Thought for the day

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A couple of quick thoughts today on tiredness.

When we speak of feeling tired these days it’s very rarely because we’ve been out walking the hills or chopping wood or doing anything purely physical.

Our brand of tiredness is perhaps better described as weariness, a kind of exhaustion of the soul, brought on by the way we live, breathe, work and worry.

This morning the Thought for Today that I subscribe to came up with this:

How Not to Get Tired
It’s not busy-ness in life that makes us tired. It’s thinking too much that makes us tired. How not to get tired? Don’t get distracted, get upset or get too ‘lost’ in anything or anyone. Don’t think too much about the work. Just do it! Then your mind will stay rested whilst you work.

Even more than this reminder I like the remedy that one of my favourite poets, David Whyte, comes up with our modern-day tiredness.

Describing his own meltdown he then consults a friend. “Tell me about exhaustion,” he asks.

“The remedy for exhaustion is not rest,” his friend responds.

“The remedy for exhaustion is not rest, What is it then?”

“The remedy for exhaustion is whole-heartedness.”

If you do something whole-hearted today, tomorrow, or any other day you will discover how wise Whyte’s friend was.

Posted by Jane Matthews on 01/30 at 10:49 AM
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Do nothing?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Harder than it sounds, trust me even when you’ve got Have the Best Year of Your Life reminding you to stop at least once a week and ‘connect’.

So I can’t resist sharing this little tool with those of you whose days revolve around a desk and a PC: Do nothing for two minutes is a website that does (or doesn’t?) precisely what it says on the tin. Click on this link donothingfortwominutes and just stop for 120 seconds.

I’ve got to go back and try it again since, having started the countdown, I was so excited about sharing it with you I’d moved the mouse within two seconds of it starting. My goodness, whoever said we teach and share what we need to learn knew what they were talking about smile

Posted by Jane Matthews on 01/27 at 06:33 AM
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Get to Know Your Clutter

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It seems I’m not the only one preoccupied with shedding clutter this month. I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (highly recommended), and love the way she decided to categorise each type of clutter in a way that had me nodding in recognition.
Here’s how she divided up her clutter:

Nostalgic clutter: In my case ticket stubs, ancient valentine’s cards from people I can’t even remember, school magazines…am I really ever going to sit in front of a fire leafing back through this tatty memorabilia and thinking fondly of days gone by. I hope not. I hope life will always be too interesting to need to revisit the past in this way. So if it’s not likely ever to interest or have value for my descendants it needs to go.

Conservation clutter: These are the things we keep because we think they’ll be useful: used wrapping paper (which, when you look closely is never quite perfect not to give itself away) , flyers from two dozen home delivery pizza companies, the rubber bands the postman drops on the drive. Less is definitely more here, and my personal reality check needs to be never ever saving a piece of everso slightly frayed wrapping paper again. That’s what the recycling bin is for.

Bargain or freebie clutter: Every time my mum wanted to buy some new item of furniture, she made a big deal of passing whatever it was replacing onto me or my sister. And we, like mugs, held onto it because it was hers and therefore good quality. But she was getting rid of it…. Hmmm. Lesson to self: just because it’s free is not a good reason to give houseroom to someone else’s clutter.

Crutch clutter: At last, a category I’m not especially guilty of, those things we hold onto rather like comfort blankets - tatty old trackpants, what was once the perfect white t-shirt but now sports a few yellowing stains, pyjamas that were past their use-by date more than a decade ago. I enjoy the January sales too much (see bargain clutter above) to put up with tatty underwear.

Aspirational clutter: These are the things we own but never got round to using, such as the electric drill, Magimix and hedge cutter cluttering up the shed and kitchen shelves. I never could manage the Magimix and age has taught me that I will never be more than an indifferent cook, an incompetent DIYer, and, after slicing through the cable on the hedgecutter, a downright dangerous operator of moving parts.

The freedom self-knowledge brings is one of the things I teach to others in my workshops. As we learn more about who and what we are, we are free to make different choices.
In my case,  offload the whole lot in favour of the handwhisk, the garden shears and a hammer and nails.

Posted by Jane Matthews on 01/23 at 10:47 AM
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Useful, beautiful…or edible?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

There’s nothing like having to pack up someone else’s house to open your eyes to the clutter you’ve allowed to accumulate in your own.

Fresh from the effort of packing mum’s worldly goods into five enormous crates, I am more motivated than usual to begin the year-long task of weeding out all those things which - according to that very wise bit of popular wisdom - are neither useful nor beautiful.

Whoever actually penned that bit of advice forget to add edible….for it’s in the kitchen that I start. And am horrified to find how much dead stuff I am still giving house room to. Seriously, I might gripe when the family won’t touch something that’s a day or to past its date. But at the back of my cupboard are tin cans from the last decade (tinned tomatoes to be used by October 2009 was the worst).

I realise I am guilty of approaching my weekly shop like a practice run for supermarket sweep, hurling stuff from the shelves into the trolley because we always need beans and dried pasta don’t we? and I’m either too lazy or too busy to see what we’ve already got in the cupboards before adding to my personal food mountain.

I’ve written in the book about the need to shed the old to make room for the new, and the lovely sense of lightness that comes from having a good clearout.

But I confess, on this occasion, what I felt as I ferried to the tip five black sacks of herbs as dry as corn husks, sauce bottles with half an inch of gunk in the bottle that no-one had the courage to use up, and cartons of sugary kids cereals (they have not actually been kids for eight or nine years, which will give you some idea how like cement the contents had become), was shame.

All that waste…

For the record, I’d like to add to what I say in the book about the therapeutic effects of letting go of things with another reason why it can be a Good Thing. Because taking a hard look at what you’ve accumulated, not only in the pantry, but wardrobes, drawers, shelves, and the rest, will also tell you something more about you.

I learned a very humbling lesson yesterday about where I still need to make changes.

Posted by Jane Matthews on 01/09 at 10:24 AM
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Reflections on the old as well as the new

Monday, January 03, 2011

My last two posts have been musings on the year ahead but I liked a letter in today’s (3 January) Guardian from Grayson Perry, in which he shares how he and his friends celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Apparently they have developed their own tradition: a personal new-year round up. A few days before New Year’s Eve they agree a set of categories, then meet on 31 December for a meal and a discussion of the answers they have come up with: their best and worst experiences of the last 12 months, favourite books, films, music and TV, best journey, best purchase, best new friend, and so on.

Between each round of answers they play some of those favourite tracks of music or read snippets from favourite books. Says Perry: “It can be a very moving experience but also funny and celebratory. Children really enjoy it as they get their moment to share their passions and sadness.”

He concludes that though some may find it a bit earnet they also drink and celebrate midnight.

I think for those of us who may have had a particularly challenging year (actually, everyone I know in 2010!) it’s a way of coming to terms, laying to rest, putting things into perspective. It’s easy to let memories of the challenges overwhelm the fact that there may still have been happy moments and small successes. This novel New Year’s celebration is a way of reclaiming those and perhaps even entering the new year in a more positive frame of mind.

Tonight I will light a few candles, put on some favourite music, and a log on the fire, and write my own epitaph, good and bad, to 2010.

Posted by Jane Matthews on 01/03 at 08:53 AM
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This is the year…

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Resolutions are to the new year as over-eating is to Christmas. But it took me a long time to understand why, a few days into each new year, my short To Do/Be list had already gone the way of the turkey carcass.

Underpinning everything on it - my resolve to eat a better diet, exercise three times a week, lose my temper with the children less often, and put more energy into the day job - was the belief that I was not good enough. If I could just find and keep the motivation to improve this or that aspect of myself then I would start to like myself more and other things would fall naturally into place.

My resolutions were less about self-improvement than self-punishment, especially when, 365 days later, I found myself having to write a more or less similar list because I had failed to become that better, slimmer, fitter, more worthy person.

treating not beating
The most novice trainee teacher knows that we learn and grow best through praise and encouragement rather than criticism and disapproval. So in that spirit, and drawing heavily on an activity you’ll find towards the end of Have the Best Year of Your Life, I resolve that this year’s list will be all about the positive things in my life.


2011 is the year I will:

read…Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth’s An Unsuitable Boy, both of which have been ignored on my bookshelf for years while I’ve been suffering from some kind of parenting-induced fear of Big Books. I am excited by the prospect of NOT switching on the TV at the end of the day but, rather, settling in front of the fire for these two fat novels and entering the world of my imagination.

see…Citizen Kane. Another classic (apparently) that has somehow passed me by. The film’s regular appearance in those horrible ‘Things to Do/See Before You Die’ lists (why not things you’ll love?) leads me to think this could be a gap in my cultural education.

visit…Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, maybe Legoland. I know this will happen because among this year’s gifts was an annual pass to the best theme parks from my sister Shushie who knows what my recent life has most lacked is straightforward let-my-hair-down-scream-aloud-get-soaked-on-a-water-flume fun.

taste…home-made blackberry crumble, mainly as a reminder that not every walk has to be a 10-hour epic up several Lakeland peaks. I can step out of the front door, with or without a Tupperware for blackberrying, and walk along the canal for half an hour any day of the week.

learn…how to use my iPad to its full potential (without becoming a geek or a bore).

And I will…spend more time at home, in the garden, with friends, and with myself.

Over to you…
That’s just for starters, but at the dawn of a year which the pundits are telling us will be A Challenging One it fills me with excitement to contemplate the things I can choose to do in 2011, whatever the outside world brings my way.

I intend to come back to my list regularly and add more simple pleasures and promises to eke as much good living from the next 365 as I can.

And in case I run out of ideas I’d love to know what your list of treats looks like. Let me know by commenting on this blog, or writing on the wall of the linked Facebook page.

A Happy New Year!

Posted by Jane Matthews on 01/01 at 11:17 AM
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