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Invest in What Rewards You

1 Oct

I suppose I shouldn’t start with the conclusion; but if your conclusion is also your beginning then maybe its the perfect place to start.

 

I arrived back from Spain yesterday.  There’d been pretty much a veto on getting leave through the normal holiday times, so more by luck than judgement I’d ended up with a three week block off in September.  A perfect chance to escape from normal life, just me and the dog, and head off to Spain.  I decided that as well as an opportunity to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a long time (far too long a time!) it was also a chance to step back and review my life and where it was going.  I knew I had some decisions to make; decisions I’d been ignoring or putting off either deliberately or just because it was easier to get caught up on a tide and go along with it without really thinking.  I knew I had to do something about this because I had that uncomfortable feeling that I get when I know deep down I’m not being true to me. That unease that feels like I’m watching myself from somewhere high up and want to shout at myself but instead I just carry on watching.

I’d just sorted some stuff out at work that had been causing me a lot of ‘aaarrgh’ (I really can’t think of a better word to describe it) and I’d put that to rest and made my peace.  However, I needed to work out where I go next and what I really want.  I also still have the spectre of marriage/divorce to sort out … i.e., I’m still married and I really shouldn’t be!  I’d started picking back up some bad habits from a previous lifetime and I really wasn’t sure why.  To top it all off – what to do with La Panaderia, my Spanish escape place but also the money pit.  So all in all, not the usual relaxing break.  Throw into that 2,500 miles of driving there and back and I was setting myself up for one helluva journey – physically and emotionally.

Now I’m back.   I’ve thought a lot; I’ve tidied up a lot – both physically and emotionally; I’ve laughed a lot; cried a bit; I’ve caught up with people I love and reflected on the values that I hold.

That’s what it comes back to, the values I hold and how I want to live my life.  I’ve sort of mentioned it before, I think, but I want a simple life.  I don’t want a big house or a fancy car or expensive clothes.  I want to be with people I love, doing things I enjoy.  I want to invest in the things that reward me.   That’s not just about financial investment, its about investment of time; emotion; thoughts; caring.  Investment of me.  Don’t get me wrong, the financial investment is a big one, try running two mortgages and you soon realise how much the simple life has to be lead as there isn’t the cash for anything else!!  But in this hectic world, its the investment of time and emotion that often have the highest cost and the lowest reward.

I also realised I had to stop judging myself through the imagined eyes of others.  Why am I not going for promotion when I’ve got the exam?  Why am I not in a relationship after a couple of years of being single?  Why am I not living a more exciting life and travelling more or going out more or staying in more or joining this club or doing this exercise or …. well you get the picture.  I’m not even sure that anyone is asking those questions.  I very much doubt they are because people generally are quite rightly caught up in their own lives and have no time to think about or judge other people’s lives.  Even if they are – who cares?  I’ve realised that just because people appear to have it all and that all is wonderful, that veneer is often very thin.  As though 60 Minute Makeover came in and slapped some paint over it all and installed a 72″ tv, but as soon as they go, the wallpaper is going to fall off and the tv will fuse the whole house.

So where next?  Investing in the things that reward me.  I realise that I’m lucky to do a job that pays me very well.  Its also a job that I have allowed to cause me a great deal of stress and distress in the past.  Possibly because I’ve invested too much of my heart into it.  So from now on, my investment will match the reward.  The reward is financial and therefore I will do what I need to do to justify that reward.  The other reward I get is working with some lovely people (don’t get me wrong, there are also some complete arseholes, but I can just deal with them in a professional manner and invest only the time that is absolutely required and no more.  I certainly won’t invest them with time in worrying about what they think or what they are doing or what their next plans might be!).  So to the lovely people, I will invest the care and time that I hope I always have.  But I won’t take the stress home with me and I will treat it only as a job and not a life.  If that means looking for promotion, then I’ll consider it, provided it still fits in with my values.  But it won’t be something I abandon important things to get, things like my values, my sanity and my life.

La Panaderia?  Ah, such a difficult one.  I love that house.  Its taken time, money, love, inspiration, dreams to make it what it is.  To take it from a wreck to a beautiful house.  So much investment.  But where is the reward?  I love to go there; I love that friends can visit and enjoy the place.  But it also holds sad memories and holds me to a life I should have left behind me totally by now.

So, I’ve said my goodbyes.

With every box emptied and floor swept, I bid the house goodbye.  That’s all it is, bricks and mortar (or bricks and yeso, to be accurate).  Someone else will turn it into their dream.  This will let me cut ties that need cutting – and, importantly, free up cash each month that I can start investing in a new dream.  What that dream will be, I’m not totally sure yet, but that’s the good thing about dreams, they can appear when you least expect and they can change each time you open your mind.

The other parts:  I’ve reflected on paths I was starting to follow and decided to turn back around and take different ones.  Different paths that will give rewards I deserve, not shiny baubles that might be fun for a little while but have no substance. Like the Turkish Delight in Lion, Witch & Wardrobe – wonderful to indulge in, but at what cost?

All of this I could probably have worked out sitting at home.  But its the other things you realise on the physical journey that are important.  Like realising I could do it on my own and that it really wasn’t that big a deal.  Realising that on the bits that I really could have done with someone else there, I managed and that actually even in a couple I wouldn’t have necessarily been any better off!  Don’t get me wrong, it would have been lovely to share parts of the trip with someone, but it didn’t spoil the trip being on my own.  Realising that even the scary bits (like being completely lost and screaming at a satnav that didn’t understand I couldn’t drive through a statue; like sleeping in a service station car park curled up next to a dog that either barked or snored with equal loudness) I could cope with a find a way through.  Hell, give it a couple of days and I’ll have turned those into amusing anecdotes!

Now I’m back and my conclusion is now my new start.

In the short term there’s going to need to be investment in sorting out a lot of things that aren’t all within my control; but only if I start putting that investment in, will things move forward.  Like starting up a small business, its only by putting the work in early on that you get the rewards later.  So my life is a my small business for now.  A lot of work, a lot of time and effort and energy needed – but the rewards at the end of it will be worth it because from now on I’m only investing in the things that reward me.

Was going to say something comparing life to looking over a high wall at the future horizon; but actually its just a cute picture

Was going to say something comparing life to looking over a high wall at the future horizon; but actually its just a cute picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Should we be content with content?

29 Jun

Have you ever kissed someone and had the whole world stop?  Everything fade away until all that is left is you and the other person and the moment, and the knowledge that nothing will ever be the same again.

That doesn’t happen, right?

Or have you had a job that you love going to, that it doesn’t matter how many hours you work because working just re-energises you? That you get so much satisfaction out of knowing you’ve done a good job and had a positive impact that you just can’t wait to go back to work.

That doesn’t happen, right?

So instead, lets settle for a job that pays the bills and is secure; for a relationship with someone that’s nice and reliable and who, “yes, of course I love them, its just, well….”

That’s what happens in real life, isn’t it.  That’s what life is about, isn’t it.  Isn’t it?

But what if it isn’t?   Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising on either side or saying one way is better or worse than the other.  Everyone has to do what is right for them.  If you find a way of having a calm and settled life that fulfils you and makes you happy, then that’s fantastic.

Certainly I sometimes wonder if part of my stress is caused by always striving for something that I’m not quite certain even exists.  My job, for argument’s sake:  it pays me pretty well, I’ve done it for a long time and, unless I do something daft, is pretty secure.  But recently its destroyed my confidence and caused me much more unhappiness than satisfaction.  I can’t remember when I last enjoyed going to work – even getting there without having a panic attack on the way would be good (ps:  cycling to work is great for helping reduce this, its difficult to have a panic attack when you’re riding a bike nicknamed Bella that makes you want to sing in Italian!).  Is that because I’m expecting too much from a job? If I just accepted that I’ll go in, do what I can and then go home, not looking to move up or help things be more effective, perhaps I’d be happier.

Maybe its better to get to a certain point and settle there.  My weight, for example. I’ve worked hard to lose weight and get in shape (or at least, a better shape).  This wasn’t helped by the arthritis diagnosis, although knowing that the pain would be eased by losing weight did give a push in the right direction.  So now I’m at a size that is ok.  I’m normal weight, I look ok in clothes.  I’m working hard on personalised workouts which are having an impact (I can actually see muscles in my arms and that thigh tattoo is getting closer).  But I know that if I really focussed on my nutrition and upped my workouts I’d get closer to where I actually want to be.  This is also where you realise there are some things that are acceptable to say and some that aren’t: when I’ve mentioned that I still want to lose more weight/tone up more the comments are all along the lines of “no, you’ll look haggard”, “you’ll look ill”, even though I’m nowhere near the lower levels of my BMI.  (As an aside rant:  All those ‘motivational’ posters now about, “its about being fit, not being thin” – no, you didn’t get like that just through working out, you have adjusted your eating, I do believe the saying that you can’t out train a bad diet.)  But anyway, I digress.  This is about whether its ok to be content with content.  So should I be happy at just being the weight and fitness level I am?

Should I be content to have a job that pays the bills and is secure?  Should I look for a relationship with someone who would be reliable and dependable and, ok, I might not be able to talk to them about absolutely anything or absolutely nothing and they just totally get me, but they are nice?  Should I settle at the weight and shape I am?   Would it be so wrong and way less stressful, to just be content with content?

Sure, I can see the advantages in being thankful for what I have, for living in the moment, counting my blessings, being realistic in my expectations.   Blah blah blah.  But won’t it be equally stressful, just maybe in a different way, to always have a niggling doubt at the back of my mind that it could be better?  Always wondering if only I’d taken a risk or tried a bit harder or been a bit more focussed, that I could have achieved so much more.  Oh, and who is to say what’s realistic or not – who is setting those boundaries?

I’m going to say it again – this is not a criticism of anyone who says they have achieved exactly what they wanted and that they aren’t settling for content with content and that, actually, what’s wrong with content?  There isn’t anything wrong with content.  Content is great.

If that’s what you want.

But I don’t think I do.  I want to have that feeling of the world stopping; I want that feeling of knowing I’ve made a difference; I want that feeling of knowing I’m the best I can be.

If I’d been content with content, I’d still be with my first husband and working as a secretary – and probably 5 stone overweight, drinking heavily and hiding in the bathroom to cry when no-one was looking!

So I’m going to try and find a balance:  I’ll be content about what I’ve achieved so far, but not content to stop there.  It’ll be my stepping stone.  I can only be content here if I know its acting as a base to work towards where I actually want to be.  Use the good things about my job, my fitness, heck, even what I’ve learned from relationships, to act as the foundation for getting something more.  To getting that unrealistic aim – because its only unrealistic if I believe it is.  Hell:  I believe in zombies and aliens and ghost monkeys, I can certainly believe in having a job that I want to go to every single day; a body that can sport a leg tattoo and vest top with pride and finding a man that will make the world stop when they kiss me!

Inspiration

 

 

Waiting for the green man

31 Aug

I was rushing into town today.  I’d had 4 hours sleep after nightshift, needed to get to optician and then on to another appointment and was running out of time.  The pedestrian crossing was red but the road was clear, however, a small girl across the other side had just been told by her mum to stand back from the kerb and wait for the little green man.  I couldn’t run across and set a bad example.  So I waited.  And took time to breathe deeply, to unhunch my shoulders and to feel the sun on my face.  It felt good.  I started to remember what it was like as a child.

When a summer’s day where you could splash in the paddling pool; or chase dandelion fairies; or just spin round and round with the warmth on your face was the best day ever.

Until Autumn, when you could kick through the leaves and throw them over your head, with crinkly colours landing on your smile; gather conkers and get excited for the fireworks that would be coming soon.  THAT was the best day ever.

Then the snow of winter:  snowmen; wooly gloves laden with snow-ice that you just licked off like a hairy ice lolly; hot chocolate and marshmallows to defrost you at the end of the day.  That HAS to be best day EVER.

When change was scary but so exciting.  The first day of new school.  What would your teacher be like?  The other pupils?  Would there be someone new?  Were you going to be the new person?  (I moved around a lot as a child and went to a lot of schools, I know that ‘new girl, first day’ feeling well.  PS – I was an army kid, we weren’t on the run nor  was I just being expelled each time!)

But while nerves were tingling, you couldn’t wait to get in there and meet the challenge head on, because you didn’t know that being nervous was a reason not to do something.

When, if you fell over you just got back up and rushed back to try again.  Falling over wasn’t a reason to miss out on the excitement of life – your friends would still be playing, you needed to be there in the thick of it.  Sitting, fidgeting as your mum stuck on a plaster, because you were impatient to get back out there and climb that tree again until you DID reach the high branch and didn’t fall out; to make it all the way down the hill in the go-kart made from a toy pram.  Even though 17 times already it had tipped you out and cut your lip open.

A time when every day held the possibility of being the Best Day Ever.

When falling down was never a reason to stop.

When nerves were never a reason not to try.

When fear of change was never a reason to hold on to the past.

So maybe we need that pause at the red light and remember what it was like to be a kid, so that when the green man appears we bound ahead with the enthusiasm and optimism we used to have.

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What I learned from a Carrot

8 Apr

There’s an app you can get called Carrot.  Its a to do list organiser, but a to do list with attitude.  And a grudge.  If you don’t complete a task for a few hours it’s mood turns to wrathful and it thinks up punishments for you.  I resorted to putting in fairly simple tasks that I knew I had to do (get up, shower, drink water) just so I could cross things off the list and keep Carrot happy, or at least placated and not have it drop a house on me.  So if I’m so willing to keep an app on my phone happy through achieving simple things in life – why do I give myself such a hard time for things I perceive as ‘failure’?

I’ve been off work a few weeks now, stress related, so have had lots of time to think.  Sometimes for me that isn’t good as generally my thinking will start off very positive and with lots of goals and aims but then I’ll hit a set back and I’ll see that as a reflection of how crap I am so it reinforces my initial opinion and the spiral of self-hate starts back up.  So why set myself up for failure in the first place?  If I’ll let Carrot have simple tasks to be pleased with, why not do the same for myself?

Take marathon training.  At the beginning of the year I set myself a half marathon and marathon goal.  Things were going great, I was running regularly and had completed an 11 mile run in a couple of hours.  Half marathon was well within my grasp.  But then I picked up an injury – hip feels like its been beaten with an iron bar and has a constant ache in the bone like pressing on a bruise.  Resting hasn’t particularly helped and when I tried to run again, I couldn’t even manage a mile before hobbling home.  So what do I do:  I tell myself I’m a failure, that I can’t even run – even toddlers can run!  I’ve failed on the half marathon and I’m not likely to get the marathon.  But why am I looking at it like this?  Who have I ‘failed’?  No-one else particularly cares.  I don’t mean that in a bad way, as there has been some fantastic support from people both that I know and through Twitter (which is great for keeping you going but can also cause you to judge yourself harshly and unnecessarily when you see what amazing goals others achieve – but for a different blog!).  But in terms of will other people care to an extent where it changes their opinion of me?  I doubt it!  They have their own goals and aspirations and worries.  They’d have been happy for me if I’d succeeded but I doubt they’ll be turning up on my doorstep to chastise and berate me for not doing it!  So why am I not telling myself “well done, you ran 11 miles!  that’s the furthest you’ve run in a long, long time, that’s amazing!”  If I was Carrot I’d have given me a kitten for that!

In similar way, I’ve been looking at my ‘failure’ of a second marriage going down the pan and being on my own, again.  But is that really a failure?  Did I take nothing positive from the experiences?  Did I learn nothing?  Surely there are some positives in there that could be ticked off the list?   I need to relook at those relationships and figure out which bits could be ticked off the list (that’s going to be for another blog, too!)

The stress from work – maybe I need to stop trying to get everything to be perfect?  Nobody else seems to be bothered if things aren’t done absolutely correctly or if things aren’t black and white, so why am I the one putting my head over the parapet to question why things are being done as they are or trying to change it?  I suppose a coaching book would talk about circles of responsibility and circles of concern:  I’m going to look at it like an old pair of knickers instead.  The edges may be a bit frayed, the elastic might be getting worn and the colour is more grey than black or white – but they are keeping my arse covered and so why bother trying to change them!!

So for now, no more setting myself challenges or aims which may just serve to reinforce a negative self-image.  If someone doesn’t want to talk to me or be friends, then so be it; if I don’t eat healthily or lose weight then fine; if I stay single a bit longer, ok; if work doesn’t get done but I’ve done all I can, that’s all I can do.  Maybe at the moment its more important that my head is healthy and fit rather than being a size 12, marathon running Inspector.

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