When We Look at Things Differently…Letting the Light IN

‘Your outlook on life is a direct reflection on how much you like yourself.’ Lululemon

 

Why is it when we have anxious or sad days the whole world around us seems to look grey? We seem not to notice the colours around us – the vibrancy seems to be gone, or maybe we just don’t notice it.

A while back I was noticed a mother and her little girl walking in the park. Actually, the mother was walking and the little girl was bouncing. She had a pair of sunglasses on –  and they were pink and glittery. As she bounced along she kept taking the glasses off and on. She was laughing to herself and I heard her mother ask her why. ‘The world looks different when I look through my pink glasses,’ she said. ‘It’s fun.’

That was just a small moment in time – I had stepped out for some air in the middle of a busy day, but it was actually a good lesson for me and one which has stuck with me. The little girl was right and in a simple and fun way had shown me that when you look at things differently they change.

Maybe it’s why we put our heads in our hands sometimes during stress –  if we peek out through our fingers we don’t have to view the whole picture in front of us – just a few slithers of light that we can cope with.

Sometimes it takes getting farther away from something to see it for what it really is too. How many times do we get bogged down with work and sit grimly in front of a screen trying to figure something out that is taxing us? We feel compelled to keep going – surely we can get this right! But inspiration and answers don’t come. Yet often if we walk away, have a cup of tea and return half an hour later with renewed energy we can make much better headway.

It’s an old cliché but it is true that sometimes ‘a change is as good as a rest’; when troubles or anxieties mount up a change of scene can help us re-focus.

At times we need to have the courage to go our own way – realise we are unique. Seeing what everyone else is seeing is one thing – seeing things differently from others is something else and seeing things differently from others can produce new ideas and new results. If you look at something from a new angle you may come up with a brilliant idea no one else has thought of!

Many of us struggle with seeing things from a different perspective. We need to nurture ourselves and view our own selves in a good light. We are worth it! Give yourself good feed-back today and see yourself in a positive light. And perhaps have a go with the rose tinted specs!

 

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Photo by Eugene Golovesov on Pexels.com

 

 

‘We can’t change anything until we get some fresh ideas, until we begin to see things differently’.

                                                   Jame Hillman

 

 

 

 

Remembrance with Tears – The Darkest of Times…

‘Tell me there’s a heaven
Where all those people go
Tell me they’re all happy now,
Papa tell me that it’s so.’
Chris Rea

Holocaust survivors have returned to Auschwitz to lay wreaths to commemorate the 1.1 million people who died there during the second world war.

Ninety percent of those murdered at Auschwitz were Jewish.

This year Holocaust Memorial Day marked 75 years since the mass murder camp was liberated by Soviet troops and 7,000 prisoners were freed. However, almost half of these people would die as they were too ill, starving or exhausted to survive.

Ahead of the liberation, the Nazis blew up the last of the furnaces/gas chambers they had used so monstrously at Auschwitz. They then moved 60,000 prisoners westwards to other camps. Many of them died on these Death Marches. The Nazis knew that the arrival of the Russian Army was imminent and were trying to destroy evidence of their heinous crimes.

Last night I watched the UK Holocaust Memorial Day commemorative ceremony which took place at Westminster Abbey and was televised.

No matter how many times I read or hear about the atrocities that occurred during the holocaust I cannot comprehend how people could commit such evil deeds. And it is right that I cannot understand. No one who loves their fellow man ever could.

Survivors now are in small numbers. But last night I watched and listened as some of them who were able to attend the service spoke so movingly. One particular reading from a Second World War Veteran broke my heart. He spoke about a young boy of eleven years old who arrived at the camp, was separated from his family and left amongst unknown prisoners in that most terrible place. One night, he lay in a bunk with only a stranger’s feet to cuddle. In the morning it was found he had died in the night. As a mother and a grandmother, hearing this was almost too hard to listen to and the tears poured down my cheeks. But how could those who witnessed losses such as this cope with such unimaginable pain? We cannot know of all the individual suffering, the desperate fear and hardships, the hunger and illness, the waking and wondering if this would be the last day they would glimpse the sky.

Today, I CAN go outside, I CAN look up and glimpse the sky. I can breath the fresh air, smell the newly mown grass. But I can’t guarantee life will be like this forever. I can be hopeful and even assume I will be able to live out my days in safety, without fear of invasion or worse. But how can we know for sure? Nobody really knows what developments could be around the corner.

We have to rely on our memories so that we can try and protect our world and question our leaders. Just because we have supposedly intelligent leaders it doesn’t mean they always get things right as we all know. But what is memory? It is an empathetic mingling with other people’s stories, where you allow their stories to affect you in such a way that you are changed; your mind , your heart, your nervous system. You are changed in such a way that you cannot ignore the suffering of others. And because you cannot ignore the suffering of others, both from the past and in the present day, you can learn to educate people in a positive way.

Time and time again, when hearing the stories from survivors, their pleas are that we move forward but that we never forget. No matter how hard it is to be reminded of man’s inhumanity to man, and even writing about it is hard, we must never forget. Yet in the Jewish tradition, mourning death really takes place in the service of  choosing and celebrating life. There is a place for mourning and grief and a place for encountering dark places in history, but that place always returns to life – that is human nature – what we do to celebrate life helps ourselves and helps others. We need to think about how we can make the world a better place for today. Our lives are better made up of the small things that really are the big things – being free to watch the sunset, dance in the rain, to bake a cake, to laugh out loud. Life is made of moments and choices we share with our beautiful families, our friends and communities. We need to make our choices good choices.

I have never met any holocaust survivors but I have listened to many of them being interviewed and listened to many telling their own individual stories. It seems to me that there is a strong thread that connects them. They have encountered unimaginable evil, they had walked through the valley of the shadow of death, yet they have had an incredibly tenacious hold on life.

As people who have seen the dark side of humanity they are an example of the human spirit’s ability to adapt, rebuild and recover.

So if any of us encounter dark or traumatic times, we can learn to keep going, to draw a sense of hope when all seems bleak, and reach out to those who need us. Most of all, we can remember, and comfort those who are alone.

 

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Learning To Love Your Scars…

Sometimes all it takes to change things is a shift in perspective.

As I was out walking today I looked at the trees as I often tend to do. I thought about time and how long some of the old oak trees must have been growing there. I noticed that the old and gnarled trees had a certain beauty and graciousness about them; they had stood the test of time.

Beauty is a concept that is often revered for the wrong reasons – the reasons why it matters and what it means. Often parts of life aren’t beautiful – they are marred by anguish, trauma or pain. When we think of beauty we may visualise glossy magazines, fabulous homes with perfect interiors or top models gracing the catwalk. We think of something that can be prized or given awards.

But I have learned not to see beauty that way. I have learned to accept my scars and even see beauty in them. Just like my trees they show I have survived my various battles.

Some scars are visible and some are not. We all carry them in one way or another. We have emotional triggers, maybe faded injuries, broken bones or broken hearts. However our scars manifest we should embrace them.

There was a time when I felt sad to look in the mirror; I felt the world could see that I was going through a deeply stressful time. I piled on the makeup and tried to cover how I felt. I was afraid that people could see I was struggling to cope with life’s trials. Now I view these emotional scars as life’s stories. A life lived and traumas survived.

There are happy scars too. I remember when we as a family were preparing for a wedding. It was a special time and we were in the midst of dressing ourselves and the children. My lovely daughter- in-law was trying to do ten things at once and left the hot curling tongs on my dressing table, scorching the surface. She was mortified but I wasn’t – these things happen, and now, whenever I sit at my dressing table and look at the indelible mark, it reminds me of a wonderful day, full of love and new beginnings. I wouldn’t want it to be polished out. Another scar I look at with pride is the scar I wear on my body from a Caesarean section. Without that scar, my baby who has brought me so much joy may not have been born safely in his haste to enter the world.

It is beautiful to have lived and survived some traumas along the way, and to have the marks to prove it. It takes nothing to dress up in a fabulous outfit, but to face the world looking less than perfect, that is indeed beautiful.

Sometimes when we are struggling with emotional trauma or anxiety we lose our sparkle. If we stop feeling beautiful inside it shows on the outside however we try and hide how we feel. To look beautiful we need to feel good inside. Once we accept our scars and take the power away from negative emotions, accept that we cannot change our past and instead, look forward, we can be beautiful again.

I think of Kintsugi, which is the Japanese art of precious scars. By repairing ceramics with precious metal like liquid gold or silver,  it’s possible to give a new lease of life to pottery that becomes even more refined thanks to its ‘scars’. It teaches that broken objects are not something to hind but to display with pride. Now that is beautiful.

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‘Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars’.   Khalil Gibran

Settling for a Quiet Life…

Do we try to get off the merry-go-round of life from time to time?

 

I read an article recently where the subject was about settling for a mediocre life. At first, I thought ‘hmm, this is going to be negative,’ but as I read on I realised what the person was trying to say. Sometimes in this tumultuous and changing world we just want to settle for a quiet life. We don’t want to strive and put ourselves out there and scrabble around on the ever rotating ‘hamster wheel’. We may not want to rush around trying to improve our minds even though we seem to be instructed to do this on a regular basis. Sometimes we may yearn NOT to have to strive to meet targets, not to keep up with the latest fashion or the latest upgrade in technology. Maybe we even want to escape the ‘health police’.

If we are prone to anxious feelings, feeling we have to adhere to all sorts of ‘performance rules’ may not do us a lot of good. When we are trying to get by and working at being positive we don’t really want the extra burden of guilt – the sort of guilt that comes from somehow feeling we are not doing all we can to help our well-being.

There seems to be a lot of judgement about, whether it be fiercely or kindly meant it can still unsettle us. I once listened to a medical person talking about diabetes. His theory was that diabetes 2 was largely brought on by neglect and leading a sedentary life, and that it should be renamed ‘the non-walkers complaint’, or something similar. In other words, he seemed to be saying most people brought this ‘complaint’ on themselves by following an unhealthy lifestyle. He may be right in certain circumstances, but I feel this is a dangerous sort of judgement to pass on a person who may have reached a distressing state of health by all sorts of circumstances. Who knows what leads any of us to a state of ‘dis-ease’? Do we start banishing patients from the hospital waiting room if they don’t meet certain criteria or if they have put on a few stones in weight? Most of us like to eat a healthy diet when we can, and take some exercise, but do we need to become so engrossed in studying the latest health craze that we forget to enjoy our food? The media bombards us with information about what we should and shouldn’t eat, what vitamins/shakes/woo-woo berries we should consume, the mantras we should chant and the mindfulness we should embrace. Most of the time I find it interesting but sometimes I want to run away crying ‘show me the chocolate cake’!

Some days I long for calm. More and more I think about peace and ‘going with the flow’. I imagine a new sort of shop that plays gentle soothing music as I buy my groceries or my new jeans, instead of playing mindless, loud music that grates on the nerves. I think about walking in the woods instead of driving on the M25. I think about putting my feet up instead of going to sit in a draughty hall where I am shown how to contort my body and put my leg behind my right ear.

There seems to be too much going on around us for us to spend time worrying about how we should be living our lives; whether we should conform, expect our children/grandchildren to excel in every walk of life, live in the most stylish house, travel the world; whether we should be swinging from the chandeliers every night, (great if you have the energy!) and generally leading an exemplary life.

It’s interesting too, to notice that one can be too religious for some, and not spiritual enough for others. I find this crops up quite often in my life. I have come to the conclusion that everyone forms their own opinion of me and will stick to it whatever I do. So I just have to be myself. And do my best. Besides, sometimes I feel very spiritual, other times I want to question every belief I hold dear. But mostly I get by. I want to change my mind sometimes too. I want to be able to be objective, see all points of view. Not always easy but worth aiming for.

I used to be a nurse, and I count myself lucky that I was one once. I learned that everyone in life has a story, a past, but not always a future. It is easy to forget this in our busy world. And it is sometimes easier to forget than think of it. I am grateful that most of our carers and medical staff that treat us look at us as a person needing love and care and on the whole do not judge us, for how would that help?

When we weigh up everything, and come to the conclusion that searching for the quieter life sometimes, following the calm and slower path sometimes, and taking time out sometimes, leads us to appear mediocre, then I am all for it. Besides, we will have more time to spend loving our family, and what could be better than that?

 

Sometimes it’s in the quiet that we hear the loudest things’.   Anonymous 

 

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Coping with January Blues and Thoughts on Being a Warrior…

What do you do on ‘blue days’?

 

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. This is not helped by the putting away of the Christmas decorations for another year, nor the fact that the Carols have all been sung and the fairy lights have dimmed.

I often write 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.

So what can we do to assuage the wistful feelings that often accompany this time of year?

 My Facebook feed gives me a constant stream of inspiring and uplifting quotes and feel-good stories. Most of them I like and occasionally I will read something heart-stoppingly good. But because there is so much out there to tap into now I question whether I have forgotten how to read with fresh eyes. And maybe it’s the same with other things?  Deep down, most of us know what is good for us, but we don’t always abide by what we know. 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 nearby fields but realised when I got home that I hadn’t taken in my beautiful surroundings at all. I hadn’t admired the beauty of the winter landscape, or noticed the drifts of tiny green shoots that  indicate that the snowdrops will be out before long. Instead, I had been focusing on minor problems that probably weren’t even problems at all.

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 exercise. 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 Himalayan Salt lamp.  The warm glow really does feel and look beneficial.

Should 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, ( I like the sound of it actually, and I even have a onesie now), 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.

Talking of being a warrior, I would say that warriors actually go easy on New Year’s Resolutions – whilst always striving to be the best they can be, they know that so many things we wish for are unrealistic. Over the years I have wanted to change things; be more shapely, be a wildly successful author, have a children’s TV series, stand up for issues I care about, worry less…etc..BUT I realise I am me, I not perfect and I come with weaknesses ( back to the chocolate). All the really matters though, is that I love and am lucky to BE loved. That is where everything begins and ends.

 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. Onwards warriors!

* Best Foot Forward – Moving on From Anxiety by Lyn Halvorsen available on http://www.amazon.co.uk or contact me at lmhalvo@aol.com

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I love this jaunty rabbit with a spring in his step – he never fails to cheer me up!

 

 

 

 

Surviving Treacherous Times and Finding Your Compass…

 

This is a blog I wrote a few years ago and I thought it was worth posting again….

If you were washed up on a desert island and desperate to survive, I wonder what survival technique would serve you best? No matter how fit and strong you were, if you weren’t mentally strong you would find it difficult to keep going. Bulging muscles and gym enhanced fitness might help you bounce around the sand for a while but without mental fitness you would soon start to panic or go into ‘freeze’ mode. You would only be able to run around searching for ships on the horizon, and an immediate solution, for so long. While it is certainly good to keep physically fit, there is much more to survival than that. Often the person with hidden strengths survives against the odds.

Just as we would find it hard to cope alone on a desert island, this time of year especially, with all the extra stresses and strains, we may feel we need to go into survival mode. We may not be lost on that desert island but we may feel just as stranded and panicked. It may not only be the stresses of Christmas that bring us down; there could be more serious worries in our lives; worries about finances, health, relationships or body image may become more pressing during the festive period. There is something about Christmas that heightens our emotions and makes us feel things, both good and bad, more deeply.

The strongest survival skill comes from managing the mind. Everything you do and experience comes from your mind after all. It is hard at times I know, but there are some basic tips to help you settle your mind and feel more in control. Just as when trapped on that island, if you worry too much you may panic in stressful situations. In times like this just STOP.  Stop and find a quiet space and take a breather. Pause and do nothing and think about your situation and what is really bothering you. Think carefully about what to do next. Are you stressed by loud music and crowds in a shopping centre for instance? Can the shopping wait to another day? Is it really that important? Think about finding a quieter area to regain some calm. Remember most things aren’t as crucial to get done as you think.

If you were stranded somewhere you would probably make yourself a base camp – somewhere where you felt safe and could shelter from the storm. In the same way so it is also needed in normal life – make sure your surroundings at home are peaceful and comfortable – create your own safe haven and your own ‘go to’ place. Escape to this place from time to time and especially during frantic days, and feel the calmness there. If you work in an office keep your own space uncluttered and perhaps keep a photo on your desk of loved ones or have a framed positive quote that you like. Have a little corner that is just yours and rest your eyes on a scene that is tranquil. If you can go for a walk at lunchtime and play some peaceful music on your headphones you will feel more able to cope with the day.

Make a plan – in  the desert you would formulate a plan so that you could attract help and the possibility of rescue. Do the same in your mind to help you ease your worries. Think of who may be able to help you in your current situation, whatever it may be. Be open to advice. Put out feelers  – you will be surprised where help may come from.

Work out your everyday survival techniques. Have an imaginary compass in your mind – picture it pointing you in the right direction – the calm and happy direction. If you have a problem that is really worrying you, picture your compass rotating until it points you to a place where you can work out your problems. Picture it pointing you to a friend who is ready to receive you with kind and open arms. Imagine it sending you towards your own personal North Star where peace and contentment abounds. It is amazing how this can help you find a way forward and calm your mind.

Every time you leave your own particular safe place, your ‘base camp’, and venture out in a calm and peaceful way and can cope with what ever is outside you will be building confidence and more able to take control of different and even anxious feelings. Also, knowing you have a place to retreat to and recharge your batteries will help, even if you just go there in your mind when you are in a chaotic place.

So next time you feel you are anxious or jittery, put your mind to survival and find the path you lost.

Post Script :

Lately I have heard of so many sad situations , especially those people suffering loss,..I hope this quote from J.K.Rowling may lend some comfort –

To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection for ever.’ 

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The Way We Were…

I was out walking this week through the sodden November fields. The air was damp and misty, the tacky soil clung to my wellies and the brambles in the hedges were shrouded in sodden dead leaves, the luscious blackberries of autumn already a distant memory. It didn’t really feel like the best day to embark on a five mile walk. But I continued on enjoying the faint smell of woodsmoke drifting lazily across the fields, and a feeling in the air that promised of glittering frosts to come.

Walking on the edge of the field I could see the tracks left by a tractor, the soil ploughed and turned leaving deep furrows and ridges, old crop residue buried beneath the fresh soil and left to feed the new crops in the spring. This made me think about the circle of life – and my mother, who always loved the sight of freshly turned soil in a garden.

I thought about remembering and looking back, how we see things, and I realised that most of the time we think of a person as we see them now, or, if we have lost elderly parents as I have, as they were in their latter days. The wise gurus advise us to ‘live in the now’ and I agree that is important for now is what we have.  Just this very minute is all we have for sure. But that doesn’t need to stop us remembering once in a while, remembering the past and our people; our family and friends who have made us who we are today, for better or worse.

We, and those around us change over the years, it’s inevitable. But it is interesting to note that when we are with someone regularly we often don’t notice any subtle differences until they are completely obvious – perhaps due to illness or dementia. Dementia is a huge and heartbreaking illness when it strikes and is sadly becoming more prevalent, but what do we make of the gradual changes, the natural ageing process that creeps up on us and those we love unannounced ?

It is easy to put people into compartments; perhaps refer to stereotypes, label people. When you hear someone referred to as a pensioner what vision does that conjure up in your mind? Not someone energetic and vibrant that’s for sure. And yet many people at pensionable age are certainly more nimble and sparky than the word suggests! Even if someone doesn’t have the energy any more to hop around the place or run marathons it doesn’t mean their thoughts and wishes are necessarily slowing down. They are still the same people inside that they always were.

At the end of her days, my mother had never really lost her determination, or her interest in her family, her cooking and her home, but it is hard for me as her daughter to shake off the memory of her fragility and frailty towards the end. It wasn’t until recently when I was going through an old suitcase full of her old photos and keepsakes that I began thinking about her as a young woman, full of hopes and dreams. She had kept so much through the years, from 21st birthday cards, my dad’s letters to her, full of love and care, wedding telegrams, cards and letters celebrating the births of my sister and me, and much more. There is a picture of her at the age of 21; she had a tiny waist, lustrous dark hair, styled with waves that were the fashion of the day, and was wearing a classic pencil skirt, a twinset and pearls, and staggeringly high heals. She looked the height of the fashion of the time, beautiful and stylish. What did she do that day? Did she have a party? Paint the town red? I wish I could ask her. To us she was mum and granny and she loved being that, but once in a while she liked to remind us about the glamorous young girl she once was.

But this isn’t so much of a trip down memory lane. It is more about looking at life and those around us with more than a passing glance or an assuming manner. It’s about looking beyond what is in front of us. Sometimes all is not what it seems, or once upon a time things were different; life was different. There is a lot of information and guidance hidden within our lives and experiences . When you turn a light on in a dark place you illuminate the things that were there all along but you didn’t see. To ‘see’ takes time. Life moves fast and we move fast through it. We see the normal everyday things but not always the incredible richness that is there. If we look more closely, there are patterns , textures, edges and roundness. And if we engage our intuitive awareness beyond the patterns, we can sense energies. And if we look at a person with fresh eyes and listen with renewed awakening we can reach below the surface. In turn we can engage more with those we love and reach a better understanding. And sometimes it is worth remembering that looking at the past helps us to understand each other better, and helps us see more clearly when we look at those we love.

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