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Life turned upside down two years ago today, but I'm still standing

By Nuala McKeever

Published 20/04/2015

Finger pointing: our general human instinct is to always put people down
Finger pointing: our general human instinct is to always put people down

Due to lots of re-decorating in the house, my writing position has been shifted around a fair bit in the last few weeks. So instead of sitting up in bed to write on the laptop, or sitting at a desk in the back room upstairs looking out over trees and playing fields, I'm this week sitting at a desk in the front room upstairs looking out at people and cars and vans coming and going on the street below. It's a different perspective altogether.

The outside world keeps making its presence felt. I don't have to be in it, but can't avoid seeing it or at least catching it out of the corner of my eye. Not unlike life generally.

Maybe it's an age thing, or a grief thing but I find myself less and less interested in watching TV or reading about politics or watching politicians debate, even though the wee bit of the leaders' debate I caught last Thursday night was refreshing in that there were three women on it talking more sense than any politicians I've heard before.

But there's a draw to withdraw, a desire to drift away from the party and sit quietly in a room off, where I can hear the sounds of life through the half-open door, but have no yearning to be at the do myself. Does this mean I'm giving up? Am I abdicating my responsibility to actively make the world a better place?

I reckon sometimes it is giving up, a running away, a being quiet in order simply to be able to handle the challenge of having had life turned upside down two years ago today. Still reeling from that inside, even though life has carried on and there has been joy and fun along the way. But I believe more and more that this desire for quiet is an active choice. And I believe it does make the world a better place. (Yes, I'm sure there are many people who'd think that me shutting up would make the world a better place alright).

Although I express my opinion here every week, I'm aware that the world needs more opinions like a hole in the head, mostly.

I made a wee vow the other morning that I would only use my voice to speak positively in ways that would leave others better off.

That lasted for several hours, right up until I was actually with another person and found myself talking. Straight into the familiar territory of finding something critical to say about someone else. As if negative has more currency.

I guess that's the way we talk in general here. "Did y'hear what so and so did?" "Aye, he's alright, but wait'll I tell you what he did ..." What is this? Human instinct to put others down? To make myself look or feel superior? But it doesn't. It mostly makes me feel grubby afterwards.

I'll try again. I'll notice this desire to speak judgmentally and I'll resist. I'll think about how there's always a reason for why anyone behaves the way they do. I'll see their point of view. From now on I'll only be tolerant and loving and - oh look! Flying pigs!

Okay, I may not achieve all that, but at least I'm more aware of the need to. I can practise it, to make the world, this world of me and the people I meet, a better place.

And it's in quiet that I realise that it's possible to be quiet. To be in the world without making myself heard all the time. Phew. Relief.

How I gave graffiti vandals brush-off

It's easy to forget there's a horrible world of anger and hatred out there when you live in a middle-class bubble. 

Mine was shattered rudely last Monday morning when I woke up to be confronted by ugly graffiti on a wall across the road.

A person named. Accusations of being a drug-dealer, a home wreaker (sic), a fat s**** and a fat c-word, all in big black letters, screaming at suburbia.

I summoned up my inner Hillary Hamilton of Holywood and went straight out and painted over it. I used Magnolia but if anyone asks, it was Ivory or Cotswold Cream, okay? No surrender!

That's really nice, but give it a rest

Just when you're wondering what your life's going be like once you achieve being a really nice person, you get a timely reminder that as work-in-progress goes, being nicer is most likely a lifetime job.

It'll never be done. For example, you know gratitude is a good thing. You practice being grateful.

"I'm grateful, I'm grateful, I'm grateful", you repeat positively, as you browse Facebook and come across someone's Gratitude List, Day 193 and you mutter, "Oh for God's sake love, are you still banging on about that? Who cares!"

As I say, it's a life's work ...

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