We’re all somewhat anxiously finding ways to adjust to this new and unwanted ‘normal’. While we may be able to enjoy more time at home, and have more time to do things, it is under awful circumstances, and so it can be hard to settle and to concentrate on anything much.
We all have a choice here. To survive or thrive in lockdown. The third option is to go under, and that’s not a pleasant place to be. Many of us will have experienced times in our lives that have felt dark, scary and as if things are falling in upon us. We need to be strong and not let that be an option here. My heart goes out to those who are living in terrible domestic situations or even homeless in this time, such that ‘thriving’ isn’t really an option. But for the rest of us who are safe at home, we do have options.
Unless we have vision, we’re going to simply drift along, trying to muddle through each day as best as we can. If you want to thrive in this situation, you’re going to have to put your mind to it. We’re part of a unique time in history, and I personally don’t want my ‘legacy’ or ‘fruit’ of this season to be merely having spent all of my time playing computer games, watching films, or sharing random videos on social media. Do you? We need to step up if we want more than that for ourselves and our communities.
If you’re in this with me, then I encourage you to write down at least three things that you want to accomplish, work on, or build up during this time. You don’t need to share it with anyone, but you do need to be clear about what these things are. That way, even if you don’t have a solid routine (and who does in a time like this anyway?), you can still ‘chip away’ at things little by little, day by day, moving purposefully and with focus and direction.
Perhaps once you’ve written them down, share them with at least one other person, or simply display them somewhere for you to see and to keep yourself accountable by.
It can also help us to focus so that we don’t give in to the stress, sadness and negativity of this situation.
What about you? What focus will you have to help you more than just ‘muddle through’ this stressful and challenging time?
Words of Encouragement (4.2):
*When home doesn’t feel like home* (or when the people you live with are driving you crazy! 😉 ).
With reference to my earlier post about finding order in the midst of chaos, I provided the image of your home being like a lighthouse in the midst of a global storm. We considered the idea of things that are within our realm of control in contrast to those things going on in the outside world that we can’t do a great deal about in the grand scheme of things. But what if your home is actually like waves crashing upon the rocks? Could *you* still be like a lighthouse in the midst of not only what is happening right now in our communities and in the world, but also more specifically in your own home?
This is worth exploring because we’re all going to be at home in this hiatus for an unknown length of time. Who knows how this is all going to pan out?
If you find that you are struggling with the daily stresses of home or family life, whether or not the people you are living with at the moment are your family, then it is important for your wellbeing and for theirs that you all consider strategies that could help.
1. Routine: This is a stressful time for everyone. People have various concerns from the obvious life and death reality of Coronavirus, fears for family and friends, worries about jobs and work and managing childcare, food supplies and finances. Regardless of your situation, it is important that you have at least some kind of basic structure that will help you to manage and juggle these various cares and responsibilities, and to keep things from becoming overwhelming. Be flexible with these, but try to establish some kind of new household ‘norms’ in these challenging times.
2. Physical boundaries and psychological space: No one said this is going to be easy. Perhaps you are blessed to live in a happy family where for the most part you all get on well and are loving and caring towards each other. This is wonderful if you do, and take time to appreciate your blessings, the people in your life, but also remember that this is sometimes far from the case for everyone around you, and think about how you can be a source of support to friends or family who may be struggling at home. We need to all be thinking of each other, especially in such challenging times.
If you are in a stressful situation at home, it is important that you create some kind of physical and psychological space for yourself, and allow the same for those you live with. Maybe you feel like you’re not getting a moment to yourself if children are competing for your attention, or maybe tensions are running high with your partner or housemate, and you are beginning to lose perspective.
Even if you feel trapped, you *do* have options. It might mean getting up earlier than everyone else or taking some time after others have gone to bed to decompress and think and process.
If you can, try to create a space at home that is just for you where you can get away to. Even if it is just a small area, if you need boundaries, try to establish them and listen to the needs of the other people you’re living with too – this is a challenge for everyone.
3. Be understanding: Communication is really important, and sometimes we all do it quite badly, but this is a time to learn. The people you live with may be stressing you out, but try to remember that this is a new and stressful situation for everyone, and they may be struggling too. Find ways of being mutually supportive, and give extra grace to those who may not be doing things the way you think they should. You can’t stop the waves crashing, their attitudes and responses may be out of the realm of your control, but yours aren’t. So be that light in the midst of the storm, in the world, and in your own household. Be gracious, be kind, be forgiving, and supportive, and take time to work on your own character rather than getting annoyed about the things you can’t change in someone else – I know it’s not easy but it is important. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Help, love and support each other.
4. Take responsibility: It can be easy to fall into negative patterns of blame rather than working together when things get stressful. You need to take responsibility and be concerned about what you can change in yourself and your own attitude rather than trying to ‘fix’ someone else. They are imperfect, but so are you. They need compassion, support and understanding, and so do you. Look for solutions, together if you can, so that you aren’t weighted down by the problems.
5. Create a new family / household ‘tradition’ for this time: Maybe it could be a new activity you do regularly at home with your children so that the Coronavirus pandemic seems a little less scary to them, and isn’t always the focus of attention or conversation. Maybe with the adults you live with you can create an activity to accomplish during this time inside, something after you’ve done your ‘working from home’ bit, and something that has nothing to do with watching the news or TV or tidying the house, etc. Read a play or a novel aloud to each other each evening even for a few minutes, do a puzzle, a jigsaw or something else that will activate the parts of your brain that help you to focus, to concentrate and to relax, rather than just constantly absorbing information from external sources. A few minutes of time in your daily routine that you can look forwards to together, and even if you have to stay isolated in a separate room, you can also pick up the phone for a chat 🙂
6. Set goals: When things feel like they are getting a bit crazy around you, it helps to have some small and manageable goals each day. You might have bigger things you want to use your time to work on while you have a bit of extra time away from the outside world, but also be realistic and set small goals too, as during times of stress and change it can be hard to concentrate. Some of these goals can be working alongside your family members to establish a sense of teamwork to overcome conflict. If this seems like it can’t be done then do what you are able to do on your own. Set short time limits, and break down tasks into tiny ‘bitesized’ chunks that you can do for a while and come back to if you are getting overwhelmed. Try to keep your space tidy and clean as this will help you to have a calmer state of mind. If this is difficult, then have one small area that is ordered and that you can go to to rest, even if it is the corner of a sofa!
7. Be *intentionally* grateful everyday: gratitude doesn’t just happen. It takes a choice on your part to recognise and appreciate the specific things in your life that you can be grateful for, even if those things are challenges. Be intentionally grateful at the start and the end of each day, and allow this to change you. You can put pen to paper or just take time to think on these things. If you are feeling stressed out or annoyed with your living situation and the people around you, take time to be intentionally grateful for them everyday. It might not be easy for you, but when you think of the sobering reality that so many people are losing loved ones, and how many frontline workers would wish to be at home with their people even if it is stressful, then it will definitely change your attitude, your perspective, and hopefully the atmosphere in your home for the better.
Take care, love, stay safe, be kind.
Well friends, tomorrow is the concluding day of the first month of 2020! A brand new year, a brand new month and a brand new decade. How has it been for you? Have you survived and / or thrived through all of the expectations that this ‘newness’ may have presented you with?
What have been your highlights, and your learning points? And are you excited to soon be starting a brand new month?
As you move forwards from here, let me share with you a few things to consider to make for a more fruitful month in February.
1. Be honest with yourself as you look back over the past month.
Oftentimes we feel the pressure from others, ourselves, society and social media messages to be ‘doing great’ at the start of a brand new year. At the start of a new decade, perhaps some of the internal pressures we place upon ourselves to ‘rise and shine’ and ‘live our best lives’ is even greater. Or perhaps such things don’t affect you all that much.
Either way, as we reach the end of the first month of this year, it is important to be honest with yourself. Most people start a new year with new expectations, goals and plans. Take time to think about where you have got to with yours if you had any. Also, be honest with yourself as to how the past month has actually been for you. You can think about things in the following ways:
Circumstances: Overall, were things good or bad this month? Accept what has passed and identify any issues that you need to resolve that have been difficult for you, both practically and emotionally. If things have overall been good, take time to reflect upon these, enjoy the memories of the experiences, be grateful for them and think of steps to climb even higher as you progress through the year.
Mental and emotional health and wellbeing: This is quite a personal one, and you hopefully will best know the questions to ask of yourself. Taking time to assess your mental and emotional wellbeing will help you and others as you move forwards, otherwise you can get stuck in a rut, or even pulled under if you don’t take time to address any issues that you may have that need your attention and care.
Think about how your mental and emotional health has been in January. Are there any triggering factors that made things difficult? Are there any things contributing to your positive mental and emotional health? What can you take forwards from here to build upon as you head into February?
Physical health: Time to think about your well being physically including in terms of activity levels, nutrition and other forms of self care. Are you looking after yourself or are there things that you can be doing better?
Sleep: After the time off during Christmas and the winter seasons, it can come as a bit of a shock to the system to get back into a routine. By now, most people are back ‘in the swing of things’ and sometimes this can mean powering full steam ahead which can be detrimental if you’re not getting the rest and sleep that you need. Check in with yourself and make sure you are not overworking yourself or wasting the precious rejuvenating hours that a good night’s sleep and rest can bring. Don’t worry if you struggle with this, you’re definitely not alone – it’s one of the biggest things that I need to work on!
2. Social connections, priorities and other people.
As well as taking time to think about how well you have been taking care of yourself over this past month (so that you can make improvements as you move forwards through the year), it is also important to consider your wellbeing in terms of a wider perspective. Taking care of ourselves on an individual level is one thing, but we also need to think about how connections with other people affect us whether positively or negatively, and to consider which aspects of these connections need to be nurtured, and which others need to be ‘pruned’ or cut away.
It’s important not to let yourself get swept up in the current of other people’s priorities, demands and activities where they don’t align well with your own. By this I don’t mean shirk your responsibilities and duties. Not by any means! If you have responsibilities to care for other people such as parents, children, dependants and so forth, it would be unethical to simply disregard their needs just because you want something different. No, what I mean is that being part of a society, the people we come in contact with may make requests or demands upon our time and attention and before committing to anything and everything you need to consider the longer term vision of your own life, and year, and not overcommit, especially to things that don’t align with your vision or values. Be open minded, but also be cautious – your personal, ‘free’ time away from work and family is such a precious commodity, you need to use it wisely, so don’t feel pressured into saying ‘yes’ to everything. Equally don’t miss out on opportunities that you need to take.
Further to this, you also need to think about how you are spending time and who you are spending time with. Are there people in your life who are draining you? Are there those who inspire you? Are there others with whom you are mutually encouraged? Think about the specifics of your own situations and circumstances and be mindful of how you relate to people and the effect you allow them to have on you, and make more considered choices as you continue through the year.
3. Plans and projects.
You may have started the year with a whole host of great ideas, some of which you might have hoped to get off the ground or make progress with in January. Let’s (once again) be honest with ourselves. How practical has this been? Have you achieved what you enthusiastically set out to, or do you need to revisit your plans, projects, goals and timescales? Don’t be hard on yourself. Small steps all add up. Keep going, but also don’t tie yourself to something you have started that you now realise actually isn’t the right choice for your life. Take time to responsibly consider whether there are things you can let go of and how without negatively affecting other people as far as is possible.
What has worked and what needs improved upon or changed in terms of how you have approached your plans for this month? What lessons have you learned and what will you take forwards into February?
4. The bigger picture – Faith, and the people you love.
Don’t get so caught up in the minutiae or day to day routines of life that you forget to ‘look up’. Don’t forget to take time to appreciate, to be thankful, to consider the Source of all the good things and blessings in your life. Are you seeking Truth? Are you growing as a person? Are you gaining insights spiritually? And are you making time to simply be and spend time with the people you love?
Be blessed as you progress into a brand new month, and don’t be afraid to start afresh. 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.
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
Connection. Belonging. Love. Shared experiences. In a word: Friendship.
The importance of Friendship:
Friendship is one of the most satisfying and meaningful parts of our experience of being human. Yet, how often do people intentionally invest in their current friendships, or in forging out new connections?
Expectations of Relationships:
Our society often puts such an emphasis on romantic relationships (to the detriment of friendships) to such an extent that they can become somewhat of an ‘idol’, bearing the burden of expectation to fulfil all of our unmet needs. Yet, what about this little gem of a notion that friendships of the non-romantic type can be life affirming, fulfilling and bring meaning to our lives, whether or not you have a ‘significant other’ or a family of your own? In fact, having a wide circle of close friendships can lighten the load on relationships, as you have different avenues through which to express different parts of your personality, a variety of people to share hobbies with that your spouse or partner may not be particularly interested in, and an outlet in which you can be more ‘carefree’ with your friends when the level of responsibility and commitment is not the same and less intense.
How do we measure ‘success’ and satisfaction in life?
We all know that we need human connection in order to thrive, yet we often seem to be a society driven by ‘goals’ that can be measured in terms of ‘success’. In the western world, where the sense of extended family connections tend to be weaker and weakening, in combination with higher divorce rates and more frequent family breakdown, you would think that the value placed upon friendships would be significant; yet is it? Have you set any goals or made any new year resolutions this month? Might they include things that measure ‘success’ or satisfaction in life in terms of money, status, experiences, job / work opportunities, travel, family?
Have you included investing your time and attention in your friendships as part of your thinking?
I don’t mean to sound ‘clinical’ or ‘strategic’ by using the word ‘investing’. However, think about the things that are important to you and that you prioritise in your life. You certainly plan and set aside time and resources to nurture these things, to enable them to grow, don’t you? You invest considerable amounts of time in your job or studies or main occupation. You invest time planning financially. You plan and save for holidays, travel and other experiences. Perhaps you have a set ‘routine’ to enable you to spend quality time with your family – such as ensuring you read your children a bed-time story after your work. I know some people who have ‘date nights’ (although the term makes me cringe somewhat, perhaps because I’m single! 🙂 ) with their spouse, or time when you will eat together as a family, or visit elderly relatives. You are investing your time, care, and attention in all of these life areas. Last year I set a goal to visit my family at least once a month, and apart from one month when the weather was particularly stormy and I couldn’t see them (which I made up for with two visits on another month), I stuck to this and we have all reaped the benefits as a family of this planned and regular time together. Perhaps you have time when you will intentionally invest in your family, in spending time with your spouse, your children, your parents or siblings so that you can keep in touch and connected to each other. So why not so with your friendships? Are you intentional towards the time and attention you give to people in your life who you care about but who are not necessarily directly related to you? Or do you just ‘let things happen’, and ‘go with the flow’? How much time, care and attention we invest in things is a reflection of the importance we place upon them in our lives.
I love that friendships can be ‘organic’, changing, growing, evolving over time, often serendipitously, and I don’t like to put constraints on things that do have such a natural aspect to them. However, how many times have you heard someone say (or have you yourself said) ‘we used to be close, but we just drifted apart’?
When married couples stop being attentive and intentional in their time with each other, when they just let things happen, chances are they are more likely to ‘drift apart’ over time, and maybe you yourself know the devastation that this can bring, impacting upon not only your marriage, but wider connections such as family, friends, and most particularly if you have children. Do people not advise married couples who are struggling to be more attentive, to invest time in each other, in marriage counselling, in paying attention and communicating with each other in order to survive? I’ve personally never been married, but I have sadly seen friends whose marriages are ending or have ended in divorce. It takes work. It takes being intentional and investing our time and care in someone that we value.
Why then, or perhaps it is just my perception, do people feel less comfortable with the idea of ‘investing in friendships’? Why do so many people find that meaningful friendships have fallen by the wayside, to which people respond that they’ve simply ‘drifted apart’?
I personally pray into and am intentional with my friendships. There are a couple of people that I knew only as acquaintances that I invested time praying for – for them in their lives with things I thought they needed help with, not necessarily for us to become friends – and these people have become very close friends. All of the friendships that I have prayed into have borne fruit and brought blessings in my life, whether for a season, or for many years. Of course, some people drift away, but for those where there is a mutual interest in staying connected, it takes intention, care and love, and making time for each other. People rarely simply ‘drift’ unless circumstances are so impinging upon that friendship or one or both people lose interest.
Perspectives, and a view from my window:
As a single woman, I highly prize friendships and some friends have become like family to me. I have also learned, from where I am looking, that friends who are married find an outlet in their friendships that they can’t find in their marriage. They find the need for other connections and often find solace in friendships when they and their spouse are struggling to communicate or are going through difficulties or issues which in that type of relationship are always more intense, and it helps them when they have a friend to talk to, to cry with, or to offer an outside and objective perspective. Married people and those in relationships need other friends too to stay healthy and ‘well-rounded’, and possibly sane! 😉
I have also learned that people who spend all of their time with their partner or family can be left feeling very isolated if or when things breakdown, or if one falls ill, or if they face bereavement.
‘Friends are the family we choose for ourselves’, so perhaps we need to really give time and attention to this valuable aspect of our lives.
It is also important in friendships to have a balance, a give and take and to not expect too much from any one particular friend, because they too will have their own commitments and other priorities and responsibilities and life issues to balance. Develop a few good friendships so that you don’t leave any particular friend feeling overburdened or overwhelmed, and so that you don’t put strain on the friendship. Learn to know each others needs for space and for connection and find out what works best in those unique relationships whether one to one or in friendship groups.
In a world where family structures are sadly not as stable or as secure as they could or should be, a network of trusted friends can be that ‘extended family’ of sorts that can prove to be mutually beneficial, practically supportive, satisfying and life enhancing.
Do you think it is worth ‘investing’ in any of your friendships today?
January is a good time to be gentle with ourselves. It’s a time when we are emerging out of ‘hibernation’ and yet are also faced with expectations to be all things new and all at once. That’s not reasonable nor practical nor altogether healthy for us if we’re honest with ourselves.
It’s a great idea to re-evaluate our lives and set new goals, however, the idea of being able to ‘hit the ground running’ on January 1st isn’t particularly helpful. I find that incremental changes over time are far more sustainable in the long run: ‘slow and steady wins the race’.
However, that’s not to say that it isn’t a particularly good time to use the idea of a new year and a new start to boost our motivation, but the way in which we do that doesn’t need to be in a flurry of activity.
So, feel free to pace yourself as you continue to journey through January.
For many of us, the first changes stem from perhaps going back home after spending time with family over Christmas, or saying goodbye to family if they have stayed with us. Others may not have to move or say goodbye or make any such changes, but the chances are that you will have to start tidying up and reorganising after the festive period. I don’t put any pressure on myself to do this in the first week of January as I like to gradually and gently say goodbye to that holiday feeling and savour the happy moments of it as I do. What’s the rush after all?
After that, we face the next challenge of remembering to get out of bed in the morning and go to work, while also remembering that it’s not socially acceptable to wear pyjamas all day or to take a nap in the afternoon – at least not in normal working life!
Our bodies are still adjusting to the changes in our sleep patterns, our diets and our activity levels. Which is why it’s a good idea like I said at the start of this post to be gentle with ourselves. Don’t expect that you will make and keep many drastic changes from ‘day 1’, that’s too much pressure. Maybe you thrive under that kind of pressure, and I suppose that’s ok, but if you don’t then don’t add to your anxiety by self-imposed and non-essential demands. Things take time, life takes time, so….take your time.
Perhaps it is a good idea to set ‘weekly goals’ in January rather than try to ‘attack’ a whole host of new year resolutions all at once. For example the first week could be simply going to work, with no other added expectations other than whatever else needs to be done to get you through your daily routine.
After that, perhaps the following week you will be more energised to begin to really ‘get going’ or to focus on another area of your routine such as addressing your sleep habits and your morning and evening routines. Your body will gradually adjust as you go at a gentle pace. Maybe in week three you can attend to the tidying up, the seeing people or the other things that you want to focus on.
As we are gentle with ourselves and accept that things take time and change is often most beneficial in the long term when it is gradual, consistent and sustained, then we will in good time find that boost of motivation to stride confidently into and through this new year.
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.
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
We all need vision for our lives. We all need to dream, to have meaning, goals and purpose.
Yet those dreams need to be united with the practical and sometimes ‘mundane’ steps of living them out.
At the start of this new year and new decade, 2020, you may have big dreams for your life. You may already be working towards life long goals and dreams. But the dreams will not sustain themselves and need to be coupled with both faith and action.
At the beginning of this year, I was gearing up to be ‘ready to go’. However, ‘IRL’ the morning of new year’s day I spent playing my violin, shortly after which I ended up coughing, sneezing and huddled up with the cold. I had to leave my parents’ home that evening and they dropped me back at my own flat, so after one day of rest I was back at work on Friday, and this weekend, I’ve been unable to do very much because of this unwanted cold.
I’ve spent the weekend so far sipping ginger tea, sleeping, eating, praying, doing some Bible study, and blogging a little when I’m able to sit up. I’ve been somewhat at the mercy of my body and unable to ‘get up and go’ or be prepared as I would like to for the start of a brand new year. I’m coughing and have a sore throat, and just need to take it easy so that I can recover. So, that is ‘life as it happens to be’ right now.
And perhaps you have dreams, plans and goals you wish to achieve, yet without a doubt daily life will at times get in the way, but the key is not to get side-tracked or waylaid by these inconveniences or challenges. You may not be able to press full steam ahead with your plans, but little by little day by day, keep persevering towards your goals, don’t lose focus or vision and don’t let yourself get discouraged by the inevitable distractions of day to day life.
What is your vision for this year, or for yourself generally? A healthier you? There will be things to trip you up along the way, but keep that vision and that focus, and do a little at a time, day by day, get into patterns of healthier living and thinking and don’t give up. Some days you might not be able to live just as you want, but keep moving in that healthy direction for your life and watch the small and steady steps all add up to a better journey through life.
Do you want to work on all sorts of personal projects, keep your home neat and tidy, and write or study new things on a regular basis, but like me today you find yourself sick and unable to do very much? Maybe like me in the past you’ve also had longstanding health problems, maybe you have more serious health problems to deal with as we speak. Don’t give up. Is recovery your goal? Keep that vision, the positive attitude, and keep ‘chipping away’ at things bit by bit, day by day. No one said there would never be challenges, hard days or disappointment on your journey, but find the faith and strength to overcome and to persevere, just a little at a time, day by day.
Maybe, like me today, you just have the inconvenience of a cold. I’ve come through a lot of tough battles and struggles in my life, so I’m quite thankful that this day is blessed with only a little inconvenience. It’s a matter of perspective. We can do what we can to heal, be thankful that it’s the weekend, and even when we feel tired, worn out, have dishes piled high that we don’t have the energy to wash, have suitcases to unpack and want to but don’t have the energy to get back into an exercise routine, when we want to achieve things and be our best, but we can barely get ourselves ready, even then we can do a little at a time.
Take some rest. Look after yourself. Remind yourself of what is important. And don’t feel discouraged if you can’t do the ‘big things’ today. One of my dreams is to complete my novel, and to use my blog to make an impact on other people’s lives for the better, and most of all to glorify God. Ok, so I’ve written a lot of my novel, but I also want to take it a lot further, and there isn’t going to be much novel writing at the moment with me being unwell. I’d like to inspire, uplift and encourage people through my blog, and I don’t know if this is all too ‘mundane’ to do that right now, but at least I can do this little by little, bit by bit, and these few blog posts can help move me in the right direction as I persevere.
So, whatever it is you are facing today, whether it is a common cold, or a crisis, don’t let these things push you off course from the purpose, dreams and visions for your life. Keep focused, and even when it is tough, just keep putting that one step in front of another. In time to come, you’ll be so glad you did, and so will the people that you end up encouraging! x