It’s occurred to me that I’ve gone about some of my life – not all, but some – with a sense of dread and doom and the impression that all will not be well. I think I picked this up quite young and I haven’t been able to shake it. It’s not there all the time but when it is, it grips me. I’d always hoped I was an optimist, a ‘bright side of life’ kind of person, but now I’m seeing that was perhaps a little optimistic! In fact, on some days, my glass has just a splash of milk in it, never mind being half empty. I wrote about this in my ‘Do more of what you love‘ post on my Just As I Am blog. I’d worried excessively about getting myself organised and getting away for the weekend – and then everything turned out just fine. But it’s become even clearer in the past few days how I sometimes choose – and it is a choice – to dwell on the worst-case scenario rather than think positively. So I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to turn my ‘dread and doom’ thinking into a sense that ‘all will be well’.
Of course, we hear a lot about the power of positive thinking these days and there are zillions of books on the topic. We’re told to send out positive vibes to the universe and we’ll get good things back in return. This is the essence of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret – the book, the film and other offshoots – that tells us to imagine an empty parking space and we’ll find one waiting for us or to envisage our dream home, dream car and dream family and we might just get what we’ve been wishing for. I do quite like the concept of vision boards or putting down in writing our deepest desires, but what if we don’t get what we’ve been wishing for? Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out well or as we’d imagined or hoped. That’s where faith comes into the picture – at least for me. Messages around positive thinking and the pointlessness of worry go way back. We’re told over and over in the Bible not to worry, not to be anxious, that God will take care of us – our income, our health, our happiness – that ‘all will be well’ if we have faith and trust. It’s not about putting our feet up – we always have to do our part – but worry isn’t going to help. And things may indeed go a little awry but we’ll never be given more than we can handle and life normally has a way of working itself out for good. Sometimes, though, it takes a bout of extreme worry and anxiety – a panic attack of sorts – for me to remember that all will be well.
It’s not the strongest of links but this all takes me back to last summer. I was swimming off the coast of Mablethorpe – that great British holiday destination – in July. The water was freezing, the skies were grey and, needless to say, I was on my own in the sea (and without a wetsuit). There’s nothing like feeling at one with the elements, even if those elements are ice-cold. I’d been told that seals could be seen close to shore and I got it in my head that I’d love to see a seal. So, as I swam along, I started asking God to bring a seal along. But then I realised that was a little greedy – after all, the beach was beautiful and windswept, the sea was very refreshing, the birds were flying in formation and I was feeling pretty content with things the way they were. Then I remembered something I’d heard once about praying expectantly, praying as though something has already happened. So I started to say ‘Thank you, God, for my seal….” a few times over and, minutes later, about a metre in front of me, was the cutest baby seal I’ve ever seen – looking right at me. I was shocked, excited and scared at the same time. Do seals bite, I wondered. Once I’d regained my calm, I hung out with the seal for a little while. We both went under water and popped back up again, swam around a little, had a chat (I did most of the chatting) and then it disappeared. I was elated when I got out of the water. I’d prayed expectantly and my seal had appeared. Or maybe I’d been in such a contented, peaceful place that my eyes were open to the beauty around me, including the seal. Or was it all coincidence? Interpret it as you will but I took away a number of lessons from that exhilarating experience: if your heart is telling you to jump in the sea, even if your head is telling you you’re crazy, jump in, with both feet. And if you’re contented with what you have and thankful for it, maybe then you’ll be blessed with your deepest desires, maybe the icing on the cake will appear. And if it doesn’t, you’ll already be happy with your life as it is so it’s a win-win. I love to remember my seal moment when I’m forgetting to be thankful for what I already have or when my brain spirals into negative thinking and I need to fill my glass up with milk.
On the theme of positivity, it’s also occurred to me that I might have painted quite a dark picture of my life to date and that wouldn’t be entirely true. There have been some downs and some dark spots but there have also been many ups and plenty of light. I’ve felt trapped at times but have also enjoyed great freedom. I remember my first cycling holiday in the Lake District at 16 with a bunch of girlfriends. We had such a giggle. From then, I went on to drive tourists around Tuscany in a minibus, parachute in England and bungy jump in New Zealand and enjoy the sights and sounds of beautiful countries like Mexico. I used to love driving my battered old Golf down to our favourite beach near Acapulco on weekends, singing my heart out with my friends to Cher, Ricky Martin or Luis Miguel, and then water skiing on the lagoon and eating chilli prawns at sunset. I’ve flown in military helicopters in Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, kayaked through Katherine Gorge, caught crayfish in Milford Sound, hiked up and down mountains, camped out, cycled up and down hills and through woods, run a half-marathon, sat under cascading waterfalls in Brazil and Mexico, danced my way through Rio’s Sambodromo at Carnival time, had many great relationships and friendships and enjoyed spending time with my lovely family. And that’s just the first 40 years! So there’s been a lot of light, fun and adventure and maybe it’s worth focusing a little more on those good times.
Too many pies
I just had to use this sub-heading in this blog post after coming up with the title ‘Too many pies’ while riding my scooter last night. It made me chuckle, out loud. Probably because I’ve blogged so much about overeating, weight and body issues and the title suggests I’m about to continue on the same topic (although personally, I’ve never overeaten on pies – I prefer healthy options like cereal, yoghurt or oat cakes!). But what I’m actually wanting to say is that I’ve got my finger in too many pies, metaphorically speaking, not that I ate them all. Maybe it’s not politically correct of me to be referring in jest to such phrases as ‘who ate all the pies?’, which I know can be used in a harmful way towards overweight people, but I’m poking fun at myself only here and I thought it was about time I lightened the mood.
So, too many pies. I’ve got so much on right now – numerous freelance projects, story pitches to write and send off, columns to seek out (yes, I’d love a column in a newspaper or magazine – does anyone think I deserve a column? Maybe I should start saying ‘Thank you for my column’), invoices to send off and, most importantly because it’s a real passion of mine, this site to develop. My brain feels totally overwhelmed and, as is the way when you have your finger in a lot of pies, things get a bit messy. Women are talented multi-taskers but I feel it’s getting a little ridiculous. I know I take on too much and that’s partly related to the freelance life and being overdrawn right now, as well as to my compulsion to distract myself and avoid sitting still. But then if I can head back to where this post started and remember that ‘all will be well’ (provided I’m not reckless or foolish and do the footwork), then maybe I can take the pressure off a little. So, on that note, I’m off for yet another long weekend in the English countryside and I’m determined to leave the feelings of guilt behind.
They do cream teas so well in Cornwall.