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acceptance Achievement Contentment

What Have I Achieved?

Picture of a broken wall and pebbled beach looking across water to a town and island. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Abergwyngren coastal path looking towards Beaumaris taken by myself – Aug 2021

I woke up feeling low this morning. Low and old. Bemoaning that I only had a handful of years left to live and what had achieved with it. So I sat on my yoga mat with my cat and pondered. Because I’m also following Christine Sine’s example of deep gratitude I did my best to move into that place.

Well to begin with I have two amazing children who are doing great in the world. I have published a book [and trying not to beat myself up over the fact that it is my only one so far. I will go back and read my last post if I get issues there]. I encourage lots of people with my writing groups, with the youthshedz project [more on that in another post]

But it is too easy to look back and think of all the things I haven’t done – not had a great career, not entered politics, not invented something that would change the world, not some recognised person in the media.

But what really is achievement? What does it really mean? As a Christian I have come to believe that it means knowing God deeper and myself as well so that I can love others.

Doing the work with the Youthshedz young people I realise like them that I am luck to be alive. At 25 I didn’t like myself but now, 35 years on I can say that I like myself. I trust myself, and I have noticed the more I trust myself the more I trust God and also other people.

There is a verse about “judging as you will be judged” [Matthew 7:1] and I think that when one is striving to “achieve” something noteworthy one is too often looking at others, judging what they are doing, rating them as better or worse than oneself – generally better than – rather than just getting on and doing the stuff.

So I may not change the world and neither may my children or the young people I encourage, but you know I think if I make my world a more contented place by being more contented myself – by creating that energy around me of acceptance and contentment – then I have achieved enough.

Like the harbour wall in this picture one day all will be gone and I will be forgotten and you know that is ok.

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forgiveness Lord's Prayer

Letting Go

Reeds round the edge of local Abergele pond blown flat by a storm. Photo taken by Diane Woodrow
Reeds blown over in a storm at my local park. They were all standing up right the following day. Very much a bruised reed he will not break. Photo taken by me July 2021

So to carry on with my thoughts on how I am praying The Lord’s Prayer at the moment.

The reason I’ve picked this picture is that when we judge ourselves and so don’t forgive ourselves, we are like these reeds; knocked over, lying flat, struggling to function. But, if we tune into what I believe Jesus is trying to tell us in The Lord’s Prayer, we will recover, stand up again, and be all we are meant to be.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” we recite. I need to forgive me before I can forgive you. Jesus talks about judging others and being judge, which I think goes with this. And it isn’t God judging us or not forgiving us, but ourselves. I don’t believe I follow a judgemental God but I do believe that I can be a judgemental person.

Here is a trivial for instance of me being judgemental. I used to judge what people were wearing so if I had to go out with the dog when I was still in my pajamas [he won’t pee in the garden so sometimes if he’s bursting he has to be rushed to the small patch of grass at the end of our road] I would be convinced people were looking at me and judging me for being in my pjs. I’m not sure anyone noticed or cared. But it did mean when I went out I was often looking at what people were wearing, but now I’ve stopped looking at what people wear and judging whether it is the “right” thing to be out in, and so this morning when I had to rush the dog out I didn’t think what anyone would think of me.

But also the “forgive myself and forgive others” thing is also that if I can’t forgive myself for screwing up I am not able to forgive others for it. So in my morning post-yoga praying I adapt this line “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” to “help me to forgive myself through today as I screw up, which I know I will, and help me to be kind to others who will also screw up, upset me, hurt my feelings or generally do something I don’t like. Help me to keep short accounts and keep my heart open to knowing when I’ve not forgiven myself and also have allowed someone else to upset me” It is all a bit long winded and I can see what the gospel writers shortened it. But actually for me I see the lines in The Lord’s prayer as almost like journal prompts to lead me to something bigger and deeper.

Also starting the day like this means I do spend my day being able to forgive others quickly because it is already in my head.

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enough Lord's Prayer

Enough

Trees fluttering and dancing in a light breeze last Sunday afternoon. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Dancing silver birch trees in my local park. Taken by me 8th August 2021

Enough! How often do we start our day believing we have had enough sleep and will have enough time to do all that we think we have to do during the day? Very rarely I would say.

Too often we wake thinking we haven’t had enough sleep – especially if we are menopausal women who have restless nights, or have babies that keep us awake half the night or more. We then look at our “to do” list and think we don’t have enough time.

For me this contentment with “enough” comes from Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” book, QEC coaching and also really praying the Lord’s Prayer after doing yoga most mornings.

The “give me today my daily bread”, for me, can only come from a place of “enough”. But that was not how I was taught this prayer. I was taught it from a place of “lack”. A place of begging God to “please give me my daily bread”. Believing that unless I really asked God properly I wouldn’t have enough to make his Kingdom purposes come!

I have now started praying “help me believe I have all that I need, my daily bread allowance, to do all that I am meant to do today” or “thank you that I have already got all that I need for all that I will be doing today” or “I start today grateful for the daily bread I have been given for my day.”

It is a knowing that I have already been supplied with “enough” for today; whether that is energy, time, patience with others, grace, food, etc. Even those I meet will be part of my “daily bread” for today; people who enrich me, that need me, that I need, that help me and I help. All are part of my daily bread. And I come from knowing that I have enough to give and to receive all through the day.

It also means that at the end of the day when I’m tired and don’t feel like doing the washing up and can’t read as many pages of my book as I would like that is ok. I’ve done my “enough” for today and it is ok to curl up and go to sleep. I can end my day feeling grateful for what I did and knowing it was all that I was meant to do for today.

Categories
being me crone witch

‘Witch’ tweets reflect society’s fear of older women, says Mary Beard

An old oak tree at Aber Falls taken by Diane Woodrow

In an article from February 2021 the academic and broadcaster Mary Beard says how she is frequently branded a witch, which she believes is to discredit her and older women generally because people are fearful of them. I think she’s right. People are fearful of older women because of the confidence they exude.

As I have mentioned in May I turned 60 and I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. All menopausal issues have gone. I feel like I have enough energy now. I am bold enough to say when I’m tired and take myself to bed. No one is going to ask me what I’m going to do with my life because it is too late for me to start a career. I don’t even care now that I did not have a career because I like where I am in life.

It probably helps that I do have a good life with enough money, a good house, children who are settled enough. In fact I have realised as I write this that I have reached the “enough” stage of my life. I’ve got rid of some of the issues that held me back through some expert QEC counselling so that helps too. I don’t feel like I have to say I am “x years young.” I want to say “f*** it why didn’t any tell me being 60 was so good”. But then are we afraid to say that reaching that last 1/4-1/3 of our lives is good?

In Caitlin Moran’s boo, More Than a Woman, she asks that question why didn’t anyone say what being a woman is like? Why shroud womanhood in mystery? I have to say menopause would have been less of a trial if other women had been more open about what they’d been through.

I think that the “witch” accusations and the “not being told it could be this good” come from that fear of having someone about that sees life as “enough”. It is threatening. It needs to be halted. In some cultures there is talk of “the crone” but I wonder if that is just halcyon days, rose-tinted glasses, and actually never was. When one looks at the way older women were treated through the centuries it is appalling. Thank goodness no one does burn us at the stake after calling us witches.

I will ponder the quote from Mary Beard as I rejoice in being 60, in my health, in my confidence, in my freedom, while it lasts.

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2020 accepting Covid-19 different Jesus Listening lockdown mental health issues privilege

Privileged?

Photo by myself – Reykjavik Iceland early morning Oct 2016

One of the big things that is taught about how to look after your mental health is not to compare yourself to others because your trauma, your issues, your situation, is yours and it is hard for you. It may appear easier than someone else’s but that doesn’t matter. As lockdown has eased there have been more articles appearing about how those born from about 1990’s are struggling with lockdown and those born before 1965 are wondering what all the fuss is about.

I have been trying to write a blog post about rights and privileges but it hasn’t been coming. I did do one just after the Brexit vote which flowed but this one was not coming. Lots of drafts but nothing that made sense to what I wanted to write. Then, after receiving a forwarded article from a friend from her local vicar, and going for a long walk on the beach with the dog, it all fell into place.

In this article, from my friend’s vicar, he talks of all the major historic events that happened for those born in 1900 compared to those born in 2000. And yes those born this century have not had to deal with 2 world wars, plus 2 minor wars that the West was involved in, major economic crashes, and the Spanish flu, amongst other things. And yes those things are horrendous and are not comparable to not being able to go to school, not being able to hang out with friends, not knowing if you can go abroad on holiday, of having to wear masks, of being confined at home, miss out on growing and developing as an adult at university. No they do not compare but they are the issues that young people are having to walk through and it does not make them any less traumatic.

As another retired friend of mine said that even though she misses her friends and her clubs, etc, she has had a life that she can look back on when she’s at home on her own. There is the phone to call people and she’s getting the hang of video calling too. But as she says, she’s had her life. Even for myself, I missed seeing people for those first couple of months but now I can go visiting and am even off to England to see family. I’m even restarting horse riding today. I have reached a stage in my life where I don’t want much but that is because I have done things, travelled, partied, had freedom to come and go as I like, in my teens, 20s and 30s.

Also I believe our media has spent that this century pumping anxiety into us from climate change to Brexit to terrorism. We live in fear and are constantly in flight or fight mode but can do nothing to change it. So our young people have been born into this high anxiety media storm with social media and image over riding so much. So no it isn’t a World War pr any of the things listed above, but this lockdown is riding on the back of traumas, anxieties and much more. As well as the media portraying the pandemic as possibly never ending.

So let us be kind to those who look at some of things that we might see as privileges as their right. Let us try and understand why they feel this way and not just tell them that “it was harder in my day“. That really isn’t helpful. That piles on the guilt which makes anxieties even stronger. It becomes not just “what is wrong with the world” but “what is wrong with me“.

I’m sure Jesus would have listened to both the young and the old and all those in between without judgement or condemnation. Shall we give it a go?

Categories
accepting Airbnb beach being me belief change counter-cultural deeper empowering friends imperfect Slow down wabi sabi writer

Going Deeper

I love this when I get bombarded by the same concept from different angles. I have been

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Beddgelert where two waters meet and the pool is deep

challenged on this whole thing of cutting back and doing less, of focusing on my writing and of perfecting that. I am struggling with that too, especially with the mentoring angle. My mentor is awesome and patient. The problem is there is so much more to writing than writing. There is working out what I want to say then editing so that the piece I have says what I want to say and doesn’t treat my reader like they are stupid. I do  have a tendency to either overstate or understate. So either my reader gets the same message twice or it is so vague they have no idea what I’m saying (NB here I have overstated 🙂 ) But actually this is what going deeper is about.

On Sunday 10th February the Bible reading was from Luke 5:1-11 where Jesus tells Simon to “Put out into deeper water and let down your nets” The fishermen then catch a huge pile of fish and Simon and others are so amazed they leave everything and follow Jesus. Well our minister that morning preached on that. What struck me was that for me deeper water is cutting back, being available for friends, getting my writing polished, being about for my Airbnb guests, etc. But it is about cutting back, doing less, being more focused on what I do. It also means that I get more downtime than I did last year when I was rushing about doing 101 things. It means I have time to chat to the people I see whilst dog walking, can arrange coffee with friends around their schedule, etc. And in the end will lead to catching more fish rather than lots of small catches.

So going deeper for me is about doing less.

Just as I am accepting this I get it from another angle. My mentor said she was reading

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Oyster catchers on Conwy Beach – imperfect Feb sunshine 

about “wabi sabi” – the acceptance of life being transient and imperfect. So being me I got a book out about it. Well I’ve only got as far as the first chapter which is talking about having to slow down to be able to notice the imperfect and enjoy it, to notice that things are transient. It cannot be done at going fast and looking for something to make me better.

So I must make my writing the best it can be not for my ego to be massaged but because I can.  But to do that I must slow down and give it time. I must “smell the roses” so to speak. I must enjoy life even the bits that are crap.

I know I have blogged on this before but if I am to say “The joy of the Lord is my strength” I cannot have it just in the bits where life is going well. I need to find that joy when life isn’t going well. And I believe one of those ways is to slow down, go deeper and have time to accept the imperfections and transient-ness of life.

Categories
accepting choice counter-cultural deciding God heart Jesus peace taking thoughts captive thoughts

Taking Thoughts Captive

aid3019-v4-728px-Spear-a-Fish-Step-1-Version-2I have heard so many preaches about “taking every thought captive” and think from one I gained an image of spearing the thoughts like they were fish and casting them away. But I think that is not the point. I don’t think that is what Paul meant when he said

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

My thoughts are not wrong and do not need to be killed. Yes they do need to be captured and shown in the light of Christ, in the love of God. They need to be acknowledged and accepted as my thoughts.

In an Abbey of The Arts online mediation course she talks about focusing on your thoughts, feelings and emotions:

… allowing some time to move your focus and attention to your body. Allow some time to breathe and connect with what you are experiencing. Notice both physical pain as well as emotions. Bring your full awareness to whatever the experience is, without trying to change it. Notice how you experience this in your body. If you feel sad, how is that manifested in your body? Don’t try to change anything. Just stay present.

So I am capturing all my thoughts but not like the spearing fisherman to then discard them but to accept that these are my thoughts. I think making our thoughts “obedient to Christ” means that we learn to accept who we are, what we think and then give it to God. Not to fix, not to change, but to accept.

Here is an excerpt from a fictional piece I wrote around that:

She took a breath and tried to relax. Then all the thoughts and worries and things to do came rushing to the surface of her mind. She held their joys, their fears, their richness and their frustrations. Then she let them go. They rushed onward to the surface of her mind. Each task, each important concern, each trivial chore, believing it should take priority of her time. She let them go. This was the thrum of her existence. This was the pulsating of her life. She smiled. Instead of fighting it she must learn to relax into it and be lifted up on the current of her life.

Being a follower of Christ, I believe, isn’t all about “getting it right” so that God loves us, but is about believing that we are really alright people just as we are accepted and loved by God. And really it is about time we got on a loved and accepted ourselves as He does.

On Thursday I was having some healing prayer and God called me His little princess and showed me a picture of me sat on a rug with Him behind me. He had me between his legs pulled back close to His chest. As anyone, child with parent or with a lover, has sat huglike that, this is where you can feel someone’s heartbeat. I haven’t done anything momentously good. In fact I’d gone for the prayer because I was feeling seriously grouchy with a lot of things and God didn’t tell me to take capture all those thoughts and get rid of them and start doing things right. No! He showed me that He just wanted to be close to me and to hug me just as I was.

So taking those thoughts captive – I truly believe means accepting when we’re down as well as up, when we’re depressed as well as joyful, when we’re anxious as well as calm, when we’re angry as well as understanding, when we’re fed up of the world as well as when we’re content with the world. It is about accepting not rejecting who we are and how we feel. So I’m not going to throw away those thoughts because also some of my so-called “negative” thoughts are actually a great help to me in understand how I am, why I am and what I’m meant to be doing next.

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accepting being me belief Bible christmas deciding faith God Grace grief joy life memories sad

Memories and how we handle them

Christmas does seem to be the time to focus one’s memories as I was saying in a pre-Christmas post. But how we decide to handle them is the important as they race through vsour minds. We cannot stop them coming in. A smell, a look, a place we’ve been to and enjoyed, and even that card that does not arrive all can release painful memories. And it does seem as we get old there are more memories that evoke sadness due to either death or that person just no longer being in our lives. So what do we do with all that?

We have a choice on how we handle them. Yes we do. We do not need to let that first initial, what can be gut-wrenching lose take over our day. We can let it go that way and that is our choice. It will be important to acknowledge that pain and loss but we do not have to dwell there. We can choose to remember the good times we had with that person, can choose to enjoy the memory. But we can also choose to let it totally envelope us to the point where we do not see what is good around us.

After what I’ve gone through over the last few years I would not say with certainty that “the dead are gone” even though in the flesh they are. They still haunt us. But also the tumblr_lt6x1rkwun1qf70r5o1_500living are very much with us. If we get too far down the sadness of those who have gone – whether died or just no longer part of our lives as they use to be – they we can so miss those who are with us now. I know of someone over  Christmas who was in a place that evoked memories of those past and also those who were really ill. She was with a new partner but could have stayed with those sad memories but she didn’t stay there. She remember with sadness and with fondness, prayed a bit, but then also went back to enjoying her time with her new partner.

Many loses are really hard to get over, especially ones that are untimely and too early – although I do know of someone who said his mother died at 99 and that was a year too soon for him. It could just be that every death or loss always comes too soon. Although violent young deaths do cause so much pain – but that is not to say that we must stay in that place where our grief overwhelms the joy that we have.

There is a verse in the Bible that says “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” During 2012 I joyofthelordfound it hard to find how to deal with it. I felt it was saying that I should not acknowledge what had happened but now I think that is wrong. I think it means that if we can look at where we are, the good things we still have around us, can remember with poignant joy those who have gone, then we have the strength to keep going, keep loving, keep being there for those who we love who are still with us,

This year I think I made it through, and enjoyed Christmas, not just because both my children, who are in their twenties, were with me, but because I decided to not let the sadness of the memories overwhelm me but to see what was good around me, to remember those I’ve lost with that poignant joy and to wait on what is to come.

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accepting blessing change glorifyingGod Grace relationships timing trust waiting

Timing

(Once again I diverge from doing my mini-series of who I am/what I do but this struck me this morning)

HonorLast night we were watching CSI: Los Angeles. Ok so I’m a bit of a CSI/NCIS addict. It’s low key drama that doesn’t take a lot of thinking about and the characters are nice people – the main characters, and there is generally a good reason why the bad guys have been bad.

Anyway last night’s underlying story, to do with the main characters, was that the tough guy had promised his daughter a toy flying pony which was the ‘must have’ toy that Christmas. He had left it until the last minute and of course it was almost impossible to get. The programme starts with him trying to get it on line with no success. Then the geek guy takes over bidding on various online auctions to be outbid every time as well as doing the crime solving bits. At the end the whole team gather together as their boss says that because its Christmas eve they need to have a drink together. There is some teasing about the tough guy letting his daughter down but then the geek guy gives him the toy flying pony. The boss takes him to one side 810kiwzkabl-_sl1500_and says to the girl geek who is standing with the geek that she knew he had reserved this for himself at Comic Con in the summer and that he was giving away something special.

Ok so what stuck me about this was timing. The geek could have told the tough guy at any time to not worry about it because he had on anyway and that tough guy could just buy him a replacement after Christmas when all the fuss had died down. Or even when he gave it could have said that he’d had it all along. And yes I know it made a better story but it struck me about how as Christians we often get our timing wrong.

If the geek guy had given the gift too soon then the tough guy would have felt ineffectual. He wanted to get for his daughter. If the geek guy had not given at all both daughter and tough guy would have had a not so great Christmas – especially probably the dad because the daughter may have forgotten.

How often as Christians do we step in too soon? We tell people what they want and how to 11406317_10155600699790648_4390248065953060695_odo it and disempower them or alienate them. We think we know best because we have this hot line to God!!! Or we step in and say we can do something when actually when it comes to it we can’t. I have been guilty in the past of saying “yes I will always be here for you” or “I can support you there” when in fact when it came to it I was either too busy helping other people that I had said the same thing to or just didn’t have time or energy or even resources. What if the geek guy had said he could get the pony but his reserved one had not arrived in time? He would have looked stupid.

I also think we need to let people work out what they really really want. I think Jesus makes us ask and ask and look and look but in the end gives it to us. Yes He could have given it to us earlier but there is something in the seeking that makes us more grateful in the receiving. But also makes us feel empowered and also realise that this is what we want.

There is a possibility that if the tough guy had got the pony straight away he would not have been grateful to receive it at the last minute or more likely, if it happened more often would just come to rely on the geek to get things rather than his own resources.

I remember once when I lived in Belfast at a church event one woman really stealing fromstealing the church. It was a barbecue and the lovely church members took those in the local area for a barbecue at a local nature reserve. It was common to do this every year. The church booked the coach, picked people up, cooked the food and provided everything – drinks, crisps, sweets – and waited on the people who came. This one woman was sending her son up to keep getting cans of drink, packets of crisps and sweets and had brought a small rucksack to put this in. As the bottom feel out of her bag because she had too much she laughed and said “well that will have to be enough for lunches for the next week.” She saw it that the church had more than enough – which they may have done – but she was not grateful just grabbing.

Yes there are people in need but I think, as Christians, or as any person who supports others, we need to wait for them to know what they want and then help them to get it, and if all else fails then give it, but I do think too often we jump in as do-gooders and give something that actually people aren’t sure if they really want.

Categories
accepting carpe diem Grace gratitude mindfulness

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day

So a slight twist away from my on going mini-series into what I do/who I am.

6f47d3dae834da213ef7956e9fe60921This has struck me recently but I know I’ve blogged on it before. But just recently we had a couple in early stages of dementia stay and they were talking of what they had done but also what they would like to do and can’t do now. An older friend had told me how her and her husband had saved hard and kept their children short of things because of all the things they were going to do after he retired. He was struck off his bicycle by a lorry in his late forties, had brain damage and is now dead. One of the ladies I meet dog walking said how her and her husband moved to this part of the world when he retired but within 10 months he was head. She has been here ten years now. I can recall many tales from older people who say they wished they had seized the moment instead of saving for a future that never happened. Even with my husband’s broken foot at the moment, he has been saying he will now miss the end of the summer and the clubs he had planned on looking into “tomorrow” will now have to happen next year. At least he does have next year to look at whereas these with deceased spouses or debilitating illnesses cannot do that.

It made me think about when I go walking on the beach. Our beach has a series of little pensarn-beach-2streams that bisect it. Many of them look deep and they can cut short a walk. The other day I decided to go for it reasoning that the worst that was going to happen was that I would get my feet wet. You know what – some of them weren’t actually that deep and did not come over the thickness of the soles of my shoes but also I did get my feet wet at times, but I did not die/come to any harm and in fact had a much longer walk because of it. I did not let those little inconveniences stop me.

The Bible talks of being careful about planning too much for tomorrow because you do not know what will happen. It talks of a man who has a huge harvest and builds a huge barn to put everything in because he is just then going to go and enjoy himself. God say that he is foolish because the following day he is dead. But I don’t think he was foolish for actually building the barns because it would have been foolish for him to just leave all that harvest lying about. I think it is to do with planning toward something that you do not know if it will happen.

e2809cnever-leave-that-till-tomorrow-which-you-can-do-today-e2809d-e28093-benjamin-franklinWhen I talk to the dog walking lady she is sad that her husband is not with her but has lots of happy memories of when they did come together to this coastline and I love to hear her tell me about them. The dementia couple had tales of what they use to do. The friend who’s husband had the accident unfortunately is sad about the things they missed out doing with their children.

Life it so short anyway to spend time worrying about the future because often this is what the problem is. Thoughts of having to save because of never having enough, of having to wait because you could made a mistake, of being fearful that … (we can all fill in that blank). I posted a piece on my business’s blog yesterday which says about just giving things a try and seeing what happens. Check it out – “Do not be Afraid

So it is not about being reckless but about not putting off till tomorrow what you can enjoy today. I am so grateful for the crazy things I did with my kids and with my life. And my life is not over yet. Watch this space 🙂