Well, it’s almost Christmas, so why not if you feel so led, consider giving a child a gift by getting involved in Operation Christmas Child – you can even send a pre-packed shoebox by donating online if you can’t manage to do this in person.
Anxiety and depression can often involve thoughts that draw us inwards to ruminate on past events or feelings, or away from ourselves to worry about an unknown future.
In a pandemic, this can be exacerbated in a way when we might not be able to connect so freely with other people. You might start worrying about the ‘what ifs’ – what if there is another lockdown, what if I catch covid, what if someone I care about gets sick, what if I can’t get a job, what if I have to go back to the office, what if I am single forever, what if my children struggle at school, what if I grow old alone, what if things don’t work out for me, what if I struggle with my uni course, what if, what if….?
Or you might be ruminating on the ‘why did’s’ or ‘why didn’t’ – why did that happen to me, why didn’t things work out, etc.
You’re not alone. I have written several posts on trauma and PTSD and working through things that have got ‘stuck’ in our body, brain and nervous system, so if you need to, feel free to do some key word searches on those topics. However, aside from the serious subject of traumas, and clinical depression, which I have also posted about, we can’t change the past by ruminating on it (although there are times when we need to ‘work through’ certain events to get free from them, and we may need professional help to do so, and that is ok, it is more than ok, it is brave). So if you’re not in those situations of trauma and depression, but you do find yourself going inwards into your own thoughts too much such as thoughts about the past, or worrying about the future, then it may be time to take a deep breath and focus on the NOW.
Slow down a bit, try to do something while being aware of all of your senses. It can be something as simple as making a cup of tea. What do you hear when you boil the kettle (or teapot), what do your eyes see when you observe the steam rising, what can you hear, see and smell when you pour hot water into your mug over the tea bag, how does it feel to hold that warm mug in your hands, what do you taste when you take a first sip?
Be aware of NOW. Bring your mind into the present, and seek to enjoy THIS moment. x
The start of a new year can bring with it fresh hope and vision.
Having dreams and vision for the future is an important if not essential part of life.
For most of our lives we are taught and encouraged to consider the future, the ‘what next’ of our life. When you were an infant perhaps the people in your life talked about and imagined what you might become when you grew up. I remember when my friend who is a few years older than me had her first baby and she asked me to be his God-mother. I was fairly young myself at the time and hoped and prayed that in a few years time I would know how to be a good God-mother. We delighted in him as a baby, and then in his younger sister when she was born, enjoying the lovely baby and toddler stages that they were in.
Yet we also talked about their characteristics, their likes and dislikes and imagined what they would be like as they grew up. Would they be musical, artistic, good at sports, kind and caring, studious? Would they be like their mum or dad? We all in our hearts wonder ‘What will be?’ for ourselves as well as for others. Many parents have big dreams for their children, while others say that they just want their children to grow up to be happy and healthy and kind people regardless of what they do or who they ‘become’. In all likelihood when we were little ourselves the adults around us would have made similar comments as they wondered who we would turn out to look like and what our likes and dislikes would be.
By the time children can walk and talk and play, adults begin to ask them ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. Sometimes the child will reply with a confident answer such as a doctor, an astronaut, a fire-fighter, a ballet dancer, pop-star or an artist, while others may not be so sure. Adults may then say something like ‘you’ve got a long time to think about that’ and so the child will go back to playing and having fun in the moment.
Most of us pass through stages of teenage angst when there are so many questions we ask of ourself and of our identity at a stage where we really begin to make decisions that may in fact shape the future direction of our lives at least in the short term.
We choose subjects to study at school and are asked what we hope these will lead to. We need to consider the practicalities of the next stages of our lives such as passing exams, going to university or college or starting an apprenticeship or job. We need to think more and more about the adults that we will be in society and questions about the future are almost constantly asked of us at that stage of life. ‘What do you want to do?’. There is an expectation that we will soon need to figure out what kind of contributing members of society we will be and we may have to put some previous dreams aside such as those of being an astronaut or a pop-star.
As we move through the next stages of life, for example making our way through university as one possible life choice, we are then faced with more exams followed by questions of what we will do next. Soon we will need to be thinking seriously about passing all of those exams, graduating and finding a job.
Inevitably we will need to think about other practical things such as getting a job, supporting ourselves and perhaps other people in our lives, paying bills, renting accommodation, getting a mortgage and the list goes on.
In our younger days we might dream of what we will do as a ‘grown up’. Perhaps these dreams will involve achieving certain goals, traveling, having a career, finding love, getting married, having a family of our own and so on. I imagine very few children and young people will be thinking so far ahead as to dream about their retirement and what life will be like then but maybe I’m wrong. We like to think about the years when we are ‘in our prime’ and able to do all the things we dream of doing. However, perhaps in retirement people come to appreciate the ‘here and now’ a bit more.
For some people I know, their early twenties were characterised with ‘achieving’ or being blessed with passing those milestones that many of us long for: finding love, getting married, going on adventures, achieving goals, starting a family.
My life hasn’t been so straight forward. I have dreamed of all of those things but finding someone and having a family of my own are still in the ‘someday’ or ‘maybe if’ realm of not yet. I have however done well in school, obtained two first class degrees, graduated, gone through the difficulties of finding a job and renting accommodation to now being in the stage of life where I am settled in a job I enjoy, with good friends, having travelled a bit, and with a home of my own. That’s a very short version and it certainly hasn’t been an easy or straightforward process but I’m glad to be where I am now. I watch my friends’ children grow up and I watch other friends getting married and starting families. And one thing I have learned is that people always seem to be thinking of the ‘what next’ and when they finally ‘arrive’ there it isn’t necessarily quite what they had imagined.
I have friends who when they were single longed for the ‘next’ stage of life. When they got married they found challenges that they had not expected and spoke of how they sometimes missed their more ‘carefree’ single days. Friends who longed for babies when they finally became parents then talked about how they were always tired and busy. So soon they take for granted the things they once only longed for, things that some of us still don’t know if they will be part of our lives, our ‘what next’.
Can you relate to any of this? Practically speaking, life keeps moving forwards and we all need to consider the ‘what next’. Yet, could it be that we do this in the wrong way or to our detriment? Some people have found their ‘sweet spot’ in lives where things have worked out just as they hoped or dreamed and they are enjoying ‘the good life’. For many of us it isn’t quite so straight forward.
So the question I’m asking of both you and I is that although we practically need to prepare for the next step and the next as we move through life, do we ‘live too much in the future’?
Do we miss the fact that the stage we are in may have been one we had previously only hoped or dreamed of? Do we fail to realise that there is something inherently special about this time of our life right now even with the contrasts of light and shade? Do we always have to know or think about the next stage of our life? Do we enjoy and appreciate what is happening in this season? If like me you have had some notable tough times in life you know that sometimes life has you pressed hard up against a wall, so to speak, and you can’t think of the future. You can only do everything you can to get through the day, the moment. You’ll someday see the lessons in your trial, but in the midst of it you don’t even know if you’ll make it, and your dreams feel somehow crushed, an impossibility.
I’ve been there, I know how disappointing life can feel. And so I appreciate being out on the other side at last. Sure, I haven’t had all my dreams come true, but what about the here and now?
When you’ve been through some tough times and the future seemed uncertain as to whether or not you would even make it, when you eventually do weather those storms and the sun begins to shine you appreciate the ‘little things’.
That’s my challenge to you and I today. While we may have dreams and visions for the future, while we may be working on plans, let us also take the time to appreciate the good things in our life right now, things that we otherwise might just take for granted if our heads are always in the ‘not yet’ or in trying to figure out and make sense of the past.
We are all on a journey, it doesn’t stand still, so while we might have hope for the future let us also have appreciation of the Gift of the present.
It’s January 7th 2018, and I don’t know for how long it is reasonable to talk about the ‘New Year’. One thing I do know however, is that it is always a good time to reflect upon our lives, and to consider whether there are ways we can do things differently, and to look for new opportunities and new beginnings.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to find that as I get older the years seem to hurtle by (at least they did until more recently) in a way in which they didn’t when I was very young. Summers seemed to last forever, and every experience had a certain weight to it. I can remember squinting against the sun, and collecting molten droplets on my eye lashes. I remember sitting on the floor in the gym hall in primary school where we also had to wait in line for lunch, and where we had school assemblies, and noticing the way in which shafts of sunlight streaming through the high up windows caught falling dust particles that wouldn’t otherwise be seen. Sometimes experiences and boredom seemed to drag on, such as on rainy days when my parents were sleeping and I wanted to play, or sitting a test or waiting for that friend to come out to play. And yet, even in these times, I can remember being able to find simple, imaginative solutions to the problem of boredom by becoming wholly engrossed in my own playful reveries. Sometimes on days spent outside, and especially with friends, the possibilities of adventure seemed endless. And on rainy days inside playing by myself, I distinctly and vividly remember the worlds and adventures that I created all by myself and became engrossed in. Perhaps you can relate to these feelings from your own earlier experiences. Don’t get me wrong, my childhood wasn’t always a happy time, and sometimes not by a long shot, but still there were times when I was present, absorbed in the moment of play or adventure, and oblivious to the passing of time.
Perhaps you think, that’s all well and good, but as adults we can’t spend our time staring off into the distance when there are so many responsibilities and so much to do, and with every passing moment, and accumulating task, so little time. To which I’d like to remind you of those two little words that mean so much to so many of us, with a weight and force to stop us in our tracks: “Burn Out”.
Ironically enough, I have returned to my blog and am commencing this paragraph after stepping away to check on the food in my oven, when my leg brushed against the front of the open oven door causing me to gasp at the burning sensation! If ever there was an appropriate and timely lesson in mindfulness and avoiding burn out, that was it! Don’t worry, I’m ok 🙂 …..
Taking this to be a natural pause in ‘Life as it happens to be’, I’ll leave you momently to consider your own thoughts as I concentrate on monotasking and enjoying my dinner, so that I can focus all of my thoughts on part two of this post, to be continued later…. x
You’ve been here before. Looking out to the horizon, the wide expanse of sea and sky reaches forth to meet you, where right now you feel the sand and grit between your toes, as gentle waves lap around your feet. A gull wails in the far, far distance, and other seabirds respond with their own distinct cacophony of cackles.
You spy a razor shell covered with sand. You desire to reach down to smooth off the sand from between its intricate ridges. But the presence of seaweed draws out your hesitance, and you simply stare. You are lost in the reverie you find in the rock pools around you. A crab scuttles into view, distorting the patterns of your peaceful daydream. You lift a foot, shaking off the sand, and begin to walk away.
People come and go all around you, and yet this is your beach. You hold fast to your solitude even in this multitude. You look back to see your trail of footprints, and forwards at the untouched sand. Around you there is the vibrancy of life. Children run and play, weaving their way in and out of the patterns on the sand, splashing in the water and squealing with delight. Sandcastles are built and gleefully demolished. A red and yellow kite catches the wind, falters and then soars high into the bright blue sky as a gust triumphantly lifts it. Somewhere in the distance you can hear the clip clop of horses hooves. People walking dogs come and go, and life goes on and on in this one vibrant unfolding shared story on this beach, where everything is now.
You pull the kite string of your mind to try to both tether yourself and to fly free as you catch a fresh breeze. But this tension within you constantly flutters. Why does it seem that everything you long for is always in the distance, beyond a horizon that you can never quite arrive at?
Perhaps it is because you yourself are distant. Never fully allowing yourself to be here and now, present in the life you are living, the life that other people’s dreams are made of…..? (c).