you’ll know that I’d like to create a ‘vision board’ to help inspire me, and hopefully also inspire you, to tidy up, declutter and create a cosy home environment as we head into the autumnal and wintery months.
So, I’m starting with my kitchen, and here are some pictures that inspire me just now:
This morning, the sun is shining, and there is a chill in the air. I was woken by the sound of machinery outside, and as I peeped out of the window I saw that someone was operating an industrial leaf collecting machine – I’m sure that there is a technical term for such a contraption, but I don’t know what it is!
This is a sure sign of autumn! The heavy leaf fall is a sign that summer has passed and we are approaching winter. Perhaps wherever you live in the world, your seasons differ. You might have a more intense autumn with vibrant, ever changing colours as the leaves transform and then fall. Or maybe you have subtler transitions into the latter part of the year. Nonetheless, we are in mid-October which means the year is drawing gently to a close, and leaves are being gathered, and pushed aside as more continue to fall.
An Autumnal Shift:
Within the home, many people are beginning to make a shift as well. I like to modify my home décor to reflect the changing of the seasons as many other people also do. In recent years, there have been trends to embrace the Danish concept of hygge, in terms of lifestyle as well as in the home. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, hygge can be described as follows:
“Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special”.
Think of the feelings of cosiness sipping a hot drink on a cold evening, while curled up on the sofa in a cosy blanket while wearing your ‘toastiest’ socks. Or the wonderment of looking at the fairy lights in a beautiful Christmas market, and enjoying the scents of cinnamon, of hot chocolate, and bonfires. Think of a relaxed evening in with friends and family, playing board games and enjoying life together. Think of a reading a good book in your favourite ‘cosy corner’, of that warm glow of fully living in those special yet simple moments of a life appreciated for its gracious simplicity and well lived. Think of warm lighting, starlight, candlelight and soft music, or a hearty home cooked meal – the ultimate ‘comfort food’. And the possibilities go on as far as your warm heart and imagination can reach….
Photo by Mark McCammon on Pexels.com
We move from the vibrancy of spring to the muted tones of autumn and the cosiness of winter time.
Homeliness, Hospitality and Reaching out to those in Need:
Although the sun is streaming through the blinds on this crisp, cold, autumnal day, days like this are becoming fewer and further between. Yesterday was a day for warm coats, and the day previously we saw lashing rain, incessantly beating down upon us, as we huddled indoors or under grey skies. It is a time when, if we are blessed to have a home of our own, a roof over our heads, we can make time and space to allow our winter seasons to be more cosy, homely and inviting.
Not only can we create a warm and pleasant environment for ourselves, but it opens up opportunities to be hospitable to others, and when we are relaxed and things are in order, then we can also invest our time, efforts and energy into reaching out and helping the poor and others less fortunate that ourselves materially. We can create a quiet space to pray for those in need, including the homeless, we can gather our friends together and begin preparing toys, gifts, hampers and wellbeing packages to distribute perhaps at Christmas. We can make crafts and home-baking to sell to raise money for charity, and we can invest our time in creating a little more community spirit, and of going out to meet people who may be lonely with no one to talk to. Once more, the possibilities only end where your imagination does…
When the leaves are piled high all around you!
However, while we sit together and dream of such inviting days, you like me may find that you have a whole heap of leaves to rustle through first, and tidy up, if you’ll pardon the pun. We need to shed spring’s skin and allow things to change as we transition from one season to the next.
The reality of the mess:
Personally, in order to get to this dreamy autumnal and winter home scene, there’s a lot of tidying up to do! However, for inspiration I have been looking through some of my old blog posts in my ‘home and lifestyle’ section. I have lists of encouraging tips and suggestions in various posts, but the one that encouraged me not to be overwhelmed or distracted by the mess, is to begin with a vision of what I want each part of my little home / apartment to look like. Once my heart is engaged, my mind can set about prompting me to action in the more practical tasks.
Dreams and visions:
One of the things I suggest is to have some sort of ‘vision board’, whether electronically, or jotting down ideas and scrapbooking pictures, it depends on what works for you. I think a nice way I’d like to do it is by ‘cataloguing’ some of my ideas in subsequent blog posts so that I can share this journey with you.
A starting point:
For now, however, in case it is an encouragement to you that I too have a bit of work to do, here is where I am starting from, at least with my kitchen…I hope to follow up with sharing a vision board in subsequent posts and to do this for each room as I move through my home.
So for now friends, happy cosy autumnal living, I hope you have a safe and blessed season ahead. x
Where I am starting from as I say farewell to this year’s spring and summer:
So, you see, I’m in this situation at work, and perhaps you have experienced similar situations yourself, where I’m working in collaboration to take forward an innovative idea (or at least innovative for a technically slow moving local authority). Basically, this involves creating our first ever company podcast for internal communications. It’s a great idea, and the people involved are energised, and I’m one of the key people in this work. However, the person whose idea it was is about to hit an iceberg, and his team are afraid to tell him that, so diplomatically I have to politely (and perhaps quietly) sound the alarm bells. The draft intro to the podcast (can you call it a draft if it relates to audio? I’m not sure 🙂 ) is, let’s just say, not to everyone’s tastes, it is probably not to most people’s tastes, certainly not to the tastes of Senior Management, and it is at odds with the company culture. My colleagues have thanked me for politely expressing written feedback when requested, and I made sure to remember that I am giving the feedback to a person, and as such, open and close with positives, and be constructive in any observations that may seem to take the form of ‘criticism’. Privately other members of the team have thanked me for the feedback which they felt was ‘spot on’, which they themselves are too afraid and reluctant to give to avoid the repercussions that might ensue. However, the greater risk of avoiding the issue for fear of offending someone and experiencing an uncomfortable team dynamic is that by not raising those alarm bells, you allow that person to steer their way straight into an iceberg and face criticism and ridicule from a far larger group of people once it is ‘out there’.
So what can we do? I think it’s important to remember that we all have blindspots, and we all need to look out for each other. We do need to ring that alarm bell when we see the iceberg approaching, but in a work environment, we sometimes need to ring the alarm bell politely, quietly and diplomatically for it to be effective, as ludicrous as this analogy might sound.
While other colleagues may know, and say to you that so and so’s idea or execution of that idea is terrible, and all are too afraid to say anything, you can’t let them hit the rocks. Be diplomatic, be kind, and be sensitive. Try to understand both your and their communication styles and take time to consider how to address these issues, while providing suggestions of an alternative approach. This may take time, but don’t give up, and ‘listen’ to what is not being said, as well as what is (a person’s tone, body language and ‘vibe’ can say a lot so take it on board but without jumping to conclusions) and pay attention to how things are affecting the team dynamic, and know when to take a step back.
Easier said than done, right? I know, but at the end of the day the diplomat in you might just save your colleague, team and team’s reputation from crashing into an iceberg and sinking into the bottom of the sea!
People watching – are we more similar or different?
Have you ever been to an airport, in a foreign country, and watched on as people similar, and yet in so many ways different to you, came and went, crossing your path as they continued on a very similar journey to you?
What were the things that you noticed and observed? Were you more taken by the commonalities of being complete strangers from perhaps different sides of the globe who were now living in the bubble of shared experience, or were you more struck by how differently you inhabited this shared experience?
Observing the unfamiliar:
Perhaps you noticed that you and all of these unknown people were all there for the same purpose, going to the same destination, all with passports to that place, boarding cards, suitcases and travel bags, maybe wearing similar clothing and all headed in the same direction.
Or perhaps what caught your attention was how differently you all looked, one from another, the unfamiliarity of overhearing languages that weren’t your own, or the rituals and traditions of families that were so unlike your own. Maybe you noticed that your passports were different colours, and that the clothes you wore were of contrasting styles.
It is fun to notice similarities and differences when we observe people passing through shared spaces such as airports, train stations, bus stations and such like. We can observe without being overly affected because we are all just passing through our shared experience and going on to perhaps a shared destination, but one in which we can part ways with our fellow travellers and continue on our own journey.
The similarities and differences can therefore remain interesting facets of our experience without being intrusions on our more familiar ways of living life.
When ‘cultures’ collide:
However, sometimes cultures ‘collide’ or come together in a more permanent situation that causes quite different reactions than those of amusement, fascination, interest or curiosity for the traveller. What if the shared spaces you were inhabiting with unfamiliar people were to be more enduring than the fleeting experiences of passing through an airport terminal for example?
What if the different culture or cultures you find yourself faced with are not those of people you will see only briefly, but those you will spend time with day after day on a very regular basis? How would that change the way you perceive and experience change? What if the ‘cultural differences’ are not to do with countries, nationalities or location, but are new and different ‘company cultures’? How would you feel then?
I’m learning about this in real time. Last year my organisation was absorbed into its parent company, and particularly into one specific department of that company. The merger brought about a new name for the department and a new identity.
I was involved in the preparatory work of ‘business transfer’, novation and helping to coordinate certain formal aspects of the due diligence and legal work that needed to be done. It was a good opportunity to be involved in something I had never done before, and good to work as part of a wider team from both sides, as the formal transfer of the business was progressed.
Formal and Informal Transitions:
That was the formal side of things. Management often talked of it as a ‘lift and shift’ approach. Priorities were covering all aspects of due diligence, legal compliance, HR, payroll and physical moves, etc. Staff obviously had to be communicated with, but once again this focused on the formal and practical changes and logistics of the merger.
What was not as high on the agenda, however, as the key goal was to legally process these formal changes, was addressing the ‘softer’ transitions that were taking place, particularly in regards to communicating the ‘little things’ to staff, things that may take shape over time, and thinking about how to successfully bring two differing company cultures together.
The situation now is that fellow travellers from one location have now arrived at their ‘destination’ together. However, this new and shiny destination is already inhabited, and this is not a temporary ‘holiday home’ – it is where all of us, old, new and everything in between, will share a space and work together under the same new banner of what we have all merged into. However, being in the same place doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all of one mind, and that is going to be a fascinating and interesting learning curve for all involved.
Birds of a Feather:
Initially, as people began working in their new location, there was a tendency for those who knew each other, even only slightly, from their previous workplace to stick together, have lunch, and take comfort in the familiar. Totally understandable, and shared human nature. They were learning that the ones already here were also having to adjust to changes – changes perhaps in and between teams, working with new colleagues, perhaps even saying goodbye to people they had worked with for a long time who thought it was a good time to move on, and dealing with physical moves and relocation of desks, rooms, and teams. There was also the uncertainty for all regarding ‘what happens next?’, therefore finding comfort in the familiar was a totally natural and expected occurrence.
“The Times they are a ‘Changing”:
Now we’ve reached the stage where most people have relocated into the same building (although others work in different parts dotted around the city, but the majority of the workforce for this newly formed department is now in the one building). People are less reticent about mixing, work has been progressing and new faces are gradually, slowly but surely becoming more familiar. People are gradually settling into new routines, finding their way around, and the new is less daunting. There is more discussion and collaboration between teams. So everything is going smoothly, right? Well, not quite…at least not yet.
“Where Everybody Knows Your Name”:
I wonder if you’re familiar with the old American sitcom set in a bar / pub in Boston, starring Ted Danson as the main barman, and featuring regulars and staff such as Carla, the sharp-tongued and tom-boyish barmaid, contrasted with Dianne the gentle, feminine and intelligent waitress, and many other lovable characters from different walks of life including a baseball coach, a postman, a psychiatrist (who later starred in his own programme – ‘Frazier’) among others.
If you’re familiar with the programme, “Cheers”, then you’ll also be familiar with the nostalgic theme tune, and it’s reassuring lyrics:
“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got,
Taking a break from all your worries, sure can help a lot,
Wouldn’t you like to get a way, and go someplace where
Everybody knows your name, and you’re always glad you came,
You wanna’ go where you can see people are all the same,
You wanna’ go where everybody knows your name”.
Isn’t this what we all long for? However, management of change when it comes mainly from the top down, is often focused heavily on strategic objectives, and forgets the human touch. I’ve been involved in some new emergent work following the formal transfer that is focused on engaging with staff to find out their views and to work alongside the Communications team to create a strategy for engaging staff, addressing issues of company culture, of communication, and finding out what they really think. Unfortunately, this has been an afterthought with the powers that be, but the good thing is that at least now, something is beginning to happen.
In one of the staff engagement sessions, I was struck by some feedback where one person commented on the lack of introductions, and the management of change, such that they didn’t even know the names of the people sitting in the desks next to and around them.
Everyone wants to be somewhere where people know their name, and where they know the names of those around them. It takes time, and some may be pessimistic but I view this as a great opportunity not to let slip by. And I am excited to be part of a new piece of work that I haven’t been involved with before.
So as I share these initial observations with you, I encourage you also to find a way in your day today to make someone feel a little more ‘at home’, known, and valued….because sometimes the greatest impacts for positive change are the collection of ‘small things’, little acts of genuine kindness that start from the ‘grassroots’ and grow to eventually reach the top.
Anxiety can leave you feeling pretty small. If you battle against anxiety, you know that this ‘nemesis’ can leave you feeling overwhelmed, underprepared, backed up against a wall, cowering in a corner with your hands over your face, wishing it all would just go away. But guess what? You lived to fight another day. And if you stay in training, one day you will find that you have the courage to step away from that corner, lift your head high, tell anxiety who’s boss, and win the battle as you take the next step to accomplish your goal however big or small that goal might be. Don’t get me wrong, anxiety like most opponents doesn’t give up easily…winning one battle doesn’t mean that you won’t face others in the future, but as you stay in training, build resilience and learn how to use your ‘armoury’ then you will become increasingly stronger and better prepared so that it doesn’t continue to overwhelm your every day life in such a debilitating way as it might be doing just now.
You’ll probably realise, and if you’ve read my previous blog posts on related issues then you’ll know, that I speak from years of painful experience in this regard. However, I have learnt a fair bit in this difficult journey, it certainly has been a battle against a persistent foe, but as small as we might be feeling when experiencing anxiety, panic attacks and related conditions, we can become ‘superheroes’ in our own way as we overcome our own battles, and use our increasing skills and strength to help others.
You are not alone
I know how debilitating living with Generalised Anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, etc can be. My heart goes out to you if you are overwhelmed by these things just now. I’d love to share with you some of the things I’ve learned that help me make progress on this journey. It continues to be a daily challenge, however, it does get better the more you understand. Actually, the reason I started writing this was prompted by almost having a ‘meltdown’ this evening because I couldn’t find an address that I needed, but I was able to ‘talk myself out of that corner’ that I felt backed up against.
Quick tips for your training to become a ‘superhero’ in your fight against anxiety.
Arm yourself with knowledge – know your opponent.
You can’t really win this fight if you don’t know what you’re up against. I know the fear of feeling that your head and heart are about to explode, hyperventilating and feeling that you will be sick (or in my case, actually being sick a couple of times), collapsing physically in a heap, feeling dizzy, stressed, and worrying that you might be going crazy because of the relentless and unceasing bombardment of thoughts firing at you like arrows from all sides.
Knowing that these are ‘normal’ symptoms of a condition that many people share was one of the first steps for me for making sense of things and lessening the fear that something far worse was happening to me. So find some recommended resources – there are plenty out there such as MIND in the UK https://www.mind.org.uk/ but there will be plenty of others that can help explain to you what’s going on in your body, brain and nervous system. You’re not going crazy if you’re experiencing anxiety or panic attacks – you are in fact incredibly brave as each small thing that may seem easy or effortless to other people, is a monumental task for us.
2. Get support from a professional.
I am so blessed and thankful that living in the UK I have free access to health care, including support for mental health conditions such as anxiety. I had to face in myself the ‘stigma’ that I felt in reaching out for help but things had got to such a point that after years of stress my body was overloaded with stress hormones and I physically and mentally couldn’t cope any more. I needed support, and actually reaching out to get that, as scary as I felt it was at the time, and as reluctant as I was, is one of the best things I have done in my recovery.
Work at getting rid of and overcoming any stigmas you might have about getting help for mental health. Just as you wouldn’t feel ashamed about getting help for a broken arm, for diabetes or migraines or other physical conditions, you and I have no reason to feel ashamed if the chemicals in our brains, our hormones, nervous systems and consequently our thoughts are ‘not working properly’. Nor would you sit at home trying to repair your own broken arm, or at least I hope you wouldn’t, so learn from my mistakes of trying to get through things on my own for so many years, and losing out on quality of life and suffering more than necessary, by getting help from someone who knows and understands what is going on. If you live in a country where you have to fund your own health care, try to find out if there are charitable groups with a strong background in mental health that can offer you some support, phone a related helpline and ask if someone can help you understand what’s going on, access online resources, including YouTube videos such as those by licensed therapist Katie Morton – she is lovely and explains things very well. But don’t try to go it alone when you don’t need to. Even ‘Batman’ has backup, so why shouldn’t you? 🙂
3. Friends, family and a support network.
Related to this, share with trusted friends and family members and try to build up a support network. You might not like the sound of this at first, but you won’t always be what you might feel is ‘the needy one’. You are strong too and can reciprocate help. Having friends and family involved to supplement the support from professionals, rather than feeling like you are overburdening people who might not have the resources to help, can be a big part of your recovery, and your training on your ‘superhero’ journey 🙂 Just knowing that you have someone who is aware that you might need a bit of encouragement when you both are walking into a crowded room, or going out with friends, or that you might need a bit of extra time as ‘leeway’ when leaving the house to meet them because anxiety can strike when you’re not expecting it, can help build and preserve understanding within these relationships. You might find that they also struggle and that you can be sources of mutual support to each other.
4. Breathe, breathe, breathe!
You and I really need to practice this regularly and stay in training. This is one aspect of becoming resilient that we cannot afford to neglect. Breathing properly is essential for life. It is also essential for quality of life. When we panic, we hyperventilate, we breathe short, shallow breaths, sometimes ‘gulping’ in air, or holding our breath, and we can breathe erratically and too frequently. Everything speeds up! We send our bodies and brains into fight / flight / freeze mode, adrenaline and cortisol go up, we might start pacing up and down, looking for a ‘way out’, sweating, crying or facing a melt down. An inevitable response is that we then have to contend with racing thoughts, mostly negative and self-deprecating, or ‘catastrophising’ about the situation and imagining the worst which means our anxiety goes up rather than coming under control.
This is why breathing properly is so essential. I know, I know, ‘it’s easier said than done’, right? That’s true, but it’s also not as hard as you think. You’ve seen in films how someone panicking might be given a paper bag to breathe into, and gradually the pace and intensity of their breathing calms down. You don’t need a paper bag, but you do need to breathe in a more helpful way. Try this – breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, breathing so that your belly rises on the in breath, hold the breath for 4 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of 5. There are different variations on this for the amount of time, but the main thing to remember is breathe in through the nose, hold, and breathe out through your mouth, allowing your tummy to rise and fall with the in and out breaths, and making sure that you exhale for just a bit longer than you inhale. This helps to regulate the oxygen and carbon dioxide in your system, calms the nervous system and get you out of the ‘fight / flight / freeze’ state into being more in control of your body and mind.
We need to keep practicing this though, daily. Start small, for a few seconds at a time if that’s all you feel you can manage, and then just build from there and keep going – it works wonders! At first I felt frustrated when doctors kept on at me about the breathing when I felt I needed something more to help me, but simplicity is really the key sometimes, and just trust me they know what they’re talking about when they prescribe ‘breathing’ properly as the medicine you need! Sometimes, as the saying goes, the best things in life really are free!!! 🙂
This is a very personal journey, so ask for advice, information and guidance from healthcare professionals. Tell them what your concerns and symptoms are and consider whether taking medicine to help with anxiety, might be a helpful option for you, even if just in the short term to take the edge off things.
6. You are what you think?
Be transformed by renewing your mind. Challenge and intercept your negative thoughts, and grow in understanding of the connective cycle between thoughts, feelings, reactions and actions. You might need help with this at first, but it is essential, and as with breathing, it is a daily and lifelong training we need to maintain. Initially it feels impossible to rise up from the onslaught of negative thoughts incessantly bombarding our minds, and they seldom turn up alone. But if you can address and intercept your thoughts then you can gain mastery over your physical, mental and emotional reactions.
Stay in training even on good days, because if out of the blue anxiety strikes you will be better placed and practiced to talk yourself down into a calmer more rational state of body and mind, as I was this evening when facing a potential ‘meltdown’.
For example, if you have to walk into a room full of people, you might be indulging in negative self-talk such as “I’m so awkward, everyone’s looking at me, I can’t do this, I need to get out of here” etc. This leads to feelings of stress, anxiety, self-consciousness, fear, shame, awkwardness, distress, low self esteem, and so forth. You then might react with a racing heart, hypervigilance, wringing your hands, keeping your head down, avoiding eye contact, clenching your fists, while experiencing symptoms of dizziness, nausea, pain, etc. This leads you to take the actions of walking quickly to where you’re going, avoiding eye contact with others, or seeking an exit (don’t worry, I do this often but I’m working on it, and getting better gradually and you can too) or make excuses to leave. Alternatively, you might have a ‘fight’ reaction and snap at someone, become agitated in your movements, or you might ‘freeze’ like a rabbit startled by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, which is often what anxiety can feel like.
See how powerful a thought is! So, instead, focus on your breathing, arm yourself with new, positive and affirming thoughts such as ‘I can do this’, and keep practicing these and see how much better you come to feel over time. Basically, you need to learn to ‘be your own best friend’ in all of your self-talk and thought processes – it takes a lot of hard work, but we all need to keep at it to see the benefits.
7. Five, four, three, two, one.
A simple and helpful ‘grounding’ technique has been so beneficial to me, so please do try it yourself and keep practicing even on good days to train your mind. Observe 5 things you can see, four things you can hear, three that you can touch, two that you can smell and one that you can taste. This really helps get us out of our own heads, grounds ourselves in reality and helps us feel safe.
8. Brain training
You’ll be amazed at how much your brain is capable of when you put in the work to take care of your mental health. Brain training is a good and enjoyable way to start, and this might take the form of puzzles, cross words, card games, mind challenges, riddles, touch typing, learning a new language or skill, etc.
9. Exercise and Nutrition
Just as we need to exercise our brains for health and well being, physical exercise, even starting small at first for 5 minutes a day if you are not used to it can boost our endorphins, our ‘happy hormones’, lift our mood, help our bodies, brains and nervous systems and regulate our emotions, while fuelling ourselves with healthy and nutritious foods and water can boost our mood and also help us feel calmer and more balanced.
10. Sleep – Zzzzzzzz!
Good sleep is something I struggle with and have to keep working on. Often I feel anxious before going to bed and can’t settle, or my sleep might be interrupted. I need to work on this, we all do, but little by little, step by step we can make improvements so that we can reap the healing benefits of sleep and rest. Even if we can’t sleep, we can practice stilling our minds, and disconnecting from the overload of online information and chatter, so that we are in a more restful and rejuvenating state.
So that’s my top 10 for now. No one said it is going to be easy, but you and I deserve a better quality of life than we have with anxiety, and it is possible…we are superheroes afterall! 🙂 x
Life in the adult world can be stressful at times. Goodness, life as a teenager and even as a child can be filled with challenges, depending on one’s circumstances and disposition. Today, however, I had the good pleasure of spending the afternoon with my little God-daughter, and my friend who is her mum who I have known since university days before her two children were born. We were belatedly celebrating her 10th birthday at the same place I took her to the previous year. Her choice, so I know she liked it.
Last month she had her birthday celebrations with friends and family, and today I got to celebrate with her, and be reminded to smile at all of the things a happy child has going on in her little world.
As adults our problems come and go, we stress and worry, we make big decisions. But today, this little one’s decisions featured around whether to choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream (in the end, she went for a scoop of both, in a big wafer cone, and couldn’t finish it although it clearly tasted amazing!); how to wipe all of the ice cream off her face; which toy, toys or outfit to buy with her £20.00 that she brought with her; and best of all hoping for things to work out as she desired – think of what our hopes are as adults, what do we really want to happen, and then contrast it with this little girl’s hopes for the day – she hoped and hoped that it would rain! Not because there is any shortage of rain here, it rains frequently…too frequently most would say – but because one of her birthday presents that she brought with her on today’s outing was an ‘umbrella hat’…basically this is the top of an umbrella (multicoloured of course! think rainbow, or ‘Skittles’, a different colour in each ‘segment’), with an elastic headband attached, and just the right size to fit over a child’s head! 🙂 It did rain, and it was splendid. She wore her little umbrella hat with pride, and when we were indoors again she didn’t take it off until absolutely necessary, and she didn’t have a care in the world about what anyone else might think, as she was oblivious to that notion – for her the hat was just what everyone needed, and she was the only little girl around, and the only person around who was wearing one!
Imagine for a moment living life that way. Enjoying the ice-cream, spending a long time playing with toys in a big toy shop, unable to decide what to buy, and in the end not buying anything from the shop at all, of hoping that it will rain so that you can wear your one of a kind rainbow umbrella hat! Yes, I know, life isn’t that simple for us adults, but don’t you think that sometimes we make it far too complicated for our own good?
Why don’t we think of our favourite things more often, things that don’t cost the earth, that don’t have to be worthy of taking pictures of, but just to enjoy those simple, fun and happy things that for a child make life worth living? Today might be a good day to try out that umbrella hat for yourself, or to enjoy the ice-cream and not worry about getting chocolate on your face! Keep smiling 🙂 x
‘Google’ tells me that today is ‘Teachers’ Day’. I did not know this when I learned a lesson yesterday evening about being teachable myself.
Firstly, I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all of you out there who are teachers of any kind, whether that be in a formal school / educational system for children or adults, those who are older siblings who have committed to helping your younger brothers or sisters to learning something, parents, youth group workers, leaders, instructors, mentors, support workers, lecturers, workshop leaders, or even I guess, bloggers who are committed to sharing knowledge and life lessons. Thank you for taking the time to use what you have learned to invest in another person for their growth and benefit in life.
Good teachers and bad teachers:
I’m sure we all have memories of people in our lives who have taught (or tried to teach) us something and who have left an impression upon us for good or bad. I can think of certain occasions in my school life when I was quite little when the impact of a particular teacher had a positive influence – they left me feeling encouraged, appreciated, valued, and gave me a desire to continue to work well or to do even better. I remember throughout the years being particularly good at some subjects, but lacking confidence in others. I had a variety of violin teachers throughout primary (elementary) school some of whom saw my lack of confidence and continued to teach me with patience and respect. Others, sadly left me feeling a bit scared and demoralised and not good enough.
In secondary / high school I was good at most subjects, but I excelled in English and got good grades in other subjects such as the sciences and maths, however, these did not come with the poise and confidence I had in English studies, and instead it took a lot of hard work, time, quite a few tears, stress, anxiety and struggle. It stands out to me that in my chemistry class one year I really found it tough, and it was mainly to do with the teacher – I felt victimised (whether I was or not I’m not entirely sure), and a lot of people felt the negative attitude from the teacher too. He even admitted to us that he never wanted to be a teacher, he was in the oil or research industry or something like that and had to go into teaching for a more normal family life I think with his wife and kids. It showed that he never liked to teach us, and as a result I thought I was ‘rubbish’ at chemistry and I thought I hated it.
I had a revelation the following year when a new teacher taught the class – he was great, encouraging, friendly and helpful. Things started to make sense and I realised I actually really liked learning this subject now and I could be good at it, at least at that level. It’s a bit of a shame that I didn’t realise that sooner, but I’m glad for the opportunity to have a better teacher for the last year that I studied the subject before choosing what I’d focus on later in school (not chemistry!).
Maybe it’s something we all need to reflect upon –
When we think we’re not good at something, it’s worth reflecting upon and challenging any negative input from others that we may have received and internalised as being ‘true’ or ‘fact’, when in actuality it isn’t the case. We are smart, we have potential, and we can try again.
Very importantly, we need to reflect upon the people we teach in our lives, especially vulnerable adults and younger people and children. Do we ever let our frustrations or lack of patience impact them? Maybe we risk leaving emotional and mental scars if we don’t take responsibility for how we teach – these are people after all, that are valuable and incredible.
Are there ways we can actively improve upon both learning and teaching in our own lives, or can we challenge someone in a respectful way who may be damaging a child by not teaching them in a constructive way, but trying to ‘bully’ them into learning? We all need to remember that we start not knowing very much at all, so be patient….with others and ourselves.
A lesson in being teachable:
And so, I come to the point I started with – the lesson in being teachable myself. It was a lesson of the heart. I had asked a few close friends to dinner as it’s my birthday this month. Not to celebrate my birthday as such as I don’t want to make it all about me, and don’t want my friends to feel obliged to do anything. One of these friends, a guy (and guys I guess don’t really understand girls) said they’d bring a friend along who is a mutual friend of two of our group. I don’t know this person to talk to but I know who they are. I said, ‘yeah, that’s fine’, but inwardly I kind’ve felt well I want to be with people I know and who know me and care about me on this occasion, not someone who is more of a stranger, however nice they may be. So I went home and prayed about it. I realise that I hear most from God when I am quiet before Him and take the time to really listen. I also admit that I don’t do this as much as I should, as I spend more time expressing my own thoughts. I really need to grow in this area, I know. However, I listened, and God as He does gently and lovingly challenged me with prompting me to reflect upon my motives and to think about His heart. If He were to have a banquet or a dinner or any occasion, who would He invite? As I reflected upon the life of Jesus, I realised His Arms are open to all, and He showed this on the cross. The gentle rebuke and lesson is what I needed to realise that I was in fact thinking more of myself and my ‘needs’ and comfort zone than of being Christlike, of loving in a way that honours Him – something which I’m wholly inadequate to do on my own. He walked me through this in a deeper way as He spoke to me about His Heart and His Kingdom and purposes. I am realising the need for me to humble myself and to choose to be teachable and remain teachable because the answer to the question I had about what to do or how to think about the situation does not lie in reflecting upon my own needs, but on humbling myself to receive His love and truth, that of the Perfect Teacher. If I love Him, I will do what He says, but that means yielding my hard, self-protective, self-interested heart to trust Him, to allow His love and grace to forgive and change me, and to let Him transform me more and more into His likeness, to have a heart that pleases Him.
Are we willing to be teachable, and what does this mean?
Sometimes being teachable means admitting that we have blind spots, that there are things we don’t know or understand yet, and that we need to be quiet and willing to learn from someone wiser than us. However, being teachable as my lesson from yesterday reminds me, isn’t just a matter in terms of knowledge, academic or professional learning, proficiency in a skill, talent, musical instrument, art-form, sport, or such like. It is much more to do with our character, our attitudes, our values, our respect for others, and our heart. Do we realise that there are far more noble ideals at play when we teach and / or learn? Do we realise that being teachable says so much about being human? Being teachable applies to teachers as well as students, for the process of teaching will reveal so much about a teacher’s heart and motives and character as well. Are we willing to humble ourselves and admit that we may be wrong, ignorant, ‘blind’ or hard hearted? And are we willing to yield to the Source of all sources, to learn the purest life lessons that there ever can be to be learned?
What are your thoughts and experiences? Please feel free to share with others here, or if not, reflect upon them for yourself. x