The New Harmony Agenda

Long time no type. Again! Seems to be a pattern of mine.

I got too busy again. I got kinda crook too. And updating my blog was the last thing on my mind. Even though I enjoy it. Even though writing is like a release for me. Even though I know it might help somebody else going through the same things as me. Even though I want to develop a consistent habit. Even though, even though, even though. But alas, I stopped anyway.

And here I am starting again (again, again).

And I have a plan. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last 6 months, or so. I’ve been studying for the last 2 years in formal courses to give me some new qualifications, and I’ve also been doing a whole lotta learnin’ informally too, about myself and my body and my other needs (physical, emotional, spiritual etc). I’ve been a content-consuming machine for years now. I love to read and listen and learn, and I want to help myself and help other people by sharing what I’ve learned.

So expect some changes around here over the next couple of months. I mean that about the website, but also about my life in general. I have reached a threshold or tipping point in my life in a number of ways.

Physically, I have become so fed up with my difficult and frustrating pattern of digestive issues that I’m about to embark upon a radical gut healing program called GAPS. I have also been working really hard on my fitness/health values and beliefs. I tried a program that was amazing but wasn’t for me, and I have begun jogging regularly with my husband the Exercise Physiologist. I have also been practicing and studying meditation and yoga, which have had profound impacts on my life. But still, there is fatigue and hormonal dysfunction (thyroid, adrenal, reproductive…) and major tummy problems. The list of foods that no longer agree with my body is getting longer and longer and at some point (that point is now!) I believe I have to stop treating the symptoms of whatever is going on in my insides and start actually looking at and treating the cause.  GAPS is nothing to be sneezed at, but hopefully it will help me heal for good this time.

Professionally, I have found a lot of clarity about my next steps and made some big decisions about the future recently. I have been granted one year’s leave without pay for 2017 from my teaching position in a state school in Queensland. This means that I will not be teaching in schools, other than some supply work (substitute teaching for those not up with teacher talk!). Part of this is because my husband and I would like to do some travel, and because I want to really focus big time on my health and getting really, really well before we even think about having babies. That is a big WHY. But it’s also because I want to focus myself full time on the creative projects that have been in my head for years. I want to write blog posts and articles and books, I want to compose music, I want to explore my creativity and I want to really put into practice the new qualifications I have gained over the last 2 years. I want to explore what it means to do all of these things without the constant pressure of trying to fit them in around the school term! But I also really, really want to make a difference in a very different way than I am currently able to do as a teacher.

I am launching a new business called ‘Self-Care for Teachers’ because I feel so passionately about preventing teacher burnout and supporting staff wellbeing in schools and ultimately I want to change the conversation (and maybe the education system!) from the ground up.

I am also going to be refocusing The Harmony Agenda as a website and as a business. Up until now I haven’t really had a brand and it has been mostly a badly updated personal blog. I have been coaching a little bit on the side of my job but I haven’t made that much of an effort to get new clients because I honestly haven’t made it a priority. But I’m ready now to really put myself out there into the world and make a real difference. It will remain a personal blog but I am planning to include a lot more informational topics too. The themes will remain the same: health, happiness, self-care, wellness, slowing down, listening to your body and befriending your emotions. But all the teacher stuff will be moving over to Self-Care for Teachers so the focus of each website will be more streamlined. I am multi passionate but I have felt scattered and confused trying to fit everything under the Harmony Agenda banner. This will hopefully help streamline my brain and what I’m offering to the world!

Oh, and I am also starting a podcast with my best friend Madison about our journeys with starting up businesses but doing them slowly and in a way that supports our health and happiness! So stay tuned for that!

Personally, I have just turned 29 and that has helped in the clarification process. I’ve had some major news about my thyroid recently that I promise I will update you on in another blog post (please don’t worry, it’s good news) but it brought a lot of big truths home to me. I’ve also been doing a lot of reflecting on the fact that next year I turn the big ’30’ and what does that mean for me? There have been a lot of questions lately about babies, or more specifically, when will we be having them. And the truth is, I don’t know when, but not right now. I don’t want to put it off forever, or even for 5 years, but I just know deep down that now is not the right time. My body is not 100% and hasn’t been for many, many years. If nothing else, that is reason to pause and heal so that one day I can be the best vessel possible for a new human being, and so that my own experience of pregnancy and being a new mum isn’t complicated and made more difficult by recurring health problems that could be fixed.

I also am faced with some decisions regarding whether I will even be able to teach with little ones, and the truth is I don’t think I will be able to. I am already part time and only just find I can manage my own health at this schedule. Most women go back to work after maternity leave to the level of part-time teaching that I am currently doing, so it doesn’t leave a lot for me to drop back to. I am aware there are many options and we won’t know until we get there and all of those other arguments. But I basically don’t want to be forced into a position where I have to go back to work at a higher fraction than is good for me. I’ve been forced to do that before (and there were no babies in the picture), and it was absolutely terrible for my health then, and I am under no illusions that it would be any easier if I had to do it again, let alone with the pressures of being a Mum (or the desires I have for being a present, healthy Mum instead of an absent, exhausted, ill parent). So the decision and the plan right now is to try to get extremely well and also build up some other income streams so that if I do decide to return to teaching after maternity leave, it’s because I want to and feel well enough to, and not because of financial desperation.

Plus, we want to do some more travel before we have babies, and I have so many creative ideas that I want to pursue too.

So the NEW Harmony Agenda for me is basically to enjoy the luxury that I have of being a middle class, Western woman with access to contraception and professional choices and amazing health care and a supportive family and with a world to explore. I am taking a gap year, not so much to find myself but to attempt to design my life so that it supports my health and my family plans and my other deep desires in life.

I am so infinitely grateful to be able to do this. The gap year doesn’t start until 2017 but planning for it starts now and I am throwing myself wholeheartedly into the process. I am excited and thankful and scared and excited all rolled into one! I hope you will stick around to hear how it all plays out for me over the next few months and into the gap year of 2017.

Slowing down in the name of self-care

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning here in the Harmony House. The weather is cool but drizzly, which is a nice change after the heat of the previous week. I have had a lovely slow morning where I woke without an alarm and felt refreshed, I took my time having breakfast and making my West End Matcha tea and then I listened to a the latest episode of The Slow Home Podcast while I pottered about the house tidying up. Crinkle the cat was hanging around, my darling husband was sleeping in and then watching sport and then cooking bacon and there was absolutely no urgency or rushing. It’s got me feeling very reflective.

In short, it was my ideal morning. I feel very grateful to have realised that several days a week (usually 3 but sometimes more, sometimes less) I get to live a version of my ideal day. Mostly it involves being a homebody, lots of self-care, spending time with my little family, a phone conversation with one of my loved ones and learning about topics I love. Often it involves coaching of some sort, whether that be working with a client, participating in a webinar or doing some further study. All of these things, to me, represent a significant slowing down from the life I lead the other days of the week.

That life sees me rising very early (often before the sun), commuting for over an hour, functioning at work amidst the chaos and feelings of ‘never enough’ and ‘too busy for a toilet break’, followed by either a long commute home, dinner and bed, or staying overnight in the town where I work as it is too long of a commute to do both ways every day. There are many things I love about that life. I actually enjoy my commute because I get to listen to awesome podcasts and sometimes have long, meaningful conversations with my bestie via the magic of hands-free mobile technology. I really love the people who open their homes to me when I need a home-away-from-home and they feed me delicious food and we have many wonderful conversations. And I really enjoy many aspects of my job — especially the connections with lovely staff and students and the great music we get to enjoy and create.

But ultimately that life represents a lot of things that are not ideal for me. It’s frantic and exhausting for a start. Anyone who knows a teacher knows that it’s far from the 9 – 3 job some people think it is. The days really are chock-a-block full and lunch-times are not really a break but a chance to chase up students who you need to see and prepare for lessons and organise all manner of ensembles and rehearsals. The more days I have off in a week, the worse the busy-ness of the 9 – 3 hours gets. Since I’ve had the fit-bit it has become easier to see just how active these hours are for me. I regularly do 12,000 steps in a day at school. That’s without any attempt at setting aside time for exercise. On more than one occasion I’ve made it to 20,000 steps in a school day. There is also the emotional drain of a system that is never-ending in it’s quest for ‘perfection’ and where some of the clients and customers are really, really hard to get along with. As a highly sensitive person, I find it really draining to be interacting with such hostility so regularly. Plus, the constant improvement agenda and quest for more, more, more and better, better, better is quite a trigger to this recovering perfectionist. It’s also in stark contrast to my values, which is also emotionally draining.

The other problem is that this life also takes me away from my home and haven 4 days a week (sometimes more!). It’s an epiphany I’ve had before but I’m realising anew lately just how crucial this haven is for my health and happiness. It’s the reason I’m really not keen to have any guests stay over-night ever again, actually, although this is an ongoing conversation in our household at the moment. But being at home, either alone or with Stuart, gives me the chance to recharge my energy and block out the frantic noise of the world. It’s crucial for my self-care, it’s what reconnects me to my husband and to myself. So having to get up and rush to leave by 6.15am every work-day morning and either not get home until 6.15pm or, if I stay overnight in Esk, until the following day robs me of that re-charge time. As much as I love the dear friends I stay with in Esk, and as much as they look after me and give me everything I could possibly want in a home-away-from-home, it isn’t actually home. It’s not my space and staying there means I don’t get to see my husband or my cat for usually 36 hours minimum, sometimes closer to 72 hours depending on the week. Of course I know that is nothing compared to the separation that some couples deal with and I also know that I can choose to drive home any night that I like and I can even choose to work somewhere else. But neither of those options are really better options to me. In fact, this situation is the best that it could be right now. But that doesn’t mean it is the ideal. And it’s certainly not slow, which is what I’m craving right now.

So, next year, I am planning on dropping back to a 50% teaching load which will end up as 1 x full day and 2 x three-quarter days of teaching. At this stage, it will probably be Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which will mean three big days of commuting and busy-ness, but I’ll get to be home in my haven with my husband every night and I’ll get a day off in between every work day to recover and recharge and refocus. It’s more slowing down and another step towards my ideal life and I’m really looking forward to it.

Before then, though, I still have 7 weeks of the term to get through. This coming week I’m working 5 days because we have our school Awards Night on Tuesday (usually my day off) so I’ll be working Tuesday and staying away from home 3 nights this week. After that, the marking and reporting cycle will begin in earnest, so things are about to ramp up in that regard. As a result, I’ve decided to take the pressure of myself with The Harmony Agenda for a while. I’ll be blogging still, but perhaps not as regularly. I had planned to re-launch the Self-Care Matters E-Course in November in the new 12-week format but I don’t think I will now. I think I’ll leave that until the New Year because it does need some re-working and I won’t be able to devote the time or energy to it that I’d like at this stage.

I also plan on focusing more of my energy into developing resources for other teachers to be able to prioritise self-care. As such, I’ll be putting as much of my knowledge into practice to get through this term in as slow and self-care-filled manner possible. I am starting a Facebook group for teachers to support each other in self-care because I see a real need for a safe space for this online. And I will continue with the coaching part-time as well.

I feel really grateful to have not only the opportunity to create a version of my ideal life on the weekends and the odd day off during the week, but also to have the perspective to realise that for now, although I’d really like more of the ideal life, I need to do what needs to be done to get there sustainably. At the moment that means slowing down on the business building because I have to focus on staying well and doing my job well too. I know this isn’t forever and that at some stage in the future I will miss this school and these students, so I will appreciate them while I can. And I’ll focus on the nice bits and try to let go of the not-so-nice bits. And I’ll remind myself that even when I have to slow down and change my plans, even when I make less progress in all areas of my life than I want and especially when I feel like I have let myself or others down, I am enough, already and always.

My health and happiness has to be my priority, and that’s ok. I want to help as many people as possible to realise that they can prioritise themselves too, but I want to do that in a way that is congruent and sustainable. No use burning myself out spreading the self-care message! So for now I will live my values as much as possible, slow down and practice self-care, and lead by example. That’s my harmony agenda. What’s yours?

How self-care and focus will help you reach your goals

Well, it’s February already. By now many people’s New Years Resolutions are faltering, if not completely forgotten. But not me! Not that I made specific ‘resolutions’ this year but I did spend a fair chunk of my time in January contemplating and planning the year ahead. I created a 2015 calendar overview, chose a ‘word of the year’ and decided on my core desired feelings for the year. And so far, 6 weeks into the year I’m happy to report that I’m doing better than I’ve ever been. So how have I managed this? I’m so glad you asked!

Firstly, I made it a priority. As many of you will know, the last 6 months have included a huge amount of change in my life. I have been through a huge amount of personal growth. I took up part time study on top of my day job, I began business building, I lost and then grieved for my beautiful cousin, I got engaged, my new fiancé and I bought and then moved into our own home, we had an engagement party, Christmas and New Year in the same fortnight, I completed the assessment for the first part of my course and we also planned the wedding. The majority of this all happened in the last 2 months of 2014. It made for a very stressful, expensive and busy time. I wasn’t on the blog much, because I just didn’t have time, and then in January when things settled down and I did have time I made a conscious decision to take some time out for me.

And I’m so glad I did. I was able to settle into our new home, spend some quality time with my fiancé and nurture my very tired body with quality food, movement and rest. I also found that giving myself some mental space suddenly made a lot of room for new and exciting ideas! It’s going to be a great 2015.

Strategies for success

So let’s talk strategies. In the past using a calendar and diary has always been part of my life. However, last year in particular I let it slip. I attempted to make the transition from paper to digital scheduling and it worked, initially. But I found it needed a great deal of daily maintenance to keep up to date, not to mention being constantly plugged in and connected, which is something that is fraught with distractions for me. Plus, I could never seem to get the ‘global’ view that I wanted and needed because there would always be a need to scroll or change pages or maximise/minimise the image in order to read it. So eventually I let it slip and my productivity and sense of ‘having-it-together’ slipped along with that. Reflecting on this I decided to make the change back to a hard copy diary and paper calendar this year as an experiment. Well, already I can tell you that it is a resounding success! Old-fashioned pencil-and-paper scheduling FTW! I’m sure I’ve talked before about how writing is a psycho-neuro-muscular activity so even the act of writing something down imprints it into my brain more than keying it into my phone. But I also get the global view of the day, week, month and year that I need to get perspective on how I will be spending my time. It is SO much better. I highly recommend it!

The next strategy is a ‘word of the year’. I’m pretty sure I got this from Liz Gilbert in her book ‘Eat, Pray Love’ but I also have recently heard Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur using this strategy as well. So I chose my word: ‘quality’ (as opposed to quantity, which is something I’d been thinking about A LOT over the moving house process!). The quality over quantity sums up pretty much everything I want this year in a lot of areas: relationship, possessions, food, exercise, work, entertainment, reading…the list could go on forever! So my word for the year is quality. 

Then during a number of coaching sessions over the month of January the word ‘peace’ came up for me a lot. And I realised that peace is my core desired feeling for 2015. This concept comes from the book The Desire Map by Danielle La Porte. I haven’t finished reading it yet but what I have read so far I really resonate with. It’s something I’ve heard and read about quite a lot over the holiday period as I deepened and explored my coaching journey. So my core desired feeling this year is peace.

What you focus on is what you get.

The last strategy is really what has made all the others a success though, and what is giving me confidence that I really can and will achieve my goals in 2015. And that is simply frequent, consistent focus. One of my favourite success principles is ‘what you focus on is what you get’. And I really have been living that this year. Every day I have made a conscious effort to focus on what I want instead of what I don’t want, what I’m grateful for instead of what I feel I’m missing and what the next actions are in order to create the life I want. I haven’t put a lot of pressure on myself to do this. I haven’t beaten myself up if I miss a day. And I haven’t tried to completely overhaul my life in large, dramatic ways at once. Instead, I’ve focused on small actions that take me step by step towards what I want to do, have and be. And I’ve focused on them frequently and consistently. And now, 6 weeks in, I’m seeing and even more importantly I’m feeling the benefits.

Some of my daily actions are to have a green juice, do a 2 minute meditation, perform at least 1 act of personal self-care, a 10 minute tidy-up or de-clutter and 5 minutes of some kind of movement every day. I have also made sure I check my diary and review my lists of to-dos for the day, week and month if not every day then at least every other day. Some other daily strategies I’m now adding seeing as those seem to be under way fairly well include a 1 sentence journal, a conscious wind-down before bed and 5 minutes of stretching every day. I have signed up for yoga and am feeling immense benefits of even just 1 class a week (although if I can get to more then I do) and have been going for at least 1 big walk a week too. Exercise and I have had a checkered history so I’m taking baby steps here with my commitments. I’m also making sure I commit to weekly coaching sessions to keep me on track and to help me stay motivated. It’s also nice to be able to share the ‘wins’ with someone who is 100% in my corner and has no agenda other than to help me succeed.

Right now, I’m really feeling the snowball beginning to build as these good habits start to become more automatic and the benefits start to feel very real. This only makes me feel even more motivated to keep going. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when I have gotten lazy or distracted and either intentionally or unintentionally not done some of these habits. And I feel worse because of it. So that is also helping me stay on track. It’s a great feeling and it all comes down to focusing on what I want and taking the time to implement the small self-care strategies to help me get there!

So how are you going with your resolutions? Did you make any? What do you want 2015 to be for you? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook, I’d love to hear from you. 

Self-care Spring and Body Boosting

So 2 months ago I wrote a post about my intention to make September all about self-care. I did that, and then checked out of the blog for a while, which was part of my process for managing all the things going on in my life and maintaining my equilibrium. But even though I wasn’t blogging, I was self-caring. And it has been going so well for me that I decided to extend the even to encompass all of Spring!

As part of this, two weekends ago I invested in myself and attended a workshop on the Sunshine Coast run by one of my favourite podcasters, Kim Morrison at her beautiful new Twenty8 premises. It was absolutely fabulous and I so enjoyed learning more about self-care from Kim, about nutrition from Sarah Clarke of Natural Earth Health Products, and connecting with the many like-minded people also in attendance.

I plan to do a review of all the things I learnt at this workshop in an upcoming blog, but tonight I just want to celebrate because I received my Twenty8 order in the mail today. I can’t believe how quickly it arrived! I only ordered on Wednesday night, and this morning there was a little post-office parcel slip in the mail box. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning unwrapping all my beautifully wrapped and scented gifts!

Beautiful Twenty8 Products

I am so happy and cannot wait to pamper myself with these beautiful self-care products. They are all natural and ethically produced, so I know I am not putting anything nasty onto my skin, which is very important to me right now. They smell absolutely divine, so it feels like such a treat just holding them and breathing the fragrances in. And the best part? They support me in my self-care journey and help me prioritise nurturing my body every day.

Kim Morrison developed these products and teaches people about self-care processes that help support them in their busy lives. One of these practices is called a daily body boost. Using a carrier oil and a couple of drops of essential oil (plus the magnesium spray if you are lucky enough to have some) the idea is that when you get out of the shower, you rub the deliciously scented oil all over your body while practicing good self talk and repeating positive affirmations. These can be about the mind, body or soul — whatever works best for you or whatever you most need to hear.

Kim says she hasn’t missed a day of body boosting in over 28 years, which is just amazing. I only started a few weeks ago and I have already missed a couple of days, but that’s ok. I have started and I have been doing it regularly and I LOVE it! Already I feel that it has helped me. So thank-you, Kim Morrison, for your wonderful products and beautiful example of how to take care of yourself. I plan to continue to body boost throughout this Self-Care Spring, and probably into Self-Care Summer as well!

Now over to you: what are you doing to support and nurture yourself during Self-Care Spring?

Start again and be grateful!

So, long time no blog posts. Again! Lately my blog has just been at the bottom of the to-do list once again. And this time, I’m not even going to think about mentally beating myself up for that. It’s cool. It’s what needed to happen. There has been A LOT of change in my life since the last post about self-care, and ironically part of my self-care routine this last 6 weeks has been to not stress about blogging and not put too much pressure on myself to progress in my coaching journey too quickly.

A brief update: I got engaged to my wonderful partner Stuart (yay!), started writing a music teaching book and this week we bought a house! On top of that, there has been holidays, work, study, wedding planning and some more health stuff going on. So it’s been quite busy and I haven’t been placing too much pressure on myself because I know that looking after myself, especially allowing time to rest and relax, is the most important thing and is what allows me to get all those other important and urgent jobs done.

This weekend has been pretty amazing and inspiring. I have been reading a lot, coaching and being coached, doing some big life planning with the love of my life about our future and some business planning with my bestie and business coach Maddi. Like I said, this week Stuart and I bought a house (ok, so we are in the process of finalising it…it hasn’t actually all happened yet, but we’re well on the way) and this has really forced us to sit down and get focused on our future in a more detailed way than ever before. We had our first ever formal ‘money date’ this morning, and it was wonderful. More on this in a future blog. Even more exciting is that yesterday Maddi and I began putting steps in place to make our podcast happen. Actually, we recorded two pilot episodes. These may never go to air, but it is the first step and we are both very excited about it. I will definitely keep you updated about this in weeks to come. Hopefully we will launch the podcast by Christmas! Exciting!

So I had been meaning to update the blog all week because there have been a lot of exciting learnings for me this month. What really kick started me getting back into it was a post I read this morning on Naomi Arnold’s site Project Healthy Happy Me. In light of the fun Maddi and I had yesterday recording our podcasts and talking about gratitude and with the encouragement I got from Naomi’s blog post, I decided to start again with my blogging routine and write a little list of all the things I am grateful for this week! 🙂 So here it is:

1. My wonderful fiancé Stuart. He lights up my life and I am so excited about our future together.

2. The knowledge I have. This includes self-knowledge as well as various content specific knowledge. Knowledge is power and it’s so great to acknowledge and feel the sense of empowerment that comes with all forms of knowledge, but especially self-knowledge.

3. Coaching! It’s related to point 2, but I am so grateful for the insights and empowerment I receive from having a coach (or 3!). Yesterday I had a coaching session as the client and it was just fantastic. One of my coaches, Vanessa from Three Sixty Coaching, has helped me feel so empowered and determined to create the life I want. It’s all happening and she has really helped me with it. I also love being a coach and paying it forward to help others create the life they want.

4. Still related, but access to information and resources is a huge gratitude item for me. There are so many incredibly knowledgable people out three. Some of them I am privileged to know and learn from directly, and some I only know indirectly and learn from through their products (books, blogs, podcasts etc). But either way, I love learning and I love having the access to info that the internet provides.

5. My super team of encouragers and inspirers. This primarily includes my sister Naomi and a number of girl friends, including Maddi. Like I said, she and I are about to launch a podcast about life and business and relationships and health and we are very excited. Maddi has two businesses, one as a business coach and consultant and a side project at Cheeky Whispers. Check her our, she’s rad 🙂

6. ABC DigJazz! We have had this playing in our house all morning and it is just so soothing and calming and a perfect back-drop to grown-up conversations about life, money and the future!

7. Flowers! There are fresh roses in a vase next to me that are just SO fragrant. I got them from our garden on Friday. Gorgeous! Jacarandas and silky oaks are in bloom here, as well as all the other beautiful spring blooms. So happy, so inspiring 🙂

8. A tidy house. I am so much more productive when my environment is un-cluttered. I feel like there is always more to do in the de-clutter area but a tidy house is enough for me for now 🙂 With an upcoming move I am sure we will again do the cull of our possessions, and I actually can’t wait!

9. A cool drink on a hot day. There’s a bit of a heat wave going on at the moment, and I am so grateful for the tinkling of ice in my glass that keeps my drink cool next to me. Such a simple thing but so refreshing 🙂

10. Being excited about the future. I feel so lucky to have so many things to look forward to in coming months, including moving into our very own home, getting married, going on a honeymoon, launching a podcast, publishing a book (probably self-published, but hey, it counts!) and continuing to learn and grow. I am very grateful for the great things coming up, and for the perspective that any challenges I’m currently dealing with are also opportunities to grow. Yay!

 

That’s it from me today, but watch this space for more frequent updates soon 🙂

 

Grace and peace, y’all!

 

Ellen x

The agenda so far

It’s the start of March and I’ve now been doing this for nearly 2 months. This is my agenda so far:

1. Be grateful. This is the pillar of a happy life. I am striving to be grateful every day.

2. Self-care, self-love and occasional self-indulgence. This is essential. Nobody else is as committed to looking after me as I am and if I don’t look after me, then I can’t look after anyone else either.

3. Personal Finance. So far the focus has been on spending less than I earn but this is a huge topic that I have much to learn about and discuss.

4. Food. This past fortnight I have focused heavily on gluten but I am on a journey to nourish my body with good nutrition so I imagine this will be an ever expanding category.

And that’s what we are up to so far. I have spent the weekend in definite self-care mode and it’s been much needed. After a busy week at work I needed to take a break before the marking and assessment race of the school term begins in earnest next week. I also have a school camp coming up, some other work deadlines and several doctors appointments booked. I have spent the majority of this weekend resting, reading and enjoying some much-needed solitude. I have spent time with my partner and had a lovely long phone conversation with a dear friend. But most of the rest of the time it’s just been me and my cat, Crinkle, chilling out and taking stock. I have been eating good food and planning my finances for the next few months.

One thing I haven’t done is any school work. I usually work on Sunday afternoons but I am making a conscious decision not to do that today. In the coming week I have a lot of after-school commitments that will prevent me from getting home until quite late. So this afternoon I am choosing to get my flat in order, my washing done and some meals organised for the week. This is important because all of these things will make me more effective during the week. Plus, I just think it’s important to take two full days off work where possible.

On Friday I sat down to afternoon tea with two ladies who are on similar paths to me regarding wellness. While we all have our own journeys and areas needing attention, we also all have strengths and expertise in certain areas. We have decided to meet up every now and then to have a chat, share information and help support each other on our journey to wellness. This week we each identified an area that we are going to focus on for the next few weeks. The area I identified was food.

So food will continue to be a fairly big focus on the blog for a while, I’d say. I have many other agenda items, including exercise, hormone balance, decluttering, mindset, spiritual exploration, relationships, organisation, career goals, work-life balance….the list could go on and on. But one of the things I feel is important right now is to take one step at a time and to be gentle and gradual about changes. I want a sustainable, wellbeing-oriented lifestyle, not a quick-fix scheme. Therefore, I am going to take one step (or, actually, four!) at a time and be kind and patient with myself as I make these changes. I hope you will be kind and patient too.

I feel comfortable working on the first three items on the agenda while I also overhaul my diet because I’ve already been working on them for several years so they are more at the maintenance stage at the moment. I will gradually incorporate more agenda items as the months progress. Perhaps 1 – 2 new items per month would be a useful way to approach this. I am reminding myself that this is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, it’s not even really a race (I’m not a big fan of competition). It’s more like a pilgrimage without an ever-evolving route to destination harmony. How it progresses from mere we shall all have to wait and see!

Choose your own agenda!

What do you want?

What makes you happy?

Perhaps more importantly, what makes you unhappy?

These are important questions that I think too many of us sail through life without really, deeply contemplating. So many of us are stuck on the treadmill, caught between the demands of work and family/friends and what society expects of us. Don’t get me wrong, I think a lot of the time we enjoy many of these things. But do we question them? Do we ever stop to ask what the alternative is? I know I didn’t.

For a long time, although I was definitely on a search for what made me happy, I continued to make choices out of fear of what other people would think, or because that is what was expected of me, or because that’s just what everyone else was doing. And, as I will explain in upcoming posts, a lot of the time the results didn’t serve me. Sometimes, they really hurt me.

In my journey of self-development and exploration these last few years, the one thing I’ve begun to realise is that I am the one who makes the choices and has to deal with the consequences. But the fantastic part of that is that I am the one who makes the choices and has to, no, gets to deal with the consequences. I am the one, me! If I don’t like it, I can change it!

This might seem rather obvious, but once I had realised it I started to do things differently. It wasn’t a ‘hit-me-like-a-tonne-of-bricks’ epiphany either. It has been a slow burn, building over the last threesix, twenty-six years. I have realised that I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. I don’t have to buy the thing the advertisement tells me I ‘need’. I don’t have to do things just because that is what society expects of me.

(Within reason, of course. I’ve seen those ‘random breath test’/’air port security’ reality shows. If a police/customs officer asks you to breathe into the breathalyser or take your belt off before you go through the airport scanner, you should do it. Although, that too is a choice….but it never ends well for the people who run away.)

Here are some more important questions:

What would you do if you had all the money/time/resources in the world? What would you do if anything were possible? How is that different from what you are doing right now?

Now, I’m not at all saying ditch everything and everyone in your life. I don’t hate my life. I don’t hate my job or my family or anything like that. But there are a lot of things I think I could improve upon, while still being grateful for the wonderful things that I have been blessed with.

My realisation was simply this: don’t let other people’s agendas dictate your life choices. Think deeply about what you want and don’t want, feel deeply grateful for the life and lessons you have had and dare to dream about a future that includes more of what you want and less of what you don’t want. It’s your life, so live by your own agenda.

There is a line from my favourite Dr. Seuss book, ‘Oh! The Places You’ll Go’ that perfectly sums up what I mean:

You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.

And you can! So why not choose your own agenda?