Just Say No

For those of us old enough that phrase will conjure up the cast of Grange Hill telling us to

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Poster from Grange Hill’s campaign back in 1986

“just say no” to drugs. But actually we don’t teach people to just say No. This has come from an email I received from a friend who gets a lot of pressure from her family to help when in fact she has a demanding home life too. Her counsellor told her to tell them she couldn’t because of her demanding life. That got me thinking. So if my friend didn’t have things that drained her physically and emotionally then it would be ok for her to support a member of her family that she feels is expecting too much? I’m sure that is not what the counsellor meant but it is easy to think that.

Why can’t we just say No? Why do we have to put in excuses? My husband and I have decided to block out one weekend a month, to just say No to seeing other people. It is hard because we have a wide range of friends who like us and we like and want to see. Already this year we have had to change one of the weekends to fit in a birthday party. At the moment we are changing not losing that free weekend. But it is hard to say No. With myself and my writing I am trying to block out writing days and to say No to other things. It isn’t easy.

So I say “No because this is my writing day/weekend with my husband/I’m seeing my kids”. Why can’t we just say No?

So I am going to try a little experiment, and maybe get back to you and let you know how I did. I am going to say No without explanation. I did try with a coffee invite that I received today. It isn’t that I don’t want to see the person but it is because I am feeling tired what with winter lurking about still, that January/February feeling, and just want to do nothing for a bit. I didn’t say that I did just say “Can’t make the dates you’ve suggested but can do X if that works for you”

Do we always need to give a reason why we say No to something? Discuss [GCSE question for January LOL! ] 

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Change in Friendship

dscn0828I realised yesterday that I am grieving the loss of a friend. Not one who had died but one that was moving away. Since I moved to this town this person has been key in who I am and what I do here in my church life. She has spurred me on, stood by me when I’ve stepped out, filled in the gaps when they’ve needed filling. She isn’t the only but she has been one of the strong pillars that have given me the encouragement I have needed to step out. She is now doing, what I have done many times before, and is moving to another town.

I must be totally honest and say I am grieving. It isn’t the same as when someone has died, but it is a profound sadness. Things will not be the same. And if I am honest, I am not sure if I am brave enough to step out and do things without her. There is a team and it hasn’t just been me and her. Each of us has our role and our part but the part she filled will not be filled by anyone else. At least not in the team that is there. Things will shift. DSCN0826 (1)Things will change.

When I gave up a voluntary position recently I was sad and grouchy, similar to this. A wise friend told me to remember that, even though I chose to give up the role, I was grieving its loss. So even though I know that this friend is doing the right thing by moving I will still mourn her not being here any more.

One of my new year resolutions was to be kind to myself. I need to keep revisiting this. In fact I need to keep revisiting a lot of my resolutions – like the no meat, no dairy, no alcohol. All of which I have “failed” but I will keep going back to giving them another go but maybe not with that whole vigor of “a whole month of …” With each of the giving ups I have to keep revisiting and trying for just today. The same goes with the whole thing of being kind to myself. I need to remember that I am grieving and that I did struggle with the party for my friend last night because I didn’t want to be there.

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Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

So I will be kind and admit I’m grieving for the loss and change. Don’t tell me she is only an email away. It still means she won’t be at the next prayer day/in the next discussion for the next play/etc. The friendship will have change. And I will have to go through my stages of grief. And if at times it means I’m grumpy and out of sorts then I must be kind to me and let it be

 

Working Together

dscf0582Before Christmas I shared my thoughts on encouraging each other. This is an ongoing thing for all of us. I am a natural encourager but as another encourager friend said “who encourages the encouragers?” Well we encouragers do all have to learn that not everyone is an encourager. Some people have other skills and gifting which we all need. You notice here as an encourager I find it hard to list them 🙂

Anyway over that lovely time between Christmas and New year’s day, when my grown-up children had gone back to their respective homes and my husband had gone away for 3 days walking with friends, I sat down and did my review of the year, wrote up my lists of what to do, dreamed my dreams and came up with my plans. I also took down the decorations and got the place cleaned up and ready to face 2019. I started on the morepens qualifiable tasks to begin with – planning and advertising writing workshops, and cleaning. Yes those were the only ones on my list I got to. I have a great writing project in  my head that I need to plan out but I am struggling with it. I have reached a point where I know I am rubbish and it will not get off the ground!! See need of encouragement.

A girl I want to university with had posted on Instagram a devotional book she was reading. Her and I chatted about it a bit. I bought it. It is good. The bit that has encouraged me most of all is where it says to take 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, the famous “love verses” and substitute Jesus for Love or it. Well that has definitely encouraged me.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)
4 Jesus is patient, love is kind. Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. 5 Jesus does not dishonor others,  Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I know not everyone who reads my blog is a Christian but I am and for me seeing that this whole Love passage is not some unobtainable goal but is how Jesus is to me has really encouraged me. In the version I have in study verse 7 says “always supports, always encourages, always hopes, always trusting.” For me to know that there is someone there who is always encouraging me, but not just always trusting me, always having hope in me is awesome.

But you know what, I’m not now rushing on with my plan for my writing project. I’m still stuck in the doldrums with it but, after reading and meditating on this, I am now being kinder to myself. I am leaning on other people to help me with finding my get up and go. I am reading things and looking up things that will help me to move to where I want to be. After reading this I am no longer beating myself up about not being able to.

I’m not sure if I put that in my last post but for me encouraging someone sometimes isn’t about getting them to move on but is about just staying with them and being there.

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Looking from Llanfairfechan nature reserve to Penrhyn Castle (taken by me 6th Jan 2019)

Recommended Books

I am now not going to recommend you any books 🙂 Well I might.

the bloody chamberI am reading a book at the moment, “The Bloody Chamber” by Angela Carter, which was not recommended by someone I know. In fact quite the opposite. She said she had had to read it for her book club but had not enjoyed it. It was too dark for her. I must say I am loving it. In a way she did recommend it because she said that I, and another in our writing group, might like it.

I have just given up, for the second time of trying, on “Ulverton” by Adam Thorpe because I still can’t get into it. It does nothing for me and a long time ago a friend said ‘life is too short to finish a book you are not getting into’ and that is so true. So I’m afraid once again I am going to have to give up on Ulverton, even though I am hoping to write something similar in future, which is why I keep being recommended it.ulverton

Books, like art, like music, like food, like coffee have a certain taste to them and one likes them not because they are amazing but because they fit in with one’s taste. Interestingly both the above mentioned books are Vintage Classics. I did just check that because I was about to say that I don’t like what are commonly known as classics. I do have Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” in the pile of books I have from the library. I am plucking up the courage to read him soon.

When I look back on the books I have borrowed from the library I would be hard pressed to give my best 10. There are some I don’t even remember getting, so they won’t go down. I loved Emma Healy, both her books, have been stuck by joy of catching up with “old friends” in a Raymond E Feist novella, learned all sorts of different things, realised how much poetry I have read this year. But faves? Not sure

my study
Random pile of books on the desk in my study that I have to read at some point. They will have to wait until 2019 

So as 2018 draws to a close and everyone comes up with their ‘best of …’ lists. I think we all need to be careful not to think we have missed something just because none of what we liked is on someone’s ‘best of’ list.

Encouragement

 

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My son putting up our Christmas tree. I was sat taking photos and encouraging 🙂

I’ve been looking at encouragement a lot. I am a natural encourager so I do see places to encourage, places where people have encouraged others and also where it does not happen.

For the last two years, which means it has now become a tradition, the little drama group I coordinate  in at our church do a skit on something related to Christmas. The first year we did 4 disgruntled people at Christmas and how they had lost the meaning of the season – a frustrated housewife, a mad granny who was knitting Christmas, a selfish teenager and an overworked vicar. Last year we did a mother and daughter who had fallen out over something trivial and weren’t speaking and needed Jesus’s reconciliation. This year we are looking at Mary and how the angel and, her cousin. Elizabeth supported and encouraged her.

It has been an interesting development with the little group. I feel we have all gone, as people, from being slightly disgruntled with church and life in general,  to being reconciled with life, church, ourselves, etc. The way, I think,  it has happened is by encouraging each other. This group would not happen if our vicar didn’t expect something from us – which actually is encouraging in and of itself – but that we also all buoyed each other up and encouraged each other. Each of us has a different role and we all give the others the freedom to be who they are.

As I reflect on encouragement myself I think of how my life is changing for next year with my writing life become more central. There are a few people who have encouraged that but the big one has been when, on the Cinnamon writing retreat Jan, who runs Cinnamon Press, said she wanted to mentor me and my writing. To be mentored properly I cannot just have my writing as something I dip in and out of when I want to – or rather not when I want to but when I let all the other things that crowd my life butt out. I have to take it seriously and have to give it the time. Cinnamon then ran a competition for

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Books in my study for reading and researching as I start on my writing project

bursaries which I bravely entered. I came equal second!! Another amazing encouragement. So because of this I am giving up a lot of things and concentrating on what I have always dreamed of doing since I was about 12 years old. It has taken me 45 years to get to this point but I am now here.

Even with that I could put myself down and think of all the wasted time but I will encourage me and say now is the time to seize the day. Carpe diem.

Going back to Mary in the Bible. We often talk of how amazing she was – and yes she was – but she was able to be amazing by the encouragement and support she got not just from God via the angel but from her cousin, Elizabeth. So I will finish this post as I will finish the skit we are going later on by saying: (and go with this even if you don’t believe in God. Substitute “God” for whatever works for you)

Mary and Elizabeth were so excited about being able to support and encourage each other so should we be that excited about supporting and encouraging each other.

We will often find ourselves in situations we can’t cope with on our own and need to remember God’s promises but also need others to remind us who God is and what He says.

So this Christmas time let’s stand together and support each other and then be amazed at what we can do

Have to, Should do, Ought to

 

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Taken by me but I can’t remember where. This year I will be labeling my photos better 🙂

Tis the season of the have, should, ought. Sometimes in all this we miss out on the real reason for the season, which in many traditions has a basis for looking at light and celebration.

I have lots of decisions that are coming my way for 2019 which means that, to give them due consideration I will have to, in fact even now, will have to change how I live my life. I will have to give up on have tos, should dos and ought tos. I don’t have enough hours in my day. Some of the things I will give up are things I like but I am learning if I do this then I can’t do that.

I spent the last 10 days visiting family and friends this has meant that I haven’t done the usual Christmas newsletter or the run of Christmas cards. I have also been gentle working through “Finding the still point of your story” which again is making me look at what is important. Not that the things I can’t do are not important or the people I didn’t see, won’t send cards to are not important but that I have a finite time to do things and need to invest wisely. This means giving up being a member of the spa and not getting in my thrice weekly swims and saunas. This isn’t because I don’t like to go but because I want to take my writing more seriously I want more time to read and this will give me 3+ hours a week more to read.

I have not done the Christmas newsletter because I have decided that I want to message

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Taken just now. These are the books in my study that I want to read. There are more in a box downstairs, in my bedroom and in the living room. 

certain people individually because that is where I am at the moment. But I cannot message 100 people that could be on  my mailing list so it will be just a few. That way they can get special messages. Not that there is anything wrong in newsletters. In fact I had one from some friends which talked of her storytelling and has led me to using her story to tell when I am an elf at Santa’s grotto on Saturday. For me well worth having 🙂

So in all this I need to look at how I lead my life, what I want to do in it and not get rushed around by should, ought, have to. I am learning well this week too because my son is home for 10 days, which is lovely, but if I want to still write I have to leave him on his own. I am also asking him to help with things like walking the dog so that I am not run ragged there.

So for me this time between now and the new year will be of deciding that I do and what I will have to put to one side. I want to take my writing seriously – which means I have to stop doing other things.

Self-Care

2017-06-05 12.10.09.jpgI wonder when I will ever learn? Yesterday four of us ran the Sunday service at our church. It was a very high energy morning because we are drama group and we have lots of ideas. The service was great and we got some amazing feedback. But then I crashed. I’ve just had an email from one of the others involved and she crashed too. We were both exhausted from it all. It was not just the morning doing but all the prep beforehand. I should know by now that this happens. That adrenaline high followed by the anti-climaxed crash. It happened to me in the summer after I had finished the WWI project with Gwrych Castle. Both things were amazing but both things left me afterwards exhausted and with the “never again” feeling.

But what did I learn from the summer? I learned that I need to take care of myself, give myself some self-care. Not because there is no one who will care for me, but because only I know what is best for me. Only I know how I feel at that moment. So yesterday

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WWI at Gwrych July 2018

after stripping beds off from three sets of Airbnb guests and putting on a load of washing I went for a bath. You may wonder why I did not go for the bath first. Well one area of self-care for me was that I needed to have those rooms stripped, bins emptied and to be in a place to be remade when next I got some energy because it gives me peace of mind. My husband did offer to help but I knew that even if he had done it I would still have had to go and check that all was done as I would like. Sounds controlling. Maybe it is but I know it is part of my self-care.

Once the washing was on and husband and dog were out on a long walk I could run a bath and relax into it. After the bath I read and read. Broken only by making supper and watching Dr Who and some journaling before I went to bed. I did not engage with messages that came through. Even though I did read them. Replies have waited until today. I was in bed by 8pm with my book and asleep by just after 9.

DSCN0819 (1).JPGThis has always been my way of self-care; a hot bubble bath, a good book and early to bed. I resisted the chocolates and the glass of wine because even though they hit the spot at the time they cause problems with my stomach and I don’t sleep so well. Again I wanted long self-care not an instant hit.

Regarding self-care I think we can often read books or blogs that tell us we must do this or that for self-care and, much as I think these things full of great ideas, I think each of us must decide what works for us. As I said in a talk I did during the service yesterday “nothing can be forced upon us unless we allow it but the only way we can know what are things we want to allow into our lives is just to slow down a bit and work out what we want or not want.” We can be moving too fast at time and not know what it is we want or do not want. For other people self-care might be climbing a mountain, going for  long walk, going to the cinema. The list is endless but we need to each decide what helps us out and not get swept along with doing what we think we ought to do.