Where the grass is greener…

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Picture courtesy of Google Images.

The grass is greener where you water it. It may seem a bit glib to say so, but I believe it is certainly a healthy perspective to have.

I don’t know what your life situation is right now. Perhaps you feel that the grass is greenest right where you are – you may have been blessed with your heart’s desires in life, and if so, I am sincerely happy for you. Or you maybe distracted by looking over the fence at your neighbour’s beautiful lawn and rose studded garden, and lamenting the state of your own garden. You may have one eye on your lawn and one on theirs seeing positives and negatives in both of your situations. Perhaps the latter, despite possibly inducing a squint, is the most practical point of view. 🙂

However, why do we compare our lives with others? From a young age, it seems that society, peer groups, educational institutions, relations and the media to varying degrees indoctrinate us into the comparison trap.  We are bombarded with images of what our bodies ‘should’ look like, encouraged or pressured to excel and get the best grades, asked questions like ‘why can’t you be more like your cousin/friend/sibling/classmate so and so…they are so much more (fill in the blank)’. And the list goes on and on. It is hardly surprising that most of us go through periods of discontent with ourselves and our lot in life, feeling that somehow we’re just not good enough, or our lives don’t quite measure up.

A degree of comparison can sometimes be healthy especially if it makes us more grateful for what we have, and more desirous to help others who are less fortunate than ourselves. Yet, I don’t believe that this is the kind of ‘healthy comparison’ that most of us, however subconsciously, train our minds to make.

It’s been said that “Comparison is the thief of joy”, probably because most comparison stems from negative heart motives and results in feelings of jealousy, envy, pride, self-pity or resentment. The thief steals our joy and destroys our well being and relationships, or mars them at least.

We tend not to compare ourselves with those less fortunate than ourselves, and feel grateful for our own blessings in life, but instead compare ourselves and our lives with those who “have what we want” in life, have what we think will make us happy, and with a false sense of entitlement and perhaps a degree of prideful arrogance, have what we think we should have or be given.

Perhaps it is our responsibility to take the more mature path and keep our eyes fixed on our own lives and situations. That way we will be more likely to be a blessing to other people as well as taking better care of ourselves and our mental and emotional wellbeing.

I am called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn”. To be happy when other people are blessed and to show compassion to those who are hurting.

However, I am not superhuman, and have to work on having a healthy outlook on life. If I think back to my dreams as a little child, when thinking about that question we are so often asked when we are young, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I think my heart desires would have painted a picture of happiness, love and health. I wanted to be a writer and a painter or cartoonist, to be beautiful, to be happily married and have a happy family of my own, and to live and be close to the family I was born into. I would want best friends and a puppy and a log cabin in the woods, to be immersed in nature’s beauty and to travel the world. I would be a picture of health and happiness, a loving wife and mother, daughter, sister and friend. Life would be coming up roses!

However, ‘the once upon a time’ of my childhood dreams has not resulted in the ‘happily ever after’ I longed for. So what actually happened? Well, there have been ups and downs in my life. You might say I am an unpublished writer, as I am working on two novels that I have not shown to many people and that I work on privately in my ‘spare time’. Writing is an act of catharsis and release from trauma as well as a creative passion. I am neither a painter or cartoonist, but I do like to doodle, sketch every now and then, and indulge in adult colouring books. I have been called beautiful and pretty several times since my teenage years, but I also have a daily battle over being called ugly and disgusting from the painful days of childhood bullying and so my self identity is something I need to desperately refashion. I am single, neither a wife, girlfriend nor a mother, I am blessed with some good friends, however, my best childhood friend sadly passed away a few years ago. I have skin allergies and so a puppy is out of the question, and I own my own flat / apartment in the city. I have parks and a river nearby to where I live, I can take a longer trip and go to quiet beaches. I have battled health struggles over the years including severe eczema, severe clinical depression, panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder, feelings of despair at life and wanting to end it all, post traumatic stress, complex trauma, nightmares, sleeplessness, chronic pain and so forth. I do live within an hour’s travel time of my parents, which is a huge blessing to me, and I have been fortunate enough to have a good education despite everything else going on, gained two first class degrees, have a full time job and have done some solo travelling!

So all in all, there are plenty of plusses and minuses, however, some seasons of my life have felt particularly dark. Now that there is more experience of the Light around me, I’d like to reach out to others and share some things that I find helpful when we are tempted to compare ourselves and lives unfavourably with the next person.

During times of suffering in my life, I have often been surrounded with good news from other people’s milestones in life, when I have felt like I was carrying a millstone. Perhaps you can relate? You’re going through a tough time, and emotionally you’re already struggling but then you get news of someone’s engagement, marriage celebration, first, second, third, fourth child while you remain childless, new home, travel adventures when you are not well enough to even leave the house. Know what I mean? Chances are if you’re reading this, you do.

However, that’s where choice and responsibility comes in. As does self-care. When you face a situation like that you may feel happy for your friend or the person who has come to good times in their lives, you may paint out the negatives in their lives and over emphasise in your mind the positives, you may feel a twinge of sadness and pain that you are not experiencing your longed for hopes and dreams. And that is exactly where choice comes in. Your choice. It is ok to feel what you feel, but what you do next is more important. Do you dwell on these unfavourable comparisons, do you indulge in feeling sorry for yourself, do you resent the other person, think ‘it’s not fair’, and go on a spiral of negativity?

Or do you celebrate that other person’s happiness, acknowledge your own feelings of sadness, take time out to take care of yourself and be grateful for the good in your own life? Because despite how ‘unfair’ things might seem, it is your choice and responsibility as to how you react, whether positively or negatively, what you allow your mind and heart to dwell on, and what you do to take a healthier path.

Your life matters. The things you take for granted, someone else is longing for. Truly longing for. One of the best relationships in my life is that which I have with my mum. I am grateful everyday, and yet probably not as deeply as I should be. A friend of mine volunteers with the city mission helping homeless people. She often comes into contact with women who have been abused, traumatised, addicted, raped, and sold into prostitution. We have prayed together for such people facing such terrible sadness. My friend told me of one particular woman, who was so relieved and even celebrated hearing of her mother’s death. This woman had been so abused and mistreated by her own birth mother, had been hurt and chewed up to such an extent that her death was a relief to her. I found this heart breaking. I think I appreciate my own mum all the more, and want to reach out to others in whatever small way I can in their suffering. Sometimes comparison can be good when it helps us to be more grateful and more compassionate.

I would encourage you to slow down, take time and really think of those things about yourself and that you have in your life that you are taking for granted. Things that other people are longing after. Take time and focus on your own little patch of green grass, water it, nurture it, and maybe even plant some seeds of love in someone else’s garden. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and add to the beauty that they already are blessed with. Mourn with those who mourn and plant something beautiful in someone who’s garden is dry and barren. And go that extra step in gratitude to express your thankfulness to the people who matter in your life. Give thanks to God. And know that your life is important, and it is up to you to nurture and invest in it. 🙂

 

 

Elections, Choices and What makes a Good Leader — Life as it happens to be

Picture courtesy of Google Images. If you’ve been following world news lately, or live in the United Kingdom, you will know that today, 8th June 2017 is polling day for the UK’s General Election. The election was called unexpectedly in April this year by the UK’s current Prime Minister, Teresa May. It was unexpected as […]

via Elections, Choices and What makes a Good Leader — Life as it happens to be

Elections, Choices and What makes a Good Leader

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Picture courtesy of Google Images.

If you’ve been following world news lately, or live in the United Kingdom, you will know that today, 8th June 2017 is polling day for the UK’s General Election.

The election was called unexpectedly in April this year by the UK’s current Prime Minister, Teresa May. It was unexpected as she had previously announced that she would not be calling a ‘snap election’, but clearly politicians have the prerogative to change their minds! She was voted in as the new leader of the Conservative Party by her party, and consequently became Prime Minister, following David Cameron’s resignation after the majority of British voters voted for ‘Brexit’, ie to leave the European Union, in a referendum in June of last year. It was not the result that Cameron hoped for nor anticipated.  His successor and the incumbent Prime Minister, Teresa May also wanted to remain in the EU. However, as leader of choice (by her party, at least), she is currently in the position of leading the country forwards in the direction of the voting population’s simple majority decision in favour of Brexit.

Teresa May could be nicknamed for a time, ‘Teresa Maybe’ or Teresa May or May Not’, due to her delay or reluctance to push that metaphorical button and invoke Article 50 which would set things in motion for Britain to leave the EU.  However, finally May took decisive action and invoked or triggered Article 50 in March 2017, less than three months ago.

With further decisiveness in April of this year, Teresa May, taking on the stance of Teresa Will announced a general election to take place in June – today being that day!

It is difficult to truly discern a politician’s motives from what they actually say. Perhaps May sees this election as a way to formalise her mandate and strengthen her position in negotiating a strong Brexit deal for the country and / or to increase the Conservative’s majority in Westminster. Presumably no Prime Minister would call a sudden election well before its time (the next general election wouldn’t have been due until 2020) unless they were confident that they and their party would win.

However, despite being a small nation, and an island at that, the United Kingdom isn’t altogether united. There are fractions and divisions and competing points of view that mean that the result that May is anticipating (which we will find out tomorrow) may not turn out to be what she desires.

From the division of the ‘Remain’ and ‘Brexit’ camps, to divisions in Scotland over the results of the ‘Independence Referendum’ that took place on 18th September 2014, and a narrow majority voting for Scotland to remain as part of the United Kingdom (55.3% against independence, 44.7% in favour of independence) to all the multifarious shades of the political spectrum and opinions in between, notes from this small island of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales, report that Britain remains somewhat divided and uncertain about its future.

For several years, Westminster politics has been characterised by a rivalry between the ‘big two’ parties across opposing sides of the debating chamber: The Labour Party and the Conservative Party. However, in more recent times there have been coalitions between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to form a majority, breaking the run of Labour Party rule, and finally returning to the Conservatives as the simple majority party in power.

Currently of the leaders of the ‘big two’, Teresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, although there may be pockets of die-hard supporters, on the whole most people have very mixed feelings towards them both, their policies and their trustworthiness.

While perhaps finding some things in either leader or party that one can resonate with, there are other elements that grate against our consciences. Politics has become synonymous with corruption, false promises and even deceit. As in the United States of America, when faced with the choice to elect either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump for President, many voters on both sides of the Atlantic feel that they are being cornered into choosing the lesser of two evils. Gone are the days where members of the public look up to their politicians as paragons of virtue, a special breed of humanity with leadership qualities that shine forth with radiance – people deserving of our trust and respect. Perhaps such days never actually existed…?

It brings us to consider, in this hotch-potch of political choices what does make a good leader, and where can we find one? They are certainly not ‘a dime a dozen’, nor does anyone in particular in the world of politics spring to mind.

I think this reality exacerbates political frustration, despondency, apathy and confusion. I would quite frankly despair of this world were it not for the fact that I do have a Leader Whom I can wholeheartedly respect, admire, trust, believe in and follow without reservation.

Everything He does is imbued with infinite and perfect Love, Wisdom, Kindness, Goodness, Integrity and Strength. He Is a Wonderful Counsellor, a Prince of Peace.

He humbled Himself to teach us that to truly be a Leader, one must first become the Servant of all. He only ever works for Good, and Is completely and utterly Faithful and Trustworthy. He lived out self-sacrificial love, doing what is good for others at an unbelievable cost to Himself. He died to bring us salvation and Is Risen and Reigns over all.

So despite the madness of the world in which we live, the frustrations of politics and the despair over the leaders of the world, I have an infinite hope.

If you don’t know Jesus Christ personally – the One Who Shepherds His people with kindness, goodness and love, this may all seem a bit strange, as if it were perhaps just an ideal to be longed after. But He has proven Himself to me time after time, to be real, and good and utterly trustworthy, and so despite the results of these elections or all the other things happening in this world, I know that I follow and serve and belong to One Whose ways are perfect, just and kind.

Even if you don’t share my faith, I am sure you would find it fascinating and encouraging in contrast to the leaders of the world today, to look into and examine the life and ways of the historical person of Jesus Christ.

Thousands of years before He made Himself manifest to us, the prophet of the Old Testament, Isaiah proclaimed:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6).

 

 

Life Lessons from the Common Cold!

As I type, life as it happens to be today has me experiencing symptoms of the common cold – sore throat, cough, fever, fatigue, etc.

The thing I find about blogging about and reflecting on my life, just as it happens to be, is that within the everyday, seemingly ordinary and mundane things of life (like having a bad cold!)  there can be little treasures of lessons and blessings.

So, here is what having the cold is teaching me today! 🙂

  1. Sometimes in life, you’ve just got to wait it out!

Nobody likes feeling unwell (and if they do, then that is rather strange). And it is unlikely that anyone particularly enjoys having a cough, cold, fever, tiredness, fatigue, and so forth. However, these things are facts of life that come and go with the seasons.

In life, we can find ourselves wanting to be in a different state to that which we are currently experiencing. For instance, you might be experiencing delays, setbacks, illness or disappointment. You may be unemployed and waiting for something to work out for you. You may be struggling with any number of things in life that have you experiencing a state you would rather not be in, but sometimes you’ve just got to ‘wait it out’. Let the season or situation of life take its course, just as you would when you’ve got a bad cold, and do your best to stay well, recover, and take the actions you need to in order to improve your situation.

2.  Take time to rest and build up strength!

When facing a cold, depending on our attitude, we may take a defiant stance – “I’m not going to let this defeat me. This isn’t going to stop me from doing all the things I normally do. I’ll show this cold who’s boss, and I’ll just plough on through it.”

Sometimes that might work. However, most medical advice would say that the best way to enable your body to ‘fight back’ and to replenish itself is to give it the chance to rest. Get plenty of rest and sleep, don’t push yourself farther than you need to go, take a break and it’s likely you’ll recover quicker.

Similarly, in life more generally, we need to make sure we take the time to rest and rejuvenate, even in the day to day routine of life if not taking specific, longer set aside time out. Taking the time to rest can help us achieve a better balance between work and leisure, it can help us to be more aware of our own thoughts and feelings, better manage your emotions, relate better to other people, be more productive longer term, live more fully and avoid the build up of unnecessary stress that can lead to burnout. I’ve definitely been a victim of not getting enough rest, and sometimes it is difficult depending on our circumstances to do just that. However, there are ways of building ‘R&R’ into our days and for our longer term health and wellbeing and fulfilment in life it is definitely worth thinking about and implementing steps towards this.

3. Self-care is important

When you’re feeling under the weather, what do you normally do, or what advice would other people give you?

Perhaps that would include: get plenty of rest, take the appropriate medicine, eat healthily, drink plenty of water, don’t overdo it, and basically just look after yourself.

In life, it’s important that we take care of ourselves more generally too. Maybe it’s worth thinking about how you can look after yourself a bit better, or how you can maintain your self-care if it is already something that you do intentionally as it is.

4. Things will change

You won’t have a cold forever, things will take their course, you’ll hopefully feel better, get back to strength and keep going with the next things in life.

Likely, things will improve. However, whatever your situation in life is right now, it is guaranteed that it will change. And your adaptability to change and seeing the positives even in situations that don’t seem good, has a lot to do with your perception and attitude.

Whatever the case, things will change, and there are plenty of things that you can do to make things better and improve whatever situation you are in.  Life goes on, so make the most of your better days, and don’t despair over your ‘not so good’ days, this too will pass.

And now, taking my own advice from steps 1, 2 and 3, I’m off to bed! 🙂

Thanks for reading 🙂