Monday, August 29, 2011

a barrel of monkeys

The children have been away since Saturday morning.  The house was quiet, calm, ordered for a whole 48 hours.
I ate what I felt like, slept in, listened to my own music.

Today I worked. Well, a little!  And then at 3 o-clock I walked down to school to pick them up.
We wandered home slowly and discussed the merits of eating ice cream for afternoon tea (several) and doing homework (few).

Within five minutes the order was shattered.  Bags, coats, drink bottles, homework books, lunch boxes - how can two kids create so much chaos in such a short time!?

We trundled through homework, afternoon tea and so on, and I surveying the mess.

My first thought was to banish them outside and get straight on with recreating order.  Until the little engineer walked up beside me and said 'will you play a game with me'?  Ordinarily I would respond, yes of course, as soon as I have tidied up.   But, something today made me stop.  I looked at him and said, sure! And sat right down before I had a chance to so much as empty a lunchbox.

Now this is no mean feat for me and I had to make a real effort not to look at the bench!

We played Barrel of Monkeys for about 10 minutes - undistracted and just enjoying each other's company.  by 15 minutes he had had enough, and as usual the phone rang and it was work and I was taken away by it.  But he was absolutely delighted with that window of undivided Mum time, and quite content by then to continue playing the game alone.

It was a good lesson for me.  I've heard it said that life is not a Barrel of Monkey's.  But sometimes I think maybe we need to make it so.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

a human doing

There is no doubt about it, I have a busy life.  Yet I also have good chunks of time where I think 'what now?'

It's very unsettling... after all, how could this be? Between my two kids, three jobs, four volunteer positions, and quite an array of interesting hobbies you could argue that there's not much time left over.

I see a similar thing going on with some of the clients I work with - albeit on a slighter different scale.  They are working like mad in their business or organisation, their productivity is at an all time high, and yet they feel like they are not really making any progress.  The business isn't growing, it's not as profitable as once it was, or they are getting lower numbers to their activities.

It's frustrating, disheartening even.  We're told that the harder we work the better the results - whether that be in business, or studying, or in our relationships!

There will always be things we do that are not fulfilling.  But I need to know that at least I am moving forward, and that the things I am doing each day are making a difference to someone else, even if not to me.   Sometimes I probably need to stop evaluating and just enjoy the moment a bit more.

I'm not very good at sitting still and taking stock - which is kind of funny since that's what I teach other people to do!  But sit still I must.  Sometimes it might mean taking a total respite from my daily life - no phone, no email, no jumping in and out of the car.  Sometimes I think I need to take a really hard look at what I 'm actually doing and make a hard call on just how productive or rewarding it actually is.

I need to spend some time working ON me, not just working.

I need to learn to be a human being, not just a human doing.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

101 reasons not to

Yesterday, my word of the day was procrastinate.   And i wrote of the current fashion of  accumulating superficial online relationships in lieu of meaningful, effort-required ones.  What a way to celebrate my 100th blog.

I reckon that putting things off until the last minute would have to be one of my best skills.

I've mentioned before that I work best under pressure, and the realisation I have come to is that when I am in a frame of mind to NOT want to do something (whether that be something I enjoy or not), I am better to just leave it and go and do something else.  No matter that I invariably make the ''something else'' an unproductive, or often not even particularly enjoyable something!

It's hard when it's a frog that needs to be eaten.  It's unbelievably frustrating when I know it's something that will result in income and still I am putting it off.  It's simply discombobulating when it's something I actually enjoy doing.  What is this ability I have to put off and put off and put off?

Right now I have two, no make that three, fairly significant deadlines looming.  A report that is due (and without it in I won't be paid for the month).  An editorial and some articles to write for the paper (a self imposed deadline of this weekend for that one).  And some email that really need to be addressed in the next half an hour.

But what am I doing instead?  Writing a blog about my own procrastination.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

are we friends yet?

I have a friend (a real one!) who has an exceptionally busy and popular facebook page.  there's over 700 'friends'on his list.
I know other people with similar amounts and I many of these people are actually friends? And when did collecting friends become a national hobby?

Someone told me that we can expect to have about 5 real friends in our lives - that is, by the time we reach the end of it all, we can look back and see less that half a dozen people who have lasted the distance and who we could really count as special.  That's the ones who are there for the trials and triumphs, no matter what.

I know another person who used to take literally hundreds of photographs.  Boxes, albums full,  pretty much all shots of  people having fun.  She said that by looking at the photos she could convince herself what a good time she was having.  Which is completely different to looking at photos to remember what a great time you actually had.

So these thousands of aquaintances that we have.. are these also just examples of how we need to be reminded of our own importance...our own significance in life?  Why do we accumulate them in the first place?    If 15 people instant message me each evening can I then be satisfied that I am liked, loved, popular?  And if no-one does, do I then need to consider myself, well, a bit of a social failure?

If I don't answer an email for 24 hours, don't post a facebook status for a week, and don't tweet anymore, who is really going to care?  In fact, who is actually going to notice?

Is this another part of life that needs some serious decluttering?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

you get what you pay for

When it comes to making plans, there are a hundred and one different experts out there ready to tell you how to do it.  My best friend google has literally thousands of  downloadable plans for everything from starting a business, or changing career, to building a house or raising a child!

In my line of work (that would be coaching micro-businesses and NFP sector groups for those who didn't know...), there are websites, books, mentor programmes and personal coaches (like me) who can help keep people on track.

 Most people don't want to pay for advice.  And I understand that for many small businesses, especially in the start up phase, they simply don't have a few thousand dollars to spend on a business coach.   It's seen as an indulgence not an investment.

But it IS an investment! the coaches job varies - sometimes it's helping to set direction. Other times it's being a cheerleader.  Sometimes it's about kicking butt!  But mostly it's to keep someone focussed, on track, and accountable for their actions and goals.

Here's some awesome quotes about coaching...

So, by all means, download something from the internet.  Use programmes like the NZ business mentor scheme.   Join a networking group.  Talk to other business owners.

But know that until you make an INVESTMENT, you are not going to get much of a return.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

flat out doing nothing

How can it be that the busier I am - or at least, the busier I should be - the harder it is for me to find motivation?

Logically, if there's a to-do list as long as my arm - and at least as far as my elbow is going to result in income for effort, I should be right up there ready to get stuck in.

I know I am well organised - there is seldom a long to-do list on my fridge.   But because I juggle several part time jobs around the children and various other commitments, I do have to manage my time pretty carefully.

One thing I have learned about myself over recent years is that I work best under pressure

Most people just can't operate that way.  They need time to plan.  Time to consider, time to organise.

Not me.   So if I have two weeks to complete a project, rather than planning, spacing and timing it over that two weeks, I am far more likely to indulge in some serious faffing for 10 days, followed by one or two days of anxiety and then the final 24 hours in a complete head spin of productivity.

The lesson i have learned through this though, is not that I need to change the way I operate and become better at spreading out a workload, but that if this is my style, I need to work with it.  So now, when a deadline is looming, I know that I am far more likely to need to finish my crossword/write my blog/tidy the pantry than to start work - and that in fact, if I do that I am going to be far more productive in the long run.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

the nightmare continues

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about my ongoing battle with nightmares.
I'd been feeling pretty smug about things - hadn't had any bad ones for a while and even my sleep patterns seemed to have marginally improved - waking only two or three times in a night instead of the usual half dozen.

But, sadly, the dreams are back, and bigger and scarier than ever.

This is such a frustration for me.  A friend described dreams as simple mental housekeeping.  That makes the dreams seem less scary in retrospect, but gee I wish my brain could come up with a new processing system!

There are recurrent themes, in fact recurrent plots and characters - but none of it makes any sense.

I wouldn't mind, except that I HATE waking up feeling distressed and disoriented.  (And as I've mentioned before, waking up this way on my own).

My readership has grown since my last post about this - maybe someone else can give me some insights?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

the paradox of living in a world of possibilities

Sometimes it seems that the world literally is our oyster.  The possibilities and opportunities lay spread before us, glittering with potential.
Should i live here? or there?  Should I date him? or him?  Should I take this job? Or that one?  Could I learn this skill? Or that skill?

We live in a world of immediacy where we are promised our hearts desires are literally only a click away.  A new friend, a new career, a new house is there for the coveting 24/7.

Certainly this can be incredibly liberating and exciting - that feeling of being in control of our own lives and our own choices.

But what about when the choices become overwhelming?  Instead of the two or three cars at the yard to choose from, there is now entire websites devoted to convincing you to buy one of 5000.  Instead of a traditional boy meets girl model, you can choose to 'date' as many people as you wish - concurrently - for as long as you wish.  Instead of the well worn path of work, save, buy a house, we have the option of living somewhere new every 6 months.

And yet, for most of us - the reality is we don't make any of those choices.

With all those amazing things just waiting to be experienced, perhaps we don't want to risk missing out on any of it.  Maybe we don't trust our own judgement enough to be able to commit a first YES or NO?  Or maybe we just like having a backup plan?

Partly perhaps because saying YES to one thing, means saying NO to something else. Which requires commitment, and risking ourselves.

I read once of the ubiquitous can't commit man.  He said to his girlfriend ''let's not have a family - when it's just us we can fly off to Paris at a moments notice...or get it on in the kitchen any afternoon we want...or eat out every night.''.  but after 10 years, they had not once been to Paris, the kitchen remained unsullied, and they ate dinner on their laps in front of the TV most evenings.

Seems the possibility of choice is far more exciting that the reality of actually making one.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

when sparks fly

In my line of work it's important to have a connection with my clients - in fact without that I could not do what I do.  Often those clients become friends of long-standing.  We are able to move beyond the professional relationship and find even more commonalities.

I also seem to have a knack for getting alongside people and making friends.  I do feel truly blessed to have this gift too (even though some of the things I know about some of them, I wish I didn't;)).

I have also been blessed to meet a number of people this year that this has happened with.  All different personalities but with some common life-threads.  Men and women, older and younger.

Don't you love it when you meet people and have an instant connection with them?  When conversation is easy, the minutes disappear into hours, when you leave thinking 'gee i would've talked longer'?  Sometimes it's a mental connection, sometimes it's kind of... a boy/girl spark thing...sometimes there's a real spiritual synergy (which sounds a bit cringey and supercilious but the readers who know me will understand my drift here).

These relationships take time to develop of course, but I have at last accepted that there are just some people that you 'gel'with and others you don't.  True, it can be hard to lead a group, or engage with a non-geller, but I am learning to keep those conversations short and to the point, leaving more time to explore the fun and excitement of building connections with those I feel affinity to.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

clearly the worlds WORST parent

describes how I feel, often.

Oh I want to be an ever-loving, calm parent who can gently cajole their children into eating vegetables, having a bath, getting out of said bath, emptying said bath, and reminding children that the water really truly ought to remain in said bath, not on the bathroom floor.

But, instead, at around 5.30 each evening, as the sun sets over my house, I turn into a grumpy grizzly impatient and unreasonable version of myself that knows no bounds when it comes to forcing their kids to eat vegetables, get in the bath, get out of the bath, empty the bath and LEAVE THE WATER IN THE BATH.

By 8 pm, instead of all sitting cosily on the couch playing an educational board games, or sharing anecdotes of the day, I am the mother threatening to withdraw all TV viewing privileges for 2011, using a tightly controlled voice to describe JUST how cross I am becoming, and with my lips set into a definite cats bum, I move from room to room harrumphing and muttering, more early-Alzheimer's-onset than loving mother of two gorgeous children.

By 8.30, having exhausted all possible threats,  bribed, wheedled, moaned and finally shouted (yes, you read that right, shouted) that I WILL NOT come back in ANY more times, and NO you can not have a glass of milk, and YES it is an hour past your bed time, and NO you may not sleep in my bed with me tonight, I look at my sleepy snuggled children, smother them in hugs and kisses, find myself apologising, again, for being a grumpy mummy, and retire to the lounge, where a trashy DVD and a glass of Pinot Noir will accompany me for the evening.

Got to love being a mother aye.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

everyone is entitled to my opinion

Big excitement on this side of the laptop this morning as my blog reached 2000 views.  I can only assume that there must be a heap of secret followers that I am yet to meet!

It's been an evolving process this thing, and I'm not sure if I have really settled into a "theme"yet (which all the blog-mentors tell us we should be doing!).

It seems in some ways like quite a narcissistic pursuit, this sharing my opinions with the world.  But I'd like to think that if nothing else, I'm giving some food for thought - and maybe the odd phew I'm glad I'm not her! response!

I wish, I wish I could write like this for a living.  But the reality is, with 100 million blogs out there, and goodness knows how many freelance feature writers, e-book authors and guest bloggers, this may remain just a hobby for some time yet.

When you hear of someone who wants to actually pay me to give them my opinion...please let me know.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

feeling special

One of the many hats I wear is that of coach.  As part of this,  I do business coaching for micro-businesses (that's the little ├ícorn' businesses of just one or two people)

I've been doing this for almost 15 years, and worked with literally hundreds of people with great ideas, lots of passion, often plenty of drive and commitment and usually not much money.
Many businesses have done well, and many haven't.
There are just a handful of reasons, I think, why some manage to stay (more than afloat) and go on to become successful.
- the first is that the business owner has a real vision of where they want to be with their business.
- the second is that they have a commitment to that success.  including down the boundaries for what they will and will not do to make this happen.
- the third is they really understand where their skills, and passion lie.

But one of the standout reasons that these businesses manage to keep their customers coming back time and time again?
They treat their customers like individuals.  As a small business they know that the personal touch is what separates them from the big corporates.  In fact that's often their only difference - the product, the margins and prices, even the service standards could well be the same.  But these people KNOW their customers.

They make friends of their customers, understanding them in a way that a large company just cannot do.
They listen, and act, (intentionally and wisely) on the feedback of their customers.  The customers believe that they are cared about and valued.

It can be difficult to maintain boundaries for small business owners - and this is a fine line, especially in a business centred on hospitality or wellbeing.  The successful businessowner finds and keeps this boundary, all the while embracing the unique position they play in the customers lives.  They go the extra mile, they consider each business decision in light of what is already working well in their business with their most consistent and loyal customers.

And, in turn, these customers will, and do, become loyal for life.  They will spend  more money, for a whole lot less effort than the owner might have to make to attract a new customer.  They will tell their friends.  They are often far more willing to offer feedback, both positive and negative, than the customer of a corporate.

They feel special.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

the quest for simplicity

As you know, I'm all for keeping things simple.
That means having less stuff - physical stuff, mental stuff, emotional stuff, even spiritual stuff.
It also means being intentional about the things, people, experiences, that accumulate going forward.

But I wonder - can this go a step too far? is all about really paring down your possessions.  But I think he's missed a pretty crucial point.
 Sure we only need one chair to sit on.  We only need a one-person sized bed.  We really only need one knife and fork for that matter.

The argument goes, according to Dave and his ilk, that when one lives a transitory life (the roving author, the travel guide et al), one can manage with the contents of their backpack.  So good so far.
But the reality is that for most of us, we need a place to call home.  We can't afford to live in hotels.  In fact we probably have no desire to do so.  So that even if we only own 100 things (and this guy takes some poetic licence with that concept), we are still going to need to use a whole lot more than that.

Which means, doesn't it, that we will need to borrow those things from someone else? Whether that be by way of renting them, making use of public ones (hardly likely in the event of a bed or dining table!), or using the ones currently owned by others, we still can't get away from the fact that someday, somewhere, we are going to need more than those 100 things.

And whilst the idea of 'where-ever I lay my hat'' may sound appealing I think it has left out one really REALLY important consideration.

And that is, what about people?  The best way to nurture those we love is to spend time with them.  Which mostly means real human contact - consistently and constantly.  Not so easy when you live out of a suitcase.  The novelty of perching on someones single bed, eating every meal out of the same bowl is going to wear off pretty quick (trust me, I've been there!).  I accept that hospitality is about people not places, but transit lounges and cafes are not sustainable when it comes to building trust and longevity into a relationship of any kind.

Sure, have as little 'stuff'as possible.  Strive to be kind to the earth.  Be responsible with money.  Think how much more time you will have with less things to be concerned about.  But don't make the mistake of paring your relationships down to the bare minimum too.  Because they really can't survive on next to nothing.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

count your blessings

I applied for another job this week.  The upside - a better career path, more variety, more income.  the downside, more hours, more compromise on family, more time in the car.  So why did I apply? Not because I don't like what I do now, not because I am eager to pursue a new career. No, it is because the lure of more money is very attractive.  Now that's not to say that I wouldn't spend that money wisely, but the reality is that the extra income would most likely end up being largely redirected into the 'more of' category.

I heard this today:
Counting blessings helps us want less

One of the themes I keep coming back to in this blog is definitely simplicity, and so this really resounded with me.

It is so easy to want more, to be forever looking for more stuff, more experiences, more satisfaction...which of course is largely a fruitless exercise.  but not so easy to find a real (and simple) antidote to all this want.

I think there's nothing wrong with aspiring for a 'better'life, for having goals and dreams and ambitions.  The problem comes when we lose sight of the important things that we already have.   I'm talking about more than those basic first world commodities like clean water and medical care.  Starting by simply thinking about all the abundance in our lives - our families, friends, assets, depth of experience, reminds us that really, we want for little.  And, by and large, we have everything we need.

It's about the richness that our lives offer - the music, the books, the ease of access to the outdoors, the amazing technology that allows us to so easily connect to the rest of the world.  The relationships we start, grow, and nourish.  The small pleasures of each day spent with the people we value most.

It takes conscious effort that's for sure.  sometimes it's hard! I am the first to admit I get twingey when I see friends with things, experiences, relationships, that I want for myself.

And so back i need to go to my list.

Count your blessings, and want for less.  Yes, that works for me.

Monday, August 01, 2011

was it something I said?

I've got an underdeveloped skill of not taking things personally.
Yep, I'm the one that hears a comment and spends way too much time analysing it.
I'm the one who feels wounded when it had nothing to do with me.

So when I make a new friend and then the friendship kind of...dwindles...i can't help but it me?

The logical response, is of course: don't be ridiculous. that person is probably busy/distracted/oblivious.

So far so good.

But then it happens again.

Manners maketh the man (or woman...)...let's see...

And then last week I had a particularly unpleasant exchange with a stranger. Which included, the second time I met her, me saying, oh I'm SURE I know you, you look so familiar.  And her responding: Well I certainly don't know YOU and last time I saw you no one bothered to introduce us so I just thought I wouldn't bother talking to you.

Which I didn't take personally - I mean, good grief, is that about me? I don't think so!



A woman whom I know slightly.  I say hello.  Offer a boring time of day greeting.  Compliment her on an event I attended that she had run.  She responds with, yes well I'm very pleased for you. Really I am.   I look flummoxed.   She walks off.
I notice she is rubbing her temples.  When I get the chance I go to her, say, oh are you ok, do you have a headache.  She response with a laugh.  Looks directly at me and says No! No I do not! Why would you think that!?  Explain about temples.  She responds: and what if I did, what would you be likely to do about it. I say, oh, maybe offer you a panadol?  She responds again: Well, I think I am quite capable to bringing my own thanks.  AND I am not here to chat you know. I have had a hard week.'' (((me, thinking ffs it's Monday!!!!))).

I know I shouldn't let it bother me.  I know it's about her.
But honestly?
It's put me off ever returning to that place.  I don't need to be around that kind of rubbish.
And twice in a week.
Forget it.