‘A door never shuts but another one opens’
I try to remember this when misfortune comes my way because it is very true.
It’s also easier to see the shutting door than the opening one.
Negativity is much in our psyche. We are far more likely to remember negative things than positive ones and as we ruminate over the negative, we instill it more deeply in our brains.
Of course there is a natural reason for this. It can save our lives. If faced with a pack of hungry wolves for example our brain closes down to all other inputs and we focus on one thing. Escape! And if we survive the incident, it’s important to remember what we did so we can do the same the next time.
When something positive comes our way however, it is not likely to be life threatening and we can remain open to other messages and sensations around us. We don’t need to remember positives to survive.
So If we could remember to let go of the handle of the closed door and step through the open one, misfortunes can become fortunes.
And if we can teach or brains to turn negatives into positives. Life will be better and easier and we may even live longer.
Sometimes the uttering of a simple phrase, made on the spur of the moment in the course of daily life, a passing comment, a throwaway remark, may turn our lives around.
Of course the utterer of such words may not even be aware of having made a profound statement.
They are the unknown hero’s whom we brush against in our daily hectic lives.
Recently at work I had been complaining a lot.
I felt the workload was too crazily busy. I had hardly time to breathe.
Why am I doing this to myself was my constant whine, I’ve been so ill, surely I should be taking life easier now.
I am too old for this pace, was another favourite utterance.
I arrived into work cross and grumpy before the day had even started, feeling hard done by and very sorry for myself and spiralling into a negative mode that was consuming me.
A victim of circumstance.
I was also measuring myself against others. Looking for approval for every task. Complaining to whoever would listen to me (these listeners were getting thinner on the ground) and feeling that asking for help was a sign of weakness on my part. Things were getting so bad that if I did ask for help it came out in a martyred injured way and instead of smiling and asking politely ‘Are you free to help me please?’ I was snarling, ‘How do you expect me to do this alone?’.
I better add here, for fear you are getting a really bad impression of me, that the Peppard women were brought up to be fiercely independant.
In a family of few men, we women could change a wheel, mend a puncture, throw up a stone wall , dig a field, camp in the wild, tackle a grizzly (ah no! just made that up the grizzly one to see are you still awake.)
It was seen as a sign of weakness to ask for help.
By now I wanted others (also busy) to notice how busy I was (oooh poor me).
When I finally admitted this to a good friend over coffee. A teacher and retired at 56, she looked at me glumly. ‘Its probably too late to rectify the ‘asking issue’ after THAT sort of upbringing, unless you went for extensive counselling’
After a moment She said thoughtfully ‘I suggest instead of having to verbalize your need, you should carry a laminated card in your pocket on which is written, ‘Please help me’ and whip that out when you need to. That would keep it short and sweet and to the point and with no wastage of breath’. (I had told her about not even having time to breath).
A few days later I was preparing intravenous antibiotics in the clinical room aware that I was late with them.
I was in the process of stabbing angrily at the bags and cursing all the packaging that had to be removed before I could even get to the vial when a doctor came in to get a tourniquet.
She was italian, maybe twenty five years younger than me.
She watched me for a minute or two then put her head quizzically to one side and asked me
‘What age are you anyway Stephanie?’ I looked up from my chore in surprize
‘I’m 58’ I replied, about to start my usual poor me rant.
WHAT!! Her eyebrows disappeared under her dark fringe ‘You can’t be! How come you look so young?’
Before I had a chance to thank her for her compliment she laughed and said ‘Eet must be from working in thees place’ and she turned on her elegant heel and went out.
When I went home that night I had time to mull over her comment.
Was she right? could it be true? was my place of work keeping me young? Was it actually doing me good as opposed to what I had convinced myself it was doing?
I began to think of the positive sides.
- With a smile in the morning I could cheer someone up.
- Holding someones hand I could give reassurance.
- With one small needle I could take away someones pain.
- With simple words of explanation I could help someone over their fear.
- With gentle hands I could change a dressing without discomfort.
The list went on.
I had forgotten how the fulfillment of caring for others was good for me.
The next morning I headed to work with a light heart. Humming happily and carrying out my tasks cheerfully.
Within a few days I was loving my job as I once had! Others started offering to help me too without me having to ask.
I even threw my laminated card in the bin.
And whenever I felt it was getting too busy for me to cope, I reminded myself that my job was keeping me young.
The negative /positive issue reminded me of another aspect of my life I needed to be aware of; Seeing fortune in ones misfortune i.e If one door shuts then another one opens.
One of the many places I chose to live in was an apartment beside the sea.
It wasn’t the best choice I have ever made but at the time it was hard to find something for a reasonable price.
I looked at the positive elements. It was near the sea , near my work, near the library and I could cycle everywhere I needed to go from its door.
The negative elements were: It had electronic gates that didn’t always work. I was overlooking the car park instead of the sea. It was expensive and it was filled with mostly doddery old snobs who would not pass you the time of day or tell you snippets of their youth from which I could form some stories and whoever lived beside me smoked hugely and the smell of stale cigarettes floated through the crack in my front door and invaded my living room.
But it was the KGB mentality that upset me most. There were signs everywhere ‘
- DO NOT HANG YOUR WASHING ON THE BALCONY
- DO NOT HANG IT IN THE LIVING ROOM WHERE IT IS VISIBLE THROUGH THE WINDOW.
- DO NOT PARK YOUR BIKES ON THE BALCONY OR HALLWAY
- DO NOT LEAVE CHILDRENS TOYS ON THE BALCONY.
- DO NOT USE BAMBOO SCREENING ON YOUR BALCONY IT IS DEEMED UNSIGHTLY. The list went on but the worst of it was there was an addendum after the long list of rules
- AND PLEASE REPORT ANY OF YOUR NEIGHBORS WHO ARE NOT ADHERING TO THE ABOVE RULES!
Of course by the time I discovered these negative things it was too late to leave.
I had already signed the contract for a year so what could I do but just get on with my life and try and focus on the positive.
I bought some filler for the cracks around the door and put some nice plants on my balcony and sat after work with a glass of wine looking over the carpark.
At my camper!
My camper is a little Toyota Hi ace van. Turquoise green on which I had painted pink flowers.
I wanted it to look as though I had driven through an orchard of cherry blossoms.
It is clean and neat and tidy.
But being was aware that it might not be to everyone’s taste I checked with the letting agents before I signed the contract and got their permission to park it in the carpark.
I sat admiring it and planning my next trip to the west. I hadn’t driven it for over a week using my bicycle instead and really looked forward to be on the road again, my hands on the big familiar steering wheel. My yellow bicycle on the rack behind.
Now we are not a country of ‘appartamenters’ .
We lived in cottages or houses and that is what we were used to.
Except for council ‘flats’ or student ‘bedsits’ when you closed the door of your living quarters there were no rules and regulations as to how you lived and you parked car in your drive or on the side of the road.
And no one paid any attention to it.
However when I went out the next day to load my bits and pieces for my trip I saw to my horror my camper had been clamped!
At first I thought they had got the wrong vehicle (there was an old car beside me with a punctured wheel and some old boxes thrown in the back)
I rang the clamping company.
But yes mine was the registration they were told to clamp.
‘But I am a tenant’ I spluttered incensed ‘I LIVE here’!
I could feel the lad on the other end of the line shrugging his shoulders and throwing his eyes up to heaven. ‘You will have to bring that up with the management company, they are the ones that requested the clamping’ He replied ‘Oh and in order to be unclamped you have to pay’.
Fuming, I gave my credit card details!
The management had made no mistake either!
‘Your camper has been reported by one of the penthouse owners to be an eyesore’ A young man answered my garbled call smugly. ‘No vans or campers allowed in the carpark! there is a notice’
‘But I was given permission by the letting agent’ I shouted.
(The day was passing and I was nowhere near the west)
‘I know nothing about your agreement with the letting agent. They are a different company! we are the management and no vans or campers allowed’.
I was also getting nowhere with this guy.
Some images began to float through my mind.
French towns with duvets hanging out of the windows airing.
Italy, with the strings of colorful washing hanging proudly from balcony to balcony drying in the warm sun.
Spain, with bikes and childrens toys on the balconies and old men in vests on rusty chairs shouting to each other.
Greece, where plump old women in aprons swept their doorways and swooshed the lazy sleeping stray cats out of the way.
These people knew how to live in close quarters in a colorful, untidy , noisy , happy way without been seen as ‘eyesores’.
‘Where do you air your duvet?’ was my parting shot
‘What do you mean’ came back the reply
‘You know? what window/balcony do you hang it out of to air?’ I persisted
‘I don’t’ came back the puzzled reply
‘Not air your duvet? how disgusting, I am glad I am not sleeping with you’ and I hung up the phone feeling somewhat appeased
At last I got hold of the letting agent.
Who were very apologetic! ‘Yes we are two separate companies’ she explained ‘ I didn’t think there would be any problem with your camper though. It’s very pretty, would make you happy to look at it I would have thought’
I liked this girl.
‘Would I accept my full months rent back , and of course my deposit, and the clamping fee and a good reference and of course stay free of charge till I had found somewhere else and she would ensure my camper remained unclamped till i did?.
I couldn’t believe my luck.
What initially appeared a calamity was actually a godsend.
‘Yes to all four’ I said happily.
Two weeks later I got the keys for a beautiful old property (the old church hall) in the wicklow mountains! It wasn’t beside the sea or within cycling distance of my work or the shops or the library, but I was amid the mountains and beside a river and there were no rules or regulations.
I could hang my washing wherever I wanted and park my camper out the front or the back and there was no one smoking within miles of me and there was no old fogey spying on me and the building was large and airy with stained glass windows and a big wooden table where I could draw and write.
And it was calm and peaceful and warm and cosy with a separate yoga room, and roses and fruit tree’s and an acre of gardens and many picturesque walks and cycles from the door.
Oh and the rent was half the price.