Picture credit: Dave Haygarth
WARNING: This post gets a bit downbeat before I get to the part about being lucky.
The last week or so has been pretty damn grim. Here's why:
Seven days ago, a friend called to tell me a man was running around west Cumbria shooting people.
A few hours later and the horrible, heartbreaking results of his actions were being talked about all over the planet: 12 people died in Britain's worst killing spree in 14 years. So many lives lost or ruined in an instant.
I feel for those who are hurt and hurting right now. Many will hurt for a long time to come.
When senseless stuff like this happens it's bound to affect us, even if we didn't personally lose anyone we know.
When it happens in familiar, well loved places, or close to home, it feels unreal.
A few days earlier, I'd been knocked out by a nasty bug, some kind of infection that made my heart feel like it was fighting to get out of my ribs. Though it turned out to be nothing serious, it was frightening.
I think it scared me more because I'd just come home from visiting a close friend who'd had major heart surgery. He's the most active outdoor guy on earth but was born with some kind of valve defect. Had it not been spotted recently - by accident - it could have ruptured and killed him in a flash.
I saw him a few days after his op. He looked terrible. He'll get better, but he's gonna have to take it very slow for ages.
That got me thinking about another mate. In a few weeks, it'll be the second anniversary of his death. He was a new dad. He's deeply missed.
But for me the lowest point was last Friday when my 11 month old son suddenly developed an extremely high temperature and breathing difficulties and had to be taken to hospital.
I'm so relieved and grateful he's OK now, and pretty much back to his usual cheerful, energetic self.
The point is sh** happens.
Horrible things happen.
People get sick.
We are vulnerable.
We are sometimes weak.
Life can be pretty damn grim.
Picture: Sunset over Morecambe Bay looking toward Cumbria.
But I'm a lucky guy.
Because by pure randomness and chance, I did not cross the path of a killer last week.
My chest bug turned out to be nothing serious.
My friend's operation went brilliantly and he'll be around for a long time to come.
I have great memories of my late friend Paul and my life is richer because I knew him.
And my son is alive and well and we'll celebrate his first birthday in a few weeks.
I don't care if this sounds worthy, but I have so many reasons to be grateful. Here are some:
I've two fantastic, healthy children, a brilliant wife, family, close friends, people who care about me and who are there for me, health, freedom, peace of mind, I love and I am loved, I have enough of everything I want and need, I've opportunities, I do work I'm passionate about and believe it matters, and I've amazing connections with outstanding people on and offline.
How did I get so lucky?
Sure, a lot of what I have is down to pure randomness and chance, being born in the UK, and not some hell hole of pain and suffering that many people are born into. And despite my advantages of birth, I'm not belittling the fact that lots of people here suffer massively in all kinds of ways too.
And we know that around our planet, every day, people are killed, injured, their homes, lives, livelihoods are wrecked through war, disaster, crime, they struggle, suffer, lose children, go hungry, get sick, have little or no medical care, no hope, and a slim chance that things will get better.
I feel for them.
It's often hard to look on the bright side. But we must.
Like you, I want do something, no matter how small my best efforts may be in the scheme of things, to make a difference for others.
And whilst life sometimes scares the crap out of me I'm going to keep reminding myself that I am one hell of a lucky guy.
Perhaps, when it all boils down, you're one of the very lucky ones too.
I really appreciate your taking the time to read this post. Please let me know your thoughts. Much love, Ian.
it's true...sh** happens, but if we can look at those happenings as part of a higher good, we can view it more like a nutrient rich manure that will help us grow. Am I being too icky? ;-)
Hi Ian You just followed me on Twitter, so I followed the links to see who you were and have just read this post. I feel like I am reading something from the mind of someone else who thinks a little like me. I love your attitude. I only wish there were more people who adopted this kind of outlook. I love to write, and a lot of my topics include pretty shit things that have happened to me (rape, divorce, self-harm, alcoholism, blah blah blah). The point is, like you, I write about the horror of it, but the message I always seem to eventually come to (and this message is not always planned) one of positivity; that life is essentially pretty amazing, beautiful and joyous. That outlook is not one that I have always had, I have had to work hard to get here and to view hardships as lessons that maybe I needed to learn in order to become the person that I am (and the person that I now like). I did an interesting exercise on Twitter the other night; I tweeted random factual tweets about me and my life. I had warned followers that I would be doing this, so that they could choose to read or choose to unfollow. Some were fairly dull, some funny, some dark, some filthy, some outrageous. I generally had a very positive response. However, there were also people on Twitter who direct messaged me to tell me to shut up; they simply could not bear to deal with the dark side of life as well as the light. My response was that sometimes we need the darkness to appreciate the light. Anyway, I have already run the risk of this comment sounding like it is all about MEEEE, which I didn't intend. Just want to say that I love the blog, have signed up, in fact (also love the COOL BEANS logo on it...one of my favourite phrases of the moment...) Take care, keep the positivity coming. Jane Prinsep x
Really insightful and empathetic post, clearly drawing on the experiences of the past few weeks. Firstly, I'm glad that you and your son have come through the 'blip.' The reason for my comment is this; I too have been delt my fair share of lifes woe's over the past few years, which started shorlty after the birth of my son, when he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder at ten weeks old. My life and marriage fell apart and there was no sign of any light at the end of this long tunnel that I now found myself in, no matter how many times I raised my sunglasses on to my forehead to look for it? ......Twelve months after his first admission to Alder Hey PICU he was again admitted, this time, to Stoke General PICU in January this year. The first visit to Alder Hey had prepared us for this as the Doctors were very straight with us and made it clear from the outset that children cannot be put through intensive care indefinately! My son passed away on 8th April this year aged 4yrs 8 months and to say that you can never prepare yourself for anything like that (no matter how long you have known in your heart of hearts) is a huge understatement. Your post struck a few chords with me, not least because you quoted a phrase that has become a ' common comforter,' to me - that "Sh** happens." Indeed it does, however, once you've accepted that and are able to remember the good times and understand how much my life has been enriched by my son's short time with us you can then begin to move on slowly, but never forget. There are always people in similar circumstances and always will be people in worse circumstances, it's how you handle such a pack of cards; what type of lense do you you look at the world through? To hear you say at the end that you are a lucky guy is very true and insightful from my point of view, because although everything seemed to come at once for you, you still had the presence of mind to realise that everything is comparative and there are always others in the same if not worse positions. I too am a very lucky guy.
Brilliant post Ian - helps a lot to look at things from the right perspective. Read this quote on Twitter - and I think it resonates very well with your idea. "If you can't be thankful for what you have received, be thankful for what you have escaped." In gratitude, Tanmay
Ian, I am so glad that you and your son are well. I loved reading your blog entry and I do believe that in your wanting to "do something, no matter how small my best efforts may be in the scheme of things, to make a difference for others." - you just did. Thank you for your truth and inspiration! A lucky one, Debbie Friedrich (zenatona)
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