Games and the quest for Solitude

Ever since I lost my job (cue trials and tribulations post at another time) I spent a significantly smaller portion of my time in front of the computer. That is quite good for one’s clarity of mind and a bunch of other things except perhaps forgetting to pay the bills on time and keeping up to date with my blogs. I follow SO many blogs, fashion mostly and a couple of lifestyle blogs here and there. No real writing blogs. I didn’t really check them while I wasn’t in front of the computer daily and so now that my situation has changed I’m back to it. However, catching up has taken almost a month in itself.

I found myself reading a lot of posts centred around the idea of inspiration. Whether that’s fashion inspiration or someone who read a great article online and so shared it with everyone that follows their blog. Quite often, bloggers say that they are inspired by other bloggers. This surprised me because I know I tend to be the complete opposite.

The internet was extending me an invitation to play Inspiration and instead of accepting, I politely declined and played ‘The Comparison Game’ all on my own. And while I’m kind of talking nonsense, I suspect that when it comes to day to day life, there are actually hundreds of us playing Comparison alone.

I notice random things. Being aware or perceptive or whatever you want to call it means that I notice patterns and similarities. I notice when captions on social media start to replicate themselves and I also notice when bloggers are taking their inspiration from other bloggers as all of their posts start to line up and all of a sudden, in one week I read five ‘What’s in my handbag’ or ‘The perfect LBD’ posts. Now I’m not judging. I actually know how hard it is to come up with blogging content, especially on a daily basis. I’m actually taking my imaginary fashionable hat off to all of you but I’m definitely a little confused and surprised by it all.

I just finally finished catching up on all my blogs and then thought ‘Now would be a great time to write a blog post’ and was surprised when I sat down to write that I didn’t feel particularly inspired. Instead I felt jammed.

My ability to be creative is stifled by other people’s talent.

Is yours?

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that if you took you more than 2 seconds to mentally answer that question then it probably is. Unless you’re just the most secure person in history (where is your blog so I can take tips from you please) you’ve probably struggled with this at some point. Maybe you haven’t realised that’s exactly what it is you’re experiencing but perhaps, just like me, you’ve fallen trap to the Comparison Game.

I’m not saying I don’t find other people or their work inspiring, I do. My friend Sarah gifted me ‘The Book Thief’ a couple of years ago and I enjoyed it immensely. Just recently I watched the film and came away feeling inspired to write and document the frailty and beauty of life. I read those blog posts and it inspired me TO write. But when I actually sat down, with the pen and paper in hand, I really struggle to come up with anything I liked. That was before I even put the pen down on the page. In my head, it was all wrong. Have you ever felt like this, maybe not with writing, but with some other skill?

This is lame, everyone else is WAY better at this than me. I can’t draw
Oh no, this looks way too much like something I’ve already read, they will think I’m not original, LAME.
I am an average singer, nothing like all those crazy talented folks.
My business model wouldn’t have as many features as his, I don’t think I’ll present it today.

Why do we think like this? Say it with me now.. I am equal parts inspired and threatened by talent.

That’s right, threatened. Having an uncertain chance of continued survival which stems out of insecurity. You’re worried you haven’t got ‘it’ anymore. You’re worried you never had ‘it’ in the first place and that fear, stifles our ability to do what we were made to do.

One day I want to be truly comfortable in my own ability so that I can read a great piece of fiction, or prose and have the desire and the creative juices-a-flowing to write my own thoughts down, without the fear of comparison. Until then, I am my most creative when I have nothing and no one to compare myself too. And so for me, that means solitude. Solitude of the mind. I clear out everything I’ve recently read, gawked at, listened to, shared online. I tell myself “you can do this” three times over. And I intentionally remove the pressure that I place on myself.

And then, and only then, can I truly do what it is I’m called to.

If you’ve got this gifting thing down, then great – this post wasn’t for you. If you’re still on a journey to saying no to the Comparison Game, then get a little solitude. You can’t compare yourself to something you don’t know exists. Just don’t play the game!

Eventually, over time, you learn to do the thing you love without the fear of comparison, or rejection or being lame. Eventually you become inspired by the people around you and you can start living out of inspiration and stop comparing your uniqueness to someone else’s.

I’ll hold your hand until we get there.

In the meantime, in the spirit of inspiration. If  you’re ready for it, you should check out this post which is directed at women and our awful talent for bringing others down instead of building them up. It definitely inspired me to be a better lady.
Women vs. Women and a little thing called Self-Respect

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The Moon

When someone graduates from being a friend, to being a really great friend to being one of your best, a number of things are typically involved. These are; mutual interests, shared values, respect, honesty and a whole lot of time. You really have to invest your time into friendships to make them truly valuable. One of the side effects of such an investment is what I like to call ‘friendship synchronization’ or to make it plain ‘tracking’.

It’s the interesting and sort of beautiful point in a relationship where you realise you’re on the same page and you like the same things. Whether or not you liked those things before the friendship is a little bit hard to decipher. Did you already love it? Or did your friend love it and somehow you ‘synced’ your interests. Whatever you want to call it, the reason for this current obsession is a result of friendship synchronization.

I LOVE the moon.

I have this friend and we love the moon together. I’ll be honest and say that I think she loved the moon first and subconsciously through the process of tracking, I grew to really love something she appreciated. The same goes with another of my friends who is a florist. I used to always ‘like’ flowers, but now I REALLY like them. Tracking.

I never disliked the moon but I never really paid much attention to it until recently. I find myself driving to scenic locations and moon gaze discussing and trying to ascertain how it all works up there. I now keep track of time via the moon and find myself saying things like ‘How can it be New Moon already?’ and I’m not even talking about Twilight you guys. And by twilight I obviously don’t mean the most beauteous time of day, I mean Edward Cullen and what not. Which I’m not talking about, to be clear.

I think I like the moon for a few reasons, it’s beauty of course, but also it’s mystery. To me, it’s a puzzle I’m still trying to figure out. No matter how many articles I read or how many times I try and recall primary school, it doesn’t 100% make sense to me. I need someone to create me a working solar system model because I just can’t fathom the craziness that is the moon.

Maybe you know this.. but the moon is always there. Like, always.

Lunar phase or phase of the moon refers to the shape of the illuminated (sunlit) portion of the Moon as seen by an observer, usually on Earth. The lunar phases change cyclically as the Moon orbits the Earth, according to the changing relative positions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun. The half of the lunar surface facing the Sun is always sunlit, but the portion of this illuminated hemisphere that is visible to an observer on Earth can vary from about 100% (full moon) to 0% (new moon). Wikipedia.

The moon is actually dark. I know it looks like the brightest object in the sky, but it’s not. Ever heard of the phrase ‘dark side of the moon’ or watched the Transformer movie? Yeah the moon is the dark, go figure.

The far side is often called the “dark side”, but in fact, it is illuminated as often as the near side: once per lunar day, during the new moon phase we observe on Earth when the near side is dark. The Moon has an exceptionally low albedo, giving it a reflectance that is slightly brighter than that of worn asphalt. Despite this, it is the second brightest object in the sky after the Sun. Wikipedia.

I gave you the technical facts so as to balance out how terribly I’d explain the solar system to you.

No matter what I know technically about the moon and its constant presence, I know that I view the moon as a temporal object. It comes and goes, it is full and it is crescent. I state things like ‘look the moon came out tonight’ when in actual fact, the moon is just visible tonight.

Don’t you think that’s a little bit like our relationship with God? Sometimes we can see him at work. At His brightest, his fullest. Our lives have ‘Christ at Work’ stamped all over it. Other times it’s just alright, we’re like a crescent moon where things are steady. Not crazy, just alright. And then there are times when it feels like God has gone and left us. That we are alone and we can’t see him, or feel him and that he has left us to fight on our own. And that, is a lie.

I think I love the moon because it reminds me that God is like the moon. He is always there, we can’t always see it but he is. It’s just a spiritual fact.

I think I also love the moon because of the way it confuses people into thinking it’s a bright object. It’s not and I love that it has us all fooled. The moon is a reflection of the sun.

God is like the moon, but He actually isn’t. He’s actually the Sun.

We are like the moon. We are a reflection of his light. We are not in ourselves capable of crazy feats of greatness and courage and wisdom and hope, however we spend our days attempting to reflect just a portion, a slither, a crescent of the brightness that is God.

 That’s why I love the moon. That’s why I love the Son.

Like the moon we borrow our light. I am nothing but a shadow in the night. If you let me I will catch fire, to let your glory and mercy shine. Paramore.

Lessons in emotions, bottles and siblings.

While out for a family dinner the other night I realised something new. You know how if you’re close to your family, you tend to think they know you the best out of anyone there is? They see you at your worse and hopefully at your best and so you feel known. That is one of the key beauty’s to family and this is something I’ve always been aware and grateful for.

When we were younger my brother’s favourite thing in life was to irritate me. My sister came along and as soon as she grew out of being a toddler he realised he had hit the jackpot because he now had two sisters to irritate (Poor guy was probably just bored to death and didn’t feel like playing Barbies and Concerts all day long). My brother and I were talking about how sometimes it’s difficult for men to understand women and we ended up talking about sometimes he feels like he doesn’t understand me and sometimes I feel like I don’t get him. He casually mentioned that he learnt very quickly about what irritated both me and my sister individually and from that he learnt a lot about who we were and what we were like. At least, he did with my sister. He learnt a lot about her by the way she responded to his jaunts or his annoying little boy things and through that he learnt about her character. He said I was the opposite. He learnt what irritated me and how he could annoy me best, but that was it. He told me that I used to shut down and switch off when I was irritated or hurt, and he learnt nothing about me.

I’m not saying as a child he had some crazy scheme to try and get to know us better through irritating us, but I do think he accidentally learnt more about my sister and the way she operates and he understands her better. I am still, somewhat unknown.

I’m not at all worried or concerned that my brother loves me less because he understands me less – that is the key, key beauty to family – but it got me thinking about the way we all process life.
It’s pretty easy to classify and identify what happened in psych style terms. When insults or sibling issues came my way – I bottled it up and shut off. When annoyances or pain came my sister’s way, she let it all out. I’m not a psychologist so I can’t tell you which is technically the right or wrong approach. I think they probably say a mix of both, learning to guard some emotions but also not bottling it all up so you explode blabla. Exploding wasn’t necessarily my problem. I was a professional bottler. I still am.

If someone hurts my feelings, wrongs me or treats me in a way that I don’t appreciate – I shut down. I completely switch off and don’t wish to discuss the matter any further. Which I always thought was a bit of a character flaw but I didn’t realise the deeper effect this has on relationships.
By bottling up your emotions or shutting them off altogether, you rob people of the ability to know you.

Blech – are you like this too?

I’m not saying people purposely pushed you so they could see what you were made of, or that people will never hurt you again if you simply let it all out right then and there, tears, tantrums, the works. But if you never let people see what’s going on underneath, why their words hurt you the way they did, why that push is backing into something deeper they don’t know about, if you never let them in there.. they eventually give up. “I don’t understand this girl”. “That guy is too closed off.”

I’m not saying you need to be the type of person that wears your heart on not only your sleeve but your jeans and your jacket and your shoes so that people take advantage of how vulnerable you are. But I am saying – let people know you. Don’t shut off when you’re hurt. Don’t bottle. Don’t hide.
Pain and heartache reveal to the world our true nature. I am most myself when I am under pressure as my calm, cool exterior – ‘my façade’ – fades away. It’s not always pretty but it is extremely real. If you want to be known.. have someone really know and understand your character, you have to learn to stop shutting off. Let someone in.

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretence, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. Timothy Keller

Train Travel

My new job requires me to ride the train to work.

I sort of loath public transport but out of all of them; train travel is the lessor of evils so it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened but it’s definitely not like ‘wow wahoo yipee’ either. I don’t like the train because I find it sort of stressful. Sure, once you take a seat (or a stand if you’re unlucky) you’re all set, but the whole concept of racing to make sure you don’t miss the train makes me nervous. I get nervous as I see the train arriving and I can see that lady/man starting to run. I pray and will their legs to run faster so that they don’t miss their train and end up late to work. And then I pray that it never happens to me. I also find the train quite depressing. It’s like the least cheery place on earth. If you looked up Disneyland in the dictionary, it would have “Train Travel” as the antonym. Everyone is on their way to their lame corporate jobs and it’s like cracking a smile is a massive social faux pas just like talking too loudly in the ‘quiet carriage’.

That’s a tad dramatic you say? You’re probably right. But there’s still a vibe. Lots of racing and lots of straight faces. People aren’t rude on trains (Buses are another matter) but they aren’t happy either.

The other day I was riding the train home and was struck with this sudden rush of gratitude. I was riding home on the train from my job. MY JOB. The very fact that I had one is a blessing, especially when I’d just been out of work. The fact that I could drive to the station and then catch public transport is a blessing. I get to catch an express train home which makes my trip that much faster. I get to look out the window on my mostly smooth journey and see mostly trees and blue skies. That’s a blessing.
I won’t bother/bore you by listing every other single blessing that I have, because most of them I’m actually pretty good at remembering (food, shelter, freedom) but it’s the little things I tend to forget to be grateful for. The little things like train travel.

And so on that train ride home, I smiled. I looked out the window and smiled.

I hope when someone saw me that afternoon, they were surprised by my smile and pleasantly so. I hope they realised that they too, could be grateful for train travel. I’m not saying I’m about to revolutionise public transport forever and try and give Disneyland a run for its money as the happiest place on earth. I just hope someone else smiles on my next train ride. That would make me happy.

New Year, New Who?

I don’t know about you but I find the start of a new year to be a little bit daunting.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been on annual leave over the Christmas and New Year break. I almost wish this wasn’t so as this extended holiday mode means I start the year off, pretty lazy. I blame the holidays but perhaps it’s actually because the whole new year concept is a little overwhelming. I was definitely asked more often this year the awful and frustrating question “What are your New Year’s Resolutions”?
It might actually surprise you, but I don’t think I like New Year’s Resolutions. I actually love the idea of self-improvement, goal making, planning, prioritising. I just find it weird that it just happens on January 1st. I find it weird that we all sit around at the one time and make promises to give up smoking or take more holidays, or.. lose weight.
Maybe I actually don’t dislike New Year’s Resolution. I just dislike the pressure. I normally do come up with goals for the New Year but I take my time and it ends up being a while before I decide what I really want. They end up being like Valentine’s Day Resolutions. I’m a big processor and it actually takes me more than 30 minutes to assess the whole year and then decide on how I want to improve upon it and then somehow define and condense that into 2 or 3 simple statements. By then it’s normally the end of January and I feel like the moment has passed. It’s simply too late to have a New Year’s Resolution.
For me, all the typical New Year’s Resolution type things kick in once I go back to work. I can’t suggest to the world how I want to improve my routine until I see it. Until I remember what it feels like to wake up every day and go to a job I don’t love or come home to chores I wish I didn’t need to do or try and walk the work stairs and struggle. That’s when I start thinking up things like: Learn to be content, be more organised, get fit!
And so today, I am back at work. Back to routine. Back to the everyday. So today, I am dreaming. Dreaming of what I want, what I wish for and how I am going to make that happen. I have never been very good at large overreaching summarising type New Year’s Resolution like the above statements. Mine are always specific, small and potentially achievable. They are usually based on a review of years gone by and a dream of years to come. I hope you find some inspiration from these goals and are challenged to continually and realistically challenge yourself this year. Even if you don’t get around to starting until February.

Respond to texts promptly.
Go for a walk 3 times a week.
Save $100 a week in order to Vacation Overseas!!
Finish every book I received as a present for Christmas 2013 – (just 4). Read 8 other books this year.
Start University assignments 2 weeks before they are due – finish strong!
Learn to make lemon flavoured desserts. YUM.
Spend more time working on Connect Group/with Connect girls.
Read the New Testament.
Have freshly painted nails!
Write more. Even if it stays in a notebook and no one ever reads it.

 

These are the specific goals that actually represent several ideals that I want to embody more this year. That of inexpensive living, being present and available with people, working hard and finishing strong, engaging my mind, my body and my spirit in a way that produces a better, well rounded Steffany.
I hope I see you here again and I hope the fear and pressure of New Years doesn’t stunt your ability to dream in 2014.