Thursday, 30 March 2017

Breathe … It’s life.

Pausing for a minute, an hour, a week or even a year is something we do less and less in this microwave one-click culture we have created. We want everything now and are led to believe if we don’t have it or can’t get it now we are somehow inferior or less deserving of success and all the good stuff. I know time waits for no man and truly these days you blink and there’s a new iPhone out but we can get so busy trying to keep up we lose focus of what really matters to us and makes a difference to the way we experience life. On the flipside, there is the rebirth of the Nokia 3310 symbolising a return to slowing down and simplifying of life to me. I remember a time when there were no mobile phones and therefore we were uncontactable for the majority of the day sometimes even days if we were relying on the post. Life didn’t stop, there was no FOMO, you simply were where you were and got to hear great stories about events you were unable to attend.

I used to love receiving and writing letters the waiting gave me something to look forward to and the writing helped me process events whilst practising an actual skill. Now the only letters I receive are bills and emails are nothing to look forward to. With all the advances in technology and communication devices we are losing some basic language skills like spelling and talking, I know I used an acronym before, I too am occasionally a culprit. Messaging or IM or whatever the kids are calling it has killed conversation, I would love to sit down and have long phone or one on one conversations with people but there is just not enough time in the day, what it is I am busy doing I could not tell you. There is so much pointless distraction out here.

Browsing through magazines in a shop the other day I read an article warning about the danger of rapid weight loss and fad diets and how they speed up the ageing process. As a “passive diet addict” (I plan diets that I will attempt sometime in the future to unleash my inner size 8 who has never and possibly never will be seen) this was reason enough for me to journey towards getting happy with myself as I am and focus on health and increased enjoyable physical activity. The magazine had pictures of celebrities who have achieved and some over-achieved their weight loss goals and added years to their looks in the process. I am not a medical professional but to me that signifies that something isn’t quite right. Slow and steady wins the race, I want to stay looking as young as I can for as long as possible, although my grey hairs are telling on me lately.

I sometimes catch myself holding my breath and need to remind myself to breathe. It’s normally when I am over thinking, worrying, stressed or anxious about something. The fact that I am thinking so much that I am cutting off the one thing I cannot live without tells me that I need to pause and simply just breathe.  What good does thinking or worrying actually do? As someone who suffers from anxiety, I can tell you it does no good at all, this does not mean that knowing this I don’t worry it just means I acknowledge my worries and move forward the best I can asking for help if needed.

We have a lot to gain from slowing down. Call someone or invite them over for a drink. Tell a story,  breathe.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Nature is a great educator.

Nature throws out lessons for free we just need to turn up to a class and appreciate it. I was looking at a plant I have on my windowsill and apologising to it (yes out loud) as I sometimes forget to water it, yet still it grows. So much so that it has outgrown its pot, some of its leaves have browned but for the most part it is flourishing and still a beautiful deep green, it is much fuller and does not look as manicured as it did when I first bought it. An option could be pruning it to keep it looking good in its little red pot, which I bought specifically for it but imagine how much bigger it could grow if I changed the pot and I took better care of it, keeping it in a small pot could also on the flipside be stunting its growth and killing it. There is no wrong option, it's more about intention. To make sure we choose the right option there needs to be a plan and clear alignment to intention. If there is no intention or goal, we are fighting a losing battle.

As we grow in life we outgrow situations and relationships. We can outgrow a job but stay there because we are afraid of the unknown or lack the confidence to step up. This is something that I have suffered, the job/career market can be a battlefield from applications/interviews to office politics. If we arm ourselves with knowledge, skills, courage and an army of mentors and encouragers it can and should be a supportive environment that helps us grow to give and be our best whatever our interests and skills. For a while, I was the Queen of leaving jobs because I thought I had outgrown them but what I didn’t have much of was a plan for how to get what I want and I had stopped believing that I could secure my dream career and even lost touch with what that was. I let life do the choosing which has left me right back where I started more than once, life has a way of bringing you back to square one as many times as you need to learn a lesson (as I write this I am having a revelation – mind excitedly blown).

I have a habit of going back to what is safe and familiar but in so doing I have been playing it small. My branches were growing wild, roots stunted and within no time I was banging my head against the proverbial wall and handing in resignations with no plan for how not to find myself here again. What I know would be more helpful is creating a supportive environment keeping the goal in mind and looking for opportunities to deepen my knowledge, expand my horizons, network and find mentors and encouragers or five to guide and cheer me on. Recognising your opportunities, mentors and guides is whole other post, they are easily missed and mistaken. The pruning I need is in the limiting beliefs I hold about my capabilities, mistrust of the “system”, and engaging in activities that do nothing to help me reach my goal.

I received an inspirational message from a friend this week that exemplifies the depth of lessons from nature. It was about the eagle and its potential to live 70 years, but it can only do this if it makes the bold life or death decision at 40 to undergo a gruelling 150-day process of transformation that involves it going through the pain of plucking out its beak feathers and talons and then wait for new ones to grow back. Change is scary and hard but necessary, imagine the joy when the hard work is done, picture the eagle soaring through the sky with his rejuvenated set of wings. That could be us if we just made the bold choice to do away with that which no longer serves us.

Today I pay respect to the trees that against all odds expand their network of roots beneath the concrete, in this hostile jungle us humans have created and stands majestically enabling us to breathe.

Get out there, breath, listen and learn.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

I’m a chameleon.

Where are you from? This is one of few questions that make me pause and conduct a quick assessment of the person asking to ascertain the best answer. While it shouldn’t matter where a person is from its evokes so many emotions in me it’s hard to describe, yet I constantly find myself asking the same question to try and figure a person out. Double standards are real and I would argue almost impossible to avoid, in certain situations.

I was born in Zambia but from a few months old I have moved countries, towns, schools, and jobs. Along the way, I have picked up different habits, personalities, accents, prejudices, and experiences. Apart from the one distinctive thing I cannot (and have never wanted to) change, my skin colour, I got so good at blending in people believed I was “one of them,” sadly when some found out I wasn’t I was treated differently. My blending in was something I did because I did not want to be different, thinking that my differences may make me somehow inferior or irrelevant, later in life I realised how wonderful it is to be different. Being different though does not mean that I don’t adapt according to the situation, my mum always tells me how amused she is that when I talk to her I am not quite as British-sounding as when I am talking to my siblings and some friends, she should hear me in a work situation or an interview! Variety and fluidity of identity and proud ownership of our differences give us the permission to just be. The minute you stop fighting the cards that you have been dealt in life and play with them amazing things happen.

I don’t speak my mother tongue fluently, not being brought up around extended family or other speakers made it difficult to learn. I could take the easy route and blame my parents for my inability to pick up the language but at this stage of my life I know better, it has been up to me for a long time to learn. Thankfully, my kids went to school in Zambia for a year where it has now become compulsory to study Chinyanja, their homework even used to challenge grandpa and grandma, but they enjoyed sharing with them and they can at least now exchange pleasantries in the language. Due to my chameleon ways, I do understand a few languages which is a bonus and I love sitting in a room with people who assume I don’t understand what they are talking about. The fact that I can’t pass my language on to my kids makes me sad and I encourage my husband to teach them his, Yoruba, and even tried to learn myself but have you ever tried to learn Yoruba from a book?? It’s not easy o. But knowing the discomfort it has caused me in my life I know I must try my best to help them learn the language. Learning a language gives you a better appreciation of the culture and yourself if you happen to come from that culture, everyone has something to gain from learning about different cultures. One thing missing in the world today is an understanding of differences, our differences unite us so it would do us good to expand our knowledge and stamp out hateful ignorance. There are some things that you can’t understand the true meaning of unless you speak the language such as the Yoruba proverbs my husband uses to encourage, reprimand or caution that leave me and the kids looking at each other like “Is he Ok?” 

A chameleon, whilst being unique in its ability to adapt will always be a chameleon, it may change its outward appearance but inside remains the same. As you grow you stop caring so much about why you are the way you are and just allow it to be if it’s not hurting anyone if it is trust that you have the power and wisdom to change it.

Be bold, be beautiful, be you. 

Friday, 10 March 2017

Dance like no one is watching.

Dance like no one is watching…
But beware, someone always is.

Life is full of idiosyncrasies. We are told to dance/live like no one is watching but someone almost always is especially in this big brother age not to mention the big guy in the sky.

Walking down the street one day I lost myself to the music, which is not very unusual for me as music makes me lose control, always has and hopefully always will. I was so lost in the music I didn’t realise the dancing that was going on was not in my head until I heard cars honking and looked up to the of eyes of a bewildered driver who was enjoying the show, much to the annoyance of other drivers who had places to be. For a second I thought to myself I must contain this dancing beast, but to contain it just wouldn’t feel natural. Doing things that come naturally (and from a good place) keeps us alive and helps us attract more of the things we want from life and unfortunately or maybe fortunately sometimes things that we don’t desire or think of. I never thought my dancing could bring joy and cause road rage.

I am by nature an open trusting oversharer, in this case doing what came naturally has left me open, vulnerable and hurt but has also led to some of the most loving caring and fulfilling experiences of my life. Knowing how much to share and with whom is so important. When I came to the realisation that I judge other people and their actions it made me begin to assess myself and feel the need to control my own actions.  When I was not so wise I attempted to fit in and do what others were doing to gain acceptance even going against what felt right and healthy for me, when this got exhausting and I had lost touch with who I truly was I became paranoid and borderline recluse and I stopped dancing!! But it was a situation that I needed for my own personal growth and healing, most importantly it brought me closer to God who I now share everything with. Having a deep connection to a higher power gives you the freedom to be you and flourish while you do. Now that I am wiser I live my life for me by rules and standards that God has placed in my heart this has also brought amazing people into my life who I comfortable to be confident and insecure around and I dance everywhere - mind, body, and soul.

Big brother and little sister are watching you too. A couple of days ago, there was a story in the news about how our TVs could be spying on us. This didn’t surprise me, it simply served as a reminder that we are constantly being policed so we must be mindful of what we are putting out there and opening ourselves up to, people have lost jobs and acquired them posting things on social media. I hate the way Google and Facebook customize ads and friend suggestions based on previous searches, can’t I just cyberstalk in peace? While the Internet, technology and social media are wonderful tools for information, marketing, and communication we need to be aware of the darker side of them. Cyberbullying and grooming are just the tip of the iceberg of issues us 21st century parents have to contend with. This brings me to the little brothers and sisters who are watching us. We have a duty to live our lives in a way that sets an example for those coming up behind us. I don’t ascribe to the do as I do not as I say school of thought, actions speak louder than words. Our kids are watching us, constantly! They see us glued to our screens and naturally gravitate towards that. It doesn’t take much to engage kids, I have impromptu kitchen and living room discos with mine where we dance like no one is watching. Sometimes life gets in the way and I forget to dance but they remind me and demand we dance, the joy I get from knowing I have passed on something good is indescribable.

I encourage you to find your rhythm and dance with those and that which you love.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Love does not come in a box.

As many different kinds of people there are on this planet there are different kinds of love and it’s not for any of us to judge how, why, when or what anyone decides to love.  Love is a funny thing. We all know what it feels like to be loved, we know that we want it and we want to give it. I refuse to believe that no one wants it. The problem though begins when we begin to standardise love, boxing it up and making it look all pretty. Love is complex.

After a long day at work, I got home to find my boyfriend sitting at his desk, we said our hellos and I turned around to leave the room when he stopped me saying there was something for me on the desk. I looked to where he was pointing with a pen. There was a ring box, I walked over with not a lot going on in my mind opened the box and in it was a ring.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“What do you want it to be?”
“Well, it could be a friendship ring, eternity ring or engagement ring, which is it?” He finally turns around and says “Do you want it or not? I want to marry you. I have been telling you this since we first met. You decide.”
“Ok, let’s get married then. But you know I’m a complicated mess, right?”

Not quite the romantic movie proposal I had envisioned but it worked for me and to this day makes me smile inside. I do forget that sometimes and occasionally lodge a request for a do-over, which I am yet to receive. The words used may not be the exact ones but knowing us it’s probably about right and it brings me to my first point on love as I have experienced it. Love should not keep a record. I am guilty of keeping record of wrong doings and bringing them up in an argument or as a justification for my own wrongdoing. As I continue to grow I realise how foolish this is, it creates a vicious hurtful cycle and by doing this I am not taking ownership of my choices. I choose to leave childish ways behind.

One of my favourite misconceptions about love is that it doesn’t hurt… love hurts bad! (I’m not talking about physical pain unless consensual variations of 50 shades are your thing). Love hurts because it changes us, it takes us out of our comfort zone. I hate confrontation and would rather not see or speak to a person again than address issues. As a mum, more than anything I have had to unleash my inner lioness and fight for what’s right, with my words and actions. Taking responsibility for my life and circumstances to love myself more has meant facing some home truths which can be the most painful thing but also highly rewarding in propelling me to a better version of myself.

Another misunderstanding about love that I am fixing… love doesn’t pay the rent, no it doesn’t but it should work together to figure out how it does get paid. This could mean finding someone who is willing and able to pay all the bills which may or may not also include love and respect for each other and what each person brings to the table. It may mean bringing income and resources together to make it work with love and respect. Bills and money have an enormous effect on most couples’ lives, finding something that works for your situation, bearing in mind values and beliefs is essential.

The only person who can love you unconditionally and constantly is God and maybe your mother and I say that with all the love in this world. We all have our limits and saying no to love is the most loving thing you can do sometimes. I am a self-named hippy child who wants to love everyone every day, I used to think this meant living in people’s pockets, you can’t be with all your friends and relatives all the time it’s a physical impossibility also mentally and emotionally taxing.

Love, much like life, is what you make it and what you need it to be. Love is living, being you and sharing that. Give love freely but be selfish with it. The beauty is in the complexity that you cannot put in a box.