Pausing, Two

Something changed in me last year.  I had started doing the She Reads Truth Bible Reading Plan – reading the entire Bible in a year – and the more I read God’s word the more I wanted to know God.  The more I wanted God to know me.  That sound ridiculous because of course, God already knows me, all of me, but I wanted a real relationship with God, one where I was really hearing God.  Not just saying thank you and asking for things -:“Hi God, how are you?  I’m doing okay, Thank you so much for my wonderful boyfriend, friends and family I am so lucky.  I know that.  Please keep them safe.  Sorry about that thing I messed up, I’ll do better next time, I’m trying, sorry,  Oh and by the way, can you send your peace to X because they are really struggling, I’m fine.  I’m lucky, my life is really easy in comparison, I know that”.

I’ve given that up now.  Now I come to find Jesus.  I come when I am joyful, when I am weary, when I am thankful, sad or anxious.  I don’t try and qualify my feelings now.  Everything is relative.  It’s not a competition where only the worst cases are deserving of God’s attention.

Since summer 2015 I’ve been working on saying no, making time for me, making time for God, exercising, writing and reading.  Doing all the things that make me “me” and make me feel present.  Saying “no” is really hard for me, I am by nature a bit of a people pleaser and I find it hard if I feel like I am letting others down.

In September, I went on a mindfulness retreat at Burrswood which is a fantastic place, it has a hospital part offering hydrotherapy and respite care, there is onsite counselling and retreats and has weekly healing services.  I’ve wanted to go on a retreat for ages, and this came up at the right time earlier this year.  I now know how important it is for me to stop, to relax and to accept help.  I spent four days at Burrswood and I have never felt so relaxed in my adult life, honestly, I can’t remember a time that I have felt so relaxed and content like that, I think it might be before I started university, the summer after A Levels and before starting my degree.

I find practicing mindfulness hard.  I have kept it up (and I’m quite proud of myself for doing so) since the Retreat.  I find it hard to focus on my breath though, I get thoughts all the time – you are taught to try and acknowledge the thoughts and let them pass.  I have trouble with the last bit, I tend to wander away with the thoughts, so it’s a good job I am using this book and CD guide so that I can be led back to the present:

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Being in the present is what mindfulness is all about.  Acknowledging your thoughts and feelings, noticing your surroundings.  Paying attention.  Peace.  Not rushing through life at 100mph trying to tick everything off of your endless mental to do list.

This is the theme of “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist.  I’ve read it twice.  I think this book might have been written just for me.  Shauna talks about laying things down, learning how to say no, living simpler.  The tagline for the book is “Leaving Behind frantic, for a simpler, more soulful way of living”.  Yes, I thought, that is definitely what I need.

Shauna says about saying no:

“It was very difficult for me to learn to say no.  I did it badly, awkwardly, sometimes too forcefully, and sometimes with so many disclaimers and weird ancillary statements that people actually had no idea what I was saying.  I hovered endlessly after I said it – was that okay?  Are we okay? Because I love you – you know I love you right?  We’re okay?”

I know this feeling well.  I have always been the girl who said “yes”.  Yes I’ll come and visit you on that weekend and yes I’ll see my family the weekend after and Yes I’ll do that with you the following Saturday and Yes to after work drinks and yes to staying late, yes to volunteering and yes to serving coffee at church and yes to being on that committee.

The thing is saying all those yeses meant that I was also saying no.  No to rest, no to time to myself, no to time to write, no to time to read, no to time with God, no to time with Carl, just us two.  That’s a dangerous pattern to fall in to.

There’s nothing wrong with yes.  Yes is fun and leads to wonderful memories, laughter and time with family and friends, opportunities and adventure.  It has to be balanced with a bit of no though…or perhaps more yesses but yesses to things like rest and quiet time.

I hope I am more balanced now.  I am trying.  I still fall into the yes trap, sometimes I do it because I am worried about disappointing someone.  Now however, I respect my nos and I respect other people’s nos.

There is nothing wrong with setting boundaries.  As hard as that is to do sometimes.

Here’s to embracing the pausing.

Pausing, One

Anxiety is no friend to logic.  You might “know” something but your body betrays you.  You feel like you have something heavy sat on your chest.  You can’t breathe deeply enough.  Your airways are tight.  Your chest doesn’t expand properly.  It feels like there’s a rubber resistance band strapped around your lungs.  You feel sick and your stomach is upset.  You obsessively and compulsively bite all of your nails down to the quick.  Tears are never far from behind your eyes.

It is the absence of peace.

In August 2015 I turned 30.  That summer I experienced a prolonged feeling of anxiety for the first time.  Lots of things happened and turning 30 seemed to bring it all into a sharp focus.  I had changed my job four months before and I suddenly realised that it wasn’t the job, it was me.  I was working long hours and was very stressed at work.  There was an altercation with my neighbour which left me feeling vulnerable at home.  I felt unanchored and a little bit lost.  I didn’t know what I should be doing for a career, could I really change?  I had spent so much time and energy (and money) getting to where I was.  Other people really want my job, it felt a bit like a betrayal to be thinking about changing careers.

I have experience (a long time ago now) of working in mental health.  So I did what I advocate, I acknowledged the way I was feeling, tried not to beat myself up about it and I was honest with my inner circle.  I also went and spoke to my doctor.  My doctor upon listening to me said he wasn’t surprised I was feeling like that, and suddenly, just like that I started to feel better.  Sometimes all we need is someone independent, someone outside, to take a look at our life and offer us some reassurance that we are not weak or crazy.  Sometimes it takes more than that and that is okay too.

It was then that I decided I needed to make some changes.  I felt like I had missed some warning signs – just in case anyone else is unclear – throwing up before you go to work every morning is definitely a warning sign that all is not quite right.

I wanted to step back, to make more time for me, to relax.  I was so tired.  Tired of being busy and doing and pleasing everybody and feeling like I was failing myself.

I decided I had to learn to say “no”.  I wanted to be more selective about where I spent my time.  I didn’t want to be rushing all the time trying to fit everybody in and making no time for me.  I wanted to do more creative things.  Mostly, though I wanted to spend more time listening to God.  Actually, learning to listen to God, discerning his will for me rather than trying to control all aspects of my life and just ask for his help when it got hard.

I wanted to know what I was being called to do.  There is a part in “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, where the boy is being taught about the path, about how if you are on the right one then the whole universe conspires to help you and you keep seeing signs to let you know you are following your destiny.

The idea of counselling as a profession had been in my mind for a few years after a throw away comment from a friend and I hadn’t done anything about it until I signed up to an Introductory 12 week course at CityLit in January 2015.  I had really enjoyed the course but then had changed jobs and kept plugging along in “the real world” when the wheels started to come loose and I realised that actually, I couldn’t keep on.  I prayed a lot about it, and decided that I would need to get a job back in London to have any hope of being able to study part-time.

In November I put my CVs out to a few places, by December I had an interview and I was honest an open with the interviewer and she gave me some names of other places where I could apply as they were interviewing someone else.  By the first week of January I had a new job a commutable distance for part-time study.

Then the doubts came.  I wondered if this really what God was calling me to do or if I just wanted to do it because I didn’t like what I was currently doing.  I decided I would give the new place “a fair go” before making my decision.

I have been chugging along, keeping on, ticking over, I tried, I did.  But I think that that constant little nudge toward counselling in the back of my head that won’t go away is there for a reason.  I have found a part-time counselling course that I can apply for this January, it will be a big commitment – every Saturday from January to July, and it will be a scary process, going back to studying part time (at my age) and giving up some security in the job I have now, but if I have learned anything over the past year and a bit it’s that it will be worth it.  The application process for the course opens next month and closes pretty soon afterwards, they make quick decisions about who they let in it seems.

Last week I was pretty stressed with work, I guess the fact that the application process will be opening soon has also been in the back of my mind, I was working long hours again, often on my own and I experienced anxiety again, seemingly out of nowhere.  That horrible sick feeling, the feeling that I am crap at my job and making all of the wrong choices.  The feeling that everything is out of control.

I went, every day last week for 10 minutes to the church across the road.  I just wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus, and pour out my troubles to him and ask him for his peace, he doesn’t disappoint.  I had found this on Pinterest a few days before, and thought it may help those of you who also experience anxiety, as it helped me:

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The feeling passed more quickly this time, I have learned how to manage it better, how to acknowledge the feelings and I have learned that they will pass.  I have also learned that I need to have a positive attitude toward it, anxiety can suck you in and down if you let it.  This week I gave myself a stern talking to, I reminded myself that I am on the path and that it isn’t always straightforward, I have to push through and do hard things.  I can do that.  Paulo Coelho reminds us that:

“I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure.  It’s all a question of how I view my life.”

I am definitely choosing to be a positive thinking adventurer, one who isn’t scared to try new things and grab opportunities with both hands.  I am not going to give in to the fear or the anxiety.  I am on the path and I am trusting in God and my heart to lead me to my destiny, back to the soul of the world.

A quick Q&A

My friend Madge said she’d like me to answer some basic questions about myself like “why do you go to church?”  Trouble is the answers to those sorts of questions are a bit complex!  I’ve done my best below, without writing an essay in response to each one.

Why is the blog called Nack and Nace.com?  What does it mean?

Nackley and Nacey were my imaginary friends as a child, more affectionately referred to by two year old me as “Nack and Nace”.  I was thinkng along the lines of imagination, thoughts and writing and thought it had a nice ring to it.

Why am I writing a Blog?

It’s a way to be creative, my job is not creative at all and I needed an outlet.  I enjoy writing, also I wanted to expand on my 100 days of gratefulness posts that I’d done on Facebook a while back and expand on the short little posts that I did there.  I found keeping an online “Gratefulness Diary” helpful, it’s very hygge which is something I intend on writing an entire post about!

What stops me from writing?

Time, or lack thereof!  Also, sometimes, wondering whether what I write will be interesting to others, so a bit of self doubt I guess.

Why am I a Christian?

Well, because I believe in God.  I try to avoid debates about whether there is God or not because I know there is in the same way that I feel and know love exists and I appreciate that others will say exactly yhe same thing for why they feel there isn’t a God.  Does this mean that I never doubt? No. does it mean that I have all the answers or find some things about Christianity easy to accept?  Hell no.  Does it mean that I can’t see things from the point of view of an atheist or that I don’t have atheist friends – nope.  All are welcome in my circle, so long as you are trying to be good, wholehearted person.

Why do I go to Church?

A lot of people, including Christians struggle with Church.  I get this, I do too – it can sometimes seem hard to find God there.  It can be rigid, judgmental, unaccepting and self righteous.  The thing is that Church is not God or Jesus, it is the meeting of imperfect people in a place (any place) where they come together to meet with God and Jesus.  Sometimes those imperfect people forget why they are there and they forget what the face of Jesus looks like (that’s love, by the way).  It can also be a bit magical though when you have a community of imperfect people trying to do wonderful and loving work and supporting eachother in their faith, they might not get it all 100% right but they can do a lot of good.

Why do I read the Bible?  Do I believe everything in it?

I read it because it is how I learn to know God and Jesus better, how I grow in understanding my faith.

I believe every word in it is inspired by God and God breathed but that doesn’t mean that I believe that it can be read at face value.  So much of the Bible needs to be read in context, with an understanding of the time in which it was written and the culture.  I am not a Theologian and I know there are many ways of interpreting texts.  I do my best and I try to remember what Jesus said and did and I take that as the basis for how I should behave and also how I should try and interpet stories, looking through a “Jesus Lens”, if you will.

Why do I call myself a Jesus Feminist?

I am a Feminist, I believe that women have the right to be treated as equal to men and that they aren’t a lot of the time.  I believe that Jesus thought so too.  In the Gospels there are countless examples of Jesus treating women with respect, allowing them to learn from him (unheard of before that time) and treating them as equal to men.  It is what I believe that God intended and what should be the natural order of things.

Why am I interested in Hygge, Mindfulness and Hapiness?

I think it is human nature to search for happiness and purpose in life. I struggle with time management, saying “no”, people pleasing and generally being “busy”.  I can find that I am suddenly existing rather than living, that I am stressed, tired and anxious.  It is so much better to live and to enjoy this wonderful, crazy life journey, noticing it and not having it just pass you by.  Using Hygge, Mindfulness and exploring my Faith help me to be more centered, more present and happier.

Christian Mindfulness is bascially just another term for being still and listening to God, Hygge is all about comfort and security, things that you also get from being mindful and from having a faith.

Essentially all of these things are about living in the present, being still and connected.  I am a big believer in human connection and making time for you; it is instrumental to our mental health and well being.

Do I have any vices?

Chocolate.  Specifically pralines.

Any other questions?  Shout.

 

Committed to being kind and other things…

So, a lot has been happening.  There was the whole #Brexit debacle.  I was devastated, I sobbed when I heard the result.  I love being a Londoner, British and European. I am not going to write a whole post on my feelings around the result, because, frankly, others do it better here and here.  I wasn’t surprised.  I am friends on social media with a few people who were voting “Leave” for a variety of reasons, not all of them (praise the Lord) immigration related.  I realised that there was a big division in our country and that some people had researched this and come to the conclusion that to leave the EU would, they thought, be better for farmers, the countryside and themselves.  I also realised that some people had done precisely no research and were blaming the EU for a whole host of problems, including “immigrants taking our jobs”.  Excellent.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am not going to go into the rights and wrongs (according to me) of these views.  What I will say, and what I have already said on my own Facebook page is that we are all entitled to our political opinions and we all need to be kind to others, including on the internet.  Calling someone “dumb/thick/lefty idiot” or telling them that they “need to get over it, it’s happened” is oversimplifying the issue and is unfair when we clearly have a very divided country and need to focus on healing some rifts.

I have been horrified that my fears about racism being a large motivator for some people are being confirmed.  The BBC reported this week that there has been a 42% rise in hate crime in the UK compared to the same period last year.  A lot of racists seem to feel emboldened by the Referendum result and this was a particular fear of mine.  This is hugely upsetting and distressing to me.  I cannot comprehend people behaving like this to others, it is alien to me.

I have therefore decided to do my bit by being kind.  I start up conversations with people who are different to me where I can, I smile at immigrants a lot, I have started frequenting my local corner shop and Polski Sklep more in an effort to show these valued members of our communities that they are welcome.  I probably look a bit weird. It feels a bit weird sometimes but, really WHO CARES?! I would encourage everyone to do this.  These are small things, but they are done with love and I hope they make a difference.

Further to my last post I am committed to being careful about what I “like”, share and post on social media.  I always consider if I need to say anything, or if others more knowledgeable than me can do the talking.

In an effort not to become completely depressed about the state of the world and to make myself feel more centred, I have also been doing other things (alongside praying, obvs):

Reading

I bought myself some new books after a self imposed “book buying ban” in November when I realised I had two shelves of unread books and approximately 8 unread kindle books!  Whoops!  Having read a lot since then I decided that I could treat myself, reading helps keep me sane.

May reads on the left, June reads on the right.  Don’t judge me for “Billy and Me”, it was needed after the EU referendum result, and was actually alright!  Best read of May?  It’s a tie between “Everyday Sexism” and “The day I met Jesus”, both profoundly feminist books, what’s not to love?

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Healthy eating and exercise?

Fallen off the wagon a bit here, but I have rediscovered a love for yoga.  I need to get back on board with my BBG workouts again, I’ve lost a bit of motivation after my bridesmaid moment passed!

Thoughts about my future and career 

Always a lot of thoughts.  I attended a wonderful vocations course (the first of its kind) through the church and for the last five weeks Wednesdays have been my favourite night of the week.  I am so glad I did it, I feel so much calmer about the future and my calling.  It was great to discuss things with a group of strangers (bar one person) and learn from their wisdom and experience.  I found it enlightening.  That sounds like a big word but I really did.  I discovered more about myself, the way I learn and approach things and about how to listen to God.  I still don’t really have all of the answers but I definitely have more clarity which is refreshing, particularly in a time when everything else seems so uncertain.

Socialising

I have been seeing lovely friends for good conversation, wine, food and fun, and I am always grateful for their time, especially those who have babies and whose time is precious.

Watching

Re Watching Doctor Who from Series One (the new one with Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor).  That’s right.

Finishing off “The Wire” we’re on the final series and it’s past its best.

Gardening

I love my vegetable patch and my little herb garden. It is so satisfying watching things grow. My lettuces are my particular pride – insane!

I try to be organic and use the companion planting technique to reduce pests – this means planting crops together which assist so nasturtiums in with the runner beans are supposed to prevent aphids. Unfortunately, slug pellets seem to be the only thing working on those particular pests!

Things I am carrying forward into coming weeks:

  1. I’ve purchased a new Bible Study plan “Open your Bible” from “She Reads Truth” whose App I have used before, and I am looking forward to getting started.
  2. More Yoga.
  3. More reading.
  4. Bullet journaling.  I am still not 100% clear on what this is, but I want in!

I hope those of you that are feeling uncertain and a bit unanchored feel less so soon.

LOVE.