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!
I am sure we all have morning routines. Part of my routine is to have a local radio station playing in the background when I’m getting ready in the morning. I don’t want the intrusive babble of overbright voices too early on in my day – I covert that initial quiet time when most of the world is still asleep. But it is handy to catch up on the news and local travel.
But here’s the thing – I don’t particularly like the DJ. I find him borderline annoying and the music they play is pretty safe, middle of the road stuff. I ought to change the station and tune in to someone new but the other local radio station is even worse. They have a couple of morning DJs, a man and a woman, and the woman sets my teeth on edge so that’s a no go. There are, of course, plenty of other stations to choose from but it’s the effort, it’s the time. I have a pretty tight timetable in the morning so I stick with it, take the good stuff, try to ignore the annoying stuff, hold on to my routine and get on with my day.
Earlier this week the station or the transmitter suffered a meltdown. Suddenly there was nothing coming out of my radio. I stared quizzically at my old battered radio in case it had had the radio equivalent of a cardiac arrest but on moving closer I could hear the static so I knew the radio wasn’t to blame. I have been told that a DJ’s worst nightmare is what they describe as “dead air”. Well there was plenty of that.
If I wanted music, news and noise I now had no choice but to spin the dial and find another station. With a sigh of impatience I did just that. After a few detours into classical music (perfect for chilled out evenings with a glass of wine but not frantic mornings) and hard edged rock (perfect for driving or doing the housework) I found a substitute. And what a substitute. The DJ made me laugh within two sentences and even the music was more my style – rockier (but not headbanging).
I now have a new accompaniment to my morning routine and it is better than the one I had before.
There is an analogy there for other parts of my life and probably yours too. All too often we stick with what we know even if we are unhappy about it because it is easier, less hassle or because that’s just the way it’s always been. But why not make the effort and challenge the status quo? You may, like me, be glad you did.
Sometimes as life sweeps us along it’s all too easy to get lost in the day to day grind. We have so many things to tick off our stuff to do lists, so many obligations and commitments to honour and people to please we forget about making time for ourselves and for the people in our lives who really matter.
So next time you are working out your schedule for another busy week, remember to schedule some fun stuff too.
Take five minutes out with a cup of tea or coffee first thing in the morning when the house is quiet to count your blessings.
Factor in some fun time with the kids and the pets.
Book a date night with your partner.
Give your Mum and Dad a call or better yet a visit.
Don’t feel guilty about watching your favourite TV show while the ironing pile gets higher.
Meet your friends for a coffee and a chat.
Run a bubble bath, light some candles and switch off from the world for a while.
Buy some fresh flowers for your home or if money is tight take a walk in the park at lunch time – just being near beautiful things will lift your soul.
The idea is that you make a note on a slip of paper or a post it note of anything and everything that makes you happy as they occur to you. It can be as mundane as a warming cup of hot chocolate on a bitterly cold day or the big stuff like family. You only add to the jar when you want to and there is no set limit on how many notes you put in or when you add them. It’s your jar of happiness and it is supposed to make you happy not stressed out. If it becomes another thing on your to do list then that would make it the unhappiness jar after all and who would want one of those?!
What you record is entirely up to you – I have noted down some memories as they came back to me, people, pets, places, situations, food, drink. The list is as endless as the things that make you happy. Your jar will probably have lots of different things in it than mine does but some of the fundamental things we will all share.
I plan to keep the happiness jar going for the whole of 2017 and add to it whenever the feeling takes me. At the end of the year I will open the jar and see just what made me happy in 2017. It’s a lovely idea and an easy way to remind ourselves of how many things we have to be grateful for because it is all too easy to forget how lucky we are sometimes as we struggle with the daily grind.
Nowadays there seems to be a compunction that we all have to be doing something all of the time. Even if we are waiting in line for something the ubiquitous mobile phone will be scanned and checked. Down time is a concept that seems to be frowned upon by modern society but I believe it is essential.
Bombarded by constant stimulation when do we have chance to recalibrate? As our bodies need sleep to repair and regenerate so our minds need quiet time to re-energise. Giving ourselves the opportunity to stare into space and drift off wherever our minds might take us should not be seen as a waste of time. We should think of it instead as essential maintenance for the soul.
Opening our minds up can lead to some interesting outcomes – Memories can bring people and places back to our attention after a long absence, solutions to problems can sometimes present themselves to us even though we weren’t directly focusing on them, ideas occur that would make life easier or better. But freeing our minds needn’t be so productive it can also lead to aimlessly drifting from one inconsequential thought to another and that’s all right too. Sometimes it’s not about doing, it’s about being.
If your life is normally busy and full make time for a few daydreaming sessions here and there. Turn off all your devices and give yourself permission to step back and do nothing for a while. The busier you are, the more beneficial time out will be.
Tuning out the white noise of modern life and letting yourself drift is a great stressbuster and best of all it’s free.
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.