Apply ladder, remove self from rut

Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save – Will Rogers

Entertain me

Goodness human beings are strange creatures, aren’t we? How true is this for you? Here are some more that I’ve heard

The first half of our lives we accumulate stuff and the second half of our lives we try to get rid of it.

Book Hoard

We save all this energy by inventing things such as washing machines, vacuums, dishwashers etc and then have to invent exercise machines to lose weight and keep fit.

I am guilty as charged! I save time by having an easy 9 to 5 job and don’t do overtime. I also took care to find a job 5 minutes from home so that I don’t waste time commuting. I don’t commit to too much so that my time is not always accounted for, especially if I am not in the mood to do that thing at the appointed hour. And I have taught my kids to be self sufficient.

So I do have freedom, me-time, and free time to contemplate my navel. Yet what do I do? Sometimes I stress when having time off because I have to use that time wisely. ‘Are we having fun yet?’ was invented for me. I make lists of things that I like to do so that when I’m on holiday I can try to force myself into the ‘flow’ and am not at a loose end wondering why I’m not having more fun. Just plain daft and I know it. The flow cannot be forced! 

When I was an expat housewife I took up many new hobbies and I purchased enough supplies for each to become a lifetime expert! My house is somewhat full now. So, as stated above, I am trying to ‘discumulate’ as my boyfriend calls it, 27 items a day in a zen manner. Tick that one. I think that’s why Extreme Hoarders is my favourite TV programme at the moment – because I have something to learn!

The electric appliances, including hedge trimmer, and pool cleaner basically allow me as a single mother with a ridiculously large garden to try and keep up the home I had while married. All it means though is that I am doing just as much house and garden work but on a bigger scale. It’s like when you have a bigger handbag – you always fill it. Or a bigger income which I’ve heard people will manage to spend.

And as for the exercise, I run outside every morning for 20 minutes because it’s quick and guaranteed to get my heart rate up, but painting, cleaning or gardening produce much better results.

Fall off treadmill

Is there anywhere in your life you could make a small change today, now that I am bringing it front of mind? Buy one less item, pull weeds instead of go to the gym, set an enjoyable goal to fill your spare time or else abolish guilt and allow yourself complete permission to spend your free time exactly as you want?

It’s always worth mixing it up, for so many reasons. Hop out of that rut!

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The Continuum of It Doesn’t Matter

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter – Mark Twain

Stressed Lady

I don’t mind what age I am. For the record, I am turning 47 in a few weeks. I heard someone on the radio panicking about turning 30 and it brought up some memories. At that age I wasn’t worried about the big 3-0 because I was where I thought I should be – married, 2 kids and another on the way. And there’s the problem – the thinking and the shoulds. It worked for me but it would have caused me pain if I hadn’t ‘achieved my goals’. And it was a goal, to be honest. I was looking for love and Mr Right from birth I think.

Anyway I digress. What I really wanted to blog about is realising that so much of life just doesn’t matter. I think you need to have experienced the stress and come out the other side to realise that. That’s why I love being this age. I don’t mind my age, in fact I relish it, so it doesn’t matter, exactly as Mark says.

Of course it’s always how you interpret life.

When you are born everything matters – it’s a matter of life and death to be fed and kept warm and safe. But it’s a continuum from ‘everything matters’ to ‘nothing matters’, which we travel along as we age or mature. Everyone is along it somewhere and you don’t have to become an uncaring robot at the far end, which of course is unattainable. You are just more accepting of life.

Here are some things with hindsight that no longer matter to me, or at least matter a whole lot less:

He/she thinks I’m fat/stupid/too much (choose your own adjective) – I care less now about what other people think even if they actually do think that (they may not). It’s their thoughts they are polluting with negativity; I work on purifying my own thoughts

I will be late for work (road rage ensues) – I am on time most of the time and they value me as an employee so they won’t care or fire me and even if they do, I will be OK because I can cope better with life’s changes now

Some boyfriends didn’t want to be with me anymore – change is inevitable and a good thing. Each time that happened it woke me up, created new opportunities and I found someone more on the same wavelength who did want to be with me, or I enjoyed my own company instead. Now I realise that their choice doesn’t have to affect my own opinion of myself

I’m of a certain age and I haven’t fulfilled my dreams – well I never wanted to be an Olympic athlete, and many dreams are still achievable now that I’m older, wiser and have more freedom

This dress is too tight and my tummy is sticking out – it only matters if I think it does. If I don’t realise how ‘bad’ I look, my confidence will be high and I will always have a good time

Full isolated studio picture from a young woman with falling flowers

These are just off the top of my head but it’s such a useful exercise to do with yourself. Become two people and to all your worries, the other you says ‘it doesn’t matter because’. I think if you really look you will find your own answers are right there.

A year from now

You could play this game with almost anything. Mark Twain hits it on the head. It only matters if you mind; if you stress over it and give it your precious thought/mind time. I think being truly at peace and enlightened means learning to not mind about anything; to not stress for a second longer than you have to. That’s the joy of maturing – you work out that most things only bother you if you let them and you don’t waste time stressing over it.

So, repeat after me “It doesn’t matter”.

Kids are washable

I like to think…..

Thinking child

  • that this blog will be of comfort to my kids if I died suddenly and they would read it, feeling like I am still there talking to them…
  • that my ancestors might even be interested in these little snippets of my current thinking from 2013
  • that if any potential employer sees my blog, they will be able to work out if I am right for their organisation in whatever capacity, mostly because I’m a ‘nice’ person and not afraid to be me
  • that one day I will be truly organised, with nothing in my house I don’t truly need, a recipe book full of tasty, easy, nutritious, inexpensive, one pot (little washing up) meals and a folder of photos of my outfits, carefully assembled so I know what to wear every morning and have some hope of looking polished
  • that one day I will not judge each mouthful I eat against my figure and each dollar I spend against my need to be thrifty; actually that I will lose some of my perfectionism

 

Think

  • that I will get to meet my favourite bloggers in person one day such as Yaz in Doha, Diane in America, Little Miss Wordy in Puerto Rico, Sarah Jane in Malta, Colin in America, Adriana in South Sydney etc etc. Hey what a trip that would be!
  • that my kids will live their lives doing what they love and have a gift at; that they are better prepared for life mentally than I was at their age
  • that I will never stop thinking and dreaming and making these lists
  • that anyone who reads this will make their own list and perhaps then take steps to examine some of their unspoken dreams

 

Examine your dreams

Clear as Mud but Twice as Satisfying

Look around you

The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened – SAKI

When I was younger I dreamed of being many things and not once did I want to be a writer, as I do now. At seven I wrote stories about magical dolls based on my Tiny Tears and ‘April Love’. I wrote about talking bluebells and I even penned a LOT of poems which I haven’t done in years (unless you count the rap song my boyfriend and I wrote together, 2 lines each at a time, as a series of playful text messages recently). I even won a local council writing competition at seven; the pinnacle of my career thus far.

Although my childhood aspirations never came to pass, it’s only because I didn’t want them enough. In fact I never even tried – ballerina, tv actress, hairdresser, air hostess, artist, model, psychologist and more; quite the array. Instead I got an Economics degree and NOT ONCE did I aspire to be an Economist or Mathematician, despite studying those subjects at great length!

So I believe my aspirations are waiting in the wings now that my ‘second life‘ as Barbara Sher puts it, is here. There will be an empty nest someday soon, I am older and wiser, still full of energy and my focus is to a large degree on me now; not on building home and family. This second life is our gift to do with as we please and I am grateful to Barbara for writing a great book on this subject. It’s only too late if you don’t start now.

Anyway I digress. I really picked this quote because I have been thinking a lot recently about how we clean up our reminiscences; or our stories. I have this unfortunate need to tell everyone my life story and also to ‘talk in detail’ when I am not aware of myself, not present. I do waffle, as you would know if you follow my blog! When I am ‘present and aware of myself’, I can summarise, just a little. In order to relay as much information as possible in the shortest time we try to capture the essence of our stories. We miss out details and clean the stories up. Quite often if we are presented with any written evidence of our past such as diaries, we realise that we have changed the story as well as forgotten large chunks, perhaps subconsciously. You only have to hear 5 eye witness versions of the same event to know that they can’t all be right and yet each witness genuinely believes they are recounting what happened.

So we can give ourselves the benefit of the doubt in many cases, due to an unpredictable memory, and in other cases we have to forgive ourselves for rearranging the story to protect our egos, our image of ourselves.

My story of my marriage and its eventual dissolution is quite different to my ex husband’s. The story of our current financial situations are so different that you would hardly know we were the same two people. Of course it’s how we see things.

So how do you want to see things? What image of yourself are you clinging to? Battler, Tragic, Lucky, Brave, Unlucky, Martyr? See how your stories are shaped by this.

Have you ever been at some course where you have to turn to the stranger next to you and tell them your life story in one minute only? Try it. What are the bones you pick out? Your age, marital status, kids, job, tragedies or triumphs that changed your life course? Now try it again but relate the essence of who you think you are inside, what your hobbies and aspirations are, your current joys and anxieties. Your face as you recount this second version will more likely be real, showing emotion, being present and aware. That’s how connection is really made; between real, vulnerable people.

I think I digress again but my point is to be aware of our selective memory and the fact that things aren’t always what they seem – for others or ourselves. Our stories are as clear as mud; as fake as the imperfect egoic mind they are created and rearranged in. For they are arranged to satisfy the ego, whether to say Look at Me or Poor Me or Lucky Me. Each has its purpose.

It’s only when we are here, now that everything is real and true. Look around you. Enjoy this moment and the clarity of what’s around you. You can’t doubt that lovely colour you see, or the friends near you or your home, or the sky or the music you hear. The smells are real, the tastes and the feelings. Clear as a bell and music to your soul, if only you realised it.

 

A Wordless but Excruciating Battle

 

Marilyn in thought 1960s

Whatever is good to know is difficult to learnGreek Proverb

Thinking deeply about what this quote means to me is actually painful because it brings up memories of some awful times, from my childhood onwards. I don’t think ‘good’ is the right word in this proverb. Maybe it got lost in translation from the Greek. ‘Whatever is essential, life changing, character forming is excruciating to learn.’ Yes that’s better.

The kind of situation I think this most applies to is, for example,  when you have had a hideous argument with someone. You might be fuming, full of adrenalin and thinking things like ‘if only I’d said that’ or ‘and yes I really am right because of this and this’, or ‘they hate me, I am useless, I will always be useless’ or ‘they are awful, I don’t want to ever be friends again, just think of all the rotten things they have done to me in the past’.

All sorts of nasties can creep in whispered by the gremlins, or ‘pain body’ (Eckhart Tolle) or the devil, if you will. As your mind tries to work out the solution to ease the discomfort you are feeling, and find a way to dissipate this anger, you don’t realise that you may be using the wrong tools to solve your dilemma; like using your elbow to clean out your ear.

We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them – Albert Einstein

As a child, you are likely to continue on this path, storing hurts and painful memories. You might avoid the other person until you’ve forgotten what you were arguing about and eventually sweep the hurt under the carpet. Or the fight escalates and others get involved until so much damage is done that you fall out permanently. The worst outcome is that you decide you really must be useless.  You create this opinion about yourself (which you are sure is based in reality), thanks to all the information you have gathered in this terrible hyped up state. You condemn yourself and slowly slip into the habit of depression, imprinting your brain until it’s in your neural pathways and hard to fight off, useful as a reliance mechanism; a mental way out that’s like a stinky but familiar old blanket.

But, with maturity and a lot of difficult soul searching, I learned what was ‘good to know’, namely that it can all change in an instant. The path is not set; it is created by you as you take each step. For it is you and only you treading the path and creating your own consequences. I later learned how to effect that change in myself and learned what needs to happen internally and externally.  These kinds of situations will be offered to you again and again until you learn the lesson, so you might as well learn it sooner rather than later.

Here are some of the ways this situation can be resolved, either by our own hand which has longer lasting effects or by others;

– The other person comes to apologise and all those destructive thoughts you were having evaporate, until perhaps the next time.

– You gather yourself (it comes with practice, but try focusing on your breathing for a start) and look at the situation more objectively until you calm down and start to see the other person’s side also.

– You realise you might actually be wrong if you would only admit it, and that it’s OK to make horrible mistakes.  You will live and survive, head held high. Perfectionism be damned!

– You reach out and say a simple sorry to the other person, whether you feel sorry or not (everyone always thinks they are right, but really there is often no such thing; it’s too subjective).

It’s best if you do feel sorry of course, having recognised the nonsense of the argument, your part in it (why don’t we dare admit to ourselves that we are far from perfect?) and remembering why you have a relationship with that person in the first place.  Even ‘faking it till you make it’, nips the destructive and out of control feelings in the bud.

To me the most important lesson is to not give yourself time to wallow if you are running down this thorn-filled path. Tell yourself you are not listening to this rubbish and won’t make any decisions about anything until you are calmer. Hop off this runaway thought train this instant.

I guess that’s why they say ‘don’t let the sun set on an argument’; so that you don’t have time to create mountains out of mole hills in your head. This can be sturdy advice but here’s another way of looking at it;

My ex (still good friends) and I agreed to never argue at night, when somehow things seemed worse because of being tired or due to the darkness. The sun coming up the next morning makes a huge difference to one’s psyche. It’s just biology. If you are calm and fully able to sleep, knowing the other person is OK too, go for it! You might agree to continue the talk later; at least forging some kind of agreement between you amidst the discord.

If you are centred enough to mend bridges now, do that. But if the person who is battling the strongest emotions needs time to settle down and has the capacity to calm themselves, then distance is good. This process of learning to calm yourself may take years to acquire; or if you are a mature soul, you may be born with it. But it is difficult to learn, it is good to know and so essential to finding happiness. The reward is trust in yourself and your ability to endure and enjoy living as a flawed human being, when life’s inevitable changes are thrown at you or you let yourself down.

And why is it so difficult to learn to change our thoughts instead of be ruled by them, with the accompanying emotions and dramas; to try a completely different path; to put ourselves out there and be vulnerable, especially to ourselves?  Why protect our egos?

I guess it’s difficult because we have to put ourselves in an uncomfortable situation where we don’t know the outcomes.  We are afraid of ourselves, not of the other person.  This new thinking will change the dynamic of the relationship with the other person of course, but most importantly with our story about who we think we are.

So we dither. Why we dither and how to get around it is one of those ‘good to know’ things to which this Greek Proverb alludes. It’s probably one of the hardest things in life to learn to know and accept yourself, warts and all and then test it out on other people.

Anyway I digress.  I believe if you practise learning to center yourself, calm down and forgive yourself it becomes easier with time. Say sorry to people. See how they react! Are you nervous of their response, of making them feel uncomfortable or of your being rejected? If so, a hug goes a long way and does just the same as words, without any need for eye contact.

Marilyn Hugging

And if they push you away, you will still feel good for trying. You haven’t pushed you away.  You are now a stronger person. Their response has nothing to do with you. It is their journey; only they can mend their inner world. You can only work on your own inner peace and happiness, but I bet you will have left your mark.

Marilyn and Joan Copeland 1957

When nothing is something

Froggy doing nothing

To do nothing is also a good remedy – HIPPOCRATES

For seven years I had a wonderful friend whom I met with once a week. Since his passing (RIP John Edwin Sheehan 1920 – 2007) I have flashbacks of the things he taught me. He would say ‘When you don’t know what to do, do nothing’. At the time, my impulsive nature and ‘bull in a china shop’ personality found it hard to fathom. To me, it was procrastination which is never a positive thing. But there was truth in it of course. Perhaps it meant to think about the situation longer and if action was needed later, it would be well thought out.

But what are the situations when to do nothing is actually something; a choice and not procrastination? Most likely when something is a consumable, expendable, time related and the opportunity will be lost forever if you don’t do it then. It could be using a non refundable plane ticket perhaps or speaking up at the time someone else is being bullied, or need rescuing from a burning car.

Sometimes when people are talking to me, if I am present and aware of awareness, I can catch myself reacting inside to what they are saying. If my ego was present instead, I might formulate a biting retort. But being aware means I can choose instead to do nothing. Smile and let it go; a much more peaceful alternative. In the past my favourite thing was to walk off in a huff when my feelings overcame me. If I had ‘done nothing’ and stayed put to see how things played out instead, it would have saved me years of uncomfortable impasses in relationships, especially when they didn’t come after me.

Anyway I digress. The image of the frog above suggests that doing nothing is lazy, idle. Look at the way his hands rest on his protruding belly. However, being still and silent like this has so many benefits we are told. It reduces your stress levels, calms your breathing so that you take in more oxygen (which boosts your immunity), makes you more aware and able to see the big picture in life, leading to better outcomes for you and all around you. You can tune in to your inner intuition and make better choices. I wonder if Hippocrates was aware of these?

I seem to be tuned in to the message that meditation is key to everything! For me, being aware of awareness as much as possible is almost like a mini meditation throughout the day, where I catch myself and think ‘this is me, thinking about me’, instead of I have to do this and she should do that or I hate this and I feel bloated.  Whatever 🙂

This being really aware is something I used to do as a child when I looked in the mirror (this is me looking at me) but it freaked me out at the time as I didn’t understand about being trapped in your head and ego and that it doesn’t have to be that way.  Eckhart Tolle is all about that.

So today, as much as possible I am going to ‘do nothing’. I will accept everything that happens, all that I have to do and everything that is said. I will listen as much as I can, react as little as possible, except with curiosity and not run around doing more than necessary for some outdated belief of being more of anything, to please my ego.

Hippocrates’ remedy for what? No clue exactly but let’s see. Maybe it’s the answer to inner peace.

 

But I didn’t ask for your advice!

I don't want your advice, son

There is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as adviceJoseph Addison

Now that depends. Is the advice asked for? Do we hate it when someone says ‘if you want my advice….’? There are certain situations when everyone wants to give their advice such as having a baby, child rearing, dieting, or, god forbid, if someone gets cancer. Eat lemons, see that guru, eliminate dairy, meditate!

Sometimes we may think we are asking for advice but really we just want a sounding board. No matter what the other person comes up with, it may just be the vessel for helping us examine our own real beliefs. We may even realise that we want the opposite of what is being suggested. But at least we have our answers by resisting the adviser’s comments and stating our ideas out loud.

When do we go looking for advice? Are we open to it really? Do we have any intention of being swayed or are we too rigid to accept anything outside our current belief system? I like to think I am wildly open to any new idea or suggestion but if I am present and have time to contemplate while the other person is talking, I catch myself thinking. It might be ‘No, but’ and then have dialogue with myself (great multitasking while I am listening) and decide that I might tell them politely but firmly that it’s not for me, or I’ve tried that. Sometimes I might just agree and then go do the opposite! Some cultures are excellent at this; in fact it’s the only polite way to proceed.

Do you have these conversations with yourself, even while you listen to others? If I can be fully aware like this, I far prefer it as I come out with a more measured response and not a reactive one. It can also advance the conversation as you work out how they might respond to the first response you are formulating, so you predict both sides of the conversation and come out ahead.

Anyway, see if you can catch yourself thinking, next time someone is offering advice, and moderate your reply. By responding differently, who knows what different outcomes you might invite into your life and your relationships?

As I was saying...