Why We Should All Walk the Brightest Path…

We should all be able to feel safe this Christmas, in all four corners of the world..

This morning we took an early morning walk. The sun had just come up but there was a chill in the air making us hope we have a cold, crisp Christmas .

As we wound our way round the village and walked back up the hill toward the woods behind Dove Lane, the path beneath our feet sparkled in the winter sun. Looking more closely, I could see there were hundreds of glass chips embedded in the tarmac. I had never noticed this before; maybe it was the direction of the sun or the time of day, but the effect was magical. The path glittered like something out of a fairy tale and I half expected to be transported to a different land – maybe if I had wished hard enough I may have seen one of Santa’s elves peaking out from behind one of the trees! I thought about the beauty that surrounds us whoever we are and whatever our circumstances; rich or poor, we are all entitled to walk along a glittery pathway.

We are all created as equals. Sometimes it is easy to forget that. I certainly do. I think most of us, at some time in our lives, have looked up at someone we see as more famous, wealthy or seemingly more accomplished than ourselves and felt a little overshadowed. It is a habit that is hard to shake off. But we all have our skills, our own uniqueness that no-one can take away. We can all have a chance to shine and take a walk along a special path. There are so many unsung heroes we may pass along the way; those who carry on in the most dire circumstances, and still raise a smile.

This time of year, as I rush around crossing things off my long Christmas ‘to do’ list I often stop in my tracks and remember to be grateful. There are so many people without a roof over their heads, both in our country and in foreign lands. So many innocent children caught up in wars that have absolutely nothing to do with them apart from raging in the lands they happen to be born in. How can this be? The contrast between different lives is sometimes overwhelming.

One day, I hope there will be a world where every child, indeed every human being, has a home where they feel safe and secure at Christmas and all through the year – a place where they can stop and look out through the window at the moon and stars, and feel at peace.

I sat drinking a hot chocolate with a friend today and we talked about life; how things sometime surprise us and turn out differently than expected. How sometimes it’s hard to take the rough with the smooth. How busy life can be at times. But would we really want to walk in anyone else’s shoes, however important they are?

I love this Malagasy proverb –

‘ A canoe does not know who is King, when it turns over, everyone gets wet.’

I hope you can walk the glittery Christmas path today.

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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!

 

 

 

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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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

Why Do We Keep Up Appearances? Be Yourself and Feel Better…

Do you ever feel a bit like Eeyore?

Do you ever feel as though you are the only one in your circle or tribe that has dark times? Times when you struggle to put one foot in front of the other; you feel bad and you don’t even know why sometimes, or you are feeling low and worries and anxious feelings creep in? These are often the times when you look around you and see everyone’s else supposedly getting on with life – skipping around looking like they don’t have a care in the world. You may look upon them with feelings tinged with envy because they appear to have everything sorted out. But do they really?

During my counselling years, one of the most striking features about some clients I worked with was how terrifically well they appeared to be coping. Smart appearance; good fitness regime; holding down a career and running a home: it could have been easy to imagine such people didn’t have a care in the world. And maybe that’s what their family and friends thought too. And yet when the person began to open up during their sessions I would often find that behind the smart facade was someone suffering deeply, and feeling alone in their distress. Often, they were the sort of people who didn’t want to burden their families  – maybe other issues were going on which they didn’t want to add to, or maybe they just didn’t want to appear vulnerable. The trouble with keeping up appearances though, is that stress can gradually build over time and feelings of isolation can keep growing.

One of my mantras in life is ‘never assume anything’, and this actually stands me in good stead in many ways. I’ve learned over the years that virtually everyone we meet in life has had moments when they feel like escaping from the world; getting under the duvet for twenty four hours or setting off down the road like Dick Whittington, carrying nothing more than a few belongings tied in knotted handkerchief on the end of a stick and with just a faithful cat for company.

Most of us are lucky to have good friends and yet how many times do we really open up and tell them how we really feel. If you are like me, the normal stock reply you give to most questions about how you are doing is ‘I’m good thanks’. None of us want to be a burden with our woes and none of us want to appear negative or grumpy. And of course, being positive and upbeat is a really good way to be and plays a part in lifting our spirits and can help change our outlook. But there are times when we can really benefit from being honest and getting something out in the open; and we can also find that we gain much more insight into another person’s feelings and behaviour. To show a friend or loved one that we trust them with our feelings is showing them how much we value them too. We don’t want to be glad to hear other people have been through bad times but it does help us when we hear someone’s personal story – to hear how they overcame their fears or adversity and found light at the end of the tunnel – and even transformation – for what can be more encouraging than that? And if we recount our worries and someone says “ It’s okay, I’ve been there – here’s my thoughts which might help” – it can feel literally like a trouble shared is a trouble halved as the saying goes.

This ‘opening up’ to people takes time. I find it much easier to give than to receive in all areas of my life. I love sharing gifts and know too, the importance of giving out kindness and being generous in all ways, not just financially. Sometimes, even when we seek help professionally (which I would advise if you really can’t seem to cope) and we are paying for counselling services – we may still struggle to look right and still try and maintain a good front because it is so ingrained in us to do so. Why is it hard to ask for kindness, advice or attention? We need to remember that there are good and loving people out there who would love to help given the chance.

Another point to remember is this: you may feel totally fed up with your story; your particular angst and worry. You may think no one will be interested in hearing it, or you may fear they will think you are daft. If you have been overtly anxious you will be tired –  (trust me, anxiety is the most tiring emotion in the world), but to the person you talk to, this is a new story; one to be viewed with fresh eyes, from a new angle and a new perspective. I doub’t very much if there is a person who wouldn’t want to reach out to you and be kind, to take on the privilege of helping you feel better. And if you do come across someone who isn’t on your wave length, don’t take it personally. They may be suffering too and not in the right place to help. For now, they are not ‘your’ person but I promise you, your person is out there.

Think about Eeyore. He was grumpy and he was miserable but his friends knew he had a good and loving heart.

    ‘One awesome thing about Eeyore is that even though he is clinically depressed, he still gets invited to participate in adventures and shenanigans with all of his friends. What is amazing is that they never expect him to pretend to feel happy, they never leave him behind or ask him to change, THEY JUST SHOW HIM LOVE.’

I hope you are in a good place, but if you are not, reach out to someone today, even in a small way. Open your heart a little. Let in a little beam of light as you lift the corner of the duvet. And remember –  Dick Whittington may have been in dire straights when he walked off into the distance but he eventually found good fortune and became the Mayor of London! You may not wish to be Mayor (or you may but that’s another story!) but you CAN change things.

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