Get out of that comfort zone.

www.jasonhash.comDaughter 

She’s running on the beach, ahead of me, free.

I can’t run, I’m too old.

I can’t run, I’m too old.

The tide tumbles in, less dry sand paths between the trails of seeping sea.

Less places for lazy, sensible feet to land.

Water leaks into my shoes, cold, unwanted, wet.

I trot faster, tiptoeing, to find a way through.

Ahead of me she waves, beckoning.

A surge of eager water swamps my stubborn stride.

I can’t bear it.

The damp toes, tentative, weak little steps.

This isn’t me.

I start to run. And the sea urges me on with childish splashes of spray.

Feet are no longer quick sanded and weighted down, they’re light.

I run. I’m not too old.

I run. I’m not too old.

She waits for me, and we charge on, together.

©Charlie Archbold

Bravery

dogI’ve been thinking a lot about how bravery looks in my life and in the lives of the people around me. It’s such an empowering word, courageous, fearless, bold, no wonder we see it as such an admirable quality in people. But bravery seems to me to be so much more than that.

Close your eyes for a moment and think of the people in your life who you think of as brave. I bet there are a lot and I bet there are a lot of reasons why. We are lucky to have such inspiring people in our lives; to love, cherish and respect.

Their bravery probably takes many forms, sometimes huge demon slaying daring and sometimes fairy steps to battle smaller ghosts. But no matter what mountain those brave people are scaling they share a common trait. They are approaching challenge or chasing challenge with action and tenacity, they are not quitters.

The personal circumstances life throws at us are often beyond our control, illness, loss, despair, and it is out of these events or tragedies that we see remarkable bravery occur in the people around us. When we think on our friends and family who are dealing with these things we admire their dignity in coping with things they did not want or imagine happening in their lives.

You may have thought of other brave people in your life as the ones who seek out and take on the new and unexpected or those who leave the safe for the unknown. Sometimes the bravery we see in them seems easy but it’s probably not. To do anything outside our comfort zone is hard, which is why most of us don’t do it, and why we recognize the bravery in those that do.

You may have seen bravery in the people you know who challenge the status quo, who follow and act on ideals and values which make our world a better place. Swimming against the tide is hard but the brave people we know who do this have overcome fear to champion their causes.

We can see how the bravery of those we know is replicated on the wider human stage. Charities, laws, health care, social and political voice have all risen from the daily acts of bravery of ordinary people. They are living unexceptional lives but doing exceptional things.

I wonder if you thought about yourself when you were thinking of the brave people in your life? Chances are you are coping with and daily facing something which demands you to be strong. It may be small compared to someone else’s mountain but it still needs you to try, so be kind to yourself if you’re facing your fears.

Bravery has many romantic connotations but we mustn’t romanticize it, most very brave people are not immortalized as heroes and heroines. Often unexpected circumstances are the catalyst and it takes a great deal of strength to venture into the unknown. Bravery is thought and it is action, forced on us or chosen, it is responding to life’s bombshells actively and with self determination.

 

Beetroots

 

There’s no denying I’m often sucked into the latest health crazes and judging by the size of the industry I’m not alone. So what is it with the health world which lures us to rush head long into a mambo class, when you’ve got as much dance experience as a corn cob, or buy a juicer which you can never clean? Anything branded to get me blooming and in better shape has me chomping at the bit.

It was my recent encounter with beetroots that got me thinking I need to be a bit more discerning in my health choices. There’s no deny beetroots are a wonder veg, packed with nutrients and all the healing powers of a mighty root vegetable. But they are tough things to master.

To being with my bunch sat in the fridge for weeks and while my carrots went limp around them they remained fat and firm, no wonder they sustained the peoples of the Russian tundra for centuries. Eventually I had to deal with them. But cutting and peeling a raw beetroot is like penetrating a rock. And once you get at the flesh, bright red, inky juice, pours out of them. By the time I’d got them in the pan to boil my hands were stained like a butcher’s.

Unfortunately, after all the effort they didn’t taste too good, sort of like pink, vinegary mashed potatoes. Now while it was my cooking, and serious lack of seasoning, which rendered them mushy and tasteless I also realised I can get all the nutrients they provide from other foods I like far more.

I’ve done this before. I’ve got jars of superfood gazing out at me from the pantry in glorious shades of beige and all tasting a little like cardboard. Following what’s in health fashion for the sake of it is not always the best idea. What’s better is too think about what you want to achieve rather than the next quick fix. Health change, like all change, is about sticking with the goal and not changing it because of fashion. There are no short cuts.

The beetroot was a metaphor. We have so much choice in health and diet but don’t need it all to be healthy. Just because something is, good for you, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s, good for you. Many people love beetroots but personally I’m sticking with carrots and parsnips… but have you seen the purple ones…

Share the love

 

Celebrate the people you love because who knows when things might change?

We can’t help ourselves pushing forward with our own wants and desires but we have to make time for love. Love for partners, family, and friends. Whoever makes your heart crack when you think about missing them.

Without giving our love we are just bystanders in life, not really committing, and if you’re not present then you do miss out. So if you’ve been forgetting to tell the people you care about how much and why you love them, do it today. Every day is an opportunity to acknowledge and be grateful for all the love in our lives.

Perspective

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I was at a party on the weekend and was desperate for a glass of water. A lady was standing by the sink sipping on a cocktail and as I turned on the tap she asked me, “What are you doing?”

“Having a glass of water. Would you like one?”

“Hell no! Have you seen what that stuff does to ships!”

We laughed and in a way she was right, what may be good for my inner organs certainly rusts out a lot of other stuff. It got me thinking about perspective. For me the water made sense but for her not so much. And it wasn’t the water itself but the different attitudes we brought to it.

So, here’s the thing, we cannot help but bring our own perspective to anything. And that’s okay because it’s these things which make us who we are. But the problems set in when we hang onto them so tight that they become big giant monsters of self-righteousness, huffing around in an I’m right, you’re wrong corner.

The stand-off differing perspectives causes can be exhausting. And whether it’s with family members, partners or out in the wider community unresolved issues are unhealthy. If we keep spending all that energy on feeling misunderstood we’re not doing ourselves any favours because we may be missing solutions only a tiny side step away from what we think.

So we have choices we can accept the other person’s perspective, reconcile it and move on. Happy days. But sometimes no matter how hard we try we cannot accept it and then we have to let go of the indignation and call a friend! No seriously after the call we do need to try and move on. We can listen to their point of view and if we don’t agree it can be a buffer, clarify a situation, or maybe even be a call to action. Sometimes we don’t like their perspective because it challenges our sense of self but no matter how much we want people to see things our way the truth is they may not. The only thing we can do then is manage our response.

Sometimes I really struggle looking past my own interpretation of situations but when I can it’s a bit like climbing a hill. We don’t just look one way when we reach the top we look in every direction, take in every view. We do look a little longer at the view we like best but at least we do see the whole panorama. As Wayne Dyer says, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” Hard but worth a try?

Old Cat

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I have a friend who has a cat, Morris. She has had that cat for twenty two years. You’d think he’d be some sort of world record holder but in fact that belongs to Crème Puff who died in Austin, Texas, aged thirty eight! When I went to see her last week I was stuck by Morris and his longevity. With the average cat life expectancy around fifteen years he’s doing pretty well.

I asked her why she thought Morris was still with us and there were a few reasons. He keeps an even temperature. Most of his day is spent lying near a heater if it’s cold, or near an air conditioner if it’s hot. He eats well. Yes, no expense is spared, he dines on cat food garnished in parsley and unidentifiable greens. And lastly he keeps his stress levels down. No frenzied mice hunting for Morris, he’s locked inside at night and his cat flap secured so no strays or uninvited felines can bother him.

This seems like a longevity recipe for all of us.

Don’t stress.

Eat well.

And keep your home environment perfect for you.

Thank you Morris and I hope one day you can snatch that world record from Crème Puff.

 

Time to get spontaneous

 

Okay, so recently I’ve been erring on the conservative side. I actually think it’s time for me to shake things up a bit and put some energy back into my life. Change it up and bring back the spontaneity. Why? Because I quite like my impulsive free self and I’ve lost her recently.

So where to start?

I definitely need to be a bit braver. Not too crazy, I’m not ready for bungy jumping yet but I am ready to go out to a party on a whim or order food I’ve never tried before. And next time somebody asks me to do something outside my comfort zone I’m going to.

Sometimes though nobody asks you to do things which means driving it yourself. There can be no question we all have tendency to over think too many areas of our lives which leads to inaction. But a common criticism levied against young people is that they’re too impulsive and don’t think things through. So to create a change I’m going to have to find a balance. Do less of the thinking and more of the action.

And it’s not just in actions where I need to foster more spontaneity, my relationships could do with it too. Instead of being passive and expecting I need to initiate more. Suggest and plan things to do with the people I love. The obligations of our relationships can confine us but we can challenge them, make new memories and certainly make them more fun.

By being more spontaneous I plan to re-energize. Of course there are no guarantees, I may be allergic to spiky puff fish, or fall off a table dancing, but hopefully not. And as Henry Miller said, “All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.”

Image by D Sharon Pruitt.

Feeling Overwhelmed

IMG_0968 (2)It was funny, I hadn’t realised I wasn’t coping until I went to my weekly yoga class and just burst into tears. Nothing awful had happened, nothing tragic or life threatening had occurred only that my mind and body were allowed to stop. All the pent up frustration and stress I’d been hanging onto just flooded out. I was embarrassed and almost ran out but I was glad I stayed. My yoga teacher had seen my distress and as we were lying in relaxation she came over and wordlessly placed her hands on me, relaxing and easing the tension in my head, neck and spirit. It was such a simple yet powerful gesture that acknowledged it’s actually okay not to have it all together and that we are part of something bigger.

I was so grateful for her touch which allowed me to put the brakes on but it did get me wondering how I’d got myself into such a state in the first place. If I can put it in one word I was overwhelmed, like a king tide all the individual stressors had surged together and swamped me.

The family or community we live in is part of our identity but can also be a source of stress. If bad feelings and unresolved emotions go unchecked they can balloon into something too big for us to handle. So if you feel yourself coiled like a spring its time to stop and take a step back because a massive meltdown is not good for home or relationship harmony. Try and deal with one thing at a time. I’m not even looking at the big picture.

No matter what work you do if you don’t apply boundaries bit by bit it will take more of you. If you’re fine with that no matter but if you find yourself thinking about work, playing the what if scenarios, worrying, then like me you may need to clarify your role and expectations. After all work is only a part of us and we don’t want it consuming our down time.

But sometimes it isn’t family or work which overwhelms us it is our own selves. Our own dreams and desires are not being met, our expectations of ourselves are not being realised. I like this quote from Antonio Banderas, “Expectation is the mother of all frustration.” By pulling back on unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others we can actually say no; at work, at home and to our inner voice and so ease our tension.

I’ve realised I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed. It is something we all experience at different times and in different places. So if you know somebody teetering on the edge perhaps we could all be like my yoga teacher; acknowledge their discomfort, be kind and give them the chance to stop.

“Good morning my beautiful friend.”

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I woke up to this message today and it totally changed my head space. I’d been feeling the post New Year blues but somehow these five words stopped that down feeling straight in its tracks. I felt special, cared about and valued. But mostly I thought, I’m very lucky to have such a friend. And nothing chases off a bad mood like gratitude.

It got me thinking about friendships. They really are one of life’s true treasures. What an amazing list of words there are to describe friends and that’s for good reason. They add to our lives in so many ways. And friends don’t have to be around like family and we’re not obliged to spend time with them like our work. No, we have friends to enhance our lives and to give us the chance to enhance theirs.

Friends reflect a bit of what we are or want to be, which is why we’ve connected. Like me you probably have lots of different friends, some you’ve known for years and others who have more recently arrived in your life. You may share values, experiences, humour, the list of what makes us connect is endless. What is constant though is the fact you both care enough to commit and to make the effort for each other.

So let your friends be your inspiration. If they’re changing it up; going on a trip, losing weight, learning something new, there’s no reason why you can’t shake up your life as well. You don’t have to do the same things but invigorating any situation is infectious. You can share your progress, doubts or crazy disasters in a safe space.

And let your friends support you. We often read about how important it is to be kind to ourselves which is a lot easier said than done. But a good friend is kind to you when you can’t give to yourself. And we are kind to them in return. This reciprocal relationship is the basis of true friendship.

Friendship is an invisible bond, there are no time, obligation or distance constraints to define it. When I was ten my best friend gave me a small plate for a birthday present. On it was written, “A true friend is the best possession.” There’s nothing more to say…