My bucket and spade . . .

Bucket and Spade

One of the best gifts I ever received as a child was a bucket and spade. As a child, I used to love digging, always determined to find something. The poor earthworms had a hard time hiding from me. I always managed to find them.

As an adult, my plastic bucket and spade has been replaced by books, newspapers and computer (Google) searches. My curious mind always searching for information which I store somewhere always believing that one day somebody will ask me a question which I will be able to answer them.

Beach Ball

Ask me a question and you are sure to get an answer. I try never to say “I don’t know”, my response is usually “I will find out and get back to you” when I don’t know the answer to your question. My long-standing friend (we’ve been friends since high school) calls me her “walking yellow pages”.

My friend called me at work one day – (on a very busy day when I did not have 2 minutes to spare) to ask me a question. She needed to know where she could find something she needed to purchase. I explained that I can answer the question just not right now because I’m very busy. I said she could either call me back later or she could find the information herself in our local Yellow Pages directory. Her immediate response was “but that is exactly what I’m doing. You are my walking Yellow Pages. It is easier to ask you than to go through THAT book”. So on a personal level, I am the “go to” person. Need information or need to know something? Ask Natalie.

At the office it is very much the same particularly when it comes to matters such as Gender, Disability, Diversity and Employee Health and Wellness matters. What can we do to commemorate Human Rights day? Ask Natalie. What can we do for 16 Days of Activism of no violence against women and children? Ask Natalie.

I have a passion for finding answers to questions. Give me a question I cannot answer and I will keep digging until I can find an answer. This is particularly true when it comes to the rights of women and children who have been abused in some way. I am amazed at how many disabled people don’t know their rights. They just blindly accept situations they have the power to change purely by speaking up for themselves.

Bucket Spade and Beach Ball

I just love organising and planning events. I have a passion for connecting people. I am intrigued by forensic science and criminology. I want to know why certain men rape and murder. I want to know what happens in the mind of a serial killer. I WANT TO KNOW!!

So, what am I planning to do in 2015? How do I use what I know to generate a living wage for myself?

Writing a book is not the answer. Too many people have written books which very few people ever read. I considered starting a Hot Line or an Advice Office but what would I call it? How would I draw people to access my services? I also considered being a Virtual Assistant (Personal Assistant working remotely from home).

What do you think about that? Would you hire me as your Virtual Assistant or Research Assistant?

I currently have a regular 8 – 5 job like most people but really would like to leave the corporate world in exchange for more freedom in terms of how I spend my time.

I would like to spend my time doing what I love and what I am passionate about with the flexibility of being available to my family when they need me, to be able to work remotely (virtually) on days when I need to be in my own space.

What do you think I should do?

Let me hear your suggestions of how I can use my gifts and talents and still earn a living at the same time.

How to become more mindful everyday

Charlie Brown_Psychiatric Help

I recently came across an article “7 things mindful people do differently every day and how to begin now” by Elisha Goldstein, Phd. You can find the article here and this got me thinking about how, just by changing our attitude towards our obstacles/challenges, we can change how we view life.

Practice being curious: We need to develop the mind of a beginner, we need to imagine seeing something for the first time. We need to learn to discover things just like we did when we were children. Remember seeing a different or unique object for the first time? Imagine seeing a flower for the first time. What would this be like? What sort of questions would you ask?

“Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder”
– Abraham Joshua

Curiosity leads us to getting in touch with the wonders and possibilities of life.

Forgive yourself:
How many times have you been too tired to complete a task, felt too busy to do something important, found yourself doubting the process, avoided what is uncomfortable or just felt too restless to be able to concentrate on anything?

I don’t know about you, but I usually criticize myself relentlessly for “failing” when these are not signs of failing at all. They are actually opportunities for learning about the hindrances of life, what gets in our way and needs us to understand two things:

1) What we need in those moments
2) The fastest route to begin again

What would be helpful is if we could “forgive” and “invite” ourselves to try again. When we get caught in an obstacle, we need to “forgive” ourselves for the time lost, investigate the obstacle to learn from it, and then “invite” ourselves to begin again. Practicing to “forgive” and “invite” continuously in life becomes an increasingly strong vehicle for growth.

Hold emotions lightly:
When we pay attention to any emotion we start to experience it is an energy in “motion”. Emotions come and go making it natural not to hold on to them too tightly. When practicing mindfulness, we need to be grateful for the good moments (emotions) and graceful during the more difficult ones.

Practicing compassion:
Noticing suffering with an inclination to want to help in some way can be classified as compassion. If we continuously intentionally pay attention to ourselves with a curious and caring attention, we send out the message to our brain that we are worth caring about. When we start paying attention to difficult emotions, we become less afraid of them.

Emotions can become our teachers to get better at understanding what our needs are and the needs of others thereby helping ourselves and others. The act of self-compassion or compassion is the essential healing agent and facilitates connection which is a cornerstone to happiness.

Make peace with imperfection:
This is a really difficult one for me. When we are keenly aware of our imperfections, it usually erupts into a flood of continuous self-judgement. We need to realise we are not the only imperfect ones. We also need to realise that we don’t need to be perfect all the time. Imperfection is human.

“To be in harmony with the wholeness of things is not to have anxiety over our imperfections”
– Dogen Zenji (Zen priest).

Embrace vulnerability:
Vulnerability is where the gold is. By embracing vulnerability we develop courage, trust and connection. It takes courage to take the leap and to be vulnerable, in doing so we begin to trust ourselves and others thereby cultivating a connection which allows us to feel safe and happy.

Understand that all things come and go:
Nothing is permanent. Sounds appear and disappear. Seasons change. We are born, grow up and eventually die. Life becomes increasingly precious.

“Wherever you are that’s the entry point”
– Kabir (Poet)

There are so many ways to begin. Begin where you are.

Walking . . .

Screen Beans - Balance

The direction of our journeys
Is determined
By another’s destination on the map
Following along
Seems to be
The easiest route
Brings its own

The path of our lives
Is determined
By our own dreams
Following along
Seems to be
A stubborn trudge
Brings its own

The walk of life
Is determined
By wild abandon
Following along
Seems to be
A natural state of being
Brings its own

For Natalie Johnson, 2014-09-08.

Thank you for keeping me thinking.

Love and hugs


I am not a tree . . .

You are not a tree

A few weeks ago on my Facebook timeline one of my friends shared a quote which said:

“If you don’t like where you are, then change it. You are not a tree” – Jim Rohn

Today, a new found friend of mine wrote a blog post which contained the exact message of this quote. What does all this mean? I’ve been a tree all my life, firmly rooted in a steady job, living with my parents . . .

A few years ago I decided I was tired of the routine of going to work each day at an office for X amount of hours, sitting in traffic to get there and back in the traffic again to get home. I put plans in motion to start up a “work from home” business. The idea was to provide administrative support services (Virtual Assistant) to small businesses that could not afford to employ a full time administrator.

I got myself a desk top computer set up at home with internet and e-mail access, telephone line and fax. All this was set up by October – the plan being to first take my end-of-year annual leave and resign from my job in January when I got back. This never materialised because the man I worked for at the time got a bee in his bonnet about something one day and dismissed me (unfairly) on the spot without any prior warning. I won my unfair dismissal case in the labour court but that’s a story for another day.

The day I went home after being dismissed was also the day my mother informed me that she was definitely going to divorce my father (she tried two years prior to this but he muscled her into retracting the divorce action). This time she said, was definite. No turning back. I was still living with my parents at this time. What this meant for me was that I was now going to have to become the breadwinner and take on the financial responsibility for my mother. I had to find a house for us to live (mom had to give up the house because she was married In Community of Property so the house had to be sold and the proceeds split. Mom was 10 years away from retirement age so she would not be able to get a mortgage bond for another house and there was no way I was prepared to rent and pay off someone else’s bond). A week later, my car decided it had enough and was ready for the scrap heap which meant having to get another because our public transport system is not exactly the best in the world and being physically disabled, public transport was not an option for me, so another car it had to be. While all this was going on, my sister came home and decided that she wanted to get married. The salary she was earning was not great. Daddy was definitely not going to pay, mom was not working and in the middle of a divorce . . . so sister was going to have to chip in to give little sister the wedding of her dreams.

So my dream of starting my own business working from home had to be pushed aside because of all these more pressing issues. I could not think of starting out in my own business. Who would give me a mortgage bond to buy a house? Finance for my car? So it was back to finding a stable place of employment where I could work long term earning a steady income to pay for all these things. I became a tree once again. That was back in 1999.

For the last fourteen years I’ve worked in very steady, stable places of employment. Got the house and the car. Sister got the wedding of her dreams. Life went on.

This year, I celebrated my 50th birthday and just before my birthday I decided that this was going to be MY YEAR. I was going to be selfish. I would stop thinking of others and putting their needs before my own. I was going to take care of me first.

Then the rug was pulled out from under me again. We discovered towards the end of last year that mom has Cancer but the day before my 50th birthday we were told that chemotherapy would be stopped because it was not working and that mom is now in stage four of her Cancer i.e. there is nothing more they can do for her.

Blow me down with a feather! Why me? Why can I just not get my plans to work the way I want them to? When am I ever going to be able to get out of this rat race and be able to do my own thing, for me? All these questions . . . so easy to be thrown off course again, and push my dream aside. The easy option would be to just forget about my dream and remain a tree.

Then I reminded myself of the promise I made earlier this year. This is going to be MY YEAR. I re-started my research on being a Virtual Assistant. I also found other options I could look into – one of which involved taking an eight week intensive training course by a business coach which is what I’m currently doing. There are other options I’m considering as well.

By June 2015, I want to wake up each morning knowing that I will be doing what makes me happy, earning a salary but being in control of my working hours.

I am not a tree. I need to move. I want to move. I have to move . . .

Watch this space!