Four things to consider when engaged in introspection

As I’ve reached middle age, my life is lived through an altered lens. I think anyone who has lost someone will have some recognition of this. I seek to live a better life. Not in the sense that I’m chasing the unattainable, but in the sense that I try to recognise those things that aren’t making me happy, or enriching life’s over all experience.

One of the most common things I’ve noticed, due to my altered perspective, is how many people watch life, rather than live it, and indeed I was one of these people (sometimes I still am).

It’s useful to check in with yourself every now and then, to make sure you’re actually living life, not just witnessing it from the sidelines.

Here are some thoughts to help you consider if you’re satisfied with how you’re you living your life:

Social Media – I’ve written about social media before, you can the article here. This one is a double-edged sword. It can provide amazing communal support, a means for meeting like-minded people, provide opportunities for learning and research. It can connect people who feel unconnected, which is a great thing.

But it is also a connection with great limitations. What us humans actually seek are real and meaningful connections – not virtual connections.

It is a constant flow of information that can be like a vortex that you can’t escape from. And sadly, sometime’s people aren’t honest.

If you can’t wait to get online and see what all your ‘friends’ are up to, you probably need to recalibrate. Work out how much time you spend looking at other people’s photos and commit to actually seeing these friends in real life for that same amount of time. It’s a sure fire way to guarantee you’re actually living life, not watching it. 

Television – Is your TV on for most of the day? Do you plan your life around the box set release of the latest drama series? Are you addicted to a television program and forget that the characters are just that? (Errrrm, Patrick from Offspring anyone?)

Ask yourself why you have so much invested in these ‘people’? I’ll admit, I felt real remorse when Patrick died, but it was also my aha moment. When ‘Patrick’ died, Offspring and I broke up. It was liberating. Try it.

Video games – so when the Wii first came out, everyone was enthralled. It’s amazing, you can play tennis, do yoga, go bowling, play soccer…the list is endless. And all in the privacy of your own lounge room.

The one flaw with this is, well, it’s all in the privacy of your own lounge room. If you want to play tennis, call a friend, go with your partner or your child. Same goes for yoga, go to a class, you might meet a real person, who you actually like! You get my drift.

As for Candy Crush. Just go to bed, get some sleep and stop sending me invitations to play it with you. If you really want to connect with me, let’s have a coffee.

Magazines – ok, I confess, I am a total mag junkie, but I also have the legitimate excuse that it’s part of my work. But nonetheless, I have wasted (and will probably continue to waste) hours of time reading magazines. I especially like the aspirational home and lifestyle magazines, so yes, this advice is directed 100% to myself.

There are so many more interesting things to spend my time on, than looking at photos of other peoples homes. And I am well aware, when these photos are taken there is an army of stylists on standby to pick up after the children, sweep up after the dog, touch up the lady of the house’s make up. It’s not real, but it is addictive.

The biggest issue with all this voyeurism is that it generates comparison. Even though in our conscious minds we know the characters aren’t real, nor the scenes that have been created, or the impression someone is trying to make on Facebook with their montage of photos.

None of it is real. But it does generate real thoughts. Theodore Roosevelt once said that ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ We make assumptions about others’ greatness and compare it to the worst parts of ourselves.

Try not to. Life is passing you by when you do this.

Forget about looking outwards. Look inwards, you’re much more interesting.

The One Thing No One Tells You About Parenting

I recently read an article written by Joanne Fedler, a mother of teenagers. It actually brought tears to my eyes.The opening sentence left me a bit confused: “Now that my two children are teenagers, the years of claustrophobic motherhood that left me feeling exhausted have been replaced with this: me feeling a bit silly.”

My children are 8, 6 and 2, so I’m in the exhausting, claustrophobic phase that she speaks of. It seems to be lasting forever, but I know it will ease. I’m hoping it’s not replaced with me feeling silly. She goes on to say that she’s just not impressive to her children any more. I found the article really sad, you can read the full article here if you want to. I’d suggest you do read it, one day. At least you’ll be prepared.

I spoke to two of my sisters that day, both mothers to teenagers, and suggested that they have a read of this article. I thought it might make them feel better, less alone in parenting teens. Somehow I thought that the articulation of the universal experience might make their children’s grunted greetings or eye rollings a little easier to bear, knowing it was happening to other parents of teens, everywhere.

Then my son, who is six, asked me not to kiss him good bye at the school gates any more. I was a bit surprised, but had heard that this happens with little boys. He said some kids had teased him. He did say I could kiss him at home, and a hug outside the school gates was ok.

So, a compromise. Although I did think that as a mother of a six year old, it should be me setting the rules, not him. But for the sake of a quiet life, I agreed to not kiss him at the school gates any more. Although, I confess, I did (and do) feel a bit sad about it.

Then, not a week later, my daughter thought I was out of ear shot, and talking to her Dad and brother about their day off school the next day, said she wished that Daddy was staying home instead of Mummy. Ouch! Ouch again.

That really stung. I called out from the next room to her and asked her what she said. Her brother started to respond on her behalf, but she shut him down, leapt of her chair and desperately tried to re-say what she’s said. But it was too late, and she knew it. She promptly burst in to tears.

And here’s the one thing no one told me – there is a defining moment when you realise they don’t like you, as much as you like them.

All my smugness of believing that I had years ahead, of my children still wanting me around, that I’d be hangin’ with the posse for sometime yet, evaporated at that very moment. I couldn’t quite believe it! Can’t quite believe it. And yes, I feel a bit silly. They aren’t yet at the stage where they’re dissing me, or snickering at me because I can’t work my phone, like Fedler’s are, but now I’m much more prepared for when it does come. At least for now I’m taller than them, so retain some semblance of authority when trying to achieve order in the house. But I also know this is not for long.

I don’t want to sound precious but both the experiences left me feeling rather fragile. I then went through the self-congratulating phase, thinking how glad I was that I kept working and had other interests outside my children. I imagined how ‘extra’ wounded I would be if I had nothing else. But actually, the real truth of it is that none of that mattered. Career woman, stay at home Mum, extreme socialite, what ever your life is filled with, I’m sure every mother would have been as wounded as I was when I realised my kids aren’t as keen on me, as I am on them.

There’s not really any salve for that.

And that’s probably why I was so pained by Joanne Pedler’s article. It doesn’t really matter how old they are when it starts to happen. My daughter was devastated that I heard her, she felt terrible that she’s hurt my feelings, and I made sure to tell her that she did. I guess part of being a mother is teaching sensitivity to your children and this was certainly an opportunity for that. (Trying to see the positives in this one, people!)

But it’s not all bad, because a week later I found this.

So I think I’m nearly recovered.

Featured image courtesy of Pinterest.

I think I’ve found the issue…

Featured Image via Pinterest

For some reason, 2015 has been weighing me down; I’ve felt claustrophobic at home, which prompted a major de-clutter. You can read about that here. And the thought of setting some goals and making a plan had the opposite effect, the only thing that went in to overdrive at thought of setting some goals, was avoidance! Read that one here.

Anyway, chronicling these little hurdles here, has helped a lot. And I’m making progress, but I still hadn’t been able to shake that heavy feeling, which I thought would lift once the cogs of daily life started turning again. But I think I’ve found the issue.

I had become way to earnest about, well, pretty much everything. I’d forgotten to factor in FUN!  I’d become preoccupied with these concepts that, if you pay attention to them, can improve your life, but if you forget the other essential ingredients, can leave you feeling a bit deflated.

Concepts like feeling calm in your home, making space, making plans and setting goals. These are all important for improving overall wellbeing, but if you don’t get the mix right, not much will improve.

I recently wrote an article (not yet published – but stay tuned) on incorporating an element of fun in to certain aspects of our lives. Reflecting on what I’d written I realised that was what was missing. I’d forgotten to have fun amongst all of this planning and reshuffling, so it all just felt like a chore.

Fun is necessary. It is oxygen for the soul, without it it won’t matter how purposeful your life is, you just won’t feel satiated. But fun is one of those things that can’t be planned for, or purposefully created. If you think back to when you were a child, fun was the over-riding raison d’etre, was it not?

Running under the sprinkler, rolling down hills, swinging on swings, climbing trees – it was all for the sake of having fun.

Once we become adults we are weighed down by adult things – going to work, paying bills, looking after family, paying the bills, going to work… So we become less open to opportunities for fun and more distracted by our grown-up commitments.

Sometimes we need to make the effort, and commit to having fun. I decided that I would buy myself a pair of roller-skates so I could skate with my eight-year-old daughter. It was one of my favourite things to do for years while I was growing up, and then I just stopped doing it. So I looked for roller-skates in the shops a couple of times after Christmas, but then, I just forgot about it. So I didn’t fully commit. So I’m calling myself out on this, and plan to get some this weekend.

Part of that commitment is putting ‘care-factor’ aside. There’ll be times when the grown-up me is worrying about the kids being tired tomorrow, or me being tired, or behind with my work, or the house needs to be tidied. There is always plenty to distract you away from having fun. I know I’m going to look a bit peculiar on roller-skates, but the possibility of fun needs to outweigh these issues sometimes.

So adding to my plans for 2015 is a commitment to FUN. Granted, fun is spontaneous – you can’t plan it, but when it comes to find me, I’ll be ready for it. I’ve learnt these past few weeks, being earnest is good, but having fun is better. Imminently better.

How do you have fun?

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Image courtesy of Bright Drops

Confession: I am not the go-getter the world wants me to be!

Ok, so we’re on the cusp of February. And finally my inbox and news feed has stopped bombarding me with rhetoric on setting goals and intentions for 2015. I’ve never felt so paralysed by the onslaught, ever. So the result was literally, to do nothing. Which I am sure is the opposite to what it is meant to do.

I think all the articles on goals at the start of the year really are well-intentioned, but surely there is something in the editors check list that says – ‘publish stuff that’s not being covered anywhere else’. I’m sure their job description doesn’t say ‘make sure you cover a seasonal topic because every other media outlets is doing it and we don’t want to miss out’. I’m pretty sure that’s not a directive.

But come December and January the mandatory articles appear. Worst and Best Christmas present lists, festive ways to wrap a present (huh?), new festive recipes, how to say good bye to the year that was, how to stick to your new years’ resolutions (as if!), setting meaningful goals for the new year…yawn. Or rather, STOP!

If I wrote an open letter to all editors of media outlets I’d say:

‘Dear Editor,

You’ve just f***ked up the beginning of my new year by placing such intense pressure on me to set goals and make affirmations, to change my morning routine, to change the way I work, the way I clean my house, the way I think…the way I do, well… everything.

Holidays are meant to be about resting, relaxing, imbibing, enjoying. Chilling out, chewin’ the fat, just being. Please allow me to just BE. Leave me be. Please.

Yours,

Collette’

So, I didn’t get very far with improving my life for the better. But I did come up with a very gentle solution to my inaction, which made me feel a whole lot better about not being the go-getter the world wanted me to be.

I chose a word that will underscore my life this year. My word will inform all my decisions – from day to day choices, to life-changing decisions. I know we’re only four weeks in, but it seems to be working really well. There are things that I want to achieve this year, some things are left over from last year and some new things, as well. I already know what they are, but working towards them with my word in mind helps me feel that I am closer to achieving them.

So my word for 2015 is COMPLETION. I chose it because I always feel that things are in disarray – lots of half-finished things hanging around. Making me feel unsettled. So with an over-arching goal of ‘completion’ informing all of my decisions, it’s really helping me get things done. The upside of that is a sense of achievement.

Funny thing about this, once I’d settled on my word I felt much less bound up by the goal-setting issue. So in the end I did sit down and set some goals, some long-term and some short-term goals. What was great about it was that I don’t feel any pressure because I know that completion is what is driving me, so if I keep that on my agenda, I’ll always achieve my goals in the end.

Do you have a word? Please share.