So Christmas has been and gone, not that I remember much about it as I spent a lot of my time either sleeping or doing something else. It’s not a good time of year for me at the best of times and the only highlight for me is just before the holiday sets in and we reach Winter Solstice. Then I know it can’t get any darker and so I hang on to that knowledge to give me a boost. It was good having my two daughters at home here with my husband of course but we were all out of energy or enthusiasm. If I hadn’t made the effort I could have quite easily not bothered to cook dinner or open presents. Not that we had many as we do Secret Santa and keep our spending to an absolute minimum. The absence of our eldest was pretty obvious and so it did shed a bit of a shadow on the day. I tried hard not to notice but I couldn’t settle until I had that phone call. We didn’t Skype this time as they are 12 hours ahead of us in New Zealand.
This has been my first proper winter not working and now it is actually a year since I quit my job. I still don’t regret it and judging by the improvement in my general disposition it was the right thing to do. I guess I have just reached the age where I don’t want people telling me what to do or how to do it. Well depends how they do it and what it is. With years of experience under my belt I got tired of being treated like a Girl Friday with no common sense or initiative. Looking back I am pretty sure they just wanted to get rid of me and so they succeeded in the end.
So now here we are and it’s already nearly halfway through January. Where did that go? I went on a retreat just after Christmas which finished New Year’s Day and I am glad I did it. I came home a bit more positive and refreshed despite the early mornings and gruelling meditation sessions. It’s a great discipline and I know it helps me to concentrate and get things in proportion. It’s the routine that I have lacked and so getting up every day is a bit of an ordeal. I have to persuade myself to get up and shower and then find something useful to do for the rest of the day. In these winter months it has been really difficult to get some motivation but I guess I do have plenty of things to turn to. I live quite an isolated life during the day which doesn’t bother me that much but of course I get a bit set in my ways and it isn’t so easy to fit in with other people.
I am usually quite a sociable person but during the winter months I am definitely less outgoing and tend to retreat into myself a bit. It’s hard to describe really but all I want to do is stay at home in the warm and enjoy the peace and quiet. In summer it’s a totally different setup and I tend to go out more. I guess I’m not the only one. One thing that does affect me though is sensitivity to what others say, especially when I am not feeling so great. Last week I went to my German class and as usual greeted the teacher in German. Then she told me I had said it wrong. I hadn’t even sat down and somehow it got to me. I felt quite put out in fact. ‘So what?’ I thought ‘is it so important?’ Then I realised I was feeling out of sorts. I knew it had been an effort to go out anyway as I had felt tired all day but I had at least gone to the class. It was the first time in ages that I felt this way and when the teacher had gone out of the room I asked someone what it was I had got wrong. It seemed so trivial and despite three explanations I still didn’t get the point.In the end I just gave up and said… ‘does it really matter anyway? I’m not feeling that well’. I realised it and the person said… ‘Good for you for making the effort to get here!’ I appreciated that and sat down to the rest of the class realising how touchy I had been feeling. Once I recognised it I was able to get on with the rest of the lesson and in fact did quite well with the grammar exercise.
At the moment I am teaching or rather training myself to be an Insight Dialogue facilitator. There are no official training schedules available but I have been in touch with the powers that be and have been encouraged to do whatever I can to learn about the practice. I have a set of audio recordings from the first retreat I ever went to and I decided to transcribe them and print out the copies for my own use and for the use of the people who run Insight Dialogue. It has been a very beneficial lesson in self awareness and recognising when things aren’t quite right. Half the problem is knowing when you are feeling bad for some reason and then being able to find a way of doing something about it.
I still suffer from low self esteem and am constantly battling to feel really comfortable in my own skin. I dislike the way I look and sound. In fact I have never really completely liked myself as a person and again it has helped me by meditating and studying the Buddhist teachings as a way of learning how to cope with depression, stress and generally feeling at peace with myself. It has taken me five years to get where I am and I have moved on to make quite a bit of progress. I find these days that I am far less anxious, have less temper tantrums and generally try to take everything in my stride by just accepting what is. Of course I still have my moments of feeling bad and upset and affected by things that people say or do etc. but I try to let it go instead of hanging on to it like I once did. I realise how it just gains nothing but pain and suffering.
It has been quite a transition too not working any more and the longer I am unemployed the less I can be bothered to even try applying for jobs. Age is against me anyway and the most difficult thing would be getting a reference now after more than a year out of work. So I can at least dedicate more time to the things I love doing for Amaravati Buddhist Monastery and Insight Dialogue as well as giving myself more TLC. I have felt that at times I have run away from things I don’t like doing. Last year I cancelled two meditation retreats because I couldn’t face sharing a room with someone else. Agreed at the time it was just before my daughter left for New Zealand and it didn’t give me much time to see her before she went, but I couldn’t help punishing myself by thinking I had been a coward and backed out because it didn’t suit me.
I genuinely had a fear of sharing with a group of people because the previous year when I had ,they had kept me awake by snoring. I didn’t get much sleep and that made me very miserable. Somehow though I finished this retreat and felt really good at the end of it. It’s not just that though. Sometimes I feel I’m running away from responsibility, commitment and doing things that make me feel uncomfortable. My mind is constantly tormenting me by telling me I’m a coward. It leads me to believe that other people are actually telling me this and I mis-read what is being said to me when in fact it is my own mind that is putting ideas of negativity in my own head.
Just last night I missed my German class because it was too cold and I couldn’t be bothered to go out and scrape the ice off of my car. This morning I decided to go to my art class because I felt guilty about not going to my class last night. I opened the door of my car only to find the floor covered with icy water and the seat soaking wet. It had let in rain somehow and frozen overnight. In a way I was disappointed and then relieved because I hadn’t felt like going in the first place. Then the guilt set in. I had found a good reason not to go because it was quite frankly a mess. I had to dry it out somehow and remove the ice from the floor. By the time I had done all this it was literally too late to get to my class on time and get a decent parking space. I had found a good excuse not to go. ‘How cowardly’ I thought to myself. But what was the point of beating myself up?
Sometimes it is good though to avoid doing certain things especially if you aren’t in the right frame of mind because sooner or later you will be. It’s a case of getting to know and trust yourself and realise that your intuitions were right all along. If you aren’t in the mood or you’re tired there’s a very good reason. Your body is telling you. It’s so important to listen to the body and feel what is going on otherwise we push ourselves far too hard and eventually we stress ourselves out and suffer. It really is far better I have discovered to just listen or notice what is going on physically before decided to take action on anything when I am not sure. I know when I really want to do something and if I am more honest with myself and admit I don’t want to do it then I feel more at peace with myself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says. At the end of the day it rests with you yourself. So if you feel you are running away from something, you aren’t. You are just doing what is right for you at the time and that is all that matters.