Knowing where you are going starts by knowing where you come from (The gift of Halloween and Samhain)

With the pumpkins in the supermarket, the skeletons, witches and ghosts decorating every shop window, it’s hard to not have noticed that on Wednesday it will be Halloween.  Now I know a lot of people get frustrated at this commercialized holiday. I get that with all the hype and merchandise it can be difficult to remember or see the deeper meaning and teachings of Halloween. Yet if we don’t look past all of that we can miss one of the most important life lessons we need in order to grow and develop. Let me explain…

Way back in time, before Christianity took root in the Celtic lands, Halloween was celebrated as the festival of Samhain. Samhain was an incredibly potent time for our European ancestors. Not only was it the ending and the beginning of the Celtic year. They believed that at this point of transition in the year the veils between the worlds, between the living and the dead were thinnest. (As do many people who celebrate a pagan spiritual path, or the Celtic wheel of the year today). Samhain was the night where the spirits of the deceased could walk amongst us once more.

To our modern mindset, this may seem morbid. However, for our ancient ancestors, this time was a time of celebration. A feast of the dead. A time to honor those who had gone before. At this time in history know who you were and where you came from was culturally significant. Back then people knew who their ancestors. They knew their lineage, they could name them. For example, Welsh people used the word ‘ap’ meaning ‘of’ to connect your name to your lineage e.g “John ap Bernard” John son of Bernard. (The Welsh, in fact, could often be linked through their “surname” to 7 generations “John ap Bernard, ap Peter, ap James, ap william etc etc etc).  A far cry from us. How far back do you know in your family? Your grandparents ? Maybe if you are lucky your great grandparents? This connection to our ancestors, to those that came before us who we are connected to by our DNA contains, in my opinion, the gift of Samhain/ Halloween and one of the most important keys to our personal development. The gift of knowing where you come from.

As the legendary Sir Terry Pratchett so accurately said “It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.” Our ancestors, our loved ones who have passed over gave us in our DNA our skills, our personal qualities, our talents and our vulnerabilities, the code that makes us. Our nearest and dearest, taught us lessons in life, whether through actual lessons or the example of their lives. And it is by connecting with both these lessons and our genetic code we can get a better understanding of the root of who we are, which in turn gives us insight into where we are going.

To re vist these teachings at Samhain it is not only a powerful way for us to both reconnect with this understanding of ourselves but also a powerful way to honour the lives of those who have gone before us.

Each year at Samhain I take time to go through the family album. I choose one picture of a deceased relative. Sometimes one I knew, and sometimes one I have only heard stories about. I spend time with Mr. T or friends, or in a circle, sharing stories of their lives, sharing how this person affected my life and looking at what they taught or showed me in or by, their lives. Each time I discover something new. Even if I have chosen the same person a few years in a row.  I can highly recommend this process. Especially for the ‘a, haa’ moments of understanding it brings.

Sometimes this process can be a little painful. Of course, we feel sadness that this person is gone. Often it is simply that we cannot thank them for the amazing gifts they gave us. So the other half of my Samhain process is to find a way on that day to celebrate them. So, for example, this Samhain I am celebrating the life of my Grandma, Christian Dean. She loved to make things and inherited from her a copious sewing, knitting and crochet equipment. I have always wanted to crochet but always been scared of trying (I am a bit dyslexic when it comes to making things). However this year with a cup of tea, and a cigarette (My Grandma smoked like a chimney) I am going to start to crochet. It’s a little thing that I think she would have loved to see me do. I am also going to be having a proper English breakfast as I remember the smell in the morning at her house was always full of tea, bacon, and eggs. These little things I know will make me feel closer to her, but instead of making me sad will make me smile (and probably swear with the crocheting!) And in that smile I will be celebrating her life.

There are many ways to connect with your ancestors as Samhain. You can meet up with members of your family to stories of their lives, or tell the stories to the new generations. You can visit their graves, or even visit a burial mound if you want to connect with the generations who came before that you didn’t get the chance to meet. You can bring out pictures of your family, or make a family tree. Or in the Celtic style, you can have a feast of the dead by making a meal with an extra plate at the table, for the person/people you are thinking of, symbolically sharing that meal with them.

Amidst the trick and treating, costume parties and pumpkin carving this Halloween take a moment to However you decide to do this check in with your ancestors this Samhain. By honoring and remembering them and their lives, you will also be honoring the roots from which you grew. And by connecting with your roots you will begin to understand, appreciate and value of the person you are today. And I know from experience that you will find will make your way forward in life a lot easier to see.

Have a beautiful week – Happy Samhain <3

“It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, you don't know where you're going..jpg

#lifelessons101 – How to help a friend without getting caught in drama

Humans love drama. We do. Our entire entertainment system is built upon that fact. On the big screen, in the tabloids, we revel in emotionally and intellectually demanding situations and stories.  We indulge in the details, the ups and downs of other people’s lives. The most enjoyable part in this is that we can disengage, we are not emotionally invested. No matter what happened in that last episode of Game of Thrones, or the details of the latest celebrity break up we can walk away unaffected. We can easily follow the Polish Proverb “It’s not my circus, not my monkeys”. Basically, it’s not my drama so I am not going to stay engaged.

However in our own lives. When the situation is about people we care about, not being engaged becomes much more difficult.  I find it extremely difficult. When a friend of mine is a situation filled with drama, which hurts them it is impossible for me not to want to help. However, it can be really difficult to help without being drawn into the drama and usually getting caught in the crossfire. Recently life threw this kind of situation at me. Someone I care about is in a horrible situation, one I have been in myself and wanted my help. It is a very volatile situation and has the potential for drama written all over it. I knew this drama would be harmful to me emotionally, especially because it was so close to the bone of one of my past traumas. But I still wanted to help. It might not be my circus, but it sure as heck has one of my monkeys in it. I felt stuck in the dilemma of how could I help without getting caught and burned in the drama myself?  Have you been there? If you have you will know how hard a situation this is. How do you take care of yourself and help someone else in a drama situation?

So I took a step back. I know from working with distancing myself from drama in the past, that the most important thing I could do is create firm boundaries. And from my work as a coach I also know that when helping others is that we are all responsible for our own decisions, and our own outcomes as are they for theirs. With that in mind before I helped I made myself some guidelines of how I could best serve my friend and myself. Honestly, it’s been a lifesaver. By having these guidelines to keep me true to myself, take care of me and my friend I have been able to keep both my sanity in the situation, keep myself free from negative drama and help her at the same time.

And to help if you are in the same situation here are some tips for you to create your own guidelines that will help you decide how you can help without getting caught in the drama yourself.

Is this your circus?

First and foremost take a step back and have a good look at the situation. Is this your circus (situation) or theirs? Does it affect you, your life? Ask yourself why do you want to help? And ask yourself is my help necessary? Do you really need to get involved? We all love to help people we love. But sometimes they don’t actually need us to jump in and fix things. Decide if you want or need to be involved and if you want or need to help.

How can you help?

Looking at the situation objectively how can you help, really? And equally important how does your friend want you to help? Identify what you can and can’t do. Keep in mind this is your friend’s situation to fix. You are in a support role. So unless its absolutely necessary (in a life or death type emergency) don’t jump all in as the knight in shining armor. Merlin was just as much help to King Arthur as an advisor as his knights who went on quests for him. (Sometimes more of a help actually) Outline what help you can give and are willing to give.

Look for personal triggers

If your situation is similar to mine, there may be elements of the situation that trigger you personally and emotionally. You are not going to be able to help your friend by reacting from your past situation and projecting it onto theirs. You need to know what will affect you in the situation personally and how to deal with that. You will probably need someone outside the situation to talk to about your own feelings. Remember to explain this to your friend and to choose support in someone you both trust. Preferably someone who is not involved and can be neutral and there for you.

Set the boundaries you need.

Know your boundaries. Are you willing to rehome the person if needed? Are you willing to spend your energy helping them if they are not willing to change the situation they are in? Best-selling author Dr. Brene Brown teaches the importance of setting boundaries when helping others. As she says “The most compassionate people I know also have the most well-defined boundaries,”. Before you jump in know how far you are willing to leap.

To help you check in with yourself and stick to your boundaries you can make a mantra that you repeat to yourself every time your boundary is tested to help you stick to what you can do and not overstretch yourself and your resources. Remember to let your friend know your boundaries in a gentle and caring way.

Remember this is not your journey

This is not your life journey it is theirs. Remember that in the end, as invested as you are in someone else’s happiness and success, it’s not your journey. Don’t take the situation personally. Similarly, don’t take it personally if they reject your help. People have to find their own solutions and live life at their own tempo. If you have done your best to help them from a place of love and caring you have to accept they have the right to live their life the way they live it. You can intervene but ultimately as a friend, your job is to be an honest supportive guide that is there to help them make the right choice for them.

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Helping a friend who is in a challenging, or in a potentially harmful situation is a precarious business. As Dr. Kaplow a known therapist says “Always remember that it’s very easy to project your preferences, your thoughts, your values on to your friend…Our natural tendency is to look at a relationship and say internally, ‘If this were me…'” he adds. “The problem is that no matter how well you know your friend … you are now distorting the relationship dynamic.”  You have to think before you speak. Keep it simple and honest. Speak from the heart, but choose your words carefully. Keep yourself strong by setting boundaries so you can truly be the best help and maintain your own strength. And know that even though you have done your best your friend may reject your help or advice.

This is their journey,  you have your own. You can only be responsible for your choices. So choose to help in a way that best serves you and your friend and leave the drama to someone else.

Have a great weekend <3

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How to live a life less ordinary :Prioritise doing more of what you love

I am very fortunate to have created a life I love for myself. However, at this time of year when the pre -winter blues echo in the back of my mind, I often find that I am disgruntled, less than satisfied with my life. When this niggling feeling started to get the better of me I decided to step back and take an objective look at what was going on. What I found, and the answer to my problems what both shockingly simple and easy to fix.

I wasn’t doing enough of what I love in life

You see on paper, at first glance it was hard to see. Because if you look around online the “do more of what you love” theory relates to work life. And sure enough, my work life contains many elements of the things I love. Coaching clients, teaching, writing even creativity in my weekly inspirational quotes, learning, and research. On paper, I am doing it right. However, I had fallen into the classic entrepreneur trap. I wasn’t applying the same principle to my own life, my life outside of work. To be fair it’s easy to do. Even if you are not an entrepreneur. Life sometimes just feels like all work and no play. And isn’t it funny that in a society today that recognizes work/life balance as incredibly important, that all the advice out there to re-address the balance in your life is geared only to one side of that equation. Doing what you love at work.

 

Now I know that there is little time in the day what with work, kids, shopping, washing, social commitments etc. However, if you want to have less burnout, more energy and a better quality of life it is seriously important to prioritise doing more of what you love in life. And I mean on a weekly basis. The key here is that with the limited time available (depending on your life) to prioritise doing more of what you love has to be qualitative focused rather than quantitative. Basically prioritise by doing more of the things you love that really boost your energy in a focused manner, rather than doing lots of things you love in an unfocused way.

Take these two examples and you will see what I mean:

Fiona is a working mum with 2 kids and a large social circle. Fiona loves to see her friends regularly. So 3 times a week she meets for a quick lunch with a friend during her break or for a coffee after work before picking up her kids. Now even though this is making use of her time efficiently the quality of the time spent with her friends is low. She often finds herself during these times thinking about the next thing she has to do and is not really present. As a result, friendships decline and she finds the times she spends with friends don’t really satisfy her and have become a chore.

 

Rebecca is also a working mum with 2 kids and a large social circle who she loves spending time with. To ensure the time she spends with her friends is qualitative she cuts down on how often they see each other and prioritising spending more time together where they can really enjoy each other’s company. She will sometimes invite her friends to spend the weekend away together with their families or arrange childcare to have an evening out together. She dedicates one hour a week to call a friend when she does not have other tasks in the way. As a result, friendships strengthen and she finds the times she spends with friends satisfy her and enrich her life.

Qualitative wins over quantitative. But how to implement this in your life? I found that a few simple questions helped me to step back and make the adjustments I needed to enrich my life by prioritising doing more of what I love. It will take you 5 minutes tops and both save and give you the energy you need to enjoy the coming darker months of the year.

  1. What things do you love to do? Brainstorm a list
  2. Which if these things truly enrich your life? Candy crush and Netflix may be fun, but do they truly relax or recharge your energy? Eliminate from your list all the activities that don’t really give you energy.
  3. Identify which of these things you want to do on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis
  4. For each item on your list workout how you can prioritize this in your life. This includes what will you have to sacrifice or delegate in order to prioritize doing what you love.
  5. Accept you can’t do it all. So refer to your list each month and choose one thing you will prioritize in a day / week and one thing you will do for that month.  

 

This month I am prioritizing my self care by making sure I do something creative (which is not writing) each week, stretching out before bed each night and having an adventure weekend with Mr T. In order to do so I am sacrificing my Netflix series binging, pre-bedtime social media trawling and some money to pay our cleaner so I can have a guilt-free adventure with the man I love. How will you prioritise doing more of what you love this month?

Have a wonderful week <3

 

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#lifelessons101 – How to cope when you have to be around people you just don’t like

At some point in time, we all have to spend time with people we just don’t like. Whether it’s a family member, colleague, in-law, best friends boyfriend or even that toxic person you really can’t drop due to circumstance. It’s crappy and it is a fact of life. I recently spent some time in this situation with not one but many people I don’t like, click with and/ or generally bore me beyond the point where pulling out teeth without anesthetic would be preferable. It happens.

However, this last session really got me wondering how the heck am I going to continue to cope with this. Because of the circumstances, I cannot simply drop these people.(Even though I know that is the best and safest policy with toxic people). So I have to put up with these occasions resurfacing, and I simply can’t play the sick card too often. So what to do? How do you cope when you have to be around people you just don’t like? How do you keep both your sanity and integrity in these situations?

As always I turned to the internet for support. And as usual, it gave me the objectivity to remember and find, the inspiration I needed. I imagine I am not the only person in the world with this particular issue so here for your sanity are the gold nuggets of the vast amount of advice out there that has either worked for me in the past or I intend to try out in the future.

Accept that you don’t have to like everyone

You don’t have to like everyone and vica versa. It really is ok not to like your husband’s sister, the colleague that shares your cubicle, or your Auntie Ida for that matter. We all waste a lot of energy beating ourselves up for things we perceive ‘we should’ be doing. Tell yourself it’s ok and move on.

Find the why

There is a reason you don’t like a person or persons. Find out what it is. Often when we don’t like someone it is because that person reflects back a part of personality we don’t like or are ashamed of in ourselves.  This is a great place to do some self-development. However sometimes we just plain don’t like them. If we know why it’s easier to deal with and do damage limitation so you don’t place yourself in a situation where those irritation buttons are likely to be pressed.

Vent in the right places

Now when you don’t like someone you often will need to vent and do an emotion dump of the frustration and irritation that person’s presence creates in you. You need to do something with this emotion and that needs to be in the right place. No bitching to your co-workers about your toxic colleague, or your husband about his Mum. It’s gonna create issues and generally will not improve your life quality or people’s perceptions of you. Have a neutral friend who you can vent these emotions with. Get it out, whether through talk or type, release these emotions so they don’t eat you up from inside.

Find the game

There is always a game. You just have to look for it. One of my favorites around toxic people is to use language to deflect their passive aggressive or manipulative comments. So if for example, they refuse to come to a social gathering because so and so has been invited, I will respond by saying something like “that’s a shame. However, I am sure you will enjoy the pictures”. Ping! Emotional blackmail deflected. There is always fun to be found if you look for it.

Boundaries and Breaks

Boundaries are really important when it comes to having to spend time with people you don’t like. So choosing how often you have to do this. For example, do you have to go to all of your partner’s family gatherings or can you limit it to the major ones?  Plan a strategy for visits. Let’s say it’s a member of the family you can’t get out of seeing who drains you. Invite them over for a cuppa, but make sure you have an appointment you have to go to so that the visit is naturally a short one.

Equally, make sure to give yourself breaks. Especially after you have spent time around these people. It is energy draining so give yourself a chance to recharge your batteries. Of course, this can be more challenging if the person is someone you see on a day to day basis, say at work. However, even in a busy office, it is possible to plan some breaks. So you can keep your interactions on schedule as a part of a time management and productivity strategy.  

Choose your battles

Some battles are not worth taking. Some are. If the people you don’t like are related there are potentially many different battles that can pop up daily. Do you need to take all of them?  Check in with yourself before you push back in the fight and see if this is really important to you, or are you just being caught up in the drama of it all. If it doesn’t affect your core values, the things that are really important to you in life is it worth using up your energy on a conflict. Remember fire needs fuel to burn, if you don’t feed it will go out.

Take the conversations

Sometimes, however, you do have to take the conversation with the person/people you don’t like. Boundaries get crossed. So instead of letting it fester and rot, take the conversation. Work out what you want to say before it. And say it carefully in non-accusatory language. Try this combination: When you do X it makes me feel Y and could you do it (this way) in the future. Talking about the issues however hard will dust out the cobwebs and you may often find out that your assumptions about a person’s behavior were actually completely wrong.

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We all have a limited amount of energy. And spending time with people we don’t like does hit that I could be doing something so much better with my time frustration button. So to avoid feeling like a trapped victim when you have to be around and interact with people you don’t like, take charge. Choose where and when you use your energy, how you will use it. Trust me you will feel 100% better if you do. Why? Simply because you will be more authentic in how you are using this time. The falseness of spending time with people we don’t like is often the most draining part of the whole business. Taking conscious action about the situation removes the false factor and that in itself will bring a form of peace.

Have a great weekend <3

Conserve your energy for something worthy of it