Sunday, 4 December 2016

Pre birthday/Christmas musings, 2016 and wondering if this blog will continue as it is ..

As we approach the end of another year, it's hard to believe that another birthday is coming up this Friday. I will be 21 again (literally) - and it certainly doesn't seem like 21 years since my actual 21st birthday.

I haven't blogged much this year. As has been the case for many, 2016 has been pretty challenging, with me facing more of my demons - an ongoing thing. Writing hasn't been on the cards much - I have needed to go deeper within, and writing just didn't seem right a lot of the time.

I am not enjoying this time of the year so far - the dark evenings in particular are not one of my favourite things. Hopefully my birthday weekend will cheer me up a bit. Then, of course, we have the dreaded 'C' word coming up - I am honestly a bit perplexed about what Christmas is meant to be nowadays. The cynical part of me thinks it is a bit of a competition between people as to how much they spend even though they know they are spending too much - because spending lots of money and buying lots of presents despite part of you resenting it, makes you a better person and proves that you love someone more, right?

Maybe this is a bit harsh. But I am getting more and more fed up with the ridiculous level of commercialism around Christmas. Regardless of whether Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of Christ's birthday, or whether it originally started as a pagan festival - I don't think there can be too many arguments that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost.

I am hoping that 2017 will be a year of new beginnings. I know, I know - people say this every year. But there does seem to be a feeling amongst like minded people that next year will bring about some positive changes.

A REVIEW OF 2016
It's always interesting to review a time period - partly because it can help you see the positives and how you have grown - because it's often easy to focus on the difficulties.
I started a new job at the start of the year, which, fortunately, has been a lot better than the previous 3 years, and at least I am working for a company that makes a difference in people's lives. It has been good to be back in more of a routine.
A friendship ended which taught me that people aren't always what you think they are and that even the most unexpected people can be very controlling and mean if they are unwilling to deal with their hurts. Some big lessons have been learnt and hopefully I have become a bit more discerning as to who to allow into my life. Consequently, some people I didn't see for ages came back into my life, which has been great.
I have a car again, which makes it easier to get about.
I feel I have become stronger this year - and certainly I feel I am a bit better at allowing things to be as they are, although it's not always easy.

This blog
I don't really know where this blog is going or whether I'll start posting regularly again. Writing has been such an important part of my life for a while and it seems almost wrong that my frequency of writing has declined a lot this year. I guess I will just take things as they come - I know that I am not the only person who has done less writing than usual. This year has been all about healing, going within and getting to know myself more. Maybe I will start a new blog. We shall see ..


Sunday, 16 October 2016

It all starts with yourself .. is this true?

There is a popular saying in the 'self-help' world that 'everything we attract is a reflection of ourselves'. Now, I certainly agree with this to an extent, but it's one of these things that isn't necessarily a black and white topic - and there's a little more to this whole topic than can be explained in just one sentence.

At first, you may think that it is offensive for someone to say that, for example, a narcissistic partner, a child that went off the rails, a nasty boss, a stressful job or a bullying family member, is a reflection of something within yourself. And I don't totally buy the opinion that characteristics that you hate about another person are a reflection of things you hate about yourself. Some people are just nasty, and I don't think there is anything wrong with calling a spade a spade. However, I do think it's worth examining how you act towards yourself in relation to character traits that you hate. For example - an obvious one - bullying.

Do you bully yourself by saying you're stupid, you never get anything right, you're a loser? I certainly have done this and still do so at times. Let's be honest, if another person spoke to us the same way that we sometimes (I mean often) speak to ourselves, we'd soon be telling that person where to go if we have any sense.
Whilst I don't for one second condone someone bullying another - and I don't think that we should be expected to accept behaviour that is pretty inexcusable - it's always worth examining how you think about yourself and treat yourself.

Relationships are another area which supposedly are a reflection of ourselves. I certainly think that if, deep down, we feel like we're unlovable or don't deserve a good partner, life is unlikely to provide us with the romantic relationship of our dreams. We really do need to work on our subconscious beliefs in order to attract the relationship we desire .. and, from personal experience, that is not easy. However, whilst I am not an expert on this subject, I am sure there are some relationships which are more a case of bad luck and perhaps bad judgement or naivety .. it can be easy to see the good in people before you truly get to know them.

To answer my question a bit more .. does everything start with ourselves .. I guess we can't control everything that happens to us, but how we respond to situations will determine, to an extent, our fortunes in life. And often we respond out of emotional wounds that have not been fully processed. Life has an uncanny knack of bringing up situations that trigger our biggest insecurities (if you haven't noticed that yet, what have you been doing)? Most of the time, people do their best to fight against situations that trigger them. It's far better to try and feel the underlying emotion when you get triggered by something, although that is easier said than done.

In more simplistic terms, if we hate ourselves, we are likely to struggle more than if we love ourselves, or at least try to love ourselves. This whole 'Everything is a reflection of ourselves' is a slightly complex subject which could easily be examined in far more detail, but every situation is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves - and an opportunity to face and resolve issues, bit by bit.

I hope this makes sense. Any thoughts and opinions would be welcomed :)

Reflections .. the dark side of ourselves is often called the 'shadow' side :)

Monday, 10 October 2016

Feeling behind in life

A familiar acquaintance has been visiting me recently. The old voice of 'you're behind most people in life'. 'Life' in this case, mainly refers to my biggies, romantic relationships, career and money, which I've droned on about plenty before, so if you have seen many of my posts, you may know the score. That said, friendships have definitely been on the up in the last two years, in terms of both quality and quantity - I don't need lots of friends but I have probably more than ever before. And I am still writing well. So there are some positives.

LATE BLOOMER
I definitely was a late developer. As I have probably said before, I was in my own world at school, and it's something of a miracle that I still keep in touch with some people from my school year. I was badly lacking in confidence for a long time, hiding under an umbrella called religion, which was big enough to hold me for a while but when the storm came, I was left alone. After leaving Christianity, I moved up north in my early 30s, and only really started to learn any sort of social skills after that, and even that took a little while.
I can tell you, it's been a difficult pathway at times to recover from my slow start, and certainly not a pathway for the faint hearted. Whilst part of me trusts that there's a deeper meaning behind things, I sometimes can feel quite upset about it all.

Whilst it's easy to say things like 'Trust your journey', 'You are exactly where you need to be', or 'Everything you have been through has prepared you for your destiny' - sometimes, when your finances are in a bit of a fucked up state or you feel stuck in a quandary, it can be hard to hear those words.

COMPARISON GAMES
It's very easy to compare our life to others - and if, like me, you have lived a fairly unconventional life, it's difficult to know which part of society you fit in. Possibly the only logical conclusion to make is that you weren't born to fit in.
As some wise person said 'We compare the worst of ourselves with the best of others' - or, if we have a particularly strong ego, we might compare the best of ourselves with the worst of others :)
I guess we all want to belong, and sometimes I have felt very alone on my journey - for example, many people on the 'spiritual' journey seem to have had successful or well paid careers before they 'branched out' - I never have.

SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS
Our search for a solution to a particular issue can become part of the problem. Sometimes, for me at least, the best thing I can do is allow myself to feel however I feel about something, and not try and make things different. We are not wrong to feel however we feel. I would certainly have preferred it if certain things had been different - but we only have the present in which to live.







Thursday, 6 October 2016

Barcelona blogging .. what's on my mind?

I have had the opportunity to visit this wonderful city for a week, and any of you who have been to Barcelona will probably understand what I mean when I say it's one of the best places on earth. A couple of photos here to start you off :)



It's also been an opportunity to really focus on myself a bit. It's very clear that some external changes need to be made in my life as I am stuck in a bit of a rut at the moment .. but it's easy to focus on externals and ignore the internal changes that need to be made.

The inside is where it all starts. Over the last few years, I have been doing my best to heal from the horrible things that life has thrown at me. Mostly on my own - particularly because I don't have that much money and want a social life before seeing a therapist, and partly because I don't find it easy to ask for help. And also, there is the invaluable resource of books and the Internet. I don't know what I would do without these. The wisdom I have gained through these resources is immense.

As I have probably said before, the most important thing I've learnt is that we have to befriend the parts of ourselves we don't like, if we are to be truly free. This is still easier said than done for me. The fear of rejection and issues I have around relationships have been incredibly difficult to deal with at times, and I had a mini meltdown a couple of days ago. Sometimes the only thing we can do is to say to ourselves, something like .. I hate this, I fucking hate this, I wish I wasn't like this, I'm fed up of trying to be positive .. but I'm going to allow all these feelings to be here as best I can.

IGNORANCE AND SADNESS
Trying to ignore or deny a perpetual problem will only mean that it crops up again, sometimes at a greater intensity than before. Some of this positive thinking stuff does a great disservice to humanity. Trying to be positive when there is deep sadness within you is admirable in some ways, but it doesn't really work. The one thing to remember, which some Law of Attraction teachers would not have you believe, is that: it's not wrong to be sad, and it doesn't make you a lesser person than the one who is happy all the time (at least, according to their Facebook posts).
What matters is what you do with the sadness when it comes up. Most people will push it away, fight against, run away from it, or use coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs and food. Sometimes, when emotions get super intense, a coping mechanism can be necessary for your own safety.
But we must do our best to not push the difficult stuff away.

To ignore that we have an issue means that we will never fully heal from it - as much as we might wish it wasn't there. So be honest with yourself.

TRUST
One thing I need to do right now is trust life. Life has never been particularly stable since I moved to Yorkshire - I have never really had a secure job in the almost 10 years I've been here, and my financial situation has been a little precarious at times .. but I have always had enough, and occasionally have managed to live on less money than I would have thought possible. But I don't want to go on living the life I'm living. I need more adventure. I have known for years that the 9 to 5 world does not suit me, but at the same time I've not really known what my purpose is. It is time to follow my heart, and to continue to heal and trust that life will work out.

That's all for now folks. Until next time....







Monday, 19 September 2016

Spirituality and mental health

I am writing this post because, as with all my posts, these two topics are things I'm interested in - and what's the point of writing about stuff you're not interested in anyway - but also because I want to dispel the myth that being spiritual or religious precludes you from mental health difficulties. Many people turn to either spirituality or religion (I have done both) to help them get through the shit storms of life - and heck if I didn't know some of the things I know, my life would be one heck of a mess - but that doesn't mean life becomes easy or that problems are easy to solve.

MENTAL HEALTH
So let's talk about this topic, by first of all stating something that should be fairly obvious, but might not be to some - and that is that there are plenty of people going through some kind of difficulty or trauma, including people who you would never think. I have never understood how people manage to hide that they are suffering from depression, but some people do. Men, in particular, are probably suffering a lot more than you might think. I tend to agree with what a friend of mine said a few years ago - 'men are fucked'. Whatever some women might think, men don't have it easy either - and there's little or no doubt that it's harder to get support for mental health issues if you are a man, for reasons that hopefully will dissipate in time along with other societal expectations. The notion that 'boys don't cry' and that men should 'tough it up' is undoubtedly one of the most harmful things that society has done to men. I can say with pretty strong conviction that there are lots and lots of men, particularly in the UK, who are still too scared to talk about their struggles, at least to their friends and family.
People might go to the doctor and get prescribed anti-depressants, but that will rarely if ever be a long term solution.

WHAT I'VE LEARNT TO HELP ME GET THROUGH THE BAD DAYS

Fortunately, touchwood, I don't suffer from severe depression or anxiety now, but have had more than my fair share of difficulties and still have thought patterns which I struggle with. Some days just aren't particularly pleasant, and I don't enjoy experiencing strong emotions.
I just do my best to let things pass without fighting them, or if I am fighting against 'what is', I am aware of it. There are times when emotions get very strong, and being a highly sensitive person who feels things more than the average person, it can be a little bit too intense at times. If things do get too much, trying to 'accept' it is not necessarily wise - sometimes the best solution is a good rant.
Spirituality (which can be a bit of a fluffy word) is, to me, just getting to know yourself and doing your best to allow life to be as it is and to do whatever you can to make your life better. The mind thinks that fighting against an issue will make it go away; it sure doesn't.

I believe in meditation and I believe that there is a life force which could be termed as 'God'. I believe that I am a divine being. I believe in healing and I believe that we should do our best to thrive in life.
But, it's so easy to label things as 'positive' and 'negative'. Mental health difficulties are generally labelled as 'negative' and it's easy to think that we shouldn't have them or that they make us a lesser person than the people we compare ourselves to.
What I'm starting to realise is that I don't need to reject the mental health issues I've faced. They are part of me. Just like some people have physical limitations and health issues, others have mental health issues. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

And that, my friends, is where I'm at right now. It feels like there could be more added to this post, but as the cartoon goes .. that's all folks! For now at least.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Frustration, priorities, time out and things I want to do

So I can quite often get frustrated with life, and also with myself. Wondering why things are not happening quicker, why the same problems are cropping up. One of the biggest reasons is that I can easily compare my life situation to that of others - particularly in terms of the two areas I've struggled with the most, relationships and money. As someone wise says 'We often compare the worst of ourselves with the best of others'.
It's true, when we're comparing ourselves, we often compare our weakest areas with that of others. And it can be hard not to, let's be honest. We can fail miserably in some ways, and that hurts.

There are no hard and fast solutions for these feelings of frustration that crop up sometimes. Sometimes, the therapy that might be helpful for someone might cost more money then they would want to spend. The money thing can be particularly frustrating - when you have a limited amount, you have to prioritise - and sometimes, I choose to miss out on certain things that might be helpful to me - but, right now, it is important for me to have a social life, living on my own with no family close by. 

I am very grateful that I have a reasonably good number of friends now. Putting yourself out there and doing new things does pay dividends. Often, people say that they can't afford things (and yes I have said this many times) - but the reality often is that the thing they can't afford just isn't a high priority for them - or they don't want to pay the amount of money required.

From a cafe/restaurant in Haworth.
We can't do everything and we can't necessarily be like some people we aspire to. For example, I am not the kind of person who could work 60 or 80 hours per week without putting myself at risk of burnout, so being an entrepreneur might not be the path for me. The important thing is to do the best we can and be ourselves. And also be persistent - rewards do not usually come overnight.

So anyway, as I have said before, I have not been doing much blogging these last six months. I have been taking some time to discover myself and to continue healing from some of the traumas that have happened in my life. There are times when I feel like a complete fuck up. But thankfully I have the tools to get through the tough times. I have kind of learnt that I don't have to discard the mental health issues I have faced, and that it is more empowering to own them and integrate them with the rest of who I am. I can choose who I want to hang out with and what events I go to. I don't have to always be 'spiritual' (some of you will know what I mean here :) )

Anyway, I don't really know where my life is going. I would still like to travel, meet the woman of my dreams, finish writing at least one of the books I've started and meet new friends. But I have to start with myself. It can be a tough road to deal with and face years of negative self worth. But like I've said before, it's all about small steps :)

Until later
Andy




Sunday, 4 September 2016

One of the most important things I've learnt about acceptance

If you've been wandering around the 'spiritual' scene for a while, you may well have come across books, articles or been to seminars which talk about: accepting what is, living in the present moment, etc etc.

For most people, this is easier said than done. I still find it pretty damn hard to accept some of the things that have happened in my life, and I can feel pretty despondent at how my life is at times.

Thanks to some excellent spiritual teachers, particularly Jeff Foster, I have come to realise that acceptance isn't necessarily about seeing a difficult situation as wonderful or pretending that your life is easier than it is. What do I mean by this?

Well, sometimes there's very little you can do to stop how you feel about certain things, however much you wish you didn't. The mind can be a little irrational to say the least and sometimes I can think to myself:
'I really shouldn't be feeling this way any more'.
'Why can't I get over this issue?'
And, of course, the classic - 'I've been meditating, working on myself, surrendering, and doing my best to 'accept' things - but I still feel like I'm getting nowhere'.

The feeling of 'things should have gotten better by now because I've been doing this and that' is little more than the ego wanting justice and feeling that life owes something.

Anyway - life can be pretty tough at times, and part of the problem is that we seem to think that life should not be difficult, that we should try our best to always feel positive, and that we should do our best to push away and/or run from any sort of emotional pain. The extreme overuse of anti depressants is clear evidence of this.

But who is to say that we shouldn't feel both good and bad? Is this not part of the natural journey of being a human being?

To me, acceptance is about accepting your current situation on some level - even if it's 'acceptance of non-acceptance' - meaning that, if you feel bad about yourself, if you feel like you're lost, if you feel like you should be doing better - accept that. If you feel like the most hopeless basket case in the world, don't try and fight these feelings, and don't judge them by thinking you shouldn't be feeling so bad. One of the biggest issues we create for ourselves is resisting and fighting against things we don't want. Acceptance on some level is, I believe, one of the keys to dealing with difficult stuff. I still have times where I feel like fighting tooth and nail against things which bring about emotional pain - and let's be honest, it's not easy to face pain of any sort. Sometimes, the only thing I can accept is that I really hate the situation I am in - like, okay life, I am fed up and pissed off and feelings are running pretty high, and I'm not sure how much more crap I can take, but I will do my best to allow things to be as they are, right now.

If you want to find out more of the true meaning of acceptance, I highly recommend looking at the work of either Jeff Foster or Matt Licata.

Hope this helps at least one person. Life can be pretty bad, and sometimes we may need counselling or therapy to face deep rooted problems. But you can only start from where you are, not by wishing things were different.

Be like the flowers, who allow the natural flow of life to happen :)

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