Causeway

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. ©

Sage

Okay. This is my first blog in a long time and I’m doing something I don’t usually do and posting without drafting first. This is a bit intense-sort of like public speaking without practicing but if I don’t do it I never will. I probably wouldn’t advise this as a long term public platform strategy because we’ve all witnessed the toe curling awkwardness of an ill planned speech so let’s think of this more like karaoke. After all, we can all forgive a poor but heartfelt rendition of Adele’s, Someone Like You.

I have found it so hard to write. So hard to do something I really enjoy. What’s with that? Am I alone? Are you artists not painting, are you fitness fiends not at the gym, you singers missing choir to watch Netflix, you cooks ordering take away? We are in a funk people. And just for your information funk is being in a bad space, avoiding things out of fear, you get the drift. Funk!

I’ve been avoiding my computer. I’ve been locking it in a cupboard. Not because I’m bonkers but because I’m living overseas and my guest house is not equipped with four star safe security. So I cover it with my undies to keep it and my passport safe. This of course means every day when I go to get fresh pants-and lets be honest sometimes not so fresh-I see it. Staring expectantly up at me, eager for attention like a tiger dog. I ignore it, not because I think it may be rabid but because I don’t know where to start.

But today is the day. Fear, self-doubt, uncertainty, have made me jumpy and the irony is, when I get in such a mindset it is hard to grasp and action the things I know make a difference.

So why post today? Good question. It has to do with another of my great passions-food. There is the most delicious restaurant right down my road. Sage. Fabulous name on so many levels. Gourmet vegan cuisine. And when you order, around a napkin and your utensils is wrapped a little message.

This was mine.

You will get there when you are meant to get there and not one moment sooner. So relax, breathe, and be patient.

It was exactly what I needed. I have been patient and all the time I’ve not been writing I’ve been doing other things. So if you find yourself in the midst of an inner struggle do not underestimate the efforts you make to regroup and the self reliance you gain in the process. When the time is right you will be ready to re-embrace your passions. See I’ve already started a story…

Before you embark on a massive life change you cannot possibly imagine what your life will be like two, three weeks after the event. Where will you be living, how will you get around, what will the weather be like. And this is only the tip of a relocation iceberg. Lurking in the deep blue waters of life change are bigger questions and darker answers. Feelings and emotions, you had absolutely no idea you’d feel. So, as Eliza Stipend sipped her bitter coffee it should come as no surprise she burst into tears. The tears of -what the hell am I doing-gulped out of her. But for Eliza and so many who forge out into the unknown solo there was no one there to give her a hug.

Better post before I edit!

‘The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.’

Auguste Rodin

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.

 

There Are No Words

There Are No Words

Four chunks of letters strung together

Four beads of meaning that tell us there is nothing to say

There are no words for some things

The place beneath language

beneath hope

Why bother to describe the hollow of despair

The home of things too unbearable to bear

So, in their absence we turn

to a wrenching sob

to a clenching hug

to the truth they were loved

A shuddered surrender to the unfathomable

Because,

There are no words.

Charlie x ©

 

 

The Lotus Effect

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.

‘A smile is the beginning of peace.’ Mother Teresa

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?

The Dangers of Busy Work

“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…

Positive Reflection

untitled-design-2The 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…

Power of Poetry

Chooseimages - Copy

The single clenched fist lifted and ready,

Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.

Choose:

For we meet by one or the other. 

By Carl Sandburg

I love this poem. In fact I love the collection it comes from; Staying Alive-real poems for unreal times. Sometimes when things are getting a bit too much it’s amazing how the words and wisdom of a distant other can strike a chord and encapsulate a situation when we can’t.

For me this poem is about communication. Are you approaching potential conflict defensively and ready to bite, or calmly, ready to resolve. It jumped out at me because it is exactly what I needed to think about today.

All too often we keep pushing through, doing it tough, and not actually stopping to reflect on the emotional flash-points in our day. This attitude certainly gets things done but the lack of vulnerability can leave us isolated and maybe a bit misunderstood? When I’m feeling like that my first response is usually to call a friend or relative, discuss or diffuse things by sharing with another. But recently I’ve been trying to be a bit more retrospective.

Reading and listening to a source outside your immediate circle can be very powerful. Poems aren’t for everyone but what about quotes, mantras, podcasts, books. All these things allow us to think about what we are dealing with without having to talk about it. We are giving ourselves a bit of take up time. Time to reflect before we respond or react.

And sometimes when we’re open to reconciling our world the right words seem to find us…