Storing nuts for the winter: sensible or senseless?

I could tell as soon as I walked through the door something was missing; that glimmer of recognition wasn’t there. She doesn’t understand who I am like she used to.

The world sees the British as depressed and pessimistic. We moan and complain and who can blame us with this weather? – but I’ve thought about it a lot today and in my opinion we’re quite optimistic in one way: future. Everyone seems to be planning for the future – I want this job and this car and this lifestyle and this many children and then that better car and a country house in Devon that I visit for long weekends away with my adoring family and then that even better car and my children will get all A’s in their exams and play violin and will never need a shop-bought cake for their birthday because in this fantasy world I can bake.

I see this as similar to a squirrel storing nuts for the winter. He scampers around for months on end with no immediate reward and sensibly stashing his findings for later. By the time the first snow falls he’s happy as Larry in Lapland with his little nut store going on. I suppose it’s like the novelty of having a mini-fridge in your room in how convenient the nut store is in the winter. Like, it’s right there. People with a mini-fridge in their room will know what I’m saying. So in the end all his efforts were worth it for another year. I’m using the squirrel as a metaphor for us, the people. The nuts can be anything from money to success to experiences and the store for the winter is our future. We’re all scampering around too in order to get where we ideally want to be later. Most people do a degree to qualify for a certain job. We work in trashy bars that close at 4am and pay cash-in-hand in order to gain experience for a better job afterwards. We don’t eat the glorious cheeseburger in order to maintain a ‘beach-bod’ for our holiday abroad. We don’t stay up past midnight because we have to get up early tomorrow. Everything we do has a positive or negative consequence and the choices we make are heavily influenced by those.

In the grand scheme of things isn’t this way of thinking extremely optimistic? I mean, we’re assuming we’re even going to be here tomorrow. Life is a precious thing that can be taken away in the blink of an eye. How often do we consider not getting to that point we all imagine – that place we call “settled down”? I have a friend who I think I’ve mentioned in a blog post before that hates his degree. He is constantly miserable and under pressure and wakes up each morning dreading lectures or assignments or exams on things he’s simply not interested in. Since the first year I’ve said “quit, do what makes you happy”. People tell me it’s not as simple as that but having left university twice myself much to the disdain of my family I can assure you it is. My friend’s response to quitting was that he needed to get a decent final mark in order to obtain a decent job in which he can make decent money to provide for the future. To “make a life” for himself.

I find it really interesting how we can allow ourselves to suffer for something we only have a chance of obtaining. People wake up dreading what’s to come that day for such a long time, whether it be their university course or job position not motivating or inspiring them, in hope to be rewarded for it later. I very much believe in living in the moment but find it difficult to do consistently just like everyone else. As I said before everything has a consequence and sometimes it’s more complicated than just overlooking that.

In the same way, the important people in our life are always included in our future plans. Obviously we understand that people don’t live forever, but until a letter from the doctors comes through the door or something, death isn’t really even an option.  And that’s not a BAD thing; we can’t live our lives in fear of the worst case scenario. We couldn’t get on with the day if “he might die” or “she might die” is running through our heads, (although if it did I bet we’d all be a lot nicer to each other). That squirrel wouldn’t collect his nuts for the winter if he was afraid to go out and get eaten by a fox. I didn’t visit her for a long time because the thought she could get poorly and leave us hadn’t crossed my mind. It’s not that I didn’t want to or couldn’t be bothered. There was no sense of urgency.

She was diagnosed with cancer today. And we think she has Parkinson’s.

To anyone that is reading this that has put off seeing a loved one, please try and find the time to catch up – even if it’s just a phone call. Tomorrow they might not be the same person anymore. Life IS precious and in the grand scheme of things so fleeting. If there are things you want to say or making up to do with family or friends do it today, do it now. Put aside any principle or pride and remember how easily and unfairly they can be taken from you. Is it really worth holding the grudge in the end?

I hugely regret not visiting her in the time her mind deteriorated. I will never come through the door and see her face filled with memories shared and love and understanding like before. I didn’t know, I hadn’t planned for this. Do you see what I’ve been saying? Homosapians have developed far beyond a bloody squirrel. Stop doing or not doing things now in assumption for the future. Don’t suffer now in order to be happy later. “Later” is just as vague as asking the length of a piece of string. We have beautiful minds and the capability to think and feel and remember and we should use them right now in a way that satisfies us before the same opportunities aren’t there anymore. This sad story of my Grandmother is just one example of dangerously leaving things to be better in the future. The world doesn’t always work like that. We’ve all got something we’ve been putting off doing. Now is as good a time as any and it takes something like I’ve experienced today to realise that. Don’t wait to understand it yourself, just trust me: do it now or regret it later.

8 thoughts on “Storing nuts for the winter: sensible or senseless?

  1. This was really emotionally stirring and thought provoking (I know I tell you every one of your blog posts are thought provoking, but it’s true goddamnit). I was lucky in the aspect that by the time my granddad passed away last week, I had already said everything to him I had wanted to. I don’t have any regrets about my relationship with him. My dad on the other hand, cut contact with him a couple of years ago, and although it was a rational choice to him at the time, he’ll majorly regret that decision now.

    Instances of losing loved in both mind and body are always incredibly sad. I think the optimism comes from these experiences and from those around you. It pushes you to make sure you dont repeat the actions which make you regret and helps you strive for something more satisfying, whether that be relationship-wise or not. It reminds of what my mum often told me growing up: “What’s been done is done, but what comes next is important.”

    I hope that doesn’t sound pretentious or anything, its just something I thought was worth sharing. In any case, I’m always here for you if you need anything penguin. Much love.

  2. My dads got Parkinson’s so hits home what your saying. Its hard to watch you loved one deteriorate but like you said dont plan to spend more time with them actually do it. So im going to with my dad when he gets back from his holiday. Your gran was a wonderful cook. I thought it was grate that she came round with large tubs of food as i got to enjoy the bliss of her meals when i was lucky enough to be round at vitos at the same time she was :).

  3. I really like this one, although it’s making me a little emotional… I couldn’t have put it better, I wish everybody would just stop and change the way we do things… All of my family except for my parents live in Poland, and although it’s so easy for me to go there, i used to put it off and take it for granted until my Nan had a minor stroke… It put things into perspective and hearing her stutter, speak in syllables and forget words on the phone made me cry. Although she was extremely lucky to recover almost completely, the worry that she wasn’t going to get better or that it could happen again scares me more than anything in the world. I’m so sorry about your grandma’s diagnosis, I was going to ask if you were okay earlier, but didn’t know how to start, I assumed you’d feel I was just saying it for the sake of it as we don’t really know each other… I suppose this taps into the previous blog as well, with me getting paranoid of how I’m going to be perceived and stuff… I guess I just want you to know that I understand (to some extent) how hard it must be for you and if you ever need to rant or chat or anything you know where I am (: x

    1. I’m pretty sure I spoke to you privately about this at the time, but if not – thank you so much for reading and commenting Sandra. I love to hear others’ perspectives and experiences and you have always been so supportive of my blog. I hope all is well with you and that you have lived every moment with your loved ones to the full! We all tend to slip back in to focusing on the stress of our lives instead of the people in it.. so if anything this notification should give you a little reminder of what we believe to be important- reading this back certainly has for me!

  4. I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother, I’ve been in many a similar situation myself. It just leaves you with a lot of ‘what if’s and ‘maybe I should have’s.
    I can also relate to the university situation too. I have friends that struggle through courses that they have no desire for, and it causes them a lot more pain than happiness, and I can see how much it drains the life force out of them. I just think it’s really strange that everyone is on this un-spoken, metaphorical conveyor belt through life. You’re born, you go to school, you go to high school, you go to 6th form, you go to uni, you get a job, you have a family, and then you die. Like, even when I considered the small change, in this bizarre ritual, of perhaps going to college instead of 6th form or university, I received rather dismissive tones from both friends and famil – even though none of my family members have been through this dumb conveyor belt themselves.
    So I went to 6th form, and I hated it, I went to university, and I hated that too. But that time, I stuck my heel in, and said, “No, this is enough. This is making me upset, and this isn’t what I want to do.” Of course, everyone close to me panicked and wondered what my life would become, but I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal. I just think that it’s unfair to assume that everyone wants the same thing, or even wants to take the exact same route of getting there. I hate the stigma associated with going against ‘the flow’.
    That aside, I’m back at university, studying a course that I feel a little more comfortable with, along with making some great friends. I’m still not sure if this is going to be for me, but if worse comes to worst, I won’t be afraid to drop out over being unhappy for one too many years in my life.
    This was a pretty long (and slightly pointless) rant, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that I agree with you, and I think it’s sad that people are willing to give up so much happiness and freedom to do what they truly enjoy, for something that they’re not even certain that they’ll even reach or enjoy when they get there.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting again, Robyn. I never see your posts as ‘pointless rants’ and they have been interesting to look back on after all this time. I really hope you have had the strength to stand against conformity and take a step in the right direction for yourself. You have always come across as a strong, unique individual and I am sure the future holds great things for you. Just keep that mindset going and remember to do what makes YOU happy.

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