Intention

A day late – but here nonetheless!  I didn’t get round to writing my intentions for the week yesterday – because I was too busy doing them!!

My intention was to make a card to congratulate Awesome Daughter Number Two’s partner on his graduation (which happens today) – Congratulations Craig!  And to make two birthday cards – one for my sister and one for Tech Guy’s sister.  I intended to send off my post to the luscious Kathy from Bliss Habits, who most graciously invited me to submit a guest post for this week’s topic of Resolve.  Well, I got all of those done yesterday – would you like to see one of the cards?  Check out the end of the post!

It’s Tech Guy’s birthday on Saturday, but we’ll be away on our holiday and Awesome Daughter Number Three will be away on hers by then – so we will be having a Birthday Day for him on Wednesday instead!

I have embarked on a gluten/wheat free diet having read that it’s a quick and painless way to eat more healthily – well, it’s not quick and it’s not painless – but more about that on Wednesday. And I intend to persevere with this way of eating, with all of it’s challenges.

I still intend to publish posts for this week – on Wednesday and Friday – in between shopping, cleaning, laundry and packing, so it’s going to be a busy week!

My last intention is to come to the end of the week without stressing and to make sure I pack my journal so that I can remember and work through the challenges and lessons that will come up next week, because I’m sure they’ll rear their heads!

Have a great week yourselves – what are your intentions?.

Gratitude Friday 4

‘House Sparrow’ – photo by Richard Blackburn

Ok, I swore that I’d never do this – but there are so many things in my life that I am grateful for today, that this is going to be a list!  And since I’m no song writer, it’s not ‘Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…..’.

So here goes:

The view from my sofa that looks out over our bird feeders and all the birds that come to them.

The cat sitting at the window watching the very same birds!

The gift of language so that I can write these words.

The buzz of the bees as they hover over the Californian lilac outside the kitchen window.

Gluten free muffins.

Three awesome daughters.

One amazing husband.

Sunshine and raindrops.

Books.

Satin ribbons.

The first cup of coffee in the morning.

The last cup of chamomile tea at night.

Poppies and aquilegia.

Freshly laundered sheets.

Mike Oldfield.

Freebies in the post.

Fabulous friends.

Oh, and you guys for your support and encouragement!

These are a few of my favourite things!  What are you grateful for this Friday?

Aquilegia (Granny’s Bonnets)

I Believe 9

I believe that sometimes in the spirit of self love and self care, we need to cut ourselves some slack.

I am tired.  Over the last few days I have struggled to sleep at night.  The energies around during the run up to the full moon upset my sleep rhythms.  I have a desire to produce quality blog posts and at the same time be available to spend quality time with Tech Guy on his days off work, or with Awesome Daughter Number Three who is now on school holiday.  I have made a commitment to producing three blog posts a week and have been asked by the wonderful Kathy Sprinkle to produce a post for her website, Bliss Habits, which I am totally delighted to do!  In addition I have been planning for a week’s holiday, organising the production of a variety of greetings cards and preparing for a graduation.  On reflection it doesn’t seem like I’ve got all that much to do, but when my body and head are crying out for sleep that doesn’t want to come, it becomes a mountain.

Awesome Daughter Number Two, Tech Guy and Me!

Yesterday Awesome Daughter Number Two graduated from University.  We attended a lovely ceremony and watched so many young adults preparing to move on to the next stage in their lives.  Beautiful classical architecture surrounded us.  Families dressed in their finery, bedecked with cameras to capture the moments.  Pimms being served on the lawn, followed by a departmental reception to celebrate the achievements of their own students.  Mortar boards flying.  Proud parents.

Then out for a celebratory dinner.  Joined by other family members, grandparents and best friends.  Wine, food and conversation flowed.  Plans made for the summer to come and reminiscences about times past.

But this week, it’s all taking its toll and as a result I am completely washed out.  I have enjoyed, or am looking forward to each and every one of the above activities, but because I have been so tired they have become more difficult than they should.

However, rather than beat myself up about all the potential failures, I choose to be kind to myself.  I choose to prioritise and order my tasks, to do the important ones and to leave the others or find a way of making them easier.  Today I show myself some self love and cut myself some slack.  I’ll be back tomorrow energised and ready to go!

embrace of a rose – http://www.ladiesat11.com

This post is published as a contribution to Amy Palko’s Beautiful Beliefs Project.  If you would like to know more about Amy’s Beautiful Beliefs Project, then click here Amy Palko or on the box – it’ll take you straight there!

Intention

‘Remus’ – photo by Karen Blackburn

My intention this week is to honour my blessings.

Recent reflections have shown me just how many blessings I have.  My wonderful Tech Guy, three awesome daughters, two cute kitties and a beautiful view of my bird feeders out of the window!  My (newish) blog has been well received and I’ve been asked to write a guest post for one of my favourites, Bliss Habits.

If you are reading this, then you’ll see that this blog is a fairly recent venture.  It was inspired by the lovely Amy Palko who began a writing project inviting us to share our beliefs.  Finding that my first response was too long to fit in her comments section, I began a blog of my own.  Now this all sounds fairly straight forward, but I have hankered for many years to write.  Only, I never knew what to write.  Creative writing was not my bag – I don’t feel that I have sufficient imagination (however, based on the changes that have taken place over the last few months, that too could change!), but I knew that I could write academic essays.  I loved the idea of blogging, but was hampered with thoughts of ‘what do I have to say that is of any value?’ or ‘who would be interested in anything I have to say?’  Well, Amy’s invitation must have hit the spot because I decided to try.

I have read copious books, internet articles and blogs about ‘finding yourself’ – because I have felt over the years that this is what I needed to do.  What I found was that the thing I took most comfort from was realising that other people felt exactly the same way that I did.  It seems that it’s fairly common to feel that you’re ‘not good enough’, not slim enough, not rich enough, not smart enough and I came to the conclusion that if so many people felt like this then it must be a human condition rather than truth.

With this in mind, I began examining my beliefs – picking them apart – looking at where they came from, what their results were and how they impacted on my life.  I have been inspired by articles by other bloggers and life coaches and. as I have explored my emotions, feelings and beliefs I have come to better understand myself. I have realised that while they all combine in a particular way to result in the uniqueness of me, they are not unique to me and I realised that if I can be inspired on my journey by others, then perhaps my experiences would be equally important for someone else.  As you can imagine, this journey of discovery is an ongoing process.  My beliefs are opened to question every day.  I jump to conclusions and make judgements just like anyone else does, but now I can recognise when this happens and explore where it comes from (although sometimes I choose not to go there because I’m not ready yet!).  This work has given me freedom.  Freedom to begin accepting that I am enough.  Freedom to begin accepting that I have value.

And so this week, my intention is to honour my blessings.  To appreciate Tech Guy; to tell my girls that I love them and am exceedingly proud of them; to cuddle my cats (when they’ll let me); to feed my birdies and to continue to share my journey in this blog with love and integrity – and to thank you for sharing it with me.

Blue Tit -
photograph by Richard Blackburn

 

 

Gratitude Friday

Last week I talked about recognising what the important things are in amongst all of the angst of a distraught daughter.  Well this week there has been a huge turnaround.  On Wednesday I heard the four words we all long to hear – “Mum, you were right!”  Now, I understand that as Mums we are pretty much always right, but it’s nice to have it recognised!

“Ok,” you ask, “what were you right about?”  Well, all through Awesome Daughter Number One’s challenge to land herself a permanent teaching job, I have maintained that whenever she is turned down it’s because the perfect job hasn’t yet come up for her.  Perhaps the age of the children don’t fall into her preferred age range (she likes to teach eight year old and above), the geographical location of the school would make it difficult for her to commute, it might have classes with a high number of children, or she might find it difficult to get on with certain of the head teachers.  I have always been sure that the perfect teaching position would come along for her and asked her to trust that it would happen.  I know that when you feel like everything you have worked for is conspiring against you that trusting is the hardest thing to do, but that is the time you most need to do it!  And so “Mum, you were right” signalled the end of this particular journey for her – a job in a lovely school, with the right size of class, the right age group and, what sounds like, a lovely head teacher.  All right!

On top of this, Awesome Daughter Number Two, who has also had her challenges – four years of working a job to finance her way through University and many hours in the Lab or the library has resulted in a Class 2:1 Honours degree in (wait for it…) Biomedical Sciences specialising in Physiology!  Another BSc in the family!  She graduates next week and I’ll be there, heart swelling with pride!

Then, as if all this wasn’t enough, Awesome Daughter Number Three came home with an envelope full of certificates!  The Lower School prize giving takes place during school hours and parents don’t get to attend, and so, unexpectedly, she came home with seven Merit Certificates, a Gold Award (one of only six in her year) and a Certificate of Achievement for a project that she and a group of classmates took part in over the year to investigate the efficacy of a Biomass Plant and which they presented to two sets of judges!

How can I not be grateful for the blessings I find in my daughters!  I love that they are so much more than I was at their ages.  They know their own minds.  They know how to think for themselves.  They seem to know exactly who they are.  They are all building successful lives of their own.  And the amazing thing to me is that they come to me – for advice and support.  Equally amazingly, they highlight to me many lessons that I need to learn (usually unwittingly) and so, while I am able to support them on their journeys, they support me on mine.

 So, Thank You girls.  I love you!

Quote adapted from Laurel Atherton

I Believe 8

Photograph by bell wether interiors

I believe that we are meant to be happy.

We were born happy and I believe that we are meant to stay that way.  Unfortunately, layers are put on top of this – expectations, societal standards, parental/family influences – and it’s easy to lose sight of where our happiness lies.

My Mother, for the 51 years I’ve been alive, seems to have been permanently in a bad mood.  She complains all the time, is very negative, imposes her own standards on others – and objects when they aren’t met and appears to delight in nagging my Dad.  He puts up with it – even seeming to accept it – and I’ve always wondered why he never left such a nagging woman who seemed to find fault in everything he did.  But then again, she seemed to find fault with everything I did!

So I spent my life trying to be the person I thought I should be based on her standards.  Actually, I believed that her standards were the only standards.  Her dominance was so far reaching that I had no conception that life could be any different.  I got a job when I left school and met the man who became my husband.  I had a daughter.  All the things a girl like me was expected to do.  I knew I wasn’t happy.  I shifted furniture around the house.  Bought stuff.  Got into debt trying to sort what was wrong.  Then suddenly, like one of those focus pull cameras, my perspective changed and I realised that the one thing that was wrong was my marriage.  It took three years and another child before I plucked up the courage to announce that I was leaving – and even longer to tell my mother!  Once I had moved out, I was on top of the world.  I was 32 and a year into a four year Psychology course at University and I felt like I had the world at my feet.  But the remnants of the expected standards were still there, and because I felt that I could never meet them, my work suffered.  I gained my honours degree, but at a lower class than I expected.  By now I had met my soulmate and things should have been wonderful, but we were short of money, struggling to find jobs and then within two years of graduating we had a baby.  A hungry baby who didn’t like to sleep!  Five of us were squeezing into a one bedroomed flat – life was not easy.  All I could see were the things that were wrong.  We moved into a bigger house (provided by our local authority), but the area wasn’t the most salubrious and there were times when we didn’t like to go outside – incidents with guns, knives and baseball bats occurred among our neighbours.  And so we moved again.  A lovely big house with room for us all, in a nice neighbourhood.

But I couldn’t see it.  Still all I could see was what we didn’t have – the highly paid jobs, the nice cars.  Then depression reared its ugly head.  Treatment sorted it and I went back to University to study Nursing.  I qualified as a Mental Health Nurse and went into a job that I enjoyed, but Tech Guy was travelling lots for his job so we moved to the town where he worked and I transferred to another hospital where I felt excluded and undermined.  My health deteriorated further – both physically and mentally and once again I was not meeting the expected standards.  This time medication didn’t work and the depression didn’t shift.  I lost my job.

And found my life.  When I re-read the above I realise that my life has never been as bad as I’ve made out, but I was unable to see it – I was so busy focusing on what was wrong that I was unable to see what was right.

I hadn’t been able to see that we always had a roof over our heads and food on our table.  We may have been five living in a tiny flat, but we were a family together.  I was unable to appreciate how lucky I was to have three beautiful, clever, funny, loving daughters and I believed that I needed ‘stuff’ to make me happy.

When the medication I was taking for my depression wasn’t working I realised that I would have to find some other way to get better – and so began my spiritual quest – my journey to find myself.  I understood on some level that things could be better – I just had to work out how.

I searched for like minded people on the internet.  I explored my psychic side (with not a huge amount of success) and bought loads of self-improvement books.  I tried affirmations and I bought (still blank) journals.  I had tarot readings and Reiki and Angel Healing treatments.  Then, one day I had an experience that taught me that I could trust myself, that my judgement was ‘good enough’.  If my judgement was good enough then maybe I was.  I found out about Gratitude and began looking at the good things in my life.  I tried keeping a journal, but it kept falling by the wayside – it felt like I was just writing lists of the things I should be grateful for rather than actually feeling the gratitude in my heart.  But slowly, as I allowed my heart to begin opening I could feel this gratitude.  I still compared myself to others, but was able to use this in a constructive way – they may have had a big house or fancy car, but I had wonderful days with my Tech Guy and was home for my youngest daughter during school holidays.  I was learning to appreciate the birds, nature, the sunshine and the rain.

As time went on, I realised that I was no longer depressed.  Things still get me down – usually about lack of money, but not that ‘black, hide in my bed, run away from it all’ kind of down, and it is relatively short lived.

Over a period of three years I have formed questions that I’m now beginning to explore and find answers to.  Answers which are helping me to be comfortable in my own skin and which I am allowing myself to write about.  I am coming to the conclusion that, more often than not, I’m happy – and I’m happy with that!

This post is published as a contribution to Amy Palko’s Beautiful Beliefs Project.  If you would like to know more about Amy’s Beautiful Beliefs Project, then click here Amy Palko or on the box – it’ll take you straight there!

Intention 3

Reflecting on my Gratitude post last week, I have realised that I live so much in either the past or the future – in my ‘stories’ – that I miss much of what is happening now.

At the moment I am sitting in a coffee shop while I wait for the car to be repaired – I don’t know what is wrong, but I’ll worry about that when I do!  I love the ambiance of this coffee shop.  It’s cosy and always feels friendly.  It sits in what was once Montrose jail and still has the three-feet thick walls, low doorways and recessed windows.  There is a stone floor and lovely old beams support the roof.  I can hear the low thrum of conversation and snippets of them as the voices of the people around me occasionally rise or burst into laughter, and I can smell the scent from my chamomile tea and the beginnings of today’s home-made soup (sweet potato and red pepper).  I walked here in a roundabout way from the garage, doing errands on the way and I can feel the tingle of my muscles not used to moving so much.  I feel the softness of the cushion that I’m sitting on and I enjoy the flow of my pen as it moves across the page recording these thoughts.  Outside, it’s a beautiful warm, sunny day and the cool water that I drink is refreshingly welcome before I have my tea.

All of this is in the ‘now’.

With this in mind, my intention this week is to stop and smell the roses.  To bring myself back from future or past, what might or might not have been, and focus on what is in front of me.  Right here.  Right now.

Will you join me?

Rosa ‘schoolgirl’

Gratitude Friday 2

This post was written for Gratitude Friday, but the handfasting celebrations of my fabby  friend and a shopping day out with Tech Guy, have postponed it – so in the spirit of the kindness I have promised myself, I present it to you now – a day late, but no less sincere!

Written  on Thursday 21st June 2012

Cheer Bear. My eldest daughter’s favourite toy

It’s 2.00am and I’m struggling to sleep.  I had a phone call from Awesome Daughter Number 1 earlier this evening.  She was distraught and 120 miles away.  Feeling like her life’s dream is being taken away from her.  From the first day she walked into primary school at the age of 4½ she has wanted to be a teacher.  Her whole school life was dedicated to gaining the qualifications she needed to fulfil this dream.  She qualified with flying colours and embarked on her career.

Teaching in Scotland is currently a precarious profession.  There are 300 applicants for every job that comes up in Edinburgh where she qualified, but undaunted she has taken temporary posts to gain as much experience as she can.  She has worked extra hours and has undertaken extra-curricular activities and yet five years after graduating she still does not have a permanent teaching post.  This past year she has had a long term, temporary position at a school she likes.  She loves the children and has made friends with the staff.  She missed out on a permanent job last year, but thought that this year – with her experience and dedication – her time would come.  But no, the jobs were given to less experienced and less dedicated teachers.  And so, this evening she was on the phone breaking her heart, doubting her abilities and asking if this was the Universe telling her that she was on the wrong path.  Questioning how many rejections must she take before she accepts that it’s not her interview technique, or the interviewer that’s the problem, it’s her.  Not being able to follow her dream is making her ill – enough for her to consider giving it all up.

My beautiful, talented daughter feeling like there is something wrong with her – and I can do nothing to help.  I can listen to her sobbing but I can’t take away her pain.  So here I am.  Not sleeping, feeling powerless.

The TV is on, showing a programme about Great Ormond Street Hospital – a children’s hospital in London where they embark on experimental surgery and treatments.  I’m hearing about a young girl whose trachea is so narrow that she can barely breathe and babies whose rib cages are not growing so their lungs are compressed.  Without surgery these children will die.  With surgery they may die anyway.  Their parents are having to make decisions – not about whether their children will die, but about when.

These parents are worrying about their young children.  I am worrying about my adult daughter.  Yesterday I was worrying about being short of money and today I am reminded of what is truly important.  I am grateful for my daughters, their health and the opportunity to be there for them in whatever capacity I can be.

I Believe 7

Yesnaby Castle Sea Stack, Orkney Islands, by Patrick Dieudonne

I believe that everything is impermanent.

I read this question from Teresa Deak on Facebook yesterday.

“I’m fascinated by the story behind this beautiful poem by Kelly Letky  and I’m curious about your own definitions of impermanence…. what are your stories?”

I didn’t really answer the question because it sent me off in another direction.  Off I went for a ponder.

My definition of impermanence is, I imagine like most people, ‘not permanent; transitory’.  But when I thought about it, I couldn’t find an example of anything that is, actually, permanent.  Everything changes.  Edifices weather and crumble.  The granite boulder is eroded by the sea to join millions of others that make up the sand.  The seasons cycle.  Flowers grow, bloom, seed and die.  I am currently experiencing the joy of watching young chicks as they fledge nests and develop into adult birds.  Cells are being born, growing, dying.  Even Tech guy – who I expect to be a permanent fixture in my life, for the rest of my life – grows and changes.  Virtually every cell that existed within his body seventeen years ago when we met has been replaced.  His neural pathways have extended, increased, formed and reformed.  His hair has got greyer – and shorter, and longer and shorter again.  My three awesome daughters are not babies any more – they too have grown, learned, developed and have become accomplished young women in their own rights.  Every experience or encounter that we have changes us in one way or another.

Have you ever met someone whose kindness brightened your day?  Or found that, no matter how positive you are at the start of your work shift, the negativity of the people you work with drags you down into a depression?  Each of these experiences impacts on us and changes us in one way or another.

Sometimes we rail against change – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it – and often we can’t see the positive in a change.  New technology moves forward at an, often, alarming rate and echoing in the back of my mind are the words of my parents, “in my day…..”  In my day we wrote letters, had to be at home to make a phone call, had respect for our elders, said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, wore school uniform.  We paid attention, did our duty and conformed to the standards of the day.  But we also didn’t have a voice, were ‘seen and not heard’.  We were clipped around the ear for talking back (which often was just having a different opinion to our parents) and were taught to learn facts and figures rather than critical analysis.  So, things change. No longer do people have to hide their sexuality, they can speak out about abuse and injustice.  They can leave unhealthy relationships.  We have choices that our parents never had.  We survive illnesses that past generations possibly would never have contracted because they didn’t live long enough.  Without change the world would be populated by dinosaurs instead of people.

Change brings us huge benefits as well as challenges. It serves us well to remember that since things change, when we find ourselves in an intolerable situation – this too will pass.  The pain of the death of a loved one recedes over time, broken bones and hearts mend and suffering caused by past experiences can be released if we allow them to.

The problems arise when we take these things to be permanent.  Stories that we have carried from our past.  I once asked a patient of mine why it was that when she received dozens of positive affirmations of her worth and one negative one – that was the one she chose to believe.  Is it innate that we believe the worst about ourselves – despite evidence to the contrary?  Certainly I am much more comfortable seeking evidence to support the negative idea of myself.  I learned from a very early age – at two years old, having spent a couple of weeks with my Grandmother while my mother was in hospital giving birth to my younger sister – I screamed and fought not to go home.  My Mother believed that I had been spoiled by my Nana – it did not occur to her that it was preferable to me to stay in a small, one bedroom flat with my elderly grandparents than go home to what awaited me there – constant reinforcement that I was not good enough – and here was another child just to prove that my Mother needed one that was better than me.  Experiences over the next fifty years did little to negate these beliefs and so, I hung on to my story.  It formed my identity and informed every encounter and experience I had.

Then I found the internet.  Halleluja!  I found blogs and articles from people who felt the same way I did and this gave me the hope that things could change – and more, that things could change in my favour!  And so I am learning self love and self acceptance.  But letting go is harder than I hoped.  How do you let go of something that has been the basis of your identity for over fifty years?  If that goes, then what is left?  And actually, how do you let that go?  It feels like all of me is woven into that belief – like a mat in the earth that has the roots of the grass and plants so entwined in it that it has become part of them.

Well, I’m hanging on to the ‘everything changes’ theory and directing my change.  Sometimes it feels like I’m getting nowhere and other times (like last week) it feels like I’m making huge big leaps.  But I’m aware now.  I’m more able to understand that resistance, suffering, anger and judgement are expressions of an unmet need and I can examine them and learn from them – and you, lucky reader – get to go through all of it with me!

So, I still believe that everything is impermanent unless we choose otherwise.  And Teresa – I hope this answers your question!

Clematis

Intention 2

Awesome daughter number 3

On Saturday we had a ‘phone’ incident.  The second ‘phone’ incident in as many months.  Awesome Daughter Number 3 has a mobile phone – on contract which she pays for out of her pocket money (along with insurance – her idea) and she’s had it for about three months.  One month in, she was messing about with her pals when it got dropped and the screen broke.  Bye bye phone.  Response – screaming, shouting, threats of grounding and questions about whether she is responsible enough to have a (smart) phone and whether or not she deserves to have a good phone when she clearly can’t look after it!  That would be my response.  Her Dad, on the other hand, took a deep breath, pulled out the insurance documents made a few phone calls and Hey Presto! a new phone arrived within the week.  All good except for a few missing phone numbers and all her favourite music.  Calm was restored.

Fast forward to Saturday evening.  Last weekend it had been the birthday of one of her friends and Alex had missed it because of other commitments (though I’m not even sure she had been invited – but that’s a whole other mess of self acceptance on my part!) so she invited some of her friends here for a movie night.  She baked and decorated a cake and made some cookies.  The girls were staying for a sleep over and the boys went home after the film.  She had cleaned her room for the girls staying over and she had cleaned the sitting room for them watching the movie.  All in all, she made a huge effort to make sure that Jaz had a great night.  Then she discovered that her phone had been damaged again – and again the screen was broken.  She held off telling her dad and me until the boys had gone and then she waited for the fall out.

To her surprise – and mine – I took a deep breath and didn’t shout.  I explained the consequences – no phone until we can get it replaced (and that won’t happen until we have the funds to pay the insurance excess) and if she doesn’t have her phone, then her social life is curtailed.

My default response of taking the incident personally and feeling angry and in pain because things have not gone the way I believe they should – and then shouting screaming and blaming so that she feels as much pain as I do – disappeared.  I was able to see that she was already in pain, that shouting and blaming won’t fix the phone and that railing against what ‘is’ won’t change anything.  And so I accepted what was.  I was able to put into practice all the things I’ve been working on over the last four weeks and understand that resistance really is futile!

Even better, I’m not just sitting on anger, huffing with a simmering bad mood.  I’m able to hold her in my heart and send love to her – and hope she realises that an accident happened that wasn’t her fault and that it doesn’t diminish her in any way.

And so my intention for this week is to maintain this attitude of kindness – to myself, my husband, my daughters and anyone else that I have encounters with.  Mmm… not so sure about those unsolicited sales phone calls though…!

What is your intention for this week?