Knowing where you’ve been… and why it’s important

I’m a reflective person… I know that will come as a shock to my regular readers! We are often encouraged to reflect on things, but it is something I seem to do quite regularly, but why reflect?

Last night I was watching Moana for the first time! When the main character Moana is on the boat trying to guide herself across the sea, another character ‘Maui’ says “It’s called wayfinding, princess. It’s not just sails and knots, it’s seeing where you’re going in your mind. Knowing where you are by knowing where you’ve been.”

I loved this quote. Yes it may be good guidance for finding your way across an ocean, but how perfect it is for life. We live in a time where we’re told to live in the moment, or to make a to do list with everything that we’re expected to achieve. But actually the only way we can fully understand the situation we are in, is if we reflect on where we have been, and what we have experienced. Once we can accept where we’ve been, the situation we’re in, then we can start to move forward.

This year has not been great, and I’ve been asked a few times questions such as “do you blame God for what’s happening?” Or “do you feel you’re being punished?” Or “have you lost your faith?” These are just a few of a variety of similar questions! The truth is i haven’t blamed anyone or anything. It’s just something that has been a part of my journey this year. Yes it’s been a bit rubbish, I’ve been frustrated and have felt utterly horrific at times but it’s happened, it’s part of something I’ve been living with for 25 years (that’s scary), and it’s had an impact on where I am now so will impact how I move Forward! Not just looking in to drugs very carefully before agreeing to take them!

But whilst I think about where I am now, and what has been, the one solid thing that has always been there has been my faith, and knowing that God is always there. I’ve questioned, I’ve been angry, I’ve explored, but on all the paths, the place I am now, and wherever the path will lead next – I know what my cornerstone is!

Let’s see what 2019 brings with it.

Nature vs Nurture

DISCLAIMER this is not based any scientific/theoretical evidence but purely my own thoughts and observations!

Recently the battle of Nature vs Nurture has come up numerous times and in numerous places, so, understandably it has been on my mind and here are my thoughts!

I am definitely on the Nurture side of the argument!

As numerous people have pointed out to me that there is no shadows of a doubt that I am my mothers daughter! We are similar physically – although I get my hair from my dads side of the family – we are/were both teachers, have similar interests, the same eye condition, and similar frustrations! I will also never forget the occasion when I was a TA at my mums school she was covering a lesson that I was supporting, and we both went to tell off the same child at the same time saying exactly the same words!!!!

However… I am the person I am today because of the way I was brought up.

It would take too long to go through everything that has led to this but I will list some of the more important ones – or ones I feel have had most impact

  • Freedom! When I was a teenager i didn’t have a curfew, but as long as I told them where I was going and who I was going with then all was good – I took this to a ridiculous level (phoning every time I moved pub) but I was aware I was responsible for it!
  • Extra-curricular! My parents met through scouting and we were encouraged to do and try other activities. For me, this included musical instruments, guiding, swimming, life-saving, and judo for two weeks!
  • Faith! This was an important part of my parents life, I was brought up going to Church, I then chose to make faith a part of my life. This also linked in to the extra-curricular, as with Sunday school, youth groups, holiday clubs etc… church was just embedded. One of the first things I did when I went to uni was find a church, and when we got married and lived on the other side of Birmingham it was one of the first things we did. I know that Church and Faith are different things, but if they are fully entwined well… they strengthen each other, and the strength it gives me – indescribable!
  • Encouragement! It must have been so difficult for my folks when their 11 year old daughter found herself on the bathroom floor and she was diagnosed with epilepsy! And yet… there was never any suggestion that I should stop doing things. There was no wrapping in cotton wool, but helping me to understand how I could live the life I wanted to with the diagnosis. When I was in year 11 I had nearly a term off because my brain was being so awful, I was homeschooled and spent most of the time on the sofa, but my mum insisted and arranged that I met with school friends – so that I still kept up my relationships and didn’t fall into a deeper depression. This was especially odd as I had grown up knowing that “if you’re off school you can’t go out”! I was encouraged to go to university – although Canterbury wasn’t top of the parents list they never said anything!
  • Fantastic example! I see the work ethic, the love, and the care… and I try to replicate it!

Yes, I am physically like my mum, and have elements from my dad – mainly hair and sarcasm! BUT to me Nurture wins the battle, and I am so grateful for it!

Beholding the beauty. Being the beauty.

Over the last couple of days I’ve had quite a few moments where I’ve had to stop to take in the beauty around me. Whether that was the awesome clouds as I was travelling to Birmingham or the clarity of the moon (not from this picture – my camera didn’t do it justice) as I was walking home last night. I was amazed at the beauty that was just there in front of me, yes I believe it was created, but it requires no additional hard work, photoshopping etc… it just is.

Yet… so often we miss it! I know I had to point out the clouds to the husband!

Over the last month I have been noticing beauty around me more, vibrantly red leaves, stunning sunrises, even the trees that have lost their leaves. The beauty hasn’t suddenly come out of nowhere but I’ve been in a better frame of mind to see it, behold it, wonder at it, share it.

However, when I look back, not that long ago, I couldn’t see it, or wouldn’t see it. But others brought the beauty in to my life. Hugs when required, messaging, leaving me alone when it was clear that’s what was best, sticking by me even though I was a nightmare and so much more.

We can’t always see the beauty around us, but if we can we should share it with others. But also… if we have the strength and the energy we can always be the beauty for others.

May you experience the beauty and share the beauty this Christmas.

Masking myself

We have come to the end of term, and what a first term (in old timings) it has been. I think roller coaster doesn’t necessarily do it justice! BUT… after months of feeling incredibly low I have had a few weeks of feeling considerably better… the change has been noticeable to other people but most of all to myself. I have had more energy, I have wanted to go out with people, I have laughed more than I have in ages, and the husband (and others) have had to put up with incessant talking again!

So it came as bit of a shock when in the last few days of term there have been tears, and quite a lot of them, and I haven’t felt great. I wasn’t able to explain why, and I have to admit I was starting to get worried. If there was one thing I knew I did not want to go back to the place I’d been!

A message from E made me think, and then a couple of things confirmed that once again, she was right!

“Maybe you are much more tired than you realise”

Teachers are renowned for being exhausted at the ends of terms, but I wasn’t this term. I was feeling great. I was back to my usual self and I had energy. I seemed to be avoiding the throat problems and other illnesses (touch wood).

Or was I?

Yes I was feeling better, but I think, because I felt so much better I had put a mask on myself that I didn’t even realise! Because I felt so much better I hadn’t realised how end-of-term tired I was! But it should have come as no surprise at all… I had had 2 months of working day in day out when feeling utterly horrific and putting on the mask for everyone else, literally surviving each day as it came – that must have taken no end of energy out of me. Continuing to teach and keep up with necessities throughout all of this. My body has then had to go through the process of changing medications which took its toll with physical seizures as well as readjustments! Then I’ve had a month of feeling considerably better so using the energy that I had!

I had convinced myself that I was now invincible, and because I didn’t feel anywhere near as horrific as I had done in recent months, I didn’t realise I was so tired. I guess in the future, I will be used to being ‘normal’ Helen again that I will notice the dips.

Some good has come out of this experience though… I have always been someone prone to low moods. The way I knew I was so ill previously is because nothing would take me out of that mood, and they were short lived – couple of days at my worst. I even know that in the summer when the GCSE results came out the SLT at school thought ‘this will get Helen out of the dip’ – nope! Don’t get me wrong, I was so pleased with the results, but it wasn’t sufficient!

However, both times this week when the tears have come, I’ve had some quiet time, and then, almost with no warning I’m back to talking, and laughing again! I was close to leaving before our main end of term meal, but I didn’t need to and I ended up having a lovely time!

It feels so good to know that I don’t even need to try to drag myself out of low moods, but with a bit of time it will happen itself!

Now… to make sure I get some rest over the Christmas break to refuel ready for an awesome rest of the year!

Laughter

You may well have heard it said that laughter is the best medicine… I’m not sure if this is the case but what I do know is that it feels like I haven’t laughed as much as I have in the last few weeks EVER and it feels great!

I don’t have a laughometer but I imagine that this is probably not the case, and it is just that I went for so many months with barely any laughter at all, that now I am noticing it and especially noticing the contrast. What am I laughing at? Nothing and everything!

Is there anything else to say? I don’t think so other than… try to find the laughter, even when things are rough… it may not be a prescribed medicine but it raises the mood, not only for you but also for those you’re laughing with!

Look Out for Laughter – LoL

Unknown protection

I have a waterproof and wind proof coat… I was very grateful for it today as I walked to and from school. I was still wet and cold when I got home but nowhere near as bad as I would have been in any of the previous coats I have owned.

Last week was a particularly wet, cold and windy morning. I was walking my normal route to school, which goes through the centre of town, and then just before the final stretch there is a meadow. As I started to walk through the meadow I was hit by the wind and the rain with a new force that I had not experienced for the majority of my walk. Why? Because I was walking on a path in the middle of a field with no protection at all.

I hadn’t been aware of the protection I had been receiving from the buildings for the remainder of my journey – after all I was still wet and cold – until they were no longer there.

Similarly I don’t think I have been aware of how much people have been protecting me over recent months. Sometimes from external things and problems, which they were keeping away so as not to cause me more anxiety. But mainly protecting me from myself, whether that was messaging me, inviting me out, allowing me to not go to things, not forcing anything on me, giving me space but also checking up on me, saying things to make me realise it was part of the journey and there would be brighter times.

It’s not that the protection has gone now, I’m still being supported amazingly, but I am on a different part of the journey, I can look back and see what was being done.

We don’t have to tell people what we are doing, but sometimes people are in vulnerable places that they need others to help out, and be an invisible source of protection that helps them to carry on.

Overwhelmed

Do you ever have moments when you are just taken aback by something? That might be the beauty of things around you, or the actions of people, or even just something that you read. I’ve had two things that have taken me aback this week, and that really made me stop and think about how blessed I am.

The first was receiving some feedback from pupils at school. I will be honest and say that they are a pretty awesome group anyway, but to receive comments that confirm what you are doing, and the appreciation of it… especially from teenagers… well, it just just filled me with a bit of a warm glow and made me realise the importance of what I’m doing – it is worth while after all!!!

As wonderful as that was, thing number two was the thing that really did overwhelm me… which it possibly shouldn’t have done… but it did!

Yesterday I had to fill out a questionnaire for an assessment I had. Part of this questionnaire was to say how my ‘problems’ – my low mood over the last few months – has affected my ability to perform in 5 different areas. Those areas being work, housekeeping, public recreation, private recreation, relationships. For each one I had to give a mark out of 8 with 8 being completely affected.

I gave the lowest mark to relationships. Within this category it referred to making and keeping friendships. Now, during this time I didn’t make friends but had no need to, and I kept friendships – hence I gave it such a low mark. Or should I say, my friends stuck by when I was being a sulky, silent, crying, angry, a?!y, wreck.

This is why I was overwhelmed because as I look back I really don’t know how, or why they put up with me. However, I also know I shouldn’t be surprised, because as a friend said today when I thanked her for being there ‘that’s what friends do’! And I just want to say thank you to those who have been that support when you must have wanted to walk!

I’m overwhelmed by the people I am blessed with in my life, I am also grateful to be finding things to be overwhelmed by again in my life! I’m going to be looking out for the overwhelming and I hope and pray you find some too!