The social butterfly flutters her wings…

People often comment on my social life. That I’m always doing something or in most cases a lot of things. I would even describe myself as a social butterfly. It’s also true that I am always being social, sociable, lunching, parties, coffee etc.

I do have quite a large circle of friends and then of course three families to maintain. Three due to the fact my mum and dad separated when I was five.

In some ways it’s as much work as a job. Actually maintaining meaningful relationships takes a lot of time, effort and a lot of me!

I do get energised from spending time with people – I enjoy social interaction and I suppose people would describe me as the life and soul. I also in partnership with my husband seem to have the ability to bring groups of people together or help people feel at ease and as such we are often invited to be ‘the talkers’

I don’t mind this at all, this is not going to be a post that bemoans the fact that we have lots of social engagements. However, I was just wondering whether we all have set roles in social situations and what they would be?

The talkers : Those you invite because you can guarantee they will keep the conversation going and ensure no awkward pauses. Able to engage all guests and make them feel included.

The bakers/chefs:The people you invite because you know when you ask them to bring ‘nibbles’ they will bring a culinary masterpiece which will wow your guests.

The fountain of knowledge The people you invite who are full of pearls of wisdom and knowledge and can regale your guests with amazing facts on every subject.

The party game enthusiasts The people who get really excited about group games and can organise and work up such a frenzy that even the most reticent of guests will join in.

The tidy uppers The people you invite because you know when the party is over and you are left with all the mess they will stay faithfully until every last glass is washed and put away.

The early birds The people who can be guaranteed to arrive on the dot and ensure your other guests don’t worry about being the first to arrive.

The latecomers The people you know will arrive late but will entertain everyone with their long winded and confusing stories of why.

Yes, I am intentionally being a little ‘tongue in cheek’ but I’m sure you all recognise these guests and can spot which category you fit into?

So my questions for you are Which guest are you?
Which guests do you invite?
Which guests have I missed?

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Snapshots of a life…

I made a decision early on in our marriage that we would capture the small moments, the important moments, the random moments, the silly moments and the real moments of our life.

There is something so poignant about photographs and they are an important part of my life. We are not professional photographers, we don’t have a super duper camera but we do capture our life on film.

Holidays

Parties

Everyday life

The last photo is my favourite – we went tree climbing with a friend and their children and it was one of the best days I’ve ever had – I really think this photo captures that moment.

Do you have a favourite picture of yourself and what does it show?

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Navigating the mind

Clutter and Mess

Does your mind ever feel a bit like this picture? Full of so much mess and clutter, there are some beautiful things in there but they are hard to find underneath?

I often feel like this, especially as the pressures of life take old – there seems to be more and more crowding its way in and I struggle to navigate my way through to get to the good stuff.

Things adding to my mind clutter:

1. Work

I was made redundant in December officially but was not informed of this fact until January. I had been misinformed that my contract had been extended and subsequently worked for four days for nothing. I left work on a Wednesday fully expecting to return the next day and never went back.

This leads to a lack of resolution, the feeling that there is a lose end out there that I cannot tie up and that does not sit well with me. Especially, as I’m a teacher and I didn’t get to tell the students I would never be back.

I have been in touch with colleagues who have informed me that due to the current cuts and money saving exercises two of the previous provisions I worked for are being closed and merging with the primary provision. This has made my heart sink as it means many of my friends will be jobless and many of the teenage students will leave school with no qualifications. This may seem cost effective now but we will be paying for it ten fold in the future.

In terms of looking for another job I am losing faith in the changes being made to the education system and have serious concerns about the streamlining of the curriculum that seems to be on the cards. My only saving grace is that I teach a core subject.

2. Family

Dysfunctional isn’t even the word. As old as we get and as wise as we become to the state of our family I think there is always a deep desire within us to belong and especially to belong to our family. It is our first community and one that has a strong hold over us regardless of how capable we become of functioning without it.

3. Money

Despite having looked very closely at the finances and being well aware that we can pay the mortgage and the bills, I am suddenly over conscious of every penny that I spend. I have to mentally justify everything – even buying milk.

4. Relationships

I am attempting to maintain contact with my friends at my ex work places without getting involved in al the politics that I am no longer caught up in. This is a delicate balance.

I am more self conscious at the moment as I don’t have a job to hide behind when I am with my friends. It is only now, that I realise how much time people spend talking about work and I cannot join in. Instead, I have to reveal more of myself and that is new, different and at times a little uncomfortable as it means becoming more vulnerable and exposed.

So how do I go about dealing with all of this on a day to day basis without it becoming completely overwhelming?

  1. Blog – this helps to order my thoughts and once they’re out there, they don’t seem as big or as bad.
  2. Read – There is something about the escapism of reading that provides respite for me, it also is something that makes me feel calm and centred.
  3. Talk – Sounds simple but I talk through how I feel with my friends and husband through which ever medium I can, including social media.
  4. Walk – I used to get really annoyed when people recommended walking for clearing my head but I’m a convert – nothing quite like it especially when the cool air is dancing across your face.
  5. Coffee shop – There is something about the ambience, the sights, the sounds and the people watching that helps me to settle – perhaps it’s being nosey too!

So what are you attempting to navigate your way through at the moment and what do you do to deal with it?

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My life in pictures (most recent pics on my phone)

Murder Mystery Party

This photo was taken just before we  left for a 1920’s murder mystery party on Saturday night. I had reservations about going, as I had not been in a sociable mood leading up to it, but once I had my costume on and a glass of bubbly in my hand I was all set. The feather boa I’m wearing moulted feathers the whole night – I felt bad for my friend’s carpet! I drank champagne and peach schnapps all night and woke up bright and breezy.

Ozymandius

This is my Bengal cat Ozymandius. He is so adorable he gets away with murder. He usually wakes up at around 4am and has to be tactically ignored so that he re settles. He likes to chat to us and make sure we know he is around during the day and evening. When he’s hungry we know about it but when he’s tired, he curls up as shown and sleeps for hours.

Esquires Orange Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream

Esquires has taken over from Nero’s as my favourite coffee shop. There is something about the ambience and the beverage choice as well as their delicious sandwiches which come with salad that has slices of mango in it. This is my favourite drink of choice – Orange hot chocolate with whipped cream – pure decadence in a mug. I rarely have anything else. I talk about it so often in fact that one of my Christmas presents was hot chocolate and orange syrup so I can make it at home. Not quite the same as the real thing but close.

Travelodge 7th Jan 2011

This was the morning of my uncle’s funeral. We had travelled part of the way the night before and stayed in a Travelodge. We woke up in the morning to thick snow and were concerned we would not arrive in time. Despite following the snow up the country we did make it on time and the cemetery looked beautiful with a white frosting.

Fry up

I do enjoy a good fry up – this was early on in the year. The tablecloth is  left over from our NYE  Pirate party.

Yes some of these pics are a little random, but they do tell the story of my life and that’s why I like to make sure I take photos of the seemingly little things. I have a visual reminder of the moments in life that are sometimes forgotten or pass us by.

What would your most recent pictures say about you?

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What is a friend?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about what defines a friend.  The word is often banded about but do we all mean the same thing when we use it?

For me, a friend is someone who is involved in my life, knows me flaws and all and still chooses to engage with me. A friend is someone who can be relied upon to listen to you, to be a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with.

So far, I’m assuming most of you agree? However, for me it then goes a little further. I also need a friend to be someone who can be honest with me and I can be honest to back to. You see otherwise what’s the point? If your ‘friends’ aren’t prepared to challenge you for fear of upsetting you and the same goes for you then is that really a friend?

You see, I would much rather someone felt comfortable to raise issues or concerns with me – it may lead to a lively debate or perhaps a disagreement but surely that’s the point.

I want people in my life who support me with love and kindness as we all do but I also desire the truth. If we go through life unchallenged and indulged how will we meet our potential or grow? We are all guilty of displaying less than desirable characteristics :

arrogance, greed, dishonesty, pride to name but a few.

Do you want to be surrounded by people who allow that in you or do you want them to challenge you? I’ve enjoyed self pity, I’ve enjoyed arrogance because at the time it feels good – admit it. Afterwards however, on reflection it feels ugly and wrong and I can’t help but think there were ‘friends’ standing by who allowed my behaviour. I do not want to be allowed to be like that.

Am I inviting endless criticism by even floating this idea? I don’t think so. I don’t think a true friend would constantly criticise you and point our all of your flaws. I do think they would speak the truth in love and at first it may well smart, hurt and wound a little. Who amongst us enjoys criticism in any form? Even that masked as ‘constructive’ doesn’t feel very comfortable to hear.

What I am saying is that I need to consider for myself the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. That I need to ensure I invest in the people who are prepared to challenge me and that I need to stop sitting back with my own friends and speak the truth in love. It may be difficult at first but I’m hoping it will lead to deeper and better relationships which is what we all really want.

So what is a friend to you? I’d be interested to know.

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The art of communication

This morning, as I sat on the sofa, refreshing my twitter page on my phone, watching the news and reading the email I had just received, I realised that we are bombarded with different mediums of communication throughout the day.

I regularly check the following as the day progresses:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Emails
  • Blog
  • Text messages
  • BBM

It has become almost like second nature and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing at all?

It is becoming more apparent to me that we are losing something in the ability to converse with people on a face to face basis. How often have you been sat in front of a friend, colleague or family member and both of you have been glancing at your phone while communicating?

I’m guilty of doing exactly the same – the red flashing light on the corner of my phone draws me to it and I struggle not to immediately pick it up and read what ever has been sent. Often, it’s a spam email or an email form a company informing me of a sale or latest items. Is that really so important?

Communication to me is an art. How often have you had a conversation with someone and you know deep down even though they may be listening their not hearing what you have to say. Almost as if we simply go through the motions – the substance is no longer there.

Why is it that we are often far more free in what we say on social network sites than in social situations? Have we lost the art of face to face communication? Webcams and skype yes you could argue they are like face to face but it’s not the same as being in a room sat with someone is it? As much as it convinces us it is . There is still the potential to ‘create’ an appearance, manner, identity in some form.

Even talking on the phone has now been replaced by text messages of whatever app messenger you may have downloaded on your phone.

This has been happening for a long time I know and I have let it happen to me but today it’s just struck me that I miss a good conversation, without phones around, without the distraction of the television. I miss those deep conversations that seemed to come so easily and now seem to be almost a chore.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend my life having superficial conversations in which I have a phone in my hand at all times and am staring at the tv screen. That is an exaggeration, but what scares me is that it’s not so far off.

I am going to share one ‘proper’ conversation I have had this week and I hope you will share yours, so that we can ensure we don’t lose the beauty in the art of communication and become only able to effectively share ourselves through typing.

A proper conversation

I’m not going to type word for word the conversation but suffice to say I was able to share the following things:

  • That I was struggling to lead the youth group in its’ current form and that I needed more support
  • That the issues with my family impinge and effect my relationships with other people in such a way that I can become withdrawn
  • That I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to be the me I thought other people wanted and not the real me.

Yes I exposed my soul during this conversation and made myself vulnerable. The result was that I felt relieved that I no longer had to pretend and continue wearing a mask. It’s scary, it’s a risk but if we stop taking them do we not begin to lose who we really are?

When was your last ‘proper’ conversation and what was the result?

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To do lists…

We all talk about ‘to do lists’ we all seem to keep them in some format or another – for me a scrappy piece of paper, the back of a receipt or a post it note is sufficient. For others, it may be a typed and printed list, a beautifully written and decorated list in different colours, a number of reminders set to go off with an alarm on their phone.

How are they structured? Mine are usually chronological – what do I need to get done in the morning, afternoon, evening. At times it may just become a random list as the ‘to dos’ come to mind with no real structure or time frame.

How often do you write one for? For me, i have to be honest it’s daily – I think I would feel overwhelmed if I attempted to do a week or heaven forbid a month.

Why? This is the real question I’m trying to uncover. Is it the part of human nature that craves structure? Is it so that we feel productive?  To prove we are not lazy? Do we share them with others because we need approval or because we want someone else to check up on us or purely just for motivation sake?

Also, are they really our honest ‘to dos’? I mean usually we only put the mundane don’t we?

For example mine today looks like this

To do

  • Shower
  • Print out youth work information
  • Job search
  • Blog
  • Tidy
  • Hoover
  • Go to Asda
  • Prep Lunch
  • Have Lunch with friend
  • Prep Dinner
  • Meeting
  • Put Dinner on

There is nothing surprising or out of the ordinary there, nothing that challenging, nothing that involves much effort or humanity. I’m sure there are plenty of ‘to dos’ that we have which are longer term, which we would never put on a list.

If i were to be honest maybe I would add

  • Call mum and talk about redundancy, meeting up and her friend who has cancer
  • Call work colleague who called me three times over the weekend and I ignored.
  • Call one of my best friends and actually talk to her rather than just texting
  • Have a look at courses I might like to do
  • Seriously consider what I want to do next job wise rather than just looking at the same sort of jobs
  • Stop hiding behind excuses and actually re establish contact with certain people

Now what you notice as I have written that is that they are mostly about relationship with other people, or spending time thinking about myself and what I really want to do. Now these are the things that should be on our ‘to do lists’

We may not achieve them all in one day. one week, one month or even one year but at least we would be working towards them. There is a danger in hiding behind the mundane and convincing ourselves we are being productive and getting things done, ticking them off the list. But are we really living?

So my challenge to you today, seeing as I have been honest and written a true to do list for myself is for you to do the same – let’s start living and stop just existing, let’s be a little revolutionary in our own lives.

Go on – write that honest to do list now.

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