Two sides

In today’s world, there’s a lot of pressure to choose a side. Whom do you believe? Which version is the truth? Which political party will you support? 

The more I’m given an opportunity to pick a side – a work conflict, an election, a public debate – the more I realise that there are always two sides. Most people do not deliberately set out to inflict pain. They just come at the same problems from very different angles.

When you’re the one at the heart of the matter or if it directly impacts someone you love, then it can be excruciatingly hard to see the other side. But there is always another side.

Impulsive, ignorant comments about those with opposing views anger me beyond belief. What is missing in our politics, our workplaces, our culture, is not generosity or care, but understanding amidst dissent. Understanding that we are all different; that we all have our own stories to tell, our own priorities, our own joys, our own heartaches, our own passions and our own anxieties. 

These inevitably lead to disagreement but without conflicting viewpoints, how would we hold one another to account or uncover the best way forward? Without diversity of opinion, how could we celebrate achievement or understand the world around us? 

Of course, there are some who break this mould; who are intent on causing harm and abuse an incredibly misplaced understanding to excuse inhumane behaviour. Those are not the ones to whom this applies. There are some things that will always be wrong, no matter which side you’re on. 

But most of us do not conform to those extreme, judgemental and completely irrational, horrific groups. Most of us are just flawed human beings, feeling our way through an increasingly capricious and confusing maze of life.
We live in a broken world. No one person, party, friend or colleague can make the right decision every time or create a world that works for everyone. It’s on us as individuals to step into the breach, put others before ourselves, make the most informed choices we can and always to remember: there are two sides.

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Countdown to 30

For the first time recently, I said these words: “I’m quite looking forward to turning 30.”

Granted I’m still a couple of birthdays off that age but I cannot deny that I am in my late 20s and most of my friends have turned or are turning the big 3-0.

The reason I’m ok with marking three decades of life is because I am more content in myself now than I ever have been. I know myself so much better. I know who I am, I know what I like, I know what I want, I know what’s important to me and I know who is important to me. I know what to do when I’m feeling rubbish, I know what I enjoy in my free time, I’m starting to know what I’m good at at work and I am more secure in what I believe and why, with a mind that challenges and questions more in order to find truth and meaning.

I’m not about to create a list of things I want to do before I’m 30. I don’t know what life will bring tomorrow let alone in a couple of years so I’d rather take life in the moment rather than tie myself to a list defined by an age.

What surprises me in all that I have written is the one thing that I haven’t mentioned. I haven’t said: “I’m proud of what I have achieved for my age.” I could have declared that I have an incredible husband who I’ve shared almost 5 years of married life with, a great job that I love, a beautiful flat that we own, stable finances and amazing potential for all of these things to grow. To me, these things are blessings, not achievements and they don’t define my success. When I look around at my family and friends who are approaching or have embraced this new season, they don’t all have the same accolades as I do. They have lived their own paths and they are successes for themselves, not based on a societal scale of success.

The final reason that I am starting to look forward to 30 is because I’m finally slowing down on the comparison game. I’m not looking around me at what others have achieved, I’m just looking right next to me at the smile on my husband’s face that tells me he is content and excited about life and that’s all I need, to know that we’re doing just fine.

May – Resurrecting Life’s Detail

DSCF2150aPosting just once or twice a month isn’t quite what I had intended for this blog but it will do for now.

As hoped for, May has been a month that has given me space to appreciate time a little more. Evenings and weekends have been less crammed and there have been fewer demands on my time than in recent months.

I find it slightly amusing that my instinct when presented with time is to fill it but I am learning how to fill it with things I enjoy and that have a result that continues past the hour that was filled. When I’ve spent the morning writing, reading, painting, baking or photographing, there is a lingering sense of product and productivity that is uniquely satisfying. Then I’m happy to spend a couple of hours watching a movie or taking a nap because the hours of the day haven’t all been ‘wasted’.

May has reminded me of how crucial the role of detail plays in my life. Without detail, time rushes on and I’m left feeling like I never quite made the most of it. Details that have been resurrected (or established for the first time) in May include:

Freezing limes and lemons ready for iced drinks (hello G&T). They look pretty, they give an added level of occasion and they keep the drink cold, without watering it down. A small extra detail makes it a whole new drink.

Having flowers in the bedrooms. Whenever I have flowers in the flat, they are usually on prominent display in the lounge where any visitor would notice them. Having flowers in other rooms, where only my husband and myself will appreciate them frequently, creates a level of detail that isn’t affirmed by other people. All of our lives are worth giving care and attention to, not just the areas that the outside world sees.

Moisturising and painting my nails. I’m not one for spending an excessive amount of time getting ready but I notice that when I take the time to introduce a more detailed routine, I feel (and look!) better as a result. Emphasise on I feel better. Spending time making sure all the clothes I wear fit me well, spending time moisturising and taking care of my skin rather than just jumping out of the shower, into a non-thought through outfit and ploughing straight onto what’s next, all contribute to a sense of wholeness and wellbeing.

Eating more healthily. In the days of yore, being overweight was a good thing. It testified to your wealth and ability to afford the choicest food… and lots of it! Nowadays, being overweight (and I acknowledge this is a huge generalisation) is often akin to having little money, not caring about what you’re putting into your body, or both. Cheap food is often fast food, filled with additives, fat and goodness knows what else. Taking time to cook a good meal and make sure I’m not overindulging in the chocolate I’m so drawn to, makes me feel better. Planning the details of a good meal (and even good treats) gives me energy that I don’t feel when I speed through life.

Social media fast: seeing the world’s natural detail. Isn’t it ironic that what some would consider cutting yourself off from the world and the influences, opinions and events that define it, often results in us connecting with the world on a much more satisfying and meaningful scale. The world is full of detail. Birds singing, dramatic clouds, sunshine, people, life. Switching off from electronic communication not only gives me some time back in and of itself, it also opens my eyes to appreciate the natural detail and beauty that already surrounds me.

Experimenting: a break from routine. Whether it’s going out for a late night walk, trying a new recipe, going to a new restaurant or meeting someone new for coffee, breaking from the norm gives life the opportunity to show me new colours, new details, new flavours and most importantly for me, new memories.

I’m sure there are many more ways in which May was all about resurrecting life’s detail for me but instead of trying to capture it all, I’ll wait until the words come unprompted. I spent this past weekend baking, reading, painting my nails and taking a long bath. I’m starting to feel refreshed, the details I’ve had time to pay attention to are bringing me joy so I’m going to take an afternoon away from online distraction and appreciate some quiet time.

A series of ‘nows’

Hubby and I had coffee with a colleague of mine on New Year’s Day. Somehow the two boys, both quite philosophical and driven by a sense of justice, balance and opportunity, began talking about culture and lifestyle. Some of their chatter was concocting a liberal utopia, acknowledging that humans were not designed to work 9-5 at a desk – work hard, yes, but not to the confines of a modern regime. This developed into a discussion around mindfulness, meditation and how our minds have been cultivated into viewing the world through our own unique filters. We perceive everything around us in relation to our beliefs, understandings and knowledge – the combination and design of which is different for everyone and therefore how we perceive the world is also unique to the make-up of our minds.

According to my colleague, there is no such thing as the past – it does not exist as a physical reality – nor is there such thing as a future. Rather, life is made up of a series of nows. While many flaws can be found in this simplistic idea, it does change the way we perceive our days. My colleague took this one step further to say that there is, as a result, no such thing as a problem. There is simply a choice to be made and if something arises from the choice, it becomes a situation that you are dealing with in the now. Problems and how we perceive them are, again, a creation of our culture.

Whether or not you adhere to his ideology, there is certainly something to be gained from it. If nothing else, it encourages us to live in the moment and truly experience our every day and I, for one, am all for a little more present-mindedness in this competitive, future-obsessed society.

Those days are gone

I have just booked a whistle-stop journey to see my Oma in Germany for her 90th birthday. I’ll catch the first flight out in the morning and the last one back in the evening. I won’t have time to visit her home, just the place she now resides in – a home.

The days of us visiting our grandparents, splashing in the pool in the back garden of the home they built themselves, lounging in the sun, playing games with them, eating cake and learning about life from them, are now gone and it is only in this past year, since my Opa died, that I’m finally beginning to realise that.

I am so unbelievably blessed that I have had two grandparents who could not have been better role models for me. Every fibre in their being was love and faith. They exuded wisdom, they laughed from their heart and they demonstrated the kind of devotion to one another and to God that is so hard to emulate.

Dementia now has much of the mind of my Oma, but her heart is still the same. She misses her partner of over 60 years but she is still wise, she still has faith and she still loves with every ounce she has left.

But those carefree days of my childhood with them truly are gone and that makes me sad. I wouldn’t say I didn’t make the most of them because for most of that time I was too young to know the blessing I had, but they made sure that they cherished their time with me and my sister and in doing so, they gave me memories that can never be taken from me.

I am one fortunate girl to have those memories and, though I’m sad to comprehend that they will never be experienced again, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to experience them at all. I will continue to make new, albeit different, memories with my Oma for as long as I get to keep her on this earth. She is one very precious lady.