Truth Joy Beauty

Just my thoughts and reflections about living and loving in the post-post modern age.

To my friends about to turn the big four Oh No!

A little less than 10 years ago now I wrote by first ever blog post. I was 39 at the time, newly single (again) and about to turn 40. I had just left a particularly nasty relationship and found myself playing the dating game again. That was the start of a long journey for me, a journey of discovery, fun, excitement, pain, heartache, joy, some hard truths and much more. I am very thankful for what I learned along the way however, it led me to where I am today and that is something I am extremely grateful for.

But that was my situation at the time. Every ones’ circumstance is different but whatever is going on for you, whether you are married, divorced, single, with or without children – whatever the case may be, turning 40 is probably the most anxiety provoking thing you will ever do. (Apart from being born, getting married, starting a new job and a myriad of other things that life throws at us.) Yes, turning 40 is one of those milestones that stumps us all. It’s the time to really say good bye to your youth and a time to accept that you are definitely on the downward slope now… (cue evil laughter).

Or, is it?

I certainly thought so at the time, and the idea filled me with a sense of impending doom and dread. Of course, I now know that I was having what Bugental may have termed an existential crisis. There is something about the shock of turning 40 that makes you feel as death is just around the corner, that life from now on will be just that little bit worse and that it will continue in that vein until death. But, I can honestly say, that is just anxiety talking. The fact is that 40 is just another number, another year, another arbitrary marker that only has meaning because we make it so. For me, turning forty was the start of one of the most fruitful, productive, exciting periods of my life. I can honestly say, I had nothing to worry about. Now. But, that’s the benefit of hindsight.

Here’s what I wrote back in 2009:

I’m not forty, yet. But it is looming around the corner like the bus my best friend stepped in front of when she was 18 and which kept her in hospital for 6 good months. I mean, she knew the bus was close, on it’s way, due even… like, it was a busway she was crossing at the time, but still, she didn’t see it coming. But that didn’t stop the bus from whacking her one and leaving her broken up and unconscious on the side of the road. I have the feeling that turning 40 is going to feel a bit like that…

I can tell you now, it was nothing like that.

So if 40 is in fact just another number and reality is scary the truth may be somewhere in between, but, whatever that truth is make it yours and make it count.

To all my friends and about to or who have just turned forty and are, as I was at the time, freaking out, take comfort. Life is a process and every stage has its challenges and benefits, its good points and bad. I hope that your forties give you everything you ever hoped for and more, and try not to freak out.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Why more rentals should be pet friendly

When my partner and I first decided to finally move in together – we both lived in teeny tiny studio apartments, (which by Sydney’s inner west standards were quite spacious, I have since discovered) but certainly not suitable for two people, plus one Chihuahua and one cat (breed unknown) – we found it difficult, to say the least, to find a pet friendly rental in Sydney’s inner west. Something which may be surprising to some as anyone who has lived in the inner west knows, there seem to be more dogs than people! I am pretty sure that not everyone with a pooch  owns their own property so surely these numbers don’t add up?

In any case, it took us many weeks of looking to finally find a place that allowed pets. Note, if a property was advertised as NO PETS then we didn’t bother applying of course, but many don’t specify whether they are pet friendly so it is quite disheartening to find something reasonable that you like, only to be told either at the inspection or by telephone, Sorry the owner won’t allow pets. In many cases, even if the real estate agents say, Pets will be considered on application, you get no response at all to your application or an email simply stating your application was unsuccessful. Both my partner and I work, have a good rental history so I can only put it down to, what I call, The Pet Factor. Another factor I admit was that due to our budget and the ridiculously high cost of rent in inner Sydney, the properties we were looking at were mostly apartments or houses that had been split into apartments. I do understand that it is easier to find a pet friendly house as a rental but our budget simply wouldn’t allow for that.

My dog at the time was 10 years old and had spent most of his adult life living indoors. He gets walked twice a day and is quite content to just snore away in his little bed (or practically on top of the heater when it’s on) the rest of the time. Plus, he is a Chihuahua. The most apartment friendly dog you could ask for.

Over the years of renting in Sydney’s inner west I have always found it challenging to to find a rental. It is always a source of great stress and anxiety. At times, due to time pressure and the need to find something asap I have neglected to even mention that I have a dog and have gotten away with in on almost every occasion but one. Then I was asked to leave or give my dog away! As if. I’d rather live in a tent thank you very much.  In fact, many homeless people end up that way, partly as a result of having to give up their pets in order to access emergency housing. Many would rather risk life on the street than part with their animals. This to me illustrates how important animals are to our mental, emotional and spiritual well being. A fact that I can attest to from personal experience.

When I left a previous abusive relationship, and found myself alone in a different state and thousands of miles away from friends and family, it was my dog (the same one I mentioned earlier) that made all the difference to my mental health at the time. I know, for a fact that if I had not had his little, warm body sleeping on my bed, I would have felt a lot less safer and a whole lot more alone. And, if I had not had his little face looking up at me each morning, sometimes walking up onto my chest and staring right in my face with his big brown eyes silently yet intently imploring me to get up and take him for a walk, I would have stayed in bed a whole lot more. I would have given into the waves of depression that threatened to engulf me constantly during those dark days. Quite simply, in many ways, I owe my dog my life. He was the one thing that kept me going, getting on with things, got me out of the house and he always made me smile, somehow.

My dog was the one source of unwavering, unconditional love that was a candle in the dark that I will always be grateful for. He is gone now (passed away from a heart condition, ironically, in January 2016) but I will always have the deepest gratitude for his presence in my life.

This is why I implore landlords to reconsider their stance on pets. Pets do as much damage as children in many cases, but no-one would dare have a ‘no kids’ policy attached to their rental. I have personally looked at rentals that are still occupied where kids have lived there and the places always, like their parents, generally look a little beaten up. If anything, a ‘pet damage’ clause is something most tenants would be happy to sign. If my pet damages it, like anything else in a property, I would be more than happy to pay for it to be repaired.

Pets add so much value to our wellbeing that it is time to recognize that and place a little more value on humanity than the purely economic factors of property ownership as a growing number of studies are attesting to.

Lyon the Chihuahua

Good moaning!

 

 

If you want something to change

image

When working with persons who are struggling with any mental health or emotional issue, it is interesting to note how attached people become to the behaviours, beliefs and/or relationships that are the main cause of their difficulties and the reason for their appearance in the consulting room.

This is not surprising, in psychology, defensive behaviours such as addiction, depression, anxiety and related safety behaviours become so entrenched because at one time, for all intents  and purposes, these behaviours worked to relieve some psychological pressure that was unmanageable to the person at the time.

I still find it challenging when a client shows resistance to any suggestion that they change something they are doing in order to work towards their stated therapeutic goal, whatever that goal might be. Often, even after going through workability (what have you done so far, how has it worked for you, what has it cost you?) I find that clients are still reluctant to alter damaging behaviours even at the cost of health, valued relationships, money, time, goals etc.

They cling to their behaviours like a child might cling to a parent, even when that parent may also be the cause of suffering and pain.

Attachments can form in the most unlikely circumstances, such is our desire for connection and love. We will often put up with a lot of discontent in order to maintain the most tenuous connection to those, or that which we are attached to.

So the anguish this conundrum causes people is palpable and sometimes heartbreaking to watch.  But reality has a way of exerting itself in a variety of ways, and eventually the breakthrough realisation is as simple as knowing that, in the most fundamental way action needs to happen in order for change to occur. In other words, if you want something to change, you need to change something, no matter how small.

 

 

7 simple ways to change your mind…mindfully!

The news is out!  We are not victims of circumstance or biology. No matter what your past history entails, the good news is change is possible. Our brains are flexible and wired for change and adaptability.

Here are seven ways that you can change your mind, and life, for the better with the help of mindfulness practices.

1. Live mindfully

…that is, consciously, with awareness and conscious choice. Living mindfully means bringing conscious awareness to everything you do. It doesn’t mean you have to spend hours a day meditating but even a few moments of pausing, breathing and noticing what you are experiencing without overthinking can help improve mood and manage daily stress.

2. Relate to experience directly

Try using your senses rather than through thinking, analyzing or judging all of the time. Take a moment to stop, notice and check in with your self. A simple mindfulness exercise is the 5×5 pause. Going through your five senses and noticing the first 5 things you see, hear, feel, smell and taste. (Taste is sometimes a difficult one, unless you are seated at a sushi train…yum!) However, by the time you get to taste, you will have mindfully checked in with yourself.

3. Stay in the present

Resist the urge to dwell on past events or worry about future “what ifs”. Staying present involves noticing and accepting your day to day, moment to moment experience as real and valuable. Whenever you find yourself time travelling in your mind try a simple 5×5 meditation or simply stop and notice your breathing for a few moments, to bring you back to now.

4. Avoid avoiding all unpleasant feelings at any cost

Try to welcome all feelings and emotions as temporary messengers who have something to tell you. Feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are and they do pass. Emotions are our body’s way of communicating our truest needs, desires and wants. We don’t have to follow our emotions or do what they tell us to every time, however, acknowledging your feelings is the first step towards honoring our truth. Knowledge is power after all.

5. Accept things as they now are and go from there

Instead of how you would like them to be. Don’t waste energy or time on struggling with discontent. The more you struggle with feelings of frustration, unfairness and anger regarding those things that you cannot change, the less energy you have to put into changing those things you can.

6. Learn to see your thoughts as just thoughts, not facts or reality

Some thoughts are factual, some may have elements of truth and some may be completely incorrect – learn to choose which thoughts are most helpful to you rather than focusing on whether they are true or real. Focusing on thoughts gives them undue power – choose your thoughts wisely.

7. Practice self-compassion daily.

Be kind to yourself. Learn and practice how to be your own best friend and treat yourself with the kindness, compassion and respect you really want. Watch what you say, do and how you treat you. If you find yourself saying, doing or treating yourself in a way that you would never treat a friend then that is a sign that you need to be more loving to you.

Revisiting Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability

This morning I felt in necessary for some weird reason to re-visit Brene` Brown’s now infamous talk, The Power of Vulnerability. I first watched it during a week long Counsellor Development W…

Source: Revisiting Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability

Why new relationships suck balls*

*Originally posted on the now defunct truthjoybeauty.blogspot.com

I have recently entered into a new relationship. The relationship is with someone I know very well and have loved for a long time and I guess, this new phase of our friendship has just a natural progression. And, in retrospect, this is not like any other relationship I have entered into. It is not based on lust or sex, although both are present. We are already past the first flush of romance because we kind of never had that stage. Our love moved from friendship to intimacy via confusion and distraction in a kind of circuitous route but somehow, I always felt we would get there.

Well now we are here. Well, almost here…just a few more stops before we reach destination; Happy Ever After Land! Who knows. With any luck, that’s where we are heading. But, for some reason, now that I am almost at where I dreamed I would be for so long I am having a rash of anxiety. Maybe it’s because we are not out of the woods yet. Maybe it’s because I have not been this close to something this good in a long time and I am afraid that someone or something is somehow is going to take it away from me, just as I’m getting used to the idea.

Maybe because it took us so long to get to this point, that this new reality seems unreal to me. I don’t quite trust it, not quite yet and perhaps, understandably so. The irony of it is however that I was so sure of it before. He was unsure for so long, or not quite ready to take that leap and I was the one who reassured him that it would be fine, time and time again but now, I’m the one needing the reassuring. I was so brave, confident and ready to dive in before but now… well to be honest I’m an anxious mess! Logically I know I should just relax and accept this fortuitous turn of events.  He is finally saying the words I have longed to hear him say for so long… and I am hearing them, but they just don’t seem really real, yet.

Love. It is such a scary, freaky ride. I keep telling myself to get back in the “Love Zone” and just trust my intuition which has got me this far. Logic is also telling me to chill the f**k out; This man loves you and has told you so. He has not rushed into things or taken this union lightly so what does that tell you? He is a measured and thoughtful man. A rare breed who does not take matters of the heart lightly. This is why you love him. This is why you waited for him, because you knew he was worth waiting for.

When everyone was telling you to give up, when all reason and sense told you to give up and even when you finally did, (on several occasions) you didn’t really. There was always a kernel of certainty inside that told me he would not let you down when it really mattered. You were always certain hat he wanted this as much as you did.

But. There is so much that can go wrong. We have all been hurt and have hurt in turn. I admit, I am as frightened as I’ve ever been. But too proud to admit as much, to him and until now… to myself. To almost have something you want so badly is almost as worse as having no chance at it at all. Still, is not risk the nature of love? It is a risk. There are no guarantees, no contracts (apart from marriage and even that is not nearly as firm as it used to be) and there is always a risk associated with putting all your eggs in another man’s basket (ha, pun wasn’t intended but I’m going to leave it in). Bottom line is I have no choice but to trust this. I chose him and he has chosen me. We are both pretty smart people, nothing to worry about. Nothing at all….

Relationships..they suck balls but where would we be without them!

However it’s entirely natural to feel anxious at the start of a new relationship. New relationships involve change and all change, even positive change is anxiety provoking. Especially if we have been hurt before. But it’s generally a good anxiety. The anxiety of stepping out of your comfort zone in order to pursue something which will possibly and hopefully enrich your life with meaning, joy and love. Now isn’t that something worth going out on a limb for?

John Lennon sums up this feeling in this song, Don’t Let Me Down. from The Beatles album, Let it be.

Meditation on flying

 

Caught a plane to Melbourne yesterday morning. I was allocated a window seat, first time in a long time that I have. I also had the entire row to myself which was unusual considering the plane was otherwise full. Not that I’m complaining.
It was a beautiful, blue and sunny Sydney morning, so I took the opportunity to not read, or look at my device but to just sit and enjoy the view and the experience. I augmented my experience with music by way of what I had on my phone, which was also an unfamiliar experience for me. I rarely wear headphones around, I’d rather hear what is going on around me, most of the time. But for this flight, I thought it might be a nice change.
As I looked out of the small window, my view was restricted by the wing. Not that I’m complaining about that either, I am really glad that it’s there but my mind did go to some future place in which planes were designed to be mostly glass – that way you’d really feel like you were flying among the clouds. But that hasn’t happened yet. As such, I had a small window framing my view and that would have to do.
As the plane gathered speed, about to take off, I marvelled at this feat of human engineering. This pinnacle of human achievement. What was once thought of as impossible was now an everyday occurrence, something we mostly took for granted, like so many of our current technological advances. I use that word with some hesitation, however, I cannot think of a better one for now. But, I think it prudent to sometimes pause and reflect on that which we take for granted lest it get away from us, or overcome us somehow…
The plane gathered speed and soon it lurched forward and the ground was no longer supporting me. A weird, unnatural feeling which gave me a sudden feeling of anxiety. This is not natural. Humans were not meant to fly! I am literally putting my life in the hands of a stranger. How do I know he isn’t throwing back tequila shots in the cockpit? Suddenly the whole idea of leaping into the sky in what pretty much amounted to a tin can with wings seemed completely preposterous. The definition of madness! I felt my amygdala ignite and my brain flood with chemicals which signalled ‘danger, danger’ to the rest of my body. My heart started beating faster and my breath felt short and strained. Was it too late to turn back?
Then, I was overtaken by the sight of a fluffy white cloud which seemed in hands reach – if I were able to open the window, and by how solid the clouds all seemed, I almost expected to see an angel or two, lazily plucking at a harp string. The sky beyond the clouds was blue and the ground had pulled away from us enough so that you could see the curve of the earth on the horizon. Another reminder to me that my existence is depended on the vehicle in which I am travelling. Be that a tin can catapulted by jet fuel, or a big round rock obiting a sun, which is itself moving through space. Or the body that houses my consciousness.
Nothing is that stable, or that permanent. If this was my last day on earth then I was grateful for the time I had been alotted. Beauty comes at a price, truth depends on your perspective and joy is a choice you make every day. Yesterday I chose joy, and gratitude, and hope.

Trusting the “process”

A while ago now I wrote a post about the shitty shower-head in my apartment and the meaning of my resistance to getting a new one. (You can read it the whole post here if you like.) For those that can’t be bothered, the basic moral of the story was about acceptance. I hated my shitty apartment and was so focused on the future that I was choosing to live with a shitty shower-head in the present that dribbled out water rather that accept my current situation for what it was. Crazy, huh? Hmmm, well we’re all a little crazy, especially therapists! But, it’s recognizing the ways in which our own unique brand of craziness manifests that makes us wiser as we go. We are all trying our best and learning as we go.

Thing is, some lessons are harder to absorb than others. For me, it’s my own special brand of silly ‘futurizing’ anxiety which drives me around the twist at times, if I let it. It’s a constant effort of vigilant, compassionate self-awareness which keeps my anxiety at bay. If there is one thing I have learnt about anxiety, both from observing my clients’ and my own is that is not something you can ever really ‘beat’. It’s something you make peace with, shake hands with so to speak and learn to live with.

I came face to face with my futurizing anxiety today by way of a HB pencil. Yes, a pencil. One of those refillable ones that you put the leads into. When I picked it up I realized that it only had one lead left in it. That made me anxious. Here is a running dialogue of what went on in my mind for the next few minutes: What if I run out of lead while I’m using it? Should I go and see if I can find some spare leads to refill it now before I start? What if I don’t have the right ones? Should I go find another pencil instead of this one? And so on. Exhausting isn’t it? I was worried about the future instead of focusing on the present task which was to simply write down a few notes. It was in the noticing of my anxiety around a silly pencil that gave me the clue that my anxiety was manifesting itself again. It was the same brand of anxiety that manifested itself when I refused to get a new shower-head. So what did I do, I simply repeated my mantra – Trust the process. Instantly I felt calmer, took a deep breath and wrote with the pencil with only one lead. If and when the lead runs out, I will deal with the situation when it arises.

I know this is a overly simple, silly example, beyond silly really but it does illustrate my point. Anxiety starts with the small things, it’s when you let it continue without interruption or give it your full, uncritical attention that it can get out of hand.

Then I thought to myself, why does the phrase “trust the process” work for me? I’m not sure about that but it really does. (I suggest that if you are suffering from some kind of anxiety that you find your own phrase that works for you.) I think it’s because it short circuits the route that your brain has been so used to taking (probably straight to the amygdala, where your emotional responses come from) and re-directs to the neo-cortex area of your brain (your rational, thinking, processing mind). However I think the phrase, trust the process might be a good all-round one to have on stand-by whenever you find your anxious mind trying to take over.

Why that phrase in particular? I think it’s largely to do with the word ‘trust’. Trust is a safe word, and whatever it is you put your trust in can be the right circuit breaker for you. For example, if you are religious, you could substitute the word “Jesus” or “God” for process. As in “Trust in Jesus”. Just as an example. Or you might be humanist and then you would put the word “self” in a sentence, as in “Trust yourself” or “I trust me”.

Whatever your phrase, try it yourself and see. Oh, and remember to ‘trust the process’.

🙂

Five ways to stop comparing and start sharing

Ever find yourself silently comparing yourself to other people and coming up short? Ever notice how this makes you feel? I bet it doesn’t make you feel better about yourself at all, I bet it just makes you feel worse the more you do it. In-fact, comparing yourself constantly to others tends to bring you down as you find yourself constantly repeating the “I’m not good enough” story, over and over again.

Comparing yourself to others and feeling bad about it only serves to disempower you, and stops you from sharing your unique gifts and talents with others and the world. So here’s a quick how to guide to help you stop comparing and start sharing your unique and valuable self today!

1.   becoming aware of your comparing ways

The first step to overcoming the compare and contrast blues is to recognize when you are doing it and what you are telling yourself. Remembering that it is entirely natural for humans to compare ourselves with others, (it’s something that our minds instinctively do) but allowing this natural process to overwhelm you with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy doesn’t help you to be the best person you can be. Next time you find your mind telling you the same old “I’m not good enough” story just remember to thank your mind, and simply take a deep breath and let it go. Sometimes just doing that is enough to dispel the bad feelings that come with the “I’m not good enough” story.

2.   focus on what you’ve got instead of what’s not

If step one doesn’t work then it’s time to remind yourself of what you have got, instead of those skills or attributes that you don’t have. Focus on what you can do, for others if not yourself. Ask yourself, what’s in your power to contribute. Take the focus off what or where you are lacking, just for a moment, and bring your attention to those things that can help or make a difference. Give yourself a mantra to say to yourself when you catch yourself comparing and contrasting yourself in a negative light. For example: Comparing is a pointless exercise, everyone’s journey is different and unique.

3.   take a wider view

Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone’s story is unique and private. What you see is often only the surface, you never know how someone is really feeling, or what is happening for them or what they’ve experienced. So even if some people may appear to have it easier than you, or have a better life, appearance or talent, never assume that they are coasting through life without a care in the world. Remember, there may be others that look at what you’ve got and envy you! You might live in a nice house with a caring family, or getting good marks might come easy to you when someone else has to struggle just to pass! If you are too busy comparing yourself to others and feeling down about it, chances are you’ll miss out on chances to feel good about yourself, by being grateful for what you have got….which brings me to my next tip!

4.   practice gratitude daily

Focusing on how you don’t measure up compared to someone else, even if that someone else is just a composite of all the someone else’s you may know in one, is definitely a recipe for misery casserole! An antidote to the comparison blues is to start a daily gratitude practice. Every night before you go to sleep, mentally name and list 5 things that happened that day or that you noticed that made you feel grateful in some way. If you like you can start a ‘gratitude diary’ and write them down. That way, you can look back at it from time to time and build a gratitude resource that you can draw from whenever you want. Remembering to remember the things in our life that we are grateful for is a good habit to get into if you want to increase your overall feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

5.   limit social media

There’s nothing as encouraging of your comparison demons to come out and have a good old play around with your mood quite like scrolling through your social media feed, especially when you are feeling particularly vulnerable. If you find that spending too much time on social media is causing you to feel anxious, depressed, blue or just plain bad then don’t. do. it. Limit your access to social media and if you must have a peek take everything you see there with tip two in mind: remember that what you see (especially on social media) is only a heavily edited version of what real life is like for an individual. It’s certainly only a fragment of reality at best. People who are truly happy and content with themselves and their lives are generally too busy living their life to spend too much time on social media sites anyway. Don’t believe the hype.

There you are. Five simple ways to help yourself to be the best self you can be. Last of all, being happy with yourself often comes when you stop focusing on yourself in general and look outward at the world and the people around you with compassion, empathy and without judgement. Really appreciating that we are all essentially in this together, and that we all have our own individual and internal struggles is really the best way to start to feel better about yourself.

 

“The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.” ― Mark Twain

Don’t be afraid of change

Ch-ch-ch-chaanges! So sang David Bowie in the iconic song of the same name. One of my favourite David Bowie tracks, and probably one of my favourite songs of all time. Definitely in my top 10, if I had a top ten.
Anyway, in that song Bowie reflects on change and what it means both from a personal and societal point of view. Change is something that often occurs whether we want it to or not. Sometimes change is thrust upon us, in the form of say a change in work status, or a lover leaving us, or the death of someone close to us, or having to move out of your dwelling because the landlord has sold the property…and the list goes on. Change happens every day and can happen in an instant, for better or worse.

But change can also come on gradually. You may even plan for it, and want it, know that you need it, desperately, yet when it comes it can still shake you to your core. Change is the cause and cure for much of what presents itself as anxiety.

In ACT we speak of clean and dirty discomfort, or in other words, anxiety in the service of good or the anxiety that leaks out of the darkness, the anxiety of staying stuck and the anxiety of moving forward.

Wherever you look there is anxiety, fear, discomfort …for that there is no cure.

To be honest, I’ve never been all that good with change. Even when it’s a change I want, need and desperately desire. Even when it’s a change that I know will be for the good of all those concerned, myself included. Change is both exciting and terrifying. The dip in the rollercoaster, the curve in the bend, the unopened door.

So considering I was contemplating the above, I was taken aback when I casually informed the man that comes in once a week to clean our fish tank at my current workplace that I wouldn’t be here next week, as he strolled out the door saying, “See you next week!” as he often does.

He stopped in his tracks and came and had a chat with me, for the first time in the 2 years that I have been working here, and asked where I was going. I told him I had a new job so was leaving to start a career in what I had been training for, counselling and pyschotherapy. Turns out he taught psychology for many years before turning to the ‘fish tank business’, as you do.

We had a brief conversation reflecting on how different my role was going to be compared to my current role, during which he dispensed some unsolicited wordly advice, for which I was very appreciative. It’s nice to have anyone show an interest in what you are doing, but it was his parting words which really made me think, ahhh, is someone trying to tell me something here

“Don’t be afraid of change..”

Weird.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: