Do Life

I have a lovely friend who, until recently, wound me up with his expression “I’m off to do life with … ” or “let’s do life together.” I use to think it was obvious that we all do life and that’s what goes on. But I’m now not so sure everyone “does life”, I think there are people who just get on with things and put their heads down and don’t enjoy life.

This weekend my husband’s Uncle Ron died. Here was a man who “did life” even if some of the family didn’t get it and thought he was being irresponsible. Nine and a half years ago he had a horrific car accident which cost him his legs. He was a big man and was wheelchair bound with no legs so never a possibility of walking again. I only really met him once not long after the accident and he was in hospital, but even there he was busy. He had decided to grow tomatoes on the roof of the hospital, where patients were allowed to go. Even though he didn’t know what life would bring he was planting something for the future. From what I heard from my mother-in-law Uncle Ron was always having barbecues, growing various flowers and vegetables and keeping his carers busy. He had to have full time carers because he couldn’t even get in or out of bed without help. Last summer him and his carers went on holiday to France. He wasn’t going to lie down and die. Because of his over-eating and lack of physical movement he had problems with diabetes and in the end that was what killed him. Uncle Ron could’ve decided to eat properly and give himself an extra five or ten years but he would still have been in a wheelchair, and in fact from the accident he did get another extra nine and a half. He could have died in that accident but didn’t and decided to “live life.”

My friend who has the expression “do life” is also someone who has see death and come through it. Life is a big thing fordo life him. As we get older we do see more and more people die, some in old age, some too soon, but eventually we will all die. The big thing actually to always ask ourselves is “have we lived life.” What does that mean?

To Uncle Ron it appeared to mean enjoying life, inviting people round to eat, and planting flowers and veg. For the friend I’ve just mentioned it means going on mission and giving to others. To some it means going to war torn countries and nursing or reporting to let those people know they are not alone. For each of us to “do life” means something else. As I mentioned in an earlier post about being able to “act on what transpires” which actually is living life. I don’t know what will  happen next at all. Take this morning – my neighbour and I set out with our dogs and were in the middle of a long deep conversation when we aspired a fellow dog walker and his Labrador puppy so we walked with him a bit, then he went off and we got back to our deep conversation, then bumped into some other walkers and walked and laughed with them for another hour. That wasn’t planned. In fact the plan for me was to have a quick walk then get to see a friend for coffee, who had cancelled that morning because her son wasn’t well. I was going to “do life” with her but in the end got on and “did life” with what transpired. Maybe this was the same for Uncle Ron. He never planned to be without his legs for the last nine years of his life but he made the most of the life he had without those legs.

We do all need to plan and to put things in place to look to the future but we need to be flexible so that things can change. And when we do put things in place we need to hold them lightly but hold them with joy and then hold the changes with joy and not with fear. Life is too changeable even in nice middle class England (a place I know and love).

So thank you John and now I get it completely. I have been lucky and not personally come close to dying but I’ve enough to know life isn’t static, isn’t predictable. There is a choice to live in fear and just get on with it, or to “Do life”. What do you choose? What do I choose?

The dilemma of being both relational and an introvert

introvert

Along this journey of self-discovery I am realising that I am an introvert. More and more I am realising that I need time and space alone to recharge. This was why, even though many people felt sorry for me, having New Year’s Eve all to myself was just what I needed.

I am also realising that I am a relational person. I make connections with people easily. People like me. They want to be with me. I love talking with people, encouraging them, hearing what they have to say, connecting. But this then tires me. I love walking my dog but I have connected with many of the dog walkers in my area and most mornings I walk with someone. My dog is uber-sociable and he just wants to be with other dogs, so will look very sad if I try to go off just us two. And there are other dog walkers who crave other people being about and they will look sad if I say I want to be alone. So I have to learn to be sociable and relational but also to get time to introvert and to recharge.

It helps me understand why, much as I did enjoy my job, before the incident that rechargecaused me to leave, why I found it so tiring. I was with people for too long. So how do I make sure I get time to recharge, to introvert, but also have time to be with people. It’s not a job. It is a vocation, connecting with people, and it is what I like doing, but it’s not something that recharges me. Actually it gives me life to hear about other people’s stories, to be able to learn how they see they world, to look at the world from another perspective, as well as encouraging them along their journey. I encourage them, they encourage me. It’s not a one way path but goes back and forth.

My key relationships are with my husband then my children, but if I give too much time to others, because of being on that introvert scale, I can finish up with not enough internal resources left to give to my husband or children. So I would work – which was giving of energy, catch up with friends – another giving of energy, manage a bit of time with family – more giving of energy, and then wonder why I got snappy. I wasn’t angry but I was short tempered, but was because my inner energy tank was empty. People would challenge me on whether I was doing the right thing see people and I would always answer “yes it was the right thing.” And actually I do believe that to be true, but what I wasn’t doing was making sure I had time alone to recharge, either with writing or a book or just a lie in the bath.

As I journey through this I am learning to plan my time better. Not that goal-orientated-time-management stuff where one makes sure one fits in as much “productive” stuff as possible, but actually making sure, as I look at diary for my week, that I have enough time to be alone. Some days will be harder to sort than others. Some days I’ll just have to be kind to myself, tell myself and my husband that I will be more tetchy because I’ve not had space to recharge. It’s ok not to get it right every time.

I do wonder at times if we live in a world that says we should fill it full of things and people, of goals and busyness. I am reading “Quiet –The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” and can see how we live in a world that praises extroverts. I have been given “The Introvert Charismatic” that I need to read too. It will be interesting to see if we can bring about an “Introvert’s Revolution” or whether that is just too much for introvert’s to execute? 🙂

Along this journey of self-discovery I am realising that I am an introvert. Moreintrovert charismatic and more I am realising that I need time and space alone to recharge. This was why, even though many people felt sorry for me, having New Year’s Eve all to myself was just what I needed.

I am also realising that I am a relational person. I make connections with people easily. People like me. They want to be with me. I love talking with people, encouraging them, hearing what they have to say, connecting. But this then tires me. I love walking my dog but I have connected with many of the dog walkers in my area and most mornings I walk with someone. My dog is uber-sociable and he just wants to be with other dogs, so will look very sad if I try to go off just us two. And there are other dog walkers who crave other people being about and they will look sad if I say I want to be alone. So I have to learn to be sociable and relational but also to get time to introvert and to recharge.

It helps me understand why, much as I did enjoy my job, before the incident that caused me to leave, why I found it so tiring. I was with people for too long. So how do I make sure I get time to recharge, to introvert, but also have time to be with people. It’s not a job. It is a vocation, connecting with people, and it is what I like doing, but it’s not something that recharges me. Actually it gives me life to hear about other people’s stories, to be able to learn how they see they world, to look at the world from another perspective, as well as encouraging them along their journey. I encourage them, they encourage me. It’s not a one way path but goes back and forth.

My key relationships are with my husband then my children, but if I give too much time to others, because of being on that introvert scale, I can finish up with not enough internal resources left to give to my husband or children. So I would work – which was giving of energy, catch up with friends – another giving of energy, manage a bit of time with family – more giving of energy, and then wonder why I got snappy. I wasn’t angry but I was short tempered, but was because my inner energy tank was empty. People would challenge me on whether I was doing the right thing see people and I would always answer “yes it was the right thing.” And actually I do believe that to be true, but what I wasn’t doing was making sure I had time alone to recharge, either with writing or a book or just a lie in the bath.

As I journey through this I am learning to plan my time better. Not that goal-orientated-time-management stuff where one makes sure one fits in as much “productive” stuff as possible, but actually making sure, as I look at diary for my week, that I have enough time to be alone. Some days will be harder to sort than others. Some days I’ll just have to be kind to myself, tell myself and my husband that I will be more tetchy because I’ve not had space to recharge. It’s ok not to get it right every time.

I do wonder at times if we live in a world

This explains so much of why I don’t like small talk. 🙂 Clever tortoise

that says we should fill it full of things and people, of goals and busyness. I am reading “Quiet – In praise of Introverts” and can see how we live in a world that praises extroverts. I have been given “Introverts in the Charismatic world” that I need to read too. It will be interesting to see if we can bring about an “Introvert’s Revolution” or whether that is just too much for introvert’s to execute? 🙂

Calling and role rather than setting goals

Like the chameleon I need to be able to adapt to my surroundings

I’m now at the day when I was going to “start the plan for the rest of my life” but I think what is being revealed is that things don’t always go as planned. My daughter was meant to go back to university either yesterday or today but isn’t now going until tomorrow so I’m spending time with her. My husband now only works a 4 day week and doesn’t work on a Monday so he wanted to have time with me, which was lovely because we haven’t really seen much of each other this year as he’s been working away in Holland for a few days and then I was away this weekend studying. Also I’d arranged to dog walk with a dear friend who’s input is very special in my life. So “the rest of my life” didn’t start it’s planning today. But I think what this has said to me is that flexibility is part of the plan.

An old home schooling friend who is now in business as a life coach for simple, authentic living recently published a blog post that said how instead of setting goals, which means we are always either looking at the past to what we didn’t door to the future of what we hope to achieve, which can so easily lead to disappointment, we should look at who we are. So one looks at one’s calling, one’s role and also how one can serve, and in serving it isn’t just serving others but serving ourselves in the situation. So often we are taught that to serve ourselves is selfish and that we should be giving to others when in fact the advice given on an aeroplane is to put on one’s own oxygen mask first before helping others. In other words check you’re ok and can breath before rushing off to help others. So if I make sure I’m safe and breathing then I can serve others but if I’m struggling and can’t breath then I won’t be able to help anyone else. A bit of a change of culture.

There is a challenge inherent in this process of allowing ourselves to accept, be with and act on what transpires. (To begin with, what appear to be concrete goals can seem a lot safer!)

Who are what would you rather be guided by? What gives you greater peace?

So following on from my friend’s advice above I need to accept who I am and be me and then act from who I am and see what happens. So there is no plan, no set of goals but an living out who I am. So no goals are going to be set on the fact that I am going to this on this date or that or that date, or that I’m going to get thinner by x or more healthier by y. In fact last year I did lose a lot of weight and I am fitter but not because I set a goal to be but because I took a simple blood test to find out what foods I was intolerant to and then cut them out. I’ve gone down a whole clothes size and I do look good. I’m also healthier because I’m no longer eating foods that my body doesn’t like. I worked on accepting who I was and what I could eat and acted from there.

So for now I have to work on my MSc in creative writing for therapeutic purposes because its what I love doing, part of who I am and see what happens from there. I enjoy being with my family and with lots of my friends that I am being able to catch up with now I’m not doing any paid work. And work-wise something will come about that will help to pay the bills, but it won’t come by me setting goals but by me accepting who I am and living my life from the place of being me.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
We have come to our real work…
And when we no longer know which way to go
We have come to our real journey.
Wendell Berry

Good Morning 2015!

My Facebook status this morning was “Good morning 2015! What’s the plan?”

There is so much for me that is new and strange about this year. I start it with no job. Never in my life had a not had a job. Most of the jobs I have had have been menial jobs due to my love of travel, fear of sticking at anything, and from home schooling my children. But every year I’ve had some form of job; paper round, leaflet delivering, Avon, bar work, packing job, and also some “real” jobs too – bank clerk, office worker, typesetter – and even two new years where I was “in ministry” which actually involved lots of admin and counselling work. But this year I start without a job of any kind due to an incident with my previous job which led me to feel that I needed to leave.

So a new year, a new blog, a new direction! This year will be more planned; not just my blogging but also my career plan. It seems odd to be 53 and only just really starting on a career plan. I have just completed a degree and have finished the first module of an MSc but these have been things, like with  ministry or previous jobs, that I have “fallen into.” I now feel that the reason I had to leave my previous job, even though it was very painful and I’m still aching from the scars, is so I can become directional. I have never seen myself as a reactionary person but in reality life-wise I am. This is all very new.

In fact it has been a very new start to the year. This year, 2015, I woke to a house all alone. My husband has just spent the last few days in the Peak District with old university friends and their families, 60+ of them in one youth hostel. I am becoming more of an introvert as I grow older, or maybe admitting to it more, and knew I could not cope with all those people, and also needed some space after the trauma of giving up my job. He’s been away like this before but normally I have my daughter with me, but this year she went to Edinburgh with friends. She realised this was the first time in her 21 years she’d ever been away just with friends. Previous times she’d travelled or gone on holiday had been with me or with an organised camp. A new year! So I saw out the old year and in the new without any other human contact for the first time ever. As a child I had my parents, before children I did the expected party thing, even as a single mum I had my kids in the house. I wasn’t totally alone because I had the dog on the bed with me. Dog and I were in bed by 10.30pm and slept most of the way through though he did growl gently at midnight when our street exploded with fireworks and singing.

All I have brought into 2015 apart from relationships with family and friends is my MSc in using creative writing for therapeutic purposes. I started this at the end of September 2014 so am only one term into it. My first assignment is due in on 10th January. I am almost there on the word count.

Adventure sounds like it should be crazy and full of unknowns, which I know it will be, but also for me the adventure will be to walk boldly in a direction not just jump from branch to branch. I am a planner in the ordinary course of life, needing things on the calendar, needing to know when everyone will be home, etc but it has struck me how I don’t do that with my life wider. I have never looked at my gifts and talents in a way that would take me in a certain direction. I have been insensitive with blogging as I have splurged across the page my thoughts and feelings, hurts and pains. Even my blogging is going to become more directional. To become something in the world of creative writing for therapeutic purposes one needs to be an established writer of sorts. I want to be a blogger. I’ve always wanted my work read and now I will do in a way that will be something I will be proud to have read.

So “Aspirational Adventures” has been so named because I am going to spend time looking at what I wish to aspire to become and how I will journey to find that place. Every journey is an adventure 🙂

From a friend in response to my Facebook status “2015 is the Year of Plenty – as in plenty of good things, a sense of abundance, nothing to do with greed or acquiring stuff. It is also about realising all of the good things we have.”

The year of plenty is where I’m going, that feeling of abundance, of being grateful for what I have.This is the adventure I aspire to walk in.