Bring on 2019!

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Christmas has become overwhelming once again for me.  Not because I do my daily gold envelopes revealing Christmas activities for the kids, and not because I’ve stupidly succumbed to the Elf on the Shelf craze, but because of outside influences!  Christmas for me is about me and my family creating memories, so I don’t want the extra pressure from school in particular with their daily requests of donations and different activities that I need to prepare for or at least remember, work with its crazy hours so we can finish in time and all have Christmas off, except for the likes of me that have volunteered to still work over Christmas to keep the place ticking over, and the endless, “We must meet up before Christmas,” invites I’ve allowed myself to commit to.  All of these things I could have said no to, or slipped past a teacher pleading I’d not received the text, e-mail AND letter they’d sent.  But eager to please, as I always am, I’ve pushed myself too far once again! 

 

But next year is going to be different, because I’m going to get into healthier habits and reduce my stress.  I’m adamant it’s going to happen because I have a plan, as laid out to me in my new read ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin.

 

I first heard about this book from listening to the podcast ‘Happier with Gretchen Rubin’, a podcast that I’m sure was recommended in a book on happiness.  This is why I am such a strong believer in reading for personal development.  Every book I read leads me on a new path of discovery, and after listening to references to this book for months on the podcast I in turn went out and bought the book.

 

I am only a couple of chapters in, but already I understand the plan and have constructed my own version for me.  Gretchen’s own happiness project consisted of her splitting her year into twelve subjects to develop healthier habits in to promote happiness, and each subject to be split further into sub-projects.  So I have planned my 12 subjects for improved happiness as follows, and will update throughout next year:-

 

  • Thoughts
  • Eating and Exercise
  • Friendships
  • Marriage
  • Family Sleep and Routine
  • Life Purpose
  • Community
  • Creativity
  • Organisation
  • Adventure
  • Home
  • Meditation and Spirituality.

I don’t know what order I am going to put each subject in as yet.  I’m not ready to stop letting my adorable 4 year old climb into my bed in the middle of the night.  I do not have the energy to do the return to bed method at this stage of my life.  But I know realistically I can’t have her still doing it when she’s 18, and she shows no signs of sleeping through the night of her own accord!  I want to work on my home later in the year after some extensive work planned which will involve moving a boiler out of the playroom to become a second bedroom for my youngest so the girls no longer have to share a room.  They’ll lose their playroom in the process, but they’re desperate for their own space.  So until that work is done I don’t feel I can plan too much in my home.  But after the work I will have a lot of fun re-designing that space and planning the next stages of renovating our home.  I think community will come towards the end of the year as I am aware being part of a community is very important to mental well-being, but with the constant dramas at school between mums, and a close-knit village community that don’t always look after their own, I need to be in a different place mentally to tackle that one.  At the moment I feel the need to keep my head down and keep myself to myself, but as I build on my happiness throughout the year I hope I’ll feel ready to get back out into the community and find some projects to be involved in. 

 

But I’m going to start January with focusing on friendship, and I’ve split the subject into the following sub-projects to work on:-

 

  • EXPECTATIONS.  I know I fail massively with the expectations I put on my friends.  I think because I would do anything for them that they would do the same for me, and when they don’t it knocks my self-esteem and I question what I’m doing with these people.  As I quoted in a post recently on my Instagram ‘We all need a variety of friends with different qualities:- the friend we can ring at 2am with the drama keeping us awake, the friend that has our back no matter what, the friend that tells us the truth, the friend that makes us laugh.  No one person holds every quality, so know your tribe and value their individual qualities rather than pondering their flaws’.  So I want to start the New Year not putting those expectations on people and just taking them for who they are, and accepting whatever they want to contribute to the relationship.
  • CONTACT/ARRANGEMENTS.  I have lots of friends that I never get to see because we live far apart or we have different interests such as my football pass-holder friends that have commitments every weekend throughout the season.  And those are the people that I always intend to meet up with and then before you know it a year has gone by.  I want to really focus on having something in the diary with these friends, and if that’s not possible, to at least have regular contact.  Sometimes I avoid contact because I know I can’t see them for a good few months and I don’t want to get into that conversation of saying we can’t find a mutually convenient date.  But that shouldn’t stop me dropping them a text just to check how they are and keeping the lines of communication open.
  • PUTTING MYSELF OUT THERE.  I’ve been hurt, let down and screwed over badly by friends, and I know I’ve changed as a person and stopped being the organiser, or answering invites straight away, or just generally being the person that everyone knew of as being the one that would be up for an adventure.  It turned out that was the thing that annoyed a couple of people.  And while I know in my own mind that was down to their own jealousy and need to compare and feel inadequate because they didn’t have the time and/or money to keep up with me, I know I was doing nothing malicious, and there were people ten-fold that loved that part of me.  We all love the friend that’s not going to say no to a night out!  They build our self-esteem for a start!  So I need to go back to being that person and not questioning if someone is genuine or not, but if I like them invite them round for a coffee or a drink after the kids are in bed and build on relationships from there. 
  • SEEING THE GOOD IN PEOPLE.  This goes back to the point before.  I need to not tarnish everyone with my previous experience of one or two people.  I need to realise that not everyone has an agenda, an ulterior motive, or issues they’re going to push onto me, and just put myself back out there believing that everyone is a good, fun-loving, kind human-being until they prove me otherwise.
  • NOT BEING RELIANT ON PEOPLE.  When I had my children I fell into a very intense friendship group because we were going through the same thing at the same time, and I think we all felt our previous friends were at different stages of their lives and perhaps would be bored by our new priorities.  It was the worst thing I could have done.  I should have kept a variety of different people in my life.  Instead I was so involved with these 8 or so girls that we did everything together from daily activities with our kids, to even going on holiday.  And the conversation on our WhatsApp group was constant, to the point that everything in our lives went through that group.  The conversation did not stop all day and all night!  And when it all fell apart I was lost and realised I was now too scared to do anything on my own again.  I recently went into a bar and had a drink on my own just because I challenged myself to do it.  I was terrified, but I missed going for a quick drink while my daughter was in cheerleading class because I didn’t have those people to go with anymore.  I felt so self-conscious doing it, right up to the minute I left the bar, but I felt that once I’d done it I could do anything on my own.  And I think once I take the focus off people having to be with me to enable me to do an activity it will be a game-changer.

 

So they’re my challenges for January, the idea being that once I get used to these as the norm I start new challenges on new subjects each month.

 

So wish me luck because

hopefully 2019 is going to be the positive change I’ve been building up to all my life!

 

 

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Give me a Break From my Thoughts!

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Have you ever felt like everywhere you turned you were being given a message?  And that message was so relevant to your life right now that it couldn’t possibly be a coincidence?

 

Many years ago I read a book called ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle.  At the time I wasn’t in any way open to the type of wisdom and understanding of the universe that I am now.  It was just recommended to me by someone that knew I was feeling a bit down and said it had changed her life.  I remember starting to read it, climbing into bed straight from work, and reading for about 3 hours straight.  I was totally absorbed in it and really understood the concept.  I thought it was going to change my life.  But I soon forgot all about living that way.  And many years later when I tried to read it again in an attempt to feel the same way, that this was the answer to all my problems, I just couldn’t get into it.  Yet it’s an international bestseller, often on people’s ‘must read’ lists.  I think at that point I was just at a place in my life where I needed minimum effort to feel better; not too much thinking!

 

But since my second try with this book I’ve spent literally the last 2 years all consumed in my thoughts.  They drive me absolutely crazy.  I explained to someone I trusted only 2 weeks ago that 98 per cent of my waking day is spent thinking about a string of incidents that just felt like it had destroyed me.  They call it ruminating: going over and over AND OVER something in your mind.  And it’s totally overwhelming to live like that.  I spoke to another friend who has had an awful life in comparison to mine about it a while ago, and she admitted she barely thought about the events of her life.  She just switches her TV on at night and basically forgets all about what has happened to her.  She admits she is depressed, but she just wasn’t constantly thinking about the reasons why like I was.  She told me my biggest problem was that I think too much.  And as true as that was it made me feel like I was the only person feeling absolutely tormented by my thoughts.  Yes, her way of living wasn’t alleviating her depression, but at least she wasn’t re-living events over and over again, years after they had happened.  And I fell into more feelings of despair as I felt my ruminating was absolutely incurable and that nobody else was dealing with it like I was.  I tried meditating, but I just couldn’t concentrate.  I tried keeping busy, but I just ended up busy whilst in a daze, distracted by my thoughts.  I just wanted a break from it all.  To sum up the extent of what I was living with, I would drive to work and not even remember how I got there, totally lost in my thoughts.  I do a mundane job, and I found my day consumed with re-living events.  And worse still I’d be so lost in my thoughts that some time later I’d realise I had taken those thoughts, imagined future scenarios, and I was now having imaginary arguments in my head with these people over things that had never even happened.  And I would only stop myself when I got so angry and thought, “Hang on a second, this hasn’t even happened and may never happen.  So why am I preparing for it, and in doing so feeling all the emotions that go with that?”  Can anybody else relate to this? 

 

It’s like my narcissistic friend that spread false rumours about me.  I started ruminating on what I knew as a fact that she’d said; the text messages mutual friends showed me.  That did in fact happen; there was no denying the evidence.  But then I took my anger from that and fell into daydreams day in, day out, where I would start to imagine how those mutual friend may have responded; “Oh, I know what you mean about Dawn!”  “Has she really done that?  Just goes to show you never know a person!”  “That’s awful!  I can’t believe we’ve been friends with Dawn all these years and not seen it in her!”  Conversations that may never ever have happened!  I imagined what they did after they showed me those messages, “Of course I’ll never show Dawn what you text me!”  The anger would build in me!  I imagined the thoughts going on in their head, “If I side with Dawn that’s only one friend I save.  If I pretend I agree with these things about Dawn I won’t lose a whole bunch of friends!”  I painted a picture in my own mind that may never ever have been true.  Yes, nobody was showing me anything to the contrary.  But my imagination made me re-live that situation ten times worse.  I guess my brain felt it was protecting me, imagining all the worst case scenarios that hadn’t happened yet and what I could do when they did inevitably happen!

 

And then in our women’s networking group 2 weeks ago it was discussed about our thoughts and not just letting them dictate our emotions to us.  We were told about being the observer of them and realising that they are in actual fact just thoughts.  They talked about how we can just watch our thoughts roll on by, like they were flowing past in a river, and not to get attached to them.  This prompted me to think again about ‘The Power of Now’ and I knew that the message in that book was very similar to what I was being told and that I needed to investigate this way of thinking again.  Then almost by chance I ordered some books and chose ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael A Singer, which is a book I’ve seen people talk about before but never rushed out to buy.  It’s always been on my wish list, but in all honesty if I’d have picked it up in the shop I would have been put off by the small writing.  I needed it simple!  I ironically didn’t want to have to think too much about my thoughts!  But once I bought this book I started reading a sample on the kindle and I was hooked.  I’m only a few chapters in and the parts I’ve read are, to me, all about watching your thoughts and being the consciousness behind those thoughts; the observer of those thoughts.

 

I’ve in no way grasped it yet, nor am I any sort of expert.  But I do know that this is the next stage in my journey.  I’ve spent many years trying to distract myself from these thoughts, thinking that other people don’t have them, that I need to master ignoring them, that I need to think of other things.   But it’s like pushing a balloon under water.  They just spring back up with a vengeance.  And I know now that I need to accept I am always going to have these thoughts.  I will always catastrophise a situation.  That’s just me!  I am always going to question every conversation I have with people and think, “What were they really thinking?  Were they just agreeing with me to my face?  What if they go and do this, this and this now?  Oh my goodness, what if this happens now?  How am I going to deal with that?”  But if I can recognise these thoughts and let them pass without attaching myself to them and forming an emotion from them, I will be so much closer to happiness than I ever have been. 

 

Please let me know if anyone else out there feels this way.   Have you mastered your thoughts or found a way to do so?  Or can anyone recommend any further books to read on the subject?  I’m finding ‘The Untethered Soul’ so easy to read and relate to, but I don’t want to go back to it in the future and find it doesn’t have the same effect like I have with ‘The Power of Now’.  I love learning, and especially all about life, so I’d love to hear any recommendations you all have.