Monthly Archives: October 2014

Wellbeing Economics?

A blustery grey day this week and the lights are on in our village library. Cheerful chatter subsides as a group of people sit in a circle, heads bowed over notebooks, silence only broken by scratch of pens on paper. Some minutes of scribbling follow, then a few sighs, a stretch and a hum of quiet comments.

It is the monthly meeting of our community “Writing for Wellbeing” group. As always I am amazed and humbled as everyday problems, big and small, are shared and transformed through the medium of creative writing.

In London, also this week, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics met to launch its first report “Wellbeing in four policy areas” – transport, environmental planning, education and health, and arts and culture.

The connection between these two gatherings? A focus on creating a society which feels well, better even, through participating in creativity. “Experiencing arts and culture has demonstrable positive impacts on wellbeing… This is particularly true of participatory (as opposed to purely spectator) activities.” page 56 of the report.

Scientific studies around the world are showing the benefits to physical and mental health through expressive writing. In the library we sit surrounded by books whose authors attest to the positive health benefits of writing. Matt Haig, popular teen and adult fiction writer, including “The Humans”, says “writing saved my life”.

One writing group member remarks “the problems I came in with haven’t gone, but I see them differently after writing”, an experience echoed by many others.

For the London politicians wellbeing economics is about maintaining a happy, healthy workforce. Parliamentary Report chairman David Lammy MP commented “wellbeing matters more, not less, in times of economic difficulties.”

I could be cynical and say “it’s just about saving money”, but this week in the library I have seen it’s all about saving lives.

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I wrote the piece above as an assignment for the Introduction to Journalism online course I am currently doing. The hardest part of the assignment was the word count of 300 words! I could write so much more…..

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Autumn amazement

It’s been a while!

Apologies for my absence from blogging, the last few weeks have seen the final days of the life of my ninety-nine year old mother-in-law, and then several relatives stayed with us while we celebrated her funeral. Her dying was not unexpected, she had been becoming increasingly frail over the last few months, eating very little, and we knew her days were shortening. We will miss her feisty and courageous strength which endured for nearly a hundred years.

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The season is changing in the garden too. A glorious fanfare of stunning colour heralds the departure of tumbling leaves as they loose their hold on the tossing branches. Autumn can be brilliant, but inevitably speaks to us of endings, and lengthening nights, a darkening and a chill.

Mary Oliver captures it so well in her poem “When Death Comes”

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

– Mary Oliver

So even as the evenings draw in this autumn, and the days turn grey and wet, let’s stay “married to amazement” and celebrate the season with courage and joy.