How to be happy; a simple guide.

When I think about our generation, certain ‘catch phrases’ and driving thoughts come to mind. We’re obsessively passionate about ‘pursuing our dreams’ and we’re the Kings and Queens of YOLO. We’re all about changing our uni preferences, our jobs and our friends in order to live the type of life we’ve decided we want. There are many other defining characteristics of our generation but one I’ve noticed is a desire to be considered deep yet understood and an overarching goal of achieving bliss. In fact, we want deep bliss.

As much as a generation changes and moves with culture and the times; the rest of the world is slow to catch up. Our parent’s and employers don’t really understand our constant need to be complex and our drive to live the ‘dream’. My world is filled with both types of people; deep thinkers and people who just want to be happy and then people who want to be both. The two however, seem to be mutually exclusive. The more you think and the more you contemplate – the more you realise how deeply unhappy you are and how you need to make a change and get your life right again. The two forces end up becoming a vicious cycle and we can’t seem to be happy or deep or understood.

I’ve definitely been there. Our generation seems to think there’s something romantic attached to being a ‘deep thinker’ and to being ‘complex’ or ‘misunderstood’ yet at the same time, we want every type of success and happiness in the world and wonder why it doesn’t work out. After lots of time and attempts to be both happy and deep I’ve come to realise something.

It really doesn’t take much to be happy.

Our generation doesn’t really believe the above statement. To be really, truly happy we think we need to have a certain amount of things. A good, fulfilling and preferably high paying job where we hopefully don’t have to do too much work or ever be stressed. A large number of friends of whom you feel deeply connected with all of them and somehow have time to hang out with all of them and that also happen to be very good looking. A wonderfully impacting relationship with God/other spiritual being that helps define us and give us “meaning”. A love type relationship that challenges us to be better than were the last day and makes us always feel like a baaabe. A plethora of university qualifications and other numerous skills such as but not limited to: some form of artistic ability (drawing/music are high on the list), sporting prowess and the gift of the gab or some other socially enhancing personality trait. It would also help if we had a great house, a great car and if no one was ever mean to us – ever. We want wicked holidays, epic Instagram photos with 80+ likes of said holiday photos. We want to be clever and well-read and really ‘up to date’ on certain topics of interest and it of course, would be best if we sponsored one more children in Africa and if we had the time – we’d also be volunteering for a cause that also attributed further ‘meaning’ to our world.

‘It really doesn’t take much to be happy’ feels like a lie.

A month or more ago I had this ‘wow’ moment when I sat down in bed with a cup of tea before I went to sleep and thought to myself “I am so happy right now – in fact, all I think I need in life is a good cup of tea.”

It feels.. so trivial doesn’t it? Tea Steff? Really?
In fact, it actually feels like I must be lying – or at the very least exaggerating.
But I wasn’t. I was so into this cup of tea and I was truly happy.

The ‘deep thinker’ within tried to come up with some intrinsic metaphoric reason for why tea was making me happy but I came up with nothing except the fact that if I could become so happy from drinking a cup of tea, then anything additional on top of my tea – would cause my life to be, well, AMAZING. So I rolled with it. For a season in time I forced myself to become that person who finds everything pretty awesome.

I would walk outside and think ‘My isn’t the air beautiful and crisp today. I love breathing fresh air’. I would receive an email at work and think ‘Oh they added a smiley face in their message – that’s SO nice’. I would get more green lights than red on the way home and think ‘WINNING’.

I made the simple things in life.. My everything. I tried to focus on only simple, easy to achieve, smile inducing things and told myself how happy they made me.

I thought it would feel trivial. Just like believing that I’d reached life’s peak while drinking a cup of tea was a limited way of thinking. I thought I wouldn’t feel deep anymore and that somehow by living simply, I’d lose any intellectual and emotional depth that I once possessed when I was deep but truthfully, a little unhappy. But I didn’t – in fact; my life increasingly had more and more meaning.

Why? Because the more I practised simplicity the more my simple little joys became infused with meaning.

Because when I drank my tea at night – I ended up thinking about how great it was that I had a job to come home from, even if it did make me tired. I would sit in bed feeling warm and appreciating my home and that I can afford to live in it. It would make me aware of how other people didn’t get the same luxury. I ended up feeling so darn lucky that something so simple could make me so happy.

What once was tea – ended up being gratitude, perspective and that ‘I’m so darn lucky’ feeling.

When I would walk outside for an errand at work – I ended up thinking about how the seasons work, and how beautiful it is that grass continues to grow even once it’s been cut and how the patterns on the leaves that had fallen on the grass have their own unique design and how that reminds me of snowflakes and how no snowflake is the same which makes me thinking of how wonderfully unique I am because God made me that way.

What once was a work errand – ended up becoming worship, fascination and unique sense of purpose.

In order to live happily – one must learn the art of living a simply deep life.

As soon as I adopted the above principle, everything became better. Surprisingly, everything became deeper and the happy, reflective, stoic, grateful kind of deep not the moody, what are we even here for, damaging deep.

I never thought being happy was so simple.

Displacement Theory

When speaking with a friend the other day, she asked a general question that we actually hear a lot, probably multiple times a day. She asked me ‘how are you?’ Now we are actually close friends and while we don’t get to catch up as much as I’d like, I knew I could skip over the ‘yes, great – can’t wait til Friday’ response that might have by habit, normally escaped my mouth. I decided to be real and tell her what was really up.

The problem was I didn’t really know what was up. I wasn’t doing poorly, sick or going through a really rough time, overall – things were good. Yet I still didn’t feel completely right about stating ‘I’m so ridiculously wonderful, thank you for asking’. In my prattling and in trying to explain my current emotional state – I said something along the lines of ‘I guess I’m feeling a bit displaced’.

I’ve never used that word to describe myself or my emotional state, and I don’t know if I’ve actually heard anyone else really use it either. The dictionary says it means ‘to move or put out of the usual or proper place’ and not until after I’d really thought about it, did I realise how truly profound my choice of words was. Essentially, I felt ‘out of place’ and out of the normal place and I know I’m not the only person who has felt this on occasion or in fact, felt it all too regularly.

Perhaps you’ve felt displaced as a result of a strange quirk of yours and you just can’t figure out how to fit in. Perhaps it’s been a literal displacement in that you’ve left your home town or country and you’re feeling a little too ‘fresh’ and new. Or perhaps, like me, as a result of a series of small changes and little to big decisions, you’re left feeling out of sorts. You can feeling it in varying degrees but the most common denominator is that something changed and you’ve been moved or put out of your usual or proper place.

To be honest, it’s not a good place. I actually don’t even know if anything worthwhile or good happens in this place. It’s not like a bad breakup that’s, like, so terrible – but you at least have the most legitimate excuse to eat tubs full of ice-cream and have a Gilmore Girls marathon. I don’t even think it’s really like a valley or trial where you know that you’re going to come out stronger or having learnt some valuable albeit painful lesson. Displacement is just that, it’s not fitting in, its removal, its change. If you’re feeling a little lost and you can’t figure out why – I’m guessing you’re feeling what I (and after doing another google search, psychologists apparently) term ‘displacement’ – its blech. Not gut wrenching, not amazing – because that’s what displacement is – the awful in between.

Sounds like all bad news right? I thought so too because I couldn’t even define or figure out what it was that was wrong in my life. Perhaps the only good news about displacement is that it can end. The answer actually lies in its original definition. By actually defining displacement, I found the answer. The dictionary says to ‘move OR put out of the usual OR proper place.

The key to overcoming my little displacement theory lies in deciding which ship you’re going to sail out of this situation you’ve found yourself in. Have you been displaced? If so, that sucks, sorry friend. Have you been displaced from your proper place, the place you are truly actually meant to be in? Then that really sucks. You should figure out how to get back there. Did you hurt someone and you now find yourself out of relationship –you need to make amends. Did you step out of line/make a bad call/end up somewhere you didn’t mean to go? You need to find your way back. Or perhaps someone hurt you – took you down a couple of notches, stole something from you. It’s time to go and get it back. Nothing is permanent. Take your integrity back. Do the right thing. Whether or not it was your choice that landed you here – you don’t have to stay displaced.

The tricky, yucky final option is if you’ve been displaced from your usual place.

This option is hard. It feels gross. It feels uncomfortable and awkward. Displacement might cause you to act out, in weird and awful ways which only serve to further enhance this uncomfortable place you’ve found yourself in. My displacement caused me to retreat, like that if I somehow avoided ‘humanity’ I could avoid the feeling of displacement, of no longer fitting into my usual place.

This type of displacement is hard because at some point, displacement becomes necessary for advancement. There is only so long someone can live according to habit, in comfort – succumbing to the trap which is their usual placement. If you don’t choose to step out of your comfort zone, life will eventually do it to you – and BAM, displacement.

Displacement is meant to be a transitional point in the journey. It’s necessary in order to propel you of your usual, run of the mill, playing it safe life into something better, scarier and ultimately, more fulfilling. Displacement is never the end destination. You aren’t meant to stay here.

And so my friends, you have a choice, just like me. We can stay and wallow in our uncomfortable-ness and refuse to step out into what’s coming ahead or you can look at this awkward phase of your life and choose to see God’s hand at work. Neither is amazingly pleasant – but if you don’t embrace some part of the displacement – you end up losing. You end up staying and never moving forward.

Choose to get yourself ready for whatever you’re about to been thrown into. Don’t stay displaced.

Projection.

A while back I was sitting at a big conference table amongst other colleagues without any work to do. I mean, legitimately – no work to do. I’d been brought in for a project and while normally I was run off my feet busy, there was this weird stage in which I had nothing to do. I did as much prep work and as much organising as I could do until the next wave of crazy came through, but in that moment, I had nothing to do. So I reverted to my default position when I have nothing to do ‘Look Busy’. This involves a lot of shuffling of papers, ensuring things are typed at realistic speeds and intervals, keeping certain documents open so you can move and re-move things around when you need to ‘look busy’ for the sake of other people.

I had this moment though, where I felt a little convicted about whether or not this was the right thing to do. Not so much morally, because when you actually know that you have zero work that you can do, and your role doesn’t entail ongoing catch up work, then I don’t think you’re in moral trouble. But I just don’t know whether it’s the smart move. Sure, it shows that you’re a hard worker, and that you’re busy and that encourages them to keep you and think you’re indispensable, which in this economy, seems wise. But here’s the trouble with ‘looking busy’ when you’re not.. while I’m busy “typing” away and “shuffling” papers, my team thinks I am incredibly busy (nailed it!) and they then hesitate when approaching me for new work. I could potentially be helping out a team member who was going to ask if I was free, but all of my movement and scurrying has caused her to carry on in her own stress, when I could have helped and been busy for real. The trouble with looking busy is that it ties you up when potential work comes along. It actually makes you unapproachable.

The same goes in life. I think sometimes we get so insecure and busy fighting the constant need to prove ourselves that we set about making ourselves “look busy”. We fill our day with meaningless “appointments” and “meetings” so that everyone will think that we are busy. We spend a whole lot of unnecessary time projecting an image of a full social calendar, when actually, we’re pretty quiet and pretty lonely. Resting, or taking a break is not only “unproductive” but for some, it feels like a weakness. That if we aren’t out every single night of the week then somehow, we’ve failed. We live in a world that screams “I’m so, so, SO busy” that we compute this as the norm and as the expected, when it’s not reality for all.

The problem with projecting success or projecting busy or projecting popular is that it ties us up for potential greatness or relationships. It actually makes you unapproachable in life. It screams “I don’t have time for you” or “I don’t need anyone” when in actual fact, you might. There should be no shame or embarrassment in sitting back at your desk and admitting ‘I currently, don’t have any work to do’ just like there should be no shame or embarrassment in sitting back in your life and admitting ‘I don’t have anything on this weekend and I could do with a new friend’.

I don’t know about you but I need become better at recognising and accepting reality. For it is only from this place that we can make any real decision to change it.

Life Changing Brownies & Other Stuff

The other day I was texting with my best friend. We were just chatting about what we were eating that day, as you do with your best friend. I was telling her that I’d just eaten this amazing brownie that I bought on my way to work. It was a raspberry brownie in the shape of a love heart which made it pretty much the best thing ever. In fact, the exact words I used were.

I am eating this raspberry brownie and it’s actually pretty life changing.

We joked about how if it was such a serious event in my life then we should stop and take stock of this amazing moment. We were joking, but it really did get me thinking about how flippantly we use certain words and certain phrases such a “life changing”.

I’m actually all for a little hyperbole and embellishment when it comes to storytelling or statement making but I’ve realised that in our day and age, it seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. I have this tendency to pick up words and verbal habits from peers and mass media – sometimes I catch myself saying things that don’t even really make sense. What’s the problem with this you ask? Is there really any harm in saying your brownie was life-changing?

Probably not. In fact, there’s really no problem with it. Sometimes we say crazy stuff like that just to make a point. I really just wanted to express to my bestie about how basically, this was as good as a brownie could get for me.. I mean raspberries and chocolate, YUM. However I do think there is the potential for harm in adopting a flippant attitude to the words we choose to use on a day to day basis.

I’m not saying a brownie couldn’t be life changing. Maybe I dropped my brownie in the street and a dashing young man reached down and grabbed it before it hit the ground rendering it uneatable and then we had a moment and he got my phone number and then we dated and got married. LIFE CHANGING BROWNIE. Maybe the brownie maker invited me to an event she was having and I went along and it was an introduction to brownie making course which I did discovering a passion for baking in which I gave up my day job and became a brownie chef. LIFE CHANGING BROWNIE.

But really, I was just sitting at my desk eating a yummier than yum brownie while trying to get through a pretty run of the mill type of work day. The brownie, in no actual way, changed my life.

We’ve all heard before how important the words we choose to use are. They can bring life or bring death and a whole myriad of other destructive or purposeful things.

My consistently rabbiting on and on about the brownie and using what are actually powerful words to describe a piece of food – I limit the words power.

Then next time I say that something is “life changing”, it loses a little bit of its oomph. Because if the brownie was life changing, and the sparkling long black was life changing and my new ankle boots were life changing and the hair cut I just had was life changing then the next time I go to use the word for its original purpose, it loses its impact.

How life changing is the word of God when I’m slushing it together with something as insignificant as a brownie? It loses its power.
Next time you hear me explain that something is “life changing”.. You’re going to second guess my words. It loses its credibility.

I think we all know that if we speak negative things over our life, we start to see negative results yet if we speak with authority and positivity, we start to see a real change for the better. I think sometimes we forget about all the in-between words that also have power.

I don’t want to become the words police and stop engaging with the world because I’m spending ALL my time analysing new slogans and sayings that come out – but I do want to live a life that means something. I want to speak with integrity and power and I don’t want the important words I speak to get lost in amongst the junk that can sometimes creep into my vocabulary.

Eating that brownie has made me realise that all of my words have value and it’s changing the way I talk. So maybe it was more of a life changing brownie that I thought?

Ready for Love

Last year I decided that I’m ready for love.

That to me, sounds like the craziest/boldest statement I’ve ever made. And if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking.. Ok wow Steff, hold the crazy – tell us what you really think. I’ve never been one to be particularly publicly honest about being single but if you can’t be honest about love on Valentine’s Day, then when can you?

I couldn’t tell you the exact moment when everything changed, but it did, and I’m ready.

I don’t really mean this in the way you might think I do. I’m still not actively looking for a boyfriend, I still battle everyday trying to decide if it’s even worth wearing makeup or doing my hair and I’m actually still really content being single, but something changed, inside, and I think it’s worth talking about.

Having been consistently single (yeah points for consistency right?) for a really long time gives me a certain level of authority to say that everyone’s advice about being single kinda stinks. I know they mean well and to some degree, there’s a level of truth to what they’re saying, but unless you’re actually there, you don’t really know what it’s like to be single in today’s day and age. Just like I don’t know what it’s like to be married and my marriage advice probably rebounds in a very similar way. One of the best and worst pieces of advice floating around for Christian singles is this;

Stop wanting and desiring a boyfriend or girlfriend. As soon as you stop, it’ll happen. As soon as you stop caring, that’s when love arrives. Or something to that effect.

I am totally on board with what I think the heart sentiment behind this advice is, but the notion or the premise of it, is total bullocks. And I don’t mean any offence to anyone who has ever given this advice as I’m pretty sure I’ve dished it out also. It is absolutely so essential to strive to be content with being single but it is also okay to want to eventually be with someone one day. Finding the balance is what is tricky. Telling someone to try and stop the desire for love, but then all of a sudden switch it back on when love arrives is like asking someone to hold their breath indefinitely. It works initially, but eventually your body aches and forces you to take an almighty gasp for air. Your body wasn’t made to do that – It’s unnatural.

But I don’t know, somehow I managed it.

At some point I stopped telling myself I was okay with being single and I actually started believing it. It became a heart thing rather than just a head thing. You can tell yourself something over and over and eventually it does work its way into your brain and things travel smoothly until your brain and your heart start to fight, and that’s when it’s critical that you’ve made a heart decision and not just a head one. I actually truly believed deep down, that I was content on my own. I actually was, I actually am.

That was until recently.

I actually don’t think anything drastic has happened externally. I still don’t feel like it’s worth doing my hair, I still don’t really notice new “hot” guys, I’m still rocking up to coffee solo and enjoying the crazy freedom that comes with being your own person but something internally shifted.

It was like a couple of years ago God came and flipped a switch. I was struggling, trying to force down those emotions because I knew if I wanted a boyfriend, I had to stop wanting a boyfriend and I couldn’t make sense of it, let alone actually do it. It was unnatural. I felt a certain way and I couldn’t seem to stop feeling that way. Eventually God came and did what I naturally couldn’t.

I know my heart needed work. It was a mighty mess of tangles and knots inside and sometimes God, as chief architect of my life, makes an executive decision to shut off the power while critical maintenance occurs. I now know the risk was probably too great for me to be “emotionally active” while repairs were made. Perhaps in this instance, God is more like a Project Manager than an architect. I like the idea of God being an architect because it sounds more beautiful to me, and sometimes it’s like that, but often it’s just messy and hard work. That’s life.

The amazing thing is that now that God has flipped the switch back on – I feel, just right. I don’t feel the striving or the turbulence of being ruled by my emotions anymore but I’m also acutely aware that if the right thing presented itself, that I’d be ready. As ready as I could be. That’s a scary and ultimately beautiful place to stand with God in.

So what does all this honesty mean to you?

Well I’m just hoping that if you’re single like me on Valentine’s Day, that maybe you’ll decide to do a little heart check/heart maintenance. If you find yourself a little sad on Valentine’s Day, spend a bit of time praying and thanking God for this season that you’re in, asking Him to give you wisdom and insight about yourself that you wouldn’t normally notice. If you’re exceptionally sad this Valentine’s Day, take that as a blinking warning light on your heart. It might be time to let God take the reins and get inside and do some repair work.

Don’t be afraid of pain. God has it all monitored and he knows what you can and can’t work through – he knows when it’s time to cut the power and work out the kinks. Trust me, He knows your heart best. Trust Him, he knows you best.

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

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.