The calm after the storm

February was a crazy month!

A couple of years ago we decided to upsize our home, but with no ready cash and a very stagnant property market we realised it would not be possible. So, we waited patiently, started saving and watched the market until late last year when it started to improve. We figured that the process of looking, buying and moving would take at least 6 months and we wanted to be in a new home by September 2014. So, we put our house up for sale in early February.

In the first week it had a dozen viewings and 3 people offered to buy it. So, we accepted an offer and started to look for ourselves.

Long story short… I sold a house, bought a house, turned 40, had a very glamorous surprise birthday party and even squeezed in city break to Paris all in the space of 12 days.

And now nothing.

I was not prepared for the flurry of activity and the speed with which the first step of the process came and went. And I was even less prepared for the waiting, days on end with nothing happening, in this step.

And so here we are, doing what I do worst… waiting patiently.

Maybe getting back into my daily meditation practice will help.

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Taking Ten

Once again, the mayhem of day to day life has led me from the path I wish to follow. Or should I say, I have used the mayhem as an excuse.

I haven’t blogged, I haven’t taken advantage of the wonderful sunshine we have been experiencing in the UK these last few weeks, I haven’t attended any yoga classes or generally taken any time for ‘path’ activities.

That’s not entirely true. I watched the Horizon programme (The Truth about Personality) and discovered Andy Puddicombe and Headspace. I was inspired. This guy (a former Buddhist monk) is helping people like me (too busy, too stressed, too unmotivated) a way to improve our lives, ourselves, for free! (well initially), with just 10 minutes per day.

I can manage that, I thought. I promptly downloaded the app and off we went on our short journey; 10 minutes for 10 days… that was 8 days ago. I am ashamed to say that I have not even allowed myself to keep that commitment. Is there any hope for me?

I have excuses abound – We took the kids to Scotland for 3 days for a family wedding (too busy, no time to ourselves and poor internet connection), we slept most of Monday as we were exhausted from said weekend (too tired), then our baby girl got sick, and then we got sick (too poorly). But really, none of these are acceptable. If I had really wanted to I could have made myself available for 10 minutes and to be honest, would have greatly benefited from it.

But, yes. There is still hope.

As Andy says, learning to meditate isn’t necessarily easy. And we all encounter obstacles along the way. The first step is recognising that we have done so and gently bringing ourselves back to where we left off.

And so, on my journey towards self improvement, towards improving my quality of life; this morning, I step back up onto the learning curve and start Day 2. With good intention and positive thoughts in my heart, I shall now embark on Take Tw0 of Take10.

We’re not keeping up with the Kardashians, but that’s OK

My baby boy is nearly 1 year old. He was born on Father’s Day (UK) in 2012. We will be holding a small, intimate, family celebration this weekend. My sister and my Beloved’s sister are travelling up from London for the ‘event’. My BFF (yogaswerve) will be there. My brothers and my parents will also be joining us (along with significant others and dependant children, obviously).

I love family get togethers. I love family. I’ve written countless times about the importance of family to me.

I’ve also written of my rose-tinted view of my family.

I see my family as a Kardashian style unit. (Albeit, without the Momager and the millions of dollars in the bank). They hang out together. They have fun together. They help each other. They fight all the time, but then they talk about it and make up “like” minutes later. Say what you want about how they make their living, but as a family, I actually think they are quite good role models.

The truth is, that we’re just like any other family. We lead different lives. Some are separated by distance, but whether we live around the corner or 200 miles away, we’re still really bad at picking up a phone on a regular basis to ask how each other is doing. We are really bad at saying ‘I love you’. And we are really bad at talking through and resolving gripes, problems and serious issues. Not very Kardashian at all.

I maintain, though, that in a crisis, we are always there for each other and we stick together like glue.

We’ve had a couple of crisis points as a family, recently, and the observations noted above have all proven themselves to be true. To the point where sticking together has been difficult, given that some of the crisis that we have faced/are facing are ‘internal’ rather than ‘external’. I’m not saying that we’re not sticking together. I’m just saying it’s difficult.

So, I’m a little nervous about the weekend’s upcoming festivities. I doubt there is actually anything to worry about, because we are actually quite good at avoiding conflict and pretending everything is fine (well, I am). I do wish though, that there wasn’t so much of a stigma in my family about sharing your problems with the outside world. But I guess I have to respect the wishes of those whom I love most in the world and go along with it. (You’ll notice that I’m writing this without actually telling you anything).

Maybe the first step is to be able to talk about our problems with each other without fear of consequence. And we are all working on that, I think, in various break-out groups as well as the congregation as a whole.

My Beloved and I are one of those break-out groups. For our own benefit and for the benefit of our children. We want them to live life being open and honest with their emotions and themselves. To be able to communicate how they feel, good or bad. To be able to resolve issues, gripes and problems without fear. Most of all, I want them to know that they are loved, no matter how they feel and they can talk to us or each other about anything.

As for my family and our impending get together this weekend, we are working on getting better. Each of us in our own way. And we are doing that because we love each other. And if we have love, what else matters?

Disconnected

Forgive me readers, for I have lapsed. It has been 1 calendar month since my last blog post.

And in my last blog post I shared with you the challenges I (and my family) were wrestling with, due to my having to travel for work lately. Well, the travelling came to an end a couple of weeks ago, expedited (I think) by a case of the Chickenpox in my 2 year old. So, I’m almost back to my happy equilibrium.

I say almost, because I find myself (as I seem to quite regularly, these days) with the need to process a handful of seemingly unconnected thoughts currently bouncing around in my head, in my heart, in my soul, even.

And so, I take to the keyboard, once more, in pursuit of catharsis.

My first thought, is that I am tired. We all are. My 2 year old has had a tough couple of weeks and has been at home with us (see above), my 10 month old still refuses to sleep through the night, work has been crazy, busy and stressful and of course there was the travelling.

You may or may not be familiar with the effects of sleep deprivation, but it pretty much screws up your ability to function on a daily basis and certainly messes with your ability to think straight. Therefor, your normal world view gets skewed into something more akin to a fairground Hall of Mirrors than a direct reflection of reality. And so, to give clear context for the following 4 thoughts, I felt it was necessary to mention this first.

Secondly, my Beloved and I have lapsed in our efforts to spend quality time together and focus on our relationship (i.e. me and him, as opposed to mummy and daddy to 2 young kids, lots of bills to pay and chores to organise). I am just as guilty as he is. I have not taken the opportunity, during the little time we have alone in the evenings on weekdays, to say “hey, why don’t we turn off the TV, put down our phones and listen to some music or just sit and talk. I want to get to know you even better than I do now”. I have not made time or arrangements for date nights, I have not cast my laptop aside and spontaneously called out to him “let’s do lunch! come on, get your coat on, let’s go!”. I have not done any of these things for some time.

Thirdly, I have neglected to take time for myself. I have neglected to shower daily (gross, I know). I have neglected to do my hair. To put on make up. To paint my nails. To do yoga. To breathe in and to breathe out.

And so, I have left myself feeling empty. And it is needless. Because fulfilment is completely within my own control.

What is it that ‘They’ say? “You cannot control all the things that happens in your life, but you can control how you feel about them”. I think ‘They’ are right.

‘They’ also say, “If you don’t like something, change it”.

I need to reconnect with my Beloved, on all levels. I need to reconnect with myself. So, I’m going to get my finger out. I’m going to utilise my (allegedly) legendary organisation skills and make some immediate changes that will take me closer to my 2013 goal, on a personal level.

My first step will be out into the sunshine, to close my eyes and breathe.

Stillness

I thought it was about time I wrote about something other than babies. I’m not sure it’s possible, but I’ll try.

Last Saturday we had a day out at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. It’s a beautiful old building. There’s a large atrium with a glass dome in the ceiling, lots of marble and polished stone. And the exhibition rooms are ornate. Silk and velvet wall coverings, parquet floors and so very quiet, so very still.

I went for a walk along the beach yesterday. I love to walk at the beach; the space, the expanse of the horizon, the sounds of the wind and the sea. Another place where my mind finds solace and stillness.

I think I’ve mentioned previously, on #100factsaboutme, that I like sitting in empty churches. Large rooms, high ceilings, polished stone, lots of art to observe, space and stillness to contemplate, or just be.

I find that all of these places have a similar vibe, for me anyway. I’ve been visiting these places, and finding comfort in them, for many years now, even more so, during my time of depression.

I was born, baptised and raised Roman Catholic. At the age of 17, like many of my peers, I stopped going to church. Out of respect for my Father (whose faith is very strong), I consulted him about my decision and made a promise to him that my cessation of attendance was not out of laziness but out of a genuine confusion about my religious and spiritual beliefs. I could make that promise, because it was true. It still is.

I am interested in all religious, spiritual and faith systems. I genuinely am. And I have taken some time, over the years, to read about some other religions and faith systems, talk to people who subscribe to them and try to understand them more. And I intend to continue to do so, if and when I can find (or make) the time.

The way of life that I am continually drawn back to, is Buddhism. I’m not sure I want to “become” a Buddhist (if that is even an action), but the teachings of the Buddha (in comparison to the teachings of others) are the ones that seem to make the most sense to me. With a few exceptions, for example, karma. Conceptually, I agree that, in this life, what goes around comes around. But, I’m not sure I can believe in actual physical rebirth.

Buddha teaches compassion, respect and kindness, and I think (I hope) that we all get that.

He teaches not to become attached to material things, I get that too. He teaches not to become attached to others, which I am still trying to fully understand. Others can not make you happy or sad, only you can do that. I love my Beloved deeply, it is not his job to provide my happiness and conversely, I can not blame him (or anyone else) for feeling angry or unhappy. I can choose to be happy or angry or sad. But, this is a difficult thing to master!

And then there is the love I have for my kids. It is unconditional. When they are sick or unhappy, I find it difficult not to be affected by that. So, in this way, my attachment to my children is one that I could never break. (I knew I couldn’t get through a post without including them! :-))

A large element of Buddhism, one that everyone recognises as being associated with that way of life, is meditation. Just being. And I think my long time draw towards empty churches, the expanse of the beach and quiet corners of old buildings like Art Galleries, (and my perennial mission to practice yoga) all illustrate that I’ve actually been practicing this teaching, in a fashion, for years.

Another thing that the Buddha teaches us, which I can really relate to, is that one should question everything. Even the Buddha himself and his teachings. Well, I feel like I’ve been doing that since I was born, too!

Maybe I’ve been a Buddhist all along 🙂

And the Liebster Blog Award goes to…

Leibster Blog Award

OK, so this award doesn’t quite work like that. But still, I am tremendously honoured to be nominated.

About a week ago, I was nominated for the Liebster Blog Award. I’d seen a few blogs with this award in the past, but hadn’t really taken the time to find out what the award was for. Having been nominated, I decided to do a bit of research. I found a blog post on Sopphey Says, in which the writer thinks she may have found the origins. The post she refers to is in German. My German is not so good, so, out of sheer laziness (another of my personality traits) I’m going to blindly accept the explanation she is offering.

Originally – or as far back as I or Sopphey can tell – the rules were:

1. Thank the one who nominated you by linking back.
2. Nominate 3 to 5 blogs with less than 3,000 followers.
3. Let the nominees know by leaving a comment at their sites.
4. Add the award image to your site.

More recently, I’ve seen rules nominating 5 bloggers with less than 200 readers and my own nomination came with a rule to nominate 11 bloggers and pose them 11 questions to answer. As Sopphey points out in her post, it’s kind of like a chain letter. [I hate chain letters and never pass them on – please don’t be offended Anna! read on :-)].

In this case, though, I will make an exception. Because, actually, this award is about being recognised by your peers. Kind of like a “Man of the Match”. And that, to me, is the highest form of recognition one could hope to receive. And I really like the fact that the name of the award translates to “Love Blog” (I’m a Marketeers dream – another trait, I am slowly coming to accept).

The fact that someone actually reads my blog amazes me. The fact that someone likes what I write makes me ecstatic. And the fact that someone likes my blog enough to nominate me for an award, telling others to check it out … well, I’m just on top of the world right now.

I have answered the 11 questions Anna has set me, in a separate post – you can read them here – it would be rude of me not to do so, when she has asked in such magnificent fashion 🙂 But I won’t set any questions for my nominees. And I’m going to change Anna’s rules slightly… well, I’m going to revert to the rules above (as original and I can ascertain).

So, I’d like to thank Anna at pinkjumpers , with all my heart, for nominating me. She’s a far better writer and blogger than I, at half my age! Had someone else nominated me, she would definitely be on the list below. Check out her website – you will not be disappointed, I promise.

And here are 5 more blogs that I would like to nominate for the Liebster Blog Award (in no particular order), and why:

1. Thoughts of a Lunatic – Having suffered from depression myself in the past, mental illness (and challenging the stigma of mental illness) is something that is close to my heart. The honesty with which Erica writes is inspiring. I can relate to almost every post on her blog. She is a brave, she is smart and she is funny.

2. Momamorphosis – I love Jill’s posts. They make me laugh, out loud! I’ve found myself in so many similar situations with my babies and Jill writes without pretension, with humour and with love. She reminds me that when parenting feels insane, that’s actually quite normal, and inspires me to see the humour in the madness.

3. Hot Pink Underwear – Meagan writes about her life. She doesn’t always have the answer, but writing it down puts things in perspective for her. I totally get that. Her writing is from the heart, sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s angry, sometimes it’s sad. It’s always true. Or at least it reads that way to me.

4. Yoga + Writing +Life – Ellyn is a yoga instructor. But not the perfectly serene variety that you see in movies. Like everyone else, she sometimes struggles with the ‘path to enlightenment’. But when she finds herself challenged, she takes a deep breath and keeps trying. Her posts comfort me, help me to accept my imperfections and remind me of the path I seek to travel. And when it all gets too much, Ellyn has given me a mantra I use regularly; “I breathe in, I breathe out”. Try it for yourself – it works wonders 🙂

5. I also want to nominate Raising My Rainbow – although technically with more than 4,500 followers, the rules don’t allow it. However, reading stories about the life of C.J. (a gorgeous, gender non conforming child) and his Mom, reminds me that we are all equal in this world. Our colour, religion, gender and sexuality don’t define us. Our compassion, kindness and respect for others does.

So, there you have it. My contribution to spreading the love. My expression of gratitude to those who unknowingly contribute to my life on a daily basis. A salute to my blogging Heroes. Or Heroine’s, I should say, as they are all women. I’m sure that tells us something about me. Maybe that’s a subject for my next post.

*Post publish note – I will not be offended in the slightest, if any of my nominees do not want to pass the award on (see my usual stance on chain letters above) 🙂

 

The Prodigal Blogger Returns

Today on twitter, I pledged to resurrect my commitment to positivity on account of Lent.

I haven’t practised a particular religion for 20 years (wow! didn’t realise it was that long until I counted it up just now). Not that I’m lazy. On the contrary. I’m extremely curious about religion, spirituality and things that are seemingly “other worldly”. What I didn’t want to do was go to church every Sunday and not really believe what I was saying or doing, or worse, not go to church at all but play the religion card when I need/want to get my child into a good school.

I actually take it very seriously. Least of all because I made a promise to my father (who is a strong believer) that I would make very conscious decisions about ‘God’ and ‘The Church’ and would not belittle his faith by being flippant about it.

And I believe that some of the things I was taught by my parents and religion have contributed to my being a “good person” today. One of those things is Lent. Well kind of.

I think that it is a great idea to take time out, whether it’s once per year or once each day, to be conscious about who we are and what we do for others. Whilst during Lent we are often encouraged to give something up for the duration (in support of what ‘Jesus’ gave up for all mankind) I believe that actually it makes more sense to give something back.

So, I’ve done this a few times over the years. I’ve participated in Lent in my own way. By doing something extra.

This year, I’m refocusing on positivity (see my previous attempts here and here). So, I’ll be looking for small ways each day in which I can help others (and from time to time myself) through the power of positivity. Harder than it sounds but then, it wouldn’t be worth it if it was easy!

I’ll keep you posted. Look out for updates on Twitter. Might even pen a blog or two about it… After all I did promise to write more this year.

Instruction #188 – Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know

There are 57,900,000 results for “positive quotes” on Google and 26,968 results for “positive thinking” books on Amazon. I guess the laws of supply and demand would indicate that we have a great need for positive inspiration in our lives. I, myself, subscribe to Inspire Me Today to receive daily doses of positivity and motivation. Like most people I know, I often find it difficult to source that motivation from within myself and I need a little help.

Everyone knows the phrase “if you believe it, you can achieve it”. The news is peppered with stories about amazing achievements generated by positive thought. Gail Lynne Goodwin, founder of Inspire Me Today, gave me some advice via Twitter… when I asked how one gets through the difficult days she said “Determination and realization that it is a choice. Nothing more than that.” It is a choice! This may sound strange, but that was a bit of a revelation to me at the time. I can choose to be unhappy, I can choose to be fearful, I can choose to be angry OR I can take a deep breath, smile and choose positivity.

It’s a simple concept. But it’s right. After all, who actually wants to be miserable? and I’m reliably informed that it takes less muscles to smile than to frown. Though when researching for this blog I found that there is actually extensive debate around whether this is true or not… much of which is irrefutable medical evidence – but in support of positivity, I’m willing to over look this little white lie and perpetuate the myth 😉 I hope that you are too!

So, I declare December a month of positivity (for me anyway). As of today, I’ll be following Instruction #188, from the little book – I’m going to become the most positive and enthusiastic person I know. I promise not to cheat by surrounding myself with miserable, negative people. And who knows, maybe if I can keep it up for the whole month, I might just stay the most positive and enthusiastic person I know! I’ll let you know how I get on…

The Fear

They say you have to conquer your fear if you are to live a full and satisfying life. And I think most of us live with fear of some sort. Not necessarily highly visible and conscious fear, like arachnophobia or agoraphobia. It’s more subtle than that and it’s linked to our confidence, our self esteem.

Strangely, whilst we normally understand and empathise with physical illness more openly than mental illness, when it comes to fear, we seem to do the opposite. We find it crazy that people are scared of spiders but are really quite understanding of those who are afraid of having their heart broken. I think it’s because deep down, we all have similar feelings, but are not necessarily ready to admit it. Or, is that just me?

Some people have a fear of failure, some a fear of being hurt (emotionally). Many of us feel different fears at different times in our lives, sometimes a little each day. I feel fear. Not as often as when I was younger, admittedly… maybe over time I’ve been conquering fear, but like a scene in a really bad horror movie it just won’t give up and die already!

It took me years to understand my fear. For a long time I just couldn’t put my finger on it. But, now I know exactly what it is. And I think it could be the craziest fear of all! My fear is one of losing something. But of losing something I don’t yet have. A fear of losing the opportunity to have something. To lose “what could be”. I told you it was crazy!!

I spent much of my early life wanting more, wishing my life away, dreaming and wondering… I say early life, I mean up until about 4 or 5 years ago. Someone said to me only yesterday, that they used to be a habitual clock watcher, but that they consciously stopped looking forward to the weekend when they, suddenly one day, realised that every minute of every day was their life. They had to live in the now and experience it all.

For my part, I’m pretty good at living in the now and appreciating what I have. Well, as I say, now I am pretty good at that. Don’t get me wrong. I still have my moments… and I still have my dreams. In fact, I had a BIG moment the other night. My beloved and I were experiencing a “bit of conflict” during which The Fear gripped me unexpectedly. I admit I lost it. What I don’t know is what the trigger was. What is it that poked the fear monster with a sharp stick and woke it from its long and deep sleep? Working that out, I guess, is the next step.

What I did do, after regaining it, was to try to make sense of things in a positive way. So, I wrote a short poem. Only one verse. And I’d like to share it with you:

Fear is a torrent
Engulfing the soul
Arresting development
Reducing the whole

The process didn’t get me to Oz, but it did help to get me a couple of steps further along the yellow brick road. Life continues to be a journey of self-discovery. I wrote on my About Me page that I was a learner when it came to blogging, but not so much in life. I beg to differ with myself! It appears that I’m still learning that too.

Instruction #1128 – Write some poetry

As part of my continuous self improvement process, using my Life’s Little Instruction Book as a guide, I set myself a challenge to write some poetry. I know nothing about poetry, knew  nothing about poetry… although I wouldn’t profess to know much more now! I’ve spent the last week (some of it at least) researching the basics of poetry. I’ve asked for help, hints and tips from friends, family and twitter buddies alike. And everyone was very helpful.

There are a lot of resources out there for the budding poet. To learn the basics though, I was restricted to learning exercises for children. That, or just take a pencil and some paper, observe, feel and write…. I got as far as feel and then nothing. I needed structure. So, back to the elementary lesson plans I went….

There are also a lot of different types of poems, and did you know that sonnets are highly technical… with their iambic pentameters, quatrains and stanza, ABAB CDCD EFEF GG… and that’s just a basic one! Think I’ll leave those to Shakespeare. So, I decided on an Acrostic Poem. Simple yet effective. Don’t get me wrong, by simple I don’t mean easy. I was genuinely surprised at how difficult rhyming can be. Well, meaningful rhyming. Making sentences that made sense was hard enough, but to make them interesting and compelling was even more difficult.

I have to say though, I enjoyed the process. Getting all the words down on paper, exploring vocabulary and shaping my creative chaos into something, hopefully, quite entertaining. It was a little bit like blogging, but harder!

So, without further ado, here’s how I got on…

Henry is my cat
Ever playful
No dingbat!
Running around splash and splat!

You would like my Henry cat
In the garden and in the park
Searching for birdies, mice and sprat
Making mischief from this and that

You could play with Henry cat
Chase the cork, climb the wall
A box, a bag, a ball, a hat
They’re all fun games for a cat thereat!

OK, OK, so it’s a little immature. But, you’ve got to start somewhere! And I will keep trying. Keep learning. Keep improving. Keep your eyes peeled for greater poems to come…