Continuing on our series on lockdown life lessons, I feel it’s important not to gloss over the challenges even while we are looking for the positives and growth opportunities through 2020 so far.
Why might that be? Because without addressing or at least acknowledging some of the more difficult parts of our experience we won’t be as well equipped to deal with patterns of struggle or challenge in our lives in order to change them for the better in the future.
So, with that being said, prompt number four is as follows (try to be honest with yourself, and compassionate towards yourself too):
4. What has been the hardest thing for you during lockdown / quarantine, and why? What or how can you change, learn or grow to make things better in the future?
This one might be difficult for you to answer, and may involve expressing personal issues, weaknesses or pain. However, by acknowledging the challenges as well as the positives, we will be more likely to seek the help we need, or respond in better ways in the future. Perhaps whatever you’ve experienced won’t be resolved quickly, but take time to acknowledge what you’re struggling with or feeling challenged by and then ask yourself the following questions:
-If you are a person of faith – ‘Have I prayed about it?’
– Is there anything within my power to change?
–What lessons have I learned or am I learning about this?
–Is there anyone I can share this with for help, mutual support, encouragement, etc?
–Do I know other people who might be going through similar things who I can reach out to and encourage or show support, understanding or love?
–Do I need help from people professionally with this?
–Is there something within myself I need to work on to change? How can I start going about making those changes?
–Will I choose not to worry about this all the time?
–What is needed to make things better?
–What a I using as a ‘crutch’ to cope with this situation, and what should I change to deal with it in a more positive manner?
Perhaps you don’t want to or don’t feel the need to go through these additional self-reflection questions. But take a moment to think about the original question as to what was most difficult for you and how things can be better moving forwards.
In subsequent posts, the focus will once more be more positive, however, it is important to also acknowledge the issues explored in this post if we are to move forwards with greater self-awareness, strength and ability to make positive changes in our lives.
As we move into the third instalment of this interactive series of reflection prompts, today’s question will hopefully help and encourage you to recognise your developing strengths and abilities during this time of global change.
Think of some positive things this time of lockdown / quarantine / restrictions has taught you about yourself that you didn’t know, or weren’t as aware of before.
Write down some thoughts about what you have learned about yourself.
Do you find this one difficult to get started on? Try breaking this big concept into smaller, more tangible parts. For example, think of your living situation. Have you spent lockdown alone or with others? What qualities were you able to notice or develop in this situation? For example, did you surprise yourself with selflessness, acts of kindness and patience towards others, being thoughtful and respectful of other people’s needs? Or did you discover a resilience you didn’t know you had to ‘tough it out’ all on your own?
Have you discovered a new skill that you wouldn’t have had the chance to develop before? For instance, did circumstances throw you into an unfamiliar world of home schooling your kids, if you have any? Did you become more resourceful in managing finances, food, and household maintenance? Were you able to share your expertise with other people and in doing so see new aspects of yourself? Did you get to grips with new forms of technology and communication? Did you take part or take initiative in helping people in your community in some way? Did you fundraise, did you inspire others, or did you develop new ways to keep yourself fit, healthy and occupied?
Remembering that we’ve all been living through a pandemic, the positive things you have learned about yourself, or developed further, needn’t be ‘big’ things. Things you might not have paid much attention to before do have a significance and an importance, no matter how small. Perhaps you’ve been the caring friend who has ‘lent an ear’ when someone needed to get in touch, maybe you’ve made facemasks and PPE for key workers, or maybe you’ve kept on keeping on through depression, anxiety, fear or weariness, and just kept ‘showing up’ for yourself and those around you in whatever small and seemingly ‘ordinary’ way you can.
Take a moment to jot down a few thoughts taking into consideration something positive or new you have learned about yourself throughout this time.
So perhaps you are wondering what I might choose to share. I’ve learned that I had the resilience to manage lockdown with almost zero human company (in person – I’m very thankful for technology that allows phone calls and communication with others) for almost 100 days. It was in fact 96 days of almost complete solitude. It wasn’t always easy, but I did it, and without the lockdown / quarantine situation, I probably never would have done this. I chose to press through the difficulties and be positive and helpful to others where I could, and learned that I can cope in isolation. We are allowed to encourage ourselves for getting through some challenging situations.
So take a moment to acknowledge something about yourself and tuck that lesson away like a treasure in your heart, so that when you think back over 2020, you will take some positive things with you as you press on. ❤
As I often say, life happens in seasons. There is a natural ebb and flow to our daily lives, just as there is to the oceans, and just as in nature things take time to blossom and bloom and grow so too do the happenings of our lives.
In our working lives things can be similar. Most of us will be familiar with the hectic and busy spells when it seems we just don’t have enough time to get everything done. Sometimes we have a good balance between being busy and productive such that we are able to efficiently handle all of our tasks without becoming overwhelmed or overburdened.
At other times, when we are neither ‘run off our feet’ nor at a satisfying level of productivity, we find that we may be in a ‘lull’ while in the midst of things. Not in the middle of being busy, not in the middle of chaos or activity, but just in the midst of things while waiting for the next stage to unfold.
Casework can bring a regular and predictable dose of activity whereas larger and longer term projects can occur in ‘fits and starts’. At times the work is non-stop, while at others there is a process of waiting. Waiting, perhaps for information or actions from other people, departments or parts of the process. Waiting for development in certain areas. Waiting for a number of reasons.
Being busy all the time doesn’t necessarily equate with being productive. During the ‘lull’ periods we may actually have the opportunity for deeper and strategic thinking, planning and preparation. We may be tempted to ‘fill our time’ and we may risk doing so unnecessarily.
As with work, projects and plans, life also sometimes has its ‘lull’ periods.
We probably rarely appreciate them. So many of us are creatures of activity, of habit, of getting things done. And yet when we find that we have ‘too much on our plates’, too much to do and not enough time we wish that we were ‘in the midst of things’ with some time to catch our breaths, to think and reflect, to pause if not to stop.
Are you ‘in the midst of things’ in your life just now? Are you waiting for the next thing to happen or come your way so that you can keep busy? Don’t waste this season, this natural lull, this pause. Think of it like a ‘rest’ in music. It is but for a moment, and sometimes the silence can be as profound as the sound. Notes will fly your way again, soon enough, perhaps all too soon, and you will naturally anticipate the next rest, the next pause, the next brief moment of silence.
When we are in the midst of things what do we do?
Are you living in a quiet spell in your life just now, longing for something to happen but not knowing how to make it so? Does if feel that life has somehow naturally slowed and that you are being brought to a place of pause? So many things can make us feel this way. Times in our lives where we are not able to fill up our time with activity. Perhaps you are a parent of adult children who have recently ‘flown the nest’ and you are in the midst of things waiting for the next but not quite yet and your home and heart is filled with silence and aching. Perhaps you are working on a project and you can’t move on to the next stage of it until you receive input from other parties to do their bit, because after all it is all connected. You chase things up, you plan what you can, but right now at this moment in time, you simply have to bide your time. You could choose to fill up your time with other things but it would mean doing so because of the need to feel busy rather than because it is the most efficient or effective thing to do. Maybe you are between jobs, and although you diligently search and apply for jobs as I once did you can’t force the process or make that big break happen just because you want it to – you have to bide your time in the midst of things, use your time wisely and wait. You can’t force one season to change to the next, life doesn’t work that way as much as we sometimes want it to. Maybe you are in a stage of your life where you know what the next milestone is that you want to reach but you can’t make it happen. Sure, there may be things you can try and you can do, but you can’t make things turn out just as you want them, you can only persevere and do what you can do and hope and wait. Are you waiting for a life partner? You can try to meet people, but you can’t force the hands of fate. Are you setting up your own business? There are many things you can be doing but there are times of waiting too until things take their shape. Are you in recovery and working on your health? Are you laid up in hospital or on a sick bed knowing that the process of healing will take time and you simply cannot do all the things you want to do….at least not yet? Are you preparing to move country and start a new life, but you have to go through the process of paper work and various formalities and while you have done everything you can you just need to wait for the response, the go-ahead, the ‘green light’?
Life is full of ‘in between’ seasons. Times when we are ‘in the midst of things’ and waiting for things to really get going again. That’s ok. You can’t force a bud to blossom and bloom and grow. It will happen naturally. And at times in our lives we can work hard and do everything that we can do, but we can’t push one season of life into the next. Sometimes, we just have to be in the midst of things. Waiting to sell a house, waiting for a baby to be born, preparing for the next stage of a project, abiding in the silence of your ’empty nest’ when your chicks have flown, waiting for that prayer to be answered.
Are you in such a place? Can you learn to be? And if we must do something, what can we do?
In the silence of an empty nest, can you invest in yourself?
In the pause between one stage of a work project and the next, can you educate yourself, seek out training, develop your skills, research what others are doing so that when the time comes to progress to the next stage you will be better equipped?
Are you wondering about that ‘next season’ of life? Can you find ways to make the most of the one you are in? Even if that means slowing down to savour and enjoy and appreciate it? Maybe what you really need is the quiet space and time to process some deep thoughts, to reflect on what you’ve been learning, and what you might need to think about in the next stage of your journey.
When you are in the midst of things, it may seem like a time of undue quiet, but it can in fact be a place of deep growth. What will you do in the midst of things today?
I realise as I come to write my 44th post in my Winter Survival Guide, that I need to encourage you to dig a little deeper, because it is precisely that – my Winter Survival Guide to encourage you. What do I mean by this? What I mean is that I’m writing this guide to help both you and I and to encourage us to stay well, healthy, happy, hopeful, positive and to make the most of this Winter Season. And although many of my suggestions are really helpful for most people such as taking care of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, as I have elaborated upon these and various topics throughout my other 43 posts, they are based on my core values and reflections upon life, which I have spent years discovering, figuring out and seeking to live out.
And as much as many of them can be universally applied, maybe what would be more meaningful for you is for you to figure out what you want and need out of this season, and what you want to give to it too based on your life and circumstances.
Maybe some or many of the things that matter to me will also be reflected in your own ideas, or maybe you will have other things totally unique to you and can use my Guide as just that – a guide to prompt you into deeper self reflection and discovery. I also know from experience that what we want and the realities of what we are faced with don’t always line up so perhaps even though what you are seeking is a Peaceful season, you may have to prepare yourself differently to manage potential stresses and anxiety, which I also cover in earlier posts. So maybe you could ask yourself:
What do you want from this season, and what do you want to give, or what would you like to desire to give?
As you reflect upon these questions, think about where you are in your own life just now and what matters.
What could some of these things be? Here are some pointers to help you get started:
A time of rest and refreshing.
Time to deepen your faith and relationship with God.
A time to heal.
A time to focus on mental health and recovery, and on staying strong in your recovery.
Connections, time with family and friends.
Reconnecting with ‘auld acquaintances’.
New adventures and experiences.
The hustle and bustle of doing a lot of things.
Learning new skills.
Sharing your skills.
Productivity in a venture.
Charity, helping other people and encouraging others to do so.
Time to spend doing your hobbies.
Time for planning for 2020.
Time to play with your children (or pets 🙂 ).
What matters to you?
As I draw my Winter Survival Guide to a close (there will be 50 posts in total in this series, so don’t worry, there are still a few more to go 🙂 ), I hope you find each post encouraging, inspiring and helpful. However, I hope it also prompts you to take time to think about what matters to you as you approach the Season for yourself, and to discover ways to make the most of it as you also seek to stay healthy and happy and I pray also that we will all learn to walk in the Truth and Light as we go forwards from here. x
There is a beautiful line in Max Ehrmann’s prose poem, ‘Desiderata’ (things to be desired), that encourages us to enjoy our achievements as well as our plans.
The concept is so simple, and yet equally profound. We desire certain things in life, and we give our lives to pursuing, obtaining and experiencing them. And yet, once obtained we are so quick to move on to the next thing, just as butterfly or a honey bee might flit from flower to flower.
How many of us take the time to enjoy our achievements as well as our plans? We rarely seem to be satisfied, but perhaps we don’t give ourselves time to truly appreciate and be grateful for our lives as we hurry on to experience something bigger or better.
Perhaps you are reading this and inwardly agreeing to the sentiment behind this statement: “Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans”. It is a nice thought, an encouraging quote, but what will you and I actually do with it? And how can this Winter Survival Guide prompt us to use the time we have this season to do just that?
1. Review your year:
We could just sit in quietness and enjoy pondering our achievements, but can we appreciate and enjoy them in a more focused and practical way before moving on to the next thing or things in the year to come?
A good and simple starting point could be to set aside some time, to take a pen and a piece of paper and sketch out the important things you have done, experienced and learned in each of the months of 2019 (leaving room for the time you still have left of this calendar year).
It doesn’t matter from an outside perspective whether the things you have captured seem ‘significant’ or not, the thing that matters is that they are important to you, in your life’s journey, no matter how small or inconsequential you might think they would seem to someone else. That’s not what matters, what matters is the life you have lived this year and the lessons you have learned.
What could be some points to ponder as you consider each month in turn? Perhaps we could start with something like this:
What was the main thing I learned in that month?
Why was this important?
What do I consider I achieved (no matter how big or small, it could be as seemingly simple as sticking to a routine, surviving a challenge or showing kindness to someone)?
How have I grown from these experiences and what will I take forwards?
2. Enjoy your achievements:
As you reflect upon the specific achievements and experiences of each month of the year gone by, take time to ponder them, to be grateful for the lessons you have learned, how you have changed and grown as a person and to enjoy the fact that you are living life right now and learning new things now. Take it in, and celebrate it in a way that is personal to you, even if it is quietly, and even if it is ‘giving yourself a pat on the back’ for having got through a tough time – achievements aren’t all about gold stars and certificates.
Consider writing down and naming the ‘treasures’ that you have gleaned from this year’s experience of life before you move on to the next thing. A life well lived involves appreciating the life that we are living.
3. As well as your plans:
It is a time for looking forward as well as for reflecting and enjoying the moment. Maybe you can spend some time by yourself discovering what has really been meaningful and significant to you this year, understand what is valuable and begin to plan ahead as you reach towards your future achievements and make plans for how you will accomplish them.
I posted earlier about the importance of maintaining a healthy perspective, especially when we might be facing some gloomy wintery days.
Similarly, it’s important to take time every now and then to appreciate just how far we’ve come. Only you know your own personal life journey and how far you have come. The same goes for me. We might share aspects or details of our lives, but no other mere human being can enter into our experience with us. They might comfort us, walk beside us for a while, or encourage us, but no one (except Jesus) can feel exactly what we feel.
How far have you come? Not just this year, but through the bigger challenges of your life? How far have you come in terms of your mental and emotional health? In terms of your confidence socially? In terms of the challenges and hardships and traumas you may have overcome? How far have you come in terms of your education, your learning and in terms of your skills? How far have you come in your character – growing in kindness, patience and love? How far have you come to overcome personal pain and to help other people? How far have you come from simply surviving? How far have you come in health challenges? How far have you come in learning and growing in skills and abilities, talents and in your employment, and how far have you come in passing on some of this learning?
We have all come further than we appreciate or give ourselves the acknowledgement that we often need to keep on going even stronger.
What will you appreciate about how far you have come in your life journey today? x
Travelling teaches youto put your problems in perspective.
For some, “getting away from it all” is exactly what we hope to be able to do. Not just in terms of getting away physically from the daily routine and responsibilities of day-to-day life, but as a means of escape from our deeper problems or issues or challenging circumstances and people.
Travelling teaches you, quite naturally, to look outside of yourself, to grow in awareness of other people, your surroundings, new cultures, ways of doing things and of life in general. One of the gifts of travel to you is that of a fresh perspective, and perhaps even renewed strength to go back and return to take on the tasks and issues of life that you needed a break from.
However, as naturally as this gift comes to us through the very experience of travel, there is a caution that we…