Is housework really therapy?

Hmmmm housework…. not my idea of pleasure and the ironing pile has to get to taking over a room status before I can bear to tackle it. But, yesterday I realised I could make this ‘me time’. Possibly not the spa or a massage but me time just the same.

How on earth can you make housework a pleasure and a therapy? By being in the moment and using it to your advantage I discovered today.

So I’d done breakfast and cleaned the kitchen, got the school run out of the way and there really is no avoiding this huge pile of clean clothes staring at me from the corner of the room. The wardrobe is empty, it has to be done…

Out came the ironing board and the iron and on went the music… I have known for a long long time that dancing whilst you iron makes it more manageable. I began and honestly after two shirts and a t-shirt I was already thinking of giving it up but then took a deep breath and focused on the dress – who in their right mind buys linen – it is a nightmare to make look half decent. Sorry I digress.

I began to look at the dress, the weave of the fabric, the memories of India and Greece woven in the fibres. I looked at the patterns the natural creases made, the texture and the colour and lost myself for a few minutes. It was fabulous. Onto the ironing board came a favourite top and again I made a conscious effort to really see the top, it’s colour, it’s texture and the memories entwined in it. The noise the steam made as it was released between the fibres. The heat absorbed by my fingers close to the irons metal plate. The movement of the iron and its hiss, slightly out of time with the beat of ELOs Mr Blue Sky playing in the background.

All of a sudden the pile of ironed clothes was higher than the un-ironed and I was genuinely enjoying this time and felt focussed, relaxed and quite chilled by the whole experience. Living in the moment I think is the marketing speak. It was quite beautiful.

When you take what you are doing and give it your total undivided attention, paying homage to the shape, size, texture, sound and movement of all you do, suddenly you find yourself absolutely in the moment. Suddenly the mundane brings a certain pleasure and peace with it. No frustration, no feelings of wasting time, just the simple pleasure of doing whatever it is you have to do thoroughly, with full attention and gaining a sense of being that is indulgently pleasurable.

So, next time you are faced with a task you see as daunting, terrible, boring and mundane or you just need some space in your head for nothing to sit in, give the task your focus, look really carefully; see it, feel it, hear it, and touch it in a way you haven’t done before and find the rest of the world is standing still, quietly waiting for you, until you are ready to join it once more.

Housework as therapy? Why not…

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The answer is always yes

If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it – say yes, then learn how to do it later. Richard Branson

I am not a huge fan of Richard Branson but some words he spouts resonate and these ones really do.

I have always had the mentality of say yes and work out how to do it later. It’s how I got my first job in London 30 years ago! Can you use a computer and this software? Yes of course! I got the job there and then and then spent the weekend learning the how. The joy of the 1980s.

Not suggesting anyone lies. That’s crossing one too many values for me. I do however, encourage a can do attitude. Why miss an opportunity to do something new, explore somewhere you’ve never been or live a life you’ve always dreamt of, just because you don’t know how to achieve it?

When someone said to me yesterday “shall we do a workshop together”, neither of us knowing what this will be, of course the answer was yes. We both know we have something to give, something to create and our guts and that little bit of excitement that ran round our bellies as we said this, were enough to decide to create something beautiful.

Yes. That is enough to begin.

What is your dream? What do you want to create? Where do you want to go? Who do you want to be? When are you finally going to just say yes?

You are already enough, so say yes and work out how later. The universe she listens. The universe hears that yes. The universe has your back and will co-create what is meant to be.

When there is too much day…

“What day is it today? Today. Ahh, my favourite day. Yesterday, when it was tomorrow, it was too much day for me. Winnie the Pooh (and Piglet)

Do you ever have those days when there is simply too much day to cope with? Horrible isn’t it? You simply don’t know which way to turn, what to do or not do and every single thing you have to do or decision you have to make, seems to swamp you, sit on your chest, eek into your pores and totally overwhelm you.

So what do you do?

If you ask people around you, even loved ones, they may tell you to just stop and pull yourself together. They may tell you to take it easy as it will all get done. They may tell you something like “tomorrow will be a better day”. They may get cross with your inability to manage things and you row. They may choose to pretend they can’t see you are in trouble, as they simply don’t know what the hell to do with or for you anymore.

So what do you do?

You make an appointment to go to see the GP! That seems the best option – they are the professional after all. It also means you are being proactive and positive doesn’t it? If you get past the receptionist, who seems to want everything down to your inside leg measurement and all the gory details, just to tell you that you can have an appointment two weeks on Tuesday; you get told you are probably over tired, have depression, are stressed – here take these pills and see me in a month. You are once again left alone to manage.

Now, yes I am being harsh here and this is (thankfully) not always the case and I can honestly say I have never experienced this , but I speak every day to people who do.

So what do you do?

You struggle along, you take your pills and then you have a bright idea – I know I will just paint this smile on and tell everyone I am okay – eventually that will make me feel better I am sure! So you do. You smile. You are the life and soul of the party. You are everyone in the offices little ray of sunshine. You get home exhausted. You do it all again the next day. This, my beautiful friend, is not sustainable. This, my beautiful friend, is called a sticking plaster and you have a great big wound that needs stitches and possibly major surgery. This, my beautiful friend, cannot and will not be a solution.

So what do you do?

The day is too long. The day is too much. You are becoming a burden. You know the world is better off without you. You hurt so much all you want to do is take the pain away. You are no longer actually thinking straight; in fact you are no longer thinking at all. When you do this the silence will begin. When you do this the constant heaviness and pain will stop. When you do this it will all be over. True…. for you anyway.

So what do you do?

The answer? There is no actual answer that anyone can pull out of a bag and give you to make this all better BUT, there is choice, possibility, opportunity, support availability, friendship, loved ones, and good old fashioned love (for yourself as much as anyone). You simply need to talk; know today is really just today and can become tomorrow; and there are people to want to, can and will, support you through this. To find out what and how and when, ALL you have to do it take a deep breath and speak up.

I am listening…. and there is plenty of today left to ensure tomorrow has a beautiful sunrise.

 

Walking Away or Walking To?

“I always get to where I am going by going away from where I’ve been.”

Winnie the Pooh

There is no one better than Pooh bear to set you thinking… wise old bear. When you read that sentence it seems pretty obvious that to get to where you are going you have to leave where you are, BUT how many of us try and stay exactly where we are and reach where we are going without moving?

Turn from where you are and head North (another Pooh reference) and it really is that simple. If you attempt to stand still and still reach where you want to go, at some point you will lose your balance and ruin everything you have tried. If you don’t choose a direction to go, you will find yourself back where you began. If you stand still with a determination to keep you feet firmly planted and yet want to fly, you are going to be extremely frustrated and feel pulled in two directions.

But now there is the question of mindset in all of this – are you walking away or are you walking to? Walking away has connotations of loss, giving up or abandonment, whereas walking to is more upbeat, positive and holds a sense of excitement to it. Walking away with gratitude and a slight nod of acknowledgement to the past, like a man tipping his hat to a lady perhaps, is what is required. Only when you are able to walk forward, with a sense of knowing where and who you are, will you walk forward with determination and a spring in your step.

What is it you want to walk towards? Is it change? Is it fun? Is it a new career or relationship? Is it a sense of excitement that you feel life has lost? Is it a temporary fix and a testing of the water before you choose something more permanent? Or perhaps a temporary fix to give a sense of relief from the mundane you now feel? Whatever your purpose or desire to move, move you must once it takes hold. If you stay standing still you will open the door to regret and, whilst it may not step inside immediately, it will step in and usually as you hit one of your low days and then you will berate yourself for not doing something when you could. Your dark day will become darker and for no reason other than you know you could/should have stepped forward.

If you need courage to take the first step, simply find the hand of someone who understands and hold on tight. Allow them to walk by your side, just like Christopher Robin and Pooh through the Hundred Acre wood; and do this most important step, together. For a short while you will see two sets of footprints from where you have been and sometimes you may see them ahead of you as you go in circles, but eventually, there will be one set of prints and they will be bold, confident footprints and you will know that where they have come from was a place that is still a part of you – but your past is no longer dictating your future direction.

Step boldly and if you need some courage, perhaps a song or two shared with your companion will lighten the journey. Enjoy your adventure.

 

 

The Unconscious Worrier and The Conscious Warrior

How many times do you find yourself unfocused, not really present or just generally distracted but you can’t quite put your finger on it?

How many of you put your warrior head on and battle through your day, your week and your life?

I get you….

This last ten days I realise I have been unfocused; physically present but just skimming the surface of reality and knowing I was watching life but not quite able to join in.

When it came to the crunch though, the day arrived where I had to face the world, it couldn’t be avoided and I put on my invisible armour and got on with it.

So there’s a lump. Not where I thought and way bigger than I expected. How do I feel? Actually okay. Not good. Not bad. Not scared. Not worried. Actually grateful that I haven’t wasted the time of the people caring for me this morning.

Wasting the time of the nursing staff. That worried me more than anything. Our NHS system is stretched enough. Is that why we don’t go to see our GP? In case we are just adding to the current overload? Or is that just an excuse because we we bloody scared about what they will find.

Now I have a lump. So now they have to squeeze, scan, take pictures, stick me with needles and tell me results.

But, I discovered, all is well. It’s just a cyst and that was easily dealt with. Did I sigh with relief? Yes of course I did and thankfully I will not have to have the conversations with those I love that I’d had in my head, so the day suddenly feels a bit different.

If you have a lump or a pain or an ache or something just doesn’t look or feel right, don’t tell yourself the doctor or the nurses are overwhelmed and you don’t want to make it worse; don’t avoid getting checked because you don’t know how you’d cope; don’t think it will go away – it really won’t; take a breath, make that call, just say what’s wrong and allow the professional to do the diagnosing.

Last week I had a lump and a phone call to make and I was uncomfortable and scared. All week my unconscious worrier sat below the surface and niggled my thoughts, never allowing me to worry enough that it was obvious, but making it difficult for me to do anything constructively. But today I had to consciously become the warrior and get through the day. The warrior found it was just a cyst and with a sense of relief took a breath but one, whilst looking around the consultation room, hoping all the others were breathing again too.

Just waiting…

So I’m sat in the hospital just waiting. It’s filled with people coming and going. Scared, nervous, anxious, holding their breath, talking, keeping silent, crying. There is a cool, clean efficiency about the place and it’s quite comforting in its cleansed way.

No idea what is to come. The journey here itself was okay but the parking would leave the most patient of people cursing. Naturally I ended up on opposite side of the hospital to where I needed to be, but the exercise of the sprint I then had to make to ensure I was on time, did me good.

I ache. I’m tired as yesterday was a really long day. And I have to admit I’m a little bit anxious. Fear of the unknown I guess.

It will be fine. This is just to check and reassure. This is nothing to worry about. I will be fine. I can hear that and I can say it and hopefully if I say it enough in the next few minutes I will begin to believe.

As usual I came alone. Not because no one cares and no one offered, but because I am me and cannot accept help all that well. I am getting better but the strong, independent, bloodyminded woman still prevails sometimes. This is just a checkup after all. I didn’t share with many that I am even here. Why worry people unnecessarily and why make molehills into mountains. There’s time for telling if people need to know, later.

So why am I here? Maybe fate. Maybe the universe is testing me. Maybe it’s learning or maybe it’s for me to share with others. Maybe it’s my past catching up with me. Maybe it’s just because…

So I’m sat in the hospital, still waiting…

The Fleshy Kintsugi

“How many times do I have to tell you that even when you’re crying you’re beautiful too.”

We struggle to love ourselves sometimes, especially when we feel flawed. Whether that be a visual flaw or just something inside that makes us feel like we aren’t working as we should. When it is pointed out by others it is even more pronounced in our own heads. We believe what people say, and what people say we see as negative.

I was recently described as “fleshy”. Oh thanks…. I’m fat am I? I was very insulted but deep down I knew what they said was true – I am fleshy. I have curves, I have excess fleshy bits and I am never going to be a size 8 stick-like woman. As I thought about it (as you do when someone points out a “flaw”), I realised that actually all that was true so I went back to that person and asked what they saw when they said fleshy…. I needed to know even though I wasn’t going to like what I heard.

They were sad when they thought I had taken it as an insult. They had not meant it that way. To them, fleshy was beautiful, it was curvy, it was not a size 8 as they don’t think women should be skinny, it was who they saw when they looked at me. It made me stop in my tracks and think about the whole body image discussion we have internally and through the media. It made me realise, whilst I thought I was comfortable in my own skin, I am still battling with how I should look, versus how I actually look, versus how others see me, versus loving all of me as I am.

Yes there is weight to lose, I guess we all carry some that we can get rid of if we made the effort, but seeing myself as beautiful instead of seeing the faults is really important. I have learnt to love the inside me, the person with the faulty mind and yet I have omitted to fully love the outer covering. It is time to fix that and make the effort to change the bit that is a health issue, but love the outer covering of this mind and soul I have been gifted with.

Take a look at you and ask yourself what would feel like an insult to you if someone said it. Would it be about your weight? Would it be how tall or short you are? Would it be that parts of you are too big or too small? Would it be that you are too angry, too nice, too loud, too quiet…. the list is endless, but you will know. The second I asked the question, your “fleshy” word would have popped into your mind and you will have immediately focused on what you think is a weak spot for you.

So look again… think about it through the day…. is it really an insult or is it who you are and what makes you who you are? Find its positive or at least look on it with acceptance that it is part of a very special human being. For you it is a fault; for someone else it is a beautiful feature. Love it. Like the Chinese artwork (Kintsugi – where they take a broken bowl and mend it using gold to create a beautiful new object out of what was fundamentally flawed and for the bin), and take your thoughts and use them as the seam of gold and create something beautiful with the flaws you see.

 

Stagnant Pond, Dry Riverbed

Parched, dry, empty, lacking in life, soulless – these are all words to be used for the normally flowing, vibrant, life-giving river that runs through my village. Now, as you can see, there is nothing. This riverbed is a bit like we feel sometimes – dry, lifeless and looking very sad. We are water.

Water is life. The flow, the force, the strength and power cuts its way through rough terrain. When obstacles are placed in its path, its finds the path of least resistance and flows around rather than try to push through or push away an immovable object. When something falls into it, if it is heavy it lets it fall through and rest where it lands and if it is light enough it will carry it along until it gets caught up and then it lets it go. When light shines onto it, it creates rainbows on its surface. When it rains, it swells until it can no longer contain it and then it spills over. We are water.

If we do not block the path of a river it continues to flow and find its way. It is beautiful to watch and it doesn’t matter at what speed it travels, it arrives at its destination eventually and gives life to all it touches on the way. If that flow is blocked, it becomes a stagnant stretch of water and all within it fails and dies. It loses its brightness and it begins to smell unpleasant. Not many want to spend the day round a stagnant pond or stretch of water. We are water.

The external environment dictates the health of our water and as we have seen in the UK recently, when you continually have heat and no relief from the rain to quench its thirst, or replenish what it has lost, it dries up, life is lost, the landscape changes and it impacts so many other things. We are water.

We are water – that is fact and we need to replenish ourselves with whatever feeds us – be it physical nourishment, spiritual food, the touch of nature, the sound of song, the company of others who support us, help us grow, love us or a balance of warmth and rain. We should be surrounding ourselves with all things that add to our flow so we don’t become stagnant or dry up completely inside.

We are water and like water we need to encourage, allow, go with the flow. We need to stop trying to fight the movement and never try and reverse it. People around us have their own flow and terrain to work with and sometimes we will join together but at some point we may take different paths – it’s okay to let them go or go your own way. If it is meant, you will come back and join in the journey but if not, be thankful for the time you spend together, have fun with the time whilst you have it and be grateful for all you learnt and how much you grew on the way.

Since I learnt that people flow in and flow out of my life, and I have a level of acceptance, it has allowed me to be much more present and enjoy the time we spend just doing. I know we have come together for a reason, I don’t need to know what that reason is, I just need to make the time we spend together as precious as possible.

I thank the universe for bringing me people and situations that challenge me, feed me, scare me, and test me because without these I would not be the woman I am today. I have listened to my body, my thoughts and my energy and I know when I flow and I know when I become stagnant. I listen to myself and my needs and I accept when change is needed, I am willing to let go, I am able to let people in. I know me. If I judge things wrong I forgive myself and let it go. If there is an obstacle ahead I will simply find the path of least resistance around it. I will carry all those who need support and I will allow all those people and things too heavy for me to carry to sink and I will leave them behind.

Are you a dry and stagnant pond? Are you a river that has dried out or are you the eternal spring following the terrain you live within and seeing where it takes you? We are water and whichever you are, it can always change. Look within, accept where you are, let go and surrender to the flow that is life.

 

She’s Still Here

Death – a funny old thing. You know we will all get to try it and you know it is the outcome that we are all born with, and yet when it comes, it still takes us by surprise and then we are lost in a wilderness that seems to stretch on far longer than life itself.  We hold onto things so tightly we can feel our nails making imprints into our hands and we grab onto anything we can to keep that loved one with us.

The scent on the pillow. I can still feel how I hugged it against my chest, drinking in the scent of her. She was gone. It was not even a day that had passed but I wanted her to be here next to me, and she never would again. I wanted that smell to be with me for a lifetime, but I knew this was it.

Her ring, so tiny on my finger, was all I had that was tangible and I wore that ring for as long as I could until again I knew it was time. Time to put the jewellery into the box as it was time to move on.

It wasn’t that I no longer grieved. It wasn’t that I didn’t miss hearing her voice. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her to be here playing with my newborn daughter and telling me I was doing okay. It wasn’t that I wasn’t grieving – honestly it wasn’t….. it was just time. Time to move on, time to get back into the world and start to live again. This place where I had been; this holding station, this cocoon of self preservation, this bubble filled with her scent, her laughter and memories, this place of safety where I could hold on tightly and pretend it was all okay, this place was no longer mine and I had to give it up.

She told me and I listened. I put the jewellery in the box she had given me many moons ago and closed the lid. It wasn’t final. I could still peep inside. I  could still try it on when I was needing her that little bit closer. I could still see her wearing it if I just closed my eyes. I knew also that I could hear her say “come on now, that’s enough, time to let go and do your stuff”, so I put it all away, closed the lid and began to live again.

She told me… she is okay… please hear these words as I cannot say them to your face.

 

Take my hand…