Days when your heart stopped

One of my favourite tv shows on at the moment is ‘Mad Men’. It’s a show that seems to have a cult following with many people not knowing it at all. The premise is that it is about a New York ad agency in the early 1960’s and it is now in it’s third series. Tonight’s show was how people reacted when John F Kennedy was shot – I couldn’t tell you, I was 9 months old at the time. It is said that everyone from that time remembers where they were when they heard the news. For our generation I guess the JFK moment would be 9/11. Moments that freeze time.

As the show finished tonight I remembered back over the 47 years of my life and thought about similar heart stopping moments and, of course, I can only speak from my own experience. Hearing that Elvis died; I was 13 and in bed, the news came through about 10 o’clock at night and my mum told me. When I heard that John Lennon had been killed I was in a bed sit with my girlfriend in Higham Ferrers – at first I couldn’t work out why there were Lennon songs constantly on the radio. This was pre-breakfast tv news. For a lot of people hearing that Michael Jackson died last year was a major event and I suppose the only other event that comes straight to mind was hearing that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash. For me that was an early morning radio news event and I was in bed.

So much for fame. What about moments that have caused your heart to stop? Those times when you are frozen between fear and being over-whelmed. As I think about those now this is what comes to me. My girlfriend, in 1989, saying she didn’t love me anymore. That was on the Bank Holiday Monday, by Saturday she was gone. Being told that the mother of my child was pregnant – at first not the joyfully happy event it should have been – we were on the brink of splitting up; although we did stay together for a couple of years after. Another break up, many years later, in 2005 when again someone told me that it was over – that relationship did stay together for almost two years more too before coming to an end.

It’s that bone chilling moment when life as you know it comes to an end. You have prepared yourself for a future and that future no longer exists. The great mourning of relationships is not that you will no longer have each other’s company rather that your dreams will be unfullfilled. How many dreams and ambitions have I achieved with not the instigator of the dream, but a different recipient? Crazy, irrelevant romantic notions like visiting Carnforth Railway Station (where ‘Brief Encounter’ was filmed) or Portmerion in Wales. The unfulfilled dream of travelling on the railway between Exeter and Torquay where the train travels so close to the sea that it washes over the track. Dreams are to be achieved, but sometimes we take too long, expecting to have infinite time. If history teaches us anything it shows us that we must do things as soon as we can. Create the wealth to achieve the dreams by focussing on your goals so that the trivial and banal become the moments most cherished. You never know when it might be whipped away from you.

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