A Crystal Ball for Christmas?

Don’t panic – you WILL be ready for Christmas!

It’s almost December and I had one of those nights last night when I woke up worrying about Christmas shopping, or to put it another way, the lack of it in my house! Of course, when I was up in the morning with the curtains drawn back and the light streaming in, I realised how little I have remembered about past experiences: I wonder why I fall into the same trap every year. I am getting on a bit now and I have seen a lot of Christmases – I should know that everything always gets done in the end! And if it doesn’t, does it really matter?

This year, I am more aware than ever that not everyone has the chance to celebrate Christmas in the way that I and my family do, and I am mindful of the fact that we are bombarded with commercialism at this time of year. The big stores competing to screen the best Christmas advert may cause us to ooh and ahh as we watch their presentations of cosy and homely perfection, but at the same time, we are encouraged to fill our homes with every conceivable gadget and tasty morsel so that we can achieve the perfect Christmas.

However, the perfect Christmas is about being together with family and friends, following the old favourite traditions and perhaps starting new ones. What do you remember when you look at past Christmases? It’s not normally about money spent or having the best of this or that, it’s about the simple things – the old favourite recipes that come out every year, the games after lunch or the corny jokes in the Christmas crackers.

I have written before about the anxious feelings we can experience with the holiday season fast approaching. The fact remains that no matter how hard we try to keep sensible about the festive season, there are extra things to think about this time of year and many of us can feel jittery and stressed. We may find ourselves more reliant than ever on those we love. Sometimes though, we find that those around us have their own problems and anxieties which sometimes present themselves in unexpected ways.

If you had a crystal ball and could see into the future, do you think you would find happiness? Would you put an end to anxious feelings you experience if you knew how life was going to pan out for yourself or others?

I recently came across a story about a ‘Naughty or Nice’ book. The heroine of the story mysteriously received a book through her post box at Christmas, which enabled her to find out more about the people she knew, and the actions they appeared to be taking to achieve what they wanted in life. Just by uttering a name over the book, the girl found that the book magically opened and revealed unusual and sometimes apparently undesirable things about the people she thought she knew. What was interesting was the girl’s reaction and the conclusions she came to after seeing what was revealed in the book. Rather than being helped by what she saw she was often dismayed and perplexed, and felt let down by neighbours and colleagues, and the people she loved. Rampaging around she accused people of various misdemeanours and often made them ashamed or shocked. Things got worse and her life started to unravel.

However, before long, she realised that if she turned the book over, there was another side to each story. People did things for a reason; they were led to perform certain actions because of a series of events. Sometimes what looked bad on the surface wasn’t really bad at all but just part of an ongoing story. Once she saw that everyone had their frailties and their own wishes and desires, indeed, their own story, she forgave, and built both old and new relationships. The book showed that hardly anyone is just ‘naughty’ or just ‘nice’, but perhaps a bit of both at times.

We may feel it would be a good thing to see what lies ahead and why things happen like they do, but I think most of us do not really need a crystal ball or a magic book. If we give ourselves time and give time to other people we can probably work most things out and find the real reasons for why things happen as they do.

So when we are feeling our own lives are complicated or we are bowed by worry or stress, it is good to remember that very few people live perfect lives. Almost certainly, anxiety and fear manifest themselves in our behaviour and can show that we are uncomfortable in our situations; we may feel isolated, but chances are that others will be feeling the same too at times. We are not the only ones who’s behaviour can be misinterpreted, so don’t beat yourself up after a night out; don’t go home and worry about how you come across to people. Chances are they won’t have noticed – they will have been more concerned about they came across to you!

Most people have times when life gets them down, but if you are someone who doesn’t have anxiety, I urge you to be a bit careful with your words and reactions during the holiday season. What may seem silly to you could be a genuine concern for someone else. At the very least, look at both sides of the story.

By the way, I must say I love the John Lewis advert featuring Elton John singing ‘Your Song!’ It’s my most favourite song of all time so I’m not totally against the advertising!

 

Have a good week!

 

 

Seen on a Christmas tree near me.

 

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.  

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!

 

 

 

What REALLY matters to us?

This week has been full of mixed emotions for me. There have been stresses and strains, worries, ups and downs, highs and lows and most importantly, good times. Times catching up with good friends, happy phone calls from family members, important birthdays, and pleasant interactions with kindly strangers.

Sitting watching the early evening news a few days ago I started reflecting on some of the headlines and felt immense sadness when thinking of some of the terrible things decent ordinary people were going through or had had inflicted on them, sometimes with devastating results for themselves and their families. Many times I have written about the pain we feel as we watch the news and have to deal with often unfathomable occurrences and unspeakably dreadful actions, the results of which are beamed into our living rooms.  Then there are times we sit dumfounded as we witness the latest political debacle and the seemingly unfair systems that seem to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

And yet still we find ourselves sweating the small stuff when we go about our daily lives.

We may meditate, read every self help book we can, listen to all the podcasts about positivity we can get our hands on to help us cope with an ever tumultuous world. We may chant, commune with nature, speak to our angels and watch our diet. All these things help at times and give us nuggets of information and inspiration that many times prove to be invaluable. Trust me, I believe. I believe in trying every sensible (and sometimes not so sensible) path to acceptance and understanding. That path that shows us there is a reason for everything and an explanation for everything even when we cannot see it and rail against it. But there are days when it is really hard to stay focused and remind ourselves of all the ways of coping we have learned. These are the days when I guess we just need to go back to basics and remind ourselves of all the things in our lives that are important and reaffirm them.

I remind myself that the people I love and admire for their strength and the way they cope with life did not get that way because their lives always worked out. They got that way because stuff went wrong and they handled it. They handled it in many different ways and at different times, and they got through. I look up to them for sure.

We need to keep our lives in order. Of course we do. Most of us need to work and earn money to support our families. We need to cook, clean and keep our house tidy(ish) We need to keep ourselves in shape and look reasonable. We need to offer support to those that need it and need us. But I for one, need to tell myself in stressful times that the everyday petty trials and tribulations just don’t matter and will be mainly forgotten by next week. Even what we perceive to be major problems will fade to insignificance over the years.

I’m aware of getting older and my thinking is changing with the years. I see it more clearly when people around me are struggling. I can visualise possible outcomes and weigh up situations in a more balanced way than when I did when I was younger. This is both good and bad. On the one hand it is sensible to be prepared and to be empathetic but at the same time the buoyancy of youth is gone: the feeling of being invincible.  But life follows patterns, we change and learn as we go. Some of us learn more quickly  than others. Some young people have a wise head on young shoulders. Some older people never really grow up. This is all part of life’s rich pattern.

The question to ask ourselves, whoever we are, is what really matters to us, what makes us happy, what keeps us sane? Once we remember who we are and remember to reach out to those we love, and once we enjoy the simple things in life while we can, we will at least find it easier to reconnect to what is good.

But if I cannot change the world, I can bend when the storm appears; Do great things in smaller ways, Dry another’s tears.’

When the notes are wrong make them your best tune ….

August is here and walking out from Dove Lane this morning I could sense a wistfulness in the air – a glimpse of change. The air is still very warm and the grass is still scorched from the long, hot days but the blackberries are ripe in the hedges and there are some dry leaves crunching beneath my feet. Could it be be that Autumn waits in the wings and cooler air may eventually whisper through the trees? We still have warm days to enjoy and balmy evenings to enhance that summer holiday feeling but perhaps we sense the gradual shortening of the days.

For some of us, any change, even a change in the seasons can encourage feelings of unrest if we are prone to anxious feelings. Sometimes it isn’t always easy to walk forward and embrace the next stage of our lives. Perhaps we feel events are looming we would rather not think about or we find it hard to be positive and look at the bigger picture. Maybe we are worried about past mistakes or imagined difficulties. Maybe we feel fearful because we hear and read so much in the media that unsettles us. Most of us have days where we feel everything seems to be against us, or perhaps we can’t seem to focus or get things right. Just like a composer writing a song – sometimes the notes just come out wrong.

Often there can be times when we feel out of tune with our surroundings.  Maybe we are not in the right frame of mind to listen to or appreciate what we are seeing or hearing.  I guess life is a bit like that – we can be swamped with worries or negative emotions at times, or even just the chaos of a busy day, so that all the good sights and sounds around us are smothered or blurred around the edges. But if we manage to take some time out  – perhaps go and have a walk in the woods or just take ten minutes out of a busy day to have some quiet time – then we can often find we can enjoy the very things we previously felt out of kilter with.

In unhappy or muddled times, remember the clouds will pass. And the sooner you welcome the sun the sooner it appears. I find that remembering what I am grateful for helps me get through jittery times. I have learned through past experiences what supportive friends I have and also, how self reliant I can be when I have to. Also, I remind myself how limited our time on this planet truly is (I don’t mean that in a gloom and doom way but I use it to remind me that every second counts).

We are all connected and even if you feel you are struggling, remind yourself there is someone somewhere going through the same thing as you, and they are getting through it just like you will. You can dwell on what isn’t going your way or you can focus on what you have within your power to change.

If you think about what would happen if you just allowed yourself to live in the moment and not think about your current situation, how might that feel? Sometimes life is not about dreams coming true but what we learn when we take our path through life. There are times when we need to let go of our expectations and actually just concentrate on what is happening today. And remember, those past experiences or perceived missed opportunities we dwell on have actually made us stronger and given us our character.

So lets think again about a composer writing a song and this time the composer is you;  even if your notes seem to sound wrong , they are your notes and you can turn them into the best song of all. Your song.

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Good Thoughts – Good Actions = Good Results…

How do we feel when we receive negative comments?

I was reading a Facebook post today from someone that I have followed for a while. I enjoy the delightful mix of posts from her page and blog which include quirky mixes of shabby chic interior design,  and pretty pictures of a bygone age. I like anything which involves a bit of escapism and give an insight into someone else’s dream so it was sad to read recently that she had received some negative posts totally out of the blue. This got me thinking about how we spend our valuable leisure time and why sometimes some people find the need to comment negatively and sometimes even rudely on another persons endeavours. Innocent , well-meaning posts about all manner of subjects seem to find a way of provoking some untoward remarks from strangers who need to vent their anger somewhere. Constructive criticism is one thing but unpleasant and unfounded comments leave me perplexed.

I guess those of us who put ourselves out there and write about various subjects will have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth but that said, how much more uplifted do we all feel when we receive a comment from someone who has enjoyed reading our musings or found some of our advice to be helpful? We write for all sorts of reasons; some of us find it a release for anxiety, a chance to put our thoughts into words and reach out to others, to be creative and to send out some sort of message to the world.  The written word is, and always will be a valuable and immensely informative, often moving way of connecting us to the past, to feelings and emotions felt since time began; and words laid down now will be a comfort those who will go after us.

So maybe if we could all concentrate on what is good  – leave encouraging comments and keep negative thoughts to our selves, how much better social media would be!

Sometimes actions speak louder than words.  There is a description in one of my favourite books ‘In Tune with the Infinite’ by Ralph Waldo Infinite, about a man who owned a beautiful lotus pond. It was in a natural basin on his farm, supplied with water from a reservoir in the foothills some distance away:

‘ A gate regulated the flow of water from the main reservoir to the pond. It was a spot of transcendent beauty. There, through the days of perfect summer weather, the lotus flowers lay full blown on the surface of the clear, transparent water. June roses and other wild flowers were continually blooming upon its banks. The birds came here to drink and bathe, and from early to late one could hear the melody of their song. The bees were continually buzzing and at work in this garden of wild flowers. A beautiful grove in which many kinds of wild berries and many varieties of ferns grew stretched at the back of the pond as far as the eye could see. The good man who owned the grounds put up a sign to welcome all people to the lotus pond so good were his intentions. Here, were often merry groups of children playing and those who were weary could rest. Men and women seemed to be lifted of their heavy burdens. Many called the place ‘The Garden of God’. The man called it his ‘soul garden’. He would often sit and enjoy the fragrant flowers and sit on a bench in the moonlight. He was a man with a simple outlook but in this place, all his successful dreams and plans came to light. Everything in the vicinity seemed to breathe a spirit of love and kindness, comfort and good cheer. Even the cattle and sheep in the fields flourished. The gate of the pond was always open giving them pure mountain water to drink. For so long this wonderful place flourished until sadly, the man had to go away for a year. A new man was put in charge; one who had not much time for anything other than practicalities. He turned off the water flow and made the area private and invited no visitors. A great change came over everything; the flowers in the pond wilted; birds no longer came to drink and sing and the flowers no longer bloomed. The bees no longer hummed and as the stream dried up so the cattle no longer got their supply of water so they perished. By shutting the gate to the pond, thus preventing the flow of water from the reservoir in the hills, which was the source of life, the appearance of and around the beautiful lotus pond was entirely changed.’

Do we not see a parallel here? When we are connected to the source of good things, to the infinite, then all good things flow, and we live in harmony with the universe. We are connected to beauty and all things that are pure and health-giving. When this is taken from us or we disconnect from what is good, then we can fail to flourish, just like the lotus pond.

So on the days when we are feeling less than optimistic its good to remind ourselves to stay focused, to remember that good actions and good deeds bring the best results, and that when our hearts are open to others we live and let live. We remember that everyone has their own thoughts and opinions and we respect their right to go their own way.

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In Memory – For My Dad ……

 

You will always be there,
Just as you were;
Standing strongly
Laughing at something I said,
Which pleased me.
And you’ll be there when
The tide rushes in and
Pulls at my feet in the sand.
And when I hear
The sound of the brass band
Playing the tunes that made
Your lip quiver
I will remember your loving heart.
You’ll be there when I serve
The Sunday roast
With all the essential trimmings,
And when the grandchildren
Skip around the kitchen
In the way that made you smile.
You’ll be beside me when I
Drive around those country lanes
In a way that made you suck in your breath
As your hand reached for the door handle.
Most of all, you’ll be forever behind me
Seriously watching over me,
Urging caution but bolstering me
With the humour that was
Always just below the surface
Even when the day
Drew to a close.

(C) Lyn Halvorsen 4E7C6338-8402-44E5-9A1E-BAF3982E6F4F