be the change

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I have loved this quote since I first heard it years ago.

To me it means: “If I want to see change in my world, I must be the one to make the change” or “Take responsibility both for your life, and for your own growth.”

If want to see more kindness in the world, I must be kind. If I want to experience more love, maybe I need to love more. What does that really mean? I need to love more – the show love more, to express love more, to actively engage more often in the lives of others in a way that represents love to others in a way they understand.

Ok, so if I value kindness, and I do, and I want to see more of it in my world, how do I express that or exhibit that to others? Is it about focusing on kindness, a state of continuously being aware of kindness?  What does kindness really mean?

kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate

That’s got to be a good start: friendly, generous and considerate. And keeping those words in my conscious mind, I figure, can’t be a bad thing.

What about synonyms for kindness (be warned, the list is long):

kindliness, kind-heartedness, warm-heartedness, tender-heartedness, goodwill, affectionwarmth, gentleness, tendernessconcerncareconsideration, considerateness, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, unselfishness, selflessness, altruismcompassionsympathyunderstanding, big-heartedness, benevolencefriendliness, neighbourliness, hospitalityamiability, courteousness, public- spiritedness; generositymagnanimityindulgencepatiencetolerance, charitableness, graciousness, lenience, humaneness, mercifulness;

Ok, so if I want to be kind, I need to keep these other characteristics in mind too – …oh good, well no pressure then!

I seem to spend a lot of time focusing on positive change. I see kindness as an example of a characteristic that I think is undervalued, under-rated, and would like to see more of in today’s world. If that’s the case then I not only need to be kind, but I need to consider of all the other synonyms above too – because they round out what kindness truly means.

And there’s not much point in saying “I value kindness” if I don’t express it in my words and actions, because being authentic matters to me too.

It’s a big ask. Am I aiming too high? Setting myself up to fail?

Maybe my approach needs to be in line with ‘small steps’. So instead of creating something that becomes too big and overwhelming….  What if I take one day at a time and see what acts of kindness I can perform today?

And maybe that’s enough.

The Learner

Yesterday I felt a little down. I had been invited to go to a high school reunion and was reluctant to go. I’ve been thinking about it and trying to sort through the underlying issues surrounding why I didn’t want to go. The good news is that I came up with an answer; the bad news is that I didn’t like the answer. Somewhere deep inside, I feel like a failure. As I came to this realisation I wanted to cry – that’s usually a sign that I’m feeling something uncomfortable – and the desire to cry resonated as I thought about the whole concept of being a failure.

I failed at my first marriage. While we lived together for 4 years, my first marriage lasted less than 2 years. I broke what I believe to be a binding covenant with the man I’d made a life commitment to. He was/is a good man, had values and standards that I admired and appreciated but that wasn’t enough.

I failed as a Christian – I was a Christian throughout my childhood and teenage years, and God was such a big part of my life and my world as I knew it. I wasn’t sure that I could live without having Him in my life, so I set off on an adventure to see if I could. I was nineteen. I could and I did. I returned to my faith throughout most of my thirties and early forties, then started to drift away again.  When I met my husband, he had no concept or understanding of God in the way I had, but accepted that I had a faith that I pretty much kept to myself. What I have experienced of God in the past I still believe – my faith in essence hasn’t changed – but I no longer call myself a Christian because I don’t know what that means anymore. I see the person I tried so hard to be, and the person I am now. I like the honesty of being who I am now – I swear (which I didn’t before) and it feels more real, like I’m being more authentic now in expressing how I really feel. Rather than holding it in and being seen to be ‘good’.

I’m significantly more selfish now. I put me first – rather than constantly trying to put others first. I don’t know how to blend together who I am now with what I think a Christian is. I dislike going to church and wonder if ‘church’ as I knew it is still relevant. Is going to church one of the mechanisms God wants me to participate in for the sake of ‘fellowship’ – when I’m not sure church equals fellowship. I don’t have a concept of what church should look like – but I know I don’t like the current set up. It’s too easy to go to church and go with the flow without participating on a deeper level; without actually connecting with God in any meaningful way. I don’t like it, don’t want to go, so I don’t. I don’t call myself a Christian – and there are lots of Christians out there that actually I don’t like very much. There are some great people too and I feel lucky and grateful for the authentic Christian friends I have.

I failed at having a ‘sensible’ career. I have done some very cool stuff over the years: I was a cook for a lord and lady in their summer home in the Scottish highlands; I helped set up a medical clinic in a village in rural Uganda, and a year later was part of a team who went into rural villages to educate villagers about AIDS. I’ve made some good decisions in terms of some of the roles I’ve taken on, and I’ve made some poor decisions which turned out to be painful learning opportunities – some of which I am probably still recovering from. At the very least I carry scars from some of the situations that have smacked around my self confidence. And I seem to not have the resilience I once had. It takes me longer to bounce back or maybe I don’t bounce quite as high as I once did.  What I take out of this is that I have courage, and I like the courage I see in myself. I have a reserve of courage which has allowed me over the years to change jobs, change cities and towns, change the country and environment I live in, courage to face my own issues, courage to face life on my own, to start all over again, and again.

There are things I dislike about some of my previous choices and behaviours – but I can’t do anything to change the past. It is what it is. Maybe I can reframe my past failures as learning opportunities but I’m not sure how to do that. A few days ago I felt like I was growing up, now I feel very much like a ‘learner’ – similar to being a learner driver but this isn’t about driving, it’s about life. And I’m fifty-one, so I guess I must be a slow learner! Maybe I try to accept that sense of failure and turn it around so that instead of being a ‘failure’ I see myself as a ‘learner’ instead – and accept that I will always be a work in progress. I know I don’t need to hold on to the sense of failure but I’m unsure how to let it go; how to release myself from this psychological banner I’ve created that I see and don’t like.

As a learner, I must resign myself to the fact that I will always be a work in progress. And in accepting that, I feel as if I also need to find a sense of enjoyment in that. A quiet acceptance that this is how life is, continual learning because without learning there is no growth.

Love is a choice

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Love is something I feel. It can be a sense, a smile, an attitude, a way of being.  It took me a long time to realise that love is also a choice.

In relationships, I can choose to hold on to hurts and offenses, or I can choose to let them go and move on. I can choose to love, or not. When a relationship becomes difficult, we can choose to stay and persevere, or choose to walk away.  In marriage, in relationships with family and friends –  we experience ups and downs – time when it’s great being together, and times when it’s great to be apart!  Hopefully the good times outweigh the bad…

But at the end of the day, and in fact at the beginning of the day, and through out the day, we choose to love.

Sometimes, we choose to maintain relationships with our loved ones, and that may mean making a choice to love them when we’d rather not. When a child behaves badly, we may not like their choices, their words or actions but we choose to love them as a person. In marriage we do that too. We may have made a commitment to love someone – and sometimes that might mean we need to make a choice to keep loving them. A choice we make again, and again, and again, and again.

Due to my battles with depression and poor self esteem, the issue for me is more about making a choice to love myself. And it makes sense that this too, might be an ongoing choice that I need to continually make. A reminder that I choose to love and care for myself. And my choices determine my behaviour. If I choose to love and care for myself, then I choose to look after myself, to look after my mind and my body, and hopefully make positive choices around my own care. If I sabotage my own efforts, then I am not acting in love, and my behaviour reflects those choices.

Right now I choose to love and accept myself, imperfections and all

because love is a feeling, a behaviour, a choice

Love is an ongoing choice

The Koru

When I attempt to think through issues, it seems that sometimes my thought processes appear to be somewhat circular in nature; as if they begin a journey travelling clockwise and build and develop and after a period of time they return to their point of origin, and I come back to the same point I started from. Is it the issue that’s circular or my thought process? I expect it’s my thinking. [Aside: A thought process that takes any specific shape or form is preferable to the obscurity of the ‘clouds’ I used to experience.]

And is the process circular or cyclical? or is it spiral? Sometimes the thought process is similar to the motion of a screw which comes back to its highest point but has moved forward from its starting point and continued on. Each step as it tracks around the circumference is a also a forward movement and in my mind this picture somehow represents progress.

This forward movement is very different (in my mind at least) to the downward spiral of depression, a black hole or vortex that sucks in everything in it’s destructive path and spits out only remnants of what was, on a fast track towards oblivion.

There is, however, a shape that I really connect with, and maybe part of what I love about it is what it represents. It is the spiral shape like the internal structure of a shell. In New Zealand this is called a koru. It is based on the shape of the unfurling fern frond. It represents new life, new growth, strength and peace. To me, it is ‘unfolding newness’ ….. new life, new growth, the opening up of new possibilities.

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“The koru is often used in Māori art as a symbol of creation and new life. Its circular shape conveys the idea of perpetual movement, and its inward coil suggests a return to the point of origin. The koru therefore symbolises the way in which life both changes and stays the same.”                                                                                                           – Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

I feel as if I’m continually returning to the premise of new growth and new possibilities. Yet I also love the way the koru incorporates that symbolism of life continually changing and staying the same. I’m not entirely sure what it is about this that I find both optimistic and comforting at the same time.

Under a tall Norfolk pine at the front of our property I have planted a fern garden. There are a variety of mainly New Zealand native ferns of varying sizes. I love spending time in the fern garden in the summer. The pine is so tall and it’s branches so broad that it provides a great deal of protection to the ferns and shelters them from the worst of the weather: strong winds, the heat of the mid- summer sun and biting frosts in winter. Because the different ferns vary in shape and size I often get to watch the fronds unfurl, and there’s something beautiful about that. There’s a joy in watching the tiny, perfect unfolding of life. Like a tiny baby’s hands and feet, or seeing a duck with her ducklings. I know I’ve said this before – but there’s such a beauty in the newness of young life, be it plant or animal. That sense of potential, possibilities, opportunities, and promise – that which might be to come. I know I keep coming back to these same concepts but I’ve realised that they bring me a sense of joy, of optimism, of belief in the promise of good things to come.  For someone who has identified despair, depression and ‘lostness’ in her past, this is a gift I need to highlight, to keep in my field of vision, and to keep reminding myself of. I’m not sure but I think what I’m identifying is the gift of HOPE.

Growing Old and Growing Up

‘Growing old is unavoidable, growing up is optional’

I feel, at the age of 51, that I might just be growing up!  Surprising huh?! I realised this morning that some of how I used to perceive myself was based on a job that I had (which I absolutely loved). These days I am not working in that role and so don’t have the luxury of attaching my self worth or my identity to my occupation. And that’s a wonderful thing because it has caused me to have to face who I am without that identity attached,  and in so doing, to address some issues around self worth and who I am.

I’ve battled with self worth, recognition and self validation for as long as I can remember. I have childhood memories of having to be good and never quite being good enough. And yet friends from my childhood would say ‘you were always the good one’ but I always felt that I was never really ‘good enough’.

When I was in my third year at high school, my best friend was top of the class in everything, the top student in my year, and that encouraged me to study and I worked really hard. I remember bringing home my school report and for the first time ever I got straight A’s across all my subjects. I used to do well at school but this was the best report I’d ever had. I showed my school report to my parents. I don’t remember my mum’s response (so guess it must have been ok) but I remember my dad saying “There’s not much point reading that, I know what’s going to say”… and so he didn’t. He knew my school reports were good -why would this be any different? I was hurt by his dismissive attitude, and his lack of interest. It’s probably one of those throw away comments he never thought of again and one which never registered in his conscious mind as being memorable, let alone being an opportunity to praise an achievement or encourage me to keep going.

And probably, it reinforced my sense of not being good enough. As a child I was very aware of right and wrong, good and bad, and surprise, surprise, I wasn’t a perfect child. But putting time into my studies was one way that I could achieve academically, even if I couldn’t manage to be continuously good. And I guess I thought that would count for something in the goodness stakes, or bring me some recognition – but it didn’t.

As I got older Ive become aware of how important recognition is to me. I have always longed for it – and in my mind it has always been attached to my sense of self worth and self validation. Almost as if I need you to tell me I’m ok before I’m going to believe it.

Is this one of the underlying reasons I’ve used food and/or alcohol to dull the issues, to ensure that I cared less about what I felt about myself? In latter years I’ve always thought that deep down inside, there were bits of me that I didn’t really like, that caused me to behave in certain ways because of my beliefs regarding my self worth, my sense of my true value.

The past few months have been awesome in terms of facing issues about myself without the attachments of a respectable profession, without the ‘aids’ that food and alcohol have provided in the past. I have chosen to look at me from a different perspective, to look afresh at who I am, what I believe in, what matters to me, what brings me joy, what is it about me I don’t like – and why that might be. I am very much a work in progress but I am taking stock, and taking small steps, and learning the picture of me – without judgement, with acceptance, with an open mind. And I’m proud of that. And maybe, as I learn more about Me, I’m maturing, maybe even growing up! 🙂

There is ALWAYS another chance

“I know now, after fifty years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning, never stops. The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is always another chance.”  –  Janette Winterson

I was so encouraged when I read this. It fits so well with my theory of ‘now’ being the only time I can really control, and my thoughts regarding wisdom (or the lack of), small steps, and continuums. It’s like finding a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that I didn’t realise was missing. So I grab it and quickly add it to the picture I’m attempting to create which is instantly enhanced by the addition of the new piece.

I’m reminded of the passage from Ecclesiastes:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

To me, this fits hand in hand with Janette Winterson’s comments about finding and losing, forgetting and remembering, leaving and returning. The ebb and flow of life, constant motion; liquid; waves; the swing of a pendulum; yin and yang; balance; the circle of life.

There are times and seasons, beginnings and ends; mountaintops, deep troughs and plateaus. Sunshine and rain, night time and day.

There is a time for everything.

And while we have life, there is always another chance.

The Plaque

When I was about thirteen I was told a story about a boy who got up and put a chain around his neck each morning with a plaque hanging from it. Words were written on the plaque and he wore it like a medallion. Each morning as he put it on, the plaque was new and shiny and polished. During the day little things would happen which resulted in scratches and dents left in his plaque, and if he stumbled and fell, sometimes pieces of it would break off. Every time he encountered a bully, or someone said something nasty about him, or swore at him, or made fun of him, his plaque would become more damaged until it began to disintegrate. Sometimes the words or actions of his family caused further damage to the plaque.  Often when he went to bed, there were no words left to read, because there was barely any plaque left on the chain. The words on the plaque had read ‘I am Lovable and Capable’.

Isn’t that just like our self esteem – that sometimes it appears to be made of granite while other times it feels like tissue paper or polystyrene or very thin pastry. One  drop of water, one cut, one knock and it crumbles into tiny pieces.

I felt like that today, not that my self esteem was made of granite but that it was thin pastry and it crumbled – just a bit. It only lasted a matter of minutes, and maybe half an hour later it was as if it hadn’t happened at all. I said something foolish, not well thought through, not what I’d intended to say at all, and the response was belittling. And I felt silly and small and of no consequence.

So I guess the opportunity here was: Do I hold on to this hurt? (some of which was tinted by my perception – which hasn’t always been accurate in the past) or do I let it go and move on?

And I let it go.

It is possible that in a few months I won’t even remember what caused that feeling of being small and inconsequential. It wasn’t a big deal in the overall scheme of life. It was a little life incident that reminded me that I’m human, and I have weaknesses and I make mistakes. But it doesn’t define me, nor does it ruin my day – because I choose not to let it. We all have battles. And incidents. But I choose to believe that regardless of this particular incident, my self esteem is not tarnished, cracked or broken, and if it is, it can be repaired. I’m allowed to mess up. And as human beings, that’s part of how we learn and grow. So I need to learn to use these ‘incidents’ – in this case, to think a little more carefully before I speak. And to hold an open hand – to be willing to let things go and to move on. And maybe in doing so, I might grow. Because…  I AM lovable and capable.

The Coming Change

The past few days have been lovely. Spring is well and truly here and already it has begun to herald the coming summer with a taste of warmer weather and sunny skies.

The magnolia tress are all in bud or in flower and the daffodils have come and gone. There are lots of wild ducks around at present and many are followed by a small ‘crowd’ of ducklings. A duck and her ducklings is such a heart warming sight isn’t it? We have a pair of ducks who currently visit us twice a day and others who simply turn up in the back yard and wander around hoping someone will appear with food.

Dog and I have been out walking. She may not be a puppy – she’s 14 but she acts like a puppy if she thinks a walk is on the cards. She starts dancing around the room and barking in that ‘I’m so excited I can’t help myself’ sort of way.
There are lots of birds in the trees and they sing and chatter throughout the day. Dog loves the birds (chasing them mostly) but walks are her absolute favourite (almost as exciting as eating… but not quite).  So recently, now it’s that time of year, we’ve started walking again. She’s a small dog (part Fox Terrier and part Jack Russell) and what she lacks in size she makes up for in enthusiasm.

Walking gives me time to think. And of course I feel virtuous because I’m exercising and doing something positive for my body. Dog and I often chat while we’re walking. Well, I do most of the talking and she does most of the listening… or sometimes not listening (- she is a dog after all.) Whether she’s listening or not, she’s happy coz we are out walking, and as you know, walking is one of her favourite things.

Because it’s spring and I am aware of the changes going on in the garden – the daffodils and tulips, daphne and magnolias; and  because the bird life has increased and with the almost ubiquitous ducks, I’m aware that this is a time of growth, a time of change, a time of newness and discovery. I’ve been thinking about change and how it can lead to discovery. With change comes possibility and opportunity. It might be time for something new. It might be a time to explore, uncover, open or reveal. It might be time to learn something new, to make a decision, to take a chance, to plan and then do.

Change always comes bearing gifts

We can’t always see what those gifts will be – but I do believe there will be some. Change brings the gifts of new opportunities and new possibilities….

Change. Comes. Bearing. Gifts.              What opportunities and possibilities await?

Einstein and the Vortex: the Downward Spiral of Depression

I want to pick up on one of those threads of spaghetti I talked about earlier – the “patterns of behaviour; a familiar sense of repetition, that downward spiral of: ‘why am I depressed?’; ‘why does this stuff keep happening to me?’ and ‘how do I get out of this place?’”

I wrote that what seemed different for me now, was my sense of perspective when I approached those questions, facing them from a different angle these days. Today I look at those questions and say – What am I doing differently from the last time I was here? Have I made any changes to my world, to my activities, to my behaviour?

I like the Einstein approach:                        If you always do what you always did,                                                                                   you will always get what you always got

Einstein also said that insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

So my current perspective is this: what can I choose to do differently today?

For me, life is all about small steps. My weight, my efforts at saving money, my efforts to change/grow/evolve who I am – they are all about making a decision and then taking a small step today in the right direction. If I want to lose weight – I need to be more mindful of what and how much I eat, and/or look at the amount of exercise I do. I can’t change the past but I can make a decision today that may have a positive impact on my future. All I can really control is my actions today. Same with my savings goals, or desire to consume less alcohol – I can only do something about how I respond to those things today. The past is over, and tomorrow will take care of itself – but I have today.

Keri Russell said “Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.” Or as Mark Batterson said “You are only one decision away from a totally different life.”

I can make a decision today, to change some facet of my life, and take a small step in that direction. The longest journey begins with one step -and today I can choose to take just that one step. Don’t worry about tomorrow – soon enough my tomorrow will morph into today and I’ll get another opportunity to make another choice, to take another step on that journey… or not. And if I take a step forward, and tomorrow I slide back to where I was, there is always a ‘now’ in which I can choose to take another step forward. And after a few days I may find that I have moved forward 4 steps and only gone back 3 steps, but hey, I’m still further down that track than I was on Day 1. And that’s progress. That’s small steps. That’s how I’ve managed my weight this year – by taking responsibility for my choices on a daily basis. And if I fail one day, or two days, or seventeen days, there’s always tomorrow. But it’s all about today’s step, because all I can control is my ‘now’. My thoughts, my attitudes, my choices, my actions.

I saw this quote:

Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can

Obsession, Continuums and Spaghetti

I was talking with a friend recently and I identified in my friend some stuff that I have seen in myself. While I felt empathy for my friend, it’s stuff I haven’t liked when I’ve seen it in myself. I saw similar patterns of behaviour; a familiar sense of repetition, that downward spiral of: ‘why am I depressed?’; ‘why does this stuff keep happening to me?’ and ‘how do I get out of this place?’  I think the difference for me was seeing where I used to be, and where I perceive I am now. So it’s all about my perspective, and how I face the questions from a different angle these days.

I also identified the use of ‘things’ to try and dampen the issues, to make them issues go away or at least recede into the back blocks of my mind. And whether it’s alcohol, food, other substances, sex, gambling or whatever – the pull is the same, the compulsion, the hook to get us to continue whatever the activity is that takes us away from ourselves, that we use to help us cope when life is difficult.

Couldn’t that be anything we are somehow attached to? Like TV programmes or movies; gaming; exercise or any other (obsessive) interest or hobby. Who decides when an interest becomes an obsession? I know in the world of psychology there are specific diagnostic criteria for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and related conditions and that’s not where I’m going with this.  I’m more interested in the things we do, or think, the habits or behaviours we repeat, to make ourselves feel good. But at what point does this become unhealthy?

I’m guessing we use those ‘things’ because we have issues that we don’t like or don’t really want to face. I might say that I can define my issues, that I understand them but if I need ‘things’ (alcohol or food in my case) to make life more palatable or to ease the pain, or give me a break from having to actually think about things, isn’t that because I haven’t addressed or resolved the issues (and/or pain?) at some deeper, maybe less conscious level?

But then I think about how people can be driven to exercise, or involved in a certain sport or hobby, or choose to focus on religion, politics or a specific cause. At what point do our passions and interests become unhealthy?  Millions of people watch television everyday, or spend time on Facebook or other social media, or blogging (!) for that matter. Is that unhealthy?

Is it dependent on the underlying reason for the interest? Or the intensity – the degree to which it impacts on lifestyle or self or others? But might a compulsion for one person be a described as a passion for another?  I wonder if I’m working towards the idea of every interest/passion/distraction in life as an individual continuum, and our involvement (interest/ enthusiasm/ determination/ commitment) determines where we are on that continuum at any given point. Participation/interest/enthusiasm is fluid, so where I stand today shouldn’t be definitive because what you see is simply a snapshot. A view at a specific point in time. Where I stand tomorrow might be quite different.

The older I get, the more often I see things in life as a variety of continuums. Rather than the definitive black and white my parents were sure of, I have a sense of a multitude of shades of grey. The idea of continuums seems to apply to so many more areas of life than I had expected. And maybe that’s about acceptance – of myself and others; and a desire to observe rather than judge; and an awareness of self and others – that I can’t begin to understand another’s perspective unless I’ve been where they are.


[Blog analysis: I feel like my thoughts (above) are a bit like a plate of spaghetti with a central theme but lots of different strands – some of which I’ve touched on in the past, and most of which I feel I haven’t fully explored. I’m not even sure I’ve taken this in the direction I wanted to go – maybe I allowed myself to get distracted by the words. And it’s a bit messy- like a lump of cooked spaghetti where the individual strands have stuck together. But then isn’t that what this blog is for – to identify the issues and to write something down that I can come back to at a later date and explore further? It is. It’s just my compulsion to make things nice and tidy; a desire for order, and aesthetics. Consequently, this post doesn’t feel orderly, or tidy or like it flows -but given what I’m trying to achieve, I have to accept that that’s ok.]

The fallacy of wisdom and the joy of acceptance

When I was younger, I assumed that when I was an adult, that I would know myself and in knowing myself I would become wise. As an adult I have learned that I am continually learning about myself; I am sometimes astonished by what I didn’t realise about myself. I am not at all wise in the way I had hoped to be. I assumed maturity would just happen, like a cloak that would arrive from somewhere and would, over time, grow around my shoulders and down my back and become like a wonderfully comfortable coat of many fibres – that looked awesome and suited my aging but lovely persona.

That’s not my experience of maturity at all. Or wisdom. Or graceful aging.

I thought that as I aged I would know myself more fully, would feel more sure-footed, make fewer mistakes; I wouldn’t cry so often, or feel things quite as keenly as before.

I still find myself wondering why I do some of the things I do; why some days I feel like a dinghy adrift on a tumultuous ocean -tossed by giant waves with no anchor and no oars, when other days I feel so alive and vibrant, sure of myself and my direction.

So I hold on to the things that I DO know about me.  I care about others. Compassion and empathy and kindness matter to me. I want to protect those who are hurting, and stand up for those who can’t fight back. I don’t argue well, but I do care and I feel and I believe. And I’m happy to laugh with those who laugh, and to cry with those who cry. And on the dark days I try to remember that ‘This, too, shall pass.”

I may surprise myself with what and how much I am still learning about me but I also know that I have an acceptance of me that I didn’t have in younger years. I’m not so hard on me. I give myself room to breathe, room to be.

I might be a nectarine, not an apple or a banana or a mandarin – and not everyone likes nectarines…  and I’m ok with that.  I’m more accepting of my self, and in accepting the me that I am still discovering, I am more accepting of others. And there is a joy in that.

Words and ideas that make me smile :)

I’m not a wordsmith. I don’t naturally have a way with words. But I will give things a go. And there are some words that I like, some that just roll around on your tongue like good toffee. I’ve been thinking about words today. Words that I have particular affection for because they ‘feel like me’ or maybe they feel like what I want to feel like; or at the very least, they resonate with me on some level. Here’s a small list, in no particular order, of words that somehow make me feel good… or at least make me feel something:

sanctuary; haven; butterfly; subtle; mercy; integrity; empathy; compassion; gracious; indigo; violet; kindness; truth; mindful; gentle; peaceful; rest; enable; tranquil; delight; honesty; gentle rain; mirage; flame; zephyr; calm; kingfisher; tui; wood pigeon, waxeye, fantail; koru; quiet; coastal; mountain top; touch; kinetic;

It’s actually quite a liberating process – firstly making a list of things I enjoy (and that list a few days ago took me ages to write) and then writing words that I have an attachment to. Funny how some read like the beatitudes, and others are colours, or birds, or quiet/gentle/calm-related words, or sanctuary/haven-type words. Funny how my mind brings all of these words together in one heap; almost a random heap, but NOT random, not random at all. Purposeful. They say something about me, or about who I’d like to be, or an environment I’d like to create.

I have a dream (- not true, actually I have many dreams!) – I have a specific dream that if money were no object, I would love to have some land – and to create some spaces (be they baches, or cabins or tiny cottages or whatever) that could be used as a get-away, a retreat, a quiet haven, a sanctuary where women (in particular), could take time out from their day to day world. Somewhere lovely to come and just be. Somewhere welcoming, and private, and warm, and comfortable and quiet – with books and cushions and couches, and music and a fireplace and beautiful scented daphne bushes, rose bushes, wild gardens and streams, probably ducks and geese and chickens and quails, and lots of vegetable gardens growing a variety of fresh vegetables (my husband could tend those perhaps), and fruit trees and nuts…

I’m not sure exactly why I want to create a haven for women (just a few at a time) but I would like to. I’d like to have a big enough studio that I could paint, and other women could come and paint too, or sculpt or draw or write or do whatever creative things they wanted; where if she wanted to, a guest could cook to her hearts content – or not cook if she didn’t want to; could sew or draw or garden – or not do any of those things – just as each guest wished. So that this space was whatever retreat each woman needed it to be.

It’s just a dream and I hold it lightly, but it’s nice to think positively about “what if…”

On a positive note….

In re-reading my previous posts, the thing that springs to mind (that probably seems obvious to you looking in but wasn’t quite so obvious to me) is that I’ve done some counselling in the past – I’ve supposedly dealt with some issues -to a certain extent at least – but still I continue to have issues around food and/or alcohol (to a greater or lesser extent). I’m still writing about it, so that implies that I perceive an issue of some kind. I’d like to think that it’s just habit or hormones that make me want to eat everything on the face of the planet from time to time – and maybe it is – but maybe it’s not. I’ve eaten somewhat compulsively at times in the past, and maybe this compulsion is habit-based – a pattern of behaviour that I’m slowly attempting to alter. This year has been positive so far in that it’s now October and in January I started fasting 2 days a week. That’s not to say I’ve fasted for 2 days every week since but certainly regularly in the past 10 months. And I’m now carrying 12.5 kilos less than I was at the beginning of January. I’ve also (as you know) tried to be more mindful of my alcohol consumption particularly in the past couple of months and that’s resulted in a significant reduction in my alcohol intake. And my clothes, my bank account and subsequently my recycling bin have all noticed this change!

To have a sense of progress in the right direction is a wonderful thing – but it doesn’t help me identify why the issues with food or alcohol in the first place – other than their consumption ‘felt good’ at the time. I ate and drank for comfort, for relief, as ‘time out’, sometimes as a treat, because I deserved to… or at least that’s what I used to tell myself. And I have identified other ways to treat myself – probably my favourite at present would be to go shopping (but the bank balance doesn’t allow that every day); listening to music, candles, having a bath; having a massage or a pedicure; taking the dog for a walk; watching several ducks and their ducklings wander around my back yard; going for a walk on the beach, walking in the bush (there are lots of local tracks near to where I live); the silhouette of cabbage trees and flax and toitois; fields of sunflowers; sunsets over the sea; New Zealand countryside; painting in acrylics; cooking (sometimes if I’m in the mood) – even gardening at times – are things I enjoy and do to relax; oh.. and then there’s my blog…

Sometimes just watching a movie, or relaxing watching whatever TV programmes I’m in the mood for, or preparing a dinner party for a small group of friends – these things have their place in the list of Things I Enjoy.  I’ve learnt this year that one of my happy places is being in my kitchen making chicken pies; or making a number of dishes of lasagne (which I then freeze for later); sometimes sewing cot quilts can be a happy place, or painting (if the painting comes together in a way I like, or if I learn something useful from the process) then painting can definitely be a happy place.

Sometimes when I’ve been depressed (particularly in my thirties) I used to find it hard to remember what my happy places were, or what things brought me joy. So it’s good to have a list, and to be able to add to it:

  • I love the smell of lavender, and rosemary, basil, coriander, lemongrass; vanilla pods and cinnamon quills; the smell of spicy fruit bread being made into toast; the smell of a freshly cut lemon or a roast in the oven; the smell of good coffee brewing, and bacon cooking; the smell of roses and violets and daphne; the aromas of a good wine;
  • I love a variety of music: from jazz to pop to blues to opera. That beautiful piece of opera from The Pearfishers; cruisy laid back jazz (old George Benson, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Ronny Jordan), good old Kiwi music (Split Enz and 1980’s stuff, to my current fave, Six60); Albinoni’s Adagio, or Pachelbel’s Canon and Gigue, or Vivaldi or Brahms; from the musicals Camelot, the King & I and ‘Porgy & Bess’ to Michael Buble; from Barry McGuire to Mary Mary, Amy Winehouse, James Morrison and a lot of the Putamayo World Music (‘Music from the Coffee Lands’ and all the African music); Van Morrison to Cold Chisel and Maroon 5; Nathan Haines ‘Music for Cocktail Lovers’, Trinity Roots and Fat Freddy’s Drop – these are some of my absolute listening pleasures
  • I love the work of Monet and van Gogh, Albrecht Durer, Botticelli and Michelangelo; the Pre-Raphaelites; the beautiful designs of Charles Rennie McIntosh, William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and the Art Nouveau movement; some awesome Kiwi artists – Rita Angus, Don Binney, Grahame Sydney, Cynthia Taylor, Kathryn Furniss and Anna Stichbury
  • I love violas – seeing their beautiful little faces; peonies in pinks and whites; magnolia trees (and their blooms foretelling the seasons to come) and pohutakawas in flower; the shape of tulip heads, and the amazing way that fern fronds unfold; and all the incredible greens that make up my fern garden;
  • I love seeing and hearing tuis in my garden; watching wood pidgeons as they fly and land – not graceful but beautiful none-the-less, (and always, they remind me of Iroquois helicopters); fantails and wax eyes;
  • I love the sight of brilliant blue butterfly wings; a newborn baby’s hands and feet – so tiny and perfect; puppies and kittens in their first few days of life and watching them as they explore the world around them; a puppy’s ears -all soft and silky;
  • I love the flavour of lamb shanks, fillet steak, rack of lamb; smoked salmon, avocados and champagne; blue cheese and port; roast pork with apple sauce and gravy; stuffed mushrooms, Beef Wellington, roast chicken, pavlova roulade; runny vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberries; Snow-freeze ice cream in cones dipped in chocolate; dark chocolate mousse and neenish tarts; lemon meringue pie, Kahlua and ice cream; Cosmopolitans; apple shortcake;
  • I like Robert de Niro movies, Edward Norton in American History X, Rachel Weiss, Daniel Craig in Layercake, Brat Pitt in Snatch, Helen Mirren, George Clooney in ER, in fact I love watching re-runs of ER, Prison Break, 24, Outrageous Fortune, Casablanca, Fight Club, To Kill A Mockingbird, Sex In The City (the movie), The Power of One, The Constant Gardener, Blood Diamond, Cry The Beloved Country, PS I Love You;
  • Some of my favourite books: The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Lovely Bones, The Colour of Water, The Power of One, My Sister’s Keeper, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Just So Stories, To Kill A Mockingbird, After You’d Gone, The Children of Midnight;
  • I’m fascinated by the human body and how it works -in health and in disease; how diseases progress; how cancer works its wicked magic; how our internal organs work and how they work together; how the body can heal itself (not always but often); how the nervous system functions and what can go wrong; the power of the mind; the power of positive energy; how mental health affects the body and life expectancy; how we can know so much about the body and the brain and how they function and yet not know ourselves; how we can be so wise and also so stupid; so kind and so thoughtless; so filled with love and so filled with hate; so focussed on the little things and miss the important stuff; so caught up in our own lives that we stop appreciating the bigger picture -the good things, the beauty, the kindness and love of others, life and health and friendship…