Is cynicism a side effect of ageing?

I have always considered myself a positive, glass half full type of person, and someone who can empathize, but have lately found myself getting more and more cynical.

Not sure if it is due to the fact that over the past 7 years of not really watching TV and now during this interminable lockdowns, with the more enforced indoor hours, the TV is on with the daily news reports which can only make one a tad jaded. These lockdowns definitely have a negative effect and it takes an almost physical effort to keep the positivity going. Even the desire to sit down and type a blog has become what seems like a chore. This I can understand and can analyse and realise it is not forever, but the cynical, negative thoughts are disturbing.

This first realization was seeing a charity appeal for the Donkey Sanctuary, maybe it was the tone of the narrator’s pseudo sad voice appealing “SMS to donate to help us work towards a world where donkeys and mules live free from suffering, and their contribution to humanity is fully valued.” My first thought was “come on how many donkeys are out there that need an advert on prime time TV” and really doubted that the £2 donated actually got to the poor suffering creatures. Same mans voice for the starving children in Africa. Don’t get me wrong – I know there must be donkeys out there suffering and there are starving children in Africa, all who desperately need money, buy my cynical side kicked in about where the funds were actually going.

Ditto now with all the hero stories coming out with covid – the young mentally challenged 5 year old who decided he was going to run 2 miles everyday during lockdown to raise funds for the NHS – parents standing to the side prompting them in their 5 minutes of fame. Cynic brain – he didn’t decide to do this – his parents did and to me that is exploitation. Even typing this makes my cringe – and how can my brain function in such a negative soul destroying manner. Is this the side effect of ageing and not seeing the world through my rose tinted glasses – I preferred it when I did.

When and where along the road did I lose those glasses and my quest/new years resolution is to find them again. In my quest there are 2 pages that I need to read and follow more than the negativity and that is “The Good in People” and “The Good Things Guy”.

I have subsequently been on line and found the Donkey Sanctuary webpage – which is real and work hand in hand with the RSPCA and are doing amazing things.

A, B C … go

I find things continually popping into my head and I think “Oh –  I should blog about this”, but lately this virus seems to have taken root and control of my brain cells.  And I am so over it and bored with it all. So hopefully to banish it all to the deepest part of my mind (and sometimes I wonder how dark and deep that can go!), decided to put it all in alphabetical order with hopefully more positives than negatives about the cursed thing.  I am a little bored so this could be similar to reading the telephone directory. Would love to hear others lists.

A – apathetic attitude and acceptance

B – benefits of making people slow down life a little and enjoy the simpler things in life

C – conspiracy theories abound

D – depression

E – empty roads, towns and beaches

F – friends re-connecting and furlough (thank god for furlough)

G – gratitude

H – health, it is only when we lose our health is threatened that we truly appreciate it

I – ignorance of people believing everything they read on social media

J – jubilation when the first lock down ended

K – kindness of people

L – likeminded people are the best to follow on twitter otherwise it is a rabbit hole of anger

M – mental illness which unfortunately has been more prevalent with the forced isolation

N – nowhere to hide, no chance of running away from it all and nature taking a breath

O – outdoors, being forced to meet outdoors is not necessarily a bad thing, get some much needed fresh air

P – politicians, would hate to be in their shoes as they are damned if that do and damned if they don’t

Q – questions, lots of them

R – respect for all the essential workers

S – sadness for all the loved ones that have passed on during this time

T – tears of which there have been many all across the globe and of course Trump

U – understanding

V – vaccine, a little sceptical but keeping my mind open

W – weight, and we all know about that

X – eXhaustion of the never-ending bombardment on all news fronts

Y – year 2020 is a bit of a write off

Z – zoom – say no more

Nature taking a breath

Make the most of every day.

It is sad that sometimes it takes a tragedy to make us realise that each day is a privilege.

Three recent events that have touched my life have once again brought this to the fore. A time when we are all wrapped up in what we can and what we cannot due and I find myself being quite introspective. I decided to ride this craziness out and not travel home to see family for Christmas. The days are short and the nights long and dark and the sun seldom manages to break through the clouds, and when it does it is watery and not very effective in creating any heat. But maybe it is the novelty of it that I am loving, as this is the first time in the 60 years of my life, that I have not been in the southern hemisphere for Christmas.

But there are days that the dark heaviness weighs you down. The body’s bio rhythms are always a little out of kilter. And the mind turns inward. When you wake at 8am and it is still pitch black outside, with the wind howling and the rain lashing, it takes a lot of willpower to get up, lace on some running shoes and start the day, although knowing that once out there it is well worth it.

Almost seven years ago, life as I knew it, took an about turn and I found myself sinking into a bit of an abyss and it took the sudden death of a friend to snap me out of my “Oh woe is me” attitude. That was the day I signed up for my first adventure of planting trees for Greenpeace and then went off to Costa Rica to teach art.

Last week an old friend passed away after falling into a diabetic coma – she had survived cancer and the death of her spouse. Another friend has just been discharged from hospital after 3 weeks after contracting this dreaded virus – his words “Be careful out there – take it seriously”, and then this morning I heard of the death of a young friend (38) who I worked with at Morgan Bay, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in October.

All this somehow puts things in perspective – so what if you aren’t allowed to go to the beach right now, or if there will be no all fall down New Years Eve parties this year, or if we are required to wear a mask, or holiday plans need to be put on hold. We are alive and well. Another dear friend sent me a link to a clip about the cartoonist Charlie Mackesy, whose message at the end of the day is “Don’t give up, the storm ends”. Make the most of each and every single day, regardless of what it is – just doing what you want to do at that specific moment instead of focusing on how unfair the world is perceived to be.

“Don’t give up, the storm ends” – Charlie Mackesy

A good day to go to the beach…

“Today is a good day to visit the beach” I am told when discussing plans for the day with some local guests.

I stop in my tracks and take a surreptitious look outside and try to remove the incredulous look from my face when turning back to them. Outside the loch is being churned by the wind, clouds are scudding across sky, with occasional glimpses of a watery blue trying hard to make itself seen. I am wearing thick thermal socks, boots and a warm woolen scarf, as maximum temperatures today will be in the single figures. I reply with a sage nod of my head “Ah yes it’s not raining”.

Coming from South Africa, this is a totally alien concept. To spend the day at the beach requires a cooler box filled with ice cold refreshments, sun umbrellas, beach towels, sunglasses, a good book and copious amounts of sunscreen. Where at the end of the day, the skin is feeling the tingle of maybe a touch too much sun and the prickle of sea salt, beach sand in your hair and the permanent scent of coconut oil. Mission accomplished.

In Scotland – a trip to the beach takes on a whole new meaning. It does not entail lazing on the smooth sand (or small pebbles depending on where you go – South African landscaping shops could have a field day here with a seemingly never ending supply of stones for flower beds), it requires a good set of boots, all weather gear and the desire to get out there and experience the elements. To go to the beach is to go to feel the cold north wind on your face, to smell the sea spray, to find shells and unusual pieces of drift wood, to walk. It is a totally different mind set. There are the odd days that allow for the removal of shoes to feel the sand under the soles of your feet and a dip in the icy waters, but they are a rarity

Today it is predicted to be 4 degrees, and a slight breeze so I’m off to the beach! A good day to go to the beach.

Conquering fear!

A fear I have had since I was a child is a fear of the dark. And I often wonder how did this fear manifest itself. As children, back in the 60’s we were not exposed to horror movies or ghost stories, yet I can remember turning the light off before going to bed and trying to run and do a long jump onto the bed, for the fear of the bogeyman lying in wait in the darkness beneath the bed. Is this fear inbred, a sub-conscious feeling of the unknown that you cannot see?

And as I have grown up it is more the fear of things the go bump in the night, the possibility of an intruder rather than the unknown or the supernatural or the bogeyman.

Now living in Scotland where the mystery abounds, lying in my dark room I have no fear and logically can explain outside noises to the deer grazing, to sheep ambling passed my doorway.

But ……. my morning runs have turned into an exercise of pure will and determination. With the days getting shorter and shorter, I now start and end in the pitch dark and when I say pitch dark I mean pitch pitch dark!!! The short little road out the village is fine as it has a few street lights, but then the turn either left or right at the top of the road is like stepping into an abyss. It is like peering into a black hole especially on a starless night.

I have my little head light and luminous light up arm bands to ensure my visibility for the one in a million vehicle that might come around a corner. I have learnt to identify deer eyes that light up off to the side of the road, but got the fright of my life when I saw yellow orbs – about 20 of them seemingly hovering directly in front of me – unmoving. It was a flock of sheep just standing in the middle of the road. Not sure who got more of a fright, them or me. Here I curse my over active imagination of vikings and celtic ancestors watching me and in my mind I am talking to all by loved ones who might be out there also watching over me. A soft sound to the right which I catch above the sound of my own breath, finds me sprinting down the road.

Last week I think I might have broken my own speed record, I must have been about 1km into my run, my logic trying to dampen my gut feeling when all I can see is a small 1 m hallow of light in each direction I might look, with total darkness everywhere else, when I here the sound of a human singing. It is 6am, nearly winter and there is nothing but wild highlands around me. I stop in my tracks and then the voice starts to howl. I stop dead in my tracks. Turn my light off to see if I can see any other light – nothing – and the howl comes again, coming from the black wooded area below me. Then he starts to sing again – it echo’s around, it is eerie, it is terrifying. I turn tail, put my light back on and ran like I haven’t for many a year.

Serving guests at breakfast a few hours later, my heart rate is now back to normal, when we get an unusual walk in guest, single dreadlocked young man, with no luggage. just a small backpack, asking for breakfast for one. On seating him, I enquire “Good morning, would you like tea or coffee with your breakfast, and you weren’t by any chance in the local woods singing this morning?” His reply – “Yes he was!” So there is a logical explanation to everything.

So I am still going out in the dark (when the weather allows) but still with a lot of trepidation and my loved ones must be getting tired of my mental conversations with them, asking to keep any possible presence that may be out there intent on mischief, at bay.

The fear is still very real!

It’s just a frog in my throat….!

The curtain tweakers of the world are having a field day, but saying that I am equally guilty.  If I hear someone coughing I immediately turn to look where it is coming from.

Since the hotel reopened in July, the response had been unprecedented with a record amount of people coming through the doors, all in search of some relief from this mind numbing uncertainty.  The first wave of guests were people just so grateful to experience some semblance of normality, albeit service in muffled tones with the mandatory ruling of mask wearing, no background music to ensure no one needs to talk louder than necessary as “they” say this will spread the invisible enemy.  Visitors are now getting a little more demanding, or maybe it is just that we are all getting exhausted by the seemingly never ending flow of customers, the never ending cleaning, the never ending hand sanitising  – but a good problem to have after 5 months of closure in the bigger scheme of things.

It is becoming a dog eat dog world out there. The media, politicians and “they” are putting the fear of eternal damnation on us.   Yesterday I was the brunt of a rolling of the eyes and attitude (from a South African nogal !) when trying to explain to some guests that even though they might all be travelling together in a large group, they would have to be seated on separate tables as the guidelines here in Scotland are no groups bigger than 6 and then only from 2 households. There are the nay-sayers and anti-maskers out there, and who knows maybe they have a point – is it just the flu?  But with the real threat of this new second wave threatening the hospitality industry once again – if you listen to the news, I personally would rather err on the side of caution.  I would rather be rushed off my feet and falling dead into bed each night, than be put back into a lockdown. And if that means wearing a claustrophobic mask (you can get some really funky ones) then so be it.

The thanks and appreciation being given by 99% of our patrons is heart-warming and it feels good to be able to give people a little hope that it is not all doom and gloom out there, though the fear out there is very real, but it is just a frog in my throat, I am not carrying the plague.

Time!

Where does it go? And why is it that we only realise how precious it is when there is less of it?

After having been under lockdown now for a full 3 months and getting the information that I am to be taken off furlough tomorrow and start work again, I question myself, why didn’t I do more, make more of this precious time. I still have so much I want to do /should have done.  It feels like only yesterday that it was announced that the world was to stop and at the same time it feels like a life time ago.  The weeks have dragged but at the same time have flown.  One day has melded into the next, with no structure, no urgency.  All the good intentions in my mind of “Ah I now have time to do the things I long to do.”  These things that I had always put off with the excuse of not having enough time.

I have drawn (and sold some of my works), blogged, run, read, climbed mountains, with no pressure of time, of having to hurry to get it done. And got bored with the hours of precious time stretching out in front of me. So why do I feel guilty, maybe a bit disappointed in myself. Reading about all the wonderful things others have done with their time. Was it the time wasted aimlessly watching series repeats, and making the excuses in my mind not to run, read, walk, draw. To procrastinate. But was it wasted? It was what I wanted to do at the time. With the event of social media, the natural human response is to compare ourselves to others achievements, we put ourselves under undue pressure to perform to perceived expectations. But, we are all individuals.

I believe I live life to the fullest, and if I feel I am wasting time, I will embrace it. It’s a cliché I know, but this lockdown has brought it even more to the fore, “Time is precious, spend it wisely.” And without guilt!

Don’t sweat the small stuff …..

…. or the smallest of things – and by things I mean living, alive and kicking things.

And to narrow this down I am referring to the minute ticks and irritating midges that abound in the Scottish Highlands during these summer months.

To explain a midge to fellow South Africans, imagine a “miggie” crossed with a “mozzie” on steroids, but are 1/10 in size. They thrive on warm humid conditions with little or no wind, so much so that you pray for wind everyday. And apparently according to those in the know, I have only experienced the better days. They swarm in clouds and make a bee line for any emission of carbon dioxide. You do not feel the initial bite/sting – described perfectly via wikipedia as follows “When a midge bites, it uses its pinking-shear-like mouth parts to cut a hole in its victim’s skin and injects an anticoagulant to stop the blood from clotting so that it can feast on the resulting pool.” This results in swelling and itching on the site of the bite, which remains for days – the itch of which is incessant, which you then absentmindedly scratch till it looks like you have a bad case of chicken pox.

Then you get the ticks.  Some as small as a pin head. And when you go walking in the highlands there is no escaping them, regardless of what you wear. Fortunately they are not as deadly as their African brothers, but are equally as determined. And….. according to google …… they can survive 476 days without a host. So even if you have not been out walking for days, these feisty little critters can be found traversing your skin and attaching themselves at any time of the day, the removal of which requires a pair of tweezers and plenty of curse words. They also leave behind an itch that is incessant.

But as irritating as they can be, the itch does eventually pass if you do not aggravate the bite site, which got me thinking how this can be compared to the daily life irritants we are exposed to. Don’t scratch at them, try and let them be as they too will pass. I.e – don’t sweat the small stuff.

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The exquisite Highlands which million of ticks and midges call home 

 

Week # 10 – try and live in harmony

Listening to the news on BBC which has at every turn regurgitated the story about one political advisor who appeared to have flaunted the lock down rules. Yes, he seemingly behaved like an idiot, but the vindictiveness and ugliness coming to the fore is ludicrous – how unfair it is, one rule for one and another for others and I sigh and think just get over yourselves.  He is one man. Maybe he should have thought a bit more before travelling. None of us are perfect. None of us know of the exact circumstances in any scenario in another persons life, which makes them make a decision that we personally may not have taken. Let the person who has never made a bad decision, cast the first stone.

And now the narrative that if he can get away with it, then why shouldn’t we? Why should I listen to advice when he didn’t.  Reminds me of the old saying.  If your friend jumps in the fire, are you going to as well! Stop being dicks!

What is it about the human psyche that wants revenge and one-upmanship? And this is when I would like to tell mankind to live like animals.  And this is not meant to be taken literally, but in their attitude and behaviour. It is survival of the fittest, but there is no revenge, no hatred, no vindictiveness.

Sitting here, writing this overlooking the wind swept loch waters, watching a couple of seals, Hubert and Joyce, frolic playfully. Up the road is Betty, the sheep who had twins, Lotty and Dotty on our doorstep. On stepping out my room in the early hours, there was the young stag, Darryl, together with is other brother Darryl eating the lush green grass, whilst keeping a wary eye out for humans. Down the road are Billy, Tilly and Hilly, three large speckled pigs that rush up the fence on seeing you for a scratch under their ears. They are all so totally different, but there is a harmony to their lives that we can learn from. Just be nice people, stop being so angry and thinking life is unfair.

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Lotty and Dotty 

Stop worrying about how life may seem to be fairer to others.  Banish hatred from your heart and live in harmony.

Word for week 9 is Bleh!

This is my first experience of the start of summer up here in the ever jaw dropping highlands. And it is turning out to be an experience I never would have dreamt of. As we enter week 9 of the lock down with the graphs showing ever decreasing number of cases of this evil virus and the powers that be erring on the side of caution with regards to the opening up of the remote areas of Scotland, the uncertainty is quite debilitating, soul crushing and at times can make it hard to breathe.

At the start of this enforced hibernation period, the crisis brought out the best in people, where groups expounding positive messages abounded, then came the anger and now it is the tweaking of curtains and paranoia.

I read and listen what is happening back in South Africa and my heart breaks. My family are living in what can only be called insanity with regards to the restrictions that have been enforced, and I feel almost guilty for being in what has to be the best location to be in the world right now.

And with this also comes the uncertainty of what you can expect summer in the Scottish highlands to throw at you. Just last week I was able to hike the beautiful moors and catch a bit of sun, then the next week, it is back to heaters, jackets, snow on the ground and minus temperatures.

Mother nature however is rejoicing.  On my excursions outdoors, the bird song is never ending, the newly born lambs (by their hundreds) and their ever patient mothers have taken ownership of roads, which usually by now would be teaming with summer tourists and their campervans.  The deer are definitely not as skittish and I find them venturing further and further into the village. Which got me worrying for them for next season when, (note I say when, not if) normal life has returned, that the babies will not have had any exposure to the dangers of traffic so will not be street wise and we may well see more roadkill than normal.

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And the questions still remain ….  Will we open this year? Won’t we open this year? Will it be sunny tomorrow? Will it snow tomorrow? Or maybe it will rain!!!!

On re-reading this post, it alarmed me.  I was typing as I felt.  I always thought that I had a positive mindset and can see the glass half full and the light at the end of the tunnel, but obviously as the words flow my angst is coming to the forefront. I was thinking of discarding this post and starting again with a more positive ring, but then thought no – this is my coping mechanism. This is my therapy and a way of getting my concerns off my chest. Maybe we can look at the animals, despite facing bitter climates and deadly predators, they have survived generations.  The glass is half full and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, just hoping its not the train heading in our direction.