Sometimes although it may seem easier in the moment to say ‘yes’ to people, it is actually kinder and healthier to say ‘no’ – know your boundaries and don’t feel bad for looking after yourself, for it will help others in the longer term too, even if that involves temporary disappointment.
As I often say, life happens in seasons. There is a natural ebb and flow to our daily lives, just as there is to the oceans, and just as in nature things take time to blossom and bloom and grow so too do the happenings of our lives.
In our working lives things can be similar. Most of us will be familiar with the hectic and busy spells when it seems we just don’t have enough time to get everything done. Sometimes we have a good balance between being busy and productive such that we are able to efficiently handle all of our tasks without becoming overwhelmed or overburdened.
At other times, when we are neither ‘run off our feet’ nor at a satisfying level of productivity, we find that we may be in a ‘lull’ while in the midst of things. Not in the middle of being busy, not in the middle of chaos or activity, but just in the midst of things while waiting for the next stage to unfold.
Casework can bring a regular and predictable dose of activity whereas larger and longer term projects can occur in ‘fits and starts’. At times the work is non-stop, while at others there is a process of waiting. Waiting, perhaps for information or actions from other people, departments or parts of the process. Waiting for development in certain areas. Waiting for a number of reasons.
Being busy all the time doesn’t necessarily equate with being productive. During the ‘lull’ periods we may actually have the opportunity for deeper and strategic thinking, planning and preparation. We may be tempted to ‘fill our time’ and we may risk doing so unnecessarily.
As with work, projects and plans, life also sometimes has its ‘lull’ periods.
We probably rarely appreciate them. So many of us are creatures of activity, of habit, of getting things done. And yet when we find that we have ‘too much on our plates’, too much to do and not enough time we wish that we were ‘in the midst of things’ with some time to catch our breaths, to think and reflect, to pause if not to stop.
Are you ‘in the midst of things’ in your life just now? Are you waiting for the next thing to happen or come your way so that you can keep busy? Don’t waste this season, this natural lull, this pause. Think of it like a ‘rest’ in music. It is but for a moment, and sometimes the silence can be as profound as the sound. Notes will fly your way again, soon enough, perhaps all too soon, and you will naturally anticipate the next rest, the next pause, the next brief moment of silence.
When we are in the midst of things what do we do?
Are you living in a quiet spell in your life just now, longing for something to happen but not knowing how to make it so? Does if feel that life has somehow naturally slowed and that you are being brought to a place of pause? So many things can make us feel this way. Times in our lives where we are not able to fill up our time with activity. Perhaps you are a parent of adult children who have recently ‘flown the nest’ and you are in the midst of things waiting for the next but not quite yet and your home and heart is filled with silence and aching. Perhaps you are working on a project and you can’t move on to the next stage of it until you receive input from other parties to do their bit, because after all it is all connected. You chase things up, you plan what you can, but right now at this moment in time, you simply have to bide your time. You could choose to fill up your time with other things but it would mean doing so because of the need to feel busy rather than because it is the most efficient or effective thing to do. Maybe you are between jobs, and although you diligently search and apply for jobs as I once did you can’t force the process or make that big break happen just because you want it to – you have to bide your time in the midst of things, use your time wisely and wait. You can’t force one season to change to the next, life doesn’t work that way as much as we sometimes want it to. Maybe you are in a stage of your life where you know what the next milestone is that you want to reach but you can’t make it happen. Sure, there may be things you can try and you can do, but you can’t make things turn out just as you want them, you can only persevere and do what you can do and hope and wait. Are you waiting for a life partner? You can try to meet people, but you can’t force the hands of fate. Are you setting up your own business? There are many things you can be doing but there are times of waiting too until things take their shape. Are you in recovery and working on your health? Are you laid up in hospital or on a sick bed knowing that the process of healing will take time and you simply cannot do all the things you want to do….at least not yet? Are you preparing to move country and start a new life, but you have to go through the process of paper work and various formalities and while you have done everything you can you just need to wait for the response, the go-ahead, the ‘green light’?
Life is full of ‘in between’ seasons. Times when we are ‘in the midst of things’ and waiting for things to really get going again. That’s ok. You can’t force a bud to blossom and bloom and grow. It will happen naturally. And at times in our lives we can work hard and do everything that we can do, but we can’t push one season of life into the next. Sometimes, we just have to be in the midst of things. Waiting to sell a house, waiting for a baby to be born, preparing for the next stage of a project, abiding in the silence of your ’empty nest’ when your chicks have flown, waiting for that prayer to be answered.
Are you in such a place? Can you learn to be? And if we must do something, what can we do?
In the silence of an empty nest, can you invest in yourself?
In the pause between one stage of a work project and the next, can you educate yourself, seek out training, develop your skills, research what others are doing so that when the time comes to progress to the next stage you will be better equipped?
Are you wondering about that ‘next season’ of life? Can you find ways to make the most of the one you are in? Even if that means slowing down to savour and enjoy and appreciate it? Maybe what you really need is the quiet space and time to process some deep thoughts, to reflect on what you’ve been learning, and what you might need to think about in the next stage of your journey.
When you are in the midst of things, it may seem like a time of undue quiet, but it can in fact be a place of deep growth. What will you do in the midst of things today?
You may look at life and people through eyes filled with compassion, love, grace, care, kindness and helpfulness. This might be so natural to you, or something you have worked hard on developing, with the gifts of grace and mercy at work in your life to bring you there, that you don’t necessarily expect that other people who are close to you have other more selfish motives.
Of course, you can easily spot the negative characteristics in people whom you don’t wish to associate too closely with, even though you know that there are many and complex aspects to each person with everyone having a mix of positive and negative traits including ourselves- but you don’t allow people who are overtly rude, unkind, selfish, manipulative or cold into your inner circle. Because after all, you’re a good judge of character, right?
It can be harder to see negative characteristics in the people we let closest to us, because for the most part we think that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and that our friends have similar values to us.
And they may well do, for the most part. They may share the broad brushstrokes of similar ideas generally of overall life values, how to treat other people, and what it means to be a good friend. Or we may be choosing to see them in that way.
But sometimes true colours on a canvas begin to show through over time, and we gloss over them. Things arise that we feel not so comfortable with, but we know that we too have our flaws and we try to be the best friend that we can be. We see the way someone relates to and treats other friends or mutual connections and we think that there is a problem in their specific situation and we try to show understanding, empathy, kindness and to give a listening ear. But then, we realise that our friend has treated other friends in a way that simply doesn’t match with our values, in a way that that other friend or those other friends don’t deserve because they’re simply lovely people, and we try to make sense of it, to understand the things that might be going on under the surface, and we think that because we are closer that of course they wouldn’t treat us that way, but the warning bells have already started ringing, and somewhere deeper down a trust has been damaged, as our instincts tell us that the person we consider to be similar to us, actually treats other people in a way that harms them – are they unaware of it, do they not realise their behaviour is selfish and damaging, or maybe they have some wounds and issues to sort out, do they just take the easier way out when they feel that things get tricky, regardless of whether or not it is the right way to behave? We try to be understanding, to give our friends the benefit of the doubt, and maybe we ignore our instincts and those warning signals because we want to think and believe the best of people.
We don’t want to believe that our friends are using people for their own convenience, for when things suit them. We want to believe they are deeper, warmer, and more compassionate than they are. We don’t want to see the true colours that are beginning to come through, we may not try to change them but we change the evidence that we are beginning to see to fall in line with a more loving, caring version of the person we’ve created in our minds. We all have flaws. But then there are points when someone shows themselves to have deeper rooted characteristics that don’t fit with our values, and we try to excuse them or tell ourselves it’s because of this or that reason, and be graceful towards that person. Who wants to honestly conclude that someone they had given time, care, love, a listening ear and understanding to is actually colder than we thought, more selfish in their motives and perhaps has even been using us, whether intentionally or not, for their own convenience? Sometimes we don’t let ourselves see true colours until it is too late, and they have been as narrowly focused and self focused in their treatment of us as they have to others. The warning signs were there, but we didn’t want to pay heed to them, and so we live with the lessons. We learn that we are people who care, but not everyone does….some people care when it is convenient to them to do so, and I suppose that’s ok, so long as we are willing to continue being people who are genuine, caring, look out for other people’s interests as well as our own, seek to communicate for the benefit of other people, and ensure that we don’t use other people for our own selfish gain as we have been used. And the deeper lesson if you find yourself in such a situation is that you can’t change people. You can’t change someone’s true colours, it’s not within your gift to do so. You can pray for them, for them to perhaps realise that their patterns of behaviour damage others, and perhaps they don’t care too much about that, but you can pray for other people to be protected, and you can seek to become a better person, more noble in character for the good of others.
You could try to change people, you could try because the idea of them was different to the reality, but it wouldn’t be worth your efforts and time, because just as others can’t change you, you can’t change them. But you do have immense power to work on yourself, to seek to be kinder, more understanding, more compassionate, more giving, loving and caring, looking out for others and not just ourselves, so that the lessons we learn don’t bring negativity but actually make our world and the lives of those around us a much more vibrant, colourful, Truthful, genuine, loving, honest and caring place. x
I’ve been writing a lot about the autumn and winter seasons in my ‘Winter Survival Guide’ series (in which there is more to come, you’ll hopefully be pleased to hear, as a lot of you seem to be enjoying this). I’ve touched upon how the changing of the seasons can reflect aspects of our lives that in their time either fall away from us or we let go of.
One theme and aspect of life I’d like to write a little more about in this post, as it applies to my life right now, is that of Friendship.
Friendships teach us about ourselves:
Friendships come in different forms and at different times of our lives, for different seasons and reasons. Although I’ve entitled this post ‘Fair-weather Friends & Friends For Life…’, I know that life isn’t as straightforward as this proverbial dichotomy.
Friendships and our friends as well as ourselves can be complicated, intricate and not easy to define.
However, if we are present, we will always learn a lot from our friendships, including learning more about ourselves and how we relate to other people, although at times we may have ‘blind spots’ as regards the patterns of our own thinking and behaviours, and our friends will have their own ‘blind spots’ too.
An unknown journey:
I don’t entirely know what shape this post will end up taking, what ‘conclusions’ I will reach and have to share with you, and in a sense as we embark upon new friendships or relationships we also are exploring the unknown, unfamiliar, and inconclusive.
We share life with a range of people, and although people are far too unique and special to categorise, we do often clearly have ‘types’ of interactions. These may change over time, and we may become closer or more distant from people, and this is all part of the learning curve, as well as the ebb and flow of life.
In my life right now I can say that in terms of people in my life, I have my immediate family, close friends, friends who are not as close, acquaintances, people I interact with on a regular basis but might not know as well such as work colleagues, people who serve lunch in the canteen, the concierge in my building, and people who I see at work but don’t know by name. Some of these relationships overlap or change over time. For example, I have a couple of colleagues at work who are also close friends. I have worked with people who I once didn’t know but who I became friends with, who I now consider close and lifelong friends but who I no longer work with because they have changed jobs, retired (I have good friends of all different ages), or moved on to another stage of life, but who I keep in touch with, and they with me, and we love spending time together when we can. I have friends I hardly see, but who remain some of my closest friends, and we maintain a bond, and we contact as and when we can even if that’s not face to face. One of these friends has moved thousands of miles away to Cambodia, but we still consider each other to be close friends and love each other as ‘sisters’ and for the maybe ten years now she’s been living abroad we’ve managed to maintain a friendship even with her getting married and being in a different stage of life as me.
I have friends who I met when we shared a similar stage of life. I have friends who I met and we didn’t have all that much in common. I have friends who once shared a similar stage of life but now are in a completely different life stage. We have maintained our friendships, our bonds and although many of these friends have different circumstances to me, such as being married, becoming parents, having moved abroad, and so forth, or being of a different generation as I have friends that are the same age, older and younger, we still remain close and interested in each others lives as different as they are now.
This is both a blessing and a skill to nurture, invest in, grow and maintain good relationships and friendships. I have learned that not only am I blessed with good friends but I also am a great friend to have – someone who is loyal, kind, caring, compassionate, who will listen, who will give time and genuine care to others and who can organise some pretty awesome presents too 😉
The reason I speak of the above is because the distance we experience in friendships (growing apart, drifting apart, losing interest or losing touch) isn’t necessarily caused by a physical distance such as moving away, a distance in life stage, such as embarking upon a new season of life, or an emotional distance such as going through different things (true friends are there for each other through the tears and the joys of life).
As I mentioned previously, I have maintained close friendships with people who now live thousands of miles away. Because we care about each other.
I have close friends who like me are single and have our own places and work in the city and share our Faith.
Yet, I also have close friends who are in completely different life stages – they may be married, have kids, be retired, be atheist and have completely different beliefs, and who have completely different lifestyles.
We care about each other, we connect, and we make it work.
Distance is a choice, it is not a length of space or time:
Although our friendships with people may change over time, we may not be able to keep in as frequent contact as we once did, we may not know all the ins and outs of each others lives, we are still there for each other in the background. I’m thankful that even though friends may be thousands of miles away or we may be miles apart in terms of our life circumstances, I’m blessed that we’ve managed to stay close. I know it’s not as easy for everyone, and people make different efforts to stay in touch. Sometimes people let things drift, sometimes we do too, it can be part of the natural ebb and flow of life just as the changing of the seasons.
However, distance, I believe is a choice. When someone decides to cut us out of their lives that is a choice. There are people in our lives that are ‘toxic’ and it may be necessary to create distance or cut them out. But in this article, I’m not talking about such people who drag us down, I’m talking about genuine people, real friends, people like me and hopefully like you who build other people up.
What about when people cut us out? People to whom we were genuine friends?
One of the things friendship has taught me recently is that some seemingly genuine friends are actually ‘fair-weather’ friends. A certain person a few years ago sought out friendship with me, we were a blessing and encouragement in each others lives and I poured kindness and encouragement into this person’s life. I believed we had a genuine friendship, and although it was a real mutual blessing, I now realise that the person looked upon it in a ‘utilitarian’ way. Whereas some people need time and space as they go into new life stages, others choose to cut you out. That’s ok, but it brings about a real life lesson. As nice as they may be, the person was being utilitarian – it was a friendship that they valued so long as it suited them. When it no longer suits them, they drop you. We all move on, but some people can’t see their selfishness in how they treat people, as kind as they may be or seem, they are ultimately looking out for their needs to be met, and they consider their needs the most important thing.
Friends may seem genuine even for a number of years, but in due season, they prove to you what you perhaps had no idea about, that they are ‘fair-weather’ friends. They only want the friendship so long as it suits them. I know I’m a kind, loving, genuine person and have been told I have a high emotional intelligence, am good at giving people space as well as being a source of comfort and listening. If people ‘drop’ you and you’re such a friend, and in no ways are a ‘toxic’ person, then know that there is a life lesson for you – it is far better to have the realisation than to continue on, and be used for someone else’s convenience.
Learn the life lessons, let things go, and soar off into a beautiful future, nurturing, cherishing, and being a mutual blessing to your true, life-long, friends to whom distance in space or life stage doesn’t even factor in to whether or not you will care about and be there for each other.
Be blessed, and be a true and genuine friend. x
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!
This verse has been silently running through my mind for the past wee while. I have often thought about it in time of need, and it has been a challenge to me personally when I have been going through difficult times. The verse is from the Bible from the letter, entitled ‘Romans’ in the New Testament (Romans 12:15), from the apostle Paul to the believers in Rome. Paul was writing this while he was in prison, and the incredible thing is that even while he was bound and in chains he knew a deeper freedom than most of us know in this life. His freedom in Christ. However, even if you are not a Christian, I think this verse has something for all of us to reflect upon through the changing seasons of life.
It’s a tiny phrase, but it says so much. Don’t you think? “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn”.
I’m not entirely sure why this has been in my mind recently, however, I think it probably has much to do with seeing the contrasting seasons that some of my friends are in. Whereas previously, in earlier days, I would have been thinking of this from a more challenging place of mind and heart, when I was suffering and my friends were going through really happy times, times of joy, love and fulfilment of dreams, now I am looking at it from a different standpoint in terms of my season of life. I’m kind of ‘in the middle’ of things in terms of circumstances and wellbeing if I were to consider my experience in comparison with what some of my friends are going through. Some are rejoicing, and others are mourning. And at the moment, for the first time in a long while, despite the ups and downs of life, and as yet unfulfilled dreams, questions about the future as time passes, I’m actually doing just fine right now and making the most of things.
I have a friend who recently lost her mother. I have another friend who is overjoyed and loving life as a new mum after her season of wondering whether it would ever happen for her. I have friends who had wonderful seasons of joy, and the blossoming of marriage in their early 20’s, only to be faced with the painful sting of divorce, which was a surprise and shock to friends who know them and care for them.
I know some people for whom life has been a pretty happy ride ‘merrily down the stream’, just like a dream, as the nursery rhyme tells us. And overall most of us have a mixture of things going on. But there are seasons in life where either we ourselves or those around us could be said to be quite poignantly in seasons of mourning or of rejoicing. Mourning doesn’t necessarily relate only to bereavement. You could think of it also in terms of many of the painful depths of human experience. Mourning could be as vast ranging as the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, struggling to come to terms with your wayward adult children who have made wrong choices in their lives causing distress to those around them, it could be unfair treatment, unfulfilled longings, cruelty inflicted upon you by others, or illness, depression, losing the ability to walk, sing, smile, talk, or remember things or people you once loved.
Seasons of joy are also evident when we see them. Perhaps something broken has been restored. Maybe a fractured friendship or family relationships have been mended, and you feel a joy in contrast to the loss you once felt. Joy restored! Maybe it is characterised by accomplishment, carefree times, births and marriages, or new milestones. Perhaps a business venture or a project or a dream has come to fruition, or perhaps you have learned a new skill or lost some weight, become healthier, got fit, are challenging yourself to try new things, you feel healthy, life is going smoothly and for the most part all is well.
So, how do we relate to the contrasts in the lives of those around us? How do we “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn” as we are encouraged to do?
I don’t think that there is a simple or straightforward answer, as it is a lesson that we must learn and be shaped by throughout our life’s journey on earth. One thing, however, that does really speak to me is that even if we are not sharing an experience with someone else, even if they are rejoicing while we are hurting, even if they are mourning while we are rejoicing, or are just doing alright, even though we don’t necessarily share the same experience, we do all share a common humanity. And we are called to care about each other, to be sensitive to one another, and to consider each others needs.
It can be hard to know how to support a friend when they are in mourning. But we can be with them. Maybe this doesn’t mean that we are with them physically, as that is not always possible, but it does mean that we can consider what they are going through, what they might be feeling, and how we can ease their load at least a little. We can reach out to them and show them the kindness of a friend, we could help them with their practical needs, send them a gift or a card, or if they are open to us we could simply sit there with them in the quietness of their grief, or listen if they want to talk, or hold them as their tears fall….or…..give them space. Maybe if you have gone through a similar experience, or are going through the experience with them, then you will have a better idea how to bring some comfort in that particular situation.
Rejoicing with those who rejoice can be a wonderful thing. We might ourselves be in a place of rejoicing, and life is like one big celebration in this time, but what if we are not? What if we are just doing ok, or muddling along, or struggling with pain or heartache in our own lives? We can choose to rejoice. We can choose to be kind to others, to wish them well, to love them and pray for them, we can choose to celebrate their milestones, even when we are longing for or waiting for our own. We can choose to think kindly of others. We can choose to be the kind of caring and kind person we aspire to be, even when that takes challenge or a ‘sacrifice’ on our parts. That said, it doesn’t mean that you neglect your own wellbeing. Sometimes, it is just hard, nigh impossible to show up for others if you yourself are in a difficult place in life. Be kind to yourself, be gentle, and know that you are choosing to cultivate a mindset of kindness to others…and to yourself. I personally believe that it is only possible to do this fully by the Love of Christ. However, I also know that we each bear the image of the One Who Created us, and that even those who don’t believe in Him, still have a capacity for a deep kindness to others, through our shared humanity.
If you are in a season of rejoicing yourself, try to think of a time when you were not, as long as it is ‘safe’ mentally and emotionally for you to do so. Perhaps there was a time of hardship in your life. Perhaps the thing you are rejoicing about now is something that you were longing for, or waiting for, or heartbroken about in times past. Perhaps your dreams were deferred, your hopes unfulfilled, and maybe you were in a time of sadness. Do you remember the sting of pain that you felt when those around you were rejoicing over the things that were so far off from your own life and experience? Maybe what you are celebrating now, and rejoicing over, is a similar cause of pain to someone else in a season of ‘mourning’. Maybe you can’t see the full extent of what they’re going through, of course you can’t, we can’t. But you can consider them. You can rejoice over your blessings, but you should also be sensitive to others you may unintentionally be hurting. And if you have never had such a negative experience yourself, count yourself blessed, but still try to put yourself in the shoes of others, and think about how they might feel.
Only by showing kindness to ourselves and caring about others can we begin to respect the profundity of what it means to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn”. xx
When I was a little girl, and then as I grew into a teenager, I dreamed of what I would like to be when I grew up. My dreams in terms of my occupation were along the lines of wanting to be an artist, a cartoonist / animator, a writer and illustrator, a journalist, reporter, and an advocate for children’s rights, human rights, animal rights and social justice. For a long time in secondary school I saw myself as becoming a journalist, because of my love of writing, of discovering and sharing such discoveries with the world. My passion for writing never diminished, and I spent my teenage years writing short stories, and doing stints of work experience with a local newspaper, as well as volunteering for NGOs such as the British Red Cross, working on an international message and tracing scheme, race equality charities, Amnesty International and doing projects on the death penalty, Greenpeace and so forth. My mum always saw me as a future news reader, which I can’t quite understand why given that I was an incredibly shy teenager, and not really able to speak up for myself. But I could write! And I could analyse facts, and discover new angles and ways of seeing things. Creativity and analysis are two sides of the same picture that makes me who I am, but whereas I could live with a less analytical aspect to my life, I would probably shrivel up and wither away without being able to express myself creatively. At school we had ‘mock interviews’ with a guidance counsellor / teacher. During my interview, the teacher / ‘interviewer’ asked me what I wanted to be and do in the future. Without hesitation I told her I wanted to be a writer and a journalist. She shot me down, which to be honest, is pretty awful given that she didn’t really know me. She said I could definitely be a writer, but there was no way I would be a journalist because my personality wasn’t bold or confident enough, or something to that effect. At the time it was a real desire for me to go into the field of journalism, and without a second thought the teacher brazenly dismissed my dreams for my future. I forgive her, I understand some people trying to provide youngsters with a good old fashioned dose of realism, but some people I think are in the teaching profession without really having the skills to help nurture young minds and lives. Suffice to say, I didn’t become a journalist. I guess I didn’t really want to in the end, but that was my choice. I went on to study English Literature and Politics in University, aged 17, and then proceeded to study Gender Studies, Human Rights and International Development. I’ve since dipped into online courses in psychology, children’s studies, and continue to pursue my passion for writing. I write fiction, I write blogs, I’ve written about human trafficking as part of my studies, and as part of my job, I’ve written about issues to do with violence against women, equality, racism, disability hate crime, and a variety of more ‘businessy’, corporate, legal and policy type matters, all the while, learning new things as I go. I have also had times in my job where I have had to write more ‘tedious’ and templated things, such as complaint responses and things that I have just had to do, because I was tasked to do it. I suppose in any and every career we face tasks that we like and dislike, things that make us feel more like our true selves, and other things that make us just want to pack up and go home for the day, or better still, leave the country altogether and go on holiday until we can come back to something better!
Yes, I’ve been there, I’m sure we all have. But today, as I sit and write, I think that the little girl I once was would be pleased with where I am today and what I am doing. I think this day may very well be part of her dream. To sit somewhere quiet, with the sun shining in through the windows, and a view of trees, and to be editing a company newsletter, and preparing the articles for the final version. I am working with my friend and colleague who is a designer, and I am doing the ‘wordy’ part of the editing, while he deals with the pictures and images. It is a new task for me at work, because previously we worked more in the confines of our own teams, which meant I was dealing with, at least for the past while, more corporate work, which is fine, but not exactly creatively stimulating. I have a new collaborative project coming up too, which I have been preparing for, I won’t write too much about it at this point, but think audio, internal communications, entertainment….and yes, perhaps something with a journalistic streak to it! This past week at work I have been collating information, writing reports, analysing, and also editing a newsletter, planning a creative project, which will involve interviewing, possibly audio presenting and taking forward with colleagues new internal communications strategies. So, despite it all, despite my several health challenges and struggles over the years, despite this not being quite journalism (which was after all the dream of a teenage me, and not the adult me), I find myself in a happy day, doing things that I love, despite life’s ups and downs, and despite messages to the contrary.
On days like these, especially after times of trials, we really ought to reflect on and appreciate them.
And for all of you out there whose teachers, parents, peers, colleagues, bosses, relatives, or so called ‘friends’ told you that you could ‘never be’ what you dreamed of being, or that you didn’t have what it takes, or weren’t good enough or not being realistic, or whatever negative thing they said about you….by all means hear them out, take on any helpful advice, but take it with a pinch of salt, continue to be who you are born to be, and remember that they don’t have the final edit of your life. 🙂 Be blessed. x
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?
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.
Ditch the stereotypes:
For some reason, society in general views single adults negatively. Romantic relationships have become something of an ‘idol’, a false ‘god’ that we fall down and worship as the ultimate source of happiness, fulfilment, joy and purpose in life. In magazines, television, film, online and among family and friendship groups, falling in love, getting married and having children is viewed as the purpose of life, and if you haven’t ‘achieved’ this in life, you may be looked upon with pity, while other people attempt to ‘fix’ whatever they think is ‘wrong’ with your life by looking for someone to complete you and fill the void in your lonely heart and life.
Don’t get me wrong, I recognise love, marriage and family as an important part of life, and a gift from God, for the purpose of honouring God. Ever since I was a little girl, I saw that as a big part of my life, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t worked out that way so far. And if I allow myself to be honest, I think I am grateful for this. Still hopeful for the future, but grateful for the present. I am very unlikely to idolize marriage in the way many people do. Christ is first in my heart and mind, and I am so thankful for that. I am more aware of the reality of marriage from my friend’s lives, that they are not always the ‘fairy-tales’ they once dreamt of, and therefore I am not looking to another person to be emotionally resilient for me, which I have learned to be for myself. Even if you are not a Christian, these lessons still apply.
In times past, and if you have read any of Jane Austen’s novels you will be well aware of the societal norms of the time, marriage was closely related to social class, division of labour, financial stability, life expectancy and gender based roles, and the separation of work and home life. Therefore, to not be married by a certain age would be to have a somewhat insecure place in society and with fewer opportunities especially for women, single women beyond a certain age would generally be looked down upon old maids with no future prospects, and the gossipy societal view of such women would be particularly bleak.
However, times have changed, and although our desires for love and companionship and family for the most part remain, singleness can be viewed very differently in today’s society at least in most Western countries. Young and ‘middle aged’ women and men have more opportunities available to them, generally have longer life expectancy and therefore what was once considered middle aged in the past can still be considered young today.
And yet, some of the stereotypes (for example the single woman alone in an apartment surrounded by cats…where on earth did that come from?!) remain, and may even be ingrained in the psyche of certain generations. For whatever reason you find yourself at your particular age and stage and season of life as a single person, I invite you to ditch the stereotype and lie that your life can’t be purposeful, abundant and fulfilling. We can be a generation that inspires, that views this time and season of our lives as single people, whether it turns out to be temporary or ‘permanent’, as one in which we can be world changers, inspirers, people who put something positive into the world and make a difference.
And if you want to sit in an apartment full of cats, then that is your choice….but it is by no means your destiny! 🙂