Monthly Archives: March 2016

Love thy neighbour (even if he plays the accordeon)

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In case my life didn’t feel like enough of a circus at the moment, some Romanian guy is now playing accordion 7 days a week right under my windows.

Probably not with the sole purpose to annoy me (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt). I live on a busy street, and I imagine he’s getting a fair bit of audience; though Deptford being Deptford, God knows he’s not about to grow rich.

Anyway, it’s not even too loud or too repetitive (he’s got at least 3 songs in the repertoire) but it does go on all day, and it’s fair to say he doesn’t exactly put his heart or soul into it – as you probably wouldn’t if you had to play on the street for about 8 hours straight. Or come to think of it, as you probably don’t in your day job.

Altogether it’s not a fantastic addition to my working life, which currently consists mostly of sending out CVs and the odd dull application form (why some companies feel the need to have you copy/paste the entire content of your CV in their own ill-formatted Word table is beyond me).

So when I woke up this sunny Sunday morning with a fair bit of hangover, and the first thing I heard before I’d even had my first cup of tea was this freaking guy and his stupid accordion, is when it really started to p*ss me off.

I mean, the ONE DAY of the week when there’s no traffic, no market vans being unloaded, no crowds, no loud train announcements blasting from the station, there has to be this BLOODY IDIOT at it already. Who’s even going to be listening on a Sunday morning?!!

I dislike getting angry even more than I getting drunk (last night was a bit of a glitch), so just as I was vociferously asking myself in my own head “Who the f*ck would want to be out playing accordion on this street, all day, every day that God makes?!”… it thankfully hit me.

Who indeed?

I sure as hell wouldn’t. And I’m beginning to think this guy doesn’t either.

I mean, I don’t know much about his personal circumstances, but it’s bloody cold out, half the residents of this fair neighborhood are as broke as he is, and it’s not like anyone is stopping to listen anyway.

In fact, I passed him by only yesterday on my way to the shops, doing my best to pretend he wasn’t even there, but he still flashed a polite, if sheepish smile.

I’m guessing he sensed a hostile.

I promise to be nicer tomorrow.

 

Be more seagull

Seagulls just bide their time...They say cats are the greatest spiritual teachers, but I’d personally go with seagulls.

It’s true that by all accounts, cats are master of being “in the now” and doing their own thing. You don’t see them being too encumbered with what people will think , or ahem, want them to do.

They also look curiously at every tiny thing everyday as though they were seeing it for the first time, though in my opinion this has more to do with the fact that they’re very near-sighted.

One of my favourite things these days is to walk alongside the river, and looking at how seagulls play with the wind: gracefully going up when the wind goes up, down when it goes down. (Incidentally, I used to do that in my old job too: we were on the 9th floor.)

Unlike us humans, you don’t see seagulls manically trying to go against the wind, or crashing to the ground when there is none. That’s because when there is no wind, or too much, they just sit tight (usually among friends) and bide their time until the right wind blows again – because they know it always will.

This speaks to me volumes at a time when I’m between jobs, between homes and hopefully between relationships. Most days quite frankly feel like I’m in the tumble dryer, not entirely sure where is up or down, with wind coming in gusts from all directions.

So I try and learn from the seagulls, and bide my time gracefully, and wait for the right wind.

On another note, have you seen the phone ad campaign with the slogan BE MORE DOG“Walking: amazing! Chasing cars: amazing! Sticks: amazing! CARPE DIEM, which means ‘grab the frisbee’ “… Being that excited about everything is something we can all aspire to, but it’s a pretty tall order.

So on days when life’s looking less than tail-waggingly fun (maybe you’ve lost your squeaky toy or you’re in the dog house again) rather than be more dog I say BE MORE SEAGULL, and you’ll do just fine.

 

 

Books that will change you life: “Transitions – making sense of life’s changes”

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“People change and they forget to tell each other” – Lillian Hellman

 

 

The book

I can’t remember how or why I came across it in the first place, and I don’t know much about the author, but I’ve personally found it very helpful in the last few weeks as I’m going through rather a lot of change at the moment.

“Transitions” is not specifically about careers, more about all the big changes that make an impact on our lives. It was first published in 1980 and it has since been revised several times… so one can only assume it’s helped a number of people since.

Have you already had periods in your life when you’re no longer the “old you” and whatever you enjoyed previously (your old friends, your job, your city, whatever) suddenly no longer satisfies you? Or times when you felt empty or depressed for “no reason”? That’s the signs of transition, baby.

The big idea

According to the author, since Western society has evolved over the centuries to be primarily focused on productivity/ efficiency, we’ve had a tendency to view humans as “mechanical”. People are seen to evolve like on a production line: they are born, grow to their adult size while being equipped via education, and at the age of 21 they are fully-formed adults who do not change until the end of their lives… except for the fact they get old.

Yet we all know from experience that it’s not really true – I personally don’t feel like the same person I was 15 years ago, do you? Not only do our external circumstances change but we also evolve with regard to our identities, who we think we are, and what we want for ourselves.

Understanding the psychological transition that goes on around major external changes can help us figure out why we sometimes react in inexplicable ways… especially when we find ourselves getting depressed “for no reason”, or following a positive external change like a big promotion at work or the birth of a child.

“Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture.”

Ending before beginning

In ancient societies, people didn’t have smart phones but they were more in touch with their internal lives than we are, and they had rites of passage to help individuals go through major life changes.

Whatever form they took, those rites usually involved a “dramatic ending” to the old familiar situation, followed by time spent in a “neutral zone”, and finally a “new beginning” when the person returns with a new identity. (You might have heard of such rituals in tribes when boys were sent to spend time on their own in the wilderness, as a symbolic rite of passage in order to become men? If not they’re copiously described in the book, alongside ancient Greeks myths and the life of Jesus and other spiritual figures).

Crucially, the “new beginning” comes right at the end of the process; it won’t happen until the person has A/ fully accepted that he/she can never go back to the old situation (which may cause considerable grief) and B/ spent the appropriate time in the neutral zone doing some soul-searching.

Why it will change your life

We’ve all heard about the mid-life crisis (and the red sports car clichés), but it’s not true that all of us will go on a major identity crisis at 40 – rather, our identities evolve constantly in our own time, and we may well go through several such transitions depending on our circumstances.

Each of us will be faced with several periods of “floating” and readjustment which may be extremely painful, especially if we have no clue what is going on… so understanding the process can help us navigate it more easily and gracefully.

 

When you don’t know what to do, do nothing


What is required is actively doing nothing... 2
As mentioned previously, I recently quit my job of 7 years.

This had been a long time coming, since although I liked it there (at least most days), I’d become desperate for some time off, and it felt as though a long break was overdue.

As decisions go, it wasn’t very rational – reason would have dictated that I don’t quit my job without having a new one lined up. But since every cell in my body told me otherwise, I opted to check out and give myself time to basically unplug, stare at the wall a bit, then surround myself with nice things and nice people, and figure out what to do next.

If you’ve already made a decision on instinct rather than reason, you may be familiar with that feeling of floating – accompanied by a slight panic – that comes when you know you’ve made the right decision, but you still don’t know what to do next. Like you’re still expecting the rest of the guidelines.

Imagine following a trail of pebbles in the forest – you probably don’t see the end destination, and you may go through long periods of not finding the next pebble. At this point you’re better off slowing down until you find the next step.

This is rather what it feels right now.

To use another hackneyed metaphor: when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, it doesn’t just loses its tiny legs and grows a pair of wings. No, what happens is that every cell of the caterpillar dissolves inside the cocoon to form some sort of goo; which will in turn become a new being.

I currently feel in the goo phase. It’s a bit of a bummer, but rather than freaking out I’ve decided to make the most of it; if that’s how it works, then so be it.

Embracing nothingness is harder than you’d think – for me it means repeated efforts not to run around like a headless chicken, checking job listings all day (tempting), or binge-watching Netflix series (even more so).

It turns out for it to work, what is actually required is actively doing nothing – vacating yourself and your thoughts through whichever ways are available to you, meditating, walking, singing, whatever. That’s the only way you might hear answers from the tiny voice within.

For me what works is a long walk or dancing around my flat (though don’t tell anyone); baking or boxing or playing with your dog may do the trick for you. If you don’t know what does it for you, trying to figure it out will be time well spent.

At the moment though, I’m still looking for the next pebble.

I’ll keep you posted.