Nourished Life: Small Great Things

All of my life I have wanted to do great things. I have felt that somehow my life was only worth measuring by impressive feats and grand achievements. I felt that I needed to ‘make something’ of myself in order to prove that I was worth being here, worth the love and support that my family and friends have always given me. I had to do great things: be famous, be out there, be a leader, be an overachiever. In high school I was ‘the smart girl’. I achieved academically and I was lucky because I love to learn. As my sister says “studying is what we know how to do.” I was doing great things in my little arena, my little community of students, teachers, and parents.

When I went to university that community grew exponentially. I struggled. I was now average in a group of people who excelled. I went through some difficult adjustments during those university years. I was lost when I wasn’t the one who was being held up for doing great things. Who was I if I wasn’t doing great things to the applause of the people I looked up to? Was I ever going to achieve great things again? Those were difficult years and it was only through the love and support and intervention of my friends and family that I survived.

When I left university I found work that I loved. I was helping people, making a difference in their lives, and that made a difference in mine. I was confident again. I was doing something great for the world.

I had adventures overseas. I had stories that were worth telling. I felt like I was doing great things.

Last year I lost the job that I loved. I was adrift. I am still adrift. Who am I if I am not doing great things for people? Who am I if I am not making a difference to the world? Who am I now that I sit in a cubicle from 8 til 5?

I am not doing great things if you measure my life against the great people of the world. I am living a small, simple, and mostly happy life. I struggle with my new reality sometimes. I want to stand up and say things and be counted, but who am I to make a fuss, I am not doing great things.

When I saw this inspiration on Clementine Daily it was like a message from the universe. A message to relax, to see my life as valuable and worthy even without the ‘great things’ that I feel I should be doing instead of what my life is now; a message to understand that doing small things with great love, great commitment, great passion, is just as important.

I feel this is the key to a settled heart. To live my life doing small things in a great way. I may not be winning an Oscar, but I can win a smile from my sister with a well-timed joke; I may not have my own cooking show, but I can bake something to warm the hearts of my workmates; I may not be on the New York Times Bestseller list (yet, I’m still holding out for that one) but I can write here, share my passion for words and storytelling with the world on my little space here on the web.

I will do small things in a great way. Because these are the things that touch the hearts of the people you love the most. And that is a great thing.

(I promise I will be back with some cookies tomorrow)

Midweek Mantra: Do it Every Day

When you have a dream, a vision, or a soul-shaking idea of what you want your life to be you are awakened to the gap between your current location and your planned destination. We are bombarded with success stories of people who have changed their lives, moved to faraway places, landed their dream jobs, or made radical lifestyle changes. We see the headlines, the big leaps that they have taken, the most daring acts of their journey. We don’t see the everyday slogging away that makes dreams into reality.

We see the ‘end of season reveal’, not the hour after hour spent on the treadmill or the meal by meal fight to eat well. We see the ‘New York Times Bestseller’ interview, not the days of staring at a blank white page and then the hours spent filling it with words, editing, manipulating, and creating.

It’s so easy to think that in our immediate gratification, instant data, and cheap fame society that creating something, changing your life, is just as easy. When we sit down to confront the real work of it, to take the giant leap, we realise that it isn’t going to be easy. It isn’t going to be immediate and there actually aren’t any huge leaps, just small steps and consistency of action day after day.

I struggle with this myself. Chris had it right when he reflected to me the other day that it seems that I want to do all the things. I want to write books, I want to blog, I want to teach people about a healthy lifestyle, I want to cook, I want to pursue further education. My problem is that there are so many things that I want to do with my life that I get exhausted by the thought and then end up doing nothing. All of these goals appear to need big leaps. I keep forgetting that it is the everyday action that will get me there in the end. Write a little bit every day and by the end of the year you will have many thousands of words to mould. I need to change the routine that leaves little time or head space for writing. I need to cut out the non-essentials and bear down on the creative moments that give me the most pleasure.

The same is true of any goal: if you want to run a marathon you need to train every day, if you want to lose weight then you have to work on that every day, if you want to build something you need to work on that every day.

Whatever dream or goal you have in mind you need to make it part of your life every day in a small but substantial way. One step at a time towards your destination.

Tell me, dear reader, how do you work towards your goal every day, whatever that goal might be?

Midweek(ish) Mantra: Live With Kindness

When I was a little girl and lost my temper because Mum had asked me to do something that I didn’t want to do her remark was usually delivered calmly but with gravity, ‘Amy could you just do that with a bit of good grace?’ As a child I didn’t really understand what that meant apart from try not to mutter under your breath, have a scowl on your face, or slam doors.

As an adult I understand a lot more what Mum was trying to say. ‘Amy could you do that with a bit of good grace?’ was really a lesson in doing all things with kindness. And that is how I try to live my life now.

Kindness

 

I am not saying that I am perfect. I am not saying that sometimes I don’t act out of spite, or annoyance, or desperation, or anger; but, for the most part I try to live with kindness in the things I do.

Kindness to others by doing that little extra, listening when someone needs to talk, cheering on my loved ones and acquaintances when they have achieved something, or just by giving a smile away expecting nothing in return.

Kindness to myself by treating my body right, taking care of my mental cobwebs, and working on things I am passionate about.

Kindness is not an act of the meek either. Sometimes kindness requires you to pull on your boots, take the muddy moral high road, and be the bigger person in a situation where sinking down to the depths would be a lot easier. Kindness is a conscious act: you choose to act kindly, it is not the automatic default.

Kindness can be exhausting, but most of the time kindness nourishes the soul as much as it depletes it. You get back what you give out to the world. Kindness begets kindness. You set a good example for the person you are interacting with. You set a good example for others by being kind to yourself. Kindness frees you from the weight of displeasure with everything around you, it makes everyday interactions richer, and clears that tornado of discontentment with your life. You are choosing your outlook and way of moving through the world.

So now I understand what Mum was saying. It was a message to live kindly, pay the price of kindness, and reap the riches of the soul that it brings. Even the simplest acts, when done in the spirit of kindness, thoroughly nourish the soul.

Midweek Mantra: Gathering the Minutes

My diary is a tumultuous place. Full of weeks of blank pages that suddenly become months of flurried activity and then settle again into blankness. My relationship with this dichotomy of diary states changes quickly. Some days I cannot wait until the activity starts. I am hungry to be out in the world, seeing people, talking, gathering ideas and stories and moments of gold in my head. Then just as quickly the pendulum swings the other way and I crave the silence, the pages with nothing but a date at the top and washed out blue lines below.

Sometimes this relationship descends into stress, anxiety, and restlessness. I am stressed because I want to enjoy every minute of those adventures, but I can’t seem to get my head into the minutes that I am living in, rather they are racing ahead to whatever is next.

How can I make the next moment more memorable? What do I need to do to make the next moment perfect? How can I be wittier, smarter, nicer, when I meet people? How will I see this moment when I am back at home reliving it in my mind?

The quiet days raise just as many questions. Why am I at home? Am I becoming boring? Am I wasting these moments by just staying right here where I am and not seeking adventure and exploration? Will I ever get out to see the world again?

Enjoy the ride

Why can’t I just stop, right here, and take in the minutes. Gather them closely and live every one. Live the busy times, live the quiet ones. Take in the glitter of my friend’s conversation and the brilliant minds that surround me; remember the stories that I am standing in the middle of, and fall joyfully into the crevices of the time that is flowing around me. Gather the minutes of laughter, and shared joy and pain. Gather the minutes of good food, good wine, and even better company.

Settle back into the warm-cushioned comfort of those weekends where there are no demands. Stop worrying about wasted hours and bask like a cat in the sun. Celebrate the time that I have to just be in the world, as I am, and let myself get lost in the spaces between sunbeams. Gather the minutes that nourish my soul from the inside out, replenishing, renewing and fortifying me for the busier minutes ahead.

Gather the minutes

The next couple of months herald exciting events at every turn, as Chris puts it: our dance card for this year is full. We have so many things to look forward to, and some studying to challenge ourselves with as well.

I can’t focus on the weeks, months, year ahead too much without feeling anxiety or impatience. I don’t want to live my life with one foot in the minute, and one foot racing ahead already casting shadows on what is to come. Instead, my focus is to gather each minute as it comes without premature judgement or false anticipation. I am going to gather the minutes close and just exist in the wonder each day brings. I am going to open my heart, mind, and arms wide to the minutes of every day and gather them close with gratitude. 

Midweek Mantra: Patience

I am so often in a rush to reach the next stage of my life, to achieve the next goal, to summit the next mountain, and this only leads to anxiety and stress. I need to learn to be patient, practice gratitude, and have faith that I will become what I know I am in good time.

Falling

Today I fell.

The earth tipped underneath me and gravity sucked me down. Skin torn, bones rattled, muscles mashed, and pride wounded I limped away from the experience and willed myself not to cry or lose my lunch in front of the crowd that gathered. My stomach roiled and my knees ached but I made it to the car without falling again.

I had stepped out for a pace run at the gym, and the gentleman who hopped off the treadmill before me had not ensured it had come to a full stop before he got off. I foolishly did not stop to look and see whether the treadmill was safe to step onto. And down I went.

I got home with mascara-stained cheeks. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried in the car. I sniffled through the house. Shame. Embarrassment. Fear. Pain.

This fall seemed the culmination of a series of painful reminders recently that I am human. The pain in my knees was sharp and an echo to the dull ache that has throbbed inside my heart lately. I took the loss of my job so personally that the wound is only just festering to the surface. I feel the trepidation of life after graduation approaching. I can feel the limitations of my body when I run at the moment. I feel like I am constantly falling.

I count my blessings daily, and I am so happy for all the wonderful people I have in my life, but sometimes I fall.

Then I remember.

Falling

We fall, hit the ground, find the bottom of our experience so that we know how to fight to stand again, how to reach for higher ground, and scrabble and claw at the rocks until we mount the summit again.

We fall so that we know how much those highs mean to us. How much we would sacrifice, how hard we will push ourselves, to make it to the top once more.

And after we fall, after we feel that cavern floor and spit out the dust, we rise. We spread tentative wings and pray for a gentle breeze to lift us. Then we find the thermal, we beat our wings feeling strength course through us, and once again we soar. Perhaps a little battle-scarred and certainly wiser, but we shall always rise again.

We must fall in life so that we can learn to pick ourselves up.

I have fallen. Now I rise. Rise and run again.

Tell me dear reader, what have you learned from your falls? How do you pick yourself up?

Monday Mantra: Pursue Your Dreams

We do not fear the leap. We fear the fall that we expect will follow. We stop taking chances and pursuing our dreams because the paralysis of fear stops us in our tracks before we can even really begin. If we don’t chase what we really want then we know what the outcome is already. If we don’t move towards our dreams the distance between us and them never changes. We stay in our (sometimes unsatisfying) present, and repeat the words ‘one day’ to ourselves, but we never take ‘one day’ into our own hands and make it today.

If we are going to live our own authentic life and stand in our true selves then we need to pursue our dreams. We need to take courage from the thousands of other souls who make the leap everyday. Take courage that the first step could lessen the distance between you and your dream. Take courage that even the pursuit of your dream can be a wonderful adventure, sometimes you might even find another dream greater than the one you expected, or you might fail and that’s okay too. Failing is hard. It hurts to land on hard ground. Trust me. I have tried, I have failed, and I have cried and mourned a dream that has died. The important thing when we witness the death of one of our dreams is that we take that experience and let it feed our courage to pursue the next dream. To try again, and this time do it better, knock louder, leap higher, trust ourselves more.

My dreams scare me. They are bigger than I am. I am small right now. I have been knocked down and I am learning my way back. But I have courage. I have courage fed by love, gratitude for my present life, belief in the general positivity of life, the kindness of humanity, and that if you keep making today that ‘one day’ then you are doing all you can to chase those dreams of yours down.

Dear reader, what gives you courage? Do your dreams scare you? What dreams are you chasing at the moment?

Monday Mantra: Slow Down

Mondays always seem to be the busiest day of the week. The comparison of a slow Sunday morning to a rushed Monday is enough to give even the most organised soul heart palpitations.

So this week’s Monday Mantra is a reminder that even on the busiest of Mondays (or Tuesdays, or any other day for that matter) that we must create the chance to slow down for a few moments and remember all the things that are the most important, and to move these to the top of our to-do list.

Most important for me today? In a practical sense studying for my exam, in a personal sense having a cup of tea with Mum this morning before she left for work.

Dear reader, what is  matters the most for you today?

No Day But Today: Cadbury Half Marathon 2013

A cold and lightly windy morning greeted me as the alarm trilled in my ear this morning. Race day.

A deep breath in. A shower. A hug from Mum. Messages from the loveliest of friends all over the world and at home.

These are the moments that got me on the road this morning.

The road before us.

The road before us.

What a lovely road it was. Down from the mountain we ran, around the lake, over the water, and back again. Rising, falling: the road ahead, our footsteps, our breathing. Cheering for those who pass by. Smiles for the tired. Camaraderie created by our pursuit of a common goal.

Before.

Before.

The chant in my head, a refrain from ‘Rent: the musical’, my running mantra: ‘No Day But Today‘. I write it on my arm before every race or long run. There is no day but today, no moment to be but right here. I cannot come back tomorrow. I have to show up today and give this race the best I have. Leave it all on the road. Learn the lessons that it offers to me: stay in the present, get lost in the beauty of this moment, have faith in yourself, just breathe Amy.

Our lovely morning. These clouds parted to reveal gorgeous rays of sun and sky.

Our lovely morning. These clouds parted to reveal gorgeous rays of sun and sky.

There were moments when it felt too hard. There were moments when it felt so easy. In the end there was only one moment that mattered: the finish line.

Mum’s face in the crowd with ten meters to go. My favourite running song playing through my head phones. The cheers.

The wetness of my tears against my face as Mum wrapped her arms around me and told me how proud of me she was.

At the finish: smiley, salty, satisfied.

At the finish: smiley, salty, satisfied.

In the quietness that follows a run like this, the achievement of a goal, there is a chance to reflect on all that we are grateful for in our pursuit:

  • My family, friends, and everyone who has supported me on this journey. People I am lucky enough to be able to give a hug to and thank in person and all those I have connected with across wide web world. My heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you. I know I was not alone today because your words, your thoughts, kept me company out there on the road.
  • My body. I am so grateful to be this healthy. To have a heart that can take the rise and fall of a million beats in pursuit of a finish line. Lungs that burn in the right way as they take what they need from the air around me. Legs that have grown strong as I have made my way from the girl I used to be to the woman I am today.
Done.

Done.

Now I sit back and review each step of that 21.1km. Each second of my 2:20:47 finishing time. And I smile.

There is no day but today. And I made today mine.