I’ve always liked words. I read a lot as a kid, (honestly I read more when I was younger than I’ve ever managed in adulthood, but books were smaller and I had way more time to be fair). Little lines and stories also seem to fall through my hands and onto pages, I feel a strong connection to written language I suppose. So it makes sense that words, for me, act as a particularly stong source of guidance, I love it when I hear a quote which makes my ears prick up and gets me thinking. I’ll write it down and put it on my pin board if I find it helpful. My pin board is primarily made up of scribbled quotes on paper ripped from notebooks. It’s set up in my bedroom so that I see it every morning when I wake up, it’s verging on a shrine at this point, which I think I’m cool with actually, a shrine for things I believe in, articles about nature bathing, my bucket list, parenting points I stand by, and quote after quote after quote. Maybe that’s not really a shrine, but it’s a good space for me to spend some time each day anyway. I find it keeps focused, afloat and helps maintain progression.
Quotes are so good because they are word bullets, short, sharp and powerful. I can be in a situation, and a quote will sprng to the forefront of my mind, and remind me how I want to deal with the moment I’m in, in order to uphold the person I want to be, whether that be positive, or kind for example, the words are there and supportive. Obviously I don’t see eye to eye with every famous phrase, but these ones listed here are those which I find myself looking to time and time again.
- ‘Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?’ – Bernard Meltzer (the full quote ends with ‘is it helpful?’ but I feel like ‘necessary’ covers that pretty well)
Sometimes things people say or do make me feel anger or frustration, and I want to lashout with words, snapping back at them with an insult or criticism. For example, someone I love says something that grates me, I have the perfect retort that will make them feel as irritated as they have made me feel. However, in my (hopefully) growing emotional maturity and self awareness, I pause, and I ask myself the above, ‘Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?’, answer ‘no’ to all three? Don’t say it, instead take a deep breath, show love, show compassion, for me at least, I feel happier for choosing this way of behaving.
In the past I would insult someone or upset them in return, bring a flaw of theirs to the forfront in order to make them feel crappy, but I always ended up feeling angry and disappointed with myself, making some one feel like negative has never served me in a positive way. And I’m very grateful for that. Hopefully I’m a better human for it.
- ‘Happines is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.’ – Mahatma Ghandi
No-one likes hypocritical behaviour, don’t say one thing and do another, or say something and not follow through. It’s annoying. Almost all of us are guilty of it at some point, I used to be exceptionally renound for it. But the thing is, when you do think something, say it and then incorporate it into your actions, it feels great.
Thought: I need to clean the house
Say: ‘I’m cleaning the house today.’
Do: Clean the house
The outcome? You feel bloody incredible, satisfaction, achievment, reward of happy hormones released in the body.
I’m a ‘dairy free vegetarian’. But around Christmas and a few times a year, I let myself have a few items of food that contain cows milk, usually ferrero roche or a piece of halloumi. Do I enjoy the product at the time? 65% of the time yes I do. Do I feel like I’ve trespassed on my own moral code afterwards? 100% of the time yes. I believe in something, but go against it, and it leaves me feeling a bit deflated and annoyed. I generally feel better if I follow through and stand by my beliefs and plans, whether it be my to do list or my dietary choices.
- ‘True love is sacrifice, anything else is affection.‘
This is a new one I heard recently. I’m thinking about it a lot, I don’t fully know where I stand with it yet, but I’m quite sure I will come to appreciate it as much as the others listed here.
- ‘Be reckless enough to gamble all or nothing to follow your dreams’ – John Galliano
I believe in this more and more with each passing year. It doesn’t have to be as severe or dramtic as it sounds, maybe it means you live small for a while in order to support yourself while you make a film, write a book, or travel. Whatever your passion, your ambition, take a leap and throw yourself into it. Even if you don’t suceed, you’ll likely be glad you tried. Persoanlly, I’d always rather risk regretting what I’ve done, rather than regret not doing it. At least in risk there is a chance of positive change and achievment.
- ‘If not us, who? If not now, when?’ – Author/speaker debated
Passing the buck is the easy option, ‘someone else will help that person struggling to get their heavy rubbish bag in the dumpster’, in the bible it was the story of people crossing the road to avoid someone, can’t quite remember the details but I do remember the lesson in school. Avoidance is the easy option, but it doesn’t work, not fundamentally.
Each of us has the power to think and act, so shouldn’t we use it? If every person chose to leave a problem to the next person that comes along, then that physically challenged person trying to get their trash into the dumpster will never get the help they need, and either the rubbish will pile up by the bin or they’ll be stuck there helpless and sad. Not very happy images, and also, another perspective, that person in struggle could be any of us at some point in life. I know I’d like someone to help me if they saw me, rather than put their faith in someone else coming along. If we can, let’s, and let’s do it now, while we have the oppotunity.
- ‘Kindness, exercise, self care and meditation’ – Russell Brand
I live by this. Russell Brand has been someone I’ve followed since he did ‘The Trews’, I share a lot of beliefs with him and find great direction in his interviews and talks. (If you only remember him as a recovering addict who was a little..outlandish,in his behaviour, then I’d recommend getting on Youtube and Luminary to check out where he’s at now.)
I watched him describe these four points in a video of his last year and have found the four staples keep me happy, and balanced and moving in what I feel is the right direction. Kindness, everything feels better with it. Someone driving badly on the road and you wanna flip out and have a spat of road ragef in the car, cursing them and getting all angry and red faced. I used to be like that a lot, but I never gained anything positive from my angry outburst. Now I say to myself, ‘maybe they are in a rush, just like I am sometimes, maybe they are unwell and can’t physically drive all that great, maybe they are not very good at driving and that’s not their fault’. I move past the moment with compassion and don’t get myself all het up, stress is damaging, there’s no need to rise to it and inflate it.
Exercise, we know it’s good for us, if we do it, it feels great, once the muscle pains ease off obviously. My mental health is drastically better when I go for a walk, which thankfully I do every day, I have a dog, he’s a beautiful Border Collie so he really does need it. I call him my anti depressants, he encourages exercise, nature, fresh air and love, it’s a wonderful symbiotic relationship. Since lockdown I’ve made more time for more intense exercise too, like cycling. It feels great, I enjoy seeing the improvement in my stamina over time too.
Self care might be doing yoga, reading a book, cleaning your teeth and taking care of your body. Whatever makes you feel good mentally and physically, do it. You owe yourself that. Be in your best form and so be able to deliver your best self.
Mediation. It’s all the rage isn’t it, and I’m still working on it. For me Wim Hof breathing techniques and mantra meditation seem to work best. But it’s a working progress. I really enjoy it, when I’m in the zone, it is brilliant. My main thing I’ve picked up on, from another parent, is setting my alarm for half an hour before my daughter wakes up, so that I have some time to mediate in the morning before she’s up, I can have some ‘me time’ and find my calm. I’m a lot better at managing emotions and staying chilled for the rest of the day if I do this. It’s a new change I started just before lockdown, and I’m realy enjoying the benefits.
- ‘Service above self’ – J.E. Pinkham, Rotary Club
Again, my dog, who needs feeding and walking and affection. Also my daughter, a small being who needs consistent attention and support. These two need care, and I am able to provide it, hopefully well. They give me purpose, and there is power in purpose, people tend to be drawn to it, or suffer because they lack it. The act of helping others gives us purpose, joy, connection and meaning.
I can’t remember what culture it is, but they have this mentality of think forward 7 generations. So rather than ‘how can this serve me, or my children?’, the thought is ‘how can I serve those of the next seven generations?’. This actually leads me to another quote,
‘The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.’ – Nelson Henderson
- ‘Sieze the day’
I know it’s a cliche, but between having my daughter and losing two loved ones in the last four years, I’ve come to realise the reality of the finiteness of our existence, I accept, if I can comprehend it, that I will not be here forever, each day is a genuine unique moment in time that we will never get back (unless time travel becomes a thing I guess, and even then, ‘is it the same moment?’ is a challenging topic).
Sometimes I look at DVD’s or series online I’ve watched, and I add up the hours they total. I probably enjoyed a lot of that time, and there’s nothing wrong with choosing to spend my time like that if I want to, but for me personally, do I feel it was all time well spent? Or maybe, would I feel a bit more at peace with myself and my existence if half of that time spent watching films and series where instead spent doing something a bit more productive, maybe writing, reading, learning or volunteering?
Seize the day however you want, just be sure you’ll feel satisfied when you look back at how your days have been used.
- ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’ – Neale Donald Walsch
Maybe not for all, but this is true for me. I put myself on the other side of the world to get out of my comfort zone, and it worked. Forcing myself to integrate with people who’s language I didn’t speak, in a culture so different to the one I’d been raised in. Experiencing the unfamiliar makes you feel very alive.
‘A ship in the harbour is safe, but that is not what ships where made for’ – John A. Shedd
Another quote which I feel instills this point. Safety and security and wonderful things, and if we live in a socienty where those things are much more likely than in other parts of the world, then we are increibly fortunate. However, no great change in humans has ever come out of safety and security.
- ‘Trust your instincts’
If your gut says no, listen. Animal instincts reside within us still, we depend on them less and less in our modern world, but if you listen hard enough you can hear it. I know for myself at least, that I can hear that voice, that inner compass, even when I don’t want to. I can try and ignore it or reason with it, accuse it of being fearful and irrational, but I’m wrong. That voice knows, somehow, and like it or not I believe I’m better off follwing it rather than going against it.
- ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’ – Mahatma Gandhi
If you don’t believe people should where purple anymore, stop wearing purple yourself. If you want to stop seeing litter lining the motorways and beaches, stop dropping litter. If you want a new type of art in the Wolrd, go and create it.I want kindness amongst all beings, I want a cleaner planet, I want people to stop fighting and instead to love and support one another. And so I constantly work to upkeep behaviours in myself that will help these things to happen.
- ‘Anger is the punishment we give ourselves for someone else’s mistake’
Another one that geuinely helps me almost every day. For me nothing good has ever come from anger, it builds a negativity within me that I really don’t enjoy. I can link this back to the story of the road rage. You can get angry at that driver for forgetting to indicate, causing you to almost have a collision, but what’s the point? Is it going to make you feel any better, or might it even make you feel worse and exacerbate the incident? Stress is bad for the body, better to avoid it, especially if we can choose to walk away from it.
My brother and I regularly use gentle words or comical points to calm our Dad down. He’s a brilliant man, the kind of guy who stops and helps someone with a flat tyre on the side of the road, he’s lovely, he does also suffer with what I like to refer to as ‘unecessary anger’. Road rage, he’s big on that. Drop a mayonnaise bottle and have a dash of it zip across the carpet? That will for sure set him off on a pointless flurry of redfacedness and muttered swear words. But to be fair to him, we offer little points to say, ‘maybe calm down, is it really something to get stressed and angry over?’, and he generally listens, and we all end up laughing at the fact that it made him so frustrated for a moment. Anger can be powerful, but not necessarily in a positive way.
- ‘Tolerence, compassion, respect’ (acceptance)
I used to struggle with different types of parenting styles, then I realised something which totally changed my outlook, by raising kids in different ways, we create different humans, various types of people able to help solve the various problems of the world. Also, most people are doing what they feel is best, and so who am I to judge them for their choices? They may feel the way I parent, or live my life are wrong, even though I whole heartedly belive in what I do.
It’s easy to judge eachother, condemn each other, but actually tolerating, feeling compassion, empathy and respecting that we all have our own paths to carve, and choices to make, will get us a lot further. If nothing else it will at least give us the civility to communicate with one another, listen and share thoughts and ideas. Knowledge is great, and so the more we can exchange, the better.
- ‘Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional’ – Chili Davis
I realise how often I use my daughter as a reason for being a certain way, sorry to be boring and repetitive, it just is what it is. And this holds firm in my final guiding quote. When I was first a mum, I honestly couldn’t read that tiny baby a story in our own flat without feeling embarrassed, which in hindsight is highly ridiculous, but that is the person I was at the time, lacking in confidence and caring far too much about other peoples opinions of me. Now, almost four years on, I dance whenever I want, I run up grassy hills and scream ‘wahoo’ all the way down, I play hide and seek, I jump in puddles, I colour and draw, I ask more questions and learn about the World around me and I make daisy chains in the Spring. Frankly, I’m more alive than I have ever been, and it all stems from the influence of a child.
Kids have a natural curiosity, zero filters and an honourable lack of embarrassment that is utterly liberating. I watch her freedom and fun and am faced with two choices, tell her to be quiet and refuse to join in, making her question her own, wonderful, natural enjoyment and exploration of the world and herself, or, I can stop giving a sh*t about what people think, and play too. Thankfully the second is the route I’ve chosen, and it has brouht fun and freedom that we often forget as we grow up.
I may not be able to control the number of years I’ve logged in this life, but I can refuset to let it shape me in a negtive way. Let’s play and laugh and think like kids, they are known for being generally happier little beings for a reason.
We all need tools to help us through life, for me words work, for someone else it maybe fishing or marathon running, playing music, or building stuff. It’s about finding what works for you and developing that tool as a habit.