Life and Living

It has been a very eventful week in my wider family. We have seen the still painful anniversary of the sudden and unexpected death of a beloved daughter, sister and cousin; the expected departure of a senior family member who will always be remembered for his sense of humour, his gentle kindness and his fond memories of my homeland, which he loved but had to leave. His ashes were scattered in a beautiful place and a toast drunk in his favourite wine.Doreen and Jack Stacey
We celebrated a wedding too, which was blissful for the couple because they had been courageous enough to choose to exchange their vows in a place and a way that made them happy and was exactly right for them. It slightly discombobulated some others, but they got over it, or will do so, and had to accept that this was such a precious time in a relationship of such rarity. True and lasting love can be detected by anyone who observes and it stands out like a beacon of light, clear and bright in the frequent darkness of our world today, where motivations can be dubious, intentions unclear and genuine commitment hard to find. So few seem able to see that relationships need to be worked on, marriages last only if they are built on love, empathy, humour, the ability to compromise, understanding and the skill of putting another first on occasions.13048067_10154004991247324_666724168871521685_o
Many seem to think marriage means a joint bank account, a shared mortgage and spending a massive amount of money on ‘the big day’. Once we have worked through the need to be a princess/prince for a day, being showered with presents, money and attention and have tried to perform the impossible task of meeting the expectations of others we might if we’re lucky, discover that it’s really only about the symbolism of the vows, the promises and pledges that we make and if we’re honest with each other, intend and try to keep. You’ve probably all heard the one about the bride who fell in love with the lodger but went through with the wedding and honeymoon before announcing that she was leaving to live with the lodger. She says she did it because she’d always wanted to get married! As if it was like wanting to go to Disneyland or having hair extensions! Important not to be judgemental here, as long as we recognise that some weddings fall into one category – and why shouldn’t they if they don’t hurt anyone? – and others are for the couple to indicate their commitment, intentions and the serious nature of their relationship and readiness to be together in an adult life, sharing an affirming journey with whatever that brings, whatever challenges it throws up and whatever adult meaning it has for them. It’s not for everyone, why should it be? We are all unique, have different beliefs and priorities and in an ideal world we’d all be free to chose whatever was right for us. It is with horror that I view the pronouncements of preachers, politicians and others who want to regulate and control the lives of others and seem to believe that any beliefs other than their own are wrong, evil, corrupt or threatening. So often they speak from a position of ignorance, misinformation, fear and blinkered self-interest.
Time tests all relationships and some are surprisingly enduring and ‘successful’. In my long experience the gender or orientation of the couple have nothing to do with anything, because love and commitment are just that – love and commitment, which can be experienced by anyone at any time. I posted photos of two male/female couples here because all those photographed are dear to me, but I could equally have posted photos of other couples I love and/or respect – male/male, female/female and others even more complicated involving transgender couples. Surely we should all have the right to express and demonstrate our love for those who are important to us and our commitment to others we hold dear must surely be a precious thing in this world that holds so much hatred, fear, ignorance, judgement and dis-ease.
In addition to all these family events which so clearly demonstrate to me the eternal turning of the wheel, the patterns of family life, the cycles of relationship, I have been privileged to be called “Sister’ by someone who is loved by my beloved Daughter and who has her respect and trust and is now an honourary member of our family. I have also been trusted with a delicate and sensitive piece of knowledge about a distant family member which I hold close and carefully. I hope to be able to be helpful and supportive, balanced and measured in my responses, because the changes in our lives are a time of great vulnerability, challenge and potential. How this is handled by everyone is vital for the future of the young person involved, their mental health, identity, well-being and self-esteem. I feel privileged to be somewhere on the fringes of this journey and hope that it can be as smooth as possible. This journey is at least a tiny bit easier than it once was for some in some societies and so much depends on how parents, siblings and the seniors in a family react, support and behave towards the young person. I was very encouraged this week to see another young person ‘finding their feet’ and at last getting to grips with the multitude of difficulties they have grappled with for so long, including a ‘bi-polar disorder’, which has made medication difficult to get right. Much of what we do when we grapple with such things successfully, involves getting together a ‘tool bag’ of useful strategies. Including whatever is helpful works, if only for a short time. If you have enough strategies, you have a range of things to try and you can keep adding to your tool bag. When we are ‘in extremis’ we are not in a good place to be inventive, creative and think of solutions. Doing that when we are at our best, whatever that is, is more useful and generally more successful. Good wishes for your journey, wherever you are with it! ❤

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