The Prodigal Blogger Returns

Today on twitter, I pledged to resurrect my commitment to positivity on account of Lent.

I haven’t practised a particular religion for 20 years (wow! didn’t realise it was that long until I counted it up just now). Not that I’m lazy. On the contrary. I’m extremely curious about religion, spirituality and things that are seemingly “other worldly”. What I didn’t want to do was go to church every Sunday and not really believe what I was saying or doing, or worse, not go to church at all but play the religion card when I need/want to get my child into a good school.

I actually take it very seriously. Least of all because I made a promise to my father (who is a strong believer) that I would make very conscious decisions about ‘God’ and ‘The Church’ and would not belittle his faith by being flippant about it.

And I believe that some of the things I was taught by my parents and religion have contributed to my being a “good person” today. One of those things is Lent. Well kind of.

I think that it is a great idea to take time out, whether it’s once per year or once each day, to be conscious about who we are and what we do for others. Whilst during Lent we are often encouraged to give something up for the duration (in support of what ‘Jesus’ gave up for all mankind) I believe that actually it makes more sense to give something back.

So, I’ve done this a few times over the years. I’ve participated in Lent in my own way. By doing something extra.

This year, I’m refocusing on positivity (see my previous attempts here and here). So, I’ll be looking for small ways each day in which I can help others (and from time to time myself) through the power of positivity. Harder than it sounds but then, it wouldn’t be worth it if it was easy!

I’ll keep you posted. Look out for updates on Twitter. Might even pen a blog or two about it… After all I did promise to write more this year.

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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…

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.

88 miles per hour, Marty!

Well, today is a long day. There are 29 hours in today, in fact! How have I achieved this? you’re wondering… did I stumble into a wormhole on my way to the supermarket? Did I bump into Doc Brown or the other good Doctor? and borrow their rides? Well sort of.
I did go back in time today. Twice.

Time is a funny thing. We have been watching and measuring time since the 3rd Century BC (probably longer). In fact, it’s another one of life’s little conversational obsessions (see earlier post re: the weather!).

Time can be simultaneously snail like and faster than Mario Andretti, yet always constant. “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” – C.S. Lewis. Some people never have enough, others have way too much.

The spooky thing is, though, we know how long time takes, but none of us know how much time we actually have. It’s like having a bank account that keeps giving you cash until one day it stops without warning. We can read the statements of how much we’ve spent and what we’ve spent it on, but we have no idea what the balance is! And yet, with what is definitely a finite, and possibly for some a rare, commodity, how much of it do we waste?

So, what have I done with my extra hours today? Have I achieved something positive for the world? Have I improved myself as a human being? Nope. Not really (though I am still working on Instruction #1). I’ve spent my extra hours researching and writing my blog and now I think I’ll wander down to the bar and quietly take in the view over the river, with a wee nightcap.

You’ll have to excuse my existential musings this evening. I read a book on my travels today called “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom. It made me cry (actual tears)… and it’s clearly got me thinking…

OK, OK, I’ve milked it enough… Time; we shouldn’t waste it “we get it!”

Back to the subject of my 29 hour day…

You’ve probably already worked it out for yourself. But in case you haven’t, here’s an explanation:

Firstly, along with the rest of the UK I gained an extra hour as the clocks changed, marking the end of British Summertime, at once a sad and happy event. Sad because, no more summer – boo! And happy because, an extra hour in bed – yay! And then I got on a plane and landed 4 hours in the past, whilst my loved ones remain in the future. I just hope I can get back! Now where did I put the keys to the Delorean?

Life’s Little Instruction Book

One of my good Twitter buddies @Stephen_OConnor referenced an intriguing book in one of his tweets about a month ago – “Using my “life’s little instruction book” for my tweets today” . Now being, as I am, an interested party in the meaning of life as well as the continuous improvement of myself, I thought – this could be a useful tool, or at the very least an interesting read. So, I promptly navigated to Amazon and bought a copy.

The book arrived 2 days later, complete with 2 volumes of hints and tips to live a good life… 1,560 of them! Not so little, I thought. But having skimmed a few pages, I started to think, hey! this isn’t such a bad idea… It may not earn me a Sainthood, but it might just help me to expand my horizons a little and I may well learn a few things. After all is learning not what this blog is all about for me?

So I’m going to give it a try – I’m going to try out some of Life’s Little Instructions and I’ll let you know what happens.

Instruction #1 – Compliment 3 people every day.