Instruction #188 – Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know

There are 57,900,000 results for “positive quotes” on Google and 26,968 results for “positive thinking” books on Amazon. I guess the laws of supply and demand would indicate that we have a great need for positive inspiration in our lives. I, myself, subscribe to Inspire Me Today to receive daily doses of positivity and motivation. Like most people I know, I often find it difficult to source that motivation from within myself and I need a little help.

Everyone knows the phrase “if you believe it, you can achieve it”. The news is peppered with stories about amazing achievements generated by positive thought. Gail Lynne Goodwin, founder of Inspire Me Today, gave me some advice via Twitter… when I asked how one gets through the difficult days she said “Determination and realization that it is a choice. Nothing more than that.” It is a choice! This may sound strange, but that was a bit of a revelation to me at the time. I can choose to be unhappy, I can choose to be fearful, I can choose to be angry OR I can take a deep breath, smile and choose positivity.

It’s a simple concept. But it’s right. After all, who actually wants to be miserable? and I’m reliably informed that it takes less muscles to smile than to frown. Though when researching for this blog I found that there is actually extensive debate around whether this is true or not… much of which is irrefutable medical evidence – but in support of positivity, I’m willing to over look this little white lie and perpetuate the myth 😉 I hope that you are too!

So, I declare December a month of positivity (for me anyway). As of today, I’ll be following Instruction #188, from the little book – I’m going to become the most positive and enthusiastic person I know. I promise not to cheat by surrounding myself with miserable, negative people. And who knows, maybe if I can keep it up for the whole month, I might just stay the most positive and enthusiastic person I know! I’ll let you know how I get on…

The Fear

They say you have to conquer your fear if you are to live a full and satisfying life. And I think most of us live with fear of some sort. Not necessarily highly visible and conscious fear, like arachnophobia or agoraphobia. It’s more subtle than that and it’s linked to our confidence, our self esteem.

Strangely, whilst we normally understand and empathise with physical illness more openly than mental illness, when it comes to fear, we seem to do the opposite. We find it crazy that people are scared of spiders but are really quite understanding of those who are afraid of having their heart broken. I think it’s because deep down, we all have similar feelings, but are not necessarily ready to admit it. Or, is that just me?

Some people have a fear of failure, some a fear of being hurt (emotionally). Many of us feel different fears at different times in our lives, sometimes a little each day. I feel fear. Not as often as when I was younger, admittedly… maybe over time I’ve been conquering fear, but like a scene in a really bad horror movie it just won’t give up and die already!

It took me years to understand my fear. For a long time I just couldn’t put my finger on it. But, now I know exactly what it is. And I think it could be the craziest fear of all! My fear is one of losing something. But of losing something I don’t yet have. A fear of losing the opportunity to have something. To lose “what could be”. I told you it was crazy!!

I spent much of my early life wanting more, wishing my life away, dreaming and wondering… I say early life, I mean up until about 4 or 5 years ago. Someone said to me only yesterday, that they used to be a habitual clock watcher, but that they consciously stopped looking forward to the weekend when they, suddenly one day, realised that every minute of every day was their life. They had to live in the now and experience it all.

For my part, I’m pretty good at living in the now and appreciating what I have. Well, as I say, now I am pretty good at that. Don’t get me wrong. I still have my moments… and I still have my dreams. In fact, I had a BIG moment the other night. My beloved and I were experiencing a “bit of conflict” during which The Fear gripped me unexpectedly. I admit I lost it. What I don’t know is what the trigger was. What is it that poked the fear monster with a sharp stick and woke it from its long and deep sleep? Working that out, I guess, is the next step.

What I did do, after regaining it, was to try to make sense of things in a positive way. So, I wrote a short poem. Only one verse. And I’d like to share it with you:

Fear is a torrent
Engulfing the soul
Arresting development
Reducing the whole

The process didn’t get me to Oz, but it did help to get me a couple of steps further along the yellow brick road. Life continues to be a journey of self-discovery. I wrote on my About Me page that I was a learner when it came to blogging, but not so much in life. I beg to differ with myself! It appears that I’m still learning that too.

Instruction #1128 – Write some poetry

As part of my continuous self improvement process, using my Life’s Little Instruction Book as a guide, I set myself a challenge to write some poetry. I know nothing about poetry, knew  nothing about poetry… although I wouldn’t profess to know much more now! I’ve spent the last week (some of it at least) researching the basics of poetry. I’ve asked for help, hints and tips from friends, family and twitter buddies alike. And everyone was very helpful.

There are a lot of resources out there for the budding poet. To learn the basics though, I was restricted to learning exercises for children. That, or just take a pencil and some paper, observe, feel and write…. I got as far as feel and then nothing. I needed structure. So, back to the elementary lesson plans I went….

There are also a lot of different types of poems, and did you know that sonnets are highly technical… with their iambic pentameters, quatrains and stanza, ABAB CDCD EFEF GG… and that’s just a basic one! Think I’ll leave those to Shakespeare. So, I decided on an Acrostic Poem. Simple yet effective. Don’t get me wrong, by simple I don’t mean easy. I was genuinely surprised at how difficult rhyming can be. Well, meaningful rhyming. Making sentences that made sense was hard enough, but to make them interesting and compelling was even more difficult.

I have to say though, I enjoyed the process. Getting all the words down on paper, exploring vocabulary and shaping my creative chaos into something, hopefully, quite entertaining. It was a little bit like blogging, but harder!

So, without further ado, here’s how I got on…

Henry is my cat
Ever playful
No dingbat!
Running around splash and splat!

You would like my Henry cat
In the garden and in the park
Searching for birdies, mice and sprat
Making mischief from this and that

You could play with Henry cat
Chase the cork, climb the wall
A box, a bag, a ball, a hat
They’re all fun games for a cat thereat!

OK, OK, so it’s a little immature. But, you’ve got to start somewhere! And I will keep trying. Keep learning. Keep improving. Keep your eyes peeled for greater poems to come…

All work and no play…

We’ve touched on the elusive work/life balance before… And I can tell you now that it’s unlikely that I’ll be making any glorious revelations in this post (so if you’re searching for answers, you can pretty much stop reading now – actually that’s not entirely true. There’s a wee surprise in there somewhere).

It strikes me though, that just about everyone I know, has trouble living the life they really want. Not, that everyone I know is grossly unhappy, don’t get me wrong. But it does seem like we’re all over-worked.

Whether we work for large multi-nationals, or small family run businesses, part time or full time, big boss man or shop floor; the recurring theme seems to be that our employers want so much from us… Too much.

My beloved, normally a night owl who comes to life around the witching hour, took to his bed at 7:30 this evening complaining of feeling cold and tired ( you should know that our house is like Miami 24/7/365 because I don’t believe in putting a jumper on). I myself had a cold recently for a full 2 weeks followed by laryngitis! And we’re not the only ones! It could just be that the autumn is turning to winter and there’s a lot of little bugs going around. But, you have to trust your Mum and mine would say “you’re run down”. Yeah, run down because we work so hard.

I just did a reccie on t’internet to find some evidence to support my overworked theory. Expecting to come up trumps, I came across an article in the Guardian newspaper from March of this year which, shock horror!, completely disproves it.

The Fourth European Working Conditions Survey, 2007 (approximately 30,000 people questioned in 31 countries) tells us that Turkey has the
longest hours worked in Europe (54 hours per week). The UK comes in at number 29 working on average 35 hours per week. The EU average is 39 hours per week. We do apparently, come in at number 1 for most hours worked during weekends and evenings, though, due to the fact that most of us work in Service industries now, as opposed to manufacturing.

I personally work hours closer to the EU average than the UK average and most of my girlfriends who work 4 days per week to spend more time with their kids still end up working the “average” 35 hours in a shorter period of time.

But, am I alone in thinking that 39 hours is too much? And in reality it’s more than that, when you’re only break is to walk to the coffee machine and you eat lunch at your desk every day ( even if you are spending that time updating your facebook status and doing some Christmas shopping online). Then you have to load in the commute and suddenly you find that you have about 3 hours at home in the evenings before you go to bed and then get up and do it all again.

So, am I just lazy? Or are we indeed working too hard? Maybe it’s what we do or don’t do with our non-working time that makes us feel that we never get a break… Or maybe life has always been hard and we just need to pull our socks up and get on with it!

Still, I can’t help thinking… Sitting in my (not too) small Gite in the South of France, writing my blog for a living in between pottery making and yoga and still having time to bake fresh bread and cakes every day would be much nicer than dragging myself in and out of the office every day for the next 30 years… Too much to ask? Or too high expectations? Maybe that’s the problem.

Someone once said “find a job that you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I’m not sure that my Bank Manager would agree!

That Christmas feeling

I’ve just spent 24 hours in Leeds with two of my closest girlfriends. The plan was no men, no kids, just us girls, a bit of shopping and a lot of cocktails in Harvey Nic’s.

We’d all been looking forward to the trip for some time. My friend (who I’m always starting Yoga with) and I have had two similar excursions over the last 18 months, both of which resulted in both of us spending lots of money we didn’t have on expensive purchases and countless apple martini’s. Not that my beloved minded, he was on the receiving end of the majority of my lavish gift buying!

For me, this weekend was about kicking off the festive season proper. Lavish Christmas gift buying, cocktails and giggles. I managed the second two.. It was a tremendously fun weekend. It really was so good to spend quality time with my girls! But, as I’ve just said to my friend… I’m still not feeling “Christmassy”.

I recall that I had a similar feeling last year. It was well into December before “that Christmas feeling” started to make itself known to me. You may think this normal. But, I am very well known in my close circles to be more than slightly obsessed with the festive season; writing my letter to Santa by October 31st at the latest, having my table settings planned and organised by the end of November and generally acting with exponential giddiness from around November 1st.

But it seems that either something (or things) are getting in the way or other things are becoming more important, as I get older… I’m not sure which. Or, maybe it’s a bit if both.

What I am sure of, though, is that Christmas is becoming less about “me” (in my own mind I mean). Hey, I’m not saying that it’s not about me at all. My whole life is generally “all about me”. Just ask my beloved. But, I’m getting better. I even suggested that a meal in a restaurant may be an easier option this year, as opposed to the full traditional dinner for 13 at my Mum’s – and I should tell you that anything that doesn’t fall into the archetypal Hollywood Movie Christmas Day scene is generally met with horror and revolt by me!

So, maybe it’s a good thing that I’m not feeling Christmassy just yet. It will give Santa one less kid to worry about this year!

It’s up to you, New York

So, I didn’t really update you on my NYC experience… well, I can tell you that in the city that never sleeps… we didn’t sleep. Not at the appropriate times anyway! Which meant we didn’t really sample the nightlife, just the early evening life (hey! no Early Bird comments!) Though we did make it out till 10:30pm on my beloved’s birthday, woop-woop! To be honest though, (and I speak for myself here as well as make a sweeping generalisation across the two of us) we didn’t feel that we missed out. Are we getting old?

We didn’t want a crazy tourist marathon. We’d had enough craziness at home the last month or so. We wanted to chillax, hang out and take in the atmosphere… Chillax in NYC?! I hear your laugh. But it is possible.

Putting the 2 ½ hour wait, in various unorganised “lines” to get through Passport Control, aside (and I mean seriously, is it really that difficult?!) there are actually a lot of places to just hang and relax in NYC…

Central Park. We spent a very relaxing hour strolling round the vast expanse of parkland right in the middle of Manhattan and then sat and had a leisurely lunch (the food was delicious!!) in the boathouse, watching tourists and loved up couples floating over the calm still water. It was almost perfect… had it not been for the guy behind us intent on sharing with the entire restaurant the view from the inside of his mouth whilst he ate. My beloved could not take his eyes of him.

Soho. 11am on a Monday morning. We walked along a quiet Bleecker Street (the shops were only just starting to open), had a refreshment in the quirky Cafe Angelique and watched the world go by. Well, not the whole world, just an older lady in big sunglasses (all older ladies in NYC dress like younger ladies and always wear big sunglasses, have you noticed that?) and a couple of 20 something guys in tight jeans and pork pie hats.

Even Macy’s was fairly pleasant when we arrived at 9am on our last day. Though only an hour later we were seeking solace in the Men’s department… it seems only single girls and mums like to shop on a Tuesday morning (the make-up counters and kids department were battle zones by this time).

This was the view from out hotel window… how relaxed were we?!

So there you have it, NYC a city to chillax in…no? OK. How about, there are plenty of opportunities in life to take time out, you just have to keep your eyes open. Even in NYC. And you know what they say, if you can chill out there, you can chill out anywhere 🙂

Instruction #1 – Compliment 3 people every day

OK, so it’s been almost a month since I undertook to improve myself via the instruction provided in Life’s Little Instruction Book… as I mentioned in my previous post, there’s 1,560 of them so, not so little a book. And impossible to start doing them all at once. So, I thought “one step at a time” (a fairly common and highly recommended approach) and started with Instruction #1 – Compliment 3 people every day.

Now at first glance, this seems fairly straight forward, fairly easy… very achievable. Turns out, either it’s actually not… or I’m a mean, nasty, horribly selfish person! Now I admit, (as is my nature) I started off very enthusiastically, though I did cheat a little by sending out a generic (but genuine) compliment to the Twitter community, and then it did kind of peter out quite a bit.

When it came to the real live people I was complimenting, I predicted that a pattern would emerge fairly quickly. Those who knew me, were genuinely thankful and touched by my compliments (I decided early on that I needed to be genuine with my compliments otherwise, what was the point?). This was a good thing. This was a great thing.  In return for taking the time to say a few nice words to my friends and family, I was rewarded with a few moments of conscious and heart felt love. I was loved.

In the other camp, I had thought, that the people whom I didn’t know – strangers, for want of a better term – would look upon me with great suspicion. But I was wrong, partly… There were those who showed fear and mistrust. But that may have been down to my own apprehension and uneasiness at delivering such a personal observation to a stranger. Maybe the compliments didn’t come across as so. But mostly, people actually responded positively. And I was again rewarded with a little bit of conscious and heartfelt love.

Like the archetypal Brit, I find it difficult to be open with my emotions. Sometimes even with those close to me, never mind with complete and utter strangers. I think we can all agree that it’s a fear thing. But, putting my psycho-analysis to one side for the moment, this experience has taught me that there is some truth in the saying “it is better to give than to receive” because actually, when you give you get a little back too. And braving the emotional hurdle of “giving” kindness to strangers is definitely worth a try, as it increases the chances of “receiving” a little conscious love.

Now, as I said earlier, my enthusiasm for “giving” fizzled out a little and I admit that making a conscious effort to compliment 3 people every day, in the end, was too demanding for me (whether that makes me mean, nasty, horrible and selfish is a subject of a much longer and deeper blog, no doubt). BUT I do, now,  try and remember to spot opportunties for complimenting people – loved ones and strangers alike – in the hope of spreading a little love. I’m just not counting, that’s all.

Why don’t you go ahead and give it a try yourself.

In the meantime, I’m going to try out another little instruction… Instruction #1128 – Write some poetry.