Dare you to move

One of my favourite lyrics is in the song “Dare You to Move” by the band Switchfoot:

The tension is here / Between who you are and who you could be / Between how it is and how it should be

This hits very close to home for me, and I feel is relevant to the world as it continues to turn.

We make many decisions every day, some we are conscious of and others our brain processes without us having to devote time to it. Each of these decisions changes the direction of our life to some degree. Some so minutely we might not notice until we look back years later, like whether to walk or catch the bus on a particular day, or what to have for breakfast. Others cause big shifts at the time and into the future, like whether to take up tertiary study, change jobs, buy a house, or move overseas.

I am a big user of the phrase “what if?” especially when thinking of the few times I’ve found myself strongly drawn to a wonderful woman and have been getting to know them. My mind spends a lot of time looking into the past and wondering about decisions, thinking if I had chosen my words more carefully would my life be different now? Sometimes this is conscious thought and provides helpful insight for future decisions I will make. But, more often than not, it is my mind wishing I had done something differently in the hope it would have changed the outcome. The likelihood in most of these situations, even if I had made a different choice, would have been the same end result. When interacting with others, they have free will to choose what is best for them, and there are so many more factors than simply what we said or did. Unless we did something memorable, by being extremely foolish, hopelessly rude, or failing to follow rule number one of life, “don’t be a dick,” chances are things have turned out ok. Even if we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel it will be waiting for us when we are ready to embrace it.

If we can alter our perspective from focussing on past mistakes to being excited about future adventures we can address any tension, as Switchfoot say, between who we are and who we could be. This will free us up to move our lives in the best direction. Each day I strive to be a better me than yesterday, to break the cycle of doing the same thing every day and simply hoping for change. Hope is important, but it is only one ingredient of a fulfilling life. We have to actively make change happen, no one will make it happen for us. Good family and friends will offer encouragement and assistance when they can, but if we passively let them do all the heavy lifting it won’t be long before they let us know about it. I pray to God most days for guidance. It is up to me to take positive action to accept the opportunity when God provides it.

Be a what iffer about the future. That is where we are all going and where decisions we make will have an impact. Instead of being a what iffer about the past lamenting decisions already made, be excited about the decisions we are yet to make.

Be good, keep good, and sleep good dear readers. Peace.

Photo by Supushpitha Atapattu from Pexels

Finding family

For over a decade I struggled to find the energy to want to talk with my parents. Particularly on the phone and via email while away at university it was a difficult thing. I do not experience homesickness much, and seldom talking with my parents did not increase the feeling of homesickness, it instead seemed something normal that I was ok with.

I know my mother will probably read this. That’s pretty cool, to have a mother who cares a lot and shows it by being actively involved in my life. Sometimes though, what I need is space, and time, and people to be ok with me not wanting to talk. When we invite someone to have a conversation, or to go for a walk, or any number of other social activities, it is their choice whether to accept or decline. Whatever their response we must try our best to express positivity for others making the best choice for them. It is ok to be sad we don’t get to spend time with a cool person, but it is also ok that we don’t spend time with them when we ask to. Sometimes it’s not about us, and that’s absolutely ok.

I love my family, my parents, my brother, my sister, my aunts and uncles, cousins, my grandad, grandparents who have passed away. Remembering I love them is something that helps me find it easier to talk with my mum and dad. It requires less energy when I let any unnecessary stress go, ’tis cool to hear what they’ve been up to, and let them know what I’ve been doing too. Sometimes it is not easy to let go of the little things that stress my brain, but I know I can. They often aren’t even things my brain can explain, just annoyance at, well, I don’t what.

I am blessed to be part of a church community that care about each other, and notice when things change, for better or for worse. Showing these people I value them means stopping to talk when we pass in the street, and thanking them for noticing and offering their time. I hope I will continue to give time and generosity freely when I see others in need.

If we have family around, biological or otherwise, that are good for us and we are good for them, spending time with them in whatever way we can is a gift. I thank God for the hope my family provide when I can’t see it. I thank God for the perseverance they show in making time for me when I think spending time with me is a chore. I thank God for lifting the fog from my eyes when I am unable to see the next steps to take.

I pray we all know which people we want to spend time with as we approach the end of 2019, and we can find the strength to tell them we why they are important to us.

Be good, keep good, and sleep good dear readers. Peace.

Make it happen!

A few months ago I wrote about how futile it is sometimes to try and brute force our way to success. There is a difference between trying to force a square peg into a round hole, and carefully shaping the pegs to fit the right holes. This is the difference between waiting for things to fall into place, and taking active steps to move us closer to our goals.

I hear my friends talk sometimes about the sameness each passing day can bring. Having a routine is a good starting point. Go to bed at the same time each night. Get up at the same time each morning. Start the day off with breakfast and a coffee, or for me, reading the bible. Dance or sports practice at a regular time each week. Go to the gym, if that’s something that floats your boat. Write your blog, novels, stories, poetry, music, journal, for some part of each day. Block out time to rest, and spend time doing the things we enjoy that uplift us. But, if all we ever do is carry out our schedule we risk living life on autopilot and missing opportunity when it comes along.

This is a big theme I often write about. It is worth taking a risk on ourselves. It is worth spending time to learn more about ourselves. It is worth trying new things, succeeding sometimes, and learning good lessons when we fail. It is hard to give agency away to someone else, to something else, and be ok losing sometimes.

When learning a sport, a musical instrument, a new dance step, or any creative endeavour, particularly one we don’t know very well, it is exciting when we grasp the finer points of a skill within it. From there we can take one of several paths forward. We must celebrate having learned a potentially difficult thing! But after that, we can choose to use this one skill over and over again, honing it and practicing it. But, this has the possibility of limiting our progress. We can choose to learn a new skill and practice this alongside the one we are confident with. This can be helpful and disheartening. Helpful, because we can see the success each time we carry out the learned skill. Disheartening because the new skill might take more time or be more difficult to learn. Take heart, and continue trying new things. We will not master all of them but we can master the art of healthily desiring to try new things.

I used to struggle to enjoy cooking. It was a chore and took a lot of mental energy even when I was preparing food for others. Giving is something I feel called to do so can sometimes encourage me to try difficult new things. My cooking repertoire used to include only “meat and three veg” recipes. It was not very exciting. Expanding the ingredients I use and asking others for tips and tricks has increased the joy I get when preparing a meal. I now enjoy finding new recipes, particularly vegetarian ones, with the help of friends or Google, and seeing if I can alter them to suit the ingredients I have on hand at our flat. It is fun to share these meals with others, and seeing if they taste as they are supposed to!

Another thing I struggle to do well is dance competently. My brain understands the concept of knowing different dance steps, and how putting them together in a certain order makes sense, but I doubt I am physically able to do so in an aesthetically pleasing way. Thanks to good friends, plenty of invitations, and encouraging callers at various dances, they have become an enjoyable social outing. Hopefully I will have opportunity to build confidence and attend more dances in the near future. Some days I even get my dance steps out while walking around town listening to music. It’s a different kind of dance, bouncing up and down kerbs, but plenty enjoyable all the same.

With the right people, we can learn to enjoy things that in the past might have made us feel out of our depth. Do you know who these people are in your life at the moment?

Be good, keep good, and sleep good dear readers. Peace.

Sometimes it’s not about us

When something doesn’t go our way we can focus on what this means for us. Whether we have asked someone for something, put our all into a sports tournament, dance recital, acting performance, or something unexpected crops up seemingly out of the blue. We seldom think about deep thought someone else goes through to make the decision they did, the effort others have put in for their team or for their part of the performance, or the necessity of the thing we did not foresee but others may have.

Sometimes it’s not about us. Sometimes being happy for others is just the ticket.

Over the weekend the team I played on did not win as many games as we wanted to. We were realistic about the tournament being played at a high level and there being no easy games. Other teams played very well against us and in the high stress situations where mistakes cost points, other teams coped better than we did. Kudos to them for that, and good luck to them in future years. In fact, good luck to all teams, including ours, that stay together and work for each other in future tournaments.

When we organise a social event, be it inviting people over to our house for dinner or a board game, or going out to a see a movie or a show, sometimes people will be unable to make it. Whether it is one person that has other plans, or several people that the time doesn’t suit, it can be sad for us to have wanted to spend time with people, and it not work out for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s not about us. We are but one person in the world, and though we are the main character in our own story, everyone else is the main characters in theirs. It can be hard to break free from this thinking, that something might be about us, what we have done or not done. Even when it is not a negative thought spiral it can prevent us thinking pragmatically and healthily.

The world is a better place when we celebrate the good others do in it. Even if, like a team besting ours at a sports tournament, it is somewhat at our expense. People doing cool things is something we should enjoy being able to see, just as it is great when people see and celebrate us doing cool things.

When people are doing other things instead of spending time with us, encourage them to be present where they are, and focus on being present where we are. Joy can be found in the unlikeliest of places.

Be good, keep good, and sleep good dear readers. Peace.

Fear of missing out

It can be easy to focus on what we don’t have. Things we tried that didn’t work out. Mistakes we’ve made. In this life there are lots of things we can want, that would be nice to have, or that will make parts of our lives easier, but we do not need them. Worrying about not having these things can take time away from the important things we do have, and living our lives the best way we can.

This past weekend I competed at the first Division 1 Mixed Nationals tournament in New Zealand, in ultimate (frisbee.) It is the first year the Mixed Nationals have been separated into two divisions. The team I was competing with had quite a few roster changes from the previous year. This has meant more time spent building up new connections and learning how to play with a different set of people, as well as working on strategies and tactics. Most of our games were close but we did not end up winning them. In patches our opposition played better than we did but more often than not we outplayed ourselves, throwing sketchy passes and rushing ourselves. Nothing bad happens if you throw a short completed pass, followed by another one, followed by another one. A longer throw may seem more exciting, and seem like a missed opportunity if you don’t throw it, but a turnover is a turnover and our team’s completion on long throws this weekend was not great. We identified an issue, but changing it over the course of the weekend was a step too far for our team.

One way I entered this tournament differently was adjusting my expectations for where our team might place. I knew with our changed roster, and less practice than previous seasons, there might be a higher chance of mistakes from loose connections. So while we  missed out on a medal, and making the quarter finals, I had a good time with good friends, playing quality ultimate. We experienced the highs and lows together, and even won a game some of our team (including me) honestly didn’t think we had a chance to win. What I didn’t miss out on this time was enjoying the experience of the tournament on and off the field.

Owning a house, finding the “right” job, finding somebody to love who loves us, staying healthy, travelling the world, it can all seem very enticing. It can also be very difficult to cope with not having any one of these things or thinking we might never find it. We can become afraid of missing out and when faced with decisions, large or small, worry overly much about what to choose.

It doesn’t matter what our beliefs, when we leave this earth none of us are able to take any of our worldly possessions with us. Remember to be kind and give generously, because we are all trying our best, even if some days it doesn’t seem like it. On some days it will seem like we don’t do very much, and maybe like me today we won’t even have the energy to go for a walk. That’s OK. Remember, some days we have played the equivalent of an ultimate tournament over the weekend and an intelligent decision is to rest.

Be good, keep good, and sleep good, dear readers. Peace.

Sometimes things are what they seem

We humans are constantly looking for meaning, thinking deeply about actions we and others take, before, during, and after they happen. Sometimes we go over things in our heads repeatedly, working through every iteration of every possible choice all the way to the outcome that might come to be. If we spend all our time thinking and none of our time doing then nothing will ever get done.

I am a chronic overthinker. About decisions I’ve already made. About decisions in front of me right now. About the outcomes of decisions I’m yet to make. This means I seldom do anything to make stuff happen, even really good stuff which has the possibility of being awesome. This is more often true when I am uncertain of the outcome a particular decision will lead to. As a Christian part of my way of dealing with this is giving this uncertainty to God. Doing this confidently and honestly is a work in progress, but I’m slowly getting better at it.

Why not apply for a job? It could be great, and even if it’s not I can leave it. I might not be offered the job, little harm done. When I was younger, trialling for representative sports teams was daunting and I seldom accepted offers to. Why not try out? It was awesome to have been recognised as having talent. I might not have been offered a position on the team, but they would have been awesome learning opportunities. Spending time with friends I might not usually spend time with can take a lot of mental energy. Why not say yes? It is a good way to get to know people, or if our interests don’t align, then maybe we won’t hang out in the future. Not hanging out with everyone, every time they ask is ok, but I might not know whether hanging out is a good idea unless we do.

Getting out of bed in the morning is difficult for me. I think maybe my alarm is at the wrong time or maybe I’m not getting enough sleep. While having hot chocolate with a good friend tonight they offered me a solution. Simple in theory, a little effort required to put into action, but achievable: Have a low energy social engagement planned for the morning. Not at, as my brother says, “ridiculous O’clock,” but at a reasonable time in the morning. This friend knows me well enough to know if I have booked in to meet people I will make it there. There is no requirement for be to find a buried meaning as to why I’m not getting up in the morning. It can simply be: organise to meet with someone, to have something to get up for, and I will get up.

Do you overthink decisions sometimes? Are there things you struggle with and try to find deep, nested meaning within and outside of? Is there a simple explanation that leads to a simple solution?

I hope you find what you need, and spend the right time looking for it.

Be good, keep good, and sleep good dear readers. Peace.

The finer points of the word ‘should’

Sometimes it’s not about what, who, where, or when, but how.

My mind can become so focussed on something I think I want that I falter at even trying to attempt accomplishing anything else. Being present in the moment we are is something we can always work on being better at. Listening to who we are spending time with and hearing what they have to say, before looking forward to when we spend time with others. Taking in the beauty of the world around us where we are in any given moment, before looking forward to places we want to go. Putting the right kind of effort into what we find ourselves doing, instead of lamenting what we want to do but are not able to right now.

I struggle to focus my mind in the now. My mind has so many thoughts running through it at any given time it is hard to physically and mentally be where I am. Even while reading the bible or spending time in prayer, two activities that lift me up more often than not, my thoughts wander to things I have planned for the future. Or, even less helpful, things I feel at the core of my being I should have spent time doing, time that has already passed. Putting the right kind of effort into what we find ourselves doing now can kick-start our motivation. Motivation that if we wait for will never actually arrive. Starting, and continuing until we’ve done the first thing may find us doing a second, a third, even a fourth that seemed improbable before we started.

Getting out of bed is a thing. Eating a meal is a thing. Going for a walk in the sunshine is a thing. On the days these things seem difficult but we do them anyway, we have pushed through the invisible, but very real, barrier. Acknowledge we have done so. Then, on days we feel we can accomplish anything we can push further up the mountain we are climbing.

What are you thankful for today? Have you taken time to appreciate the view of your world recently? If not, please do. The world is a beautiful place right where you are, and the people around you are worth taking the time to appreciate. As are you.

Be good, keep good, and sleep good dear readers. Peace.

Photo by Chinmay Singh from Pexels