I have a friend, and most people think she’s a lovely person. It can be hard to be honest about someone who is nice to most people, most of the time. But sometimes she’s not so nice to me. Generally speaking I have to admit that she’s very kind, caring, compassionate and understanding to the people she meets. She tries to encourage people, to help them and support them whenever she can, and although she is a quieter person, she does have a lot of close and trusted friends.
She’s had some rocky times in the past when people haven’t treated her too kindly, but for the most part she’ll admit that she does get her fair share of compliments. She’s known as intelligent and good at her work, she’s been noted for her kindness, and some people have called her slim, pretty or even beautiful. In some ways she’s pretty ‘ordinary’ and maybe some people overlook her, but she would admit that there are a fair few people who think well of her.
She sounds like a lovely person, doesn’t she? The kind of person I ought to be glad I have in my life.
The thing is, we’re pretty close. And sometimes sadly we’re most unkind to the people who are closest to us.
Sometimes she can be really encouraging to me too, like she is to all of her other friends. But on other days, when she’s maybe feeling a bit insecure about herself she’ll let me know it.
Today, she caught sight of me standing in a queue for lunch. She whispered to me that I looked a bit fat, that I’d put on weight. I tugged at my top and my clothes and tried to look at my reflection but it made me feel bad to see myself after hearing that remark even if nobody else heard what she said.
I had been in a fairly good mood before that, and even had some brief chats with people around me, but at that point I lost confidence and lowered my head as I waited for my lunch to be served. Why was I eating that? It’s true, I haven’t exercised for a few days, or maybe even a week. I worried about whether other people would think I looked fat as well and I wanted to hide, to not be seen, I had felt alright and slim this morning but now I just felt a bit down on myself. I never used to have this problem, I always was the slim one. But now, what were people thinking of me? That I had put on loads of weight, or even a bit? I cringed to think that people might be thinking that way about me.
I don’t know why she chose to focus on my appearance that way when she could have said something nice like she does to everyone else. What’s so different about me? She’s called me ‘ugly’ in the past. And I’ve been left feeling like I was ‘gross’ or horrible. Why would she do that? And why would I go on thinking those negative things about myself? Why would someone who receives compliments from others, someone who is genuinely kind, caring and loving to everyone else be unkind to me? Why do I let her?
I suppose that’s what can happen when you’re close to someone. And the thing is the words may have come from somewhere, may have come from her past and her insecurities because people used to treat her badly, but now that she is seen as lovely, caring, kind and intelligent, why should she be unkind to me, even if it is an ‘off day’, even if those days are fewer and farther between nowadays?
What would you do if you had a ‘friend’ like that? What do you think I should do? I wonder if some of you might be thinking that it’s all well and good for her to be nice to everyone else, and she may be a really nice person, but why single me out? It’s a good question. You’d probably tell me to ‘ditch’ her, to let bad influences out of my life because I deserve better.
But I wonder if you really understand how difficult that can be? To let go of someone so close to you even if they do cause you hurt. Do any of you have a ‘friend’ like this in your life?
I need to give her credit though that she’s growing in self awareness as to how she sometimes talks to me. She has a lot of issues from her past because she was verbally abused – a lot. I’m trying to help her realise that she didn’t deserve it, she was young, no one whatever their age or stage in life, their appearance or any other thing deserves to be verbally abused.
She gets that to a point which is why she’s so kind, caring and loving to everyone else. But there are days when she doesn’t extend that same kindness to me. You think it would be easy just to let her go, to cut her out of my life? Not really, we’ve been in each other’s lives literally forever, it’s easier said than done!
I can’t cut her out, that would be impossible. But I can try to educate her, to help her think about the ‘snap’ judgement words she sometimes uses about me, to help her to reflect on what impact this can have on my confidence, self esteem and worth. It might take time but I think we’ve been making progress. She has been learning to be kinder to me, and maybe she’ll be as kind to me as she is to everyone else someday.
You still think I should cut her out of my life? I can’t. She’s me.
Can anyone else relate to negative self-talk? If so, what do you do to overcome it? Let’s learn to be ‘our own best friends’. x
Just because your yesterdays may have been tinged with sadness, darkness, fear and struggle, that doesn’t mean your tomorrows can’t be filled with joy from mourning, light, courage, strength and peace.
Birthdays, Laughter, and Hopes for an Unknown Future:
Yesterday I celebrated a belated birthday with two lovely female friends. A beautiful, crisp autumnal day, bright with hope and promise, in the midst of change and old things fading away, was spent catching up over lunch, wandering around quirky shops, trying on winter jumpers and cardigans, and then one of my friends and I continued on to enjoy the beauty of autumn in the park, as we said a fond farewell to our other friend as she headed home. Life was alive, as it were, all around us. Children chased squirrels, dogs delightedly frolicked in the autumn leaves, an old lady sat quietly on a park bench, couples embraced, and laughter lightened the air in the playpark. Squirrels scampered, ducks quacked and splashed in the pond, and cameras clicked as people took it all in, and took time to capture the moments. And as we slowly traversed riverside walks, where the ground was strewn with golden leaves, and dappled with sunlight, my friend and I embraced the opportunity to linger a bit and to chat about the deeper things of life, and of our experiences. A moment shared in the passing of time, and the joy of a golden autumn afternoon. We reflected upon changes in our lives and also hopes of things we wanted to do together and in some newly forming friendships. We talked about faith, about creative projects, pottery, painting, art and photography, about friendship, about God and the deeper things of life. We had only intended to walk through the park briefly before parting ways to go to our own homes, but we walked around the park once more just to linger in conversation and each others company, and to help each other gain understanding of certain things. The blessedness of friendship.
Earlier, at lunch, the three of us had laughed – the kind of laughter that brings tears to your eyes, makes you clutch your belly and be completely happy in the moment, forgetting your cares and worries. We laughed because we were talking about age and time passing and as we chatted about stories we had heard about people in their 80s, 90s and early 100s who had taken to adventures such as hand gliding, diving, and doing all sorts of other adrenaline stoking activities, we imagined ourselves in the future as old, old ladies, not letting age hold us back but telling ourselves that the sky is the limit as the three of us jump out of a plane in a sky dive! We thought about how we might lighted our loads on the way down by throwing out our walking sticks, zimmer frames, glasses and false teeth, while at the bottom our future children and grandchildren would be aghast at our crazy and carefree antics! We were not mocking old age, but just delighting in the crazy things we might get up to in the future, when we no longer cared about what other people thought, as we resolutely refused to allow age to hold us back. It was lovely to think of the three of us, still friends well into old age, a long, long time from now, and it brought joy to our souls to share the laughter in that moment of a life well lived.
Time Passes, Leaves Fall, Seasons Change.
When I was a teenager, there was a fun and upbeat song by a teen band that was about friendship and how we can plant seeds of friendships, but we don’t really know which ones will grow and which ones will last and stand the tests of time. I had a friend at the time who I think also liked the song, we had known each other since we were about 4 or 5 years old, and when I was 9 I had to move to another town quite far away, which meant new schools, and not seeing each other every day. We tried to keep in touch, and we did well at that for a while, but as the years went by we changed and the friendship of our childhood and early teen years became more of a memory. We really thought we’d be friends into old age, and we did reconnect online in more recent years, but the thing is sadly we won’t be friends into old age. Not because we no longer cared, not because we had drifted too far from the possibility, but sadly because my friend died.
I won’t go into details of that, but it is a reminder that we don’t know which seeds will grow, which will last or how things will turn out. Our friendships are precious though and should be cherished for what they are in the moments.
Change Comes in Different Ways
Aside from the tragedies of life, like the death of a friend who we thought would be around forever, other changes can be positive, can bring growth and hope. Yet some changes can be challenging, and come about not because of death but because seasons move on and time passes. Circumstances change, people get married, have families of their own, and in some cases a strong foundation of friendship can mean that those friendships last through differing seasons where we no longer have so much circumstantially in common – I am blessed to have quite a few of these, and it is a choice, to continue to ‘give and take’, to listen and learn and love. I have friends who live thousands of miles away now, in totally different parts of the world, but our friendships continue and are blessed as we value each other. I have friends who are married, have children and are in stages of lives that haven’t happened for me yet, but that I wait and hope for, but our friendships stand strong, they might waver from time to time, but because we have a bond that goes deeper than circumstance, we continue to ‘do life’ together, and that is such a blessing in this ‘throwaway’ society.
A Sure Foundation
Sometimes we don’t fully know why change happens. Sometimes people move on, and that’s ok. God, in Christ Jesus is the foundation for my relationships. And when things are challenging, I know I always have a True Friend Who Is always Faithful who will guide and direct me to be the kind of friend and person He wants me to be, through all the changing seasons of life, through times when people are challenging, or through times of hurt.
I am learning about the freedom in Christ to let things go, to allow Him to be Lord, and to allow Him to know and be content in not knowing why things don’t always go smoothly in human relationships. People may treat us in ways that don’t make sense, that seem unkind, but He knows the reasons and the details. It is a challenge to love, but He gives that love, we can’t do it on our own.
In Christ we are called to be part of a Body, a Family, to have equal concern for each other. When the blood flows and the Body is working together healthily, it is a beautiful thing, but when there is a fracture, a tear, a clot, a disease or a break, then we need to allow the Healer to heal, and nobody said this would be an easy or comfortable process.
My responsibility in all of my relationships, is foremost to honour and be faithful to my God. Jesus Christ challenges me to be the person He wants me to be, and as much of a challenge as that is, especially in a world filled with broken people, myself included, He gives me the grace, the means and the power to be changed and to become that person. I remind myself, when faced with the challenges of broken people in a broken world that His Arms were opened wide on the Cross, embracing us in love, forgiving us, pouring love, grace and peace upon us. I cannot fold my arms and heart to other people when He has given everything, this amazing love for me.
However, just as God gives us choice, whether or not to respond to His invitation of forgiveness and love, or whether to walk away and continue in our rebellion, sin and apathy, we need to realise that the people around us are also making choices. Choices to love, or to be s
elfish, choices to build each other up and look to each others interests, or to look only to our own, choices to communicate or to be silent, to embrace or to walk away.
God gives us the freedom to choose, but also find freedom in letting things go into His Hands, His perfect wisdom and understanding, and into His Love. We can give things to Him without fear, and we can know that He is in control.
What matters to me, and what He Is teaching me, is that He Is my Truest Love, my most Faithful Friend, the most important relationship in my life – and He commands me, Love my neighbour as myself – if I love Him, then I need to choose to love other people in a way that honours Him, even when that is difficult, when they are difficult, or unkind. I want to love Him, and not to hurt The One Who has loved me and given everything for me. That is what matters.
But learning what that means is a step by step process, allowing Him to hold my hand and walk me through it. I can’t take responsibility for anyone else’s actions or inactions, but I can love the Lord my God, with all my heart, and all my soul and all my mind and all my strength, and by His grace and power and love working in me, I can choose to allow Him to show me how to love my neighbour too.
And as the autumn leaves fall around me, I too can let things go, let them go into His Hands, choose to listen to Him and obey Him, and embrace the love and light that He has for me as I live to honour Him.
Investing in what matters.
Sometimes people don’t want our company and we can’t force or control that, but we can pray for them, let them go if that’s what they wish for love and friendship cannot be forced or imposed upon someone, and we can put our hearts and our efforts into those relationships and friendships that are right in front of us, where there is reciprocity and faithfulness. I am so blessed to have such friendships where both choose allow Christ to Be the Centre, and even in my friendships with people who don’t believe in God or aren’t Christian brothers or sisters, to continue to love each other, invest in the friendship, in understanding, and these are such blessed and fulfilling gifts in my life.
I look around me as the seasons change, as certain things fall away, and I thank God for the beautiful gifts of love and friendship in my life that stand the test of time, for those that don’t I give thanks for the good times, I pray for those for whom the seasons of friendship have passed, and I embrace the opportunity to invest in the beautiful friendships I have now, and the new ones that are budding and beginning to bloom and blossom in my life in this new season with God at the centre of it all, and look forward to seeing who I will do that OAP skydive with, as we embrace laughter, love, joy and faithfulness together! 🙂 . x
Jesus Christ Is the Same, yesterday, today and forever. His Steadfast Love will never change. 🙂 x
There’s a sensation in the air that the approach of autumn may not be so far away. Sometimes our heart can sense the changing of the seasons before we apprehend with our senses that any change has yet come. My heart tells me that autumn is a time for lingering, for slowing down, but not yet stopping, for taking the time to live, to be, and to reflect. I find autumn to be a beautiful time of the year (when it is not raining, that is). I sometimes feel that the natural world can have a deep impact upon our inner lives, and the pace of change within ourselves. As I look out of my window and type, the fir trees still stand steady, inked with a deep rich forest green. Other smaller, leafier trees, whose names I don’t know but wish I did, have begun the resplendent transformation as bright yellow gold leaves intermingle with the fading greens. A change is in the air. You can feel it. Not yet winter, but no longer spring or summer, it is time to ‘stock up’ for the colder days ahead, and time also to ‘take stock’ of the days we have lived.
Autumn is a gift. It is a gift that life gives us to slow down and apprehend that life is happening, right now, and it is our duty to pursue wisdom and to live life well. For, as we see life happening, rich, fascinating, unfurling from green to gold to auburn and brown, we are reminded not only that we are alive, but that life also changes, it also fades and this season’s tapestry will in time give way to the next.
In thinking of the seasons of our lives as a tapestry, it helps to remind us that each stitch in time, is part of a far greater picture, and yet is not insignificant – for each little stitch is so important in making the picture, so that things don’t unravel, and so each has its own important place.
It is an important reminder to ourselves, as moving into the latter stages of a year can at times bring feelings of ‘underwhelm’, anxiety, the sense that we have not achieved ‘enough’ or become who we were hoping to be, or done what we wanted, planned or dreamed of doing. Yet Autumn, beautiful and tender Autumn, gives us the permission to slow down, to breathe, to take time over each stitch and to remember that the smallest of details is exceptionally important even in this grand picture, this tapestry of life that is being woven.
You and I may only be a little, tiny piece of a far greater scene – a universe beyond us, time and space that we know nothing about, mysteries that our lives may never apprehend. We someday will be someone else’s ‘history’, we are someone from the past’s ‘future’, and we are here and we are now, each making a stitch in time. We are part of something far greater, and yet we are important – nature reveals this to us – and our Creator through nature speaks volumes. We are both challenged and permitted to take up our own paintbrush as it were, our own pen to write, to create, we are drawn into focusing on the beauty around us, and yes, the fading beauty, but reminded that while we think on these things, we have a part to play, a keystroke to type, a brush to caress a page, a song to sing, a letter to write, a dance to be danced and a life to live. There is beauty in Autumn, and Autumn reminds us that there is beauty with each change, beauty in the smallest of things. So take today as your gift, and be the beautiful part of this grand design that you were born and called to be. x
Our lives are always changing. Our experiences ebb and flow with the seasons. We find comfort in the predictability of the seasons of life, and the rhythm of our days – we like change, we even find it exciting, when we can manage it, feel somewhat in control, in the driving seat.
Yet change doesn’t always happen in a way that we would like. When planned for, change can be life enhancing – the new job we prepared for, the travel adventures we want to go on, the new seasons of life that come with new friendships, relationships, births, marriages, achievements, academic success, promotions, new hobbies, and so forth, where change happens, but it is wanted and to some extent planned for. Life sometimes just happens though….regardless of whether the changes that come are what we want or not. Changes may be unwanted, negative – they might involve suffering or pain or loss or just throwing us outside of our comfort zone more than we would like. But what of those changes that are neither particularly ‘good’ nor ‘bad’….just different?
To bring things to a personal level, with where ‘life happens to be’ for me at the moment, the organisation I work with has recently been amalgamated / absorbed into our larger ‘parent’ organisation, as it were. Old logos have gone and we are now all ‘one and the same’, within this bigger organisation. I helped, along with some of my colleagues, with the business transfer – the legal stuff. It was an exciting new challenge and I learned a lot that I would otherwise have had no opportunity to without these unique circumstances. As important as it was – that was the easy bit!
Now that all of the legal procedures have been dealt with, and things are official, the practicalities of what this means have come into play. Thankfully, I won’t be moving to another building, but 250 people are moving in to the one I’m in. I’m seeing new faces every day, I have no idea who most of them are or what their jobs are, and I have on the positive side of things been involved with new and more interesting work.
Now, as a person with C-PTSD, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Depression, changes like this can be quite tricky. I had a panic attack and was sent home from work last week, and that’s even before the new people arrived – I had just been moved out of the room I was in, someone was in the temporary quiet place I was to be in for a couple of weeks until they let me know where I’ll be sitting, and so this ‘little issue’ turned out to be a major trigger for me in feeling unsafe, overwhelmed and like a helpless and threatened child again – I was no longer in control of my surroundings and felt like certain people were being hostile towards me, which may just be their less than graceful way of communicating. And so came the fear, stress, hyper vigilance, hyperventilation, panic, tears, dizziness, PTSD etc.
Thankfully, despite various hurdles and challenges along the way, my workplace is pretty supportive overall, and I am very thankful for that. If you find yourself in a similar situation, and have ‘hidden disabilities’ that make things harder for you, then know that there are ways for you to manage change at work. Maybe like me, you’re protected by legislation, and have people within your organisation who can advocate for you when speaking up for yourself is difficult or seemingly ‘impossible’. Through this process I have had meetings, a risk assessment, and an occupational health review. As such, I am being considered for work in a quiet space, to help me stay well at work, and to continue doing the excellent work they know I am capable of doing. I am awaiting a decision on that, but in the meantime I have been given a laptop to use in a quiet room, which happens to have a beautiful view of trees – which is just the calming effect that I need. I still have the hurdles of my own anxieties to overcome, like encountering new people, wondering whether colleagues think I’m getting preferential treatment, or whether they think I’m ‘crazy’, or weird or are talking about me.
I’m sure I’m not alone in these kind of thoughts and feelings – that’s all part and parcel of anxiety – however, we can find ways to manage change at work better, if we learn to better manage our own thoughts, feelings, nervous system and wellbeing. If you are struggling, maybe that’s the last thing you feel you need to hear right now – but I know that it is a daunting and difficult journey. it takes time, it takes courage, it takes patience and practice. And sometimes we just can’t quite manage it on our own – and you know what – that’s ok. If you are having to manage change at work try to give yourself as much help as you can – when you are less stressed write down some ways in which you can find a helpful way forward – perhaps this might involve asking someone for help, asking your employer for ‘reasonable adjustments’, getting a letter from your doctor or union representative, or some other form of advocate. On a more personal level, it may mean spending more time working on your breathing, managing anxiety, ensuring you are looking after yourself physically, working on improving your sleep, water intake, healthy eating, exercise and generally being really kind to yourself. This can be incredibly difficult when things are tough and stressful. It can also be difficult to keep in contact with friends and you might feel alone – but there are always avenues of support – you deserve giving yourself the best chance. Find familiar things at work and build them into your day – whether that may be going somewhere for lunch that you are comfortable with, keeping in touch with a colleague you are friends with, or working on something that you know you are good at. The bigger, strategic, high-level changes may be out of our hands, but at a more ‘down to earth’ level, we can find ways and means to help ourselves and each other manage the otherwise stressful effects of workplace change. Any helpful ideas from your experience? Please feel free to share them in the comments. x
Lunchtime is a helpful divider within the day. Being creative and freely exploring our creativity is often, as contradictory as it may seem, benefited by having boundaries. Even if you don’t have an ‘itinerary’ as such for your personal retreat to begin with, you can develop flexible plans as you move through your days.
As to lunch, food and sustenance in general during a personal retreat it helps to do a bit of preparation beforehand, or to cook something you can eat over two or three meals, have something you can easily make, or buy some sandwiches from a shop and to keep your fridge stocked with what you will need. It’s helpful to minimise the time spent having to run errands because we necessarily will be compelled to engage and interact with the world in a way that may interrupt what we hope to experience on our retreat.
Not only that, but if you’re like me, when you get absorbed in a creative project you can ‘forget’ to eat, or if there’s nothing readily available you might just ‘power through’ and your creative work might actually suffer because you are low on energy, tired, ‘hangry’ or lack concentration. So keep things ready so that you can grab a bite and continue with your project uninterrupted.
It is nice though, not to rush through lunch, but to use it as a time to rest, relax, maybe look at other sources for inspiration (I was listening to some music, and looking up retreat videos on YouTube – I didn’t quite find what I was looking for in terms of the retreat videos, but it was good just to move into a state of mind where I didn’t have to concentrate so much).
Now that I’ve eaten, relaxed a bit, I find myself beginning to ponder my next steps. Yesterday I met my ‘writing goal’ of 3,500 words, and slightly exceeded it. This morning I was intentional to not set any writing goals, and focus more on slowing down and engaging more fully with myself and the process. I had some prayer time, and some quiet reflection.
Having had personal retreats before, I am aware that the final day, which in this case is tomorrow, requires a slight shift in gears. If you are on retreat somewhere away from home, then you will have to pack, tidy up and make your journey back home on the last day. If, like me, you are having your retreat in your own home by yourself, then you may find that you have a bit (or a lot!) of tidying up to do, and preparing for the day ahead if you happen to be going back to work, or ‘re-joining the world’ in some other way.
I recommend valuing your purpose for your retreat and allowing yourself not to focus on tidying up unless you naturally keep everything neat and clean as you go along. It’s important to have a clean, neat retreat space, but if you’re like me you do have that, but you also have dishes piled up in the sink. Your focus is your time alone to reflect and work on your creative projects or self development, etc, and you will have to attend to the housework afterwards anyway, but don’t let it distract you or interrupt your creative flow, as quiet times can be hard to come by in our busy lives.
As to flexible planning, I’m aware that tomorrow I don’t want to use the whole day for tidying, so I want to set aside some time later today to do a bit of that. I also don’t want to do anything too ‘heavy’ in terms of writing, as what I am working on involves being engaged emotionally and mentally on a deep level. I like to keep the final stages of a personal retreat for something lighter, more care free, with times for prayer, thanksgiving, gratitude, reflecting on what I have learned and planning ways in which I can take forward some of these lessons into my day to day life where possible. As such, I have made a preliminary decision not to work on writing my novel tomorrow after morning time, so that I can ‘decompress’ and gently change gears.
Therefore, to avoid unfocused and unstructured time today, my plans are changing somewhat organically as day two progresses. I may not get time like this for a while, so I am reinstating my ‘goal setting’ with my novel writing this afternoon. This is what I love about a personal retreat in contrast with group activities which have their own unique positive aspects – when your time is your own you can work with the ebb and flow of your own creative processes, ongoing learning, and practical concerns, rather than having to adhere to a set timetable.
So to make the most of the remaining time, and to have a lighter more carefree day tomorrow, I am going to work creatively within some parameters this afternoon, being flexible once again with those plans.
It’s 2.50pm now, and the sun is shining, but I have chosen to stay inside and focus, and set aside novel writing time from 3pm to 6.30pm. In that time I can take my time, linger over words and ideas, look up sources for inspiration, take short breaks, but that time is a gift that doesn’t come often. Knowing that, I will savour it, and whether I write much or little that is fine either way.
At 7pm the coach will turn into a pumpkin! 🙂 Just kidding, by 7pm I will down tools with writing my novel for the rest of the retreat time, other than if I have anything I feel I want to do tomorrow morning, but that leaves me free the rest of the time to work on some less mentally and emotionally challenging projects and prepare for concluding the retreat time on a reflective and carefree note.
Today after work, I took down my Christmas tree. I know, it’s January 23rd, and for some of you that’s a ridiculously long time to keep the tree up. Aside from the fact that the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ can’t be confined within one single day, and should be celebrated in our hearts all year around, I also happen to live in a 10th floor flat / apartment, and therefore enjoy a relative degree of anonymity and don’t have to worry about what my neighbours think, as they can’t see into my living room! And furthermore, I have felt the need and desire to hold on to the cosiness of the Christmas and festive season for as long as I can due to the fact that it’s mid-January and in my part of the world we’ve been experiencing snow days and the kind of weather that makes you want to hibernate, but alas, work beckons and necessitates leaving the house. So to have a cosy Christmassy space has been a comfort to me, as I hide away from the wind and the rain. I am someone who keeps my fairy lights up all year round, the soft yellow-white ones that add a little touch of comfort to the atmosphere of my home…
However, today was the day to take the Christmas tree down, pack it away in its box and begin to take the decorations down too. I found myself feeling a little ‘blue’ as it were, because although January, a new month, season and year has begun, the dark days and nights have not yet lifted, which makes it harder to say goodbye to the lights and colours and enchantment of Christmastime.
I am fortunate enough to now live in a city where every January there is a musical festival running from around 19th January to 4th February, with several live music events, many of which are free to attend, attracting talent not only from home, but also internationally. It is a real cultural ‘pick me up’ during the dark and damp start of the year that we often experience. As I put my tree away I had some music playing in the background to remind me of this, by way of encouragement. I also reminded myself of the One Constant Source in Life, that Is God. And I found myself contemplating the lessons that nature, with unswerving regularity teaches us with every passing season and year of life: to accept the season of life that we are in. When I think about it, I realise that with the changing of seasons comes a blossoming, and flourishing like the leaves on a tree, that then wither and perish (you may relate to my reference here), giving way once more to new life, to seasons of waiting, of growth and of blossoming and fading as the cycle continues. There is struggle in nature, but not the same ‘fight’ that we humans often inflict upon ourselves. There is a silent, constant acceptance of this natural change, as one season fades or bursts vibrantly into the next, inhabiting its space in time for what it is…something that too, in its time, will pass and change once more.
And this is a lesson for me, for us, as well. One that it seems, every few months, we need reminded of, perhaps because we are so slow to learn. Life has seasons of joy and sorrow, and although we may enjoy one season more than another, we must let things unfold and take their course by accepting the season that we are in. Perhaps you are grieving, and your only comfort is that this too will pass. Or maybe you have experienced a wonderful season and want desperately to hold on to it for fear of change or disappointment or boredom, or the unknown. Let it open up and bloom into the fullness of life for such a time as this. And make it your priority to learn how to be rooted and built up, standing firm in season, accepting and being present in the life you are living now, knowing that things will inevitably change, but making the most of each precious moment, learning your deep lessons, and creating precious memories along the way…
This is not the story of the camel and the straw that broke the camel’s back. No, it begins with a turtle and a straw, a matter of life and death, and it ‘ends’ (or continues on) with you…
Confused? Don’t worry. Let me start by asking you a question. Have you ever felt overwhelmed by something? Perhaps I should rephrase that….what is it that overwhelms you? It is unlikely that any one of us can go through life without feeling that way.
Perhaps what overwhelms you is just the very fact of life itself and trying to make sense of it all, perhaps you’ve been overwhelmed by personal issues such as exams, family conflict, illness, job stress, death of people you know, job loss, uncertainty, or becoming a spouse or a parent and having the responsibility to care for someone else’s life.
Perhaps other things to add to the list of what overwhelms you may include injustice in the world, the terrible things you hear about on a daily basis in the news, broken societies, melting polar icecaps, cruelty to children, the poaching of endangered animals, global commercial sexual exploitation, bonded labour and sex trafficking. Sadly, very sadly, the list goes on and on. On a daily basis we are overloaded with information that we can barely handle the severity of, and we find ourselves morphing from one stage of ‘coping’ to another, from anger, fear, outrage, passion to make a change, despondency, compassion fatigue, and numbness and desensitisation. What is the right way to react?
And what does a straw and a turtle have to do with any of this after all, you might wonder.
Let me explain. Today I felt overwhelmed. Yes, there are so many issues in the world, our own personal world and the world at large, that vie for our attention and response. We cannot possibly handle them all. But sometimes, one particular thing stands out in our day and calls us to take notice. For me today, it was seeing a picture online of a seabird’s decaying carcass which clearly showed that the poor creature had swallowed batteries, shards of plastic, and pieces of packaging. Yes, there are so many other important things that we need to change in the world, but this, this made my heart sink. Poor little bird. What it must have suffered. The image was an accompanying picture to a petition, that I chanced across, calling for shops to ban the production and selling of plastic straws. Plastic straws are not biodegradable and cause much suffering to marine life. We are suffocating ‘our’ (?!) oceans with packaging, things we as wasteful human beings do not even need, and sea creatures ingest or get caught in such packaging and die because of our negligence and greed. I guess that the person or people who drew up the petition realise that to call for an end to the use of plastic packaging altogether would probably be met with mockery, scorn, and a closed door. So they went on to explain that there had already been small successes with calling certain retailers to stop producing cotton buds with plastic attached, and several retailers took notice and responded positively to a previous petition. They described the suffering of a sea turtle that had to be rescued by professionals and have a plastic drinking straw extracted from its nose, while it winced in pain and bled due to the damage the straw had caused.
One straw. One turtle. One rescue. And ultimately a matter of life and death.
It made me think of the passion behind such movements and calls for change. Can something so small really make any difference at all? Yes. It can make the difference to a turtle’s life, to a child’s, to yours, to mine. While there is so much that we can be overwhelmed by, drowning in a sea of our own mistakes and the degradation of mankind as it is today, there is still so much to be empowered and impassioned by.
Dare to believe that the removal of one small straw made a difference to a turtle’s life and relieved it of its suffering. Dare to believe that for good or bad the ‘power of one’ goes far beyond itself. That the power of one bad thought or one good thought can have a ‘ripple effect’ that reverberates and impacts so much more outside of itself.
What if we were to do one small thing for good rather than for bad? To think one positive thought in place of a negative one? To do that one small thing, so small, as small as a plastic straw that you wouldn’t even think it significant? What would that be for you? What difference could one apology make to a relationship? What difference could one smile or kind word make to someone’s life? What difference could one act of repentance make to your life? What difference could that one letter, phone call, text message to someone you care about make? What difference could signing a petition make? What difference can one blog post make? What difference could that one prayer, one conversation, one reconciliation make? What difference could one small step in the right direction make? We could think of it negatively too….what difference could one ‘small’ lie, harsh word, bullet make?
Perhaps a ripple on a pond moving outwards. Perhaps the matter of life and death.