Week 11: As with tea, with life

When I came up with the idea for The Fourth Quarter seasonal journey through autumn and winter, a
list of weekly symbols quickly emerged, as did what felt like the right running
order for them.  I didn’t plan them out
in detail, but I had clear thoughts about the themes behind each one; last
week’s reflection
on bathing
, for instance, I wanted to represent quietness and moments of
solitude.  What has surprised me as the months
have passed by, though, is the extent to which the meanings and metaphors have
evolved.  I *thought* I knew what each
week would be about, but the journey has taken on a life of its own (apt given
the title of my site and coaching practice!).
This perhaps isn’t surprising, but what is notable is that each symbol
has remained completely apt.  If anything,
the symbols have become even more pertinent.
In an Elizabeth Gilbert Big
Magic kind of way
, it is as if I have been the vessel through which the
concept and symbols found form but my real world brain has taken a while to
catch up with what they all actually mean.

This week’s focus, tea, has proved a particularly strong
example of this, what I can only inelegantly describe as ‘not what I thought
it’d be but totally right’.  In my
original human thinking, it was going to be all about a relaxed form of
hosting, offering people tea as a gesture of hospitality and forging
connection.  That would have been totally
fine, I’m sure; maybe even good.  Yet the
mysteries of creativity have another agenda that is forcing its way on to the
page.  Let’s see where it takes us…

This time two years ago, I developed a dairy
intolerance.  Seemingly out of the blue,
I literally could no longer stomach milk or cheese.  Adjustments to my diet followed, and I swapped
cow’s milk for first soya and then almond milk.
This generally worked well, only I didn’t like the taste of other kinds
of milk in tea.  As a result, English
breakfast tea, a former staple of my day (and one of the few attributes of the
British nation that I was happy to share), vanished from my life, replaced by
herbal varieties or coffee without milk.

Strangely, despite years of heavy consumption, I didn’t miss
it – so much so that even as my tolerance for dairy products has improved, I
haven’t returned to drinking it.  Then
the other Sunday, I was out with a friend and we were having old fashioned
cake.  Coffee just seemed like a weird
accompaniment, so English breakfast tea it was, served in a proper cup and
saucer too.  And just like that, proper
tea was back in my life, like a lost love or the prodigal child, reunited at
last.

What does this symbolise?
Of course it may mean nothing at all; it may simply be that I went off
tea and now I like it again.  This is
undoubtedly partly the case, but I think there is something figurative going on
inside those cups of char as well.  The
lesson I’ve drawn from it is that things change, and not just once and for
all.  Life is a constant ebb and flow.  Sometimes we’ll like tea, at other points we
won’t, there may be occasions where we can’t have it – and then it could all
shift again.  As with tea, with life:
people come and they go, relationships blossom and wither, jobs are started
then finished.  And the same is true of
identities.  Certain labels may serve us
well at one time but down the line they may no longer suit.  The danger comes when we cling on, refusing
to let go or allow the cycle of change to continue.  I was a tea drinker, then I wasn’t.  I couldn’t drink tea, then I simply didn’t
drink tea.  Now I get to choose: maybe I
will, maybe I won’t.  I don’t need a
definite position on the issue.  

I hope these thoughts resonate with you over the weeks
ahead.  December is a month packed with
annually occurring events and traditions that can make us feel like each year
is – or somehow should be – the same as the one before or one when we were kids
or one that occurred way back in some mythical past before that.  Except it isn’t like that.  This December does not have to be the same as
the last one.  Things change, you change,
the world changes.  Today you may have
coffee; tomorrow you might have tea.  As
with tea, with life.

I’m off to put the kettle on.

Tell me what it is that you are drinking right now,
literally and metaphorically!  You can
get in touch via the A
Life Of One’s Own Facebook page
or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on
Instagram and/or Twitter.

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When wounds heal, they form scars

I’m going
through a phase of journalling a lot.
This happens sometimes; I can go for weeks without opening my Moleskine
then spend a month scribbling furiously.
Right now it’s the latter.  I’ve
written before about the power of journalling, with some tips and ideas (see here and here).  This included posting a picture of a page
from my journal listing ‘Things that make me happy’.  Turns out this is one of my most popular
posts, and it has been reblogged and liked and seen by numerous strangers.  If I think about too much, it is terrifying
to realise that so many people have glimpsed so deeply into my soul – but then
that is the purpose of writing, of blogging, of sharing.  Connection is what really matters in life.

Connection
has been a major theme in my Moleskine musings over the last week or so, thus I’ve
decided to be brave again and share directly from my journal (I’m currently reading
Brené Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong,
so her previous exhortation to ‘dare greatly’ is much on my mind).  The following short passage is something that poured
out from me yesterday, all in a rush, flooding the page with not just words but
difficult memories and strong emotions too.
Yet it was amazingly cathartic to say these things to myself.  As I finished the final sentence, I felt
compelled to share these words.  Today,
that urge remains, although it makes me feel hugely vulnerable.  But perhaps that is a good sign.  If these words helped me, then maybe they can
help others too:  

“I’ve got
scars, like everyone.  I’ve been hurt and
that will always leave its imprint.  But
I’ve worked hard and dug deep to heal those wounds so that now they really are
just scars, markings in the tissue of my being that I can trace and feel but no
longer flinch when they’re touched.  They
are there and they are real but they no longer hurt.”

We all have
wounds that we would like to heal, but even when they do we continue to carry
the scars.  And we can learn to live with
them and grow with them and even thrive with them.  

If this
post helped you in thinking about your wounds, or if you think it would help
someone else, then please do share it.
Connection is what stitches those wounds back together again.

And if you
would like to connect more with me and A
Life Of One’s Own
, there’s Instagram,
Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
.  Starting next week, there is also The Fourth Quarter, a gentle and informal group exploration of the treasures and meanings bound up in autumn and early winter.  All the details are here.

What are you searching for?

Alas the picture doesn’t do this morning’s sunrise justice!

Last spring, I fulfilled a life ambition and travelled to the island of Martha’s Vineyard in the US.  Whilst there, my friend and I rose early to stand on the beach and watch the sun rise over the Atlantic.  It was a profound experience for me; an enormous sense of gratitude for simply being there as well as awe at the beauty of it.  It felt like a wonderful moment to be alive, witnessing the birth of a new day.

This morning, I glanced out of the kitchen window and the stripe of candyfloss blue and pink over the valley below made me catch my breath.  As the rising sun began to burn away the winter mists, the scene became a streaky watercolour, a soft rainbow of grey, blue, pink, orange and white.  It was like the new day whispered good morning, lazily stretching itself across the sky.  No drama, no hurry, just easing into life.
 
The quiet magic drew me in, enfolding me in its warmth.  I stopped what I was doing and just looked.  Eager to make the moment last as long as I could, I switched off the electric bulbs before continuing to unload the dishwasher and clear away the breakfast pots in the gentle aura of the emerging daylight.    

I may never go back to Martha’s Vineyard, however much I hope to return.  I may only ever see the sun rise or fall over the ocean a handful of times in my whole life.  Yet the sun comes up and goes down wherever I am; it did so long before I came along and will continue to do so when all memory of me is gone.  So why don’t I notice it in the ordinary places, only the extraordinary ones?

Why do we search for meaning and poignancy in special occasions and faraway places?  Why not start where we are?  Look up, look around, treasure the everyday miracle of our lives.  Amazing riches are all about us, like secrets hidden in plain sight.

I invite you to join me, today and over the week ahead, in a special game of hide-and-seek.  What secrets hidden in plain sight can you find in your life?  What gems are before your very eyes, should you look for them?  What do you see around you that you too often miss?

What are you searching for?  Where can you find it?  Where in your life might it already be hidden?
 
If you would like some support and guidance in undertaking such a search, or if you’re struggling for answers to these questions, then get in touch about having a coaching session.  Part of my mission in working with people to create lives of their own is about helping them to deepen a sense of meaning and connection in our everyday worlds.

My new training rate price is £35 per session (c$52 / c€46).  If you book for a course of six sessions, the cost is £175 (c$262 / c€232); payment in installations is possible.  Send me an email at rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk to find out more.  

New year…but Christmas first

Anyone else out there feeling the new year vibe yet?  Or is it just me?  Please tell me I’m not alone…although perhaps I am!  Whereas a month or so ago January seemed out of sight, now it is coming into vision.  Much of what has been happening here at A Life Of One’s Own lately focuses around the end of this year and the early months of 2015.  I’ve begun planning a new year workshop and am also in discussions about running a short course on journaling in January and February. 

As well as these two events, my mind has started to scheme and hatch up other dreams and goals for 2015, both in my personal and professional life.  Maybe it’s because I’ve made more progress than I ever could imagined at the beginning of 2014 and now I’m keen to push further, to develop fresh ambitions.  Maybe it’s because the long dark nights are a bit depressing and looking ahead to the new year and the promise of spring is a means of escapism.  Either way, I have that clean slate, fresh start 1st January feeling in my bones.

There is, of course, one problem with that: namely, that there are still forty-two days to go until we get to 2015.  I don’t want to miss out on being present in the here and now, in my actual life, by dreaming and scheming for the future. 

In particular, I don’t want to miss out on all the joy and excitement of Christmas.  I want to show up for every single day and drink in the glitter and the sparkle and the warm fuzzy glow of it all. 

I want to be able to do this even though I have some major work deadlines before then.  Even though I haven’t thought about my Christmas shopping yet.  Even though this Christmas Day will be totally different from every other one I’ve ever had.  Even though I haven’t a clue when the final posting date for New Zealand is and that information would be really useful right now*. 

How am I going to do this?  By opening up to the suggestions I put forward in 24 Days Before , the advent journey that I’ve created.  I designed 24 Days Before to support participants in reaching in and reaching out at what is generally the craziest time of the year, and I’ve realized that I need that support as much as anyone – so I’ll be joining in opening the daily email along with those women from around the world who have already signed up for it.          

If you want to join us on this journey and explore ways to deepen a sense of meaning and connection during December, all the details are over on the 24 Days Before page.  

42 days until the end of the year…why not share a journey for 24 of them?

* The answer is 3rd December.  I just looked it up.  All the final posting dates from the UK are detailed here.

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24 Days Before: an advent journey

Remember the excitement and anticipation generated from having an advent calendar when you were a child?  What if you could recreate similar feelings about Christmas now you’re an adult?  How amazing would it feel if you could capture some of the fun and delight – maybe even [gasp!] pleasure ­– of the festive season again, rather than treating December like a time that you just need to get through?  Imagine waking up on Christmas Day feeling nurtured rather than frazzled, loving rather than harangued, childlike rather than Scrooge-like.  Like that idea (and who wouldn’t?!)?

Then how about receiving an advent calendar equivalent of your own?

24 Days Before is an advent journey designed to help you deepen a sense of connection in the run up to Christmas.  For more information, including details about how to book, visit my 24 Days Before page: http://www.alifeofonesown.co.uk/24daysbefore