If I stopped

What would happen to your life if you slowed down for a minute, a day….a year?

If I stopped for a year
to read the classics
what would happen to my life?
If I stopped for a year
to visit art galleries or museums
would I ever work again?
If I stopped for a year
to dance and climb mountains
would the boardroom bell not sound for me?
if I stopped for a year to teach
would I learn who I was in the angry
eyes of our tender youth?
If I stopped for a year
could I feel the seasons change
and hear the ants talk?
If I stopped for a year
would I learn to breathe
and love the senses I have
long since forgotten?
If I stopped for a year
could I remember the birth canal
and the bright, white light called life?
If I stopped….

Sean Casey Leclaire

 

Project Me 18/101 — Move, and the way will open

Move, and the way will open.”

– Author Unknown

I really love my Team Caroline. They have my best interests in heart and love me as I am while helping me be all I can be. They are also courageous enough to hold me accountable and to ask the right questions, as well as being wise enough to trust their gut and intuition and ask the questions they know need asked.

 

Over the past few years I’ve seen that questions are such a powerful tool for effecting change. They force you to go inside and weigh up what you really feel, or you get the instinctive answer that’s got real truth behind it. So one of my team Caroline (Coach & trainer Jane Talbot)  read one of the posts and responded – almost immediately – with a whole raft of questions about two weeks ago. And there they sat. I knew they were good questions. I knew I needed to answer them – but knowing isn’t doing. I avoided them. Then late last week I remembered that “what you resist, persists” – and also remembered that my pattern is to avoid what is sometimes better for my soul.

 

So I sat with my journal and explored them. Sometimes I had to ask myself sub questions to get a “yes” or “no” response to check that it was a real answer for me. I realised I do know what nurturing means to me and I know how to do it. It means being grateful, nurturing myself with the food I eat and the amount of sleep I get. It means time spent with dear friends and time spent with soul friends.

 

And the most important thing I learned? That nourishment is balance, the dance of balancing body, mind and spirit. In the past ten years in particular, I’ve nourished my mind through hundreds if not thousands of books on a huge variety of subjects. Over the past three or so years I’ve begun to nourish my spirit and soul again, finding spiritual community and a new way of believing in God and a Universal power that is loving and greater than me. But I’ve failed to nourish my body. I’ve pushed it too far and got many sports injuries do I gave up. I’ve eaten unhealthy foods and too much of anything. What I realised above all is that I don’t nourish my body – which is meant to move – by just sitting too much!

 

I sit all day at work. I sit in the car or train. I sit down after dinner. I sit to journal. I sit to catch up on Facebook, Twitter, emails. And I’ve been sitting down to watch TV, and even when I catch up with friends over coffee or dinner.  This is WAY out of balance! So much of what nourishes me and gives me energy was actually about moving! It was walking by the sea, cycling in the country, hill-walking, gardening, dancing or even cooking soul food!

 

Movement; this is a message for me with many layers. Being stuck AND chaos bring movement at a deep level. And things are changing. I WANT to walk, I WANT to cycle – and ..I’m feeling good!  I get what Mary Whitehouse said when she said, “ I came to see that movement is one of the great laws of life. It is the primary medium of our aliveness, the flow of energy going on in us like a river all the time, awake or asleep, twenty-four hours a day. Our movement is our behaviour; there is a direct connection between what we are like and how we move…”

 

If you want to try Jane’s questions, here they are:

 

How To Nurture Yourself

 

What makes YOU feel good?

What makes you feel alive?

What gives you energy rather than takes it away?

What makes you feel YOU?

What feels effortless?

When, where and with whom are you most content?

What’s present when you are not feeling nurtured (that’s usually missing?)

And what’s missing that’s usually present?

How would you know that you are nurturing yourself?

What is feeling nurtured / self-nurture like?

© Jane Talbot

Project Me – 14/101 – Pollyanna’s not playing

When I started this project I intended to post something every day. I knew I’d learn something about nurturing myself every day, so it shouldn’t be that hard – but the lessons this week have come so fast, I couldn’t quite catch my breath. It’s been one of those weeks, or times in your life, where your life pivots. There have been lots of changes, so I can change… and there’s been a bit of chaos thrown in for good measure.

I met one of Team Caroline yesterday, and was reminded that even Pollyanna went through times when she couldn’t play the Glad Game. I’ve been so out of sorts this week – grumpy, feeling down, unsettled, and feeling less than totally positive, and not able to encourage myself to be happier, let alone anyone else. It’s been tough at work, as my colleagues – who really really need their holidays – have started to take them, and that inevitablly makes things harder for the rest of us. While on one level we know can only do what we can do, the fact is that I work with the best bunch of committed, conscientious professional people who push themselves hard, and it can be hard for all of us to remember that, and not feel tremendous external as well as internal pressure. So put this together with everything else that was going on this week, and I know I can actually cut myself some slack here – because strange things were happening.

In the house, I set the grill on fire by forgetting about it – had I left the house, it would have burned the place down. I had left the hob burning a day or so before. And as I was in such bad form, I just went to bed early – forgetting I had put a ham on to cook! I’m luckily surrounded by others who were looking out for us when I wasn’t. And that phrase is significant….as it was as if I started looking after me, and took my eye off everyone else. Or that I was somehow sabotaging what I had set out to do, or that I was being reminded to remember things. Hhhm…

My next day wasn’t much better; and for me, that’s a BAD THING. I tend to be pretty stable in my moods, I’m naturally optomistic, and to stay in this place wasn’t a nice feeling at all. I know I can change my thoughts. I know I am responsible for my moods, for my own happiness. I know to be grateful in the dark times. But again – knowing isn’t doing.

And here’s what I wrote in my journal on the day things started to change again:

” What is the difference? I’ve lost count of what day I’m meant to be at – but in the past six days, I’ve had no way to centre myself… I’ve been too busy to journal. Which isn’t actually true. I HAVEN’T journalled – and that is quite a different thing, and my life and my relationships suffered as a result.”

Things weren’t to get easier, oh no! But at least I was unstuck, could start playing the Glad Game again – and find many things to be grateful for – and learn some really important things about money, stories, friends, questions, balance and movement, which I’m going to share in different posts over the next few days.

Team Caroline

My mum recently spent two weeks with us, and they were weeks full of good times, as there was a Jubilee weekend with extended family here, and then we celebrated her birthday. I love my mum dearly but when she went home again, my immediate reaction was to collapse on the sofa as I felt I could relax again.  People who know me might say I never stop – but mum has a gold medal in busyness. She just never stops. I’ve only ever known her to watch two TV programmes consistently, and that’s Coronation Street & Wimbledon – and even as she watches, she knits – and the weeks leading up to Wimbledon were always the busiest two weeks of the year (to allow her to sit down for two weeks and enjoy the tennis).  I struggled with this for a long time, but now I have compassion for the child she was that learned to be busy or face the wrath of a violent alcoholic father, and for the fact that the pattern was so ingrained that it has remained a constant in her life.  As children do though, I simply copied the pattern, and even when I want to slow my life down, I consistently struggle to do so. 

At the start of a year, I give the year ahead a theme – and last year was to be my Year Of Slowing Down. Except it wasn’t – I jumped into (and was catapulted into) my busiest year later – and ended up with no time to breathe, think, or realise I was going down routes I would not necessarily have chosen for myself.  So at the start of this year, my theme was partly about finding balance, slowing down and nurturing myself.  Half way through the year, I’ve spent the last few weeks reviewing my progress and realised there’s been an “epic fail.”

Except there is no failure – there is only feedback! So I’ve thought about what it is I need to do, how I am setting myself up for failure at times, how I try to do so much and why it might be that I’m always reading, researching, learning, doing.  To be fair, I think there is greater balance in my life now than last year, and I start a new working pattern tomorrow, dropping half a day a week and still able to get a full day off each week that means.. that means what? The opportunity to exercise, write, catch up with people, housework, emails and messages etc? Well that’s what it has meant so far – and as a result,my life stays busy as I seek to constantly connect and encourage other, but forget to do anything to get me towards my own goals.

I’m blessed to have a supportive loving family.  And I’m blessed to have some very special friends who continually support me – there are some wild women in there, let me tell you, each uniquely making my life better.  Who better then than to enlist to help keep me accountable as I declare my intention to change in 101 days.

I want to do this for a number of reasons, but perhaps the main one is that I was diagnosed with fatty liver and don’t want that to get any further than it already has.  It comes with fatigue which is a bit of two edged sword then, as it makes it harder to lose weight – and harder to exercise as the Catch 22 is that you are tired.  Combine that with arthritis and a problem with my blood pressure that means it swings wildly but at it’s lowest goes to about 80/40 or 75/35 which just wipes me out. As I get older, it wipes me out more – and I could use this an excuse not to exercise at all.  Instead, I’m just going to have to pick things I can do and find ways to work around this – as 101 days isn’t that long.  Or so you’d think, but for me, 7 days doing this is a long time, and long enough for me to give up!  

It’s 101 days because I picked a date to achieve certain weight loss, fitness and balance goals, nurturing myself all the way (just writing this scares me), but when I counted the days up, it came to 101 days! 101 is the number of completion apparently, so I thought that was unconsciously brilliant. And hopefully auspicious – but just to be sure, I contacted Team Caroline and asked them to encourage me to do this, hold me accountable in being honest enroute, failures and all.  I emailed them and wrote this:

 As you know, this is “my year of finding balance & nurturing myself”. That’s the theme anyway!

You are all dear friends who encourage & nurture me & I am so very grateful for you and for time spent with you. It refreshes my spirit however I interact with you I am always better for the time spent with my encouragers.

I’m going to be radical – for me – and go public – because in writing, I find I stay on track better – with Project Me – 101 Days, via my blog. And that’s scary as I’m already fearful of failing, or of being judged, or indeed of being less than perfect. And another 101 reasons for NOT doing it!

You all already know that about me anyway, just as you know I’m really not very good at nurturing myself, although I’m better than I was. I’m not very good at finding balance either. But I need to, because I’m at that stage in my life where something needs to change; and that something is me. I’m struggling with this fatty liver thing & these blood pressure swings leaving me very tired too often. And still, I want to keep growing, learning, doing, so I can change the world. So to STOP and just BE is a massive thing for me as you know. I just want to take 101 days out to change me. To focus on me. To see what needs stripped away and to learn what I need to learn to effect long term change.

So I ask for your support – Team Caroline – knowing I will get it, as much to make sure I am authentic & totally honest with myself as I blog my progress on losing weight, loving myself and nurturing myself and getting fit and healthy again.

Much love, Caroline

So tomorrow? Here goes – a journey into the unknown for me, as I put myself first.  For 101 days, at least….

 

Wish me luck!

The Haven

The best laid plans

At the beginning of this year, I said that THIS year was going to be my year of knowing a healthy balance and outrageous joy.  I set myself a theme for the year based on what I find in my journals from the year before rather than making a list of New Year’s Resolutions, and it works well.  Normally. 

Time Tardis

My year of  “healthy balance” turned out to be the busiest of my life.  Ever; and that’s pretty impressive for someone who has been told that she lives in a Time Tardis with 48 hours in her day.  Except managing to squeeze even more into my life isn’t necessarily impressive (and has meant some things that are really important to me, like family, friends and spirituality have been somewhat squeezed out).

Let me tell you that had I not had this theme to return to constantly, I don’t think I’d have handled the pressure this year brought.   When I came up with that theme, I couldn’t ever have expected my year to unfold in the way it did, so I became a campaigner,  for a while forced into the spotlight and going down a route I never saw when I resigned as a JP.  All I wanted to do was get people talking about where our society is failing us, and our young people.  I was only ever going to be a reluctant face at the forefront of any campaign; I’m always happier in the background of any party, even my own.  Which is funny as I did end up standing for my own “party” as an MSP! A route that I went down after requests to do it and in the end I realised I couldn’t lose if I did stand, as it would keep attention on the issues – which it did, and in all sorts of ways I could never have anticipated! And I don’t regret any of it, even the lessons I learned, or the fractured ankle which I realised in hindsight gave me breathing space when I had none.

My Path

My only problem was other people’s expectations.  I forgot that I lived for 40 years doing what other people expected me to do before deciding to walk my own path – and I fell back into that pattern.  Up until two weeks ago I was really struggling with all I wanted to do and what was expected of me, getting to the stage where I just could not think and I could not see how all the parts of my life could be integrated.  With Lee’s support, we chose to go on a two week holiday to two out of the way places in Scotland just so there wasn’t much to do and so I’d have time to think, and journal.  I knew I needed a haven – and I found several.  In the space they created, and with the magic of journaling, I found my answers.  I realised my ultimate purpose is to inspire, nurture and encourage (pretty cool that these happen to be the last three initials in my name, eh?); and that includes ME.  There are others who are taking the fight on knife crime and sentencing forward with more skill and energy than I can (thanks to Campaign for Change).  I will continue to keep this in the public eye where I can, but I know now my heart (and therefore my true ability to make a difference) is in supporting some of the victims of crime and in getting involved in projects that change hearts. 

Serendipty

I also know that is only one hat I will wear, as my main focus will be on journaling and happiness.  I’ve had all sorts of amazing adventures and experiences of serendipity as well, confirming this is the path I need to walk (including finding I was staying at a place called the Haven, and sitting down on a bench to enjoy the sun, getting chatting to the lady on the next bench and finding out Anthea was a retired behavioural psychologist running a stress course on the island.  Which I attended the last day of, as others had pulled out due to other commitments – which created the space for me!)  This is my path, not the path others would want for me, but my path.  And I’m loving it.

My Haven

And – you heard it here first. One day – and I don’t know how, but that really doesn’t matter – I’m going to run a Haven.  A place where people who’ve got to overload or who can’t cope with life as-it-is-at-that-point can come to reconnect with themselves or find peace and calm.  I’m also going to live by the sea.  I’ve come off the roundabout that was life for a while, and finding a healthy balance.  I know there is more to life than making it go faster, so I’m just enjoying the way my life is unfolding, the new friends I’m making, the fact that that one step is leading to another…. and I’m beginning to know outrageous

Slow down, you’re moving too fast!

Slow Down, You’re  Moving Too Fast
 
I live my life in the fast lane and I’ve done this for more years than I care to remember.  I think it started around 1990 when I found myself caring for four children who were five and under, and an elderly aunt who had a stroke that affected her physically and mentally.  I lost any opportunity for time for me, apart from one afternoon a week when I got someone from Crossroads to give me  a break from the care, when I could then at least focus on the children.  It was hard in hindsight but when you’re faced with these things, you just do it – and I learned to squeeze “me” time in by locking the bathroom door when I went to the toilet just so I could read a line or a sentence in a book.  The habit of squeezing things in “now” because I didn’t know when I’d got the chance again began – and was honed so well over the years that some friends told me I had 48 hours in my day, or lived in a Time Tardis.  I could do it all, and much of it at the same time.  I may not have officially belonged to a circus (though it felt like that many a day) but I was a fantastic juggler.  Exasperated a colleague sitting near me one day asked, “do you ever just do nothing?”
 
Doing Nothing?
 
Me. Do nothing? Alien concept; even more so with an Iphone with it’s various Apps, with the chance to check Facebook, emails, Twitter accounts, read books, check the news on one of 20 sites, play games.  So when I said this year was going to be a “year of balance and outrageous joy,” I headed straight into the busiest 12 weeks of my life, and found I could find even more space for “doing,” – but not for balance, and not for being.  I’m a doing person, not a being person – and I know now that there needs to be a balance in that as well, and I’m grateful for the friends and family who’ve been frank with me about my schedules, and to the Universe for intervening and enforcing rest through my fractured/bruised ankle.  Hey, if you don’t listen, the Universe makes you, and I should know that by now!  And not just because I’m reminded often that I’m a “human being not a human doing.”
 
I needed that time out, to think through what I was going to do next, which of the many hats in front of me I would choose to wear, if any – because there were lotsof hats to choose from.  I don’t think I’m ever going to be a person who just does one thing; I’m naturally very curious and therefore also find it harder to focus – and am envious of my friends who focus easily.  There is so much I could do – but not all of it will be right for me, and when I got frustrated at the not-knowing, my friend Jane wisely told me to see this period as a time of fallow, to let the earth rest.  Soon enough, she said, it would be clear what was going to grow.  And she was right; she often is.  I can see that there are three clear strands to what I will do, with Hearts Matter focussing on interventions to change behaviours, with Heart of Journaling\Happiness Virus focussing on journaling and happiness (and bringing them both together), and then my regular job which I still love to do.  The three hats look quite nice, I’ve just some more figuring out to do.
  
 
Taking Time To Figure Things Out
 
We all need to figure out things or else life just constantly surprises us.  My view is that there’s enough that can happen that you haven’t planned for so you should plan what happens next to a degree, with one eye on the fact it call change in a second.  A phonecall, a knock on the door – or whatever else life brings to us – can change everything.  So while that’s also a reminder to start working on your bucket list rather than looking at it in it’s nice frame, it’s also about being conscious enough of life passing by that we make what we can of it.  And what makes each of us happy or fires up our passion is as unique as we all are.  It’s taken me many years to start to learn this lesson – some people instintively seem to know that you need to build time into your life to figure things out.  Like Max – who’s 8 years old. He’s the autistic cousin of Jan Phillips (and like me, you can follow her Museletter at www.janphillips.com).  At a family reunion last year, when it was time for the kid’s games, he just sat looking at the clouds, so she went to him and said, “”Hey Max, aren’t you gonna get in the races?” 
 I’m afraid I made too many friends,” he said from up on his rock.
“Too many friends? How’d that happen?” I asked.
“Do you realize every single person has a totally unique personality?” he said.
“Yeah, I know.”
“Well how am I supposed to deal with that if I have too many friends? I have to take a rest for awhile to figure things out.”

 

Then she says he happily glanced back up toward the clouds to do his figuring. They say it’s little children who lead us – and so I’m off to look at some clouds, – and to spend a little more time just figuring, looking for fun, and feeling groovy.

Grumpy Pants

I don’t often wear grumpy pants – but clearly I do have a pair that I sit in, now and again. I’ve been frustrated that some of the people I love most in the world sometimes talk to each other in a less than totally loving way. At least today I realised that it’s not my job to sort things out all the time – or be peacekeeper. Sometimes I possibly make things worse. People can’t see what they don’t want to see, or hear what they don’t want to hear – so pointing it out only annoys them and it upsets me more when they go to defensive and/or attack mode.

Which is no less than I do myself. So when I hear I’m grumpy I could go to defence mode (my usual stance), or sit back and observe. This curiousness-thing is fascinating; to observe as a witness/be mindful is teaching me so much.

Like when I’m really tired, my voice goes even quieter than normal. As if the effort of talking is almost too much – and I then get annoyed when I’m asked to repeat what people actually didn’t hear. Or when I’m really tired my tone changes to a flatter tone that could sound grumpy. No. It does sound grumpy. What I’ve also learned is that sometimes when I remove myself from a situation, others just get on with talking to each other.

I dont know why things are currently being attracted into my life or why there are what seem to be needless delays in things happening. I am Mrs Impatience, wanting answers and solutions NOW, please and thank you. As I went to write “no patience” I wrote “know patience” so my unconscious mind is already working on that, it would seem!

Maybe it really is, as the wise woman told me, time to learn patience and time to put me first for a while and let others do the nurturing. Maybe too, as Lee keeps telling me, it’s just time to be quiet, and go to sleep when my body says it’s time to do that even if it IS silly o’clock. Who knows? What I do know is – like Annie – that tomorrow is another day and I will probably feel quite quite different. 🙂