Today, once I remembered to, I took some beautiful photos and I put them up on my new Instagram account. I am not quite ready for filters, but still….
September was supposed to be about learning something new. I originally thought this could be learning a language or a new skill. However, what I actually learned was a little more about myself. September we made a life changing decision and I learned that I sweat the small stuff but not the big decisions. I can make those decisions and stick to following the plan. Those things don’t scare me. But small stuff always makes me feel like I am going to lose my job. I worry about what people think think of me and then I think I am bad with people and downward spirals begin. But, big stuff, I can just do with no problems.
However, I am moved up in my horseback riding lessons and I am learning coaching skills through a training programme. But I feel like I didn’t really make much effort to learn something new. I feel like I am hiding a bit again. I also am feeling tired. I keep trying to do things but I feel like I am just phoning it in and not really trying at this project. I am feeling low too and I think that contributes to my lack of effort on the project. I also think that if I do this project again, I would do quarterly themes like creativity or spiritual and divide up the months. But, I am trying to collect and refocus on this month of October which is photography. Or at least that was plan until I had a major incident with my phone which I use for many photos. I ended up losing many of the photos I have taken over the last year and a bit. After that, I felt exhausted and tired and lost my focus again.
But, still I need to pull my socks up and get started again. So, here’s what I want to try to do with what is left of my month. Firstly, I am going to try to get my Instagram account up and running. I am going to try to read about different techniques. If possible, I am going to try to find photography blogs. I am going to try to experiment with my photos. I am going to try to take some and experiment with light and maybe even filters. My hope is that I can develop a bit more as a photographer but also, I hope this helps me leave behind my other thoughts. I can’t let life get to me. I can’t feel inadequate or at least, I shouldn’t need to feel that.
The past two months have gone by in a flash. I am not sure what happened to them. And who knew that history and travel could go together so well? Probably everyone. But, history for me was more personal history and exploration along with a little bit of travel. History – just straight history, I largely ignored for the month of July. I have a very demanding job which required working on the weekends to some extent and my head was full of work. It was a major set back for me when it came to my work/life balance I am trying to get. I didn’t get to read any history books or visit any historic sites. Feeling like I had to focus on the work rather than history in the evenings and weekends made me feel morose and depressed. But, I knew that travel was coming up and I had 3 weeks off work. While travel wasn’t going to be about going around the world or even to any place particularly exotic or new, it would be a chance to slow down and really focus on me and my husband.
Our month of travel mostly contained a trip back to the home country, America. It consisted of about 4 days in San Francisco and then 2 weeks in my home town. San Francisco because it was somewhere I always wanted to visit. We went on a wine tour and spent the rest of the time just exploring the city. I love exploring new cities and feeling the vibes of it. We did explore the city, and the Redwoods nearby. It was an amazing trip. I loved the fog rolling into the bay and I loved finally getting to see part of the west coast. Anyway, it was a glorious 4 days followed by time in my home time with family, which was great in another way. I felt like we really were able to be in the warm embrace of my family – or at least those we had the opportunity to see. I explored my own personal family history by looking at old photos, reading old letters, and learning all the interesting things my mom turned up. It was like my own personal ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’
But, through the past 2 months, here’s what I learned:
- You can’t go home again. Not really. It changes while you are away into something you probably won’t recognise.
- New places still mean a routine – I go find breakfast, go do a thing, find lunch, go do a thing, relax, and then find supper. Maybe grab a glass of wine. Different places, same routine.
- Beauty is in the eye of beholder – this is particularly true about vacation destinations. What I find beautiful and amazing, many others may not be interested in or think isn’t as lovely.
- What you think you will miss about the familiar isn’t necessarily what you will miss.
- Travel changes you – you will be different from those who stay at home.
- New is only better for a while. Then new becomes routine, the same. And then, it becomes new shit you have to deal with again.
- Amazement is fleeting – even if you feel it for something you always wanted to do or somewhere you always wanted to see. Eventually, it will just be a thing you did, saw, felt, explored, etc. It will become part of your normal.
- The world is big and you will only have some much you can see. You have to prioritise – no matter how much you don’t want to.
- Family are those who love you, care for you and about you, are there for you, and support you when you need it. They aren’t always blood and they won’t always be those you expect. Sometimes they are the ones who quietly think about you in times they don’t expect.
- Time changes relationships. You can grow together, you can grow along similar paths, or you can grow apart. People change so much based on their experiences, including me.
I do think my time away helped me reconnect with myself, come up with a life plan, and now I am beginning to work on how to execute these. That is a major victory for me. I feel better and in control of my life again and that is no bad thing.
This month is dedicated to history. And it is going a bit slow. We have not been able to use our National Trust Membership the past 2 weekends. I am however working my way through A Very Short Introduction to the Vikings and I have been working my way through several historical documentaries, however I am not doing so well with trying to learn a bit more about a period that I do not know very much about. And we really only have next weekend to make the exhibit. However, I have watched a World War II documentary as well as a documentary about major life events in the middle ages – births, deaths, and marriages. I think there are probably more that I have been watching however, that would require me to go through my Netflix history.
There are 2 things that I still want to do despite the time being short to get them done. I still really want to get to the local museum’s Viking exhibit. I also want to go to an abandoned medieval village near where we live in the coming weeks. If I continue to make good progress on the book I am currently reading, then hopefully I can start another book before the travel month begins.
July is the month of history and I am considering how I can best explore it. I love history and have studied it quite extensively and given my not so great start at spirituality, I could make it have a religious/spiritual bent. And I do love religious history. Instead though, I think here is what I think I am going to do.
- Read one historical book – it has to have proper academia behind it.
- Use our national trust membership at least once a week. Ideally, it should be a place we have not been before, but I am not sure that will be possible. We have a few other things going on that we need to be in and around our home town for.
- Watch more history documentaries. I have been doing this anyway but still.
- Try to learn 1 new thing each week about a period of time in a place that I do not know a lot about. My husband has suggested exploring Asian history as I do not know much about that.
- Join the Archaeological Trust for our area so we can gain access to talks, etc.
- Go to the local museum as they have an exhibit I am particularly interested in.
I think that list is probably more than I will be able to do, but I’ll just see how it all goes. If I did a year on this one, there would still probably be more that I would want to do. I have spent the last month going to archaeological talks and there are so many historic places that I really want to visit. Maybe I will have to make next year’s discovery project all about history.
Thinking about this month and everything that occurred and everything that I wanted to do and didn’t, I come back to a thought about beliefs. What do I believe? I know I want to use yoga and mindfulness more and I know that I eventually want to bring meditation into my practices, but what do I actually believe? If these past 3 months were supposed to be about getting spiritual, what does that actually mean to me? The honest answer of course is that I am not really sure. So, how can I untangle my thoughts and begin to make sense of it all? Maybe I should start with what I do and don’t believe? Off the top of my head, I think I can summarise these two points like this:
What I do believe:
- Karma: I truly believe that if you put good into the world, it will come back to you. I try to be a good person and help out where I feel able because I know some day I will be in a tough place and I will need help too.
- Light/Goodness in everyone: I truly believe that there is the light of good in everyone. Maybe it gets squashed through hard times or may be they have pushed it so far down, it is only a pin prick of light, but it is there.
- Connection: Not to a higher being, but to each other, to the earth and to our selves. If we lose sight of these connections, we lose sight of who we are.
- Soul: We all have our guiding principles, our morals, and our values. This is what I believe is our soul and if we go against these, we lose ourselves and we feel lost or without a purpose. We don’t know what our purpose in life is and we lose our soul. We can spend days, months, or years being lost. We need to be true to our inner selves as much as we can. Circumstances may always require that we bend our principles, but our core should be true to them.
- Everyday actions make the person, not a religion: I don’t believe that practicing an organised religion makes you a good, strong, spiritual person. I truly believe that it is the every day things that make the person, their life choices. If they are given a path to help the many or only themselves, their choice is what they should be judged on. To me, this is character.
- Life is messy: There is no such thing as a perfect life. We all make mistakes and it is what we do with the learning of these that makes or breaks us as people. And while wallowing in self-pity or dwelling in a bad place for a long time isn’t always good, there is a place for feelings as a part of the process.
- We always have a choice: No matter how bad it all seems, we always have the choice to give up or to carry on.
- We are capable of growth and change: We can if we feel it is necessary or if the desire is there change the course of our lives. We choose the impact we want to have in the world.
- People do better together: We are social creatures who always do better together than when we are on our own.
- Lives are meant to be lived to the fullest: There is no right or wrong way to do ‘life’.
What I don’t believe:
- Organised religion: I don’t believe in any one organised religion. I have read many of the main religious texts and studied evolution of Christianity throughout history enough to know that I can’t believe any one book is the word of a God. I am not sure that I believe in a God. I think I believe more in the spiritual connectedness of the world than in a benevolent or maleficent rulers of a heaven or a hell.
- Only one way is the right way: I think this links to organised religion but I truly struggle with the concept that there is a right way or a wrong way to live your life, that there is a right set of principles and a wrong set. I do think there are some universal truths like hurting others is bad and fairness/equality for all, but I do not believe in an eye for an eye.
- Practices make you spiritual: I don’t think anyone who goes to church, temple, mosque, monasteries, etc are better than those who don’t. I don’t think practicing rituals, like prayers and singing hymns means you are a good person. I think the every day actions are what show people as good or bad. I also very much think that good versus bad can be very grey and situation dependent.
- A cosmic judge of all humankind: I just don’t believe that one exists. I don’t think that there is anyone out their directing our lives like a symphony.
- Confession clears the soul: In my time, I have tried confessing my sins, but in my experience, I may feel better, but I may have made someone else feel worse. Confessing to yourself that you did something that you feel is wrong does help in that acknowledging can often help to move on from it.
- There is any such thing as a clear conscience: Life is messy. We make mistakes. We try our best and sometimes we fail. We need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and learn. Wallowing doesn’t help, but I do think that there is a learning process from our mistakes and first and foremost we need to get ourselves to a place to learn and not just ignore the process.
I think if I had to describe myself as anything, it would probably be most in line with a Humanist. Maybe if I had started out my 3 months exploring what I do and don’t believe first, it would have helped me to get to the next place of mindfulness and meditation. I also think that I am a person who does well shutting down my brain in a group when we are all striving to achieve mental clarity. I think trying to be mindful on my own didn’t work for me. I think this may also be why I struggled to meditate. And also, I think I was not clear on what spirituality looked like for me. Perhaps also, exploring spirituality came too soon in the project for me. Maybe if I had explored myself first, I could then have brought in how this ties with my spirituality at the end.
Finally, I think one thing I am struggling with over the whole course of this project but especially during this past 3 months is this. (Reference: Facebook Group Staying Alive is Not Enough)
There are so many things I have learned from this project and I could begin to list them here and now, but I think I will wait and do a full-blown mid-year review next week. But, one that really affects June is, if you aren’t ready for it, don’t do it. I was not ready at the start of June to try meditation. I really wanted to try it but ultimately, listening to my inner voice, where I was at the beginning of the month and what I could and could not do, I recognised that now might not be the right time for this. And in a few ways I can really tell that this was the right decision. Firstly, I became ill, probably some of it was due to being run down and it was probably made worse by hay fever but I definitely needed a break and to cut myself a big bit of slack because I was running my engine a bit too hard. I took on a coaching course, which I love doing but may not have been my best move when trying to do this and find a centre of gravity for my life. I am an overcommitter by nature though and will do everything possible in my power to achieve everything, including running myself ragged. Still, an opportunity is an opportunity and should be grabbed with both hands.
All of this discussion makes me sad that I have completely missed this month. I will say that while Mindfulness on its own doesn’t seem to help me, yoga appears to be here to stay in my life. This is a good thing. Sunday riding and Thursday yoga are two staples in my life. They are the days in the week I look forward to most. They make me happy and keeping me going. They also help keep me centred. And even if they aren’t meditation, they are a beginning for finding the path back to me. So, as much as I hate to say it, sorry meditation, now might not be your time to enter my life. Maybe we should try again next year?
Also, this image felt particularly poignant for this post when I saw it on Facebook.
For the last few weeks, I have been failing in my spiritual quest. Why? Well, my husband thinks it is because I try to take on too much and there may be a degree of truth in that. I think also I have had a few very busy weeks at work which have meant I come home exhausted and needed to do some self-care. For me, this means boiling life down to just the few things I need to do for surviving. So, I went to work and came home, then tried to sleep where possible. But mostly, my life has revolved around doing only the absolutely necessary which meant lots and lots of hard work at work. There have been good things. I have been chucked into the deep end and come out doing reasonably well on a few things at work. I also have had some major projects at work that are requiring a large amount of set up. We have also been trying to arrange our travel for the month of travel. Add on top of that the work I am doing for my Coaching course and you can see that how I might feel overloaded. And I am coming down with a sinus infection I think. So, I have been struggling with finding some time for myself and much of my time has been around just being. I have downloaded a meditation application but I have not even been able to touch it. I don’t want to be overly optimistic and say I will start it tomorrow, because I have tried that before and when it didn’t work out, I was upset with myself for not getting it done. And for now, I think I will mostly just try to get by moment to moment and day to day. I think I clearly need to take a step back, re-balance and re-centre myself. Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh day with no mistakes in it. And maybe what I really need is an Anne of Green Gables perspective. Each night, I hit the reset button and tomorrow is a new day.
This week was a very important one for me professionally. I was working beyond my clocking out time and trying to be able to do my best for a big review I was involved in on Friday. While I think all went well, you can never be sure about these things. But, disappointingly, it meant that I was limited in the work that I could do on my yoga this week. However, I did get a chance to attend the last class of this cycle. And, I have signed up for another 7 week cycle of the beginner’s class. I am enjoying it and if I can continue to build up my abilities, hopefully that will help keep me motivated and I can begin to consider other classes. There is one called Yin yoga which is a bit more about meditation that I am considering doing for the next few weeks while I am working on meditation, but we will see.
After my week where I did feel a bit of pressure, I spent part of this morning reading those articles I love, like how to deal with your stress and 6 things to do when your life falls apart, you know the ones. And as I read them, I realised 3 out of the 4 articles those writing talk about their break down. Each break down had a different theme, life collapse from bad break up and losing job and two were just generic breakdowns, but it left me thinking, wow, as a society what in the hell have we done that so many people are experiencing breakdowns? While I haven’t had a full-break down, I have certainly probably teetered on the edge with depression and have definitely felt very low at many points in my life, including trying to keep it all together after my dad died. However, I have definitely been looking for my ‘thing’. I mean, that’s what this whole blog is about. I have felt like my world, one that I was carefully constructing fell apart and left me adrift trying to figure out what to do, my thing, or whatever you want to call it. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to make the hard times easier? I can’t think of anyone who would say that they didn’t want that. And yes, especially after a tough week, of course I want to react calmly to stressful and frustrating situations. But while I was reading all of these I realised, that most of what they described, I am already there on it. I am casting my net wide and not judging myself but examining my life and how I can be creative. I am certainly asking for help when I need it and remembering the bad times are not all there is. There most certainly are better times, I just have to look for them. I am also focusing on not dwelling on the bad stuff, but learning from it. I do hate letting people be there for me, because I like to think I am solid, but even that is falling by the wayside a bit.
So, do I think these articles taught me anything, no. And a year ago, I might not have thought that, but look at me and my growing. If I pull altogether what I have learned though from my experience, it would be these things.
- If you can’t fix it, let it go. If you can’t let it go, leave the situation. If you are still thinking about the situation, even after you have left it, well, think about it, and then minimise it, or put it in a box. No matter what you do, stop letting it harm you.
- If things feel a little hard, go for a walk or if you are me and at home, some yoga. Getting physical gets those endorphins going. If you are really feeling the stress, just breath. You have been stressed before and you survived so there is every indication that you can survive this too. Just have a little faith in yourself. George Michael will approve.
- Sometimes, I just need to talk at someone and I don’t need a response and that is okay. I just need to let them know what is expected from them in that scenario, like that I don’t really need an answer or a solution to a problem, I just need to offload. Most of my friends seem cool with that.
- There doesn’t have to be a ‘thing’ I am fabulous at that if I do it, I will be happier and have the most amazing life. In fact, most people are not like that and if that tells me anything it is that expecting to change one thing to make your life perfect is just crazy talk. Also, sometimes, you don’t need the big changes, just a few tweaks and maybe a little self-confidence.
- SELF-CONFIDENCE! Sure, you aren’t perfect at everything or maybe even anything, but there is some stuff that you are damn good at, so own that. And it is okay to know you are good at something. It isn’t bragging. That one took ages to get into my head.
- Fuck perfect. Good or adequate is often enough. And if you do outstanding, reward it.
- Small things matter. It may not seem big to you, but it might be for someone else. Also, there will come a time at some point in your life where even something small will bring a smile to your face or feel like a victory, unless you are a Cyberman because then you have not emotions what-so-ever.
- No is a powerful word that should be used more. I mean sure there may be some hurt feelings and if it is to a friend or someone you are close to, if you explain the no, it helps them understand and process. It may also give them permission to say no to something they really weren’t feeling to which may open up a whole new level of honesty in your relationship. If it is to a coworker, manager, or a bully, say no and you don’t have to give a reason. But, it keeps you from doing something you don’t want to. But also, don’t just say no because you are scared. A no should be used judiciously and if you are saying no because you are scared, check if it is an opportunity you should be saying yes to instead.
- Be the authentic you. No one likes you, it may feel that way but there will be someone out there who thinks what you are doing is awesome and there will be a few who will like or even love you for being you. There will also probably be a few people who are truly jealous. Don’t care what those others think so much, they will have forgotten the words you said, ten seconds after you said them, if they even heard them at all. They are wrapped up in their own crap and probably didn’t even really know you were there.
- Explore everything. Who says you can’t?
I won’t sit here and say I am doing all these things well, or that I am doing them at all. I will say, I am trying. I am a work in progress and above are a few tools helping me on this journey. No, these haven’t all come from mindfulness or yoga or these articles. These are a bit of my learning from the process I am beginning.
I have been doing quite a bit of processing this weekend for a few different reasons. I ran into someone who is in a bad place themselves over the weekend which helped me think about where I am at and how I am feeling about being there. I have been working to put things into perspective which is feeling a little hard at the moment. I will say though that I did do some of my yoga on Friday night, which was helpful and I binge watched a show on Netflix. I felt bad for binge watching television instead of doing something productive and then I remembered that I really need to give myself some downtime and how truly bad I am at downtime. I have done some work for my coaching course which has felt very positive and like I am working towards my future. I was actually given feedback on Friday that I am very good at giving positive reinforcement and encouragement to my peers, which I must admit made me grin. Yesterday, we spent the day with friends and meeting a potential new friend, which felt good.
What am I trying to figure out for this project is that Mindfulness has fallen by the wayside a little bit. Yoga I seem able to do a few times a week plus the class, but Mindfulness I let it fall off and I can’t seem to get back there. Someone who has come into my life in the last year has told me that we all explore things at a time that works for us, and whenever I haven’t followed up something they have suggested to me, they tell me that maybe it just isn’t time for me to do so. The point being that we do things when the time is right for us. I really like that philosophy and am considering taking it forward. It also helps me explain to people why I am interested in something that they are recommending but may not feel able to take it up right at that moment. I still have no answers on where or when Mindfulness might fit into my life.
Horse riding as always is a joy. The horse I seem to always ride and I are getting along well and he even sticks his nose is my face to say hi when I first enter the riding area these days. And he sticks his neck up so I an rest my hand on his neck to help me get off after the lesson. He even makes sure I say goodbye to him. And when the instructor says my name, he gives his ears a little wiggle and like he is starting to pay attention. He knows quite a few English words already like trot and canter. He and I seem to do alright together and he seems to tolerate my existence, which when you are riding something that is quite a bit bigger than you and could probably kill you, is a good thing. And again, it sounds like something that is going well in my life at the moment.