Categories
The virtue of Courage

Bravery

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

Coco Chanel
Bravo to the Brave Heroes

I think it is impossible to think about this time of isolation without thinking about bravery. There is a lot of talk about the bravery of the healthcare workers and first responders during this time and rightfully so. They have been incredibly brave and selfless. This illness has frightened all of us, so it takes an enormous level of courage to go and attend to those who are infected.

This blog, however, is not about repeating that which is already being said in the media, but hopefully saying something new.

There are UNSUNG Heroes too

I would like us to discuss the different versions of bravery we have been seeing during this time. The bravery of the shop tellers where you buy your groceries. Those bravely fighting depression in isolation. The bravery of families sharing the burden of work and home-schooling. A newfound appreciation for the bravery of our teachers. Their willingness to face our obstinate children. Side note here: I am sure I am not the only one learning new things about my precious little monsters. Who knew little people could be so consistent in their stubbornness? The jury is still out on whether I am proud or horrified. Feels like lazy writing to say that I am a little bit of both.

Then there is the bravery of those dealing with loss. The loss of freedom, the loss of a loved one or those dealing with the loss of their income or business.

Fear comes in many shades of yellow

The one thing I have learnt through this coronavirus experience is the many different levels of fear that there can be around you in every day situations. Fear that you may not even be aware of. Fear that we have previously taken for granted. I have also learnt that every different type of fear, requires a different type of bravery to overcome it. Bravery or courage has become this all-encompassing fashion word, when in reality, it is a complicated thought process. Or at least, it should be.  

Do not take fear lightly

Motivational speakers and personal trainers love to throw around the phrase, “feel the fear and do it anyway”, almost as much as they love the slogan, no pain, no gain. This is all good and well when you are afraid of trying out a new pilates class. Try it. The worse that can happen is that you look ridiculous in yoga pants. Fear does take on new meaning when it involves the future of your family, your health and your financial stability.

If a caveman can, so can you

Fear is not something to be ignored. It is a biological survival instinct. If our cave dwelling ancestors just felt the fear and did it anyway, we would not be here. They would probably have been eaten, poisoned, or fallen to their deaths. Fear needs to be identified, analysed, and only then confronted, if possible. Sometimes fear is simply good common sense and the wisest thing to do, is to do nothing. How do we know which is which? We talk about it.

Break the silence

You want to talk about real fear. Tell a man he needs to tell you what frightens him. Seriously try it. I bet you will go through a list of five generic phobias before you will reach one genuine answer. Men are wonderful examples of this, but they are not unique in their reactions. The most difficult thing about fear is voicing it to others. Now that is an accurate illustration of something being ironic.

The very act of saying what frightens you already diminishes the power that fear holds over you. It is the first step in combatting fear, but it is the thing most of us fear the most. Admitting that we are afraid. Once the fear is out in the open, one can begin to disseminate it and address new ideas or strategies.

Do not be afraid of conversation

This is the type of bravery I am talking about today. The courage to have that tough conversations. Are you the one battling with decisions that frighten you? Do you know of someone else battling with fear? Have the courage to open a dialogue.

Please notice here, that I say open a dialogue. Do not hand out well meant advice. “Thank you for your unsolicited opinion on my life” said no one ever in the history of this planet. NO ONE! No matter how good the advice may or may not have been. Or however noble the intention was. Open a dialogue. Great place to start is by asking open ended questions. Questions that start with “tell me”, or “describe to me” or even, “what are your thoughts”.

“How are you doing?” is going to land you in the pointless “I am fine how are you?” territory.

Be prepared

Another thing to consider is timing. Timing and fear is like oil and water. Get it wrong and the two will never mix. It takes a lot of courage to ask for help, or to tell someone you are afraid. Doing it while they are binge watching the last episode of Game of Thrones is poor timing. Pick the right time to speak to someone. Ask them when would be a good time to speak about this issue. Make it a date and prepare for it.

I am afraid

How about I take the first step? I am afraid that no one will ever read my blog. I know my fear sounds vain and sis on you for judging me😉 I am afraid that if no one reads my blog, no one will ever have these discussions. Talk about spirituality, talk about real kindness, talk about fairness or citizenship outside the realm of politics. My blog is about putting the information out there so that someone may have the courage to change the world. Does not matter how small that change may be. If no one ever reads this information, it can never be of any use. That is what I am afraid of. It is a future without change that terrifies me the most.

Bon Jovi sings, “The more things change the more they stay the same” and this is sadly true. Real change requires real courage.

The Brave are everywhere

Anyone can be brave and that it why bravery is a strength. Take Piglet for example. He is the most cautious and nervous character in Winnie the Pooh, but when his friends are in trouble, he finds the courage to brave.

‘Oh!’ said Piglet. ‘Because I – I thought I did blinch a little’… ‘You only blinched inside’, said Pooh, ‘and that’s the bravest way for a Very Small Animal not to blinch that there is.’ Piglet sighed with happiness, and began to think of himself. He was BRAVE …’ (Milne, 2007, p. 150)

I hope you will be brave this week too. TTFN.

Categories
The virtue of Humanity

Emotional Intelligence

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion” 



Dale Carnegie
Silent LANGUAGE of feeling

People use language to express how they are feeling. They use body language, which is often more telling than the words they use. This is what I refer to as the third level of communication. An instinctual conversation you can have with someone that goes beyond words and behaviour.

A type of exchange that takes your understanding to an almost psychic level. The way you know your mom is feeling sad when you phone. Sure, the tone of her voice is a sign, but there is something else, something you cannot explain, and that to me is EMOTIONAL intelligence. 

Tricky definition

The research defines emotional intelligence as a person skilled in understanding, interpreting, and experiencing emotions. We do not limit this ability to the person’s own emotions, but the emotions of others. 

Seems like a simple enough definition, right? Spoiler alert! It is not simple. 

Understanding others

Let us start with the easier part. I say easier because it is still difficult. Understanding another person’s emotions. To be cognizant of how they are feeling, but also how to react to their emotions. Here we need to take a moment to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is the ability to feel for others. Knowing that a person is suffering with the loss of a loved one. Empathy is a much stronger emotion. This happens when you can put yourself in another person’s position and understand the feelings they feel from their perspective. 

Few people can be of empathetic. Empathy is the ultimate form of emotional intelligence. When you are empathic your thoughts regarding another’s emotions are only all about them. Nothing else. If you make it about you, about how you consider the situation or your opinion on that emotion, you are in fact not being empathetic but only sympathetic. Therefore, emotional intelligence is a strength. Anyone can do it, but it takes dedication and practice.  

It is not you it is me

I said it is weird that understanding another person’s emotions is easier than understanding how you are feeling. At a basic level, most of us can be sympathetic. This is because we as human beings are TERRIBLE at understanding emotions. We flunk at it.

I can hear some of you disagree, well let me pop your emotional bubble for you, you too my friend. We all do.

in the pursuit of happiness

My sister’s death has reminded me of how true my previous statement is. How despite all my studies and degrees, I still forget that emotions are nothing more than feelings. They are not all good; they are not all bad. Just like people. Happiness is the popular kid. We want to be friends with him. Hanging out with happiness every day is not great. Eventually it gets old, and you go back to a state of neutrality. There is a fancy term for this, but I won’t bore you with the details. Happiness is only an emotion. We strive towards happiness, but that is an impossible and pointless quest. 

In the company of sadness

Sadness is the school weirdo. Someone we try to avoid or when we do get stuck in a conversation with them, we try to get out of it. Instead of trying to understand sadness, appreciate its purpose and allow it to flow over us until it moves on. It is only an emotion. It has every right to be in our company just as much as any other feeling. 

Grief has been overwhelming me in waves of emotion and has left me rather paralysed. I have been suppressing so many emotions for so long, and now they are all here. They have all come to my house simultaneously, and they are trashing the place. That is what emotions do. If you do not give them the time and space they deserve, they catch up with you later and then they cripple you. 

The uncomfortable truth

We cannot control emotions, and in our effort to control them, we hurt ourselves. Let the emotions come. Acknowledge them. Learn from them and then let them flow over you. This is where mindfulness is such an important coping tool. Go to my mindfulness exercise if you are not familiar with mindfulness.

Being honest with yourself

This time during COVID you have been experiencing a wide range of emotions. I wonder whether you have been paying each one its due. I hope that as you try to be more emotionally intelligent, you will.

One last thing, I would not be me if I did not drag Winnie the Pooh into this. Think of emotions as characters and perhaps they will be less scary. Piglet is fear, Eeyore is sadness, Rabbit is disappointment, Pooh is confusion, Kanga is acceptance, Roo is happiness and Tigger is excitement. Do not believe me? Go read the stories.

Till next week…

TTFN.

Categories
The virtue of Humanity

LOVE

“In the flush of love’s light, we dare be brave. And suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free”.

Maya Angelou
Where do I begin?

This strength is certainly a topic that needs no introduction. Many songs, poems and movies have been written about love. Love motivates people. Even as you are reading this the faces are formulating in the back of your mind. It is the most natural thing to do. It is not a choice. You cannot pinpoint the moment you decided to love someone, only the moment you realised that you did.

Tell you a story?

Two weeks ago, my focus on this strength would have been different. I would have told you about how my husband is the great love of my life. The first time I met him I suddenly knew what it was to love another person. I loved him so honestly that I did not care whether he loved me back. I would have been happy just to be in his friend zone. My love, however, was reciprocated, and that was the deepest blessing. Our children are the living embodiments of that love and they always will be loved unconditionally.

How long does it last?

But two weeks ago, my sister was still alive. Two weeks ago, I understood the theory behind this strength, but I did not entirely appreciate its power. Today I do, and it is a humbling experience. The death of my sister has forced me to re-evaluate all that I have taken for granted. I grew up in a very loving and close family. My childhood was practically idyllic. So, I could be forgiven for never having had to question love before. I adore my parents, and I am always confident in the notion they love me. The same goes for my sisters (of which I have three). Then my youngest sister dies and I am suddenly left with all these overwhelming feelings with no means of expressing them to her.

It is Eternal

We were always very close and often told each other that, but now in her death, I feel as if that it was not enough. It became something we said. It did not express the depth of what my feelings meant. Love is about valuing the significance of another person’s existence. This is important because when they die, they leave behind a hole that no one can fill. This is the true beauty of this strength. It forms a part of your body. It physically can not diminish. It can only grow or change.

Its Physics

Didn’t Newton or one of his genius friends have a similar law about energy? If I recall it was basically that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transferred or transformed. Well, the same goes for love.

Say it loud and proud

If I could have that one last conversation with my sister, that one last goodbye, I would have said: “you are beloved”. I would have said, you change how I see the world and for that I am grateful. Your presence and vibrance gave me the courage and security to ask you, to tell you or even share with you my vulnerabilities. I am never alone because you comfort me even when you are far away. I cherish every characteristic that makes you you, even the parts of you that drive me nuts. Circumstances change, we grow, we experience, but the one thing that remains constant is that my love for you is unconditional and absolute. I honour you in everything I do without even thinking about it.

A Lesson learnt

That is what I have learnt about love. I wish I had known this two weeks ago, but I did not. I spoke to her a few hours before she died not understanding that I would never speak to her again, and as we ended off our call I said, “I love you” and now that will have to suffice.

I will not, however, miss the opportunity to tell those who are alive now what their presence means to me. My parents, my family, my friends and you, my dear reader. You may or may not be a stranger to me, but I value you. Your invisible presence inspires me. I cherish your patience that I may share my thoughts with you. Similarly, I look forward to reading your respected feedback.

Now it is up to you

It is 1 am right now. I am exhausted but thrilled to share my experience of love with you. In my posts I may make suggestions, I may invite you to do things, but tonight I will beg you, do not take love for granted. Love yourself for all you are worth and for all your flaws. Love those around you, because they are lovable. Love humanity, because every soul out there just wants to be loved.

Tenderness takes so much less energy than hate, and it is far more rewarding. It is something we give freely without expectation or disappointment. Always speak from a place of love. At all times, listen from a place of love.

Finally, in all that you do, whether mundane or profound, do it with love. ‘Oh, Bear!’ said Christopher Robin. ‘How I do love you!’ ‘So do I,’ said Pooh’ (Milne, 2006, p. 64). Go with love…. because, once it is all gone, love remains. Goodnight.

Categories
The virtue of Humanity

Kindness

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

kindness Fan club

This is not going to be a big surprise to my loyal blog readers (thanks mom 😉), but I am a HUGE FAN of kindness. But I mean like Fan Club President kind of fan. Also, of Keanu Reeves, but mainly kindness. If only people were kind so many problems would be solved.

killing hate with kindness

One of my pet hates, and one of the main reasons I am not on a lot of social media sites are these “I speak my mind” memes and gifs. You just know that person does not mean they go around telling people kind things about themselves. They are proud of the fact that they call people out on whatever it is this woke nation thinks they need to yell about. Before you get your knickers in a knot, I am not saying people should be bigots or cruel. I am categorically stating the opposite. I am also just saying that hypocrisy is not kind. Opposing “haters” serves no purpose if you do so by stooping to their level of unkindness and nastiness. You must be kind in all acts, otherwise, your kindness is just an act.

more about my quote

It is ironic that my quote is by a Roman Philosopher who was implicated in a plot to kill the emperor, Nero. He was therefore forced to kill himself by slitting his major arteries.  History has proven him innocent, but still, a man who advocated for kindness met such an unkind end. That is often the price of kindness to the individual. To society, however, kindness is contagious.  If you are always kind, you will most often not receive kindness in return, but people who witness your behaviour will be inspired to do the same and therein lies your intrinsic reward.

An example of the power of kindess

I have a vegan friend who always brings vegan treats when she visits or invites us over for delicious vegan meals. She has also invited me on many vegan-friendly shopping trips. Through her kindness, not her criticism, I have implemented many of her habits into my family’s daily lives. We have cut back on our animal product consumption significantly. Hardcore vegans out there will say cutting back is not enough. I do not argue the validity of the statement. Yet my friend achieves more lasting transformation through her gentleness than all the shock campaigns put together. We have been friends for years. I have changed the way I clean my house. My beauty regime has completely changed. Also I am more aware of what or how I cook.

So what is kindness?

Well, for starters, kindness is not letting people use you as a doormat. Boundaries are not unkind if they are implemented kindly. Say no politely, not apologetically. Tell abusers assertively that their harsh words are not appreciated, without stooping to their level.  You can politely sever ties with unkind people without being unkind yourself. Forgiveness is a separate conversation that we will get into later.

Research definitions

Research defines kindness as the conviction that other people are worthy of your attention. There is no expectation of gain or reciprocity, and it goes beyond principle-based respect of humanity. In good citizenship, I said, do not be an A-hole (which is a nice place to start in any case). Kindness takes that notion one step further as actively thinking about ways you can be uplifting to someone. Compliment someone on their new profile picture, take an interest in an uninteresting person.

During Corona

During all this social distancing, think less about how quickly you can get through the queues and rather look to see who is in the queue behind you. Perhaps a pregnant woman, or someone elderly, let them go ahead of you. Go shopping on behalf of someone who can’t. All that panic buying people were doing was the very definition of being unkind. Patience, compromise, diplomacy, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, letting go of trivial things, all of that is being kind. Be considerate even when you are stressed or in a rush and see how it changes the world around you. You will be surprised.

Kindness starts at home

One way to implement kindness in your home during isolation is to encourage the kids to clean each other’s rooms or let them suggest activities their siblings might enjoy. If they try to sneak their own favourite pastimes in there, gently guide them into thinking more deeply. Lead by example, “hey guys why don’t we let daddy pick the movie tonight” and silently pray that daddy knows better than to pick some gory horror movie. It will not kill you to sit through one plotless-talentless testosterone-driven-dialogueless-mind-numbingly clichéd action movie. Sure, it is painful, but look at the joy it brings to the one you love and focus on that.

Winnie the Pooh and Friends

My go-to friends in the hundred-acre woods are consistently kind to one another.  I think my favourite example is when Pooh and Piglet decide that because it is so cold, Eeyore needs a house.  Thus, they build him a house of sticks in a wind-sheltered part of the forest. Granted that pile of sticks was in actual fact Eeyore’s house. There was also a brief moment of panic when he could not find his house, but it all worked out in the end. Eeyore had a warmer home to live in. What pile of metaphorical sticks can you re-arrange for your housemates or friends?

Go forth and be aware of opportunities for kindness. Awareness is like avoiding Lego blocks in the dark; keep your eyes peeled.

For more ideas, try this week’s activity for the virtue of humanity.

TTFN.

Categories
The virtue of Transcendence

SPIRITUALITY

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”

Carl Sagan

Why are we uncomfortable

I know it is generally regarded as poor taste to talk about religion or politics, because they are such polarising topics. People often experience very strong emotions when their political or religious beliefs are being challenged because these beliefs form a critical part of their self-awareness. Much of our perspectives are influenced by these value systems without us realising it. To question our view on religion or politics is tantamount to questioning our existence.

There is a difference

Before you panic and become defensive, please do not. We are not going to discuss your religious beliefs. We are not even going to discuss mine. I am not afraid to discuss my religion. I invite you to start a conversation in the comment section, but right now we have other matters to talk about.

If you are a little confused, allow me to explain. Spirituality is an umbrella term, but of late its meaning has become cloudy. In truth, it has become so conflated with religion that people have started to use the two terms as synonyms for each other. If you follow a certain religion, those beliefs form a very strong part of your spirituality. In its purest form spirituality is how people make sense of the universe and all other non-dimensional aspects of existence. Really, all this is, is a fancy way of saying spirituality is a way for us to determine our purpose in life and how we derive meaning from it.

WHERE SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION MEET

Purpose is where spirituality and religion meet. Most religions provide its followers with a blueprint of purpose by promoting a way of life that augments human existence through the principles of love, kindness and faith. Is it not ironic then that humans go to war with one another over religion when their deities almost always condemn murder? This is where the discussion normally gets heated, but I would like to divert your attention back to your purpose and meaning.

Where do you fit in?

During this time of social isolation and crisis, what is your purpose? What meaning are you deriving from this experience? If your sole purpose is only to survive and this ordeal holds no meaning to you then I fear you are missing a huge opportunity. An opportunity for spiritual awakening. Now is the perfect time to reflect on your place in humanity? Your presence here and now is but a wink in time in this universe. How are you going to make it matter? We are not talking revolutionary ideas here, we are talking concrete practical goals.

Think about it. I cannot tell you your purpose and therefore I cannot predict what meaning will be to you. A spiritual journey is a private one, but I urge you to take it. If you have been avoiding religion perhaps now is the time to reach out to spiritual leaders. Start a conversation with as many of them as you like. Start a conversation here. You never know who the universe brings across your path.

God sent a cleaner

There is a WhatsApp clip doing the rounds of a man who was close to dying from COVID19 and he says, “When no one else could get in, God sent a cleaner”. Having that spiritual moment gave him the strength to fight and he has recovered.  This is not about him being Christian, it is about the strength he derives from his spirituality. It is about the strength of that cleaner’s spirituality and the wonderful uplifting consequences it had on a man who thought he was all alone. It begs the question, doesn’t it? Are we ever truly alone?

Going beyond religion to Spirituality

If religion is an unfathomable concept to you, or even if you are deeply religious, use this time to do your research and explore other avenues of spirituality. We are small in relation to the universe and time, but we do not need to be small of mind.

Spirituality in the hundred Acre woods

As I said, you need to explore this strength on your own, but I will share with you this analogy from Winnie the Pooh. As I explain in my introduction of Winnie the Pooh, the Forest represents a place of safety. A place all readers can escape to, but also a place where these beloved characters exist free of the ugly realities of the adult world. The Forest can indeed be seen as a metaphor for the universe.

‘… that enchanted place … a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.’ (Milne, 2007, A House at Pooh Corner. p. 176) ‘… the Forest will always be there … and anybody who is friendly with bears can find it’ (Milne, 2007, p. i).

I hope you can find your forest.

Before I Go

Speaking of forests and finding purpose I hope that you are taking the time to work on your virtue of transcendence activity and learning more about yourself. With that in mind, I thought this might offer you some inspiration. It is a poem, Bäume, by the German poet Herman Hesse. Do not worry, the link is to an English translation. If you prefer to read it in the original German, please go HERE.

Until we meet again… TTFN

P.S. In the picture is Lesley B practicing yoga, another expression of spirituality.

Categories
The virtue of Transcendence

Humour

“This isn’t life in the fast lane, it’s life in the oncoming traffic”.

Terry Pratchett

Humour is hard to explain

Of all the existential strengths that form part of the virtue of transcendence, humour is the most complicated to explain. This is because what people find funny is so subjective. What I find funny might not be funny to you, then again, I have a warped sense of humour so that is not a great example. So, where do you and I go from here? Do we share some jokes and see where that leads us?

I must say, I am super game for that because it sounds enormously fun. However, the killjoy part of me knows that we could use our time better. Every party has a pooper, right? Anyway, I do hope you will share some of your favourite jokes in the comment section.

laughing is good for you

Jokes or rather comedy, in general, is a matter of personal taste, but its effect is not. The cliché laughter is the best medicine is exactly why humour is a strength.

As research explains, humour is the ability to make people smile, or see the upside of an unfortunate situation, but that is not what makes it a strength. The act of laughing has several physical beneficial consequences on the body and the brain such as boosting our immunity and increasing blood flow. That is the biology behind it, but it also causes relaxation by releasing muscle tension. The psychological effect is far more interesting.

Humour is a coping strength

Being able to see the light side of a difficult situation makes the ordeal seem more manageable. Similarly, people with the ability to make people laugh are generally considered more likeable and trustworthy especially if they are prone to making jokes about themselves. This propensity to show vulnerability whilst causing people to laugh and relax is the most influential strength. At that moment when we laugh or we make people laugh, we take a temporary break from our anxiety and strain. Humour is one of the healthiest ways of escaping a situation when physical escape is impossible.

why Pooh is funny

This is what Milne did very successfully with Winnie the Pooh. It is so successful that nearly a century since its first publication these stories are still being read around the world.

In this instance it is not simply the mere act of reading these humorous little stories that provide a distraction to the reader, the characters themselves illustrate how humour can alleviate tense situations. They serve as examples of the strength of humour. Allow me to elaborate.

Kanga Queen of comedy

When Kanga and Roo first move into the forest, Rabbit has one of those, “there goes the neighbourhood” problems, and thus tries to get rid of them. Please, do not judge Rabbit too harshly. Anyone who has ever sat near the play area of a restaurant will tell you that small children do not make for peace and tranquillity. Rabbit plans to prank Kanga by replacing Roo with Piglet for a short while and thus convince Kanga to move. I realise this sounds uncomfortably a lot like kidnapping, but that is because I am explaining it out of context. It is meant to be a prank.

Still, I will admit Rabbit is exceptionally lucky that Kanga is not me because I would probably have slaughtered him and put him in paella. Kanga, on the other hand, practises the strength of humour and by teasing Piglet unravels the entire plot. Roo, for his part, with his playfulness, delights and entertains Rabbit and the two become best friends.

defuse the situation with humour

When the world was still wrapping its head around the coronavirus, many jokes were being circulated about the virus. It was humanities way of turning their fear into a manageable emotion.   When the news about the virus starting becoming so sad that jokes about it became super inappropriate, people started to disseminate jokes about social isolation and quarantine. This is not because people find it a laughing matter, but rather because by humorously sharing their woes they feel less alone and the situation becomes more manageable again. For that split second, we have a break from the difficulties we are facing together.

what are you laughing at?

Have you noticed how contagious humour is? Look at your phone for a bit. Check to see how many humorous COVID19 and isolation related memes, gifs, and clips have you received or forwarded since the first case of the virus hit our borders? Compare it to a few months ago? Have you noticed how the topic gradually changed from the disease to the matter of quarantine? To those parents out there, how many of you have been receiving and forwarding homeschooling jokes? Would you have laughed at homeschooling jokes the same way a few months ago?

universally funny

That is something to be proudly South African about, we are very good and pulling together during a crisis and using humour to keep one another strong. However, humour is universal and it is a coping mechanism that is being used around the world. Their content might just differ slightly from yours. That is what makes humour is a strength. So keep it up. Use it. Practice it. Moreover, if all else fails, remember this…

Sharks swim in saltwater because pepper water would make them sneeze.”

TTFN

Categories
The virtue of Transcendence

Hope

“The beginning is always today”

Mary Shelley

How do you see hope?

What does the word hope mean to you? How would it look if you had to draw it? To me it looks like a balloon. It is not the most eloquent image or environmentally friendly, but that is what I think of when I think of hope. You blow the balloon up before the birthday, or before the celebration even begins. That balloon is your belief that the party will be fun and beautiful.

What does the research say?

Research explains hope as the emotionally positive outlook and expectation about the future. I think that is a very boring way of describing a very powerful word. If we did not have hope, nothing would ever be worth doing.

It is a Pooh thing.

I like the way Winnie the Pooh explains it. That inexplicable feeling in the pit of your stomach, not quite excitement, not quite anticipation, something more prevailing – hope.

‘What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?’ ‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best –‘and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to (eat) it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. (Milne, 2007, The House at Pooh Corner. pp. 168–169)

What does hope look like?

No one starts a healthy eating plan, because they have a sudden urge to experience life as a hamster. If that were the case, they could continue eating doughnuts and sweets and simply sleep on shredded newspaper and run on a wheel. No!  A person starts a healthy eating plan with the ambition that it will lead to a healthier lifestyle. It is that positive expectation of the future that helps them to say no to zoo biscuits with their coffee. Do you know how hard it is to say no to those colourful delectable treats? Hope is a powerful strength.

The CORONA VIRUS

As adults we can often be guilty of neglecting hope, but even worse, killing the feeling in others. This Corona virus epidemic has been such a sad example of this. The media has been promoting fear to increase ratings. Using sensational headings and terrifying statistics. There are people who have taken pleasure in sending out messages that promote fear, even going so far as to make up fake news. What does this do to the person receiving all this information? Yes it frightens them, but what it is really doing is slowly diminishing their hope.

How dare we as human beings rob each other of such a powerful force as hope? Without hope there is no point in being in quarantine, without hope there is no point is practicing good hygiene, because without hope this virus will destroy us all and there will be nothing left. Is this a future you want for yourself or your family? Of course not. So do not be one of those people who disseminates this fear onto other people.

share what is useful

Share information about how to protect yourself from the virus. That encourages hope. Share the stories of survivors. Join prayer groups and encourage others to do the same. Reach out to someone who is suffering. Your support in whatever shape it takes will bolster their feelings about the future. Is that not the most power you have ever had in your hands? Forget money or promotions, the ability to spread hope, now that is being a real influencer. Best part, the more you campaign for hope, the more hopeful you will become too. Try it. See where this strength takes you. I bet it will be the best trip you have ever been on and you do not have to set foot outside your house.

final thought

While others are getting their neighbours arrested, I trust that you will be embracing hope, in your home, but also sharing it with others.

Chat to you tomorrow, but for now, I HOPE my husband is making another batch of coffee and I think I will be saying no after all to those irresistible zoo biscuits.

TTFN

P.S. Check out the original picture at https://www.facebook.com/deefgphotography/

Categories
The virtue of Transcendence

Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

Confucius

Our story

When our daughter was very small, I think she was three, we went to visit a farm where they kept horses. As small as she was, she just stood there staring at them for a long time. The horses walked up to her and stared right back. Eventually, she put her little hands together and said to the horses, “the goodness in me sees the goodness in you,” turned around and toddled off to go and play. The horses also turned away and walked back to their stables. I was left there standing awestruck.

It is inspiring to witness

I could not believe what I had just witnessed. I know the psychological term for it. It was a stirring appreciation of beauty. The emotional effect it had on me witnessing that interaction, however, was incommunicable. At best, I would describe it as overwhelming and humbling. As I sit here typing this blog right now, I still get cold shivers reliving the memory. It was then that I realised that to truly appreciate beauty or excellence, you need to see with your own childlike eyes. That is if you can retrieve them out of the murky cynical bag of ‘adultism’.

See Like a child does

It all circles back to a different type of gratitude, I guess. We take what is around us for granted in a way that young children do not. As adults, we need to travel to majestic places to marvel at spectacular views. Children marvel and shriek with pure delight and joy at the simple beauty life has to offer. It is this untainted appreciation of their surroundings that often make children more psychologically resilient than adults.

Is it not lucky then, that since we are not allowed to travel anywhere during this COVID19 isolation, that we are afforded the opportunity to dust off our recovered child eyes and put them to good use? If you are wondering in the back of your mind, what is this chick on about, let me give you a simple piece of homework.

Take the TRip

Pick something you love. It does not matter what. It could be a person, a favourite coat, an oriental rug, a pot plant, your pet, or maybe just your favourite pillow, if you are feeling that lazy. Look at it, but I mean really look at it. Try to describe what makes it so special to you. Is it the depth of colours, the textures, its smell, the silky feel of its leaves, the shape or the pattern of the weaves, or perhaps it is the soulfulness of your pet’s eyes?

Turn yourself into a poet or an artist, but try to see the true beauty of this prized possession of yours. Once you fully appreciate its significance, turn your attention to other items within your surroundings with that same level of intensity. Notice how beautiful your environment becomes. If you have a garden, go outside and appreciate the sight, the sounds, the smells – indulge all your senses. It takes you from being alive to living.

Go To your favourite animal

Today I do not want to bog you down with any further explanation of a concept that is better experienced than explained, I would prefer you to go and explore with your new eyes. I will just leave you with this extract from Winnie the Pooh, as I believe it explains this concept perfectly.

You can’t be in London for long without going to the Zoo. There are some people who begin the Zoo at the beginning, called WAYIN, and walk as quickly as they can past every cage until they get to the one called WAYOUT, but the nicest people go straight to the animal they love and stay there.

(A.A. Milne, 2006, Winnie the Pooh. pp. i–ii).

TTFN

P.S. Picture is of my photographer friend, Dee, appreciating the splendor of the quiet before the storm.

Categories
The virtue of Transcendence

Gratitude

 “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

Melody Beattie

A dedication

My blog posting today is a tribute to my sister Marisa, who passed away Saturday night. In her much too short life, she has given us a lifetime of beautiful memories to be grateful for. Few people in this world are truly unique. My sister was. Her effervescent enthusiasm is what I cling to in this darkness and for that I am grateful. Rest now my Angel, we will laugh again in our dreams.

Why is gratitude Hard?

In the spirit of full transparency let me just say that I have had a bad attitude about this whole lockdown situation. Not because I disagree or agree with the president. It is, for one, that the thought of keeping my children and dogs occupied without the beach, park or dog park for three weeks sounds like an insurmountable task.  I am working on a novel and it is draining my creative energy as it is. Now I need to come up with inventive ways to keep the children entertained?!?!?!

My son is 21 months old and his idea of keeping busy is finding pioneering ways to put himself in danger. We are talking about literally sticking fingers into plugs (before some of you send me an array of abusive comments – we have plug protectors exactly for this reason, but he still pulls them out). So yes, my initial reaction was not overly enthusiastic.

I was being ungrateful.

Gratitude is not a buzz word

If you think my intro is about setting up a sermon on how grateful we should all be for all we have, it is not. You do not need to pack your bags just yet; we are not going on any guilt trips today. We have loads to be grateful for and I know you are without me having to remind you. However, I also know that you have struggles that no one else knows about. Struggles that are more than likely going to be even more challenging during this time of isolation.

Where does gratitude come from?

For me, the loss of my morning routine of going to aqua aerobics has been very difficult to accept. It sounds petty, but to me, the exercise in water was a good way of treating my chronic pain and keeping my depression at bay. I also benefited from the social interaction I got out of it. I like to be around people. Thus, I have been putting in a lot of energy phoning and face timing friends and family.  This is what I am most grateful for, having people I can communicate with and people who do not disparage how I am experiencing things.

I belong to a parents’ group that not only shares wonderful creative ideas for entertaining the kids but also sharing funny stories on how difficult it is. No one is judging anyone on this group and no one is trying to show off how amazing they are. Most of these moms have reason to brag. They are Pinterest material. I am grateful that no one is rubbing their brilliance into anyone’s face.

DO NOT GO THROUGH THE MOTIONS

This is what I would like to ask you to do every evening before bed. Do it for the next three weeks and even longer if you can keep it up. Think of one thing at the end of the day that you were grateful for. Genuinely grateful for. “That I have food in my fridge”, is legitimately something to be grateful for, but it sounds a little insincere. “I am grateful that I have mangoes in the fridge, which I am looking forward to slicing for breakfast tomorrow. The yellow colour and its deliciousness is going to be such a bright start to my family’s day”. That is meaningful, because you are acknowledging why that food matters to you.

Gratitude for the people we love

What or who are you grateful for? Be specific. Fully appreciate what this person or object represents to you. How it has been essential to you getting through the day. It does not have to be elaborate or philosophical, but it must be genuinely meaningful. Your gratitude is what is going to make the difference between coping with this isolation versus not coping. If you are going through terrible hardship, I am deeply sorry. Events in this world are beyond comprehension. Finding something to be grateful for, is one way to slowly claw your way through the nightmare.

What gratitude looks like

Getting back to my Winnie the Pooh analogy, it is Eeyore’s birthday and everyone in the forest had forgotten. This was an unacceptable situation to Pooh and Piglet, so Piglet runs home to fetch Eeyore his prized red balloon. On the way back Piglet trips and pops the balloon. All that is left is a piece of floppy red rubber. Piglet is so upset, but Eeyore is so grateful for the gift. Eeyore says to Piglet that red is his favourite colour. Similarly, he also adds that since it has popped, it is now the perfect size for the empty jar of honey that Pooh gave him. The scene ends with him happily putting his popped balloon in and out of the jar.

What has been your popped balloon moment today? Ponder on it and express your gratitude. Show gratitude through meditation, prayer, journaling or a quick phone call of thanks.

TTFN

Categories
The virtue of Justice

Leadership

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
John Maxwell

Okay, this is the last strength in the virtue of justice and as far as I am concerned the most important one. If we lead by example, if we live the change we want to see around us, then we will influence change. Positivity is contagious.  I think I have mentioned this point before.

Who are your leaders?

Now at the risk of tarnishing someone’s street cred, I am willing to guess that whether you loved or hated school, you had that one favourite teacher who got your grades up. Whether you were a rebel with or without a cause, you still had a favourite aunt or uncle you respected, even emulated. Even now in a world where the term BFF (Best Friend Forever for those pretending not to know) is reserved for self-obsessed teenagers I know you have one. You have that one friend who just inspires you more than anyone else and whose opinion matters to you.

Some people even have an awesome boss. These are rare unicorn people, but they do exist. If you have a mug that says “best boss ever”, do not congratulate yourself just yet. Your staff can’t exactly buy you a mug that says Dou… you know what?  Never mind. Let us focus on leadership as a strength and see whether you have earned your mug. If you are working for a not so nice boss right now, send him an anonymous link to my blog, and I will see what I can do for you. No promises. As the joke goes, how many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? None, but the light bulb must want to change. Yes, I know, comedy is not my strength, but more on that later.

Qualities of Good leaders

Think about what qualities that teacher, aunt or uncle, friend or boss have. What was it about them that makes them stand out from the rest?  Do you see a pattern emerge? Let me try my hand at mind-reading. Did they tend to be more reasonable than unreasonable in their approaches?  Their personality style was more flexible than dogmatic and were they energetic in their mannerisms. They noticed and acknowledged your strengths and they were appreciative of the effort. Does not mean they were not assertive, goalless or asinine. It also does not mean that they were liked by all. Likability is not a synonym for leadership.

Why is leadership so important during this time of isolation, because a good leader gets everyone else to act in ways that achieve a mutually beneficial goal. Remember the goals we set out right at the beginning? Good leadership is how you get there. If you are familiar with Winnie the Pooh then you will know Christopher Robin is an excellent leader. All the toys jump at the opportunity to join him in any ‘expoitation’ of his choosing. Why? He allows them the space to be themselves and do things their own way, because that way, they all reach the desired result together. Good leadership promotes good citizenship and good leaders are fair. See, it is all related.

Are you a good leader?

Use this time to reflect on who you are living with. What personalities do they have? How do they match and differ from you? What are their strengths? How do your strengths compensate for their weaknesses and how do their strengths compensate for your weaknesses? Get to know one another on a new level. Make conversations meaningful and do the same to those you are virtually contacting. 

Forget the expression too many chefs spoil the broth. You are not making soup anyway, or maybe you are, but the analogy is still not valid. You are a human being with wonderful flaws. Embrace them by using the other wonderfully flawed people around you to fill in the gaps. If you are parents or grandparents, use this time to teach children about great leadership. To those who are alone, now is your chance to be that aunt, uncle or friend that someone else will see as a great leader one day. If you are a boss or a manager, well then you have no excuse. Get to know your staff on a deeper level. Find their strengths and use them. Know when you don’t know and find the person who does.

Why is leadership a strength?

Let me leave you with this example of what I mean. My husband, featured with his friend Alan Paterson in the picture above, is one of those people who LOVES people. I mean he is just a collar away from being a golden retriever.  He knows a lot about different topics because he listens and retains what other people say to him. He genuinely cares about people and what they say. They motivate him. If you stick my husband in a back office to do coding all day or paperwork, you will slowly but surely dampen his natural enthusiasm because you are not using his strength. Place him among people and let him teach as much as he learns and you will extract a remarkable quality of work out of him.

I hope that now as we move on to our new virtue and new strengths, you will continue to practice citizenship, fairness and good leadership at home.  I also hope that you are having fun with the Virtue of Justice Activity and posting the results of your efforts on my blog.