Tag Archives: confidence

The occasional joys of being a sardine

29 Sep

I thawed like a big block of ice on a hot day.

Two loud Americans were sat next to me on my journey home. Producing a shelves worth of cereal bars and flapjacks (out of an apparently bottomless bag) and loudly examining their contents. “How much fat? Is nothing in this country HEALTHY?”

Beside from being bemused at the irony of their large shapes and their quest to find something healthy (did the two words ‘snickers’ and ‘flapjack’ on the packaging not say something?), inside I was sighing.

Half an hour of THIS? I had chosen the wrong darned carriage.

I was being the typical London Ice-Queen commuter

I’m not quite sure how it happened – but along with the other Ice Queen and King sat with us, I ended up being embroiled in their conversation. Within minutes I was sharing a recipe on healthy breakfast flapjack (that I’d never made), laughing at stories of their holiday, and discussing the delights of British confectionary! Not only that but I’d been introduced to the Mother in Law, Husband, daughter and sister that were spread across the carriage.

I didn’t want to get off!

But that was unusual.

Packed like sardines we journey to work. A carriage full of lives, swimming with memories, problems, excitement, despair. We sit with the closeness of good friends yet avoid communication. Pushed together by lack of space and the only known thing in common is a mutual un-knowingness of one another.

Sometimes I play a game – imagining people’s mornings, conversations, hobbies, how they like to spend their weekends and what makes them laugh.

I’m a straight face hidden behind a paper, a book or folded hands. Nameless and unknown. Another traveller.

My journeys generally fall into two categories: Bad or average. The only ‘good’ journeys are the ones shared with friends, or funny tourists who blissfully unaware of our staunch British etiquette.

Last night, on the half hour train journey home, Chloe and I laughed until our sides hurt, forgetting passengers around us and the ‘hush be quiet’ unspoken London rules.

We were carelessness children laughing at ‘in jokes’.

I wasn’t watching for rolling eyes or dagger stares, oh I bet there were a few. I was having fun. Only now do I wonder whether those unknown and unnamed people saw something of me – a little piece of character, a glimpse of Anna, an insight to add to the straight face they often see.

So I’ve made a little promise to myself.

I will be more than polite. I will be more friendly. More… human. You won’t find me speaking to every commuter in my carriage (for I would probably end up with a carriage all of my very own). Instead I will not be afraid to smile and engage.

I challenge you to do the same!

Focus on the journey and see what happens. See if you can find joy in the doing as well as the finishing.

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

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The marching man with dirty knees

28 Sep

As London wakes
You drink your breakfast
From an aluminium can
Another hungry sip
Adding to your already foggy mind
Your familiar morning haze
~
You with your dirty knees
And ripped jeans
Taking big
Intentional steps
A swerving stride
High legs
Marching man
~
Your scuffed hands
Are weaponless
But you are invincible
Marching into battle
Barking slurred orders
To invisible troops
~
An army of one
Striding across busy roads
To unheard beats
An unseen band
Marching man
~
Lifting your hand
A sharp salute
Honoring the invisible
A smirk on your face
Like a naughty child
~
Would you notice
If I stayed to march with you
For a while?
A few paces
In step
Your lonely battle cry
Heard
Saluting with you to the unseen
To the beat of the invisible band
~
I didn’t.
But the little part of me
That doesn’t care about intrigued stares
Regrets
That I let you march alone

Bake my dreams

27 Sep

Waiting is hard.

If you saw the ‘Great British Bake off’ you will have seen bakers crouch eagerly at their ovens, watching their creations slowly rise (hopefully). All impatient for the moment that the alarm buzzes and they can nervously take out their cake to face the scrutiny that awaits.

It’s all in the baking!

If we were to skip the process, even shave off valuable minutes or in some cases seconds, then the results could be completely different. The result would be either an odd looking cake, or a rather sore stomach.

The bakers are caught in this odd tension of wanting to get their cake out – aware of each second that ticks by, whilst recognising the importance of what happens whilst it’s in the oven. It can’t be rushed by turning up the heating dial (why I end up with burnt rice), or quickened by stolen glances (the culprit for my pancake flat cakes).

I find myself in this funny tension in life sometimes. You know, when you have dreams, hopes and goals that you have held for weeks – years – decades maybe? Sometimes the passion and excitement can be too much to bear, yet you know you have to wait.

It reminds me of being a child in the run up to Christmas. That sense of anticipation and excitement, the irritation at seeing all those unopened doors on the advent calendar that are getting in the way of me and my Christmas day.

I want it ‘NOW’

But if I had had my Christmas when I had desired it (probably before the calendars even hit the shelves), then it wouldn’t have been the same. The weather wouldn’t justify a cosy open fire, the presents wouldn’t have been wrapped, there would be no seasoned Christmas pud, or hope of snow.

It’s in the waiting that these things come about.

Not just any waiting – proactive waiting.

For if we were just to sit and wait for the things we hope for – we may risk not being the person we need to be when we get there.

A little part of me wants to click my fingers and be 4 years down the line where I am really able to use my skills as a therapist and see lives changed, and people freed and empowered. But – if I was if I was there now, right this very second – I may be more damaging than helpful. I wouldn’t have the knowledge and the skills needed that grow through time and learning.

It would be like taking the cake out of the oven early.

Sometimes waiting isn’t inevitable. Sometimes our inactivity is the only thing stopping ‘it’ from happening. We can be the barriers to our futures, our dreams. We can spend our lives waiting and devising new ‘as soon as..’ excuses. Waiting for our lives to start.

Become the change, the movement. Be decisive. Your decision to move could be the decision that changes the course of your life.

~
Start that business
Make that phone call
Schedule that doctor’s appointment
Take that trip
Have that difficult conversation

~

When circumstance requires a wait – don’t sit still. Grow, challenge, and develop into the you that will make the wait even more worthwhile.

Bake.

For in the oven happens a miracle. A flurry of chemical reactions, a busyness that the eye cannot see. A critical process.

Be the cake in the oven – not the one sat on the side waiting to be put in. Focus on the present, live in the now but in knowledge of your future – live your life story.

If I you were to pop a polaroid picture, a snapshot of my future as it could be, into my hand right now. I might say – wow! THAT is what I want, I will do whatever I need to do to get there, to live that, to be that change. No matter how long, hard, high the mountain top experiences, or low the valleys will be – it will be worth it.

So, bake my dreams.

And I will try my hardest not to waste my time staring at the oven.

Tie me up in a bow why don’t you

24 Sep

Tie me up in a bow! (Kim Cattrall for Baileys)

So, I’m starting big school today.

A Masters in Psychotherapy & Counselling. And very excited I am too. Pencil case – check. Pink folder – check. Geeky tin-foil packed lunch (because fees are darned expensive)- check.

After a whole summer course studying counselling & psychotherapy techniques, I felt challenged. And we all know I love to be challenged!

My question is…

Why, as humans, do we love things tied up in bows?

I’m not talking about presents wrapped in shiny paper and tied in sumptuous bows (although I do love them), i’m talking about life.

Maybe it’s just me.

So, I’ll make this personal.

Life is messy right? The t’s aren’t always crossed, and the i’s most certainly aren’t always dotted. Which makes me wonder quite where my discomfort in unanswered questions, and general confusion comes from (for it is what life is made of right?).

I am an organised girl – I file away my bank statements in the right section of my ‘House ‘stuff” folder. I have birthdays written down in a ‘birthday book’ and my filofax only stays at home when I do. I love to-do lists and I most definitely love the yummy satisfaction in crossing off the done items.

I wish I could cross of the things of life-

Issue with friend. Tick. Sorted.
Worry about family. Tick. Sorted.
Think about moving flat. Tick. Sorted.
Life plan. Tick. Sorted
~
The thing is, life is full of grey areas, journeys, loose ends, uncertainties. It can be turned upside down with one phone call, one prognosis, one sentence. It is full of things we can’t prepare for, ‘hold our horses’ for.

So, I have worked out. The battle I’m fighting is against perfectionism. A common battle. Maybe yours too. Perfectionism is the desire to meet high standards and the propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet these extremely high standards.

The funny thing is, we are often the ones setting these standards.

When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.  ~George Fisher

Not many things in life can be tied up in neat red bows and filed away in a drawer marked ‘done’. Complete. I should know that. I love people – I love working with people in their incompleteness, their messiness and their undone-neness. But the thing is, I don’t have set these standards for them.

I set them for me.

So I am challenging myself. To leave things undone – to find peace in the questions, the unanswered, the unfinished. If we were all complete, tied up in bows, what would we learn? We would be unteachable, unshakable, unmovable.

Surely – nothing that is fully complete – is fully real.

I want to be authentic, real and…messy if needs be. We are all broken in our own way, but the most interesting people are the ones not afraid to admit it! And the most inspiring – are the ones that aren’t afraid to show it!

I love the metaphor of a cracked clay jar full of treasures. I imagine seeing glimpses of the bright jewels through the cracks in the mundane dusty clay. Without the broken, marred surface – you wouldn’t see these rich jewels.

I want to be like this.

So, i’m going to go against my natural desire to round off this post, to finish, to tie in a big red bow….

And here I end.

Why clouds make me uncomfortable

20 Sep

Isn’t there something incredible about just lifting our eyes and looking to the sky?

I don’t do it often enough.

A canvas of colour, an ever-changing mystery that transforms regularly from the mundane to the breathtaking.

It puts things into perspective, reminds me that there is more to this life than the me-centered world that I live in. It acts as a metaphorical kick in the backside. It reminds me that my world is not the only one. In fact, it reminds me how small I am. How very, very small. How insignificant, vulnerable and temporary I am.

So why would I want to do this more often? Why would I want to glance up to a sky that reminds me of my fragility, and my morality? It’s uncomfortable revelation, but it changes the way I see things, the way I live.

I want to be challenged.

How would our world change if we each took more time to look at the sky, feel the uncomfortable feeling that comes with knowing how small we are, and how temporary. Would we live for different things? Live our lives in different ways? Not wait until our death beds to utter those famous words –

‘If only…’

Would we live more intentionally?

I have memories as a child, of sitting on the garden bench with my Dad during thunder storms. Watching the lightening fork down to the ground.

Beautiful and terrifying.

Proof of the truth that we are living in a world that is more powerful and unknown than we comprehend. We are not all there is. We can only explore, document and ‘know so much’. We will never fully understand. We are small.

Is life really lost by dying? Or is it lost second by second, hour by hour – those days that we haven’t truly lived, but let slip away. Just another day. Maybe days could mean more than just another page of a diary, a crossed off square on a planner.

There are a million ways to waste and lose a day. And not a single way to get it back.

Many of us are waiting for life to begin.

When I move home. That’s when.
When I get married. That’s when.
When I have a baby. That’s when.
When I have paid my debt. That’s when.
When I retire. That’s when.

What if our only real obstacle, for living. Really living. Was our choice to wait.

I want a Kingdom perspective, a heaven bound life. A day that counts, changes something, someone. Somewhere.
I want to use my gifts, talents and passions to LIVE. Really live. I want to be challenged and moved. Out of selfishness, short-sightedness, closed-mindedness. Out of letting life slip by, gifts unused, untouched. People unchanged.

So, every day this week. I will look at the sky. And I will be challenged, and hopefully changed.

Because, in the end, the way we spend our day, is the way we spend our life.

I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of (Jesus)

Vertigo heels in the early morning

14 Sep

You stand there. Awaiting the green light, that familiar shrill beep. I see your feet first. Sky high, black, vertigo-inducing heels. I wince with memories of painful soles after nights of dancing, piggybacks home. They must hurt.

It’s 8.30, a Tuesday morning. Too early for aching feet and blisters.

Your legs, slim and pale, blemished with greying bruises, lead to a baggy jumper. Masculine, long and oversized, covering your shorts or skirt. I can’t tell. You must be cold. I see your tattoo covered hand, intricate black cobwebs of ink, a spider somewhere perhaps. Delicate work that must have taken hours. And hurt.

As you move the hair from your face I see another tattoo. Scrawled, black cursive writing spells the word ‘silence’. I don’t want to stare, not obviously.  So I battle the hungry temptation for a prolonged glance at the words on your neck.

I want to make sense of you.

For me.

Your head is held high with a confidence that rivals any I could ever pretend to have. An air of self-assuredness that I can almost tangibly feel beside me.

I wonder how someone can look so naked and exposed yet exude a hiddenness.

‘Look at me, want me’

‘Keep away’

Time allows us to stand for a moment longer. I wonder whether my fleeting thoughts and judgments echo those standing with us. Have you even been home? Do you stand on street corners whilst autumn leaves fall around you, signaling the coming end of another year?

It’s okay to cross.

As you pace ahead, comfortable in your sky-high, patent heels – my heart skips a rushed beat and my judgements lay scattered on that pavement.

I see, tightly held in your hand, the small, grasping hand of a child. Four or five, bright blonde hair and admiring blue eyes. Walking beside you in his neat school uniform, dragging a sparkling silver scooter.

‘Green man Mummy’

You head up towards the school. You in your vertigo shoes, with your big round eyes, and your son oblivious and comfortable beside you. A mystery.

Taking on the world.

And keeping it out.

All at once.

And me? Silenced by irony in my sensible clothes and boots. Hushed by stark contrasts, confused stereotypes. Covered and comfortable. Evoking no questions but with hundreds on the tip of my tongue. A breath away. Off to work,

Neither taking on the world.

Nor keeping it out.