Happiness, reflection, Well-being

Nothing New at New Year

So, here we are.  New Year’s Day 2023. 

As ever, it’s a period to reflection and for many, a time to make new plans for a new year.  

And as ever I’ve been bombarded with messages and adverts for things to commit to in the new year.  Things that will make me thinner, happier.  Things that will fix everything that is apparently broken within me.

However, the main realisation of 2022 is that there is nothing about me that needs fixing.  There never was.  It was just a belief in everything I see around me telling me that there is something about me that isn’t quite good enough and in actual fact that is all they are, beliefs and stories.  Stories that are generally based in some money-making opportunity.

It’s been quite refreshing to be able to ignore all of the guff that has come my way.  Some have made me smile.  Some have made me chuckle.  Others I have found quite terrifying in the way they blatantly target the insecurities of people.  There have been several sharp intakes of breath when I see how much people charge.

Although, one email that I received did get me thinking.  It was twelve different themes throughout the year.  The idea was that by investigating a different theme each month you would emerge from 2023 fixed.  Whilst I didn’t buy into the idea of investigating several aspects of my personality that required fixing, I did quite like the idea of doing something different every month – just for the challenge.

However, I know from many years of experience that it won’t happen.  I will plan the year and come up with all kinds of exciting things to do each month and by the middle of January it will all have gone right out of the window as something else catches my eye, something pink, or extra sparkly.  But there are a few things I would like to try in 2023.  Not resolutions as such, but things I would just like to try.

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

I am going to do Dry January.  At the end of the day any excuse not to have to drink for a month and I’m there, tea cup in hand!

I’ve also embraced a challenge by @shadowbooker on Instagram to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends.  I quite like the idea of reading more fiction, but I am in a bit of a rut and don’t really know what to read anymore. 

I’d like to do a month long yoga challenge.  I have signed up to Yoga with Adriene’s January challenge – but expect I will end up picking and choosing from a variety of yoga styles throughout the month.  The penny has finally dropped that I don’t have to be perfect in all of my poses, it’s the turning up that counts and if I spend the whole 30 minutes in corpse pose then that’s just fine.

I have also set myself the challenge of walking 12,500 steps per day.  I know that the whole 10,000 steps thing has been proven to be an arbitrary amount that’s not based in any scientific evidence, however, walking 12,500 steps versus sitting down for the same length of time has got to be good for me in the long run!

I’m going to try Women’s Walking Football.  It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while but struggled to find anywhere to do it.  Now I have and I’m very excited.  I’m also hoping it will be a good way to meet new people.

Other than that most of the other things I’d like to do are creative.

I’d like to make some brooches.

I’d like to finish many of the projects that I’ve already started and publish the patterns I have already written.

I’d like to try embroidery.  Properly try embroidery, so that I can add embellishments to my clothes and the aforementioned brooches.

I’d really love to make something using Irish Crochet. It fascinates me.  Very time consuming, but I’d love to try to make something properly. 

I’d like to become more skilled at creating new things from old things.  People regularly come into the charity shop where I volunteer and buy lots of clothes which they are going to alter to become completely different items of clothing.  I would love to be able to do that.

I’d like to become a Three Principles Practitioner.  I have benefitted so much from understanding the Three Principles that I’d like to be able to share that understanding with others.

I’d like to have a go at making a podcast.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear the tip top witterings of a middle aged woman from Stoke-on-Trent!

I’d like to take my camera out with me more and create a visual record of the year

I’d also like to try to find a way of setting up some kind of community space for people to meet up together in Albufeira.  Like the equivalent of the church hall in the UK.  A place where the WI might meet, where mother and baby groups meet, knit and natter.  The usual stuff!    

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None of these things really count as resolutions, nor do they fit conveniently into monthly challenges.  And from experience I know that if I try to pigeon hole them into month long challenges chances are I won’t do them.  One thing I have most learned this year is if things are meant to be, they will happen.  If they aren’t they won’t!  I think I always knew this, I just got caught up in the beliefs that there had to be more to life than going with what turned up in the moment.  Just embracing each day as it arrives has been very refreshing.  I’ve learned so much about those things I do enjoy and those that I don’t.  I’ve also learned that forcing things because you want them to be a certain way really isn’t the best way forward and if at all possible, it is much easier all round if you let things evolve in their own time and in their own way. 

Sadly, being incredibly impatient, I find this very frustrating at times.

There have been some things that I started in 2022 that I’d like to continue.

I’ve started to make some inroads into living in a more environmentally friendly way:

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com
  • I’ve switched to soap instead of shower gel
  • I’ve started using an Eco Egg for clothes washing rather than detergent. I admit, I was sceptical, but they do work.
  • Husband has started using refillable coffee pods. I am thrilled.
  • I’ve switched to more eco friendly dishwasher tablets
  • Not buying new clothes.  I did buy the odd new thing, but the majority of what I bought was from charity shops.  I quite enjoyed not buying new things and is the main factor in prompting me to want to try embellishing my own clothes.  There are a few things I nearly threw out then rescued with the idea of changing them a bit, or adding new details to bring them back to life. 

Far too late in the summer season I had the idea of lending out beach equipment to people coming on their holidays.  I’d really like to try to get that off the ground this year if I can.

I’ve continued to enjoy exercising and love the difference that it makes to how I feel on a daily basis. Towards the end of the year I have definitely had more energy with a reduction in pain. I really hope that this continues throughout the next year.

The key thing I’d like to continue into the year is living in this moment and trying not to worry too much about what might happen if.  I do still find it very easy to catastrophise about the future and can quickly move from minor event to certain death.  Slowly, I am starting to recognise it as a thought that is unlikely to come true. 

So there we have it.  A new year with, largely, nothing new happening.  And I have to say, I quite like it. 

Happiness, Healthy living, Well-being

What happens when you stop?

What happens when you stop?  When you take time to slow down? 

For a long time I’ve been too scared to stop.  When I finished work 6 years ago I filled the time with stuff.  Rather than stop.  I tried everything to fill the time and to give my life some sense of purpose.  Because I felt it was the right thing to do.  But largely because I was too scared to just stop.

A friend of mine has recently retired and I’ve watched her going through the same process.  Many people have said that once you retire you shouldn’t rush into things, you should take time to decide what it is exactly that you want to spend these years of your life doing.  I didn’t take that time.  I couldn’t possibly take that time, because I was terrified of what I would find there in that quiet.  I was terrified of the void, of the unknown and so I filled it with stuff.  Stuff that I imagined was leading me to finding purpose in my life – because what purpose could a middle aged childless woman possibly have in this world and so I started to create something.  Anything.  But it increasingly made me tired and anxious.  Worst of all, it stopped me enjoying the time I had to spend with my husband.

I think I knew I really needed to stop when I went on yoga retreat earlier this year.  I knew then that I was pretty much at the end of my tether – but the yoga retreat was something else that I believed would help.  And I think, in a way, it did, because I recognised at that point that something had to change.  I couldn’t carry on the way that I was.

Although I did.  Until a couple of months ago.  When I finally stopped, or should I say, was forced to stop.  I’ve been studying for another degree with the Open University because I do just love learning.  I’d signed up for an English Language course based on grammar and how we use it in the world.  I really was not enjoying it.  I thought I was good at grammar – but it seems that I am not.  I was struggling with the way the course was structured, I was struggling to keep up.  Largely because I didn’t really want to keep up, because I didn’t really want to be doing the course.  In the other modules I’ve done I’ve really enjoyed the assessments throughout the module.  I hated this one and decided that I needed to withdraw before I got too far along with it.  And so I did.

This happened to coincide with various other things.  I’d planned and hosted a party for my parents 60th Wedding Anniversary.  I’d set up and opened a pop-up Christmas Card Shop in Bristol.  Nothing particularly major, but a flurry of things all happening and finishing at the same time – including the deadline for my first assessment. 

When I withdrew from the course I had nothing.  Nothing at all.  There is not one thing in my diary for 2023.  Normally by this point there are several things in our diary that help us to structure our year, but there is nothing.  Normally I would be utterly horrified by the prospect of there being nothing, but something inside me realised that it is finally time to stop.  Just stop.  Stop trying to fill my time with meaningless stuff that I imagine I need to do to give my life meaning.  Just stop.  Take time to chat to husband, to friends, to write to people, to go for walks.

Just a few weeks in I have discovered:

There is a really annoying voice in my head that keeps telling me I should be doing things.  I now recognise this voice and appreciate that it is just an urge, it is just a voice and actually I don’t have to listen to it. I don’t have to sign up for a course that will fix me, or will help me structure my life. Not acting on what it is telling me to do is really difficult and really uncomfortable, but eventually the voice quietens down a bit.

I do really enjoy walking.  If I’m having a moment, going outside for a walk really does help and there are some beautiful places to walk not very far away from where I live.  I especially love Nordic walking because that gives me a combination of walking, being outside and having a good old chin wag along the way.

Walking on Durdham Downs
Nordic Walking on Durdham Downs

That my faith is more important to me than I had appreciated.  I’m not going to go all happy clappy any time soon, but I realise that the quiet faith of my grandparents is actually quite strong and quite important to me.  Helped in part by the Christmas Card Shop which was hosted in a beautiful Baptist Church, which wraps it’s arms around you in a wonderful warm bear hug.  It’s a place where I feel safe, normal and truly accepted and there’s not too many of those in the world. 

I love being with people.  I love volunteering in the local St Peter’s Hospice shop.  I love chatting to the volunteers at the Christmas card shop.  Generally, people have lived such fascinating lives and it is so interesting to find out more about them.

Out of all the things I enjoy doing, making things is probably top of the list.  Since I’ve stopped, I’ve been churning pom pom hats like they are going out of fashion.  Knitted hats, crochet hats.  I’ve sewn some Christmas pyjamas for myself and husband.  I’m making things at a rate that I have never managed.  Largely because all I am thinking about is what I am making, not thinking about what is happening next, or where I should be next, or how I should be. I’m just focussing on what I am making and actually completing things! I have a very long list of things I’ve wanted to make but have been putting off.

I’ve started to read fiction books again.  Partly to help me decide which OU module to study next year, but at least it’s prompted me to read fiction again.  That creative part of me that has been put to sleep for far too long is coming back to the fore.  Instead of seeing a void in the time ahead of me I see opportunity to make things and there is also a little voice in my head that things I might want to try painting sometime soon – or at least embroidery! 

I’m also finally beginning to understand what is going on in my body.  I do yoga when it feels right, I sit when it feels right.  I walk when it feels right and I am sleeping better than I have for a very long time.  I’m finally feeling like I am in a place when I can tackle my diet, making healthy choices, being interested in food rather than just eating what is put in front of me.  I’ve even been in coffee shops and declined cake.  What is the world coming too!

It’s proving to be very difficult, but I am also trying to stop second guessing where I am headed, or wanting answers, or wanting to know now what I should be doing and why, or worrying about what might happen tomorrow, or the next day. It’s hard.  I’m not really a go with the flow kind of person, not in the least, but I am beginning to understand the benefits of moving through life more slowing.  Of appreciating what is here and now. 

For the first time in a very long time, I just feel content.  And that’s a great place to be. 

The windows of Tyndale Baptist Church
3 Principles, Happiness, Healthy living, Well-being

Food and the 3 Principles

About 12 months ago I discovered the 3 Principles of Sydney Banks, which I have mentioned briefly in previous posts.   I engaged with them primarily because they helped me to understand that my feelings and thoughts come from the inside-out rather than the outside-in as I had been led to believe.  So, when I was feeling anxious, which was most of the time, those feelings were coming from inside me.  Whilst I might want to blame the person or the event for causing my anxiety, it was, in actual fact, all being triggered from within me.  I was thrilled that I had found something that helped me with my anxiety and that’s where I really expected it to end.  But it hasn’t.

I wouldn’t say I’ve struggled with my weight.  I’m probably not as slim as I’d like, but equally I could be a lot bigger.  

I know I have an issue with cake.  In fact, I think the world knows I have an issue with cake, but in the past, I know I have also had an issue with sweet treats in general.

I have been that person who eats packets (yes, more than one) of Haribo on the commute home from work.  Because, obviously, that was going to fix my stressful day!

I’ve been that person that goes to fill up with petrol and sneaks a chocolate bar.

The person that sneaks an ice-cream when I’ve ‘popped’ to buy a pint of milk.

The person who eats a chocolate bar in the middle of the night then stuffs the evidence as far down the bin as it’s possible to go.

Photo by Marta Dzedyshko on Pexels.com

So, I’ve not always had a great relationship with food, especially sweet snacks. I’ve tried slimming world and weight watchers. I did once go to a nutritionist.  And I have to say, that was when I was at my slimmest and my healthiest, but slowly the bad habits crept back in.  Not because I was eating unhealthily at home, not in the slightest.  But because of the Haribo on the commute, the daily Twix at break-time.  Slowly, over time, coping mechanisms became habits.  Habits that I struggled to do without.

However, this increasingly seems to be becoming a thing of the past.  And it is quite the tragedy!

Recently I was visiting my parents, which I do struggle with.  Square peg, round hole and all that. Anyway, after leaving my parents I found myself in a hotel room with a few hours to kill, a bit peckish with a Lidl supermarket across the road.  So, what did I do?  I popped to Lidl to buy some nuts and a banana. Some nuts and a banana.  You see, although I’d got myself in a dither over my parents, somewhere, I made the connection between, dither, feelings and thoughts.  I realised that the haribo was not going to fix that and that actually I was just a bit peckish.  

So I took my banana and nuts for a bit of a stroll to get some fresh air.

I know that I felt a million times better for this healthy choice than I would if I’d eaten the haribo.  I’d have felt dreadful physically, and I’d also have been in the guilt spiral because I’d given in to the haribo. What saddens me most is I cannot think of one reason why I would ever need to eat another haribo – except on special occasions – like Halloween!

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Apparently, this can be a thing after connecting with the 3 Principles.  It becomes easier to spot haywire thoughts and feelings in the moment, including those related to habits.  And rather than blindly reaching for the biscuit tin to gloss over the feelings and thoughts, I stop and notice and think, well I never.  There’s a haywire thought there.  The moment passes, along with the need to eat the thing I thought would help.

This has also started to filter over into other areas of my diet.  I’ve never been a massive chip eater, but it has become more and more infrequent.  I’ve started to question why I might be eating something.  Is that the best food for me in the moment.  What really seems to have clicked is that my body is fueled by what I put in it, and if I put foods into it that aren’t good for me or largely chemical based, I start to feel a bit rubbish.  Obviously, the big contenders for me are alcohol and chemicals found in low fat alternatives, but I’ve also started to engage with my body a little more and notice foods that make me feel uncomfortable, or even the sizes of the portions I’m eating.  I’m noticing if I’m full, or if I’m about to eat for the sake of it.   Just this past week I declined a trip to one of my favourite restaurants because I just wanted to eat a simple meal at home.  My body had just had enough of eating out for the moment.  Within 24 hours it felt a million times better. But how often in the past had I ignored these signals and put my body through the stress of digesting yet another large meal.

Rather than finding this restrictive I’m actually starting to enjoy eating, possibly as much as I have in my life.  I’m enjoying trying new things, finding and trying new recipes.  Some are great, some are dreadful.  I’ve even tried cooking a few things myself.    

I am really enjoying going to restaurants and picking new things off the menu that previously I might have ignored.  By way of an example, we went to a popular chain of French restaurants in Bristol.  They had a bean stew with roasted duck.  I’d never have considered that before.  I’d have stuck to my usual choice – but I thought, why not?  Why not try something new?  What’s the worst that could happen, I don’t like it and don’t order it again.  It was quite possibly one of the nicest things I have ever eaten and was devastated when it was taken off the menu.

Another big change is stopping eating starters and desserts when we go out to eat.  Usually, a main course is just fine and two courses leave me nicely full.  Three is a bit of a stretch.  In the past I would have eaten the three.  With little or no thought, just blindly put the food into my body and repented at leisure.  There is no more of that.  Instead, I notice the thoughts that are saying I ‘should’ have 3 courses because we’re out a restaurant.  Or the thought that says I’m a pudding person and so I must have a pudding.  I’m not a pudding person, I’m just a person that in the past has thought that she should eat a pudding.   Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t

It’s been nice for me to appreciate that my diet and food doesn’t have to be that difficult, that I don’t have to be restrictive, that I can eat a bit of what I want, when I fancy.  The key thing is that I am noticing more often when urges to eat are coming from thoughts or feelings, or whether I am actually hungry, or whether or not my body feels yummy or not after eating something.  It’s actually quite a nice change.  I still love cake.  I will always love cake.  But now I eat cake as a treat and I love it all the more.

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Healthy living, Well-being, Yoga

My First Yoga Retreat

So, I have finally made it to a yoga retreat.  It was a Kundalini Yoga retreat, but as it’s the first retreat I’ve been on I couldn’t tell you how it compares with other yoga retreats, but from my perspective it is everything I hoped it would be.

Having said that, there are aspects that I didn’t find easy, but in the end it was worth the trials and tribulations along the way.  I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot that I can take away into my every day life.

As with everything I signed up without really thinking things through.

The last time that happened I found myself parasailing with a family friend.  

Vila Uma, Quarteira

So, here I was going along to a retreat with yoga instructor I had only met online and I had met none of the other participants before I arrived at the villa. Initially I hadn’t intended to stay over as it was so close to home and that may have impacted the room I was given to stay in, twin beds with a shared bathroom.  I hate shared bathrooms and would never ever choose to stay in a room without an ensuite.

My first night wasn’t great.  

First of all I had to take on a massive scorpion / spider combo that had decided to make itself at home on my pillow. And then I had to wait for my room mate to come back from a night on the town. She arrived back at 4am. At 5am I was sitting on the toilet in the shared bathroom crying because I wanted a cup of tea and there was someone sleeping in the lounge and so I couldn’t get to the kitchen without disturbing them. Husband told me to just go and get the cup of tea!

That’s when I realised the problem was me.  It was all coming from inside me and it was my thoughts creating the situation. It was my anxious thoughts about man eating spider-scorpions, being in a strange bed, in a strange villa, with 9 strangers.  It was me that believed I couldn’t get the cup of tea. Nor did it matter what my room mate was doing, I would not have slept that night.

So I did what I do best, and legged it back home for the next couple of nights.

That’s when I learned the first thing about myself. It’s OK to be anxious and afraid and vulnerable. And it’s OK to rely on the support of strangers to get you through.  I’ve had my fingers burned a few too many times on that one so I do tend to keep people at arms length for what is probably more than a realistic length of time. I don’t like to ask for help and try to help myself as much as I can, often spurning the help and support of others. All of the other participants were there for the same reason, for yoga in a beautiful location.  To relax, recharge and rejuvenate away from home.  But in order to me to do that, I needed to trust and put my faith in people I had never met before.  Something that I evidently find very difficult.   

The instructors running the retreat were amazing and it was their encouragement that enabled me to go back to the villa to complete the retreat.  I’m really glad I did. I also realised that I’m more than happy to share a room with twin beds with a bathroom the other side of the hallway and I wondered where on earth the belief that I couldn’t ever came from.  

It wasn’t the last time I had to rely on the support of the others during that week.

They got me on to a boat trip that I REALLY didn’t want to do.  I could have quite happily walked away at the last minute.  Which is very unlike me.  Usually, like the parasailing, if I’ve signed up to do something, I’m doing it. They got me swimming in a very rough ocean that resulted in my face planting my way out in the most ungainly fashion.  It was neither smooth, nor cool. But I did both of those things and I loved them both and will do them again. I’m hoping my experience in the rough ocean will be enough to finally get me on that paddle board! 

Boat trip to Benagil Caves

I learned that I could go on another yoga retreat, stay for the whole week (without having to make a run for home) and even contemplate travelling a further distance too.

I learned that there are people like me.  There is a place where I belong and I do fit in.  It was so lovely to feel happy and at peace with where I was.  I didn’t once feel like I had to look over my shoulder, or check myself to make sure I was doing all I could to fit in, or not ruffle any feathers.  It was the first time in a very long time that I was able to just be me and that was enough.  

I didn’t have to drink more.

Or be more.

Or be less.

I could just be me and people seemed to like me.  I didn’t have to change in any way shape or form.

I learned about healthy eating, which is something I really struggle to get my head around. Most of all I learned that actually it’s really straight forward and nothing like as complicated as everyone would have you believe. All you need is good simple, healthy food.  Cooking meals from scratch with the best quality ingredients you can afford. You don’t need to cut things out, or add things in straight away.

I came away with a bit of a saying in my head – is this real food? When I look at something and am thinking of eating it.  Is that real food?  Is that something that I want to eat now?  Or something I will enjoy?  Will it make my insides smile?  It’s scarily straight forward.  It’s also surprising how much food isn’t actually real food, but processed stuff that looks like food. The key thing for me is for the first time I’ve not rushed home and thrown everything out of the cupboard.  I am making small daily changes that I can maintain over time.  

I learned more about Kundalini Yoga.  And I love it.

I ended the retreat with a 40 day practice and I am really enjoying the challenge of completing it every day.  It’s the first time I’ve found a yoga practice that I felt was sustainable and that was appropriate for my body and my needs at this time. It’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but quite frankly I’ve re-connected with that part of me that really doesn’t worry too much about other people’s thoughts or opinions.  Unfortunately, it might have unleashed that part of me that challenges back, which is always a tricky place to be! 

I learned that you really do need to know the yoga instructor that runs the retreat. I am pretty much a beginner when it comes to Kundalini Yoga and not once was I made to feel that I was not competent enough to complete one of the sessions, but I knew that would be the case because I’d been to lessons prior to the retreat. There were times when I really struggled.  I struggled with anxious thoughts a few times throughout the course of the retreat, but because I had that prior experience I knew I would be held and supported through my moments of crisis.  I’m not sure that I’d feel so comfortable or at ease with someone I knew nothing about or who I hadn’t met before. Going away with a group of strangers was a huge step for me and so to know nothing about the practicalities of the yoga sessions on top would probably have been far too much for me to manage. And I would have been devastated if I didn’t enjoy the yoga sessions.

I also learned to think through practicalities which has never been a strong point of mine!  I was thrilled when my yoga instructor was hosting a retreat just a short distance away from my apartment in Albufeira. I did not think through that those people coming along would want to take advantage of everything that the Algarve has to offer.  They wanted to go to the beach.  They wanted to experience the nightlife.  Both of those things are perfectly normal.

What I was looking for was a break from that. An escape from the madness of living in a busy tourist resort in the summer. Fortunately the villa was set in beautiful grounds with a swimming pool so I was able to get my escape from holiday madness, but it still highlighted to me what to look for in a retreat.  I realise now that at that time I needed wooded glades in a secluded forest! There was a tree.  A beautiful tree which provided shade for the morning and evening yoga sessions.  That was enough for me to feel like I was a million miles away from the touristic chaos of the Algarve in July.

What I learned most of all is that my life has become to safe.  To easy.  Too routine.  I need to shake things up a bit, push myself more and seek out opportunities that may scare me, as the benefits far outweigh the anxious anticipation.  There is still plenty of life left in me and I came away with determination to take advantage of all and every experience, or friendships that come my way and to embrace those things that bring me joy.  It’s also given me a renewed strength to say no to those things that bring me down.

So.  Would I go on a yoga retreat again?  Definitely.  But next time I’d be armed with more information on which to base my decision and a lot more confidence to know I’d be able to embrace the opportunity it offered me.

I went on yoga retreat with http://www.inner-temple.com/ and http://www.lovingtheyoga.com/

Happiness, reflection, Well-being

What if there is no plan?

I’ve never had a plan.  

I do understand that you need some element of planning on a day to day level, to make sure that you are fed and clothed and the house gets cleaned.  I do understand planning at that level.  But not long term planning.  I’ve never really understood that kind of plan, and I’ve never had one.  Nor has husband

Not a five year plan, nor a 10 year plan.  Nor a life plan.  No lady plan.

Whenever I get asked that question, an interview classic, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years time’?  I don’t know.  I have never known.

There have been no plans.  In fact, the only plan I can ever recall following was a half-marathon running plan and even that was loose.  I never planned to run a half-marathon, a friend suggested it and I thought ‘why not’?  By the finish line I had a clearer understanding of why not!

I have also never really had goals.  Apparently you need a plan, in order to successfully achieve goals.  Beyond getting up and seeing where the day takes me.  Generally, that has been my approach to life – see where it takes you.  What adventures might come my way?

I have dreams.  Lots of dreams. Some of which came true.  Some of which didn’t.  

I dreamed of being an astronaut, which was an epic fail.  

I dreamed of having a 3 bed semi-detached house. Which sort of came true, as it turns out all I wanted really was a home that was safe and welcoming.

I dreamed of going to Iceland to see the Northern Lights and it was the best experience, far exceeding anything I’d imagined.

On the beach at Eyrarbakki, Iceland

I still have many dreams:

I dream of going on a yoga retreat, of going on a paddle board on the ocean.

I’d like to watch a grand prix in Abu Dhabi.

I wonder about being some kind of speaker.

Or of writing some poetry and seeing where that takes me.

Of bringing cheer to people’s days and making the world a brighter place.

Everywhere I turn there seems to be apps, diaries, journals all aimed at how to plan. How to be more productive, how to achieve more in a week  Year long planning journals.  90 day planning journals. Each one with a guarantee that their planning method is better than the next one.  How to plan your social media feed so that it’s more effective at generating income, generating followers.  How to plan your time so that you achieve more, waste less, fit more into a day.  How to identify your 3 key targets for the day.  How to measure them against your goals.  How to manifest everything that you want.  How to plan your life in accordance with the moon. What success looks like, what it doesn’t look like.  If I plan I will be more successful than I can possibly imagine

I used to think that my lack of a plan was some kind of failing.

Or that it was some kind of self defence mechanism.  If I didn’t have a plan I couldn’t fail and I would never be disappointed.  But I wonder if it really is a bit more straightforward than that.

Without a plan I was able to take advantages of opportunities that presented themselves to me as I went along.  If I was glued to a plan I might have missed some of those things.

I might have missed the opportunity to go into teaching when I was made redundant for the umpteenth time.

I might have missed the chance to live in America as an Au Pair after finishing university.

I might not even have gone to university in the first place.

I didn’t plan to be childless but even that opened up a whole raft of opportunities I might never have experienced otherwise.

I wouldn’t have moved house twice in the space of 4 years.

I definitely wouldn’t have retired at the age of 44.

I doubt I’d be living in an apartment near the beach in Portugal.

I’d have played the oboe instead of the clarinet.

I never imagined I’d have this beach on my doorstep

Recently, I’ve become embroiled in the idea that I should have a plan.  I should have goals.  I need to be successful.  I need to have achieved measurable success.  But I don’t think my kind of success can be measured.  I don’t know that you can plan to be happy, it’s just what it is. It’s taken a bit of work to get to this point, none of it planned. How can it be? My version of happy is different to everyone else’s so how can I follow someone else’s plan to achieve that.

I can’t really imagine how having a plan would make life all that much better for me.  

I now realise that my unhappiest moments have been when I’ve been planning, when I had goals. When I had plans foisted upon me.  Any teacher will tell you that lessons that haven’t been planned all that well often go better than those that are planned to within an inch of their life.  There’s something freeing about just going along with what may be.

What if there were no plans.  No goals.  What if the only goal of each day were to be happy. Content.  Happy and content with what you have, here and now.  What might that be like?  What if, you don’t need a plan?

The advantage of having no plans is that you can’t really fail. The disadvantage of having no plan, is that you are made to feel like a bit of a failure. Which is both sad, and terrifying in equal measure.    

All I do know is that an unplanned life has worked for me.  There may well be opportunities I have missed.  But there may well be opportunities I’ve enjoyed and might have missed because they weren’t part of any plan.  I’m currently considering which modules to do next for my Open University degree.  I’m torn between Creative Writing and Latin.  There is no plan.  There is no pros or cons list.   But I’m sure it will work out just fine, and if not, then no harm done.  It will all come out in the wash.

I will admit that sometimes things just don’t get done. I’ve wanted to make a dress and a couple of brooches for a while now, but they never seem to quite get completed.  I’m not the least bit consistent with posting blogs. Largely because other things come up – like writing, or reading, or exercising, or crochet, or staring in to space.  I can see where an element of planning could be useful and do wonder if it might be a good idea after all. But I also like to think that it something is important enough or is meant to be, it will happen, with or without a plan.  

So.  For now, I think I’m going to carry on living a life with no plans.  It has served me well, to date.   Who knows where it might just take me?   I do understand that for some people this approach really would not work, but for me it means that everyday is an adventure; it allows for something a little bit more extraordinary and unexpected to come along.