Why You Should Always Carry Stamps

This post is part of my
‘This is my real life’ week.  

To read how that began, you can click here for the opening post.

To read the first post in the series, you can click
here
.

Today I will be taking a walk up to the Post Office to
purchase postage for a large letter.  I
don’t quite know what size qualifies as ‘large’ for Royal Mail in the UK as
this is a fairly new category, but I think it’s some combination of size and
weight.  Anyhow, I know that my A4
envelope requires a different kind of stamp than is usual.  I don’t really mind making a special trip but
it is a bit irksome when I have four perfectly good regular stamps in my wallet
already.

I always carry stamps.
As with yesterday’s favourite
mug habit
, I’m not exactly sure when this began.  It goes back at least to 2008.  It was around that time a friend lent me a
book (I think it was Sam Gosling’s Snoop: What Your Stuff Says about You)
where the author asserts that the world is divided into two kinds of people:
those who always carry stamps and those who don’t understand why anyone
would.  I definitely identified with the
former.  

My teeny tiny A Life
Of One’s Own
tip for today is therefore the suggestion that you get
yourself a book of stamps and carry them in your wallet.  As there’s no expiry date with postage, it
doesn’t matter how long it takes for you to use them, but when you’re
eventually down to one, buy another book before you run out.  Then repeat.

Why?  

Firstly to help yourself.
Now that electronic communication has reduced levels of mail, we may not
use stamps as much as we used to, but often when we do need them it is for
something urgent or important: the birthday card that needs to be in today’s
collection, the bank form that has to be with them by tomorrow.  Now think about the nearest pillar box in
relation to your home or workplace.
Wouldn’t it be easier if, rather than having to go to a shop that sells stamps
first, you could lay your hands easily on what you need and pop the item
straight into the post?

If that alone doesn’t convince you (and why wouldn’t it?!),
a second reason to always carry stamps is in order to connect with others.  There are two aspects to this.  It is in part about communication via
mail.  Maybe you’re out somewhere and see
a funny postcard that instantly makes you think of a particular friend or
family member; if you have a stamp on you then sending it to them seems much more
straightforward than if you have to factor in getting postage too.  Likewise when you hear some big news or an
announcement.  Whether it’s passing an
important exam, an engagement, a birth or a death (or remembering a birthday at
the last minute!), having one less step in the process makes buying/sending less
hassle.  Carrying stamps opens up more
opportunities for you to connect with those you care about, recognising and
celebrating the important moments in their life.

The other aspect of connecting with others is the giving of
stamps.  We’ve all said to people around
us ‘I need to get a stamp’, and we’ve probably all asked or been asked if we
have a stamp.  It’s up there with the ‘Do
you have a light?’ appeal between smokers.
In a way, the two function similarly, albeit stamps posing less risk to
your health.  If the request can be
fulfilled, a moment of connection is forged.  The person receiving is grateful because
without that, their object (the cigarette or the piece of mail) is
useless.  It cannot function without the
other element, be it the light or the stamp.
In the case of the latter, you’ve also saved them time and possibly hassle.  

As the giver of the stamp, you’ve just helped someone out
for very little cost (in fact no direct outlay, as you’d bought them anyway)
and no inconvenience at all – they were already in your wallet.  You’ve done them a favour, made their day a
little easier.  That’s a good
feeling.  It may only be fleeting but
aren’t most experiences in this life?  

Grab opportunities to connect as much as you can.  Buy stamps.

What about you?  Do
you carry stamps?  If you don’t then has
this post encouraged you to buy some?
Who knows what opportunities it will facilitate!  If you’d like to share with me then there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or
the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page – or you can email (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).

This post is part of my
‘This is my real life’ week.  

To read how that began, you can click here for the opening post.

To read the first post in the series, you can click
here
.

My start of the week epiphany

Monday didn’t start as planned.  I didn’t get up when the alarm went off.  I didn’t have the short but anchoring early
morning chat with my partner that I treasure.
I didn’t go to the gym.  By 11am I
felt like I was already behind on the week.

Then an unexpected parcel arrived containing a box of Turkish
delight.  When taking the delivery, I
spotted the cheery primroses, a surprise present received at the weekend and
placed by the door only the day before.
Turning back into the room, there were the yellow roses that had
accompanied the door-side plants.  

In that moment, these three literal gifts offered me another
gift.  They served as a reminder of the
good things in my life, things that are usually there in some form or another
but often get overlooked, forgotten in the maelstrom of life.  The light can be easily overshadowed by
dark.  A looming but not pressing
deadline can sour an otherwise enjoyable weekend.  One critical statement skews our memory of
otherwise glowing feedback.  An acrimonious
ending may shape our recollection of an entire relationship.  

Sometimes it may feel as if the light in our lives has
disappeared entirely.  Last week saw Epiphany,
a festival which celebrates the story of the wise men visiting baby Jesus.  The visitors see a star in the distance and
travel towards it, but they don’t actually follow the light in the night sky the
whole way – the star only reappears when they get nearer.  I feel this is a crucial detail, and a hugely
inspiring one, encouraging us to carry on anyway.  Keep journeying because at some point along
the way, the light will return, and it will seem all the brighter following the
darkness.

My three gifts weren’t gold, frankincense and myrrh but
Turkish delight, primroses and yellow roses.
Nonetheless, they were a reminder to look for the light.  And the start of the week didn’t seem so bad
after all.

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.

We all need bonfires

Okay, so the photograph doesn’t show a bonfire.  Just shows I didn’t plan this before *last* Bonfire Night!

Thursday 5th November: Bonfire Night in the
UK.  I’m hesitant about trying to
describe this seasonal event to anyone unfamiliar with the concept because
having once tried to explain it to two New York shop assistants, I’ve become
extremely aware of what a crazy celebration it is: we light bonfires and set
off fireworks to commemorate the foiling of a 1605 plot by some Catholic men to
blow up the Protestant Houses of Parliament.
Sometimes we even burn an effigy of the plot’s ringleader, Guy Fawkes.  

It’s a strange tradition; pretty gruesome and distasteful
when you think about it in the context of twenty-first century terrorism.  It also seems to be on the wane somewhat,
pushed out by an increasing emphasis on Hallowe’en.  Yet part of me still hankers after a good
Bonfire Night get-together (this year I’m happily attending two, one on Friday
and one on Saturday – like other festivals that fall on weekdays, it gets stretched
to the nearest weekend).  I suspect that
its continuation over the years, and the reason that people still enjoy it, is
less to do with the political background and more because it fulfils some of
our deepest needs in the same way that Hallowe’en does (for more on that, see here).  It’s an excuse, a prompt, to spend time with
friends and family.  Little traditions
associated with the fire-and-fireworks element (largely food related: jacket
potatoes, toffee apples, cinder toffee) support an atmosphere of warmth,
conviviality and ritual.  We remember
these nights fondly from when we were children and want to share that sense of
joy and wonder with our own children too.

There is something quite magical about the occasion.  You huddle up in coats and scarves and
gloves, trying to keep warm through liquor or a loved one, and ‘Ooo!’ and ‘Aah!’
at the fireworks.  You write your name
mid-air with a sparkler and watch as that word, those letters so integral to
your identity, evaporate without a trace.
You stand beside the bonfire, chatting merrily to a friend, then find
yourself gazing at the flames, transported through memories of all the times
you’ve stood there before, perhaps in a different place, but still simply staring
at the fire.  

There’s something so mesmerising about the way it licks and
curls, rages and burns.  Fires draw us
closer, attracts us nearer, but also keep us away, fearful of their fierce
power.  We relate to them on a primeval
level, as our ancient ancestors must have done when their very survival
depended upon them, yet we live lives so far removed from them as a
source.  Nowadays we are as likely to
encounter fire in negative ways, such as when they tear through our homes or
land, than we are the positive – the gathering together in a small circle,
sharing its light and heat.

Where would you like to start a fire in your life?  Where could you use the power of its flames?  

Maybe you crave the communion of bringing those closest to
you in a coven around the hearth.

Maybe you need to set alight your passion, to strike a match
and let it take hold.  

Maybe you need a bonfire to burn some detritus in your
psychic garden, letting it drift in plumes of smoke up to the sky and
beyond.  

Fire has the power and the potential to help us secure
whatever it is that we need most in our lives.
And if you can work it into a fire-fireworks-food combination, then even
better.  

Happy Bonfire Night to you all x

Please do share your reflections on this week’s theme,
including any pictures or thoughts about Bonfire Night specifically or fire in
general, either via the A
Life Of One’s Own Facebook page
or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on
Instagram and/or Twitter.

Let It Rain: lessons from bad weather on holiday

I’m writing this from a hotel bar in Mallorca. When I woke
this morning, I thought we’d be spending a day lounging in the sun as we did
yesterday. My friends and I had the pool/beach debate. Even up to putting our
bags in the hotel’s left luggage room to collect when we leave later, being
outdoors was on the agenda. Then it started to rain. Heavily. And there was
lightning. Four hours later, it hasn’t changed. Sun and sand segued to clouds
and cafes.

We keep gazing out the windows out the pool to gauge how bad
it is. Too bad to even consider venturing out to explore is the answer. During
our four day getaway, this is the second time where the weather has put paid to
our well laid plans. Two days have been predictably hot and beautiful, but two
have surprised us. This was not what we booked for!

What to do about this? There is nothing except make the best
of it. Accept what is, as the Buddhists would say. Let it rain, as Longfellow
put it.

  • I’m still getting to spend time with friends that I don’t
    see much.
  • We’re still getting chance to read the books and magazines
    we’d packed in our beach bags.
  • The bar still serves good coffee.
  • My fingernails are still sporting the gorgeous colour I’ve
    had time to apply – the one that goes brilliantly with my beautiful new ring,
    purchased during our lovely afternoon in Palma on the other rainy day.
  • My brain still has the freedom to roam and day dream, which
    is what I’d most hoped for from the trip.

There are somethings that we simply can’t change. Like the
weather. So all we can do is make the best of the circumstances we do have. I’m
loving having a bit of time to think in advance of Thursday about this week’s
blog post. I’m enjoying my drink. I’m savouring the relaxedness in my bones
from a good break.

Where do you need to let it rain in your life?

Get in touch 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).  

“Human nature is water, not stone.” (Marty Rubin) – and that makes us flexible

I’ve had a
lot on my mind this last week.  A
particularly heavy period threw my moods off kilter.  An important work deadline is coming up at
the start of September, with the final big push that entails.  I’m going away with friends this coming
weekend, so there was planning for that too.
Other assorted demands and to dos pulled me here and there as well.

This mental
hullabaloo affected blog post preparation.
Time set aside to draft was swamped by other issues.  My planned topic shifted from A to B to C, D
and E, leaving me sitting here on Thursday – way past the time when the posts
are usually scheduled for – with a blank page on the screen and still no clear
sense in my head as to what I want to say.

Topic A was
prompted by violating my ‘don’t work after dinner unless it’s totally urgent’
policy.  One Friday evening, despite
having no pressing submission date, I took my laptop back out at 8pm and went
back to a document because I knew that in this case, leaving the revision until
Monday morning would be more detrimental to my state of mind than simply doing
it.  

Lesson: having
our own rules can be useful for easing the burden of decision-making and for
setting clear boundaries but sometimes we need to break them.  Flexibility is a useful skill to cultivate.

As I was wrote
the first two paragraphs above, an amazing solution sprang to mind – I’ll write a
summary of each possible blog post topic that I’d considered this last
week!  Five mini posts in one!  Great idea, only now I’ve written an outline
of the first point, plans B, C, D and E have vanished from my mind.  Gone.
Evaporated (no doubt I’ll wake up in the middle of the night shouting
them aloud).

I guess
that decides the topic for me.  Plan A it
is, albeit in summary form.  I’m
resisting because it’s different to how I usually write posts; it’s much
shorter, for a start.  But perhaps this
is a good thing.  Shows I’ve learnt to be
flexible after all!

What do you
need to get flexible about?  Maybe you’re
strict about no screen time for your kids before tea but with a wet summer holiday
upon us you’re thinking an hour on their favourite game might do everyone some
good.  Maybe you’re religiously saving
for something but another opportunity you’ve dreamt about has arisen and you
can’t seize that chance without drawing down on what you’ve put aside.  Maybe you’re super proud of your independence
but are straining under the pressure of everything that has fallen to you – is it
time to ask for (and accept) help from others?

Where would
a bit more malleability benefit you?  

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).

“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.