Monthly archives "November 2014"

Giving Thanks

Happy ThanksgivingIt’s Thanksgiving day in the US today.  I had a little look on Wikipedia – here’s a little taster of what they say “Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.”

My Facebook and Twitter feeds have been full of Thanksgiving day messages, memes and pictures.  It’s been a lovely day, seeing all these reminders of what people have been thankful for.  And of course it makes me thankful for all things I have, all the things I can be and do, a lot of which I sometimes take for granted.

And that got me thinking about the whole ‘being thankful for just one day’.  It’s a bit like the ‘peace to all mankind at Christmas’ and ‘celebrating lurve’ on Valentine’s Day.  It’s great that there are days there for us to remember to celebrate and be grateful for these things one day of the year.

But why is it only one day of the year.  When I think of all the things I have to be grateful for, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy and good.  And when I feel like that I want to do more , so that I can keep feeling like that.  Whether it’s calling my mum more often, or emailing a friend for a catch-up, or making an effort to eat more healthily, or taking that extra effort at work just because I want to do an extra good job.

Feeling grateful for what I already have inspires me to do more.  And then I have more to feel grateful for.  So maybe I won’t take just one day to celebrate and give thanks for everything that’s good in my life and my world.  Maybe it’s something I do every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for the memories

Thanks for the memoriesLast Friday, my great aunt passed away.  She had been diagnosed with cancer some time ago, so we all knew this day was coming.  On the same day another of our community elders also passed away.  And today, I heard that the aunt of someone else I know had passed away.

As is natural at a time like this, when I got together with my family over the weekend, we got to reminiscing about my great aunt.   She was a real character.  She knew what she liked and didn’t like.  She liked a good old gossip, she really enjoyed her food, and she had a loud, infectious cackle of a laugh.  I remember her sitting on our sofa, with a plateful of food, telling us something about someone that she really shouldn’t have been telling us.  Then she’d ask how we were doing, and what we were up to.  She’d say something spicy and hilarious, and then there’d be that raucous laugh.  We’d laugh and giggle with her, and when she left we’d sometimes wonder which aspect of her visit with us was going to be part of her next round of dinner time talk somewhere else.

And that led us to reminiscing about other close family and friends that are no longer here.

One of my mum’s older sisters used to look after me regularly when I was little.  She passed away over twenty-five years ago.  She was a tiny, beautiful woman, who had the most amazing stories.  She’d trade with me – as long as I massaged her legs she’d tell me stories.  We used to be there for hours.  She also taught me an ancient Sanskrit prayer that I still know, word for word, to this day.  I was a complete tomboy when I was younger, and she used to despair of me, begging my mum to force me to wear a dress, to learn how to cook, to become more of a girl.  I just wanted to get out of the house and enjoy pretend battles with sticks for swords with my cousins (all boys, all older, all blissfully unaware that they shouldn’t be teaching their impressionable little cousin how to ‘fight properly’ with her stick sword!).  I wish she could see me now, wearing dresses, cooking and you know – being a girl!  (Although she’d probably be on at me about not being married).  I loved being around her – even when she was berating me for being a tomboy, there was so much love and laughter and joy there.

And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it.  It isn’t about what you do for a living, it isn’t about how big your house is, or how many holidays you take.  It isn’t even always about your greatest achievements.

It’s about how you make other people feel.  That’s what people remember about you.  She made me feel loved, twenty-five years ago and today. I wish I could tell her thanks for the memories.

 

Dress right to feel right

Look good feel goodFollowing on from last week’s article, all about getting up, dressing up and showing up, I thought you’d find this article from Mashable amusing.  It visually takes us through the evolution of women’s workwear over the years.

And it got me thinking about what impact the clothes we pick out have on our day.

I know that for me at least, there have definitely been more mornings than I care to count where I’ve hit the snooze button one too many times, and then been rushing around, running five minutes late.  Which then means I’m going to hit all the school run traffic, and end up getting to work late.  So I ditch whatever outfit I had vaguely planned on the night before, and go for something quick, easy and comfy to wear – a shapeless black knitted dress used to be my go-to outfit for days I was late and wanted an easy fix.  Hair tied up in a ponytail, and mascara hastily applied “There, that’ll do, done!” I think as I glance in the mirror on the way downstairs.

And then there have been those lovely days (much more rare sadly, due to my love of a lie-in) where I’ve had time to spend on picking out a sharper looking dress, taking some time with my hair, picking a pair of tights that hasn’t laddered.  Those are the days when the glance in the mirror is accompanied by a mental “Yep – that’s good” as I head out.

And it’s the same in the months I’ve been working at home too.  There are days where I’ve got on greying tops, faded leggings and boots that have seen better days, and I accessorise this with greasy hair and pray I don’t have to leave the house.

But recently, even at home I’ve been making more of an effort. And I always notice a difference.  Without fail.  On the days I find the time to make an effort, I feel better.  And that feeling translates to the way I behave too.  I feel more efficient, more together, and I act that way.

I’m not saying that the days I don’t make an effort I perform badly, just that on the days I make an effort, I notice a little difference.  And sometimes a little difference, made regularly, is all it takes to go from ordinary to extraordinary.

Dress right to feel right – what do you think?

Get up, Dress up, Show up

Get Up, Dress Up, Show UpThe full quote actually goes like this…

No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up and never give up“.

It’s good isn’t it?  Just reading it makes me sit up a little taller, straighten my clothes and stick my chin out defiantly.  Defiant’s a good word for it too.  That’s the feeling I get when I think about this quote.

We all have days when life feels like a bit of a struggle.  Or days where we know we’ve got something to do or face or deal with that we really really don’t want to do or face or deal with.

And we could choose to hibernate (let’s face it, we’ve got the perfect weather for it right now – cold, wet and miserable).  No-one would judge us.  Even if they did judge us, we wouldn’t know – we’d be in our warm cosy beds, hibernating.  But then, eventually, at some point in the future, we’d have to kick off the covers, get out of bed, and face the thing we didn’t want to face.  And quite possibly, having left it to fester, the thing would have gotten more smelly, more sticky and even more horrible to deal with.  And we’d still be there, in the future, having to deal with it.  So the hibernating would have done us no good, and could quite possibly have made things much worse.

Instead, if we took the quote to heart, here’s how it might go, at some slightly earlier point in the future.

We’d wake up and realise we have something difficult ahead of us.  We might feel anxious about that.  But then we’d remember our quote.  So we’d go ahead and read our quote and then we’d get defiant.  We’d think ‘No.  You slightly whiffy thing, you will not defeat me.’  And thinking that would make us feel a little bit better.  And because we’d feel a bit better, we might actually get up and out of bed.  We might even dress up in clothes that make us feel extra awesome.  Then dressed in our magic awesome clothes, with our magic awesome words still ringing in our already awesome brains, we’d show up to where the slightly whiffy thing was (because it hadn’t yet had time to get really smelly and sticky and horrible).  And we’d look at it and we’d think ‘Oh.  Well.  You’re a bit of a let down aren’t you.  You’re a little bit whiffy, but I have a nose peg.  And you’re a little bit sticky but I have gloves.  And you are a little bit annoying to deal with but I am defiant.  Very defiant.’  And then we’d defiantly and deftly deal with the thing.

Because we don’t give up.  We get up, we dress up and we show up.  That’s how we roll.

 

 

Without Judgement

Heena Author photo 5I got the final edited, polished up photos back from my awesome photographer Louise earlier today.

She’s done an amazing job.  The photos look fantastic.  And that’s not easy for me to say.

Not because I don’t believe it – I do, genuinely.  I’m so happy with what she’s created.

More because, as I’ve said in a previous post, I feel uncomfortable looking at photos of myself.  Or rather, I feel uncomfortable looking at photos of myself without finding fault with them.  But somehow, I have not found fault with what I am seeing in Louise’s work.

That’s mostly because Louise is excellent at what she does.  In fact, in between the shoot and the final edit, she’s won an award for her work.  She’s awesome.

It’s not just that though.  I still haven’t forgotten what Louise said during our shoot – about looking at the whole picture, looking for the positives and ignoring the minuscule negatives that no-one else even notices.

I’ve also been working on my own personal development much more.  One of the books I read recently was Louise Hay’s ‘I Can Do It’ – it’s a great, life-affirming, positive read.  She includes some fantastic affirmations in there, and one of them is “I love myself exactly as I am.  I no longer wait to be perfect in order to love myself'”.

It’s such a simple sentiment but so profound, that when I really stop to think about it, it’s like a punch in the solar plexus.

I don’t put any limitations on loving my friends or my family.  I don’t think to myself ‘Well, I’ll only love my Mum if she makes that fantastic dinner for me tomorrow night’, or “I’ll only love my Dad when he gets back to a 34” waist.  I have never once thought “I am only going to love Simba when he stops letting off silent but violent wind in my direction”.  It just doesn’t happen.  When I love other people, it is done freely and without restrictions, reservations or conditions.  I do not wait for them to be perfect.  In fact, part of the reason I love them are what they see as their imperfections and I see as their uniqueness (not the doggy wind though, I love Simba in spite of that one!)

So why, when I am thinking about allowing myself that same love, have I only ever done it with provisos, stipulations and reservations.  We’ve all fallen into the same trap at one point or another.  “I’ll bring out the nice crockery for guests.”  “I’ll wear that dress when I’ve worked out a bit.”  “I’ll let myself feel good when I feel like I’ve earned it.”

It’s rubbish, isn’t it.  Love, in all its myriad beautiful forms, is all about the here and now, the perfect and the imperfect, the good and the not so good.  And it is definitely without judgement.  But if we keep putting conditions on ourselves, ridiculous, unnecessary, nonsensical conditions, when are we ever going to be ready to love ourselves and feel good about ourselves?

I’m not there yet, but I think I’m on the way, on the right path at least.  I use my good dishes every day now.  I wear my nice stuff on days I’m not going out.  And so, without judgement, but with a lot of love for the person in the pics, here’s the first of the fabulous photo’s Louise has taken.

Long hours and lost lunch breaks

Should I stay or should I go- (2)I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while.  I came across a survey conducted by AXA PPP recently, which highlights the problem of an embedded culture of long hours and lost lunch breaks amongst the UK’s small and medium-sized companies (and having worked at more than one multi-national, I think the results probably extend to these giants too).

The survey shows that half the people questioned regularly worked overtime, often unpaid.  A fifth took less than thirty minutes for lunch (and there was a small proportion that missed lunch altogether). Employees are missing lunch, missing time with family and friends, missing important events in their children’s lives and missing our on their evenings as they pick up their laptops instead of winding down and relaxing.

Unsurprisingly, all of this puts more stress and strain on us, and this in turn can affect our health and well-being.

I know from personal experience that it’s really hard to be the one heading home on time when your colleagues are all staying late.  It can make you feel as though you’re somehow shirking your fair share of the work, even though that’s patently not true.  And whilst your employer may be very appreciative of your dedication and long hours, they will never be able to compensate you for the time, the pleasure, the relaxation, the life that you’re missing out on by staying a few hours or by skipping lunch.

But what can you actually do about it?  I’m going to be honest here.  I’m not sure.  I can only tell you what I did, and why.

I chose two different paths at two different points in my career.

Early on, I chose to stay and do the long hours.  I skipped lunches, I cancelled nights out with friends, I stayed at work until after the cleaners had been and gone.  I wasn’t the only one, I was young and didn’t have any commitments, and I have no doubt it helped my profile.

In the last few years I’ve chosen not to work so long.  I still work hard, I am efficient, I stay if absolutely necessary.  But I make sure I take at least a half hour lunch break, and I don’t stay behind as par for the course.  I have commitments – I have a pooch to get home to and a life to live beyond work.  I know that if I was in a permanent position, this would probably limit my career options.  As it is, I’m a contractor, so it’s not quite so bad.  And it’s a choice.  My choice.

Spooky Synchronicity

Pirate PattniI’m so sorry – I’ve let it happen again.  I’ve been a little bit quiet on the blog. I knew I was going to be out of action for a little while.  I should have prepared a post or two in advance.  As my old personal trainer said to me once when I was late to a training session as I was snowed in, it’s just PPP (Pathetically Poor Preparation).  To be fair, I was still the only client who turned up that day!

This time it’s because I’ve been in and out of hospital, getting a minor eye operation out of the way.  The op went well, the stitches are a little sore but healing well I think, and I have a rather fetching plastic eye patch to wear for a few days.  Just call me Pirate Patch Pattni!

As I was showing off my stitches to my brother, he pointed out the spooky synchronicity between me and my pooch.  It’s only been a couple of weeks since Simba had a minor eye operation too.  And it was on the same side, and in fact was on the same area too.  An odd coincidence, you might agree.

But it’s not the first time we’ve been in sickness in synch.  Not very long after I had recovered from my first bout with cancer, Simba had a major operation to remove a cancerous tumour from his leg.  Shortly after my second round Simba had his second round too.  And we both had a final, third, scare a few months apart.  When I stop to think about that, it really is spooky synchronicity.

My pooch is clearly tuned in and matching my vibrations, whether they are high or low.

As you know, I’ve been navigating some rough waters recently.  Well, I’m convinced that these minor operations have come because life is about to get a whole lot brighter and better for us.  We’re moving out of rough seas , we’ve cleared the decks of anything holding us back and we’re being led into calmer waters.  And in order for us to enjoy all the goodness we’re about to encounter, our eyesight needs to be crystal clear.  Hence the minor eye ops.

Pirate Patch Pattni and Ship’s Mate Simba are ready for the halcyon days ahead – let the good times roll!