#34 It’s fun being non-traditional

From an early age, popular culture tells us that to be successful in life we must go to university, get a graduate job, find a life partner, buy a house, get married, have kids, keep working until retirement and then rest.

This is all fine and dandy if that’s what you want to do. It works out well for many people. But not for me.

I followed the script up until about the job bit, when I realised I wasn’t enjoying being in full time employment for any longer than 2 years at a time. I got distracted, I procrastinated, I yearned to be free. Then in my most recent role, the Universe handed me a very clear sign. I got laid  off from my job.

That’s when things really took off. I decided this was the time to start my own business and find a part-time job to support me. A lot of people in similar roles are stay at home mums or those with many years experience. Not me, I’m 27 and kid-free.

I am loving the extra time, I am loving going against the grain and doing something I love. I can explore life, read more things, meet people on my terms representing my own brand. And no I’m not making any profit yet but I’m working harder and smarter than ever, because I enjoy it.

I’ve started challenging other stereotypes too. I have a wonderful partner and I live with him but we’re not ready to hurtle through each life step. I don’t want to buy a house at the moment and I don’t know if I want kids but what I do know is that taking control of your life and your choices is the most liberating thing you can do.

Don’t fall prey to the rat race of life. Break free. Women and men now are choosing to live their lives their way, and that’s how it should be.

You don’t have to work full-time, you can establish your own business on your terms, you don’t have to marry or buy a house and you can certainly choose not to have children. It’s your body, your life, your choice. And what’s more, it’s personal.

Why should it matter what others think? It shouldn’t, they will only ever reflect their choices onto you. Choose not to follow.

I have a good friend who is a constant inspiration on this subject. She dyed her hair orange, she has chosen not to have kids and she volunteers with birds of prey at the weekend. Her life, her rules and I respect that.

I’m also challenging gender roles in a relationship. I feel if women can say they don’t want kids or they want equal pay, then they can also say they want to propose or they want to be the lead in the relationship. So many strong women take the natural lead in many areas of their relationship and yet when it comes to marriage, they sit back and wait for the man to get a ring. Why?

I think I naturally take control of things as a personality and I would consider proposing to my partner. Not because I feel it’s due but because it is a romantic gesture so in line with what I am all about. And yes it’s scary, it’s huge! But it takes two to tango, so why should one role always fall to one person?

In a world where we are reversing or challenging nearly all the traditions, why do we get stuck on proposals? Yes it’s romantic to have a man propose and give you a ring. But how many relationships wouldn’t have flourished if the woman hadn’t asked the man out, or if someone hadn’t been brave enough to just go for it.

Be brave. Follow your own path. If you never ask, you never know!

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#33 Change is in the air

Every year it’s the same, we enter into the new year faced with cold weather and dark evenings, then slowly, day by day, we see more light and more life. Last week, I saw a bunch of fresh snowdrops and it raised my spirits so high to see plants coming out of hibernation.

A bunch of snowdrops

Snowdrops in February

It is around this time that we start to set our sights on what’s next – Spring! Longing to see flowers and birds adding vitality to our world again. Already, the air is changing. It smells fresher, shoots are starting to appear in the ground and inside us, there is this ball of hope and excitement.

This is a time of year for planning, for getting into a project and being determined to finish it and for getting excited about what the year could bring.

With a particular interest in nature, I love this time of year for watching the landscape change, get greener and more cheerful, and for noticing small things like the way the morning frost lines leaves in the ground, or how buds are starting to form on thorny stems.

Noticing these small changes is better than anything a mindfulness course could teach you because, at the core of it, you are taking time to stop and look and notice and take it all in. For that moment, you are present, you are distracted by nothing.

Those moments are few and far between in modern day life and they are to be treasured and built on. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

When I started my Instagram feed for @365_dayswild last year, I made a deliberate effort to notice something every single day. I haven’t always managed to go out and get a photo, but I have noticed something every day. I take time to look closer at nature.

Even if you don’t post photos of nature, you could record something in a diary or just in your phone gallery. The more attention you give to something, the more it becomes ingrained in you. And that is the basis of the coming season, seeding growth, putting effort into a plant, a project or an activity and valuing the return you get.

So take your project and run with it, embrace it fully and dedicate yourself to it. Make sure it gives you joy otherwise you’ll find it harder to finish.

Breathe in the fresh air and that smell of hopefulness and energy bubbling away, ready to awaken into Spring over the next few weeks. Let that undercurrent be your power and motivation to commit to something and love it.

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#32 Dear Parents

I love you both so much but sometimes I can see our differences so clearly.

I have met a man who loves me, cares for me and makes me laugh. He is trying to be the best version of himself everyday. I see him grow and learn with me and I look forward to a future with him.

But you see someone who is overweight and whose family isn’t like yours. You see someone who has a job you think is not worthy of my attention and you think I am settling.

I disagree. Someone’s exterior is not the same as their interior. Never judge a book by its cover! Everyone has struggles, whether big or small, look at your own.

Just because he doesn’t look right to you, it doesn’t make our relationship wrong. Just because he is a big guy doesn’t mean you have to make him feel small. Just because I have been fortunate to be raised in a stable financial situation doesn’t mean that his background is unfortunate. Just because I have chosen differently to what you would have chosen doesn’t mean I am indifferent to your love.

I wish you would show your best sides around him, always. Show respect, a willingness to ask questions and dig deeper, rather than make shallow assumptions and indirect remarks. Your comments won’t make a difference to the way I feel about him, so your efforts are futile.

Instead of putting your energy into making me feel embarrassed, upset and angry, pour love and hope into my future. Instead of greeting us with snide remarks about health, offer supportive words about lifestyle changes. Instead of spreading your opinion around like manure, choose to say only positive things. Instead of being so concerned with traditions and ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, try to embrace new times and new ways.

I still love you both but your attitude around my man has got to change.

I am not your little girl anymore. I have a life, I am carving my own way and I am happy. Everyone makes choices in life and I am making mine. You make it clear that you don’t support all of mine but at least have some respect for what I have achieved so far. We all learn from our mistakes but my mistakes are different to yours and you don’t know what makes me happy.

This is a time in my life when I need the space to forge my own path, to live and learn. All I can ask for from you is your support and love. Respect me by respecting my choices, including my relationship.

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#31 Positive psychology and inspiring arts

The start of the new month is rolling in and, with the super moon bright and beautiful in the sky last night, today makes for a good day to re-visit any goals or ambitions for the year ahead.

Yesterday I went to see a talk about positive psychology and the things we can do to make us that bit happier. Studies have shown that positive people tend to be more successful and live longer, so it makes sense to try to live in a more positive way.

One of the tips was to focus on experiences, not things. For me, this was interesting, as I have got to the stage where I am starting to enjoy designing a home, finding nice pots and vases and focusing on making my house more homely.

The difference, then, is not in the thing itself but the meaning attached to it. For example, buying a convertible car because you love feeling the wind through your hair and the exhilaration of speed is different to buying a car for the sake of it.

It’s not about buying nothing and living simply, it’s about choosing your possessions wisely and because they enrich your experience, rather than fill a void.

Other tips suggested were to be more in nature, walk in woodlands and near lakes, and also write. Write about things you’re grateful for, or write because it gives you pleasure. Writing is a fine art of expression, it focuses the mind and gives a perfect outlet for emotion and thought. You can write for everyone or no-one but the act of putting pen to paper, or typing on screen, is a therapy in itself.

Sometimes it feels like these arts are dying, that people don’t have time to write anymore. But all it takes it to attend a local open mic night and hear people’s poetry, music, short stories, life stories, and you realise there are writers everywhere, Storytellers inspiring others in some way, reminding us that we are all creators in some way.

Part of a positive mindset is recognising your skills and knowing what you’re good at, and also what you enjoy. The aim is to do more of things you can do and enjoy doing and less of those you find hard and don’t enjoy. We all have tasks during our days which we dread or dislike but, for those within our control, we have a choice.

A lot of it is about choice and control. Choosing to think positively, choosing to write, choosing to see the best in others. Just like in yoga where it’s your mat and your practice, in life it’s your choices for you and not for anybody else.

Choose happiness.

 

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#30 Healing old wounds

Sometimes we don’t realise what we’re holding onto inside until it gets triggered by something. Maybe a conversation, or you observe it in other people or see it in a film.

“We all have the ability to recognise that which we also hold.”

With the new year, our attention is often on reflection and on what has been. For me, a major focus has been on forgiveness, both for myself and for other people. I look back on last year and see points where I said I forgive, but I’m still clutching on to it, I haven’t actually let go.

So I have taken time to formulate a way that I can be at peace with past mistakes and be able to move freely within my life without wishing for more or less. Perhaps it is also something you can relate to.

  • Identify the issue and how it makes you feel whether that’s angry, sad, guilty, hurt, betrayed, jealous. Sit with that feeling, play it over in your mind until you can almost imagine it there. Allow it to consume you, to relive the moment and all related conversations. Then breathe out and let it go, feel it leaving your body.
  • Now imagine that same scenerio from someone else’s point of view, maybe someone you admire, maybe a friend or family member, someone you trust. Imagine how they would react, what would they say to you about the issue? For instance, maybe you feel angry that a colleague got promoted and you didn’t, even though you’d put in the hours. But, from the point of view of your mentor, they say see it is an opportunity to grow and learn more, get comfortable with feedback.
  • Hopefully the second scenerio makes you feel more peaceful and more content with the issue. So now you can use that second scenerio to swish away the bad feelings and the wounds of the past. Whenever something triggers it, choose to see the second scenerio, always.

Don’t put pressure on yourself, take time to replay the sequence, sit with your feelings and work out a way of seeing the situation in a positive, hopeful way.

Olive Branch

Reach out to people to help you. Don’t be afraid to extend an olive branch and be hopeful that it comes back to you, but never assume it will. Be comfortable with the fact that it might not return.

Know that you are worthy and that you are enough, just as you are. We are all human, capable of mistakes and also capable of forgiveness. By letting go of what is hurting you, you are allowing yourself forgiveness.

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#29 Why January doesn’t have to be the start of something new

I often think that New Year’s resolutions can add more pressure than necessary. A new year does, undoubtedly, bring about a sense of energy and motivation to do more, to start over but, in fact, we are still in Winter, a time of rest and looking inwards.

Our natural energy comes in the Spring, when trees and flowers come out of hibernation and we start to see signs of life again. So in terms of setting goals, we can plant those ideas there and wait until the Spring for them to come to fruition. This doesn’t mean if you wish to lose a stone that magically it will be gone by March, but by putting that thought there you are committing yourself to something this year and also respecting your body’s rhythm by allowing it to move with the seasons.

A reason why so many people fail in their fitness goals is that they set them in January, a dark, cold and depressing time – starting back at work after a break, a long wait for the paycheck and not much going on. No wonder we all want to curl up inside!

We are so caught up in society’s wish that we all hit the gym, learn new hobbies and generally are expected to be a better person in January that we forget to look within ourselves and lose sight of what our body is asking of us. Albeit, many of us may wish for a few hours in the gym to burn off the Christmas food but we mustn’t forget that if we expect too much of ourselves now, we won’t have enough energy later in the year.

I found a nice illustration from Natural Shaman blog, which shows how all our cycles are connected with the seasons:

Natural Shaman blog

On there, they describe Winter as:

“The Winter brings our focus deep within ourselves.  We are no longer interested in the outside world.  Our mind may be busy with thoughts from the past, negative experiences or trauma.  Winter solstice is the darkest point in our year, and a time to study and learn, to keep safe and warm.  Women may experience difficult physical symptoms during this phase.  Cramps, tiredness and irritability are all signs that you need to relax into the darkness and look after yourself.  It is essential that you honour this part of the cycle.  You are in the most sacred time of the month.  Pay attention to your dreams and visions.  Sleep lots.  When we look after ourselves during our cycle, especially during this winter phase, we have a better chance of a great Spring and Summer.”

So rest up, relax and get ready for the energy of Spring.

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#28 What the snow can teach us

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It’s been a lovely few days in my area as the snow has fallen in its inches and laid a white covering across the ground, the roads and the cars. No one has been able to go anywhere and there has been a nice sense of community spirit as people venture out to build snowmen or clear drives together.

It got me thinking about how this weather condition can actually teach us a lot.

1. Patience

When the snow lays on the ground, crunchy and deep, there’s no going anywhere. We stay put, invent games, entertain ourselves and practice patience. In a world when everything can be so immediate and fast-paced, it’s nice to be able to slow it down.

2. Care

There is a much greater sense of togetherness and community when we face difficult weather conditions. You find neighbours chatting whilst scraping their cars, or people helping dig cars out of drives, or offering lifts here and there. In a way this is lovely and in another way it’s sad that it takes snowfall to bring this out in people.

3. Self-Awareness

In snowy and icy conditions, you have to be a lot more careful when walking around and keeping warm which brings a greater sense of awareness to your own body. To your balance, your temperature, your circulation and your breath. It makes us focus a lot more on our core and inner self, which can only be of benefit.

4. Being Grateful

When you can’t drive to work, or run on the pavements, or see your garden plants, you realise all the things you take for granted and it offers an opportunity to be grateful and thankful for having those things most of the year round. It makes you appreciate the small things, like the berries on the trees offering vibrant colour in amongst a snowy scene, or sunlight on a cloudy day.

5. Slowing Down

Rushing around from dawn until dusk, it can seem like it never stops. Then it snows and suddenly, it stops. We breathe, rest and slow down our pace. Tasks get re-prioritised, social arrangements get postponed, we take time to assess and look around us. Taking stock of our lives is so important, it means we can look up from the daily grind and do an audit of what’s going on, both in our lives and inside ourselves. Bad weather affords us an opportunity to pause life for a few hours, or days, and check in.

Personally, I love the snow and I love that it makes things stop because we need this time. We can’t always say that the show must go on, sometimes we need to start breathing to the same rhythm as nature and say slow down.

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