spring into summer

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After over three and a half years of looking towards spring with hope and optimism while still trudging through the mud of a cold bleak winter, I feel that winter is finally over. Spring is here. Summer is on its way. More importantly, the trudging is finally over. There is now a spring in my step. This is a warm bright place to be and I am singing.

I have therefore changed the name of my blog from ‘Almost Spring’  to ‘Spring into Summer’. I am no longer looking towards spring, I am in spring and I am bouncing.

I have altered the tagline from ‘transforming my life from we to me’  to ‘finding my voice and speaking my truth’. I have also revised the information in the pages and sidebar. I feel that these changes more correctly reflect where I am in my life.

Spring is a season, not only for new beginnings, but also for shaking off the winter blues and getting ready for the warm summers ahead. I see this time in my life as one in which to spring-clean or tidy up my old world, letting go of anything that does not serve me well; as well as planting seeds ready for their bloom in the summer to come. I see it as an exciting time of trying out new things, as well as planning and readying myself for the vision I have for a wonderful future, a vision of living true to my own beliefs.

The planning stage for that vision is finding my voice and speaking my truth.

My journey continues. I hope that you will join me on the path ahead.

 

 

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Image courtesy of [africa] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Joy within sadness

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After my husband left me, I could not bear to think about the past because thinking about it caused me so much grief. It was thinking about the previous happy times that filled me with so much sadness; those happy times of my children as babies and young children and their care-free days growing up in our forested river valley. My now-grown children could not understand why that was, why I looked back on happy times with sadness, why I would cry over something that was clearly dear to them. They would try and convince me that those happy memories should remain happy. I could not see them that way and I spent many many months in deep pain grieving my loss of happier times. One by one I grieved for them, then painstakingly put those memories aside, thinking of them as something that I had to put them behind me forever. I then went through a process of stashing away any reminder – photos and memorabilia – as I tried to get on with my life.

More recently, when I have been staying with and caring for my mother, I have had more contact with my siblings and we have shared reminiscing sessions together. Out have come all the family photos and, at those times, the stories would begin. We have sat for hours telling the stories of us as children and the happy times that we have shared. This was the same in my world of growing up. I have fond memories of such gatherings with aunts, uncles, cousins; the extended family getting together and sharing happy memories. In the sadness of my mother’s illness, we found this time of joy in the here and now, remembering the happy times of the past. In doing so we were creating joyful times in the present, interacting and being together remembering the happy childhoods that we had.

When I returned from one of my visits to my mother, I looked around when I entered my home. On the walls were pictures of places and momentos of various trips with my husband. Those experiential activities now meant nothing to me. In one of those rare moments of me acting on impulse, I took them all down. Then I spent the next day delving into my boxes of photographs, dashing into town to buy photo-frames, and putting up precious memories of my past all around my home.

I divided my walls in my entry, hallway, and living room into sections. In one section I put up photos of my children up to the ages of eighteen; and in another section them as adults. I made a section for myself and siblings growing up and of their families, my niece and nephews, and grand-nieces. My grand-children were given a special place of their own. Lastly, I made a place for my parents in their youth and their parents and grandparents.

When my two youngest children came to visit a few days later they made a joke of mother going just a little bit overboard with photos everywhere that the eye could see. Yet they smiled with joy at my change of heart as they looked intently at the now-allowed happy times on view. They began talking about memories that were triggered and spoke about how much fun they had growing up. We have two favourite photos. One is a photo of my third son, who as a three-year-old had a love of carrots. The photo has him at my brother-in-law’s place pulling a huge carrot from the ground beaming with joy at his carrot and his great discovery that carrots came from the ground. His joy had been captured forever. Another favourite is a photo of the back view of the four children – aged three to eleven at the time – walking hand-in-hand down the ramp at the supermarket.

We sat down that evening and spent the night reminiscing about happy times.

In amongst anxious days at a crucial stage of the marital settlement, and with my background concern at my mother’s failing health; I found joy in remembering previous happy times and shared that joy with my two youngest children.

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Image:Courtesy[BoinsChoJooYoung]FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Love under a rainbow

 

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My second son was married two weeks ago. It was a glorious affair over six days on the Cook Islands.  It was the coming together of our family and my new daughter-in-law’s family and all of the couple’s friends. It was the coming together of my family and my ex-husband’s family for the first time since our separation. It was the first major milestone that we had faced since that separation.

It was not without an undercurrent of fear (on my part) in meeting up with my ex-husband in these circumstances and wondering how to react with him. However, it was time to put all that aside and make it a happy occasion for my son and his wife to be.

Prior to the wedding, we had managed to arrange a family get together with the happy couple in Sydney for my mother and my two nephews and families who could not make it to the wedding. We were able to bring together for the first time my mother’s six little great-grand-daughters, including my two grand-daughters, all under five. They looked so cute together. It was a happy day. Due to some wonderful friends, we were also able to arrange care for my mother for a few days so that my sister could also attend the wedding, albeit she would only attend for two nights.

Once on the island, I was able to relax and I had a wonderful time. I shared a villa with two of my children, my sister (on the two nights she came), my brother-in-law, and my niece. My brother and his family were in the villa next to us. We were able to have some close family gatherings and chats long into the night. It was a wonderful time of togetherness.

I even did some kayaking and had a pedicure 🙂

The wedding ceremony itself on the fifth day was beautiful and many tears of joy and happiness were shed, along with some nostalgic tears, and some sad tears that my son would now reside in Canada – so far away.

Then it came to the reception and speeches.

When I turned sixty earlier this year, I gave a little speech about my life being like a tree. I described the roots of the tree as my ancestral and extended family; the trunk of the tree as representing my friends, acquaintances, education, talents and experiences; and the branches of the trees my children and grand-children. I had described how my tree was spreading the seeds of the values inherited from my family, and those I had formed myself.

When it came to my turn for giving a speech, I had thought I would use the same imagery of the tree. However, I could not see where my son and new daughter-in-law would fit. Would she become part of my tree? Would my son become part of her tree? Would they start growing their own tree?

Then, instead of a tree, I thought of the imagery of a rainbow.

A rainbow represents harmony. To me, having the wedding in such a setting with all of us coming together to help celebrate, was like a rainbow. It was the promise of new beginnings, after the storm. The arches of the rainbow represented the joining together of my son’s family and my new daughter-in-law’s family. Each colour of each arch of the rainbow represented each parent and grandparent and their families, and we were joined together in harmony by the union of my son and his new wife. This was the promise to them of the rainbow and its message of hope. Within that rainbow, there were the gifts that had been given to them by all the generations that went before them.

Red for passion and excitement.
Orange for vitality and good health.
Yellow for the promise of new beginnings.
Green for compassion and kindness, and for this great earth.
Blue for the courage to speak up for their beliefs.
Indigo for love and companionship.
Violet for peace, temperance and wisdom..
The full rainbow for embracing love in harmony.

That was my message to them for their wedding.

And this (by sheer coincidence) was their wedding song.

 

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Image courtesy[Tao55]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

My resources for pursuing my purpose

The purpose of our lives is to be happy. Dalai Lama, Tibetan Leader.

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Having determined my purpose in life is “living to my highest self and inspire others to do the same”; and in considering how I may go about doing that; I found myself in a quandary when I came across the above quote. I thought I was supposed to find purpose and meaning in my life, then I would become happy. Now I read that I am supposed to find happiness; and then that will become my purpose. I became confused.

Here are another three quotes that added to my confusion:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose” Richard Leider

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it”
Gautama Buddha

So in moving on, I had been wading through trying to work out my life’s goals and aims in order to fulfill my purpose and this had been proving a bit difficult when I became unsure as to whether I should be aiming for happiness or purpose.  (Message to self: it is far better to be confused about whether to pursue a life of happiness or a life of purpose than to be stuck back in pain, anger, despair, fear and turmoil.)

Then I came across this quote:

“Accept yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your truths, and know what tools you have to fulfill your purpose.”  Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Aah! Light-bulb moment. I think I will start from there – my resources. If I look at what I already have to work with, it may become easier to find out where I need to go.

My 35 years business experience has taught me that, whenever you begin a new project, you should always firstly look at your resources – in business that is infrastructure, money, and human resources. The next steps are to look at what resources are missing, fill in the gaps, then march on to completing the project. The initial step, however, is always looking at your resources; look at your starting point.

In my life’s direction it is a little bit back to front because I am not sure of my actual project and therefore my goals. However, I thought there would be no harm at looking at the starting point – at what I already have to work with.

This post is therefore outlining my new beginning, a first draft appraisal of listing what resources I already have. Later I will explore these in more depth and then move on to my goals. The first 8 in my resources list are my strengths. The last 2 are the people and the tangible resources I have in my life. The beauty of looking at all this from the point of view of my “resources” or the things that I have, is that it makes me focus on my strengths and my positive attributes and the people and tangible assets I already have in my life. This is a fantastic strategy of moving away from that dark place of grief and despair where I was focussing on my losses, my weaknesses and being negative towards myself….

In listing my resources, I have realised that I have got more to work with than I had previously thought.

Here is my list. .

My Resources For Pursuing My Purpose

  1. Character strengths
  2. Personality strengths
  3. Attitude strengths
  4. Talents
  5. Skills
  6. Education
  7. Knowledge
  8. Experience
  9. Support
  10. Security

Onwards and upwards to my new life with enthusiasm and vigour 🙂

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Image courtesy [jscreationzs]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ithaca

Ithaca

As you set out for Ithaca
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare sensation
touches your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind –
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and learn again from those who know.

Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so that you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.

Music composed, arranged, produced and performed by Vangelis
Poem recited by Sean Connery
Poem by C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933) written in 1911.

Is Happiness or Contentment my aim?

ID-10029409 - 'africa'My last post was about the difference between short-term excitement (fun), sustained pleasurable moments (joy), and an inner feeling of well-being (happiness).

Following on from that, and from comments by readers, I thought I would take a closer look at the inner feeling of well-being I was trying to achieve.

Happiness  is a mental and emotional state of well-being characterized by positive emotions and living a flourishing life. To be truly happy all needs are met including comforts, pleasures, engagement, relationships, high self-esteem, meaningful activities and accomplishments.

Contentment, on the other hand, means being satisfied with what you have. If your income does not afford a comfortable lifestyle, you accommodate to a modest one. If you are overweight / getting older or whatever else you feel may be a shortcoming, you are grateful for your good health. If you cannot climb mountains, you are satisfied with walking along the beach. If a relationship fractures, you are grateful for those loved ones you still have. If your family lives away and you cannot see them as much as if they were nearby, you are pleased you can communicate by other means. If you live alone, you embrace aloneness for its opportunities. If you have not quite reached what you believe is your potential, you are satisfied with how far you have come. Rather than needing exciting activities to make you feel alive, you are contented with simply enjoying each day, for its moments of joy, and for the pleasures you can make from it.

Looking back at the definitions above. Happiness requires all my needs to be met. Contentment requires me to be satisfied with what I have at this point in time.

Are all my needs being met? Probably Not.

Am I satisfied with what I have? Absolutely.

I believe that contentment, rather than happiness, is the ultimate for achieving inner peace and a long-term feeling of well-being.

Does being contented, and therefore being satisfied with what you have, mean not striving for a better life? Not at all. Being contented is being happy with how far you have come and accepting who you are. Part of that acceptance for me is being satisfied that I will always be making goals, I will always be looking to the future, I will always be aiming higher, I will always be striving forward. That is part of who I am. I am satisfied and content with that.

If the difference between fun and joy can be thought of as the difference between laughing and smiling; then I believe the difference between being happy and being contented is the difference between reaching the stars, and being satisfied in the journey to the stars. For the first (happiness), it means I would not feel the emotion until I got there. For the second (contentment), it means I can have inner peace from the very start and would have already reached my destination.

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Image courtesy[Africa]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fun – Joy – Happiness

ID-10025176 - AkarakingdomsRecently someone commented to me that after I moved past this separation transition phase onto my new life, I could begin to have fun. The comment threw me. I thought I was already having moments of fun. Besides, my ultimate aim in life is for happiness aided by moments of joy.

What is the difference?

Fun‘ means a short-term activity, especially a leisure activity, that brings on feelings of excitement, merriment and laughter.

Joy‘ is an intense feeling of great delight or a relaxed feeling of pleasure.

Happiness‘ is a state of mind, an inner feeling of contentment and well-being.

The question is, while I had been filling my days with things that gave me joy and pleasure, was I having fun? More importantly, was including ‘fun’ necessary for my ultimate ‘happiness’.

There are different types of activities that provide pleasure: exciting activities (parties, dancing, exhilarating sports); relaxation (reading, nature, watching movies); socialising (family, friend, coffee with workmates); experiential (travelling, going to a show); and growth activities (learning a musical instrument, finishing a project, helping someone).

I believe if you are happy then any of the above pleasurable activities can add to your happiness. Furthermore, distractions from adversities by engaging in such activities can also be important, even healing. On the other hand, if your inner soul is not at peace, then pleasurable short-term activities provide a distraction but they do not ultimately lead to happiness. In fact constantly engaging in distracting fun activities can sometimes impinge on lifetime happiness. Here are some examples:

Eating ice-cream or cake is fun. Over-eating can lead to overweight, lower self-esteem and block ultimate happiness. Shopping is fun. Shopping to excess or getting too far into debt can lead to financial difficulties and put you under distress. Parties uplift the spirits. Drinking to excess can lead to relationship problems. Holidays are pleasurable. Excess travel can lead to being discontent with your normality. Watching TV is relaxing. Engaging in aimless activities to excess prevents you from seeking more meaningful activities.

To experience pleasure from growth activities, which can be the ultimate source of personal fulfillment, initially may mean sacrificing short-term pleasure for sustained happiness. For example: giving up mindless relaxation in order to practice a musical instrument ultimately leads to greater happiness when you become an accomplished musician. Becoming more educated means putting in years of study in lieu of other pastimes. Living frugally, budgeting wisely and investing soundly leads to eventual financial independence and the ultimate freedom to enjoy ‘fun’ activities without guilt.

Probably the initial comment at the start of this post was that, by some definitions of ‘fun’, I was missing out on some activities – those short-term bursts of excitement .

My thoughts are, rather than me missing out on or avoiding those activities, there is the fact  that I am now making my own choices entirely by what is right for me. I am engaging in activities more suited to my introvert personality and my need for stability. I prefer planned rather than spontaneous events. I enjoy relaxation over engaging in frenetic pastimes. I choose not to sacrifice long-term financial security for buying meaningless objects or attending shallow events. I love interacting with people one-on-one or in small groups rather than in large crowds. I get pleasure out of completing projects with a long-term sense of accomplishment rather than doing activities that yield a short-term buzz of excitement. Whilst I do savour short-term pleasurable moments, I steer towards simple moments of ‘joy‘ – those intense feelings of pleasure – watching the sunrise, seeing my grandchildren play and learn, engaging with my loved ones, and finishing my self-assigned projects to the best of my ability. These moments endure and can be looked back at with gladness. In that respect they are longer-lasting and therefore, I believe, ultimate contributors to my overall happiness.

To be truly happy means knowing myself and living by my own inner compass. My definition of happiness is up to me. Becoming happy by my definition is also up to me.

I believe I am already on my way to happiness. Living my own true self towards self-fulfillment, towards my highest self, can only add to my long-term happiness.

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Image courtesy[Akarakingdoms]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net