Tag Archives: Growing

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.

 

I’m back (with no vengeance)

downloadI’ve been away from this blog for a while, partly due to medical reasons.

Back in November I had open surgery at my local hospital to remove a huge fibroid. (apologies if this is TMI but for the sake of women who haven’t heard: uterine fibroids are a bummer, and they affect 40% of the female population. Get yourselves checked, just sayin’).

I was scheduled to spend three days in hospital followed by a month off, which ended up turning into ten days and two months off. I spent those two months at home, largely unable to go out (we live on a 3rd floor with no lift) just sleeping, eating and resting.

Looking back, it was kind of nice.

I feel quite bad saying this, with regards to my family and friends who worried (specially while I was in hospital), my boyfriend who had to play housewife (he discovered some things don’t auto-clean) and my co-workers, who did all my work (to the intern who did it for free: you have my eternal gratitude).

But it’s true, once I was released from the hospital and out of harm’s way, the forced rest felt good. I had nothing to do but relax – doctor’s orders.

Before the operation I’d had the misguided idea that recovery would be some sort of holiday (like women who save big projects for maternity leave) – I would finally read, write, tidy our shit around the flat.

But in all this time, I did almost nothing. When I wasn’t high on painkillers, I was just plain exhausted. And let’s face it, no matter how much time I have on my hands, I just hate tidying.

I discovered something rather precious though. It’s something every nonagenarian probably knows: if you only have two hours in the day when you’re not too tired to contemplate doing anything, you save your energy for what matters.

When life slows down to snail pace, you soon figure out what your priorities are.

For me, I found resting mattered, rushing didn’t. Phoning relatives mattered, keeping up with Facebook didn’t. Watering plants mattered, reading the news didn’t.

I drank herbal tea and watched enough Netflix for a lifetime (or so I thought then, until they released the new Good Wife season). I didn’t write or read. I sometimes picked up crayons and sketched daily life, just for fun.

I don’t think I’d felt such calm and contentment since childhood. 

Needless to say, it was only good while it lasted because I knew it wouldn’t.

In due course normal life resumed. I felt a little more energetic every day, so after spending Christmas in France I went back to work. I hooked up with friends again, I finished a few books that had been gathering (metaphorical) dust in my kindle.

Eventually, I even felt like writing again.

So, here I am. It’s good to be back.

Don’t be afraid of being a wanker

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Swearing like a trooper is one of my guilty pleasures, and since it’s now scientifically proven that people who swear are more honest than average, I can see no reason to stop.

You might think that swearing is a lack of manners but what I like about it (ok, apart that it’s funny) is that it allows you to cut the crap when you need to get an important point across, and be heard in a way you might not otherwise. A little rudeness can go a long way.

That’s why you come across sensible people who run F*ck It retreats (best-selling author John C Parkin and his wife), or write articles about the Elegant Art of Not Giving a Shit (David Cain on Raptitude).

So it should be no surprise that a great piece of advice I received recently includes rude content. I was talking to someone obviously wiser about work, and voicing concern about the impossibility of being a full-time writer:

“Your problem she said, it that you’re afraid of being a wanker.”

By which she meant: “You’re so worried that calling yourself a writer might turn you into a pretentious twat, that you’re not even trying. Instead you pretend you don’t really want it, to make sure no one ever calls you that (because let’s face it, it’s not nice).”

The problem is that by playing it nice and safe all the time, you can manage to fool people that you’re not even there. (With time you might even fool yourself).

Which isn’t good. You can’t succeed at anything by being invisible.

If you’ve ever fallen prey to thinking “Ooh I could do this, but… who am I to try? why should anyone be interested? people will think this or that…” then you’re probably afraid of being a wanker too (great by the way, there is no reason why it should just be me!).

You shouldn’t worry too much – wankers are so busy being great, talking down at others and believing their own spin, that they’re unlikely to care what other people think.

So you being worried about being a wanker almost definitely means you’re not.

I’ll also let you in on a little secret: one of the people I respect most professionally is on occasions a bit of a wanker. It’s not pretty to look at (and not nice for those around), but there can be a thin line between having enough self-belief to not compromise your vision, and coming across as an idiot.

On the plus side: some might call you an idiot, but you have enough self-belief to see your vision through.

So go on, do your thing! You have the world’s blessing to do whatever makes you heart sing, and tell us about it until the cows come home.

Because hey, you matter.

You’re lucky!

P1040475 low resA month ago, I had the pleasure of being a witness at my friend’s civil wedding ceremony at her local town hall; after which, the bride and groom and their two children invited us (me, the other witness and a third friend) to lunch at their local pub.

The place was cosy as they come – wooden floors, comfy sofas and fireplaces, mouth-watering smells floating from the kitchen and the livery chatter of people having a good time. The sort of place where children are welcome to run around and hide under the tables as they please, and adults may conceivably spend an entire Sunday drifting lazily from coffee to lunch to afternoon pints, while reading the papers all along.

Like you do with good friends you don’t see very often, we made the most of the event and the celebration, although simple, felt truly special. We had a wonderful time relaxing, laughing and enjoying a gorgeous meal. It was in all respects a perfect day.

At the end of the afternoon, as we put our coats back on and prepared to leave – a little tired, nicely full and red-cheeked from the celebratory food and wine – I felt as though I was walking on clouds and the entire world was just made of pure love.

On the way to the exit, I noticed my friend’s baby looking attentively at a small, friendly-looking collie dog. I reached down to pat the dog’s head and heard a loud voice above my head: “You’re lucky, you know”. I looked up to see who had spoken and saw the dog’s master, an elderly, probably homeless gentleman, grinning a toothless smile.

I was surprised at the incongruity of the comment (and if I’m honest, at finding a homeless man in a nice pub), but he didn’t seem to notice. He repeated a second time: “You’re really lucky, you know. She doesn’t like everybody.”

I looked back down at the dog which by now was wagging its tail frantically at both the baby and me. I replied something about the dog being cute, but the man kept repeating the same thing several times over “You’re lucky, you know”, in a way that made me wonder if he perhaps wasn’t entirely there himself.  “You’re lucky you know!” he said one last time as I was turning away to leave, “You have a very lucky life.”

It wasn’t until we came out onto the street that it stroke me how right the man had been. The truth is, I am lucky – to be able to spend days like this with great friends and their healthy children, to eat delicious meals in fancy pubs, to live a comfortable life in a vibrant city, to be making friends with cute dogs… while it’s cold outside, and some people have no homes to go to. 

The whole scene had felt slightly surreal, like something out of a Hollywood film, where God would be speaking to me directly through a kindly homeless person, to remind me of the things that truly matter in life.

I returned home feeling half-shaken, half-amused. Later that day I recounted the story to my boyfriend, who joked that the only way to have known for sure if the man was indeed a divine messenger would have been to go back inside, and check whether he had vanished… 

Of course I never thought of that at the time, so I shall never know. But in a way it doesn’t matter, as magic or not, this was a powerful message. I am lucky, in fact much more so than I realise.

And I am not the only one, you may be lucky too. 

If you are ever reminded of it by a toothless man with a dog in strange circumstances, please get in touch… 

To the annoying people in my life

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They say holding anger is like drinking poison and expecting another person to die from it, and if you remember the last time you were truly angry, you might remember it didn’t feel very nice. 

I’m not a particularly angry person – some might call me a pushover – but there’s a handful of peeps that have aggravated me so much over the years that I still cordially detest them long after having much contact with them. 

Or at least I did, until I recently decided to shed that baggage (quest for enlightenment and all that), and attempted to let it go.

Let’s be honest, it took a while. ‘Forgive and forget’ didn’t work (I ruined entire meditations trying to extend loving-kindess to their direction, only to find myself fuming on my cushion).
‘Just forget’ was not an option either, as they never seemed to completely go away.

Eventually I had a heart-to-heart with myself, to try and understand where the problem was.

Supposedly the people you find most annoying are the ones who can teach you  most about yourself – by highlighting your own shortcomings (which you’d rather ignore),  or trespassing your boundaries (which you didn’t know you had), or by flaunting their success in your jealous face (thus teaching you what you truly want from life).

So what to make of my old boss, the one who took me for granted and always gave me the projects no one else wanted? I don’t take people for granted, so she can’t be highlighting that fault… unless, hang on… have I not been taking MYSELF for granted by accepting those sh*t projects? I could (should) have walked out, but instead I chose to suck it up and harbour quiet rage.

What about that old friend who patronises and talks down at everyone in an infuriating manner? Aren’t they just doing it it because  they’re so insecure, they make themselves feel superior by making other people feel bad? Are they not pushing my buttons precisely because I’ve got insecurities of my own?

Or that school friend I’ve been calling stupid since she married in her early 20s and now has 3 gorgeous kids and a lovely husband and doesn’t need to work for a living. I MIGHT have been a bit jealous…

Having shed new light on these old grudges, I feel rather deflated. Where I used to feel a slow burning fire of self-righteous anger, there seems to be a tiny warm fuzzy of compassion.

I can see all these people’s points and how they never did anything wrong. Yes, they were bloody annoying, but only a bit more so than your average human. 

So, to the annoying people in my life, I want to say: 

THANK YOU. You’ve taught me a great deal.

And also, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I didn’t value you as a person. I’m sorry if I was rude and made you feel shit right back. You were nice enough people, really.

Finally, if I happen to meet you soon, please be reassured I shan’t try to punch you in the nose. I’ve moved on…

 

2014 – A Year of Living with an Open Heart

P1020734 low resThis January, as we receive wishes for health and happiness from our nearest and dearest, we will be encouraged to wonder what 2014 might have in store for us – what events, challenges or successes will greet us as part of the journey?

As we look at a new year ahead, it is also a perfect time to decide what WE want to bring to 2014.

Some of us may have made resolutions to improve our lives in various small or large ways (my boyfriend decided to actually have a lunch break every workday, which seems very small but think what he could do with an extra 5 hours a week? I’m excited!). 

I’m a big fan of setting new goals for a new year – after all, what better time to reset the counter and start afresh than when we contemplate a new full set of 365 days?

Of course, it’s always easy to let our good intentions slip after a few weeks, so I have found one powerful way to sustain change and action throughout the year, which is popular with life coaches, is to decide on an INTENTION, or one word that represents what you want to do this year. It should encapsulate everything you want to feel or be or achieve this year, and more importantly it should make you feel super-excited about it.

For example a friend of mine has just completed a Year of Magic and is now starting a Year of SunshineSounds more exciting than saying ‘I will eat less carbs’, non?

2013 was my Year of Creativity, which meant that I would try and keep a creative practice and dare to share things – this is how I started this blog; I also did a creative writing course, took lots of photos and wrote poetry. Creativity also represented an intention to do things my way, rather than follow instructions. And I loved it.

2014 builds on what I learnt last year and will be dedicated to Living with an Open Heart. For me it means various things like daring to say what I think, doing more of what I like and less of what I don’t like, taking a bit more risks, being more kind and patient with those around me and generally living in openness and positivity.

Cheesy for sure, but as a French woman I would argue that you can’t have too much cheese! I’m excited at this new intention that will hopefully sustain me throughout the year.

One of my first projects will be to “tweet from the heart” and find my voice on social media. Second is to spend less time worrying about work, when I am not at work.

What will your year be?

If you need inspiration you might want to try Selina Barker’s “Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014” free PDF. For more detailed planning, I’ll be buying Leonie Dawson’s “Create your amazing year 2014”.

Wishing you a wonderful 2014 full of beautiful intentions – and of course health and happiness and all that…

With love,
Cecile

You’ve come a long way

P1050214 low resAfter months of complaining I’ve got too much work in the office, I’ve finally been allocated my ‘own’ intern. Which is amazing – not only because he’s a rather good looking, well-educated young man (which doesn’t spoil things) – but because working alongside him has helped me realise quite how much I know about my job.

“Well, that’s reassuring” my boyfriend said, “because you’ve been there five years. You’d have to be pretty stupid not to know how to do it”.

I take his point. But I’m not the most confident person, and I don’t go around patting myself on the back after completing a project. I think how to do the next one better, and look to learn new skills from my talented colleagues.

Besides, I work in a team of one (well, one and a half now with the intern) so it’s not easy to monitor progress. It’s only through working with someone who’s new on the job that I’ve come to know how much I’ve learnt since I started on the job myself.

The thing is, days come and go and we don’t always notice change as it happens; like you might not notice you’re putting on weight because you see yourself everyday, until someday you get a reality check because you can’t close your jeans. Anyway, weeks, months might go by without us feeling we’ve changed much. And if we fail to celebrate our own achievements, we might be the last ones to notice how much we’ve grown.

I remember the first symphonic concert I attended when I first moved to London. Working with musicians was only a distant dream back then, and as I sat in the cheap seats at the back of the hall, I remember how impossible that dream had seemed. Then a few years later, I found myself in that same hall, sitting in the front stalls as a guest of one of the performing soloists, and that felt wonderful. I’ll never forget the first time I went backstage to greet the artists; even now, as I come back to the hall in a professional capacity as part of what are almost routine projects, I have to pinch myself when I see I’m the one who prepared the concert programme.

I think back to that first night of longing for a far fetched future, and think what a long way I have come – little by little, and almost without noticing it.

If you remember your first day at your job, or running a project you’re currently working on, I bet you’ll also realise what a wizz you’ve become at it. There’s so much you know that nobody else does, and so much you’d have to teach to someone who was doing it for the first time.

If you remember the very first time you dared dream the impossible – to get that dream job, to go on that round the world trip, to date that perfect guy, to start a family …

It all started with a longing for something you thought you’d never have. Then everyday you held on to it, and you worked hard, and you learnt, and it was tough. Sometimes you might have hated it, and others you felt like giving up.

But you didn’t, and look at you now.

You’ve come a long way.

 

READ ON Other similar posts you might like:
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In transition

P1060009 low resHi friends, I’ve been absent for a while and I’ve missed you. I’ve had a bit of a rough patch in the last few weeks – few months in fact – and so lately I just haven’t blogged as much as I wanted to.

Do you ever have times in your life when things feel a bit empty, when you go through your usual routines – at work, at home, with your friends – but nothing seems to make sense anymore? Things don’t feel as fun as they used to be, like you’re floating around, not really there? Well, that’s what I felt like. Exhausted physically as well as mentally. Vacant. Burnt out.

Thanks to speaking to wise friends (if you’re reading: you know who you are) and with the help of a brilliant book (“Transitions” by William Bridges), I’ve managed to make sense of the situation, a little bit. I’ve made some adjustments – went down to part time at work, set aside more time to look after myself. I let myself off the hook with my usual to-do list and indulged in more restful activities.

As I spent more time in this void – this neutral zone between the old me who was fine and happy, and the future me, who’s not found a new way to be quite fine yet, I’ve learnt to let go. I’ve tried to enjoy the experience and not worry too much about what things might bring.

As for blogging, I realised I’d become so worried about doing stuff bloggers are “supposed” to do – gain readers, share posts on facebook, build an email list – that I was spending more time on that than on the writing itself. Don’t get me wrong, I like to share. But I like to write more.

I feel like a different person now, but I’m in a way more me. I’ve rediscovered old joys I hadn’t experienced in years. I want to do stuff I like and find out what I’m truly good at. It feels like going back in time, but also like moving on.

I’m finally growing into myself, and I wonder what took me so bloody long.

I still want to write. I don’t know if I still feel like bloggin regularly though. I’ll have to take it a day at a time and see.

Meanwhile if any of you out there are feeling out of sorts and a little bit lost – I’m right with you. And we’ll be fine.

 

You’re an inspiration to the world

P1050508 low rseThe thing that has surprised me most since I started blogging a few months ago, is the number of friends who said they were inspired by my blog.

Not specifically by the writing itself, but different things:

– One friend loved the clear and elegant design of the site.

– Another was impressed with my “technical skills” in setting up a website and social media pages from scratch.

– Someone said how brave I was to share my writing publicly (she is herself a wonderful closet writer).

– Someone else still said she was inspired to see me posting on a regular basis while having a full time job.

Of course I would be lying if I said I didn’t get huge encouragement from such positive feedback. My friends’ kind comments went a long way to keeping me writing.

But the thing is none of those specific things seemed at all special to me. In fact, they seemed very banal, and as I explained to everyone:

The design of my site is a template.

I set it up using a “for dummies” PDF guide and countless video tutorials.

It did take courage to start sharing my writing – but since I am not very courageous, I couldn’t have done it without the support of my 30 Days Challenge friends.

I sometimes barely manage to do a post a week. Sometimes it takes such willpower that I don’t do anything else. I haven’t been to the gym in ages – I put on five kilos.

So this tells me something important:

If we consistently fail to acknowledge, or underestimate the things that we’re good at (“if we can do it, surely anyone can?”), who knows how many people are totally inspired by our seemingly banal skills, and what we see as our routine daily lives?

Therefore:

It is virtually certain that you are an inspiration to the people around you, in some way or other, for reasons you may not realise.

It could be that people admire your effortless style, or your sense of humour.

Maybe you have a special talent for bringing people together wherever you are, and you always bring the party with you.

Or maybe you are quiet, and have a wonderful aura of calm and balance.

Your colleagues might think you’re a genius organiser, or a born leader. Unbeknownst to you, they might admire how sorted your career plans are.

Even at times when you feel your life is a mess, it is not impossible that others will have noticed your grace, your courage, your honesty going through tough times.

Or someone might just wish their house was kept as well as yours.

Whoever you are, someone somewhere will be in awe of you. For being you.

Just as you are.

I love the poetic notion that each of us was put on this Earth for a very good reason. 

It takes all sorts to make the world go round.

We need you to be yourself and shine.

Go on. INSPIRE US.

 

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