Snail mail

Snail mail

One night back in 2014, I was scrolling through Facebook and  I came across some words that caught my attention. “Snail mail”, “send some love through the post,” “love notes.” I explored further and came across the love note project that had been organised by Jennifer Belthoff.  The premise, 3 weeks, 3 postcards, 3 stamps.  A partner that is provided by Jennifer and a prompt once a week that helps guide what you write on the card.  It also runs four times a year.

I immediately messaged Jennifer, I really wanted to be part of this project.  I love anything to do with stationary and I remember my many years as a child and young teenager waiting impatiently for the postman to arrive with letters from my pen pals.  Finally something that helped me remember how much I loved to communicate with people across the globe and to send out letters and postcards.  I wanted to be a pen pal again. I wanted to buy gorgeous paper to write on, I wanted to collect postcards and match them to the prompts.  I was excited.

So today begins another round of love notes, its the 23rd round.  It is my fourth year into it and am just as excited about it as I was in the beginning.  The advent of email, messenger, text is wonderful and I am a great fan of technology (after all it helped me find this project that is based in the USA) but I realised that I missed getting mail through the post.  I missed the thud of a letter that was other than a bill.  I can honestly say that since I have started this project the amount of lovely mail outweighs the bills that also make a thud on my welcome mat.

The partners I have had over the last four years have come from USA, New Zealand, Canada, Austria, Germany, UK.  In fact I have been so excitable about this project that half the north west of England well maybe about 10 friends which include colleagues have also signed up.  There is a wonderful community that has grown up around this love note project, in fact it feels like it has evolved a life of its own, lovingly tended by Jennifer who has let her baby grow its own way.  It has brought people together and created friendships that never would have met without this project.

The prompts inspire me to think deeply and to be efficient with the amount of words.  After all I only have a postcard to write on.  There is something not so intimidating about a small space.  Below I will give examples of some of the prompts and my words that have flown to far flung places.

Begin each day…….

Begin each day with a smile for yourself then spread it to the rest of your world.  Smiling is infectious.  Begin each day with  the intent that every action you take you will make meaningful, yes even the coffee break.

Home is…….

Home is the sanctuary and space where the heart expands and sighs are released.  Shoes kicked off and arms sink into the comfort of sofa, as body exhales tension.

Kindness…..

Small or large selfless acts that enrich the world and fill it with love.

There comes a day……

There comes a day when you no longer care what others think. There comes a day when you will follow your hearts desire without fear.  There comes a day, and then another, the busyness of life often takes over. What if that longed for day to come became today, right now? A few moments with a cup of coffee or teat to dream the dreams.

The key to happiness…..

Being grateful daily; saying yes to your dreams; making memories with loved ones; being kind to yourself and others; looking for what is good in the world; be part of something bigger.

I have received hundreds of cards over the years and all the messages are inspiring and come from the heart of the person sending.  I like to take a few when I need inspiration and wisdom and read over them.  This project helps me to be creative and it is lovely that somebody else shares their wisdom with me.

I hope partners past,  present and to come receive my words and cards with the spirit with which it is sent, in friendship and truth.  I feel very lucky to be part of this group and I am already starting to think of what I can write as the next prompt is “I may not know you (yet) but……”

www.jenniferbelthoff.com

 

 

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Heart’s breaking and Nature’s lesson

Heart’s breaking and Nature’s lesson

My heart breaks, my heart mends. How is this so? How after some horrific times my heart, my spirit still beats in my chest and I still go on?

Once I had my daughter I suddenly knew what it was to have my heart live outside of me. Every smile my heart soars, every sniffle or tear my heart dips yet it still swells and grows as the rhythms and the tides.

I had an epiphany one day at the school gate. I did the normal hugs and kisses and off she went with her school bag in one hand and her pack lunch in the other. Walking and talking with her friends and turning around to wave and then carry on. Time froze in that moment and my heart exploded into a million pieces of emotion. Pride, joy sadness “look at her” I told myself growing up, happy not giving me a second glance as she is absorbed into her life. “Look at her” I told my self “my girl is growing so fast and I can’t keep up.” “I want to capture every minute and in that freeze frame moment my heart exploded and flew back together but in a different configuration, this time it felt somehow expanded.

In that moment I took a photograph that has imprinted into my mind. A stop and appreciate moment. Nothing else matters but remembering that time is precious and to remember and enjoy it but it is also important to remember to move on and grow as she grows and as the world changes and develops.

It can be hard to navigate change because sometimes those changes happen much more quickly than we can be ready for and emotionally we may never be ready for them. It is only after the changes, when life has settled that we pick up pieces of ourselves that help us move forward or keep us stuck in the same places unwilling to accept.

When I feel stuck and unwilling to accept change I look to nature to find comfort and it was at such a time that I was sitting on a park bench looking at a branch of the tree.  It had withered but I saw the buds of a new branch starting. And if it hadn’t been for the original branch anything new wouldn’t have grown.

It’s like that with everything in life, as one path ends another begins. New buds have potential to become anything they want if the right conditions are in place. Nurture, Water, soil in perfect balance, these ingredients will help ideas, projects, relationships, and yourself bloom, flourish and burst into the world in all glory.

I was sitting on a park bench looking at the trees surrounding me, full with greenery, abundant with leaves, blossom and life. My mind wondered to the ground on which blossoms had fallen and I thought “how sad their time always ends.”

A time to grieve is important because in that grieving we can find a new path of growth, because an ending means that things will never be the same. Instead a new path will lead to something new and this is frightening because it is a path we haven’t walked yet.

We always know that at a certain time of the year we will see young green shoots growing in place of the ones gone before. We can maybe find trust that if we don’t know exactly where a new path will lead us at least we know we will grow in some way, learn a lesson and even flourish if we give ourselves the right conditions.

We may want to stay on the old path for a while and grieve for what’s gone, but as the tree knows the cycle of life and new blossoms will always come so we know new paths will appear when we are ready to see them.

I know that when I get confused or feel low and don’t know were life is going or am grieving I tend not to do anything because I know that I will make decisions based on my mood.

When the change leads to the heart breaking, we also have faith that it also mends and as it does this it grows larger to encompass all experience, all emotions it has picked up along the way. The heart loves, that’s its job and it is up to us to love it back. This means taking care that when we feel sad it is for a reason, when we feel happy we rejoice.

Diving deep into my heart I often ask it “what do you long for?” often it doesn’t tell me because I have a history of not listening, not taking notice of me. As I change my heart trusts me again as I give it the space and time to talk.

When I ask “what can you give me?” it replies “hope, I always give you hope.” “Hope helps pick you up in your darkest moments, it helps you rejoice in happy times.”

I should, I ought!!

I should, I ought!!

I was sitting in a coffee shop mulling over a recent separation feeling low and going through the autopsy of what went wrong and what could I learn and basically if I’m honest just feeling sorry for myself and I  kept forming certain sentences in my head, “I should ….” “I ought to …….”

“I should have been more caring”

“I ought to think more positively”

“I should have been a better girlfriend.”

“I should be a better mother.”

 So much pressure! So much judgement, and that is exactly what they are.  The words should and ought are the pressure words we use to beat ourselves up with.  I am judging myself a lot of the time when I start to allow the ‘should’s’ and ‘ought’s’ to dominate my thoughts.  When I do this I tend to get stuck in a cycle of recrimination.

 The ‘I should’ drives me to I either take on so many tasks, or add so many activities to my time with my daughter, You see “I should” because she’ll get bored or not be stimulated enough just sitting at home, and if I don’t then it means I’m not a good mum.  So we have to meet friends at the park, go to the play centre, fit 3 parties into one day because I shouldn’t say ‘No’ to them. If I say no, then we may not get invited again, yikes and there it is again the insecure little voice that told me a minute ago I wasn’t a good mum and now reminds me of childhood fear of not fitting in.  It definitely leaves me exhausted and if I’m honest the evidence suggests that my daughter is quite happy spending time at home playing with her toys or reading books and hanging out with her mum.

Where do these pressures come from?  The messages we grew up with from our parents, our friends, school, society.  There are certain rules that we learn, certain expectations we grow up with and sometimes we internalise them whether they be purposeful or not so good for us.  We often find it difficult to be assertive, to acknowledge what the other person is asking of us but also acknowledging what we need too. As in my fear of not fitting in example above it comes from experiences that may still affect us today that we might not be aware of.

How do we know when the word should and ought are words of pressure?

When we lack motivation to go through with what we have told ourselves must to do.  It is the deep sigh, or the thought “I don’t feel like it ,” or the excuses we come up with to talk ourselves out of something  or procrastination.  Or as in the list at the beginning the negative voices the gremlins that get me at the times of tiredness or when I feel a bit low.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things we have to do whether we want to or not we have to interact with people, we have our families to look after, our friendships and relationships to nurture and develop and often this will need compromise.  Even so I hear the phrase of” I wanted to say no but I thought I should do it,” so many times.  “I just couldn’t say no, I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.”  Or “I should do it really for an easy life.”

It took me a while to understand what the ‘should’s’ and ‘oughts’ meant about how I was stopping myself fully engaging with how I wanted to be in my own life.  Once I learnt it was about setting boundaries with myself and with others I could choose to let go of some of the ‘I should’s’. So the first time I said no to an invitation, I felt anxious but I soon realised that actually I was still being invited to things so it was okay to continue to trust my instincts. It is an on going lesson some days easier than others after all life isn’t perfect and neither am I.

So when I catch myself thinking “I should” or “I ought” in a beating myself up sort of way,  I find I am extra easy with myself and reach out to friends.  If I’m faced with a practical situation, I stop and think about if I want to do it can I re-schedule it and this often is about the shopping or if I am invited to an event, do I want to go or do I feel obliged to go? Often I just have to get on with it because like I said earlier I live in a world of family, friends, work and having to feed the kids.

Even so I find it’s important that I don’t over reach my capacity by using up my own time to do something when I could schedule it another time or say just say no.

So when the ‘I should’ or the ‘I ought’ hits I practice turning the sentence around and here is a different list:

 “I am a caring person.”

“I can be positive person who has low days.”

“I made mistakes as a girlfriend, I am learning.”

“I am a good mum, I do my best and I will continue to do my best”

 There that feels much better.

 

 

What sustains you? What drains you?

What sustains you? What drains you?

I met a very good friend for breakfast at a local garden center, we didn’t really give ourselves a time scale but we settled onto couches by the expansive windows that let in vast amounts of light and sunshine.  We had a catch up of events in our lives, we shared inspiring web sights, we laughed about her ‘I phone’ verses my android phone and basically put the world to rights.

 During a pause she turned to me and said, “this is what nourishes and sustains me you know.” I felt the same.  We began to talk about the things in our lives that drain us and the things that sustain us.  Basically we all have our first aid kit, our toolbox of rituals, routines that keep us buoyed, happy, the things that make life pleasurable. Everyday things that sustain us and keep us happy, because lets face it if we are happy our family is happy because we are less stressed.

 We called it the list that sustains us: walks in the park, walks by the river, yoga, reiki, coffee, meeting with friends, getting hair done, getting nails done, reading, dancing, going out, having 5 minutes while the kids are distracted, time with our partner, fun times with our children. The list is endless

 Even so there are always times in our lives when we have events, situations, people that drain us.  These life stressors are inevitable, a child gets ill, we get ill, work gets hectic, building work starts on house, our elderly parents needing us a bit more.  I guess the list is endless and you have your own to add.

 Often during these times our energy levels are focused on the stressors and our routine the little things we do to keep us sustained and nourished slowly ease off because well “I’m worried sick about my child I don’t have time to meet up, or “ I can’t concentrate on reading right now because my mind is pre-occupied.”  What can happen is that as we drop the activities that sustain us, our mood may dip and then we will feel less likely to pick them up again once the stressor has diminished or finished.

I have spoken to many people who are grieving or are caring for somebody else and find that their mood fluctuates depending on that day.  They have said that having a list of activities or rituals that sustain them keeps them going, even if it is just some time to them selves. 

Talking about the things that sustain me has really helped me focus on the times in my life when I have let them go and then forgotten to pick them up.  I now have a list in my head of all the things I love to do and the things I have to do to give me back my balance and equilibrium during or after a stressful time.

 Having an honest discussion about the things that drain me has also helped me feel less judgmental towards myself,telling myself “it’s okay to find this stressful,” makes some things easier to cope with.

After I had my daughter I forgot what it was like to have time for myself or what I used to love to do.  It’s only now 8 years later that I have begun to incorporate quite a few activities and rituals that sustain me.  I did it one activity at a time.

 A great way to start is by making a list of the things you do to sustain yourself through the times that drain you.  If your activities have eased off introduce one activity back in to your routine until it becomes a habit and see how you feel. 

The oxygen mask analogy is a beautiful reminder, the first thing you will do if you are on a plane and the masks are activated is to put one on yourself, it is only that way that you can help those around you. Breath deeply!Image

Three Gifts

Three Gifts

 

This week three people have given me gifts.  These acts of kindness came over three days.  A pendant from a friend, a souvenir from her holiday; a gift voucher to my favorite coffee shop and an offer to baby sit from a friend.

 It was after this last gift that I began to remember how blessed and lucky I am that I have people in my life that know me and like me, in fact I receive gifts and acts of kindness daily its just sometimes I don’t notice because when I do my gremlin in a quiet sarcastic voice begins to butt in, “do you deserve this?”

 It is so easy to give to others, to do things for others, to make sure everybody is okay first.  What is not so easy is to receive.  It’s so easy to focus on the negatives and not notice all the wonderful gifts life has to offer even if it is only the first smell of coffee in the morning or a bird song.

 To receive acts of kindness and gifts whether they be compliments, gifts or kind words goes against the grain of many of us, myself included.  Society tells us to be good citizens, to help others to not be selfish and this will help us to be liked and thought well of.

 I also started to think about the myths I hold about giving and receiving, and they go a little bit like this:-

 “it is better to give than to receive”

“if somebody gives me something or does something for me then I have to do double back.”

“I am doing lots of good things so then I’ll get it back threefold.”

I’m sure you have many more that can be added to this list.

 Once I had told my gremlins that it was okay to receive I had a moment of clarity.  Acts of kindness are offered to me on a daily basis, it is my inability whether conscious or not to see them and let them in, and that is the block.  Underlying all the myths, the beliefs and the resistance to receiving on an emotional level are all fuelled from beliefs about self-worth.

 What I have realised is that allowing these acts of kindness to impact on me gives my feelings of self worth a boost.  It also allows the person giving the gift to feel good about themselves too.  I know because I always do.  It is also the biggest gift I can give to myself. 

 I have been practicing gratitude on a daily basis for a while now and it has helped me notice all the wonderful things that make up my day.  I don’t ignore the rubbish times I just choose to think of the nice things (this gives me the equilibrium to manage the rubbish times) 

 So as I undertake my gratitude exercise each day I will do so with one more layer of acceptance and receiving of the gifts that are mine to notice on a daily basis. 

I proclaim to be a recovering receiver of kind acts and deeds and a big THANKYOU to you and to the Universe too.