“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The old is new again. On my recent trip to the UK we rode from Bolton, a town nestled in the foothills of the Lancashire Pennines, in to the city center of Manchester. Rather than driving in by car, fighting the traffic and paying to park, we caught the tram, a modern reinvention of the late 19th century, an electric train. You glide through the countryside past towns with exotic sounding names (Besses o’ th’ Barn inspired thoughts of wayward lasses!), past blocks of drab concrete apartment buildings (flats) and arrive in the heart of Manchester. Victoria Station is an 18th century major train-connecting station which by the early 21st century was voted the worst station of its kind in the UK and underwent modernization.
An electric tram ride in any country is nothing like the old-time steam powered train rides I remembered from my younger days. On a train you are rocked and soothed by the repetitive sound of the engine, noises which are as reassuring as the sounds a baby must hear in its mother’s womb. Traveling the two-hour train ride to visit my sister in Wales after working a night shift, I was always scared I would fall asleep and find myself in Scotland! Today’s trams are light and sleek, the sound as nonintrusive as a white noise player.
One of the challenges when on vacation is looking for things that are different. Globalization has rendered the whole world accessible wherever you go. Where once you could take gifts from the US to the UK, sure that you would be delighting young relatives with novel items such as gourmet jelly beans or hair trinkets (bouncing butterflies) unlike any they had ever seen before. I well remember my disgust at walking into a corner store in London and seeing the same brand of jelly beans. But one of the pleasures nowadays is seeing the innovative way that artists and designers can take discarded, no longer useful items and ‘upcycle’ them into works of art. Old vinyl records have been cut down, leaving only the labels (old ska tunes out of Studio One; old Rolling Stones classics), attached to a layer of cork and packaged as coasters. Old cutlery can be beaten down and reshaped into arm clasps and bangles, or key rings, or ear rings, or wind chimes. Old coins used in jewelry. With the right imagination, an artist’s skill, and enough time, it is amazing what ‘new’ thing can be created.
I recently heard a phrase, I believe said by Pope Francis, that being happy is, among other things, “…to live poetic moments with friends.” The thought of seeing poetry in moments opened a window in my mind. The poet captures the essence of a moment, distills whole essays down to a couple of lines. A good poem transports you to a place or an experience in an evocative and efficient way, making you appreciate both the image and the sheer beauty of the words which describe it. When you live your life in a poetic way you can discard the irrelevant and unimportant distractions and focus on the beauty and possibilities of each day, thus maximizing the potential of each moment.
The old is new again. One of the biggest challenges for a teacher is to remember that each new set of students will be hearing material which is well known to you as strange and unfamiliar. It is easy to become jaded, bored at having to explain the same thing over and over again. In the world of healthcare, the teacher cannot become that complacent, for even though the human body may not change, the understanding of how it works continues to evolve. What was accepted knowledge even 20 years ago may have been turned on its head by scientific discovery. What was conventional, unchallenged practice may have been thrown out by the latest ‘evidence based’ research. We have been hammering home the importance of pain being ‘whatever the patient says it is’ in order to correct decades of healthcare providers undertreating pain and discomfort. Physicians were encouraged to manage the pain of low back injuries with strong and effective opioids. Not only are we now tackling an opioid addiction epidemic which is partially (there are many other factors) blamed on overuse of stronger than necessary pain-killers, research finds that alternate treatment of low back injuries (yoga, physical therapy etc.) are more effective.
I have mixed feelings about the New Year with its resolutions and new beginnings. On social media I have read friends opine that it is after all a trick, a mere relabeling of dates, that nothing has changed between last week and this. The same person you were last week with your bad habits and issues and bills is still here this week. People have been circulating memes encouraging us to leave 2018’s garbage (rubbish!) behind and start a clean slate in 2019. It seems facile, overly simplistic. But the truth is that there is no reason why we cannot look at ourselves and see if we can live our lives differently.
If we are to make the most of this wonderful experience called life, we need to stop once in a while and reflect. Are we living our best life? Are we living the life we were meant to live? Are we making the most of each opportunity, recognizing the blessings in our relationships, bringing out the best in ourselves and others? And if not, can we repurpose our lives? Can we take the talents we have and upcycle them into a new design, one which brings us pleasure? Can we live poetic moments with friends and family, choosing to celebrate the positive instead of complain about the negatives?
Yesterday hope was breathed into a political establishment. A wave of dynamic diversity was sworn into an institution which has been dominated by white males for centuries. The old is new again, and many in the nation are inspired by seeing faces which reflect the diversity of this nation’s population.
On this Friday morning, after a season of enjoying the mixed emotions of old memories clashing with new, of recalling those who were in my life and now are gone, I am challenged to see each new year, each new week, each new day as an opportunity to repurpose my life. I hope that, despite the ups and downs of daily life, with sadness mixed in with joy and pain riding alongside pleasure, you also can live poetic moments with friends, and have a wonderful weekend.