When you accidentally press publish….

So I was reading a thing and thought that it was an excellent basis for a blog. I  copied it on my phone, pasted it on a new post and accidentally hit the publish button.

Eeek. I promptly deleted it. So if you got any email with a link that doesn’t work, sorry about that.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere but I’m not looking for it.

If you are interested, the quote I liked is below.

“When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” – Rep. Brian Sims,  PA House.

Collaborative Creativity and Confidence

I contribute at a community outreach programme run by my church. By which I mean I play pool and have conversations with people one day a week. We have been trying some creative projects in recent weeks. 

A funny thing happens when you give a group a creative project. People who claim not to be interested in that sort of thing somehow find themselves contributing. People who don’t often speak up find a voice because they are solving a problem right in front of them. And at the end, everyone feels better because they have contributed one way or another. 

And then next time, people are willing to try again and work together more and therefore achieve more. That’s why I  like collaborative creativity – it can be a road to personal growth, greater self confidence and all round skill acquisition.  Plus you get to see a different side to people. Generally a more relaxed side.

Unless of course you thought you had a week to make your ten plagues posters and you had two days.  But the point is, we did it. Together.  And I couldn’t be prouder of the guys who stepped up and helped out, even I was the one who made the mistake with the deadline.

And if you’re interested ,  this is what we made:

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I Think I May Know Nothing About Gratitude (Or Missold Thankfulness)

I’m starting to suspect that I have the wrong end of the stick about gratitude. It’s good, in a way. To realise, starting out on an intentional search for gratitude, that everything you thought you knew about gratitude, wasn’t so much gratitude as trying very hard to find the positives in things. Which can lead you to a place of gratitude, but isn’t in itself enough.

It’s a bit like love and marriage. We’ve all been brought up on the myth of “The One”. We gleefully gorge ourselves on a diet of happily ever after romantic movies all about the butterflies and the joy and the “falling in love”. The feelingness of it all. And while that’s not exactly lies, if that’s all you know, you’re missing out. When love is a decision, rather than an emotion, when you decide to keep on growing love even when you really really don’t want to, that’s when the real adventure happens. That’s when you find a whole other side to the story – the uncool side, the messy side, but also the beautiful side, because it’s the side where trust lives. Because who wants to trust something that’s as light and frothy as the love portrayed in movies? But when somebody decides to love you, and keeps on deciding – you can trust that.

But how does that apply to gratitude? And how does that make me think that I know nothing about real gratitude? Because I have been living in a world defined by a frothy “count my blessings” kind of thankfulness. A better have me some blessings club, because otherwise, well, if I don’t have all the nice blessings what do I have to be thankful for? Is it even possible to be grateful when you don’t have anything? It’s a tricky question to answer, because in truth, I have All The Things.

Here’s a truth I have discovered in my own life: being thankful for all the things gets boring after a while. Being thankful for the stuff you feel like you’ve earned, or maybe that you deserve, can be difficult. Making lists of things we appreciate isn’t always an antidote to smugness. And comparing yourself to other people who have less than you, well, that just doesn’t seem right as a route to gratitude. So while the nice things may be a part of the story of gratitude, it certainly can’t be all of it.

And yet, almost everything I know about gratitude is “I’m thankful for this thing, for that experience, for what that person does for me.” When I stop and think about it, that kind of gratitude can turn a person inward, can make a person selfish, because look at me, I want to be able to be grateful for all the things. And that’s not right. Because that’s not who I want to be. Because selfishness, I have observed, doesn’t generally equate to happiness. Selfishness is all about fear – fear missing out, fear of being less, fear of not being good enough.

Clearly, this gratitude built on seeing the positives for me personally is missing something. It’s like the movie version of love – lots of happy feelings but precious little substance. So, I have some unlearning to do.

And for that, I am grateful.

 

 

This post is part of a series on gratitude. 

When Traditions Collide

We had burgers for lunch today. And there will be apple pie in our future.  Because “as American as Apple pie”.

We’re not American.  The Dude is from Northern Ireland, I’m from South Africa. We live in England.  Of course we are eating food we associate with America.

Because it’s the Sunday before Lent. My first Sunday before Lent in the Church of England. No wait. That’s not right. I mean it is the Sunday before Lent. But that doesn’t explain the burgers.

Because it’s the first weekend of the rugby 6 nations. (You would think I could get into that.) But that is on the TV as I write. But it doesn’t explain the apple pie.

It’s Superbowl Sunday. That’s the reason for the food.

But it’s also the rugby. And getting ready for Lent. And a million traditions colliding. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear them crunching overhead.  If I didn’t know better I could be getting upset.

But the point of traditions are about holding us steady in tough times. It’s connecting us to the past so we can build for the future. The point is we can do the traditions in our own unique ways. If we are willing to look beyond the act and think about the reason  for the act.

So Superbowl Sunday is big in our family. But Lent is big in our faith. And sometimes traditions collide, but that just mean burgers on Sunday while preparing our hearts for contemplation.

Because maybe it’s not a collision.  Maybe it’s just a mixing.

Nobody Asked Me to Do the Motherhood Challenge

The other day, my Facebook was smothered in posts of ice cream and children as mothers united to tell themselves how brilliant they were. As always, there was “nominate other great mothers” to demonstrate that not only were you a great mum but you you were part of a great tribe of mums. Or not.

Nobody nominated me. Which could lead to one of two conclusions:
1. I am not a great mum. (Depressed me would have believed this.)
2. I do not belong to the great mum tribe.
3. (Bonus conclusion) Everyone knows I don’t do these Facebook challenges. (I just write about them.)

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Writing In The Hidden Moments

Writing is what I do. In many ways, it’s a fundamental part of who I am – it’s crucial to my mental health, problem – solving and often is my preferred method of communication generally.  And I  can write about just about anything.

The thing is, when the same thing is both your self – expression and your coping mechanism, there’s always the potential for anxiety.  Somebody might read it and not like it, which means they don’t like me. And here’s a piece of paper with me trapped in it and everybody can read it forever and oh my word, what was I thinking putting that down on paper? (Also known as Writer’s Block.)

Add to that the fact that I am trying too hard with my editing, and right now the whole writing thing feels very … conflicted. And people can say write it and then destroy it, but somehow I feel like I am on a journey and I want a record of it. But I am too scared to write it down. Too scared to stare at the computer and let my thoughts sing out my fingertips.

So I am writing in small, stolen moments. In the car waiting to pick up Little Person. While the bath is running, or the food is cooking. Little moments sprinkled through the day.

Because sometimes, we can turn the normal everyday bits of our lives into Big Things. And from Big it is only a small step to Scary. I think I have allowed the writing to be a big thing, and so now I am turning it into a little thing. And then I can learn to love it again.

And maybe, somehow I can learn not to be afraid of other things too.

Waiting and Parenting and Weighing It All Up

As I write this, I am waiting for the doctor. As usual, she is running late.  But I know, when I get in to see her she will take as much time as is needed.  Thankfully, in my case it’s nothing urgent. But I have Little Person with me. Which makes waiting that teensy bit more challenging.

Of course, in this case I chose to drive straight from school, which meant a half an hour wait just for my appointment time. But that was my decision.  Because sometimes, waiting is just easier.

Sometimes waiting is easier. Waiting can be better. We don’t like to admit it because waiting is a waste of time. Except sometimes it isn’t.

Sometimes waiting is breathing. Giving yourself a chance to calm down. Taking a few moments to stick dragon stickers in a book (you didn’t expect me to be unprepared, did you?). Waiting can be sharing.  Waiting can be learning.

I  was nervous walking here with Little Person, knowing there would be a  long wait. But we’ve been here an hour and she’s been brilliant.
Waiting is breathing.
Waiting is learning.

Maybe waiting is what you allow it to be.

Gratitude: 50 things in ten minutes

The challenge was this: think of 50 things you are grateful for in ten minutes. So set the timer, number your list 1-50 and then see what you come up with. (I will point out this list was from the back end of the Christmas holidays….)

 

  1. Peppermint tea
  2. My Little Person 2015-07-30 14.21.41
  3. “Helping people, sharing people, caring people” – which is what she said she was grateful for.
  4. Chocolate
  5. The Dude doesn’t mind a messy house.
  6. The dishwasher
  7. New friends
  8. An adventurous heart
  9. Pasta – even though I can’t eat it very often
  10. Cups of tea
  11. Shared meals
  12. Memories
  13. The technical marvel that is my phone
  14. Being able to write IMG_20140529_114746
  15. Being able to think
  16. Homemade soup
  17. Recipes recipe book cover
  18. Biscuits
  19. Learning from my mistakes
  20. Learning from my successes (even better)
  21. Learning from other people’s mistakes/successes
  22. Reading
  23. Historical fiction
  24. Being able to dream big
  25. Daring to try to achieve my dreams
  26. Making a difference, small as it may be.
  27. The bravery I see in my family every day (they eat my cooking after all)
  28. More cups of tea – made by other people
  29. Laughter
  30. Puns
  31. Being afraid to walk away – and doing it anyway
  32. Being afraid to walk forward – and doing it anyway
  33. Being accepted, and appreciated
  34. Love
  35. Trust
  36. Hope
  37. My Christmas Jumper (it’s a reindeer)
  38. Conversations over breakfast with The Dude
  39. Weird “what if” questions
  40. Learning to knit
  41. Crochet 2014-10-13 12.33.50
  42. Watching other people create stuff
  43. Being able to be a small part of other people’s journeys
  44. Friendship
  45. Sausage and Mash
  46. Phonecalls with my mum
  47. The Dude’s capacity to dish out hugs
  48. The Dude’s ability to forgive
  49. The fact that The Dude still loves me
  50. My parents
  51. The future – somehow it’s not as scary as it used to be.
  52. Frozen chips that can turn into a meal pretty easily.
  53. A gluten free diet – yes it is a pain in the butt to get your head around, but when you need it and you do it, it makes such a difference.
  54. (There was something here but it got accidentally deleted.)
  55. Funny movies
  56. Thought provoking things (as long as they are not too late at night)
  57. Watching Little Person try new things.
  58. My glasses – so I can see things
  59. Poetry
  60. A daughter who shouts “Time is up!”

2013-10-27 09.57.31

…. And I think I forgot to put writing on there. D’oh

 

Apparently I Get Grumpy When I Don’t Write

Whoosh! That’s the gentle sound of January 2016 whizzing out of your life. Gone, completely. And, perhaps like me, a little memorable for all the wrong reasons. Because …

Crash! The sound of all your good intentions just falling to bits on the floor because, you know, life. Nothing ever goes to plan in real life.

Sorry. Rambling.

The point is, I knew I was miserable, The Dude knew I was miserable. Even the cat knew I was miserable. I blamed the weather, some stressful life events and that general discontent that comes with realising that you have no escape from this life you find yourself living. (Me? Drama queen? Only on the bad days.) The cat had completely given up on me. The Dude?

Turns out The Dude, looking from the outside in, was a little more perceptive about what was going down.

“But Rox, you’re always miserable when you don’t write.”

I pointed my fork at him. Opened my mouth. Closed my mouth. The annoying thing about husbands, is sometimes they are right.

So, more words will be winging their way to a blog near you soon. Because…

Screech, whirr. That’s the sound of January getting a reboot. It’s called February.

What Does Gratitude Look Like? (Part 2)

It’s all well and good for me to tell you that I want a gratitude that’s a living thing, planted, and deep-rooted, and making a contribution to my life rather than just being saccharine noises of do-goodiness, or a fierce determination between gritted teeth that uses all my energy (although I do have the latter – I call it my stubborn streak.) That’s a bit like telling you chocolate is nice because it doesn’t taste like bananas. (Me and bananas are not friends.) So I thought I would add some thoughts on it what gratitude can look like when it floats around our heads and hearts.

  1. Pleasure

You know that moment when your heart squeezes up with joy and you cannot believe you were given a yard of chocolate for Christmas? (Okay, maybe that’s just me.) To be frank, I put this one first because it’s the one we all know. The appreciation of a nice gift, or when somebody comes and visits you in hospital, or you are given a heartfelt compliment. The things that just happen and you can’t help but say “thank you.” Or the things that don’t happen and you can’t help but say thank-you.

I said previously that gratitude is reflective, and the gratitude of pleasure (or sometimes relief!) is the gratitude of the present tense. The now moment, or the thing that has just happened. It brings a bounce to your step and joy to your heart. It makes you happy.

 

  1. Progress

But sometimes, in the moment, we look around and there’s nothing that immediately screams gratitude. There’s laundry and mess and too much month and not enough money and the boss keeps on saying you did it wrong. And trying to find a place of gratitude in the middle of that is a bit like trying to find underwear on a nudist beach.

And we want to keep it real, but we want to be grateful too, even though everything inside is screaming that there is nothing, not one thing, to be grateful for.

Oh, the pressure. But gratitude is not supposed to be about pressure. (I can’t win! I can’t win! I can’t win! Make up your mind, Rox, what are you on about?)

Simply this. Sometimes, we need to look back and see how far we have come. Even if the journey ahead seems a million miles, and we have only moved an inch. Progress is still progress. We have loved. We have learned. We have tried. We have failed, but we have also succeeded. And the very desire to want to be grateful is something to be grateful for. Maybe that’s all gratitude is – a willingness to be grateful for who we are, what we have, where we have been and where we are going.

 

  1. Potential

But Rox, you don’t know me, you say. Being grateful for who I am is not a possibility. I swore at a baby yesterday just so I could laugh at the mother’s reaction.

My response is always this, if you are willing to try, you have something to be grateful for. Gratitude for a new day. Gratitude for a heart that say “I want to be better than this.” Gratitude for the potential for love that resides within your heart.

And for the rest of us, who don’t go around swearing at babies to laugh at their parents’ reactions, the future is a reason for gratitude. Because there is one. Because we can try. And even if we fail, we can try again, but differently. So even if your present and your past are utterly forgettable, you have potential. You have a story. You have a way to make the future a better place. And gratitude is a great place to start.

I realise that these three points seem to contradict my point about just being grateful, rather than being grateful for things, but gratitude is bigger than that, I think. I’m only at the beginning of my journey. I do hope you will stay along for the ride.