( Where I learn to count my blessings, remind myself that one doesn’t need money to be happy, which may annoy a few people, and swear never to mention the stuff again )
Oscar Wilde said ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’.
The morning Matilda Maracella awoke in the ‘turkey house’ and watched the swallows fly through the holes in the roof, she wept with despair.
Although the mattress she lay on was comfortable and the small table beside it held a lamp, a jug of water and a glass, she had never been in such a helpless position, had never been at such a low ebb.
But as She lay there, her head resting on her tear soaked pillow, small thoughts of an optimistic kind began to wheedle their way through her head. And as her moments of delving into Buddhism came to mind, she remembered learning about impermanence.
Whatever IS will be WAS.
‘If I feel at my lowest now‘ she reasoned, ‘the only place I can go after this, is up!
Holding onto that thought, she let her eyes stray over her surroundings.
The thick walls of the old building were of grey stone, seen here and there where the plaster was peeling off.
They swept solidly upwards towards a cathedral like ceiling and halfway up, the blackened indentation of a fireplace indicated where the second floor had been . The remainder of the joists were also visible in the wall.
The long windows had lost their glass and were boarded up with sheets of corrugated iron from the outside, but the wooden window frames were still in good condition . Her eyes followed the walls on up to the ceiling.
Here the swallows nests poked out between the exposed rafters.
Where the roof slates were missing, she could catch glimpses of early morning sky.
‘Things can’t be that bad if I have my sight’ she told herself comfortingly.
As another swallow skimmed over her head and was greeted by the frantic chirping of hungry young she realised no matter how despairing she was feeling, the rest of the world was going to keep on about it’s business.
By now she was tired of feeling sorry for herself. It was becoming boring and a waste of a lovely morning.
She thought she should store this memory so that when things DID improve, she could pull it out as reference to how far she had come since that morning.
She also thought that luckily so far, none of the swallows droppings had landed on her and whilst keeping this optimistic view she wiped her eyes, scrambled off the bed, folded the blanket neatly, hopped on her bike and cycled off down to the sea for a swim.
and as her legs spun the pedals and the road flashed under her wheels it occurred to her that she still had a lot of blessings to count.
I have inherited my mother’s optimistic view of life. She never worried, always believing that change of feeling/ circumstance/ money would come from somewhere at the last moment.
My mother always said she would have liked to have been a quaker but I felt that she was more buddhist like in her thinking.
She didn’t feel the same about me! Once when we were discussing this and I mentioned I would like to be a buddhist she laughed and said ‘Maybe, but you have you considered how much you like to talk’.
Of course as with a lot of things my mother didn’t realise how open minded and forward sighted she was.
I have watched her face huge challenges where she would look thoughtful before answering.
-Hmmm let me see now…..
-Maybe if you….
-Have you considered…..
-Don’t panic! why don’t you….
and her best one of all
-Sure nothing stays the same, It’ll be different tomorrow…..
This didn’t mean she sat back and did nothing. Far from being passive, she would tackle any challenges she knew she could change for the better but she didn’t allow herself to worry about misfortunes that she recognised to be beyond her control.
And if she didn’t understand certain aspects of OUR worries she would read up about them.
‘Guess what I am reading at the moment’ Was how she often greeted me, waving a book about some far out belief, idea, concept in my face.
She greeted the news of my divorce with nothing short of delight.
‘Now’ she said happily ‘you can reinvent yourself’ ,
I think she meant find I could find myself again.
And so I did.
I have lived a life no more extraordinary than the next person.
The night spent in the turkey house all those years ago was just a blip and I still look back on it with fondness.
It was my turning point.
The point in my life when it struck me that when I have money I am happy and when I have no money I am happy too.
I heard recently about a farmer who had won the lotto. It was a large lottery that week.
Millions in fact.
Can you imagine his face when he discovered he was a multimillionaire? Can you imagine what went through his mind as he ate his porridge that morning.
Did he shoot off and buy a mansion in the caribbean complete with yacht, helicopter and fast cars as many in his shoes would have?
No he did not!
First he responsibly paid off all his children’s mortgages and then he bought them all new cars.
And still he had a few millions left.
So he scratched his head and thought for a while before doing what every farmer does, he decided to buy more land.
Now his neighbour and and best friend, (they were from adjacent farms and had grown up together, helping each others dad’s bring in the hay and the turf, wrestling with each other on the heaped up hay in the barn , being rescued together out of bog holes when helping foot the turf) thought that HE would sell him some of his.
Not a lot mind. No point in losing the run of himself where money is concerned. He was a sensible man. Yes he would sell him the few acres along the river. They were prone to flooding anyway and not of great use.
And to make it worth his while he would ask for double the price.
His friend could well afford it, he reasoned, as he rubbed his hands together.
Fair is fair.
Now we can both be rich.
So they came to an agreement on a price that actually ended up being three times the value of the land.
The acreage was transferred over and that was that you would have thought.
But the friend had morals and too late they got the better of him and began to niggle at him and he felt ashamed and could no longer look his friend in the eye.
He began to avoid him.
And the Lotto winning farmer knew he had been fooled and felt hurt that his friend was not honest. He was also saddened by his greed and the realization that his friend was not the man he thought he was.
Soon that hurt turned to resentment and he glared at his friend whenever he came upon him and refused to speak to him.
Of course now they could no longer meet for their evening pint in the local. A custom of theirs since they had lied about their age (and got away with it) at sixteen! So they both began to avoid that pub for fear of bumping into each other.
The millionaire farmer began to go to one far beyond the valley.
And because he couldn’t afford to be stopped by the guards with so many pints on him (yes losing his friend had caused him to take to the drink more thoroughly and no amount of money could buy off losing your licence due to a drunk driving charge) his shiney new land rover stayed parked at the house whilst he battled the elements on his old black raleigh bike.
You might think one of his son’s would drop him over and back but they were too busy hosting dinner parties for their new posh friends (did I mention they all demanded larger houses)
Meanwhile the other regulars stopped going to the local pub too. The craic was gone from it they moaned.
Sure weren’t the two farmers the finest storytellers in the land and night after night they lifted the rafters with the laughter caused by their jokes and tales.
Without them there was nothing to talk about but the price of hoggets and the austerity measures of the country which made them all wander home depressed and shout at their wives who, in return, refused to bake them rough brown soda bread so they had to resort to white shop loaves instead which made them constipated.
So they began to take their custom to livelier quarters and indeed half of them followed farmer One to the pub far beyond the valley and the other half followed farmer Two to the pub on the other side of the mountain.
By this time the owner of the local pub, getting only a smathering of business went bankrupt and he cursed the millionaire farmer to the end of his days for causing his demise.
….then a year went by and the sons felt that they should upgrade their cars to the present year. oh and possibly bigger models! And his daughters in law complained about the size of the houses so mayb……..?
By now the millionaire farmer was becoming more bedraggled as he cycled the countryside, his coat smelling of damp, his beard long and tangled, looking for a pub that would serve him. (At this stage most proprietors took him for a penniless tramp and turned him away).
Oh and before I forget, the final straw was, that his wife left him.
Unable to bear the sad specimen of the man he had become, she took off with the pub owner from the local and her half of the money.
And if gossip is to be believed they have bought a beach shack in thailand and are running a very successful business serving mojitos and all sort’s of foreign sounding drinks that would be unpronounceable let alone heard of back home .
So indeed, not a happy ending for our millionaire.
Before he died Steve jobs admitted that despite being rich he wasn’t a happy man. He also realised too late that no amount of money could save his life.
So what do I do to keep myself happy when I have no money?
My Yoku’s of course!
I have four favorites.
Shinrin yoku is the japanese word for the art of forest bathing
It doesn’t mean bathing in the true sense but really bathing the senses by going for walks deep into the forest to absorb the strength and calmness of the tree’s and to listen to the sounds of nature.
Kaze Yoku : Wind bathing. (This yoku I have sort of made up, though I’m sure it is already in existence).
To practice it you need to find a rock overlooking the sea preferably along the west coast of Ireland. It works best if the wind is coming from the northwest and strong enough to cause white horses on the sea. Taking care not to wear too much clothing stand on your rock close your eyes breath deeply and let the wind pour over you.
Hadashi Yoku: barefoot bathing.
For this yoku I head west to the burren. Best practised on a sunny day. Remove your shoes and slowly at first, paying careful attention to the undulations of the smooth marble like limestone, wend your way across the sun warmed terraces, letting your feet soak up the energies of the stone and enjoy their freedom away from the confines of shoes.
Jitensha Yoku : bicycle bathing.
This one is simple. Just get on your bicycle and pedal along in whatever fashion pleases you, where ever pleases you. Choose country roads, off the beaten track Boreens. Push through gates that lead down dubious looking paths even if they end up leading nowhere.
And do fly down the odd hill with the wind in your hair and the sun at your back while you are at it.
And when you practice these yoku’s you feel like the wealthiest and happiest person on the planet.