Searching for unicorns…

Unicorn2 I’m a dreamer, an optimist and a Piscean – a combination some might consider a recipe for disaster. Not only do I like to (occasionally) live outside of the real world but I also believe there’s got to be a better world that I may have a cat in hell’s chance of creating…there has to be more to life than the card that has been handed down, and I have a duty to do what I can to make it so 🙂 Ever since I was really young, I was the same. Obsessed with stories, adventure and mythical creatures – I could spend hours just lying in the grass on a warm Summer’s day dreaming about all manner of things… from the places I would explore one day, to the stories I would write as a famous novelist, onto how amazing it would feel to be in love with someone with all my heart… So I would spend days looking up at skies of pure blue and feeling so happy and full of anticipation I could burst. But I think I knew at the back of my mind that one day I would need to grow up and become ‘sensible’ – I would need to give up the daydreaming and tone down my imagination. I would need to swap unicorn chasing for a steady job and an occasional adventure. The trouble is, although I now have the steady career and sensible life, I’m not so sure I’ve quite given up the chase. There are still some things in life that feel like the proverbial unicorn…talked about, rumoured to exist, glimpsed by some and yet, so illusive and out of reach to me. There are things other people claim to have seen, experienced and felt but still, they continue to escape me until I begin to question whether the things I really desire are out there at all.  Perhaps the thing(s) I want with all my heart and soul is so beautiful and pure it might as well be a mythical creature…but still I search and still I long for a sign that it’s real. To put this another way, have you ever had the feeling that perhaps you are looking for something that may not exist or materialise? It might be a feeling, an idea, a person or a dream place – the ‘something’ is a thing you’ve held onto for a day or even a lifetime and yet it is so important to you, you’re not sure you’d be able to look back on life and say you’ve truly ‘lived’ without having experienced it? So at what point should you just accept that your ideas and dreams may not translate to every day life and they are not for this world… Your long held desires need to be discarded and replaced with the reality of ‘what is’ rather than what could be… I suppose the challenge I’m trying to work through in this blog is how you balance out remaining ambitious and hopeful in achieving your dreams and desires with being realistic and accepting when you’ve given it your best shot and it’s the right time to let it go. I’m optimistic enough to believe that I should be able to achieve what I set out to achieve in this life but I hate the thought that I could be holding onto an ‘ideal’ that may never be. Desiring something that may never happen has been known to make people bitter and cynical – something I am determined never to become.  So can you be hopeful and hopeless all at the same time? A hopelessly hopeful dreamer perhaps 😉 You see, the seductive thing about dreaming is that it represents hope and hope provides a purpose to life. For example, I might hope to have my own business one day and so it gives me something to aim for – therefore the steps I take in my career are towards that purpose. Or perhaps I dream of a better world in which people feel appreciated and respected for who they are – therefore the way in which I behave and interact with people around me will be towards (on some small level) achieving that goal. My own personal dream which is very close to my heart is about my desire to cultivate a life filled with ‘real’ connections and ‘real’ relationships – it’s about really seeing people as they truly are and that they will see me as I truly am. I get so tired sometimes of so many ‘surface level’ friendships and relationships where we talk about such meaningless things…I’m someone who needs connection and meaning (not all the time – don’t get me wrong, I can have my silly carefree moments like the best of ’em! 😉 ). I keep chasing the idea that one day I’ll meet more people who just ‘get’ and love me for me…and I for them. I guess it’s my view that there are just some dreams that if you let them go, you may let go of a part of yourself….it’s like accepting that you’ve failed to achieve something you really wanted to achieve. But equally at the same time, the down side of never letting go of the unobtainable is that it may hold you back in other ways that you don’t even realise… So, in my soul searching what exactly have I come to conclude? Well this has been a particularly tough one for me and I don’t think there is one black and white answer that anyone can tell you about when to keep going and when to give up, but here are my thoughts… 1. Keep chasing until it holds you back. I think it’s important not to let go too quickly…all the mythical stories of unicorn chasing almost always involve a huge amount of perseverance and blood, sweat and tears before the character finally catches the long awaited glimpse. In real life, most dreams worth pursuing may be hard work and require a huge amount of faith. But the point at which perseverance tips over into pain and disappointment, perhaps it’s time to make the call about whether continuing is the right thing to do. 2. Dream in multiples. The one thing I have most definitely learnt is how important it is not to put all your eggs in one basket – having several dreams which you hold close to your heart helps you in striving for a fuller and richer life, but also helps in taking the edge of the disappointment if one doesn’t materialise. If one seems impossible or out of reach, shift focus to another. 3. Make your own decision – don’t let others tell you what is or isn’t obtainable. Someone once said to me that I should never limit my accomplishments to other peoples’ expectations of me and just like that piece of advice, I don’t think you should let others tell you what you can and can’t dream of for your life. Listen to advice, of course, but use the advice to make a decision that you can own completely. I’ve always believed advice is (mostly!) for confirming a decision you’ve sort of made anyway… All in all I guess what I’ve learnt is that dreaming is a positive thing… until it’s not! Holding onto an idealistic dream of something which may never happen can of course hold us back from enjoying the present and ‘what is’ but our hopes and dreams can also give us passion and purpose. They can give us ideas for what our future may hold and can stir up excitement about what we might be capable of…An amazing man once said: ‘There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living’ Nelson Mandela

What’s new pussycat?

What's new

Happy 2014 one and all! This officially marks a year and a half of blogging for me so I’m starting the year feeling good for persevering…when I started this, I didn’t even know if I’d make it past post one but clearly I’m a gal with a lot to talk about 😉

I am also a gal starting the New Year feeling different, something has changed.

Let me begin with tackling the ever contentious topic of New Year resolutions since it sets the context of this post nicely. The range of responses to this topic can be (generally speaking) summarised into two camps – those who don’t DO NY resolutions and those who use it to kick start something they’ve been putting off doing for a while. Personally (just to be difficult some might say 😉 ) I like to approach it slightly differently. I set myself NY aims with the understanding that although I want to have a goal(s) for the year ahead, if for some reason I don’t quite reach it or I let it go, I won’t waste time giving myself a hard time over it. For example, my aim this year is to do at least 12 hikes of varying difficulty and length (starting at 8 miles and working up to 18). I’ve already begun positively but if I get distracted and don’t reach my goal I won’t be too hard on myself. As a result of this, the pressure is immediately lifted and my goal becomes something I WANT to do rather than something I feel obligated to do.

This way of seeing things is a new perspective for me…I used to fall into the ‘all or nothing’ camps above. Each year December 31st would come around and I’d do my usual reflective thing and wonder why I felt a bit rubbish, even when the year had been full of achievements. After reading some excellent and insightful books, I realised that when I didn’t set any NY goals I felt as though I hadn’t strived to achieve anything for the year. But, when I did set the goals, I had set the wrong goals and therefore set myself up for failure…resulting in constantly giving myself a hard time for not achieving what I’d set out to achieve! Basically a ‘lose-lose’ situation. This is when I arrived at the small (but significant!) idea to set goals but to make them guilt free and fun to do.

But why is this significant enough to be writing about I hear you ask (or more accurately, I imagine you ask because hearing voices would just be plain disturbing at 10 o’clock on a Sunday eve!:) ). Well it’s significant because it’s part of a whole new way of approaching things for me and as ever, when I have these changes I like to share them for my own clarity and also in the hope that it might help / stimulate ideas for someone else in the world too 🙂

So, what’s new? Over Christmas in particular and through some of 2013 I decided to read more – I love psychology and therefore I picked out books that specifically look at exploring and changing ways of thinking. I am currently about a quarter of the way through a book on how to bring about positive change. What this book (and some great ‘Psychologies’ magazine articles) has changed for me is my ability to understand the things that drive and motivate me. In doing this, it has changed both my ability to bring more positive things into my life and has also taught me how to deal with the negative a little better. Let me give two examples to illustrate my point:

  • The positive – I used to bounce between fitness drive after fitness drive, never understanding why I would keep flaking out after a matter of months. The reason, I discovered, is because I focussed on the wrong motivation – outward physical benefit rather than inner mental well-being benefits. Once I decided that the way it made me feel emotionally was more important than a physical reward, it changed what I wanted to do in order to achieve it…hence my switch to hiking rather than gym. Hiking gets me outdoors and I feel great after every walk completed – better still, it’s free, I can do it independently and I can do it whenever I feel the need day or night. And guess what? I can already see some physical benefit too! Bonus!
  • Dealing with the negative – when someone let me down I used to find it all-consuming. I’d keep thinking about all the things that could have gone better, all the things I blamed myself for and ultimately, tie myself up in knots working out why things went wrong. The worst part was, I beat myself up for even having these thoughts! The trick to dealing with it now is simple. I allow myself to feel whatever naturally comes to me, acknowledge the way I feel and then consciously decide whether I have the power to change it. If I can’t change it, I tell myself to put it to the back of my mind and think of something else. I’ve cut out the self-criticism and just accepted that sometimes you can’t control your thoughts but you CAN control what you do with them next.

Because this is a relatively new way of seeing things, I am yet to be really tested on it and so I can’t say whether it’s something that can be maintained through the toughest moments and times of greatest ‘wobble’ – I guess we shall see! The bottom line I suppose I’m getting to, is that from what I’ve learnt, it is entirely possible to change your thought patterns and way of seeing things – the key is mostly about understanding yourself, and in particular, understanding what motivates you. We all strive to be happy in life and to me, that’s about how you maximise the positive and limit the negative.

So, top tips of what I’ve learnt thus far (and I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to share as I read and grow!):

Start with the basics and get to know yourself. Strip back things to the absolute basics and ask yourself what motivates you. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Think of a time when you really persevered with something or achieved something great, what was it that sustained you and gave you the drive to keep going? I bet if you look at a few of these times in your life, you’ll see a theme start to emerge.

Don’t be unkind to yourself. If you don’t achieve a goal or have a thought cross your mind that you don’t like, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you beat yourself up, you are only doubling the pain – something has happened that you don’t like AND you’re giving yourself an ear bashing!! By all means acknowledge and reflect but just accept that whatever it is has happened and it’s time to focus on something else more positive. Trust me, the conscious acknowledgment of a thought or a situation is half the battle – upon acknowledging you then have control of the decision to either dwell or ‘put it away’.

Be determined to feel positive. Yes I know this is easier said than done, particularly in some really crappy situations, but you really ARE in control of your own feelings and so you can decide to find something (or better still a few things!) in a day to feel good about. More importantly, never go to sleep feeling bad – do something before bed to clear the mind and replace it with the good thoughts. You might laugh, but I even have a book of mantras I like to read when I feel rubbish – just positive sayings I’ve noted down to help me smile about things 🙂

As I say, there is still so much to learn but these are the three things I currently use to feel good and it’s working. Just as the saying goes that you ‘count the pennies and the pounds look after themselves’, I like to think that you make small steps and have mini epiphanies and the bigger picture will fall into place!

My final thought to end on before I hit the hay to get some beauty sleep, therefore is this… I am hoping so much that the new perspective lasts and by putting it into writing it also rubs off on some of you lovely people. It has really helped me to stress less and be kinder to myself. But do you know what? Even if it doesn’t last and you all think I’ve gone slightly mad, I’m not worrying as I’ll dust myself down and I’ll just start again…that’s the beauty of what I’ve learned, you can always try again and you can keep striving for happiness however many shots it may take to get there 🙂

Believe your value…

Know your value

 

I love people – that’s a fact. When I see my friends and family I see wonderful, creative and inspirational people whom I consider myself lucky to know and spend time with. I made myself a promise long ago to make a conscious effort only to fill my life with people who make me feel good, who inspire my curiosity and who would help me learn more about the people and the world around me.

Yet over the past few weeks I have heard many a good friend criticize and belittle themselves – saying things that had I heard a stranger say it, I would have confronted them for speaking about my friend in such a way. I even heard one friend tell me that she blamed herself for her long-term boyfriend having cheated on her – that somehow a fault of hers had led to him going elsewhere! Another told me that he felt he had somehow deserved the frankly disgusting behaviour afforded to him by his employer and perhaps he should have been more ‘accepting’.

Of course on hearing all these stories I soon put them straight (anyone who knows me can imagine how quickly that was done! 😉 ). I also asked them to consider whether, had the same situation happened to me, would they be laying the blame and responsibility at my door? The answer was of course ‘no’ and the point was made. So then moving on from self-blame we were able to talk about how they felt and what did it mean for tomorrow, the next day and a longer term future. From destructive blame to positive solution (helped by a big glass of vino! :)).

But on thinking about my friends I have realised that I am just as (if not more!) guilty of doing exactly the same on a daily basis…constant self criticism, constant self blame and a large helping of regret…

– ‘If I’d just played that differently, perhaps it would have had a different outcome’

– ‘If I’d just been less honest and held back more…’

– ‘If I’d just said it in a different way…’

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. I always told myself that this thought pattern was positive because I’m a ‘very self-reflective person don’t ya know!’ but the reality is, that self-reflection turns to self-destruction the moment you go from learning to approach things differently to blaming yourself for doing things ‘wrong’. Until this weekend, if I were to play back my self dialogue it would sound as though I felt I was to blame for all the world’s ills and conversely, any successes were down to pure luck!

So why are we always so tough on ourselves, yet such advocates for other people? Why do we value others so dearly and not even believe our own self worth?

If we start with looking at any given situation in life, the fact of the matter is that maybe you are responsible for the outcome and maybe you aren’t… so why automatically assume the blame when something goes wrong? In most situations there is usually more than one factor at play so why should we ignore the rest and focus in on ‘me’? The reason in most cases (including my own!) is control. In the majority of situations we cannot control others’ feelings / opinions / behaviours or the external environment around us but we can control our own internal thoughts and behaviours. So naturally when something doesn’t work out as we’d hoped, we focus on what we can have a chance of changing…ourselves. The trouble with this approach is, perhaps there was no need for us to change – we were probably great just the way we were.

The epiphany I have had this week is that self-blame and constant criticism holds us back from solutions and success. It does this because the only solution to something where you are to blame, is to change ‘you’ and lets face it, we can all change a little but we cannot become a whole new person…and neither should we. The better thing to try and change (and probably the easier thing!) is your perspective…stop seeing yourself as the cause of all wrong and ill in the world and instead, see yourself as the brilliant, unique and successful person you are!! (And if you don’t believe me go ask your loved ones, they’ll soon back me up! 😉 ).

This girl on this weekend has done exactly that. I’ve had enough and I’ve decided to change things – from this point on there will be less self-blame and more self-belief. If an employer, a love interest, a friend or anyone else for that matter doesn’t recognise what I can bring to their life and they don’t seize it with both hands, then it will be their loss rather than a fault of mine.

And for anyone wishing to do the same, here’s how I’m personally going to approach it:

Practice: For something to change and for something to become a habit it must be repeated over and over again. This is no different. I am telling myself on a daily basis to believe in my abilities and keep trying. I’m a capable, strong and decent person.

Catch negative thought patterns before they bring you down: If I slip into bad thought patterns, I am consciously stopping myself from listening. I’m sure on occasions I’ll slip up and allow myself to let them sink through but I’ll keep trying to replace them with something positive.

Listen to people when they tell you good things, believe it: When people I respect and love tell me I’m a good person I’m going to listen properly and play it back to myself during tough times. By not listening to friends and family, you are effectively disregarding their opinion so do them (and you!) a favour and take it in 🙂

Use it to grow success and resilience: If I want to be successful, strong and resilient I need to believe in myself and roll with the punches. To achieve great things you first have to believe you can do it.

Challenge yourself everyday: The achievement and recognition of challenges, however small, reinforces self-belief. Even if the challenge is just to get up an hour early one morning you’ll feel good when you manage to do it – it proves you can do whatever you apply your mind to doing.

Trust and rely on yourself: The one person who will always be in your life is ‘you’! It sounds obvious but learning to love and trust yourself is the key to feeling confident in whatever direction your life twists and turns – anyone else who chooses to join you along the way is just the lucky passenger along for the ride 😉

It is worth saying, however, that none of this is to suggest you should go through life cocky, arrogant or over-confident…that’s not the point. The point is to believe in yourself as a person capable of great things and to feel happy and satisfied in that knowledge. Of course there will be times when your behaviour has been less than ideal – reflect on it, learn from it and improve for next time. Everyone goes wrong from time to time but mostly when a rubbish situation occurs, it has more than one person or thing responsible for it. It is not just you! By believing in yourself more and blaming yourself less, you can enjoy success and cope with the bad times better.

Our parents, our friends, our partners, our (insert important person here) all tell us how brilliant we are and we respect their opinion on all other matters so why not on this? How is it that we know better? Trust your loved ones, trust yourself and skip into work tomorrow happy in the knowledge you are a brilliant person and that you will always give life your best 🙂 (Okay, okay…perhaps skipping into work is a tall order – lets say crawl in with a coffee in hand instead 😉 ).

A wise man once said ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are usually right’ – so go out there and believe you ‘can’!!

First cut is the deepest…?

PhoenixRising

So the song after which the title of this blog is named, would have us believe that the first time you ever love, get hurt or feel let down is the hardest. The first ‘cut’ takes it so deep that the scars take years, even lifetimes to heal – that you’ll never quite get over that first time when you learned the hard lesson about how bittersweet being in love can be.

But for me it’s simply not true – the fourth, fifth or sixth time you finally allow someone in again only to have them hurt you in ways you never thought possible is truly the worst. You see, not only do you have the deep hurt to contend with but you also have to deal with the additional pain of knowing you ‘should have known better’, or that by now you somehow should have learned to spot the signs and switch off your heart a lot faster.

I can’t lie – it really, truly and utterly hurts to be let down and disappointed…and I’ve had more than my fair share. I’ve always believed myself to be a pretty resilient gal too, able (after a day or two) to dust myself off and come back stronger than ever and with a smile to boot. But just as the rocks start to crumble at a cliff edge after weathering one too many storms, I can feel myself slipping. Two people this year I guess have been those final storms and I just don’t know that bouncing back is an option anymore. Outwardly yes, I’ll ensure those around me aren’t made to feel uncomfortable and so to all intents and purposes I’m ‘over it’, but inwardly I genuinely feel as though something has gone, giving way to a feeling of loss and despair.

The realisation that you allowed yourself to develop deep feelings for someone who can pass you off as ‘not important enough’ or as second best to someone else is a feeling that makes me feel sick to my stomach and entirely deflated. And yet I can never say the words aloud because vulnerability and bare naked emotions seem to be synonymous with weakness and unattractiveness in today’s society. Quite aside from that, they also seem to make people pretty uncomfortable. The trouble with hurt and heartache is, there is no easy answer or quick fix – sometimes I do sympathise with friends because quite frankly, there is nothing to say to make things better.

Even now I am sat here thinking twice about whether to go ahead and publish this. I’ve been a strong and sassy gal in so many ways and I know that writing as I am, I’m revealing a side of me I try to keep locked far away. The side that openly admits I’m feeling bruised, stupid and alone. I have no idea where this shame comes from because, hand on heart, if anyone I know came to me with this, I’d think them brave and offer a very open, judgment free ear. But somehow I can’t quite expect the same for myself…

And I think this is the way in which multiple hurts and heartbreaks really affect you – it cuts right to the core of your being. You look around you and feel as though you’re the only one allowing yourself to be hurt time and again, so you actually start to think that somehow you’re not good enough, there’s something wrong with you and that you don’t deserve (and will never have) the happiness that others seem to find so easy. These are the true scars that opening yourself up to the wrong people leave behind. These are the consequences. Your self-love and self-belief are shot to pieces until all that is left are the ashes of your optimistic self. This, no-one will ever truly understand because they haven’t been where you are and haven’t felt the things you have felt.

But..(she says with a faint glimmer of a smile) I have always loved the story of the phoenix rising from the ashes and so perhaps there is hope for me yet. As utterly pained as I feel now, I will find a way to heal – I just need to work out what it is. Writing is a help clearly and so, too is being honest…:) Distraction could also be a very attractive option right now! I do try really hard to see the positives in life and so I need to really try to do the same here.

Putting my measured and balanced head on for a moment I think I’ll conclude with this thought: In being hurt by people I don’t think I have shown weakness, instead I have shown a willingness to be open and true – to keep hoping and to keep ‘putting myself out there’. With any luck one day I’ll find someone who doesn’t abuse that but instead respects and admires it – it will be the glue that holds us together and the thing that will heal all the ‘wrongs’ of my past.

Afterall, if you don’t have hope (however small it may be) then you don’t have a huge lot.

No half measures…

Half measures
Life is for living and you have to live it with your whole heart, not just parts of it. I’ve always believed in this philosophy passionately and it explains why I will often reach decisions quickly, see them through to the very end and prefer that if I am to regret anything it should be the things I’ve done, not the things I haven’t. I don’t do things by half measures – it’s all or it’s nothing, you either do something completely or you don’t do it at all.

Interestingly though, I’ve never considered myself to be a ‘black and white’ sort of girl – I know that life has many colours on a spectrum far wider than just black, white and grey. For example, I believe that someone could come to me with pretty much any scenario, dilemma, issue or reflection and I would remain open-minded and judgement free…because I know only too well that life can be complicated, surprising and a long way from clear cut. But recently, I’ve found myself frustrated and uncharacteristically annoyed with people and situations that seem to float within the grey area of my philosophy which I have been so determined shouldn’t exist.

The frustrating ones are often the people and situations that seemingly have no ‘resolution’ – resolution in the sense of having an ending / outcome and in terms of those people lacking in resolve or determination. There are certain situations and people I just wish were either one thing or another, black or white, open or closed and it really plays on my mind when they have any kind of ambiguity. In this sense I feel contradictory because on the whole I’m very open-minded and fluid but in this respect, I am quite resolute in my need for resolution and clarity.

I first noticed this pattern in relation to my love life but I think it also plays into work, friendships and everyday situations too. I’m an open and decisive gal and I like to know where I’m headed. Drifting along worries me because I could easily ‘drift’ into something that hurts me or isn’t right and that, dear readers, to my mind is a waste of time. As is spending hours on end agonising over a decision or situation when the answers are there for the takin’, if you can be brave enough to take the plunge. Thus when it comes to dating (for example) I’ll fairly quickly need to establish that I’m on the same page as the other person – once that’s out the way, I’ll settle down and let things move at their own pace. I’m not scared of hearing or doing something I don’t like but knowing what you’re dealing with sooner rather than later I feel is the way in which you make the most of your time on earth. It enables closure when things aren’t right but it also enables moving forward positively when they are. I need clarity and I’ll genuinely go to the ends of the earth to get it (well, the furthest I’ve been before was jumping on a plane to Egypt but hey, that’s pretty far! :)) – I suppose come rain or shine I just like to know whether to pack my umbrella or my sunnies 😉

I know I’m not alone in this way of living – some of you reading this are similar I’m sure. But it feels like I’m encountering more and more people and situations where drifting, lack of decision-making and generally ‘grey area floating’ seems to be the norm. Let me give some examples (admittedly ranging from the ridiculously mundane and everyday to larger, more significant situations but hey, I like to use variety!! :)):

Situation 1: Friends who take days to reply to simple text messages. To my mind you’re either in a conversation or you’re not – if this were a phone call or face to face situation you wouldn’t stretch a conversation out over days. For one thing by the time you respond I’ve forgotten what we were talking about and for another, it loses its ‘flow’. I know life sometimes gets in the way and it’s not always possible to get back straight away but this should be an exception not a rule. Talk to me or don’t but please don’t drift somewhere in-between.

Situation 2: Taking a decision to holiday but not booking the travel. If you decide you want to go on holiday or go to see someone in another country you need to put actions to words. Decisions that are made without the necessary actions to see them through are the most frustrating of all – if you can’t do what’s necessary then perhaps you should have reached a different decision.

Situation 3: Deciding not to close down an organisation or workstream after months of uncertainty but effectively doing so through restructure and remodelling. Decisions that sound like one thing but effectively mean the other are just the worst because to me, it means you weren’t brave enough to voice your real intentions and instead chose to sneakily call it something else. It assumes that you can ‘trick’ people into believing something that isn’t real. Call a spade a spade please.

Situation 4: Having regrets and wishing you’d just…(insert reflection here). We all have some small scale regrets (for example I wish I’d had coffee this morning instead of tea!) but looking back on life and wishing you’d done something majorly different is not a healthy way to live. When you regret the decisions you didn’t make or the dreams you didn’t pursue it’s the saddest thing to hear. I know I’ve made some decisions that haven’t always worked out well but looking back, I’m still glad I made them – wondering ‘what if’ is enough to drive anyone to distraction!

Okay, I think I’ll stop with the scenarios now as I think I’ve made my point 😉 But I guess what I’m getting at is about having the courage of your convictions to see things through. Some of the toughest decisions I’ve made have not always led to where I’d hoped they would…but sometimes they’ve led to somewhere better. When I flew out to Egypt to see if this ‘thing’ I felt with a guy I’d met travelling would work, it didn’t result in me finding the love of my life but I was glad and proud of going for it whole-heartedly… and I’d do it again tomorrow. Finding closure, resolution, peace, clarity or whatever you want to call it is the main thing – for some people that’s not important and for some even the drifting and uncertainty is a draw. I suppose it’s about knowing who you are and what’s important to you. Answers and knowing where I stand in this life are important to me.

Final thought? Well I remember quite vividly someone once saying: ” A life lived in fear is a life half-lived” – well as a gal who won’t accept any half-measures I guess this means I have to keep facing the fears and seeking my answers…I remain hopeful though that one day this will help me to cut through the ‘grey’ and into the answers I really want and deserve! I hope you too will do the same 🙂

I have a dream…

shebelieved-786x1024

What do you want to be when you grow up? The million dollar question we continue to ask ourselves even when we have by definition ‘grown up’ a very long time ago. But just recently I think I may have found my answer…(and no, sorry to disappoint it’s not to become a blog-writing, tap dancing, burlesque queen 😉 ).

Quite simply, my purpose and passion is this: (If and when I grow up :)) I would like to be happy and I would like to make the people around me happy too. There, that’s it. I realise it’s not exactly a trailblazing ephiphany but bare with me and please keep reading as I explain more…if for no other reason than the fact that I also need you, my lovely reader, to step up to the mantle and help me out with a little something 🙂

Okay as is usually the way with my entries, I want to explain where I’m coming from on this. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking (no change there then!!) in an effort to understand myself better and get properly focussed upon what it is I’m doing here (that’s ‘here’ as in planet Earth, not ‘here’ as in Arnold which is a different question entirely 😉 ) and also giving thought to how I want to leave my stamp on the world. In spending some time thinking about it, I realised that from a young age we are all striving to find our purpose / our focus /  our talents / our calling / etc in life. A lucky few happen to find it easily and early, some seem to have a whole path already laid out for them, while others (the majority I would say) keep struggling through, continually trying to clear the fog and reach the refuge of clarity. All of us have to know we have something to ‘be’ in life because without knowing that, it’s hard not to wonder what the hell we are doing to make full use of the short time we have on Earth.

But in trying to ask myself all these ‘big’ life affirming questions, I just found that I was getting more and more confused and annoyed. So then I decided to strip things completely back to basics and simply ask myself this – what is the most common thing I am seeking in all that I do? In work, play and all the things inbetween what do I want? Is it money? Is it respect? Fun? Fulfilment?

A few mugs of coffee and multiple doodles later and the answer jumped out to me plain as day…I just want to feel happy. In work, love, friendships and all the other important things in life I’m looking for that feeling of happiness and satisfaction. The one simple (and often forgotten) answer to the ‘what do you want to be’ question is really just to be happy. It’s something we all have in common and it’s something we all deserve to feel. But sussing out the feeling is the easy part…the tough question after that becomes….yes, but how do I do it??

I won’t go on to bore you with all the details of what I decided to do next but essentially, I reached a point where I made a great long list of all of the things that make me happy and make me unhappy. I then started drawing up a plan as to how I can bring more of those happiness inducing things into my life and minimise the things that sap it. It won’t be an easy (or short) process but at least there’s a starting point now.

One of the biggest features on my list (if not the biggest) was the area I am now starting to think of as as my purpose / mission / focus: I am going to begin directing my life more towards helping people to be happy and satisfied. I want to spend time with people to find out what makes them tick and ultimately what makes them happy… I then want to give them the tools to ruddy well go out there and make it happen. There’s no qualification I’m going to study for / no professional name / no titles for what I’m suggesting, I am keeping it as simple as calling it my ‘happiness project’. All I know is that for me to be happy, I have to know that I’m helping others to achieve their own happiness and ambitions in life. Cheesy, cliched, idealistic and perhaps even somewhat self-satisfying it may sound but quite frankly, I don’t really care – I believe in it, so I’m going to do it. Me, you, a comfy chair, some coffee and a conversation – it’s as simple a starting point as that.

So now is the point at which you, lovely reader, can help me to realise my dream! My first stage is to bring together lots of pieces of brilliant advice / inspirational sayings / motivational stories / learnings etc. etc. and start to build up a sort of ‘brilliance bible’. I have an ambition to work with young adults in the near future (particularly young women) on uncovering their happiness drivers and sources of self-worth and looking at how this can help people to become confident, well-rounded, satisfied people capable of achieving great things in the world… It’s a developing idea but all ideas have to begin somewhere 🙂 So, if you are still reading this I would love to hear your thoughts and pieces of advice – I’m looking for the things that you’ve heard in your lifetime that have truly made a difference to you. Ask a bunch of your friends too and keep adding! Here are a few of mine to get the thinking juices flowing if it helps:

  • Know yourself and you’ll know happiness. When you love and accept yourself, so too will others.
  • Always try to find time in the day to remember your achievements, however small they might be
  • Be the change you want to see in the world
  • Dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition
  • Inaction is the enemy of thought
  • Be a friend and you will always find me yours
  • Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated (respect, dignity & honesty should be a given)

Not only will your thoughts and ideas be incredibly interesting to read in their own right but if my plans take off and one day go in the direction I hope they will, you can feel good that you’ve contributed something towards helping others to be happy. I can’t make any promises as to how this ‘project’ might progress – it could be the start of something simple but successful or it could just be another silly idea from an idealistic over-thinker 😉 Either way, all I know is that half battle in achieving your dreams is getting started on them so *deep breath* – here goes!!

A big thank you in advance… I’ll keep you ‘posted’ (no pun intended) 😉

A passionate compassion…

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I feel haunted and chilled to the bone – it’s cold and icy outside but that’s not the cause of this feeling of sad unease. Last night I watched what is usually considered light entertainment (and I’m sure by some, even as banal brain dulling fiction) but there is no denying that sometimes soaps on the telly tackle some pretty hard-hitting topics. The one turning my blood cold is a storyline where a young school-girl has been the victim of long-term, unrelenting emotional torture from her peers – I want to say bullying but the treatment is just so cruel it doesn’t seem to do it justice – and has resulted in her attempted suicide. It’s just so incredibly sad and one of those times where I wish so much that it was just another example of over-dramatic, unrealistic rubbish. Sadly though, the story is one that is all too commonly repeated in the media nowadays and one with which I am personally familiar after growing up in a not-so-brilliant comprehensive school.

Now I am well aware that this might make for a somewhat depressing and ‘serious’ blog entry but I feel so passionately about anti-bullying as a subject that I am obliged to write about it anyway. I think the reason it affects me so badly is two-fold – an absolute empathy for victims of bullying in all its forms and a desire to understand the despicable behaviour of those who take the decision to bully and torment.

To give a small snippet of background, the girl in the storyline has been visibly and quite obviously deteriorating emotionally and physically for some time while those around her miss or ignore the signs. She is 17 and at an age where life should be fun and the years ahead filled with excitement and opportunities to learn and grow. Instead the only path she can see is one ending with a bottle of vodka and a gutful of pills. Tragically, right to the very scene where she is about to try and end it all, people are doing her down and treating her with absolute contempt. I literally sat there on the sofa feeling sick with sadness for the situation. The thought that any person in this world (and particularly so many young people / children) could feel just so awful about life that they would consider ending things is beyond words to me… That so many people miss the signs and the opportunity to help makes it all the more upsetting. Couldn’t we all just be a little more aware and vigilant if it might help to save a life? I’m not saying the signs are obvious or even that there is always a way to save the situation but it seems to me that us adults have more that we should be doing to effectively tackle these awful situations.

The second disturbing aspect to the storyline is the attitude of her tormentors and those around her who did nothing to help. The coldness in the eyes and the denial of any kind of responsibility even when a young girl is lying on her deathbed is the thing that chills me right to the very core. How any person on this planet can find it amusing or entertaining to treat another with such contempt, disrespect and cruelty is just impossible for me to get my head around. I studied Psychology at university and looked into the minds and behaviours of a whole range of psychopaths and sociopaths and yet I will never, ever understand how a person could drive another to such despair and seemingly not bat an eyelid at the heartbreaking result. The final point of sadness is then how the school chooses to deal with it after the fact – denial, denial, denial. They ran a workshop and had a policy on anti-bullying and somehow thought that a piece of paper and half-hearted tick box exercise would constitute a robust and effective strategy…although I suspect if they reflected and were honest with themselves, they would know where the buck truly stops. The storyline in this soap just highlighted a prevalent and unrelenting problem in schools, offices and indeed within the playground of life generally. It also spoke to me of the disappointing fact that victims of bullying are let down by the people closest to them everyday.

But I wonder why I feel so incredibly incensed and distraught about it all because although there is a general consensus amongst most decent people that bullying is wrong, I’m yet to find anyone to talk with on the subject where I get a similar sense of feeling and shared injustice (correct me though if anyone reading this feels differently). I guess I have always had a burning passion for social justice and giving people a fair chance in life. I also ardently believe that respect and compassion should not be earned but instead freely given as a basic human right – bullying and any kind of ill-treatment of people is so counter to that value that perhaps it explains my intense feelings on the matter. I’ve also often thought that life can be tough enough on its own without having to put up with the cretins of this world who laugh and pick at others’ misfortunes.

So, what am I going to do about it I wonder? It’s all well and good writing on the subject but results and change are to be found in action, not inaction. Well I can’t say exactly what I’m going to do other than to think about it ALOT and find a way to make a difference. If I could, I would like to look every victim in the eye and tell them it is not their fault, that they ARE worth something and that they are a truly brilliant person capable of so many things…do NOT let those small-minded cretins win. And to the bullies… simply to tell them how utterly disgusting and repulsive their behaviour is and that one-day karma will bite back.

So, my humble lessons on what I know to be a highly complex subject with no ‘quick fixes’?

For those who have experienced bullying in its many forms:

  1. Please, please, please speak up to someone and tell them what you are going through. So many people would love to help and will work with you to find a way to tackle the situation in a way that suits and doesn’t compromise you in any way. But before anyone can help and support you, they need to know what’s been going – however, big or small it may seem.
  2. There is always a way out that doesn’t have to end in you getting hurt or ‘going away’. It is your right to be here  and  to be treated with respect –  if anyone tries to take that away from you then they are the ones in the wrong so why in the world should you have to be the one to ‘disappear’?!
  3. Bullies will never go far in life – trust me I  know. One day their stinking attitude will be their biggest barrier and that karma I talked about earlier? It’ll be back to bite right where it hurts.

Schools, employers, parents, carers etc

  1. Don’t bury your head in the sand. As a favourite philosopher of mine once said “If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?” You have a duty of care to all those who are under your watch and unless you can be 100% confident that the person you care for isn’t experiencing bullying / is the bully then there is some soul-searching to be done and there are some open and honest conversations to be had to make sure the signs are not being missed.
  2. Take a preventative stance – don’t wait for things to go wrong before anything is done. Forget books, policies and tick box exercises as standalone measures…preventing bullying is about setting expectations about a positive and respectful culture and behaviour and instilling the values in people that make it impossible to bully without going against those core values. It can be a long and tough road to change cultures and to teach values but truly, this is the ONLY way in which bullying will be stamped out for good.

All of us:

  1. Treat every person you meet with respect and value them as individuals – we may not like everyone that we meet and we may not agree with their view of things but there are still ways to interact without (sometimes subconsciously) treating them badly, dismissively or disrespectfully.
  2. Stay aware – anyone can be a victim of bullying or harassment and they won’t always feel able to speak up. We all have our own challenges to deal with but by being more vigilant maybe together our society can prevent the tragedies associated with victimisation. I don’t believe it should be ‘every person for themselves’ – some people are stronger in certain situations and its about time they stuck up for those  who are struggling

I realise some of the above may sound a little preachy but I’m really just sharing what I feel might actually help to make a difference. I want to live in a society where nobody ever sits idly by and witnesses bullying and I certainly don’t want to continue to be part of a world where suicide and self-harm are ever considered an acceptable consequence. One day I will find a way to really do my bit (I’m already doing a few things and recognise I could do more) but for now I’m actually going to feel glad that the storyline of this tv programme has moved me so much – perhaps it shows my motivation and desire to do better for our young people so that no-one leaves this world lost and without hope.