Admission

It’s been a while. In truth I’ve been tongue-tied, unable to pull the right words from the melting pot of my mind. Not even sure what to say, even if I could work out how to say it. So there you have it. Welcome to my mind.

How easy it is to blame things. Work being busy. Not sleeping well. Time just flying by. Excuses trip so easily off the tongue – far easier than admitting reality. But when we run out of excuses reality always bites. Why don’t we learn? You’d think we would. Or maybe not.

So anyway, time has flown, excuses have multiplied at speed like bacteria in a petri dish. And here we are. Here I am. Facing my reality. Admitting it. Holding a red rag up to it and waiting for it to charge. Come on, I’m ready.

Nothing is wrong. Things have changed, situations shifting like the sands of time on which we are so shakily standing. But nothing is wrong.

Earlier, I meditated. Took some time to step away from the to do lists, to quell the panic rising up inside. I couldn’t quite believe how well it worked. It’s always nice, of course, to close your eyes and find that space, to realise all that really matters is the breath, in, out. The here and the now is all there is.

But this time something happened, not at first, but after. A flash of inspiration, a hint at the solution to a problem I’ve been grappling with for weeks. I wrote it down. In ink. For permanence.

I think I will meditate again tomorrow.

buddha-meditation-image-quote-picture

 

The Resistance

Today things feel a little bleak. On a global level, in five days of office Trump the Tyrant has ridden roughshod over the environment, women’s rights, freedom of speech and now refugees, ushering in a new era of legitimised fascism along the way. On a personal level, my spirit is feeling dampened not only by the events in the US, but also by the plummeting temperatures across Europe which signal further devastation for homeless refugees, the crazy levels of air pollution in my old home town of London where many of my friends still live, and the fact I am under too much pressure at work and don’t know how I’m going to juggle it with the masters degree I’m starting next week (next week!!). In short, I feel helpless, and also a little hopeless.

But – as life sometimes has a way of doing to drag us out of our despair – a chance encounter with my local florist this afternoon when I stopped by for tulips for our cleaning lady (whose brother recently passed away) reminded me why it’s so important to have hope. We got chatting about how beautiful the flowers were, and she told me she had quit her office job some years ago for a simpler life. Despite earning less money now, she told me she is far happier. She then asked about me, and, when I told her I was soon to start an MSc in Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology and had aspirations to be a freelance wellbeing coach she said “the world needs people like that more than ever now.” I felt a surge of optimism at that, and a renewed sense of purpose. And to remind myself of that I bought this beautiful pink orchid.

16179696_10158121109280057_4878845629363770529_o

Hope springs eternal

When I got home I was delighted to see that Greenpeace had unfurled a ‘Resist’ banner right outside the White House, and to read that a group of scientists are coming together to march on Washington in protest against Trump’s gagging order against employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Also heartening was the Badlands National Park Twitter account which sent out three messages on Tuesday promoting climate science despite the Trump administration crackdown on agencies communicating on social media. Since then they have been forced to delete the tweets, but an alternative Twitter account has sprung up which already has 575,000 followers.

This growing groundswell of angry defiance in response to people like Trump must spur us all into immediate action, because action is all there is now if we are to stand up to what is so patently wrong – to save ourselves and our planet.

16142887_10158122027550057_5291308665989790109_n

Listening to the Universe / Catching Ideas

A good friend of mine, a writer, is big on listening to the universe. When she has a problem she just throws it out there, figuratively speaking, and keeps her senses hyper tuned in to the universal radio frequency to see what it throws back. I love this, as a concept, but in practice find it harder to adopt.

At the moment I’m reading this wonderful book by the equally wonderful Liz Gilbert (she of Eat, Pray, Love fame, also the author of The Signature of All Things which I adored). I won’t regurgitate its contents (nobody likes regurgitated contents), but what I will share is the gorgeous notion that ideas are all around us, like spirits, tapping potential collaborators on the shoulder and waiting for a response. If they get one, great, tapper and tappee sign a virtual contract, and off they trot into the sunset. If not, the idea simply moves onto the next person. Isn’t that FANTASTIC?

So anyway, both my friend and Liz Gilbert have got me thinking about listening to the universe. I have always had a desire to be creative; an inner fire, if you will. But I haven’t nurtured this desire as much as it deserved, instead allowing external stimuli to distract me from it with alarming regularity. As a result, the fire has often dwindled into embers, which I have managed to stoke sufficiently to keep them alight, but only just. And so, with the exception of a handful of sparks that have broken free from the fire, my creativity has lain mostly dormant for three decades. Like a bear in hibernation, it has poked its head out once every so often to sniff the air, before deciding that nope, it’s better to remain inside its cave, safe from criticism, safe from harm.

Now, as I hurtle through my fourth decade on this planet (shudder), it’s high time for the bear to wake up. It’s clear that for whatever reason the fire inside is stubbornly refusing to die out, so the choice is either live the rest of my life with a sense of failed achievement hanging around my neck like a noose, or coax the bear out of its hole once and for all. I think I’ll do the latter, and also grab a butterfly net. Because who knows how many ideas might tap me on the shoulder while I’m at it?

download (1) catch ideas sml png

NaNoWriMo Day Four (Belated): Smooth Sailing on Fatberg Seas

When I started yesterday’s session I took solace in the fact my chapter headings and the words ‘The End’ would count towards my total word count, which gives you an insight into my level of conviction about being able to complete this challenge. But then, just like Chris Baty says in No Plot, No Problem!, something magical happened. I fired up the laptop, began typing, and a little over an hour later I had typed 1,900 words! Best of all, the majority of those words were about (weirdly) one of my favourite topics: Fatbergs. Yep, those giant balls of congealed fat, rotting food and sanitary wipes form a crazy amount of fodder for the stalling novelist, or so it would seem. And so, after sailing on a sea of fatberg-related sentences, I cruised right up to within 300 words of my day four word count target. Here’s hoping the rest of the month will be as plain sailing (something tells me it won’t..).

download (3)

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Things

Join me, if you will, in a little celebration amidst humanity’s ever increasing swathes of doom and gloom. Because, despite the myriad ways in which our species seems intent on ruining not only itself but also its habitat, there is, like tiny saplings poking their heads through the dry earth or sunbeams breaking through the clouds, still hope. That hope lies in the people who refuse to sit back and watch as we chart an untenable course into oblivion. Not world leaders, nor social commentators, but ordinary people like you and me. What qualities do they possess that many of their fellow humankind do not, or choose not to cultivate? Belief it doesn’t have to be this way. Compassion for their fellow men and women. The desire to act, to help, to make a tangible difference, no matter how small.

Here are some examples of ordinary people who are currently achieving extraordinary things:

  1. The Worldwide Tribe – Words can’t describe my admiration for Jasmin O’Hara and her small team of friends and family who have been working tirelessly in recent weeks to raise funds and gather supplies for the refugees in Calais. Their Facebook page details their regular trips and interactions with the refugees, and donations to the cause can be made here.
  2. Serve the City / Gare du Nord – Food for Friends – I recently found out about Serve the City, A movement of volunteers serving cities in practical ways & inspiring people to be givers in this world, who believe that many people doing small things together can make a big difference in our world.The Brussels website details lots of different volunteering opportunities that I am keen to check out, including the Gare du Nord – Food for Friends project, which meets weekly to distribute food and supplies, and provide a listening ear, to homeless people, including those caught up in the current migrant crisis.
  3. Solidare-IT – A crowdfunded project I have recently come across in Brussels, which aims to connect people who need some help with people who can and want to help…[facilitating] the exchange of solidarity. The project is scheduled to be up and running by the end of this year, and I’m so impressed with it I have offered my communication services for free – a small personal contribution to a fantastic cause.
  4. Mark Bustos – I’ve mentioned him on this blog before, but he is more than deserving of another mention. A New York-based celebrity hair stylist who gives up his weekends to provide free hair cuts (and care packages courtesy of his girlfriend, who goes with him) to the homeless. Follow him on Instagram – markbustos – his updates make me smile every time.

It is people and projects like these that inspire me to do better, to be better. It’s all too easy to pass the buck and say the issues that society is currently facing are too big for ordinary people to solve. But if not us, the ordinary people, then who? The politicians? Excuse me while I choke on my latte. No. The only way to save our species is by looking outside ourselves and starting to save others. If that’s not the true essence of humanity I don’t know what is. And if the rest of us ordinary people don’t get with the programme soon it will be too late to find out.

905952_1612543062364788_4626843883704174045_o

Jasmin O’Hara from the Worldwide Tribe on one of their trips to the Calais migrant camp. 

The Magic

I’ve just awoken from a lucid dream about one of the characters in the novel I’m planning to write for next month’s NaNoWriMo. The details I’ve been struggling to come up with when fully conscious presented themselves, as if by magic, when I was semi-conscious. Not only that, when I fully woke up and jumped out of bed to write those details down, the ‘twist’ in the plot I’ve been scratching around for over the past few days popped into my head, just like that. All of a sudden I am no longer ill at ease with my plot, but positively in love with it. There may still be (many) details to work out before I’m ready to start writing it in thirteen days, but instead of dreading it I now can’t wait to get cracking.

THIS feeling is what the writing process is all about, and it’s a feeling I haven’t had for a long time. Sometimes it’s such a battle just coming up with a plot, let alone developing the characters to bring that plot alive. And my inner critic doesn’t help, making constant digs about not being good enough. That’s why I love NaNoWriMo; because for one month every year I can commit to a writing programme so intense there is no time for introspection and self-criticism. It’s pedal to the metal all the way to the finish line, and whilst it’s not easy it is exhilarating. And that’s what makes it worth every minute.

nanowrimo

Through the eyes of a child

At lunch time today I walked over to the river and sat down beside the water feature, which spurts jets of water intermittently out of the ground. As I watched, a little girl and a lady who was presumably either her mother or carer came over to look at the water feature. At first the girl, unsure what to expect, was hesitant to get close to it. But as soon as the water shot out of the ground she ran away, squealing with pleasure and clapping her hands. Moments later she was back in her original position, her gaze fixed intently on the spot where the water had originally exploded from. She did the same thing several times over before they eventually walked away, and during that time it struck me there’s a lot that adults can learn from children. Like, for example, the following:

  1. Delight in simple pleasuresChildren can derive pleasure from the simplest of things; a ladybird, a spurt of water, a feather on the ground. If adults took some time each day to appreciate little things in the same way, might it not alleviate some of the stress their busy lives create?
  2. Look at everything as if for the first timeThe older we get, the more of that childish wonder about the world we lose – wouldn’t it be nice if every day we tried to look at things we regard as ordinary and imagine it’s the first time we ever saw them? Not so ordinary now, right?
  3. Don’t waste time on things/people that/who bore youIf a child is given a toy to play with that isn’t very interesting to them, what do they do? Play with something else. Similarly, if a play partner doesn’t make the grade they’ll wander off and either find one that does or simply play alone. Why, then, do we adults put up with things and people that bore us?

Of course there are also many lessons children could learn from us (“Don’t throw your toys out of the pram” among them – didn’t we all learn THAT the hard way). Food for (childish) thought, anyway.