Dream Big

Since embarking on my new chapter of life I have begun to dream big. I have begun to develop a new way of looking at the world which is opening up the door of every opportunity, filling my life with such optimism in the face of endless possibility. I look back at my last marriage and it is only through tasting freedom, do I realise the restricted position I had allowed myself to be caged into. In fact I feel claustrophobic when I think of how things were. I didn’t bother to have dreams because I knew that I would never be able to pursue them and so I forsook almost every God-given talent of mine and resigned myself to the way of life that I had been living. Everything that I was good at was frowned upon and I was made to feel fearful of stepping outside of the box because of what might happen and what had happened to someone else. I simply lived my life in a robotic way, and that is the most accurate term I can use to I describe it.           My mother was not much of a dreamer and I am actually thankful for that, because through this I learned how to be content with the current situation, a practice that helps to keep oneself grounded and appreciative of the countless blessings around us. My father was the dreamer and so it provided a balance, however, dreams cannot come into fruition without some sort of action.                                                                                               It was after a major turning point in my life which ignited the fire within me for change, and I began to dream myself up a new life and a new future. I started dreaming of something better. I envisioned myself in the future as a fearless woman engaging herself in amazing experiences, helping others and helping herself. I no longer had these short-term limited goals. I removed the limit from myself and allowed myself to dream of being in a position and achieving feats that I had never ever imagined. And why shouldn’t I? The world is filled with people who are doing incredible things and they are doing so because they started with a dream. They dreamed of doing something amazing and then they had the self-belief to put their ideas into action.                                                   I have begun to see the world as a place full of opportunity, but you have to have your eyes open to see it. Before I decided that I wanted change, there were countless life changing moments and opportunities missed because my heart and my eyes were closed to them. Even if I recognised an opportunity I would have dismissed it because number one; I didn’t have the self worth to see myself in it, and number two; I was confining myself to the life I was in because I wasn’t perceiving a better one. Since I decided that I was in fact worth it, I am beginning to recognise those life-changing moments and once-in-a-lifetime-opportunities and they are no longer passing me by. I am grabbing them with both hands and saying ‘This belongs to me, and thank you very much!’ Since I began to see myself with an incredible future, I have started to realise the steps I need to take in order to get there and pathways have been opening up before me and I am no longer afraid of walking them.                                                                                                                        I don’t know if I will ever achieve my goal and I have no idea of where I am destined to be, but that is where contentment and appreciation for the current moment comes into play. It prevents that feeling of ingratitude and feeling as though what we have and what we are is not enough. So I will take gratitude in one hand and striving optimistically in the other as I move forward in my journey. I am uncertain of whether I will achieve my goal but I am having a wonderful time learning, changing and becoming the woman that I am along the way.

They say the sky is the limit, I say; why stop there?

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Mind Clutter

I know that many of us have experienced that feeling of being completely overwhelmed by thoughts. I certainly have. I have spent hours consumed by never ending thoughts that served no beneficial purpose to my life. Thoughts that were in fact detrimental to my emotional well-being. These thoughts invaded and victoriously conquered my mind, rendering it to a feeble state of weakness and diminished capacity. This mind clutter dominated my life and dictated how I functioned and perceived reality.

I had always been a reserved person and lacked the ability to unashamedly speak my mind. I envied those who were able to respond quickly, firmly and often with such humour and wit that it would instantly diffuse any situation. I, on the other hand internalised everything, always being afraid to hurt or disappoint people. I found that I would leave the situation replaying the event over and over in my mind, analysing what I had said, what I should have said and what I would say next time. Soon enough this over thinking would extend to other aspects of my life and daily encounters. I would worry about the future and stress about decisions that I was not yet faced with. I would remember the wrongs that people had inflicted on me and obsess over a day in the future where I would have the chance to meet these people once more and gain closure. I would agonise over the way that people saw me and the misconceptions they had about me and how I was going to dispel them. I was constantly in deep thought, constantly drowning in mind clutter. Empathy and reasoning would say that I was well within my rights to have such thoughts after having such extraordinarily bad experiences, but the point is that it was of no benefit to me.

I recall nights spent sleeplessly tossing and turning, kept awake by a mind that could not shut down all these thoughts and yet the children and the job would be there in the morning expecting my full dedicated service. I gained weight, I lost weight, I cried, I was numb, and I remember being angry. I was raging inside, fuelled by burning emotions of anger over the way I had been treated and frustration at the way I was handling each situation. It was exhausting.

Somewhere along the line I realised that if I didn’t learn to let go, then I would let go of some of the personality traits that made me who I was and what people had come to know and love me for. I was not this angry and bitter person that my thoughts were driving me to become. I also realised that this obsession and over-thinking was distracting me from the present. While I was busy stressing over what I was going to do or say or what people were thinking, I was missing out on witnessing the beauty that was present all around, if I would just take a minute to stop and behold it. How could I fully appreciate the taste, the smell, the texture of the foods I was eating if I wasn’t really present when eating them? I was too busy living in the past that had already been and gone, or living in the future that may or may not happen to enjoy the reality that was now.

It has definitely been a learning journey. I am learning to let things go, not to waste my precious time with useless mind clutter and to switch my focus into being alive in the present. It is not always easy and I am not always successful,  I slip up, but I am slowly becoming better at rechanneling that energy into something productive and useful. In freeing my mind from clutter and functioning from a clean slate, I am learning just how much life is shaped by the lens we choose to view it from.

 

Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash

Self Love

“You can’t love anyone until you love yourself.”

The famous saying often read and often repeated from the lips of many well meaning people.  I vehemently disagreed. I thought it was just made-up nonsense, something that sounded enlightening but had no basis in reality. It couldn’t be true because while I wouldn’t have professed to having high self-esteem let alone love myself, I certainly loved others.

I loved my friends and I loved my husband. I loved him so much that he inadvertently became the centre of my world. I took pleasure in being a perfect companion to him and I honestly delighted in the fact that I made him happy. Knowing that I was the perfect homemaker made me feel somehow complete and I lived for the moments when he would come home to find the house spotless, the dinner cooked to perfection and my hair and makeup as if I were about to grace the cover of Vogue.                                               Growing up I would have discussions with my friends about what we wanted to do when we were older and they had such ambitious ideas that I simply went along with theirs, secretly wanting nothing more than to be a perfect wife and experience motherhood. There would have been nothing wrong with this dream, if I had loved myself.

Life has taught me that unfortunately not all people are as kind and loving as I had hoped they would be. And although not all people are bad, the fact that I didn’t love myself propelled me into a one-sided relationship and forced me to remain there longer than I needed to. It was because I didn’t love myself that I accepted a life of abuse, tolerating it initially because I couldn’t recognise it as such, but once I did, I did not have the self-respect to understand that this was not the way I needed to live. I did not understand that I was worth so much more than the life I had allowed myself to be confined to, and that this farce of a marriage was only causing harm to myself and to others around me. When you love someone you don’t treat them badly, and when you love yourself, you don’t allow yourself to be badly treated. When you love yourself, you understand the love that you should expect from someone else, and if they don’t want to treat you in the way you deserve, then they don’t deserve you.

“You can’t love anyone until you love yourself.”

Fast forward to present day and I am now living the truth of this statement. I am learning to love myself and I am learning my self-worth. Because of this self-love I am not in a one-sided friendship or relationship because I am busy enjoying who I am and spending time with myself. I know that if I eventually come to be in a relationship, I won’t allow myself to be subject to anything less than I deserve. I know I don’t need to settle for a substandard companion. Because I am learning to love myself I don’t feel the need to seek love from another, but when I do, I will know that I have so much to offer, and that I equally deserve to be a recipient of goodness in the relationship.

Perhaps the statement is meant to be interpreted that the actions of loving have to be established in oneself before they can be recognised, duplicated and then bestowed upon someone else, since if we don’t know what something is, how can we give it away?             My experience has presented me with a different interpretation. That loving yourself first and foremost provides you with the foundation that allows you to build a healthy loving relationship, and the ability to recognise and leave when it is not.

 

Your Days Are Numbered.

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Once you have been staring rock bottom straight in the eyes for long enough, you become fearless. You roll up those sleeves, and say “Bring it on!” You take your chances, because you feel as though it couldn’t feel any worse and there is nothing left to lose. You get up, you say goodbye, and you choose life. You choose to live.

I have chosen to live, and while I have only one foot of this physical body out the door, my spirit lives happy and free, truly joyful and excited about the prospects of the future. I cannot wait to get to know myself again and to be myself, unashamedly, unapologetically.

You cannot hurt me anymore. Throughout the years I have come to know you better than you know yourself. I know your games now. And I refuse to play them. I tolerate you, because your days are numbered. Now I know that your actions and your speech reel straight off of the narcissist’s handbook, you are so predictable. I nod and smile, because I’m not really here with you. I have already left. D day is just around the corner. Something you thought would never happen. You thought I wouldn’t be capable of it. You thought I was needy, and afraid to be alone. You thought I was like you.

I am not like you. I am fearless. It took me a while to become the woman that I am, and I am still becoming her. You thought I would be crushed and broken, and it angers you that I do not deal with things in the way that you want me to, or would even expect after everything. The fact that I waste no tears over you has you bewildered. I stopped crying a long time ago. I cried so much, until there were no more tears and I became a machine. Incapable of crying, incapable of laughing.

Well I have started laughing again, now that I know your days are numbered. There is a spring in my step, and I am that breath of fresh air. People see the change, and I truly feel it within me. I am leaving the darkness, to live in the light. You lost.

 

 

Teacher

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The last remaining days of August. That time of year when teachers everywhere become increasingly aware of the impending demise of the long awaited summer holidays. For me, it marks the end to my thoroughly enjoyable annual stint at masquerading as a stay at home mum. Although a part of me desires to cling on to each and every passing moment for fear that the culmination of them results into the abrupt halt of my current leisurely pace of life, the other part of me is filled with excitement.

Each new academic year presents an opportunity to be even better than the one that preceded it. There is every intention within me to be that punctual and organised person who gets the job done, while smiling. I am eager to meet my new set of students who will not know quite what to expect of their new teacher and new surroundings, some will enter the classroom willingly and others will be brought in kicking and screaming (literally), but first days are so memorable. They are the reference point which teachers look back upon as the children begin to blossom and grow throughout the coming weeks and months, and then marvel at how much they have changed at the end of the journey.

I am dreamer, and in some ways a romantic. Yes, I agree, teaching is not a nine-to-five job that you can clock out of and leave at the office. It follows you home and it consumes every part of your life. Evenings are spent planning, prepping, typing and printing away in order to be fully equipped for the day/week ahead, because if there’s one thing that I have learned; it is how much smoother the day flows when everything is primed and ready to go, complete with a back up plan for the back up plan. Once the kids are in bed, hours are spent preparing for lessons and on endless paperwork that never seems to cease and just when you think you’ll be smart and get it done early, something fresh and new is introduced rendering your previous hard work useless. Weekends are spent in much the same way, not allowing for the brain to switch out of teacher mode. A simple trip to the supermarket results in additional shopping bags full of ingredients to make play-dough or a science experiment. Yes, there is a break during the school working day and it is spent sandwich in one hand, keyboard typing with the other in order to submit those plans/minutes/assessments before the 3pm deadline because once the students have gone home (after after-school club/extra curricular activities) there won’t be time to get it done as staff will be attending the professional development/department meeting/parent’s consultation. There is no time to breathe. It is CRAZY. And it is an honour. And I can not imagine myself doing anything else.

Each year presents itself with a new set of students, each one unique and memorable in their own right. I have no idea about the detailed home life of every student and whether they get attention or not, so I had better make sure that they get it with me. I don’t know if these students all have someone who truly believes in them. So I have to believe in them all, and I have to make sure that they know it. I truly believe that teachers are working to assist in raising the next generation of people. I know, it sounds so clichéd but I believe in the power and influence that a good teacher has upon the lives of his/her students. When a child has a good teacher, doesn’t he/she come home emulating their speech and actions, talking about them continuously. Imagine if the teacher wholeheartedly believed in them too and made them feel as though they could achieve whatever they dreamed of. What a personal and special role the teacher has in the lives of their students. How many hundreds of children can be championed and supported during the lifetime of that one teacher who went that extra mile? I want to be that teacher who went that extra mile.

Teaching is an honour. I will wear these dark circles around my eyes like badges of honour, earned through dedicated service to the nation. The start of the new academic year has almost rolled around and I am excited. But of course, first things first, when that September morning dawns upon us, I shall be checking the school calendar looking out and counting down for the next eagerly anticipated holiday.

Challenge Yourself

Fred DeVito said “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

There was a time when I didn’t consider these words or understand just how true they really were. I didn’t think that I needed to change myself and remained safe and secure inside my comfort zone. Safe and secure inside the little secluded world where new people seldom entered and only a selected few were allowed to know the real me. I could be myself within this limited group but outside of it I was painfully shy. It didn’t matter though, because there hadn’t been a need to leave this safe domain. That all changed when an opportunity was placed in my path.

A position of leadership within my field was up for grabs and I knew my job like the back of my hand, I could do it with my eyes closed and I did it whilst striving for perfection. But to lead a team? Sure I had subject knowledge and experience, but leading was something different entirely. Well that would mean public speaking, and delegating tasks! The doormat faction (see When is Enough, Enough?) did not delegate tasks! We were the ones who had them delegated upon, often taking on more than our fair share and doing so without complaint. Despite this, I knew an opportunity when I saw it and the perfectionist in me had me wanting to not only take on the role, but to take it on and do it well. The prospect of being a leader and chairing meetings scared me, but the question I asked myself was whether I would be happy for someone else to take on the role, knowing that they would be doing it just for the money, knowing that I was probably the most hardworking in the team, knowing that my passion and zeal had not been dampened by all the bureaucracy and knowing how much I dreamt of making a difference in people’s lives. I took the plunge.

It has been a learning curve. I remember looking at how eloquently my peers were able to speak and I was in complete awe of that. I compared myself to others, ever-conscious of the way I fumbled my words, made mistakes and missed things completely. Standing up and speaking to an audience, many of whom were older than me, made me hot, made me nervous and made my hands clammy. The majority of people were polite and respectful, but there were a few who just did not complete tasks on time, if at all. I uncomfortably approached them with kind reminders and typed up polite requests to be continuously met with the usual excuses. I questioned my leadership abilities as I sat there madly typing away at the eleventh hour, submitting the work that they had repeatedly been asked to do. Yes it was madness, but after self reflection I realised that I didn’t do it for them, and their not being able to commit to deadlines was not a deficiency within myself, but it was the strength and the leader within me that was prepared to go above and beyond my duty to ensure the smooth running of the department that I believed in.

I realised that in order to become an effective leader, I required more than the universal characteristics which make a person ‘good,’ and the best way for me to gain them was to fake it. Confidence and assertiveness were not things I possessed, but I faked them. I faked all day long until I no longer had to, because I started believing in myself. I realised why my peers were able to deliver professional development workshops so articulately. It was because they believed in themselves and in the message they were conveying. How passionately we are able to speak about the things we love and the things we believe in! I learned that when faced with the task of presenting a seminar which rather than send people to sleep, ignited sparks of passion among the audience, I had to become passionate about it myself. Leaders lead by example.

Through this personal challenge, I have learnt a lot. I am still learning. And it is humbling. I have changed and found myself doing things that I previously wouldn’t even have dreamed of. I realised that my previous outlook was only limiting who I was and all that I can strive to be. By remaining in my comfort zone I was preventing myself from discovering all of me and from being the best version of me. The change has been good, and I actually prefer the new me that is emerging with each new challenge. I don’t know what lies ahead of me, I have big ideas and even bigger dreams. Perhaps I will not change the world, but if the opportunity for me to do so arises, I’m up for that challenge!

“If you don’t challenge yourself, you will never realise what you can become.”

Go on, challenge yourself.

When is Enough, Enough?

I have long been an admirer of strong individuals . People who have set firm boundaries coupled with the strength to stand up in their defence. People who are not afraid to say ‘no’ and afterwards spend no time over-analysing, toing and froing, wondering whether they had done or said the right thing, or come across as too harsh. People who basically stand up for themselves regardless of what other people think and do not allow anyone to believe that they are ‘doormats’ that can be mistreated and walked over.

I had always belonged to the doormat faction of society, and had been sentenced to remain there until life’s gruelling, debilitating and often relentless lessons forced me to challenge myself and rethink absolutely everything, because there comes a time when one simply asks themselves “When is enough, enough?” My personal belief is that this limit varies within each individual despite the ever-present national moral compass which advises us on what is acceptable and what is not, because sometimes we just disregard it. Us doormats have a habit of downplaying incidents, making excuses for other people’s behaviour when it is public, and covering it up when it is not. We blame ourselves believing that their reaction was due to a mistake or shortcoming of our own and had we have simply not done/said such and such, then they would have not done/said what they did. We believe in people’s words and when they apologise, make excuses or promises of the future, we are gullible. I am in no way suggesting that we write off compassion completely and all of the other wonderful traits that make up our good character, but just that we begin to recognise when  something is not quite right. Some people are able to draw the line straight away, and put an immediate halt to what is happening, for others it comes after a few occurrences and for some, that line is never drawn.

Drawing the line and standing up for oneself is often scary. There is an unwavering fear of loss, uncertainty and instability. We need to ask ourselves if the fear of the future consequences of standing up for oneself is greater than the fear of the future consequences of remaining in the present situation. Where is our own personal breaking point? When is enough, enough? Is it enough when you give up on your dreams? Is it enough when the tears have flowed so much that the eyes are no longer able to cry? Is it enough when continuous incidents desensitise and numb the emotions so that one becomes conditioned to the new normality? Is it enough when one no longer cares for the other and those qualities that make a person known as a thoughtful and sensitive individual are lost and the victim has become unrecognisable? Is it enough when one is constantly battling with the voices within, arguing, replaying, reimagining and causing such anxiety that a good night of sleep is impossible? For some it will not be enough until that critical moment has been reached and one is left at absolute breaking point. It can be a scary place where you find that you are no longer living, just simply existing, or it can be the defining moment in life when enough has become enough and all those fears and uncertainties that caused you to remain in oppression are not as scary as the emotional darkness that has seized the soul and crippled the mind.

At breaking point one becomes prepared to stand up and free themselves even if it means risking everything, including your life, because remaining stagnant is also a death sentence. At breaking point one questions the reason why they are staying. One questions whether they are truly the strong person they thought they had been all along for being patient, not upsetting/disappointing everyone and internalising the pain so that nobody else has to feel it, and begins to wonder if in fact the real strength is to stand up and say “Enough is enough!” even if that means compromising everything you have? Sometimes the solution is to walk away, and sometimes the solution is to use the God-given voice you own. It is scary, and it is empowering. It is also enlightening to discover that in fact, it has been the aggressor that has been the weak one all along. It was never you. They are weak because they are the ones living in fear, fear of losing control and so they treat others unkindly because they are too weak to control their own emotions and their own tongues. They are weak because after inflicting so much pain, they cannot digest the result of their actions and so believe that they themselves are the victims.

I no longer belong to the doormat faction. I am still thoughtful, caring and considerate of others, but within a balanced perspective. I use my voice everywhere, and in addition to standing up for myself and what I believe in, I realise that I have a lot to say! We are all on a journey and I am just about to embark on a new chapter in mine. I am starting new things and dreaming about the near future. Evolving and breaking free can often be a dangerous time because aggressors become scared. Stay happy, stay safe, seek help and remember that you are wonderful!