Loving and Living

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I saw this image on Facebook, and what struck me the most was ‘but with intention’.

According to Wikipedia, ”Intention is a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future. Intention involves mental activities such as planning and forethought.”.

I remember reading once that living our lives with intention means to live life ‘on purpose’. Not just on auto-pilot. To actually take responsibility for ‘us’ in the sense of throwing out what we have been taught (discarding the book of ‘rules’) and making our very own decisions, choices, changes.
A lot of business blogs will tell you that in this day and age with so much advancement, the surest way to get left behind and ‘kill your business potential’ is to use the words,
”We’ve always done it this way.”

This can be true for our personal lives too. We get taught to do things a certain way from young, and they become ‘something we just do’, pretty much forever.
Please don’t misunderstand – there are some traditions that are very worthy of continuance.
But there are many things that become habitual, and lose meaning altogether.

Habits that are constructive are good things – like perhaps introducing small daily habits to your schedule that have purpose, that are things that reflect your values. Maybe starting your day with ten minutes of meditation, or jotting down your goals for the day, or perhaps spending ten minutes stretching those sleepy muscles. 

But when I did some self reflecting regarding ‘living life intentionally’, I had to face some difficult truths. I discovered that there are areas in my life where I am pretty much living on auto-pilot : my daily routines had become predictable (before the pandemic), and although they have changed because of the pandemic, they’re now quite predictable, yet again. I find myself moving through each day, going through motions, and doing things without even really having to think about them.

Now… I DO know myself… and I know that when it comes to some aspects of life, I am like a child in that I really DO need the routines. This is not a bad thing by any means.
Where I have started feeling, and seeing, that it may be ‘bad’ is that it seems to be a pattern that traverses through most of my day.
And while ‘going through the motions and not needing to think’, I am truly missing out on ‘the more‘ that life has to offer. Especially the simple joys.

And you know me and my silly examples 😉 Well, here is one that I think is actually really good 😉
The pandemic has been good to my laundry basket 😛 I now only need to do a load of washing every second day 😉
But putting a load in the washing machine and waiting for it to finish, then lugging the basket outside to the washing line to hang it all out for a few hours, and then heading back out there to take it all off the washing line again…. this is all rather habitual – it is something I do without even thinking about it. In fact, it is so terribly done on auto pilot, that some days I forget that I have even put the washing on to start with! I have no recollection of adding the washing powder and fabric softener, turning and pressing buttons etc.
And many days, I shake my head and question my memory… wondering if I am already losing my mind. But it’s usually followed by a laugh and a shrug, and I just move on…. to the next thing… in auto pilot mode.
This is something rather trivial… but it brought to home the ‘living life on purpose/intentionally’ with regards to living my life better in order to feel more fulfilled, satisfied…. and finding the happiness in the simple things.
Because what happened was this :

I love butterflies. And not just for what they represent/the meaningful stories that surround their existence. I also happen to think that are amazingly beautiful little creatures. Sadly, for whatever reason, I don’t see them very often here where I live. Not real ones, anyway. I have plenty of decal ones, and printed pictures, stuck up in various places in my house though 😉 Even they make me happy when I see them.

I came in one day, after hanging up the washing, to find my son sitting in the lounge staring at the part of our small garden where I had been busy. He made a comment that had me running back outside as fast as my legs would take me. He said, ”You must be happy, Mom, having the butterflies to help you hang up the washing.”
But by the time I got to the washing line, they were gone.
He told me when I returned to the lounge that there had been three of them, two small ones and a larger one, with quite striking colours in their wings. He was genuinely surprised that I had missed them, because they were flying ‘right there’. 
As strange as it sounds to most of you, this really made my heart feel sad… in that moment, just because I had missed seeing a few of my ‘favourite things’. 

The self reflection brought this memory to the forefront of my mind, and I was sad all over again when I fully grasped what it meant.
Sometimes we get so caught up in life as we know it, tasks that need doing, getting through the day (most times on auto pilot), that we can so easily forget to be present. 
We definitely need to work on mindfulness – the greatest aspect of this ‘to simply be present”. 

I can’t help but wonder what else I have missed in all these days. Which is a sad thought, yes. And it would be incredibly devastating if I sat here ruminating about it.
Instead, I am choosing to be more mindful, and more present, in as many ways as I can and as often as I can. 
These days, hanging up the washing takes longer…. because I am slower to start 😉 I first look around me, at each tree and each bit of my garden – because there may be something incredible out there just waiting to brighten my day 😉

I’ll touch very briefly on the image I shared above – I know it doesn’t speak of LIVING intentionally – it instead calls for us to love intentionally.
I don’t know about you, but I sort of feel that we can apply the concepts of living intentionally to the aspect of loving in the same way. Being mindful of those around us, and being present with them.

I’ll end with an interesting heading that I found regarding loving others intentionally….

”Purposefully loving ourselves so that we can intentionally love others.”

Some food for thought in that statement alone 😉

Don’t forget to look for the butterflies 😉 and be well! ❤

anger apologies and love

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to be a contributor to Paul’s blog. It was quite an honour that someone wanted my voice to be heard on their page! 🙂 Paul writes a lot about relationships – and about his lovely Kath. And so I thought it was fitting to write him a post about the languages of love. You can read the post here.

As I mentioned at the end of that blog post, there are now other quizzes available for growth 😉 There’s an apology language quiz, and a personal anger assessment. I did both, but with all that has been going on I got sidetracked! (To check out the quizzes you can visit here and click on quizzes.)

Last night I revisited the results of both tests.. (Because that’s what this single mom does on a Friday night, in case you were wondering 😛 )

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I wasn’t too surprised that my two strongest results in my apology languages were Expressing Regret and Accept Responsibility. To touch lightly on these, I’ll tell you this :

Expressing Regret is basically the simple ‘I’m sorry’ – obviously said in a genuinely heartfelt manner – without making excuses or deflecting blame.  And sometimes being able to tie it in with body language makes it that much more meaningful – eye contact, a gentle touch of the hand etc.
Accept Responsibility means being able to acknowledge I am wrong – which is no easy feat for our ego. It’s not easy to admit that we may have made a mistake. But in this form of apologising it is important – as it is important for all humans everywhere to be able to acknowledge the fact that we all do, and will, make mistakes at one time or another.

I wasn’t surprised because the above are usually the way I apologise. Perhaps not in the moment (sometimes I’m just too angry or hurt), but definitely when I have taken a few deep breaths and had time to think.

What I found the most helpful though was the little piece that said this : In the same way, it will benefit others to know your apology language in order to express apologies to you in ways that you interpret most sincere. This translates into better communication, increased understanding, and, ultimately, improved relationships.

It’s so easy to assume that the people who know us would then know exactly what we expect from them in their dealings with us – right down to if it ever comes to apologising. My children know, because let’s face it, in a family we spend a lot of time saying sorry! 😛

But they know because it’s something I often speak to them about – truly mean it when you say sorry and don’t add in excuses. Take responsibility for the fact that you have also messed up. Then we move on. Interesting to read that I should be sharing this with everyone I am in a relationship with – and by relationship, I am covering the whole spectrum – romantic, family, friends.

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Photo credit : volganga.com

(Have I mentioned how much I love dogs? 😉 )

My Personal Anger Assessment results were a little bit of a surprise. A bit of background as to why : there are a lot of very painful things in my past, and for many years I struggled with the anger inside of me. It’s taken a lot of hard work, painful reflection and agonising growth to practise the correct measure of self control when it comes to my anger.

I was very happy when my result displayed that I’m doing well with my anger – then I read, ‘but you can improve‘. Sigh. Nothing too new when we think of life though, is it? There is ALWAYS room for self improvement! I do know that I am still okay when it comes to anger – because back then I wouldn’t have bothered to read the rest 😛

The explanations that followed were simply this :

I need to recognise the difference between good and bad anger – injustice and mistreatment being the former, and incorrectly perceiving and then reacting being the latter.
I need to be wary of implosive anger – internalising the anger completely, being silent and withdrawing myself which results in resentment, bitterness and eventually hatred further down the road.

I’d love to be able to say that the above is nowhere near being true. But it is. It’s not something I do often, but I have been known to get angry because of my perceptions as opposed to knowing the full truth and circumstances, and there are moments where my anger can definitely be defined as implosive… and yes, I acknowledge that the results listed above do then occur. Thankfully I am self-aware when it comes to that, and the moment they begin to rear their ugly heads, I am able to delve into their origin and begin a course of ‘self-care’ to heal them before they take over completely.

I’ve shared all this so that you can go and check it all out for yourself if you’re into self-improvement 😉 and also as an accountability note of sorts for myself 😉 Remember that growing oneself, and learning to know oneself, is often a painful process – but the results are very rewarding! Remember that sometimes growth will take you out of your comfort zone, because sadly we don’t only grow where we are comfortable. 

And just because I really like these :

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    Photo credit : quotesviral.net             Photo credit : motivatedaily.tumblr.com

And then, just for fun 😉

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It’s Time

You know that expression, ”I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus”? Well, yesterday afternoon I nearly was that expression!

A bit of background : It’s been raining non stop, a steady drizzle interrupted by the odd downpour, for the past 40 hours. I am celebrating. And not just because I love the rain. 😛 Water restrictions came to town last Friday. September is our heavy rainfall month around here – we didn’t see more than a few drops. Our main dam is now sitting at less than 35% capacity. The last census in 2011 showed that there are 267 007 people living here – we have largely increased in numbers since then. This rain is nowhere near to filling the dam, but it sure is helping!

And the roads are very wet as a result.

So I leave the house at lunchtime to perform Mom’s Taxi duties with a smile on my face. The garden beds in front of my house are overflowing with water. The bucket next to it is almost full.

My celebration of happiness has been extended.

Now, as ridiculous as this may sound, one thing I don’t do is break the speed limit. That doesn’t mean I am a slow driver though – because I hit the speed limit in the given areas. 😉 But when it rains? I stay in the slow lane where possible and I drop my speed by 10 or 20 – depending how fast I’m allowed to go in that spot 😉  I suppose you could call me a careful driver, who isn’t a hazard on the road.

So there I am, pulling onto the highway, still in the euphoric state brought upon by this much needed and beautiful rain (and cooler weather – added bonus!) and I see that on the bridge up ahead, in the fast lane, there is a massive truck that has come to a complete standstill. This is a two lane highway, and I’m in the slow lane, so no problem.

Big problem, when there’s a massive bus coming up fast in the same lane as the truck! It was a good thing I glanced in the rearview mirror to see if I needed to warn anyone. I put my hazards on and slowed a little – but that didn’t help the bus. When you have that much steel at that sort of speed, and the roads are wet, braking hard isn’t going to do anyone any favours. So he did the next best thing, and swerved. While the front of his bus was in the clear and one could just say that he ‘cut me off a little’, I think he’d forgotten that there was a back side that would follow. I was reminded when I saw it coming to meet me at my drivers side window, and braked a little harder than I like to in wet weather.

Of course you know that my car skidded a bit – but the side of the bridge came nowhere near me. If I had been going faster, this ending would have been very different, and I’d be celebrating wetness in the river below that bridge. Although, as my son pointed out, if I was a speedster, I may have cleared that truck way before the bus arrived on the scene 😛

Admittedly, I was in a small amount of shock – but as I continued on my way, I actually laughed because I thought, “My gosh, I nearly was the back of a bus”! My friends often tell me that my reactions to close calls, where I laugh and think of something funny, is a very dark and unhealthy coping mechanism. Well, it is what it is, and I am what I am.

Right, the point of sharing this silly story with you is this :

I am not totally afraid to die. Fear of death is a very real thing, and is known as Thanatophobia. It affects people so deeply that even the thought of death gives them an anxiety attack. This is one thing I cannot completely identify with, but because I have other phobias I can understand and be sympathetic to their plight. I say ‘cannot completely’ because there was a time when I admit that I couldn’t think of anything worse than dying!

My journey in the past four years has been filled with epiphanies. The turning point for me was looking back on my life and accepting that my pain had purpose – I had lessons to learn and painful roads of the past to travel, because I needed to grow.

When I made the choice to accept the pains and hurts of the past, changed the way I viewed them, and turned them into opportunities of growth, changed for the better.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do not mean that I will put myself in dangerous situations or do anything intentionally that will cost me my life. Neither am I advocating that you do, if you’re not afraid to die. It’s not about suddenly being irresponsible. And it’s certainly not about taking life for granted.

And I am not saying I want to die.

There’s just been a shift in me. I still will say, ”I don’t want to die”, but I will not allow that to be my focus or make me negative. Time’s a-wasting, and life is short, and you just never know. So while I’d like to have the mercy of being around for a very long time still to come, I’d also like to LIVE while doing so.

Living means different things to different people. And it means different things to me, depending on the context in which I am saying it. The context today means this:

I want to feel alive. In order to do that, I need to remain in alignment with my values. I must not waste my days. I need to change lives, one life at a time. My values mean that I have an insatiable need to show kindness, motivate and inspire, and be courageous even in the face of pain and grief – especially when dealing with areas that need tweaking in my personality…to never stop growing and learning! These are to just name a few. And these are some of the reasons that I get up every morning – they put purpose in my life… along with the kids and dogs who kind of NEED me to get up every morning 😛 😉

My friends, think about what it’s like to be alive. What drives you? What are your values at this moment in your life?

Because it’s TIME TO BE ALIVE!

Chase after the things that get your blood racing, follow your dreams, reach out if you have a need, spread kindness like a disease, feed your soul.

TAKE CARE OF YOU! 

Because YOUR LIFE MATTERS, YOU MATTER, and despite what you may think or feel, YOU make a positive difference in someone’s life and they’re very glad they have you!

Getting busy living

I woke to screaming, and sat up in a daze. Then there’s a blank.
It was difficult to open my eyes – the vision in my right seemed blurred. The sky was above me, grey, and I am sure there was a light drizzle (but that may be because before all this happened it had been raining). My friend was next to me, saying “Hold on, Meg. The ambulance is coming. Please be okay.”
I remember that my chest hurt – it was really sore to breathe. I tried to take in my surroundings, but it was just too much effort.
I remember gasping out, in stammered breaths, “It hurts to breathe. I think I’m going to go to sleep.”
The next 24 hours were a haze – very brief moments of memory that can be recalled when I talk about it. The rest? Things that those who were there have told me.
I was wearing all my favourite clothing items that day – they cut them all of me.

I had been asleep, on the journey home after a weekend away with my friends, in the back of a truck (under the canopy). It was four days after my 18th birthday. The truck lost control on the icy road – I was later told that it was due to driver negligence – and hit rolled a few times, landing on the edge of a cliff. For whatever reason, even after the canopy had been flung off, I had remained in the truck bed and was only thrown out just before it came to a stop. (Thinking back now, if I had been thrown out earlier, maybe I would have been crushed and dead, instead of very much alive, as I am today?)
My body was broken, my face cut up, and I was bruised all over – and yet the mirror in my bag was in tact. It hadn’t even cracked!?!?

I was in hospital for 15 days, and brought home in an ambulance because I still couldn’t walk. I’ve healed well, other than the scar tissue and pain that comes with cold and rainy days – and yet I LOVE those type of days 😉
I had a long list of injuries, but the ones that matter for the purposes of what I am actually wanting to share on my blog today, were the injuries to my ‘arms’. I broke my right collarbone in two places, and my left wrist. This means that on top of everything else, I couldn’t use my arms.
Still bedridden and healing up, I became incredibly bored. My pile of unread books  were calling me, but I wasn’t able to hold them or turn pages. So my brother provided me with a bunch of movies, the next best thing. Much to my mothers horror, in this collection was the movie Shawshank Redemption. And I watched it at least twenty times.

It’s a difficult movie to watch – so much sadness and a bit of violence, and scenes that leave you feeling a little ill to your stomach. But buried in that movie are so many little inspirational things that it makes it very much worth watching, if you can tolerate and get through the rest.

Let me set the scene for those of you who haven’t watched the movie – and refresh the memory of those of you who have.

Andy (played by Tim Robbins) has been convicted of killing his wife and her lover. Surprisingly, he’s probably the only man who winds up in that prison who is actually innocent. It’s not easy, and he definitely suffers. One day, out in the yard, he’s having a conversation with a new ‘friend’ he has made, named Red – played by Morgan Freeman. They start talking about what they would do if they got out, and for a man who has been institutionalized for a very long time, it is no surprise that Red fears that he may not survive on the outside.

It’s Andy’s part of the conversation that made an impact on me though.
He describes how he may as well have pulled the trigger – that he had loved his wife so much and yet pushed her away, and that had ultimately caused her to be in a place that had caused her death. He talks about being caught in the path of a tornado, and how he didn’t expect the storm be lasting as long as it is.
And then he begins to talk about his dream : one day, when he gets out, he’s going to go down to Mexico and open a small hotel on the beach – the Mexicans say the Pacific has no memory. And that’s how he wants to live out the rest of his days – in a warm place with no memory.

Bearing in mind that Red is pretty much his only friend in those dark, dismal walls; you’d expect his response to be supportive. But sometimes our reality is just so dark that we can’t see any light – and when we do see a light in a tunnel it’s usually another train coming.

So Red tells him he has a silly pipe dream, and that Mexico is out there, and Andy is in here, and he should forget about it.

Andy’s response is :
”Yeah, right. That’s the way it is. It’s down there and I’m in here. I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

And that’s the truth. We can either truly live life, or just wait to die.

Sometimes life is hard, and it can feel like we’re imprisoned by its harshness, circumstances and negativity. My country, my town, my immediate surroundings are in crisis at the moment. It scares and saddens me, because I have a passion for people and I see past how things are directly impacting ‘me and my kids’. I carry a weight for those around us too. It’s not a burden that debilitates, but it definitely causes crying in my heart and soul, and pushes a button inside me to ‘act’. I don’t quite know how to explain it, so I may take some heat for the way I’ve said it.

I often joke that I am a ‘Prisoner of Hope’. I still have dreams despite the reality. And something inside of me constantly lives in hope. I don’t know what the future holds, and I have no desire TO know.

I DO know that every morning that my children and I can wake up and face a new day, things are good. Every moment that we get to spend, breathing and living and laughing, things are great. And every opportunity that we are given to help others in whatever way possible to us at the time means that things are fantastic.

For me? That is getting busy living. It’s living my best life.
Pursuing my dreams, living in hope despite our realities, and making a positive difference and contribution in and to other people’s lives.   
And enjoying the simple things – laughter, a good book, cheesecake, coffee and rainy afternoons 😉

How do you ‘get busy living’?

Today

They say you have two choices when it comes to biking :

Ride at your own risk. Don’t ride at all.

The same can be said for life. And here comes that favorite line of mine from the movie Shawshank Redemption :

Andy Dufresne: [to Red] I guess it comes down to a simple choice: Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

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Forget about yesterday – you cannot change it.

Don’t worry about tomorrow – it hasn’t happened yet.

Live today : Be kind to others, and yourself.