Life around the corner

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.”               from Kindness, poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

ID-10052519.digitalartLife around the corner (that corner that I got to after I got out of the mud and went a little way down the path and found a bend in the road and I took it) is sunny and warm; with blue skies, green grass and kind friendly people having fun.

This has surprised me because they are the same people who were there before, when I was stuck in the mud, yet for some reason I failed to see their kindness, I did not notice their friendliness and I most certainly had no time to join in their fun.

OR …

Is it that I am acting more with kindness and friendliness to those people and they are responding to my warmth and opening their hearts. We are laughing, having fun together.

It wasn’t that I didn’t chat before, or I that I was unkind, or unfriendly; it was just that when I was in the mud I had to keep going or I would get stuck. I had to keep going and going and had no time for idle chit-chat. I could not extend a hand to help others because that may have pulled me under and make me sink. I had to protect myself from the storm clouds above, from the driving wind blowing in my face, and the mud below and ahead of me.  I was so busy protecting myself and looking down at the mud that I did not notice the people and their situations and their faces. Those people are people – just like me. Sometimes they have been in mud of their own, and sometimes not.

Now the road is clear and I am looking up at their faces.

I can hear their stories – of the young gentleman at the firm where I had my car serviced who did not like the atmosphere at his previous job; of the lady from whom I bought my new kitchen pots who has a husband who is unwell; and the twice-divorced receptionist at my lawyers with a 30 year old son whom she adores, yet is lonely living on her own.

I can see their friendliness – the doctor’s receptionist embracing yet joking about their new computer program; my hair-dresser encouraging me in a new style for my hair; the sales-lady in the department store offering colour suggestions for my clothes.

I can feel their kindness – of that same sales-lady taking me around the store to find some matching accessories; of the manager of the department store allowing me to take my time with my purchases and then escorting me down the lift (elevator) as it was a bit spooky being the only one left in a huge department store 45 minutes after closing time!

These are interactions I am having with people in my everyday life as I now have an everyday life. I am now doing everyday things – an annual doctor’s check (six months overdue), hair-cut (four months overdue), car service (two years overdue, so low was its priority), buying new pots instead of putting up with old ones with no handles, luxuriating in buying new clothes rather than wearing the same clothes day in and day out for four years; and attending to my own legal affairs after years and years of attending to joint affairs.

In life around the corner, I have time for everyday life and within that everyday life I have found kindness and friendliness. It is all around me, everywhere I look, flowing from the crucibles of human life stories, pouring forth for me to drink and quench my thirst.

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Image.courtesy[digitalart]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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

 

Foundations of freedom – my sanctuary

 

ID-100241522In the process of revisiting my needs, with the aim of moving from my vulnerable fragile childlike ‘I need to be comforted’ mindset, to the stronger adult ‘I need to be doing and giving’ mindset, I became distracted with my revival identity and a vision for my future. Miraculously my pain disappeared and I instantly had more energy.

Not knowing how long the energy would last, I spent a few weekends doing some tidying projects that had mounted up including resurrecting my old home-office. This room had previously been used for our business management when I was at home with the children, but over the last two years had become a grotesque junk room.

I decided this room would make a new life for me.

When I married, I lost myself in my husband and my family. That was not something that (in marriage) I would have resented as the benefits of my marriage out-weighed losing myself. However, when my marriage collapsed I felt I had nothing left because, in losing my marriage, I also felt I had lost me. When my ex-husband left me I began to slowly revel in the freedom of doing things my way. After a time, I realized I was doing our things my way and still not doing my things. For example, even though initially it was great to watch what I wanted on TV, and attend or hold parties only when I wanted to, I soon discovered that I actually did not like watching TV at all and, likewise, I disliked loud parties immensely, preferring small casual gatherings. So it also went for the previous frenetic fast-paced activities for leisure and experiential pastimes. These were not my preference. My preference is for calm relaxation. Now I could live like that all the time, the way I want to.

Back to my room-

Over the past two years I have written about creating security and stability through routine revolving around my home; basking in the glory of it being a peaceful sanctuary of comfort. Yet here was this room that was a mess, neither peaceful or comforting. I got to work.

I cleared out the mess of accumulated business and divorce files and records, moving them elsewhere. I archived or burned mountains of papers. Then I rearranged the space. I upgraded my computer and bought a good quality scanner to begin copying the family photos. I halved the number of books. When I had finished last weekend, I sat down at my desk. I had a view outside to the tree in the court-yard; my favorite photos are displayed nearby; a whiteboard and favorite books are within easy reach; there are empty drawers, empty shelves, a clean and tidy desk, good lighting, time to myself, peace and quiet.

Then I suddenly realized. This is something that I have wanted my entire life.

As I looked around my new room, it finally sunk in that I now had no-one else I needed to think about ahead of myself. I could choose to do exactly as I wanted to do. This room would have a greater purpose than simply a place for quiet reflection. It would become a greater provider than mere comfort. This is where I would begin to move up the levels of my needs from a ‘comfort’ level to a ‘doing’ level; albeit doing quiet solitary activities. This will become a new haven for me – a writing and project room. This quiet solitary space will allow my creative abilities to flourish. That part of me that has been locked away for 40 years will now make herself known.

An incredible feeling of warmth and excitement arose within me.

And I realized that I was in seventh heaven right here on earth.

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Image courtesy:[panuruangjan]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

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