Feeling alive.

I was driving home from work the other day – I have a 40-odd minute each-way commute – and I had one of those moments where I just felt ….alive. It was a beautiful Autumnal afternoon, almost dusk, cooling breeze gently buffeting in the car window. One of those amazing atmospheric songs came on the radio (God I love triple j – but that’s another story). I felt happy, relaxed, peaceful and alive. Everything was working in my favour. I loved it.

It got me thinking – what makes me feel really ‘alive’? What in the past has made me feel the way I do now, in this very moment? Happily, gloriously alive. It took me a while to construct a list, and it’s by no means definitive – so I’m calling it my Top 4.

1. Living in the moment.
Harder than it sounds. And by ‘living in the moment’ I mean actually enjoying the moment without thinking about 10 seconds, 10 minutes or 10 hours ahead. Not contemplating where you’re off to next, what should be on your shopping list, the next deadline for work. Not thinking about something other than what is happening “right now”. Unless you’ve mastered the art of meditation or successfully subscribe to Buddhist ‘mindfulness’, you’ll likely find this incredibly hard. Since I don’t meet either of those criteria – I feel lucky to have achieved it at all. But I have. When I spend time with my 3 year-old daughter on our day off together, I can honestly say that I have been completely ‘in the moment’ with her – no thought of anything other than what we are doing, nowhere to be except where we are, nothing to do other than what we are doing. And the wondrous thing about children is that they usually inhabit this space, this ‘moment’, more than anywhere else. I wonder how we/they lose that sense of present-play. I suspect it’s all on us – we teach kids to think, plan and move ahead. But that feeling of freedom and blinding happiness, so consciously alive in the moment…I’ll be eternally grateful to my daughter for sharing her experience of it.

2. The throes of passion.
There is nothing like being so overwhelmingly impassioned that you can barely control yourself. Yes, I’m talking lust. That deep longing for human physical contact, when desire seems to ooze from the pores of your skin and you feel so overripe you’re about to fall off the vine. Mmmmmm…OK….you get my drift. Anyway – I don’t think anyone would argue that you don’t feel alive when you’re embroiled in a passionate tryst with the object of your romantic desire. Your mind has turned off, your body is on disconnect from your brain and sensation is…well, sensational. Anthropologists might argue that despite years of evolution, passion (whether love or lust) simply arises from a deeply-rooted need to procreate. Whatever. What matters is that irrespective of whether it’s primal, biological, spiritual or soulful – it certainly makes you feel alive.

3. Music
Whatever your taste, if you listen to music at all you will understand the heights that it can elevate you to when it’s good – really good. The estimation of ‘good’ is (in the main) subjective – sidenote: my apologies to those who study music theory who have just baulked at this statement – but I think we’ve all heard a piece of music that prompted an emotional response, triggered memory, or swept us away on a magical, tuneful carpet ride. For me, it usually happens when I’m listening to music on my own: at home, in the car or even wired-for-sound at the gym. And it’s not always the same song, it’s often a song in the context of where I am or what I’m doing. Surely one of the following rings a bell for you: the long highway drive with a pumping, kick-arse beat matching the tarmac treads; the melancholic songs, where every sad note abides in the air like misty rain mixing with your tears; the sweet-moment music, where happiness sparkles like sunlight through glass, your heart swells and makes you feel glad to be alive. Yep, music makes all that happen. I love, love, love music for making all that possible.

4. Beauty
This last point is clearly connected to points 1 through 3. How could it not be? Anything that makes you feel truly ‘alive’ is by its very nature stunningly, maddeningly, sweetly beautiful. But this also refers to those moments outside of you; when you see or hear something so wondrously perfect and simple that you can’t help but step back and admire it. Like the ocean on one of those days when the seawater is blue-green-clear and the sand is grainy whitewash. Like the embrace between reunited loved ones at an airport. Like the joy on the face of a child on Christmas morning.

Ans there’s another type of beauty. I’m not sure how to elaborate on this point except to say something that, even to my mind, sounds so “wanky” that I’m not sure it’s worth typing. But this IS a blog, so here goes. Sometimes the beauty of everything in a moment crystallises into one absolute sense of…completeness. It’s like a flash of insight, a feeling of being part of everything, a perfectly architected instant. Some think it’s connecting with nature or the universe, for others it’s just like ‘waking up’ to what’s going on around you. Like passion, it really doesn’t matter how you define it, as long as you get to experience it. Because it’s a beautiful thing. And it makes you feel alive.

I’m going to wrap up this post with a poetic reference that may just cement the “wanky”-ness of today’s mental meanderings. My favourite poems hold something true about being alive; they speak of beauty, truth, days, living and even acknowledge our human-need to explain all these aspects of being alive which, to my mind, often don’t really require explanation at all – I’m just happy I get to experience them. Having said that, I had to study “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats in high school; it’s certainly not poetry I would have discovered on my own. The last 2 lines are the kicker and it’s those I’ve quoted because, well, they are simple and true.

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

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Being found.

This week’s post is short. It’s been one of those weeks where I’ve bounced from one task to the next, on the periphery – just doing, not thinking. Having said that, I had 5 hours of happy-highway-trails today, heading north for work. I’m here now, but it’s late and the fuzziness is creeping in. So…short it is.

I’ve been thinking about relationships, life-partnerships. It’s worth saying upfront that I don’t subscribe to the theory that there is literally only one perfect match for us, one soul mate. The scientist in me screams numbers and proportions – an entire world population and one lil’ ol’ me. The odds are in my favour. Statistically speaking, there must be more than one who would speak to my heart.

What’s important though is that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how many or few people there are that hold a potential spiritual connection for you. What matters is finding someone who you love, who loves you back. What matters is the process of being found.

Let me note here that I have a wonderful, loving partner. Our story is one of missed moments, shared school buses, common workplaces and mutual friends. Seems we were dancing around each other for a good 20 years, we just didn’t know it. We both have the benefit of life experience – each having been married before – and we know that gives us a unique perspective on our relationship. We treasure what we have even more, because we know that things can change. We know that sometimes, despite your best efforts, things don’t last. We feel incredibly lucky to have finally found each other.

In truth, I think he found me. I had such a demoralising end to my marriage, a self-esteem-sapping separation, that I think I had forgotten what it was like to be wanted. To be sought after, to be found. He had to spell it out for me. Thank goodness he took notice and lucky me on being found.

Last night we went out with 2 other couples. One just celebrated 17 years of marriage the other will be married later this year. I don’t know their stories – previous relationships, how they met – but both couples are clearly happy to have found each other. As far as I know they aren’t looking elsewhere. They are both committed couples, people just enjoying being together.

So in pondering relationships, I think that most people generally just want to be found. We all want to be sought-after, discovered, held close and dear, treasured, precious. It really is sheer luck being found by, or finding someone who is right for you, who “fits”. Despite my theory about there being more than one in the world suited to us, being truly found is still a rare and wonderful thing.

The final word on this subject goes to my three-year old daughter. We play hide and seek – she hides out of sight and then, rather than remain quiet while I prowl my way around the house, she talks me through where to find her. She wants to be found, despite the fact that the purpose of the game is to remain hidden.

She’s a smart girl – she knows that being found is far more fun.

Passage.

The older I get, the more keenly I feel the passage of time. I don’t remember feeling this way in my 20s or even my 30s. Now in my 40s, there are constant reminders of the passage of time – children growing up, facial lines deepening, my party-constitution failing me on a night out. I hear 40 is the new 30 (don’t ask me the source – I don’t care, I wholeheartedly support them anyway) so generally speaking, I’m not anywhere in the vicinity of what could possibly be classed as that dreadful term, ‘middle age’. I still feel like I’ve got a lot to do, to experience and to learn. I want to stay vital, invigorated and interesting if nothing else than for the sake of my 3 year old daughter. Yes that’s right – I’d like to be the coolest, wow-you-couldn’t-possibly-be-a-61-year-old Mum on the planet at her 21st birthday party. No pressure.

In terms of actually making it to my daughter’s 21st – by which I mean (to be quite blunt) life expectancy – I console myself with the fact we are generally a family of quality long-lifers. So I should be around. My grandmother is still alive, living in a house on her own in Merewether, the same house in which she raised her family. She still walks to the shops to get the paper. Apart from being a fairly deaf, she’s rockin’ it. She turns 90 this year. Another two family members have reached and passed the 100 year milestone. Both have arthritis, one is deaf and the other doesn’t “do” steps – but they are still loving, happy, gorgeous souls. Ummmm, yes alright, they’re dogs, but I’m including them in my familial-longevity assessment for the sheer fact they’ve been raised in our home environment. Sure, in their case it’s nuture over nature – but they’re still family so they count for the sake of my ruminations.

Centenarians

The funny thing about getting older is that you don’t feel like you’re ageing on the inside. My thoughts, memories and feelings are all swirling about inside me without a care about the general state of my body. I can still act silly and feel like a child. I can still feel infatuation, expectation and senseless passion. I can weep and mourn the same way I did 5, 10 or 20 years ago. Who I am on the inside remains relatively unchanged.

I find my memories aren’t really affected by time either. Those imprints are all there, jumbled, ready to access when wanted or needed. Many seem like only yesterday while some things from yesterday seem like long ago. And whether they exist in coloured detail or blurry sepia – what persists is the feeling around the memory. Joy, sadness, regret, happiness, shame, anticipation, embarrassment, loneliness or completeness – the memory is watermarked and I feel it more distinctly than I recall the event itself. The emotion of the past experience is like a hash-tag for accessing the memory.

Hey, I just used twitter-speak to describe personal memory referencing. See – I’m NOT old!

Tenuously connected to these thoughts: I read something in yesterday’s paper that startled me, an interview with an author about her recently published book ‘Losing February’ based on a period in her life. The author herself is quoted as saying “Falling in love is a bit like mental illness, you lose all sense of a lot of things… that’s why I called (the book) ‘Losing February’, because I was so in love. I lost February. For a woman my age I was a bit surprised”. Wait, what? A woman her age? I scanned the article for more information, wondering at what age the dramatic and wonderful effects of falling in love abandon us. She’s 50 now, it was set 10 years ago, so apparently it’s 40. Mental note: Let my single friends know they better get out there amongst it, because they might not feel that glorious emotional ascent into love if they don’t find ‘the right one’ before 40. A lot of my friends are already 40+, so I’m guessing they too will keenly feel the passage of time when I lay that one on them. Suffice to say I don’t agree with this premise at all. I can’t find any discernible loss of feelings at 43. My emotional boat still floats.

Note to readers: yes, yes, I know this author may simply be referring to the fact that she thought she wouldn’t find someone to fall in love with at 40, rather than actually losing the ability to love with age – but still, it’s a slightly grim view of the world. For the sake of my blogpost, just roll with it!

To sum up today’s mental meanderings: I’d like to think that what’s on the inside has great bearing on what happens on the outside. I’d like to think that the emotions I felt when I was younger are still accessible to me as I grow older, albeit shaded with life experience and some common sense I lacked in my youth. I’d like to think that I will still find things to wonder about when I’m older and that I can still be surprised every day. I’d like to think that I can age gracefully and be at peace with whatever happens to this housing for my soul.

And finally – paradoxically – I can’t wait for 2030. Why? Because I have a special party to go to.

Lazy.

Well, yes, it’s happened. The inevitable. What I just KNEW would happen.

I got lazy.

That’s right folks. Only 2 blog posts in and I’m already shirking Sunday responsibilities in favour of all things lazybonesy (technical term). Yesterday on my Sunday afternoon, I found myself reading the paper, fluffing about the kitchen, intermittently reading tweets and generally….not doing a lot. Still, not a bad way to pass the afternoon.

To make up for such slovenly behaviour I’m going to share a couple of shots featured on a blog I discovered called ‘you are my wild’. I love that simple statement for so many reasons. You are my wild……you’re what makes me nuts, drives me crazy, makes me seeth with rage or passion, makes me laugh hysterically, makes me sob with joy and smile with sadness, makes me explore, reminds me to be unihibited, to let go, to not care, to just enjoy. You are my wild.

No surprises that the stars of the blog are children. Being wild. Captured moments. Beautiful. http://youaremywild.wordpress.com/

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