separation and divorce. Children aren’t necessarily resilient and we need to stop pretending that they are. Even adult children of divorce can still suffer dreadfully – long after the actual divorce. Divorce isn’t necessarily freeing to both parties. Free to do what exactly? Be more selfish? Have “control of the remote”? Come on! We need tools to make marriages work not stories to say that the 50 per cent divorce rate is cool.

As another reviewer alluded to, the book is full of stories by women who imply that it was just great to get rid of their ghastly husbands and how they’d never looked back since dumping them. Mmm. That’s not much comfort to those who have been left behind.

Only one writer, a man, looked back and said that in his opinion the majority of divorces are unnecessary. His first wife had developed MS (long after they parted). Maybe it was guilt that formed his opinion but he was a least voicing an opinion based on moral issues and the long-term effects of divorce. Read Bill Doherty’s ‘Take Back Your Marriage’ (available on Amazon) for a great examination of how to build a great marriage, avoid a divorce and how whole communities need to support marriages. This is the best relationship book I have ever read, even though, sadly, it was too late for me.

Will I keep the Chicken Soul book? Probably. There were enough little gems in there for me to use. But would I recommend it to others? Probably not. If there’s any chance you can avoid a divorce read Doherty’s book. If divorce is inevitable read something else. Or join a forum. I’ll keep searching.

Cut Those Who Do You Harm

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Harm Done

Harm Done (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am on a  mission to detox from those people, no matter how nice they seem to be on the surface, who are doing me harm in some way or who are disrespecting me.

It’s tough, cos we all need friends, but I know that I need to do this for my own self-esteem. There were two people today who I realised just don’t really listen to me when I am talking to them. Gee, thanks, dudes.. and dudettes.

You’re GONE!

Travelling Light from Los Angeles

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chola shirt

Following on from my love of the Mexican-American Chola-style look here’s a pic of the great shirt I snaffled recently. It’s got some great details – beautiful buttons and fits like a glove. It’s also been well-loved ‘cos it’s a little bobbled in places. How did this shirt, made in China, sold in a single store in downtown Los Angeles, end up in the scruffiest (but very friendly) charity shop in northern England? I’d love to know its tale.

I’ll be adding my humungous, blingalicious crucifix to this some time to cement the Chola look!

Chola-Style, Religious Iconography and Me

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I’ve become fascinated by California and LA lately. This is largely to do with the music I love – rock, pop and soul. This led me to the book City of Style by Melissa Magsasay, about LA style.

I was surprised to be most drawn to Chola style and have been adapting the look for my own use, as suitable for someone of my age. The Chola look is based on Chicano gang girls’ style – working class Mexican immigrants from the 1920s onwards. It is characterised, today, by arched eyebrows, ruby lips, big hoop earrings, bandanas, checked shirts, tattoos, skinny jeans and converse trainers. In pop culture terms think of Gwen Stefani, Fergie, Amy Winehouse and Kat Von D.

At my age I can do without the tattoos but pretty much everything else is a great look for any age – strong, sexy but not slutty, tomboyish yet also girly. What’s not to love? I picked up a fabulous grey checked shirt, complete with pearly buttons, and it fits perfectly, from an incredibly scruffy charity shop in my home town – that originally came from a Los Angeles’ shop. A bargain at £1.00. What gold lies in them there hills! I wore the ‘look’ at church BBQ this evening. We humans have to wear clothes – might as well make it fun!

Cholas use a lot of religious jewellery in their attire too, albeit, Roman Catholic-related. Well, I’m not a Catholic but it’s refreshing to see faith worn as fashion when it has a direct link to someone’s heritage and beliefs rather than just in the way that crucifixes are  often worn with no thought as to what that symbol means.

Love Poem Creeps Me Out

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Platonic friend just sent me this poem. How on earth do you respond to this? I mean, is it meant as a message? Is it just ‘sharing’. God knows? And he’s not telling. I have responded by saying that it is not my scene. I even used the word ‘creepy’. I would not have even sent this to my husband. A well  seized upon song lyric is more my style.

Here is the poem:

“Yes, yours, my love, is the right human face.
I in my mind had waited for this long,
Seeing the false and searching for the true,
Then found you as a traveller finds a place
Of welcome suddenly amid the wrong
Valleys and rocks and twisting roads. But you,
What shall I call you? A fountain in a waste,
A well of water in a country dry,
Or anything that’s honest and good, an eye
That makes the whole world seem bright. Your open heart,
Simple with giving, gives the primal deed,
The first good world, the blossom, the blowing seed,
The hearth, the steadfast land, the wandering sea.
Not beautiful or rare in every part.
But like yourself, as they were meant to be.”

Edwin Muir