Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Spending :-)

Happy Halloween! I enjoy fun in any form and Halloween brings back lovely memories of us 'Van Schaick' children terrorising the neighbourhood in old sheets with cut out holes for eyes - witches hats made out of black card and turnip Jack'o lanterns - anything that we could muster from around us - we used our imaginations and made things from nothing. Unlike Halloween today which has become a consumer frenzy and I am sure the Chinese are laughing all the way to HSBC.
Its nice to have money to spend but although spending may be good for the economy its not such great news for the environment or our individual levels of satisfaction. Consumerism is a preoccupation with getting and spending, leading to insatiable wants. Its underpinned by a belief that economic and social prosperity depends on growth in consumer spending and that's why so much of our economic policy supports consumerism (so says Dr Miriam Tatzel). But there are drawbacks......Consumer appetites are draining our planet. The production of all that bling and electronics (and plastic skeletons) that we demand is leading to a degradation of natural resources, global warming, increased pollution and even worse exploitation of cheap labour. And its an appetite that is never satisfied - despite what you may think, all of that spending is not making us happy!

Happiness doesn't come from having more money to buy possessions, living in luxury or being admired by others for the car that you drive. Instead research has shown that the factors that lead to human happiness  are ........ Competence, autonomy, meaning, pleasure, engagement and relationships and none of these is fuelled by money or materialism. In fact if you want to be happy you need to have a low level of materialism, as materialism undermines  your wellness. Once you are on the hedonistic treadmill - the human tendency to get used to what we have no matter how nice it is and strive for more - its hard to get off. It has been proven that getting more doesn't meet our needs or sustain our happiness and less materialistic people are happier and more satisfied with life.
The larger the gap between what one wants and what one has, the greater the dissatisfaction - Less materialism equals more happiness says Dr Tatzel.
Happiness comes from 'doing' rather than 'having'. This is great news to me as I am 'doing' a lot more and 'having' a lot less lately! People have been commenting that I look happier and I can honestly say that I am. When I have spare cash - I spend it on experiences and not things - the effect of investing in experiences lasts a lot longer as they are relived in our memory and the stories they create,  than the money spent on a new pair of shoes, a new kitchen appliance or a new Halloween outfit! They are also easier on our earth's resources and they make us interested and interesting.

So, I shall enjoy Halloween especially the biodegradable pumpkin lanterns that Helen (my daughter in law) has carved, the pumpkin pie, the recycled witches hat that I have borrowed and the simple trick or treating that the grandies will do ..... but please leave the decorations in the shops and send them back to China where the peasant, who works a 12 hour shift for next to nothing who made them, doesn't even know what Halloween is. Same goes for Christmas.......Less equals more. Be Happy!

Friday, October 17, 2014

A peek at my week!

Where I have been
I have spent most of this week in the Western Cape where I visited Vredendal - a little dorpe  in Namaqualand where everyone seems so friendly, happy and positive. Saldanah which is an industrial and industrious place and now PaterNosta. V was supposed to travel with me but couldn't at the last minute so I was on the road alone driving an unfamiliar car down unknown roads. Vines, Valleys, Mountain ranges, Rivers, Dams, Acres of wheat, Shades of blue on a horizon that I never arrive at - Daring Greatly!

Who I have met
Twenty five learners who did presentations - salt of the earth people - all were interesting, some gave excellent presentations, some were OK and one stood at the front of a boardroom of his managers in his red Tshirt and green overall pants and cried with fear. Guess who my heart went out to? He composed himself and carried on to complete his presentation and his managers (all male) were so supportive and kind and it really touched me. Like he fell off his horse on the corporate battlefield and they helped him back on, slapped its backside and he was off again! I may forget what the others spoke about but I won't forget him or his courage!  I also met assorted managers and HR people - always friendly, a facilitator like me - always the nicest people, and a Namaqua man - a man of the land born and raised on a farm, the youngest of ten children whose father born in the late 1800s and was 70 when his youngest was born - Namaqua-Man had a handshake like Namaqua granite and a face full of stories and he bore a remarkable resemblance to V which automatically made me fall a little in love with him!

What I have bought
Two packets of peanuts from the bar fridge in the B&B - after a 7 hour journey - the last five hours driving in the dark over mountain passes with road works and arriving in a two horse town were everything was closed - those peanuts tasted like caviar and saved me from starvation! I also bought a cerise polka dot pencil skirt - a bargain in Vredendal which probably should have stayed on the rail - I think that I may look like a hooker in it back in PE!

What I have learned
This area is beautiful, Paternosta is a little slice of heaven tucked away in a far corner do the earth. The people here are arty but not at all shabby - I am in a B&B straight out of Home and Garden decorated in bright white and the palest teal, surrounded by original pieces of art, lying in a bed dressed in the finest percale linen under a floral chandelier. Last night I dined on baked oysters and angel fish pie and I am told that there is a 3 course breakfast ....with dessert! An afternoon beach walk brought the realization that if an ordinary lass from Lancashire can find her toes in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa on a Friday afternoon then really anything in life is possible!

Dusk last night brought with it a spectacular sunset and this morning the palest pink light peeked through my curtains and nudged me awake to enjoy the sunrise. A Druid in a past life I don't know but  sunrises and sunsets especially by the sea speak to my soul!

I have also learned despite my independence and courage that dinner for one on a Friday night in a small restaurant full of couples is not a good idea and wine makes that empty feeling worse.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Courage ....Tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

Have you ever read one of those books that you want to read each sentence twice to extract all the meaning from it - one of those books where you want to highlight important points  and end up highlighting whole pages - one of those books that makes so much sense that you wonder why - when they put a man on the moon four decades ago - are they only just understanding this stuff?
I am taking about Brenee Brown's book Daring Greatly. Brenee studies human connection, the ability to belong, to love and to empathise. The book is about vulnerability, authenticity, courage and shame. It is mind blowingly honest! Her name was mentioned at a meeting that I attended about my coaching work and I came home and did what we all do when our interest is piqued - I googled her, It was late but I was too fascinated by what I read to sleep and I stayed up deep into the night  - by 3am I had watched both of her TedCasts -  here is the link to one of them. Downloaded two of her books - read one and I am now half way through another. Her work resonates deep inside my soul - It excites me, it enrages me, it saddens me and it makes so much sense with my own struggles in my life to accept my journey and my choices.
Five years ago I reached a point in my work, as a facilitator of learning and growth for others, when I thought that I can't do this any more - I love what I do - but the price is too high - It takes too much out of me! I had spent over a decade working hard to deliver training programmes to groups of adults, I gave it my whole heart and I loved it  and I was good at it (my feedback was consistently excellent) but I was constantly under pressure  ,,,,,,,,,,,and that pressure was coming from ME!
I went to talk to a well recommended psychologist and the result was that I decided to stop what I do - to give it up. as it was consuming me. I did this and was OK for a little while but although my life was easier,,,, I was unfulfilled,,,,,I was content but I wasn't engaged - something was missing from my life.
I know now that I had disconnected from my purpose, I am here for a reason and I had lost sight of that reason -  I had to find a way to reconnect to what I loved to do without harming myself - HOW?  I went back to doing what I love most and the cycle started repeating itself!   About this time I was having coffee with a friend who had just been for hypnotherapy to help her sleep and I thought - Let me try this, so off I went - really not knowing what to say to this person and if they could help me. I had a real problem just telling them what my problem was - My health is good, I sleep like a baby, I am happily married, my kids are successful and happy, I have no money issues or debt, I have work that I love, is interesting, flexible, reasonably lucrative and I am stressed! He looked at me like I had two heads!
In that first session the hypnotherapist changed my life - Hypnotherapy is therapy that takes place in a state of deep relaxation that takes the patient back to experiences that are hidden deep in their subconscious. In that first session, I was taken back to my first negative experience at school.
I am four and a half years old, I am in a classroom and everything is small. I am playing in sand and water at my primary school, I could describe the classroom, the children, what I was doing - I saw everything clearly and could even smell the metal containers on legs that held the water and sand. I could see myself in my sage green dress with my cardigan sleeves rolled up, I am happy, I am chatting, I am laughing - and then I am in TROUBLE! My teacher is shouting at me and I don't know why. I don't know what to do. I am confused and I am still laughing - I think its funny! The more she shouts - the more I laugh, I don't know why I am laughing and I don't know why my teacher is so angry with me. Suddenly I am plucked out of the sand trough and I am placed by a cupboard. I have to stand there  - I could describe that cupboard in detail - the colour, paint chips - the stickers that were on it. I am not laughing any more - I am embarrassed because everyone is looking at me - I am at the front of the class and I am ASHAMED! I stand there for a long time and class ends - I am still there - forgotten as everyone leaves the classroom - I am alone - no one has said I can leave that space and I am frightened now to do anything else wrong. Gingerly I leave the cupboard corner and crawl under a table and there I hide - afraid and alone.I feel BAD. I stay there for a long time - I see myself, alone, frightened and cowering under the table too embarrassed to go back to my class. This is a vivid description of my first experience of shame.
When I came out of my deeply relaxed state - I was amazed, I was amazed that I could remember all this and amazed by something else - In my recollection of that experience I am amazed about how pretty I looked. I had the most beautiful skin - pale gold and like a peach, my eyes were the loveliest turquoise colour and I had beautiful golden blond curly hair neatly clipped to one side with a large white ribbon attached to that hair clip - I was beautiful! So powerful was this image that all I could talk about that evening was what a pretty child I was. I even felt compelled to phone my sister in the UK and ask her if I was such a pretty child. The vivid image of me as a bubbly, laughing, chattering girl surrounded by friends and enjoying play stayed with me for several days and I can recollect that memory in detail now. I can also recollect in great detail the feeling of shame when I was hoisted to the front of the class and everyone was looking at me. My hypnotherapy had highlighted for me why I feel so much stress when I am 'in front' when I am leading, when I am being looked at in a classroom situation. This forgotten childhood experience was the source of all the pressure and discomfort that I experienced when I facilitated. I understood both my desire to connect with others as a experiential facilitator and my school conditioned thinking that it was wrong to be at the front of the classroom or boardroom.
How sad is that! I had been daring greatly all my life and didn't know it.
I decided that day to stop trying harder, to stop over analysing my feedback from training, to accept that after twenty odd years of doing what I do that I know my stuff but that I will never know everything - I am wise but I am not an oracle- I am enough! I surrendered to my purpose and find joy in my work. I am vulnerable, I am courageous and I am worthy.
So the work of Brenee Brown is worth exploring - its insightful and it will teach you how we are all flawed in some way and that its OK. That society is cruel and conditions us in ways that don't serve our purpose. It will help you to understand connection and empathy and that none of us are perfect as society demands us to be - but we are enough. We are pretty enough, thin enough, happy enough and we have done our best to be what we are capable of. Her studies have highlighted the struggles of not accepting our vulnerability and the chapter on men and vulnerability will make you weep.
Read it - Watch her - It will change the way you view yourself and others!

Watch more here  Listening to Shame.