Killing should…

Life has been pretty hectic.

On top of all the personal stuff, my new project is now going full steam ahead.

I’m focused, writing, planning, thinking and creating like a maniac!

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In the middle of it all, my dear friend asked me to give feedback on a written draft.

My first internal response: ugh, what a drag, i’m so busy and exhausted, and not up for focusing my limited mental energy on this.

So i asked about her timeframe and let her know i’d need a couple of days.

It felt like i should do it.

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Then i had this internal dialogue. (as I do, lol!)

“Sarah, you’re writing this material about self care, setting boundaries, being able to say no, practicing what you preach might be a good idea!”

Perhaps this was a test for me to set limits?

On the other hand, I have been saying ‘no’ more often recently.

Especially to the non essential stuff.

It sat in the back of my mind for a few days…

The shoulds kept rolling around.

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Then another thought stream, if i were to do this, what might be a positive motivation rather than feeling obligated and dutiful?

I love this friend to bits and love supporting her to reach her goals. She has done so much for me over the years. She’s also had a really big couple of months and is having a stressful week.

This one thing, although inconveniently timed, would really help her out.

After I’d shifted my thinking to a more positive motivation, my energy lifted.

I opened the document and editing it was a breeze.

It even allowed me to appreciate the knowledge and skills i’d gathered over the years.  A little unexpected boost!

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Being generous is easy when we’re feeling good and giving something that doesn’t mean that much to us, but the challenge is when we’re not feeling up to it.

Then it is truly a gift of ourselves.

My friend and I try hard for authenticity and honesty in our friendship.

So the best bit, when we talked afterwards, I got a chance to let her know it wasn’t great timing but i did it because she is precious to me.

Our text convo went like this:
• “I almost messaged to say I wasn’t in the head space but it was for you! Means you’re special! Hugs sx”
• “How good does that make me feel. Thank you again.”

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We all know that the headspace in which we approach a task makes a difference to the experience, but how often do we actively manage our thinking?

Should, must, duty and obligation can feel like draining energies. I’m trying to delete them from my list of motivators.

Even if i do feel obliged, and i plan to say yes, then I’ll try to find a constructive motivation, particularly when it’s challenging.

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When we do something for others, it can be such a gift to let them know we’re doing it, not from duty or obligation, but because they mean so much to us.

Feels good huh?

Wishing you a day of good energy flow!

Big love
sarah

 

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Lighting the path…

Last night I had a rather unusual, yet insightful experience…

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I received a phone call last week inviting me to a market research consultation with my superannuation company. Two hours of my time to give my opinion and receive a payment. Sure – I’m not working, some extra cash is always handy!

I dressed in my work gear for the occassion, it would have been a more accurate reflection of my current life to wear my overalls covered in mud, but i was stepping back into my work persona for the night!

I arrived at 5.45pm, as instructed, sat in the lobby with a big group of others, awkwardly crammed into a small space, waiting quietly, unsure what lay ahead. I started chatting with a lovely woman next to me, had she done something like this before? Did she know what to expect? You know small talk…

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Running a bit behind time, we were ushered into a corporate meeting room, complete with cameras, recording devices and silent observers in another room. We met the guy who was to facilitate the discussion, a bit older than me, a relaxed and friendly man.

It was as group of seven women in the 35-44 demographic, gathered together to discuss superannuation, financial planning, life expectations, retirement etc. It was a fascinating, random snapshot of women in my city, my peers, checking in about our lives and how we’re travelling, both financially and in other ways. I rarely get a chance to step outside my mileau, so i was pretty intrigued and honoured to hear everyone share their stories.

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I must confess to recently watching episodes of Sherlock Holmes, so at the start, while we were waiting, I quietly observed each person to deduce what i could about them. The truth is not very much, the facilitator wore a wedding ring, many of the women looked tired, fatigued, perhaps overworked, parenting pressures or some health concerns?

Thankfully, I didn’t have to rely on my ‘deductions’ alone, we did introductions around the table.

A younger lawyer recently left the government, a woman working in admin with three children, a teacher with two children, the creative woman i met at the start worked in film and tv, a woman with no children who was very focused on financial security and retiring as early as possible, then me, who is ‘cough’ between jobs or how do i describe it? Having a forest change?

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We got chatting in a friendly and open way, each providing comments and insights, listening to each other. The atmosphere was friendly and calm, this was going to be a breeze!

About 15 minutes later, the final participant arrived. She was late due to a large accident and horrendous traffic. She was a single mum, casual work, struggling, health issues that she described in some detail. I could feel great empathy for her situation.

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Despite being late, she went on to take most of the oxygen out of the room. She would have spoken for a good 50-60% of the time – long winded answers, jumping in when others took a breath, talking over others, commenting and asking questions about everyone else’s comments – strong opinions.

Well the energy in the room changed immediately, everyone took a step back into heavy silence, less willing to openly share and it became a matter of enduring what time remained. The facilitator did his best to keep redirecting the conversation to others for input, but it was a challenge without direct confrontation.

I had a series of responses, firstly tolerance and openness to the diversity of people who make up the world. I tried to remain calm but something inside me started to well up, feeling annoyed, should i say something or let it just pass through? I did the latter and wondered how many other people just walked away from this woman, how isolating and frustrating for her to experience this reaction from others.

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The most fascinating thing was the insight into each woman. The life choices they had made and how they reflected on this at mid life. A few women had lived for long periods overseas, some had children, some did not, others were very career driven, others keen to leave the work world behind. It was interesting to see the impact of these life choices on the women themselves.

One woman described how exhausted she was with three small children, mortgage etc, she was into phone apps, and loved using them on the train home. Others described having virtually no superannuation and not being able to rely on it, they were very subject to the changing policies of government. One was very focused and in control of her financial planning, with a view to retirement as early as possible.

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One woman, described the unbearable pressure of being on a moderate salary and paying for two children to go to private school. Another 5 ½ years of this pressure to ensure her children have access to the best education that she could provide. The single mum challenged her “well you’re lucky you can afford to send your kids to a private school”, she softly replied “we work really, really hard to afford it, we forgoe many things.”

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At the end of the session we all left as quickly as we could, as we exited the building some women expressed disbelief and anger about the woman who dominated the group. I could feel their frustration, but at the same time i felt for her, as she would wear the consequences (as we all do) of who she is in a social context. Perhaps she constantly experienced the anger and rejection of others? What complexities drive behaviour?

I had a wee chat with the lovely woman who i first met, and then we jumped into our cars, driving off into the night, never to see each other again.

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Life is such a fascinating journey. We can make a lot of assumptions about people’s lives but this can deepen when we hear the story from within. When we consider who we are, the choices we make, perhaps our lives could only be exactly as they are, a mirrored reflection of ourselves. If we wish to make changes in our lives, perhaps the initial change is internal?

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Making life choices can also be really tough, especially when the way forward is unclear. We live in a complex society that can be difficult to navigate. We rely on personal qualities, social skills and fortune of circumstance to have friends, mentors and wise elders who can assist.

Almost like negotiating your way through a maze, one can get lost in the detail. It feels like a combination of active decision making and plain dumb luck has led me in life. Whilst who i am is a big factor, it’s not the whole picture either, as the choices i’ve made have also created me.

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Ultimately this whole experience felt like a gift from the universe, to pause and reflect, to consider my life and a small snapshot into the lives of others. It has brought into greater focus the blessings, and i feel honoured to share stories with others.

Wishing for you great insight, harmony and peace in you life choices.

Much love
Sarah

 

Thoughtful kindness makes a day…

I just heard this delightful story about my friend Mich.

Her 90 year old neighbour Norma, is celebrating her 68th wedding anniversary today.

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Sadly her beloved husband passed away four years ago and she misses him terribly.

So today, my friend surprised her with a bunch of flowers and a happy anniversary card, left on the doorstep for when Norma got home.

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Norma was delighted and popped in to tell Mich that she made her day.

Best of all, to be able to make Norma’s day, made Mich’s day as well!

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I’m so proud of Mich’s beautiful kind heart!!

Don’t you love the happy feeling you get from such spontaneous and thoughtful kindness? In it’s purest form, there is a beautiful exchange of loving energy.

Both giving and receiving is a wonderful blessing!!

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Wishing for you unexpected kindness and the opportunity to give the same to others

Loving communities start with us, so thank you Mich for the inspiration!!

Much love

Sarah

 

A most underrated quality…

“Kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain

Recently my parents, now in their mid seventies, downsized their house. From a large double story old Queenslander house, they moved into an apartment in town. A brave and adventurous move for them and the start of a new chapter of their lives. It has been inspiring to watch them release the burdens and responsibilities of possessions and bask in this new found freedom. They have been tremendously generous to me and my siblings with the gifting of their cherished items. One of my beautiful gifts was this Royal Doulton stag and deer sandwich platter. An item that came from my father’s mother, my grandmother Hilda.

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Now I love this platter. In fact i love it so much that i kept my eye out on ebay and bought a few companions for it. This was in the days of working when i had some extra money to spend.

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This item means a lot to me. Not just because it is a gift from people who i love deeply, but also because for me it captures the essence of close family members. The stag and deer  represent gentle strength. These are qualities that my father and partner Kevin have in spades. My grandmother Hilda also had it. It is easy to assume that someone who is gentle is weak and easily manipulated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Public images of masculine strength often involve outward displays of physicality, toned muscles, testosterone, fire fighters rescuing vulnerable people from burning buildings or tough guys in action movies.

The strength that i admire is far more subtle and for me more beautiful. This is strength that comes from within. It is an internal core of strength disguised in a covering of gentleness and often kindness. Kindness is a most under rated quality, but one which i love. I am not a naturally kind person, but i have been fortunate to learn from others who are kind in their essence or who have chosen to nurture this quality in themselves.

Kindness is not about being patronising or diminishing another, nor it is about manipulating another or giving with expectation. It isn’t about being cheesy or operating from obligation. It is a quality that comes from the heart. Being thoughtful. It stems from a core belief in the goodness and value of other beings. It’s about supporting them in their wholeness. The best kindness is gentle, unexpected, when someone reaches in and softly touches your heart. Genuine kindness always moves me.

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This is not the false kindness of social role or duty, but it is about being authentic and genuine. I particularly admire social kindness, such as:

  • valuing relationships as part of connected community, rather than competitively scaling a social hierarchy
  • welcoming someone into your world, listening to them and sharing from your heart, gently filling in the awkward conversational gaps,
  • speaking to the best attributes of another, seeking more information when you don’t understand,
  • choosing gentle silence or diplomatically avoiding topics that may cause discomfort,
  • being truly empathic in seeing the world from their perspective, giving someone the benefit of the doubt,
  • knowing, accepting and loving people in their wholeness and differences, including their imperfections
  • being self aware, particularly of the your own egoic triggers, managing and taking responsibility for them and not projecting them onto others.

Kindness is the ability to suspend judgement, to listen to another person’s story and to feel it on an emotional level, to feel how they experienced the situation. It’s not about being stepped over, having no boundaries, it comes from that core strength, not being afraid to be gentle and vulnerable. People sometimes say they feel “political correctness” has gone too far, but i always think of it as being kind and thoughtful to others, of which i’d love to see more.

I have a few friends who are wildlife carers, really they are animal whisperers. An ability to connect with the essence of the animal in a way that makes them feel safe and heard. This incredible ability comes from being kind, gentle, yet strong. Loving the animal and knowing its true nature, not their projected image. They are in touch with their own vulnerability and gentle strength. They take the time and create the space for animals to come to them on their own terms.

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This morning i woke up feeling very emotionally flat. Fuzzy head, a bit sad and down. In the past i would have looked for the reason, the story that justified these feelings or i’d reach for a cup of coffee to chemically numb myself or talk myself up, pep myself into action to get things moving and push this behind me.

After many years, i’ve learned to be kinder to myself. I do this by taking a deep breath and just allowing myself to be wherever i am. To suspend judgement, to gently observe myself, to quieten my thoughts, perhaps to meditate, to observe the energy patterns, where do they sit in my body? Where are they stuck? I may lie in the pillows and drop into a nurturing space of allowing myself just to be. I quietly got up and took Max down to the dog park, just allowing myself to be, I gently walked five laps of the park and by the end the feelings had dissipated with ease. On the way home i stopped for a lovely unexpected chat with my neighbour who was riding her horse down our street.

Today i wish kindness and gentleness for you and for others when the moments present.

Much love
Sarah