“Well some of us have to work!”
My sister said as Katy and I left her £500 000 home in the south of England on the way to climb for ten weeks in Europe.
I don’t begrudge anyone who has a paid-off half a million pound house with money to spare – she has worked and brought up children and done the time to get the things that she wants. I don’t begrudge her life choice at all, but I think it is her choice, or maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was societies choice and she accepted those choices the way many of us do including myself – but in the end this was her decision and I can’t help but ask, was it what she wanted, is she happy and why does she appear to have a problem with my decisions, my choice?
After just over a week of camping, rock climbing, hanging-out, running, watching the Redstart flit into the crack and feed their noisy chicks, watching the river take its twists and turns – froth flowing over boulders which stirs the vortex of my imagination turning the bubbles into white beards of old men – sitting in the shade surrounded by dripping limestone tufa’s in the huge guppy-mouth cave of Genat and watching the wind stir the full-leaf hardwoods and listening to them whisper a thousand whispers, I’m asking myself the same question, is this what I want, am I happy and if I am happy by this existence, what is it that makes me happy about living like this?
The Ariege valley is slow, and peaceful, quiet and enchanting – a lost world of narrow overgrown single track lanes, hairpins, old men with creased skin and hooked noses and crumbling castles standing haughtily on a wooded mountain spur… an escape – but escape is the wrong phrase, it isn’t an escape, it is real… real for now, real life, real existence, memories in the making, a simple existence for me, but I emphasise, ‘for me’. Being here, weighing down the milk carton, the beer bottles, the yoghurt pots in the river so they keep cool, but don’t get swept away – the river rises and lowers with each turn of the weather in the Pyrenees – this is my existence at the moment and the simplicity chills me like the milk cartons chill in the river. Finding sequence to enable passage through steep limestone means nothing, it solves nothing, it cures nothing… well, nothing apart from quietening the voices that shout inside my head. So I suppose, for me, doing something pointless, is important and who can say it is not, and it is also important for me at whatever level I choose to do it, as it is also important for anyone else to do it at the level they want.
I sit and wonder, I wonder if there really is a choice at times – do people who are unhappy, and I know not everyone is unhappy with different choices to my own – but some people do appear to be unhappy and make scathing comments – do they do it because they feel held back, not able to make the decisions they really want to make, and if so that could be through factors that may not have been of their own making. Not everyone is fortunate or lucky, or brave or healthy enough to make the choice that possibly they would like to make and because of this I should try to understand and appreciate this, I should grow and learn, I should be kinder. I’m sure my writing and view on life feels at times to many people who read it like I’m looking down from my haughty castle spur and sneering. This has never been my intention, my intention has always been to inspire.
Not everyone in the UK has the option to drive to Europe and climb for ten weeks, I do think it is an option that is within the reach of some, but certainly not all, society would collapse if we all lived this way, but maybe there is a small opportunity for many to take that first brave step and move into the unknown, no-matter what the unknown may be – it can be stepping out of a front door, a walk around the park, or accepting that life is different things for different people and understanding that not everyone can do what they want to do in life.
Information surrounds us. Facebook, email, twitter, blogs, newsfeeds, an endless list and it is easy to become angry and bitter as we see what people are doing with their lives. I think people should try to rejoice in those who live different, but also, for people like me, I should try to look on with a more open mind and try to put myself in the life of people, who, for whatever reason, cannot make the choice I have made and maybe with the inspiration taken from these people I will become a better more understanding person.
A few years ago my sister spoke of selling up, banking her money and using her medical training to work voluntary abroad, to explore and meet and help the less fortunate. Maybe if she had she would have had less but more, but maybe she just could not do that and I should accept her decision?