Uncertainty

Recently, I find myself
paralyzed by uncertainty,
weighed down by the weight 
of my own
expectations.

These really are strange times. Even though here in the UK the lockdown is gradually lifting, there is so much uncertainty about what will happen next. With the virus, with the global economy, with life as we know it.

I am actually finding this stage harder to deal with than the full lockdown! So many ‘what ifs’. So many parts of life that might not get back to normal for a long, long time.

The strangeness of having family or friends to visit, so wonderful to see them, but they have to sit in the garden (in the rain on one occasion!) and I have to think twice about offering them a cup of tea.

The sense of almost-back-to-normal when I meet with friends for walks, and the difficulty of remembering to walk 2 metres apart when we have 3 months worth of catching up to do!

Skyping family and friends on the other side of the world and wondering when I’ll actually be able to see them again – could it be months? Years?

Hearing that I won’t be able to go back to the office 6-12 months. I really like working from home, and I normally work from home 3 days a week anyway, but I’m starting to feel a bit isolated without my weekly trips to the office to chat (I mean work).

Uncertainty and worry over work, the pandemic, the economy, the future…it is paralysing! It stops me from doing what I need to do and what I want to do.

It stops me from writing.

It stops me from painting.

It makes me agonise over decisions – or not make decisions at all.

It makes me want to lie on the sofa and scroll through the news AGAIN, as if the answer is there somewhere if only I scroll further.

The uncertainty is not going to go away anytime soon.

I’m the one who is going to have to change, to learn to live with it.

Adjust my expectations about what I can achieve during this time. Find a way to move forward, to make choices, even when I don’t know what is ahead. Enjoy what I can do instead of focusing on the things I can’t do. Simply enjoy the summer.


What about you? How are you coping?

From drifting to steering

I’ve been thinking about that moment when we take control of something in our lives.  Perhaps something we’ve dreamed about for years.  The shift in perspective that occurs when we go from thinking, for example, ‘one day I’d like to write a novel’ to actually sitting down to write the first page.  And the one after that, and the one after that.

The moment when we realise….

‘If I want to make that thing happen then I have to DO something!’

I’m sure this is easy for many people, but for me, I like to dream and think about what I might like to do but I get stuck in the realities of life (earning a living etc) and often I don’t get round to doing what I want to do!

Also I have to write about creating a shift in perspective for one of my coaching assignments, so this is also me mulling over some ideas.   I’d love to know your thoughts.


To drift: to move slowly, especially as a result of outside forces, with no control over direction.

Sometimes we drift through our lives, at the mercy of the currents and winds.  Sharp rocks and shipwrecks may await, or, less dramatically but potentially as serious, a lifetime of drifting into unsatisfactory jobs, or not quite ever getting around to doing what we really want to do.  We follow the currents of other people’s beliefs and values, other people’s ‘shoulds’, never quite getting where we really want to go.  Perhaps not even aware of where we really want to go.

And often we drift with a head full of dreams.  Our body is sitting in an open plan office in front of a computer, our head is filled with possibilities.  ‘Perhaps I’ll become an artist’.  ‘Maybe I could go self-employed’.  ‘Maybe I’ll pack it all in and go and live on a desert island’.  But we never do.

So much of our energy is focused on dreaming, on thinking, on imagining, on future possibilities, but these thoughts don’t turn into action. Looking inward, looking to something that only exists in our minds, talking about it maybe (perhaps talking about it endlessly!) but never doing.  Never changing, never growing, just…stuck in our heads.  And drifting.

And sometimes we drift with no dreams at all.  We plod along a course that we haven’t chosen, frustrated.  Drifting on the currents of life, we see no way out.

And then something happens.  Maybe we get too close to those dangerous rocks.  Perhaps a storm brings a clarifying splash of icy cold water.

Maybe we just can’t face another day at that job.   A significant birthday.  A death.  A birth. A deadline.

A shift in perspective.

This is the moment when we realise….

‘If I want to make change happen then I have to DO something.  Now!’

This is when we take control.

Now we are not drifting, we are steering.

We take the helm.  We take responsibility.

We take our boredom with our current lives seriously.

We take our dreams seriously.

We commit to change.

We take action.

To steer a course or path: to take a series of actions, usually of a particular type, carefully and intentionally.

At first, steering may look just like drifting to the outside observer.  Outwardly, nothing may change.  We may still be at the boring job, but unseen by the world we are now making plans, researching, taking action.

We question.  Is this really want I want to do?  What is it that I believe?  Where do I really want to be in 5 years’ time?  What does success look like to me…not to my mother or my work colleagues or society….to me?

We may appear to drift around for a while, trying out new ideas, but the difference is that our movement is purposeful to us.  We are deliberately choosing our direction.

We make goals and we take the steps that we need to make those goals happen.

We go from saying ‘maybe I could do xyz’, or ‘I’d love to do xyz but it’s not possible because….’ To ‘it is possible and I will take the steps I need to take to make it happen.

It might not be easy.  It will probably take courage and determination to make changes.  We might want to give up.  We might need support.

But now we know.  If we want change, we need to take action.

How does this shift in perspective happen?

So often the thing that shifts us from drifting to steering comes from outside of us.  For example, a deadline, a divorce, redundancy.  How do we move ourselves from drifting to steering without one of these external influences?

I think there are several ways, including becoming aware that we are drifting through life, that we are doing something we don’t really want to be doing and not taking our dreams seriously.   We could explore our own beliefs and values, to see if they match the life we are living.  A powerful excercise can be to explore our dreams and create a vision of the future that motivates us to make it happen.  We can structure our lives so we can more easily do the thing we want to do (eg set aside time each day to write, if writing a novel is the dream).


What about you?

I’m really interested to know what has moved you from drifting to steering.

Have you had the experience of having some dream that you wanted to do ‘one day’, but that you didn’t ever get round to doing, perhaps because you were too busy, or you didn’t think it was possible?  And then you did start to do it?  What was the thing that made you take action?

Or are you stuck right now, wondering how to steer a course towards your dreams?

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Boredom

Boredom sits heavy.

Don’t resist,

don’t drive it away

with endless scrolling

or unnecessary busyness.

Let it be.

Mooch around.

Feel a little fed up.

Just when you think

you can’t take any more,

you will notice something.

Within the boredom,

a little seed of creativity

is growing.

Give it space.

Wait, then watch it blossom

into ideas,

into action.


An empty holiday cottage on the Dorset coast. Everyone else has gone out. At first, the peace is bliss, then I get bored.

Then eventually the boredom transforms into the wish to draw. But all my sketchbooks, pencils and paints are at home.

My eyes fall on my nephews’ drawing book and gel pens.

My fingers itch to draw.

I have an idea.

I go and find their favourite toys, scattered around the house.

I draw each one, 2 monkeys and 2 cats, on random pages.

Tomorrow we all go home.

Sometime in the future, when my nephews look for a clean sheet of drawing paper, they will find my drawings.

And when I get home I will get my paints out. And maybe add some gel pens to my ever expanding range of art materials.

Thank you boredom!

Making time for creative projects

How many creative ideas, however humble or life changing, have withered and died in tidy houses and organised, outwardly perfect lives?

Allow your creativity to flow.  Give it time and space.  Take your ideas seriously. 

Make time in your week for your creative projects.  Add them to your to-do list.

Don’t wait until the perfect time or place.  Don’t wait until you have a studio, until your kids leave home, until you retire.  Do it now!

Maybe you get up in the morning to a whole new shiny day, and think ‘today is the day’, but then you think you must wash the dishes, clean the house, you think ‘I’ll do it later’, but later never comes.  Don’t wait until the washing up and tidying is done – do your creative projects first.  How many creative ideas, however humble or life changing, have withered and died in tidy houses and organised, outwardly perfect lives?

Experiment.  Be joyful.

Wear your creative work lightly.

Create, create, create…..

Go on….you know you want to!

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Letting life unfold

Sitting quietly, doing nothing,

spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.

Basho


I have loved this haiku ever since I first read it. Twenty-five years ago I wrote it out on a piece of card and stuck it over my desk when I was revising for my final exams at university.

I felt instinctively that the words were true, yet I was stuck in a life where I had to strive to make things happen; work, and work some more, worry, then work harder, in order to get a qualification, so that I could get a job, so that I could carry on working hard.

The end was never in sight, just a life of effort and busyness.

I longed for a life where I was like the grass, biding my time and then growing when the conditions were right.

Or a life where I was just sitting, observing, not worrying or striving to control the grass (a pointless task!). Just relaxing, waiting for it to grow in its own sweet time and trusting that everything would unfold as it should.

Neither of these were true for me at the time, instead I was full of anxiety about the future. But I always felt that Basho was speaking across the centuaries to me, pointing out a better way to live.

I’ve been drawn to the haiku again recently as I talk to friends and coaching clients and think about my own life.

The idea of something happening, growing, reaching fruition in its own time and when the conditions are right. Of not knowing what the outcome will be, just letting life evolve and grow.

So often I’ve asked the question ‘now what should I do with my life?’ or ‘what should I do next?’ and expected an answer, fully formed and shiny, a new goal.

What happens when no goal appears, when I’m not sure what to do next? Can I allow my life to unfold naturally, following my interests and passions to see where they take me, without expectations?

My biologist self looks at the grass growing by itself and knows that it is only growing because of the coming together of the right conditions for grass to grow; warmth, sunlight, rain, suitable soil, the right numbers of grazing animals, strong roots that have survived the winter, viable grass seed.

So how can we create the right conditions in our own lives?

Sit quietly, do nothing. Or go for a walk, or whatever allows us the space and time to listen. We need the equivalent of sun, rain and sweet time to let us grow.

An idea nudges us in the quietness, whispers in a small voice ‘this is what I want’.

More ideas emerge, possibilities reveal themselves, action unfolds because it feels effortless, the right thing to do.

It takes faith and courage to let things evolve, to see where your path of life leads. Sometimes it can be a lonely road, it seems that not many others are taking it. But they are.

And eventually a goal emerges, a path appears in the undergrowth. There is a map and someone has been that way before. It might take some effort, risk and persistence to follow the path, but it feels right.

You just have to start walking through the grass, which is growing all by itself.

Morning routines

 I sip my first cup of tea
surrounded by birdsong
as bees breakfast on the columbines.

Now that warmer weather has arrived, I have started having breakfast outside in the garden instead of mindlessly slumping on the sofa in front of breakfast TV news.

We’ve had a run of lovely mornings; blue sky, sunshine, fresh cool morning air.

I find this so calming. The immersion in nature relaxing my body and mind. The felt sense of my belonging, my need for this outdoor world.

I resolve, even when the weather is bad and I have breakfast indoors, to stay away from the morning TV news with all its negativity and trivia, telling me things I don’t need to know, ignoring the things I consider to be important. It gives me the impression that the world is a dangerous place, when just outside my window the world itself is telling me a different story. It sends me into my day with a sense of unease.

There is news in the garden too, much of it in a language I barely understand, passed on in song or bee-dance. Some of it is every bit as sensational as the TV news, tales of life and death. Did the baby blackbirds in the nest in the hedge make it through the night? (its awfully quiet in there). Did the deer eat my broad bean plants? There are stories of growth, news of the flowers most ripe with nectar and pollen, of turf wars between the robins.

Out here there is no clock in the corner of the screen hurrying along the minutes, so I linger, then sit down to work a little later than I planned. I take indoors with me a sense of calm that permeates my day.


What are your morning routines? Do they make you happy?

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Jealousy

Jealousy strikes,
irritates,
illuminates,
reveals the path
I wish to travel.

Jealousy. It gets a bad press, but it can be really useful. It can point the way to something we really want.

I don’t often feel jealous, but when I do, it’s usually because someone else is doing something that I want to do. Something I have told myself is impossible, or too hard, or not for the likes of me, for someone older, or younger, more talented, better educated….the list goes on.

This morning, while I was reading an article about a writer and explorer, jealousy bit hard. I read about one of the ideas in his new book, something I remember thinking about years ago. ‘It’s not fair’, I thought. ‘I could have written that’. But I didn’t.

Jealousy showed me that writing about these ideas, and writing a book, is important to me.

Then came the excuses. ‘Oh but he’s probably a much better writer than me. He probably studied literature and writing. He’s probably rich and can afford to be a writer and not need a real job.’

This may, or may not, be true. The point is, he did it. I didn’t. The point is, more clarity on what is important to me, what it is that I want.

Jealousy is not a pleasant feeling, but it gave me a little nudge into action. I could choose to take what I want seriously. I could take some writing courses. I could start redrafting the novel that I wrote a few years ago.


What do you think? Has jealousy ever made you stop and think? Pointed the way to a new direction, adventure or creative project?

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Words

Here, unexpectedly

I rediscovered my love

of words;

yours, and mine.

I take the feeling

deep within

and pour it out

across the screen

lightheartedly.

Or I wait

for the words

to strike,

to pass through,

from who knows where.

A communion

from my heart

to yours.

Security and adventure

Here it is again,

that old familiar tension

between security and adventure,

a central dichotomy in my life.

For a while now I have clung to employment

like a life raft through turbulent seas,

rescued from joblessness,

begging not to be set down again.

But suddenly today

a lifting, a shifting

physically in shoulders and upper chest

a releasing and then

a new perspective arrives.

I dare to imagine again

the freedom of breaking from the nine to five,

boarding a plane to who knows where,

making money who knows how,

I dream, and work looks a little dull.

It’s back,

that old familiar tension

between security and adventure.

In the past I’ve see-sawed between the two,

now I want to learn to balance.