My grandma lived on an island and the only way to reach her cottage was over a long causeway. But every childhood visit was heightened by the expectation of making it across. High tide, bad weather, jellyfish blooms-well not really but in my imagination they swarmed-rendered crossing the causeway impassable as it lay beneath the murk of the sea.
Causeways link two distinct places, island to island, island to mainland, one land mass to another. But unlike bridges they are far more vulnerable to the elements and forces of nature. If the tide was high it was a long wait in the car until the cold grey waters of East Anglia receded enough so we could cross.
Sometimes the links between thoughts and actions are firm and definable like bridges. You can cross back and forth as you please. But sometimes they are like navigating causeways. You have to wait for conditions to be right.
The desire to cross a predictable bridge with swift passage from A to B is strong, well-trodden, easy. But so often these aren’t the roads we face. The times we are in find me waiting for the tide to go down and to be accepting of that. Around me are the flat damp mud flats of the mainland, across the causeway and through the jellyfish is the light of a cottage.
I’ll get there but it’ll take a bit longer than expected. ©
‘The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.’
This quote is so simple and beautiful I wanted to share it. It is a reminder to be present not bystanders in our lives.
Our lives are always see-sawing, trying to balance, to find equilibrium and sometimes we manage to achieve it. So, if your mind and body are in a good place it is important to make the most of it. There are many people who would like to be living differently but for various reasons are unable to.
If things are going well we have an opportunity to celebrate life and give back to it. These moments are rare. Happiness, joy and simplicity are precious, fleeting gifts which should never be wasted. By embracing love, hope and the moments which move us we are truly living.
My brother told me about a conversation he had with my niece. She wants to enter a fiercely competitive field, full of people who seem so much more qualified and suitable for it than her. He stopped her as she talked herself out of it, mid-sentence of self-doubt, mid flourish of the tendency to accept failure before we even begin. And simply said to her, ‘Why not you?’
Of course he then went on to list all the reasons why she should try, why she was as competent as the next person and so on. But it was those three words which struck me.
Most people I meet are a lot more talented, creative, hard-working and loving than they give themselves credit for. We are pretty realistic too, so often the things we aspire to are not way out of reach. If we can just make the leap of faith to try, or in some cases feel we are worthy, then who knows where we might end up.
To believe in ourselves enough to attempt the things we want is tough. There is absolutely no guarantee of ease and success. Rejection and failure happen and are good reasons not to put yourself out there. Sometimes the things we seek are not realistic but isn’t hanging onto what we can’t achieve a way to avoid what we can. Yes, the trip could be a disaster, the relationship awful and bruised with regrets, even the career you’ve worked so hard for may be full of disappointment.
But what if it wasn’t?
Want to feel that sparkle not the dread of the unknown? The glow of satisfaction that your hard work is paying off. The promise of possibility and optimism which brings us to life. The readiness to make a difference? In which case, ‘Why not you?’
Recently I was lucky enough to travel to Cambodia. A long-held dream to visit Angkor Wat and the mighty temple complexes was realised. I came away with my head full of images and stories and truths of a civilisation so sophisticated it staggered me. Along the way I was also swept up in local tours and attractions but the one which truly struck a chord was a lotus flower farm.
The lotus flower is a sacred symbol for Buddhists and Hindus and flourishes across South East Asia. On the edges of Tonle Sap, a huge fresh water lake, our guide took us to a lotus farm. Like a paddy field, raised muddy walkways surrounded huge ponds, thick with rubbery lotus leaves, buds and pink flowers. Right on cue the afternoon monsoon rain arrived. Huge warm drops, splashing onto the plants and churning the pond water.
I had never really looked at lotus leaves but in the down pour I watched them. Water gathers on the leaves and it moves like balls of mercury. Sometimes they collide with each other and sometimes they roll and cascade over the edge. The self-cleaning properties of a lotus leaf cause water droplets to scoop up dirt and stop it sticking to the leaf. Of course the science is fascinating. How amazing for something to be able to self-clean and like butterfly wings the lotus leaf is the subject of much investigation. But more than that was the way the droplets moved. Totally at the mercy of the pond or the crash of a rain drop.
Our guide came and stood beside me. ‘You know,’ he said. ‘I think of my life like the water on the leaves.’ We watched as a small drop joined with a bigger one. Others scattered and shifted across the leaf, all on different paths. The pond rippled and our big drop rolled closer to the edge. As a wave hit the leaf it tumbled overboard. He smiled, ‘See, like life. You never know when you are going to live or die.’
The image of that pond, in the rain, in Cambodia, stays with me. The lotus effect is not only a scientific breakthrough but a powerful lesson in acceptance.
Are you feeling turbulent? Out of sorts. Not at ease.
We all go through those hours, days, weeks or even longer when we just feel like we can’t get it together. No matter how hard we try our tummies churn and our minds leap between self-doubt and disaster. For many years I’ve tried to fight against the inner turmoil. Tried my best to think my way out of the negative feelings which can grip me. But the struggle leaves me exhausted and often the thoughts which overrun me are still lurking.
So I’m trying a different approach. Accepting that my worries are a part of me. Instead of catastrophizing the big picture I’m trying –and please note I say trying!- to look at my intrusive thoughts with more impartiality. Acknowledge and accept they are there but not buy into the emotional responses which accompany them. Sometimes I can only manage this distraction for a minute or so but sometimes hours pass before they re-occur. The more time between the thought and my emotional reaction to it the better.
There are many wonderful resources to support us with retraining our thinking. And one thing I do now, when my mind runs away, is to try to breathe deeper and smile. Even though the smile may be awkward and forced it does promote a mind-body kinship which helps my thoughts feel more peaceful. What are some of the things which work for you?
“Procrastination is the thief of time.” Edward Young
Procrastination is a sneaky thing and you can find yourself doing it without even realising. We all have things we are putting off and I’m giving myself a bit of a shake down because I know I’m procrastinating.
When I got my first teaching contract the class teacher I took over from told me the children had a busy book. I wasn’t sure what that was but on closer examination it was a book where children could work on tasks when other work was finished. After a few days I realised the busy book was a great distraction and that busy work was a great way to avoid harder more demanding activities. I think we are all a bit guilty of doing busy work which often mimics the things that need doing. We are doing something but if we’re honest it’s not always the stuff we should be.
So if like me you’re using busy work to delay a job, task or project it’s probably time to break down why.
Worried about outside influences and opinions. This is a very real reason for procrastinating. No matter how much intrinsic motivation we have most of us do care a bit about what others think. We may not want to offend, we may be worried about criticism, or we simply don’t want to put ourselves out there. Sometimes doing nothing is easier than facing the hard stuff. But in the long wrong are we only putting off the inevitable.
Not knowing where to start. You’re staring up at a mountain with no idea how to climb it. So you can either run back to the chalet or just begin. I’ve decided not to look at the top because that’s way too overwhelming but instead gaze a little bit higher than where I am standing. A different perspective does make things more achievable and I’m more inclined to try.
Not quite ready for the hard work. Doing something challenging is not easy and often the things we procrastinate about are difficult for us. They may be so close to our hearts we don’t want to try in case we fail. But if this is the case than the not doing can be even more soul-destroying as a bad outcome. If we don’t try we can be on the slippery slope to self-sabotaging and no one wants to go there.
By honestly breaking down the reasons why we are procrastinating we can address them. Busy work is more than happy to get in the way of tackling something important or necessary. But by starting on the things we’ve been putting out off we are beginning our escape from the avoidance trap. And it feels so much better…
You know recently I’ve been second guessing my decisions and worrying over choices I’ve made. From big things to small things that annoying voice of doubt is getting a bit too loud for my liking. And while the inner critic can keep you in check it is not the boss. We are capable people but every so often we lose our way and it is at this point we need to reaffirm trust in ourselves.
Sleep is nature’s restorer and if I’m honest I haven’t been getting enough. There is nothing more invigorating than waking from a good night’s rest. Your head is clearer, your body feels fresher, and if you’re a night-time worrier everything seems better in the daylight! Making a concerted effort to nurture ourselves through sleep is a practical way to empower and ease tension.
Sometimes we lose trust in ourselves because we take on too many other people’s opinions and desires. Their energy and voice can leave us struggling to find our own. So if this is the reason you’re floundering respect your own wants and needs. If choices and decisions are our own we are much more likely to believe in them.
Feeling out of sorts about choices we are making can come from being out of touch with our own core values. It is often this mismatch between the actions we take, which do not reflect who we are, that can leave us second guessing. If we are making choices that do not reflect what we believe or stand for it can leave us in a state of turmoil.
Or maybe our self-confidence has taken off for a while. Without self belief we are more prone to question and doubt and that leaves us unsettled. If your confidence has taken a bit of a hit recently and you have lost trust in your decision-making, regaining self-confidence can be a powerful remedy. As our belief in ourselves grows so does our capacity to trust the choices we make.
Go to bed earlier, be around people who validate who you are and what you stand for, and be firm with doubt.
“Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.” Billy Wilder.
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.
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?