Albufeira, Happiness, reflection

I have Invented the World I see

I’ve been reading ‘A Course in Miracles’, which is a bit hard going and much of which goes over the top of my head.  There is a workbook to go alongside it, which is basically a statement a day which you ponder upon.  One of which was ‘I have invented the world I see’.  Like most days my initial thought was ‘don’t be so daft, of course I haven’t invented the world I see’.

But as the day wore on, I had moments of ‘oh, perhaps I have’.

  • Like my dad, I have an Olympic standard ability to spot the negative in everything that I see, so it’s highly unlikely that I will ever see a positive version of the world.  Why go with the positive when you can glean a negative out of a situation.  I assume the worst in every situation which means you don’t often get disappointed!  Likewise, I very rarely get excited by anything.
  • I also have a habit of projecting into the future – of how things might turn out – sometimes in technicolour and mostly with a negative flourish.  Oddly, things never quite pan out like I envision and I certainly haven’t won the lottery and believe you me I know what that would look like, and, how different situations will play out.
    Until fairly recently I was mildly terrified of the world due to my anxiety, but I never let that stop me from doing things.  I rarely think, I just do which is how I found myself on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean about to go para-sailing.  Clearly, if I’d thought about it, I wouldn’t be doing it, but where’s the fun in that!
  • Despite being so negative I do have an unfailing belief in people and their ability to be nice and do the right thing.  Often, I am disappointed, but my default is always that there is good in everybody.

All of these are factors which influence the world I see, or the world I have invented.  My initial reaction also went along the lines of ‘as if I’d invent living in lockdown’, but realised it’s not necessarily about Covid and other events beyond my control, it’s as much about how you deal with those events 

Albufeira Marina

I think I might be overthinking and getting carried away, but also thought about how choices in my life have led to this point and how that has enabled me to invent the world I see.  How many choices do we make in life that lead us down a path and that path is a version of the world and influences how we view that world?

So, I am currently coming out of lockdown in Portugal.  In an apartment near the ocean.  An apartment that husband and I chose after looking at several.  In a town that we chose after coming on holiday here.  As a consequence of that choice when I finished teaching, we were able to spend more time here and as a consequence of Covid we decided to try spending even more time here.  This is just one of many choices I have made in life, some very good, some not so good, a few that were downright ropey, but they have all led me to this point and the version of the world I see.  I read a book ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz, one part in particular really struck home:

“We only see what we want to see, and hear what we want to hear. We don’t perceive things the way they are.  We have the habit of dreaming with no basis in reality.  We literally dream things up in our imaginations” (Ruiz, p64) 

All of us have a different version of the world we see, and our choices have created that version, some deliberate choices, some choices that have been forced upon us.  For example, I didn’t choose not to have children, but as a consequence of that I made other choices: to go into teaching, to move back to Stoke-on-Trent for a while.  If I’d had a child, it’s unlikely I would have met my current husband and if I’d not met him, we wouldn’t now be sitting out Covid in an apartment in Portugal.

It’s not very often we think about the choices we made.  I was chatting to my sister recently and I was telling her about my latest degree.  I signed up with the Open University to study a degree in Classics but might swap to English Literature.  The thought of either made my sister’s toes curl – but for me the thought of studying science and maths makes me weep – and this goes right back to school.  I chose essay based, flouncy subjects at A level in particular, she chose maths and science.  It follows on then that she qualified as a physiotherapist and I did a degree in History and Politics.  She lives in the countryside, I am a city girl.  We’re from the same family, but due to choices we’ve made our versions of the world are very different.   

Then off we go down the rabbit hole of life.  But I found it quite fascinating.  How many people there are on this planet and each one sees the world differently.  That’s a lot of inventing.

Happiness, Healthy living, reflection

The Guilt-Pain Connection

Apparently, there is a correlation between guilt and pain and in order to release the pain I feel, I need to let go of the guilt.  I am more than willing to try anything in order to achieve a pain free life, but this is at the limits of my beliefs, if I’m going to be honest.  But, in the interests of research (or something like that) I thought I’d give it a blast.  After all, what could I possibly have in my life to be guilty about? 

  • I feel guilty about not living closer to my parents.  Especially during lockdown, as I feel I should be the one doing their food shopping and not relying on next door neighbours.  So there’s an added level of guilt over the next door neighbours.  The thing is, if I was in Bristol rather than Albufeira, I still couldn’t get to my parents as non-essential travel is not permitted.  My Dad excels at laying on the guilt factor, always has and always will, so that doesn’t really help the situation!

I would say that was probably the only sensible thing on the list.  Thereafter it all went a bit pear-shaped and gives you some idea of the nonsense that rattles around my head.

  • I feel guilty for not spending time with my husband.  That’s right I feel guilty if I go and spend time doing something I enjoy and which helps my mental health.  But then on the other side of the coin, if I spend all my time with my husband I feel guilty for not doing the things that bring me joy, make me smile and make me feel good about myself.  There is a no-win situation with this one!
  • I feel guilty for not going to work.  We all have that dream, that conversation, what would you do with your life if you didn’t have to work.  I’m guessing most people wouldn’t come up with ‘feel guilty and waste the opportunity’.
  • I feel guilty for having two houses.  Rather than being grateful for this incredible opportunity and making the most of it, I spend my day feeling guilty and trying to brush my good fortune under the table, lest I offend people.  Then I’d feel guilty for offending people.
  • One thing I am very guilty of is doing things for other people because they will like it, whilst I am quietly dying inside!  For example, I offer to take friends to the local shopping centre because I know they really enjoy it.  But after I’ve spent an hour in Primark, I do lose the will to live – it’s then that I start thinking about what I could be doing instead – like cleaning the floors, anything other than be in that shop for a moment longer!  I do it because I’d like to hope that somewhere along the way, someone would do the same thing for me.   Apparently, doing good things for others that destroys your own self-worth is a big no, no. Doing things for others is meant to make you feel better about yourself, not worse!
  • I feel guilty about being brighter than average.  This is a belter.  Nobody likes a smart arse, and rather than just be myself and admit what I am capable of, I dumb myself down.  I am particularly good at dumbing myself down to make people feel better about themselves, so that they can shine.  As a consequence, I put myself in the position of being the stupid one and then get upset because people think I’m stupid!  
  • Then there’s feeling guilty if I do drink or if I don’t drink.  If I do, I’m not looking after my best interests, if I don’t, I’m not joining in.  And so it goes.  But I am getting increasingly bored of putting the desires of others before me and am reaching the point where I no longer care if I am offending you by drinking fizzy water instead of wine!

This is not a recent thing.  As a child, when the teacher shouted at the whole class for not doing their homework (even though I had) I felt guilty about that.  As a teacher when we were shouted at at the beginning of term because of poor results, I felt guilty even though my subject specific results were oftentimes better than the overall results for the school.  I’d go home and work out how I could make my teaching better.  So, I was always going to be the sibling that felt the guilt card more readily and I suspect my parents know this about me!

I decided the best way to approach this was to take each in turn and started with being brighter than average.  It was fairly short lived!  I realised that for that particular trigger and several of the others that I no longer feel particularly guilty.  So, I’m brighter than other people in many regards, I’m also a lot less capable than others in some regards and it’s about the balance.  I don’t need to make myself look dumb to fit in.  I just have to be me, and eventually I will find the place where I naturally fit in.  This logic also applies to the alcohol.  What works for me is all that matters, and I’m not prepared to make myself feel guilty so that other people can feel better about themselves any longer.  

Some of this has taken time to overcome.  Especially the not going to work thing and the two houses.  The ex-pat community is a bit of a strange one.  People are generally thrown together through a common language, so you end up creating friendships with people you probably wouldn’t back in the UK.  From my perspective, it’s not particularly supportive, people tend to be jealous, or gossipy, and seem to look for the cracks.  I suppose it’s a bit like OFSTED coming into a school – they aren’t there to find out what you do well, they are looking for ways to pull you down.   I suspect I haven’t helped myself with the dumbing down thing, but slowly I am finding my own way through the ex-pat world and finding like-minded people to enjoy spending time with.

This has also helped with guilt around husband.  We both know that I am happier if I do different things throughout the day.  It’s fairly obvious if I skip things like yoga and meditation and instead spend the day moping around – I am moody, cranky, irritable and miserable.  It doesn’t create a particularly pleasant environment for either of us.  Better to spend less time together which is filled with happiness than spend extended periods of time together being miserable.  I still feel like I am a burden much of the time, but slowly I am working on that.

So, that really just leaves the guilt about not being nearer to my parents during Covid.  There is nothing that I can do about that currently and I appreciate that there are many people in a far worse situation than we are.  We do Skype each other once a week and speak regularly on the phone.  Until things calm down, I can fly back to the UK, rent a car and life is generally a little more normal the best thing I can possibly do is stay healthy so that once we are able to meet up we can. 

Photo by Gary Barnes on Pexels.com
Happiness, Healthy living, Well-being

De-Activating Facebook

This past Saturday evening (19th September 2020), I de-activated my Facebook account.  I’ve been wanting to do it for a while, but was doing an online course that had a corresponding Facebook group and I wanted to see that through.  It’s not been an easy decision.  I am a member of several groups that are excellent sources of information and that have become my go to reference points, particularly about life in Portugal.  Then there are the friends that I have known for many years, some I’ve known in real life, some I’ve only met through Facebook, but these are all people that I have been able to keep in touch with, which is important for me as I live in a different city to many of the people I am friends with, so it means I can maintain a connection with them over a longer distance.  People ask ‘Well, why can’t you just go straight into the groups and ignore your feed”?  This brings me nicely to the negatives!

The constant adverts, the ‘click-bait’ that seems to roll around the FB feed.  Then there’s my issue with the feed you actually see.  I’d go and look for friends because they’d been quiet for a while and it turns out they hadn’t necessarily been quiet, but I’d not had their posts on my feed, because the algorithm had decided for me what I was or wasn’t interested in.  I’m not having a pop at the algorithm here – I don’t know enough about how it works, but all I do know is that I wasn’t seeing pictures and posts from friends that I would have really liked to see, whilst seeing a whole heap of ‘stuff’ I really didn’t care about.

Then there is the issue that Facebook was essentially designed for people like me!  Those that do say ‘Oo – look at that lovely red blob in the corner, I wonder who’s posted today’?  Those that do click on the adverts because “those shoes are pretty”.  Those who get sucked in to chatting to people and realise that a good hour has passed me by – achieving precisely nothing.  I know, I know, doing nothing is good for you – but I can think of a whole heap of ‘doing nothings’ that are actually more enjoyable for me.  I had done as much as I could to be rid of Facebook in my life – I had deleted it off my phone that I couldn’t use it when I was out and about, but still it ‘called’ to me!

This next negative is all about my head!  I still have in my head that I should be earning money, that I should be making a living and so many people seem to use social media to get ahead.  The vast majority of crochet designers have beautifully themed Instagram and Facebook pages which they use to display their creations.  There are a few issues with this – I can’t crochet that quickly and to be frank, I can’t really be arsed with taking all the photos!  I love taking a photo – but rearranging the furniture to get an arty looking backdrop to take a picture of my crochet to post to the world to say ‘look what I did’ ….. I just can’t be arsed!  I have a certain sympathy with my parents.  There are oodles of pictures of my sister as a baby and a toddler – when it was my turn, very few were taken.  And then there was my Nana who believed that photographs removed your soul and so should be avoided at all costs – so all in all my photographic heritage is a bit hit and miss!  So, every now and then, I get a great idea, a burst of energy to photograph my work, or the things I am doing with my day, or my sustainable life, or things I am doing to keep fit, but after a week, the novelty wears off.  Obviously, there is also the problem of the more you post, the more time you spend on FB, so the more you get sucked into FB land and the more of your day / live goes down the FB plug hole.

So.  Back to this past Saturday night.  I decided to go for it and de-activated my account.  It took my very clever, sleuthing sister precisely 24 hours to spot this and message me.  What occurred as a consequence of that message?  I spoke her her, in real life.  Result!

The first 24 hours were a breeze.  I did loads of things, I cleaned, I crocheted enough to fill a feed for a good week, I chatted to husband, I wrote in my journal.  It was fabulous and evidence if it were needed that I did not need Facebook in my life.  Day 2, however, was not quite the same.  Instead of being on Facebook I played Two Dots.  So now I’ve had to delete that too.  I picked my laptop or tablet up at various points of the day, looked at the news, played Two Dots, looked at my email (yawn) and generally whiled away time doing nothing in particular – generally being bored.  It was like I just had to have the tablet in my hand, because that was going to be the answer to my boredom prayers.  I was also so incredibly tired.  I don’t know if the two things were connected, I very much doubt it, but I was so very tired and for me that’s precisely the time that I would spend on Facebook.  When I’m just too tired to contemplate anything else.  

I appreciate that sometimes doing nothing is the thing you should be doing, but not all the time.  The daft thing is, there are a million things I could be doing instead:

  • Yoga
  • Meditating
  • Reading or doing an online course for fun (yes, I do that)
  • Sewing
  • Crochet
  • Writing a blog post
  • Walking on the beach
  • Astronomy GCSE
  • Learning embroidery
  • Chat to my husband whilst drinking a cup of tea
  • Write a letter!

This list does bring to mind Glennon Doyle’s book ‘Untamed’ where she discusses having a ‘reset’ list.  There are all of those things we could do, that are easy and so accessible – like sit on Facebook, play Two Dots, go and get a sneaky stick of chocolate from the fridge.  But in the long term the easy things don’t bring about the joy that the things on your reset list do.

I do even have specifics at the moment!  I have bunting to make for a friend’s granddaughter and a seat cover to make for another friend’s garden bench.  But even that couldn’t force me out of my reverie.  But the truth is, that for some reason, I just can’t be arsed.  To. Do. Anything.  In the end, I decided to write about my experience during the first 48 hours.  I have been quite shocked at how often I just reach for my laptop, followed by the dawning realisation that it’s not there.  My quick fix is not there.  I am really hoping that as the days go by, I become more inclined to do all the things on my list and less inclined to sit and reach for my lap-top in the hope it provides me with a quick fix.

Day 3.  Oh my goodness.  I don’t know how many times I trotted off to the fridge/cupboard to look for something to eat to fill a big 2 or 3 minutes of my time!  I had multiple cups of tea!  Today was definitely about filling the time doing anything – I read, meditated (twice), did yoga, did some work on an EFT course I am doing, read emails, looked at the internet, did some crochet – anything other than just sit still.  I am very surprised, to be honest!  I had thought in my mind that I had given social media a break in the past, but clearly, just deleting it off your phone whilst still having it on your laptop isn’t the same.  I am really quick shocked at how difficult I am finding this.  I also found husband very irritating and felt very irritable all day.  I was dying to go out for the evening, just to do something different to fill the time, as just sitting was really, really difficult!

But then….. Later on in the day Boris did a televised speech about re-tightening rules regarding lock-down in England.  Because I had de-activated my Facebook account I could not go on to Facebook and could not get wound up by people deliberately mis-interpreting the rules to suit themselves, or the raging conspiracy people, or just the general chit-chat surrounding the whole situation.  So I could prepare for bed with a light heart, without a million voices fighting for attention in my head.  What a blessed relief!  

Day 4.  A much better day!  It started in a park doing a yoga class, a bit of sunshine and a bit of rain, and the highlight, opening my eyes after savasana to see clouds floating across a blue sky through the leaves of the tree.  What more could you want.  The day continued with a positive theme; I sat and chatted to husband (I even got a chance to sit in the manchair), drank a cup of tea whilst doing nothing else – that’s it, I just sat and drank the cup of tea and let the world pass my by for a few minutes.  I wrote a pattern for a crochet submission, possibly the most tedious part of crochet design!  I still struggled with snacking, but the desire to pick up my laptop or phone to fill time was greatly diminished.  I believe I may have turned the corner!  

Day 5.  Today didn’t really count.  I had a raging headache and took to my bed for a significant portion of the day!  But other than that, it was the first day when I didn’t think about Facebook or looking at it.  This has continued for the remainder of the week.  There have been the occasional moments when I’ve picked up my laptop, read the news and then gone on to type facebook into the search bar, only to remember I don’t have an account any more – but that has happened once or twice over the course of 3 days, so definite progress.

So, what have I achieved this week other than ridding myself of Facebook?  I have finished off a crochet shawl that I have been working on for a few weeks.  I have started another crochet project, just for fun and not one that is going to be sent for submission as part of the crochet diploma.  But more importantly than that, I have felt so much more content and relaxed, I’ve read more, definitely chatted to husband more, looked out of the window aimlessly a bit more, and actually started to enjoy my own company again.  I’ve started to listen to and hear my body.  I will admit that I have missed seeing the photos of friends, along with the opportunity to comment – but I know they are at the end of a phone call or a message.

Happiness, reflection, Spirituality

How Deep is your Faith?

To use the words of the fabulous Robbie Williams, ‘I sit and talk to God’.  On a fairly regular basis to be honest, passing the time of day, discussing what’s going on.  For a long time I have avoided this topic as I know it turns many people off. But, as part of an online course I’ve been doing, I’ve been encouraged to speak my truth – just put it out there – because what’s the worst that could possibly happen?  Much like my Grandparents, I have a deep, rich faith that guides me in everything that I do, like a core of steel that runs through my middle.  I will also admit for a few years now I have tended to avoid it, and pretend it’s not there, and treat it as an inconvenience, not something to be cherished.  I have reached the point where I want to own it and share it.  I’m not going to stand in the middle of the town with my microphone pretending I’m on speakers corner!  I must admit, and I probably shouldn’t, that some of the best comedy moments in the centre of Bristol occur as a result of such speakers.  There is normally an avid audience of drunk, surprisingly knowledgeable homeless people sitting watching and giving their thoughts on the various points raised.  Nor, am I going to try to convert anyone!  For me faith is a quiet, private thing, that just fills my being, makes me who I am and influences how I live my life.

There have been various moments in my life when this has been evident.  The main one was in November 1997 when I found out it was highly unlikely that I would have children.  I knew in that moment, with a certainty right through my being that this was meant to be.  I don’t think I have ever been so certain of anything in my life.  (The day I met my current husband probably ranks up there as well, but that’s a whole other story).  I was never offered IVF, nor did I request it, but I’m afraid I knew and still know that there is a reason for everything and whilst I’m not sure I will ever know the reason why, having my own child wasn’t going to be a feature of my life.  Obviously, not agreeing with IVF is a difficult path to tread and so I tend to steer well clear.  As the saying goes ‘different strokes for different folks’.  But when I got asked the question, which I frequently did, as to why I didn’t have children and why I hadn’t gone for IVF, I got more than a few raised eyebrows when I said I didn’t believe in it!  Yes, I know I could have adopted too – but it’s not quite that straight forward and at the time when I was of an age where I would have considered it, I wasn’t in the ideal situation to adopt, further evidence that for whatever reason, children weren’t meant for me.  My favourite discussions on this topic were with children I taught.  I never shied away from the facts of why I wasn’t a mother but the best thing I ever heard from a student was ‘Well, that’s a shame Miss, you would have made a great mum’!  Unfortunately, as the years have gone by I have begun to doubt my initial reaction, with the constant questioning (because apparently, as a woman, the only thing in life that matters is having children) the constant bombardment of family focussed living, the numerous friendships that ended because our lives were headed in different directions – nobody’s fault, it’s just the way life is. Gradually as I found myself increasingly isolated I did begin to question my faith and my initial certainty that being childless was meant to be.

There is also the issue of having a purpose in life.  I won’t be leaving my mark on this world in the way most people do – that of having a child or grandchildren to remember them by.  This is where a lot of my seeking and searching stems from, that I must leave my mark on the world.  Like it or not, there is still so much pressure on people who don’t have children – people say there’s not, but 9 times out of 10 they have children.  So much of life today seems to be based on making your mark, making a difference, having a purpose, achieving your true purpose in life.  I have probably tried my hands at most things since I stopped teaching in 2015, trying to find that ‘thing’ which will give me a purpose in life.  But when you don’t know what that might be, it all becomes a little bit tricky.  If you add in very bad FOMO and raging impatience it all becomes even harder!  !  I struggle with trusting and waiting.  I want to know now!  I want to know why I didn’t have children, I want to know what my life’s purpose is and I want the answers now.  So, I seek and seek and seek a bit more to try and find the answers – rather than just sit and trust and enjoy where I am now.  I start a million things, but finish very few. I do very much fear that I’ve missed out on having a purpose, I might have already done it – maybe teaching was my purpose, maybe it’s yet to come – who knows, but I really, really would love to know and find trusting that I will know very difficult and incredibly frustrating and exceptionally slow!

As a consequence of not having children I’ve had to develop other ways of engaging in conversation with other people. You know how the conversation goes. ‘What’s your name?’, ‘Where do you live?’ ‘Do you have children?’ ‘No’. Oops, drawn a blank, move on. So, I can now talk to anyone, about anything and it doesn’t have to relate to children.  It’s not really a skill I realised I had until I was chatting to a friend recently who said, ‘It’s all right for you, you never had children, you can talk to anybody about anything’.  Whilst I ignored the ‘not-so-subtle’ slight at the start of the sentence it did make me realise that actually, I can do that, I can chat to anyone about anything and I am not particularly intimidated by walking in to a room full of people where I know no one.  Handy hint, football gets you a long way in this world and if you listen to the headlines on Radio 5 you will find out all you need to know about what’s current in any sport!  I have also done so many things that I wouldn’t have done if I’d been a mother – I wouldn’t have been a teacher, I wouldn’t have competed in triathlons, or run half marathons or visited any of the places that I’ve been fortunate enough to go to.  I wouldn’t have learned to make my own way in the world.  I have had to face up to my fear of the world every day and just get out there and get on with life.

Before we left Bristol for Portugal I gave the Coffee Boys who had kept us going through lockdown a thank you card.  Husband commented at the time that not many people would have bothered with that.  But I felt it was important that they understood the difference they had made to us at a difficult time.  The Coffee Boy was a bit bemused when I gave the card to him, but then after I’d explained what it was, his face lit up.  There was another chap that went to the coffee hut occasionally.  A lovely chap, and in keeping with my ability to chat to anyone, one day I asked him if he’d like a cup of coffee.  He was so shocked that a stranger would offer a cup of coffee and bizarrely I was the second in that week – so he clearly had something about him!  But sometimes that’s all you need in a day, a stranger to talk to you, to offer you a cup of coffee, just to know that someone noticed you that day – it turned out that he did live on his own and he came to the coffee hut, just to get out and see somebody different.  We spoke to him regularly after that, but I never did get to buy him a cup of coffee – but he did give me a thank you note which I stuck in my journal.  I also wrote letters to people during lockdown – so they had a nice piece of post coming through their letterbox to brighten their day.  

Perhaps that is my purpose in life, just to make someone smile every day, and do you know, I’d be happy with that.   Perhaps it doesn’t have to be grand at all. I also need to trust more, trust myself, trust that everything does happen for a reason and that I am in the place that I am meant to be.  Trust in my faith, trust that it will stand me in good stead in both the good times and the bad, and I also trust that when I do talk to God, he doesn’t laugh at my plans.  I just wish he’d be a bit quicker with the answers!  Although, as a friend of mine recently said, ‘God does seem to work to tight deadlines’.

Happiness, reflection, Spirituality

Should Says …..

Should says many things.  We live in a world of should and over the years the words of should have echoed in my ears and constrained the way I have lived my life.

  • I should try harder
  • I should work harder
  • I should be a mother (sadly I’m reaching an age where I should be a grandmother)
  • I should be quiet and I should also be louder or at the very least I should speak up more
  • I should sit still
  • I should grow up
  • I should be a good wife / daughter / sister
  • I should put the needs of others before my self
  • I should have a bigger house, car, TV, better phone
  • I should want more yet at the same time I should be content with what I have
  • I should be more ladylike
  • I should behave appropriately whilst I should also let my hair down a bit – I’d probably be more fun if I did
  • I should exercise
  • I should be thin
  • I should be on a diet
  • I should drink less and I should also drink more
  • I should expect less whilst I should aim high
  • I should have a successful career but I should also be nice
  • I should be a senior leader
  • I should be outstanding
  • I should be faster
  • I should look a certain way. I should have long hair. I should wear longer and shorter dresses.
  • I should get a tan, get a bit of colour
  • I should let go a bit, let my hair down, have a good time
  • I should be on social media. I should post 3 times a day for optimum engagement.
  • I should have more money of which I should donate more
  • I should get a job and I should volunteer
  • I should care less what other people think

It’s that last point that brings me to where I am today.  I’ve wrapped myself, no, I’ve bound myself, with all of these ‘shoulds’ that have bombarded me, and sadly, are becoming bigger and faster and more frequent in this modern world and I’ll be the first to admit myself that I’ve struggled to work out what matters and what doesn’t.  I have tried so hard to be everything I should be to everyone I should be.  Over the past month I’ve been doing a course with an Intuitive Guide that I found quite by accident at the beginning of lockdown and I find myself at this point, where I realise that in by focusing on should I have actually neglected who I am and what matters to me.  I’ve reached the point where the ‘shoulds’ that have bound me have been torn apart and my heart is poking through to say hello to the world.

I can name on one hand those people who have made it through the binds that wrapped me up so tightly.  The people who have laughed with me, cried with me, run, (cycled and swum) slowly with me, drunk soft drinks and Prosecco with me, sworn with me, eaten cake with me (and often encouraged me to eat more cake), talked with me, filled my head with fascinating facts and discussed things with me, explained things to me when my maths brain couldn’t cope, travelled with me, who haven’t cared if I was fat, thin, tall, short, that have encouraged me to be more, do more, aim higher, have more of what makes me smile.  Those people who’ve taken the time to find out more, to understand more about me, to go beyond appearances and dare to find out what it is that makes me tick.  Those people who’ve seen me at my worst and at my best.  Those people who really don’t understand what goes on in my head at times, but are still there, regardless.  Those people who’ve shared the best and worst of their lives with me and who still continue to inspire me every day.  

For a bit there I taught sociology to A Level and I will never forget the words of Erving Goffman who talked about the stages that we perform on throughout our lives and that we are never truly alone.  There is always someone that we are performing to and if we are not performing we are rehearsing for our next performance or critiquing our last performance – so even when we are alone we struggle to be ourselves.  The world of should feeds this and with the onset of social media and the internet, we are bombarded with a constant stream of ‘shoulds’, even down to how clean your house should be and things change so quickly, so regularly, life is temporary, throw away. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to be yourself, or stand out from the crowd, or even disappear from the crowd!  The props of life seem to be getting more and more and at the same time seem to be increasingly more important that life itself. 

So, what happens to a person who doesn’t want to live in a world of should.  I shall tell you. They are ridiculed, they are made to feel lesser than and bullied, as if there is something not quite right with them.  They are encouraged to change, to be more normal, to fit in a bit more, not draw attention to themselves quite so much, reign it in a bit, essentially to stop being who they are – primarily because it makes life easier for other people.  I remember I was running with some friends once, we were chatting away at the back of the pack, but careful to be in front of one woman who we always had to be ahead of and a chap commented that if we stopped chatting we could knock minutes off our times.  But where’s the fun in that?  Why should the only reason for entering a race be the result, why shouldn’t it be about the chit chat, the good bag at the end, the cup of tea and the cake!  The most fascinating people I know and have met along the way are those who quite regularly put two fingers up to should – who dare to be bold and dare to live life on their terms – and how often I’ve wished I could be more like them, but the bounds of ‘should’ were wrapped so tightly I couldn’t quite see how I could ever break free.

I’ve set myself a challenge.  To step out from the world of should, to let my heart shine, to do those things that make me smile, that truly make my heart sing and to finally stick two of my own fingers up to ‘should’.

  • It will be noisy and quiet in equal measure
  • It is both exciting and terrifying
  • It will involve the sand, the sea and the stars
  • There will definitely be music and dancing and laughter (and probably the odd tear or two)
  • There will be a yoga mat and a meditation stool
  • There will be swimming and cycling and God willing a bit of very slow running
  • There will be science and spirituality (although my brain will more than likely be a bit challenged by the science bit)
  • There will be writing and making and creating accompanied by swearing
  • There will be dreaming and twirling
  • There will always be cake

But most of all there will be more of me.