That blog spoke about the need to let go of anger and bitterness because nursing old hurts and grievances reverberates negatively within us and ultimately hurts us far more than the original hurt perpetrated against us.
This week I want to talk about forgiveness again but this time a different aspect – forgiving yourself.
We all have instances in our lives where we wish we had said or done something at a particular time but, for whatever reason, we did not. The guilt associated with missed opportunities particularly involving loved ones who are no longer here can be sharp. We know if they were here they would tell us not to worry about it and yet we still beat ourselves up.
I am not a person who generally holds grudges or nurses bad feelings. I am quick to forgive and yet I do not tend to offer myself the same compassion for my own misdemeanours and transgressions.
This is because I hold myself to impossibly high standards. I always expect to excel and should I fall short, I berate myself about it:- I’m not good enough, I didn’t work hard enough etc.,
The trouble is I always reach for the stars and because I am only human, I am consequently setting myself up to fail more often than not. Why is it I always think I can cram so many things into a limited number of hours and wind up feeling tired and dispirited when I haven’t ticked everything off my stuff to do list for instance? Sound familiar?
So I have decided to make a concerted effort not to be so hard on myself in the future, to be a little bit more compassionate and kind to myself as well as to others. We all fail and make mistakes. It’s how we learn to become better people.
Forgiving myself for such mistakes is a small step but an important one.
At the moment, in my part of the UK, we are being blessed with wonderful weather. Anyone who knows the British weather will know this situation is unlikely to last and we will all probably be shivering into our thermals within days. But, right now, it is lovely.
As is usually the case, I woke up today with twenty-one hundred things to do but when a nice day comes along it is important to seize it and make the most of it. So beyond writing this blog, my stuff to do list is on hold for a day.
My puppy, Willow, and I have been on a long walk across the fields near our home – blissful peace and quiet, rolling countryside bright with sunshine and the only sounds were the very distant whisper of traffic, the occasional dog bark and loudest of all beautiful birdsong.
Now back, a long afternoon and evening stretches ahead of us in which we will both spend time pottering in the garden which is a mass of spring colours. Later we will relax, either outdoors or on the comfy sofa in the sun lounge, me reading a good book, Willow, nearby having a snooze. ! daresay a glass of something chilled may also be consumed. By me not her!
There is something about being faced by a large expanse of uninterrupted water that puts everything else into perspective, something calming about the way the muscle of the sea ripples back and forth.
A couple of weekends ago the sun was shining and sheltered from the wind Willow and I found a piece of leftover summer on a deserted beach. The sea was gentle that day, whispering back and forth across virgin sand and my puppy had her first paddle in the water. The sea wall was a sun trap on which to sit and while away time day dreaming, the sun casting a million jewels upon the water to dazzle our eyes.
The next weekend was very different. Stormy and cold with a raging wind, autumn had arrived with a vengeance. Willow and I loved it just the same. Confined to the promenade because the tide was so far in, it was exhilarating to be buffeted by the gusty wind. The onrushing waves were high and angry, battering the beach and sending foaming spray up on to the promenade to land at our feet. It was easy to lose myself in thought as I watched the peaks and troughs of the restless sea, the swells concealing hidden depths and dangers. It was a world away from the summer of the previous weekend.
Walking by the sea is good for our souls. Our problems seem to diminish in relation to the vastness of the water. It puts us back in touch with nature, the cycles of the seasons and the heartbeat of the world. It reminds us how small and inconsequential we are. And that is a good thing.
It’s a life changing sum of money but there have been plenty of instances of lottery winners who thought their dreams had come true only to see that dream turn into a nightmare because money isn’t everything and a large sum of money can bring with it a complex set of problems alongside the flying champagne corks and I’m not talking about whether you should buy a yacht or a sports car or both.
Squabbles amongst families and rising tensions between husbands and wives are the stories that hit the headlines months and years after the champagne has gone flat. It isn’t the money itself that tears people apart rather it has a way of exacerbating the fault lines that already existed in a relationship before the potent mix of lots of money got added to the pot.
It’s good to aim high. It’s lovely to have dreams. Just make sure your foundations are solid before you start reaching for the stars or have them handed to you on a plate.
Be true to yourself.
Tell the people you care about that you love them.
Show that love in what you do not just in what you say.
Take pleasure from the simple things in life – a leaf caught on the breeze, a beautiful sunset, a roaring fire.
Cherish happy times.
Look for the good in people.
Give second chances to yourself and to others.
Smile even if your heart is breaking
Practice random acts of kindness.
Remember that somewhere inside all of us there is a clock ticking so don’t waste precious moments on those who don’t deserve your time.
Never be afraid to live, laugh or love.
Don’t strive to be happy because happiness is ephemeral. Strive for contentment instead.
Several years ago when the winter storms hit I thought I was going to lose part of my back fence. The fence had seen better days and should have been replaced but time and funds stopped me. So now there I was in the teeth of a gale with a fence that looked like it was going to end up in the neighbour’s garden if I didn’t take action.
As a temporary measure, I got some rope and tied the flapping fence to one of my trees. I figured that the tree was accustomed to giving with the wind and would help bolster the fence while the storm raged. Then when the spring came I would move getting a new fence up the list of priorities.
The rope did the trick and I managed to keep the fence going until it was replaced the next spring. At that stage I cut the rope but somehow forgot to ever remove the rope from the tree. Truth being, I forgot about it until I happened to be working in that part of the garden recently. The tree has now grown around the rope, its trunk enveloping the rope so that rope and tree have become one. I couldn’t detach it now even if I wanted to.
Seeing how the tree had adapted to the presence of the rope, accepted it and continued to thrive made me think about the shocks, emotionally and physical, that we sometimes face. From relatively minor upsets to major life blows like cancer or bereavement we have a tendency to think we are not strong enough to cope but like the tree and the rope we always find a way through, a way to be ourselves in the teeth of the gales of life. We take the shocks on board and the wounds become part of us, subsumed we carry them with us until the rawness subsides and scar tissue forms. Battle hardened but smarter we are more resilient from having been tested and grow strong enough for the next onslaught and the next.
We are all moving through the different stages of this cycle continuously. If you find yourself at the stage of heart bleeding rawness, where you think you cannot cope, think about the bark of the tree gathering the rope to it and growing around it. One day your body and mind will fully absorb the shock of what you are going through and you will come out the other side. I know because I’ve done it. You are stronger than you think.
Life is simple. We’re the ones that complicate the hell out of it, mostly because of our unrealistic expectations or our misguided sense of entitlement. I am as fond of material comforts as the next person but I recognise them for what they are – a way to make my life more comfortable. They are an enhancement. A choice. Would I be able to survive without most of them? Probably.
The acquisition of material things should not be what drives us and if it is then maybe it is time to step back and recalibrate.
Most of us come back from a holiday refreshed and relaxed because we are able to step away from the white noise of our everyday lives and just be. It gives us a chance to think, to feel, to breathe away from the pressure cooker of a nine to five existence. How nice it would be if we could carry that sense of freedom back to our everyday lives. The first step to doing so comes from within. Life will always throw us curveballs, stresses and strains are part of being alive. We learn from them and grow but if you can spend a little time each day counting your blessings and reminding yourself of what is important and crucially what is not, the simple life may not be as far away as you imagined.
Perfection is hard to attain and impossible to sustain so for those who pursue it we are constantly setting ourselves up for failure. What is it about giving ourselves permission to be less than perfect that we struggle with? Is it the fear of being judged by others? That niggling doubt that everyone is better than us so we must therefore try harder?
Being a perfectionist is exhausting. You are caught in a never ending loop of striving to achieve whether it be the perfect outfit, the perfect house, holiday or job. Take your pick. A perfectionist can drive themselves nuts arranging a bunch of flowers quickly forgetting the beauty of the individual blooms, focusing only on their own inability to get the flowers to look ‘just right’. Chances are anyone visiting would see the flowers and think how wonderful they looked but our own perception is forever skewed by the battle we had arranging them. We beat ourselves up for not achieving our own ridiculously high standards.
The moments when perfection is attained are so brief that the pleasure we derive from them is fleeting. How much better it would be if we could learn to find harmony and beauty in the less than perfect. It’s okay to strive for perfection but how much better it would be to take pleasure in something even if it falls a little short.
Perfectionists would be wise to study the Japanese tradition of Wabi Sabi – the art of appreciating beauty in an imperfect world. It embraces three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect (Richard Powell – Wabi Sabi Simple).
The much loved but chipped vase is wabi sabi. The plant that refuses to be symmetrical is wabi sabi. You and I are wabi sabi.
So instead of trying to make everything bend to our will, propagating our own particular brand of perfectionism why not step beyond the confines of the perfect. Life is wabi sabi and always will be so we may as well get used to it. How much easier it would be to live in harmony with an imperfect world by appreciating it for what it is instead of disliking it for what it isn’t and never will be.