A Thousand Pleases…

Kindness Matters. Always.

This is my mantra.

No matter who we are, whatever gifts life has or has not bestowed on us, we all benefit from kindness. Words of kindness can help our fears and anxieties disappear, like ice melting in the warmth of the sun.

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Lately it has come to mind – It is most important to be kind. To take a moment, make a choice, Comfort with a loving voice.’

Perhaps I can offer a few examples of kindness I have encountered.

One day last year I was sitting outside a cafe enjoying some coffee and Some welcome winter sunshine. All was quiet until a group of young men walked towards the cafe. They appeared to be in boisterous spirits, shouting and laughing. Swaggering along dressed in their hoodies, they gave off an air of arrogant confidence. They ordered drinks and sat down at a nearby table. They were loud. To be honest I felt slightly uncomfortable next to them and a little annoyed that my space had been invaded. I began to make assumptions about where they were from and wondered why they were out and about. Why weren’t they at work or college? But my thoughts were interrupted when an elderly lady walking across the road tripped and fell, scattering all her shopping in the street. Before I had chance to move, the young men next to me all stood up and dashed over to help. I followed over too, to see if there was anything I could do. Very gently one of them checked the lady over to see if she was badly hurt, and as a group they wondered whether an ambulance was needed.

It was decided that the lady was just shaken up. Getting slowly to her feet she insisted she was okay but was agitated about her groceries and handbag. No problem they said, and gathered up all her things, reassuring her everything was there. I took her over to the cafe and sat her down whilst one of the young men went inside to order her some tea.

We all sat outside the cafe together, our chairs pulled round one table in a companionable circle. Soon the lady was smiling and feeling better .

She looked up at one of the lads. “Why, I know you! You are Jenny’s son from the next block of flats to me! I haven’t seen you for a long time! It’s young David isn’t it?”

‘Young’ David smiled and looked embarrassed. “Yes that’s me.”

“Well I’m blessed,” said the lady, who’s name was Molly. “How you’ve grown! I’m so pleased to see you.”

We all chatted for a while and then David offered to walk Molly home. Off they went arm in arm, the others following behind. David promised to tell his Mother he had spent time with Molly and suggested Molly came round to visit sometime. Molly smiled such a sweet smile as she waved goodbye to me. An upsetting fall had had a happy ending.

I went inside and ordered another coffee. I thought about the boys and their kindness to an old lady. I realised one thing. It was not my business to question how anyone passes the time of day. And it was the last time I ever made assumptions.

In this complex world we keep afloat, Care for ourselves without rocking the boat. Weigh up the politics, Try and do what is right, Find something we believe in and follow the light.’

I remember having to start a new school when I was thirteen as my family had moved house. I was crippled with shyness and it was a very distressing time in my life. I joined the school at a time when everyone had been there a while and had settled into new friendships. They all had their allocated seats and knew the routine. Break-time was miserable. I lurked around in the changing rooms as I didn’t have friends to hang out with. Sometimes after my father had dropped me off at the school gates I would watch him drive off and then I would turn around and walk the three miles home again. My parents were worried about me but at a loss about what to do.

I knew somehow I had to get used to going to school. Gradually some of the other girls started to include me in their circle and the days started to improve. It would take a while until I felt that I belonged but the person who really helped me was my English teacher. Mr. Walker was a kind and thoughtful gentleman who took an interest in me. He made me welcome and took time to concentrate on my work. He taught us good values and good manners by example. He gave me good marks for my essays! He instilled in me a lifelong love of writing. He remembered my name, even when we met by chance years later. Mr. Walker had a class full of pupils but he took the time to be kind to a young, timid girl. He must be long gone now, but I have never forgotten him.

   ‘Too many times on a solitary track Have we passed on by, and not looked back Not knowing the difference we could have made, To the person standing alone and afraid?’

Kindness often comes at times when we least expect it. A random stranger smiling and opening a door for us. A passer by giving us change for the parking ticket machine, or, as happened to me recently, a waitress who was so kind to me after a rough day she brought tears to my eyes.

No matter who we are and whatever our circumstances, we all have times we feel alone. We struggle to understand what is going on around us, both in our own small world and the big wide world too. Most of us have times when we feel lonely in a crowd; days when we wonder literally what this world is all about.

On Monday my elderly father was rushed to hospital with a sudden infection – he had gone to bed perfectly okay the previous night and the onset was sudden. When called, the paramedics were very professional and efficient and realised he needed to be hospitalised and so we were soon waiting in the emergency room of the local hospital. The immediate care was good and the staff did their best. It was very, very busy though and the staff had their hands full. The unit was overflowing and there was stress. In the midst of it all I heard a lone voice asking for help – ‘please help’ and again, ‘please help! A thousand pleases!’. It made me think that when we are at our lowest the basic need in all of us is to be shown some kindness. And the person was helped. And shown compassion. I’m so thankful there are people who do their best in tough conditions and who are not just motivated by earning money or by fame, but who are just there to make a difference to someone’s well-being and who are doing their job the best way they can.

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‘After frantic years of business deals, With arrogant managers clicking their heels, Would anyone look back and say: “I’m glad I acted mean that day?”’

One last word.

Some days I can get out of the bed the wrong side and feel grumpy. We all can. These are the times when it may be harder to summon up a smile or be polite. After several cold calls interrupting me on the telephone I can feel exasperated. Or maybe it has taken what seems like hours to be served at the checkout. Or perhaps I have been stuck in a long queue of traffic. These are the times I take a deep breath. These are the times I remember life is good. These are the times I tell myself I have today. I am lucky to have today. I am lucky to be able to walk around freely. I am lucky to have a phone I can take a call on no matter how irritating. I am lucky to have some change in my purse. Therefore I will try and cope with my day and whatever it brings. And I hope I will be kind.

What are your thoughts on the healthcare system? In the Uk we seem to be at crisis point although the present government disagrees. As a former nurse and someone who has worked for many years in the NHS system and believes in it wholeheartedly, I hope to see change and more resources before we lose it forever.

Does the Universe Have us Covered?

Is there a force bigger than us that we can hold on to when life seems to be a struggle?

I‘ve been talking to someone close to me who suffers from anxiety and trying to talk them through it. When someone is seeing the world around them as a bleak place it is very hard to come up with something that will make them feel better. I find myself offering techniques and advice that I know from experience can help, but at the same time I sometimes question the suggestions I offer, even though I am praying that the smallest bit of advice could just be enough to provide a ray of hope or bring a spark of  light in a dark time. Of course,  anxious feelings arise for all sorts of reasons; there may be health worries, both real and imagined, relationship problems, problems relating to the past, work related problems and many more, and each cause may need to be addressed in a different way. Sometimes just a loving hug and a chat with a friend may be enough to help the clouds to disperse and the anxious feelings to lift, but at times when a person is in the severe grip of anxiety then professional help may be needed. Whatever the situation and whatever help we seek or try to give, is there a force bigger than us that can we can hold on to when life seems to be a struggle?

Does the Universe really have us covered?

I think it does. I really hope it does. Why are we here otherwise? We may hear a lot of bad things and we are bombarded with bad news constantly; we know bad things happen to good people, but we also hear amazing stories on a daily basis  – tales of amazing feats of bravery, courage, bravery and kindness. We hear about people who never give up; who find hidden strength from somewhere. We marvel at new life, when a baby takes its first breathe;  we despair when we lose someone dear to us and we wonder how we can ever recover, yet somehow we know that this is all part of the pattern of life.

I think of myself as a spiritual person with a Christian background. I was brought up to go to church regularly and read the bible;  I like the background that has given me even if I don’t attend church now on a regular basis. I like to believe there is a power that is bigger than us, that is all encompassing and is loving, and I find that even though I often have doubts, faith is what gets me through. Faith in a world that is inherently good and a life force that cannot always be explained and is beyond understanding. What compels eels to cross the Atlantic from the Saragossa Sea to spawn in the Irish rivers of their origin, or birds to cross whole continents, following a favoured route that no one could explain, to land atop the same trees every year? In the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives we forget that miracles happen around us every day; we lose our powers of observation and fail to see the wonderful and awesome occurrences happening in nature on  daily basis.

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So what should we do to reconnect with the Universe when we feel we have been set adrift? If we can hold on to that faith we have deep down, whatever the sort of faith we have or follow, we can feel grounded in times of crisis. A spiritual practice I have found to be good is a ‘loving kindness meditation’. Just set some time aside, shut your eyes and generate feelings of compassion by repeating phrases such as ‘may you be happy, healthy and free of pain.’ Direct this to yourself at first then gradually increas your circle to include you family, your friends, the country and then finally, the whole planet. You can alter the words to find something that you feel comfortable with. Do this on a daily basis and at times when you feel stressed or anxious. Make time for this even when you are busy and notice the difference it makes to your day.

Thinking again about my loved one. I wish I could do more to make her feel better and I wish I could take all her worries, wrap them in a cloth bag , throw them out to sea, wish them love and wave them goodbye for good. Indeed, I will picture that very thing happening. In the meantime, I will actively help in every way I can until she can move forward with regained positivity. Even then I will be by her side – figuratively if not physically. And I will have faith that the Universe does have us covered.

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 I lay upon the ground today, Looked up to the sky,

Concentrated on the clouds, As they drifted slowly by. 

Connecting with the Earth beneath, As it wore a peaceful face,

I felt the whole world turning, In this quiet and tranquil place.

And could I see a reason, Shine through the clouded sky

For all the actions unexplained, The many questions why?

I saw beauty and perfection here, Sweet birdsong filled the air,

So I must trust life’s answers, Lie in wait, somewhere.

(C)    Lyn Halvorsen

What Do You Do on Sad Days?

I should know by now how to deal with the days the ‘misery monster’ pays a visit…

‘Come on girl, there is much to be happy about’! This I tell myself so often, as do my trusted gurus, my loved ones, my friends. BUT, there are those blue days that creep up on me; the times when the lurking ‘misery’ monster creeps out from the shadows and wraps its shapeless form around me until it turns into a cloak I can’t shake off.

     ‘When the monster crept in from the shadows, I just couldn’t push it away, Filling my head with its chatter, It stayed until night turned to day. I felt I should dismiss it, with one impatient stroke, But its presence lingered with me, Like a dark and heavy cloak.’

I write often about how to deal with anxiety and indeed, I have written a handbook about anxiety and how to move forward from it.* I should know by now how to deal with the days when the ‘misery monster’ pays a visit, and yes there are coping mechanisms that work very well. In these times of what can only be described as ‘technology and information overload’ though, I think many of us have days when we feel bombarded with too much of everything, both good and bad, and those are the days when things can get out of perspective.

         ‘ Through weary eyes I viewed the clouds – As they shed their watery tears, Blotting out the cheerful sun, As it dimmed then disappeared .’

My Facebook feed gives me a constant stream of inspiring and uplifting quotes and feel-good stories. Most of them I like or even love, and occasionally I will read something heart-stoppingly good. I wouldn’t change much of it, and most of the feeds I have chosen to follow, but sometimes I wonder if, certainly I, take them a bit for granted and have forgotten how to read with fresh eyes. And maybe it’s the same with other things we know are good for us but we don’t give our attention to as much as we could. I’m always talking about the positive effects of being outdoors and enjoying the world around us, and yet yesterday I took a long walk in my favourite woods and realised when I got home that I hadn’t taken in my beautiful surroundings at all. I hadn’t admired the early blossom on the cherry tree on the corner or the emerging primrose peeking out from the grassy winter pathway like an early evening star.

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I know too, that I should eat well. I know the importance of a healthy and well-balanced diet, and getting the right amount of sleep and excercise. I take my vitamins and drink the water. But it’s easier to give in to the chocolate bar calling to me from the cupboard on ‘sad’ days. Hmm….I must switch on my Hymalayan Salt lamp.  The warm glow really is uplifting.

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So what DO we do on sad days? Do we stay in our pyjamas and spend a day on the sofa covered in a soft, warm duvet with a good book or some box sets, or do we try and get on with things? A day on the sofa may be welcome occasionally and there’s nothing wrong with it, ( in fact I like the sound of it actually!) but I guess it’s about waking up to what is around us and really seeing what is there. We can develop the philosopher in us by reading, learning, reflecting and analysing but that’s not the whole picture. I thought yesterday about the term ‘warrior’ which seems to be used a lot at the moment. To be a warrior one needs to be brave, fearless, and be tuned in to surviving at all costs. A warrior bends in the wind but doesn’t break and a warrior doesn’t go against his better judgement. A warrior looks after his tribe; something important to most of us. If we don’t try to embrace our inner warrior we can become victims, blaming our past or our upbringing for what is making us unhappy or restless, instead of facing the world and taking responsibility for ourselves and our past. Don’t get me wrong. It is not always easy to be a warrior. It certainly doesn’t come easily to me. But on sad days especially, I am going to remember I have a warrior in me who can throw off that ‘misery monster’s cloak’. That warrior is going to stand up and be counted and see obstacles as opportunities.

       ‘Imagine a month of Sundays, Each one dull and grey, Suddenly brightened by sunlight, That illuminated the day. And the sound of children’s laughter, That arrived like a gift, That caused my heavy heart to stir, And make my spirits lift.’

 I am a cheerful person really. Actually quite humorous. I like doing fun things, I can tell jokes and I can double up with laughter at times. I am a deep thinking person but humour is important to me and I don’t like to think I take myself too seriously 😑  So, dear reader, I apologise for any gloominess, but at the same time, if you are gloomy too, don’t forget to go out and look for the early signs of spring, which is just around the corner. And hang in there, especially if times are tough.

       ‘And imagine the sight of a rainbow, Shimmering after the rain, Like a painting stretched across the sky, Bringing colour to the world again.

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The most stunning rainbow I have seen recently – a little blurry, but still…..

What do you do on ‘sad days’? I would love to hear from you and your ways of coping with the ‘misery monster’ days.

Blessings to you.

* My book ‘Best Foot Forward – Moving on From Anxiety’ will be available soon on Amazon or email me at  – loveyourstory8@aol.com

‘The Monster in the Shadows’ poem  (C) Lyn Halvorsen

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2018 – Make it Easy on Yourself…

Look at most magazine and news articles this time of year and many of them refer to our New Year’s Resolutions; perhaps urging us to set new goals, sweep aside the excesses of last year and stride forth with new and renewed vigour. We are advised to cleanse our bodies and our minds and look to a new and exciting future. Perhaps we are then inspired to sit down and write a long list of all the things we would like to achieve in 2018. This is all good and well-intentioned and in principle I have no argument with it. What I would say though, is that it can all be too much in one go and the longer the list the more likely we are to fail.

Reflect. Revise. Renew.

Sometimes breaking those resolutions before the month of January is out is enough to send us into a downward spiral and is counterproductive. I would like to urge you to be gentle with yourself this time of year; go easy on yourself and take time to focus on what is really best for you.

January is both a new month and the start to a new year, and while that should fill us with renewed enthusiasm, that enthusiasm can take a while to kick in! Dark mornings don’t help –when you feel as though you are getting up in the middle of the night and the daylight hours are very short it is hard to be upbeat. But it is possible to reframe the gloomy, dark morning; perhaps think of the darker hours as a time of preparation for the lighter days that will follow. When we look around a garden or the countryside this time of year it appears bare and dull, and yet underneath the soil the plants and bulbs are busy preparing themselves to unfold in the spring. Gardens are slowly testing the waters; a few buds tentatively unfurling as if checking to see if the world is ready for them. So maybe we should follow the example from Mother Nature. Rather than be tempted to rush headlong into the New Year perhaps we should take a more gradual approach.

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It is good to first reflect on what has been before and ask ourselves a few questions:

What did I do to contribute to my successes?
What did I do to contribute to any disappointments?
What can I do differently this year?
Most of all: what do I fondly remember that made me happy?

If you had a successful year last year, well done! Look at all you did to bring that success, but be sure that success is taking you where you want to go and making you happy. Even though your year was successful, would you do anything differently?

It is easy to dwell too much on past mistakes; however a bit of reflection can help us decide what we want to change in the future. If we reflect, we can forgive ourselves or others for past hurts and then focus on the path ahead. Most people, I think, try their best on any given day and being hard on ourselves and heaping on unachievable demands isn’t helpful. Any disappointments can be looked at positively; if we can learn from these disappointments and avoid them in the future then our character will become stronger.

What happened last year to make you happy? Make those happy memories your ‘go to’ place in your mind when you have a bad day. When we feel happy, everything falls into place and is as it should be. Happiness is not measured differently whether we are rich or poor, by what we have or don’t have. It is more likely to be measured by a loving hug or a simple gift of a bunch of snowdrops on a frosty day.

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Once we have cleared our body, heart and mind of weight we then give ourselves new energy and will be more able to stick to a new and healthier diet. With that we will also have a healthier mental outlook. But again, go easy on yourself. You do your best and if you really want your life to be different, tackle it one project at a time! When we feel ready, we can make careful choices and commitments we can keep, like pursuing optimal health, following someone or something which inspires us or contributing to a good cause in a significant manner.

We can work at creating a desired future, worthy of our time and energy.
Reflect. Revise. Renew. Be Happy!

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A favourite pathway – the lamps still glowing on an early morning walk……

Dealing with Anxiety, Post Christmas Blues and Embracing a New Year…

 

0CABF23E-5C2A-4B60-8706-3730EA147E8DHello and Happy New Year. Thanks for sticking with me!

Every year I enjoy the build up to Christmas – more so this year because our elder son and his family where over from America for ten days in early December for a visit. To say we were excited was an understatement. We hadn’t seen the children (five came – they have a big family!) for two years and I hadn’t had chance to meet and hug our newest little granddaughter.

 

We had so much planned, starting with a visit to a pantomime which was quite a revelation to the American children! Being a large family they rented a property which was set in a very magical town nearby which was beautifully lit up for Christmas. Our English grandchildren enjoyed being with their cousins they have so little chance to see, and it was heartwarming to see our two sons and daughter-in-laws together too. So we all had fun together; we had quality time with each of the children and we made time for hugs, for chatting and for making memories. We took them to our favourite haunts and looked at old familiar places through the eyes of our grandchildren and saw new things. We were amused at the way they loved going into English pubs, buying cupcakes and eating beans on toast! Everyday we would get into the car and go and see them for at least part of the day. But as always happens, time passed very quickly and before long I was steeling myself for the inevitable heart wrenching goodbyes which never get any easier no matter how many times one goes through the process.

So we put on a brave face and waved them off. The consolation of such times is the knowledge that they are happy, loving children who are so interested in the world around them and have so much to occupy their minds.

With Christmas still ahead, we headed off to Cornwall to a holiday home kindly let to us by a family friend. We were perched up on the cliff overlooking the bay I had visited so much as a child. We went armed with a mini Christmas tree and enough food to last well into the new year! There was plenty of time to take early morning walks along the (blustery) beach and visit nearby family. On Christmas Eve we attended the church I was baptised in as small child and where my grandparents were regular attenders, having lived in the Cornish town all their lives. In the candlelit church I could almost feel their presence and with it the comfort of old traditions. Do our loved ones who have gone before us look down and watch over us? I like to think they do. As we stepped out in the early hours of Christmas Day the light shone through the church windows just as it had all through the years before, somehow giving a feeling of continuity and at the same time, rekindling old memories.

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Christmas passed in a flurry of bracing walks across the cliffs, visits to friends and family  and plenty of eating and drinking. All too soon we were packing the car up again and heading home.

So that takes us to New Year’s Eve. This time although for a lot of people it brings the promise of new beginnings, for me, It is hard to let go of Christmas. It seems to me, Chritsmas is the one time of the year when everything is different – almost like normal living is suspended in time and we can forget about the normal worries and problems that can bother us the rest of the year. It may entail more work if we are entertaining, but we have an excuse to grab a glass of wine, eat an extra piece of cake, shelve the bills until another day. We may complain when we have to spend time with acquaintances  we perhaps wouldn’t see other times of the year, but we do it, and that is because we care. It is about togetherness and being sociable, and following age old traditions that deep down are important to us.

One thing that saddens me is hearing people say Christmas is over for another year by the time Boxing Day arrives! So much planning and pleasure surely cannot disappear so quickly! If you are someone who suffers from post Christmas blues, I can assure you, you are not alone! If you have are prone to anxiety, perhaps you managed too keep anxious thoughts at bay with the distractions of Christmas only to find those unwanted thoughts returning in the new year? Being surrounded by jolly people making plans for the next year can sometimes be a bit overwhelming; all the talk of detox diets and new exercise regimes are certainly positive, but rather than rush headlong into the new year here are some suggestions for easing yourself kindly into 2018:

Don’t rush to take all those decorations down you put up so lovingly a few weeks ago; how about leaving a few fairy lights up so there is still a bit of festive feel to the house? When the decorations are all down, fill the house with as many early daffodils as you can afford. They really will lift your heart.

It is not necessary to make a long list of plans and new year’s resolutions, in fact, they are usually broken by the end of January, instead use the first few weeks of January to make time for some gentle meditation and uplifting reading.

Enjoy getting outdoors; walking and looking for the first snowdrops or listening to the birds is more uplifting than huffing and puffing at the gym.

Eat wholesome and nutritious food but don’t deprive yourself too much. Think comfort food. Enjoy plenty of freshly brewed tea or even a mug of hot chocolate on a cold afternoon.

Maybe think about starting a journal and writing down your thoughts. It’s amazing how therapeutic putting your thoughts on paper can be. You don’t need to shoe it to anyone – unless you want to of course – you may turn out to be a budding writer!

I once decided to wrap a few small presents for my children to come home to after their first day back at school after the holidays, just fun things that brightened their day. Do that for someone you care about, perhaps after the first day back at work. If someone needs cheering up it really works!

Finally, remember, Christmas isn’t the only time for a bit of magic and I have to tell myself this. Angels, too, are for life, not just for Christmas!

Blessings to you and I wish you the happiest of days.