35,740,800 minutes

I have passed 35,740,800. Thankfully the clock is still ticking, but I am now 68 (in years), but over 35 million minutes old.

To be honest, functioning for that many minutes means I am now pretty creaky in most of my body parts and I have definitely slowed down a lot. As a child, I was one of four, we all ran up and down the stairs much to our mother’s annoyance, which made not a jot of difference to the speed we navigated the stairs. What the hell we were running for I really have no idea, we just did.

Most of my life has been a titanic struggle with depression and my discrete sense of self has only properly emerged over the last 20 years of my life. What I did not know in all the years I existed in the darkest black bottomless hell hole, was that each moment was painfully slowly moving me onwards to the day, aged 33, when I had my first recognisable insight. I was at university studying community and youth work and I made the breakthrough of realising that the Sun newspaper was a Tory rag. I didn’t need to check it out with anyone, I got it in what was a searingly bright flash of understanding. Such an understanding will be utterly banal to many, if not most, readers, possibly even taken for granted, but that was my awakening consciousness telling me something for the first time and it took another 2 years before I had my next real insightful thought.

I remember the quickening time frame but not the many individual thoughts that followed, because it was a process that I came to recognise as it sped up over time, until the day I came home to myself, properly knowing it, getting it, being it, being home to myself for the first time. I was in therapy with an amazing woman called Del and on one particular day, about 20 or so years ago, I arrived and I had something to say to her, before we entered her therapy room, something so important that in that breath taking moment my whole life hung on it. Even now, just writing this, the tears fall. I was as frightened as I have ever been in my life.

“Del”, I said, shaking with fear, “I’ve had a hard life.”

I watched her eyes (the eyes definitely have it, windows to the soul). I saw my words enter her, I saw her get where I was at, I saw her eyes brighten and, thankfully, she affirmed me and gave it back to me, “Yes Keith, you have had a hard life.” That’s all she said and she gave me a crackling, pregnant silence.

And the tears fell. I had never been more vulnerable than in that moment. If Del had mocked me, or had treated me dismissively, I am not sure I would have survived, yet there is no way I could have learnt the lesson of being vulnerable without taking that supreme step, with another human being, to being completely open and vulnerable.

That, for me, was the absolute key to my life, to be vulnerable to life.

I can see now, that it’s nature’s way, I can see it in every plant and animal, as plain as the nose on my face, that incredible vulnerability to life to which we, human beings, create barriers, denials, fortresses, both mental and physical. It’s rather like the fear of dying, it has never been my physical death that has bothered me, but my psychological death, the death of being. I am not sure I’ve dealt with it yet, I still have a sense of shrinking away from it, but less so these days. It’s ok, being alive, and it’s life itself that’s going to kill me, this brief gift will finally peter out and that’s it, done, whatever we might choose to believe comes after. Death is as natural a process as living, impermanence is natures way.

I love that my passion for life gets stronger as I grow older. I love writing and that I wanted to write this to celebrate being a 35 minute millionaire. That is such a beautiful nonsense thing to say. It’s rather like a lot of life, absurd nonsense, but startlingly good nonsense.

Human kind have a great hunger to explore, question, understand and know and yet, whatever the reason for bird song, flowers and trees, lightning and thunder, tornados and tsunamis, with their impacts great and small, they are all awesome just exactly as they are. In the end I am just like everything, I am nature, inseparable in life, able to survive by some massive accident of the universe. Perhaps there is a will behind it, but if there is it is invisible to me, yet whether there is or not, life is truly, truly, amazing.

Keith Ordinary Guy