In Which I Take A Shower & A Minor Miracle Occurs – Sort Of…

This is one of those inconsequential everyday-life kind of posts that talks about nothing of any importance, doesn’t pass on any useful information or set the world to rights. It doesn’t even have a video at the end (sorry) although it does have an interesting afterword. But it might make you smile. Just warning you before you commit valuable time to reading it.

Just now, something happened that changed my whole perspective on a so far gloomy, disappointing and frustrating day.

Last night my weather app had promised sun late morning and we had all sorts of plans for being outside. I wanted to take some photos and video for a friend who could do with some smiles. But I needed sun. And warmth. I can’t cope with the cold. Or the gloom. Or the wet.

For once, it was completely wrong: it was overcast when I got up, 14C and didn’t look like it was going to improve much any time soon.

As I drank my early (for me) morning cup of green tea with jasmine, I half-heartedly checked my blog, emails and social media. Nothing much going on there, everyone was going about their weekend thing with family and friends. Nothing to distract or keep me occupied.

The heavens opened.

I went in the shower. (The hot one where you wash your hair not the icy one outside!)

I was contemplating the next post I wanted to write and musing over the fact that a couple of months ago I was worried I would run out of things to write about but now, I can’t keep up with ideas and events.

I gradually became aware of something small and hard under my foot. I looked down but of course couldn’t see a thing because  after decades of wearing contact lenses, I had only recently discovered you’re not supposed to wear them in the shower! This was all well and good, I wanted to protect my eyes from potential infection but it didn’t help me see spiders nesting in there or what was underfoot or tell the difference between shampoo and conditioner in identical bottles! Have you ever done that, put conditioner on instead of shampoo and had to wash your hair twice? Anyway, at least I knew it wasn’t a contact lens!

My next thought was to check my earrings. How many times had I knocked one off when pulling a t-shirt over my head or wrapping a towel around wet hair then discovering the fact long afterwards and initiating a housewide search for same and banning hoovering for a month? In fact, that had happened recently and for once the search proved futile and I’d had to accept the loss of a precious silver earring back. It was off my favourite everyday studs that I’d worn for many years and goodness knows how many of their backs have been lost and found over those years.

But no, they were both intact. I could only think it was a small cinder or stone, although I couldn’t think how it had got in the shower. I hadn’t walked barefoot outdoors.

So, I struggled to reach my glasses from my dressing-gown pocket, put them on with soapy wet hands and look down as quickly as possibly through quickly fogging lenses.

No, it couldn’t possibly be. We had both looked in the shower tray, my husband had inspected the plughole, I had had several showers since… but yes, there it was, the erstwhile missing silver earring back!

I couldn’t stop laughing. I still have a huge grin on my face. Such a small insignificant event on a miserable Saturday morning changed my whole perspective on the day.

But I should have known not to doubt the universe’s powers of discovery. The number of times I have ‘lost’ a contact lens and given it up for good, yet somehow we always find it – even on the gravel-strewn verge of a busy main road on our way to see my inlaws, even in a dark furniture-cluttered bedroom where my husband found it flicked right into the corner of the carpet by the skirting board, even on our first date when I looked down at my coffee and first one dropped out and then as I leant down to look for it, the other followed suit and we both ended up on our hands and knees looking for contact lenses – or at least, I was dying of embarrassment and wasn’t  looking for anything, I couldn’t see! The one time we didn’t find one until it was too late was when I discovered I’d been walking around with it embedded in the sole of my slipper!

So, that was interesting wasn’t it? Did you smile or just sigh with disappointment in the knowledge that you just wasted a few minutes you’ll never get back?

I for one am still grinning. And it’s still raining.

Ps Just after I published this, I went on Instagram and instantly saw this thought for the day from The Secret:

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Now, if the universe could just help me find my tweezers …

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Mother’s Day: A Tribute to My Children

imageTo all our mums, grandmas, aunts, daughters and neighbours caring for families, partners, relatives and friends. We couldn’t manage without you!

(This is the card I made for my mum, I thought I would share it with you all.)

 I also wanted to tell you this little anecdote that will stay with me for all of my life:

Many years ago, I came downstairs one Sunday morning. My husband was working, my daughter was sleeping over at her friend’s. The table was set for my breakfast: grapefruit, muesli, toast, orange juice, black coffee, a flower in a vase, and the Sunday paper all set out like they do in a newsagents with all the supplements lined up on top of one another very neatly. My teenage son was sitting on the sofa looking very proud of himself. He got up and switched on the tv, pushed a video in and pressed play (yes, it was that long ago!) It was my favourite film, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. I was overwhelmed and I said ‘Thank you, this is lovely, but what’s it all for?’ He grinned and said ‘Happy Mother’s Day! ‘ I didn’t know what to say. I was so overcome at all the work he’d put in. I smiled and said ‘This is so lovely, but… it’s not Mother’s Day until next week!’

Do you know what? He got up early the next Sunday and did it all again!

We don’t normally make a big deal out of this day in our house. I don’t need a card company telling my children to appreciate me, they do that on a daily basis. And I feel for all those who have lost their mums or their children. But occasionally my children do pull out all the stops and surprise me.

Last year, I was sitting at the table, reading the paper, thinking about when I should phone my mum and the phone rang. It was my daughter. She wished me Happy Mother’s Day and asked me what I was doing. I told her in a long rambling comment about nothing in particular, and when I finally stopped for breath she asked ‘Could you put the kettle on and let me in?!’ She had left her bemused boys with their dad and travelled the hour and a half with her labrador pup to come and spend the day with me! Her boys said, ‘But your our mum and it’s Mother’s Day!’ And she replied, ‘Yes, it is and I’m going to see my mum!’ It was a lovely surprise. We rarely spend time together on our own and I miss her so much. It is very hard to get anything past me, but she did that day!

Thank you, K and R, I love you very much💕

Have a lovely Sunday, everyone!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Finding the Happiness Inside

This morning, my husband is as happy as Larry. His old friend is back and he is beaming from ear to ear. After a difficult 6 months during which his friend has been away having some extensive work done, the smile is back on his face and he is looking forward to having new adventures together now the old dear is looking and moving like new. The old friend? His Morris Minor, of course!

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1963 Morris Minor 1000

It is his pride and joy. It is just back from the workshop and after spending a long time taking photos from every angle, he went off to sweep the garage before putting it to bed! My daughter remarked, ‘He’ll be wanting a blanket for it next!’ They have spent many hours together, stopped by the side of the road changing spark plugs or coils, come pouring rain, blizzards or sun.

For my husband, having the Morris Minor back has relieved a little of the stress of not being able to get back on his bike while recovering from an accident.

Finding what lights up your happiness gene is so important to your health. We all need something that is ours, that we schedule time for, that we can lose ourself in and that just for a while helps us distance ourselves from the the stresses of work and family problems, from the pain of illness or disability, from the worries of the world in general.

For me, it’s making cards or colouring whilst listening to music or an audiobook, or even just watching the birds in the garden on a sunny or snowy day.

My son loves going cycling for miles, in any weather, testing himself on the steepest of hills, he also loves creating a mess in the kitchen 😉, while my daughter loses herself in large sewing and knitting projects or walking the hills with her labrador pup.

What is your passion? What lifts your spirit, re-energises you or helps you regain perspective when it all gets a bit too much?

A long time ago, in the dark depths of serious health problems, I didn’t know how to lift myself from the mental mire of trying to cope with it all without any outlet.

Two things happened.

A little girl came into our lives and I discovered ‘Simple Abundance’ by Sarah Ban Breathnach, a book that is now dog-eared from over-use.

The little girl had 2 loves in her life, Barbie and The Spice Girls (‘but not Victoria!’). So we created a scrapbook of pictures that we cut out and glued of everything to do with these topics: photos, clothes, shoes, concerts, anything. I loved it. Those moments were precious.  I still have the scrapbook.

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It had been so long since I had done anything remotely creative or crafty. 

My son and daughter were the artists in the family, and although I had spent a lot of time with them on various art or craft projects when young, I never felt able to do so once they reached teenage years a) because I was rubbish by comparison b) I didn’t want it to look like I was trying to compete or detract from their efforts. I would spend a lot of time selecting and buying art materials for them, wishing I could buy some for myself, but not believing I had the right or the ability.

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Then I read ‘Simple Abundance.’ (Don’t let the subtitle put you off). Among the many encouragements and suggestions for women to express themselves creatively – to go on ‘creative excursions’ – was starting an Illustrated Discovery Journal.

The idea is to buy an artist’s sketch book with a hard cover in a design that appealed and collect images, samples, articles, poems, travel pictures, anything that resonates with you, and gradually it would build up into something that would show you where your interests lie, what makes you happy, what makes your heart sing, and show you the direction you would like to take in terms of hobbies or career.

These two events showed me how much I liked using scissors and glue, colour and card. Coincidentally, this little girl gave me a large box of assorted pens – gel pens, metallic pens – for my birthday. I realised there was no reason on this earth why I shouldn’t or couldn’t begin using them.

I didn’t have to create a masterpiece. I didn’t have to do fine art. I could just mess about and see what happened. I could just do it for it’s own sake.

And so I did.

Now all my family and close friends receive hand-made cards at Christmas and birthdays whenever possible.

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They are very kind in their comments. I know my efforts are very hit and miss, but people seem to like that I took the time and created a one-off card especially for them.

There are lots of adult colouring books around now. They are often described as Mindfulness colouring books. They help you focus on something creative that you can lose yourself in, that relaxes your brain and eases tensions in your body.

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Psychotherapists don’t usually like them being described as therapy, since the patterns and pictures are already formed – although some do have partial drawings that allow you to complete them as you wish – but they do allow that they can be therapeutic, which is different.

Or perhaps getting your hands dirty is more your thing, stripping down bikes or engines, or whittling bits of wood from fallen trees. My neighbour is keen on wood-turning. 

Fortunately for me, my daughter-in-law likes tinkering around with blogs and websites!

But you don’t even actually have to do anything. You can simply meditate. Observe. My son-in-law, for example, loves observing clouds and weather patterns.

This time of year when there isn’t a lot of warmth or sun is an excellent time to discover the happiness inside you. Give it a go and see what you like, what makes you feel proud, what lights a spark. Try singing, it doesn’t have to be anything formal. Or pick up that book you’ve always meant to read.

No-one else needs to know what you’re doing until you feel ready. But never feel you don’t deserve to try, or to spend time on yourself. Everyone needs to replenish their caring tanks, relax the overworked parts of their brain, stretch out the kinks in their muscles or just enjoy the feeling of complete abandon, of laughing out loud.

After all, if all of you is used up on everything and everyone else, there will be nothing left. And you deserve to be cared for, too.

Ps Love you, Megan Monster! 😉 💕

 Copyright: Chris McGowan

Compassion is Good for Our Health

In the light of the terrible mass shooting in Orlando, I decided to reblog the post on compassion and well-being which I adapted after the attacks in Paris at the end of last year. I am not American or gay and I don’t know enough of the facts or the context to feel qualified to write a separate post, other than as a human being horrified by such actions and the ease with which people can obtain weapons and carry out these targeted, violent acts against people just trying to live their authentic lives. My thoughts are the same as after Paris and they are with all those affected by this and other such tragedies. (And today, June 16th,  one of our own has had her life cut short and her family has lost a precious woman who worked to improve the lot of others).

When one hurts, we all hurt.

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Some of the most poignant and remarkable acts of compassion are often performed by those to whom Fate has dealt some very unlucky cards: children with terminal cancer raising money and awareness from their hospital beds, severely injured veterans taking part in sporting events to raise funds to provide equipment and support for their colleagues, the bereaved parents of a teenage addict providing education and support for young people. It is well-documented that those with the least resources are often the most generous.

Doing something positive to help others can often provide a way out of our own dark place, it can help raise our spirits, lift our heads and enable us to see a way forward.

 Expressing compassion and empathy is not only beneficial for the recipient, but for the giver too: being kind produces oxytocin which reduces anxiety and depression, strengthens the immune system and helps control the effects of stress. It also stimulates the vegas nerve which controls inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is believed to be a major factor in developing chronic diseases and ageing.

When we help one another, we all benefit.

At this particular time of year, there are many people for whom compassion would be the best gift of all: newly-arrived refugee families being resettled into the community; people rendered homeless through losing a job, their relationship, their home; young people on the street because they are not welcome in their family home; those subject to physical or emotional abuse; elderly or disabled people left isolated, with little support.

Yet recent newspaper headlines, government polemics and negative online comments concerning an ‘influx’ of refugees, fear of potential terrorists based on little else but a person’s cultural or religious background and so on, might lead an alien visitor to Earth to conclude that compassion is currently in short supply. When our circumstances change for the worse, when money is in short supply or illness strikes, when we fear for the safety of our loved ones, it is understandable that our concerns are for our own well-being and that of our families. Life can seem overwhelmingly difficult. There can be little room for considering the lot of others.

But consider recent events in Paris. At an international football match, once fierce national rivals -both teams and fans of all racial and cultural backgrounds – came together, arms around each other and sang La Marseillaise, in a stirring and defiant display of unity reminiscent of the famous scene in the film Casablanca, when French citizens drowned out drunken Nazi singing with a powerful and emotional rendition of their own national anthem.

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Ultimately, we are more alike than we are different.

I would like to express my depest condolences to all those affected by these recent events, either directly or indirectly.

I believe that compassion is innate in all of us: when one of us hurts, we all hurt.

Coming together, pooling resources, sharing our time, experience and compassion is how we pull through.

In The Art of Happiness,* HH Dalai Lama says that the purpose of life is the pursuit of happiness and happiness is ultimately achieved through compassion for others. It is a principle by which I have tried to live my life.

Compassion is good for our collective health.

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*The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by HH The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, Easton Press, 1998

Copyright: Chris McGowan