It’s Never Too Late

A Short Story

Gretchin Williams clutched the Golden Globe in her hand as she looked out at the sea of familiar faces. The applause died down and she placed the statue on the lectern in front of her and began unfolding a piece of paper, her hands shaking as she did so. Squinting at the type, she cursed the fact that she had left her glasses on the bedside table. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and screwed up the paper.

“It is never too late,” she began. She looked directly at the camera. “If you are sitting there at home right now thinkinging your life is over, it’s not. A year ago I was sat where you are right now, abandoned by the world, nothing to look forward to, all hope gone. But you are not alone. I see you. I am you. And tonight I am handing the batton on to you. It’s your time. You’ve got this. I believe in you!

Whatever that tiny glimmer of an idea is that is percolating in the darkest recesses of your mind right now, let it out, and let is shine! Give it wings. Let it fly! Just do the next right thing, keep it in the day and your tomorrow will be like mine – beyond your wildest dreams!

Thank you all. God bless you. Goodnight.”

The room errupted in thunderous applause as everyone stood and cheered. Job done, Gretchin turned and left the stage.

In a pokey living room in Hertfordshire, England, Sophie grabbed a tissue, wiped her eyes and blew her nose then padded through to the dining room where a small, rickety desk stood in the corner. She picked up a pen and began to write…

Reasonable Limits

I was in a conversation with a group of people earlier today in which we discussed the concept of reasonable limits. We asked ourselves what it might look like for us to set reasonable limits in various areas of our lives. I smiled ruefully when this topic came up because I know that in my world reasonable limits simply do not exist. I am utterly incapable of setting reasonable limits on anything. For example, I cannot set reasonable limits on how much I volunteer. Left to my own devices, my hand shoots in the air as soon as someone else utters the words, “would anyone be willing,” often before I have even heard what I am being asked to do. Thankfully, so far, no one has asked me to jump out of a plane or work in the reptile house at London Zoo, but regardless of where my compulsive volunteering takes me, one thing it inevitably leads to is overload.

This is true in terms of my food intake, the hours I work, the amount I spend, and the number of people I try to stay in touch with. Piece by piece I overload my literal and proverbial plate to the point where it is impossible for me to hold it together. My bank balance suffers, my body starts to break down, my mind starts to crack up and my spirit starts to isolate. It is a collective recipe of toxicity and drama that can lead to ruin.

So, what’s the solution to all of this? I can tell you what it’s not. I cannot just pull myself together and get on with it. I am completely powerless over any attempts to moderate my life. That doesn’t mean I have no will-power. I have a very strong will indeed. It’s just that it doesn’t work when battling my compulsivity. I have found that the only way to find any kind of balance in my life is to rely entirely on the God of my understanding and have God set the reasonable limits in my life. It’s not for me to decide what I put on my plate, which volunteer positions I put myself forward for, how I spend my time and my money. Rather, I need to discern what God knows to be good for me. Sometimes, this means I need to cut things out completely. For example, I have largely cut out sugar from life. Sometimes it means I need to build in a pause button that forces me to wait before doing something. I now never say yes to volunteering for something immediately. I always pray it through with God first.

How do I hear God? Through readings, prayer, meditation and conversations with friends. How do I know it is God’s voice I am hearing? If it increases the fruit of God’s Spirit in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control then it is likely to be from God. If it robs me of any of those things, then it is quite possibly not from God and not good for me.

Without God, there are no reasonable limits in my life. With God I can find moderation, abstinence, clarity and hope and above all peace, knowing that even though I am completely powerless, his power is made perfect in my weakness.

Why I Write

I’ve recently been reading James Scott Bell’s excellent book, “Plot and Structure.” Each chapter includes some exercises at the end. Having completed one, I thought I would share the results with you all here, in the hope that it might inspire your creative writing efforts today.

When readers read my novels, I want them to feel elated and inspired at the end. That’s because, to me, novels are an opportunity to be transformed by immersing ourselves in another world where we can walk a mile in another person’s shoes, experience the drama and danger, the ups and the downs of that person’s experiences without ever leaving the confines of our own beds.

In a novel, we get to play, to experiment and to imagine what we would do if we ever found ourselves in a similar situation, so that when we come to face life’s dramas we are better equipped to do so than we would have been if we were relying solely on our own experiences. Novels broaden our horizons, they help us to imagine the unimaginable and ultimately they remind us of the universality of the human condition and that we are never fully alone.

Novels help us connect with the human race, join hands with the myriad of other intrepid explorers and travel through distant lands that are beyond our wildest dreams. When we return from the novel, it is like coming home from a long trip, back to the comfortable and familiar, yet knowing that we have been indelibly changed by the experience and that life will somehow never be the same again.

Accentuate the Positive

Hasn’t it been a horrible year? That’s certainly how I felt about it when I recently started to reflect on the last twelve months. I lost friends to the pandemic, I nearly lost my mum after a fall, I’ve been stuck at home for months, and I have nothing to look forward to. I feel like I’ve had a lot of failures in the last year but nothing much to write home about.

Wait a minute, surely there has to have been something positive to have come out of 2020???

Yup. I wrote a book. Last May I had a flash of inspiration to write Writing for Wellness: Surviving Lockdown one word at a Time. It is an anecdotal story of the Writing for Wellness group I have lead every week for the past year. How easily my mind blocks out the light and focuses on the dark. But writing and publishing a book is a massive achievement that countless people put on their bucket lists. It’s definitely been on mine. Tick!

That brings me to another positive. I led a Writing for Wellness group throughout lockdown. Writing for Wellness groups after a safe space in which you can explore your creativity, and get things out of your head and on to the page. The members have all shared with me that this group kept them sane during lockdown and that they wouldn’t have survived without it. A definite tick goes next to that achievement. Tick!

I produced a podcast throughout lockdown. Letters in Lockdown has evolved during the different lockdowns. It started as a Staycastion Podcast in the first lockdown in which I was determined to focus on the positive aspects of staying at home. As we moved on throughout the year I recorded the good days and the bad, the challenges and the successes, the thoughts and reflections I went through in the past year. A humble contribution to the voices of lockdown. That’s something I can be proud of.

I started to read more. I’d got out of the habit of doing this before lockdown. The digital age with its 24/7 temptations meant that I would often turn to the latest show to binge-watch rather than pick up a book. The slower pace of lockdown life has made me excited to pick up a book and lose myself in another world for hours. I’ve recently been reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Talk about gripping! So yes, a big fat tick again for reading more.

I became more in tune with nature. Every morning I go out to my little studio in my garden to work I am greeted by the dawn chorus. I’ve listened to the proud blackbird singing over his family’s nest, watched the robin take a bath in the sundial on our lawn, and rescued an exhausted bee with some sugar water. I’ve helped plant out a new flower bed, nurtured a window-full of orchids and gone for some amazing walks. This renewed connection to something so much bigger than myself is a definite positive. Yes!

I wrote more letters. I love writing letters but I rarely gave myself time before lockdown. Hand-letter-writing is one of the exercises we do in Writing for Wellness. What a joy it has been to receive a hand-written missive through the post during those dark days. An absolute positive and one I am determined to continue beyond the pandemic.

I learned to value the people right in front of me. Oh how easy it is to take people for granted! Yet when faced with a situation where the company of others was in short supply I learned how value human connection can be. I always remember an interview with Mother Theresa in which, when surrounded by thousands of people in the slums of Calcutta she was asked how she coped. She smiled and said, “the person in front of me is the most important person in the world to me in that moment.” What a gift! I feel like I’ve caught an inkling of that during lockdown and I am really grateful for it. A definite positive!

What about you? What positive things can you look back on in 2020?

This hasn’t been the easiest of blog posts to write. I would have been much more comfortable focusing on what I haven’t done or on what I did in the years prior to lockdown. But it’s only when we find the subtle nuances in the midst of the darkest of nights that we find our way to turn on the light. It’s only when we accentuate the positive that we can allow ourselves to say goodbye to the year that has gone and look forward to what the year ahead will bring us.

I’ll leave you with the song that has been playing in the background as I’ve written this post. Accentuate the Positive by the Puppini Sisters. Enjoy!