Is ‘Sweating the Small Stuff’ Really a Problem?

‘Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things’.

I was thinking about how we go through our days, months and years; how we cope with life and the pressures we bear at times. We try to be diligent and concern ourselves with the rights and wrongs going on the world; what will happen about Brexit – how will the actions of President Trump impact upon us – what about global warming – the economy – the NHS – slipping standards in behaviour – the gloomy news we listen to everyday? I could keep adding to this never ending list…..

Throughout the day or week, your routine is most likely set and the little things happening during that time are the ones that are making a difference.

Last Sunday, I was invited to a service of  remembrance at the local church. This was held in the early evening – and although it was Remembrance Sunday this was an additional service held for all those who had lost someone close to them in the last year. It was a way of honouring the memory of a loved one recently departed, and a chance to give thanks for their life: ‘A gentle service to remember loved ones no longer with us.’

The service was very moving and conducted by the ministers with love and grace. It gave everyone time. Time to reflect and think about those we loved and lost, in a calm and peaceful environment. Towards the end of the service we were invited up to the altar to add a flower to the cross laid at the front, together with a lighted candle. As we returned to our seats and the lights were dimmed we sat quietly in contemplation for a while, before saying goodbye and going out into the dark night.

The service was beautiful for so many reason. As I had watched everyone walking up to lay a flower for their loved ones, I realised again, that all we really want in this life is to love and be loved. Just as the flowers thrive with the warmth of the sun and the gentle rain, so we thrive when we are loved. We may feel bereft when we lose someone very dear to us, but we can reflect on all the love we shared with that person and be glad. Love is at times, responsible for causing us heartbreak and pain as well as great joy, but without it we are lost. And when we show love and receive love we don‘t really need to worry about the bigger picture – the big wide world; it is the small things in life that matter.

I watch cookery programmes often; with each new series of Masterchef or The Great British Bake-Off I get drawn back into the show and get to ‘know’ the latest contestants and their particular way of doing things. I watch as they sometimes dissolve into tears when a soufflé sinks or a casserole burns  and it is easy to get into a cynical way of thinking and judging, and then I wonder why? It’s good to get passionate about cake! It may not change the world but a good slice of cake can make someone’s day!

We are all striving to be the best we can be – to make something of ourselves and our lives and there is nothing wrong with that. If we feel bound to make a difference to the world then we should go for it! Where would we be without explorers and pioneers in every field; those who work relentlessly and discover new drugs and new ways of healing? There are so many people struggling tirelessly to help people and to care for those who need it most. They are often the people too, who still find time to stop and enjoy the small things in life.

So when we focus on the small things, the little things that concern us, I don’t think it is a bad thing. Of course, we don’t want to get stressed particularly, about blocked drains (me at the moment) or being cut up on the motorway or any of the daily annoyances that beset us all from time to time. But stopping to study the new shoots on the trees or listen to the birds can only ever do us good.  Throughout the day or week, your routine is most likely set and the little things happening during the time are the ones that are making a difference.

It’s worth noting that the good feeling we get from taking some freshly baked bread from the oven or watching a child jump and play, is far more heartening than studying a politician arguing in a debate on the news, no matter how important the topic!

The good small things for me:  

Waking up and feeling good – making porridge the Cornish way.

Good hair days! A cup of tea in my favourite angel mug. My sister’s dog, Willow Writing a poem I am happy with. Going to the beach. Cooking a chocolate cake. Listening to Clifford T. Ward – listen to ‘Home Thoughts From Abroad’it’s beautiful. Laughing with friends. Messages from my sons. ❤️❤️ Christmas movies. Looking at photos of my mum and dad. Listening to my husband singing along to ‘Sounds of the sixties.’ 🎼 Reading to my grandchildren 📖   Life is made up of moments. Collect them and keep them in your heart.    

The magic of starting to focus on these little, but important things, is that you will gradually change from focusing on what is missing in your life, to what is there. And when we feel grateful for what we have, we gradually add to our happiness levels, bit by bit.

      IMG_0071 What small things make you happy? I would love to hear from you.  

When Life is Different….

Think about the small things which are often the most important

Life has been very different this week.

My husband has had some surgery this week. He’s doing fine but seeing the person you love so much going through any sort of trauma is worrying and the whole balance of life changes.

I have been reminded that the small, everyday things in life are often the most important and they are usually the things you miss the most when life is altered. It is a paradox really. Small things are often of the biggest importance. Walking near the hospital I envied people out doing normal things; choosing Christmas presents or just having a pizza. We should soon be back to normal at Dove Lane, but I am so mindful of those, who for whatever reason, are unable to enjoy the small everyday parts of life that we take for granted.

So today I asked myself this question: how many times do I need to be pummelled and prodded by the Universe before I realise that I have a God given chance to use make the most of every day?

Does age bring us wisdom? I’m really not sure. I know I am not the same person as I was in my twenties, I think differently and have different opinions, but whether I have life worked out any better, I’m not sure. One thing I do know for sure though, is that life is not about making predictions, it’s not about having the best of everything or being the best at everything. I wish I could remember that more often than I do and get on with being grateful for what I have now. I wrote recently about living in the moment – living in the now, and I have come to the conclusion that this is the only thing we can be sure of. Today.

Because of the time of year and especially because we mark the 100 year anniversary this weekend of the end of the First World War, I was thinking about the families who suffered unbearable losses; so many, many lives cut short, so many decent, honest, ordinary people taken in unbearable circumstances and robbed of a future – robbed of a chance to partake in the ordinary, sometimes humdrum but welcome routine of everyday life. We must use today wisely.

I have written a lot about anxiety in recent blogs, and how we try and deal with anxious times. Most of us get anxious when we fear things that are out of our control – and sadly the unexplained or unexpected can happen in life and somehow we have to cope.

I think the simple questions in life turn out to be the most profound. Maybe in this world, where unrest and tragedy unfolds in the media on a daily basis, we would do well to think about some simple questions. Maybe even write down some answers so we can ‘ground’ ourselves when we feel we are on unsteady ground.

Where are you from? Do you think about your roots; your home town where you were born? Do you remember growing up and spending time with your grandparents? Do you have happy memories? Think about the people who made you and helped you become what you are now; even if the memories aren’t always good ones they have been a part of you and you can learn from them.

Where is home now? Home is the one place where we can totally be ourselves, shrug off the cares of the day and do absolutely what we like. Our home is small but we have a sign in our hall which reads ‘Love Grows Well in Small Houses’ and I look at it everyday and know it to be true.

Right now, at this very moment, you can tell yourself how important it is to enjoy your everyday life – it is the life that is currently flashing unnoticed right before your eyes. It is the time you will look back on before long and wish you had back. Let the future come naturally but live willingly in the moment.

What are you going to do next? Are you doing what you really want to do and going where you really want to go? It takes time, especially if you are the sort of person who always wants to please people, but remember that it is important to do what makes you happy as long as you are not hurting anyone else in the process. Maybe think about taking another turn along the path that is seemingly laid out for you. Who knows what may turn up there.

Each day you grow older but each of those days has the ability to be extra special and only happens once.

With the future comes uncertainty for all of us, but by concentrating on today rather than thinking about tomorrow you will ease up on worrying and focus on reality – that is really all any of us can do if you think about it, no matter who we are.

Spending more time with loved ones is the key to being happy. If you are a parent and even a grandparent, you will know how those precious early years pass so quickly and before long you are watching your children forge ahead on their own. By showing your children love as they grow and by showing them how you love those in your life you will be passing your love on into the future. This is the way we ‘get better’ and the world gets better too.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.’

Henry David Thoreau

 

‘What day is it?

‘It’s today,’ squeaked Piglet.

’My favourite day,’ said Pooh.

A.A.Milne

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Go With The Geese…

 

I’m thinking about the flow of life this week. For a month or so now I have been woken by a flock of geese flying and making their own unique squawking sound as they fly in formation across my piece of sky. I don’t think they actually go too far as they like the local wetland area, although I guess they will migrate eventually.

As the changing of the seasons tells us, nothing stays the same forever. In order to reconcile myself to change I have been meditating on bird migration. Year in and year out, birds experience the seasonal upheaval of migration; however, these global movements are not seen as disruptive, they are simply seen as the ebb and flow of nature’s cycles. Perhaps if we understand that changes in life could also be seen as part of life’s bigger picture and not something of an obstruction we can adjust more easily to new occurrences in life.

We know nothing stays the same forever – true relaxation comes not from controlling life’s flow but instead allowing oneself to be carried along with the flow instead of looking back with nostalgia for the past or fear for the future.

If you find that you are struggling this week to achieve a desired result in any given situation, perhaps you are trying too hard to make something work. Maybe try sitting back a little ( I know it’s hard!) and let things happen as they will. Use acceptance. Remember nothing happens until it is meant too.

A little light relief and a poem for today……

My father used to look at the birds as they flew overhead and convinced me they were on their way home from school. I believed him too (actually, I still do!)

Bird School

It’s absolutely true
That, just like you,
As a general rule
Birds go to school.
Flying together
Whatever the weather
They attend their classes
On treetop branches.
At half-past three
When it’s time for tea
Look to the sky
Where the clouds float by.
See the birds on the wing
As they soar and sing.
For all in a flock
They looked at the clock
And twittered about
When school was out!
Now they’re off to their nest
For a feathery rest,
And a goodnight cheep
Before they sleep.

(C) Lyn Halvorsen

 

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It’s No Use Going Back to Yesterday…

How do we change the way we view the past….?

It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.

I love the above quotation. It is so true and yet we often forget this and cause ourselves to churn over past mistakes or unforgotten slights from others. I wrote this post a year ago but I thought it worth repeating as I often forget to follow my own advice!

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Problems from our past are responsible for a lot of the anxieties we suffer from now. Reminders of unhappy memories from the past can come from all manner of things. Perhaps a familiar perfume floating on the air, or a few bars of half remembered music from long ago is enough to have you catapulted back to a situation you would prefer to forget. At times like this it’s a good idea to stop and remind yourself that those days are in the past and although you may wish you could erase them, you can’t. You cannot change them either. You may not realise it but you can learn from those painful memories, even just by becoming a more understanding and empathetic person to others. Ask yourself if the memories are genuinely as bad as you feel they are. Can you try to look back and view them as an outsider and make an objective judgement? If you know it was something completely traumatic, have you ever talked it through with anyone? Until you release the pain and trauma you felt you may have difficulty moving on. Consider talking to a counsellor if this is the case. If you were badly hurt or abused in some way, remember that none of that was your fault. None. You didn’t deserve to be treated badly; you deserve to be loved. I don’t think many of us can totally stop ourselves from delving into the past in darker moments. We may say to ourselves: ‘If this hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be feeling like this now’ or ‘if I had acted differently/ taken the job/ moved here instead of there’ none of this would have happened and my life would be better.’ But how do you know that for sure? We can always find situations and people to blame for how we feel now. Perhaps there IS someone to blame or someone who treated you unfairly but that doesn’t bring a solution. The solution lies in forgiveness and moving on. You are a different person now and what happened or whatever choices you made in the past are just that. In the past. But you are here now and have a chance to move forward and be who you wish to be. No one can hurt you if you don’t let them but you hurt yourself if you cannot let go of past grievances. Buddha says: ‘Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’. There is hardly a person on earth who doesn’t have some sort of mental scars from the past and maybe that is where a lot of the problems in our world stem from. If we can’t show forgiveness and love our brothers and sisters at home and all around the world then troubles occur and escalate. No one is perfect and our upbringing came from those who were doing the best they could from what they themselves had learned along the way.

Past Mistakes

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.’    

 Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Wouldn’t we all like to have the above attitude!

I think most of us have made mistakes in our past. But however unpleasant these mistakes may seem, it’s a part of life that we need to learn from, accept and eventually get over. As we know deep down, the past is the past and no amount of thinking and worry will change that. If we acknowledge the past is outside of our control, we can more easily let go of these mistakes and stop beating ourselves up over them. Of course, it is completely natural to feel bad now and then. Guilt, anxiety and depression over past events can serve a positive function in our lives as long as we don’t get too attached to these feelings. Think of these feelings as part of a learning process – a prompt for us to make make amends or to try to avoid old pitfalls so we don’t make the same mistakes again. However, we don’t want to wallow in negative emotions. The main thing is not to let them dictate our lives as that is when these emotions become unhelpful.

Here are some tips to help you move forward:

Remember that everyone makes mistakes at times and you are no different.

Most of the time you have tried your best.

Honesty helps – admit it if you’ve made a mistake and learn from it.

Focus on now.

Life is always unfolding and changing – no single event can dictate what you do for the rest of your life.

Your past has shaped you to become who you are now but your future actions will shape who you can be in the future.

 

I try and remember this: If there is something lurking in the darkness, shine a light on it, deal with it and then move on. Then you are safe to turn the light off again.

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Why Do We Need Approval?

Is it really necessary to follow up every time?

 

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For the last few weeks we have been settling into our new home. Maybe it is because we have needed to connect with a lot of new services and make several purchases but it has brought this more into the spotlight: the need for appraisal and the need for approval.

So many times when ordering new products on the phone, querying accounts or being served in shops, we go through the lengthy process of getting our point across, buying  goods etc, only to be asked at the end to answer questionnaires when we get home/end a call, and often we are asked to give a glowing report. If this isn’t given then you are made to feel someone’s career may suffer. This brings us yet another thing to think about along with remembering loyalty cards, the constant need to get online to check and send new emails and the ever increasing pressure of using more and more technology. Of course, if we are served well and happy with our treatment then most of the time we are happy to comply. If it means that overall customer service improves then there is a positive side to giving feedback but I do wonder if it is encouraging an atmosphere of possible insincerity and even vindictive response on occasions by disgruntled consumers. We have been served so well recently –  there has been nothing to complain about, only praise to give and I am the first to want to thank someone for doing a good job, but surely a good ‘thank you’ at the time is enough? What if we get distracted when we get home and forget to give feedback? Spontaneity is being lost and often it’s the people on the shop floor who suffer.

As is often the case in life, eagerness to improve can often result in over zealous actions and new problems, prompting us to yearn for a return to how things ‘used to be’. Yes, of course we need change but sometimes it needs to be reigned in. A gradual change is often better than a radical overhaul. In our often turbulent world, is it any wonder that we find ourselves anxious and worried about the future? It seems that what was acceptable yesterday is completely unacceptable today and there is little time to adjust.

From the moment we start out in life, we feel the need to be given praise. We are encouraged to work hard and to seek rewards. If we aim high we can gain the elusive gold star. If we follow the rules we will satisfy the authorities. If we reach higher targets we can gain financial reward. We just need to comply. Sometimes that has to be done of course; we need to live in a safe and law abiding way, but do we really need those seemingly trivial yet time consuming  extra demands on our time that seem to have crept up on us?

In relationships we like praise. We are human and there is nothing wrong with basking in a bit of praise now and again. Emotionally, we fly high when those close to us show how much they love us; equally, we can feel worthless if we are not shown the love we seek.  When we are in a good relationship that thrives on mutual love and understanding then everything falls into place and we don’t feel the need to be constantly seeking approval. This applies to all sorts of relationships; parental, sexual, friendships etc.

With all relationships, when love and praise are given unconditionally then our confidence grows. The need for approval and praise lessens and we become less needy and life doesn’t revolve around other people’s comments or opinions. We can be strong and face the world knowing we are worthy. Unconditional love has nothing to do with doing something because you have to, it just comes naturally.

Okay, we probably can’t always show unconditional love in the workplace or when we are asked to pass comment on those who serve us but we can hope that a bit of spontaneous warmth and genuine appreciation will go a long way.

Ps…please don’t get me started on accepting ‘cookies’ left, right and centre! Internet browsing has entered a whole new world!

 

 

 

When Things Change ….

Hello again! I’ve been out of communicado for a few weeks due to a house move. It’s been a busy time with lots to do and great excitement as we enter a new phase of our lives. My blog will always be ‘Notes From Dove Lane’ though: this title is dear to my heart and was taken from my book ‘Tea at Raphael’s which was inspired by a favourite lane in Somerset.

No matter how we are pleased with life’s new twists and turns, anxiety can still creep up on us and make us feel unsettled or jittery; its as if the old ‘worry monster’ likes to gain our attention and remind us of those old scenarios that cause us to fret. But it is good to remind ourselves that change helps us move forward and embrace new beginnings, and by engaging in new routines and trying out new surroundings we can move forward, even though we may move tentatively at first.

Today I am sitting in a delightful cafe in my new village – it’s a book shop that serves coffee and snacks – definitely my sort of place! The walls are lined with books from top to bottom and the array of coffee and cakes available is fabulous. I may be here often, (especially as I have no broadband yet!)

Please excuse my short blog this week – there is much to do at home and many deliveries and callers to attend to! One thing I must say though is that the weather has been glorious, and as we look out over the open fields beyond our house and watch the red kites swooping and hear their familiar whistle welcoming us, I am filled with gratitude.

Before I go, I have some exciting news! Last weekend, the Janey Loves Platinum Award Ceremony took place – and I am very pleased to say that my book ‘Best Foot Forward’ received a ‘highly commended’ award. It is always wonderful to know that someone has enjoyed your work!

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See you soon and blessings to you.

 

Managing the Stress of Moving House…

Remember that home is wherever you and your loved ones gather….

 

Some say that moving house is one of life’s major stresses. Anyone who’s undertaken a house move will agree it’s one of the most challenging events we experience, both physically and emotionally. A lot of us find it stressful because it involves change and represents a transition in life – and with it comes unfamiliarity. Most of us, me included, like familiarity, routine and order, but when we are moving house, for a while at least, we have none of those. Depending on your age and your stage in life, you might be in a new area, having to find new schools for your children, take on a new commute to work and find a new doctor. Often too, when you move into a new house, it’s the simple things you miss, like knowing exactly where the light switch is in the dark, and where your personal mementos are stored.

Although moving can be exciting and you can embrace the thoughts of new beginnings, it is good to think about the mental impact moving will have on you. If you can clear your schedule a little way in advance and take some time off for preparation, this will help the actual moving day feel less overwhelming and give you a bit more control of your situation. If you provide ample time to pack and find removal firms, this will greatly remove stress. Clearing out clutter well before you move will help you let go and prepare for the future. Make sure too, if you can, to get your family members and good friends to lend a helping hand. This will lessen the burden on you and also give you a chance to spend time together before moving.

It is a good idea to have a few rituals before moving; maybe have a small leaving party, take a few walks around your favourite routes and allow time for special memories – this can help the transition from your old home to your new one.

This is a busy time and it is easy to neglect your diet. Being well-rested and having good nutrition is vital to good health and helps to keep stress levels down.

My own route to where I live now has been a long and sometimes winding road, and there are more moves ahead. For someone who’s home and surroundings are one of the most important things in life, moving several times over the last few years has been unsettling and at times traumatic. Several times I have had to pack and unpack my treasured and various possessions, some of which have become more battered and forlorn which each and every move. But with my footsteps echoing in a bare and empty room, when I start unwrapping a well-loved piece of china or some favourite photographs, or even a cosy blanket, the look and feel of those familiar things never fail to bring immediate comfort. As my home has scaled down in size progressively with each and every move, my belongings have had to be pared down accordingly, but some precious things remain, like the beautiful wooden chest decorated with painted birds that our elder son gave us some years ago, and a small chalkboard, carefully varnished over to preserve the cheerful pictures our younger son drew for me when he was little.

It is good to remember that we are only custodians of any house we live in. It’s as though the character of the house leaves with our possessions, and as we take that last look around, the feeling of familiarity is gone and all that remains is the echo of the voices of the inhabitants who once lived there, and the feeling that all the familiarity of home is gone. The house already feels as though it preparing for its new owners. Yet, if you ever have reason to drive down the same path again it would feel quite normal to step inside and feel you have never been away. One thing I have learned is that life has twists and turns and we end up in unexpected places. But once we make our mark on a new house, wherever it is, it turns into home. Home is where hearts are sure of each other; a place where you know your way in the dark.

As we enjoy the summer with all its outdoor pleasures, the cosiness and warmth of home is still important; we take comfort in a shady spot under a tree in the garden, closing the shutters or the blinds at the end of the day as the sun sets or sharing a simple supper around the kitchen table. And for that we all need that special place: a place to rest, recharge our batteries and sometimes retreat from the outside world for a while. Whether we are a large family or just one person, our home reveals in all its artefacts (those precious keepsakes, and the everyday and ordinary and extraordinary things that surround us), the story of us, and of who we are. We may think that style and inventiveness, as well as hard work and money, are what is needed to transform a house or an apartment, and it’s true, those things help create the space we yearn for. But what really matters is that we creat a place of security, a place of love and warmth, where children and grandchildren can grow and turn to, especially when the outside world seems to be creating stresses and strains.

The place we call home needs to keep peace within its boundaries, welcome within its walls, shelter for its friends, and a cake in the larder.

So when you feel unsettled, have to move house or change your surroundings for whatever reason, remember that home is where you and your loved ones are – it is not dependent on fancy fixtures and fittings, palaces and mansions, but on you and the people you love, and in the cosy place where you gather together.

And a single small cottage,
A nest like a dove’s,
The only dwelling on earth that she loves’.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

 

 

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The House We Left Behind

The removal van is on its way, I hear it rattling up the lane,
The time is fast approaching for us to be moving on again.
Before I’m even ready, the men are standing in the hall
Examining the packing cases stacked up by the wall.
And as all of our possessions disappear from view
The old house turns its back on us and waits for someone new.

                                          (C) Lyn Halvorsen