FMF: Cheer

Joining in with FMF: this week’s word¬†Cheer.

Here goes….

cheer

START

Even when we’re healthy but life is bleak, there’s always still plenty to cheer about, I’ve found. Always plenty to be thankful for, always plenty of blessings to bathe in, to sooth our soul. When we stop, take store and count these blessings, it cheers our soul, breathes new life in to us, allows us to continue on. Not necessarily at full strength but onwards and, sometimes, onward – however slowly – is the only best we can muster.

Sometimes, in these moments, stopping to take stock of where we’ve been, what we’ve come through, can offer a blessing in itself. We can find strength from seeing how much strength we’ve had, how far we’ve come and what darkness we’ve surpassed.

Sometimes a silent cheer for oneself is a very good thing.

END

Helen xxx

P.S. Am feeling maybe slightly better, after my fall, and hope to be back blogging shortly…the Contentment guest posts will definitely start up from Wednesday, and sincerest apologies to all those who sent a post through and have had to wait for it to appearūüė¶

Guest posts…

Wednesday’s usually the day for guest posts for my Contentment series to go live, but I’m not feeling too good and haven’t been able to manage to organise scheduling them.

I’m hoping to post one by tomorrow (and I apologise to all those who’ve sent guest posts in).

Helen xxx

P.S. Thanks to all of you who filled out my survey. I’ll be posting the results (and my thoughts on them) shortly…

FMF: Pass

Joining in with Five Minute Friday. This week’s word: pass.

 Contentment7

START

“This too shall pass”

I clearly heard it – very clearly heard it – voiced out to me as I was giving birth to my son (six and a bit weeks premature he was….birthed with the help of Drs and nurses who didn’t speak English and me, at that time, with my Spanish limited to ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’).

I, also, very clearly heard it voiced out to me a few days after the day I knelt down, in desperation, to ask for help from above, from within (from wherever that helps lies), because¬†I simply¬†couldn’t cope on my own any more.¬†

Where did these proclamations come from?

I don’t know. I still don’t know.

But I know, now, that He, the Universe, has my back.

“This too shall pass”

It’s kind of become a motto for me.

It has transmuted in to many different forms of/tactics for overcoming. Instead of wallowing in self pity, I try to act. Try to always think outwards and not inwards. Realising, now, that it all shall pass. 

By doing this, by adopting this attitude, I found that once I’d acquired this habit of looking outwards (which was initially a mechanism for self-protection), to find opportunities to serve, to be kind, to add light to the life around me, then my life began to change and, indeed, much of the mess that had surrounded me did pass.

Experience – more specifically my traumatic experiences – have taught me how to recognise pain, to recognise the help that people might need (even when they don’t necessarily want to acknowledge they need help).

It’s made me more sensitive to where the light needs to go.

When you’ve experienced not being able to eat for weeks, because you’ve not had enough money to feed three, you simply¬†cannot¬†walk past someone in the street who’s obviously hungry. You can’t let it pass.¬†

When you meet a young woman, shy, furtive about her situation, you recognise the signs, you encourage her to seek help. You can’t let it pass.¬†

And in the process, this not letting it pass converts in to this too shall pass: instead of being part of the problem, you become part of the solution.

And a solution is always better than a problem!

Always.

(And, yes, Universe, I am actually¬†thankful¬†that I lived through what I have lived through because this opening/widening of my eyes? This knowing where the light needs to go? It’s¬†the only way to live).

END

If you haven’t already, do check out my contentment series, with guest posts from Michelle, Gabriele and Joy.

Have a lovely weekend!

Helen xxx

Contentment: Joy

Welcome to another guest post for my contentment series. From Joy of Words of Joy and Poetry Joy. A beautiful human being and a fellow blogger I feel honoured to call a friend.

How we can find contentment in our daily lives

Joy1

How do you view contentment? Many of us see it as a cat-who-got-the-cream smugness, as achievement, success and life going swimmingly. It it was limited to those things, then it would be pretty elusive and exclusive.

What if we looked at it differently? Maybe contentment is more to do with an attitude of the heart, a daily decision and a position of praise and gratitude.

If I wait for my life to become easy, for pain to lessen, circumstances to change and tests and trials to cease, then I could lose all sense of contentment altogether. It would be natural to drop into discouragement or despair and fail to notice the good things already in my days.

Because they are there if we deliberately search for them, waiting in the corners of our existence like a trail of Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs.

And when we do spot them? We realize how it really is the little things, those seemingly random and insignificant things which matter most of all. It’s the small graces, breath of beauty, and family joys which we so often fail to appreciate that bring us the most satisfaction.

I begin to battle my way to holy joy and contentment when I remind myself to sense God’s hand at work in my life. In the unfurling of the hours there are whispers of goodness and grace just waiting to be discovered.

Joy3

In living a cloistered, housebound life due to physical health limitations, I’ve had to look beyond its confines to the One who sustains and strengthens me each day, to face life with faith, hold onto hope and find peace in being slowed down and stilled.

It chafes most days like an itchy, ill-fitting jumper. It’s humbling to have to be constantly reminded of my human weakness and frailty. It’s a life-less-ordinary I didn’t choose, but it’s also one infused with God’s grace.

He’s given me an ability to look beyond the superficial, to sense His presence and be thankful for small mercies. As I watch the world out my window and witness the ever-changing panorama of the heavens, I pause to admire God’s handiwork and try to capture it through a lens.

When I observe new life budding on earth, I see it as a portent of promise breaking through the dark soil of my situation, an unfolding of hope. Plants and trees speak to me of freedom and of beauty in the everyday.

Joy2

I am grateful for a husband who sacrificially cares for me, bakes bread, cooks marvellous meals, does housework and shopping (yes, really ‚Äď and no, you can’t borrow him!). I see Jesus in him. I see love that has grown over years, becoming precious as fine gold.

Is my life, family, home or husband perfect? Far from it. But they are all mine. I can choose to grumble and complain about them, or try to see the marvel hidden in the mundane. Yet there are dark days where I fall into sadness and discouragement, and a painful past has taken some working through. I struggle in many areas.

But when I read books and blogs which encourage and stretch my thinking, when I start to sense God more in the daily, then those feelings of failure, fear, dread and despair begin to dissipate.

When I write I feel freer, experience joy and a degree of purpose. I share words to help others know they’re not alone with their struggles. We’re all broken people to some extent or other. The world cries out for solace of every kind and so often seeks it in the wrong places.

There is an answer for our pain, a purpose beyond life’s confines, a way to live freely while chained to earth’s boundaries. Because right in the midst of our muddles and mess, God speaks out His Good News, a message of grace and hope for wounded souls, for this life and beyond.

No matter what is going on in your life or mine, the more we look to God, the longer we linger in His presence and allow ourselves to become changed by His Spirit, the more content we will gradually become.

Joy

More about Joy:

Joy Lenton is a grateful grace dweller, contemplative Christian writer, poet and blogger, author of ‘Seeking Solace: Discovering grace in life’s hard places’. She enjoys encouraging others on their journey of life and faith at her blogs wordsofjoy.me and poetryjoy.com as she seeks to discover the poetic in the prosaic and the eternal in the temporal. You can connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Note from Helen:

You can read more about the contentment series here. Here are posts from Michelle and Gabriele: definitely worth a read! Posts will be up from Sarah Jo, Julia and Lizelle¬†in coming weeks! Thanks so much ladies for your contributions and to everyone for reading! [If you’ve emailed me and I haven’t replied – yet – please bear with me. I had an accident at home last week and am only very slowly recoveringūüė¶ ]

FMF: Unite

Joining in with Five Minute Friday: this week’s word…..Unite

Unite

START

The world’s gone mad, bonkers, it’s falling apart, everywhere you look. I’m sure every generation has their reasons for saying this but, honestly, I daren’t even turn the news on most days.

Ancient temples destroyed, earthquakes in Ecuador sparking looting….shootings, peace processes failing left right and centre…Trump promising to deliver hate, hate and more hate…people voting for this hatred…bombings, drowned toddlers, magazine employees shot dead at work….where, when, how will it end?

How bad does it have to get until it can’t get any worse any more?

I walk around, bee in my bonnet, talking about kindness, definitely rosy glasses leading me to suggest that only when we re-find our shared humanity will we be able to unite, as the humans we all are, and move forward positively.

Don’t people ever get tired of fighting, of negative, of always acting from a place of¬†lack, from a place devoid of love?

When will we unite?

When will we realise that we humans have, here on Earth, all we could possibly need – indeed more than we could possibly ever need – all the technology’s there, all the knowledge is there – with the potential for this knowledge¬†to be literally at the fingertips of every bloody person in the world if only the world weren’t so unjust…how can it be that researchers in the developing world can’t access research articles or that a mother I know has no access to cancer medication for her 8 year old daughter? How’s that even possible???

How can we call ourselves human when those things happen? How?

I’m ashamed to call myself human, sometimes, deeply ashamed of my fellow humans in my community, the city where we live (one of the most violent in the world), the country where we live (top five highest murder rate in the world), of the continent we live in, of the world we live in…..

We live in a world where there’s no need for anyone to go hungry. No need for anyone to lack an education. For anyone to fail to receive healthcare they need.

Where there’s more than enough to go round.¬†For everyone.

Yet people die every day due to lack, due to poor distribution of resources, due to the birthplace lottery.

I don’t see a way round this until a critical mass of people decide to unite and say no….

No more. This is not OK. 

It’s happened before. Strong men and women standing up and saying no. Gandhi. MLK. Mandela. Rosa Parks. Defending their countries, their people. Their right to a decent way of life. Their right to be recognised as¬†human,¬†and to be treated with¬†humanity.¬†

Where’s the MLK, the Gandhi, the Rosa Parks for our globalised world? Who will it be, that person¬†who¬†stands up and convinces us all that¬†no,¬†just¬†no. This is no longer OK and we won’t accept it any more.¬†

How will that happen and when? 

This uniting of human with human to say¬†no. Enough. No more.¬†We can’t take this any more.

We deserve so much better than this. All of us. 

We all deserve so much better than this.

END

Helen xxx

P.S. Sparked by a Very moving TED talk by Hugh Evans about the world citizen movement he founded

P.P.S. My wonderful FMF and blogging friend – Gabriele’s – guest post for my Contentment series is here¬†and Michelle’s post is here.¬†Do pop over and read!

P.P.P.S. Thanks for those who have filled out my survey. If you haven’t yet, and have time, it’s still open! All responses welcome.¬†Thanks¬†xxx

Cuadruple P.S. (!) Don’t know how many FMFs I’ll be able to read/comment on this week as I slipped at home on Monday and am¬†still¬†in terrible pain. Banged my head/neck/shoulder and my cervical hernia didn’t like it¬†one little bit.¬†Computer time is around 15 minutes every few hours at the momentūüė¶ Unfortunately….

Contentment: Gabriele

Continuing my Contentment series, Gabriele’s here with a guest post.

Gabriele is one of my dearest online bloggy friends and blogs at Back on the Floor Again¬†(this¬†post forms part of Gabriele’s year-long mindfulness journey, which you can read more about here).

I continue to learn so much from Gabriele and am always enchanted by her beautiful, acutely observational, writing style.

Hoping you all love her post as much as I do! (I know you will!)

GabrieleMindful

‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to meditate for 15 minutes. In and out, my breath seems jagged. Wish I had more stomach muscles so that I could feel them engage when I hold my breath. Hold my breath? Why am I holding my breath? Oh yeah, extend your breath by slightly holding at the inhale and the exhale. My foot feels jammed into the floor. I should put a blanket on my mat to make it softer. Knees are tight but not bad. Ahh, my knees, when will I get a doctor’s opinion about whether they are shot? I hate doctors. No time to start that process. I’m holding my breath again. Long exhale………I should scan my shoulders. Are they tight? Tiny twinge in my neck. That is where I hold all my tension. I’ll put my shoulders back and sit up straighter. That feels good. Has it been 15 minutes yet? Peeking at the clock……What, only three minutes have passed. I think I may have found the secret to stopping time. Meditation!‚ÄĚ

I posted those words on Facebook some time ago and many people commented with laughter and agreement. I was taken back because I thought I was being fairly serious, yet, it came across so funny. Perhaps we all have an unsettling relationship to the notion of meditation. It helps to keep it light and friendly. But, seriously, I came to meditation through a call for more mindfulness. It really was a call from a higher source, and it was insistent.

On an early Thursday morning, I was driving to do some shopping. I approached what I thought was a flashing red light, and seeing that it was my turn to proceed through, I did so. Car horns blared, brakes screamed and I instantly knew I had made a terrible mistake. I made it through the light and slowly processed what had happened. The light was not flashing and I almost caused an accident. In the shopping parking lot I tried to regain equilibrium. Sensing that someone was watching me I walked into the store, shaken emotionally. When I came back I saw a piece of paper attached to the windshield. Shame flooded my head to my heart. I just knew this message was intended to severely criticize me. It said.

‚ÄúI watched you run a red light on Roxbury. A woman in a silver Prius had to suddenly brake to avoid being hit by you. She had a child in the car. Please be careful. Stay safe.‚ÄĚ

Even as I read these words today I am amazed at the daring of this observer and also at the kindness. I needed to pay more attention to what I was doing. Mindfulness was thrust upon me and I grabbed it like a life-preserver.

Now I have motivation to meditate because I believe that meditation will strengthen my ability to pay attention. For almost two months I have been faithful to sitting each morning for at least ten minutes, mostly twenty. It has offered me a refuge from negative thoughts, solace from feeling lonely, and peace from futurizing. That freedom may be short lived but it is available every time I sit.

In everyday there is contrast. Even as dark recedes and light shines forth there is hope in change. But, everyday also reveals variations of color which are infinitely interesting. Paying attention, or being mindful brings up a rainbow of experiences which we could miss because of preoccupation with a past mistake or future success.

Thanks, Gabriele. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your piece (and found myself chuckling at the first part, too!) and hope everyone else will too!

Helen xxx

P.S. The introduction to the contentment series is here and you can find the first guest post in the series, from Michelle, here.

FMF: easy

Joining in with Five Minute Friday. This week’s word:¬†easy.

Contentment6

START

“Mama, I don’t want to do it” she frowns, “I just don’t want to…” and, with that, she throws her pencil down on the desk and stumbles off, running towards her room, crying.

It’s not normal behaviour for her, at all, so I leave her for a while (I can hear her talking¬†to her dolls) and then I go and see how she is. “It’s the teacher, Mama…she¬†makes everything seem so difficult“.

My little girl isn’t someone who finds things difficult and I don’t like the idea of anyone putting ideas in her mind, that she’s somehow not¬†able to understand something or not able to¬†do something.

[I realise there will be things¬†in her life that she¬†can’t¬†do but I don’t need someone putting limits on my girl’s beliefs in herself at this stage of her life,¬†especially not a teacher that’s not taken the time¬†to understand and find the way to get through to my child].

So now, through the careless words of one silly teacher, my littlest little one, my beautiful, open-hearted, open-minded and carefree girl, has been introduced to the concept of ‘it’s not easy’ and ‘you might find this difficult’.

Yes, things are sometimes not easy. Yes, life is hard. But everything’s going to be a whole lot harder, a whole lot more difficult – a whole lot more likely to fail – if we approach it with the mindset of can’t or¬†might fail.¬†

Easy very rarely¬†teaches us anything of value and if we begin something difficult – anything difficult – with the ‘Can’t….it’s not easy….it might be difficult’ mindset, our mind will be so closed that we won’t learn the lessons that¬†the journey towards completing the difficult task could, potentially, teach us. The stress and lack of self-belief would cloud any learning that might occur during the journey.

Perspective is everything.

END

Helen

P.S. I’d be really grateful if you’d take a few minutes to fill out my survey here: about the future of¬†I Will Bloom.¬†The original post is here.¬†Thanks so much!

P.P.S. Check out Michelle’s post for my Contentment series….it’s here…definitely worth a click through!

Contentment: Michelle

So, today’s the first of the guest posts for my Contentment series and we welcome Michelle from Jesus Saving Me From Me.

I’ve long been an admirer of Michelle’s writing for¬†the Five Minute Friday prompts as she’s guaranteed to write something thought-provoking that always makes me reflect deeper on the word prompt and on my own life.

Here goes with Michelle’s reflection on contentment….

Contentment

‚ÄúVanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‚ÄúSee, this is new‚ÄĚ? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.‚Ä̬†Ecclesiastes‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠1:2-11‚Ĩ ‚Ä≠ESV‚Ĩ‚Ĩ

Are you content with your life?

There was a time I was far from content. Before I knew Jesus, I was chasing after the wind, just like Solomon. I was looking for something that would make me happy.

I sought it out in men. It wasn’t there. I searched for it in the bottom of a bottle. That led to drunkenness. I looked for it in tattoos and conventions which only made me happy for a moment. I joined an online community that left me wanting a real community. I thought I’d find it in a new place with sunshine and the beach but ended up lonelier than ever.

I searched and searched for the missing piece but hit a wall and finally decided, like Solomon, that life was meaningless. A striving after the wind.

Then I met Jesus. In the blink of an eye, life became meaningful. But the contentment took time.

I was so excited because the Lord took me back after spending years blatantly ignoring him. So in the beginning all I wanted to do was serve him. It wasn’t until returning from Africa in 2013, that I would truly start to sit still and learn to be content.

And boy was it hard! We humans are such people pleasers, we’ll do practically anything for anybody. We have such a hard time saying no. On the surface, it all seems good. The Lord does want us to help each other, love each other. But underneath, it’s still equally important to take care of ourselves, spend quality time with our heavenly Father.

When I came back from Africa, the Lord told me it was time to sit still, time to take care of myself. He said to me, “Martha, Martha, you worry about so many things. Mary has chosen the good thing and it will not be taken from her.”

So I sat still. But that first year, there was no contentment. There was anxiety and depression. After that first year home, I began to keep a list of things that I was thankful for. Over the course of the following year, the anxiety and depression left. It was replaced with contentment. But I don’t think I fully realized I was content until another year had passed.

So I’ve learned that contentment comes by being myself, being kind to others, and just being available to the people in front of me, the ones I know and the ones I meet. I finally learned that I don’t have to be a giant or a hero for God. He is the hero. I just have to be me.

Michelle

[Philippians 1:20]

Note from Helen: it’s a testament to Michelle’s manner that she, herself, didn’t ask me to include this information….

Michelle is undertaking a hiking¬†challenge to hike 1000 miles in 2016¬†and she’s fund-raising as she hikes, for the¬†charity Mercy Ships¬†(which provides medical care in developing countries, via international hospital ships). Michelle has previously volunteered on a Mercy Ship and so it’s a charity very dear to her heart.

If you’d like to read more about the charity, you can do so here.¬†Looking through the Mercy Ships website, this volunteer testimony¬†resonated very deeply with me, and I was left in awe, really, by the sheer logistical challenges¬†to set it all up, and the efforts it must take to actively maintain the ships and the flow of the work undertaken from the ships.

If you’d like to donate to Michelle’s fund-raising for Mercy Ships, you can do so here or here.

[Note: Image is from SplitShire]

Vulnerability alert: help me shape the future of I Will Bloom

OK.

Here goes.

**Major vulnerability alert: all vulnerability-detecting sirens are sounding at full blast here**

[This feels very icky to write as I’m putting myself out there and blowing my own trumpet and asking for advice….all things I¬†don’t like to do and all rolled in to one blog post….yikes!!]

traveller

I want to be able to make a go of¬†I Will Bloom, in that I want it to become a place where I can use my talents (for research, for writing, for communication and community-building) and my knowledge (of entrepreneurship/self help topics etc.) to create a place where people feel welcome and feel like they’re supported and can find useful tips/advice, all whilst having “Oooh! I feel like that too!” life-enhacing/life-supporting kind of moments.

But (yep! there’s¬†always a but!), to be able to do this, it’s going to require time and for me to dedicate time to it, it’s going to have to produce an income…because I’m a single Mum and I don’t have the luxury of having lots of spare time that I can dedicate to it¬†without it producing a return on the investment of my time….

So I’m really just putting the feelers out regarding¬†what sort of things would be acceptable or would move you to the other end of the spectrum and completely make you run a mile and never ever ever¬†visit¬†I Will Bloom again.¬†

For example:

  1. Would you like to see a newsletter? It’d be like my Sunday Ponderings posts, with links to interesting things I’ve found around the internet etc. (The idea being that this would help grow my readership).
  2. Would you be comfortable with me becoming an¬†Amazon affiliate? I’ve done book review posts in the past which have been popular and I¬†hope¬†you’d all¬†know that I wouldn’t recommend anything I don’t personally “feel all the feels” for….
  3. Would you be interested in buying an eBook from me? It’d be like my Self Care series but in cosy ebook format and, obviously, containing much more detailed info on the research and how we can apply the findings of this research to enhance the quality of our own lives.
  4. Do you think it’d be worth my while to offer a course (or two)? About Self Care and/or¬†The life-changing art of gratitude and/or The magic of finding ordinary beauty. They’d be short courses aimed at reconnecting with¬†joy. Priced around $25-30 for a five-lesson course.
  5. I’m toying with the idea of dedicating some time to producing a day-to-day/week-to-week planner for 2017. I myself use a system I’ve developed that helps me with my work flow – and keeps me motivated to move forward as I allocate time to my different roles/dreams/goals – and I think it’d be a really useful tool for other people.¬†But¬†(there’s always a¬†but!), I can’t take the risk of developing this or assuming printing costs etc if it’s not something people would be interested in…

So, in sum….I’m swallowing my fears and want to ask you if you’d fill out a short survey to help me determine a) if it’s worth investing my time in trying to develop¬†I Will Bloom¬†further and b) what forms of income streams would be acceptable/of interest for my readers….

I’d be¬†really¬†grateful¬†if you could take the time to fill it out¬†(I’m sorry: no sparkly, shiny, gift for doing so – as yet – just the plain old yummy satisfaction of knowing you were kind and helped me a lot!).

The survey is¬†here….

(for some reason the ‘Other (please specify)’ is in Spanish….sorry!)

Thanks so much if you do fill out the survey (your answers will help)….I promise any and all changes won’t ever mean that I’m selling out: far from it! I’m just trying to determine whether it’s worth putting my time (and heart and soul) in to trying to make a ‘proper go’ of this little space!

Helen xxx

Contentment

Contentment. Not happiness. Contentment.

Contentment1

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, wondering how to achieve it (or, better, perhaps, how to keep it for a bit longer when it does arrive), because contentment always feels, to me, like¬†something that goes beyond happiness, calling, as it does, to a deeper, a more stable, state.

I’ve been deeply unhappy, very unsatisfied, for many years, whilst managing to find pockets ¬†of happiness in my life (a life which, for many reasons, is being lived way below parr).

These pockets of happiness include seeing my littles grow up and witnessing their growth and their joy in life, moments of beauty that arrive to me as and when I open my ‘heart eyes’ and moments of creative stimulation and pure creativity when I feel I’ve reached my flow and what I’ve managed to realise approximates, somewhat, my ideal of it.

But, together, and overlying, as they do, my sense of deep dissatisfaction, these moments of happiness never seem to reach what I’d label a satisfactory¬†level of contentment.

Contentment2

So I set out on a journey, to try and discover what I’d class as contentment (after all, if you want to get to point¬†b, you need to know the coordinates for point b).

For me it looks a lot like¬†freedom, includes a lot of beauty (external and self-made) and includes – most definitely – love (in heaps). All mixed with kindness and jumbled around with¬†light¬†[you can move over darkness; I’ve had enough of you already]

Then I started to examine where the lack was, to examine which areas of my life were lacking (in any or all of these ingredients for contentment). I also dusted off my dust-smeared glasses and rubbed them clean; after all, you can’t see you way forward if you’re being blocked by poor vision and bogged down by poor perspective. It was important that I come to the search with fresh, hopeful, eyes.

Contentment4

Upon reflection….

I suffer from¬†a lack of freedom: I’m stuck here, in a place I don’t want to be, a place that’s dangerous, where frightening incidents happen¬†frequently, where I don’t want to be raising my children…. freedom is definitely the weak link in my contentment equation. That’s an immovable fact at the moment, unfortunately [meaning I’m going to have to work double hard on improving the other components….]

I crave more beauty in my life: not only am I stuck here but this place is, in general, ugly as Hell. It’s a typical developing country city, a mess at all and every levels, survival of the fittest on display at every turn whilst the rich strut, peacock-like, shaking their voluminous tail feathers obliviously, over and above it all. Ugly buildings, ugly infrastructure, ugly hearts, small small minds.¬†But¬†I’m a biologist and this place does have lots and lots of beautiful Nature so I make a point of seeking it whenever I can.

Contentment3

I’m deprived of love. But, as Krista Tippetts states – which resonated with me at a very deep level – “I can‚Äôt name the day when I suddenly realized that the lack of love in my life was not a reality but a poverty of imagination and a carelessly narrow use of an essential word”. I can’t imagine ever again accepting romantic love in to my life but this sense that I’m lacking love¬†has started gripping me with panic, as a lack of romantic love means, surely, endless days of ‘alone-ness’, of loneliness and a lack of companionship. And that most definitely puts a major dampener on contentment. But love doesn’t have to mean romantic love. Living with love can mean doing all things with love…showing love and compassion in all moments….deciding to live in love – with life itself, with one’s life….to walk in love to make your environment better (be this your home or your community).

My own, personal, life is awash with kindness (as it sort of forms the basis of my own personal religion) and this has helped me to forgive and it helps me to hope, to remain optimistic (despite my circumstances) and to always give the benefit of the doubt. In hindsight, I think my openness to kindness has kept me buoyant during times that should have sunk me. So kindness is definitely compensating for the lack of freedom, beauty and love.

I’ve definitely¬†not got enough light in my life. Not enough laughter, or fun (or, perhaps, too much heavy that weighs everything down, not allowing light to breathe and to propagate). It’s sadly lacking in moments of light, those moments that come when you’re with those you love, those who’ve known you¬†always,¬†those people you just feel totally¬†comfortable with.

And…the list went on….as the reflections went deeper…(I won’t bore you with any more of the¬†stuff…)

 Contentment7

What I did discover from this reflection on contentment was that, for me, I could remember what contentment felt like and I could identify what was (is) blocking my pathway to contentment at this place in my life (I hesitate to label it a stage).

Following this reflection, I could then attempt to develop¬†some contentment goals (however strange that sounded to me at first): little steps to take me away from where I am to where I’d like to be (all the while accepting that the maximum level of contentment here will be way below where it would be if¬†I was in more desirable surroundings).

For me, these steps were (are) really important, as depression was starting to take a hold,¬†causing inertia: if I had a set of trackable small steps to follow, which would eventually make me feel better – perhaps even¬†content – then I’d have to force myself to take action (otherwise I’d only have my inaction to blame for my unhappiness, for my situational discontent).

People Dancing Outside That You Have Rarely Seen Today (5)

So what were my small steps? Quite simple things, really. To continue my meditation practice and to live more mindfully (not only in my actions but also in my thought and speech). To go to one new place each week. To make a new recipe (or eat something new) each week. To have guests over more often (not just play dates!). Many of them were, actually, based around self-care: trying new make-up; not skipping runs (I always know I’m in the throes of a depressive episode when I start skipping exercise); getting small treats for myself (going to see a film at the cinema, making time to read or to scrapbook guilt-free¬†etc.).

I’ve been doing this for a month or so and it¬†is having an effect. I feel that,¬†whilst they’re far from being rose-tinted, the glasses through which I now view my life are definitely less¬†dusty and jaded and that, as such, I’m walking around with a new perspective. And I hope this new perspective will lead to new places.

Contentment still isn’t viewable on any close horizon but my happiness levels are rising and that has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?

Helen xxx

Note:

I asked, a few weeks ago, for people to contribute to this contentment series and many of you replied saying they’d love to. Thanks so much for that!¬†I know I’ll be very interested to read your perspectives on contentment and I’m sure my readers will be intrigued. (I¬†will be emailing you all back this week; I was very ill with a horrid virus last week, which knocked me for six…)

In these times in which we live,¬†with most¬†of us living on edge (because of world events), busy (because of our hectic lives), unhappy/frustrated (because of a disconnect with¬†self¬†and the environment of inherent ‘comparison’ that social media breeds), I’m¬†sure¬†hearing about how other people consider/reflect upon contentment will be of interest and might stimulate some changes in our own lives.

I hope you all¬†enjoy the guest posts in this series (they’ll be posted on Wednesdays).

[Michelle will be up first on the 6th, then Gabriele on the 13th]

If anyone else would like to contribute a guest post….just email me…I don’t bite and everyone is welcome….iwillbloomblog – at – gmail dot com