Perhaps my previous post of a few minutes ago was fairly profound, therefore I will juxtapose it with something more practical, but no less meaningful.
Friendship, true friendship is a gift, especially in these changing days. While I have posted previously about changing dynamics with some friendships, and the sadness of that and the need for changed boundaries, there is also something beautiful, uplifting and encouraging in connecting with those people who we can share this journey with. We all need encouragement in these days, and we need to surround ourselves with voices of encouragement, understanding, compassion, kindness, inspiration, and hope. We need to strive to be those kind of people too, and perhaps foremost before looking for those qualities in others.
As the saying goes, ‘birds of a feather flock together’. The more you are the kind of person you want in your life, the more you will be able to connect with others with those qualities and bring out those aspects in each other.
It’s important to understand that everyone is going through their own thing just now, even if we can’t see it on the surface. We need to give people the benefit of the doubt if they haven’t connected with us, and perhaps take the initiative in being a caring friend and reaching out to them to let them know we’re thinking about them.
When we do have friends that we connect with, it is important to take time and make the effort to nurture those friendships. Some people might say, ‘I wish I had such a friendship’, but these things don’t just happen, it takes something on our part, it takes love, patience, kindness, generosity, giving, understanding and reaching out for the good of the other person. When that is reciprocated, we can begin to see the blossoming of true friendship over time.
Think about the people in your life just now, whether friends, family or other connections. Try to nurture these connections that are mutually edifying. It is a real blessing to have people to share with in these trying times. Even if you feel alone, try to nurture your friendship with yourself as a starting point, perhaps connect with acquaintances, or neighbours in a safe and socially distanced way, or make new connections online.
It can be all too easy to get caught up in the day to day of ‘getting through’ in this pandemic. But remind yourself of how important the people around you actually are. While some families are having to face loss, let us think about the blessing of the people that we have in our lives right now. Take some time to make an effort to show that you care and are thinking of someone. Take time to nurture the good friendships and relationships you already have.
Take a step back:
For some, you may have to think about taking a step back from people who are pulling you down, being a toxic influence in your life or detrimental to your emotional and psychological wellbeing. While you may have to still have some people in your life (like a boss / manager) for example, you can still set your own internal boundaries so that you can continue to stay strong and positive for yourself and the people around you.
Appreciation and Gratitude:
With so much going wrong in the world, and with seeing so many unkind acts from troubled and troublesome people, it can do us much good to take time to appreciate and be grateful for the lovely people in our life, or if you feel you don’t have anyone, the lovely influences of people you don’t even know but that you have heard about, read of or seen in the media. Maybe you could show your appreciation in a practical way, even to someone you don’t know personally, by writing a letter, sending an email, a text or just checking in with someone.
Let’s take the time and care to appreciate those around us, to nurture and build those connections, and to help and encourage each other into better days.
I think this is one of those times when we really need to manage our expectations, especially those we might have of other people.
I’m learning that in terms of expectations I would do really well to increase my expectations of God, and exercise Faith, knowing that with Him all Good things are possible, even when human beings mess things up. This might be a time when people feel their faith is tested, and I understand that, but I continue to Hope in my unchanging God, The Living God.
I think in tandem with that I need to lower my expectations of other people and increase my expectations of myself, so far as it is healthy to do so. I get a picture in my mind of a ‘see-saw’ and on one side, high up is expectations of myself, and low down on the ground is my expectations of others.
Apart from those nearest and dearest to us, our close family and friends, if we are blessed with people who care about us, I think it may be wise to expect less from others, to avoid the hurt and disappointment that can ensue.
I wonder if you disagree with me? I after all am learning on this journey and would be happy to gain wisdom and insight from you as well. Maybe we have some people we can trust and they can trust us, but as the circumference of our friendships widen then the expectations perhaps need to decrease particularly in the pandemic. At least it leaves room for pleasant surprises if people are there for us or do ‘show up’ with kindness in some way.
I’ve had to renegotiate such things in my own mind, even with people who I would formerly have thought of as close friends. It’s been a hard learning curve, but I think it helps me mentally and emotionally to know that it’s ok if I give to others and expect less or nothing back from them. It is also ok if I need to take a step back for my own well being too. It might seem like some people are doing better in this pandemic than others, some of my friends have been doing really well, and it can be hurtful if we realise they just don’t think about others if they are absorbed in the happy goings on in their own lives. It can come across as insensitive, or self indulgent at times and that can be hard in any friendship especially ones we had thought of as close.
However, if we rethink things to say to ourselves, this is a pandemic after all, and maybe some people are absorbed in their own happiness and are insensitive to others, but also perhaps other people may have their own struggles behind the scenes that we know nothing about, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt.
Who knows what other people are dealing with in this pandemic? Only God really knows. As we expect less of others, we can become more resilient in ourselves and we can also exercise sacrificial love in giving to others, helping them and being a good friend with little or no expectation of anything in return. It’s not always wise to do so if it encourages a dependency for we want to encourage people to be empowered and we also want to live as empowered people. But sometimes friendship dynamics change, and this can be highlighted all the more in the pandemic when everyone experiences this in a different way.
Some of your friends who are doing well may have no insight into the struggles you are going through, especially if you are living alone, have job worries, are anxious about your future, or your health or have experienced loss in some way this year.
Perhaps if we were to let go of expecting anything from others, whether that be kindness, understanding or reciprocity then we might be able to live freer lives to be able to give without needing anything in return.
We also can think about, as I explored in a previous post, about how to build healthier boundaries, and build closer connections with perhaps a few trusted people.
We don’t know what other people are going through all the time, and the same applies to them with us. So let’s all give each other a lot of kindness, and expect more from God, less from others, and more from ourselves.
That way, we may just be pleasantly surprised, and more appreciative if or when our friends or acquaintances do reciprocate our kindess ! What do you think? 🙂 x
This has been one of the strangest of years many of us have lived through in terms of world events. While many among us have faced our own challenging times previously in terms of our personal life journey, I’m too young to be able to remember anything quite like this pandemic that reached into every part of the globe. The older generation that lived through the second world war, will have many more stories to tell and the things they faced were probably far more frightening than what we are facing today, but nevertheless 2020 has been quite a year for us all in terms of the pandemic!
It’s been a year that has prompted us to make changes, slow down, speed up, take action and think more deeply. One of the things we may have been made to think more deeply about is our friendships, relationships and the company we keep.
As someone who is not white, and who has suffered from racism in my earlier years particularly as well as sporadically in adulthood, the issues that came to fore with some of the BLM movements opened my eyes to the sheer lack of awareness of racism among those brought up with privilege, as well as ongoing prejudices. I’m aware that some friends sought to become allies. Other people let go of former friendships or loosened ties with certain people whose opinions were brought to light as prejudicial and unacceptable.
All of that aside, 2020 may have also prompted us to look at the deeper things of life and whether our close connections are meaningful or detrimental or toxic in some way. I’m blessed to have many good friends, but even then I realised that some of them are wrapped up in their own lives and could not begin to understand what it was like to live alone in a pandemic for several months. I also realised that as an empathetic person some of my friends take advantage of me and use that side of my nature, perhaps not intentionally but they do it nonetheless, without asking if I’m ok but just taking advantage of my kind and caring nature.
Going forwards, I find myself asking where I should be spending my time and which people to focus on in terms of building relationships. Sometimes friendships just drift apart because of different life stages although this is not always the case. For several years I’ve been the friend showing up to my other friends’ occasions from engagements, weddings, baby showers, births, birthdays, children’s parties and so forth (and I’ve had none of these occasions myself, other than birthdays, and no one ever thinks of celebrating or acknowledging their single friends in such a way). I’ve been a very giving person but at times feeling like I’m on the sidelines of my own life it has caused hurt, emotional fatigue, pain and burnout. Not to say that my friends haven’t been there for me through ups and downs, they have, but in this pandemic, many of them shared with me that they were really enjoying their lives and times with their families and just didn’t stop to think or really care what I might have been going through alone. Being alone (with God) strengthened me, but it also awakened me to rethink some of the dynamics of my friendships. There have been probably three or four key people outside of my family where from a distance we have been able to support and encourage each other and that has been a great help. Yet, it does lead me to think and ask you whether it is a good time to consider our connections, going forward and as we approach 2021?
Friendship dynamics change:
Friendships, true friendships are a blessing. They also take work and commitment and effort on the part of both parties. Sometimes friendships change as life changes or as we change. Rarer still are those friendships that last a lifetime through different seasons of life and through the ups and downs.
So, how do we know whether to hold on or to let go?
I find myself considering whether a friendship is one in which I am able to encourage someone to think about or draw closer to Christ, one in which we are able to mutually encourage each other in our faith, or where we believe different things, one in which we can enjoy fun, share our thoughts and build each other up in some way and share life (even if socially distanced).
If a friendship is toxic, then am I able to provide a good influence, or is that person simply dragging me down? Am I being taken for granted or made to feel miserable? We may not always be meant to let go of people, but perhaps we should be lessening the time we spend with certain people, and reconsidering our boundaries. Even when a friend is not a toxic person, perhaps something in their life triggers something in ours. Maybe they are always talking about or sharing something good in their life that makes us feel sidelined, overshadowed or alone – maybe they share their struggles and overburden us just because they can and we are good listeners.
As we approach 2021 we need to find a healthy or healthier balance between nurturing our friendships and relationships and taking care of our own wellbeing.
Sometimes this will mean considering whether to reassess our boundaries, let certain toxic people go, or move on. It may involve putting in more effort to strengthen bonds, to exercise forgiveness, commitment, love and compassion or to open up conversations to the ‘blind spots’ they or we may have and to seek to make things better. It may even mean taking a bold step to reconnect with or apologise to someone we have lost touch with or hurt or to forgive someone who has hurt us.
Where do you find yourself at the end of this year?
Has the pandemic affected your relationships or highlighted a need for change, for forgiveness, reconciliation or for stronger boundaries?
I hope you take your time and act from the heart with love, forgiveness, and wisdom and take care not only of the people in your life, but of you as well.
While we are all approaching the year’s end, no doubt this year we’ve had a lot of new thoughts going through our minds. Things that we never would have thought about in 2019, when the idea of a pandemic, for most of us at least, just wasn’t on our radar….at all.
This year may have given us all new and challenging things to think about as we’ve been living through and processing new experiences of the world, yet, perhaps in these challenges we can find space for an opportunity.
Here in Scotland, where I am living for the winter season, the first frost has arrived and the once green grass is speckled with white. The cloud laced skies are actually a bright blue which is beautiful for this time of year, and the vibrancy of autumn / fall has well passed and the branches and twigs of the trees have been stripped bare of life and of colour. We are approaching winter with a beauty of its own. Elsewhere, friends have told me, it has been snowing.
As the seasons change, we are presented with the opportunity to slow down. I give my gratitude to all of you who are front line workers and who will be working hard and steadfastly through the winter with little chance to pause, but for most of us, we will hopefully be safe and sheltered indoors.
With the slowing of the seasons, comes the opportunity to slow our minds and to think. I don’t know about you, but some of my thoughts this year haven’t been so much related to the pandemic as they have been to discovering more about myself and my friendships and connections with people through this experience.
For example, things that had been feeling ‘not quite right’ with certain friendships before the pandemic seem to have come more to the fore this year, especially as I spent four months living completely alone. I came to a deeper realisation that certain friends who have spouses and children and families of their own were oblivious to some of the fundamental lived realities of what it is to be me. Friends who shared that they were happy and doing well and who I tried to connect with but just didn’t have the need and didn’t contact me until after I had been locked down alone, only perhaps when they needed some diversion after Lockdown 1.0. Friendships are deep and complex things, but as an empath I sometimes suffer from how much I give to others, and I do acknowledge that friends are also there for me or have been, but I’ve had more time to think and to realise what I am or am not comfortable with this year, and being alone in lockdown for four months helped me to see who the people were that I could actually mutually connect with and the others who didn’t have the need for a single friend and only got in touch when it suited them. Beautiful, kind hearted people. But people with their own priorities, their own selfishness (and no doubt I will have my own that I’m unaware of even though I try to be a good friend) and their own blind spots and inability to think or relate to how a person completely isolated might have felt. Lifelong friends, but friends with whom I need to move on from the dynamic that was there before, and to consider my own wellbeing and sense of selfhood and I’m discovering this as I move forwards and as we all approach 2021. And I need to use this time to think things through.
Perhaps certain things in your life have been simmering in your mind against the backdrop of a pandemic year. Maybe the ‘other’ things you have had more time to think about or have needed to spend more time processing are completely different to mine. I am intrigued to know what these things might be, or if any of you can relate to what I have shared.
Perhaps an opportunity in the midst of the difficulties of 2020 that we have been presented with is the chance to do things differently, to not just continue with the way things have always been, or the way things have been for us for too long. Perhaps something within you has been stirred to make a change. Perhaps you are awakening to a realisation that you have been caring for the needs of others, which is a beautiful thing, but at the same time have been neglecting your own needs and suffering for it, which is something I can relate to.
Can we give ourselves that bit of self care in this pandemic by taking time to think things through, to pray things through, to seek wisdom and insight as to whether the way things have been aren’t right for us as we embark upon a new season, and consider that the way things are can be changed?
What have you been thinking about, or what do you need to make time for yourself to think through in this season? Are there any deep changes you need to make in your life as you move forwards, or are there any small day to day shifts that you feel are equally important for you to make?
I hope you are able to find new answers and fresh hope as you move forwards, as we all move forwards through the Light of Advent season, into the Hope of Christmas, and the potential of a New Year where we can face the future with greater resilience, courage, faith and determination, and a desire to lift each other up, but not to allow ourselves to be burnt out in the process.
Welcome back to my new interactive series of journal prompts / contemplation points to help us together to navigate our way forwards through 2020. Instead of looking back and feeling that it has been a negative or wasted time, I hope this series will help us to learn more about ourselves and find the ‘hidden treasure’ of this year.
If you haven’t yet seen my first post in this series, please take a look at my main page and you’ll find it there, just before this one. Feel free to start and stop this journey and take things at your own pace to make the most of these times of reflection. And as always, you are so very welcome to share your thoughts in the comments.
So without further ado, here is the second prompt:
(2). Think of at least one thing that you had taken for granted, or not appreciated fully before the 2019/20 pandemic.
I’m sure that I’m not alone in the awareness that there are so many things that I have not fully appreciated, even though I try to cultivate an ‘attitude of gratitude’ on a daily basis. We can be thankful for many things, yet sometimes it takes a crisis to more fully and deeply appreciate them.
There are *so* many things – faith, family, friends, health, homes, food, clothing, the internet and maintaining connections, blue skies, the very ability to breathe and to be given the gift of life each new morning we wake.
I think this question can take us to deep places of gratitude for many different things that we may usually be thankful for, but not quite as deeply so. I’m so thankful for all of the relationships, people and things I’ve mentioned above, however, for this post I want to express my appreciation for one thing in particular: the health care service and all the people who make it work.
I live in the United Kingdom, and here we are very fortunate and blessed to have the National Health Service where most treatment is free. I have friends in America who always have to worry about health insurance, and even crowd-funding long-term treatments for their health problems, whereas here we never have to think of such things. Sure, there may be costs for adults undergoing dental treatment and such like, but GP consultations, prescribed medications, hospital treatment, mental health and psychological care, and the list goes on – it is all FREE to the patient.
And while we have been in the midst of the pandemic, doctors, nurses, auxiliary staff, administrators and a whole host of people have been working tirelessly, sacrificing their own wellbeing, time with their families, and in some heroic cases even their own lives, in their commitment to helping and caring for other people.
We had a weekly ‘clap for carers’, however, even after these things fade away, I know that I should be so deeply appreciative of the people and systems that work tirelessly to preserve and improve the quality of human life. I hope the government will appropriately and financially honour those who do so much for our society.
Yes, this is something I am deeply grateful for, and am so very thankful for during this pandemic.
What about you? What positive thing can you take a moment or two to be appreciative of as you think of this year so far? If you need a few ideas, how about these as starting points for you to explore some thing or various things that you recognise have been a real gift and blessing to you through this experience, even if indirectly:
We all have this immediate threat to deal with. Currently it is taking up most of our collective consciousness, attention and energy. While in ‘lockdown’ we may initially find ourselves regularly watching the news or keeping updated on what is happening around the world and in our own area. We will also be putting a lot of time and attention into figuring out how to adjust to a new way of being where our freedoms have been curtailed and our routines changed. We will be concerned about practicalities such as health, food supplies, shopping, child care, work, money and so on.
We don’t know how long it will be before this virus abates and before it becomes safe again to have some kind of semblance in society to the lives we lived before. At a minimum it will be weeks, but looking at the reality of the situation it could reasonably be months. We will have to think again and revisit how we will manage the above concerns over a longer period of time, but after we have got some kind of handle on that, and how we will use our time to the best of our abilities, we will also have another opportunity.
At the moment we are in a kind of ‘survival mode’, although our actual lives may not be at risk if we are fortunate enough to be the healthy ones who are safely tucked away in our own homes. Humans adapt to change, and we all will in a strange way ‘get used’ to this new way of life. One that affords us the opportunity to do some deep work, and deal with some of our ‘stuff’. While having spring indoors may be the perfect time for a ‘spring clean’, the real work is dealing with our internal ‘stuff’.
We all have baggage. We all have emotional and psychological pain to some extent, and it’s not going to go away just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic with more pressing concerns.
In the rush and hurry of lives once lived traveling to work, filling our minds with entertainment, sports, distractions, concerts, travel, events, nights out, socialising, trips to the cinema, dinners with friends, taking pictures of our meals and posting them instantly online, we have a tendency to ‘stuff’ our issues down, and they may be bubbling under the surface for years, for some of us they may ‘explode’ and bubble over at times of great stress or change, or even rest when we can no longer distract ourselves from them with more pressing concerns or with frivolities.
You can choose to continue to distract, to fill your minds with escapism, or you can take even a little bit of space and time to truly seek how to live life with a lighter load.
This catastrophe has show us that none of us are sufficient in and of ourselves (and if you are like me and have lived many years in weakness and fear, then you will already be well aware f that fact).
It is a time to look at what are the flimsy crutches you have been using to prop yourself up, and which have now been pulled away from you. What will actually keep you standing through this storm? Are you going to continue to cling to the idols of distraction and entertainment or are you going seek a bit deeper?
What are some of the things you have been shoving down that you can no longer avoid facing up to?
– Fear of death and dying.
-A broken heart.
-A troubled past.
-A struggling or broken relationship.
-Prioritising work over your family.
-Never having enough time for other people.
-Fear of being alone.
-The scars of separation, divorce, family conflict.
-Mental health struggles.
-Your fear of the future.
-Your ideas of what it means to be ‘successful’ in life.
-Your worth or value as a human being, in comparison with those around you – doesn’t this tragedy show us that from Princes to Paupers, we are all essentially the ‘same’ and equally vulnerable.
-The people you haven’t spoken to for years, but wished you could reconcile with.
-The things that might be left unsaid and done before it’s too late.
-Your children’s futures.
-What you think will happen after death.
-How you want to spend your time before you die.
-What kind of legacy will you be leaving.
-Should you make that will?
-What do you look to for hope and comfort?
-Why you have resisted getting in touch with that person, and whether you will regret it if you don’t.
-Your freedom to live.
-Childhood trauma and pain.
-Confidence issues to step up and be the person you were born to be in this world….while there is still time.
We have an opportunity to choose not to carry bags of regret throughout the rest of our lives, however long or short they may turn out to be. Only you know what is in the ‘junk drawers’ of your heart and mind. Is it time for a clear out? Is it time to face the fear and open the drawers? Is it time to ask for help from someone who can actually take these burdens from you?
Maybe it is or it isn’t I don’t know. But it is definitely a time for us all to think and to reflect more than we usually allow ourselves to do.
Everyday stresses can add up over time, and if we’re not careful we may experiences a wide range of negative effects from anxiety, depression, burnout, fatigue, a sense of being overwhelmed, trapped and frustrated, backed into a corner, to name but a few.
Having come through times of intense stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, fatigue, etc. due to a range of challenging circumstances, I know how important it is to be mindful and aware of when these little ‘niggly’ things that occur day to day begin to trigger even a hint of those feelings.
If we allow things to build up and up (which, I truly know, friends, can be difficult not to) then our bodies and nervous systems will begin to move from a state of calm, rest, efficiency and productivity, to being hypervigilant, and in fight-flight-freeze mode. Stress hormones will build up and this will affect our thinking, cloud our judgement and affect us physically. We may find it difficult to sleep, we may turn to comfort eating, or feel too stressed to eat, and so on and so forth. You get the idea. Perhaps, like me, you know it all too well.
Did you remember to breathe?
Sometimes I ‘forget to breathe’. Obviously, my body will be breathing, but what I mean is sometimes I get into a rigid state where I’m kind of holding my breath without even realising it, and therefore not getting a sufficient supply of oxygen for my wellbeing, and for regulating my nervous system.
Did you know that something as simple as breathing well is so powerful in regulating our nervous system, and promoting our wellbeing? And yet so often so many of us seem to ‘forget this’. We breathe from a ‘shallow’ place and don’t allow a full intake or exhale of our breath. Once we begin to be aware of our breathing and to intentionally practice doing it ‘better’ then our nervous systems are able to ‘calm down’. So, for your own good….”Don’t hold your breath!”.
What are those ‘little things’?
Sometimes life throws us into challenges where we feel like we may well sink if we don’t ‘swim’ to survive. At times life is so tough that our ‘default’ is to operate on fight-flight-freeze mode, simply to survive an intensely stressful, emotional, challenging and / or traumatic situation.
However, even at times when we are in those more calm and peaceful seasons where things overall are going well, our bodies and brains can be overstimulated and create a ‘stress response’ within us similar (or equivalent) to that fight-flight-freeze response.
Can you see yourself, or relate to what’s happening, in any of the following scenarios?
You all know the feeling. You’re on the way to see your friends for a great day out, but you can’t find the keys to your car, when you finally do and are on your way you then get caught in traffic and you worry that you’ll be late, you arrive just in time but can’t find a parking space, you’re feeling anxious because of angry drivers that you’ve encountered and before your great day out has even started, you kind of want to be back home where you can crawl into bed.
Finally you meet your friends and it’s great to see them. You hug and you’re reminded of why the stress of the journey was worth it. As you catch up over coffee, the noise around you and the multitude of conversations going on from other people leaves you feeling a bit disoriented. You try to listen to your friends but it’s difficult to ‘tune out’ the noise and ‘tune in’ to hear their conversations. When things finally quieten down your friends begin to share updates about their lives. They’re doing great, you’re happy for each other, but some things in the conversation seem to ‘trigger’ you and they seem insensitive to it. You listen patiently and are as encouraging and loving a friend as ever but something doesn’t feel quite right inside. A few of your friends get up to buy something to eat and you’re left alone with one friend. You’re by nature a ‘listener’ and you’ve listened attentively and shown genuine interest and contributed here and there to the group conversations. However, alone with this person they seem to ask you question after question after question. It’s been a long time since you’ve seen each other and it’s nice to catch up but you feel stressed, uneasy and needing your own space. You hope that the others will come back soon so that they dynamic will feel more ‘balanced’ once again, as far as is possible with a range of personalities, and a mix of ‘introverts, extraverts and ambiverts’. All in all by the end of the day you’ve had a lovely and a pleasant time, but some of the ‘little things’ have got to you and you don’t quite understand why you’re feeling so stressed after a nice day out.
You’ve landed your dream job. You got through the interview despite your nerves, impressed the new bosses and are finally where you’ve wanted to be for oh so long. Things are going great. You manage to push past your first day nerves, the disorientation of not knowing anyone, and having to get to know a lot of new faces, names and ways of working. After a few weeks into your dream job you’ve built some rapport with colleagues, feel comfortable and confident in what you’re doing, know the ‘lay of the land’ and where to get lunch, where different offices are and what your day to day routine is like. You’re really pleased with this great new step in your life, but somehow everyday you feel a bit of a ‘gnawing’ in the pit of your stomach, and a feeling of nervousness and stress rising up within you. The dream job you should be overjoyed about and looking forward to going to everyday doesn’t leave you feeling the way you had hoped. It’s not the job itself – it perfectly fits what you had wanted to do. It’s not the location – it’s ideal for you and the building and the facilities are great. It’s not the ‘vibe’ of the organisation, people are friendly and professional. It’s just that one little thing. That one colleague who hasn’t taken so well to you. The one who rolls their eyes, who makes subtle flippant remarks that you are sure are about you, who is overly friendly to everyone else but ignores you or responds abruptly and provides as little help or good will as possible. The one who does so many ‘little things’ that are hard to pin down as being ‘problems’ in and of themselves, but who gives you that feeling inside your chest, the one that leaves you feeling somewhat stressed. Why can’t you just ignore it, shake it off? You try but it seems to leave you feeling drained nonetheless.
You’re really thankful to have good and close friends. Or perhaps you have a loving partner or spouse. You’re so grateful for the people in your life. It’s just that sometimes you feel the need for your own space, sometimes they do or say things that make you feel stressed, sometimes you find yourself putting your needs aside to help them, to keep them happy. But those little things, they still get to you a bit, don’t they?
Life is going great. You’re doing well in your job. You’ve got good friends. You’re quite healthy. No family drama. No major life crisis. But you can’t quite seem to keep up with all that you have to or want to do. You live alone. The dishes have piled up. There are things needing done around the house. You want to get on top of things, but you’ve got to manage so many things yourself, and you spend so much time doing things yet before you know it things need to be done all over again, and you haven’t even got to that ‘to do’ list of things needing fixed, repaired and so on and so forth.
Or you’re a working mum, you love your family, your kids, they are everything to you. But sometimes they just don’t listen. They leave things lying about. They seem more interested in their phones and their friends and their computers than they do in connecting with you. You feel unappreciated, stressed, you love your life, your family, your job, but sometimes those little things…leave you feeling a bit stressed, frustrated, in need of a holiday on a beautiful desert island with a good book, all by yourself! Do you know the feeling?
Taking a step back:
We don’t need to be going through a trauma or a life crisis for things to become stressful. Sometimes the ‘little things’ in life can leave us feeling overwhelmed. And if we let them build up then at some point they might just ‘bubble over’. Have you ever ‘snapped at’ someone who really didn’t deserve it, not because of them, but because you allowed different stresses to build up over time and this was just the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’? Have you ever burst into tears, or just ended up so fatigued that you couldn’t do anything? Have you let the ‘little things’ in life get the better of you?
Or are you just beginning to notice them? Don’t let the ‘little things’ build up and overwhelm you.
Sometimes we need to try taking a step back. Sometimes that can be difficult. Sometimes it involves saying ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ to someone and facing the ‘fear’ of not meeting their expectations of us for the sake of preserving and maintaining our own well being. In order to do so we need to know and be aware of what we need, we need to work on managing ours and other people’s expectations in a healthy way, managing boundaries and taking good care of ourselves.
Sometimes we need to take a step back, remind ourselves to ‘breathe’ and do something to nurture ourselves.
What are you going to do today to make sure that the ‘little things’ don’t cause you to feel stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated or a bit lacklustre today?
Remember, it’s never a little thing to take care of your own wellbeing! x
Recently, I wrote the following post in part 45 of my Winter Survival Guide regarding the importance of reconnecting with the people in our lives. So, I thought I’d give you an update of some recent opportunities to reconnect.
It’s nearing the end of the year, and maybe we have let things slip in our friendships and relationships, and we didn’t even realise that it was happening. Time just seems to have passed and somehow when thinking of the people we used to be closest to, we realise that we have lost touch, or […]
A couple of years ago I went on a coach holiday by myself to Budapest, Prague and Vienna. You’ll be able to read up on my adventures in my ‘Travel’ section. It turned out that traveling on my own led to me having the opportunity to connect with new people, and as a result I made some new friends, two of which have visited my city a few times, for various events they were going to and also to see me.
Last weekend, I had the chance to reconnect with these two friends once more and we ventured around Christmas markets, had some festive hot drinks in a café and chocolate shop, and then went out for a late lunch together.
It doesn’t often happen that I make friends via my travels that I will keep in touch with face to face rather than just by the occasional message or email every now and then, so these particular connections have turned out to be quite special, and may continue for years to come.
Sometimes we travel solo because we love the freedom, the independence, we might be wanting to get away from it all and have more time to ourselves, or we may want to travel with others but find that no one else is available. For me I really enjoy solo travelling now, although it initially took a bit of getting used to. Either way, the chance to connect with these travel friends is a fresh reminder to be aware and attentive and to make the most of every opportunity – I almost didn’t take the opportunities on holiday because I was enjoying the time by myself, my independence and indulging in my passion for photography. Funnily enough it was the teenage girl who thought I was only nineteen that drew me into conversation and company, even though I am closer to her mum’s age – I and others thought they were friends, so I guess we all had that youthful glow about us! 🙂 The opportunities I almost didn’t notice actually turned out to be open doors to new friendships, and so it was nice to recently have the time to reconnect with them once more.
Tried and True:
I mentioned in my Winter Survival Guide post that many of us are blessed with those ‘old faithfuls’, those friends that are ‘tried and true’, friendships that feel more like the bonds of family (you know that saying, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves” ! 🙂 ), those who we have grown to know, love, laugh with, support each other through the hard times and challenges of life, and who we hope will still be part of each others lives in the years to come.
I am blessed to say I have quite a few ‘old faithfuls’ in my life, and this has probably been due to the reciprocity of both parties being faithful and investing in the friendships. However, most of these friends don’t actually know each other, so for the most part my ‘old faithfuls’ and I tend to be groups of twos, threes or fours rather than a big group of long standing friendships.
One such ‘party of three’ is myself and a couple of guys I met through work. We’ve been there for each other through the challenging times of life, and it’s most likely, God-willing that we will continue to be. We don’t necessarily have everything in common, but we do have that connection that makes us consider each other as family in a way. And we laugh together…and eat together!
We’ve tried over the past couple of years, especially as one of these friends no longer works with us, to continue to meet up and reconnect in person once a month. Obviously, this can fluctuate and some months we aren’t able to, other blessed months might see us meeting more than that, but we tend to go out to dinner, to chat and to stay involved with each others lives and have a healthy dose of laughter in poking fun at one another! 🙂 You know you’re in a good situation when you can eat and laugh with your friends as well as have those more serious chats.
Our most recent culinary adventure saw us visiting a Russian restaurant, which was a novel experience at least for me – a tasty one though, followed by a wander around the Christmas markets.
There’s a song by Sara Groves that I like, that includes the following lyrics:
“I am long on staying, I am slow to leave, especially when it comes to you, my friend. You have taught me to slow down and to prop up my feet, it’s the fine art of being who I am…”
When we have the blessings of real friends, friends who mutually care for each other, who are genuine and sincere and who give as much as they take, friends we know we can be ourselves around, and with whom we mutually feel supported, cared for and respected – when we have the chance to reconnect with them, despite however different we may be, the lovely thing is that we are also able to reconnect genuinely with a part of ourselves.
Wishing you all some happy times connecting and reconnecting with loved ones and friends old and new, as well as with yourself, and if you are spiritually minded, with God, this winter season. x
It’s nearing the end of the year, and maybe we have let things slip in our friendships and relationships, and we didn’t even realise that it was happening.
Time just seems to have passed and somehow when thinking of the people we used to be closest to, we realise that we have lost touch, or lost a sense of that closeness.
Tried and True:
And while there are different seasons of closeness with different people, deep down we know that there are those ‘old faithfuls’, those ‘tried and true’ friendships haven’t so much grown cold as they have merely slipped by in the busy day to day dealings of our lives.
You know the friends I mean – those who you know will be delighted to hear from you and you from them, and that you will without fuss just pick up with each other once again. Those friendships are special, real gems in our lives, and we should nurture them as we are able.
So why not this wintertime, use the extra time you might have to get in contact with one of these old friends, or perhaps if there are a few of you, you could arrange a reunion and reconnect? Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to meet up face to face, perhaps because of commitments, distance and responsibilities, but wouldn’t it be nice to pick up the phone and talk to your old friend once again? Or maybe you could send them a thoughtful email or card, or gift, just to let them know that you are thinking of them and appreciate their friendship.
The ease and reassurance of such friendships is a joy in life. However, it is likely that as we go through life we have other meaningful, important and special friendships and relationships that are no less valued, but aren’t quite as easy to maintain for some reason or another. It could be that a valued friend is no longer as much a part of your life because of a fallout, disagreement, misunderstanding or a wrong on one or both of your sides. It could be ‘more complicated’ than that for a number of reasons only known to you and them.
Perhaps, in this season known for ‘Good will’ there may be an opportunity to reach out and extend the ‘olive branch’ of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace? Could this be the season where you are able to reconnect again rather than let another year go by regretting what you have lost with your friend, family member or loved one? Or maybe reconnecting isn’t an option in so far as it may not be good to keep in touch longer term, but maybe the right thing to do is to mend bridges, heal wounds, forgive and move on. Does anyone or anything come to mind for you as you read this? I know it may not be easy, but perhaps there is an opportunity there for you to think about so that you don’t live with the regret of not having reached out to them.
Perhaps ‘reconnecting’ doesn’t so much mean getting in touch with someone you haven’t seen in a long time, as much as it means reconnecting and deepening existing relationships with people in your life right now. Maybe you have neglected an important relationship or the other person has neglected nurturing their relationship with you, and things have somehow just ‘drifted’ along through the ups and downs, highs and lows, and things needing done throughout the year.
Could this season be the opportunity for you to reconnect with someone on a deeper level? What would it take? Time, patience, love, communication, effort? Maybe there isn’t a brokenness or a breach in that the relationship is still intact, but could it be the case that there are wounds needing healed, or maybe you have just not been paying as much attention to each other, taking the friendship or relationship for granted? Having a little more time, which I hope you do this season, could be a really important step forward in nurturing those connections you already have to reconnect on a deeper level.
Maybe the person you need to reconnect with is yourself. Have you put yourself, your needs, values and wishes to one side as you’ve sought to please everyone else and get things done? I used to be this person to my friends, I always cheered them on, but oftentimes I felt like I was ‘on the outside’ of my own life, and this was painful, and left me feeling a brokenness inside. It is not healthy but sometimes we do get pushed aside even in our own lives because everyone else’s needs seem more pressing, more important, or more significant. If this is where you are right now, it’s important to make time for yourself, to take a step back, to reconnect and nurture yourself, because if you are not in a good place in yourself you will only feel drained and depleted when giving out to other people, however, as I have learned, the more we nurture ourselves, the more we can happily and more freely give to others from a place of love, joy, faith and peace.
Reconnect with yourself this season, because you matter.
God has not moved away, changed, walked out on you, abandoned you or chosen to be distant from you. But what about you? Are you distancing yourself from Him? Are you avoiding thinking about Him altogether, refusing to open your heart and mind to His reality and truth? Have you been too preoccupied with lesser things that you haven’t been spending time with Him, in His loving care, listening as He leads you through life? His Arms are open wide, no matter who you are or what you have done. Reconnecting depends on your response and your choice so what will you do? He Is right here loving you now, and welcomes you to come to Him. Will you?
You may look at life and people through eyes filled with compassion, love, grace, care, kindness and helpfulness. This might be so natural to you, or something you have worked hard on developing, with the gifts of grace and mercy at work in your life to bring you there, that you don’t necessarily expect that other people who are close to you have other more selfish motives.
Of course, you can easily spot the negative characteristics in people whom you don’t wish to associate too closely with, even though you know that there are many and complex aspects to each person with everyone having a mix of positive and negative traits including ourselves- but you don’t allow people who are overtly rude, unkind, selfish, manipulative or cold into your inner circle. Because after all, you’re a good judge of character, right?
It can be harder to see negative characteristics in the people we let closest to us, because for the most part we think that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and that our friends have similar values to us.
And they may well do, for the most part. They may share the broad brushstrokes of similar ideas generally of overall life values, how to treat other people, and what it means to be a good friend. Or we may be choosing to see them in that way.
But sometimes true colours on a canvas begin to show through over time, and we gloss over them. Things arise that we feel not so comfortable with, but we know that we too have our flaws and we try to be the best friend that we can be. We see the way someone relates to and treats other friends or mutual connections and we think that there is a problem in their specific situation and we try to show understanding, empathy, kindness and to give a listening ear. But then, we realise that our friend has treated other friends in a way that simply doesn’t match with our values, in a way that that other friend or those other friends don’t deserve because they’re simply lovely people, and we try to make sense of it, to understand the things that might be going on under the surface, and we think that because we are closer that of course they wouldn’t treat us that way, but the warning bells have already started ringing, and somewhere deeper down a trust has been damaged, as our instincts tell us that the person we consider to be similar to us, actually treats other people in a way that harms them – are they unaware of it, do they not realise their behaviour is selfish and damaging, or maybe they have some wounds and issues to sort out, do they just take the easier way out when they feel that things get tricky, regardless of whether or not it is the right way to behave? We try to be understanding, to give our friends the benefit of the doubt, and maybe we ignore our instincts and those warning signals because we want to think and believe the best of people.
We don’t want to believe that our friends are using people for their own convenience, for when things suit them. We want to believe they are deeper, warmer, and more compassionate than they are. We don’t want to see the true colours that are beginning to come through, we may not try to change them but we change the evidence that we are beginning to see to fall in line with a more loving, caring version of the person we’ve created in our minds. We all have flaws. But then there are points when someone shows themselves to have deeper rooted characteristics that don’t fit with our values, and we try to excuse them or tell ourselves it’s because of this or that reason, and be graceful towards that person. Who wants to honestly conclude that someone they had given time, care, love, a listening ear and understanding to is actually colder than we thought, more selfish in their motives and perhaps has even been using us, whether intentionally or not, for their own convenience? Sometimes we don’t let ourselves see true colours until it is too late, and they have been as narrowly focused and self focused in their treatment of us as they have to others. The warning signs were there, but we didn’t want to pay heed to them, and so we live with the lessons. We learn that we are people who care, but not everyone does….some people care when it is convenient to them to do so, and I suppose that’s ok, so long as we are willing to continue being people who are genuine, caring, look out for other people’s interests as well as our own, seek to communicate for the benefit of other people, and ensure that we don’t use other people for our own selfish gain as we have been used. And the deeper lesson if you find yourself in such a situation is that you can’t change people. You can’t change someone’s true colours, it’s not within your gift to do so. You can pray for them, for them to perhaps realise that their patterns of behaviour damage others, and perhaps they don’t care too much about that, but you can pray for other people to be protected, and you can seek to become a better person, more noble in character for the good of others.
You could try to change people, you could try because the idea of them was different to the reality, but it wouldn’t be worth your efforts and time, because just as others can’t change you, you can’t change them. But you do have immense power to work on yourself, to seek to be kinder, more understanding, more compassionate, more giving, loving and caring, looking out for others and not just ourselves, so that the lessons we learn don’t bring negativity but actually make our world and the lives of those around us a much more vibrant, colourful, Truthful, genuine, loving, honest and caring place. x