Life lessons from a sad tiger

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This evening I read my son Matthew the most beautiful story. It is about a sad tiger called Augustus and he thinks that he’s lost his smile.

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He sets off to find it and  right at the end he realises this:

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Happiness is everywhere around him. And that’s true! There is beauty in this world and in life even when it is unbearable and overwhelming. We must celebrate simple happiness…the little things.

I read this recently:

Think today is just another day? You woke up. You heart’s beating. You can talk to anyone. You can try anything. Your day has infinite potential. Now that’s something to celebrate. – Lori Deschene

Wow. That’s something to think about.

Thank you, Augustus! ♡

 

 

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It’s okay – just be sad

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I just love this. I’m realising how important it is to give myself permission to feel what I feel and just “sit” with my emotions. It takes at long as it takes…you don’t owe anyone a performance.

“It’s okay to be sad. You don’t owe anyone a performance of being okay when you feel like you’re falling apart. It isn’t your job to smile or hide your truth to make other people feel more comfortable. If it gets awkward, let it be awkward.

If people try to silence your pain by telling you to get over it and cheer up because you’re no longer fun or you’re ruining the mood, you don’t have to push away your sadness. You have to honor your feelings and trust that you don’t need anyone’s permission or approval to feel what you feel. You don’t ever have to sacrifice your self care for the sake of people who only want you around when it’s easy and comfortable.

Their discomfort isn’t about you — it’s about them and their own limitations, and no matter what they think or say, you deserve to give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel. You’re allowed to show your feelings honestly. You’re allowed to talk about your pain and reach out for support. You’re allowed to scream and wail and cry. You’re allowed to be sad.”

—Daniell Koepke

Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky

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When I was driving to work this morning I was thinking about my career. If what I’m doing is what I should be doing, if it is good for me, if I really love what I do (but this is a story for another post…). What I did conclude is that I could never work as a treefeller – at least one thing I know for sure! I just love trees so much and I wouldn’t have the heart to ever cut one down. I believe that mother nature cries out if a tree is cut down without a good reason. It makes my heart sore.

I think trees are magical. They store in them so much positive energy and provide restoration and comfort in times of sadness. Have you ever sat and just looked at a tree for ages? Have you listened to a tree bending in the wind – if it is a really old one it creaks and groans as the branches sway. And when there’s a slight breeze the leave rustle gently.

Trees are very good teachers – you can learn a lot about life just by observing them.

Trees are constantly teaching me how to become silent and how to get comfortable with myself and my own thoughts.

I saw this quote by JB Hill: “As I started to picture the trees in the storm, the answer began to dawn on me. The trees in the storm don’t try and stand straight and tall and erect. They allow themselves to be bent and blown with the wind. They understand the power of letting go. Those trees and those branches that try to hard to stand up strong and straight are the ones that break.”

Isn’t that just so true?

Trees also teach us this: Stand tall and be proud, sink your roots into the earth, be content with your natural beauty, remember your roots, stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky, affirm life’s magic, stand tall after a storm, feel refreshed after it rains, grow strong without notice, provide shelter to strangers, be prepared for each season, hang tough through a cold spell and…

Be still long enough to hear your own leaves rustling.

 

Life is a work in progress

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Dusk in Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa.  Pic credit: Stephen Buchanan

Dusk in Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa.
Pic credit: Stephen Buchanan

I love reading stuff by The Mankind Project, an educational, personal coaching, counseling and mental health organisation. I found this on their Facebook page today. Real food for thought by Pema Chodron, Buddhist teacher, author and founder of the Pema Chodron Foundation.

Life is a work in progress, a process of uncovering our natural openness, uncovering our natural intelligence and warmth. I have discovered, just as my teachers always told me, that we already have what we need. The wisdom, the strength, the confidence, the awakened heart and mind are always accessible, here, now, always.

We are just uncovering them. We are rediscovering them. We’re not inventing them or importing them from somewhere else. They’re here. That’s why when we feel caught in darkness, suddenly the clouds can part. Out of nowhere we cheer up or relax or experience the vastness of our minds. No one else gives this to you. People will support you and help you with teachings and practices, as they have supported and helped me, but you yourself experience your unlimited potential.

I’m struggling with life at the moment and seeing the silver lining is a little difficult (I’ve blogged about this before – you can read that post here). But I’m also trying to keep things in perspective – amid everything that feels like disaster right now I have a beautiful life that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

I don’t have to be perfect – striving for perfection is actually a self-abuse and not helpful in any way. I am trying to stay connected to myself by listening to my inner voice, even when my inner critic is talking very loudly. I read something that said the soul knows what to do to heal itself but the challenge is to silence the mind. I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

 

Second chances, a cup of tea and a conversation

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suicide

Isn’t this story just amazing? I saw this on my Facebook feed this morning and the story has been on my mind the whole day.  Suicide is a subject that is very close to my heart because I was there a few months ago. It is a very scary place to find yourself in – to be so lonely and completely desperate that you see no other way out.

Whenever I hear about someone who has taken their own life, I always wonder about the circumstances that brought that person to the point where they are so desperate that they see no way out. Was there no one they could talk to? Did anyone listen or take them seriously? What if they had someone, like the man in this story, who took the time to listen? That’s quite a story to tell, don’t you think? A second chance at life, all thanks to a cup of tea and a conversation.

I remember that night when I contemplated suicide. I just wanted out. I had no interest in life anymore and the war within me was just too much. My my mind was racing with all kinds of thoughts: would it work, how long would it take, what if it doesn’t work. This isn’t something I talk about often – it isn’t exactly the greatest conversation starter –  but it was a significant moment in my life. The turning point. I knew something was really wrong.

I am so grateful that I got a second chance at life. In that moment I realised that my suicide would destroy other people and cause so much pain and I didn’t want to do that to anyone. I didn’t want my son to grow up without a mother, either. When I gained some perspective (weeks later after intensive therapy) I realised that I didn’t want to end my life – I wanted to end the pain. And there were so many better ways deal with that pain.

The bravest thing I’ve ever done was continuing my life when I wanted to die.

 

Stigma, depression and outing yourself

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how to treat mental illness

This image got me thinking – what if we treated all illness like we treat mental illness?  Can you imagine saying these things to someone who has cancer? Never! Then I have to wonder why someone who is clinically depressed, has anxiety or is bipolar has to suffer so much.

A big part of my struggle has been the silence around depression – it is almost like this major fear of outing yourself. Before I decided to be more open about my journey with depression, the fear of people finding out was actually more scary than living with depression. Talking about it is a big risk – there is a lot of judgement and misunderstanding.

But why must it be a secret? If I had diabetes I wouldn’t feel that I have to hide the fact that I take insulin. If I had cancer I would make no secret of my treatment. And depression is exactly the same. I have a chronic illness. It doesn’t define me, but I do have to live with it.

In an earlier blog post I mentioned Martha Manning’s book Undercurrents – it has been so insightful and helps me understand more about depression. This is how she describes depression in her book:

“Depression is such a cruel punishment. There are no fevers, no rashes, no blood tests to send people scurrying in concern. Just the slow erosion of the self, as insidious as any cancer. And, like cancer, it is essentially a solitary experience. A room in hell with only your name on the door.”

My hope is that society’s understanding about mental illness improves. I hope that one day people who live with mental illnesses receive the same respect and compassion as someone with any other medical condition. I hope more people start talking because there’s freedom in that. How else can we get rid of the stigma?

How to begin this week

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rebuilding life from within

I love this. It reminds me of the things I should do more often – particularly loving myself unconditionally and caring for myself. And what I have to remember is that caring for myself is not self-indulgent – it is necessary. I’m struggling with this at the moment. I criticize myself so harshly, instead of going gently on myself and focusing on how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved. My inner critic is really hard at work at the moment and it is actually very destructive.

Part of being kind to myself is realising that I am enough. I bring something unique to this world and I don’t need to be anything else. I also don’t have to have it together every single day. I am not a project to be completed flawlessly. I would never expect this of anyone else – so why do I want to be so hard on myself?

So today I’ve decided on a new project for this week: I’m going to be kind to myself, I’m going to be grateful for what I have because every day of my life is a gift and I’m going to celebrate the people who are doing this thing called life with me. ❤