Sign on road of life made me take stock
What is it that I love about the West End of Bermuda? Perhaps it is the feeling that it is a bit closer to the old Bermuda that I see in paintings and faded photographs.
When I ride my bicycle from Mangrove Bay in the village of Somerset and over Watford Bridge, I feel like I am travelling through time, back to an era when horses were commonplace and ferry boats were the practical way to visit Hamilton. There is a delightful stretch on Ireland Island, which faces the Great Sound. It is quiet there with few cars and an empty coastline.
Last Sunday, my husband and I walked our bikes up the hill into the cool shade under the leafy canopy until we came to the ruins of an old hospital. It was long abandoned and overgrown with plants and trees sprouting from doorways and empty hallways littered with shattered masonry.
I thought of the secrets here, the suffering and longing of sailors far from home, stricken with yellow fever and cloistered from the world of their friends and shipmates.
A more recent arrival, an abandoned car, was nothing but a frail and rusty shell, festooned on every inch with living greenery.
We quickly bounced downhill on our bikes past the ruined parsonage. I thought of this once well-tended and beloved retreat and I pedalled harder, struggling to re-enter my own time, in a hurry to leave this reminder that nothing lasts, that the earth reclaims its own.
I pedalled towards Dockyard. As I passed the glittering sea and the weathered tombstones of the Royal Naval Cemetery, my thoughts drifted to my own mortality. My annual checkup was due at a new and spotless clinic. A wave of fear began to rise within me and anxiety tingled throughout my body. I shook my head and was struck by the contradiction between the beauty surrounding me and the discomfort inside.
I realised I was close to a full-on panic attack. I pulled over on my bike, breathing hard and looked up. Directly in front of me I saw a sign that stunned me with its directness and strength.
Against the background of the radiantly blue ocean, on a bright red square, four white reflective letters shone: STOP.
It was the exact word that I had to see and I had to say it to myself at that moment. It was not just a traffic sign, it was a message sent directly to me. I stood and looked at it for a long time.
This sign reminded me of vital things: “Do not think about the bad. You know that this will not help you, you will only feel worse. You have the power to switch your negative thoughts to positive ones. This is the only thing you can change right now. It is a beautiful day. Enjoy and appreciate this moment.”
We all need to be able to tell ourselves STOP. Not just to change our mood.
STOP yourself when you want to say something harsh, rude, offensive or unfair. STOP when you start to say those undeserved phrases that offend or deeply injure someone, especially those closest to you. Because we know these loved ones so well, we also know their weaknesses and how to hurt them the most.
STOP saying words that you will regret long afterwards. Words are like arrows. Once they leave the bow, they cannot be recalled. They can never be taken back and it is sometimes impossible to forgive and forget them.
STOP before sending an angry e-mail or message. Save it and read it in a few hours or, even better, sleep on it. In the morning, ask yourself: “Do I really want to send this?” Most of the time the answer will be “no”. When emotions cool, our words often reveal the worst in us.
I keep the mental image of this STOP sign as a reminder that it is entirely up to me to draw the line between my negative and positive thoughts. A moment of reflection can be the most important thing you do all day.
• Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at ninalondon.com
Roland Skinner (1940-2018)
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