You Are Not Alone

Royal Crescent 1

When we are struggling to cope with the things that life throws at us, it’s easy to think that the whole universe is conspiring against us. We know it’s not true. It simply feels that way.

I spoke with a woman, recently, who raised this very issue, but from a more balanced point of view. She rightly pointed out that she feels that despite trying to do good to others, bad things keep happening in her life. But then she explained that when she sees what some people have to endure she realises that she’s not so badly off,  after all.

It’s a lesson we should all learn. I’m not suggesting the concept that some people have: That there is always someone worse off than us. If that was true then who is in a worse position than the person in the worst position? It’s a specious argument that only wastes time in pointless reverie. It leads to no real gain. It’s a nonsensical debate. I’m sorry if you believe in such a form of meditation but I’ll cover that in another article.

Yet we do need to be realistic. Our problems are real. They do exist. And they do cause anxiety. But we need to be careful not to see the whole of our lives in one day’s worries. Yes, we have problems, and yes, they may be long term. But consider this: If you made an appointment with a doctor, a bank manager, a counselor, or any sort of adviser, how many other people would be visiting the same consultant within hours, or even minutes of your appointment? Why? Because we are not alone.

Ok. Let’s accept that our problems are real and they cause anxiety. But look around you. All those people also have problems. Maybe they are not the same as yours. But to those people they are just as worrying. Whether it’s chronic illness or chronic finances, it’s just as worrying.

What makes the difference between coping and not coping is our viewpoint. We could turn inward and think that we are alone. Or we could look around us and appreciate that everyone else is suffering in some way, too.

The Power of "No"

Yorkshire 1

We lead such busy lives, today. We are surrounded by clutter. We buy too much and spend too much and eat too much and leave too much lying around.

Yes. I admit that I’m as guilty as anyone else. I have to make a conscious effort to clear my desk every night. I have to make a conscious effort to put things away. And I don’t always succeed.

But the biggest clutter comes from other people. How often have you planned some activity, only to answer the telephone and hear the pleading voice confirming that you are the only person in the whole wide world who can help and it’s really, really, desperate, and if you don’t help the caller doesn’t know what he or she will do?

And how many times have you given up your day out to go and help, only to find that it was something that could have been put off till another day?

That’s why we need to schedule personal time every week. We need time for our immediate family – which does not include the children who have left home. And we need time for ourselves, too. We need to protect that time. Don’t let anything trivial get in the way. We have our own needs to take care of. And if we don’t look after ourselves, we will not have the resources to look after anyone else.

This is where we need to learn the power of ‘No’. We need to learn that our time is precious and must be protected. Yes, there will be emergencies. But as one fridge magnet puts it, “Bad planning on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part.”

After all, there will always be other opportunities to look after the grandchildren; opportunities when you can plan fun activities, rather than being stressed about what you cannot do or should do or could be doing.

De-clutter your schedule – learn to say, “No.”

The Treasures of Days Gone By

Ivied Door at St Fagans

Old doorway now closed.
Ivied frame sealed shut with age.
It once was useful.

We were sitting at the picnic table, enjoying our lunch on a visit to the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans when I noticed this old doorway, surrounded by ivy. I was struck by the way the ivy frames the door, and the contrasts between the various colours and materials.

This open-air museum houses a number of old buildings which have been taken apart, stone by stone, piece by piece, timber by timber, and re-built to show what life was like in days gone by.

In an age when we have been trained to discard things very quickly and replace them with something new, would it not be good to remember that the discarded item was once useful, valuable, necessary, even. Often, when we make a new purchase, we praise it highly, boast about the “bargain” that we struck, and tell others that we don’t know how we ever managed without it. So what changed? Why is a perfectly useful item no longer necessary? Like this door, have we forgotten its value?

Having the best of life does not equate with having the latest of everything. More often, having the best is about being content with what we have, rather than always seeking something better. If we could become content with what we have, then maybe our resources, and those of everyone else, would last longer and go further. (And farther.)

So before you replace that apparently old item, ask yourself, “Why did I acquire this, in the first place? What attracted me to it? Why was it so precious?”

Then ask yourself, “What has changed? Why has it become valueless, now?”

In some cases, there is a genuine change. For example, it may be worn out or broken. But in many cases, the change is only in our attitude.

Sadly, there are times when this attitude impacts on our relationships. We see family ties broken, simply because we no longer value them; we see parents abandoned for the same reason; we see children abandoned because they require more maintenance than people are prepared to provide when the benefit is perceived to be less valuable than the cost.

These things, people, treasures, were once important. Maybe they still are.