Tag Archives: life

Self Care In A Pandemic (75): Start Where You Are…

I know of friends who are looking for new jobs in the pandemic. I know of people who have started new courses. I know of people whose marriages have sadly come to an end, not caused by the pandemic, but coinciding with it. I know of people who have been trying to have a baby for years and have at last become pregnant. I know of people, friends that are a few decades older than me, whose adult children are considering what to do next whether that is to do a college or university course, or are looking for a new job or their first job. I know of people who have embarked upon a new relationship, and are trying to figure out whether to continue or not. I know of people who are working on overcoming mental health challenges, and who are putting their minds to the day to day things of life. There are people, all of us, who are in a variety of situations in this pandemic, some good, some bad, some difficult, some easier. There are people who are starting things for the first time, there are people who are having to begin again. Some people have become homeless in this pandemic for a variety of reasons. Many people are in situations where they feel they are having to ‘start from scratch’.

Perhaps you are one of those people. Maybe you are not starting from scratch in such a way but maybe you’re not sure what’s next. Maybe you need a job or are wondering about whether to start a course. Be encouraged that that’s ok, even if you don’t know what’s next or haven’t made it to where you want to be. There are several areas of my life where I don’t know what’s next or have any idea of how to get there, but I remind myself that God has led me through so many unknowns and challenges already and I can start on my knees, with prayer to Him, Jesus Christ, The Living God.

I, like you, can also start from right where I am right now. You may not be rebuilding your life from some terrible tragedy, but be encouraged that there are people who have, and that you can take the next step of life, your life from where you are right now, even if it is the smallest of steps of faith. In her book, ‘Things Get Better’, Katie Piper talks about how she had to rebuild her life from rock bottom after rape and acid attacks and then being in a coma and being scarred and burned and disfigured. She faced fear, anxiety, PTSD and many, many medical operations. She was given the prognosis that she would be homebound and reliant on full time care. Now she is living independently, is a writer, a TV presenter, an activist, has a charity for burns survivors, is married and has two little daughters and helps so many other people. Initially after her attack she just wanted to die and it seemed there was no hope for her. She is also a Christian, having encountered The Living God in that hospital bed keeping her alive, and her faith has grown as she reaches out to others, and has podcasts on mental health and also shares her faith now as a presenter on the UK television programme ‘Songs of Praise’. You might look at that and listen to that story and think ‘wow’, ‘how did she do it?’. In her book she describes how she set the smallest of goals for herself on a day to day basis, such as ‘holding down a meal’. Things that most of us probably take for granted. She really was at rock bottom and needed help with surgeries, feeding tubes, psychological support and many other intensive care treatments. Maybe we’ve had something in our life that we can relate to in some way, but the chances are most of us haven’t gone through that extent of suffering. We’ve all overcome different things in our lives, some more than others, and perhaps some of you have gone through extremes yourself. We can’t compare, but we can be encouraged and inspired.

What is it you are facing today? You can start today. Do you need to find a job? Well, take what is in front of you, ask help from Above, and take the next step. You have a resourceful mind and you *can* take the next step. Is it getting to grips with homeschooling your child or children? You have it in you to learn to be more adaptable, to be more patient and to figure out a way forwards. Is it overcoming mental health or physical challenges? Maybe everything won’t suddenly get better, but you can make progress, you can keep going, you can take the next step and you can start from today.

Don’t be discouraged. Look up and look around at the examples of hope and courage and be reminded that making progress takes one small step at a time. You can take the initiative from where you are starting from today. Don’t compare, don’t be afraid, but take that next step of faith. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (72): Psychologically Crossing Over In The Pandemic….There Is Another Side….

Have hope.

Dear friends, have hope.

Perhaps life, the pandemic, your experiences have put you in a psychological box and kept you ‘stuck’ within what you think is the realm of possibility.

However, as someone coming through on the other side of complex PTSD, I am living proof that there can be psychological crossing points in our life, where after we have suffered, and pressed through, we can come out stronger and wiser on the other side.

What challenges are you facing today? Particularly what psychological bridges do you need to cross? Will you take that journey? Will you believe that you can cross over to the other side? It may be tough going at times and it may be psychologically gruelling but you are strong enough and if you persevere you may find a brighter day ahead, new avenues of thought and freedom.

If you are at a psychological bridge in your mind, know that persevering, pushing through, keeping on going through the strain and the pain will lead you to somewhere new and you will not be the same. We can’t go through such psychological shifts and remain unchanged even if it takes time for us to see that change and even if on the surface it seems that nothing has changed at all.

If you are in lockdown, it may on the surface seem like you are repeating the same habitual patterns over and over again, day after day. You wake up, you go through whatever morning routine you go through, you eat, work, play, sleep and repeat and your days on the surface vary little from one day to the next. But what makes you different from other people who do the same or similar things and stay ‘stuck’ mentally? Maybe on the surface not much has changed, but are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind? Are you allowing your mindset change and in doing so you change the way you see, experience and appreciate the things around you, things that would otherwise seem ‘ordinary’, ‘mundane’ and ‘commonplace’?

A lot of life is spent in normal times in our fast paced societies running away from things, running to the next thing, filling up our minds with information, distractions, escapism. In lockdown perhaps we’ve spent time with escapism and distraction and while at times these can have a helpful place, such as if we need for our own mental health to distract ourselves, living like that is unsustainable. Moreover, we’ll get bored of it after a while. We can’t live life if we’re always running away from it, or from ourselves. Maybe you’ve been there pre-pandemic times. Maybe your and my constant ‘running’ or escapism has led to breakdowns or burnouts or psychological fatigue at various points.

What if we were to cross some psychological bridges as we make our way slowly and carefully through this pandemic? Perhaps in less time than we anticipate it our societies will be back to more of what we were used to as ‘normal’ and staying at home will seem like a distant memory in time. Maybe then we will long for the extended periods at home that we are having to go through now. So, will we use this time well? Will we take time instead of being dissatisfied to cultivate gratitude? Will we learn and train our minds to be thankful and to see the beauty and the life in the everyday?

Will we cross other psychological bridges that we have needed to for so long now? Don’t waste this time that you have right now, your mind may lead you to some new destinations where you can see your life with greater depth, clarity and gratitude. Cross that bridge. Begin today. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (29): Don’t Waste Your Experiences…

You are living a life that is unique to you. No one else can tell your story. No one. Some of the stuff that you have been through or are going through may simply feel terrible. You need to know, and I need to remind myself, that it doesn’t have to be wasted experiences.

I personally believe that in the Hands of our Creator, even the worst of life’s experiences can be transformed into something good.

I also believe that we have a degree of choice and personal responsibility in what we do with the hand we’ve been dealt.

Sometimes life feels very, very hard. Sometimes we can’t find a way through on our own, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When we are at our weakest we are perhaps more open to the reality that we need help, from God, from other people, and there can be good that can come out of that. Once we’ve worked hard to recover and build up our resilience, we can reach out and help someone else….even when we are still struggling.

This morning I wasn’t feeling so good. I’m faced with the choice to stay stuck in my struggles or to find a way forwards. Maybe you can relate?

If I can encourage you today, it is to keep on going. Start small and keep on building and let the momentum take you forwards. I started this blog in 2017 when I was going through a rough patch. I started small, with no followers, and although I may still be relatively small, I take courage and comfort from that fact that I can encourage other people. I can use my own experiences of struggles to send a kind and helping hand through the internet to perhaps lift someone else up, and that’s amazing to know.

What are you going through right now? Know that there is power in the smallest of steps. Whether it is chronic pain or illness, severe depression or any mental health struggles, fear, loneliness, low self esteem, unemployment, sickness, fatigue, broken relationships, you don’t need to be defined by your struggles your whole life, or at all. You can overcome them and I believe in you. You can take the smallest of steps to continue on your quest through life for Truth and to live in freedom.

There will be ups and downs, good moments and bad, and I know that, I am faced with my own ongoing struggles. But we can choose not to let them be wasted by reminding ourselves that we are not alone, we’re not the only ones out there, and we each have a valuable story to tell that no one else can tell for us.

Someone needs your wisdom and help to know that they also can get through something similar to what you have got through.

And maybe you need encouragement yourself. You need to know that your struggles or experiences, even if they are positive are not wasted – try to pass on your knowledge, your learning, in some small way today.

The blogging platform is such a gift in being able to do this. To reach out to people, unknown though they may be, but unique and valuable individuals all across the world and say, I’m going through this, I went through this, can sharing something of my life help you…and in turn we can keep encouraging others.

Find a way today to use your experiences for good, and take heart knowing that they are not wasted. x

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Life After Lockdown – *What would you do with a second chance?*

*What would you do with a second chance?*

The idea of second chances appeals to us as human beings on a deep level. Fictional narratives, films, and biographies often embrace and appeal to this deep longing for ‘new beginnings’ as they resound with a core part of who we are. Many of us are inspired by people who ‘turned their lives around’ in some significant way, or by people who have changed some aspect of their life, and some of us have experienced similar changes in our own lives. At Christmas time we often turn to narratives such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Carol” for reminders of the ‘meaning of life’ or the fact that individual choices and life stories make a difference far beyond the reach of their own experience and can significantly impact others.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the idea of second chances up front and centre for some who have faced the illness and made it through alive. Whereas the idea of second chances previously might have been more conceptual, theoretical or cliched on a society-wide scale, we are faced every day with the reality that many people throughout our health care sectors are working and fighting tirelessly to give other people that ‘second chance at life’.

In a way, we’ve all been given another chance at life. While tens of thousands of people have lost their lives to Covid-19, we might have merely lost our perspective of how valuable it is that we can take our next breath. We have a chance, and we have a choice. What have you learned during this time that will impact how you live out the rest of your days on earth? You might not have the same strength or mental wellbeing or physical abilities as you may have hoped, but you do have this day and a new breath to take, and that is a gift. Sometimes depression and anxiety can make those of us who battle against them lose sight of that. Emotions and thoughts can get the better of us and we can sometimes sink down into them. That’s why we need a bigger vision, a grand perspective, that our small lives are actually very significant and impact other things and people around us. Will we simply go back to our old ways when we have new days ahead to live?

New life is at the heart of Christianity in a way that the world cannot offer. It embraces the reality that at the heart of humanity there is a need for a fundamental change, a doing away of the old, and bringing in something entirely new from the inside out. The world offers the chance to temporally and temporarily ‘patch things up’ from the outside in, and although we can change aspects of our character to some extent, and we can change our outlook on life, we can’t by ourselves change the very nature of what is inside of us by ourselves. Only by accepting that our starting point is fundamentally flawed can we begin to see our need to ask for a new life that goes far deeper than a change of habits. When faced with death, will our changes on a temporal level be enough? At the heart of Christianity we see the offering of a new life, given in True sacrificial love in the Person of Christ, nailing our old lives to the Cross, so that we can be transformed by His Life in us, not by anything we try to do for ourselves.

You might not see your need in this way just now, but wherever you are at you have the opportunity to change the way you think about the days you have left to live on earth. It isn’t too late, and it’s definitely a good time at the very least for each of us to be more intentional in appreciating the gift we have to live another day having made it through while many others sadly have not.

What does a second chance mean to you? Do you think of second chances in a different way to me, and how would you express this? Has the experience of life in a temporary lockdown through a pandemic changed the way you look at things, and has it prompted you to make any changes in your life, or to think about life differently, and if so how? 

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Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (8): *Can I feel happy and sad?*

Words of Encouragement (8):
*Can I feel happy and sad?*
In short, yes. This is a confusing, strange and distressing time. We are alive, we are surrounded by life, but also by continuous news of death and suffering on a mass scale, on a global scale, yet also right in our own towns and cities. We are all learning how to be happy with those who are happy, and to also mourn with those who grieve. We are surrounded by contradictions that we are all learning to hold in balance. We are trying to find ways to encourage and support each other, to enjoy the gift of life and be grateful for those in our lives, to make the most of ‘isolation’ and keep our spirits up, and encourage our friends and families and especially children, while at the same time living through wave upon wave of tragedy crashing in upon humanity. You might feel guilty for the times you smile, laugh and enjoy life in this strange season, and you also might feel a burden of grief at times as the world around you wails. It can be confusing, it can be tough, but there is no right or wrong way for you to feel, and your experience of this situation and your feelings are valid. Take time to just sit and be with your thoughts and feelings for a moment if it is all a bit much. Breathe deeply and try to find ways to be calm and relax. This is affecting people in different ways, and that’s ok.
Take care to try to maintain a balance. To know that even while it is a very dark time for many people across the world, it is ok for you to smile, and to share something positive, because those around you may just need that joy and that hope to be able to keep going.

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Stay interested…

Life births, buds, blossoms and blooms, and eventually withers and fades, with the hope (if you should so choose) of resurrection and new life once again.

In all the seasons of our lives we spend much time thinking of ‘what’s next’, or looking back either regretfully or with fond nostalgia. How often though, do we simply enjoy and live the life we are living? Not often enough, I would say.

Let me tell you an interesting fact. One of this year’s winners of The Grammy Awards, Nicola Benedetti, the now world famous violinist, is someone who I went to the same youth orchestra as when I was quite young, and in high school. I didn’t know her personally but I saw her and her sister around from time to time, but our paths never crossed on a personal level. It’s wonderful that she has accomplished her dreams. Before you get any wrong ideas about me or my skill levels with music, I admit, like many other of the youngsters there I was perhaps painfully average at the violin and that was fine by me. It was never such a passion of mine, nor did I have any particular natural talent. My passion back then was writing, literature and anything creative.

Alas, I digress. The point is, some people do ‘make it big’. They have a talent, and work relentlessly hard to hone and perfect their craft and turn it into a skill, and doors open for them some way or another, to be able to share their gifts with the world. That’s really quite special and perhaps rare for most of us ‘pilgrims, poets and dreamers’ (c) who live comparatively average lives.

Some people become stars, and others gaze up at the stars, longingly, and either way that is ok, because each individual is special and each life, however humble, is of immense worth whether or not we feel we have any talents or gifts to share, since simply being is enough. You are a person of worth. That means you are a person of worth whether you are playing on a world stage or sleeping rough on the streets, nothing can erase that Truth.

So, where was I? Yes, daydreaming. 🙂 Whether you have or have had dreams of something or another, or whether you feel you don’t have anything particularly exceptional to offer, remember to stay interested in the things that interest you.

You might be working hard like Nicola Benedetti to hone your talents and do remarkable things, or you might simply enjoy creating an occasional sketch, doodling, colouring in, cross-stitch, model making, creating music of your own, writing poems, reading literature. If it is a more humble path, that is perfectly ok, and it is a gift in itself. Don’t get so caught up in the ‘never’ or the ‘not yet’ or the ‘then’ that you miss the little gifts of life right now.

Most people who become famous by default, and not for the sake of fame, have been pursuing a passion, something they intrinsically enjoy, and working and training to become even more highly skilled at it.

In a world of goals and achievements and accomplishments and ‘fame’, don’t forget the simple joys of being absorbed in the simple pursuits of happiness that you love.

Stay interested in your life, it is pretty remarkable too, y’know? 🙂 . x

 

As we journey together through our blogs…

Recently, I’ve written quite a few posts on the theme of friendship.

Reflecting upon this aspect of our lives has brought me to the realisation that there is a unique, shared and comforting experience in being part of the blogging ‘community’. While we don’t have blogging ‘chat rooms’ or spaces as such (or at least not that I’m aware of. I know there used to be such shared spaces hosted by WordPress with daily challenges, community hubs and so forth, but they seem to have disappeared from my view – if they are still there somewhere please let me know 🙂 ), we still have avenues of interaction with each other through comments, likes, sharing and collaborative posts.

I’m over two and a half years into my blogging adventure, and some of you have come to be familiar ‘faces’ in this journey. I have become familiar with some of your blogs, and have learned a bit about you as individuals from what you have shared, and often look forward to seeing your updates, as well as seeing you interacting with mine.

In a recent post on friendship I reflected upon the benefits of friendships and long term trusted connections in our lives.

And I have come to realise that this online shared space where we can express our deeper thoughts about our lives quite freely is in fact a real blessing, opportunity and comfort as we journey through not only our blogs, but in a remote yet potentially significant way, our lives together.

There is something about sharing the human experience that makes us feel less alone, don’t you think? And while nothing can replace face to face and real time connection with people we care about, blogging adds an extra dimension to our lives in which we can communicate some of our deepest thoughts and express parts of ourselves that perhaps we can’t do so freely with the people we meet with face to face, or at least not in the same way.

I realise that I really value this, and all of you, as we encourage each other in our blogs, and also our lives.

It is a gift and a blessing to share this journey, even in some small way, with you. Wouldn’t it be something if in years to come we have a community of people who mutually encourage and edify each other as we go through life?

As I approach my third year of blogging in a few months, I am certainly grateful that I began this adventure and journey of discovery and am very glad that I can share some of it with you. x

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Making the most of time after work…

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!

Being present:

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

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Investing in Friendship.

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?

‘Investing’???!

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’?

Experience:

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?

Be blessed. x

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A time for healing…

I sometimes feel that writing is a gift through which we can better understand our life’s journey.

It gives the seed of a thought expression, the opportunity to ‘dance’ into life and then perhaps more profoundly to be noticed and nurtured and watered into life by a reader.

It is quite an exquisite thing to realise that one’s thoughts can connect with those of another.

I’m writing just now to discover those seeds of thought that perhaps need to be planted and watered in order to find their true expression.

What I’m thinking of right now is the gradual movement into a season of more peaceful healing. For years I have been in recovery from complex PTSD and literally battling demons, but greater is He. My Creator, God.

Sometimes when our painful symptoms are alleviated we might think that we can press on into the next stage, whereas what we may really need is simply to slow down and gently take the time to fully heal. It is a real gift to be given time and space to work things out, to allow the healing waters to soothe the troubled soul and mind and to restore what has been broken or frozen in fear by the darkness. God Is Good. The healing that once seemed impossible is beginning to bud and bloom and a new day is sure to follow.

Every now and then we need to remind ourselves to take the time. To accept that the wounds may be deeper than we would like to face, and to give ourselves that time to be restored by the hand of our loving Creator. There are things we can do too for ourselves, being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Yet, the tracks of years of thinking in one way may take time to be washed away as we lay down new tracks, those of life giving thought, as we think of what is true, noble, good, pure, excellent, praise worthy.

There is a time for healing. A time for all purposes under the sun. And perhaps this is your time as well as mine. Give yourself the gift of accepting that time. You may have to face difficult things but soon enough the path will get smoother, either that or you will get stronger and the challenges will no longer seem insurmountable. There is a place of peace and restoration promised to us in Christ for the healing of our hearts, for the mending of the broken-hearted and the grace that gives us the gift of complete forgiveness…which as we let ourselves receive it and as the chains that fettered and bound us gradually fall away, leads us to walk ever gently into true freedom.

Don’t be disheartened if it takes time. Give yourself the gift of that time, and I will learn to give myself that gift also. The darkness and the lies are never greater than the Beauty of Truth and Pure Love that has come in Christ to set us free. So know that you are valuable, worthy of healing, of forgiveness and love, and take time today to rest in that.

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