Saturday, 22 April 2017

Learning to be Cheerful.


 Can you learn to be cheerful? Is it a realistic goal? Can you choose a path of optimism? What is optimism?

Daniel Goleman states in his book, Emotional Intelligence  (1995) that optimism " means having a strong expectation that, in general, things will turn out all right in life, despite setbacks and frustrations...optimism is an attitude that buffers people against falling into apathy, hopelessness or depression in the face of tough going."

Life is tough. Whether you are a student, a teenager, a young parent, an old parent, employed, unemployed, in love or nursing a broken heart. Life is a road which carries many bumps, it is how we choose to navigate the road which can make the journey enjoyable, miserable, magnificent or dull.

There will always be something with you as you make your journey.

It will go everywhere with you.
It will be on display at all times.
It has no size.
It has no colour.
People will make judgements about you on the basis of it.
Its impact on your life is profound.

What can it be?

It is your attitude.

An optimistic attitude prepares you to anticipate success and to bounce back from set-backs. A positive attitude will enable you to see obstacles as opportunities and to remain motivated in order to achieve your goals. An optimistic outlook will help you make self-fulfilling prophecies work for you rather than against you. If you expect things to turn out well, they are more likely to do so.

Optimism is such a wonderful tool because it gives you the confidence to cope with positive and negative events. It helps you to approach situations with assurance, persistence and an expectation of success. Being optimistic means you have a natural aptitude for happiness. That you can manage your perspective and that you can take an active role in creating the life you want.

A valuable lesson to learn here though is that for some people, an optimistic outlook will simply not work. Some people, believe it or not, are quite happy being miserable. I had a long relationship with such a person, He would use my 'optimistic outlook' as a weapon against me. Obviously the relationship ended. As far as I know he is still quite happy being miserable. But that's life. His glass will be forever half empty. At the end of a tunnel I will see daylight, he will see the headlights of an oncoming train. I will see a silver lining, he will see rain approaching. I'll see the doughnut he will see the hole.

You can keep your glass half full by accentuating the positive aspects of a situation. This doesn't mean you are ignoring or denying the negative aspects it's simply a decision to seek encouragement rather than discouragement.
Another key aspect in keeping your glass half full is to express gratitude for what you have or what you have experienced. People who show their appreciation feel more alert, optimistic, enthusiastic and positive.
Of course it is true that when the going gets tough it will be more difficult to be grateful than when things are going well. However it is a valuable lesson to learn that it is during hard times that we need gratitude the most.

Remember:
"The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.'
Marcus Aurelius
(AD 121-180)



@artycelia


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Google: Sunflowers and other Stories.

Having been brought up in the sixties and seventies I do admit to having a bit of a hippy outlook on life but I think this has served me well. I was always encouraged to read and constantly had my nose in a book. Enid Blyton taught me not to be afraid of spiders with her stories of Aaron the spider who was really a prince. I have infuriated my daughters over the years by my insistence that that huge hairy eight legged specimen in the bath was actually a prince trapped in a spider's body. They learned from a very young age how to use a pint glass and a piece of card to let the arachnid out of the window. Same with bees and wasps,' Buzz, buzz, buzz busy bee, busy bee, buzz if you like but don't sting me.' (I made that one up) Walking around the park would have me singing 'There once was an ugly duckling....' although I certainly didn't read that book to my own children over and over again, like my mum did to me ( I still bear a grudge)
As a child I played outside all day long. Imaginary friends would surround me in the woods along with fairies and elves. Trees would have faces to match their personalities, my imagination was that good.
As I grew older I became enchanted by the Greek myths. I still love them to this day. A recent guilty pleasure was discovering the film Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief which I love.
So why the picture of sunflowers? Well my hippy childhood taught me to see the stories behind the scenes; a gift that the young today may never learn with boring old Google giving them black and white answers to all of their questions.

Google: Sunflower; (Well, take a look)

Sunflowers : The beautiful sunflower takes her name from Clytie, a water nymph who turns into a sunflower after grieving the loss of her beloved Apollo. The mythological symbolism is that Clytie (in her form as a sunflower) is always facing the sun looking for Apollo's chariot to return that they might rekindle their love.

The sunflower grows tall and moves to face the life giving rays of the sun and is often used as the symbol of spiritual faith and worship.

A vase full of sunflowers brings sunshine to the gloomiest of days.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Yin and Yang. UK and US

Image result


The referendum in Britain which has resulted in 'Brexit,' the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union and the election of Donald Trump in America has highlighted in no uncertain terms the yawning gap between the elite and the 'ordinary people.'
In the United Kingdom there was a sense of profound shock at the result of the referendum and let's face it, if David Cameron had had any doubts about the result would he have allowed it to go ahead?Yes, it was in the manifesto but we are used to politicians conveniently forgetting promises.
The shock took a while to wear off, there was a lot of indignant bickering and feisty arguments but the bottom line was that the politicians had misread their electorate. I think it's fair to say that the referendum provided a perfect stage on which to protest and maybe a lot of the 'Leave' campaigners used their vote as a protest against the general scheme of things.

I am still protesting.I am using my protest vote to challenge every last detail of Article 50 which I think will be detrimental to Great Britain. I feel passionately that the vote to leave the EU was absolutely the wrong decision.


The shock we felt at our referendum result pales into insignificance compared to the seismic shock waves which are still shaking the American soil. Donald Trump is the President of the US.


The Hopi people use the word 'koyaanisquatsi' to describe how they feel about the modern world- a term which roughly translates as ' a world out of balance,' a world which overuses rationality at the expense of our intuition. We have lost sight of the greater picture- the mystical ' feminine' wisdom.
Yin and Yang out of balance. Rich versus poor. Strong versus weak.  A gulf between those in power and those in the workplace. An attitude of us and them.

 Since the referendum last June the passionate feelings of the Remainers do not seem to be at all diminished. I based my vote to 'remain' on my intuition and thorough research. I feel strongly that in a world which is truly 'out of balance' a world in which the 'leaders' seem to be economical with the truth it will be ever more important that we exercise our intuition as well as our rational thought processes in order to steer are paths toward a more peaceful and harmonious future.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Follow the Dream.

Image result for alice down the rabbit hole drawings
"I could tell you my adventures- beginning from this morning,' said Alice, a little timidly, ' but it's no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.'
Lewis Carroll.

When Alice disappeared down the rabbit hole, she had one goal in mind, to chase the White Rabbit. While looking for him she was forced to question all of her basic assumptions about reality- and to develop her courage, compassion and humility. She also had a great time.
Her goal wasn't important, it was the journey that mattered. Alice's desire to find the White Rabbit was just an excuse for her adventures in Wonderland.
Everyone needs a White Rabbit. Everyone needs to have dreams which inspire us to reach for the stars, to push through our fears and to explore our potential. When we chase our dreams, we are forever growing and changing, simply because our desire motivates us to keep moving on.
What if Alice had hesitated at the top of the rabbit hole, wondering whether chasing the rabbit was silly or impossible? Or whether there was something more worthy she should be doing? Or whether someone else might be much better at chasing White Rabbits? Whether she was being too unconventional and take up knitting instead? Or whether she should just be satisfied with her life and forget all about the White Rabbit?
If so, Alice would be forgotten by now- and what an adventure she would have missed.
Yet how often do we give ourselves similar excuses for not following our dreams?
We are here to learn, grow and have fun. Life is an adventure in consciousness. By following our hearts we can choose to grow through happiness. There will be many challenges along the way- from Mad Hatters to Mock Turtles- but we can see every event as an opportunity, as part of our adventure.
This doesn't mean that we all have to be wildly adventurous. White Rabbits come in many guises, from setting up a business, to bringing up a child, to committing yourself to a relationship or running a marathon.
All that matters is having the dream and throwing yourself into it. Some people, like Alice, have one White Rabbit which guides much of their life's journey. Others have a whole warren of rabbits leading them down many different holes.
It doesn't matter- all that matters is having a dream.
Think big, think without limits.
And enjoy yourself.

My Polish Friend.

Jay.

I take my dog for a long walk everyday and everyday is a different experience. Today I noticed a lot of Jays flying about. I love Jays.  I am always delighted to see such a magnificent blue flash appearing overhead. But there is another reason that I am always pleased to see a Jay.

About ten years ago I was working in a dental studio. The man who ran the studio fancied himself as a bit of a ladies' man but I wasn't interested in him at all. It was the old man who did the technical work who held me in thrall. His name was Heinz and he was in his early seventies. He was short and round, his cropped hair was grey and he had made his own teeth. He was Polish. We became great friends. We made a very unlikely couple. Me, tall and slim and quite a bit younger than him. I suppose people presumed him to be my dad but he came to mean much more to me than a surrogate parent. He was so kind even though he had lived through terrible times. He described being poverty stricken while growing up in Poland, he told of his escape from his homeland and his tough life in Britain. But he never felt sorry for himself, just grateful for the life he had made. Always the under-dog, he seemed to accept that his dentistry skills would be taken advantage of by people less skilled in technique but more polished in talk than himself.
We went out for lots of meals.  He would dress up for our evenings and always wore his hat. He had impeccable manners. He would stand up in the restaurant until he had seen me settled and then would make a grand gesture of seating himself, placing hat and gloves neatly on the table next to him. The waiter would not be permitted to remove them to the cloakroom. It was these little gestures that I found so charming.
We would chat and laugh for hours, I can't even remember what we talked about but simply feel a rosy glow at the memories.
I did remember one occasion however when he told me about his 'hunting hat' that he had had for years. He used to have a Jay's feather poked in the rim but had lost it.
The day after this particular evening I was out in the park with my dog, (this was Alfie, my previous dog) and lo and behold a Jay's feather fell to the ground. I should have been astonished but I wasn't. It was one of those magical, mysterious things that happen sometimes. Best not to reason why.
I will never forget the look on Heinz' face later that day when I handed him the feather. Years seemed to fall away  and his eyes filled with tears.(So did mine). A magical link between us was cemented with that feather.
On Valentine's Day that year , 2007, my phone rang and it was Heinz. He wished me Happy Valentine's Day  and thanked me for being such a lovely lady and good friend. He said he never expected he would find such happiness so late in his life and that our friendship had made him a very happy old man.

Out of the blue Heinz received a phone call from an old ex-colleague asking him to go and work for him in Sierra Leone. Most old men ( and Heinz was an old man, not sprightly and fit) would not have given this idea a second thought, but not Heinz.
Off he went with his feather in his cap.

I received a letter from him, inside were a few photos of him in Sierra Leone. Smiling at me with his lovely kind eyes. He looked pretty pleased with himself. He returned to the UK to sell his house and  tie up some loose ends.

Then came the phone call. Heinz told me he was gravely ill. He also told me he didn't want to see me. He wanted me to remember him in happy times, looking well.
 Death came and took him swiftly away.
I loved that man. The memories of our funny friendship will stay with me forever.
The Jay is a lovely reminder of our time together.

The Pre-Internet Brain.

Douglas Coupland is a Canadian novelist/artist/designer who creates visual masterpieces, one of his pieces is a poster reading, " I Miss My Pre-Internet Brain," He has designed many more since this one which was included as part of the collection: "Welcome to the 21st Century."

Coupland is 54, a few years older than me and, like me lucky enough to have actually owned a pre-internet brain and can therefore compare past and present. It's quite a concept and makes me feel privileged to have been born in the 1960's, a generation of children who may well have been the last lot to grow up in a world of self-discovery and wonder, curiosity and creativity as well as in my case anyway, hunger and quite a bit of deprivation. I didn't know I was deprived though so it didn't really matter. I knew I was hungry quite a lot but then I just assumed everyone else was as well. Wasn't it a great feeling to see your big brother walk up the road with a rabbit tucked in his belt, or to not get caught whilst scrumping? (Younger people will need to google) 
A big joy of childhood was the library, a big quiet building where one could wander for ages and ages and go home with lots of dusty books under your arm. (yes, yes, today you know exactly what you want to read, you've seen the reviews online and a pristine book will arrive wrapped in a box) I still love the library, I still sit down in my Lloyd Loom chair and retreat into the world of 11th century Paris or Tudor England or anywhere in the world at any time at all for that matter, even space if I feel so inclined. The library today though is a noisy affair with lots of bleeping going on and people talking into their laptops. Old people shuffle about too embarrassed to ask how to actually borrow their books as the machine has replaced the librarian.
In my day my friends and I on the rare occasions that rain stopped play, would idle away time colouring in. That meant using colouring pencils to colour in pictures in a book. Now, that's an exercise in 'mindfulness.'
The thought of being stuck indoors was a frightful one. Why would anyone want to do that? There were, (still are actually) trees to climb, rivers to swim, orchards to strip, fields to scour. I think I spent about a third of my childhood in swimming pools, proper swimming pools with a proper deep end, not namby- pamby shallow  'safe' boring drips that pretend to be pools today.
Then there was school, Primary School was good fun, Secondary School not so much but I did learn a lot. Curiously although I hated Physics, my teacher to my hilarity was called Mr Grime, I learned an awful lot although didn't realise it at the time. Who knew flow tanks would have been so helpful?
I wasn't allowed the luxury of further education and went to work in London just short of my sixteenth birthday. At twenty I was promoted to a Chief Referencing Officer, fancy being a chief of anything at that tender age. My job was to travel across all of the London Boroughs collating evidence of land ownership. This would see me chatting to a Lord and Lady in Kensington one day and a big burly gypsy on a caravan site the next. I loved that job and it has stood me in good stead as a researcher.I expect all the information I found by trawling around with my pencil and pad can now be found on the internet, not so the myriad of stories behind the facts however.
Nearly thirty years later, my pre-internet brain is shared with my post internet brain.
Today as I walked around the park with my dog I came across a lot of young mums pushing their babies in their buggies. Ducks, swans, herons, cormorants, woodpeckers, parakeets, tits, a sly fox all totally ignored, bright orange and red crinkly leaves left underfoot and not kicked up in delight, squirrels left alone to squirrel their nuts. All the while the babies moaned and the mums listened to music or talked loudly into their hands-free sets.
The dog trod in a sticky pile of something and was covered in burrs, as I extricated them I realised my hand was covered in poo. I had my wellies on so climbed down the old roots of a tree into the stream and splashed about as I washed my hands, I dried them on a waxy leaf... much to the horror of a lady walking by who politely passed me a packet of disinfectant wipes.


Monday, 3 April 2017

The Emotional Exit.

Even the word is harsh - Brexit- it sounds tough on the tongue, an ugly word, brutal in pronunciation.
A politically emotional word, one that makes me flinch while others preen.
I think of Paris, the Paris of today as well as the Paris of my past, a visit on a school exchange aged 14, a romantic trip with my first real boyfriend, bomb blasts, carnage, heartbreak, tragedy. But I feel these feelings with a sense of love, a sense of comradeship. I think of Portugal and my first paintings inspired by the colours of the cliffs, the freezing sea, the wobbly restaurant attached to a rock face.Sardines on the beach and yellow houses. The quiet of the afternoon, the clanging of church bells.
I find it hard to believe that we are going to turn our backs on something so wonderful. Our friendship and alliance with Europe has brought us so much: sumptuous food, oozing garlic, red wine drunk in pavement cafes, rich aromatic coffee, gingham tablecloths, hams, croissants, pizza.
And then there is fashion, who remembers the dull high streets of the 1970's, Shoefayre being the highlight of a rainy Saturday afternoon.
When I think of Europe I see colour, bright reds, swirling skirts, lipstick on smiling mouths, The emerald green of a silk scarf caught in the breeze, shiny hair in curls, dancing. Happy waiters, surly waiters, petite waitresses standing to attention, fishermen clinging to steep vertical cliffs, eager for a fat fresh fish to take to market.
To me Europe means art, fashion, food and wine. sunshine and sea. Glamour.

I dearly hope our European neighbours will continue to open their doors and their hearts to us brutal Brits who have rudely dismissed the hospitality offered by our cousins abroad.


@artycelia