The slowing of the seasons brings with them a natural point of reflection and contemplation in our days. I personally find that as they days and nights grow colder, when darkness arrives early and the temperature suddenly drops, as shops begin to fill with decorations, and as we see those lovely cosy advertisements of warm, happy, fun filled, bountiful festivities reminding us to shop for good food at low prices, and to buy the latest gifts for our friends, families and loved ones, and ourselves, that the contrast between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ becomes starker.
I feel blessed to live where I live – a city with green spaces such as parks. It means that I can get away from the hustle and bustle of life and enjoy nature, but also that I’m not hiding myself away from or secluded from the harsher realities of other people’s lives.
In one day, walking through my city, I could have spent some peaceful times of solitude reflecting upon beautiful autumn and winter scenes in the park, watching squirrels and ducks, and maybe stopping for a coffee or going for lunch or to the shops with friends, in any one of numerous locations. But I also will inevitably walk past a number of homeless people, those who are cold, vulnerable, forgotten, lonely, with nowhere to go and nothing to eat. Sometimes I will stop and talk to one of them or offer some food or give out a pre-prepared ‘care package’ that I’ve made, and give what I can as I am able and when it is safe to do so. (Obviously it’s important to keep ourselves safe, and to be aware that not everyone is genuine, therefore I am careful to either help via homeless charities, and / or to help directly when in well lit places, near shops and where other people are coming and going, because I feel that is safer for a young woman to do so, and to do so in daylight, or if in the evening, only when I am in company with friends for example).
I feel blessed to have these contrasting perspectives. It is lovely to spend time in beautiful places, enjoying ‘the good life’ even if that is in the simple things such as a walk in the park, lunch with a friend, taking photographs of wildlife, going to the cinema or wandering around the shops to do some window shopping. It’s also lovely as Christmas approaches to enjoy the variety of Christmas markets in my city and other neighbouring cities that are only an hour or so travel time away. However, some of my most poignant memories of going to these lovely, bright, beautiful, cosy and festive Christmas markets, stocked with handmade goodies, with delicious smells wafting invitingly by, are those of seeing the people at the edges, at the fringes, hoping for some compassion, and knowing that they will be forgotten about, overlooked, and maybe even that they may not make it through the night as the temperature falls. While my friends, family and I can enjoy the outdoor fun because we know we will have a warm place to go afterwards, many all around us do not.
Even if you aren’t face to face with those who are marginalised and suffering and unable to meet their daily and basic needs, for whatever reason they find themselves in that position, we are still all part of a world, a society in which those who have far less than us exist.
It can be easy to feel ‘guilty’ for enjoying what we can, or for feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Yes, I know that problems of homelessness and so forth exist all year around, however, I feel that it must be so much more painful during certain times of the year when those sitting on the pavements of our cities see everyone else frivolously throwing their money away on unnecessary frivolities, things they don’t care for or need, and enjoying themselves in a way that is more apparent than during other months.
I can’t imagine how hard that must be for someone watching on, hoping for a scrap of food, human contact or some small offering of compassion.
I know some people have their views and judgements and stereotypes, but I prefer not to judge why someone is in the position they are in. Rather, I think “There but for the Grace of God go I” and in such a situation what would I want my fellow human beings to do?
There is a lot that we just cannot do. However, don’t let that discourage you.
Think of all the many good things you can do, or be involved in, and even if you do ‘just’ one thing, that will mean something to someone, and that someone matters as much as you do. If each one of us adds one act of kindness for someone in need this season in addition to all the gifts we give to people we know and love, think of the difference that will make to those who otherwise would be forgotten, marginalised, lost, alone, hungry, cold and in need of some human kindness.
The colder, wintry weather brings with it challenges for our skin, especially those of us with pre-existing skin conditions and / or sensitive skin. Stay prepared and have a good moisturiser and lip balm at the ready to keep your skin healthy and soothe the abrasions and cracks that the harsher weather can cause, and stay hydrated with water to help your skin replenish and renew itself.
One of the most fascinating things about blogging on Word Press, is the amazing insight into the variety of countries that you, my lovely readers, represent. I’m sometimes amazed at the countries and flags that pop up to show me where people are viewing my blog from. It makes me really excited, and I welcome you all. If you want to introduce yourself or post a comment on which country you are from and what November and December is like for you where you are, then that would be splendid! 🙂
That being said, and knowing that some of you live in places where the sun is still shining at this time of the year, I’ll let you in on a little ‘secret’. If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m writing from not-so-sunny Scotland! Your colder temperatures would probably be what we consider to be ‘summer’ weather 🙂
And so, some of the things I write about on ‘surviving winter’ may seem a little odd depending on where you are from, but that’s part of the adventure of learning more about life in different parts of the world.
My advice from this post is a short and simple one to begin with, now that the introductions have taken place, and that is to wrap up, stay warm, and cosy.
Just as with life more generally, at work we go through changing seasons. There are some seasons that might seem more stressful, where we are working alongside what Ron Swanson from ‘Parks and Recreation’ would term as ‘work proximity associates’ rather than friends.
However, there are also happier and more fulfilling seasons, working alongside people whose company we enjoy and respect and we find that certain colleagues become friends.
It is such a blessing to be able to come into work, knowing that you have even one or two people that you can consider friends.
Therefore, the ‘lunchbite’ for you today comes from something that sprung out of such a work-friend relationship yesterday. I have a friend at work (the only person I work with who has access to my blog – so Hi! 🙂 ) and sometimes we have lunch together. Yesterday we were chatting over lunch about some of the sad and terrible things going on in the world and how much need there is in the lives of people in our city, such as homeless and hungry people, and those suffering in all different kinds of situations.
While we could have just left the conversation there, we decided that as friends and colleagues, we will find a way to collaborate, work together, and do something to help others as the winter season approaches, when many people are in desperate need in the city where we work. This isn’t part of our job roles, but just something we have a common concern about as people, and so as friends we are going to put our heads and resources together to help others. I’m not sharing this to say look at what we are doing, but instead to inspire you to connect with the like minded people around you, some of whom are the people, colleagues and friends you work with.
Instead of letting a conversation about the problems of the world end as just a conversation, decide to use your lunch breaks not only to chat about such things, but to inspire, motivate and encourage each other and work together to make a change, no matter how small that change might seem. One small random act of kindness can mean so much to the person who receives it. So be inspired this lunchtime that you and your colleagues and friends can make a difference, and although we might do this individually, there is something special and powerful and inspiring about working together for the common good.
I wonder what inspiring and motivating things you are going to come up with this lunchtime….? 🙂
I don’t know about you, but where I am it seems to be the season for cold and flu viruses doing their rounds. This year, it seems to be hitting people a bit harder than usual, including myself. There are few places at the moment where you won’t encounter someone with a sore throat, cough, cold or who is generally looking and feeling ‘under the weather’.
I am recovering (hence being able to sit up and write my blog) after being sick for over a week. I often find myself pondering, as my mind wanders, the analogies that exist between day to day happenings and life on a deeper level. So this time, friends, the life lessons come from the humble, common cold virus.
I had set myself a goal of having zero sick days this year. I also was quite adamant that I wouldn’t get sick when I realised that there was something in the air, as it were. However, those ‘promises’ were short lived when my body decided to grind to a halt against all my good intentions to stay well. I haven’t had a cold like this for quite a while, and certainly not one that caused me to be ill for over a week and unable to leave the house. Life has a funny way of teaching us. Here are some of the lessons that this cold taught me:
1. Sometimes life just happens, and we have to ‘roll with it’.
As I mentioned, I had no intentions of getting sick, and with my regular routines of exercise and quite healthy eating, I was doing alright to maintain a good level of health. But as we know now, I did get sick, and there really wasn’t much I could do to stop that from happening.
Sometimes life just happens, and we have to ‘roll with it’. Against all our plans, and despite our determination, sometimes life’s happenings get the better of us, and we find our self ‘on the bench’ or in the sick room, watching from the sidelines as everything continues without us .
Have you ever been there? Whether you have or haven’t, there’s no sure way to know whether or not you will be in the future. While we can’t necessarily prevent certain things happening, we may be able to lessen the likelihood of them happening. And where we can’t do that, we can build our daily resilience by building our character, working on our attitude and mindset, and taking care of what has been put in our care…being ‘good stewards’ of our giftings, belongings, responsibilities and relationships. And if you haven’t been doing that, and you do find that ‘the rug has been pulled out from under you’, you can still be intentional about how you think about and respond to the situation you find yourself in.
2. Busy isn’t always best…listen to your body and mind when they urge you to rest.
Now, when I did accept that I wasn’t going anywhere fast, I came up with a plan to get better as soon as possible and get back to work within a day or two. While some people are able to do that, my body had other ideas, and I was devoid of much energy and unable to move or to do the simplest things. Most of us live in societies and cultures where we are constantly compelled to be busy. We equate busy with useful even though being busy doesn’t necessarily mean being productive. When we stop walking by rivers, or cloud gazing or listening to the rustle of leaves in the park, in other words when we don’t ‘stop to smell the roses’, we allow ourselves to tune out of creation’s natural rhythms, and tune into the chaotic frequency of noise, bustle, busyness, and the frantic hurry of modern day life. If you have ever experienced ‘burnout’, times of stress, anxiety, panic attacks or other similar symptoms, you know that there is only so much your body, mind and heart can take before it simply takes a break, with or without your permission.
Believe me, busy isn’t always best…and I have a feeling that you know it yourself. Even when I was unwell, I wanted to clean, to tidy up the mess of the household work that I wasn’t able to do because I had no energy, and I just had to focus on getting better and obey my body which refused to do much at all other than rest, sleep, fight off the virus and ‘check out’ of ‘normal’ everyday life.
Don’t let it get to the point in life where you burnout, and where you are forced to grind to a halt. Take care of yourself daily. Yes, we all have to deal with life in a rapidly changing, moving world (well, at least most of us do), but that doesn’t mean that you have to add that extra thing to your ‘to do list’. Stop and rest a while. If you work in an office, do you really have to sit at your desk to eat lunch? Can you just ‘get away’ from it all for 20 minutes, and find a few moments to yourself to rest and eat and think without interruption? Do you need to be ‘plugged in’ to the world and all its happenings 24/7? Can you switch off earlier or more often and limit the time you allow your mind to be bombarded and overloaded by messages, stories, images and the constant stream of information that we face in an online world? Can you take a walk in nature more often? Can you choose to read a book rather than scroll through news feeds? Can you find the time to take a nap? Do you really need to ‘do it all’, and if so, is that ‘one more thing’ you have to do worth sacrificing your mental and physical health and wellbeing for?
3. We need each other
Robert Putnam in his well known article, ‘Bowling Alone’ wrote about the importance of ‘social capital’ in a world where people are increasingly ‘bowling alone’. We all gain from positive interactions, connections and relationships. It is necessary for a healthy society and healthy individuals.
I live alone, and when I was sick I really struggled to simply look after myself. How nice it would have been to have someone help out with simple things like doing the dishes, preparing food, or getting medicine. If you have such a someone in your life, please let them know you appreciate them 🙂 I had to do it all myself, but thankfully I was able to order groceries and cough and cold medicine to be delivered to my flat and that certainly helped when I was unable to go outside. While I didn’t have physical help, I did have contact over the phone with my family, and even that helped ‘keep me going’. Most of us don’t like to be dependent on others, but we are interdependent – that’s part of what it means to be human. Foster those good healthy connections and relationships. Reach out and ask for help when you need to, but also try to strengthen yourself to be able to be as resilient as possible if you do find that you have to go it alone in seasons or circumstances of life. And perhaps most importantly, be reminded that there are people, young, old and middle aged alike, who against all their wishes and determination, do find that they are dependent for help – perhaps their bodies or minds have ‘given up’ in some way, perhaps they no longer function as they once did, perhaps they are in a situation and state in life that they really didn’t wish for, and they simply cannot get by without the help or care of others. Maybe this is a temporary situation…maybe they have to endure this for a long time. We don’t like to feel dependent, but sometimes we are….and sometimes someone really could benefit from that offer of help, or from the unasked kindness of a hot meal made for them, a little help here or there…the risk of having the offer rejected is not so important as the potential impact of helping and encouraging someone who really does need it. Be brave…take that chance.
It’s an obvious one, but something so many of us struggle with….getting enough sleep. Yet it is essential for maintaining our health and wellbeing. We may be busy, but we cannot afford to trade off getting things done with compromising our health. It is amazing how sleep restores – there are so many functions going on within our bodies that we are barely aware of….don’t they deserve to get the rest and sleep they need? 🙂
5. What are you taking for granted?
So now we come to the final life lesson that the common cold has for us today: Gratitude.
How funny it is that we humans often take something for granted until we no longer are able to do or have it. We may moan about our jobs, but when we are unable to attend our work we find we miss it, or at least appreciate the ability we normally have to carry out our work. When we are confined indoors, we find a new appreciation for the outside world – for blue skies overhead, the sound of birdsong, the whisper of a breeze on our skin. When we are immobile, we think upon how wonderful it is to be able to move, to function, to have health and to do simple things on our own. When we are unwell, we appreciate health. When we are alone, we appreciate company. When we are tired, we appreciate strength.
Do you have any of these today? Do you have strength enough to do your housework? Be grateful and don’t grumble. Do you have a job to go to? Try to appreciate it, along with your ability to do it. Do you have someone to help you with the day to day things of life? Hold off from any judgements you may have of them for *how* they are helping, and show your appreciation that you have them in your life in the first place. Do you have health? Enjoy it, be thankful, use it to bring something good into the world today. Do you have money in your pocket, a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and a mind that is still functioning? Be grateful. Look after yourself, and those around you, and don’t wait until you no longer have it to appreciate what you have right now. xx
As I type, life as it happens to be today has me experiencing symptoms of the common cold – sore throat, cough, fever, fatigue, etc.
The thing I find about blogging about and reflecting on my life, just as it happens to be, is that within the everyday, seemingly ordinary and mundane things of life (like having a bad cold!) there can be little treasures of lessons and blessings.
So, here is what having the cold is teaching me today! 🙂
Sometimes in life, you’ve just got to wait it out!
Nobody likes feeling unwell (and if they do, then that is rather strange). And it is unlikely that anyone particularly enjoys having a cough, cold, fever, tiredness, fatigue, and so forth. However, these things are facts of life that come and go with the seasons.
In life, we can find ourselves wanting to be in a different state to that which we are currently experiencing. For instance, you might be experiencing delays, setbacks, illness or disappointment. You may be unemployed and waiting for something to work out for you. You may be struggling with any number of things in life that have you experiencing a state you would rather not be in, but sometimes you’ve just got to ‘wait it out’. Let the season or situation of life take its course, just as you would when you’ve got a bad cold, and do your best to stay well, recover, and take the actions you need to in order to improve your situation.
2. Take time to rest and build up strength!
When facing a cold, depending on our attitude, we may take a defiant stance – “I’m not going to let this defeat me. This isn’t going to stop me from doing all the things I normally do. I’ll show this cold who’s boss, and I’ll just plough on through it.”
Sometimes that might work. However, most medical advice would say that the best way to enable your body to ‘fight back’ and to replenish itself is to give it the chance to rest. Get plenty of rest and sleep, don’t push yourself farther than you need to go, take a break and it’s likely you’ll recover quicker.
Similarly, in life more generally, we need to make sure we take the time to rest and rejuvenate, even in the day to day routine of life if not taking specific, longer set aside time out. Taking the time to rest can help us achieve a better balance between work and leisure, it can help us to be more aware of our own thoughts and feelings, better manage your emotions, relate better to other people, be more productive longer term, live more fully and avoid the build up of unnecessary stress that can lead to burnout. I’ve definitely been a victim of not getting enough rest, and sometimes it is difficult depending on our circumstances to do just that. However, there are ways of building ‘R&R’ into our days and for our longer term health and wellbeing and fulfilment in life it is definitely worth thinking about and implementing steps towards this.
3. Self-care is important
When you’re feeling under the weather, what do you normally do, or what advice would other people give you?
Perhaps that would include: get plenty of rest, take the appropriate medicine, eat healthily, drink plenty of water, don’t overdo it, and basically just look after yourself.
In life, it’s important that we take care of ourselves more generally too. Maybe it’s worth thinking about how you can look after yourself a bit better, or how you can maintain your self-care if it is already something that you do intentionally as it is.
4. Things will change
You won’t have a cold forever, things will take their course, you’ll hopefully feel better, get back to strength and keep going with the next things in life.
Likely, things will improve. However, whatever your situation in life is right now, it is guaranteed that it will change. And your adaptability to change and seeing the positives even in situations that don’t seem good, has a lot to do with your perception and attitude.
Whatever the case, things will change, and there are plenty of things that you can do to make things better and improve whatever situation you are in. Life goes on, so make the most of your better days, and don’t despair over your ‘not so good’ days, this too will pass.
And now, taking my own advice from steps 1, 2 and 3, I’m off to bed! 🙂