stop. look. feel. wonder. imagine.

All things come to an end. That is the cyclical nature of life. The sun sets and a new dawn breaks. The tombstone is laid and the moss grows to cover it. I look into the mirror and I see wrinkles, grey hairs, and worry. But I also see smile lines, a knowing look, and someone who is growing more comfortable in their skin every day.

This life will not last forever. We are moving through time so slowly, so steadily, and we rarely pause to see how far we’ve come. Stop. Look. Feel. Wonder. Imagine. Maybe you have a long journey ahead of you. Maybe you are coming to the end of the path. Take a moment to be grateful, and to remember the good choices you made, the things you are proud of. This too shall pass. What is next may not be clear at this moment. But you will take it in your stride.

Keep your loving heart open. Trust in yourself and nature. And be.

gathering creative energy

So much of the time in this life of ours, we are go, go, go! It’s not always a bad way to be, and it’s not always a good way to be. As ever, the key thing seems to be … Continue reading

going somewhere

Sometimes it feels like you’re being pulled along by an underground current. You’re walking in one direction but you feel like you’re actually walking upside down, or inside out, or trying to swim up through the sky, or trying to tunnel down through the ground.

It’s like when you’re sitting on a train that you’ve never caught before, and you’re waiting for it to leave the station. You have an idea of which way it will go that may be based on nothing more than your own innate sense of direction, an internal compass that you’ve been unknowingly relying on. Then suddenly, the train’s engine spurs into action and it lurches forward. It’s going the wrong way! your alarmed, baffled, and disorientated mind reports to you; blinking, spinning, trying to make sense of something for which there is no seemingly rational explanation.

You then realise that the train can’t be wrong. Why would it be? The train is going exactly where it needs to be. You’re wrong. Your feelings are playing tricks on you, and for no good reason.

Next time you’re sitting on that platform, you know exactly what to expect, and it doesn’t feel like aliens are using giant, invisible magnets to somehow interfere with your world, dragging you along an unplanned route of their making, without your knowledge. This time, you know which way you’re going, and you feel calm. It may not be the direction you dreamt of, not the perfect path you hoped to create, but equally, it doesn’t throw you, and you don’t feel the need or the desire to question it. It just is.

And once you’re able to embrace that, you can relax, and turn your free mind to other things … such as your next train trip.

we are lucky

Last night I was at the hairdressers flipping through a (really good, actually,) copy of Marie Claire magazine. I haven’t paged through a glossy for a while. I used to work in the fashion industry and be obsessed with those publications, but now, much less so.

However, I stumbled across an article that made me smile and feel genuinely warm inside. (And it wasn’t the foils on my head heating me up!) It was the story of an anonymous man who came into a significant amount of money, £500,000 in fact. Being quite well off already, at first he decided to spend the cash on a space flight, which he booked, but then cancelled days later. He felt a responsibility to do something more with the money, something that would benefit a wider community of people rather than just him.

Then Wearelucky was born. He devised a plan to give kind strangers £1,000 with the only condition being that they had to do something good with the money, whatever their definition of good might be, and also share the story of what they chose to do. One lady in South Africa gave the funds to her cleaning lady to put her grandson through school. Another lady used it to get a project off the ground converting a derelict building into an art facility for Aborigine artists in a very isolated part of Australia. A couple donated their share to a special care unit for babies in a hospital. The list goes on, and every person entrusted with the money has a different story.

I think it’s the most wonderful idea. And it just goes to show that you cannot predict when your time will come to make a positive mark on the world, to change someone’s life, even in a small way. A friend of mine once said, “You never know the effect you have on people,” and it’s a phrase that has always stayed with me. I firmly believe that we are lucky, but also that we make our own luck. So let’s think big! Bigger than just ourselves.

Let’s leave this world a better place than when we found it.

a special request

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I walk up to the bed. The man lying there has a tube feeding into his arm, and another one under his nose. It is a warm evening and a small fan is perched on a wheeled skinny table next to him.

“Hello there,” I say brightly, “My name is Erin and I’m a volunteer with the hospital radio station.”

The man gives a faint smile and nods, “Hello.”

“We have a special request show tonight, and I was wondering if we could play a song for you.”

He looks despondent. “I wish I could listen to the radio but I don’t have one.”

“Oh really? Actually there’s a contraption thing there on the wall that has a radio, I can pull it over and set it up for you?”

I squeeze past the table to the entertainment unit. It sticks out on a mechanical arm and I awkwardly wrangle it towards the bed. I set it up for the man, whose name is José*. I explain the different stations and tell him our show starts at 8pm. I try to bring it close so that he can operate it, but he cannot really move.

“Leave it on the hospital station,” he says, which is met with a big grin from me.

I say I need to go and get some headphones for him; he promises to give me a request when I get back.

“I’ll hold you to that!”

I return with the headphones, and he chooses ‘Anything for you’, by Gloria Estefan.

“Would you like to dedicate it to anyone?” I ask, making notes.

He says it was a special song for him and his partner, before they passed away a year ago, from cancer.

I nod and we exchange a sad smile. “Thank you so much for sharing that, José. We’ll definitely play it for you a little bit later.”

I continue on through the hospital wards. Sometimes people are in too much pain to talk, sometimes they cannot hear, sometimes they cannot speak English and I berate my lack of other languages. Sometimes their smile lights up their whole face, and they tell you a story about their lives.

One lady is a famous opera singer who has travelled the world and sung before the late Queen Mother. We find one of her recordings on YouTube and play it on the show; it is beautiful.

A man called Andrew tells me he was born in poverty in the 1920s, his family of nine crammed into two small rooms. He came home from the war and announced to his wife, “I’ll never be poor again!” and, he says to me, he never was.

Another lady has lived in London her whole life. She used to work in Knightsbridge and would get the bus into the West End to see a musical, anything she could get a cheap ticket to, which she was able to do “nine times out of ten”. When it came to really popular shows her friends would say, “There’s no way you’ll get a seat tonight!” and she would reply, “You want a bet?!” She is vibrant, lying there in her bed. She chooses the wartime classic, ‘We’ll meet again’.

One man dedicates his request to “Sarah in the unit next door”, while another patient dedicates their song to “all of the nursing staff”. Occasionally people give me a conspiratorial smile and announce they will dedicate their song to themselves. “And why not?” I agree.

I leave the wards having witnessed snapshots of lives, from every kind of person, suffering from any kind of thing; illness does not discriminate. Back in the studio we play all of the requests, from opera to pop, Susan Boyle to Britney Spears, and we have one or two laughs in between songs. I think of the people that I have met and I wonder if they are listening.

This one goes out to them.

*All names have been changed to respect privacy.