Category Archives: Western culture

Recipe for the perfect human being

This is a simple recipe, which can easily be followed once you realise that all the other ingredients you once thought were important are in fact completely unnecessary. The recipe is as follows:

Take 1 human being

Add a dollop of doing the best you can with the knowledge and skills you have

See life as a gift which is unfolding just for you, and never question your right to be here, to make mistakes or to struggle.

Take a whole heap of love and hold it in your heart

Additional notes:

Please don’t add any of the traditional ingredients, such as people-pleasing, judgement, perfectionism, self-loathing/lack of worthiness, or a heavy focus on achieving what you believe others see as important. All of these things look good enough, but they will make the finished recipe taste bitter and unsatisfying.

I have yet to master this recipe myself, but I intend to keep practising it until I have it just right – or as close to just right as I can manage!

Lots of love,

Kath

 

p.s. image courtesy of tinyfroglet via Flickr Creative Commons: https://tinyurl.com/yca3kqez

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What do you want to do with your life?

I don’t know about you, but most of my life, until the revelations of my thirties, I felt that the best way to get by in life was to make as little trouble as possible – to please others, and somehow fly under the radar. Life wasn’t about doing what I wanted to; it was about taking all the opinions and clues from the outside world, crunching the numbers and coming up with the perfect formula for my life. Funny thing is, it wasn’t my life, was it? It belonged to everyone except me. Sound familiar?

I wrote a while back that life is a strange place for me to be now that I’ve realised that people-pleasing and living up to the expectations of others isn’t necessary. It was making my miserable, but it felt safe, and all of my sense of worth came from being perceived in a positive way by others. So, what to do with my life now that my people-pleasing road trip is drawing to and end?

I don’t know if you believe in the mystical and magical things that can sometimes happen in life, but I was once sat contemplating my life and where I was up to etc. I felt suddenly compelled to take a book from my bookcase (which I never do – the bookcase in question is more of an archive of books I’ve already read). Anyway, I picked up a title by Alexander McCall Smith called ‘Morality for beautiful girls’, closed my eyes, flipped through the pages and stopped at a seemingly random place. Imagine my absolute shock when I realised I was looking at a chapter heading titled: ‘What do you want to do with your life?’. Hmm, I thought to myself. Life isn’t about doing; it’s about being and experiences and joy and… It’s not about what job I do or what holidays I go on. It’s about making the most of the experiences that come my way. I was, if anything, a little annoyed with the book for asking me such a stupid question. Stupid book. What does it know?

Well, in hindsight, maybe a lot more than I do – or did at the time. What I’ve come to realise is that unless you are an active creator of the moments in your life, you don’t get to choose what they look like, and your experiences will be limited and perhaps even a little soul crushing. Because our souls need to breathe and stretch their wings, and doing what others wish for or expect of us is about as far away as we can get from living a heart-centred life. Towing the line is the emotional equivalent of throwing in the towel and giving up on everything you’ve ever wanted; whether that’s for yourself, others or the world at large.

We all have dreams, no matter who we are, or how small or unusual or impossible they may seem to someone else. Many of us won’t be aware of our dreams because we’ve forgotten them among the business and general chaos of being an adult. But if you think back to your childhood, you won’t have to look too far to remember all the things you used to dream of. Personally, I used to imagine being an acclaimed artist or a pilot. This was at the age of about 8, and my greatest joy in life was being allowed to stay up a bit later to watch the Crystal Maze and Gladiators (UK reference – my apologies to anyone who hasn’t heard of these wonderful British television programmes from the 1990s). So why I wanted to fly and paint masterpieces I’ll never know; it’s just something that used to capture my imagination. I also assumed that I would make a positive difference to the world at large, although I wasn’t sure how. I remember feeling pretty annoyed at how badly the planet was being treated and thinking that I should probably do something about it (but not before I’ve caught up with the Crystal Maze, obviously!).

It doesn’t matter that my dreams from childhood bear no resemblance to my actual life. The important thing is that I had any dreams at all, and that I was actively thinking about the things I’d like to see change in the world. I had this sense that my life mattered, and that countless opportunities and possibilities lay ahead of me. When I thought about life, it seemed like something to run towards, rather than something to run away from. Some people may call this naivety, but I think it’s adults who lose their way and forget to see things how they really are. We forget the magic, we don’t make time for day-dreams, and if we’re really unlucky, we start to equate life with drudgery and hard work. Society plays a big part in this, of course. When you look around you, especially in Western cultures, it’s no wonder we lose our way and forget what’s important.

So, what do I do now that I realise I’ve been letting life wash over me, rather than creating my own waves? Well, I’ve got some decisions to make, some dreams to dream, and a renewed sense of purpose to gain. I need to start creating meaning in my own life, instead of letting others tell me what’s meaningful. I need to start creating moments and holding space for myself and others, rather than waiting for a phone call from someone inviting me to do something (and therefore saving me from having to think of something).

Life is all about choice, freedom and expression. Love and joy are everywhere around us, just waiting for us to say yes. But we can’t do this passively; we must be bold enough to show up, let ourselves be seen, and ultimately to choose our best life.

Oh, and here’s a little poem I found myself jotting down the other evening:

Go find your joy
Go find your purpose
Go out into the world
Let it see you
And cast your eyes upon its magnificence
Don’t label yourself;
Be wild and free
Express yourself
And feel your connection to the rest of humanity
You’ve come so far;
Know that nothing is outside of your reach
And above all else, know that you are loved

Thanks for being here and reading this. I hope you found even the tiniest bit of inspiration to live life the way you want to.

Kath

p.s. Image is courtesy of Chris R. via Flickr: https://tinyurl.com/yc8rtwqy

Do the things that make your heart sing, and your soul soar

I went swimming a lot as a child and young adult. From life-saving lessons, to speed swimming and diving – my sister and I did it all. We also spent hour upon hour mucking about, doing handstands in the pool and guessing what each other was singing whilst under water. Swimming was my exercise of choice, and pretty much the only one I enjoyed, since I’m quite a lazy person by nature. But the magic of being in the water was enough to counteract the call of sitting down with a book or watching the telly.

We’re not all alike, which is one of the wonderful things about being a human being! We all share so much more in common than the mass media lead us to believe, but in the end not one of us is 100% the same. I have a friend who hates being in the water, to the extent that she has the quickest bath she possibly can just to get it over and done with. Swimming in an open air swimming pool in a beautiful little village in the Derbyshire countryside (as I did today) would not have been her idea of a good time, but to me it was revitalising, refreshing, invigorating, and kind of a relief (since I haven’t been swimming for a few years now). It fulfilled a part of me that I had allowed to go unattended for such a long time.

Worrying what other people think of us depletes our energy and our sense of who we are. We question ourselves and try to bend and twist to please others. It’s the opposite of having someone with you to support and encourage you in all your endeavours – it’s like having a devil sat on our shoulders, whispering to us that we’re not good enough and that people will only love us if…

Doing the things that make our hearts sing and our souls soar replenishes our energies and our sense of who we are. It makes us feel stronger and more balanced, and we care less what others think of us without even having to try. Every activity we choose to do has the potential to either feed our sense of who we are, or to deplete it. Every thought and every choice is based on either love (I am enough) or fear (I am not enough). In a world where far too many of us are stuck in fear-mode, why not start to choose love instead?

What are the things that you love to do? What desires have you let go unattended for far too long? What advice would you give to your best friend? Start giving that advice to yourself, and watch the magic unfold!

Bye for now x

No offence but I don’t care what job you do

Well actually I do care. I care if it makes you happy, I care if you have the financial stability you crave, and I care if you are stressed out due to looming redundancies. But in terms of what you do actually meaning anything in the grand scheme of life? Well it just doesn’t. Of course it may have personal and emotional significance to you and/or your friends and family, in which case it is hugely meaningful. What I’m driving at here is that it doesn’t mean anything about you as a person. It doesn’t make you better or worse than any other human being, and it in no way defines who you are. We all have a certain sense of snobbery about us. Even as I write this I am aware of moments in my life where I have been a snob. Having worked at a university and earned a professional wage, I recently did a stint of cleaning work in my local neighborhood. I’d quit my job, was looking for something less stressful for a while AND I happen to genuinely love cleaning. So why not do some cleaning work? My parents were obviously a little disturbed by this sudden change in direction – and social status! They used to enjoy telling people I worked for a local university, and they were very proud of me. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I was proud of myself, in fact. But do you know what I was even more proud of? My decision to quit a job that in the end was making me miserable and do something completely different. It took guts to do that, and it was much more of a personal achievement than any successful job applications I’d ever made. But despite this, and despite really enjoying the work, I still had moments of shame about it. Intense shame whereby I didn’t like to admit what I was doing, especially to former colleagues and other academically successful friends of mine. It was OK in certain situations, but mostly I felt it made me unworthy and I was too embarrassed to chat openly to anyone about it.

It’s a shame really, don’t you think? A huge, colossal sized shame really. Because deep down we all know we’re born equal and die equal. That someone may be cleverer or more beautiful than us, but that it doesn’t make them a more worthy individual. How could it possibly mean that? In a world where people are born into different social and cultural environments and have different experiences and opportunities?  It just isn’t a thing. I often think that if aliens were to land, and we explained about the varying perception of two people because one works in a posh deli in a quaint little village, and the other in a cafe selling fried food in a busy town centre, they’d be frankly a little baffled.

Have you ever noticed how obsessed we are as a society about what we do to make money? If you go on a gameshow you give your name, age and occupation. As far as I’m concerned two of those things are irrelevant, unless the contestant is especially proud to have just celebrated a milestone birthday, or they’ve just got a new job that they want to share with the world. But otherwise, what difference does it make if you’re a retired police officer or a part-time bin man?!!!!

The question: “and what do you do?” always baffles me too. I always want to answer with a list of daily hobbies and activities, ending with: “and right this moment I’m stood here talking to you”. That’d surely make them wish they’d never asked.

And what’s with paid work carrying more kudos than the equivalent role but in a voluntary capacity? It’s all work.

Before I get too ranty about the whole thing, I’m going to sign off here and leave you to ponder what a great big bunch of snobs the human race can be.

Peace!

Letting go is hard, really hard…

It’s strange but true that our old habits – no matter how unhelpful they have been and how miserable they have made us – are nonetheless familiar, and they feel safe. Worrying what others think of us, struggling against life and always trying to prove ourselves worthy… These things are so ingrained in our psyches that when an opportunity comes along to leave it all behind, part of us wants to run back to the safety of what we know. Does this sound familiar to any of you? I’m only just realising now that the prospect of releasing myself from the past is as scary as it is wonderful!

So I guess there are lots of things we can all do to help us move past our fear and make the leap of faith we know deep inside we need to make. But for me the first thing I need to do is to just acknowledge that it is scary, and that’s OK. I don’t fully understand what I’m going through, and that’s OK. I don’t know exactly what my life will look like in the future, and that’s OK. Just typing those words makes me feel so much better, because it enables me to accept my life just as it is right now, including everything I’ve been through in the past. It’s a way of letting go of control, and trusting that things will unfold in their own way and in their own time. No amount of worrying is going to change anything, except how stressed out I feel!

Another thing I read recently is about re-labelling fear as excitement. And it really works! It helps to make the situation seem less serious and more light-hearted. It makes me feel less on the ‘back foot’, and more like I am putting my best foot forward.

This is quite a short post, I realise, but I wanted to say these words because I feel there isn’t enough in this world to encourage us to keep going and to make the decisions we know are right for us. There are so many pressures, deadlines, choices etc. that ‘we’ can get lost in the mayhem. So here I am telling you to look after yourselves, to listen to yourself and to not be afraid to do what feels a) scary and b) selfish.

Here’s hoping this resonates with one or two people, and if not, at least I’ve said what I needed to say!

Peace out x

The day I realised I don’t have to deserve or earn love…

All my life I have tried desperately to earn acceptance and love from people around me. I have felt, at my very core, desperately worried about myself and whether I’m good enough. I’ve felt the need to put on a different mask according to who I’m spending time with. Like a chameleon, I’ve adapted to my environment, but at a huge cost: me!

The more I face up to my fears, and the more I just put myself ‘out there’ to be seen for who I really am, the more I realise that I never needed to earn the love or respect of anyone. Instead of running away, those people in my life who really matter to me have embraced this phase of my life, encouraging me to take my time, offering support and letting me know that they are there whenever I need them. I just had a text conversation with a friend which made me cry big fat tears of happiness, sadness and just about every emotion in between! But then I heard myself thinking:

What have I done to deserve this?

And the answer? I didn’t need to do anything, because love isn’t deserved or earned, and I have been worthy of love, friendship and companionship since the day I was born. I don’t have my own children yet, but I know that as/when I do have a baby, I won’t look at it and think: I’ll love you once you’re old enough to do something deserving and worthwhile. I’ll just love it because it is.

I can’t tell you what a relief it is to slowly begin peeling away the mask, and to discover that I am loved so very much for who I am. And I am fortunate enough to have enough good people around me to know that anyone who doesn’t like what they see can look elsewhere. I won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and I’d be doing a pretty rubbish job of being authentic if everyone liked me! No one is universally liked and loved. Even Tom Hanks won’t be liked by everyone who meets him, although I find that hard to believe!

Being loveable doesn’t mean being perfect. It just means being you. We are all loveable, and we are all loved by someone.

The sad thing about Western culture is that it promotes a sense of ‘better than’ in relation to our fellow human beings. Instead of working together and celebrating who we are, we feel inclined to compete with others for our sense of self-esteem and worthiness. Conversations with certain people leave us feeling exhausted because they seem to be doing so much better than we are, and our egos just can’t handle it! Well I for one am sick of leading a life where my ego has such a big influence over how I feel about myself. There is such a thing as a healthy ego, and that involves doing what you love to do, with people you love to spend time with, and approaching life from a place of self-love and a sense of worthiness.

For someone who has been doing just the opposite of this for most of her life, I’m finding that old habits die hard, and I’m really having to trust myself to let go of my old hang-ups and let the magic unfold. But it’s all worthwhile in those moments where I feel totally at ease with myself and the world. Giving up the fight means realising there was never a fight in the first place.

Thanks for listening.

Bye for now x