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Whatever Gets You Through Today.

Following on from my ruminations over success, I’ve been thinking about how our days are so controlled and whether that matches up to our own feelings of being able to manage and enjoy life.

I have always valued time far more than I value money, though I am always in a position where I have too much of one and not enough of the other. The balance flips quite regularly but never seems to plateau.

A lot of our perception of time comes down to structure, routine, being organised and of course, managing our expectations and comparisons. Anxiety, for me, starts the minute I get up and continues throughout the day, quite often disturbing my sleep. Anxieties are wide ranging and not always to do with how my day pans out but, I think, money, work, family time and time for myself all contribute to the sometimes suffocating worries I contend with.

Some years ago I built a career as a restaurant and bar manager for a local business, I worked all day, every day, prioritising my job over most other things, I loved it, loved the fast pace, the responsibility, the feeling of being respected and looked up to. When I became pregnant I left my job, knowing that I couldn’t continue the hours or keep up the work and being confident that I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my tiny girl, my personal goals shifted overnight and the overwhelming love I had for the person growing in my tummy overtook everything I thought I knew. With all the best intentions in the world (I baked cakes and sold them from home) I had to return to work when she was just 9 months old, we couldn’t manage without an income and circumstances meant that I had to be the one bringing home the bacon (another story…) I knew that I wanted a job close to home that didn’t demand extreme or unpredictable hours, also, my daughter had to come first, I needed the time to be with her, 9 months was too soon in my opinion to go back to a full time job and it’s a decision I will always regret.

So. I found a job in the local opticians, took on a 37hr contract and made the best of it, financially, we were still in a pickle but we were managing. Without realising, I started to climb the ladder and took on extra responsibilities. Around this time, my home life fell apart, my daughter and I moved out ready to start another chapter on our own. I continued working, climbing and felt as though I had got it all sorted, my daughter (now 2) was in nursery, doing fantastically well and for a couple of months the balance was restored.

The trouble with life is that it sneaks up on you. It wasn’t until I was on a train, heading to a meeting that I realised. Absolutely nothing I was doing was what I wanted. I didn’t have the time I wanted, I didn’t have the job I wanted, I had isolated myself entirely, didn’t have time for friends. Suddenly I knew, I had to get out, had to make a change (again). Unfortunately, trains are probably the worst places to have such revelations and I had a panic attack.

True to my thoughts, I left my job and immediately felt relieved, I spent a few months just concentrating on myself, my daughter, our home and my aspirations. As much as I want to be her role model I don’t always think that good examples are set by not being available. I wanted to be available.

During this time I wrote lists, I explored options, I visited friends and family, I volunteered at my daughters pre-school, I thought about all the things I was good at and how to make that work for me. I’ve always loved creating, making things, writing, making things look beautiful. My own experiences of life have also given me a passion for helping those who can’t get to a happy place.

I realise this story is going on a bit now, when I planned it I hadn’t accounted for so much rambling…

Next step. Get a job in a school. So I did, focusing on those students who need more, who might not be having fun at home or school, who don’t have the direction, drive, ambition, opportunities or abilities that others might be blessed with. I loved it, I met the man of my dreams and again everything slowly fell back into place. But, I wanted a little bit more, I felt restricted in the education system and wanted to give more, to help more, to achieve more. To make an impact. So I moved, to a school who offered me a more holistic position, including mental health needs, family liason and more responsibility. Then. after 18 months, funding was cut, schools everywhere put their hands up and said “sorry, we just can’t afford anyone any more” and thousands of people across the country were made redundant. Ouch.

I was back to square one, who am I? What do I want? How do I get there? How is this affecting my daughter?

Nearly 6 months on I have 2 jobs that I mainly do from home, managing my time is still hard, I write lists, I write diaries, I try everything to make my day as productive as it possibly can be, I still get to do what I love, mentoring young people but I’m not in education, there’s more scope for me to make an impact. And. Most importantly, I’m here for my daughter, I can take her to school, pick her up in the afternoon, I don’t miss a parents evening, I’m here all morning and all evening, our relationship is the most beautiful it’s ever been. It’s what I wanted?

Perhaps it’s a personal affliction that I am never satisfied, that I always want more, I’m always two steps ahead. In addition, I still have no money. Literally, none.

Originally I meant to write about people’s loves, their ambitions, their hobbies and how these can be incorporated into the day, ensuring that we stay positive, doing things that we love but managing to succeed in all the aspects of life we can’t avoid; bill paying, putting food on the table etc.

I suppose, life and the journey that we are all on means that we cannot predict what will happen, what gets us through one day might be completely different to what gets us through another. It goes back to my previous post and how everything is so personal, we hear and see all the things we’re “supposed” to be doing but for whatever reason we’re not doing them and we feel guilty.

Today, I took my daughter to school, I wrote in my journal, I worked for an hour, I wrote this post and now I’ll return to working. I hope to be able to complete all the things on my list but I know it’s ok if I don’t. I’m getting myself through the day and I know that any moment things could turn upside down and change again. Unpredictability is scary but it’s probably the only thing we can predict.

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Measuring Success

It seems odd to sit down in the first week of January and consider writing about success.

It was at about 10am on January 1st that the idea came to me, I’ve been pondering a lot over my life (haven’t we all…); where I’ve been, where I imagined I’d be, where I am and where I want to go.

Having experienced so much and catapulted along spectrums, feeling the highs and lows of many different life experiences I can say that I’ve felt and managed nearly all of what life could throw at someone. In August of last year however, I was made redundant and the ensuing roller coaster of emotion and challenges were akin only to childbirth and those first few months of life with a new born baby (it’s ok, I know because I’ve done that too).

I felt completely worthless, isolated and overwhelmed. Now, I’m not the only person ever to be made redundant and it’s horrible, for whoever it happens to. Some days though, these days in particular, I’m trying to capture what it means to turn things around, pick oneself up and make changes.

So, success, what does it mean? Is it financial? Do we all strive to be financially stable and independent, take the family away on big extravagant holidays that we can then share with all the other mums in the playground or our colleagues in the office? Is it a career? Do we all want to be at the top of our game, making ourselves a commercial success story? Is it familial? To have beautiful children, a perfect magazine worthy home and a tiny waistline? Or. Could it be far more personal than that? To simply feel as though we have managed. To feel as though we are doing well.

The difference between these of course, is that finances, careers and perfect family life can be measured, as personal though it is and to each person it will look very different, it can be measured. Feeling’s can’t.

This again throws up how individual it all is, how we, as people, live in a constant state of comparing ourselves to others, features in magazines, colleagues, parents in the playground, siblings… the list goes on and on and on. We spend so long wondering what other people think of us, whether they know us or not that we put thinking about ourselves lower on the list of priorities. It seems ridiculous. I am so guilty of doing it though, to the point where I contemplate the order I put items in my shopping basket in my local shop for fear of what someone might think when they see a bottle of wine, a tub of butter and a packet of Andrex.

Self care is huge news at the moment, I’ve seen a lot of articles promoting nail painting and bath oils and a lot of people responding to that in quite a negative way. I’ve got to say, I agree with it all, success on a Monday might well be managing to get out of bed and brushing your teeth whereas success on a Friday might involve painting your nails and having a lengthy chat with a friend. It’s all self care, it’s all focusing on your own needs and it all counts towards success.

Having digressed quite a lot throughout this post I still haven’t found an answer, I don’t know what success is or the best way to measure it. I’ve had moments in my life where I have considered myself a success because I wear a suit to work or because I’m well qualified or because I earn enough money not to worry about the childcare bill. I’ve also felt successful just by looking at my child, having a clean house and currently just by getting through the day.

I think, what we all need to remember is that it’s personal. Stop considering other peoples reactions because, more than likely, they’ve got the same internal dialogue going on as we have, and if they haven’t? Well done them! We place enormous expectations on ourselves, not always helped by media and sometimes this can be great motivation but oftentimes, it isn’t, it’s a constant reminder that we’re not meeting the incredibly high standard that we’ve designed for ourselves. Lets all cut ourselves a bit of slack and just say. You’re doing great. Just as you are.

 

 

A little quest for happiness…

I’m a reader, I love reading books, fiction, non-fiction, biographies, self-help, anything with words on pages I’ll lap up.

So, in my quest to discover what makes us tick, I’ve been turning to the pages of those books written by others on their own quest for happiness. Most recently I’ve been devouring The little book of Lykke, written by the CEO of the happiness institute. It talks a  lot about Scandinavian pursuits, how, despite the high taxes, weather and other negative factors they still rank highest in the worlds happiness charts.

Can we adopt all the ways that the Danes find success? It would be so lovely if we could, but, here in England we just don’t have the society to back it. The book talks about communities, group housing projects, neighbourhood sharing. This made me think about my own community, I know most of the other people living on the street, by name, by face, but we don’t communicate further than the daily “morning, nice weather…” etc. It’s a shame, when I was younger we would play with others in the streets, we would chat, go around for coffee, dinner.. About 10 years ago I lived in a large shared house and, was lucky enough to have about 7 of my good friends living in a 2minute radius, the street was friendly, the shop keeper knew my name, knew what I’d be going in to buy, the sense of community, for me, was warming.

People move on and now, I don’t see half of those people more than nodding a greeting on the street.

Other aspects of the book (and other books) talk about how subjective it all is. Happiness is an individual quest, a personal journey, what makes me happy would not necessarily make others happy. This posed the question “why on earth am I reading these books looking for answers” I suppose it’s just nice to read other peoples stories, I hope that someone will read mine and inspiration, for me, can be found anywhere and everywhere.

I won’t stop reading but my perception has altered, I can’t follow the path or advice of anyone else to find my own sweet spot. I can look at the pillars, the foundations of their journey and, if relevant, link them to my own but the main thing to remember is, it is my journey. No-one else can control it. This extends to waiting for others in my physical life to make me happy too. There are areas of my life that I feel I don’t control, I’m waiting for others to make decisions, to make moves. I need to take back the control in order to restore the order.

In my notes I picked the four pillars, home, health, money and family. They all link intrinsically, yet they all have independence. The next part is the most tricky, how do I manage the steps to improve all the pillars? Do I look at one before the others? Do I go in, all guns blazing and tackle them all whilst hoping not to get swallowed up in an unmanageable process? As usual, I have no idea. I start. where I always start, by cleaning the house, a frantic catharsis of scourers, sponges and hoovering. Once the house is clean, clear of debris, then I find I can think.