Thought of the Day: Ageing with pride

“Grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31).

When did we become so ashamed to age? To advance through life, accepting with it the advantages and disadvantages life may throw at you physically and mentally as you go along. We’re in a time where people causally have ‘botox parties’ or have regular injections to fight the signs of aging with the anti-aging industry likely being in the millions, if not billions of pounds. If there’s a way to run and hide from that looming shadow of ‘old age’, boy, will we run.

In particular, I increasingly come across many women who are never forthcoming about their age and it’s a bit of shame. In fact, you’ll often be in social situations where you have to think twice about broaching the topic of age with some people in case it causes offence. Which is actually bizarre when you think about it – surely, I’m just asking a factual question? I suspect the logic behind this taboo, which has emerged over time, to openly say your age when you reach a certain point in your life is due to the fact it makes it all the more real. Many worry, particularly, if they’re presumed by the crowd they’re with to be younger, if their real age is known, will they be viewed negatively now? As ignorant, slow or less able, perhaps? Whether you’re 43, 38, or 51 – that’s something to be proud of, wear that badge proudly. Each year that advances is another reason to be grateful, life is too short to be shrouded in shame about something you can’t control.

Of course, there’s wider societal factors at play here. Firstly, in many societies old age is painted as one filled with loneliness, money struggles and physical discomfort. Don’t get me wrong, the stats do show that these things can indeed become more prominent as you get older but it doesn’t have to define the life you have as you get older (I hope!). If that’s all you hear all the time, no wonder you would be scared to let go off your youth.

The media secondly, doesn’t portray enough instances of older or elderly people living fulfilling lives. Even for many actors and models in their industries, as soon as you reach a certain age, you’re only given the mum and grandma roles. For sports people, you go from being on the pitch, in the limelight to doing the commentator or show hosting jobs. There is undeniably a shift in If you’re heralded in the industry it usually correlates if you don’t actually resemble that age. We need more Mamma Mia-type films – where older actors are thriving and living their best lives, forming more intergenerational relationships (not just with family) and filled with a hope/positivity that keeps them going.

*Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash

Thought of the Day: Breaking the IG façade

Not every moment you experience will be IG perfect and that’s okay. You’ll be surprised how averse people are to experiencing moments in their raw unfiltered beauty these days. Instead, because of social media, many think of every moment they experience as a potential social media post. Is this Instagram-worthy? And if not, what can I do to ensure that it is? What should the caption be? And so on. It’s fairly common for people to go a location (supposedly for leisure) and then when it comes to taking photos instead of few natural snaps to memorialise the moment it becomes this eventually stressful endeavor to capture the perfect like-worthy shot.

I knew things were very much going downhill when people a year or two ago criticised an influencer who got engaged. She showed an obligatory photo of the engagement ring on her hand and instead of sharing her joy – as she probably assumed would be the response – many people focused on the fact her nails weren’t manicured in the photo. Since then, it’s been a running joke for many people that their partners should give them a heads-up before a proposal so they can get their nails done. What should be a romantic, intimate moment is now, for the most part transformed by this overwhelming desire to ensure the moment is approved by the numerous unknown eyes viewing it on their timeline. A bit of a shame if you ask me.

This is why, a friend and I concluded over brunch recently, not everything needs to be posted on your socials. It’s very tempting, and I can admit I do fall into this trap more often than none. I’ll be bopping to music playing at a gig and think to myself, ‘I should probably post something on my story’. As if people actually care. Regardless of if they do or don’t, the moral of this story is sometimes you just need to put your phone down and enjoy the moment.

*Photo by Omkar Patyane: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-using-smartphone-238480/

Thought of the Day: No such thing as can’t

Aren’t overly positive people slightly annoying at times? Don’t get me wrong, it’s an attitude that’s mostly welcomed and has been many-a-time just what I needed to hear to motivate myself to do things or get through certain situations. Sometimes there’s nothing like a good ol’ ‘Yes we can’ Obama style speech to get us pumped up and feel ready to rule the world. However, at other times I do feel there is a level of positivity people ooze that doesn’t quite concur with the reality around them.

I remember on one random occasion saying to someone oh yeah ‘I don’t do that’ or I can’t do xxx’ and they were like ‘why not? ‘there’s no such thing as can’t’. To me, yes there is. And yes, there should be. I do admire the sentiment of the phrase but I think there can sometimes be a misunderstanding as to why someone is saying ‘I can’t do this’. I’m not saying ‘I’ll never do it’ – because. who knows I one day might! However, I’m speaking in that moment in time and acknowledging I have a gap in my ability – no I can’t do this xx CURRENTLY.

But let’s also keep in mind that just because it’s something you could in theory master or learn how to do, it doesn’t mean you should. We’re only one person with 24 hours a day and numerous responsibilities, at the end of the day. So we should pick carefully what we pour our time and energy in or give attention to.

I think being realistic and acknowledging your limitations in such a way can be empowering. I would even go as far to say not many of us do it enough. It may be a downer for some people but in all honesty that’s how you grow – you group things in different categories; primarily ‘things you can’t do’ and ‘things you can’ and then you may one day wonder, how can I tranfer this item from the ‘can’t category to the ‘can’ one?. And thus, a journey of discovery and growth begins.

*Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Thought of the Day: Prepare for the Worst

Every day I prepare to leave the house I look at the weather forecast and use the unfolding climate for that day to decide how I’ll dress for that day. If it rains or is raining (a common occurrence during UK winters!), I’ll ensure I’m wearing my winter coat or have alternative protection in the form of my umbrella. If only life was like that – we could scroll through what circumstances would come next and prepare ourselves – and our hearts – accordingly. For many people, more often than we would like, circumstances turn for the worst and thus, an uphill battle begins. A cancer diagnosis, a sudden redundancy, a loss in the family, a theft at home or even on the street. Life is mad and maddening, it loves to throw us curveballs that do NOT discriminate and are probably more frequent than we tell ourselves. When these things happen they can do so out of the blue and unfold at a flash of light. Your landlord raises your rent and suddenly you’re in arrears and out wandering the streets with all your belongings in one suitcase.

Reading the above just now, I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. Yet, despite knowing all this, it’s interesting that we often do not prepare as if those things may even happen to us. We read stories and often go ‘that’s horrible for them’ but suffer some sort of dissonance and never imagine we could be wearing those shoes ourselves. I recall roughly a scene from the book My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Picoult where the protagonist’s dad, who is a firefighter, is at the scene of a house where a fire happened. He asks the house owners if they had insurance and they admit they don’t because they never thought something like that would happen to them. As someone who is going through a bad situation, one of those situations he thought would never happen to him (one of his daughters has cancer) he thinks to himself about the homeowner – what a privilege it is to think like that.

There’s a prominent fallacy that if we prepare for the worst – i.e. taking out life insurance, maybe even telling our family our wishes for funeral arrangements, then we’re somehow tempting fate or bringing bad ‘voodoo’ our way. This belief is prevalent in some communities more than others (I’ve even come across is many a time myself) but I believe it can be harmful. As adults, if it can be afforded, we need to be taking out life insurance and taking other necessary steps to shield ourselves and our loved ones from worst-case scenarios. It’s what I can only describe as being wise, people can be cruel and so can life in general. However, we don’t have control over other people or life in general so we need to do what we can with what we can control.

*Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

Thought of the Day: Rise & Shine

More and more this year I’ve found myself longing to become more of a ‘morning person’. You know, the kind of person who happily and easily rises at 6am to go about their day. You see this all the time in magazines like Stylist where they interview businesswomen and men and without a doubt all of them awake daily at 6am, if not earlier, with yoga stretches (or a jog) and a green smoothie. They make a to-do list, listen to a motivational podcast and then feel ready to conquer the world – and make more money, of course.

I can 100% percent say that is very much not me at the moment and that most mornings can be a heavy wrestle with the bed to get up. Each effort to arise seems to sink me deeper into the mattress and the rational part of my mind which is filled with urgency and the aspirational part of my mind which has none whatsoever battle each other. I set about four alarms (I know, don’t judge me) which all annoy me and surprise in equal measure when they go off even when I know I set them. In fact, I often feel like an imposter amongst a word of mainly morning people. Of course I have to adapt to survive (and have a job) but I actually find myself more productive in the evening and night. I’ll often have random ideas float to the surface of my mind at numerous points of the night and feel the need to urgently write them down. It’s actually the process of how a lot of my poetry and some earlier blog content has been written. But it is the dream though to be more of a morning person as opposed to someone who just rises early out of necessity. I often find on the days when I can wake up slightly earlier – I have more time to psyche myself up for the day, to pray and reflect before getting ready to go to the office and/or open my laptop.

Luckily at the moment I can rely on my body clock to wake me up consistently at a reasonable time to get things done but this is still something I struggle with so I’m very open to any tips. So far I’ve read about setting a to-do list for the day, meditation, brief morning exercise and making sure you read something in the morning.

What about you, are you a morning person or night owl? And do you have any tips on how to make the most of your morning?

*Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Thought of the Day: Have a little patience

Hello folks,

It’s been a little while so it’s nice to be back. Since I last posted I’ve moved jobs, so I’ve just been adjusting to a new work setting, getting to know new people and processing bucketloads of information.

We live in a world where everything is available on demand, so it doesn’t seem too surprising that patience is a very rare trait. Get-rich-quick schemes, schemes promising to help people lose weight or gain pleasure instantly are common scams as old as time, which evolve with the times but have mainly found their success by tapping into the lack of patience people have regarding such issues. Even I’m guilty of this, I often start a new role or project and expect to pick it up in a few days. I did this at a previous job, constantly comparing myself to people at the company who had spent years honing their craft (which really makes no sense, now that I reflect on it!)

The Bible in Galatians calls patience a Fruit of the Spirit – that is, a character trait which becomes evident in a Christian as they become spiritually transformed by Christ. Patience can be easier in some circumstances than others; I’m likely to find it easier to wait 10 minutes longer for a Deliveroo order than deal for an hour with difficult personalities in a social setting, for example. However, we can start being self-aware – what things cause and stem from our impatience? Are you, putting unrealistic expectations on yourself or a situation, for example? Reflection is key, prayer is key and hopefully, together we can work towards becoming more patient people!

*Image: Photo by Osama Saeed on Unsplash

Thought of the Day: Picking your battles

I’ve become a big fan over the recent years of picking your battles wisely. As I observe and live, I’m learning that not everything that happens to you or around you requires you to get worked up and respond all guns blazing. For some, this revelation of mine is perhaps common sense, but when you’re someone who’s sensitive and passionate/overly emotional (yes, I’m potentially describing myself) it’s easy to fall into this trap without realising.

However, making everything a personal battle quickly leads to fatigue; feelings of frustration build up and it feels like you’re banging a brick wall – not all of these ‘battles’ can be won, and in all honesty, some don’t need to be. I think it’s only insight and spiritual wisdom that will truly help us distinguish what causes we need to fight and which we need to just let pass by and pray on. So that’s my prayer for you today!

*Photo by Stillness InMotion on Unsplash

Book review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

“These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way, A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.” (p343)

Summary

This book follows 30-year-old Eleanor as she discovers the beauty of friendship and undergoes an internal transformation that gives her the strength to confront demons from her past. (I’ve probably made the book sound less interesting than it is but that’s because I’ve tried to keep my overview just provided spoiler-free.)

Gail Honeyman: 'I didn't want Eleanor Oliphant to be portrayed as a victim'  | Fiction | The Guardian
A version of the book art commonly seen on UK bookshelves. The book sold really well in the US & UK.

This book was published in 2017 and admittedly I’ve heard a lot of hype around this book, so it’s been on my radar for quite a while (I would say about 2-3 years). But like with many things that gain a lot of chatter, I didn’t want to feel pressured into reading it because everyone else was, so I made a mental note to read it when the time was right. Nevertheless, expectations were high and I was excited to get stuck in and figure out what on Earth this book was about. The title doesn’t give away much and neither does the blurb so it is one of those ‘you have to read it for yourself’ type books, if you want to really understand the themes, characters and general storyline of the book. Please be warned that this book deals with themes of suicide, depression and emotional abuse.

The main point of intrigue for readers of this novel will be the series of events behind much of Eleanor’s trauma, although hinted at early on in the book, the details are slowly revealed later on.

Style

The novel is narrated in first person (from Eleanor’s perspective) and is split into three parts; Good days, bad days and better days. I found the choice of first-person narrative to be very beneficial to me as the reader, since Eleanor seems to observe the world, as well as the situations and people she encounters, in a unique and profound way that would be lost in, say, third person, for example. In particular, I loved how it made me feel like I was in her therapy sessions with her, as she went week after week – each session giving her a life-changing revelation.

Thoughts

My impressions upon reading are that I can see why this book captured the imagination of many readers when it was first released. Eleanor is a very quirky, and ultimately a likable character.* She tends to be very savvy, intelligent and kind-hearted; even if not obvious to those she meets at first, those character traits always come through or stand out to them by the end. Her colleagues, for example, find her peculiar and so tend to keep interactions with her to a minimum. Although the peculiarity may be an understandable first impression, Eleanor, as you grow to learn the more you get to know her, is a classic case of why appearances (and first impressions) can be deceiving.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Book Review - Hasty Book List
Alternative book art

Perhaps due to an a typical childhood, Eleanor is usually not afraid to say things how it is which leads to many awkward (and yet hilarious) public encounters which definitely feel more unique to her as an individual. For example, there was an amusing scene in the later half of the book, where Eleanor is ordering coffee with a friend, and when asked what her name is so it can be placed on her drink, she kicks up a fight, ensuring she has the right to privacy. There are not many books I read that make me laugh or smile often and this one achieved this purpose so, props to Gail for that!

My only qualm (yes, there is one, unfortunately) is that it did feel like, when it comes to Eleanor as a character, she came across as quite caricature-like at times and almost unbelievable. I mean, what 29-30-year-old individual would struggle to order pizza in this day and age? A scene in a similar vein takes place where Eleanor buys a new laptop and seems to be really unfamiliar with how to set it up because she’s never owned one before. Another scene that felt slightly unrealistic in an age where tech permeates pretty much most areas of our lives.

However, I will say for every unrealistic trait Eleanor has, there is one that resonates strongly with readers. Whether it be; the loneliness, the frequent bafflement at human behaviour, the overwhelming desire for companionship & friends, the underlying grief, that niggling ‘what is the point of this?’ feeling of life, the depression. It’s all very real stuff, the ‘baggage’ many of us carry from day to day but don’t always see reflected in the characters we read about in books.

*It’s also suspected, but not confirmed that Eleanor is neurodivergent.

Conclusion

Ultimately, this novel is one about an individual’s journey of growth, self-acceptance and change. Although it may take a while to warm to Eleanor, Gail succeeds in creating a character who you can’t help but root for and empathise with. She’s brutally honest about her flaws and mental health issues, making her relatable, if not iconic, for many readers who have or are currently walking in Eleanor’s shoes.

The (belated) Christmas Post

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas! 🎄😃

Christmas is losing its spunk. Or so, that’s how it’s been slowly starting to feel over the last few years. Originally when I started to think this, I thought ‘surely not’, maybe it’s just a one-year thing, so I pressed the thought down and tucked it away. Kind of like a teen would do when tidying their room – stashing their clothes into a brimming wardrobe and slamming it shut, hoping they won’t have to open it again and experience the cascade of clothes that would occur if they did.

Lovely modern Christmas tree spotted in South London by moi

I suspect, at the root of this feeling is a fruitless comparison to the Christmas days experienced as a child – where it was a holiday that dripped with anticipation. I would watch fun films or bring toys into school to play with, eagerly open my chocolate advent calendar in the run-up to that day and help my dad set up the tree and streamers across the living room. My family would collect Christmas cards like Pokemon cards, often eventually running out of space in the house to hang them. Presents were always an expectation, as is still the case for many children today. I would religiously make lists of what to get each of my closest friends and would also sift for ages at a time through the Argos catalogue to create a present wishlist of my own for my parents.

Nowadays, the holidays aren’t too consumed with presents for me – I typically buy myself one or two gifts to get into the spirit and may also give gifts (if I can) to selected friends. We don’t really bother with a tree and decorations anymore so it’s simply an occasion of Christmas tunes, food and music now. To be fair, I don’t mind having Christmas this way that much, I think my celebrations are less consumer-ist focused now which means I can properly appreciate what matters most  –  family time, ending the year on a high and most importantly, for me as a believer, the significance of Jesus’ birth to [the fate of] humankind (John 3:16).

Thinking about all of this recently it was therefore profound to see this tweet which talks about dwelling less on the Christmas of our childhood and creating a new reality of Christmas which fits our current lifestyle and expectations as adults.

I think there’s an important point to be made there since otherwise, without making a deliberate choice to create this new reality, we’ll always be comparing Christmases that have passed to Christmas now and we’ll always be disappointed.

Who knows, perhaps when or if I have children I’ll change my tune and insist on Instagram-worthy Christmases every year but for now, this is where I stand.

On all things Sustainability

Why we need to think bigger and do better when it comes to our global sustainability efforts

There is no doubt this world is going through an environmental crisis. In fact, it is quite common for me to think of an issue such as this and melt into a pool of hopelessness (without fail.) Daily reports, research and Netflix documentaries often only add to this deep angst and feelings of helplessness. I’m not alone though – 60% of young people feel worried or very worried about climate change according to a recent global survey.

Things are so easily available to us that we consume very thoughtlessly and without need at a scary rate. Many items are typically cheaper to replace than repair, plus the capitalist system many countries operate in seems to be at odds with sustainability efforts. Perhaps you could say us being in this position was an inevitable state of affairs…

It’s not my fault! (Is it?)

Interestingly. when we look at our efforts to be sustainable and how they relate to what we’re told by the media and governments, there is a lot of emphasis on what individuals can be doing and should be doing to save the planet. You need to recycle more, make sure you’re using less bathwater or here’s how you can sew your clothes to avoid throwing them away. I’ve been fed such messaging since I was in primary school where we would celebrate awareness days which taught us such things.

Don’t get me wrong – there really is no harm in doing all these things but whilst we make sure we sort our rubbish correctly into recycling and waste, turn our TVs off to avoid wasting energy and use energy-saving lightbulbs, it feels likes many corporations who are doing 5x as much havoc to the planet every day are let off the hook. I say this after recently watching Panorama’s documentary on Coca Cola and the truth behind its greenwashing messaging.

Well, of course, we could debate for eternity why this is the case but the trail always goes back to the money. Money, money, money. The climate blame game is very much skewed towards the public because it’s likely easier to fine individuals to deter them from littering in comparison to trying to stop corporations from dumping toxins into rivers. I say difficult, but not impossible. However, many governments are aware that if they tighten laws and seek to harshly punish global corporations based in their country, those companies will simply move and set up shop somewhere else – it’s why we call them ‘footloose’. However, it’s a sad reality and frankly, a frustrating one which means corporation interests are placed before that of citizens of the country – literally the opposite of democracy (if that’s a word that can be taken seriously anymore.)

Sustainability – the rich man’s game?

Why does it always seem like you have to make a choice between affordability and sustainability?

I remember having lunch with a colleague of mine and asking this exact question. This question is one I continue to ponder on often. I saw an ad the other day about a brand that sells a vegan alternative to eggs which still tastes exactly like eggs (according to the ad anyway.) When I finally came across it on the supermarket shelves it was £4. Four whole pounds. This didn’t make much sense to me considering you could easily buy a pack of 15-24 eggs for half the price. But I am aware that although a lot of these indie eco-alternative brands are definitely onto something with the products they produce, they don’t necessarily have the scale or exposure yet to sell at cheaper, more affordable prices.

This creates a problem for lower-income families who naturally live a very budget-conscious lifestyle out of necessity. If I was a working-class single mother of three children, would I even consider buying this vegan egg alternative? Probably not. The same goes for a zillion expensive organic alternatives I find in local shops no doubt seeking to serve the gentrified hipsters in my area. There’s no point in me pondering the purchase of such things I can’t afford. Yet, if we’re truly determined to create lasting change environmentally, we cannot have a two-tiered game where only the rich can afford to participate. Lasting change requires universal cooperation which means all consumers should be able to purchase products, make lifestyle changes and decisions that are affordable/easily accessible.

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By no means do I belong to a think tank or the UN so I’m not filled with solutions here.

However, some things I would say I would like to see more of:

  • We need more recycling infrastructure – at the moment much of our recycling gets shipped off to Southern East countries such as China where it could get recycled once sorted/processed or may – more often than not – just go to their landfill. It’s an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality to the disposal of waste that has to change. More recycling needs to take place domestically and infrastructure is needed to make this happen.
  • Companies need to make it clearer to consumers if they offer safe ways to dispose or recycle their products; whether it’s a laptop, washing machine or TV – they will keep going to landfill if consumers don’t know such a service exists. One of the best ways to do this could be through a ‘buy back’ scheme, like Currys PC World currently offers – where you recycle your old product through them and get money off to buy a new product.
  • Similarly, companies need to start offering spare parts which can help consumers fix their products and thus make them last longer. The number of times I’ve had a perfectly working item but cannot fix it myself and therefore have to buy a whole new product instead have been too numerous to count.

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I could go on and on but I’ll stop here for today.

Some suggested further reading:

The Eco Experts have created a list (with a company breakdown) of the top nine global corporate polluters which you can read here.

This WIRED article takes a more optimistic approach to the environmental issue and argues we need to be more hopeful about the future.

What do you think about this issue – unbothered or very concerned? Let me know your thoughts. 😊