For this month’s article, I’m sharing some thoughts I prepared for my 80th Birthday party.

This is not the exact text delivered on the night. Instead, it’s an abridged version of that speech, edited slightly for readers.

It went like this …

On December 11th 2021, I turned 80.  Thank you for coming to share this milestone with me. I’m fortunate and grateful to be still here. I can run … albeit much slower and not that far. Still, I regularly exercise, walk, do a little jog and even dance a bit along the way. I’m indeed thankful.

Expected to give a speech tonight, I hesitantly agreed … and regretted I had. Drawing a blank for weeks, I agonised over what I could say that might be worth saying.

Finally, with the deadline near, here are the four ideas I have decided to share – ideas I’ve found helpful in living a decent life. What follows them might also have value when reflecting on your life and relationships.

1: Our Relationships begin and end with us

I am saying that our relationship with ourselves determines our relationships with others.

To the degree that our relationship with ourselves is okay, it follows that how we think and feel about others will be, to that exact same degree, okay. Think about that.

On a side note: I’ve found that having a good relationship with self doesn’t necessarily determine how others will think about us. That is something over which we have no control. What others think of us is entirely their business.

We can but do our best. And our best is to be at peace with ourselves.

2: Always deliver the promise

Whatever our promise, stated or implied – deliver it or die trying.

3: Our reality is ours – and ours alone.

Our reality is what we think it is, not what it actually is. To emphasise that point: each of us will hear what I’ve just said according to our unique reality. And each listener will imagine that their reality is what I meant. Not true. 

4: Imagine you don’t know the truth of anything.

I suggest if you take the time to examine this final point, you will find, if you haven’t already, that it is the secret to peace of mind and peace on Earth.

Why do I say that? To become a believer in anything is to believe we know ‘the truth’.

All division, separation, trouble and strife in the world, from the personal level to the continental, is caused by believing we know the truth – what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s best, how things should be, according to us.

Hand on heart, I remind myself daily that I don’t know the truth of anything, including if there’s any truth to what I’ve just said.

So ends the philosophical musings.

Tonight, most of all, I want to acknowledge Ronnie, my sweetheart. She has been my most precious one through thick and thin, the ups and downs, the easy and the hard times. Ronnie is my greatest supporter and most potent critic. I’m endlessly grateful to her for both.

Between us, we’ve created, with others, five beautiful children: Robert, now deceased, Lynley, John, Michael and Joanne.

They, in turn, have created ten unique grandchildren and, to date, one great-grandchild. Most are here tonight, which is very special.

I hope those who have not met our children and their offspring will meet those present before the night is over.

Tanya, my wonderful sister, is here. Tan was the incredible gift Mum, Dad, and I received 19 years after my birth. How incredible was that?

This list of those I’m grateful for goes on. Our family’s spouses and partners – including theirs, as well as Ronnie’s and my former spouses – all remain, and forever will, an essential part of our good fortune.

Filling this room are people Ronnie and I love and value, and we thank you sincerely for joining us this evening.

Finally: How fortunate are we to live in Australia. With all of the difficulties many face, we are, notwithstanding, blessed to live here.

Let us also acknowledge the past, as horrific as it was for our Indigenous brethren and all those globally that were likewise invaded, colonised and disadvantaged.

And for those who are severely disadvantaged in a world of plenty, let us think in ways to ensure a fair go for all, to bring an end to ‘the haves and have nots’. There is plenty to go around. Of that, there is no question.

And, let us all get a fresh start. Embrace today and all those living in this country and every country worldwide with our love and love’s sweetest fruits; kindness, understanding, wisdom, and common sense.

I will soon get the opportunity to demonstrate the veracity of at least one of my claims: yes, I still can dance! Thank you, and I hope to see you on the dance floor.

Warmly … John