MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “gratitude”

Live with a grateful heart

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We should be grateful for friends to whom we can turn and say “I’m gonna moan for 20 minutes straight” and they’ll just make you comfortable and listen to every complaint you make.  We should be grateful for people to whom talking feels like therapy. For the family we choose to support us when life turns upside down.

We should be grateful for so much more than we actually do.

Because we don’t realise the instability of the modern world. How things may change in an instant. How plans rarely work out and how we’re often forced to forge different paths ahead.

When we get too comfortable to move, alter, or evolve, life will usually find ways to push us out of it.

We may need to reassess our entire theory of the world, but it will probably be for the best. If we’re not obliged to exit our comfort zone, we will never realise the potential we have.

This social-media-driven world has manufactured a mentality where everyone – every single person out there – has a voice that they too often than not use to proclaim how perfect and outstanding they are. Yet, it is those who have nothing to say that usually shout the loudest, and those who have nothing to show for that proclaim their greatness. Others simply try to prove their worth in actions, not hollow speeches.

We live in a contemporary state of constant disappointment but not surprise. Because we’ve learned to expect the worst, despite fighting for the best.

Regardless, however, there are so many things to still be grateful for: our good health, the family around us, the friends who embrace us, and the love we receive from the people we truly cherish.

A decade of Whispers

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Every big thing starts with a simple moment of folly in which, upon taking that leap, you ask “why not” and “what if”. Because yes, in jumping, you may fall; but what if you fly?

We have a tendency in this modern fast-paced world of ours to consider the downside more than what we have to gain. But we sometimes fail to see that if we don’t dare to try, we won’t move to grow. Change won’t happen if we don’t go after it.

In the past years of pandemic lockdowns, political developments, climate change (floods, heatwaves, fires), and so much more that has made us question the very essence of our existence, it is perhaps our mental health and psychological state of being that has been affected the most.

We find that we are often competing with our own self simply to remain sane. We’re battling the voices in our hear that we wish were not ours. We whisper that we’re fine, when inside we’re bellowing that we’re not. And we realise that we need days off everything; hours to do absolutely nothing – to lie in bed staring at the ceiling,binge-watch series or movies, to walk silently along the beach, to read after going offline. We ought to give ourselves those instances to regroup, to recharge, and to relax above all. It’s an opportunity to reconsider everything we do – from the support circle around us, the social acquaintances, our relations with the ‘outside’ world, to our employment prospects, our professional ambitions, but also our personal dreams which we so often push aside.

I began writing this blog a decade ago – can you believe it’s been 10 years already? It was my way of expressing everything I cannot (or wish not) say aloud. It’s not easy for everyone to speak out and converse so easily with people. Some of us are lost in the chaos of our minds. We’ll speak to those who win our trust, who we feel comfortable and secure with; to those, we will blabber away for hours, so consider yourself lucky, for you are among the selected few. But don’t think we don’t have things to say. The pen, it is said, is often mightier than the sword. And if we can’t speak, we’ll write it.

That said, consider this in the rapid passing of time: We come into each other’s lives in a mere fragment of it. We meet each other without knowing what led the other to this moment, and (on each occasion) we are trying to catch up on the time we ‘lost’ when we did not know of each other’s existence. In an effort to replenish that time, we want to draw in as much information as possible about the other, often being subject to jealousy of the people who have managed to spend a greater period with this new person.

We have but a glimpse of our lives to set our mark on another person and ensure our role and part in their lives is maintained. In the dozens (or more) of people we meet throughout our passage, only a handful will stay long enough to see us grow, change, laugh and cry, evolve. But those are the people who matter. And it goes both ways.

So, the message I’ll close off with in this 10-year anniversary post is this: sometimes it’s good not to know where you’re going and where something you start off in a leap of faith will lead. Because you never know how wonderful or life-changing it may be.

Change the perspective

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A storm was brewing. Literally. The weather was turning piercingly icier and the sun was in hiding. You could feel the wind changing.

But also metaphorically. People were evidently affected – they were colder in attitude too. Agitated, nervous, and too easily irritated.

It was all wrong. For no sensible reason.

So she decided to leave.

These are the best decisions; the get-up-and-go-on-the-inspiration moments. Because if you don’t think about certain things too much, they end up being the best decisions you ever make.

She acted upon the impulse to flee. And travelled all across the world to where the climate was exactly the opposite.

She didn’t exactly encounter a heatwave, but a much warmer weather, and a much kinder folk. People who had much less – of material belongings and wealth – yet much more heart and goodness. They knew how to enjoy the utmost of what they had, and to appreciate the instances, the smallest of heart-warming gestures, the gratitude of having even the slightest of everything.

If you step back from your own world and delve into someone else’s, perhaps you’ll just realise how lucky we are but never acknowledge it enough. Be grateful for everyday; for the goodness around you; and focus your energy on all you want to create, not on what you want to get rid of. Know who you are and what you want to achieve, but be careful who you choose to walk with in life, because in the wrong company you’ll never reach your destination.

Nine Whispering Lives

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There is a saying that “success is falling down nine times and getting up ten”. Because in every fall, in every adversity, in every challenge, there is a lesson to be learnt. We grow up wiser (hopefully), stronger, more resilient, and more prepared for all that lies ahead.

The number nine holds a special symbolism.

Among others, it represents fulfillment, life mission, wisdom, and higher consciousness. It is said to symbolize transformation.

In the nine years of writing this blog, this is exactly what the past year has been all about. Changes, in every form and every level, lead you to rethink your course of life, your choices, the decisions you’ve (not) made, the way you view your existence in general. Finding inner peace and mental serenity means you need to acknowledge what is not working out. And in so doing, change it. It’s amazing how life improves when you develop a positive perspective for it. It is essentially true that when you smile at the world, it smiles right back. Well, not always; but at least for more times than none.

Birthdays – even if just for a blog – are a period of reflection of how time has passed, how things have altered, how you’ve progressed and evolved. One year is a lot and a little, depending on how you look at things. It is 365 days of starting over and hoping it will be a better day, and not giving up no matter the difficulties you’re facing. And that alone means you’re stronger every day. Because you survive. And you maintain that aspiration that things will get better. As long as we can keep that attitude, it’ll all be OK.

In all the tragedies we face, we witness, we experience, we need to remember to be extremely grateful for the lives we live, the comfort we enjoy, and that imperative feeling of safety. It can all be taken away by a simple spark that turns into a raging flame.

So let’s live this one life, as if it we’ve had nine.

On Gratitude

The Law of Attraction states that we entice what we emit, i.e. positive thoughts will bring positive outcomes. But the fundamental of all positive psychology ‘secrets’ is that of gratitude. The feeling of being thankful for what we already have. The appreciation that will help us receive more things to be grateful for.

Gratitude is a selfless act that leads to the improvement of your well-being. Grateful people are more open, more communicable, more pleasant, less neurotic, less stressed, more optimistic, happier, and with stronger interpersonal relationships.

Saying ‘thanks’ lies in far more than what you express with words. It’s about the actions that occur without speaking.

It’s about being thankful for the invisible safety net in your life formed by that indispensable network of family and friends around you who will be there for you no matter how much you yell, disappoint or push them away. It’s the people you know it’s ok to explode around,  because they’ll still be there with the outburst calms down. It’s those who help you through quarantines and lockdowns, but who are also there before and after them. Those who help you bounce back up when you don’t have the mental strength to even pull yourself up when you fall. Those who will do whatever they can to help without expecting anything in return because they know you’ll do the same if needed.

It’s important to feel grateful for the things we take for granted. Because it’s those little things that help us survive. And it’s those that we need the most to be happy. And grateful for it.

Chasing a perfect life

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Do you ever wake up after a bad night’s sleep and you’re angry with the world and everything in it? There are certain moments during the day, week or month, when the slightest thing can make us snap and lose control. We need moments to alleviate the tension we’re building up inside by holding everything in so as to be ‘proper’ and sane. Or at least to appear to be calm and, well…’normal’. But what is normal, in a world that so forcefully tries to convince itself it is embracing difference, uniqueness and diversity?

People interpret words and circumstances differently. It is unavoidable. And it all comes down to how each of our minds functions.

We are so used to complaining and moaning about all the problems in our lives, most of which are created by our own negative thoughts. We fear of letting them go, of taking a risk and being happy, because we are unfamiliar with that sentiment. We have clenched such a strong grip on the unpleasantness in our lives that anything else seems too much of a leap into uncertainty.

It’s almost as if we persuade ourselves that this stance of misery is the norm. That this is how it should be and we inflict shame upon ourselves for not being someone else, for not being more or less of what we picture as an ideal, of what society illustrates as how people should be. And that shame brings numbness to every emotion. Because, as we try to block out our feelings of grief and embarrassment and irritation at not being perfect, we also numb those of joy, satisfaction and lightness. We refuse to accept our vulnerability, out of shame, and instead shut ourselves down from the inside, alienating everyone around us in the process.

In searching for meaning and purpose in our lives, we may turn to self-help. We think we can fix ourselves and be happy if we follow certain books of wisdom and guidance on how to live. It’s an industry worth $11 billion, but does it actually help? In her witty, poignant and inspiring book Help Me!, Marianne Power goes through a dozen self-help books in a quest for perfection and happiness. But she also goes through a breakdown – or ‘spiritual awakening’ – as she gets too close with the thoughts in her head. She discovers that humans have an innate need to love, be loved and belong, and rejection hurts because we rely on the approval of the group for our survival since our cave-men days. She notes that self-help creates “unrealistic standards about how great life should be, puts unrealistic pressure on yourself to change, and creates self-obsession”; but the more you try to improve who you are, the more you are aware of the flaws, and the more you chase happiness, the unhappier you become.

In “The Power of Now”, Eckhart Tolle reassures us that we all have a voice in our head, which is usually mean and talks us down. It is one that takes us away from the only thing that is real and will give us peace – being right here, right now. If we can quieten down the voice, we’ll realise we are perfectly happy in this very moment. And like British playwright Dennis Potter said: “We tend to forget that life can only be defined in the present tense”.

In her very inspiring TED speech, Brené Brown explores the depth and source of human connection, understanding vulnerability, feeling empathy and confronting shame. She explains that we’re all constantly afraid of not being good enough, with the underlying fear that we won’t be loved, and so we strive harder to be perfect. But instead of chasing perfection, she says we should be seeking connection, to empathise and understand each other, to talk honestly and openly about our fears, insecurities and doubts. “Healing comes from sharing your story with someone who is worthy of hearing it”, she states. “Connection is why we’re here; it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives”. And it all centres around this. For shame, is the fear of disconnection, of not being worthy enough; the “gremlin who says you’re not good enough”. But for connection to happen, we need to allow ourselves to truly be seen, to expose ourselves and be vulnerable. Those who achieve this are whole-hearted people, ones who are courageous enough to show their authentic selves (‘courage’, after all, derives from the Latin word ‘cor’=heart), who acknowledge they are imperfect and who demonstrate compassion by being kind to themselves first and then to others.

The path for a whole-hearted living, according to Dr. Brown’s research, is to be willing to let go of who we think we should be in order to be who we are. To be willing to plunge into something where there are no guarantees, to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out, to practice gratitude in times of terror, to believe we’re enough, and ultimately to simply stop controlling and predicting life and just…live it. She concludes that “joy comes to us in moments – ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary”.

And like Marianne Power eventually realizes – happiness depends on getting up in the morning and being a decent person. Or like her Irish mother, eloquently put it, just “do no harm”.

In the end, there is a truth that when we stop pursuing happiness and the ‘perfect’ life, we will encounter all that matters and we need.

Those mornings

©Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

It was mornings like those that made all the difference.

Laying out the table looking into the garden. Feeling the calmness infuse inside you. Happily joining forces to cook up breakfast and willingly decorating and serving it as if you’re up for a Michelin star at a world-renowned restaurant.

Sitting down for a meal as if it’s the most important thing you’ll do all day. Savouring every moment of it. Because you know what matters is here and now. Being in that precise moment and nowhere else.

Preparing for the rest of the day with a simple process as this.

Also part of Friday Fictioneers

Longing to return

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On the first day back from a holiday you’re usually overwhelmed with an unbearable denial of having returned. It’s as if you refuse to accept that the break is over and you have to return to routine, because you need to work to earn the money to be able to then have a break.

The extent to which you’ve relaxed and had tremendous fun during your holiday is often linearly proportional to the time it will take you to come to terms with the fact that the break is now over. It’s a harsh awakening, consenting to now having returned to what you’ve tried for months to escape from.

But in truth, why are you doing something you so badly need a break from anyway? Sure, we all need a change from everything once in a while, but shouldn’t you be spending most of your days doing something you like, that fulfils you and which you’re good at? Shouldn’t you be longing to return to this too after your break? If you feel you’re incarcerated and forced into functioning in a job you don’t want to get up and go to, then you should rethink your priorities.

The point in life is to have a job that is more than that. One that you’re passionate about, and even if it is not exactly what you want to be doing, it motivates you to be the best you can be at it. One that inspires you to raise the bar higher, because you can.

Holidays are great. And we all need the time to switch off, calm down, change scenes and rethink many aspects of our lives. But let’s be rational: there are people who can’t afford to take a break, mainly because they have nothing to go away from or don’t even have the financial capacity to do so.

So be grateful: for the work you have, the ability to earn a living, to travel, to escape routine, to have friends to experience things with, but most of all, to have a home to return to after it all.

A Platanus of history

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©MCD

There is a quote that says, “imagine if trees gave free WiFi; we’d all be planting like crazy. Too bad they only produce the oxygen we breathe”.

Trees are more important and vital for our lives than we believe or even give them credit for. They contribute to their environment by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife. They produce the wood we use to light our fireplaces in the winter, make our furniture, even the paper we write on. Yet, we cut them down without second thoughts.

It is no wonder then, that when we come across a tree that is centuries old we treat it as a wonder of nature. We stand before it dumbfounded, gazing at this stupendous sight. And it makes you truly feel small and insignificant.

There is a place in North Evia, Greece, somewhere along that nature-blazing road that has you driving among trees, on your way towards the Kyreas River, in between the villages of Prokopi and Mantoudi. There is this place where a sign will direct you to the “Great Platanus”. A plane tree that residents will tell you has been there for centuries. It is “a tree of huge dimensions”, as the sign reads, a “monument of nature”. A Platanus Orientalis. It is 22-23 metres tall, with its trunk’s circumference reaching 18 metres, its trunk diameter at 5.5 metres, the surface of its stem at 900 square metres, and its shadow said to be once stretching over 2.5 acres. Its age is estimated at 500-600 years, although some say that it exceeds 2,300 years! It is said that this is the most ancient Platanus in the Balkans, perhaps even the whole of Europe.

20171028_133927Its tree trunks are larger than what can fit in your wide-open arms. It stands imposing before you and, even though lacking in foliage and somewhat deserted and with broken branches, the vastness of this tree is not diminished. Rather, it is a refreshing site in a world full of asbestos and tar. There is also a huge hollow in its trunk, big enough for 10 or more people standing. In it, you suddenly forget all the problems that trouble your head daily. You take a deep breath and simply be grateful for being alive. For being there. And for being able to witness this. Just think about all the changes this tree may have witnessed. It was there before you and will probably remain so even after you.

20171028_133932As with all over-aged creatures, there are myths and legends surrounding this tree. For example, it is said that if someone falls asleep in its hollow, they will fall ill or harm will come to them, as goblins will come out and cast a spell on them. In another legend, if you are found at midnight under the tree, you will hear voices, music, violins and clarinets, and see fairies and goblins appear dancing at the shores of the river. In yet another, it is said that at midnight two large rams come out of the platanus and start noisily fighting each other. This tree is often associated with fairies and goblins as it was believed that, being over-aged, it was also haunted.

No matter the stories, however, the reality remains that this, like so many others, is part of our natural heritage and should be protected and preserved. We devote so much of our time, energy and funds to things that matter less, yet we abandon those that benefit us more.

N.B. All photos are mine, taken in North Evia, Greece, on 28 October 2017.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Gratitude

 

The simplest of things, the greatest of impacts

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/d0/12/db/d012dbaaf25aadb98eb810d3da28d29f--animal-kingdom-google.jpgIt is common logic that if you don’t show appreciation to the persons who deserve it, they’ll learn to stop doing those things that help you out, that make your life easier. Because to be honest, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.

Like Margaret Cousins said, “Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary”.

Being told you matter, you’re appreciated, respected even, loved, is among the simplest yet most uplifting things you can hear.

It’s important to demonstrate you care, because people’s lives are based on – and often filled with – emotions. It’s how we feel alive. How we feel we matter. How we know that what we do has an impact and makes a difference. Being shown that you are valued is what will keep you going.

It doesn’t take much. It’s usually just a few words, a simple action, the smallest of deeds. But to the receiver, it means the world.

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