Monthly Musing – September 2017 – “On the last day of September”

Every year on this day, I find myself singing the children’s song “Oh, the big ship sails on the alley alley oh” because the final line of each verse is “on the last day of September”. I don’t know what the big ship was or where the alley alley oh was either (and neither, it appears does Google), but isn’t it funny what sticks in your mind from being younger?

I was listening to the radio the other night and the presenter played a song that I hadn’t heard since my teens. Within a few notes of the song starting, I remembered all the words, the time of the year, how I felt at the time, the clothes that I wore … apparently we never forget anything, we just forget how to remember it.

Some things, though, stick in our minds and affect our lives for far longer than our childhood years. A sight, a sound, some careless words and our lives are changed forever; often we don’t recall how or where we heard them but still they shape the course of our behaviour. Sometimes there is no harm in this and the outcome is a positive one, but sometimes it’s not. Human nature is slanted towards the negative, so the words that tend to colour our lives more are the ones like “you’re not very good at that,” “ you’re stupid”, “you’re useless”; words that may be said and forgotten by the speaker but are retained forever by the person they are spoken to. As adults, we can understand that those words were only ever a manifestation of the speaker’s own frustrations, but as children we hear them and take them to heart quite literally. Words, once spoken, can never be recalled and the damage is done.

A close friend has trained to be an NLP counsellor and her work involves looking back through events with her clients to find the small child inside who became stuck in the moment. It all makes perfect sense when you think about it – if you can remember where you were when you last heard a song, you can eventually remember where you were when you heard something that affected your life and you can look at it again with adult eyes, which always results in a different understanding. The small child inside is free. It’s mind magic.

Why are we like this?  Why do some events in our lives affect us whilst others are forgotten?  I don’t know the answer, but I do know that it’s part of what makes us human.  The mind is a fascinating thing, far more powerful than I think we ever realise, and yet it is something that we are able to control by words and experiences.  Isn’t that incredible?  And liberating?  We can do and be anything we want to be and our minds can help or hinder us.  There really are no limits, except those of our own making.


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19 Responses

  1. Unknown says:

    You mentioned NLP, Christine. It can be dangerous and awfully manipulative if not performed with appropriate respect for the individual, by a really mature person.
    I found, in the course of my life, that it was never myself but rather other people freeing me, reaching out to me, caring about me, seeing who I really am, showing me how to find joy or how I can leave pain and grief behind. It was their example, not a method.
    But of course, all is fine if it helps one through one's life.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Yes, I agree, you do have to be very careful with any kind of neuro-linguistic work, and I would always recommend that someone interested in that kind of help should do proper research and only work with a practitioner that is fully qualified and trusted by their clients. I would say, though, that we cannot always rely on other people to make us happy; true happiness only ever comes from inside and we always have the choice to take somebody else's opinion on board or not – which of course is much more difficult in certain circumstances, especially when you are very young xx

  2. Lilly's Mom says:

    Hello Christine. I enjoyed reading your post today. Isn't it funny how a song can bring to mind exactly the place and time in our lives? So many things I can forget and yet when I hear a special song, memories long forgotten appear. The mind is amazing. Pat xx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      It truly is, isn't it? It just goes to show that it's all stored up there – no wonder we can't remember what we went upstairs for just a moment ago! 🙂 xx

  3. Anonymous says:

    So true, words are very powerful and our self belief fragile.

    I remember the rhyme too and found this:

  4. Val says:

    I love your blog, but this post hits home and I remember things that were said that have affected me for a very long time. Now, after reading your post after a very long day..I can let some of it go. Thank you.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Oh, that's wonderful to hear! It's such a relief when you realise that you don't have to carry this rubbish around in your head any more, isn't it? xx

  5. Susan Rayner says:

    So true – I was told as a five/six year old that I was useless at Arithmetic – it was later discovered that in fact I could hardly see the blackboard or the times tables posted around the room – but to this day I am convinced that I am no good at maths and have never really passed a class in maths! Yet I am good with money, good with languages and can knit and sew and cook!! The teacher – who I met again many years later when she was in her late 80s – blighted my whole school experience with a remark about my lack of ability! Once my eyes were sorted out – I needed surgery and glasses – I never had a further problem with any other subject!
    Thank you for raising this issue!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      It's very hard to shake these limiting beliefs when we hear them so young. I'm sure that teacher would be mortified to know that she had caused you such problems with her careless words, probably spoken in a moment of tiredness or frustration. At least they didn't stop you from achieving anything else! xx

  6. Julie says:

    A lovely post Christine.
    I recently read in the hospital on a poster about going to bed thinking a positive thought from the day so that the brain is in happy mode when you drift off to sleep. Apparently, when you wake you are already bright and cheerful to start the new day before anything negative can happen.
    Have a lovely week x

    • Winwick Mum says:

      That's really wise advice, Julie, and something that is probably much more likely to produce a good night's sleep than thinking about your to-do list for the next morning! xx

  7. Liz says:

    Thought I'd share a memory with you. Several tears ago I learned a very helpful little ditty. "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Enjoy today – it's a gift, that's why we call it the present". ��

    • Winwick Mum says:

      That's the trick, isn't it, to live in the present? So much easier said than done but what a calmer life we would all have if we could! xx

  8. Geeha says:

    Very true. At 64 I still have my critical Mum sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear long after she has gone. At least now I try to bring to mind my achievements and hope that I have given my adult sons a more positive outlook on life. Sadly she thought she would make me a better person but didn't encourage my strengths. I am so lucky to have a loving supportive husband.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Other people speak to us with words coloured by their own beliefs and experiences but it's hard to see that and instead we hear them and process what they say based on how we are feeling. As an adult, you can probably look at your Mum's life now and see why she became that critical person, you can see why she wanted you to behave in a particular way and you can tell her – whether she's there or not – what you have achieved and that everything has turned out all right xx

  9. Liz M says:

    This poem also appears at the end of the song 'Matchstalk Men and Matchstick Cats and Dogs' – it's the bit the school choir sings.

  10. Jill says:

    I was always told that the Big Ships song referred to the Manchester Ship Canal. I live not far from you on the Wirral, and we used to sing it in the playground. A long time ago now …

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