My Charmed Life

It is Meaningful May. I have been mulling over this month’s Action for Happiness calendar and contemplating “meaningful”.

There are so many things that give our lives meaning. For me as an Enneagram type 4, symbolism is very significant to me. Symbolism is attributing meaning to ideas, images, memories, words, identity, culture, belonging, sense of place and so on.

This is my charm bracelet. Here you will see symbols that represent much meaning for me…

A lioness/leopardess. That great iconic African predator. She speaks to me of Mama Africa and to my identity as a woman of Africa.

A globe. A map of the World. I love maps always have. This is about my sense of place. Feeling like a global citizen, a child of Mother Earth. My time as a Geography teacher.

A little rhino. My spirit animal. Symbol of steadiness and assurance, that all is unfolding as it should. Peace of Spirit.

A little elephant. A symbol to remind me of incredible close up encounters with these most glorious of creatures. Their wisdom, their memory, their wicked sense of humour! How charmed has my life been to have had not one but many moments with elephants!

A heart Celtic-like filigree. A nod to my Celtic roots. But more importantly this charm symbolises family for me. My deep connection to my kin.

Dragonflies intertwined. The dragonfly has been important symbol for me since childhood. Moving forward. Transformation. The little plaque on this charm reads “love transforms us”. So true.

Star Wars droids C3PO and R2D2 and next to them super cute little Grogu. These charms speak to creativity. I am drawn to fantastical story telling. The human imagination boggles. Besides being a total Star Wars geek, I also nerd out about the likes of Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Harry Potter’s Wizarding World.

A Celtic knot. Celtic mysticism and symbolism speaks to me on a spiritual level.

A dream catcher. A dreaming practice has become a very important part of my life in the past couple of years.

A Christmas angel, stars and snow flakes. My most favourite time of the year.

A little tree. Lots of symbolism here for me about nature, connectedness, belonging and living sustainably.

And just to add another layer of meaning, I took this photo of my charm bracelet laid out on top of the beautiful sleeves my precious aunt crocheted for me 💛

So much meaning and a constant reminder of how charmed my life has been. And just how much I have to be grateful for.

Own Your Story

Life is full at the moment. In some ways I’m leading a double life. My weekdays are filled with a day job that I am very grateful for but I do not enjoy. The rest of my time is taken up immersed in my passion projects that I feel in the flow with, that I dream will lead to being able to further my purpose and be my living.

Some days it is really tough to get the balance right. Some days I find it difficult to focus on that part of my Story that matters to me most, to not get sucked into the daily grind of doing the work that gets the salary, that pays the bills.

And so, as seems a usual occurrence in my life, the universe puts messages in my way that help me navigate whatever difficulty I’m facing.

In the last couple of months there have been a lot of messages about Story. The importance of Story and Storytelling in our lives. The fact that our internal Story impacts the world around us – how we show up in society. So how do we own our Story in order to make the external impact one of hope, positivity, kindness and compassion?

I have shared the incredible work of Susan David PHD many times.
Her social media posts continue to provide inspiration nuggets like this one!

It seems to me that owning our Story is an act of Radical Self-Love. What is radical self-love? Meet Sonya Renee Taylor!

This podcast episode is a fantastic introduction to Sonya’s background and work.
Sonya the poet in her flow.

Having now read Sonya’s book The Body is Not an Apology, one of the key takeaways for me was that part of owning my Story would be owning my Body. This was an incredibly confronting concept for me! Warning: this will be very challenging for anyone who has struggled with feeling “not enough” and trying to reconcile your physical place in society!

Sonya’s affirmation exercises do seem to help. I feel like I’m slowly making progress with this part of owning my story. I love this quote from Sonya about stitching a new garment…

We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal, other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate, and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment, one that fits all of humanity and nature.

Sonya Renee Taylor

I read this quote from the legendary Brené Brown a number of years ago. These days I keep it close. I have found it comforting in this journey with Story and Storytelling.

If you haven’t read The Gifts of Imperfection, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy or try the audiobook narrated by the author.
Here’s a taster…

What about being a Storyteller and sharing Story externally? Well, along came this National Geographic Education course – Storytelling for Impact – so, of course, I signed up. I loved this course. I have always loved photographs and photography but this course really opened my eyes to the power of this medium to share Story.

Stories … protect us from chaos … Implicit in the extraordinary revival of storytelling is the possibility that we need stories — that they are a fundamental unit of knowledge, the foundation of memory, essential to the way we make sense of our lives: the beginning, middle and end of our personal and collective trajectories.”

Bill Buford, the former fiction editor of the New
Yorker, writes this in his essay, “The Seduction of
Story Telling”
Here’s an example of a photo that shares Story… in this image are elements of my Story past, present and future. I love that you can see my faint reflection taking the photo. What I also love is the idea that no matter my intention in sharing this particular image, you will interpret your own Story within this same image 🖤

Any photograph has multiple meanings; indeed, to see something in the form of a photograph is to encounter a potential object of fascination. The ultimate wisdom of the photographic image is to say: ‘There is the surface. Now think — or rather feel, intuit — what is beyond it, what the reality must be like if it looks this way.’ Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy

Susan Sontag, “On Photography

The last idea I want to share about Story and Storytelling in this post centres around using this power to build awareness and promote behaviour change for some of humanity’s big social and environmental issues.

Here are a couple of academic papers looking at the place of Storytelling as part of the solution for climate change:

Storytelling is Part of the Solution to the Climate Dilemma

Transforming the Stories we tell about climate change: from Issue to Action

The latest from Project Drawdown is putting this Storytelling into action. Climate Solutions 101. This online course is for everyone – super accessible, delve in as deeply as you want. It promotes hope for the future and is packed with individuals and groups Stories of actions that any one of us can take to be part of the solution for this – the dilemma of our time.

By owning Your Story,

you own Our Story 🖤

Finding Gratitude in Loss

Everyone I know seems to be grieving some form of loss from the year just been. And for some, this new year has ushered in yet more loss.

I have been writing and rewriting this post since the 1st of January, coming to a sad, hopeless end each time. It was the 7th of January that I came across this from my Instagram…. a post from a year ago when Australia was on fire…

I wasn’t sure for a moment that I believed the last few lines any more, given the year just been. I decided to put this post aside and come back to it after applying some resilience practices.

At times like this when I feel particularly despondent, I turn to the words of others. Anyone who knows me, knows I love a good quote!

My first stop was Susan David’s work, Emotional Agility. I have written about this a number of times now. And I constantly share her insightful and uplifting social media posts on My Story 😊

These words struck a chord with me this re-read:

Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility.

Susan David PhD

I read and re-read these words. There is grief and loss there but there is also hope and beauty.  Can I find some gratitude in loss, I mused?

Well, yes I can.

I lost my job late last year. I grieved this loss deeply, especially all I perceived I was losing in terms of the tribe I found in my colleagues and the hopes I had built around my career projection.

In reality, I was given the gift of time to focus on making one of my dreams come true – getting Pure Spaces Education off the ground. What I’ve achieved in the last couple of months would simply never have happened if it was still business as usual. I am now working towards my true purpose.

And in reality, that tribe of colleagues I mentioned isn’t tied to geography. This tribe will outlast that workplace. We will continue to love and support each other no matter where each of us lands up 💛

I lost my freedom to travel. I still grieve this loss, but I am daily reminded of how blessed I am to be riding out the pandemic storm here in New Zealand! Deeply, deeply grateful I got to spend Christmas with my family and see in the New Year on the beach in the summer sunshine.

I lost “control” over my what and when and how…. Only to realise I never had control over any of that in the first place. I found comfort in stillness. Something I have always struggled with is stopping, letting go and just Being. This past year forced me into giving myself permission to Just Be… and it has been a game changer. It is okay to be still and wait…. In the Waiting there are often unexpected dreams come true.

Here’s a couple of quotes that helped through this time:

I said to my soul, be still and wait… so the darkness shall be the light and the stillness the dancing.

T. S. Eliot

To see the World in a Grain of Sand, and Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, and Eternity in an hour.

William Blake

Now you might read this and think I haven’t really lost anything. It isn’t real loss I’m talking about. In answer, I’ll go back to the beginning of this post. We have all suffered loss as a result of Covid-19. All of humanity has lost something. We are all changed by this loss of “normal”. I have simply articulated a couple of examples of the loss I have felt. Each of us will have our own examples of how we are changed. I believe it is important for each of us to acknowledge this loss to ourselves, grieve it, and then we can move forward. In the moving forward my hope is that we lean into the changes and see in them opportunity. Opportunity to forge a brave, new world!

I heard a great quote the other day:

We will not go back to normal, normal never was. Our pre-Corona existence was not normal, other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate, and lack. We should not long to return, my friends, we are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment, one that fits all of humanity and nature

Sonya Renee Taylor

That is what I am hoping for this coming year. I want to be part of stitching this new garment.

So I go back to what I wrote in that post of 7 Jan 2020…Many of my dreams are about a continued journey of treading lightly, living sustainably with Mother Earth in mind. Times like this bring motivation to act on these dreams with a sense of urgency.
Hope is not lost if we all do whatever we can, no matter how small it may seem. This growing earthly-conscious collective can turn the tide. I believe this!
I do believe what I wrote then. I believe it just as applicable now as it was then.

I found gratitude and growth in loss.

Happy Holidays?

Normally by now I am full of Christmas spirit, immersed in our family holiday traditions as another year draws to a close.

But not this year. I am struggling. I feel the weight of the uncertainty 2020 has brought for me and everyone I know.

With all I have learned about Emotional Agility this year I know it is okay to feel this way. In fact, I think we should all acknowledge that Christmas will feel different this year.

In my search to find growth in my present discomfort, I have found the following helpful…

I found this article from The Conversation an interesting read – Christmas will be different this year.

I found this post from Action for Happiness a comfort.

I found Susan David PhD’s Instagram posts like this one insightful.

I found reading up about Kwanzaa inspiring and uplifting.

We are all grieving some sort of loss this year. My wish for us all is to find some Peace as this year ends and some Hope as the next one dawns.

So I will wish you happy holidays wherever you are and whatever your circumstance. Have Courage and Be Kind. 💙

Kindness

I have been learning a lot about kindness recently. I like to think I am kind. However, what I am beginning to realise is that I am kind usually when its easy or convenient. I find it easy to be kind to Nature as this is my strongest Value. I am mostly kind to those I know and love. Although I do think there are times when I am not as kind to those closest to me as I should be. Also, I feel like I can show kindness to individuals easier than to groups of people.

At present I’m in the middle of huge project, a steep learning curve. This is a chance to reinvent myself and truly change my career direction. If I get this right, a dream from my dream tin will come true. The personal stakes are high. Kindness towards myself has been essential.  But it turns out this is where I really fall apart in the kindness department.

My inner voice has been so critical, so judgemental. I wouldn’t talk to anyone like I’ve been talking to myself.

So I have had to stop and take a pause. Then get really introspective. I needed something visual to help me put kindness in some sort of perspective. This is what I came up with:

My take on kindness – a set of concentric circles with Me at the centre

It seems to me that kindness to myself establishes a strong core. If this kindness is sincere then kindness outward to kin, community, humanity and nature will be more authentic. Well, it is worth a try… but it certainly is a journey.

Getting prepared for Advent has been an appropriate time to spend on this sort of reflection. And funnily enough coincides with the arrival of #DoGoodDecember and a Kindness Calendar for the month of December from Action for Happiness.

I know I have mentioned this before, but I really have found the resources from Action for Happiness invaluable this year!

So we wind down this strange year and I set time aside from my project to focus on my Christmas rituals and traditions. One of my rituals is reflecting on the year just been and dreaming of the one to come.

I want to encourage anyone reading this of just how fallible we are when it comes to it. Fallible, and that is okay. Kindness, just like any other growth path, is something we have to choose anew every day. Thankfully, it is a grace-full universe.

The words of John O’Donohue continue to be a great comfort to me. This blessing in particular.

This is what kindness to myself looks like at the moment.

Whatever your beliefs or circumstances, I wish you space to reflect with gratitude and dream with hope. Happy Advent 🕯