‘I loved… against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.’ Charles Dickens-Great Expectations
Near where I live is a spectacular coastal cliff path. A half neglected track of rubbly rocks fringed with those tough looking shrubs which can survive howling winds and salty air. It is the perfect place to clear your head. And along the path is a lookout thrust out over the sea. For years, lovers, family and friends have attached lovelocks to the railings much like the bridges in Paris. But one day they were all gone. The lookout had been remodeled and all the lovelocks removed.
But last week I went walking along that path, some new locks had been added and it made me smile. I’d just read this quote from Great Expectations with Pip describing his feelings for Estella. Now we all know our great romantic loves and passions may not last, they may be misguided or ambushed by life, but for an instant, for a while, it is one of life’s great gifts to love another person. Lovelocks like love in real life can be removed or be transient but for a moment they are a symbol of our conviction, optimism and capacity to give of ourselves.
In a world so full of distrust and disharmony it is important to remind ourselves that love exists and is thriving. However you choose, loudly or quietly, or even with a lovelock, it is important to declare our love and promise to the people we cherish. They may be a partner, a relative, or a friend but by doing so we set an example that to live with love and hope is better than to live with fear.
The end of the year is often a time for self-reflection.
We can all be super critical of ourselves and while analysis of what we didn’t do can move us forward it can also pull us down. So in pursuit of optimism and to see 2016 out with a bang instead of a fizzle, I’ve pulled together some ways to reflect on the year with a softer, kinder lens. Take a moment to reflect on what you did do, not what you didn’t…
- I bet you loved unconditionally.
- I bet you learned things you didn’t know last year.
- I bet you have supported someone other than yourself.
- I bet you maintained, rekindled or developed a friendship which brings you joy.
- I bet you have got through a personal challenge.
- I bet you indulged yourself and didn’t feel guilty about it.
- I bet you accomplished different things than you intended.
- I bet you got knocked down but you got up.
- I bet you had a really good laugh.
- I bet you did many acts of random kindness.
- I bet you were braver than you thought you could be.
Imagine reflecting on your year as a friend would and I bet you’ve done a pretty awesome job…
Last week there was a black out in the city where I live. Plunged into darkness as the lights went out across the whole state, families and individuals had to change plans. We had to come up with inventive ways to tackle the problems of no power and ways to entertain ourselves without technology.
Once the terror of having no internet had passed, the world didn’t stop and people didn’t sit round like pumpkins waiting to be picked, on the contrary we found other things to do. Over the next few days there were stories of how families had played games together, how neighbours had rallied around the one house with a gas cooker and shared meals, how people helped strangers and the needy. It did get me thinking about why it takes an event like a power outage to make us do what we really like to do anyway; family, community, sharing.
Perhaps it’s more a question of balance. Technology makes our life easier in so many ways. Once you’ve had access to it you realise know how hard it would be to be without it. I’d wrestle any pickpocket who tried to take my smart phone. But the trick is we can, and maybe we should, put technology aside a little more often. In the blackout a lot of people went back to small pleasures, reading a book by candlelight, playing an instrument, board games with children. The fix it folk rigged up ways to heat and light homes and a lot of people went to bed earlier.
The power came back on, modern life resumed, but it showed how resourceful we can be and the entertainment we can find when we go off the grid for a little while.
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?
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.
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.
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…