2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Thought For You

For me personally, the last two weeks have been a quietly controlled spell of manic activity in the bigger scheme of things. For a while, I have been locked down in a world of woe, wondering what tomorrow will hold and when the inevitable is going to happen.

It is never a pleasant feeling, knowing that you are headed for a world of pain, and there is nothing that you can do to avoid it, side step it, or even really prepare yourself for it. These are facts of life, nature in all of its cruel splendour, the things we have no control over, pain, sadness and sorrow that there is no words for, no proper way to describe, no real effective means of communication.

What is lovely about being busy is the fact that my mind has little time to ponder these circumstances. I have thrived over the last two weeks, not only from the personal fulfilment of a long time desire, but also from the satisfaction of feeling productive, needed, back in control of something. It may sound stupid, but being able to make decisions, being allowed to make a contribution, being involved as a working part of the dynamic is a strangely rewarding and liberating feeling.

In some ways I am ashamed to admit these words. Regret that I feel this way. Feel bad that I like to feel alive and part of something that I can influence, control and manage. The feelings of uselessness are abated  the frustration of having to sit and watch, unable to change the course of nature is soul destroying and only depresses the mind, body and spirit. There is only so much that one person can handle, and when we are faced with things we cannot affect, we are not only completely out of control of destiny, but also out of control of our feelings and abilities to deal with what is happening around us, this is when we find ourselves at our lowest. This is when we are vulnerable, exposed, out of our comfort zone, alone!

I know what tomorrow holds for me. Maybe not in the physical sense of tomorrow, the day after today, but I know what is coming in my near future, and as I struggle to prepare myself for this eventuality  I have begun to realise that I am totally incapable of preparing myself. I do not have the skills or the experience to know how I am going to handle the things I will have to face. I know not, where I will find the strength to do the things I will have to do. I cannot begin to plan for it, do not want to face it, cannot accept that it is necessary.

Yet, this is my lot. This is the reality of my situation, and so be it. I begin to understand too, that while I am not in a place or frame of mind to really be able to cope with these things, I am in some ways starting to plan for these times. While focusing my mind on things to keep my busy right now is in keeping with my trend of burying my head in the sand and pretending I do not have to deal with these things, in so many ways the things I am engaging in right now are the foundations of my preparation for life beyond my current situation in life.

Networks and friendships I am forging with people who understand, care, love without condition and share without expectation are the corner blocks of setting up a life line, a safety cord that I can reach out and hold in the dark times ahead. There is a sense of relief in knowing that someone, anyone will be there. Loneliness is a curse that no one wishes to meet. It is one that far too many of us live with, accept and embrace. It is a bitter pill that swallows us! I don’t want to feel alone, and I know that you don’t want to feel its embrace either, so when a simple post card drops through my letter box, the person that took the time to write it can never know how special the words scrawled across the white surface mean to me.

When a short and simple message pops up in my message box saying here is a random hug for you, on a day I was just thinking about you, the writer of that message can never truly know how much the words enclosed in that missive sent through the marvel of the internet really means to me.

The cheerful banter in a chat room, the laughs we share on skype… The stories that I manage to get lost in, the encouragement through comments, feedback, conversation….. It all adds up. And I don’t think we really give full credit to the power of these simple actions we undertake on a day to day basis. You are reading this thinking, “heck, maybe he is right,” or maybe you are not, but did you stop and realise while you are reading this, just how special YOU really are?

No? Well take it from me, in my eyes each one of you that make the effort to be a friend are so much more than you allow yourself credit for. It is people like you that make the world spin. You give life meaning, bring a sense of purpose to survival, and without realising it give value to the things, relationships, actions we each undertake, that we become a part of, that we live for daily.

Those things that have kept me busy for the last two weeks, gave me cause to sit and think to myself today while I was working. Yes they kept me active, they thrilled me and involved me and made me feel productive and useful. However, they also gave me a reason to reflect on how much I value the contact that I have with people. People like you reading. Many of you will interact with me in some way, simple and brief as it is, it is appreciated  You may be reading and have never spoken with me before, yet what I say rings true in your own mind, and mirrors itself on your own experiences. Who knows, maybe in reading this blog you will for the first time reach out and say hello, to me or someone else important.

Whatever it is that prompts us to take an action, make an effort, touch a life, it is our humanity and our need to be seen and to feel needed and wanted and accepted that allows each and every one of us to add value to each others lives. I am much like you, much like the person next to you, much others dotted in over 7 billion places across this globe of ours. We are all essentially the same, thoughtful, vulnerable, curious, mysterious, unique, interesting, judgemental….

I could carry on using words into eternity  but at the bottom line of things, we all have to accept that we are no better than the richest or the poorest, the most arrogant or most humble, most knowledgeable or most severely disabled among us. I am NO better than you because of what I do or who I am, and the same goes for you. When we overcome this perception of ourselves and our fellow man, maybe we can begin to understand how special we are, and what level of potential each of us holds. We can change the world by touching people, we can reach out and fill that void of loneliness, fear and pending hurt. We can all make a difference to someone’s life, circumstances and sense of self worth, and is that not something worth trying to do?

For today, I am grateful that I have reached out here, and made friends. Friendships that I treasure, relationships that grow with every day. I say this kind of thing often, and will continue to do so, as I really do believe the things I have said before, right now, and will say in my future are true, important and real. You are Special, today, tomorrow, forever.

Thought for today – “Butterflies do not know the colour of their wings, but human eyes marvel at their beauty. Likewise you cannot see how good you are, but others see and know that you are special.” Author Unknown

Song for today – Feeling the Moment by Feeder

Let Them Know They Matter

So it has been a tough couple of weeks for me which culminated in a bit of a disaster yesterday. Here is how it unfolds…

As a person I tend to be a pretty private person, but when I find I like someone I will open up pretty quickly, and hey I think we are all like that to a degree. You have to let the people you want to become close too, to see the real you. Sometimes slowly, but once in a while you do it a little faster than at other times.

Well, time and life has taught me that this is not always the best thing to do, coz once you start to let those walls down, you expose yourself to hurt, and people are fickle. They build impressions, make assumptions and guess an awful lot, and when things don’t pan out quite to what their expectations were, you find yourself carrying the can. Yep, you may assume from this that I’ve been disappointed, and the answer to that would be yes, but then haven’t we all at some point in our lives? So pick myself up, quit moaning and move on. Fair enough.

Now this is where I open myself up to share a little piece of me with those of you that bother to read. I could easily allow such an experience to sour my perception of the world. In 38 years of living it has happened enough times to make me fed up of having my feelings trashed at the feet of people that couldn’t care less, and yeah at times I just wanna scream. I wanna smash something, lash out and be nasty. What would I gain though?

We cannot change who we are! This is a fundamental fact of life. You may be able to alter little things, you might be able to harden your heart, but you are who you are, and you have to find a way to be happy living in your own skin. I can honestly say that this is not as easy as it may seem. Some people have a marvellous ability to appear happy all the time. Some of them really are happy, but for the vast majority of us we are smiling to the world to hide our scars, laughing with friends to fit in, and giving the impression of happiness to fool ourselves into believing that life isn’t so hard.

This is the thing. Life is tough, for me, for you, for any one of us. We look at the rich and famous and think they have it all, but reality knocks and truth is happiness isn’t found in wealth and fast cars, trendy clothes and expensive gifts. Sure money might make things a little more fun, but money can’t buy you the one thing that you really need to be happy.

Wanna know what I honestly believe that is?

Simple. People around you that honestly, truly, and without compromise love you. Happiness lies in the people that are there to pick you up when the chips are down. Happiness is being able to share with someone that listens as much as they speak. Happiness is knowing that you have someone that you can call any time you need them, be it 4am in the morning or 8pm at night.

They will cry with you, laugh with you, go shopping with you. They have the courage to tell you when you are being an idiot, they will tell you when you are heading for disaster and they will always be there to help you pick up the pieces. These are the things, no, hell no, these are the PEOPLE that you must learn to treasure, and if there is one thing that you have to do in life…. Tell them you love them. Tell it to them each and every day if you feel you must. Tell them how important they are, how special and unique they are, and how much they make your life worth living. Don’t assume these things are known! Tomorrow will come and it is always too late when the chance is stolen.

See this is the stark realisation that I came to this week. You may or may not know that I care full time for my mom who as an elderly woman has a fair few things wrong with her, so it is little wonder that at some time in the near future she will pass on to that special place where she will be happy and free from our worldly woes. But I shudder to think how I will deal with that day when it comes, and on Friday afternoon, I almost thought the day had come. My mom collapsed in my arms and lost consciousness for a period of time. My initial thoughts when she went down was that she had died in my arms, and while that may sound awfully dramatic and maybe a little over the top, when it happens to you one day, you will appreciate the fear, horror and alarm that suddenly courses through your veins and races through your mind.

I was sitting there on the floor, with her head on my lap on the phone to the ambulance people begging her not to die because I hadn’t told her how much I love her. Now in my case, I am a mummies boy. Probably why looking after my mom is actually quite a pleasure for me, and while it depresses the hell out of me to watch her slowly deteriorate, and I feel so useless sometimes to stop it, I do get an element of satisfaction out of being there for her just as she was for me once.

Now please, I know that every one of us has different circumstances, and some of us have had wonderful home lives and others have not. Some of us are close as families and others not, so please don’t feel that this post is trying to tell you to bridge gaps with your family or something. Your circumstances are your own, and you know them better than anyone, so will know what is right and what is wrong for you. But….. we all have someone special to us. A friend, a relative, a pastor, a partner. Who ever it is, don’t be stupid like me. Don’t just assume that they will know.

Heck obviously my mom knows that I love her right? She is my mom for crying out loud, it is fairly natural to expect that despite our differences and arguments and fall outs over the years, to expect that she knows I love her, but the truth is, when I was sat there with tears running down my cheeks looking at her pale body on the ground, all I wanted to do was tell her how much I loved her.

And this is the point I try to make today. People in life will let you down. People will hurt you, abuse you, tear you apart emotionally, but a small handful of very special people will be there for you every step of the way, and it is only right to let them know how much they really mean to you. It doesn’t have to be some big display of affection or a statement of intent. Simple words like, ‘Hey you are a really special person to me, and I love you.’ This is only my own humble opinion, but we need to let those special people know how important and loved they really are. It is for your own good as much as theirs, and heck it really ain’t that hard.

Hope that these words will encourage you to go away from here today and tell someone close that you care enough to tell them they are loved.

Thought for today “When you are up, your friends know who you are. When you are down, you know who your friends are!” – Brian Marijeni

Song for today – From a Distance by Bette Midler

Perfection Is Overated

Our very cosmopolitan world is so driven by consumer focus and the image of perfection, that in many ways it is almost as if we have lost sight of our humanity. We want to be seen in the best, by the best, with the best. It is all about perception and what we can or can’t portray of ourselves to the world we live in.

Be it trends on the catwalk, labels in the stores, the very latest tech gadgets, the most bling, the best car….
From our homes to the nails we have glued to our hands, it is all done in a quest to beautify ourselves, better our persona and come off as something more than what we really are? I can’t help but wonder a little how our value system has skewed so much.

Take any individual person and give him or her the time to show themselves for who they really are. I am sure that in the majority of the instances you’ll find that the person is a decent guy or girl. We all are made up of the same stuff. Emotions, insecurities, values, desires, passions, weaknesses, vulnerabilities. Hell the list is endless really. Every single one of us have these. We all fear rejection, whether you want to admit it or not. We all hate disappointment. Heck if we really want to be completely honest we are all horny buggers out to get as much out of life as we can, and truth be told more often than not we are pretty damn selfish about it too.

Yeah we fall in love, and share and reach out and touch others. Yes there are people that are better at it than others, but it is pretty simple when you consider the basics. We all want to be happy, accepted and cherished at some level in our lives.

So if it boils down to these simple truths then why the hell do we go and complicate it with all the extra baggage we add to our lives?

I mean I sat a couple of days ago and looked at over 5000 people wonder past me as I relaxed on the grass verge. I was struck by the efforts we make as humans to wear the best clothes, have the best gadgets, be seen in the best seats in the house or hanging with the right people, and I was struck by the lengths that we go to, to be a part of this wave of trendiness.

Does any of it make us a better person? Is the London Docklands worker in his smart suit and latest iPod any better than the Port Talbot Steel worker, or the Yorkshire Coal Miner or the Liverpool ship builder who is in a T shirt and Jeans with a cheap MP3 player if anything at all?

The reality…. take the time to get to know each one of them, not just the image they want the world to see, but the real person within, and they will all be the same. Good, genuine, decent people with huge things that they are covering up with this plastic screen of perfection that we hide behind.

I guess what I am learning at this point in my life is those Gucci designer glass you wear really aren’t all that important. That fab hair cut you needed a small mortgage to get, really wasn’t critical. The swanky car you drive or the million dollar home you live in, really doesn’t set you aside from the guy living on the street or the poor lady who walks ten miles to work because she can’t afford a bus ticket.

Looking like the best thing in the world does not make you the best thing in the world. It is who you are, your character, your compassion, your humanity that make you important. It is the small things that you can do to bring a smile to the face of a friend, or the words you can share with someone close when they need an ear to hear. It is the hugs you can give when the world needs a pick me up, or the smile you share that lets them know you are proud of them.

A parent understands this a little more than most. In most instances they have first hand experience of wanting more for someone else than themselves. They learn to be sensitive towards a child’s feelings, think first for their safety, plan for their success, take joy in their happiness and are the first to step up to comfort when the chips are down.

Is there not a lesson that we as a wider society can learn from this example? We see it going on around us all day every day. Love, unconditional, unselfish and genuine. It is a fine standard to cherish and to seek. It is an example we would to well to heed, and learn much from if we followed it more in our every day lives.

I owned a Jaguar once. Now I drive a little VW Golf. I prefer the golf, at least the top goes down. I guess what I am saying is that in life I am learning that having everything does not bring joy. Being in with the “in crowd” does not make you better. Being popular, recognised or special is not a sure route to happiness. You don’t have to be perfect to be great, you just have to be genuine.

Thought for today – “When a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.” – Edgar Watson Howe

Song for today – Wings of a Butterfly by H.I.M.

Feel Loved – A Message For You Today.

How many times a day are you told that your special?

You know something, its not something we share with people very much. We pass each other, often as silent ships sailing through the night, never stopping to say how much we care, not taking the time to make our feelings known.

For most of us putting into words things that are difficult to utter is not easy. We are naturally shy creatures, wrapped up in learning to survive, understanding emotion, feelings, and striving to heal life’s hurts, and hide the scars.

It’s easy to keep our most private thoughts hidden. It’s too common to say nothing and regret later the things we never got to say.

So this day, if you have chosen to read this, please hear me say…. You may never speak to me. You may never know me. You may not hear me say these words, but they are true. They are from my heart, and they are just for you.

YOU  ARE  SPECIAL.  YOU  ARE  LOVED.   YOU  ARE  NEEDED.

Song for today – Welcome Home by Radical Face

A Visual Documentation of the Horrors of War on our Youth

Seeing the Horrors of War - Picture by Wivelrod

I watched 5 Days of War today, and while i was watching a portrayal of the war in Georgia unfold, I was struck by a powerful emotion of sadness as I watched the soldiers stories unfold in the film.

You know, how often do we stop and think about the soldiers? We scream and shout about the innocent that are killed and wounded, we complain about the costs of war in terms of lives and public capital, we grieve for the dead, but do we ever really pause to give thought to the effects of sending young men, who have chosen to serve their nation, to a battle zone of pain, loss and destruction? How often do we stop to think about the changes that our youth undergo in war? Do we give enough thought to the nightmare that goes with having to adjust mentally and sometimes physically to life as normal on their return?

We train these boys to become killing machines, send them into a war zone where survival becomes an instinct, criticise the work they do,  print horrific stories detailing the horrors of war perpetrated often by all sides in the conflict, pay them a pittance for doing this service and when they return conveniently forget about them. Who tells their story? Who takes the time to help them heal the wounds, repair the metal damage they suffer? Who helps them deal with the emotions, memories and nightmares they have learnt to bury?

Do we even really see the effect of war on our young generation of service men and women?

In thinking about this I went hunting online, looking for people that work with soldiers suffering from the trauma of war. In my hunt I came across the work of a young photographer in  the Netherlands called Claire Felicie. She undertook to work with a group of young marines from the 13th Infantry Company of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps during their posting to Afghanistan in 2009/10. In her portrayal of these men, she took close up portrait pictures of the service men before, during and after their deployment to Uruzgan in Afghanistan.

These pictures are set out in haunting triptychs that clearly and emphatically highlight the effects of conflict on our precious youth. You cannot help but look at these pictures and feel moved. Maybe, just maybe, its time that we should stop and give prolonged consideration to the damage we do to these boys and girls when we send them to war. Perhaps its time to give these brave and dedicated service personnel the real support, credit and recognition they deserve. Maybe its time to think about the lives we break, damage and shatter to protect interests that really aren’t that important in the bigger scheme of things. Look at these pictures and tell me that these boys don’t deserve better!

Nicky

Sjoerd

Remon

Arnold

Pascal

Emiel

A Visionary Inspiration – Touching the World through Sight

I came across this through twitter yesterday, and I was really touched by the impact that such a simple gesture had on the lives of people who are missing one of the fundamental senses that the majority of us take for granted every day.

The blind see the world through their fingers, and so when Wimpy an African fast food chain took the time to communicate with its blind patrons through Braille on their burgers, a touch of class was added what I still to this day consider to be one of the best fast food burgers provided out there.

I was struck more emphatically by the sense that it’s the simplest things in life that often have the biggest impact, and once again came to the realisation that you don’t have to be big and flamboyant, an icon of the lime light, a trend setter, or a brand name recognised throughout the world to make a difference to people’s lives.

You just have to have the heart, the right mental attitude, the desire and the compassion to reach out and touch those that will forever treasure your gesture. Caring for people, and changing the world isn’t about recognition for yourself or our own sense of need or importance, it’s about the importance of caring for those less fortunate than yourself.

I can honestly say that in watching this simple YouTube clip I was touched, inspired and reminded that there are far more important things in this world than me. Pass this on and inspire or touch someone else today.

Story also at Huffington Post