Love

Christmas madness and mayhem – how deeply do you get sucked in?


IMG_4696“If everyone in the world were to live in the way we currently do in the UK we would need more than three Earths to produce the resources we would use and absorb the wastes we would generate.”

“Britain uses over 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper over Christmas, which produces over 83 square km of rubbish – enough to cover Guernsey.”

“The average family wastes around a third of the food they buy at Christmas.” 

~Life2.org.uk, ‘How to have a better xmas’

How are the xmas preparations going in your life? Are you being caught up in the craziness of the season, spending money you don’t have, buying things that people don’t need, just because you’re feeling under pressure to do so? Or are you using this time to take stock, step back and reflect on what’s important in your life and why?

It’s so easy to get dragged along in the frenzy of Christmas.

My husband and I choose not to have a television, but when we visit my parents, it’s on for much of the afternoon and evening. Staying with them recently, I could see where the madness and mayhem manifests for many people over Christmas via the box – those marketing messages suck you in at every turn until you believe you simply must buy, buy, buy or else.

Or else what? Or else you may be seen as a humbug, a spoilsport, a miser, a scrooge!

Northern and southern hemisphere contrasts

I’m struck by the contrasts I perceive between a British and a New Zealand Christmas. I’d forgotten until last year how crazy it gets here.

I guess it’s vastly different having Christmas in the height of summer to the middle of winter, when people are hungry for any distraction from the dark and cold, the short days and long nights.

IMG_0481For many years I’d dreamed of having a Christmas on the beach, and in 2001 I made that come true. My youngest daughter, who was taking a year out and travelling Australia, spent the festive season and her 19th birthday with me in Gisborne, NZ.

Xmas day was spent on Wainui Beach, with lunch from a BBQ fired by driftwood (at that time I wasn’t aware of the extreme fire risks of such a thing!), and we enjoyed the company of a few friends in our bikinis and santa hats. I adored it, though I can understand that for many people that would just not be seen as ‘right’.

Christmas ‘Carols in the Park’ would be held on a Sunday in December (though admittedly one year I was there it never happened due to wet weather postponements!), and we’d all gather and sit on our picnic rugs, singing carols, with children playing and waiting for Father Xmas.

Christmas memories

Reflecting back, there were many aspects of the British Christmas traditions I loved when my children were young. The three of us would gather in my bed opening presents on Christmas morning, and at that time my parents and sisters all lived close-by; so we’d share the festive season together. I also recall the immense pressure even back then (the 80s and 90s) to spend money and make sure you had a gift for everyone.

Each year I’d aim to spend less. But somehow each January (and into February!) I’d still struggle financially having gone way over budget. They were the worst months of the year.

The secrets of life

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I can only imagine the pressure on parents in the 21st century. Social media hadn’t been invented when my children were growing up. Reading the quotes from ‘How to have a better xmas‘ by Life2, I wonder what would change if those types of messages were broadcast widely – would it impact on people’s spending urges?

During my first nine-month stay in NZ, I was fortunate to experience the gift of time alone to reflect on my life. Where I’d been, who I’d become, what I wanted for my future.

And I discovered this poster from ‘Sumi’, in a shop in Napier. Since that time, it’s come everywhere with me, always on a wall where I can read it and be encouraged to acknowledge that the secrets of life are NOT about giving people ‘stuff’ they don’t need.

I recently read about ‘Crisis at Christmas’, and felt incredibly humbled and grateful for my life and loving family.

I still get sucked in every now and again, and part with my hard earned cash to buy when I really have no need to. But those times are becoming less and less, as I realise the real gifts of life cannot be bought.

How about you?

If today was the last day of your life, would you be doing what you’re doing?


Death - the only certainty of life

Death – the only certainty of life

“Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning.” ~John Henry Cardinal Newman

“I wish I could stand on a busy corner, hat in hand, and beg people to throw me all their wasted hours.” ~Bernard Berenson

There’s an abundance of quotes available about making the most of life.

I often wonder what it would take for some people to realise that the choice to live it fully everyday is primarily theirs.

Granted, our circumstances and upbringing will have an affect on our choices, but at the end of the day, we can choose to be limited by them, or we can discover the gifts we’ve gained on our journeys, and use them wisely.

Death as an agent of change 

I’m extremely fortunate in that I’ve only ‘lost’ my grandparents – no-one else in my immediate family has had any serious illnesses or died.

I have however, had the experience of friends dying.

One in particular, in her 40th year, had a huge impact on me. I remember the shock that someone I’d only recently spent time with, could suddenly be gone, never to be seen again. Her death was one of the decision makers in my choice of travel to New Zealand initially in 2001.

“The more side roads you stop to explore, the less likely that life will pass you by”. ~Robert Brault

In 2005, I met the man I would marry in 2009. His first wife had sadly died in 2003, also at the age of 40 (ironically isn’t that when life is supposed to begin?). It took a long time after we got together for him to commit to me, he’d never imagined a life without her. Once he did make the choice, he opened up to so many opportunities to make the most of life, knowing from personal experience how suddenly it could all end.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ~Mark Twain

Living before you die

In June 2005, at a Stanford University commencement speech, Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple and Pixar, talked about pursuing our dreams and being open to the opportunities in life’s setbacks. It’s an amazingly inspiring presentation,  titled ‘How to live before you die‘.

The part that really resonated with me, was that he looked in the mirror every day, and asked himself “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’  If the answer was ‘No’ too many times in a row, he knew it was time to change something.

“Begin doing what you want to do now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake.” ~Marie Ray

Writing your eulogy

If you could write our own eulogy, what would it say?

I was recently touched by another untimely death. A midwifery colleague who’d been instrumental in bringing the option of water births to the West Midlands area, and possibly to the UK and elsewhere, through her unwavering passion and purpose.

She’d heard about the concept at a study day, and from that had made it her mission to find out more and introduce it to the Trust she worked at. The results of her three-year audit ‘The Tide Has Turned‘, was published in The British Journal of Midwifery in 1998.

Sadly I didn’t get to see her before she died, but I did send a letter to the Hospice which was read to her on the eve of her death. I told her what an inspiration she was, how she’d made an indelible difference to the lives of so many midwives and childbearing women and their families. Her daughter phoned me the next day to tell me she’d passed away, and that they’d all been touched and comforted by the words I’d written.

Why had I waited so long? Why hadn’t I made more effort to contact her while she was alive when I’d heard she was unwell in April? I guess my own life took over, with the huge changes I was making this year, and the priority of spending time with my family. So that’s ok. But it did motivate me to set up a Facebook Group for people who had worked in the maternity department at the Trust, and many people from that wrote heartwarming tributes too.  Now we can keep in touch, rather than wait until someone else dies before telling them how amazing they are.

Talking about death

I’m intrigued about the ways we talk of death, if we even venture to do so.

I have a fascination with graveyards, and reading headstones. People ‘pass away’, are ‘lost’, they ‘go to sleep’, rarely do they ‘die’. Why is that? I’m a member of an organisation called Dying Matters , which helps to get the concept of embracing our own mortality out into the world. Death seems to have overtaken sex as the taboo subject.

Delving into the book ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven‘, you can explore how things you do or say, actions you take or neglect, can potentially have a life-chaging effect on others, even though you may not be aware of it at the time.

“Minutes are worth more than money. Spend them wisely.” ~Thomas P. Murphy

Points to consider

  1. Don’t wait until you’re dying before you start living – be wary of delaying your ‘bucket list’ until that ‘magical age’ of retirement (the one governments and employers keep changing!). Many people don’t make it that far.
  2. How frequently do you tell the people who are important to you, how much they mean to you – and why.
  3. Are there people who’ve made a positive impact on your life, that you can talk to and tell them – now, before it’s too late?
  4. How will you be remembered? What would you like your eulogy to say?
  5. If you’re not living the life of your dreams, what steps can you take towards that path, and who can support you along the way?

Live each day fully

“Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Don't delay - live today!

Don’t delay – live today!

My daughter recently sent this image and caption to me – that’s how I plan to grow older, and just in case I don’t make it that far, I love surprising people frequently.

If you want a supportive coach to challenge you to change and awaken to living each day fully, please get in touch and see if I can walk alongside you (go to my contact me page to book a suitable time and day).

How do you value, and spend, your precious time?


Loving time

 

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” ~William Penn

How often do you catch yourself saying ‘I don’t have enough time for …‘?

Could it be possible that the things you believe you don’t have time for, are the very things most likely to increase your happiness?

Which of these, do you regularly say with conviction:

I don’t have time to …”:

  • Shop for fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Cook healthy meals from scratch
  • Take regular exercise
  • Spend time with my family or friends
  • Talk openly with my partner about what’s important in our lives and relationship
  • Enjoy being outside gardening, or playing games with my children (or grandchildren/nieces/nephews)
  • Sit still and be mindful
  • Read that book
  • Go dancing

You may be able to add many more pleasurable and uplifting things to the list. Or even start your own?

The question I put to you is, “What are you spending the 24 hours of each day doing, and prioritising  that leads you to really believe you’re deprived of quality time”?

Possible time ‘wasters’

Let’s consider three possibilities.

Working hours

Progression in the 19th and 20th centuries brought with it an increase in machinery, and subsequently computers and other technology. It was believed by the 21st century we’d be working less hours, freeing up more time for leisure. Is that true? It certainly doesn’t appear to be – but do correct me if I’m wrong. Or maybe we could be, but the pay has decreased disproportionately so to keep up with the lifestyle we aspire to we feel we have to continue to work long hours?

Or are we led to believe by subtle (but very clever) marketing messages that it’s important to have bigger and better careers, houses, cars, computers, phones, clothes, holidays in the exotic places, etc. We then find ourselves living to work, rather than working to live.

Maybe it’s time to ask whether we really need to?

What if each individual stopped trying to keep up with, or impress, anyone else?

Would you still need to earn as much as you are now?

What could you cut back on to release some expenditure?

One of the uplifting things for me about living in New Zealand for eight years, was most people’s lack of attachment to material possessions. It seemed accepted as ‘the norm’ to work part time, i.e. less than a forty hour week. And these were some of the happiest people I’ve met.

Shopping

The other thing I’ve noticed since returning to England to live, is the excessive number of shops and shopping outlets. Now I realise there’s a dichotomy here in that if people don’t shop, businesses don’t survive. But how much of it is a catch 22 situation?

The more people shop, the more shops are needed.  The more shops are needed, and the more money people spend on things they don’t need, the longer people have to work to keep said shops open.

I’m currently living on a very tight budget, as my husband and I have chosen to leave our ‘proper jobs’ to travel the waterways of England.  This has really opened my eyes to how much money we used to waste on unnecessary ‘stuff’ – even when living in New Zealand!

As Will Smith says: “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.

Television

I challenged a client recently to consider giving up watching the television for one night of the week. She was initially aghast at this suggestion.  Her relationship wasn’t going well, and she believed her partner didn’t love her ‘enough’ – what on earth would they talk about? They both worked full time and had different interests that kept them occupied at the weekends. I’d asked what they did in the evenings after work. They generally ate ‘fast food’, as they didn’t have time to shop or cook ‘healthy’ options.  They then flopped in front of the TV until bedtime, when they were so exhausted and sluggish they just slept.

She took up the challenge.  Next time we met, her energy had changed dramatically, and she excitedly informed me her relationship had turned a corner. They’d begun to talk to each other. They’d made a plan to exercise together in the evenings – walking or running. They’d reconnected, found themselves and each other once again. Within six months they’d unexpectedly changed jobs – and countries.

This may be an extreme example. But ask yourself how much time you spend each day, week and month watching ‘the box’. What are you watching? How is it contributing to your happiness? Is it instead giving you the impression that the world is full of terrorists? Or conversely that everyone else is happier, richer, smarter and luckier than you?

Turn off the TV!

Turn off the TV!

Making time count

Imagine being diagnosed with an debilitating illness.  This could be something mild like a migraine, or a life threatening diagnosis. Consider whether you would continue spending your time in the same way you are now?

If you had a migraine, you’d have to take time off work, you’d have to get someone to look after the children and do the shopping and cooking. If you hear the worst and find your days are limited – will you feel as though you’ve spent your time wisely?

Ask yourself today the following:

  1. Is everything I do absolutely necessary? Write down each day how you spend your time, and keep this going for a month.  At the end of this time, highlight those things that were essential and which were desirable, which ones you did out of a sense of duty or habit. What could you let go of?
  2. Do you have to do everything you do, or could you ask someone else for help? It’s true that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Do you enjoy playing ‘the rescuer’, and need to feel needed? Do you take over and organise everyone else so they feel they can’t possibly live without you? How does that help you or others? What would it mean for you to hand some things over?
  3. If you knew in advance the day and time of your departure from this world, what would be the most important things for you to spend your time doing? A mantra of mine is ‘carpe Diem’, seize the day, from that wonderful film ‘Dead Poet’s Society’. None of us know what’s round the next corner. The world could be struck by a meteorite at any time and in an instant we’d be wiped out. Are you spending your valuable time trying to be someone you’re not, trying to please everyone, spending money on things you don’t need so you have to work longer? How can you begin to change this?

I’d love to hear from you about the ways you’re spending your valuable time, and where you could change to accommodate more of your pleasurable and heart-centred activities …