Life is in Seasons

A few months ago, my older sister and I spent a weekend together and we got talking about how life is in seasons.

We concluded that you can have all the hopes and aspirations you want; you can believe for great things; you can hope for a wonderful life but one thing that is constant to all people is that life will always certainly have highs and low. It’s the basic tenet of existence.

It’s a fallacy to believe that life will be a constant high. And a lot of us struggle with this because whether we say it or not, we have a sense of entitlement to a ‘good life’.

And don’t get me wrong, we do deserve a ‘good life’, whatever that is for you but it’s not an entitlement – it happens by grace.

The older I get, the more I am able to master the changing seasons. When I was younger, I viewed them as a sentence being meted out to me. I would often ask why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this? Why does it always happen to me? When is it going to be my turn? Why, why, why, why, why, why,  why? However, after going through a fair number of seasons you learn to ride the waves – maybe even control their impact on you or your reaction to them.

I hope to God I do not become an expert on changing seasons LOL but I have come to understand that if you can be still in the storm, it will pass. If you can stop yourself from making decisions when you are desperate or scared, you’ll make better choices for yourself. If you can look at the season not as something being done to you but a process of refinement, then you might just learn something through the process. If you can try your darnedest not to see the season as a reflection of your esteem but see it for what it is – a bad time. And if you can yes, hold on for that ‘good life’ it will come – even if it does tarry (oh I sound ancient now).

The opening line of one of favourite songs by Maxwell is, “I was reborn when I was broken“. Only seven words, not a very long sentence, but they speak volumes to me. A different perspective perhaps to pain and disappointment. Lots of people talk about how they go through a tough season and come out of the other side a different person. The loss of a loved one, the loss of a home, redundancy, divorce, a betrayal, an unexpected diagnosis; so many different seasons we find ourselves in; often without warning. Can we be reborn as we pass through them? Perhaps the season may take a part of you and enable a different you to surface. I was reborn when I was broken.

Maxwell’s response is to “take it one day at a time”. Those sound like wise words to me. Maybe he’s walked through a few seasons too. The season always has a byline. It has a knack of revealing it usually at the end though. If maybe at the turn of a new season, we could learn to turn the volume down a bit, we may hear the whispers of the byline; the story it seeks to share. Then perhaps we too can we say, “we were reborn when we were broken”.

 

I am really determined to learn something new in every season. Almost like a do your worst, I’m-going-to-grow-through-this-sort-of-growl. As long as there is life, I can be stronger and say I was reborn when I was broken. I may cry a little but I will be reborn.

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Thought of the Day

I attended a seminar years ago and a point was made about perfectionism that I’ll never forget. “Perfectionism is also a cover for a fear of failure” explained one of the participants as contributors around the room discussed stumbling blocks to efficiency.

If there ever was an ah-ah moment, that was it for me. I’m a recovering perfectionist. I was that person that would keep fine tuning that report weeks after it was due because I wouldn’t let it be seen unless it was absolutely perfect. I didn’t want to be criticised so I would find every reason under the sun and justify handing it in late for the sake of the elusive perfect report. After one such episode, I handed in my report to my manager. Despite spending so much time on it, she still have feedback and there was still so much more to do. The harsh reality of life hit me that day. No matter how perfect you or your work may be, someone else’s ‘perfect’ will rarely ever match yours. That was probably the last day I spent time over polishing my work; particularly when the input of others is required to finalise it. I might as well hand it in right?

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For perfectionists, an inordinate amount of time is wasted on creating the perfect work; the perfect face; the perfect C.V; the perfect business plan; the perfect style; the perfect heaven knows what. Excellence and perfection aren’t the same thing.  Perfection is a state that rarely has consensus. A much more healthy approach is to simply do your best at any given point in time. It might not be perfect but it will be good enough!

Being Young Will Always Be Difficult

Today is National Jumper Day and my children’s school recognised it as part of an effort to raise funds for Save the Children. Being the sort of person that I am, my children have no such item of clothing in their wardrobe nor did I intend to buy one specifically for this. Bite me!

They obviously have jumpers so I thought we could ‘jazz it up’ (to use my mother’s speak) with some badges they had – no less than Michael Jackson badges. They both seemed pretty happy wearing it when they left home today but I kind of knew that when they got to school there would be all sorts of jumpers much more vibrant than theirs. In an attempt to prepare them, I mentioned it on our way to school just so that they could be prepared for the onslaught of ‘amazing’ jumpers.

When I picked them up after school, I was curious how they coped with it. You know that phrase, ‘curiosity killed the cat’? I should have left things as they were – happy and calm. It turned out that when they saw all the colourful Christmas jumpers they were jealous. My son who is older, was a lot sadder than my daughter; she simply hated the colour of the jumper but my son seemed very upset by it and the feelings he experienced. I guess from an eight year-old’s perspective, you really want to be a part of the ‘party’.

What could I say that would make ‘sense’ to children so young? I attempted to have a discussion about contentment and the fact that we can’t always have what we want and lots of people will always have something we want. I told my son that it’s natural to feel jealous because he looked so different from everyone else and they seemingly had nicer jumper. However, he had to be as confident in what he had as when he left home this morning; irrespective of what others around him have. Who am I kidding, right? They just wanted the blasted jumpers and I will go and buy a pair this weekend.

If I had the time, perhaps I would have got them the jumpers but it was just one more thing I couldn’t fit in this week. In my defence, I did warn them about it and the school categorically said that we didn’t need to go out and buy anything and suggested colours which I kept to with the added bonus of my flashy badges. SMH. I should feel bad I guess but I don’t really. In the grand scheme of things, they are going to have to navigate a lot more than jumpers plus right now I can hear them laughing and playing only an hour after.

No doubt it’s tougher being young nowadays with social media and the level of information out there. However, it’s always been tough to be a child. Irrespective of the time, era or space, children through the ages have always had to navigate the terrain of appropriate social norms, behaviour, friendships, being popular or not and of course peer pressure. The temptation is to try and shield children from navigating these challenges on their own by giving them what they want or all they want. That’s a futile effort as they will still need to learn how to stand on their own as confident human beings. Of course understanding their pressures is useful but it’s never going to take away the pressures. The sooner they learn the art of contentment and being happy with ‘me’, the better I think.

By God’s grace they won’t end up on some couch telling a therapist how their mother stifled their creativity or held them back when she put them in boring jumpers to school.

Mid Week Kick

Do you get those days when you think this is my life?

I am xx years old.

I haven’t achieved xxxx.

I thought I would have been xxxxx by now.

And do you know what?  Sometimes to move forward you’ve got to accept that this is your life and be content with it.

I am xxx years old. I know people who haven’t lived as long. Some of them were my friends.

I haven’t achieved xxx, but goodness me, I have done l, m, n, o and p. Some people would love to have my l, m,n, o and p.

I thought I would have been xxxxx by now but ,heaven permitting, there is still some more time.

This is my life.  I am content.

Acknowledge Your Child’s Flaws

I don’t think anyone one could tell me anything about myself that I would be surprised to hear.  I am fully aware of my strengths and my flaws.  Like everyone else, I am a work in progress.  My children are also works in progress but it is my responsibility as a parent to challenge them to grow; not necessarily change, but grow.

For example, my son is two years older than his sister and has always doted on her from the moment she was born.  I think she is quite aware that he has a soft spot for her and gets him to give up a lot for her – like T.V programmes, food, sweets, toys- you name it.  He is nine times out of ten more willing to sacrifice for her.  As the younger sibling, I cannot say that she is as willing to sacrifice as much as he does, to put it kindly.  She is six times out of ten more likely to be coerced into giving up something for him.

I try to teach them to negotiate when they disagree on say, what to watch on TV and the number of times I’ve heard my son say, “oh OK.  You can watch what you want”, is sadly not a rarity.  And like most people oblivious to their flaws, when she doesn’t get her way, she comes crying, “He NEVER lets me watch what I want”. 🙂  At those moments I marvel.  If I wasn’t present at most of those times, I would accuse my son of being selfish.  However, she is five – it’s my role to point out these tendencies to her and also create opportunities for her to be more giving, or force her if necessary.  She may not get to nine times out of ten like her brother but she can get to a seven and a half or eight, plus the added advantage of being self-aware so she can watch out for it herself as she grows older.

Parents can understandably get very sensitive about their children’s flaws.  Criticism about them is taken personally because it is interpreted as personal failure – being a ‘bad’ parent.  As there are no instruction manuals for parenting each individual child, and we are all trying our best to make the best of it, then it is right that we should take personal responsibility.   However, as tough as it may be to hear negative reports about your child, assess it.  I can’t tell you how to react to it but in your quiet moments assess it because it is your responsibility to ensure that they are equipped with mental, social, emotional and spiritual tools to cope with adulthood.  There is nothing worse than an adult who still acts like a child.

Twenty Things The Year 2013 Taught Me

Here are a few things I learnt this year which should keep me in check in 2014.
1. A little humility never hurt anyone.
2. It is better to be practical than go hungry.
3. There are many blessings on the pathway to achieving your goal.
4. In dark times you are motivated to discover what you really want to do with your life.
5. Good relationships with family and friends enrich your life.
6. Do what makes you happy today since there is no guarantee of tomorrow.
7. Even a dead-end job can be brought to life.
8. In time, things work out beautifully.
9. Learn from the mistakes of other people, there is really no need to go through their pain.
10. Treat people with respect and kindness. It is vital.
11. Never say you can’t do something because you can always learn.
12. Don’t compare yourself to others. Start where you are, keep at it and you’ll excel.
13. Never stop learning and don’t be too proud to learn from others.
14. Find a hobby that creates an oasis in times of frustration.
15. How people treat you is not a reflection of who you are.
16. Take risks and take them often. Stretch your capabilities and your faith.
17. Don’t try and save the world. Simply contribute your part.
18. Use your experience and your knowledge to create opportunities.
19. Do not limit yourself.
20. Never stop smiling. 🙂