Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Simple truths for a complex world.

I find the simplest of truths to be the most useful, so I shall share a few with you that I have discovered or been told in my life so far...


#1   Retain your integrity.
My Father, the wise man he is, always gives me good advice. Above all that he has taught me there is one thing that I am reminded of when stuck in a situation not knowing what to do. He told me no matter what I do, retain my integrity and not much can go wrong. That means that if I am blameless - don't retaliate, don't gossip, don't stir the peace, don't talk back, don't lie - then anything I do do should be OK. 

#2   Don't find someone you can live with, find someone you can't live without.
My Mother had always compared me to her Aunty Ann, mannerisms wise, and I hadn't even met her until Easter 2010. Sitting in my 2nd cousin's flat (Nina) with the two of them, my Mum and Aunty, Ann thought it would be a good idea to go round the circle and give me a bit of womanly wisdom - from their years of experience. Ann told me to never settle in love, to find that person I can't live without and hold onto them forever. My Mum told me:

#3   Follow your heart but lead with your head.
<3 She was a passionate woman, so strong, so kind and so generous. She followed her heart when she married my Dad and moved to England, and with Christ in her heart she continued His works above and beyond what many are capable of. She followed her heart, but never forgot to be smart about it.


#4   Stop wishing for more when you already have enough.
It frustrates me when people complain that they can't do this because they don't have this. Or they want to do this but need this first. I understand the importance of planning, but there is a greater importance in being resourceful, creative and learning to be content. Life may have it that you never get what you think you need - then what? Learning to 'make do' can be a humbling task but it is sometimes necessary to make your bigger dreams come true.

#5   Count your blessings.
It also frustrates me when people feel sorry for themselves because things aren't going their way. This may sound heartless, but hear me out. If anyone says 'no one loves me' or 'no one wants to talk to me' then they are clearly not looking very far. If no one else is willing - then I am. I love you. And I don't even necessarily know you. I know what it feels like to be lonely and feel as though you're alone - they are different - I don't wish it on anyone, so if a bigger heart is what it takes then I'm willing to accommodate. Also, if things aren't going your way - welcome to the club. Before you start listing things that have gone wrong be thankful that you have so many good things that can go wrong, be thankful that you have the time in the day to reflect, be thankful that you have a sane mind to consider your short comings, be thankful you have friends willing to listen, be thankful you have life left to waste it complaining. (I realise my irony, and I am thankful.)

There are many more which don't come to mind but be sure I'll add them in as the come back. Until then here are a few more encouraging pictures and sentiments which will hopefully make you think, smile and maybe even chuckle a little...

 For the girls...

Monday, 27 August 2012

Moving on... or not.

   Today marks 11 months to the day of Mum's death. I don't think I remember a more challenging, interesting and crucial time of my life. So much has happened, and I have the feeling that this will not stop. 
   When I was younger I would hear older people tell me how life 'passes you by' and how getting older only makes it 'go' faster. You never believe it until it happens to you, and over this year I am beginning to realise just how fast time can 'go'. 
   I am sad that I have experienced so much recently and not had Mum to talk to about it. My relationships with those around me have changed so much, many are now the strongest they have ever been. There is a phrase 'when the going gets tough the tough get going' but I would like to challenge this. I think that going isn't necessarily the answer. How about staying instead? I understand that in the phrase going refers to doing, rather than calling it quits. And I do agree with this. But in some cases we can use the phrase to justify carrying our problems with us rather than resolving them. I love resolve. It is the reason I love films - good films - TV dramas and books, because although so much happens during the story at the end of it there is a redemption, a resolve. 
   Growing up I could never sleep on an argument. I remember so clearly trying to get to sleep after having had an adolescent tiff with Mum and not being able to settle. I remember at 3am going in to wake Mum up and tell her I was sorry, and that I loved her, and going straight back to bed. I am useless when it comes to holding a grudge. I don't see the point, no good can come from it because nothing is solved by it.
   This being said when I hear the phrase 'when the going gets tough the tough get going' I am reminded that sometimes staying is the right thing to do, sometimes understanding and accepting is the right amount of 'get up and go'. Or maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm scared at how much time has passed without Mum already and I want to stop going to try and retain a little sanity in knowing she isn't that far behind. But I can not stop time, if I could, I probably would - and that isn't the best advice. 
   This month ahead of me brings the last in a first year of Weddings, Birthdays and Christmases celebrated without her. After this landmark it will be considered 'normal' to be without her, so sue me if I would like it to last a little bit longer.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

RE: Peace, Perfect Peace

As I have finished my studies for the year I no longer feel the 'impending doom' pressure and hence have no need for procrastination... In saying this, my journey now is one of self assurance and discovery - not in the middle-class cheesy 'I'm finding myself' way, I know where I am, I'm here. What I seek is much bigger than myself, it is as big as humanity as a whole. What I want to find (and have been successful already) are life lessons, to share, putting my own bit in about my personal experiences as well.
   One of my friends Sophia has started a blog and upon reading her entry 'Sincerely Sophia: Dear Peace, Perfect Peace' I was inspired. It reminds me of a familiar feeling I have had over my short life so far and also of a poem I wrote a few years ago. When I started reading the post I totally agreed with everything she was saying - talking about the thrill of the chase in life, and the restlessness which can come once said goal is reached, be it to a romantic, educational, personal or professional end.
   A passion of mine, where my 'thrill of the chase' is categorised, is in passion itself. I am a passionate person. I love music. I love art. I love literature. I love being right. I love making others feel good. I love others making me feel good. I love people. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. I enjoy accomplishing something, fixing a problem or solving a puzzle. But what happens when it is got, fixed, solved? Do we take it and shove it to the side, move on to the next thing? Do we grumble at how easy it was and how fast it went, even whilst we had been trying in the first place we were frustrated at how hard it made us work? A lot of the time, yes, we do.
   Over these past 11 months - yes, it HAS almost been that long - I have learned to appreciate everything. The dreaming, hoping, praying, planning, starting, failing, trying again.. This is what most of our lives will consist of; working 9-5, 5/7 to get something to do something else, and it can be thrilling, challenging, fulfilling. But when something ends because it is finished, it is beautiful. God rested on the seventh day, looked at what He had done, and saw it was very good. Shouldn't we take the time to do the same? Even when the time for something comes to an end and we think it wasn't time because it wasn't perfect, we weren't finished, it was not complete; think of what you are actually left with, and be thankful for that.
   I am trying to cover such a vast array of subjects by saying 'something', as I think so many can apply in this situation. I think about school projects which I remember working away to complete into the small hours of the morning, handing them in not quite finished but I know I had tried my best. I think about holidays which are always more exciting to look forward to but I am left with wonderful memories to look back on when they are over. I think about relationships which didn't work out, but see how we each grew from them for the future. I think about those who's time was cut short on this earth and marvel at the works they did when they were here. It is not always up to us to decide when something starts or finishes. We are made in God's image so we have a natural urge to want to create and control, but this also means we are made to appreciate the perfect peace, the calm after the storm, so we need to let ourselves do so.

   Since my Mother passed away last September I have been in a kind of limbo where I have tried to figure out what should happen next. I have no answer for you there, nor for myself. The only thing I can think of to do is to keep going - whatever that means. I did not decide to write a book or this blog, it just kind of happened and it gave me an escape and a way to think about things, so I went with it. 
   I am realising now that I immediately started looking ahead, I didn't give myself time to appreciate what had been. I don't know the whole of my Mother's life story, I don't know what her favourite book was. I don't know what hopes and dreams she had growing up, I don't know what her bucket list consisted of... But I do know who she was, what she did and how she loved, and they are the most important things. I will find out everything as time goes on, I will give myself time to be sad in missing her, and I will make the time to reminisce with my family and friends about her for the rest of my life.
   With today's advanced technology and our familiarity with instant gratification the idea of 'meditation' can seem like such an effort, and for what? In reality, if we don't give ourselves time to process what has been we can't possibly be ready to indulge into new challenges because we wouldn't have really learned anything.
   So... give yourself a break -have a Kitkat, or a Snickers or Dairy Milk, whatever. Think about what you have accomplished in your life, be proud of what you can be, and learn from that which you would change. Remember, appreciate and enjoy; catch a glimpse of that perfect peace which will help keep you afloat when all around you feels chaotic. We can only ever do our best, but we must always make sure that it is our best. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

It's the thought that counts.

I have been blessed to know so many people so much better than I did before I had an experience of Death. I feel kind of like Harry Potter did, in J.K. Rowling's 5th book of the series Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when he realised the carriages which annually took them from the train station to the school were actually pulled by Thestrals, a magical, skeletal horse creature who are invisible except to those who have "seen death".
Harry Potter: "What are they?"
Luna Lovegood: "They're called Thestrals. They're quite gentle, really... But people avoid them because they're a bit..."
Harry Potter: "Different. But why can't the others see them?"
Luna Lovegood: "They can only be seen by people who've seen death.
No matter your opinion of the book, or author, Rowling makes a decent comparison with society and social interaction. That is that it is hard to understand that which has not yet been experienced. This is true of everything, but especially when it comes to Death, because everyone is different. It is also all the more true about Death because it is the one thing that EVERYONE has in common and speaks most little about. I am aware that the reasons for this vary from indifference to terror, but the inevitability of such a thing should make it the one thing to be most clear about in life. One of the main reasons for me writing this book (and blog) is so that people can be encouraged to talk about the real things.

   One of the good things that has come from my family's tragedy is that I have had so many amazing conversations with all sorts of people about family, life, death, spirituality, and God, that I maybe wouldn't have had the chance to before having similar experiences myself. My aim is to write so that someone else can start a conversation about death or another of life's challenges in order that we may grow together and no longer be afraid. Ambitious, I know.
 There is nothing worse in a social situation than awkwardness. Whether situations are good or bad, as long as those involved are on the same page, you know what to do. When people have differing ideas of what's going on or what should be done - that is when real problems arise. This is one of the main issues when it comes to grieving, between those who are directly affected and those with whom they come into contact with.
   From my experience (and I can only speak for myself here) I've realised that I don't care what people say, as long as they're honest. One of my favourite passages of scripture is Romans 12:9 which says "Let love be genuine". I'm sure I've quoted it before but - as I will write about later - we always need reminded of the important things. I could (and will at some point) sit and write down some interesting situations I've been put into over these past months - or years even - when people have struggled with what to say to me when they find out my Mother is in a wheelchair, chronically ill, or dead. I have been hurt, humoured and honoured by people's words. I have always believed that words can often affect more than actions, they can touch your heart or break it, for they are representations of people's truths. By that I mean that the words which you use represent your emotion, your feeling, your motive, your love. It is for this reason that there are no right words to say, to a grieving Widower or a bereaved child, except that there are words said, and that they are genuine. The thing that matters most is showing the person that you care, which is why silly words are better than none at all - saying 'I don't know what to say' is always better than avoidance. I don't even know what to say when it comes to comforting someone in grief, and I'm trying to write a book on it!
   The point of all of this is that we should learn from each other, as I expressed in my last post ("I've learned that..."), and we should stop being afraid of each other. Honesty is the best policy and, to me at least, it's the thought that counts when it comes to saying the 'right thing'.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.

Life is ever changing, ever challenging; but God is my constant, my consultant and always my comforter.

   Psalm 102:27 "But you are the same, and your years have no end."
I once had a long talk with someone who said they could not believe in a God who did not change his law to accommodate for today's society. I told them plainly that I could not believe in a God who did. People haven't changed, I am convinced of this. The struggles of man have not changed because the human heart has not changed, it is merely the circumstances within which these sins take place that has. If God changed his law it would not be fair to those who first followed, there would be no real standard to live up to. I digress from the point - God is everlasting, God is constant, because we need him to be.

   'Things' don't get easier. I believe this; I believe that we just become better at dealing with them. As much as I would like to be in a comfortable position in relation to my relationships, studies, work, dreams, I am not. But, as always, I find myself learning to thank God for all that has been, is and will be, and to evaluate myself and the roles I play in my life.

   A passage (that was a memory verse at Camp Tayside this year) reminds me of the place of serenity, joy and peace that I hope to achieve within my life.

"12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
            Philippians 4:12-13

This next bit is on a poster in the office of the house I'm living in and it speaks volumes compared to what I could say on here, on the realities of life lessons.

The World is our Classroom
I’ve learned that most of the things I worry about never happened. -age 64
I’ve learned that every great achievement was once considered impossible. -age 47
I’ve learned that you can’t hide a broccoli in a glass of milk. -age 7
I’ve learned that if there were no problems, there would be no opportunities. -age 19
I’ve learned that it doesn’t cost anything to be nice. -age 66
I’ve learned that the important thing is me. -age 38
I’ve learned that even the simplest task can be meaningful if I do it in the right spirit. -age 72
I’ve learned that in every face-to-face encounter, regardless of how brief, we leave something behind. -age 45
I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually make the right decision. -age 66
I’ve learned that if you spread the peas out on your plate, it looks as if you ate more. -age 6
I’ve learned that regardless of colour or age, we all need about the same amount of love. -age 37
I’ve learned that education, experience, and memories are three things that no one can take away from you. -age 67
I’ve learned that motel mattresses are better on the side away from the phone. -age 50
I’ve learned that the simple things are often the most satisfying. -age 63
I’ve learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering up someone else. -age 13
I’ve learned that successful living is like playing the violin – it must be practices daily. -age 70
I’ve learned that I’ve learned that if you laugh and drink soda pop at the same time, it will come out of your nose. -age 7
I’ve learned that a sunroof is worth the extra cost. -age 29
I’ve learned that optimists live longer than pessimists. That’s why I’m an optimist. -age 84
I’ve learned that happiness is like perfume; you can’t give it away without getting a little on yourself. -age 59
I’ve learned that when someone hurts your feelings, it’s unimportant unless you persist in remembering it. -age 68
I’ve learned that that there’s no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs. -age 48
I’ve learned that if you smile at people, they will almost always smile back. -age 81
I’ve learned that homemade Toll House cookies should be eaten while still warm. -age 29
I’ve learned that we grow only when we push ourselves beyond what we already know. -age 53
I’ve learned never to underestimate the potential and power of the human spirit. -age 82
I’ve learned that everyone has something to teach. -age 51