6. My Real Testament - updated & expanded. Here's your copy, too!
Updated: Apr 30
After reading and hearing about several unfortunate cases where children have lost parents at a young age, and suffered depression and loneliness as a result, it prompted me to update my real testament. I can genuinely sense what feelings could follow if this situation occurred: it's harrowing. Until I've finished this I'll feel a little haunted by the possibility. I'm not leaving the house until it's done, not that I can anyway seeing as we're in lockdown due to Covid-19 haha.
Download your own My Real Testament at the bottom of this post!
Also, I've taken the newly updated testament below, created a template and added questions/prompts for everyone to be able to download it and use as their own. For your own real testament feel free to copy and paste as you wish, delete or add anything you want to, edit the style/font/etc, just do what you like! It would mean a lot if you let me know how you do or if you wish to discuss anything, or even ask for help: it would be a pleasure to hear from you. I appeal also to those who feel like they don't have the time, skills or personality to do this: let's just focus on 1 step at a time and move forward. You may even wish to try and fill this out on behalf of another person whose memories, personality and advice you'd like to record. Remember to keep it safe if you do!
My Real Testament - updated 27 April 2020
This supersedes the version in blog post 2. Changes aren't highlighted.
Dear Alexander, Thomas, Gabriel & William,
My Real Testament was written for you. A Will and Testament that covers our estate will have been done separately. Due to your age (at the time that I wrote this) I know for certain that you don't know the full me, and so it's with great pleasure that I leave these words which may hopefully fill in some of the blanks that you may have at any point through your life. Life can be very confusing at times, and also very hard, but with the right mindset you should be able to make the most of it. As you read through my words it may feel very random at times, but I only write this to bring comfort to you as well as to help remind you how special life can be. Other posts may be added instead of or in addition to amending this testament, so don't rule anything out.
First off, the blog post photo: I was around 20 years old at the time, working as a one-off for a charity called the Jubilee Sailing Trust on one of their vessels called the Lord Nelson. We spent 6 weeks on board, got our hands dirty, learnt how to sail with able and disabled people, disadvantaged people, lonely or socially-disadvantaged people, saw many different places, had an adventure in general. It was a great time and I hope to take any of you on board one day, as a volunteer. "Not normal", "A bit weird" and "Not right in the head" are 3 of many comments that I've heard others say about me, usually to my face with a big smile. That should explain the photo: Yes, I can be silly, and that will always apply. It's who I am. I've also been called many positive things, but my point is to be yourself and not worry what others say or think. I love a good insult, especially if it's true!
I have to say that as I'm writing this, this is what you're all up to: Alex, you're playing Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and have just sold to me the idea of getting the 3rd in the series; Thomas, you're procrastinating making Lego spaceships and doing everything but your school work; Gabriel, you're generally endangering the rest of us by doing something dangerous, and Will: you've just stood up in your Next-To-Me Crib, dropped your dummy on the floor and shouted, to the horror of your mum who has just been caught out with your sudden ability to stand up, hilarious!
Okay, onto the testament. I hope that if you ever get moments in your life when you have a concern, question or general interest that my writing helps. Also know that you are my top priorities, which is why I try and look after myself and not take too many risks (to make sure that I can stick around for as long as possible). It's in my nature to always want to be there for you and your family. If something spoils that plan, then that's life: unpredictable and chaotic!
I'll cover this first, as it will help in explaining why I'm so relaxed about doing this entire project. I'm only conscious of being on this earth since my birth as John Moss, born in 1984. I don't remember anything before that. Put simply, I don't recall existing at any other time and given that one of the latest estimates for the age of the universe stands at 13.82 billion years (Planck, 2013), common sense dictates to me that not existing once again shouldn't create any real fear or panic, especially when I've no awareness of having existed for a far greater period than I have existed. My only fear, admittedly, is going before we've had plenty of good quality time together. If I can make that happen then I'll be very happy. Saying that, it is also dependent on...
We can do our best to control our health, safety and wellbeing, but regrettably a good quality and long life is also down to good fortune. We can't control it so that's why doing our best but also preparing for the worst is key. It's possible to feel like bad things always happen to you, or it's certain that you'll at least hear others say it, but I learnt different and I hope you will, too. For this you need...
A healthy mindset
I used to believe that positive thinking would always get me everything that I wanted - however, that no longer feels normal. It takes action to get what you want, not just thoughts. Okay, be positive while you're carrying out your actions, but also know that a healthy mindset comprises of deep thinking, considering all aspects of what you are doing, what impacts it could have on others, and is what you're currently doing really what you want? In my teenage years I dreamt of status, flash cars and big houses. It took a couple of decades for me to forget all about that (mostly!), and simply appreciate a good bottle of wine, game of snooker, a good book, a decent strategy/action game, great food, stability, my spotify premium account and spending time with family. It may sound boring to you but you should get to a point in life where you do what you really want to do, and not what you think others want you to do. Too many people are currently looking elsewhere for guidance, such as Hollywood for example: you only have to look into the ancient past or up at the stars to realise that there's a whole lot more to cherish other than fame and fortune. Around 300-500 years BC I'd say that the Greeks may have been more advanced than what we are now. Regardless, it's very important...
To play your part
In 2019, when I initially wrote this, it appears to me that current generations of people are somehow being programmed to expect a lot from society in return for very little input. I've heard many people say how they should get this or that, but the truth is that many of them appear very lazy to me. You could say that they have been misguided. If being the Writer for My Last Testament is my only job when you read this then know that when it first started I was working away from home around 8 months a year, mostly several hundred miles away. I've also worked since I was 16 and can count on 1 hand how many days I've had off sick: 3 to be precise, 1 of which was because of a hangover (I was a teenager ha). I certainly played my part contributing to society: working hard and paying taxes. It's possible to feel disjointed from what you do to make money, and it's not always possible to be happy doing it, but it's sometimes the only way. There's still nothing to stop you working towards your dreams (once you know what they are), but you're very unlikely to get there without putting in the effort. Work hard, play hard. There is also more to life than...
In my later years I finally realised that there was a limit to how happy money could make you. There seems to be a point where once you have earned a certain amount, as in an amount that makes you feel comfortable long-term, that earning more won't make you much happier than you are. So, this could be a point where you feed your effort into your passions. It may be that what was making you money was actually your passion, in which case feel free to do what you like. Basically, I'm just trying to say not to let money dominate your life. You have to respect it and more often than not work hard for it, but providing that you don't abuse it and are able to follow other passions then you will do well. You may have heard that "the love of money is the root of all evil", which for me is true in that I've seen some terrible things done in the interest of making money. Though nowhere close to the evils that I've seen, I've done some daft things trying to make money when I knew deep down that I wasn't thinking very clearly at the time. Do everything that you can to avoid disadvantaging others for your own gain. There's far too much of that right now, and people's desire for fame & fortune are behind some of the most atrocious events on this planet. Something that I consider more valuable than money...
Kindness & Consideration
At the time when you're reading this I trust that you're familiar with how nice it feels to do something nice for somebody else, even if that somebody is a complete stranger. It's built into us and it's one of our greatest qualities as a human being: to not only be able to give something of value, whether it be time, money or other, but to actually enjoy it. Obviously, you should never give what you don't have (without good reason), and you should also make sure that you, your family and friends are all okay first. All I mean by that is that there is no point going around helping stranger after stranger if you know of a good friend in urgent need of your help. That said, pick wisely, as there are people and organisations out there who do not deserve charity. If anything, they need help in other ways. I'm mostly referring to con artists or people who are at a low point in their lives where money won't provide the answer for them. Believe me, I've tried! You'll realise that some people give the impression that they can't be helped. They need specialist help. This may cause you to feel bad but you should appreciate that...
There are some things that you can't control
You only have power over your own thoughts and actions. You can try to influence others, but don't let it cause you stress if you aren't able to. For example, when I play snooker, I don't try to win each frame, but I do try and play at my very best. This may seem a bit of a strange example, but the concept is simple: I can control how well that I play, whether it be short-term, e.g. really concentrating, or long-term, e.g. practise, but I cannot control how well my competitors play, well not without cheating or manipulating (not my style). For this reason I am only focussed on how well I play. If I win it makes me happy, but if I don't win I know that if I want to win those sorts of frames I'll have to be a better player. This may seem like a silly example but the concept applies to most areas of life: you generally have no power over the 7-point-something billion people in the world. There's no harm in trying of course, as long as you don't feel despair if very little is achieved. If you can appreciate that you'll create less...
I once suffered from this quite a lot, but then I learnt how to use it as an important tool. If you're feeling anxious it's likely to mean that your brain is telling you that something needs addressing. At that point it's important to stop, relax and have a good think about what it is that is bothering you, and more importantly what you can do to fix it. Some good friends, family and partners may even be able to lend an ear and help us become free of anxiety by taking some form of action. For example, as I write I have some anxiety due to the effects of Covid-19 (losing my contractual work as a result) and the risks it poses to others, which is what is urging me to look for jobs, study, learn another language and work on this website. Since the last blog post I've also massively improved my diet (mostly plant-based now and have dropped meat, eggs and dairy) and have been doing more exercise. I feel really healthy. When I wrote the original testament my thoughts had constantly been prompting me to exercise more often, purely to remain in good health and make the most of my time here on earth. I may have grandchildren to look after in the future and I'll certainly need to be fit for that, judging by how demanding you lot are (haha). Moving on...
Philosophy & Religion
I hope that this doesn't upset you, but if it does, "man up!" (haha). I am more of an atheist than anything else (though I enjoy the positive aspects of religions). My own version is this: believers of God believe that God is Good, but I believe that ‘Good’ is inside of us: we all possess it. That joint force, the Goodness in all of us, is what drives and leads society. I'm a strong believer in the wonderful scientists, doctors, professors and researchers in this world who are looking after us and helping us to become better as a species. Homo Sapiens, as you may know, is Latin for "wise man", but as I write I know that we still have a long way to go before I would consider us "wise". You only have to watch the news, which admittedly I don't really do at the moment (it's proving to be a nice break), to see that there are some dodgy so-called "wise" people out there. It's up to you what you believe in, though whatever it is please do question the benefits for yourself and society before you get involved. I have friends who are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Buddhists, Sikhs and others. I would never be rude in speaking out against their religious beliefs, hence not having an issue with having 3 of you Christened. Being polite and genuinely interested I embrace them. Sometimes it is best to keep your thoughts to yourself, especially when it could result in upsetting or offending others. There's also not enough evidence to back anybody fully, for example, consider the 2 questions: "Can we prove that God exists?" and "Can we prove that God doesn't exist?". I always like that one! Whatever your beliefs you will be able to recognise most…
I've encountered many twisted, unsavoury, violent and ignorant people. It's up to you how far you distance yourself from them and more importantly, it's also up to you how much you allow them to bother you. All that I mean by this is that the sooner you accept how bad some people can be and that their attack on you was unlikely to be personal, the sooner you will recover and be able to move on. Sometimes people have a bit of an excuse for how they turn out (terrible, loveless and/or traumatic upbringing) but I believe that sometimes people can be born evil (though I think they're far more rare than those who are neglected). Some are just a little misguided and need a bit of corrective action to make a positive change. You'll usually know when somebody means trouble, so I'd listen to your gut instincts, as well as your friends and family. I study other people quite a lot and as good as we can be as a species, we can also be very bad. While on the subject of trouble, I think it's important to discuss...
In life there is no way to avoid risk, but you can control how much risk you take. When of age this could involve things such as gambling, drinking, adrenaline sports, etc, where not only will it cost money but there could be an element of risk to your health and wellbeing. Just be conscious of what you do and bear in mind the phrase, "Everything in moderation". It can be easy to get carried away doing some things, but that's also part of what makes us human. On the other hand taking as few risks as possible would result in a very dull, tedious and non-productive life, so it's about the right balance. It's vital to...
Learn from your mistakes
I'd put my life and money on it that there isn't a single adult in this world who hasn't made a mistake. Some people accept their mistake, learn from it and move on. Others, a bit like me when younger, can make a mistake and dwell on it for ages as a form of self-punishment, almost to the point that you get far too consumed by it. If that happens after a small mistake just imagine how I've been after making huge mistakes! If you ever do this, just try to fix it and think what you would do differently next time. I'm not encouraging you to make mistakes of course, but to learn from the ones that you do make. Where you may have hurt somebody in some way you should genuinely be and say "Sorry!", as it helps them to heal and can prevent or limit the damage to any bond that you may have with them. It will also help you clear your conscience. There's no such thing as the perfect human being, but it's certainly good to try. When it comes to how well you do in life...
Learn to love yourself before others
This isn't about being vain, but the opposite. Put simply, if you don't love and respect yourself then you may struggle to fully love and respect others. Realise that you are human, are not perfect, will make mistakes and that you're mostly only in control of your own thoughts and actions. Add to that that it's up to life what bad luck or good fortune you will have and you should be able to breeze through life a bit easier than what I did. On the subject of love, there is nothing stronger! Life without Love would be cruel. Everyone deserves some because...
Everybody is Equal
The genders are all equal. In our short history we've seen the earth ruled by both sexes, which at the time resulted in one being more valued than the other. Put simply, though men and women are different, it's the differences that allow us to advance as a species. I feel that it's easy to say the wrong thing here so I'm not going to go into too much detail. With regards to different races then all I'll say is this: it's highly likely that we started off as 1 race and all that's happened as groups split up is that changes occurred to adapt to the environment. Over time the groups formed different cultures. Celebrate these differences and take part in them: I certainly have. You'll be amazed how welcome you are when you are genuinely interested and show respect. Of course, you may have heard of other theories of how we ended up on this planet, but considering that there could be between sextillion (21 zeroes) and septillion (24 zeroes) habitable planets within our universe then who knows! Even so, it wouldn't really matter!
To finish off I wish you not the life that I wish for myself (forward-thinking, stable and sensible with the odd adventure) but the life that you wish for yourself. I can only tell you what my thoughts are in life and there's probably nothing to prove that I am right in everything that I say. For that reason there may have been many edits of this Testament before you've even read it. Nobody knows everything and every day is a day for learning something new. Not one person will have all of the answers, but you can carefully pick and choose what you believe in the most.
In this next section I'll cover a few scenarios, which is in preparation for various milestones that you may achieve during your lifetime. It is brief, general and may seem a little odd, but I feel that it's better than doing nothing at all. Consider it my future advice in case I'm not around, or in a suitable capacity, to give it.
Try your best, otherwise there's less of a point being there! Make friends and look after them. Have fun but stay out of trouble. If you tried your best in your exams, then "Well Done" from me, regardless of the result! When choosing what to study after completing secondary school, if that's what you want to do (I will always advise some form of academia), then try and choose something that you are passionate about and can use in your career. Whenever you complete your studies or hit a new milestone at work, such as a promotion, then I'd naturally be proud of you and happy that you are focussing on your passion and career.
Your first love
This is the biggest subject of them all. 'Love is Blind' is a very true saying by the way haha, so be careful who you love and why. Relationships do require compromise, but there should always be a strong bond between you that makes compromising straightforward. If you are being trapped, or are the one trapping the other, then this isn't right, or natural. People should be together because it feels natural to them. Never take the other for granted, but also never allow yourself to be taken for granted.
Your first heart-break
This is a tough one. If it happens then believe me and others when we say that this is a difficult experience. You'll feel better over time, but when things go wrong knowing why is always helpful in the healing process. It's a form of feedback that could help us improve, if we were the problem of course, and gives us more hope the next time we're tested. For example, I used to be too shy, generally inexperienced and unadventurous at a younger age, but over time I became the opposite and I'm now happy. A lot of maturity is required in relationships. If staying together you'll both mature together, and if not, you'll mature with other people instead. Always try and look after yourself when a break-up happens. A little break away somewhere different, with or without family or friends, really helps to take your mind off it and process things. Just don't do anything silly, or take out your frustration, anger or bitterness on others, especially those closest to you. You will either get back together or meet somebody else, but letting go of the past and living in the present will help you massively.
Your first job
Getting your first payslip is always exciting, so don't feel weird about feeling good about it. Receiving something for your effort is how we survive and prosper as a species, so it must be built in. If you're paid to do a job you should apply yourself fully. You shouldn't step on others to progress, because you'd be trading your innocence for wealth. Also, don't let others step on you: stand your ground! Some bosses or management can be bad, but you can still learn from them. I once worked in a fruit and veg shop and got shouted at for going upstairs empty-handed. I hadn't been told to always bring something up from the stock room, but I started doing it. I didn't need to be shouted at as it made me angry, but I was also happy with how efficient the idea was and have always used it in construction where applicable. Some jobs are bad and some are good, but you'll also have good and bad days. If you're like me then you'll need a good night's sleep to give your everything at work, but I also find that exercising before work helps out a great deal.
This definitely wasn't an original item but I may have found the optimum diet for making sure that I'm around for as long as possible. I don't want to dwell on this for too long, but all I'll say is that you can get all of the protein that you require from plant-based food. Some foods have all of the amino acids required, such as rice and beans combined. Things like B12 can be found in non-meat products (I get mine from bran flakes). Milk by the way comes from pregnant cows, so what do you think happens to all of the calves, especially the bull calves? We don't need chicken's eggs, which can be from caged chickens (if not checked). The red in the egg is usually a ruptured blood vessel. It didn't really bother me to be honest, but when studies on human teeth confirmed that we're designed to be grinding food (canine teeth we're just for aggression, snarling for example) and not eating meat, I was happy to drop dairy and eggs in addition to the meat. I've never felt better and as you can tell from this section I'm now a bit bias. If you're tutting then I laugh because I feel that I've been very reasonable and open-minded up to now (haha). I'm not going to name any festivals but there are some very undesirable ones conducted around the world. They are very cruel, but they are also mis-reported, so be careful what you read. Whether a country eats dog or other meat, you'll find that many industries neglect the animal, such as pig or cow, which is why I was happy to drop it all. I'll live longer for it, so I'm certainly not complaining. I'd also be lying if I said that I didn't used to enjoy steak, but it's now not enough for me to want one.
Wedding Day & my Grandchildren
It's an exciting time when families merge into 1. If you do get married (or an equivalent) then it's a day when I'd always have a drink in my hand (if allowed of course!) and be nattering to anybody and everybody. My daft humour can take a long time to come out with strangers but sometimes it emerges far quicker than I expect it myself. Before and after that though, I'd always be respectful, open-minded, talkative and cheery throughout. Trained well by my father, I'd probably be one of the last ones in the bar, socialising, playing cards/pool/darts or just generally having a laugh. I wouldn't be hungover the next day, unless I'd been led astray by a vodka-loving Pole or Russian (I can never say 'No' out of politeness) or by a family member who goes out of their way to get me drunk. I embrace all races and religions by the way, so if there's a new culture being introduced to our family then I go out of my way to respect it and enjoy it. When it comes to children and being a parent I’ll keep it simple: love them, there’s no such thing a perfect parent, plan for the long-term but also make the most of the moment as the present is the most precious!
To finish. I won't ever stop being a parent. I will also get things wrong, speak out of turn and upset people from time to time, but at the age of 35 I've got a long way to go to become an even better person. There'll be ups and downs, sad and happy times, easy and frustrating periods, but that's life! It's a non-stop ride that's always being built, some tracks and features are placed by you, some by others and the rest by general chaos. You only have to read up on things like black holes, supernovae, magnetars, antimatter and general quantum theory to realise there's plenty of chaos out there. It certainly keeps us on our toes, enjoy it where you can. There's a lot happening outside of our own world, but as vast as it is always take care of what's in your own world. It's the only way to live a harmonious life.
Over to you now.
With infinite love,
p.s. I'd recommend reading the book, Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine. You can get the ebook version here, which is cheaper and better for the environment. It's written by somebody that I have a lot of respect for, Derren Brown. I found the read inspirational and it has resulted in further studies of philosophy and life itself. I had hoped to add other books, but I hope at least for now you find my main recommendation a useful one. If you're young when reading it I would keep it on the shelf for future reference, as there is a lot to take in.
p.s.s. A member-friend revealed this poem to me by Max Ehrmann, written in 1927 and called 'Desiderata'. I think you'll like it:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Finally, this next section is where memories will be inserted over time. It's a new idea so only 1 is added to make a start. They may be key moments, but may also be things that made me laugh, very happy or other. I’m bound to miss a lot of stuff out given that I’ve never really used a diary, but I’ll see what I can do.
A few months ago (February 2020), Gabriel (3yo) came into the bedroom with Susanne’s bra hanging around his neck. He blurted out, “I’m wearing Nipple Bins!”. It was hilarious given that he’d clearly made up the name himself. He’s without a doubt the craziest of the 4 so far.
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End of My Real Testament
As the reader I'm not sure what you thought about My Real Testament above but your thoughts are welcome. There are several things that I wish to improve over time but I'm very happy that I've at least left something for them to consider. Should anything happen to me sooner rather than later then I'm relieved that they won't be faced with nothing! Long-term I wish to explore each paragraph in more depth, perhaps with more quotes, references or actual examples, but I also aim on adding memories as the years hopefully pass by, including ones from my own childhood. Life is unpredictable so I won't be taking anything for granted.
I will happily admit that writing and helping others is without a doubt a great combination of two things that mean a great deal to me. So much so that if I can do this professionally I gladly will.
If you would like to do your very own real testament then it is very easy to download it. I've set the format out so that you can make a start straight away if you like. Everything for your consideration is written in red. A lot of time has been put into this version to help everybody and I'm also on hand to discuss it with you. There's no minimum donation amount as the value of this is different for everybody, plus some people may not be able to afford paying for professional writing or bespoke advice (and I wanted to help as many people as possible). Just click on the PayPal button below to make the donation payment and then after that has gone through you'll be taken to a page where you can download the item. It should be instant. There is an MS Word version and a Mac Pages version. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any download issues.
And please remember - due to how I've set things out is doesn't matter if you think of yourself as a bad writer or not: most of the hard work is done! Enjoy reminiscing and making it your own. I'm excited for you!
In my spare time when not helping people write their own testament I'll be reaching out to the children who are without parents or guardians, doing what I can to help them, as well as continuing to stand up to some of the evil atrocities that occur in the world. My wife and I have always wanted to foster (or similar), so this could even help make that happen.
Thank you & All the Very Best,
See the next blog post here: 7. Get Your Version Now!