Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas and all that stuff

Christmas - since I'm on an upswing you're probably thinking I'd write a positive post full of the joys of the festive season; time with family, love and goodwill towards my fellow man and so on. Yeah no. Christmas is always a very bad time of year for me, too many memories of bad times that surface and make current times seem worse than they are. For sure, this year I made it to Christmas Eve before the Christmas meltdown hit, but it still hit.

Christmas to many many people is a time of joyous reunions and happy times viewing Christmas lights, attending work and family Christmas parties, preparing for the day and anticipating the wonderful time that December 25th brings (I'm not going to go into the religious aspect here, let's just take it as a given that Christmas at its core is of course the celebration of the birth of Jesus). For many more it is a time to remember people lost, a time to grieve, a time where loneliness is felt more keenly than any other time of the year. Some people choose to ignore the day altogether and go about their business quite happy to enjoy the day off from work or routine without buying into the hullabaloo. Christmas is in reality a varied experience for everyone.

When I was a child Christmas followed a strict routine. Family present opening, followed by a trip to my grandmother's house for further present opening and Christmas lunch. For my cousins and my siblings this was I think a most enjoyable day. For me it was more complex.

The house of my childhood had a verandah that went around half the house and faced the exit to my town and the mountains in the distance. It was a very nice view across the paddocks to the road out of town and those mountains (it is a small country town, the paddocks belonged to a dairy farmer). If you looked at the right time you could see the street lights turn off and on at dawn and dusk. During the school holidays I would often rise early and sit on the railing watching the street lights and waiting for that magical moment when they blinked off. On days other than Christmas, Easter and my birthday I would then go back to bed and my parents believed I was a hopeless late sleeper. Truth was I was usually awake a lot of the night after terrifying nightmares and would sleep heavily after dawn and so wake late and grumpy. But I digress.

The times I spent in the pre-dawn glow waiting for the street lights to turn off were magical to me. They were so quiet and peaceful, and I felt like I was the only soul on earth awake. Completely untrue of course because the town baker would be finishing his baking, and the dairy farmer would be milking the cows and that was only two of the early risers. It was a country town in dairy farming country, more people would be awake than asleep. But for me, in my little bubble of quiet, it seemed like I was alone. I would savour this peaceful time, thinking of nothing but watching the streetlights blink out and the greyness shrouding the countryside gradually thin and allow the colour of the day to seep into the landscape. It was a very zen time for me, although as a child I didn't think like that. I just knew I felt good about things for the time I sat on the verandah.

At Christmas I usually stayed on the verandah until the rest of the family woke, or went to my bed and waited. We would then do the present thing which was very exciting and I was always full of anticipation. My brother and I did not get on much of the time, we fought and I mean physically fought. He used to tease me unmercifully, and do terrible things to me which included an ongoing tendency to throw beetles at me at night time because he knew I was phobic about the little critters. He collected them to race at day time when they were quiet. But I digress again. On Christmas day, apart from telling me lies about my gifts which I eventually learned not to believe, we called a truce.

So Christmas morning was a good time. Going to my grandmother's for a complex variety of reasons was a very stressful time for me. I never wanted to go but I knew better than to say anything about it. I would go, act the role in which I was cast and eventually get to go home again and if I got through that time without any bad things happening it was a good day. So from childhood Christmas has been a complicated blend of excitement, anxiety, worry and fear.

As an adult that has carried forward and each year I suffer anxiety attacks, unexplained fear and worry and depression. I did think that this year, since I am changing my life and my attitude, the Christmas crash would not happen. It did, Christmas Eve was a bad time, and Christmas Day was extremely stressful for a variety of reasons. This year some of that stress was actually valid in that I had some awkward situations to negotiate during the day, but a great deal of it was self inflicted. A sleepless night the night before did not help my coping mechanisms at all.

I have vowed to myself however that this Christmas is the last one where I allow the ghosts of the past to affect my enjoyment of the present (and the presents). Next Christmas will be the first Christmas of my new life and I plan to make it the best one of my life. I am tired of being a slave to the issues of my past. Things happened that scarred me in my childhood and in the recent past also. They affected me deeply, and scars never go away. But they fade, and with the right attitude and help from valued people, they fade faster. I have gone through a lot of change this past year, and change is always painful - at least for me it is. Having gone through this change, I see no reason why I should bring the issues of my past lives to this new life. That would be self defeating.

So this new year that is coming is my year. I will continue my program of self improvement. I will continue to let the past go, bury it and not give it any more life. We are the instruments of our own lives, we make our lives what we will. Negative thinking leads to a negative life. Been there, done that, not going there again - or at least when I visit there I'll kick myself in the derrière and get myself out of there! Positive thinking has made such a huge difference to my life, it has brought me things I never thought were possible, it has given me belief in possibilities, and it has allowed me to take the steps to change myself and my life.

2013 seems to have been a difficult time for so many people. We have been forced to make changes in our lives, in my case all the doors were closed to me except the doors which I needed to go through. For someone like me for whom the familiar is comforting and change is frightening, this was the kick start I needed to begin again. And this time not only begin again externally but to start from the inside. Change within brings change to everything.

That's the secret to changing your life. Start with your internal self, that little child inside who needs to have closure and needs reassurance that it will all be ok. Feed emotional support to that internal child, give yourself permission to feel bad about things from the past. Then reassure your internal child that the future will be better, life will improve, pain does not last. Drop that negative thinking, start thinking positively and you will attract positive things. It's as simple, and as difficult as that. But it gets easier if you persist. I can be a very persistent person, just in the past I have persisted in the wrong direction and with the wrong thoughts. Now I am persisting in the right way. Nowhere in any life manual does it say life is supposed to be sad and depressing and difficult. Self belief and positive thinking are my new mantra.

Now to get that tendency for procrastination sorted.... yes I need to write




And just because it's a nice pic, a view of the beach today, which is Boxing Day :)


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Another one about me

It's been a bit longer than usual for me lately, sorry about that. There's no real reason, just life getting in the way as it tends to do. It seems that every time I sit down at the laptop to get some words out of my head, something in the real world claims more importance and I have to put my internal world aside.

We all live in an internal world to some extent, some of us more than others. I'm one of the more than ones in case you hadn't already figured it out! Sometimes in this life we have people around us that totally get us, and at other times we feel completely alone in our particular brand of weirdness. I spent a large portion of my life believing there was nobody who would ever be able to understand me or even wish to. So I developed a rich internal life as I suspect most authors do - although I have absolutely no statistics on that, it's just one of the random thoughts that pop into my head from time to time and that seem to make complete sense. After all, the worlds that are built up from nothing more than imagination must surely come from a mind that spends a lot of time wandering around within itself rather than out in the real world.

I have never felt lonely in the way a lot of people do without someone to talk to or interact with. Well that has been true for most of my life anyway, perhaps not so much lately - but that's another story. I have always been comfortable with my own company, content with a good book or a notebook of clean paper to fill with words. I've spent hours daydreaming, wandering around in the countryside or along a beach. I have no problems with long haul flights (except for the jetlag) so long as I have books for my companions. I spent a large chunk of my childhood on my own and I learned very early to entertain myself.

Whilst I have made many mistakes in my life, and my coping mechanisms have led to many wrong turns on my personal path through life, I have always been content with my own company. Is there a point where that becomes a problem? I don't know. I know there are many people who actively dislike other people and dream of becoming a hermit. I know there are many people diagnosed with disorders because they do not like or cannot interact with other people. Does that make all of them deficient in some way? Am I deficient in some way because I prefer my own company? And what about the people who can't bear their own company and have to have someone else around all the time, are they deficient? We all get through this life the best way we can, and we all develop our own life coping mechanisms, whether they are good or bad ultimately has to be our own decision.

For myself, and for many many others to one degree or another, crowds are anathema. I would never go to an end of year sale, it would be hell on earth for me. I don't do people in large numbers, I get panic attacks and have to escape. If I have someone with me who I trust it is not so scary, but still I prefer to avoid the crowds, the noise, the crush. I can handle crowds when there is a reason for me to do so - airports, large cities and the like but I would never voluntarily go to a place where I know there will be large numbers of people without a reason that makes sense to me.

And yet, this new person I am becoming as I travel this path I am now on - this person finds crowds less intimidating. I find I am having less panic attacks now that I am on my path and I know it is the right one for me. Extraneous matters that once bothered and worried me seem to loom less large in my mind. I am becoming, dare I say it, serene. Not all the time of course, I am a woman after all and subject to the hormonal fluctuations that make a woman's emotions volatile. I still get myself bent out of shape when people don't act the way I think they will, I still react badly when I anticipate something happening and it doesn't go the way the script in my head has already written it. People still have that annoying habit of acting differently to my internal script and I still find that tricky. I'm still finding myself trying to control my environment, but I'm learning to stop myself most of the time.

So I am changing, becoming a better person, a calmer person (most of the time) and I am finding serenity (some of the time). It's a long process, this process of internal change. But I am doing it, I am thinking positive thoughts and that has become easier for me. The more I think positively the more comfortable I feel about doing it. The flow on effect is that I am beginning to believe that I deserve good things in my life. I feel that I deserve the life I am aiming for, and I know I am finally on the right path for me. Along with this comes the understanding that I am the only one who can control my life, the only one who can be certain which path is the right one for me and it doesn't matter if others think I am wrong. I am the only one on this path and it only matters that it is right for me.

And so the little things have ceased to be a bother to me (most of the time - gamer son will confirm that the state of his room still causes extreme parental angst!) and I am finding my serenity one step at a time, one day at a time, one challenge at a time. I have learned to trust my instincts, I have learned to change my thinking and I am feeling the benefits in my everyday life. I am feeling confident about my future and that hasn't been a mindset for me for a long long time. I really do feel that I have the right to pursue my dreams and that now is the time to take that chance, take that risk, continue that jump without a parachute. I will land exactly where I am meant to be.

Well, now to find pics for this blog - one that I had no clue I would write until here it sits, out of my head, through my fingers and onto the screen. Sometimes, most times, writing this blog helps me to know what I am thinking ;)




This last picture I have included because we should all spend time in introspection. I believe you cannot do what is right for you in your life unless you truly know who you are. For some of us that is relatively easy, as you would know it was not so easy for me - but all of us are more than we know unless we go looking deep within.




Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's all just stuff

Apparently in the States there's a thing called Black Friday, and it comes after Thanksgiving. Now being Australian I don't do Thanksgiving - or Black Friday. In fact when Amazon started sending me emails about it I was baffled because the only Black Friday I knew of was Friday the 13th and it wasn't that. I had to do a little research to figure it out - really I should just have paid closer attention to my Facebook news feed... Anyway it would appear to be like the Boxing Day sales. I'm not a real fan of those, and from the blog posts and various status posts on Facebook I'm guessing a lot of people are not a big fan of Black Friday.

But a lot are, I've seen pictures of people camping out to be ready for the doors' opening. I know there are people who genuinely need specific items and sale days like these are the way to get them at an affordable price. But I also know (because I work in retail) that a lot of stores mark up items and then mark them down, giving the illusion of a great bargain when in fact it probably isn't so great. Or they mark down items that are not good sellers to get rid of them in a rush of eager customers.

I do think that if I really truly needed a specific item and a sale like this was the only way I could afford it, I would probably go - although I totally would not camp out. However in general I have issues with these sales and not just because I don't like crowds. They seem to me to promote greed in the general public, and not only that, they perpetuate the modern myth that stuff will make a person happy.

For sure a nice wardrobe of clothes and shoes (and she confirms that yes she is a girl), a nice house full of nice furniture and knick-knacks, cool electrical gizmos, a flash car - whatever it is that makes your heart beat a little faster - those things are great. But they are only things. Buying them, owning them, may give you a rush of endorphins. But they are just stuff. If you are desperately ill are you going to want your new shoes to comfort you? If you lose a loved one, will that flash car help you to smile again? I know some of us have intense love affairs with inanimate objects but really it's a one sided love affair - the shoes, car, jewellery, they have no emotions. They are just stuff.

We need the essentials of life of course, yet there are many millions of people who do not have even the most basic of essentials. They don't need stuff, they need a roof over their heads, clothes on their bodies and food in their bellies. They need the basics while we are overflowing with stuff. Getting caught up on the conveyor belt of collecting stuff is a trap. Got the iphone 5? Now there is the iphone 5C and 5S. Will you upgrade or keep the 5? Got the latest model whatever car floats your boat? But next year will be a new model - what to do? This society is driven by consumerism - nothing new, you knew that already. But you don't have to subscribe to it. It's easy to lose your way in the excitement of new stuff, it's easy to lose yourself a little.

It feels great to buy something new, but it's a little like a drug to some and the only way to get another hit is to buy something else, and more and more. Stuff becomes the focus of life instead of just nice window dressing. And that's what stuff is, window dressing. Sure our clothes, our houses, our decoration choices give an indicator to who we are. It's a way of personalising our space and our bodies, maybe to blend in, maybe to make a statement. It's nice to have but we don't need to keep on buying. That is the consumer myth that keeps the western world afloat financially (more or less). Buy, buy, buy.

I'm as guilty as the next person of collecting stuff, clothes and shoes mainly. Teacups were another passion, so beautiful. But how many teacups can you drink tea from? And is there really any point to having new clothes all the time? It feels good to get new stuff, but the more you get the more desensitised you become, and the more you need to feel good. Just like a drug, you need more and more to have the same feelings of happiness. And around and around you go, a mouse on a wheel. Just ask any celebrity with an empty inner life and a full closet.

Stuff is not the way to be happy. Stuff is just stuff, cluttering up your house, cluttering up your life. When I did my big life changing thing, I realised this stuff -  clothes and shoes and teacups - it's just inanimate objects. They didn't make me happy, they gave me momentary pleasure for sure but it didn't last. I had to look inside myself to find myself again. I had to look deep and find the things that really make me happy.

I did a lot of soul searching. As I said in my last blog, to attract a good person and a good life, you first have to learn to love yourself and that is pretty damned hard for a lot of us - me included. To be happy with yourself, to like yourself and to love yourself (not always the same thing) is the first step towards finding happiness in life. When you change yourself everything around you changes too. Better people come into your life, you start believing you deserve happiness, and you start to value yourself.

Find your passion, and then allow yourself to fulfil it. For me, that means writing. It means that I write even though right now I'm not making much money from it. I'm not making a living as yet although I believe that I will. But I am writing because that is my passion and that makes me feel fulfilled, content and happy. I have had to allow myself to follow this dream. I have had to give myself permission to do what makes me happy instead of what others want me to do. It was surprisingly difficult to let myself sit down and write each day instead of doing something more productive - as a former partner once said to me (do something more productive, not follow my dream I mean).

And now that I'm writing, and I took that huge step without a parachute and I am pursuing the life I want instead of the one other people think I should have - I don't have a need for stuff. The rush that I used to get from new things I now get from within when I write, and from when I take the steps required to begin my new life. I see things in the stores and I think they are lovely, but I no longer feel the desire to buy them and bring them home. In fact I've been de-cluttering the house. I'm getting rid of clothes, shoes, knick-kacks - stuff. I'm slowly emptying the house and my life of things that are not necessary.

This is not to say I'm getting rid of everything and planning to become a Puritan. I am keeping certain things (such as a coffee maker) that make life easier, things that do give me pleasure like a few of my teacups that I really do love. But I'm simplifying my life and my possessions. We don't need an excess of possessions, just enough.

What we do need comes not from stuff, it comes from learning to be happy with who we are. It comes from trying each day to be an improved version of who we were yesterday. It comes from following our instincts, finding our dream and our passion and pursuing it. It comes from love - love in all avenues of life and in all forms. It comes from finding pleasure in the little things like a beautiful flower or a cat purring on your lap. It comes from a myriad of things that are not in any way connected to stuff. The happiest people are not the ones with the most stuff, they are the ones who are content with who they are and where they are in life.

You, you reading this, (and by the way thanks for reading this!), you owe it to yourself to find your passion and follow it. Follow your instincts, listen to your heart - really listen. Find what it is within you that gives you joy and follow it. Don't drown yourself in stuff, look past that. You are not the sum of the stuff you buy. You are an individual with your own purpose in this life - find it and do it and you will find your joy. And get rid of some of that stuff!





Sunday, November 24, 2013

Love

So ok, it's a subject done to death, love. Songs, poetry, books, movies, essays, blogs. And I'm probably not going to add anything new. Well for sure I'm not going to add anything new. Love has been discussed, debated, rationalised, scientifically identified as a chemical reaction etc etc etc. So I can't add anything new, I can only give my perspective.

Love of course is very individual, and there are many many forms and variations. Some people feel more deeply than others, some perhaps feel too deeply (hello obsessed stalkers of the world!). Some forms of love may perhaps more rightly be called obsession, a crush, an addiction even. But to the people feeling the emotion, it is simply love. It may be romantic love - that's the type most talked about. But of course all love is important, love is the most important, purest emotion in the world. With love nobody would be motivated to help others because without love, how could one feel empathy? This world would be a sad, bad and evil place without love. So love exists in all of our lives - love for God, love for family, friends, pets, a good book, an awesome pair of shoes. The good feeling engendered by love gives a rush - you can get it from that awesome pair of shoes, from your dog greeting you excitedly when you come home. You get it from many sources and that is because love is everywhere in this world.

Romantic love is the subject of most writings of course. Romantic love can give such highs and lows, like a roller coaster. Unrequited love is painful, love gone wrong is painful; love given and returned can be heaven on earth. Love shapes us, defines us, directs us. As children we love our parents unconditionally, we love our pets unconditionally too. And those pets inevitably die and we are devastated. I remember still the shock and pain I felt when I was a child and my first cat died. She was named with great imagination 'Mumma Cat' for the simple reason that she was always a mother, giving birth to litters of kittens with the regularity of a rabbit instead of a cat (and sometimes having those kittens on my bed, something I was thrilled about and didn't understand at the time why my mother was less than thrilled). My Mumma Cat eventually was spayed and she died on the operating table. I was completely inconsolable.

The loss of things we love as children, such as our pets if we are lucky - because if we are not lucky that loss is of a person - helps us to develop coping strategies for grief because the downside of love of course is grief. Inevitably there will be times when that which we love, be it person or pet or relationship, dies. It is devastating no matter what age you are. It is devastating if it is a person, also if it is a pet. Adult or child, grief is paralysing. The death of a relationship, friendship or romantic is also paralysing. One goes through stages of grief with the death of a loved one be it person or pet and one goes through similar stages at the death of a relationship. It is hard to say goodbye to what you had, what you were, who you were within that relationship.

But I digress. Love, in all its forms, shapes us all. Love of a friend, of a pet, of a child, of a parent, love of a partner - they enrich our lives. Love can never be wrong. What we do in the name of love can be wrong - but that is an individual reaction, a complex thing that must be tracked back through life to find the cause of the desire to commit murder, or other crime in the name of love. Jealousy of course is a part of love. We want to keep the one we love to ourselves, we want them to love only us, we think we might lose them to another. It's natural and normal and even healthy. I am of course talking about healthy jealousy in a healthy relationship.

Unhealthy relationships - we have all had them. We are all flawed and sometimes that shows in the choices we make in relationships. Life and love is a learning process. We learn to be a better person as we go through life. We learn to love the way we should also. As we grow and mature, so the love we feel is more giving, deeper and truer. This is so with all forms of love. The more we grow and develop as people, the truer the love we feel. And the most important love of all? It's not romantic love, it's the love of self.

Without loving ourselves, how can we love others? How can we be treated with kindness, thoughtfulness, respect and love if we don't love ourselves. We can't, and we choose partners who will not give us those things. We do it because we think it is all we deserve. The only way to break that cycle is to look at ourselves, learn ourselves, be kind to ourselves, forgive ourselves and love ourselves. Then and only then will we find the romantic relationship we want and deserve. Then and only then will we be able to give and receive true and pure love.

So, homework. Yep, homework. Go look in a mirror, look at yourself, truly look at yourself and tell yourself "I am growing to be a better person every day. I am already a good person. I am beautiful/handsome just as I am. I am worthy of love and I love myself because I am loveable. I believe in me." Don't feel like an idiot, do it and believe it. You can change your life when you believe in yourself and think positive thoughts about yourself. We are all guilty of thinking we are deficient in some way, not worthy of good things or good people. What we believe is what we get. Change how you think about yourself, change your attitude to yourself and to life. Believe in yourself and believe you are worth good things and good things and good people will happen. Believe me, it really works, I speak from experience here :) Try it, Cut yourself some slack, be kind to yourself, love yourself (I don't mean develop a sense of entitlement and think the world revolves around you - it totally doesn't, but love yourself the way you want to be loved) and your world will change.

Three pics again today - as to the last one, I assume you all change your underwear, it's the first two to look at ;)








Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sheryl gets deep and meaningful

I have two things to write about today, and I've started writing to see which one my fingers choose. Having just returned to this country yesterday I am severely jetlagged and struggling with the heat as well, so I'm not even sure if I can write a coherent post - let's see shall we? Note - totally failed at the coherent post. Instead I fell asleep and it is now three days later... (no, I haven't slept for three days!)

A long time ago, when I was small, things happened to me that shaped the person I became as an adult. This is true of everyone of course, not just me. However today's post is about me! As a child I learned coping mechanisms that were useful at the time, but things learned like that tend to stay with us throughout our lives.

One of my coping mechanisms was to be a chameleon - not that I changed my skin tone or anything like that. What I did was to modify my behaviour to suit the people I was with at the time. Again, this is true of all of us to some degree, however I excelled at becoming variations on myself. Who I was depended on what the people around me wanted me to be. As a coping mechanism it was great; if you are being what others want you to be, you exhibit similar qualities, blend in, become invisible.

However I did this all of my life, modifying my behaviour, modifying myself, to fit into whichever environment I was in at the time. Doing that meant that I never ever learned who I really am. I was like an actor, playing a role for however long I needed to and then going on to play another. They were all variations of me, just adjusted and pruned to suit. But I was never simply myself, mainly because I just didn't know who I was. I didn't go through the process of learning myself in my teen years as others (so I've been told) do. I was too busy blending in.

People like that, people like me, can go a very long time never knowing a real sense of self. And one of the repercussions of that is that people like me don't have a dream to follow or personal needs and wants. If you don't know who you really are, how are you going to know what you really want out of life? In my case, I played my roles, did whatever was required of me. This is not to say I did not enjoy playing these roles; in every incarnation of me there was happiness and satisfaction. But I was a two dimensional person. I never had any wants or needs of my own, only an extension of what the people around me wanted.

I didn't even know that until someone asked me what did I want from my life - my life, not other peoples. I had no clue, none at all. When I took away the wants and the needs of the people in my life, I realised what I had thought were my own desires were in fact what I thought the people around me wanted me to have. All I did was reflect off those around me; I wasn't a fully three dimensional person at all, even though I thought I was. So I decided to try to be myself, to learn myself and stay true to myself.

The problem with trying to learn oneself and showing that self to others is that they are probably not going to like it. Why would they, when the person they know is the one they prefer - much easier to get on with. And then a person like me, with no real sense of self and no sense of being entitled to any wants and needs - that person thinks "Hey, I'm not a nice person, they don't want who I really am, better go back to the person they like." And so it goes on, but as I learned, eventually there will come a catalyst and change will occur.

Change, that thing I'm not good at, loss of control, that other thing I'm not good at. Another aspect of my coping mechanisms was a brilliant ability to repress bad memories and cut off the feelings they engendered - stuff the whole thing into an internal box and slam and lock the lid. The problem with that though is that it is unstable, like a dormant volcano. It only takes a trigger and the whole thing will explode. My trigger went off and my internal volcano exploded, and just like a real volcano the ash and lava in my soul took years to clear. It was a cathartic process but very painful and the repercussions were like ripples on a pond, ever expanding into all aspects of my life.

This is one of the reasons why I keep on falling into that black hole.  Learning to let go of who I thought I was and finding who I really am, that is painful. Facing painful memories and letting them go, that is painful too. It is a grieving process, for the child who was hurt and for the adult who is still feeling that pain. I'm resistant to change and I try to keep control of the things and the people around me partly because in my childhood change was forced upon me; I had no control over what happened to me and it was not good.

But I hide behind that resistance to change, that attempt to control people and events. It's scary as I have said before to take that leap into the future without a net. But it's also the first time I have really truly felt alive, and I have let myself be exactly who I am. I haven't tried to make myself into a suitable variation of me, I have found the courage to be me - faults, foolishness and all.

In my life there have been exactly two people with whom I have felt safe and have been just myself. One of those is my sister (she's probably surprised at that). The other knows already. These two people have given me the courage to let go of my past, to let go of the pain, to finish the grieving process. They have given me the courage to take the step into the future without the baggage of my past. Because of them I believe that I do deserve to have the life that is right for me. Because of them I am taking the steps to get there and because of them I believe in myself and my as yet untapped potential.

I know its baby steps, but I am taking them, and as I go along I will take bigger steps until one day I will be striding with confidence through my life, lived my way as my own person.

Pretty deep huh? Next blog I promise to lighten up!



 


Monday, November 11, 2013

Just a tiny rant

Today I'm going to indulge in a mini rant. I'm not exactly annoyed, just a little bit tetchy. As you already know, a result of being sick and surfing the web was me spending far too much time on Facebook. Or to put it another way indulging myself completely and becoming a Facebookian. This is not a word but it should be. Anyway while doing this I found a few things that annoyed me - the one that annoyed me the most was the subject of a recent blog here, namely people posting things without checking first for accuracy.

That was not the only thing that annoyed me however, just the main thing. Another was something I found to be prevalent among the professional Facebookers. You know the ones, they have pages that have some sort of whimsical name, like Unicorns Are Free or else they are professionals spruiking their business/web page/blog/whatever. I'm not talking here about pages with multiple admins, I mean the individuals. These are the people with 70 000+ likes or followers, the people who update their status several times a day - or several times an hour with some. Now logic is going to say that if you have around 70 000 people reading every word you write - and in many of these pages 70 000 is a conservative estimate - then you are not going to entertain all of the people all of the time.

If you have a Facebook page that you have created solely to promote yourself or your product, and you intentionally seek as many likers/followers as possible then you leave yourself open to criticism as well as approval. Naturally you want approval, adulation even. Most of these people are shameless self promoters and good luck and wealth to them. Many of them are in fact attention whores, they thrive on having gazillions of people hanging on their every word and putting gushing compliments in the comments. I have no problem with that at all, each to their own etc. A lot of them are there to promote a book or a blog or a product or a business; also good business sense, social media is an effective advertising tool. Some are there because of a strong social ethic and they wish to reach the public about their particular cause, and some are there as an emotional outlet from a difficult life.

This is not my gripe - I have a Facebook page and I use it to promote this blog. (and here - for those that found their way here by other means than Facebook and I know there are some of you - is the link in case you wish to visit ;) I don't post a lot of status updates but I do share a lot of pics that I like and you might like also https://www.facebook.com/sherylsmithwick - I'm not above shameless self promotion). I don't have a Facebook page for me the author although I should do. I don't because at this stage I feel that devoting the amount of time to build and grow a Facebook page as a promotional tool is actually contrary to my needs. I should be spending my time writing, not in a time consuming field of promotion. (Writing these blogs I have been able successfully to rationalise as excellent writing practice) I should also have a twitter profile - in fact I do. I have not actually posted a single tweet simply because I am not fond of the medium, but eventually I will do something there also because twitter is very useful. So I am not opposed to social media as an advertising tool, not at all.

However I am opposed to these people bringing their own issues with negative comments to the rest of their loyal followers. I find this distasteful, a negative kind of attention seeking. All of these people have thousands and thousands of followers who think they are amazing and wonderful and I have no doubt that they are. But nobody can have the whole world like them, and nobody can say something that everybody likes, not when they get that many people reading their words. I follow quite a lot of these people myself, I get notifications of status updates and I go look. Most of the time I like what I read, sometimes not. If I begin to not like more than like, I quietly unfriend them and my problem is solved and they do not even notice they have been unfriended by one person.

Clearly some people are more confrontational and they make unfriendly comments, or they inbox their issues. Now this may be nothing more than a misunderstanding, such as a person new to Facebook who does not understand why they are getting status updates from someone they don't know in their news feeds - there are a lot of people who do not know what happens when they 'like' a page. Maybe it is someone who has taken issue with a status update and feels the need to make a snarky comment. Who knows what is in their past to prompt this need to respond negatively. My point is not about the people who are rude and confrontational.

My point is directed at the owner of the page who feels the reciprocal need to tell all his/her supporters about the negative comments, sometimes even showing the name and a link to the person's Facebook page which I think is an extremely hostile act. That person may then be subject to abuse from many of what may be thousands of followers who read this and feel the need to protect the owner of Unicorns Are Free - a page which does not exist by the way, I just made it up and then checked in case someone actually felt the need to start a page about how unicorns are free and why they should stay that way.

My point is that the owners of these pages should be more professional. If someone takes exception to what they say, the best way to deal with it is to try to talk to that person, suggest that if they don't like what is said to unfriend the page. If that doesn't work delete and block and the problem is solved. Don't involve the followers of the page, it's unprofessional, and it's the worst kind of attention seeking. By having a Facebook page that is open to the public and indeed is seeking supporters and followers, the owner is also open to unfriendly comments.

I think sometimes the owners of these pages begin to believe their own publicity and they think that they are entitled to nothing but adulation - rather like certain celebrities. So when there are negative comments they are shocked more than is necessary.

So to all of the owners of these Facebook pages - the thing to remember is that the negative comments are coming from somebody YOU DON'T KNOW and will never meet. It doesn't matter! It's just the opinion of a stranger. Likewise the multitude of gushing comments. These people do not know you, they only know what you choose to share. Sure it's great when people like what you write and tell you that you are amazing/funny/smart/awesome etc. It gives you a buzz and you feel pretty good. Likewise when someone is nasty you feel bad. That's human nature. But don't take any of it personally, and don't bring other people into the fight. Don't make your followers hate the person who posted a negative comment; even if that person is incredibly abusive to you that is the risk you take when you make yourself a public figure. It's your problem and it's easily solved. There is no need to involve your followers. Perhaps if you can't think of anything to say you can make a general comment about some of the silly things people do or say, but don't be all upset and hurt and make your followers feel bad and/or aggressive on your behalf. Delete and block, move on - easy. Lecture over. Realistically not one of those page owners will actually read this blog but hey I felt good venting!

Life's path is hard enough to negotiate without being sidetracked by issues and people that truly do not matter. Choose your fights with care and know when to let it go.





Saturday, November 9, 2013

Onwards and upwards and yes it's all about me ;)

Good morning/afternoon/evening, whatever the time happens to be when you read this. A new blog so soon, you are all so lucky! I have almost recovered from the dreaded lurgy and I'm writing because I'm ensconced in the kitchen, it's 4pm on a wet November Friday in the UK and it's cold and almost dark. The kitchen is warmly lit - and warm! - and I'm feeling cosy. The rain is pattering pleasingly (you will note the alliteration) on the skylights and I have a hot cup of tea. Plus I am feeling virtuous because I've devoted some time to my first book, which I sent out on its own back in April. It's my first book and my first self publishing experiment (for those of you who perhaps have joined my journey later on and thus missed my initial blogs which were devoted to Book 1) and it has been travelling the waves of e-space all alone.

I decided that I no longer approved of the cover of this book (I spent many hours teaching myself how to make an e-cover and designing and making this cover that I have just decided is no good. Without the help of my sister I would have destroyed my computer out of frustration I think when I was learning) so I designed a new cover and today set about changing it. I think I have said in a previous blog that I try always to follow my instincts and my instincts tend to announce themselves in a sudden and impulsive decision - so I'm listening to my instincts. To change the cover I had to make sure the dimensions were accurate and log into my Smashwords account. As far as I can tell changing the cover on Smashwords (this is the e-book publisher I decided on by the way) also changes it for the distributors. I hope so.

Seems relatively simple so far, yes? Of course, I had no idea what sort of cover I wanted so I spent quite a lot of time aimlessly surfing the web until I found a suitable pic. Then of course I found I had completely forgotten everything I learned about making a cover and had to relearn it. Then get my sister to change the pixels because I totally suck at all this technical stuff. Then find out how to change the cover on Smashwords which thankfully was very simple. However it was rejected as the cover was too small and my sister is at work and I am impatient... So now I know how to dick around with the pixels - and it was accepted which quite frankly astonished me since as I have said I suck at the technical stuff.

Now I have to wait while the entire book is reviewed again on Smashwords and then I think re-released to the distributors. I am also published on Amazon so I went through the same hoops with them and am waiting there also for the review. I decided to change the cover to make it more appealing because so many readers look at the cover and if the cover does not grab their attention they don't even look inside. I know I am guilty of this. Don't judge a book by the cover - yet we all do I think.

In the process of doing all this I noticed that I have actually had sales and some recent ones too which heartened me considerably! And I have sold on all of the distributor sites as well which again has heartened me. This is quite a feat for a new author - I know some have the joy of going viral and having their lives changed forever, but in general there are so many e-books that it is all too easy to get lost in the crowd. So to have sales across all distributors warms my heart and gives me real hope for my career as an author. 

I didn't have a point for this blog, - well I never do - I was simply excited to see that I have slow but steady sales and felt re-energised to continue my chosen path in life. I have on my path taken many steps back and some sideways. There have been big holes and I have fallen into almost all of them. This path is not an easy one, it is narrow and there are many corners I cannot see around. Obstacles present themselves unexpectedly or I make them myself through my fear. But this is my path and it is right for me.

I have learned a lot about myself, my life and what I want from it. I have been on a journey of self improvement and there have been some huge learning curves. I have learned to let go of what was so that I can embrace what will be - easier said than done. I have learned to let go of trying to control everything, to have faith and trust and to jump without that parachute - waaaaaaaay easier said than done. And I have learned that if you take that jump, take that risk, change your way of thinking and your way of living, that the rewards are far more than you could have imagined.

I'm only part way along my journey, and I know there are still obstacles and problems. Career wise selling a few books is not going to make me a living, but it's a start and a positive start. A great many authors who self publish e-books sell not one copy ever, so I am pleased that I have been noticed in the massive jungle that is e-book publishing. In my life there are still many loose ends to tie up and problems to find a way through or around. But today, I really believe I can achieve all that I want. I just need to take one step at a time, tackle each problem as it arises, and keep on moving forward towards my goal. 

I know what I want and where I want to be and I know how I want to get there. And I am truly blessed to have wonderful people in my life who know me and support me and are always there for me. 

As a matter of interest, here are the two book covers, the old and the new, should you feel curious about them :) 





and...




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Think!!

Well I know I said this next blog would be back to being all about me, but I've been struck down by the dreaded lurgy and I've been sick in bed for several days. It's just a cold but it's a nasty one and I'm feeling extremely blah. So I'm not going to bore you all with a list of my symptoms because who wants to hear someone else's symptoms - we all just want to tell everyone about our own ;)

Since I've been confined to bed and the house and my head has been so stuffed with virus that it has muffled my words, I have been spending far too much time surfing Facebook and the web. Also because I'm sick and therefore have no patience at all I have been becoming quite frustrated with things I see, and so this is why this blog today. I'm venting people, and I know I said just last time we all need tolerance and we do - but we all also need to think!

This world we live in is amazing in so many ways, the wonders of nature that we all take for granted, the wonders of the human spirit that so often go unnoticed. Things that are amazing become common place when they are seen all the time. You could live close to the pyramids and because you see them every day they cease to become a marvel of engineering and ego and become instead just a large pile of rocks. You could live in a beautiful city full of fascinating architecture and fail to see it because it's there in front of you all the time.

Likewise things that are wrong will be overlooked if they are constantly visible, they fade, become part of the fabric of everyday life. Now I could go on a tangent about some of the truly horrific living conditions faced by so many citizens of this planet and by the casual acts of cruelty committed everywhere every day. But this blog is not about that. I will probably not write a blog ever about that because it is so shocking and horrendous and it makes me sick to think of it. Plus there are many many writers far better and more qualified than me to write such stories.

No, this blog is about stories circulated on social media that go viral - and are completely inaccurate. Sometimes they are just bits of foolishness and sometimes they feed paranoia. As a brief example of what I am talking about there is currently a story circulating about toothpaste tubes, you may perhaps have seen it:


The accompanying blurb reads like this: 
NEVER even knew about this!! PLEASE SHARE IT
Have you ever noticed that there is a distinct color at the bottom of each toothpaste pack ?
Do you know the meaning of the colors ?
Green : Natural.
Blue : Natural + Medicine.
Red : Natural + Chemical composition.
Black : Pure Chemical.
BE AWARE OF THE PRODUCTS THAT YOU USE DAILY!

It's plausible isn't it? It must be, I've seen it dozens of times from various sources. It's also completely untrue as the quickest Google search showed me. This is actually what those colours mean:

Looks pretty convincing, doesn’t it? Well, it’s an urban legend. Here’s the truth about those stripes:
The story on the meaning of the stripes is this: They have nothing what-so-ever to do with anything that would even vaguely interest a consumer. Long story short, it only relates to packaging and the stripes can be read by a scanner.
The urban legend grew out of someone having way to much time on their hands and probably loves throwing a scare into people.
Here’s a great way to find out what really is the make-up of your toothpaste: READ THE INGREDIENTS ON THE SIDE OF THE PACKAGE!
The colours are different simply because different sensors are used in different packaging companies and they are there only so the sensors can read where to fold or to cut the packaging. It's the work of seconds to do the initial research on Google, there are dozens of web sites devoted to uncovering urban myths like this one. It is not very hard either to undertake further research and check things like how sensors work in packaging factories to see that this is in fact the correct version of the story.
And that's why I say THINK! We live in a world where there is unparalleled access to information. I adore Google, I use it all the time. I was that child that was always asking questions, always wanting to know and now I can look up anything and find the answer. But we also live in a world with unparalleled access to misinformation. We need to be in control, we need to question everything, think about it and do the research. Don't believe anything you see or read on any form of media. Not even the news media. News corporations are just that - corporations, often global corporations and the information they give may not necessarily be completely accurate.
Remember, we all have our own unique view of the world based on our environment and experiences. The same goes for all reporters, writers and dispensers of the news and other items of interest. Don't assume, don't believe it is truth, truth is relevant to the position of the reporter. And don't ever assume just because a picture and the accompanying blurb is plausible and also is something you would like to believe, that it is actually true. Social media is rife with such misinformation. 
And there is my point for this blog. There is so much of this misinformation, so much so that we see things, say surely that isn't true and move onto the next thing. Or we see it and become shocked and share it with others and perpetuate an urban myth. But because there is so much of it, it becomes familiar and once familiar no longer something to comment on. I think this is very wrong. It is encouraging us all to stop thinking, to accept all that we read as truth. And as I said, the news should not be considered to be completely accurate, the side shown may not and often is not the whole story. 
By accepting and believing the stories on social media which are so often so completely wrong, I wonder if it makes us all more likely to accept stories told on news media. We should not, any story that resonates within should be researched, all sides to the same story should be found and read, because the truth, as much as can be found, will be somewhere between the two. We all know this, we all know stories where we are privy to both sides and someone else hears only one side. We say the story was one-sided and it means just that, only one side was told but there are always two sides to a story. In this day and age of easy access to a global network of information it is the responsibility of us all to ensure that we are as well informed, and as accurately informed as possible. 
So in conclusion, when you see something, hear something, read something, before you go rushing off to share it with the world stop! think! research! Then, if it is accurate, go for it!!



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tolerance

Today I'm starting with this little gem that has been doing the rounds of various social media sites for some years. It is entertaining, you will most likely laugh, even if you have seen it before. It is quite astonishing the depth and breadth of the ignorance of a hopefully small percentage of the population. Read, enjoy, and I'll get on with the blog when you reach the end:


20 astonishing holiday complaints

5th September 2011
Presented to you, for your entertainment and pleasure – 20 of the most outrageous, ridiculous and stupid travel complaints made to tour operators
A recent survey from Thomas Cook and ABTA reveals 20 of the most ridiculous complaints by holiday-makers made to their travel agent.
1. "I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts."
2. "It's lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during 'siesta' time - this should be banned."
3. "On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at all."
4. "We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels."
5. A tourist at a top African Game Lodge over looking a water hole, who spotted a visibly aroused elephant, complained that the sight of this rampant beast ruined his honeymoon by making him feel "inadequate".
6. A woman threatened to call police after claiming that she'd been locked in by staff. When in fact, she had mistaken the "do not disturb" sign on the back of the door as a warning to remain in the room.
7. "The beach was too sandy."
8. "We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure.Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white."
9. A guest at a Novotel in Australia complained his soup was too thick and strong. He was inadvertently slurping the gravy at the time.
10. "Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women."
11. "We bought 'Ray-Ban' sunglasses for five Euros from a street trader, only to find out they were fake."
12. "No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled."
13. "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England it only took the Americans three hours to get home."
14. "I compared the size of our one-bedroom apartment to our friends' three-bedroom apartment and ours was significantly smaller.."
15. "The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the accommodation’. We’re trainee hairdressers - will we be OK staying there?"
16. "There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks Spanish. The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners now live abroad."
17. "We had to queue outside with no air conditioning."
18. "It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel."
19. "I was bitten by a mosquito, no-one said they could bite."
20. "My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked."
It's funny, it's silly, and it's also a symptom of ignorance and intolerance. In some people, ignorance is a choice - they know better but they choose to be ignorant or in other words arrogant. In others it is environmental, educational, cultural - or a blend of all three. Intolerance is an attitude often (but not always) fuelled by ignorance, a complete lack of empathy and a sense of entitlement. 
I will say right here that I am not an expert - I am not an anthropologist, I am not versed in political science, I have no letters after my name, no higher education on people and how they think and react. I am a writer of fiction, and as a writer I observe. It is in my capacity as a writer and observer of human behaviour that I write this blog. I do not have qualifications to state anything with any sort of authority, but I think and I observe. This blog today is my own personal opinion with which you may agree and you may not. I hope I write sufficiently eloquently so that you think on what I have said, even if it is to vehemently disagree.
tolerance
ˈtɒl(ə)r(ə)ns/
noun - the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.

That's not so bad is it? I don't mean unwillingly put up with what you consider to be somebody's misguided opinion or way of life. I mean accept that your view, your way of life, your way of thinking is yours alone. That someone else thinks differently does not necessarily mean they are wrong, just different. I should say here that I am not including psychopaths, murderers or other people that cause harm to others. I am talking about people that are trying to get on in the world in their own way. 
We are all strange, all skewed in some way, all shaped by our environment, our culture, our own individual experiences. Ask any siblings, you will see that each of them remember their childhood differently, even have different perceptions of their parents. Not one of us has the same experiences and not one of us has exactly the same belief system. This also of course means that each person interprets the belief system of their culture in their own unique fashion which is a whole different subject and not one I'm going into tonight.
This world is full of different cultures, different races, different religions. Isn't it arrogant for any culture to think their belief system is the only right one? Of course it is. Every race, every culture, every religion deserves respect and tolerance. If you don't like the way some people live, don't go to their country. 
I am not one to voice my opinion to all and sundry - even though that is exactly what I am doing right now. What I mean is that I do not consider my opinion to necessarily be agreed with or approved of by everyone else and I have no wish to force it on anyone. If you don't like what I'm writing, well you stopped reading several paragraphs ago! 
Of course everyone has an opinion, everyone is entitled to an opinion and everyone has the right to their own opinion. If you think someone is wrong, by all means enter into a discussion with that person about it. By discussion I do not mean say your piece, wait for the other person to stop talking while you rehearse in your head what you will say next and then say more. I mean have a discussion and actually listen to what the other person has to say. Maybe that person is wrong, maybe you are wrong, and maybe you both have different opinions and you must each and tolerate that and accept it. It's not the end of the world, or the end of your friendship. It's just a difference of opinion. How boring would it be if we all had exactly the same opinion on everything.
Going to a foreign country? Read up about it. Learn about the culture, the religion, the lifestyle. Show some respect when you are there by trying to use the language, don't wear clothes or exhibit behaviour that may be seen as offensive. It's nothing more than good manners. Be well mannered, not a bratty child. It's not hard, and it's nothing more than most of us expect from visitors to our own country.
Think someone has done something inhuman, or inhumane? Of course this happens, but before you judge try some empathy. Try to really put yourself in their shoes. Really try. Consider the parents of six small children in a poverty stricken country. They have another child, not because they are irresponsible but because they have no recourse to basic medical treatment, let alone birth control. All of the children are starving, the mother has so little milk the baby may not survive. They make the difficult but perhaps in their world the not uncommon decision to sell the baby to a couple that is desperate for a child of their own. In return they can feed the children they have left, and they have the understanding that the baby will not only survive but will be able to live a better life than they could provide. Is that wrong? Self serving? Are they bad parents? Or are they making a decision that will save all of the children. Can you really judge people unless you put yourself in their skin and try to see life from their perspective.
That is what I mean by tolerance. Educate yourself about different societies, travel with your eyes open to learning new and different ways of living. Before you judge anyone, put yourself in their skin and try to understand how they think. Chances are you will grow and become a better person yourself simply by trying to understand others. 
We are all connected, we are all part of the whole. This earth is a big rock orbiting a massive fireball. There's no escape. What hurts the planet hurts us. What hurts other people hurts us even if it is indirectly. It is beyond the time when all humans on this planet learn to live in tolerance and acceptance, and work together to keep our planet a viable living option.
Lecture over, next blog will as usual be all about me, as I continue my own personal journey, and because hey I'm fascinating, right?? Right?? Hello? Anyone left reading??








Thursday, October 24, 2013

We are all weird

Today I'm writing the blog, then I'll give it a title. As usual, I have no idea what I'm going to write about. Every time I do one of these I wonder if I will actually have enough to post, and if I do will it be coherent, will it have a point? So far, so good. This time, who knows? Certainly not me.
I've been a terrible sloth this week, there are no adventures to recount because I haven't been anywhere since Sunday. I've been ensconced in a cosy corner of the kitchen next to the radiator, writing and editing. Not all day of course, but the rest of the time I've been reading. And eating. I'm putting back some of the weight I lost and my ribs are starting to get a decent coverage, my backbone is not digging so uncomfortably into the back of the chair.
And I'm very happy with what I've been writing and where the book is going. And that means that my mind is less cluttered. I know I've tried to explain before how my mind is calm when I write. The jumble of words in my head is reduced, they flow out of my head through my fingers and take up residence in a story or a blog (which is in effect a short story) and the words left don't spin so fast. Of course I know my mind is not really stuffed full of words spinning in circles within circles, but that is how it feels to me. So when some of the circles are used up, those that are left don't spin as fast and my mind is calmer.
If I write every day my mind stays uncluttered and I am less prone to anxiety. So of course in times of stress I should write more often. And of course in times of stress I can't write, whatever is causing my stress over-rides everything else and I can't think about anything.
I don't deal well with stress. I can't eat and can't sleep and can't write and can't think. I lose weight, get huge black circles around my eyes and start to look a bit insane (judging from the reactions of those around me). Possibly I do go a bit insane, it's pretty hard for the brain and the body to function properly when there is insufficient fuel.
I also become stubborn, dig my heels in, retreat down deep into myself and refuse to let anyone help me. I'm really good at that - sorry family members that I cause stress to about my stress! All of those great coping mechanisms I've written about in the past - well hey do as I say and not as I do, right? They went right out the window along with my good intentions. For a while there I wallowed in my misery and stress, back in that hole I promised myself I would not go into again.
Misery is addictive, to me at any rate. There is something almost pleasurable about feeling that all is lost and there is nothing to go on for. Once you get that far down it's really hard to find motivation to get up again. It seems like too much trouble and really it's quite nice down here in the dark feeling sorry for oneself.
To those that have been reading my blogs you will know that I did get myself up and out of that hole, I took the leap into an uncertain future without any of the safety nets I usually put in place for myself. And I don't regret it at all, it was the best thing I have ever done for myself.
The days leading up to the leap, well they were hard days indeed, the hardest I have ever lived through I think. I had panic attacks, episodes of WTF am I thinking, and crippling anxiety. I second guessed myself, vacillated and incidentally did probably the worst thought out packing of my life (loads of socks and several shirts but not nearly enough cold weather clothes even with the case I keep here in the loft). But I went, cold feet and all, I still did it.
I did exactly what I should have done, I followed my instincts and they did not lead me wrong. I had not expected such hard days before I left, it was almost like I was being tested, to see if I had the strength to take this step. Or maybe it was just the chaos that precedes change happening inside my mind. Well probably I cannot be matched for sheer bloody mindedness when I decide to do something. So even with the extreme stress I put myself in, I still went. And I changed my life. Well I'm changing my life, obviously a complete life change can't be achieved by just packing a suitcase (badly) and hopping on a plane.
But I have a plan, and I will put it into action and I will make the changes I need to get the life I know now I want. I'm feeling confident I can do it, and happy I found the strength and determination to take that first step. It was scary, but at the same time exciting, at least once I got onto the plane and there was no backing out it was scary and exciting. Before I got on the plane it was just scary.
So I guess my point with this blog is much the same as the last one, except to add to it (and nothing at all about the small dog freaking out about fireworks that was the only vague thought in my mind when I started to type).
To those square pegs looking for a better fit in your life, don't give up. It's hard to make the change, it's hard to let go of the familiar even if it's not right for you. It's really hard to make a total change in your life and you will feel varying stages of panic and anxiety, especially as you take steps to change your life. But don't give up. Those old sayings, they have been around forever for a reason. They make sense and they have a point to make.
Nothing worth having comes easily, you have to work and strive and deal with setbacks to get it, but keep on trying and never give up. It is never, never too late to change your life. It may take a while to figure out what you want and need to be happy. It may take a few false starts, a few mistakes, a few WTF moments, but always keep trying to find your way in the world and remember that the only right path for you is your path.
You are an individual and what is right for you may not be right for someone else. That does not make your path any less right, it just makes it different. Different is good, different is fine. The world would be totally boring if we were all the same. There is no such thing as normal, we are all weird in some way. Just some of us are more weird than others :)






Thursday, October 17, 2013

rebirth continued

So from cheerful chaos albeit with a sad lack of tourists, to refined politeness. 34C to 10C. Sunshine, blue skies and vibrant colour to rain, grey skies and subdued colours. This may sound a little bit like I am not so pleased to be here which is not true. I did leave with extreme reluctance but I am also pleased to be here with my sister. There needs to be two of me...

I have an abiding fondness for the UK, but also for Egypt which makes for a rather different set of experiences! And both are important in this remaking of me, this rebirth and new direction I am now committed to. Well I was before - nothing like choice being taken from you for commitment to become quite easy to achieve even though the mind shies from acknowledging it.

Egypt: my last experience was my taxi driver (and in Egypt you take the number of the individual taxi driver, not ring a call centre) taking me to the airport through two security stations, and then he was yelled at by more security guards at the airport for going to the wrong place. He ushered me out of the vehicle, got my bags out and the security guard told me to wait. My taxi driver parked his vehicle, came back, took both my bags into the terminal and since this is Egypt (timekeeping not a real priority) and I was a little early, I couldn't actually go through security yet. So my taxi driver found out where I could wait, carried my bags there for me, went and borrowed a chair from yet more security guards, got me seated on it and and made sure I was comfortable before taking his money and departing. All with a smile firmly in place and friendly chat with everyone around and only two words directed at me in English - yet communication was not a problem.

In the UK? I arrived late at night at Gatwick, my promised pickup was not there. I phoned the hotel which I had booked specifically because they offered pickup and stated someone would be waiting at the arrivals terminal - to be told by the bored sounding girl that no of course they didn't pick up but there was a bus outside that I could catch that left in one hour. Oookayyyy. I got a taxi. My taxi driver in the UK drove me at considerable expense (to me) to the hotel, pulled up at the entrance, dumped my bags onto the roadside in the rain, said "there you are darlin'" and drove off. The hotel receptionist waved a vague hand in the general direction of outside, said to me to turn right and then right again and I will see my building. Rightiho. My room turned out to be up two narrow flights of steps, no elevator and my big bag is rather heavy (also a lovely Egypt quirk, they don't really care about allowed weight and actual weight of your bags). Well it was a cheap hotel so I guess you get what you pay for. But it was pretty hard not to compare this experience with the extreme helpfulness at recent past accommodations (also very cheap but clean and comfortable) and to find it an unfavourable comparison, right down to the cleanliness.

Today I went for a walk into town, even though it is wet and cold. Well not as cold as it is going to be, but for me coming from the sun and warmth to this weather it sure feels cold! Even more than it usually does since generally I come from late winter in Australia to autumn here, and it tends to be an easier transistion. Late winter in Australia (well my part of Australia anyway) is generally only about 10C warmer than here instead of the 20C more I experienced transitioning from Egypt to here.

But I digress. Today I went for a walk into town. I wore several layers, and topped it with the super awesome jacket I bought the other day, complete with fake fur lined hood. I borrowed my sister's very cute pansy patterned umbrella and headed off. Her umbrella is a nifty little folding umbrella, covered in little purple and pink pansies, very cute. Nothing at all like my umbrella which I didn't bring. That umbrella is large, strong and sturdy. It's built to withstand monsoon rain and storm winds. This little umbrella is designed more as decoration I suspect. It did an adequate job of keeping the misty English rain off me, but the smallest gust of wind would turn it inside out I am sure. But it was a nice bright note on a grey day.

I'm going to digress again, briefly. Have you ever noticed that in general the people of hot, tropical climates tend to dress brightly, and the people of cold, damp climates dress in softer shades? I have a theory, which may or may not be true since I've never bothered to do anything remotely scientific to back it up. My theory is that in the colder climates the general colours of nature are softer, more muted. Greys, pastels, softer greens and gentler shades of flowers. In hotter climates the colours of nature are bright bright bright. The sky is bluer, the sun hotter and the colours brighter and sharper. Explosions of colour in the flowers, deep and bright greens, colour everywhere. Sunglasses are required so as not to fry the retinas. So, I think people unconsciously dress more to suit the climate and the colours of nature around them. I mean this in a general en masse way, not the individuals who will always stand out against tradition. I know I have a wardrobe here that is more suited both to the climate and also to the more muted, softer styles and colours. In Australia my style is of necessity different - it gets so very hot - but also brighter, much brighter. Anyway, that's my theory which of course anyone reading can feel free to shoot out of the water should you wish.

I don't actually know why I'm saying I digress, since as usual I don't know what my point is. I'm just doing what I usually do, writing until my point becomes clear to me and then pretending that I knew that all along. Of course I don't, I'm often surprised by what comes out from my fingers. Well to be truthful I'm surprised more often than not.

Today I planned only to talk about my walk into town, in the rain and cold. I do enjoy the cold, I much prefer it to the heat. It's so much easier to get warm than it is to get cool. I can walk for half an hour each way without feeling like I am going to drop from heat exhaustion. Instead I feel energised, and refreshed. In Australia, in the heat, I take my walks in the very early morning and still come back drenched in sweat and exhausted. It's all relative of course, for me the novelty value is a big part of my enjoyment. It's also a kind of ritual, I feel much more at home here after I've gotten damp from the soft English rain and I've revisited the town. And I've bought a large cup of pumpkin spice latte complete with cream. I adore this coffee! Possibly I come here at this time of year solely to buy this coffee. I also bought a slice of lemon drizzle cake, crumbly and tart like only the English make it. I thoroughly enjoyed walking in the rain, wearing my jacket, hood up, letting the rain patter against the jacket. Probably wearing my contacts instead of glasses would have been wise, but oh well. I drank my coffee, ate my cake, got slightly damp, slightly numb toes, and felt at peace with the world.

I like to see the skyline indistinct, misty grey clouds sending the misty rain pattering down. I like to see the leaves that have taken on that golden red autumn hue falling like rain from the trees as the wind dislodges them from their branches to swirl and eddy and come to rest in drifts on the ground. I like stepping around puddles, seeing my breath frosting on the air, smelling the wet earth smell of an English autumn. For me, living in a tropical climate, it is wonderful to see these changes. In the tropics there is no autumn, no spring, not really. There's a few weeks of cooler weather leading into the few weeks of winter and after winter a few weeks of warmer weather that we call spring. There is nothing like the experience of the earth waking up after winter in the colder regions of the earth. In the tropics the trees are evergreen, flowers bloom all year round, you have to be focusing to notice even the small amount of renewal the tropical spring brings. So I like the change.

So why, since I like the cold, do I like Egypt? The heat there is drier, as it is a desert climate. There is nothing quite like the humidity of a tropical summer and it is not a pleasant experience. On the plus side, living with that type of heat means that any other sort of heat is a doddle. I find the heat in Egypt very easy to handle, they don't have the same level of humidity. And the energy, the vitality, the ability of the people to think laterally is phenomenal. It is the energy of the people that renews me there. I feel at home there almost as much as I feel at home in the UK. The one place I've never actually felt at home is the country of my birth.

And that brings me to my point, a very long winded and roundabout way to get to a very simple and short point - but hey, it took me this long to realise my point so I hope you enjoyed the read to get here :) If you are feeling like a square peg in a round hole, don't try to shave your edges, to soften them and round them off. It won't work, you will just hurt yourself and lose parts of yourself and it takes a long time to get it back and heal the damage. If you feel like a square peg in a round hole, you are. This is not bad, this is not wrong, this is not a mistake, this just is. Don't try to live with it, don't try to change yourself. Find a place where you fit and don't be afraid to accept that you are different and being different is ok. Find your place where you fit, where you belong, where you find people like you. The world is huge, somewhere out there is your place and don't be afraid to go find it.