I was tidying out a drawer of my desk (to be truthful, I was looking for something in it) and I came across some writing that I produced for writing class (which I left at least ten years ago.) It’s interesting comparing your 10 years ago self with your present day one. I would still stand by by the list, but I find myself less certain on world issues, and much more sceptical than I was then (and I always was fairly cynical; no starry eyes optimist was I).

Anyway here’s the list which remains the same even if the commentary is slightly different.

I find myself, to my surprise, agreeing with that old misogynist, St Paul: there is nothing without love. I paraphrase, but he said it at length. (2 Corinthians, 13, )  It may be money that makes the world go around, but its love that ensures it continues. If you were denied every other joy and comfort, but there was still love in your life, you could survive.

I cannot find a word in English to encompass the whole of what I mean in my second quality. I sought the word in religious essays but they were invariably vague. I refer to that state of spiritual well being when you and your god are in harmony. It’s when you know that in spite of your lamentable short-comings, you have struggled to live according to your highest principles. You know that you have done your very best and that you haven’t sacrificed your principles for greed or vanity, and you are entitled therefore to hope that those facets of the quality you were unable to comfortably discharge will be imputed to you. It’s a kind of spiritual health. I have no time for the so convenient and arrogant ‘state of grace’ that some religious groups pretend to possess. This is a battle ground that must be contested every day, but if you go out each day with a humble but a valiant heart and a courageous but contrite spirit, there is little that will be able to stand before you.

When I wrote this originally, my beloved friend Carolyn still walked he earth, and she reminded me of this third quality for I had taken it for granted. This refers to one’s physical gifts, which one received at birth and are in no way earned nor as we ‘entitled’ to them. This would include one’s health, one’s intellect, one’s beauty and charm, and one’s natural gifts and talents.

Fourthly comes one’s family and those people whom one loves. I count myself fortunate that I had parents who loved me; a tender brother who shared my rich (in ways that mattered) and restless childhood; a husband who is both reliable and exciting; loving children; considerate step-children; wider family of good calibre; many grandchildren each with his or her unique personality; generous-hearted and loyal friends. There’s never a dull moment in our lives. I’m not an especially demonstrative person, and it’s not easy to overcome my defences and enter into the space reserved for intimates, but those I love, I do so with passion. I’m not looking to expand my inner core of Beloveds:I just wan to keep them.

Fifthly I would place the execution of whatever one’s talent is. It is good for us to strive to accomplish things that we find difficult but there is joy also in the exercising of a natural talent that you know you’re good at. I imagine people who can mimic others, or dance, or sing (none of which I have any facility at) enjoy doing those things much as I enjoy writing.

Sixthly, perhaps controversially, solitude. I would hate to be absolutely alone, but if I had only the choice of being alone or continually with crowds, I would choose the solitude. When the door closes behind the last member of the family to leave the house, and several hours of sole occupation

lies enticingly before me, I feel my spirits rising. But in those days I wasn’t entirely alone for at this point our cat would emerge from wherever she had been hiding and come running to me with a little rrrint of pleasure. Just us, she would say, purring when I picked her up and patting my face with her paw. And I knew just what she meant.

Seventh, friends. Although I value the friendship of men, it is often hedged around with difficulties. The friendship of women is relaxing. They are easy to talk to; they are tender when you’re feeling low; they offer practical as well as emotional assistance. They laugh with you. They know that it’s important you get a scarf to match your jumper. They have wisdom and understanding. They give you advice tactfully and they know when to keep silent and when to look away. In the little things of life, as well as the large, they are always with you. I don’t think in my callous youth, I valued the friendship of women highly enough, but I certainly do now

My eighth choice is the glory of the earth : one’s joy and appreciation of the natural world. I rejoice in its fragile beauty. The wood I used to walk the dog in is a living organism. The eye of the blue tit as it hangs upside down and roots for peanuts is bright and intelligent. The rose slowly unfolds in the warmth of the sun, changing colour every day, and releasing its fragrance into the summer air. In all the seasons with the passing of the sun each day as night slips into the garden, as the winds rise and fall, as summer drifts slowly into autumn – I love it all. I am an earth-dweller on a planet whirling through space, and I see in every living thing the majesty of the creator and the wonder of life. If you were religious, you could feel that even the worm as he oozes his necessary way through the compost heap, is glorifying God.

My ninth choice is beauty. I love beautiful things in all areas: the beauty of the world; its people; of everyday well crafted objects; of works of art; of music. Beauty is a kind of harmony. It soothes the eye and restores the spirit.

For my tenth choice, I’d take books. The feeling of warm anticipation as you stagger out of the library with an armful of books, or even as you load up your kindle; the look forward to the quiet hours, lost in those other worlds. Entering a good book shop is like going into a holy place.

There’s my choices then. I’ve got some preferences I shall just register as indulgences, things I’d be loathe to do without: cats, clothes, chocolate. And children – other people’s and in small quantities.

As for things I could cheerfully do without. Ironing. Cleaning the bath. Stupid people. Pain and discomfort. People with loud voices and no volume control. Cars with radios too loud. Overbearing guides in National Trust houses who sweep you along as though you were a criminal come to steal something and tell you gossipy stories about Lady X, instead of concentrating on the artefacts. People who talk endlessly about themselves. Undrinkable wine in plastic containers. Incompetents who take up your time and never get to the point. Religious humbugs. Hypocrisy of any description. Telephone sales persons. Men in antique shops who take up too much space. Ditto men in ladies clothes shop. Really badly behaving children and their endlessly indulgent parents. Politicians of all colours. How rich we are conversation, and how much our house is now worth. People I don’t know who call me by my christian name. Putting the clock back. How long have you got?

About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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