It’s summer time, and while many people are going on adventures near and far, you may find that you aren’t in a position to get away somewhere for whatever reason. But sometimes what we really need is just some time out of the normal busy routine of working life to take a break and recharge. I haven’t had the chance to travel abroad this year so far, and although I love to travel, I also see time spent closer to home as valuable. I have the next week off work, and am enjoying the chance to ‘destress’, live at a slower pace, reconnect with God, and invest in those relationships that are important with people I no longer see as regularly as I once did. And this in itself is its own form of rejuvenation. I find that mid-year, and we’ve now passed the mid point of 2019, is a good time to stop and reflect on not only our achievements, or areas for improvement, but also how closely we are living to our priorities and what is most meaningful to us. Too often, we feel we need to ‘tick the biggest boxes’ whereas perhaps the slow and steady changes and investments of our time, energy, heart and mind are what matter most in the long run.
So if you do find yourself at home this summer, make the most of it. Maybe you have time off, or maybe you could take a day here or there to extend a weekend, and take some time to rest and reflect and envision where you want to go from here.
I have enjoyed the time to catch up on my sleep, to pray and spend time with God and in His Word, to see a close friend and meet her first baby for the first time, to simply sit in the sun, to exercise, to eat healthily, to play my violin and take photographs, to fellowship at church, and I hope in the next few days to visit family, and then some good friends so I guess those aren’t quite ‘vacations’ as such, but mini trips to visit loved ones. I know that all too soon I’ll be back at work, which is why it’s important to make the most of looking after myself and doing things that are meaningful in the interim, but without the stress and pressure that regular life lived ‘according to the clock’ often entails.
Another thing you could do if you can’t get away is to plan a ‘staycation’…maybe rent out a place for a change of scene for a day/night and have a mini retreat. Take time to listen to understand your thoughts and know that the time you have right here and now is precious. xx
How would you like to try a simple and relatively easy creative writing exercise to get your writing flowing? I thought of this the other day, and had fun with it over the course of a Monday to Friday one week. It is really simple, the aim is to write a ‘Shortshort–story’, yet it can really be any piece of prose. Don’t worry about the standard and quality of your writing if you think that doing so will inhibit you. You can come back to that later for editing or revision, or you can simply do the exercise in and for itself to fire up your imagination stations! 🙂
To write the ‘Short short-story’, which I have entitled “Windows”, I simply wrote a paragraph each day, Monday to Friday, and here’s what transpired. Maybe you will contemplate certain situations in your own life, or imagine something, and choose a topic or theme of your own so that you can try out this creative writing exercise. In the meantime, take a look if you like through some….
Penelope gazed out of the window at the greying clouds. ‘What had happened to the blue skies and sunshine from earlier in the day?’ she wondered. Rain pitter-pattered on the glass and Penelope in unison drummed her fingers on her desk. It was another day in the office for Penelope, however, it had been far from another “ordinary” day. No, in fact, for Penelope it had been a very, very extraordinary day indeed!
Tuesday morning blue skies and a drizzle of sunshine. Marcus and Lucy turned the sign that hung on the glass panelled door of their shop to let the world outside know that they were ‘OPEN’. Finally their hopes and dreams were falling into place. Closed was the door to their corporate lives in a world that they had now left behind. It was a brave move and one they had never anticipated taking when they first started out in their careers as young, ambitious, driven professionals. However, now childless and in their early forties, and with money in the bank, it was time for a new chapter. And as the door to the old closed, a window to new opportunities opened. First came the grand disembarkation from their fast-paced corporate lives, followed by a few months of travel, then focussed time setting up their long dreamed of business. Now the way was open, and Marcus and Lucy were more than ready for their new life and new adventures to begin.
Peter tapped his biro against the clipboard, and gazed absentmindedly at his notes. He brushed back his unruly dark, yet speckled and greying hair from his face. The breeze from the slightly open window of his office rustled the bottom edges of his papers. He pressed his thumbs down upon the bottom edge of the uppermost page to keep the pages from lifting in the breeze. Despite the inconvenience, the breeze was welcome as Peter sat with the sun beating in upon him. The breeze served also as a reminder to him of how fortunate he was. He had opened the window a little earlier for the sake of the young lady who had sat in the room with him. His client. Her traumatic symptoms were resurfacing during their session, and the breeze from the open window served as a gentle reminder that she was here, drawing her back into the present. Peter jotted down some final observations before drawing a line under his work for the day. It was time to finalise his work, to pack up, close the window and finish for the day. As usual, he slowly, yet deliberately, left his wonderings and concerns about his clients firmly in the office before heading home to his young family, and his own happy life.
Trish sipped on her hot ginger tea, feeling calmed by the aroma and the warm and soothing sensation on her throat. She noticed a gentle hint of cinnamon too, softening the spice of the sweet ginger. Lisa returned to the table with her frothy topped coffee and sat opposite her friend. Together they leafed through the photograph album from Lisa’s recent wedding. A stylish lady following her tiny dog on its lead caught Trish’s eye. She was glad that Lisa had chosen a window-side table in the coffee shop. Trish felt less anxious sitting there, able periodically to glance away and watch the world go by, rather than sitting in the centre of the coffee shop, only to feel watched by the other customers there. It also served as a temporary mental and emotional “getaway” for her, as Lisa, caught up in her own enthusiasm and excitement of where her life was right now, absentmindedly, yet carelessly, disregarded her friends feelings as she celebrated her own.
On Friday, Emily wore her favourite scarf to work. A gentle yellow, silky affair, with a light and tasteful scattering of gold sequins that sparkled and glistened when they caught and reflected the sunlight. For Emily, without any particular known reason, as far as she was aware at least, yellow was a colour she associated with Mondays. She wasn’t entirely sure why, as she didn’t feel particularly bright on a Monday, and never actually intentionally wore yellow on a Monday either. However, this Friday she felt drawn to wear this yellow scarf, and so she did. She hadn’t worn it for a long time, and it drew many compliments towards her that day. She enjoyed the simplicity of the happiness that it brought her as it sparkled in the sun streaming through the office window, catching the sequins and brightening her heart.
It’s a challenging one, isn’t it? At least it can be. We have ideas of how we’d like our lives to be, we see images of that ideal we think we should be working toward. And yet…sometimes we really are just muddling through and trying to deal with each daily challenge as it comes to us. Maybe you’ve experienced burn out. And if you have, maybe you’re more conscious of the need for self care and learning to look after yourself and being attentive not only to the needs of others but also to your own, even if this way of thinking takes some getting used to.
But even if you’re someone who never has and maybe fortunately you never will experience burnout as such, you are still faced with that ‘low level’ just beneath the surface feeling that things are running away from you, getting out of order, are not quite right. And in this case I’m not talking about when something major is happening in your life, but when things are mostly fine, ‘normal’, moving along as they should in the ordinary ways of life.
But maybe you notice that you’re not feeling just ‘quite right’. It’s not that you feel bad, it’s just that you don’t feel so good. Tiredness creeps up, you’re managing the expectations of others, your boss rewards your efforts for a job well done by piling up even more work on your desk because afterall, you’re the one who will do it well and without much fuss. You offered to do a favour for someone in need, but they maybe seem to take it for granted, and while you would normally love to be a ‘cheerful giver’ with the expectations of nothing in return, you notice that you begin to get frustrated, your attitude isn’t quite what it should be, and your energy levels are low. There are demands on your time, you seem to be saying yes to everyone else which means saying no to yourself as you just don’t have the time, energy or emotional capacity to manage everything.
Most of us just push on through. But if we’re not careful, things begin to build up within us, and we know we’re not quite ok, but we don’t know how to ‘shake off’ those feelings. Sometimes just stopping and acknowledging that we need to check in with ourselves as we would with a friend, or even a child, to make sure they’re ok, is the best place to start even if we don’t actually know ‘what’s wrong’ or how to resolve things.
Slowing down, learning to tune in to our own hearts and minds, and committing to strengthening and encouraging ourselves before we take on the next commitment that is about to be given to us whether we are ready for it or not, is so important.
Maybe we don’t know what the next step to feeling more like our best self should be but stopping for a moment to be still awhile, is a good place to start…
There’s a little foxy friend that comes to my parents’ garden- a night watchman / ‘fox man’ that comes and turns on the security lights in their garden, by activating the motion sensor. It’s lovely to get the chance to visit family, but also a treat to see some furry little fox friends 🙂
Before the day begins, and by that I mean before you start ‘doing’ all the things you usually do in the day, before you get going and are off and on your way, stop.
What is one of the first things many people do in the morning after settling in and beginning to get ready? People these days go online. It’s 7.38am and I’ve been up since 5.50am (this night owl’s attempts to become more of a morning person are beginning to bring forth some fruit, albeit gradually 🙂 ) and I spent the first hour and a half or so offline, in this beautiful little analogue world 🙂
I encourage you to take some time before ‘switching on’ to the busy, noisy world around you and the online world, as inspiring as it can be, to wait, to breathe in this morning, your own morning, and connect with your own life. How did I spend my time? In prayer, in writing down my thoughts as they came to me, thanking God, gratitude, a little bit of colouring in my yearly planner and a picture I’m working on, drinking tea and eating breakfast without distraction. I feel all the better for it. To be honest my mood wasn’t the best at the start but spending some time just connecting with my own life without comparison has lifted me. I now feel more motivated to continue with my day – prayer, Bible study, exercise, work, and all that the day holds for me. Even if you have just five or ten minutes to spare at first, just take that time, to switch on internally before you switch on any devices. It will help you embrace the day with greater authenticity and inspiration. Be blessed. x
Challenge: What would you do with that ‘analogue time’ in the morning?
Do you ever ask yourself, “Why am I single?”. I’m sure it’s not an uncommon question for those of us who are, and I imagine for most single people, it is followed with thoughts such as “What’s wrong with me?” “Am I not good enough?”, and similar feelings of self doubt.
But what if we were to ask ourselves that question with a positive frame of mind? Ask “Why am I single?” not to explore your self doubt or worry over what you think are your flaws and shortcomings, but to identify and discover and live out your PURPOSE.
I know it’s not easy, because our thoughts directly impact our emotional wellbeing and can in turn lead to negative physical effects. A negative thought seldom appears alone, and after a string of negative thoughts about ourselves, we might end up feeling sad, lonely, dejected and even depressed. Which is why it is so important that we learn to reframe our thought processes, especially in a society that has limited views of success, that don’t always include celebrating the lives, kindness and accomplishments of single people.
So, think about it this way. Why are you single? Why are you set apart (not set aside) for this season of your life, and what positive difference does the world and do the people around you need you to make, that only you alone can make?
Working in an office, a factory, on site, or even potentially from a home office depending on how you have set things up, can leave you feeling a bit detached and disconnected from the beauty of life, if you’re not careful.
I think one of the most uplifting and refreshing things in life is to be in the midst of nature. There is something about the slow, steady, seasonal and gentle pace of watching life grow that helps take us out of the frenzied hurry we often let ourselves be drawn into.
This lunchtime, I walked 3 times around my building, as it is a lovely sunny day with blue skies which can be a rare occurrence here. I sometimes go to the park, but it is a longer walk, and I have to cross traffic, etc. to get there. However, even though I didn’t get to the park, there are trees nearby, and some greenery edging the circumference of our office building area. Maybe not a lot, but enough to contribute to the satisfaction and peace that feeling more connected with nature, even just a little more, can bring.
Maybe you are in a busy central location and don’t have much greenery nearby. Maybe you work in an industrial, built up area, where everything seems to be “bricks and windows, windows and bricks” in the words of Willy Lowman (‘Death of a Salesman’ – Arthur Miller). That doesn’t mean you can’t introduce some indoor plants to your work space, maybe some succulents that are low maintenance – I keep meaning to find a cactus and give it a little home on my desk at work. These small changes can be good for us over time, and bring little bursts of happiness into our day, leaving us feeling even just that little more connected with that beautiful, natural and peaceful way of life that being near nature, and greenery brings.