Tuesday 2 May 2023

A - Z Challenge - O: One (Opinion)

Years ago, I wrote an angst-ridden blog post called 'An Audience of One', reminding myself that the only opinion that matters is God's. I clearly needed a lot of reminding; as I read that post now I hear my somewhat shrill voice worrying about what I look like, what I sound like, what people think, what I should do, what I should say... in fact, who I actually am. I use italics a lot. I repeat myself a lot. 

I'll give 2013 me a lot of credit for being honest about things, and for pouring it all out in an authentic way - I remember people got in touch because of this post and used those wonderful words, 'Me too', so I'm not going to be too disparaging. But what struck me as I read that old post was how some things change, and some don't. 

I am ten years older, and what a decade it's been. I am thankful that I didn't know what the future held back then; indeed how glad I am that I don't know what still lies ahead; I have less curiosity than ever. Since I wrote that post I have nursed my lovely mum through increasing infirmity and held her hand as she drew her last breath. I have cleaned up pools of blood, spent days and nights in hospitals and waited on ambulances that never came (I have voted in general elections, you can be quite sure of that). I have made phone calls that I never wanted to make, heard news that I had been dreading. I have walked alongside (and continue to support) loved ones who have been through some of the worst trauma that you can imagine. I have witnessed terror and confusion, despair and fear, but also hope, resilience, and peace and healing, in lots of different forms, and not always the kind of healing that we want. 

I am greyer than I was, with crows feet and jowls that I never used to have and no amount of 'upward massage' and night cream is going to take away the frown lines between my eyes. I am heavier than I was, and I worried about the way I looked even then. My eyesight is worse, my knees hurt more and I get more indigestion. 

Do I still worry about other people's opinions? Maybe, but not so much. Not because I'm getting things right that I used to get wrong, but because I care a lot less what people think. With the exception of a very few people, I try to take no notice. They don't know me. They don't see the world as I do. And if I wouldn't go to someone for advice, I will not accept their criticism. 

I don't spend a lot of time making small talk with people I don't want to be with. My world shrank as Mum needed more and more care, and now I am free to push back the boundaries again, I find that I am choosing which things I want to reinstate, and that is liberating. My time and energy are limited.

Do I still rehash conversations and phone calls and worry about whether I got it right? Sometimes, a little, I think, but after years of fighting for support services, making arrangements and appointments, legal enquiries and advocating for one person or another I worry less about the small things. 

That's what it comes down to: the small things. Working out what really matters, and what doesn't. I suppose by the time most people get to their fifties they have had their share of sadnesses and hurts, and I hope that I have tried to begin to learn what there is to learn from the way that life changes you, and adjustments that must be made, though I know that I still have a way to go. Sometimes you can only reflect on something when it is in the rear view mirror, so to speak, and some of the heavy stuff is still very much current. 

Here are a few disorganised thoughts about things that matter (and maybe things that don't).

I loved my Mum, and she knew that she was loved. My care for her in those last months, weeks, days, hours, minutes... it was imperfect, but I did my best. She died comfortably in her own bed with her family around her, and that's what she wanted. I am proud that I managed to give that to her. 

We have been, and are going through some tough times that most people don't have to navigate. It is hard and I am doing my best. The first time someone said that to me, I cried. Since then, I have been able to pass that wonderful bit of wisdom along to others, and it often elicits the same response. 

"This is hard, and you are doing your best." 

I try to forgive myself when I get things wrong. I get tired, I get irritable, I get overwhelmed. Sometimes I don't know the answer. I need time to myself even when other people think I should be available for them. If I can't do it, I can't do it. 

It's ok if someone doesn't think well of me. People are capable of handling disappointment and I will manage to survive someone's scowl or sulk. If I say the wrong thing in a conversation in the frozen food department of the supermarket with someone I haven't seen in a few years, well, it'll probably be a few more years before I see them again. And I do most of my shopping online now, anyway. 

I cannot control everything. Not everything is my fault. It's ok to say no. These days I say no more than I say yes, to be honest, and I'm alright with that. Would ten-year-ago-me be alright with it? I don't know, but I suspect not. Am I happy about what I had to go through to learn about saying no? No, certainly not, but let's celebrate that I got there at all. 

Every cat is a therapy cat. I have three black rescue cats, Noodle, Spike and Bean. They were sent from God to make me smile. When Spike tries to catch a fly and falls off the windowsill, or when Bean curls up on my lap and purrs, those are moments that matter, I am sure of it.

So I think I was right to remind myself that the only opinion that matters is God's opinion. I had the right idea. What's different is that I worried about such a lot of small things that don't seem very important or relevant any more. It's all a matter of perspective. 

Yes, I play to an audience of One, but the audience is not dissatisfied and giving me a slow hand-clap; he is cheering me on. He is proud of me. This is hard and I am doing my best. If God wants more from me, then he'll have to give me what I need to deliver more, but I am persuaded that he knows how hard it's been, how hard I've been trying, how tired I am. 

In the words of the wonderful Adrian Plass, God is nice, and he loves me. I don't think he cares about a lot of the small stuff. And, maybe, just as my ten year old blog post seems a bit lightweight and trivial (but it really didn't feel that way at the time), maybe an awful lot more of life is smaller than we think.

Lord God, teach me what actually matters.

1 comment:

  1. You are such an inspiration. I love how you are continuing to do the A to Z challenge on your own schedule. Your posts are certainly worth waiting for.


A - Z Challenge - O: One (Opinion)

Years ago, I wrote an angst-ridden blog post called ' An Audience of One' , reminding myself that the only opinion that matters is G...