I don’t know who you look up to in life, or what you aspire your life to be more like. Many people when they are younger have role models that they look up to in terms of their career / occupation, fame, beauty, fortune or lifestyle.
As we gain in maturity, however, and as we realise more of ourselves in this world, and experience more of the harsh realities of life, our ideals and aspirations can change.
A ‘phenomenon’ of the past decade has been the rise of You Tube ‘vloggers’, personalities and influencers. While it is commendable that many young people have been quite entrepreneurial in building up these platforms and working hard to do so in what was once a new media form, I do feel disheartened that so many of them never seem to move past ‘influencing’ in terms of brands, beauty, health and fashion.
I think with maturity (not necessarily age) comes the desire to use our platforms, our voice for a greater good and to speak up on issues regarding social justice, helping others, raising awareness of key issues in society rather than just fun, games, and self focussed content. That’s not to say that these people aren’t putting something positive and hopeful into the world, it’s just not something after a certain age many of us want to aspire to or stop at.
In terms of role models and ‘mentors’ or people who I look up to, it is those who have faced and overcome adversity and who are seeking to help other people with what they have been through and what they have learned. I think this is because this is a journey I am on myself, having overcome many hurdles, and being on the cusp of being able to do more to help others as I continue to recover myself. I also look to people who are more focused on the inner content of their characters rather than only the outward appearance of things, although I do think there is a place for aesthetics and outward beauty, we only need to look to the creation and beauty of nature to see this and to think about how images and pictures and art can boost our mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Whoever it is you look to, perhaps this is a good season to think about what they are doing and how they are finding positive ways forwards in the pandemic.
Are there people, whether known personally to you or not, who are doing something to help other people in this pandemic?
Are there those who are advocating for mental health, social justice, fairness, and humanity?
Are there others who are reaching out to the most downtrodden of society and seeking to lift them up and give them the chances that they never had?
Do you have role models who are overcoming or who have overcome adversity and who can provide a pattern for you to follow, or at least some ideas for you to implement in your own life?
While we may sometimes feel at a loss in this pandemic for what to do, how to use our time, or how even to make it through our days ‘in once piece’ if we are really struggling, it can be helpful to look to the lives of others who have found or are finding the strength to persevere and to make the most of what they have got, live out lives of faith and put kindness back into the world as they help others.
Who inspires you today? What lessons can you take from their example to apply to your life this week? x
*Get moving and stay in training*.
Have you noticed that as we are now in a form of ‘lockdown’ in the midst of this pandemic, people are beginning to take notice of things they may have once taken for granted? There are the obvious big things, like life itself, health, being able to draw the next breath. Yet there are also other things that we might begin to notice more: nature, the colour of the sky, the freedom we once had to be able to go outside without the level of fear or apprehension we now face.
Maybe what you miss is being able to go out for a walk, a run, or just the natural flow of movements you make throughout the day as you go from place to place.
During this ‘lockdown’, movement and physical activity will have a direct impact upon how well you cope with being indoors most of the time. It’s important, regardless of your level of physical fitness, to get moving and stay in training. You might be an athlete, or you might be mostly sedentary, or like me, you might be somewhere nearer the middle of that spectrum. Even if you can’t go outside, try to establish a routine where you will be moving and exercising at least 3 times a week, if you can’t manage everyday. This could be something as simple as some basic stretches to begin with, or some seated exercises and low intensity movements if you don’t feel you can manage much, but the important thing is to do things regularly, even if a very little at a time, depending on your fitness. Don’t put pressure on yourself, but remember that the endorphins produced when you get moving will help you to (a) feel better (b) have a more positive outlook (c) manage your emotions and stress responses (d) help you to manage and regulate physical and psychological pain.
So even if you feel you can do very little to begin with, do that little bit, and keep going. It will help you to build up both your physical and mental / emotional resilience.
Feel free to comment on your exercise of choice to inspire and encourage other people.
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.
I don’t know about you, but it is a rare treat for me to have an extended period of time off from work. Sometimes I’ll have this time over the summer, but this year I only had a few days off here and there, and I therefore have my longer break from work in the wintertime this year.
It’s nice to not have to get up early in the cold and dark weather to go to work, and to know that for many other people, especially for those of us who are fortunate enough to have office closures over the Christmas and New Year period, we are having a collective rest and break from the normal day to day routine. Of course not everyone has time off and I am especially respectful of those who work over the holidays to keep our communities going, particularly those who work in the emergency services and frontline crisis and care work.
Yet, for many of us, we’ve been long awaiting the Christmas break and are looking forward to a good few days to rest and relax and maybe even ‘hibernate’ a bit.
I’ve already had a couple of weeks off, which has been spent tidying up, organising, decorating, preparing for travel, going away for 6 days to enjoy some Christmas markets, coming back home, catching up with sleep, unpacking, washing, tidying, preparing for Christmas, going to church, preparing myself spiritually and generally trying to get organised. For many of us, the lead up to Christmas seems to bring with it seemingly unending things to do, and the household tasks seem to just keep coming, until we can finally get things all settled, cosy and prepared so that we can have actually have the rest that we have been hoping for and preparing for.
It is easy to get lost in this hustle and bustle, and by the time we do get to ‘put our feet up’ we are more than ready for a rest.
Sometimes Christmas and the holiday period involves spending time with friends and family, and maybe even a change of scene. Once we have prepared and got things suitably ready, had some festive events, and done some charitable acts of kindness, we may find that we are blessed with some quieter days ahead, which will be spent mainly indoors.
Ahead of me is a stretch of 11 days from today – 23rd December until 2nd January 2020 where I’ll be away from my home and spending time with family. We all say it so often, that the time just ‘flies by’ and before we know it we’re in another new year and back in the ordinary routine of things, and feeling stressed again. We sometimes look back and wonder whether we made the most of our time, or whether we ‘frittered away’ our time sleeping too much, eating too much, lazing in front of the TV, and letting days flow into each other in an unproductive blur.
There is a time when we need to rest and relax and just ‘chill out’ but I’m also aware that the holiday season is precious and that I’d like to use my time wisely. However, it is hard to really use our time wisely without knowing what our priorities are, or without having some kind of structure or routine, plan or list of things we’d like to do. It’s nice to be spontaneous, and we don’t always need to plan, but sometimes without any structure we risk wasting time, and for those of us who have suffered from depression and anxiety, some form of a routine is essential for our mental and physical health and wellbeing.
For me, getting back into blogging after almost two weeks away doing other things, provides me with the opportunity to quieten my heart and mind and reflect on how I would like to use my time over the next 11 days.
A simple routine:
Without being too prescriptive, one thing I’d like to maintain is a simple, yet flexible daily routine to add structure, meaning and joy into my Christmas holidays, prioritising what is most important to me. My brain likes to see things written down as this helps me to be wise with my time. So, this is what I’m hoping my days will include:
A healthy dose of rest, relaxation and sleep, incorporating a morning routine where possible, but not putting any pressure on myself to do this.
Focusing on the True meaning of Christmas, and keeping Christ central to my thoughts, and taking time to truly be amazed that God came to earth to be with His people, to save us, to save me, and to deepen my relationship with the God Who loves me.
Having a daily time in Scripture and prayer to God, seeking Him, praising Him, and praying for the needs of others and myself.
Being intentionally grateful on a day to day basis, and taking the time that I don’t usually have to reflect more deeply on the blessings and lessons in my life and to give thanks for them.
Being present and slowing down enough to appreciate the special moments and time spent with family and friends. Appreciating how precious the time we have together is, and enjoying each other’s company and being there for each other.
Taking time to stay in touch with and reach out to friends who I know are struggling in this season due to various circumstances.
Being helpful so that everyone gets a chance to rest and relax over the holidays.
Enjoying food and holiday treats while being mindful of what I eat and not to overindulge.
Keep moving and doing a little bit of exercise, even if just five minutes, everyday, and where possible go out for fresh air and walks so as not to stay cooped up in the house all day every day.
Reflection on the year gone by, on blessings enjoyed and lessons learned, goals achieved, and seeking direction and wisdom for moving forward.
Time spent figuring things out, working through my thoughts, issues and continuing to become stronger mentally and emotionally, and considering my priorities and how I will achieve them going forwards.
Enjoy having time to do things that I find creative or relaxing such as playing Christmas music on my violin, writing more, reading, listening to audio books, watching films, playing games with the family, arts and crafts, selecting photos from the year gone by for creating an album, and taking time to enjoy the cosiness of the season.
Plan for what’s ahead, so that the transition into the new year will be as seamless and enjoyable and productive as possible.
What about you? What kind of holiday routines do you have that help you make the most of your time? x
1. Keep a list of emergency contacts handy so that you can easily call someone if you need help. Also, phone or reach out to a friend and connect to people face to face when you can even if it’s not an emergency. We all need each other.
“It’s beginning to look (a bit) like Christmas”: It may only be the beginning of November, but soon we will be made more aware of the festive and holiday season approaching. If you live in America there is ‘Thanksgiving’ in November, and among other Western countries you may be approaching Christmas, New Year and / […]
To survive this winter season, and to thrive as you journey through it, I’d like to encourage you, and myself, to have regular mental health and self care ‘check ins’. Make an appointment with yourself to focus on taking care of you. It’s easy to get lost in the many things going on around us, to the detriment of our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. So along with all of the other tips in this season, let’s make our wellbeing and our mental health a priority. Once again I have loads of helpful tips and articles on these issues on my blog, and the many things I’ve learned over the years from personal experience, so I’m with you friend, I know it can be hard, but you’re important and your mind matters, so do what you can to take care of yourself, to regularly make some time just to be kind and look after your wellbeing so that you can be and feel your best this season. x
Around this time last month, I wrote a post reflecting upon autumn, and also that I was making a start on creating an autumnal vibe in my home décor. I left you with a messy picture of the beginnings of ‘tidying away the spring’ in my home, and I almost immediately got to work on ushering in autumn into my home. The only thing is, I didn’t get around to posting it, so my apologies for that. You can look back at my previous post here:
I’m well into my ‘Winter Survival Guide’ series, so I thought I’d better share my autumn home décor updates with you before it’s time to post my Christmas and winter home updates! 🙂
So here goes with a little glimpse into my home.
Gathering in what I already have:
I think with most of us wanting to be environmentally aware, and responsible, a good place to start when changing your décor from one season to the next, is by looking in your home to find what you already have rather than immediately going out to buy new things.
I did just that, and I didn’t actually buy anything new to update my home for the autumn season. I just gathered together what I had that might have been hiding away in the back of cupboards, or stored under the bed or wherever I had put my autumn and winter things, or just things that I hadn’t really noticed for a while.
Here is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy a little glimpse into my home.
I have a few more pictures I’d like to share, but that I can’t upload at the moment, which means you can look forward to a part 2 with the finishing touches 🙂 x
1. Looking through my home and gathering together what I already have, rather than buying anything new.
2. Organising and ‘redecorating’ with minimal fuss, to usher out the spring, and bring in some Autumnal vibes, that can easily be added to or changed up when Christmas and winter comes around.
I’ve been writing a lot about the autumn and winter seasons in my ‘Winter Survival Guide’ series (in which there is more to come, you’ll hopefully be pleased to hear, as a lot of you seem to be enjoying this). I’ve touched upon how the changing of the seasons can reflect aspects of our lives that in their time either fall away from us or we let go of.
One theme and aspect of life I’d like to write a little more about in this post, as it applies to my life right now, is that of Friendship.
Friendships teach us about ourselves:
Friendships come in different forms and at different times of our lives, for different seasons and reasons. Although I’ve entitled this post ‘Fair-weather Friends & Friends For Life…’, I know that life isn’t as straightforward as this proverbial dichotomy.
Friendships and our friends as well as ourselves can be complicated, intricate and not easy to define.
However, if we are present, we will always learn a lot from our friendships, including learning more about ourselves and how we relate to other people, although at times we may have ‘blind spots’ as regards the patterns of our own thinking and behaviours, and our friends will have their own ‘blind spots’ too.
An unknown journey:
I don’t entirely know what shape this post will end up taking, what ‘conclusions’ I will reach and have to share with you, and in a sense as we embark upon new friendships or relationships we also are exploring the unknown, unfamiliar, and inconclusive.
We share life with a range of people, and although people are far too unique and special to categorise, we do often clearly have ‘types’ of interactions. These may change over time, and we may become closer or more distant from people, and this is all part of the learning curve, as well as the ebb and flow of life.
In my life right now I can say that in terms of people in my life, I have my immediate family, close friends, friends who are not as close, acquaintances, people I interact with on a regular basis but might not know as well such as work colleagues, people who serve lunch in the canteen, the concierge in my building, and people who I see at work but don’t know by name. Some of these relationships overlap or change over time. For example, I have a couple of colleagues at work who are also close friends. I have worked with people who I once didn’t know but who I became friends with, who I now consider close and lifelong friends but who I no longer work with because they have changed jobs, retired (I have good friends of all different ages), or moved on to another stage of life, but who I keep in touch with, and they with me, and we love spending time together when we can. I have friends I hardly see, but who remain some of my closest friends, and we maintain a bond, and we contact as and when we can even if that’s not face to face. One of these friends has moved thousands of miles away to Cambodia, but we still consider each other to be close friends and love each other as ‘sisters’ and for the maybe ten years now she’s been living abroad we’ve managed to maintain a friendship even with her getting married and being in a different stage of life as me.
I have friends who I met when we shared a similar stage of life. I have friends who I met and we didn’t have all that much in common. I have friends who once shared a similar stage of life but now are in a completely different life stage. We have maintained our friendships, our bonds and although many of these friends have different circumstances to me, such as being married, becoming parents, having moved abroad, and so forth, or being of a different generation as I have friends that are the same age, older and younger, we still remain close and interested in each others lives as different as they are now.
This is both a blessing and a skill to nurture, invest in, grow and maintain good relationships and friendships. I have learned that not only am I blessed with good friends but I also am a great friend to have – someone who is loyal, kind, caring, compassionate, who will listen, who will give time and genuine care to others and who can organise some pretty awesome presents too 😉
The reason I speak of the above is because the distance we experience in friendships (growing apart, drifting apart, losing interest or losing touch) isn’t necessarily caused by a physical distance such as moving away, a distance in life stage, such as embarking upon a new season of life, or an emotional distance such as going through different things (true friends are there for each other through the tears and the joys of life).
As I mentioned previously, I have maintained close friendships with people who now live thousands of miles away. Because we care about each other.
I have close friends who like me are single and have our own places and work in the city and share our Faith.
Yet, I also have close friends who are in completely different life stages – they may be married, have kids, be retired, be atheist and have completely different beliefs, and who have completely different lifestyles.
We care about each other, we connect, and we make it work.
Distance is a choice, it is not a length of space or time:
Although our friendships with people may change over time, we may not be able to keep in as frequent contact as we once did, we may not know all the ins and outs of each others lives, we are still there for each other in the background. I’m thankful that even though friends may be thousands of miles away or we may be miles apart in terms of our life circumstances, I’m blessed that we’ve managed to stay close. I know it’s not as easy for everyone, and people make different efforts to stay in touch. Sometimes people let things drift, sometimes we do too, it can be part of the natural ebb and flow of life just as the changing of the seasons.
However, distance, I believe is a choice. When someone decides to cut us out of their lives that is a choice. There are people in our lives that are ‘toxic’ and it may be necessary to create distance or cut them out. But in this article, I’m not talking about such people who drag us down, I’m talking about genuine people, real friends, people like me and hopefully like you who build other people up.
What about when people cut us out? People to whom we were genuine friends?
One of the things friendship has taught me recently is that some seemingly genuine friends are actually ‘fair-weather’ friends. A certain person a few years ago sought out friendship with me, we were a blessing and encouragement in each others lives and I poured kindness and encouragement into this person’s life. I believed we had a genuine friendship, and although it was a real mutual blessing, I now realise that the person looked upon it in a ‘utilitarian’ way. Whereas some people need time and space as they go into new life stages, others choose to cut you out. That’s ok, but it brings about a real life lesson. As nice as they may be, the person was being utilitarian – it was a friendship that they valued so long as it suited them. When it no longer suits them, they drop you. We all move on, but some people can’t see their selfishness in how they treat people, as kind as they may be or seem, they are ultimately looking out for their needs to be met, and they consider their needs the most important thing.
Friends may seem genuine even for a number of years, but in due season, they prove to you what you perhaps had no idea about, that they are ‘fair-weather’ friends. They only want the friendship so long as it suits them. I know I’m a kind, loving, genuine person and have been told I have a high emotional intelligence, am good at giving people space as well as being a source of comfort and listening. If people ‘drop’ you and you’re such a friend, and in no ways are a ‘toxic’ person, then know that there is a life lesson for you – it is far better to have the realisation than to continue on, and be usedfor someone else’s convenience.
Learn the life lessons, let things go, and soar off into a beautiful future, nurturing, cherishing, and being a mutual blessing to your true, life-long, friends to whom distance in space or life stage doesn’t even factor in to whether or not you will care about and be there for each other.
In my last post (21) I wrote about taking time out just to ‘be’ and to enjoy doing nothing in particular. This post explores taking time out to reflect and to deal with some of our ‘stuff’. Not the stuff in our attics, spare rooms, garages or basements – but to spend a bit of time sorting out what’s overflowing from our ’emotional junk drawers’ in our hearts and minds.
Hopefully we’ll all have a bit of time this season where we can have even at least a day or two to ourselves to rest and reflect. If we think we don’t have this time, then maybe we are not being intentional in making this time for ourselves (time we would otherwise spend watching TV perhaps).
The new calendar year will be upon us in a matter of weeks, and the general mood of new years, and beginnings of various sorts tends to be geared more towards action rather than reflection. Those around you, as well as the things you read and see in the media, will be imparting messages of goals, things to accomplish, plans and experiences.
This time of the year, however, lends naturally to reflection, to taking time to pause and ponder, to rest and be thankful, to look back before looking forwards, to re-evaluate where we are and where we need to go. It is also a time for being honest with ourselves and taking time to deal with some of our ‘stuff’ emotionally and mentally.
We can choose to view some of our struggles as blessings. For example, this time of year can bring certain things in our lives more sharply into focus. Light might be shed upon our true feelings and motives, for example, the sociable nature of this season might reveal our inner loneliness; the frivolity and consumerism might pull on our heart strings to search for something deeper and more meaningful in our lives; the end of one year might nudge us into reflection as to whether we have made the best use of our time or simply been frittering it away.
As much as we need plans, and to take action, we also need to do this purposefully and to do so requires quieter times of thinking and reflection.
Moving forwards also requires letting go of some of the burdens that we carry. We might be allowing things from our past to hold us back from stepping into the future that we long for. Perhaps we need healing, need time to seek counsel, therapy and to get help with how to deal with traumas or difficulties in our lives. This can be a long road, but we have to start somewhere and we don’t have to do it all at once. We often face a ‘stop-start’ process in any journey of self-reflection, repentance, healing, recovery and change. But the thing is to start, to reflect upon what is needed to go from where we are to where we are meant to be.
I am blessed in that I don’t take this journey alone. Jesus Is my Shepherd, King, Healer and Lord, and He leads me forward with grace and peace. There is healing that only He can bring and things that only He can do. There are also certain things that I must do to cooperate and participate in the process – things like renewing my mind, working on difficult issues, forgiving, letting go, and reframing the way I think about difficulties I have experienced. These things, like the changing of the seasons take time.
But it’s important that we do take time to reflect upon our lives and to consider what things we have been ‘stuffing down’ deep within our hearts, and into our subconscious that we hope will just ‘go away’, things that actually in their time need to be dealt with in order for us to go forwards in our journey with a greater understanding, appreciation of life, sense of identity and purpose.
Will you give yourself some time to do just that this season? You need and deserve it. x