Life births, buds, blossoms and blooms, and eventually withers and fades, with the hope (if you should so choose) of resurrection and new life once again.
In all the seasons of our lives we spend much time thinking of ‘what’s next’, or looking back either regretfully or with fond nostalgia. How often though, do we simply enjoy and live the life we are living? Not often enough, I would say.
Let me tell you an interesting fact. One of this year’s winners of The Grammy Awards, Nicola Benedetti, the now world famous violinist, is someone who I went to the same youth orchestra as when I was quite young, and in high school. I didn’t know her personally but I saw her and her sister around from time to time, but our paths never crossed on a personal level. It’s wonderful that she has accomplished her dreams. Before you get any wrong ideas about me or my skill levels with music, I admit, like many other of the youngsters there I was perhaps painfully average at the violin and that was fine by me. It was never such a passion of mine, nor did I have any particular natural talent. My passion back then was writing, literature and anything creative.
Alas, I digress. The point is, some people do ‘make it big’. They have a talent, and work relentlessly hard to hone and perfect their craft and turn it into a skill, and doors open for them some way or another, to be able to share their gifts with the world. That’s really quite special and perhaps rare for most of us ‘pilgrims, poets and dreamers’ (c) who live comparatively average lives.
Some people become stars, and others gaze up at the stars, longingly, and either way that is ok, because each individual is special and each life, however humble, is of immense worth whether or not we feel we have any talents or gifts to share, since simply being is enough. You are a person of worth. That means you are a person of worth whether you are playing on a world stage or sleeping rough on the streets, nothing can erase that Truth.
So, where was I? Yes, daydreaming. 🙂 Whether you have or have had dreams of something or another, or whether you feel you don’t have anything particularly exceptional to offer, remember to stay interested in the things that interest you.
You might be working hard like Nicola Benedetti to hone your talents and do remarkable things, or you might simply enjoy creating an occasional sketch, doodling, colouring in, cross-stitch, model making, creating music of your own, writing poems, reading literature. If it is a more humble path, that is perfectly ok, and it is a gift in itself. Don’t get so caught up in the ‘never’ or the ‘not yet’ or the ‘then’ that you miss the little gifts of life right now.
Most people who become famous by default, and not for the sake of fame, have been pursuing a passion, something they intrinsically enjoy, and working and training to become even more highly skilled at it.
In a world of goals and achievements and accomplishments and ‘fame’, don’t forget the simple joys of being absorbed in the simple pursuits of happiness that you love.
Stay interested in your life, it is pretty remarkable too, y’know? 🙂 . x
With it being the year 2020, there have been various adverts and slogans around the idea of ‘2020’ vision. From promotions by eye-care specialists, to ads by holiday companies promoting the ‘vision’ of a year filled with travel and adventure. The idea of 2020 vision tugs at those ‘goal-setting, achievement oriented’ heart strings as we think of the ideal vision of ourselves in various aspects of our lives from health, weight, fitness, career, travel, personal goals and of course, eye-care! : – )
There’s a verse in the Bible that says: “Without vision, the people perish”. Proverbs 29:18. For me it’s important to ask God what His vision is for my life, to ask the One Who sees perfectly and knows completely, without error. From the vision for a nation to that of a single life, we recognise the importance of looking above ourselves for direction to safeguard us from wandering aimlessly. I’d need to study more into what this verse really means, but I thought it was a helpful starting point for some of the ideas I’m ‘mulling over’ in my own mind.
You might have started the year with the sense of what you want to do, be or accomplish: many people do. But after a while, the ‘ordinary’ day-to-day things of life begin to occupy your focus such that you tend to just carry on doing what you’ve been doing.
Changing an aspect of our lives or ourselves generally requires us to be intentional in the pursuit of change. I’m not talking about changes in our lives that ‘just happen’ and that are out of our control, but those which we have a responsibility over. Things such as changing our daily habits, eating more healthily, gaining new skills, exercising, helping other people, investing time in our relationships and pursuing new goals, opportunities and long held dreams.
Sometimes, despite our initial enthusiasm, we end up merely ‘trundling along’ in life. We need to refresh our vision. And we need to remind ourselves that we don’t have to stay the same. Life involves growth, change, development. Without it we stagnate. And change doesn’t have to happen over night. It can begin by taking time to think about what you really consider important, discovering your vision in various aspects of your life and then making small changes little by little, day by day.
Personally, I have come up with the idea of writing daily vision pages, and it is really helping me to live each day with purpose. Instead of having a daily ‘to-do’ list, I write vision pages in which I focus on aspects or qualities that I want to live out and pair these with a corresponding activity or activities.
Transformation is possible, but we need to decide which areas of our lives require change, and then we need to begin, and continue one step at a time…moving closer each step, towards that vision.
Within each of us, we hold precious dreams of the life we long to live. As we move through this world the reality of the darkness that surrounds us as well as the darkness that we find in our own minds and hearts can quench those dreams. We struggle just to make it through.
Last year I wrote a lot about overcoming those ‘roadblocks’ in our minds and lives. I wrote about overcoming past difficulties, traumas, mental health struggles, in the hope that this might encourage some of you as well as help me make sense of certain things and to gain in strength and mental resilience. Last year I wrote a lot about recovery, self care and resilience. If you are in a difficult place, please browse through my previous posts to help you find some strength in moving forwards.
I know that there is still a lot of work within me to get to where I am living fully. After all, when I first started this blog almost three years ago I called it ‘Life as it happens to be’ and the web page ‘livingfully2017’ to signify what I hoped it to reflect and the date that I started the blog.
This year I want to challenge myself to take things a bit further. There are so many articles and posts that I have written to inspire and encourage you and I in terms of recovery, getting stronger, finding worth, self care, mental wellbeing and so forth. They’re there if we need them, and no doubt we will find it beneficial to look over these again. I’ll probably write more on these topics as they are so close to my heart and life story that it wouldn’t make sense not to explore them further and more deeply as I continue to journey through life and making sense of things.
However, this year I am considering being more intentional in my focus. To create posts that help and encourage us to ‘live fully’ right where we are, and to explore what may be holding us back from stepping forwards with courage and confidence. I hope to be less focused on overcoming past struggles and have more of a vision to inspire, equip and encourage.
It can be difficult to dare to dream when we have so many insecurities buried deep within ourselves, or even bubbling at the surface. It can be hard to believe for better when we’ve been told so many negative things in this world. But it’s up to us to take this as a challenge, to choose differently, to overcome, to thrive and to soar. Now, I don’t know how to do this as I haven’t got that far along the path myself, but I have come a very long way in ‘recovery’ and if I can put the same efforts into building something new as I have done in surviving and overcoming the old, the past, the difficult things of life, then who knows just what might be possible.
When I talk about daring to dream, please don’t let that hinder you if you lack confidence (as I often do). Daring to dream doesn’t necessarily mean doing a lot of things or accomplishing a string of goals. Daring to dream is perhaps more of an internal journey to become the people we want to be. I will always point to my Beacon, The True Light, the only One Who can regenerate, bring new life, forgiveness, and a fresh, clean start, making us new from within – Jesus Christ. Without Him, there is no lasting or eternal hope and any changes are temporary if they are not built up on Him, the sure foundation.
My faith and relationship with God is integral to my identity and out of it will flow my thoughts and learning about life. However, I also believe that regardless of who you are or what you think at this moment in time, there are ways in which we can encourage and help each other to grow in knowledge and awareness of our worth, of discovering our gifts and talents, of growing in confidence and courage, and reaching out to others with kindness, respect and love. Daring to dream that we can live more fully the lives of possibility that are set before us rather than remaining chained by all that has hindered us so far.
It is ok to be uncertain, unsure of how we will grow in confidence and refuse to let the negative messages we’ve experienced in life hold us back. It’s ok, as quite often the greatest changes stem from tiny ‘baby steps’ taken consistently over time. We all can think of examples in our own lives where we have persevered and made progress.
So, let’s dare to dream this year, as we journey together into the New. x
This is more of a ‘life as it happens to be’ learning as I go type of post, rather than an article of helpful advice (although I’ll try to include helpful tips where I can), quite simply because this is an area of on-going learning and development for me.
The different spheres in which we move, and live:
Some of you out there may have particularly unique or fascinating jobs that don’t quite fit a predictable ‘pattern’ of set hours or locations. Maybe your work involves traveling across the world, through different time zones and maybe some of you could get called to work at any time of the day or the night. However, I imagine that most of us who are working adults tend to have a set number of hours for which we are paid to work each week, and in set locations. Even if you work from home and / or run your own business/s, you tend to wake up on a Monday morning (if Monday is a working day for you) knowing where you are meant to be and what you are supposed to do (although, first thing on a Monday morning thoughts about the latter might be a little foggy! : – ) ).
It’s important to have that delineation between work and leisure time, and this may be a particular challenge for people who work for themselves and / or work from home for the most part because the physical and psychological space between home and work will tend to be less defined.
Why is it important to have this distinction? Obviously our lives involve elements of ‘cross-over’ in many respects, however, we need a basic degree of separation in order to protect our own mental and emotional well-being, in order to know when to stop, when to rest, and when to work.
‘After work’ time:
Once we have ‘downed tools’ for the day, we move from one sphere of living into another. For me this involves completing work tasks, ‘powering down’, physically leaving one building to make a short commute to get home. That is quite a clear demarcation for me, as it will be for many of you, with the travel time in between allowing us to mentally process the sphere from one part of our day and life into the next.
Making the most of my time is an on-going lesson for me, and perhaps for many of you. I have quite clear ideas of what my life priorities are, and how I would like to spend my time. I set goals not only at the start of the year, but also try to do this for each new month throughout the year, and on the whole I manage to spend valuable time on each of the areas of life that are most important to me, and that are within my grasp to be able to do so.
However, isn’t it often the case that we can feel ‘rushed’ in our lives and unable to fully give as much time and attention to what we want to do? Do you ‘wait for the weekend’, for your next holiday, or even for retirement? I personally don’t think that’s a way that I want to be living my life, when each day is packed full of opportunity. It’s just that sometimes we aren’t able to make the most of each of our days. Why?
What considerations to we need to take into account that might be hindrances to fully living the life we want to lead?
At work, I’m getting more opportunities to use my project management skills, and to work with others as part of a team to be involved in the implementation and progress of new initiatives. I do like a good plan, and when it comes to successful planning and project implementation at work this can be particularly satisfying. Often projects can fall by the wayside because of poor planning and a lack of comprehensive discussion and brainstorming between the right people. At the moment it seems that I am involved with a good team on a particular project, who have introduced a new project planning tool which is particularly good for assessing progress and making people aware of tasks and relevant deadlines.
When it comes to work, and my work has been quite varied over the years, I am always either ahead of time or on schedule with work tasks and projects.
However, when it comes to all the things I want to do, enjoy and achieve before or after work, I tend to be far more lenient on myself. Does this also ring true for you?
For starters, we are but human, and our bodies and minds need rest and refreshing. We also need to eat and sleep, and preparing a meal takes time, and the window of time between getting home, doing what is needed to sustain us, and then going to bed is relatively small.
Learning through different approaches:
I used to have an idea in mind of the different things I would want to do after work. I realised that I couldn’t possibly do them all, so at one point I would try to set aside specific days for different things such as exercise, playing my violin, going to my prayer and study group, writing, art and creative pursuits, photography, reading, devotional time and so on.
I then tried the approach of ‘going with the flow’, since I already have a very clear idea of the different things I want to spend my time on, and ideas of new things I want to learn and do and people to spend time with.
Yet, the reality of things meant that ‘going with the flow’ of how I felt often resulted in me whiling away an evening eating dinner and watching TV or getting distracted by the online world of YouTube, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending time doing this to wind down, it’s just that I would feel a little disappointed when I knew that I wanted to be more productive and spend at least a little time doing other things.
I also tried the idea of doing things for a small amount of time and then doing something else. This tends to work quite well for me especially at the weekends, but not always so much on a week night.
Sometimes I think that I’ll do certain things in a week without having any set time or day, and at times this works out for me.
I’ve been working on writing a novel for 12 years, and I’ve been making good progress, however, even with writing being so important to me and a real passion of mine, I sometimes get a bit ‘lazy’ about it, feeling that I need to have longer stretches of ‘set aside’ time to really get going. If you are interested in this aspect of my life, take a look through my posts from last year and the year before when I had my own personal writing retreats, taking time off to just work on my novel and my writing, which was hugely satisfying but also took me out of the ‘real world’ for a time.
One year I marked in my diary set aside writing time every evening – even if it was just a few minutes a day. Suffice to say, this didn’t work for me, and perhaps I didn’t like the self imposed constraints. It is nice to do things spontaneously, but at the same time, we don’t approach work goals that way, so similarly personal goals and dreams need to be worked towards, and time and effort needs to be put in. I don’t want to reach the end of a day, a month or a year, or my lifetime and feel that I ‘frittered’ away my time being distracted by what’s on the TV or the internet, when I have so many dreams to fulfil.
Yet in order to do all these wonderful things, to live the lives we want to, we also need to factor in those practicalities I mentioned earlier of eating well, getting the right amount of sleep, exercising to stay healthy and having time to wind down, relax and do nothing, or just enjoy a good TV programme!
Lately I’ve been aware of the beauty in life of being present in the moment, and enjoying the process of my life, of ‘being’. Enjoying the colours, and aromas of cooking, enjoying staring into space and daydreaming, of not getting stressed if everything I want to do isn’t done, and trying to do some of the important things to me each week.
It can be hard for all of us to keep on top of things at times. We need to do all the practical things from day to day, to maintain our homes, and possibly for many to look after other people as well. I’m all too aware of not letting myself get ‘burnt out’ precisely because I have been in the past, which might be partly why I realise the importance of also spending time doing things that are important to me and life enriching rather than only doing things for other people, while also knowing that helping others thrive is an important part of life too.
A learning curve….and I’m still learning….
As I said at the start, I’m still learning. Being mindful of what is important to me, however, and giving myself the opportunity to take time for these things (even if it is just five minutes at a time) has helped me to make far better use of my time than if I hadn’t spent time reflecting and thinking about things.
I find blogging very satisfying, and life enhancing, and I am glad that I have managed to sustain a regular writing ‘habit’ if you could call it that (although I personally don’t see it at all as a habit, so much so as simply pursuing something that I enjoy doing and hopefully encourages other people). If I didn’t put in the time to do this, maybe I’d just have whiled away my time mindlessly on things that don’t really come up in my priorities in life, such as watching TV, although that’s ok as long as it isn’t the only thing we do with our non-working time.
I’ve found that it has also benefited other people who have told me that my words have brought encouragement to me, which means so much to me. Do you realise that your own gifts and talents have an impact not only in your own life but the lives of others too. You are making a difference in the world.
When we know what is important to us that is perhaps the first step towards making the most of our time. We will find a way and we will keep learning along the way.
Over to you:
Can you relate to any of the thoughts I’ve expressed in terms of your own life and learning? Do you have any ‘pearls of wisdom’ to share with me, and other readers? What are you blessed to be able to spend your time doing, and how would you like to make better use of your time? Do you have any ideas of how you can do things better?
Thank you so much for taking your time to read this and hopefully it has also been time well spent for you. Be blessed. x
In recovery of any sort, it is absolutely essential that we get a hold of and harness our thoughts if we want to have a successful outcome.
Please bear in mind that I don’t say this at all lightly. Having experienced the nightmare of complex PTSD and severe generalised anxiety disorder and clinical depression, believe me when I say I know how incredibly tough it is to calm those intensely distressing thoughts. Tough, but not impossible.
You need more than muscle or physical endurance to get through a trial or a challenge. You need to set your mind on higher things. Things that are above your pain, above your problems and your circumstances. You need to tell yourself the Truth, and not give in to the despair of lies.
Our thoughts can lead us to all kinds of places. Sometimes those can be incredibly dark places such as low self esteem, depression, fear, phobias, eating disorders, relationship breakdown, self-harm, addiction, obsessions, suicidal ideation and even death. Such negative and intrusive thoughts can affect any of us, and it can be hard to ‘fight them off’. Self pity can lead to anger, bitterness and poor choices. Our thoughts can affect the words we use and our behaviour towards other people. These are certainly not trains of thought that any of us want to get on, but I’m sure that quite a few of us have experience of what it is like to be on such a journey through dark tunnels in our lives.
However, we don’t have to stay on that train. You don’t have to. The longer you are on it, the longer you will hear those ‘announcements’ from inside the carriage, loudly reinforcing that you are headed towards ‘destination nowhere’. Your fellow travellers will be headed in the same direction even if they get off at different stops. And the longer you are on it the more deeply ingrained those messages will become, messages that you may not even realise you are internalising and letting become part of your psyche.
You need to be aware of how detrimental, how devastating and damaging staying with those thoughts can be. They drive deep tracks into your internal processing, how you think of your life, your circumstances and these will inevitably affect not only your mental and emotional health, but your physical health too, as well as the choices you make and how your relationships with other people turn out.
But don’t despair. You are not your thoughts, and you can come back from it. I’m proof, although I’m a work in progress. Many of the negative things, the abusive words that pierced me in childhood became part of my internal processing. I believed the lies, and they damaged me greatly. Childhood is a very vulnerable time when we don’t have much resources or resilience to deal with what comes our way.
As adults, however, we can choose to get off the train and choose a new destination. I’m not saying that positive thinking is the cure to all of our problems, certainly not (as you probably well know, I believe Jesus Christ Is The cure!). However, we need to train ourselves, our thought patterns and develop new ‘tracks’ in our mind.
Think of the physical process of laying down a railway track. It’s a piece by piece effort, and similarly you will need to redesign your thought processes one thought at a time, reinforcing these as you go.
In your recovery you will learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way. You will need to work through things at your own pace. However, it is always helpful if someone can save you some of the heartache by giving you advice and the benefit of experience and hindsight as early as they can for you.
It’s best to decide ahead of time what your ‘go to’ thoughts are going to be, especially in challenging the negative thoughts you have been allowing to become part of your mental make up. You might not even realise that you are doing so. For example, do you allow yourself to dwell on thoughts such as ‘it’s so unfair’ or do you let them drift by and replace them with more productive thoughts such as ‘this isn’t what I would have chosen to happen, but now I have the power to choose what I do with it, and I will choose something productive’.
Thought patterns are so called because of their similarity. It’s unusual to jump from negative thoughts to positive thoughts without intention. For example one negative thought will tend to lead to another, and then another, until ‘tracks’ and ‘grooves’ are formed in our thinking: patterns.
A thought such as ‘it’s so unfair’ could quite easily lead to a stream of other such thoughts, forming a not so beautiful pattern of negativity. ‘It’s so unfair’ can lead to ‘victim thinking’. Whereas as children we may be victims because of our relative powerlessness, as adults, even if our lives are broken, we do have more resources available to us to find a way out. Where we can’t advocate for ourselves, others can, and if we’ve made it into adulthood, we will by default have some ‘tools under our belt’ simply because we have survived this far. We may not feel particularly strong, but we don’t need to be bound by victimhood. We can, at the very least, change our thinking. Victim thinking, such as ‘why me?’, or ‘this always happens to me’ can lead to an apathetic stance, one of ‘giving up’ – ‘what’s the use of trying anyway, nothing ever works out’. I’m not belittling such thoughts because I personally know from experience that they often come from a place of deep hurt but however long the journey of recovery is, we need to begin by acknowledging them for what they are, and then challenging them, followed by replacing them.
Here are some more positive thoughts for you to build upon, and reinforce daily, as you progress and persevere in your recovery over whatever your personal challenge may happen to be:
This isn’t what I would have chosen, but I can choose to do something about it.
It feels ‘too much’ but the lives of other people who have overcome difficulties testify to the tenacity and strength of the human spirit. If they can do it, I can too.
The pain feels too much, but I won’t add to my suffering by thinking negatively about my pain. I will look for the lessons in this tough time and will use them to help other people afterwards, or even while I am in the midst of this.
I am grateful to be alive.
I appreciate that I can do these (you fill in the blanks) things.
I am an overcomer.
I am a survivor.
I am determined.
Nothing is impossible.
I will use this difficult experience for good in the world.
As with weight lifting, where muscle is built and defined and strengthened over time, it also takes time to grow mentally tough. No one said the process won’t hurt, be challenging, or even gruelling at times, but when you begin to see those mental ‘muscles’ gaining definition and strength, you won’t want to look back, and in time you will want to train other people to be strong and positively minded individuals also. Just imagine what good this can do in the world!
We live in a time when no matter how calm one’s own circumstances may be (and this in itself can be hard to come by), we are on an almost daily basis plugged into a stream of information via technology that tells us how chaotic the world in which we live is.
It’s almost unavoidable if you connect with society on any level. From small community groups with their own internal ‘politics’ to large scale international conflict there will always be ‘noise’ in the world. You might be sitting down on your own to have a quiet lunch break and yet the moment you log in to your online device you will see some news article or another with information that is difficult to know how to handle. Today we have news of Australian bush fires, missiles and conflict between the US and Iran and news of strife within the UK’s Royal family and Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s decision to take a step back.
We risk ‘compassion fatigue’ and getting stressed out not only by our own, but also by other people’s problems.
The world, my friends, is a noisy place.
Do you find this yourself today? Are you aware of the fine balance between your own well being and being informed, concerned and taking action to help other people? There’s only so much that we can do, and it’s important to make a difference for the better in the world where and when we can. Our innate human compassion compels us. When we feel helpless we can pray, donate, get educated, advocate, share information. Many people like to get involved in discussions or take action and raise awareness where they can.
But don’t forget the balance in this noisy world. Some of you may be right in the midst of some of these troubles right now, and that is heart-breaking. But wherever you are in this noisy world, it is important to find places of peace where you can. Seek Peace and pursue it. And sometimes the first and most profound step towards that is to be still.
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?
This post is probably not quite what you might expect it to be. Why? Because often when we are asked that question it is by ‘motivational speakers’ or writers who seek to spur you on to self-improvement. What you will read here will be a different approach to this age-old question.
“Are you living the life of your dreams?”
The answers you find may surprise you. I imagine that most people when faced with this question think of it in terms of the ever unmet horizon. ‘Dreams’ after all are those wondrous little fantasies that no one ever really gets to. Or are they?
I also think that many if not most of us fail to notice or to realise when we are living our dreams, because we live them in a real world with real issues and challenges. And so perhaps we fail to see just how wonderful our lives actually are.
To dream is to imagine that which is not quite within our reach.
Take a few minutes and try this with me. Think of your life right now. Take a deep breath in, and let it out slowly. Now, calm and relaxed think of the things in your life that you have that you once only dreamed of having. Not necessarily material things, but just everything you value as being part of your ‘dream life’.
Let me share some things with you.
A few years ago I dreamed of being healthy again. Of not having panic attacks every day or week or nightmares and of not merely just surviving each day.
Has this dream come true? Yes. Now is the time to pause and to notice and appreciate it.
When I was younger I dreamed of someday ‘traveling the world’. As an adult I have now been to a fair few countries, some of which I went to as a solo traveller. I’ve been to Italy, America, France, Germany, India, Oman, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Hungary, the Czech Republic, UK, Guernsey, among possibly a few others. I may not have travelled the world, and there is so much of this wide world that I’m yet to see, and parts of the world that I will never see, yet travel even on the small scale has been part of my life, and I could say I’ve been living my dreams.
I used to dream, as a little girl and as a teenager, of being a writer. Of living in a log cabin in the woods somewhere and writing beautifully. I dreamed of getting my books published and of being a famous author. As I have grown into the adult that I am, the practicalities of living in a log cabin don’t quite suit my sensibilities. That’s not to say that a quiet retreat in nature every now and then doesn’t draw me in…it does, and I have created such spaces for myself. I have had a couple of factual pieces published, but I’m not a famous author. Fame doesn’t draw me as I am writing for The One Who sees and knows me, and that is where all the appreciation and validation comes from. Yet writing is a huge part of my life. Blogging is a wonderful outlet for me and I continue to work slowly and steadily away at my novel and other pieces of fiction in my spare time. I write also to directly encourage other people – friends and family and in my university days I wrote letters as part of a human rights group to help free prisoners and those unfairly detained or treated. So, yes, I am in a sense living my dreams in this regard too. Perhaps in a humble fashion, yet I am still free to express my soul.
Do I appreciate this? If I take the time to.
What about the people in our lives? Perhaps our parents, our siblings, our childhood friends and new friends we’ve made along the way? Did you dream of getting married and now have a spouse and a family of your own? Do you really pause to notice these things, or do you take them for granted because they’re not perfect?
When asked if you are living your dreams aren’t you likely to shrug and say ‘not really?’. If so, could this be because you let the daily annoyances and nuisances of life cloud your vision from seeing all the dreams that have and are actually coming true?
Did you dream of being a grown up and having your own place and going out to dinner with your friends? This is a dream that I am living but one that I probably take for granted with it having become ‘normal’.
You will always have something that feels just that little bit ‘out of reach’ for you. Because our hearts are created for so much more than all this frail world has to offer us. We are created for Pure and Perfect Love and for Eternity, so there will always in this life be that yearning for that ‘something more’. Yet that is not to say that we can’t be content or satisfied. We live in a broken world, and yet dreams can still flourish here if we let them….and if we recognise them.
So take a moment today to pause, to reflect and to truly appreciate all the things about your life: the people, the relationships, the material blessings, the opportunities, the health and abilities you have that are in fact all elements of the ‘life of your dreams’. You are living your dreams in a real world, so don’t fail to wake up and realise and appreciate that as and when you can, even while you pursue those dreams yet to come. Someday they may come true so prepare yourself to appreciate them by simply appreciating all the blessings and ‘dreams come true’ that you have in your life today.
The start of a new year can bring with it fresh hope and vision.
Having dreams and vision for the future is an important if not essential part of life.
For most of our lives we are taught and encouraged to consider the future, the ‘what next’ of our life. When you were an infant perhaps the people in your life talked about and imagined what you might become when you grew up. I remember when my friend who is a few years older than me had her first baby and she asked me to be his God-mother. I was fairly young myself at the time and hoped and prayed that in a few years time I would know how to be a good God-mother. We delighted in him as a baby, and then in his younger sister when she was born, enjoying the lovely baby and toddler stages that they were in.
Yet we also talked about their characteristics, their likes and dislikes and imagined what they would be like as they grew up. Would they be musical, artistic, good at sports, kind and caring, studious? Would they be like their mum or dad? We all in our hearts wonder ‘What will be?’ for ourselves as well as for others. Many parents have big dreams for their children, while others say that they just want their children to grow up to be happy and healthy and kind people regardless of what they do or who they ‘become’. In all likelihood when we were little ourselves the adults around us would have made similar comments as they wondered who we would turn out to look like and what our likes and dislikes would be.
By the time children can walk and talk and play, adults begin to ask them ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. Sometimes the child will reply with a confident answer such as a doctor, an astronaut, a fire-fighter, a ballet dancer, pop-star or an artist, while others may not be so sure. Adults may then say something like ‘you’ve got a long time to think about that’ and so the child will go back to playing and having fun in the moment.
Most of us pass through stages of teenage angst when there are so many questions we ask of ourself and of our identity at a stage where we really begin to make decisions that may in fact shape the future direction of our lives at least in the short term.
We choose subjects to study at school and are asked what we hope these will lead to. We need to consider the practicalities of the next stages of our lives such as passing exams, going to university or college or starting an apprenticeship or job. We need to think more and more about the adults that we will be in society and questions about the future are almost constantly asked of us at that stage of life. ‘What do you want to do?’. There is an expectation that we will soon need to figure out what kind of contributing members of society we will be and we may have to put some previous dreams aside such as those of being an astronaut or a pop-star.
As we move through the next stages of life, for example making our way through university as one possible life choice, we are then faced with more exams followed by questions of what we will do next. Soon we will need to be thinking seriously about passing all of those exams, graduating and finding a job.
Inevitably we will need to think about other practical things such as getting a job, supporting ourselves and perhaps other people in our lives, paying bills, renting accommodation, getting a mortgage and the list goes on.
In our younger days we might dream of what we will do as a ‘grown up’. Perhaps these dreams will involve achieving certain goals, traveling, having a career, finding love, getting married, having a family of our own and so on. I imagine very few children and young people will be thinking so far ahead as to dream about their retirement and what life will be like then but maybe I’m wrong. We like to think about the years when we are ‘in our prime’ and able to do all the things we dream of doing. However, perhaps in retirement people come to appreciate the ‘here and now’ a bit more.
For some people I know, their early twenties were characterised with ‘achieving’ or being blessed with passing those milestones that many of us long for: finding love, getting married, going on adventures, achieving goals, starting a family.
My life hasn’t been so straight forward. I have dreamed of all of those things but finding someone and having a family of my own are still in the ‘someday’ or ‘maybe if’ realm of not yet. I have however done well in school, obtained two first class degrees, graduated, gone through the difficulties of finding a job and renting accommodation to now being in the stage of life where I am settled in a job I enjoy, with good friends, having travelled a bit, and with a home of my own. That’s a very short version and it certainly hasn’t been an easy or straightforward process but I’m glad to be where I am now. I watch my friends’ children grow up and I watch other friends getting married and starting families. And one thing I have learned is that people always seem to be thinking of the ‘what next’ and when they finally ‘arrive’ there it isn’t necessarily quite what they had imagined.
I have friends who when they were single longed for the ‘next’ stage of life. When they got married they found challenges that they had not expected and spoke of how they sometimes missed their more ‘carefree’ single days. Friends who longed for babies when they finally became parents then talked about how they were always tired and busy. So soon they take for granted the things they once only longed for, things that some of us still don’t know if they will be part of our lives, our ‘what next’.
Can you relate to any of this? Practically speaking, life keeps moving forwards and we all need to consider the ‘what next’. Yet, could it be that we do this in the wrong way or to our detriment? Some people have found their ‘sweet spot’ in lives where things have worked out just as they hoped or dreamed and they are enjoying ‘the good life’. For many of us it isn’t quite so straight forward.
So the question I’m asking of both you and I is that although we practically need to prepare for the next step and the next as we move through life, do we ‘live too much in the future’?
Do we miss the fact that the stage we are in may have been one we had previously only hoped or dreamed of? Do we fail to realise that there is something inherently special about this time of our life right now even with the contrasts of light and shade? Do we always have to know or think about the next stage of our life? Do we enjoy and appreciate what is happening in this season? If like me you have had some notable tough times in life you know that sometimes life has you pressed hard up against a wall, so to speak, and you can’t think of the future. You can only do everything you can to get through the day, the moment. You’ll someday see the lessons in your trial, but in the midst of it you don’t even know if you’ll make it, and your dreams feel somehow crushed, an impossibility.
I’ve been there, I know how disappointing life can feel. And so I appreciate being out on the other side at last. Sure, I haven’t had all my dreams come true, but what about the here and now?
When you’ve been through some tough times and the future seemed uncertain as to whether or not you would even make it, when you eventually do weather those storms and the sun begins to shine you appreciate the ‘little things’.
That’s my challenge to you and I today. While we may have dreams and visions for the future, while we may be working on plans, let us also take the time to appreciate the good things in our life right now, things that we otherwise might just take for granted if our heads are always in the ‘not yet’ or in trying to figure out and make sense of the past.
We are all on a journey, it doesn’t stand still, so while we might have hope for the future let us also have appreciation of the Gift of the present.
According to popular culture, ‘Blue Monday’ is a day in January – typically the third Monday of the month – when many people feel low. I don’t use the phrase, ‘the most depressing day of the year’, as some do, because as someone who has clinical depression, I know that feeling blue and being depressed are and can be very different things, and I know other people who suffer with this very real medical condition would also not appreciate the term being used lightly to mean just feeling ‘a bit sad’.
However, on a lighter note, as far as ‘pop culture’ goes, this is one way in which trends are noted, trends which can be used by retailers and advertisers to sell things to make people act in a way that they think will make them feel better about themselves and their lives – through consumerism.
Yet, could there be something that we can actually learn from the idea of there being a ‘Blue Monday’ or the concept of the ‘January blues’? I don’t think there’s any particular significance about the day itself, but psychologically I can understand why people might feel low at this time of the month and year.
Typically, in many parts of the world, it is still winter season, and the communal festivities have passed, and spring is a long way from having sprung. People may have fallen short already in terms of living up to their ‘new year resolutions’ and with the holiday season passed, it is back to work for most people, while the weather is still fairly gloomy and without there being anything imminent to look forward to. Motivation may have dwindled and life may have become a bit ‘hum drum’ once again.
There are many ways in which we can avoid or overcome such negative feelings. For example, we can address our mind-set, thoughts, attitudes and so forth. We can also take care of ourselves physically by getting appropriate sleep, rest, exercise and eating healthily. We can try to stay interested with hobbies, and maintain contact with friends and family.
However, I did specify ‘one way’ in the title of this post, so I’ll let you into a little ‘secret’ of mine. Although the festivities may have passed, I approach each brand new month a bit like a mini ‘new year’. It is a fresh start, time to re-evaluate, to set new goals, and to see new possibilities. I personally like to ‘plan’ and decorate my diary / planner, so it means getting creative with a fresh new approach and new doodles and designs for that month. Sometimes I have a theme in mind for things I’d like to think about or explore or achieve for each month as I go through the year. It keeps things fresh, and it helps me to stay hopeful, rather than seeing an expanse of time stretching out before me with all the ‘new ideas’ falling behind.
If by the time January 20th, 2020 comes around, you are feeling a little ‘blue’, don’t worry. February will soon be around the corner and chance for another new start. So celebrate these mini new beginnings throughout your year, and stay vibrant, hopeful and blessed. x