“The present moment is filled with joy & happiness”: Lessons from tidying the cutlery drawer

Five months
today, I’ll be holidaying in a seaside cottage with my partner and his
family.  I keep picturing the scene, envisioning
myself taking a bracing walk along the beach before curling up with a hot mug
of tea, a good book and some tartan trousers (fantasies about my future
*always* include details about what I’m wearing).  I’ve also been checking out my availability
in February 2016 as a friend is organising a girls’ weekend away.  Most dates are fine but I want to avoid
clashing with a few work commitments already pencilled in.

I’m very
excited about these future plans but have to keep reminding myself that they
are some distance away.  Imagining good times
ahead is healthy and normal, but what if they distract us from the here and
now?  I don’t want to be so caught up in
daydreaming about winter escapades (and planning my capsule wardrobe to take
with me) that I overlook the treasures that summer still has to offer.  

The future
can pull so strongly on our minds and our hearts.  Throughout childhood we dream and scheme
about ‘when we grow up’ and somehow that hankering for all our tomorrows never
really leaves us as adults.  We picture some
time ahead of now and yearn for what it promises: holiday, new job, Christmas,
baby gets older, kids grow up, teenagers leave home, retirement…then I’ll be
happy / get more sleep / go travelling / relax (delete as appropriate).  Or worse we postpone living our lives to the
full whilst we await some event that we hope will happen but have no guarantees
about: when I lose two stone / get married / make enough money / am less busy.

The future
tugs and pulls and distracts us with all its tantalizing allure.  How much easier it is to look ahead to an
imaginary time that we can mould to our exact desires rather than embrace where
we actually are in our lives right now.
My mythical future home looks exactly like the place I’m living in now
only the boxes in the hallway have been replaced with beautiful bookshelves,
the worktop doesn’t need linseed oiling and the unknown source of all the dust
in the bathroom has mysteriously vanished.
Oh, and I never, ever, ever have to sit at my desk completing a tax
return.  

As this
example illustrates, our future-focus is not always a useful psychological tool
for getting through tough times and traumas.
Sometimes we use it to avoid the kinds of problems that come with
frankly pretty privileged existence.  It
simply gives us some time-out from being responsible for our lives.  In our dream worlds, we don’t have to
organise solutions, actually do any work or other unappealing things like save
money or start pensions; in fantasy future land, everything we want just
magically happens.  Small wonder it’s an
attractive place to mentally decamp to whenever we want to be absolved of
adulthood.

Yet one of
the many dangers of spending too much time in this comfortable place in our
heads is that it can overshadow the here and now, which is a great place to dwell
if we really look at it.  We lose sight
of all the goodness around us.
Feverishly craving the next stage in your child’s development can
obscure the joys of whatever it is they are doing today.  Fixating on a particular decorating project
can blind us to all the stuff we love about the home we live in.  Too much daydreaming about future adventures
almost stopped me appreciating the treasure to be found in a quiet Saturday
afternoon at home, tidying out the cutlery drawer.

Living
for the weekend makes us overlook everything we have to be grateful for from
Monday to Friday.

Living
for the holidays makes us wish away months and years of our lives.

Let’s not
forget everything we have to be grateful for in the here and now.  Whenever it is that you’re reading this, stop
for a few minutes and think about three good things in your life right
now.  And I mean right now, in this
moment.  Perhaps it’s sunny.  Perhaps it’s raining – but you’re inside in
the dry.  Perhaps you’re on holiday.  Perhaps you’re at work – but you’ve got a
brew and a few minutes to read this blog post.
Perhaps you like your nail varnish.
Perhaps your kids are playing in the garden.   Perhaps you’re eating a good lunch.  

If you can’t
think of anything, go to the nearest tap and turn it on.  You have access to running water!  That is something to be very glad about.

Think of
three things that you are grateful for right now.  Then next time you are drifting off into
fantasy future land, come back to the present and do it again.  

And again.

And again.

Rather than
living for the future, let’s live for our lives today.  I’ve heard that Thursday 30th July
is really rather a great day to be alive J

Three
things that I’m grateful for right now:
The
sun has just come out again!
The
peace and quiet of where I live
The
Orla Kiely notebook on the desk beside my laptop – a beautiful present from a
friend.

Share what
you’re grateful for right now!  You can
comment below or on social media: there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
.  And of course you can
also email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  

If there’s
a topic that you’d like to see me write about in future posts, send me an
email.  I’d love to know what you’re
interested in and to explore ways that I can help.

All Shall Be Well

“All shall be well, and all
shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” Julian of Norwich

I wrote
this post in an airport coffee shop.  It
appears here somewhat later than planned.
The poor quality of the internet connection, as well as being surprising
considering I was in a state capital associated purely with business and
political travel, conspired to stop me posting at the time of writing. I was on
my way to a weekend away involving a motel with the word ‘Value’ in its
name.  That’s right: not Downtown Quality
Inn, nor Downtown Premier Inn, nor Downtown Luxury Inn, but Downtown Value
Inn.  Wifi wasn’t great there either
(although to be fair, the hotel far exceeded my expectations).  Since then life and jetlag has got in the
way, but back to the weekly blog post routine now.

On Thursday
9th July 2015 (yesterday evening as I write), I was almost two weeks
into a three week trip to California.
Part work, part holiday, it has been a logistical planning mission
involving numerous beds and even more journeys of one form or another.  Last night I was following up some details
for Friday’s adventure and opened up my purse to discover that my credit card
was not in its usual slot.  I checked
other slots.  I emptied the purse
out.  I emptied my bag out.  I told myself to not panic and rechecked
everything I had just checked.
Definitely no credit card.

In the
hours since, I’ve tried to figure out where it has gone.  I don’t think it’s been stolen, more likely
simply left somewhere random in the confusion of travel.  It doesn’t really matter what happened to
it.  This story is about what I did next.

I somehow did
not panic.  I checked my online bank
account and no unexpected transactions were listed.  Whilst online, I got up the number to ring to
report it missing.  I rang the
number.  I had the foresight to explain I
was ringing from abroad, with limited phone credit, and gave my number for a
return call in case of getting cut off.
After cancelling my card, I calmly asked my Air BnB hosts about the
nearest cashpoint and they kindly took me there so I could get extra cash.  

Amazingly,
I then spent the rest of the evening on their sofa merrily chatting with
them.  I laughed and joked and completely
forgot that I was no longer in possession of my credit card.  My back-up, my safety net, was gone – yet
here I was continuing as if everything was okay.  

That, my
friends, is because everything is okay.  Admittedly
the tiredness gremlins got me when I went to bed and I then couldn’t get to sleep
because anxiety took over.  Even this
morning there was a knot in the pit of my stomach as I felt a bit worried about
financial precariousness.  But then I
went about my day as planned and the fear subsided again.  Now it’s late afternoon and I feel confident
to again state that everything is okay.  

Everything
is okay because I lost my credit card but I still have other resources.  Literally I have my debit card and as much
cash as I’m happy to carry.  On a
different level, dealing with this minor emergency has reminded me that I also
have the wherewithal to handle adversity.
I can stay calm and figure out the next step, ask the right questions
and even find solutions.  I feel really
effing resilient.  

It’s a good
feeling.  It’s not one I’m especially
familiar with.  I usually think of myself
as a bit lame and weak.  Even though I
have lots of evidence to the contrary, I assume that I’ll crumble under
pressure or adversity.  

I don’t
think I’m alone in this.  Many of us fear
what we will do when the worst happens, only to find that if it comes (which it
often doesn’t) then we handle it just fine.
The worst often isn’t as bad as we thought it would be.  Sometimes we even thrive.  

The trouble
is we can’t really plan for such situations.
We can’t predict or map out what we will do in all eventualities.  But the missing credit card escapade has
taught me a lesson that I believe is useful for feeling resilient in any
troublesome situation: just take the next step.
One step.  Whatever that is,
regardless of how small it seems.
However much that step seems like a drop in the ocean compared to the
challenge that affronts us.  

Check the
account.  Ring the helpline.  Ask the locals.

Change the
verb and switch the noun to another accordingly.  Repeat if necessary.  

Keep doing
the same.  

Take the
next step.  Then the one after. And the
one after that.

Repetition.  Build up your resilience muscle one small
action at a time.

Just take
the next step.

When have
you felt resilient?  And what would be
your top tip that you’ve learnt from that experience?  I’d love to know!  Get in touch by commenting below or via social
media: there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page.
And of course you can also email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  
 

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You don’t have to be superstitious to believe in the power of a charm

See that gold zip in the
picture above?  That’s fastens up my
wallet.  I love my wallet.  It’s navy leather and the inside has a purple
silk lining.  Using it makes me
happy.  Sometimes, on bad days when I
feel like I’m barely holding it together, getting out the wallet to make a
payment acts as a pick-me up.  How can
life be that bad, I think, when I possess such a beautiful object?    

Even more than that, the
wallet acts as a useful prompt – a visual reminder of how good, how confident,
how self-assured, I can feel.  Sometimes
that prompt alone is enough to help shift my mood in a better direction.  Looking at its beautiful lines, I tell myself
that the woman who owns such an item cannot possibly be a slatternly, uncouth,
slobbish, incompetent fool (a selection of the words that most regularly
feature in my negative self-talk hotlist).
The woman who went into a shop and selected that purse was calm,
content, knows her own mind (or at least her own taste) and able to make good
choices.  

And if I could be that way on
the day I bought the wallet, I can be like that on other days too.  

The wallet isn’t magical, but
it does feel like a talisman for me.  It
has the power to change how I feel – or, perhaps more accurately, I have assigned
it with a level of meaning that can affect my mood.  More important than what it says to the world
is what the wallet tells me about my identity, my desires, my aspirations – who
I am and how I want to be in the world.  

Perhaps you are reading this
thinking I am potty, viewing an essentially practical item as some kind of
charm.  Maybe you think that declaring
such strong attachment to any object as a sign of materialism, with all the
negative connotations that carries.  

Or do you recognise what I’m
saying as being true for your relationship with a particular possession
too?  Think about your most treasured
belongings.  Are some of them important
to you because of the feelings they evoke about yourself?  

The shoes you wore to an
interview that you absolutely nailed?
The dress that you had on when you finally told your ex-partner that you
would not tolerate their behaviour any longer?
The necklace you bought when you earned your first pay packet?  The ‘proper’ cookware purchased to mark
setting up a home of your own?    

This is not simply about
particular memories but visceral feelings.
I believe that we all own objects which have the ability to evoke strong
positive reactions, objects that can remind and reassure us of our own
strength, power and agency.

Let’s make greater use of
this!  It’s not uncommon for people to
wear jewellery that they regard as talismanic but what about other items?  Which of your personal possessions take you
to your best self, your wisest self, your most awesome self?  And are you channelling that enough?  Can you use them more often, wear them more
regularly, display them more prominently?

If you’re struggling with
this, think about anything you own that makes you smile whenever you see it or
use it – that could provide some clues as to your own amulet.

And if you know what yours
is, please share a picture.  Get in touch
by commenting below or via social media: there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page.  And of course you can also
email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).