Dealing with the ups and downs of life is tiring. Emotional tiredness is, if anything, more debilitating than physical tiredness. It’s really important that we look after ourselves by resting, and finding something or someone that lifts the spirits and makes us smile: maybe spend time alone, find a friend who radiates energy. Some of you might have heard me say that some people are radiators, who fill one with life and in whose presence it’s always a pleasure to be, and drains, who suck the life force from you, like vampires. Find a radiator. Avoid drains. Lionel Blue is always a radiator, and his advice for starting the day is to recall some proud moment of the recent past. Be glad! Rest. Take time to be on your own.
We spend a lot of time cultivating friends and hobbies in order, it seems to me, to avoid being on our own and having to confront our own inner selves. The truth is, we can’t avoid this: we start alone and we end alone. As we get older, and deafer, and blinder, and as our friends start to shuffle off this mortal coil, we are increasingly alone. It has been said that a blissful childhood does not prepare one for life: an unhappy childhood enables a child to develop some of the psychological tools that enable him to enjoy the solitude of advancing years. There’s nothing worse, it is said, for a teenage boy than to have a father who understands him. Our response to solitude can be a self-indulgent ‘woe is me’, or it can be an effort (and yes, it is an effort) to confront ourselves. As past years flit through our consciousness, we may find ourselves shocked at the realization of our own folly, but when we have come through that, we can begin to accept the past, rather than rail about perceived injustices and slights, and be glad of the inner resources it has given us. It’s a matter of learning to accept that we are humans, and imperfect, and that we have made, and continue to make, mistakes. It’s a big shock for us to realise that we are not as perfect as we thought we were.