Multifarious Musings from Outside the Comfort Zone.

A non-writing author is a monster courting insanity. It appears to be true of bloggers too. I can already hear the rumble of discontent and the budding debate about how, when and indeed if a blogger could or should be considered a writer… but this blogger is propped up in her bed, coffee cup at hand, and her Sunday morning neurones don’t want to go down that road.

Kafka’s words have been leaping out of the screen at me for weeks – I came across them on a crowded Google image screen during a hectic day at work, and put them carefully on my desktop as a reminder that I needed to give myself some writing time. I have been away from the blog for a while – although I have written many posts in my head during my thrice-weekly sallies outdoors, the hamster wheel of self-employment has been turning far too fast for me to find blogging time since the beginning of the year – both a blessing and a frustration for a self-proclaimed “word nerd”.

We are all multifaceted, and MM is no exception. We constantly evolve and as we do, we sometimes ask ourselves if there isn’t something more to life than our immediate comfort zone. We occasionally feel an inexplicable and insatiable need to empty the closet of our mind and refill it with new things, yet cannot bring ourselves to banish certain comforts. So we package them up carefully, put them away on a shelf for future reference, then turn towards exploring personal change and renewal with the reassurance that we have not burnt all our bridges behind us.

A need to challenge and test myself reared its head at the end of 2014. Waking up to the same old me peering over the edge of the reassuringly comfy slipper of my life every morning, whilst pleasant and reassuring, had also become strangely predictable, tarnished by my frustration of being unable to eliminate the small, niggling imperfections that are constantly putting a grain of sand in the otherwise perfect machinery. Papounet often laughed and said, ‘Happiness is the spacetime between two mishaps”: life is never perfect, and there will always be something providing the legendary cloud on the horizon. This links up nicely with the candid wisdom of MMD (MM’s Dad – love you, Dad, ‘cos I know you’re reading this -) when I whined “It’s not fair!” as a child: “Yeah. Well, life’s not fair.”

A whole year has gone by since Papounet died, and the jam-jar moments continue. A jam-jar moment is what happens when the sight of a trivial everyday object, such as a half-empty pot of blueberry jam, opens the floodgates on the dam holding back a lake of memories and emotion. Yet losing people you love teaches you unexpected lessons that make you a stronger person. For me, this lesson was that although we are all relatively anonymous and unimportant in life’s great plan, we all make a lasting impact – good or bad – on more people than we imagine. Papounet, Grandma, Uncley, Rick, Grandpop, Auntie Laura, Mamie and many other people I loved who are no longer here today had helped me to kick existentialist ass – we do play an essential role in other people’s lives, whether it is intended or not. I remember taking this photo of a poster last summer at the gardens of Heligan, one of my family’s favourite haunts in my home region; I realised at that moment that although people disappear, they remain very much alive in my everyday life.


I am currently reading a book that illustrates this beautifully – written by the Bishop of Norwich, Graham James. (When I said I was stepping out of my comfort zone, my parents will probably agree that this is a prime example.) Called “The Lent Factor”, it takes a fascinating approach to Lent and describes 40 people he refers to as his “travelling companions”. All deceased, they influenced his life in one way or another. He illustrates through the chapters how people, even those we meet fleetingly, can affect our vision of life and our relationships with others: “They are all part of my personal pantheon. They have all joined with and crossed and belonged to each other through their influence on me and what I believe and the person I have become.” We are, indeed, very much the product of our interactions with others, and in turn, we can affect what others become, often without knowing it.

Losing someone who had this effect on our lives is also a reminder that each day should be savoured as if it were the last, and this feeling has been reinforced for me as I see the world around me dive into a spiral of unfathomable evil resulting from a twisted, blinkered vision of humanity. But in my immediate bubble, all is well. So one year after Papounet’s death, I pulled on my trainers and took his memory for a run. As I jogged through the vineyards, I felt the sun on my face, admired the bright expanse of yellow rapeseed set against the mountains and the blue sky and the gnarled fingers of the vines awaiting the summer, and told him how happy I was. That life is good. That we have not, will not and cannot ever forget him. That we have no idea how much time we have here on this earth, but that we all have the choice to leave a positive trace for someone behind us to keep and build on. Just like he did.


52 thoughts on “Multifarious Musings from Outside the Comfort Zone.

  1. Goodnes, that has brought forth a sea of emotions for me. My dad died very nearly 13 years ago and the Blueberry Jam moments have never abated. But what I really take from this, is the good footprint that we all leave in the sand should we so wish. We have one single opportunity in life and that is to ensure that what we leave behind, in the hearts of those we have touched, is nothing but good. That the words that ring in their ears bring smiles and that they want, as I do every day with my Daddy, to walk and talk with us when we are no longer here . Beautifully written (and I will get that book ordered right now). Thank you x

    • Hi Osyth, and thanks for the lovely comment. Those jam-jar moments are killers – they hurt like hell but we smile through the tears each time. I like the image of footprints in the sand -it captures the real gist of the topic. The book is fantastic – a refreshingly readable, non-pontificating attitude to belief and humanity.

  2. Beautifully expressed. We are at a point in our lives when death becomes a significant part of the pattern. Though I am actively involved in helping my grandchildren plan their futures, I relate just as easily to those who have left — unlike my younger days, when I just wrote dead people off. Thank you for so eloquently framing this shift in focus.

    • Hello 🙂 I’m glad you liked it. I agree with you that death has become a significant part of our lives; it’s taken me a while to get my head around the role it plays in the bigger picture. I’m sure your grandchildren are getting useful advice from you – and you know as well as I do that sometimes we are remembered for things we said in jest rather than more serious things. My grandmothers are regularly quoted by their grandchildren for their respective legendary classics: “Better an empty house than a bad tenant” (about farting) and “Look after number one, because no other bugger will do it for you”. Not exactly Kafka, but good advice nevertheless.

      • Kafka? How did my own grandmothers make it into this thread?;-) Compared to my grandmothers, your kids’ grannies are Montaigne!

      • Kafka was for a reference to his theory of the absurd 🙂 As for the grandmother aspect, I was referring to the effect we will have as grandparents and that we may not be remembered for the things we’d like them to repeat. Sounds like your grannies were gems – calls for a post!

  3. Hi No.2 daughter
    This one has completely taken my breath away. Many thanks for helping me to look at stuff afresh/anew.

  4. An elegant thought, beautifully expressed.

    The one line that simply jumped out was “my frustration of being unable to eliminate the small, niggling imperfections that are constantly putting a grain of sand in the otherwise perfect machinery” … that pretty well sums up a typical day in the life of Joanne, too.

    … but it was the description of the lasting effect that people leave on our lives that resonated the most. I’ve often visualized it as a wake behind any object moving on water. It is impossible to move on water without creating some kind of ripple – whether large or small. And so we go through life much the same. And usually we have no idea of the impact our wake leaves on people behind us, but we surely feel the ripples others have left in our lives. ❤

    • Hi Jo 🙂 I’m relieved to know that I’m not the only one who deals with grains of sand. Do you think it’s a “Jo” thing?
      I love the image of the wake in the water – some people leave gentle ripples that push you onwards, whilst others rock your boat for much longer! Hugs xx

      • I see the grains of sand analogy like the ability to perceive things as they could be rather than as they are. Maybe it is a Jo thing. What I know for sure is that it drives Husband crazy.

      • That’s precisely what I was getting at! An eternal conviction that things could be better than they are, and as such are imperfect… PF is even better at it than I am, though, and applies it to the state of the house (which is anything but perfect in his eyes, but par for the course in mine). 😀

  5. A profound and beautifully-written reflection on life and death, MM, and now bookmarked to reread at leisure. It’s many years since my parents died (36 tomorrow for my father) and I still get those jamjar moments for them both – less painful and more nostalgic as the years go on, but vivid and very real nonetheless. The people who influence our loves become part of us as I hope I am part of those I love.

    • Hi there Miss P. Sending you big hugs for today. I don’t think that those anniversary dates get any easier as we get older; the contrary may even be true. Your last sentence is very true, and it’s the most reassuring part of existence to know that we will pass something on and remain in life in some way after we’re gone…

  6. I love the idea of travelling companions. How true it is that we are all made up parts of those we have interacted with earlier. This is an eloquent post, MM. Thanks for sharing your personal thoughts so I can be reminded that I’m not the only one out here with jam-jar moments. Just last week, I put on Carole King’s CD Tapestry, and had a total breakdown when she and James Taylor did You’ve Got a Friend. My mom loved that song, and she was my best friend. And it’s good that she’s so close to me still.

    • Hey, Crystal 🙂 I was intrigued by the term when I read the blurb on the back of the book – MMD was reading it at the bottom of the garden a few weeks ago, and kindly lent it to me.
      Music is a powerful carrier of memories – You’ve Got a Friend is a beautiful song. Your mum had good taste in singers (Carole King has a beautiful voice) and the choice of song says a lot about the kind of person she must have been. Crying is part and parcel of having loved, and is a good sign: “The soul would have no rainbow, had the eyes no tears” (John Vance Cheney). Hugs to you.

  7. Hamster wheel, closet of our mind, shelf, slipper of my life, and many more – so many wonderful images MM. I wondered what had happened to you. Now I know. You’ve been thinking! (And working.) I got all choked up with your last few lines. I’m glad you are happy with your (busy) life. xx

    • Yeah, it’s cupcake! How’re you doing, beautiful? I’m still well, battering away at my keyboard and being a grown-up. Some of my clients are now getting severe doses of MM humour in their emails because it’s not getting enough blogging outlet. Dangerous stuff. Maybe it’ll slow down soon and I’ll be able to write down a few of the posts I’ve put away on the shelf before my memory erases them…

  8. This is such an eloquent post…so much emotion and obviously so much thought about the grand scheme of things and how it all works in harmony one to the next. Thinking that we die twice kind of makes you want to ignore that first physical death and just concentrate on securing what you can for the second – a much more positive way forward….. Very pleased to have you back on here and so very much impressed with your long view of things.

    • Hello 😀 Thanks for the praise – the post was written off the top of my head, sitting in front of a blank screen in my bed on Sunday morning then I hit “publish” without any further ado (hence the grammatically incorrect sentence in the last paragraph, which I have chosen not to edit to leave the post “warts and all” as it was produced).
      If everyone thought about the responsibility that they have to leave a real legacy of happiness, knowledge and confidence for those who follow, the world would be a nicer place, don’t you think?

  9. Impressed that you wrote that off the top of your head. It’s beautifully written and so very well expressed. 🙂

    I’m very aware of leaving a positive imprint. I try to do it physically and metaphorically, and hope that my boys take my words of wisdom learned from (bitter) experience, parents, etc. and books and tuck them away safely.

    • Coo, how freaky was that? I was commenting on your blog whilst you were commenting on mine…
      I can’t help wondering what wisdom, if any, my kids will retain from me. The high points in their memory will probably be my capacity to massacre the French language and my inaptitude to cook a roast without killing it a second time.

  10. Well said and so apt. Just 8 months after losing my Dad, my blog keeps throwing up reminders of him as his visit to Turkish bakery or his recipe for beetroot and apple bread suddenly get 100s of hits. I think he’s up there with his iPad constantly pressing the refresh button.

    • Oh, cripes. A corker of a jam-jar moment for a blogger… I do love the image of him sitting on a cloud with a cuppa hitting that refresh button 🙂 I remember that post about beetroot and apple bread. Yum.

    • Hi there 🙂 Thanks for dropping by to ask. I feel bad about neglecting the blog, and I miss you bunch. Yup, work is still in overdrive, but things appear to be lightening up so with a bit of luck I’ll be producing more MM ramblings soon.

    • Hi there Miss P! Thanks for thinking of me – much appreciated. I was writing a post in my head today in the car as I slalomed between sunburnt holiday-makers and locals three-abreast on bikes. All I have to do now id find time to get it written down, but for the moment there appears to be no rest for the wicked…

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