Let gratitude be the order of the day

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I’m 61. My Mum died last year at 89, and my Dad is 91, but very unwell and not likely to be around this Christmas. It’s scary when your parents are dying. Most of my friends have lost both parents by this age. I’ve been lucky to have had them around for so long.

Of course I feel sad, but facing death must be the last passage of adult awareness. We don’t talk about it much, but I’ve decided to make it a subject of contemplation from now on.

If you have attended a funeral you may have experienced the feeling that people come closer and are more forgiving towards each other afterwards. It can be an uplifting experience, cathartic even. Sometimes this is only temporary as I found recently after a friend died. Our group were closer for a while, but it didn’t last, unfortunately. However, I’m not here to judge, I will just accept this and move on.

As I’m ageing I plan to observe this process with interest. I have maybe 10 – 20 good years to enjoy life. The last ten years probably won’t be too great, but I must accept that when it comes.

So this is where gratitude comes in. As I sit here looking out at my unruly garden, I can pick up the first hint of spring blossoms in the air. (I’m in the Southern Hemisphere) Last night we had a drop of rain and it’s misty this morning.

I’ve had all sorts of dreams, all sorts of striving recently. I could have done many impulsive things – sell the house, sell all the stuff, downsize, travel, live like a gypsy….but after being away just one week I came home and really began to appreciate my life just as it is.

Many people would love to do what I do. I work from home, we have a lovely acreage property and we live near a provincial town which has all we could want or need, close at hand. People here are good and honest on the whole, and are as friendly as you could find them anywhere.

I’ve got excellent health. I tend to overeat a bit and indulge in a bit too much wine on occasions, but I have very few aches and pains, and I’m fit enough to be able do what I want. Of course I’d like to look younger – who doesn’t? But plastic surgery, from what I’ve seen, is folly. You end up looking like an old person with tight skin. So, I’m grateful that I have a brain that still works, a smile that still occurs, and lots of laughter. I have people who love me for who I am, no matter how I look.

Creativity is my greatest gift. I love to create something from clay, or fabric which is unique. I don’t care if the item wins a prize in a competition, I make it for my own pleasure and if other people like it, well and good! Of course it would be nice to be successful in this field, but this is not needed for me to be happy.
Not any more.

I no longer envy those who appear to have it all. I cannot know what their lives are like. Who knows who will die young, or lose a child? Who knows what sadnesses they might have have endured? Material possessions are no protector from grief. No one can escape that, and neither should they be able to. Life would have no meaning.

Death will be on my mind from now on. When I start to worry about something, I will ask myself: “Will this matter in 100 years? Will anyone care?”

Because now is all we have. Experience the now, each day. Have some fun, smell the roses, share laughter, create something beautiful, whether it be a painting, a garden, a meal, a lovely room to be in, or just a series a lovely thoughts. Enjoy reading, enjoy good movies or TV, enjoy travelling, enjoy learning. Practise random acts of kindness, speak to someone you’ve never met before, spend quality time with your pet cat or dog, take home a puppy, plant flowers…….

Life and death are intertwined. I am so grateful to be alive.

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Your money or your life

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Your money or your life

This is the title of a book I’ve been reading. I think it’s a great phrase, as it captures what for many of us can become a lifetime struggle.

One of the first exercises in the book is to list all your assets and put a value to them. The authors suggest going right down to the value of your knives and forks…not what you paid for them, but what you would get if they were to be sold in a garage sale. Your car value is the red book value, and your home, the current market value.

The next step is to list all your liabilities, very much the same way an accountant works out a balance sheet for a business. The liabilities include all debts, loans, and home mortgage. The balance, after liabilities are deducted from assets, is your net worth at this moment.

However, there is more to life than dollars and cents. There are intangible assets that you have and also intangible liabilities. An intangible asset could be your creative approach to problem solving, and an intangible liability could be that you have fewer years left to earn money, due to your age.

I’m fairly clear what my net worth in, in terms of money and assets. I’ve been recording the same over many years, despite being a poor budgeter. Thanks to some gifts from my parents, our net worth has increased. Without their help I’m afraid if would have stagnated. The good news is, that we haven’t gone backwards, and in business that is very easy to do!

I thought it might be interesting to ponder the intangibles.
Here’s a list of five intangible assets, and five intangible liabilities that I think I have, at this time.

Intangible Assets
I have a stable home life, with good family relationships
I have excellent health
I have a creative mindset
I live in a country with very good social services
I’m at a stage in my life where I have many choices

Intangible liabilities
I’m not as physically fit as I could be
I tend to procrastinate
I’m sometimes inclined towards being depressed and anxious
I get bored easily and lose focus
Occasionally I lack self control

Becoming more aware of these assets and liabilities I am learning to appreciate what I have, and become mindful of what I could improve upon.

Another thing I’ve learned recently, is that competitiveness can be very damaging to the spirit. This is very relevant to me at present. I have entered my art work into competitions in recent years, and have often been disappointed to not win a prize. Comparing my work to that of others has made me feel less happy about the work. I’ve often felt jealous of others who seem to be more recognised and respected in my field.

This attitude is getting me nowhere, and even leads to my disliking the creative process altogether! In my life, I will now strive to enjoy the process of creating, rather than the result. If someone else likes what I make, great! If not, I don’t mind. I will also cultivate a generous appreciation of the efforts of others, and demonstrate encouragement to them when appropriate.

I’d like to talk more about this topic another time….
Your money or your life….

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The joy of……saving

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Have you read the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”? The writer paints a detailed picture of two people. Each born with similar opportunities but living life in vastly different ways. Poor Dad spends everything he earns, mainly on depreciating items, while Rich Dad is frugal except when it comes to investing in appreciating assets. One retires rich, the other can’t afford to retire.

For most of my life I’ve lived like Poor Dad. My first experience with pocket money was to spend it all, in total, every week on lollies, Comics and other ephemeral items. My parents were well-meaning, and very generous. They had grown up in the depression years and had been given very little in the way of treats or toys when they were children. They naturally spoiled us, even though we didn’t appreciate it at the time.

I grew up with a “world owes me a living” attitude. I expected to get a good job after finishing uni, and I did. After the years of poverty being a student it was great to have that fortnightly pay packet. At that time, in Australia most people didn’t have compulsory super, and although I did have some super, being a government employee, the ruling was that if you left your employment you had to take your super as a cash sum, less any interest earned. It amounted to a trifle, after six years, when I left that job.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed spending on anything and everything. I would rate myself as the ideal consumer. It starts with following the latest fashion, and then you move onto new cars, new furniture and new possessions of all kinds. Then you have your own kids to spoil, and on it goes.

Suddenly you are 50 or 60 and you have a nice home, but little else. I’m pretty sure I am painting a picture of the average Aussie, here. I was bought up with a bit of a poverty mentality. My parents did not have as many opportunities as I did, and they unconsciously may have passed on to me the idea that wealth had to be inherited, and could not easily be earned.

We thought, growing up, that only rich people could own investment properties, and that landlords and other wealthy citizens were somehow ‘not nice’ people. There was a great pride in being working class, but we didn’t realise that the working class was quickly becoming middle class. Some were even rising above what could be called middle class.

Some people who are poor tend to spend money when they get it for fear that if they don’t it will be taken from them. Every day is a rainy day, and there’s not a lot to look forward to. Any minor problem with the car, or a household appliance needing repair will send their finances into a tail spin. There is simply no reserve of cash to tide them over.

There are some awful finance options, such as pay day lenders, and these companies prey on the vulnerable. If you have a bad credit rating you are at risk of turning to this type of finance for emergency funding. In Australia, our government welfare arm, called Centrelink, now offers low interest loans to welfare recipients, and I think this is wonderful, to help protect those who can least afford a comfortable lifestyle. I’m proud that the Australian government is fighting fire with fire in this way.

Now that I’m successfully putting into practise our mega budget, I’m proving that I can live really well, on a lot less. I’m less fearful about getting older, losing the house, or having to sell everything just to survive. In the last three months we have:

  • Paid all the bills, and paid ourselves too
  • I saved $1,600 in cash towards my pottery kiln (now ordered)
  • We equalled the bottom line from last year despite 30% lower sales volume
  • We’ve had a lot more time off to do other things
  • I’ve accepted what is, and enjoyed doing things at home
  • We’ve only had one takeaway meal
  • I’ve shopped in bulk and we have had plenty of frozen dinners that I have prepared for when no one wants to cook
  • We have planned two “free” holidays through house sitting
  • I’m making money from nothing, using up my fabric stash
  • The future is looking a lot brighter

As I handed Mr Rooster his cash for the new month, he didn’t question it. I have proved, over the past three months that paying ourselves first really works. We don’t use the credit card for anything except utility and business bills. We both have more disposable income than ever. Our home is secure, and life feels good.

 

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The danger in setting goals

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The danger in setting goals

Do you remember that song of the 80’s: “Don’t wish too hard for what you want because then you might get it”? Actually it was a saying long before then, but what does it mean?

If you are anything like me you are the modern person, well read (so you think), well educated and (let’s face it) middle class. Why middle class, you bristle? Well, if you were from a poor third world country you wouldn’t be typing this on your iPad at 5.30am, and if you were mega rich you’d be somewhere where the weather is pleasant, doing sweet f…. all, now wouldn’t you!

Today I thought I’d start the day by beating myself up a little bit. You see, I have to confess that I have an enemy. I’ve known this person a long, long time. All my life, in fact. Criticism? Anger? Regret? Whining? Moaning? Yep, the lot!

And the enemy is…..drum roll……..ME!

I have a marvellous paper back book that I’ve kept for years entitled “A whack on the side of the head.” It’s actually an ideas book aimed at people in the creative industries or those who are paid to come up with ideas. It refers constantly to Zen Buddhism, and the “whack on the side of the head” is all about the poor novice monk who gets a belt from his master. I can’t remember the exact circumstance, but it’s probably something like “Dear master, please explain the meaning of life to me.” Whack! That’s the meaning of life, now get on with it!

I’ve been getting quite a few whacks lately. Perhaps it’s just the endless cycle of learning about life. You’d think at my age I’d know all the answers, but I know less and less, or I’m certain of less and less. Mr Rooster (early riser) and me spend a lot of time trying to plan our futures. Will we sell up and buy a big RV and live like gypsies, or will we stay put, growing vegetables to survive, or will we….. On and on….. We set business goals, personal goals, goals to get out of bed every day… (sorry, that’s just me, not him).

Anyway, let’s talk about goals. The no-spend one is really a habit, not a goal. I’ve really succeeded at that and I feel pretty good about it. I discovered yesterday that my purchase of a new pretty white kettle for the kitchen, bought on sale with the aid of a gift voucher I earned with Flybuys points gave me as much pleasure as a new outfit worth hundreds of dollars would have.

The idea of being content with less isn’t a goal either. It is a lifestyle decision. Neither is being creative, for me, that’s just who I am. I’m talking about the following sorts of things:

Losing 20 pounds by Christmas
Saving two hundred thousand dollars in three years
Exercising for an hour a day
Having the perfect house
Having the perfect garden
Having the (anything) perfect
Being more beautiful (ok, just attractive would do)
Doubling business income
Being a better friend (even making friends)
Being a good wife (the perfect partner)
Having endless patience
Being a good Zen monk (ha ha, put that in to see if you were awake!)

You see, it’s all an illusion. I will never be happy while I crave improvement. The concept of improving oneself is not new. It sells millions of self-help books every day of the week. A book entitled “Give up on improving yourself” would not sell one copy, methinks. Perhaps I could hand them out on street corners…

The idea I have is that life today, right now is good. This moment is good. I enjoy it, but I let it pass. The next moment is also good.
Even dealing with the impatience of Mr Rooster, is good. Being a bit bored is good. Not knowing what to cook for dinner, is good. Doing a bit of pottery, is good. Sitting here, typing this, is good.
Whack, whack, whack.

Enjoy your moments, my friends. Life is good.

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Grateful for…….sleep.

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Grateful for…..sleep.

I sleep well. Really well. 8-10 hours or as long as I can get.
My other half gets up with the sparrows at 5am, rain, hail or shine. When winter comes, I hibernate, unashamedly.

I dream, huge technicolor dreams. I don’t remember most of them, but when I wake it’s almost as if there’s another life I’ve been living and I just can’t quite recall the details.

At school, many moons ago, we studied Macbeth in our English class. I loved it! I still remember the sleep soliloquy.

“Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care, the death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act II, sc. 2
Greatest English dramatist & poet (1564 – 1616)

I like the image of knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care. It is sublime. Anyone who has been sleep deprived knows what that means. New parents, shift workers, and those with pain and troubles in their lives know that uninterrupted sleep is the most precious thing.

I’ve had times in my life when I simply could not sleep. One time when I started a new job I lay awake all night, worrying. When day dawned I said to myself that the job wasn’t worth the stress. I quit, and I was right to do so. I never looked back.

Occasionally I get very excited about something, perhaps a new project or a holiday coming up. This kind of sleeplessness is good, and I do eventually nod off. When I awake I feel excited and happy, and losing a few hours sleep has done no harm.

Once or twice in my life I’ve had physical pain keeping me awake. This is no fun at all, lying still and trying not to disturb the person lying beside me. Usually, taking some strong pain killers will help, and sleep comes at last.

But the worst kind of sleeplessness is that caused by anxiety. Worry about money, kids, parents, jobs, health…..all of those and more can cause the mind to go into overdrive, repelling sleep. I’ve been known to agonise about mistakes and blunders I’ve made, often from years ago, churning through my mind, in the midnight hours.

I’ve learned a few things to help when this comes….

  • I say to myself, don’t worry, just forget about it. It doesn’t matter if you only sleep a few hours, it will be ok.
  • I imagine the process of making something or creating something, step by step. It could be creating a new garden, making a quilt or a sculpture, or re-decorating the house. Once those paint tins come out, I nod off.
  • I read a book that isn’t really riveting, on my Kindle. The Kindle is great, because I don’t need to turn the light on, disturbing Mr Rooster. (The one who leaps out of bed at 5am).
  • If all else fails I get up, make tea and toast and read a book for a while. Eventually, sleepiness comes and I go back to bed and sleep.

I’m lucky, because 99 days out of 100 I sleep easily and well. I really feel for those who can’t sleep well, for whatever reason. I pray that you find peaceful sleep, and that you feel safe, warm and secure, wherever you are and that your ravelled sleeve of care is knitted up tonight, with no dropped stitches.

Bon nuit!

 

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Gratitude, day three…..companion animals

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Gratitude, day three…animals in my life

My friends call me the crazy cat lady because I always have one or two pet cats, I make cats out of clay, and I draw and paint them. It’s not just cats though, for me. I like almost all animals. If it was practical for me to have a pet lion or zebra I’d probably have one of those too, as a companion. (I say almost all, as I’m struggling to find empathy for the poisonous brown snakes that live around here…..maybe one day.)

I like the word ‘companion’, rather than the word ‘pet’. I like to think of animals as sentient beings, as in the Buddhist view. From my limited reading about Buddhism, I gleaned that sentient beings have thoughts and feelings. Perhaps not as complex as our own, but definitely there. When my cat looks up at me his expression changes as he head-butts my leg, and his tail quivers as he reaches up for a head scratch. I know he’s smiling, and I know he likes me and it’s not just because I feed him.

The idea of having a pet animal suggests that we own them, control them. Anyone who has had a cat companion knows that that is not possible. Cats instinctively know how to control us, rather than the other way around. We have to win their affection and respect. It’s an equal partnership, living with a cat. All cats have their own personality, just as we do, and we can only work with what we (and they) have. No point trying to make a shy little one become the life of the party. Just leave her alone and she’ll come to you when she’s good and ready. My current cat, Buster, is the supreme extrovert! He likes to meet and greet, and pity the poor visitor who doesn’t go for cats. Buster doesn’t take no for an answer, from anyone. Even the ones who say they don’t like cats end up stroking him. I think some people haven’t known a friendly cat and that has given them this mindset. Buster is confident and determined. I love him to bits.

Companion animals follow us around the garden, sit with us, and listen to what we say. They like music, I am sure, especially restful, tuneful sounds – not loud discordant ones. Anything we are doing, they find interesting. The exception would have to be vacuum cleaning. No self-respecting cat will hang around while that is going on! But digging the garden, making any kind of craft item, sewing, making the bed, cooking, tidying – this is all fascinating to our companions. Do they accompany us around the yard because they think we are forming a hunting pack, or is it just fun to tag along… who knows?

Sadly, we usually outlive our companions by many years. I firmly believe that is one reason why all children need to have cared for a companion animal, whether it be a bird, fish, cat or dog. It helps them appreciate that life can be short, and precious. In a smaller way, it helps them learn to deal with grief and loss, preparing them for the bigger challenges in life as they grow up. Caring for an animal teaches them compassion and gives them the responsibility for the welfare of a living being. I find that people I meet who don’t like animals were often those who were denied them as children. I question the reasons behind why the children can’t have pets. It is simply too much bother? Is it inconvenient? These are questionable motives at best, and maybe not a great example to be setting.

One of my favourite writers, David Michie (“The Dalai Lama’s Cat” ) suggests that the particular affinity we feel for our companions could indicate that in a former life we may have known them, perhaps even as human friends. Whether or not one adopts the Buddhist view of sentient beings, it cannot hurt one’s spiritual development to regard animals as equals, deserving of the the very best care and love. It has been proven that children who demonstrate cruelty to animals are more likely to become violent adults. Perhaps there is a compassion ‘switch’ that simply gets turned off in these people. My personal view is that true compassion must be all encompassing to all living things, and not selective to certain types or species.

I guess I need to learn to love those brown snakes.
Peace to you, today, and to your companion animals.

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Gratitude for…….Time.

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Gratitude day 2 – I’m grateful today for time.

When our daughter was a little girl, I asked her what she would like to be when she grew up. She thought for a while and said, very sure of herself, “Retired.”

We all laughed at that, but it’s not surprising that she said that. She had been spending lots of time with my parents, her grandparents, and they were all having such a good time together. They cooked, coloured-in, sewed, fed the cattle, walked around the farm, and read books together. Going to work was not necessary, and Grandma and Granddad were happy, their time their own. They weren’t rich, but they had enough, and knew how to live well with a small income from their pension. They even saved money at the same time.

I think what she understood, even at that young age, was was time is precious. Many of us can’t handle spare time. We really crave it, especially when there are many demands on our time, whether it be paid work or family responsibilities. We long for that quiet weekend when we can catch up on sleep, read the papers, start that new project…. And yet sometimes when that spare time arrives, we can feel listless, dissatisfied and bored, even.

Today I’m reflecting that for me, quieter times may be here to stay. We are beginning to wind down as we approach retirement age. Things are slowly starting to resolve themselves. I’ve stopped comparing our financial situation to others. I’ve stopped asking myself if I would have been better off sticking with career A, or B. Should I not have become self employed? What does it really matter? I am who I am today because of what I have experienced over the years. I might be far less adventurous if I had taken the safe option. I might be far less creative, far less willing to take risks. Much more boring!

Today it’s very cold outside. We have the fire going, and it’s wonderful to be able to stay cozy, reading, stitching, having cups of tea and snuggling under a quilt. The cat is snoring in his chair, and the only sound is the whistle of the wind outside. It’s Friday, but it feels like Sunday. We don’t have enough work to make it worthwhile starting up machines and computers, so work will wait till Monday. Another long weekend. I don’t mind at all.

The funny thing is that I believe we will do better financially this month than we did last year, because of the mega budget. I’ve cut back on so much spending it has created an incredible amount of free time, for the same, or a better result! That indicates to me that we should definitely not drop our prices to get into some kind of price war with our competitors. They can work twice as hard for as much money if they wish!

The gift of time means so much to me. I have a stitching project, a pottery project, some cooking and entertaining to do, and 2 acres of garden to tame. Books to enjoy, TV to enjoy, and spending quality time with my cat. Cats to me are the laziest, smartest animals! They sure know how to relax!

I can learn to do less, live with less, enjoying freedom I’ve never known before. My Dad, early in his retirement, said they were the best years of his life. I think I know why.

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Today I am grateful for…..librarians!

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I read recently that if you keep a daily journal of things you are grateful for for one month, it will change your life.

Here goes. Today I am grateful for…..librarians!

Until I started this mega savings plan, I simply had no idea about the wonderful free services provided by our local library. I knew of course, that there were zillions of books to borrow, but, in my absence while I was spending big on books on Amazon and Kindle, things have changed!

There are now rows and rows of DVDs, for one thing. This seemed to be very popular when I visited recently. Also, there was a self serve checkout counter. How trusting! Kids were enjoying the free internet service and I glanced at an older man who appeared to doing some online banking. In another corner, a teenager was using his phone, probably taking advantage of free wifi in the library. And, of course, people were reading. They were reading newspapers, magazines, and books. The library wasn’t particularly quiet, but that didn’t bother me – it felt alive! There are also quiet Corners you can go to if you need to concentrate on something. There’s a story reading area for small children too. It looked so inviting with its low chairs and cushions all in a circle.

The best was yet to come! I rediscovered the ebooks and audio books and magazines – all available on line, and all absolutely free! They are virtually “borrowed” and then “returned” so there is a time limit. But you can extend if necessary. For a crafty person, audio books are a godsend. While stitching, knitting or machine sewing, even working with clay, I can immerse myself in a novel, non-fiction, inspirational or meditational book. I listen with bud earphones from the app on my phone, carried around in my pocket. If my phone rings, the app politely pauses the story so I can take the call.

It speaks to me. I find that I really remember details of books so much more when the story is told to me, in an unhurried way. It’s easy to really get involved in the characters, their experiences and struggles, as well as their excitement and joy. It’s rich, and deep. I love it! At the end of an audio book session I feel doubly satisfied. Not only have I learned something new, I’ve accomplished more on my projects. One day I dug a whole garden bed while listening to “The Meryl Streep Movie Club”. It was only when my body complained I realised it was time to stop and rest.

I’m a bit of a ruminator at times. This can be a problem, leading to mild depression and anxiety. Focussing on something other than what might be a worry normally, helps me to switch off, and that in itself is wonderful therapy. Having the luxurious gift of spare time nowadays can be a bad thing if negative thoughts start tapping me on the shoulder. The audio books really help.

The emagazines were amazing! A friendly librarian alerted me to them. I was telling him how much I loved the audio books and he showed me how to tap into the emagazines. There was a choice of over 50 magazines, all free, all downloadable onto computer or iPad. Now at last I could afford to subscribe to magazines on gardening, travel, stitching, current events, and home decorating – all free of charge! These would have cost a considerable sum if I had purchased the digital or paper versions.

So today my gratitude is for librarians. Thank you so much! You have made my life so full of possibilities I can’t believe how good it is to have this gift. I hope your day will be filled with happy customers who appreciate every thing you do. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

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What advice would you give to your younger self?

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What would you tell your younger self?

This morning, as I stepped out of the shower, I glanced at the set of digital bathroom scales on the floor. I noted to myself: should get rid of those as they no longer work, despite changing the batteries. It seems that every new fangled device in the world seems to have a pre-determined set point where it states to the world – “Sorry, use by date has been reached. Get a new one.”

That got me thinking. No! I won’t get a new one! Not only would that blow my budget on something I don’t want to spend money on, I’m going to brave and declare: “I don’t want to own bathroom scales ever again!” What a brave announcement that is, for me. You see, for most of my adult life I’ve been trying to be slimmer. In my teens I was lean and fit, playing sport at school. I thought I was fat. I wish I could be that fat again, LOL!

I suffered from a common female ailment, a distorted body image. This was reinforced by the attitudes of those around me, but thankfully not my parents. They were pretty sensible people overall. And this was before the days of photo editing, emancipated models and film actresses who disappear when they turn side-on! I can’t imagine how much more difficult it is for today’s teens to resist these silly messages.

So, I thought about advice I would like to give my younger self, if I could. What are 3 things I would say to her, and now might they made her life better, easier, or happier?

Number one. Don’t diet, ever.

My belief, backed up by scientific research, shows that calorie restrictive diets do work, but only in the short term. The weight that is lost quickly returns once normal eating is resumed. A balanced diet, and plenty of activity is the way to stay fit and healthy. Fitness, rather than slimness is a worthy goal. But only choose activities you enjoy. Play lots of sport, walk a lot, and when you get old and curmudgeonly (now), do lots of gardening and house re-organising. Plus, you are not fat, and never will be. You can thank your family’s race horse genes for that. Be grateful for that and don’t judge others who may be less fortunate in that regard. Enjoy good food, and good times always.

Number two. It will pass, it will always pass.

Those excruciating embarrassing moments when you felt such shame you could sink through the floor will fade into distant memory. That time the guy you really fancied showed up with a gorgeous girl lolling all over him and your cheeks flamed as he smirked at you….that time you were hauled in front of other staff members and reprimanded for a (very minor) misdemeanour….the so called friend who stabbed you in the back repeatedly…..the anguish you felt when your child became an unpredictable and unruly teenager (now a fantastic young adult with a great career)….the time your best friend decided to end it all….the many loved pets who went to God…..Yes, all wounds will eventually heal. That won’t make them any less painful, but they will make you what you will become: a wonderfully strong person with great a understanding of the value of life and compassion for others.

Number three. Seize the day.

Whatever you are doing, whoever you are with, make every day count. You may think a particular time is not important, boring even, but each day is an opportunity to do something. If you are waiting for an appointment, or in a queue, use your time creatively. Strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. Imagine a piece of art, or a story you might write. Appreciate the scene around you. If you are feeling stressed at work, take a few minutes to just breathe. Close your eyes and tell yourself that you are learning to cope with whatever life throws at you, and next time you will handle it better. Be your own best friend and enjoy your moments alone. Relish the time you have to reflect. This is not the same as ruminating. (Meaning replaying negative emotions in your head.) Reflecting is a sort of meditation, and it is the balm of the soul. Read, listen to and watch uplifting things. Time spent reading is like gold. You have the privilege of being able to share the thoughts of the best minds in the universe – don’t wast time on trivia. Enjoy the company of those you love. Cherish the time spent with them as nothing is forever. Death and time will eventually part us all but don’t fear or fight the losses you will come to experience. You are a gift, just by being you, and you will always be a loved and loving human being.

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Enjoying life on the inside

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The ability to mark time.

What is time? Do you remember being a child with endless summer holidays in front of you? Maybe you were at the seaside, or in the country, or just enjoying the freedom of playing in the back yard. Do you remember impatiently woofing down your lunch or dinner so you could resume your game? Did you spend hours staring at the clouds, or watching ants toil in the grass, marvelling at their strength and determination?

As adults, we are so impatient. We want it now! But we so often forget to stop and smell the roses. We rush from task to task, and suddenly 20 years have gone by, or more. We feel as though all we do is chase our tails, trying to get ahead. We lose sight of the precious moments that make up our lives.

What is in the moment? I’m discovering a hidden joy in being less busy in our business. I keep it to myself, as not everyone would understand why I would be happy about a down-turn. But I’m proving I can live well with less, and I’m starting to embrace the changes.

For starters, I’ve admitted with no shame at all that I am happiest being a night owl. I love nothing better than to sit and stitch or knit by the fire, watching soapy TV shows, or, better still, losing myself in an audio book with my headphones on. The audio books I borrow are a free service from my local library. I could kiss the person who instigated this! It’s marvellous!

Because work is a little slow, I sleep in, until 8am. My partner, is, of course, a fowl. What is it with these fowls? They leap out of bed at 5am and think all owls are crazy and lazy. However, at 3pm the fowls are spent for the day, had it. They doze in front of television, and go to their perches willingly very early. Often I will turn around to say something to my rooster, only to find his eyes are closed and he is gently snoring. Oh well, never mind.

Plans are in place for a change of lifestyle in a few year’s time, but I’m trying hard to also enjoy the present moment. I’m also aware of the saying by John Lennon, that “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” I know of people who had great plans for their retirement, only to have one partner die suddenly, leaving the remaining person disappointed and bereft. The sacrifices they had made for an imaginary future seem then to have been a waste. A waste of time, money and delayed joy.

On the other hand, there are those who squander the future by not planning at all. They find themselves too deeply in debt to struggle out of it when it is far too late. They may have had overseas trips, and lived the high life, but it all comes crashing down when they have not thought about providing basic comforts for old age. I remember the story of the ants and the grasshopper. The wise ants went about their business, preparing for the winter while the grasshopper played and enjoyed himself. When the winter came, the grasshopper was forced to entertain the ants, to sing for his supper, as a means of survival.

I don’t think I want to be either a grasshopper, or an ant, particularly, but I would like to enjoy each day. To quote my favourite Jethro Tull song, ‘On the Inside’:

“There are places I’ve been, makes it hard to begin, to enjoy life again on the inside, but I mean to.”

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