Today (Monday) my man took a day off work because he was having his gas boiler serviced. The gas man had been and gone by 9.30am, so we went out for the day. We are members of the National Trust so we go out to visit stately homes and gardens in the vicinity. It was a cloudy day, but dry, so we drove to a grand house in the countryside, but, man being useless with instructions and directions, didn't notice that it closed on Mondays during some weeks of the year. This was one of those weeks. We drove up the long tree-lined driveway and parked anyway. Even the gardens were closed. However, just up the lane was a stile and a path to the parish church, winding over fields and through woodland. I insisted we walk it, because old churches and graveyards can be so interesting (I think!) I wanted to walk, to stretch my legs and it was good to be out in the countryside, far from the madding crowd. The path was strewn with red, gold and brown crispy autumn leaves and it wound past a stream, complete with ducks and a field full of grazing sheep. We were completely alone in the middle of nowhere...miles from the roads. All was still and quiet. At the end of the long and winding path was a gated archway and the path leading to the church door.
The old stone church was tiny but very pretty. Sadly, it's a sign of the times that it's big studded oak doors were locked. I tried to turn the big iron ring handle, but modern locks on the inside of the door were in place. Whatever happened to seeking sanctuary in a church? Shame, because I like looking round old churches in the gloom (they are always quite dark) imagining who might have worshipped in them over the years..admiring the stained glass windows, the leaded lights, the worn flagstones on the floor, the wooden pews, the amazing and intricate stone carving of the pillars.
The church yard was also fascinating. Many of the ancient tomb stones had weathered and the inscriptions couldn't be read, but some humongous Victorian stones stood proud and tall, decorated with ostentatious carvings of angels, chains, anchors AND creepily, small skulls, the eye sockets black and gloomy, the teeth fixed in a grimace. What a cruel reminder to the living that this is how we end up! :)Ooooh. They feared death did those Victorians but they knew how to mark their final resting place too.
Whole families were buried together...and sadly, not many lived to grand old ages. It was also really moving to notice that the children of the family often didn't make it into adulthood, victims of their time I suppose, struck down with incurable deadly diseases or by life's hardships. The Lord and Lady of the Parish and their relatives had massive plots, surrounded by iron railings to keep out the commoners, and their pets were buried in small graves beside them.
Wow. So much history in such a short visit...The birds sang, the sheep stared, disturbed by people walking close by. It was so peaceful and beautiful. It was also a reminder I suppose that life is fleeting and precious. We were here, all alone in the middle of a leafy patch of England, walking down the path which so many generations had walked before. This is our time on the planet. Our time and space, and really, aren't we bloody lucky that we have modern medicine, and technology which makes our lives so much easier than those of the people whose remains lie in that churchyard?
Man and I walked back to the car hand in hand...appreciating that we were in our fifties, and this was OUR time. The wierd thing is - my body may not be wonderful, but it has served me well, and inside - this is so strange - inside I am still a girl, a young woman. I have wisdom born out of living five decades and a bit but in my head I am still the person I was at 25...but a wiser, more confident, more balanced person. If only I knew then what I know now. I have experienced so much over the years...good and bad times, and times when I felt if life dealt me one more blow I'd stay down. I'd not bounce back like I had before, but strangely, we do. Life is a wonderful thing...despite it's knocks. We are made of strong stuff and I want the years ahead to be good ones. I want to be strong and healthy and I want to enjoy however much of this life I have left. Our children have grown up and become reasonably independent. We have our health (mostly!) and strength (when it doesn't run out!) and so much to be grateful for.
We jumped into our 'horseless carriage' and made our way down the long sweeping drive, away from the grand house, now empty, but which had been a home to so many people over the last centuries. I imagined the horses and riders who might have galloped up to the house, and the ladies, in their big skirts and finery, sitting in horse-drawn carriages. There'd have been weather-beaten men and women - and their children, working on the land, in the fields surrounding the house. In my mind's eye I could see them all.
Back to the here and now and an appreciation of how different life is today. How am I going to make the best of my days? The ease of modern living has made us fat. The pressures and stresses that come with it often make us ill. We have easier lives but it's ironic that we knowingly live unhealthy lives too. We weren't designed to sit around, drive everywhere, not walk, and eat and eat and eat until we feel stuffed. I need a dose of reality sometimes to remind me that I too will be pushing up daisies some day.
I have spent so much of my life in a fat suit - not all of it - I was wonderfully slim at times - and at times slightly rounded, but never obese as I am now. I have been out of shape, unfit, lazy, self-indulgent and allowed my body to become so big that I am not happy with the way I look. In the great scheme of things, that's not a lot to be truly bothered about but even though I laugh lots and have good times, this is a cloud hanging over me. It's about health and it's about vanity too. Being fat is ageing. I have aged - it comes to us all, I am past my prime, but I feel I have lost part of me along with my confidence, if that makes sense? I have become invisible, rounded, matronly. I want to stop the rot.
I could read every single book on self-esteem ever printed, every web site pronouncing we are truly beautiful inside yet still hate looking at photographs of myself. I know all the 'love yourself' stuff, yet I still feel self conscious when I walk into a room, I still feel like the fat one when I meet up with friends. I know I am much more than my size, of course I am, but if my size makes me unhappy, why have I delayed doing something about it - mending my ways?
OK so all the psychological reasons surrounding our lifestyle, mental blocks, food addiction, our over-eating and obesity can be brought into the ring too - but at the end of the day, we are the only ones who can fix the parts of ourselves which hold us back. We have to mend ourselves. All the talking, therapy, writing, self-reflection, and self-esteem courses in the world can't help us unless our thinking is clear and we decide we'll eat fewer calories and exercise more. We all know that's not as easy as it sounds either.
If I don't make the most of myself now, when will I? When I am a pensioner, sitting in an old folks home relying on carers to dress me, toilet me and feed me? It ain't gonna happen then, is it? I won't be able to hold a mirror or stand up in front of one, never mind apply make up and do my hair or care about my clothes. Will I make old bones and have an old age?
All I know is, earlier today in that ancient church yard the old cliche 'Carpe Diem' was ringing through my head. 'Carpe' translates literally as 'pluck' - it refers to the picking of fruit, so a more accurate view is 'enjoy the day, pluck the day when it is ripe'. The extended version of the phrase 'carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero' translates as (I discovered - isn't the interweb wonderful?) 'Pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the future'. Make hay while the sun shines. Gather ye rosebuds while you may.
Who knows what the future holds? How many of us have wasted our days, months, years wallowing in fat misery? It's a hard place to move on from, I know that only too well. However, if today is all we have, don't we owe it to ourselves, fat or not, to seize it, to make the most of it? This is it folks. This is the life we have.
Don't we owe it to ourselves to do something with our days, even if the only thing we achieve is a day of healthy eating? We can do that. Life can be cruel, hard and it can knock us down. It's not always easy to think about self-care, but if we can make today a day in which we have tried to look after our bodies, isn't that a day well spent no matter what our circumstances, and an investment in our tomorrows?
My walk today had me thinking. We cannot wait until some golden age when all will be well, and we of course will be slim and fit. Don't waste today thinking about eating, and er, eating some more, and then er...snacks, followed by naps and TV and erm....more junk food, and eating and eating and um...what next...loafing about doing nothing much. That's how to waste life. Instead, plan tomorrow's healthy meals, trusting that today will end well, and tomorrow will be even better.
That's what I am trying to do. I don't always succeed fully but I am conscious that how I spend my days is how I spend my life. Sometimes we need the realisation that time is flying by. I am contented with my lot. I could tweak my life and make it healthier. That's my plan. I don't want to waste my life wishing, hoping, dreaming about a body I can be proud of. I don't want to live in Never Never Land or that place over the rainbow where dreams come true. I want to start walking towards a healthier, slimmer me today, appreciating all I have right now, enjoying life AND looking after number one while I have the days to do it. If I don't look after myself, no one else will. Same applies to you.
Seize the day. Yes? x x x
For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
~ Fr. Alfred D'Souza