Walking the Walk

It has come to my attention that whilst I’m pretty good at talking the talk and at giving out verging-on-sanctimonious advice as to how we should live and where our society is going wrong, it turns out that I’m not actually very good at living said words. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if I was reading my column in a paper, I’d probably get increasingly irate with the author, week on week. I think I’m a bit of a one trick pony. I tend to stick to what I know, rhetoric about strong communities, staying positive and the ability of many small actions to work together towards significant change. And whilst I fully believe in all those things, I’m guessing folk out there might be getting a bit bored of reading the same thing week in, week out.

On paper, I’m that annoying eternally chirpy person we all know, always pointing out what we should be grateful for and giving out unwanted pep talks. But to make matters worse, in reality I often fall short of my own impassioned cries for self improvement. This week, I was consistently grumpy every day. I was stressed about money, grouchy at being tired and letting myself be wound up by the kids when they weren’t really doing anything other than simply being children. It was only when I escaped for a long run this morning that I gained some perspective. I realised a few things.

Firstly, that being grumpy was not having a particularly productive or desirable effect on myself, others around me or life in general and I’d probably be happier if I snapped out of it. Secondly, that actually, life is pretty good. I’ve got a roof over my head, food in my fridge and good friends and family. In the grand scheme of things, that ain’t half bad! And finally, whilst pondering column fodder, that if I was going to insist on continuing to write with such positivity, I should probably start walking the walk and living out what I’ve written.

The upshot of all of this is that I’m going to make two changes in my life (both written and real). I’ve decided to try and make an effort to actually focus on the good things, to help others more and to be more grounded. I’ve also decided that rather than continue my fairly limited narrative in this column, I’m going to cast my net further afield and set myself a challenge by asking others for topics for this column. Whether I write about everything suggested is another matter altogether, but I think it will be a good exercise for expanding my writing skill set as well as hopefully making for some interesting reading for you, dear readers! So, if you have any suggestions, please send them my way!

By the Grace of God

Whilst at our Christian home education group a few months ago, I found myself talking to a lady with six (six!) children. She seemed together, happy and not at all like she was losing it, something I struggle with just half the number of children! I asked her how she managed it. Her reply really hit a chord with me and has stuck me ever since. She simply said ‘only by the grace of God’. So simple, so powerful but yet, such an overlooked and forgotten concept. The idea that actually we don’t have to be responsible for everything, that the weight of our lives is not solely on our shoulders alone.

Even if you’re not a Christian I believe there is a message to be taken here that is applicable for all of us. We don’t have to do everything by ourselves and more importantly, we shouldn’t be trying to. It’s just not possible. Asking for and accepting help is an absolute necessity if we want to live a life not consumed by anxiety and stress. Many an article has been written about the concept of the lost village. The assertion that a lot of society’s problems are created by the dispersal of family units, by the isolation and insular nature of our modern lives. And I think that it’s so true. In this village set up, there would always be someone to talk to, someone free to help out when it’s needed. Child raising would be shared, mothers would join together for solidarity in the endlessly long overwhelming days of looking after small people, there would always be a willing person ready to take the little ones off for a bit to enable the parents a break to get on with some other work or even just sleep.

Of course, ‘back in the day’ people’s lives would have been simpler with a slower pace to them. As technology increasingly creeps into every facet of our lives and the media are constantly bombarding us with suggestions as to what we should have and what we should be doing, our lives are getting more and more busy. Diaries are booked for months in advance and being able to drop everything at a moment’s notice to help someone in need is often easier said than done. But I really believe that we should try and channel the ethos of this village a little bit more in our day-to-day lives.

So if you’re struggling, try to remember to ask for help and more importantly, to accept it when it’s offered. And if you see someone else having a hard time, see if you can somehow ease their load a little. It might only take an hour or two of your time but you could make a huge difference to their life that day. After all, it takes a village…