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Why Thrive?

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

I’ve always loved this quote by Oscar Wilde. If I do nothing else, but be the best version of myself and aim to leave this earth with the most beautiful soul possible, then I would have lived a worthwhile life. We are raised in a world where, “higher, smarter, faster” is celebrated. Don’t get me wrong, those things should be celebrated, because you don’t get there by just sitting on the couch. But “higher, smarter, faster” at the expense of what makes my soul come alive is not the way I would like to measure my achievements on this earth. These thoughts mark the beginning of my journey to starting the blog and the community for educators called, “Thrive”.

This picture marked the beginning of me being cognitively aware that I needed to change my current set of circumstances. Part of this journey to “thrive” has evolved through writing free verse poetry. Through allowing space for this innate expression of creativity I have become more in tune with who I am and what makes me come alive.

A swan - made for wild open spaces ...
Yet 
in a glass-
contained -
unable to spread out - spread forward -
dive deep - swim through.
Yet
there is one hope of change....
The sky above is open - no bars
no bottom
so flap up
flap hard
and fly to wild open spaces
to freedom
to be what you are created for.

First written - 22/3/18
 

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Self awareness …

My body is tired … my mind alive
active, aware, pondering
the pursuit of productivity, meaningful engagement …
Life is busy … too many thoughts …
too many feelings … too many opinions …
If I could wander out in the mountains for days … forgetting all that is spoken ...
implied … suggested,
I am sure I would once again find peace in the stillness and splendour of nature.
Where only the voice of creation can be heard;
that voice is gentle, firm, beautiful,
completely accepting and restorative.
The best panacea, if taken frequently, to prevent a fraying soul.
Juliasdale, Zimbabwe

Daily rituals part 2

While there are positive rituals or daily habits, like drinking tea, or sitting down with a partner and talking about your day. I have to own up to a negative daily ritual I created.

It started a year into my new job. I had moved to this job with ambition, energy and expectation. A year later, I realised that what had seemed like open doors and opportunities for personal and professional growth were actually just illusions of openness, carrots to keep this donkey walking down a certain track. While accepting this was one thing, processing it was another.

I had become friends with a colleague who had been excited and expectant of change and fresh ideas and new momentum when I first joined the company. When we both realised that our dreams were going nowhere, we began this daily ritual. We didn’t intend to, or purposefully choose to. But now 20 months later I can see that we created a ritual. Every afternoon when our boss left for gym we would meet under a tree and exchange frustrations about the day. Sounds impossible, to have something to complain about every day for 20 months, but we managed to do it.

And for me, it didn’t stop there. When I got home, I recounted the frustrations to my husband. We wasted hours talking about a situation that we were powerless to change. Some days there seemed like glimmers of hope and this only fueled further discussion and what ifs…

I’ve been on leave and I go back to this job for 3 months, before I move on to a place where this donkey can have her carrot and eat it. So I have to purposefully choose to create a new ritual with my colleague. We enjoy each other’s company, but we have to choose to ….

let go …

walk away…

and stop doing.

If we are going to enjoy the last few months of working together.

I’m going to make a good thoughts jar so when I go home from work every day, I can write down one good thought about my current work place and put it in the jar. It will be my daily cue to avoid falling back into my bad habit. Who knows, I may just surprise myself and it may be easier than I imagine. I think I will give the jar to my colleague when I leave in December and encourage her to keep filling it.

Here’s to new possibilities …

Daily rituals …

Drinking tea is one of my daily rituals, I’m not quite sure when it began, but as a little girl I remember my mother bringing my sister and me a hot, sweet cup of tea every morning. I’ve brought my children up the same, although, thankfully, they like theirs less sweet.

It is definitely my comfort drink and it is the drink I miss the most when travelling, as, in my opinion, no body makes tea just the way I like to drink it (well, except my husband). Two years ago, we visited Abefoyle tea estate, pictured above, and even on one of the best tea estates in Zimbabwe, I did not get served a cup of tea that I felt was just right. (LOL)

Growing up in Zimbabwe, which was once a British colony makes our tea drinking habits unusual to most of the rest of the world. Southern African people understand, as well as Indian people, who also had the British influence their culture, why we like to drink our black teas with a spot of milk. I suppose if we learned to drink our teas without milk, then it would be easier to pour the perfect cup consistently.

On work days, I don’t leave the house before enjoying a cup of tea and my ritual on returning home at the end of the day, summer or winter is to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea with my husband, as we exchange anecdotes about our days.

Tea creates a space to pause and reflect and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. It creates a bond across class and culture and celebrates our shared humanity.

A Zimbabwean Vignette

Midnight

The house should be silent. Everyone knows that even the magic of fairy godmother’s wears off at midnight.

Yet in Harare, Zimbabwe, on a what would be quiet street, I am awake. Stirred from my dreams by the beep of the alarm keypad re-activating and the gurgling and coughing of water as it pushes the air out of the minute ago empty pipes. My stomach growls, hungry from not enough supper cooked on the dwindling gas of the small stove I am fortunate enough to possess. I breathe a deep sigh, and now energised by these midnight calls, I arise from my warm blankets in the same way as another person, in another place may rise to the sound of an alarm clock heralding the new day, or to the crow of a rooster, greeting the dawn.

What has happened? Why this strange ritual. Is Zimbabwe war-torn, enemy invaded?

Any person living far away would ask these questions. Why else would a person in the year 2019 be going to bed hungry, waking at midnight to fill buckets of water in the small window of light that comes at midnight.

In other households washing machines are whirring, spin driers wringing out the excess of water of at last clean clothes. Further down the road my neighbour takes out her iron, she is a step ahead of some of us, she washed her clothes last night, so tomorrow she can have the luxury of choosing what to wear, instead of looking for what is clean and not too crumpled.

“Should I bake some biscuits for the children too?” I ask myself. Soon the scale is out, the meagre portion of margarine cut carefully to keep enough for when we do get bread for sandwiches. No butter anymore, that is a luxury at 79 ZWL.  ZWL? The best way of describing it is, Zimbabwe Latest currency. Divide by 10, that still means that 500g of butter is equal to US$7.90

I eat two bananas, best quick snack.

The washing has finished its cycle. Small moments of gratitude. I go out into the cool, damp, now early morning to shake out and hang up the washing as carefully as I can to minimise the need for ironing when it dries.

The biscuits are now done. MMMh the warmth of ginger infused dough. I can’t resist. I flick the switch of the barely used kettle and make myself a cup of tea. I take a moment to sit in my favourite chair in the dark lounge and nibble on the delicious sweetness. I turn on just one lamp, to enjoy the glow of light as I watch the steam waft off the top of my favourite red mug. “SMORS”- small moments of reflection. Even in the urgency of the midnight hour, if I can still myself and replenish my soul. I will make it through. I think I may begin to adapt to my new normal and learn to thrive.

Harare, Zimbabwe

Here is some of the backstory to the electricity outages and unstable currency that have created the weird way of life recounted above.

“ZIMBABWE’S state-owned power utility Zesa Holdings (Zesa) is on the brink of collapse due to a plethora of problems. It is beset by multiple crippling factors, including rampant power theft, non-payment of electricity bills, vandalisation of infrastructure, as well as insufficient foreign currency, an explosive internal report reveals”.

Andrew Kunambura Zimbabwe Independent Newspaper.

Chitungwiza – Zimbabwe

These I have loved …

crisp, sta-soft scented sheets,
the rain falling gently on a tin roof,
steaming cups of tea in pretty mugs,
a whole bar of chocolate and a quiet empty house -just for a moment.
steaming showers after long days,
my Granny's beef stew and rice gently fluffed.
new toothbrushes and floral scented hand cream,
brown paper packages from across the sea.
the first day of school holidays,
birthdays and gooey meringues
with whipped cream.
bunches of flowers, lovingly given, lovingly received.
the tick-tock of a house clock,
the smell of a cake baking,
sunsets and sunrises, the scent of spring,
sincere, unwavering friendships, the assurance of a living God ... and 1000 more.


(inspired by Rupert Brooke's original poem)

A poem inspired by my newborn niece Aila.

Babies ……………….


Hidden, moving, breathing, growing, silently, slowly
Symbols of promise, and hope
Changing lives completely …
 
Some born in difficulty; some with ease.
Resilient champions from the hidden depths;
Suddenly bursting forth into the world,
 
Each deserving of the best opportunities
Some more privileged than others.
Varying conception stories …
Yet all divinely destined to be a part of humanity.
 
28 August 2019

Where do the broken things go?

Last December I watched, “The song of the sea,” an animated fantasy film (2014). Well worth your watching, and likely to make you shed a few tears. I won’t spoil the story, but the part I want to share with you is about Macha the owl witch. “Her logic of thinking is that it’s easier to bottle up your emotions in a jar than go through life suffering from the pain that comes with feeling.” She herself is slowly turning to stone as she bottles more and more of what she feels away.

Macha the owl witch from “Song of the sea”

Often painful things are easier to stuff down than deal with. Yet the truth is, that in doing this, we slowly kill part of who we are.

I love this Japanese wisdom story. – do take a moment to read it https://philipchircop.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/the-fable-of-kintsukuroi/

From the time I heard this story, the beautiful symbolism has stayed with me.

Kintsukuroi (“golden mend”) is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery using lacquer resin laced with gold or silver.

It taught me not to hide the broken places but to allow time and new experiences to be the gold that binds the once broken pieces together.

The good and the bad become inextricably bound within us and to bottle up the bad feelings and experiences inevitably means we stifle the good feelings too.

These are some of the broken things from my home …

When a cup breaks in our home, we don’t throw it away, we fill it with our own version of gold and keep it as a reminder that there is no shame in mistakes and brokenness. The “My little pony” cup , image 3, is particularly special. My sister and I each had one, from London, about 1984. I like to plant little succulents in some of the broken cups. For me, they symbolise a second chance and a resilience that comes through embracing our brokenness. This particular succulent makes lovely baby shoots that can be separated from the mother plant and shared with a friend. I received the first plant 14 years ago from my then, mother in law to be. I’ve been paying the plant forward since.

Let the gold of time and new experiences begin to fill your soul, fill the cracks and let the feathers of dreams begin to grow again and allow the kind souls who do exist to keep you safe while your wings repair themselves.

Kaleidoscope

A poem

Created colours seen uniquely through each pair of eyes.
When viewed in
isolation,
they can be distinct
- yet flat.
When viewed together, in unison, a cacophony of colours
bursting forth, colour upon colour.
Resembling creation's glory.
Walking with arms wide open ... now linking together
in vibrant freedom - not restricted.
A kaleidoscope of opportunity,
a tapestry of grace.
Angles; lines; layers; boundaries;
boundless energy ...
light, security, love, purpose.
All in togetherness.

What’s in your hand?

Is it a pot of brightly coloured paint – that can transform an old table into a new place where friends can gather and connect soul to soul? Is it a single seed seed, that will take time to grow when planted, but within it contains the potential for a whole forest to be born?

Is it a smile, a cup of coffee, or a longer than usual pause to properly chat and see a through a chink in the armour?

No matter how small it is, we always have something in our hands. Something that can change the life of another or something that can empower us and help us along our journey to fulfill the dream that lies in our hearts waiting to be allowed to grow.

Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by systems, and the phrase, “that’s the way we have always done it” , or ” why fix something that isn’t broken?” When all of your being is shouting … are you serious? Do you really think this is good and do you really not see that this has long been broken?

“Always listen to yourself. It is better to be wrong than to simply follow convention. If you are wrong, no matter, you have learned something and you will grow stronger. If you are right, you have taken another step toward a fulfilling life.” ~ Bryce Courtenay

When hard times have been long and the light of the dawn doesn’t seem to be coming, those are the times, when dreams are born. When soil seems barren and windows seem closed, that is the time to be ready for when the rain falls and the fresh breeze blows … because it will come. But will you be ready?

Everything good that has every changed our world has always met with resistance. It takes courage to swim up stream, stand out from the crowd, challenge the status quo, think differently. But somebody needs to do it? Why not me? Why not you? Don’t underestimate the power of one. Don’t get so focused on the back of the tapestry where all the knots and threads are, that you lose sight of the picture being created on the other side.

Don’t live with regret. Most people regret not trying far more than they regret trying and failing.

Refuse to do nothing.

“Those who take action have a disproportionate impact. The power of one is to move many.” ~ Elizabeth May

True to the core or strong from the core?

I went for a run today and for the first time in a long long time, probably in 18 years, I really paced myself beautifully and used my core to lengthen my stride … it made me feel powerful, it made me feel purposeful and it gave me sore abs!!

I came back and dug out these poor pixelated photos that are mostly unflattering to the world, but they take me back in time in a boat load of memories.

I spent all of my tween into final years of High school, competing for Zimbabwe. My best race was 800m but I also enjoyed running 4th in a 4 x 400m relay team. That feeling of mind and body in perfect harmony, that effortless, almost flying sensation of coming round the final bend onto the 100m straight ahead of the lactic acid build up …. I loved those days. It took years to get the intense competitive edge out of my system. But I finally overcame that and now I run, just for fun, whenever I want to, I walk when I feel like it and stop when my chest burns, and every now and then I have a day like today, where that old athletic genius comes alive again and I’m like a greyhound on a track.

Did you know that greyhounds are trained to chase a mechanical rabbit with the hope that they will never catch it, because if they do, like one dog did on a race track in Florida they become depressed and disillusioned and no longer know what to do. Shame, poor things. It is quite a scary thought though. Am I chasing something that I am exerting hours of my life for, only to be bitterly disillusioned if I finally do get it? It’s a moment for reflection. It’s best to reflect halfway round the track or half way up the ladder or before you hit the rapids or go over the waterfall.

What do you really want in life or out of life? Are your current pursuits reinforcing your core beliefs? Do you know what your core beliefs are?

IDENTIFYING CORE VALUES
These values apply to work and personal life. This is not an exhaustive list—you’re welcome to add your own.
Acceptance Achievement Adventure Affection Altruism Ambition
Appreciation Arts Authenticity Authority Autonomy
Balance Beauty Belonging Caring Celebration Challenge Choice
Collaboration Commitment Community Communication Compassion
Connection Contribution Cooperation Creativity
Democracy
Effectiveness Efficiency Equality Equity Excellence Excitement Expertise
Fame Fairness Faith Family Flexibility Focus Forgiveness Freedom
Friendship Fun
Goals Gratitude Growth
Happiness Health Helping Others High Expectations Honesty
Hope Humility Humor
Imagination Independence Influence Initiative Integrity
Intuition Interdependence
Joy Justice
Kindness Knowledge
Leadership Loyalty
Making a Difference Meaningful Work Mindfulness
Nature Nurturing
Order
Passion Peace Personal Growth Perseverance
Personal-Development Pleasure Positive-Attitude Pride
Productivity
Recognition Reflection Religion Respect Responsibility Results
Risk Taking Romance
Self-Expression Self-Respect Service Sharing Solitude Spirituality
Success Support

Team-Work Time Tolerance Togetherness Tradition Travel Trust
Truth
Unity
Variety
Zest
To find out what makes up your core:

  1. Circle your top
    ten values.
  2. Narrow those
    down to five.
  3. Narrow those
    down to three

Credit to Elena Aguilar from “Bright Morning” for this list.http://www.brightmorningteam.com

“World records are only borrowed.” – Sebastian Coe

“Throughout my athletic career, the overall goal was always to be a better athlete than I was at the moment – whether next week, next month or next year. The improvement was the goal. The medal was simply the ultimate reward for achieving that goal.”
— Sebastian Coe

It’s our core beliefs that make us strong and it’s our core beliefs that keep us strong. They are what enable us to get up, dust ourselves off and keep running. When we live true to our core beliefs we are able to lengthen our stride and feel purposeful and powerful. The days we live true to our core beliefs are usually the best days of our careers. Knowing what our core beliefs are can help us better understand ourselves and explain why some days feel just down right rotten. Those are usually the days when we are in situations that force us to move away from our core beliefs.

“To thine own self be true.” – Polonius in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.

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