One of the things I love about living in Australia is the grace of the gum trees.
Even in the bustle of the city, they’re dotted around the streets, their leaves quietly whispering of stuff more grounded and true. And recently it’s been the time of year for some of them to shed their bark (like in the photo, above).
It’s an inspiring process in a metaphorical way – a time to slough off the old and let the new parts of you come to the surface.
Sometimes, for the trees, it might look messy for a while, with great strips of their old selves peeling off and swinging in the wind before they fall away. But, with a bit of time and persistence, they come clean again, with brand new skins to face the world in.
So, if you could shed your own bark like these trees, what would you be shedding?
Well, how did that happen? It’s February already…
So maybe you’re already right back into the swing of things, drawn back to the thousand appointments and meetings and obligations calling your name – just like all these little Post-it notes stuck to the window in the photo, above, practically obscuring the person who put them there.
All that stuff that wants to be done. Now. (Or maybe even wanted to be done by January…)
How do you approach it all? Whether it’s your salaried work or your parenting or managing your health or keeping up with friends and family (and somewhere in there, also living the rest of your life). How do you do it?
Do you multitask? Throw a few things in together and return to a juggling routine you maybe know all too well?
Maybe it feels like you do. But do you really?
What if some of the research thinks that’s impossible?
I came across a little piece of eternity the other day (there it is in the photo, above). Or, more precisely, it came across me. Tumbling towards me on the footpath. Blowin’ in the wind*.
Ok, so it was also just a loose page of a newspaper, blowing around the street, with an advertisement on it featuring a stone angel pointing towards a single word: “Eternity.”
Just a banal moment of dodging some floating flotsam on my way home. And a bit of a wake-up call.
What do you do when eternity comes barreling right down the street at you?
I picked it up. And could suddenly feel my heart beating. I took it with me.
What will you do with yours?
I took a different route to work yesterday. And I saw different things.
Suddenly, in a gap between buildings, I spied this view in the photo, above: stairs and a distant clock face above them.
A thought struck immediately:
“Take the steps to make the time…”
And then, a heartbeat later:
“… time for the things that matter.”
I had to stop for a second, to drink it in and let all the bustling commuters around me blur on by.
So what are those things for you? The things that matter?
Life can change at a moment’s notice – we all know this. Profound, unexpected change where the things we previously took for granted become the things we miss, for we can no longer experience them in quite the same way again. At least for now…
At the moment, I’m getting lots of reminders of this. Lots of losses, big and small, in my own life, and in the lives of those close to me.
I guess it comes back to our fragility. Our mortality. Our passage through the (limited) time we have. And our ability to recognise what really matters to us, so we can live it, love it, while it’s here in our hands.
Have you ever tried to make up your mind about something and then found yourself lost in a never-ending argument of pros and cons? Looking for “the right” answer… Where you catch yourself thinking: “On this hand…” and “On the other hand…” until it’s all completely out of hand?
And now you’re feeling even more lost than when you started. Swamped. Confused.
I know I have.
Yet maybe there’s another way through all of this. For if world class thinking theorist Edward de Bono is right, the way you explore an issue is key. In fact, he thinks that:
“If you explore well, a decision makes itself.”
(And how handy would that be?)
So what’s he actually on about? And how might you be able to try some of it out?
How will you know that you’re ready to start? Once you’ve planned and perfected and plotted all your goals on a graph, like we’re so often encouraged to do. How will you know you’re ready?
It’s an important question, whatever change or dream or hope you might be facing. (And, life being what it is, it’s pretty rare not to be facing one of these sorts of things…)
So how will you know you’ve done enough preparing and perfecting of the plan - and when it’s time to just take the plunge?
Does the perfecting have a use-by date?
Or is it something you could get lost in the safety of and languish in forever if you wanted to?
Something comfortable, even?
Something that perhaps beguiles you with the promise of being able to predict and resolve almost any problem that may arise – before they appear, of course. (And in a universe of potentially infinite possibilities and permutations, is that even possible?)
I bought a pair of shoes a little while ago. They’re red. They’re great. They were the last pair in the shop, my size and on sale. Perfect.
Well, not quite, actually, because they pinched a bit when I tried them on. But surely not too much. Surely they’d get better with time… I’ll take them.
But when I tried them on again at home (after wearing them around for days with thick socks on to stretch them), and they still pinched, I thought:
“What planet was I on when I bought these?”
And, instantly, I knew:
Have you ever been there?
It’s a trivial example, but it can happen anywhere – in relationships, in your work, in pretty much any part of life. Wishing that something would fit you, when it just doesn’t … not quite.
For wishing can clash with reality; it can hide what’s really going on; it can get in the way of you making decisions that might be really important to make.
Sometimes life is just challenging. Hard, even. Just when you think you’ve got plenty to deal with, along comes even more. Right on time.
It can start to swamp you. Overwhelm you.
That’s what this photo reminds me of (above). A street art tsunami coming for you at the end of a no-through-road. It can feel hard to escape…
So what can you do to help yourself through the overwhelm? How can you get through life’s no-through-roads?
Have you started some new ways of being lately?
Or stopped some old ones?
Some life choices.
Whatever you call them, they can be challenging to maintain sometimes. Harder, perhaps, to keep in place than it is to kick them off.
So maybe you’ve stopped “emotional eating” (or wanted to).
Or changed the rate at which you turn to certain substances for support.
Maybe you’ve started a more nourishing routine in your life (adding more exercise or creativity or relaxation or fun).
Or perhaps you’ve tried starting something like this a few times, only to “fail”. Started and then stopped again. Started and stopped.
When you’ve “fallen off the wagon” like this, whatever your wagon of choice, it can feel like you have to start right back from the very beginning. From scratch. That you have to “start from zero,” like in the photo, above. (Only this time, with a heavier heart and the taste of discouragement and “failure” in your mouth).
But is that actually true?
The cycle of change model thinks it isn’t.
Let’s have a closer look.
What’s your relationship with perfectionism like?
Does it sometimes storm in wielding a red pen?
Does it make it hard for you to even begin things sometimes, knowing that it’s waiting to judge you?
Or have you learned to negotiate with it?
There’s something that’s always struck me as a little strange about perfectionism. It assumes completion – that a thing can be finished. Whole. Over. Done. So in a world where it seems that ‘the only constant is change’, perfectionism demands a static ending.
It wants the destination over the journey…
That’s so different from this little handwritten note on an otherwise blank noticeboard in a stiflingly, clinically (‘perfectly’) refurbished waiting room:
“I’m a work in progress”
So how do you want to approach your life?