A.S.S.U.M.E

Lavatory Door

So much happens in ladies toilets. Some of my best decisions, funniest moments and deepest conversations have been made whilst squeezed into a cubicle with a friend  (child or sister).

Recently, during a very high-powered meeting, I exited with another lady to use the ladies toilet. After being admitted through several security doors I followed my female colleague to the ladies toilet and upon entry we both went in to our separate cubicles and did what we needed to do.

I was the first to emerge and whilst washing and drying my hands I noticed there were also two urinals that appeared to be shaped for someone to sit in. When my colleague emerged I mentioned it to her and we both stepped closer to the urinals for a more thorough inspection. We speculated why they appeared to be shaped for a posterior, discussed the dynamics of a female using a urinal and after much discussion decided this was a forward thinking, sympathetic establishment that catered for trans-gender individuals.

Just as we came to this conclusion the door opened displaying very clearly a stick man figure stuck on the outside of the door and a very confused looking man entered…we were in the men’s toilet! I had followed my colleague assuming she would lead us correctly.

Similarly whilst dining with my mum and sister at the Shard my mum had a ‘panic moment’ when the door of the cubicle she was in wouldn’t open. I was washing my hands and heard frantic tugging on the door handle and immediately went to my lovely mums rescue. I knew exactly what was wrong as the same thing had happened to me…the door wasn’t stuck, it just opened outwards instead of inwards. Both my mum and myself had made a wrong assumption based on past experience.

In both of these instances an assumption had been made. Years ago, when I was a Financial Adviser, my manager would drum in to us that to assume is to ‘make an ass of u and me’.

I wonder how many of us make assumptions based on another’s appearance, accent (drives me crackers when others mimic my accent and expect me to find it amusing!!), job, home, education, children, spouse or friends.

If I had a £1 for every time I’ve been told I don’t look like a Reverend I would be a rich woman…but what does a Reverend look like?

Today I had a conversation with an incredibly intelligent, challenging lady who has seven (yes, seven!!) children regarding feminism and how it applies to us. We discussed the assumptions that were made regarding feminists and women in general and the assumptions we had both made in the past.

It was an engaging and thought provoking conversation that has shaped and honed my opinion as well as diminishing some of my assumptions…and yes it did happen in a ladies toilet!!

What’s in a week?

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Well what a week!

I have comfortably travelled on trains for approximately sixteen hours without being abused, inappropriately touched or engaged in any inane conversations.

It was close but I narrowly escaped being arrested in Pound Stretcher following an incident with some plasters…I maintain my innocence!!

With sadness I said ‘adieu’ to two lovely ladies I wish I’d had the opportunity to know in a more profound way.

Ploughed through 400+ emails and reserved my place on two separate courses.

Repeatedly gazed and proudly shared the photos of my stunningly gorgeous niece celebrating her thirteenth birthday.

Ate cake and drank tea with about one hundred people all gathered to celebrate the 90th birthday of a charming and handsome gentleman.

Sang ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ through tears, whilst waving my arms and standing united with my colleagues in order to honour a living hero.

Finally committed to a long awaited brunch with good friends…yum.

Got excited about swimming whilst simultaneously drowning in paperwork.

Compiled an unexpected school presentation for a group of teens and prepared a power point for a gathering of pensioners.

Committed to helping organise a festival, potentially two art exhibitions, two sponsored walks, one online auction, a spiritual retreat and a comedy evening.

Fell off the diet wagon AGAIN, it’s a really rocky ride, and consumed three hot chocolates as well as backsliding and adding sugar to my tea…the shame!!

As if this wasn’t an adequate amount of activity I also walked upon virgin snow and purchased my first ever car!! Two weeks ago I passed my driving test and after many hours scouring what automobiles fitted my visual and financial needs, comparing and contrasting different makes and models and perusing owner forums, I made my purchase.

This has been the cherry on a rather fine cake, the nervous laugh breaking through intense silence or, if you prefer, the jewel in a somewhat splendid crown.

It wasn’t without a substantial dollop of stress that I handed over a large (large for me!) amount of money and for the first time EVER drove in the rain, in the dark whilst following another driver (my husband) to a mutual destination…nerve wracking!

But so far it has all been worth it and I am pleased to say I am the immensely proud owner of a shiny black BMW 1 Series M Sport…yeah baby!

Rainbow is the New Green…

In April 2016 we made, despite all objections, the monumental decision to enlarge our family. Whilst we had been happily coasting as a fully functioning family of five and had become attuned to each other’s wants, needs and foibles, it was decided we would numerically expand.

We looked at our options, discussed the impact it would make and restrictions we would now need to consider. Then we bit the bullet and bought two rabbits…we became a family of seven (five humans and two incredibly cute bunnies).

Both rabbits were incredibly cute but very shy. My daughter Freya named them Floppy and Spotty and spent hours singing to them, trying to stroke them, sitting in their specially built run whilst they played, fed them carrots and generally tried to bond.

One of the rabbits, Spotty – who now resembles the large rabbit from the movie Watership Down, responded and although still shy, will let Freya pet her.

The smaller, feistier rabbit Floppy continually treated all who came into contact with her as the enemy. She would attack poor Spotty; we had to separate them, and would hide from all of us.

Floppy proved to be an amazing escape artist, and would escape from any run we placed her in by burrowing under or climbing, yes climbing, over!

Eventually escaping from a run wasn’t a big enough challenge for Floppy and she began to gnaw her way through her wooden hutch and metal grille. Escaping seemed to become an obsession with her as whilst sitting in our living room, which is about forty foot away from her hutch, we could hear her trying to kick her way out!!

We tried to restrain her in a number of creative ways but she bit through them all. After numerous times of chasing her round our garden, getting stung by nettles, missing meetings and being soaked by the rain we decided that the next time she escaped we’d let her go. That as we’d always had reserves about animals being in cages, if she wanted her freedom that much we wouldn’t get in her way (not any more!).

So the next time Floppy escaped we made no attempt to catch her, we watched as she hopped around the garden, we hoped that she would be safe but we let her hop free. Emotionally we said our goodbyes!

The next morning we checked our garden (all the while praying she hadn’t met a nasty end) and saw her sitting outside her hutch. As I have never been able to catch her (she’s fast!!), my husband went out in his pyjamas picked her up and returned her to the soft hay, toys, bowl of food and accessible water that was her home.

We made the decision not to repair the hole she has made which means Floppy can escape again whenever she wants…there is no obstacle in her way.

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But the funny thing is since her night of freedom Floppy hasn’t wanted to escape. She pops her head through the hole but that’s as far as she goes. It’s almost as if the challenge has now gone and now she knows she can have it (freedom), she no longer wants it.

I love a saying; a cliché, and this made me think of one of my favourites, ‘the grass is greener on the other side’.

I know there are lots of examples where this can be true and one situation is a better situation than the current one (for example, a healthy relationship versus an abusive one) but as human beings I wonder if we always want what we don’t have?

That in wanting the grass we don’t currently have and perceive to be greener, we are placing personal unhappiness with ourselves onto something outside of us. We rely on polishing our external environment to soothe a deeper internal dissatisfaction.

I’m not trying to psychoanalyse my rabbit (!) but wonder if the cliché should be changed to “Green grass needs maintenance” or “Rainbow is the new green”.

What do you think? What clichés have been key to your life or what sayings would you rephrase to make them more personally applicable?

 

Mouse or Lion??

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Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

There was a man on the side of the road hitch hiking on a very dark night in the middle of a storm. It was late at night and no cars were passing.

The storm was so strong he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him. Suddenly, he saw a car coming towards him and stop. Without further thought, he got in the back seat of the car, closed the door and, upon starting to thank the driver for stopping, realized the drivers seat was vacant.

The car began to move slowly down the road and frozen with fear the reluctant passenger sees a curve coming his way.

Scared, he closes his eyes and starts to pray for his life. Just before the car reaches the curve, a hand appears through the window and turns the steering wheel.

Overcome with fear, the passenger can do nothing but sit and watch how the hand appears every time they come to a curve in the road.

After ten minutes he gathers his strength, leaps from the car and runs to the nearest town. Wet and in shock, he goes to a cafe and asks for a cup of strong coffee.

He quickly drinks his coffee and between sobs, starts telling an attentive crowd about the horrible experience he’s just been through.

Approximately half an hour later, two guys walk into the same cafe and one says to the other, “Look Bob, there’s that guy who got in the car when we were pushing it down the road”

In this story the passenger’s perception of what was happening was not the reality.

How many times have we been in a similar situation in that what we perceive is the truth is just our senses and opinion of reality misleading and blinding us? Ever been there?? I know I have!

As a recovered anorexic and bulimic my perception of my weight and appearance over the years has not always been accurate. If I think back to the times I believed I was ‘fat’, I was in reality, no bigger than a UK size 10.

As a mother of three all of my children have at some point been vaguely to moderately unhappy about their body. For me personally, the most horrific being when my beautiful three-year-old daughter returned from preschool devastated because another toddler had told her she was too chubby to be a princess.

Despite us constantly telling her she is beautiful, her body is perfect and just the right size, whenever she needs to wear tracksuit bottoms (early morning dance lessons at her school) she is in tears as in her eyes she looks fat.

Just for the record there is not an ounce of fat on her…not that it would matter if there was because for her ‘perception is reality’.

Over the years I have had numerous home owning, car owning, designer clothes wearing, cupboard full of food eating people tell me how poor they are (fell into believing that myself a few years ago) because there house wasn’t as big as X’s, or there holiday wasn’t as exotic as Y’s…is that an accurate perception of reality?

About twenty years ago Rolling stones magazine coined the phrase ‘Perception is Reality’ as a theme for an advertising campaign. The theme was based on the perception that Rolling Stone magazine was read by druggies, hippies and rock fans, where the reality was the magazine’s readership included very affluent, well-educated readers.

But the cleverness of this was the basis of how susceptible our brain is: if you repeat a perception long enough, it can become a reality.

As humans what others say about us, or our perception of what they think, tends to act as a mirror for how we see ourselves. It is because of this we need to be so careful about what we listen to and whom we associate with.

My husband calls negative talk that is aimed at us or we overhear as ‘stinkin thinkin’. He came across this about twenty years ago and has strived to protect himself (and as much as he is able those he loves) from ‘stinkin thinkin’ exposure. The reasoning behind it being if we hear and absorb negativity, even if we then tell ourselves its not accurate and doesn’t apply to us, some of it will stay rattling around in our brain and become part of the lens through which we see ourselves and others. In short it will help form part of our worldview.

I was incredibly fortunate that I had a Dad that constantly reinforced in me ‘I could be anything I wanted to be’. I still wholeheartedly believe that, although as an adult it is now sprinkled with the reality (astronaut, ballet dancer and mermaid have been struck off the list) that anything worth having requires a measure of effort.

And I believe this is an important lesson for everyone to take on board…you can reach for the stars but in reality as our closest star is the sun and is 93 million miles away, reaching is all we’ll be able to achieve.

But then if we apply what Einstein said about reality being an illusion, and illusion being ‘something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality’ and add in to the mix the advancements that humanity has made over the last hundred or so years, lets make a choice to NOT be restrained, boxed in, cut down, sold short and restricted by our own sense of reality.

The title of this blog is Mouse or Lion?, but lets be people that shake off titles, perceptions, stereotypes, that question our own and others reality, venture where others fear to tread and view this life we have been given, as one big exciting, thrilling adventure with highs, lows and the unexpected around every bend.

I believe each persons potential is amazing, limitless, unimaginable and as my heavenly Father puts it, with Him by our side and with His Spirit living within us we ‘can do all things’ (Phil. 4:13).

Lets be adventurers that grab life by the short and curlies and embrace it wholeheartedly!!

 

Meaning of Life

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Recently I came across this story and it made me stop and think about my life. I tend to be someone who likes to have several projects on the go at once, can easily manage to be active in more than one conversation and whose mind and life seems to run at 100 miles per hour…and I like being like that.

Whilst this means that I manage to achieve a significant amount (if I set my mind to it and don’t get sidetracked by friends, family, TV or food!), it also means that I don’t always have time to sit back and reflect, to delve deeper than surface emotions.

This story prompted me to do just that.

At the last session on the last morning of a two week seminar on Greek culture the professor turned and made the ritual gesture: “Are there any questions?”

He was greeted with silence. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence.

“No questions?” The professor swept the room with his eyes. Alas from the back row, “Professor, what is the meaning of life?”

The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go.

The professor held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at the gentleman who asked the question for a long period of time, asking with his eyes if indeed the question was serious or in jest.

“I will answer your question.”

Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into the leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter. And what he said went something like this:

“When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village.

One day, on the road, I found broken pieces of a mirror.

A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.

“I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece; This one.

And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine in deep holes and crevices and dark closets.

It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.

“I kept the little mirror, and as I went through life, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game.

As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light.

“I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know.

Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world into black places in the hearts of men and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise.

This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life.”

And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and slowly reflected them onto all that were in the room.

If you were to objectively ask yourself what is the meaning of your life how would you answer? Would you even know where to begin?

For many years I felt like I was emotionally wandering in a dry, dusty desert. I didn’t seem to ‘fit’ with my immediate peers and I wasn’t too sure what I wanted from life. To fill this void I shopped and shopped and shopped!

My revelation moment came upon accepting Jesus as my Saviour although I’m aware that this may be a thought that repels rather than attracts you! If that’s where you’re at I completely understand as I was once in your shoes! Conversely you may be wearing Jesus sandals, want to give me a big holy high five and a rollicking ‘Amen!’.

Whatever shoes you’re metaphorically wearing over the next few blogs we’ll work through several steps that will help you to discover the meaning of your life.

Get your shoes on and prepare yourself for the journey!!