I started a one year sabbatical from my job of over 20 years in January this year. For the first couple of months I struggled with a bout of shingles and every other damn thing you could imagine. I even managed to fall flat on my face twice. For the first time since I was 10, I have two scabby knees and could enter any bruise comparison contest and win first prize.
I can finally say that I am now ready to savour every moment and make the best of what’s still left of 2017.
I’m learning how to “be”. For one thing I’m discovering that there’s a whole world that goes on outside of the narrow structured bubble I’ve been in. I am noticing all the precious small interactions you can have with people when you have more time to enjoy them.
First of all there are friends to meet. Obviously this isn’t a new thing, but for a 9 to 5 person these open ended meetings have a tinge of luxury about them. Apparently people are at it all the time, for no reason and for as long as they fancy.
One of the best ways to do this, is the morning coffee ritual on the Prom in Tramore. For my money sitting chatting while watching the weather and the tide is the best of both worlds.
The coffee culture of the Prom puts everyone in the best mood. Smiles all round. A bracing stroll on the beach. A toddle around the pond. The light and the fresh air raises spirits. Priceless therapy for humans and dogs.
When you have the time to linger people interact in special ways. Each of these small conversations are the mini dramas in my day now. Like the woman outside Lidl who threw open her car door and shouted to me, “Do you hear music?” That one stopped me in my tracks. As we walked into the supermarket we both giggled at the strange goings on in our heads at times!!
Women are wonderful company. They are also challenging in unexpected ways. I’ve been teasing some about how bossy they are, but I welcome their prodding and encouragement to step more outside my comfort zone. (Truth is I probably wouldn’t even leave the house if I didn’t know it is actually good for me!)
While I was just mulling over what my next step should be, a photographer friend shows up and drags me kicking and screaming into a joint proposal for an exhibition. Her calm confidence leads the way. She won’t hear any of my timid excuses and just because of her I am going to do it.
Another woman looks at my portfolio and when I say I’d love to have a pop up gallery she says “Do it!” She tells me that there is a new phenomenon of older women finding their second wind. It starts at about 55 she says and is a deep well of creativity and inspiration. Music to my ears!
And as for the younger girls! One teenager inspires me with her cartwheels on the beach, her swimming in the sea and her special outing to celebrate her Mam on Mother’s Day. If I could just bottle that energy I mutter aloud.
Apparently as we get older our brains become rigid if we always follow the same routines. The best thing we can do to stay young is to constantly challenge ourselves, learn new skills and find new experiences. If we walk for exercise, we should try yoga. If we like to read, we should try going to the cinema. Explore new places, travel, learn a language, take up the piano, they say.
The best motivational speech I ever heard was just three small words, “You’re gonna die!!” That will do it every time. Life is short. Eat that cake. Don’t spend your money on fancy moisturisers. Do that thing you want to do. Tell that person you love them. Go for that new job. Go swim in the warm seas of Greece. (Or even better the freezing cold seas of Garrarus!)
Back in Tramore an elderly woman is struggling to stand up from her wheelchair, “Just a few steps” she whispers. As I pass in the opposite direction, she stumbles and so I stop to help her and her husband. They are all smiles. We walk her very slowly down the slip to the edge of the sand. He takes off her shoes and socks and she giggles with the excitement of cold sand between her toes.
I don’t ask any questions, I’m just so happy to be there with them. All of us, especially me, warm on the inside and savouring these small everyday moments.