‘After all…all we really have is today…’

The quote was taken from the character Jean Slater (Gillian Wright), EastEnders, who leaves a devastating message for her family about her decision against having treatment for cancer.

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Yesterday evening, my husband along with my son and daughter, were eating our meal while the soap drama, EastEnders was playing on TV in the background. As I ate and momentarily glimpsed at the program, I said how strange it was that when the first episode came out in 1985, I was intrigued by the character ‘Dirty Den’ to the point I could never miss an episode but after some months, I lost interest in the program. We went on to talk generally about the other soaps. Coronation Street was one I recalled, when we used to live in Manchester in the late 80s, seeing one of the actors enter the department store, Kendals in Deansgate.  I remembered the staff and the way they greeted the actress with excitement.

As I continued talking, I noticed the character Patrick Trueman (played by the actor Rudolph Walker) appeared in a scene where he is hospital, looking quite ill. I wondered what was going on. Then in the next scene was another character, Jean Slater, doing a video call. The volume was not too low as I was able to listen to the family and the TV.

I was very moved to the point I was no longer listening to my talkative family as Jean, in a restrained and yet powerful monologue, expressed her concerns about her cancer returning and how she could not bear to go through treatment again. But what really locked my attention was her conclusion: ‘all we really have is today.’

Last week on Disney Plus, we watched the newly released animated movie called Soul. Without spoiling for those of you who have not seen the film, I would just say it was entertaining and heartwarming but again, the take-away message which remained in my mind: that life is meant to be lived as opposed to waiting for it to begin. Again, you only have today, it seemed to be saying.

This morning, I got up late (9:30 am…late for what?). My daughter promptly came into my room and said her father was upset.

‘Upset? Why?’ I said, ‘What’s wrong?’

She took a deep breath and looked away from me as if suddenly there was something interesting happening in the garden. ‘You know Daddy’s friend….’ She mentioned his name.  ‘…he’s passed away…’

‘Noooo! That cannot be true! He spoke to him just a few days ago…. why didn’t he wake me up…?’  I was about to put on my dressing gown when my husband walked in, we stared at each other in silence.

My daughter and I sat on the bed whilst my husband sat in the chair opposite. His head was gripped by his hands. He talked and kept talking about his surprise and could not believe how Covid had ‘destroyed’ his friend. I was also speechless. I was aware that our friend was ill, but as he refused to name the illness when asked, we decided that he must have contracted the virus. The last time my husband spoke to him, two days ago, he sounded as though it was an effort for him to talk. My husband wanted to ask more questions about his illness but left it, telling himself he would call him again – which would have been today.   

As we spoke of this friend and his connection to us as a family, Jean Slater’s shattering video message in EastEnders came rushing in my mind, as did the Walt Disney movie Soul.

It is something I must be mindful for the rest of this new year: there is a difference between having a life and living your life. I am aware of having this fantastic opportunity of being alive, yet I have been living it as though I still expect it to start!! I need to really know, that all I have is today.  As my life reveals itself in the present, I must not allow it to disappear by allowing time to past right by, screwing away precious seconds of my life worrying about the future. Life must be lived, right now!

2020: Such a weird year, they named it twice!

Yesterday was the first day of the new year. I can write all about my hopes and dreams for 2021 but instead, I want to focus on what a year 2020 was!! We had and still have Covid, the build up to Brexit, (where we have now officially left Europe), the ‘live’ murder of George Floyd… where we have talked, dissected and tried to reassemble without satisfaction.

But not all has been bad. The key things for me during this year has been settling into a new home; doing various courses online via Zoom and Blue Jeans; having an essay accepted and included in an online anthology. Although I’m entering a later phase in my life, I cannot help but think that this is just the beginning…. It’s a bit of dilemma because how can things ‘begin’ to happen when we’re told constantly of how life ‘will never be the same again?’ How will the ‘new normal’ will appear? I’ve decided not to dwell on this as each time I think about it, I get into a loop where I cannot remove myself from so it’s best to leave it.

But I do however, want to focus on making sure that 2021 will be the year of completion and forgiveness. To finish writing my memoir – which has been going on, ever since!  To repair certain relationships, especially within the family. I was not speaking to one of my siblings for an entire year, it is only just last month that we decided to speak to one another. I believe this was due to people we knew within the community, who have died. It had effect on me, knowing and growing up with these people – arguing with them, ignoring them, and then eventually embracing them years later. But I was shocked and moved on receiving WhatsApp photographs of these people which carried no comment, name, or caption but I automatically knew what it meant. Just before the lockdown, I was able to to travel to London, to attend the funeral of one of these people. The simple lesson from this is – life is too short to be holding on to tantrums and grudges!

But there have also been people who I thought were friends and for whatever reason, no longer see me or want me as a friend. I dug deep within to figure what I had done wrong . Years ago, I would have been disheartened at this but now, I don’t feel any offence and look at the experience as a form of ‘shedding’, i.e, removing those who no longer serve any purpose, perhaps. But what is interesting, these ‘friends’ have been replaced with people who have come into my life who are interested, who care: school mates who I have not seen for years suddenly turning up. The same applies to a friend I met years ago but unfortunately lost her contact details. Just last week, after Christmas day she called, telling me that she ‘hunted’ me down and was determined to make contact with me. I was so pleased. This also means on my own part, to respect and nurture these friendships and not take them for granted.

I really hope and want 2021 to be positive not just for myself but for all. To be able to realise our dreams, to achieve our goals and to be okay with ourselves and realise, we can only do what we can do, without beating ourselves up when we’re disappointed. I raise my glass to you all and pray that all will be well.

Happy New Year to you All.