When the escalator stops…..

escalators

How does it makes you feel?

I’m always amazed at how a simple thing like a non-rolling escalator can suddenly throw you completely off-balance and make you feel really weird.

It got me to thinking about life and how we cope when things suddenly change or stop working the way they should.

It could be a sudden health issue, job loss or sideways transfer, relationship challenge or breakdown, children leaving home – any one of a myriad of things that we human beings are subjected to in our daily lives.

So, one minute we are all hunky-dory, coasting along going about our business. The up escalator takes us up, the down escalator takes us down. We hop on and off, effortlessly, not thinking for a minute about what we are doing. Everything’s on auto-pilot.

Then one day, something happens. Life as we knew it has stopped. We are faced with sudden change. It may not be a permanent blot on the landscape, but it is something different. How do we feel.

I know that when I come across an escalator that isn’t working, my brain wants to approach it the same way as when it was working. My foot goes on the tread, and I’m meant to glide upwards. My brain is expecting an upward trajectory but…what the?? I suddenly lurch forward, sideways, wobbling, grabbing on to the handrail – looking around to see if anyone is watching this little sideshow while I wait for my brain to adjust to the fact that I have to now put one foot in front of the other and get myself up on my own steam.

And so it may be with life. From time to time, circumstances demand we need to change the way we think and approach our lives. It’s how we adapt to this change that is the crucial thing.

We are so used to everything going as we planned, envisaged or forecast. Our brains get conditioned to our car being in the carpark when we return to it, our credit cards working, our power being on all the time, our computers working, our internet being connected and our phones having all our information neatly stored in them. Effortlessly.

But, when change comes around, we are so surprised. We are so un-ready. We are suddenly faced with the need to make a new plan, a new forecast, a new trajectory – something that our brain can absorb and work with.

Every day, most of take our health for granted. We get up, we do all the things we know we can do. We think about maybe eating better, exercising more, drinking less, managing our stress better – but does it get beyond “thinking”. So often it doesn’t. And we coast along, thinking that life is always going to be this way. But, all our habits form our lives. Whilst living a healthy life doesn’t guarantee longevity, it certainly increases the likelihood of reduced health issues and a life lived happier and with less stress. Yet, why don’t we make those changes while we still can. Why do we wait for the sudden “lurch” and “wobble” when we are suddenly told news by our doctors that we really don’t want to hear. We seem to prefer the sudden “jerk” into reality than to take matters into our hands to reduce the unpleasant, sudden surprises and required brain re-wiring.

Every day, we take our living circumstances for granted. Our home, our comfortable environment, our cars. What if we could no longer afford to keep any of those things due to failing health, loss of income, a terrible accident or some other life-changing loss. Do we even stop before we get on the escalator and wonder about taking the stairs?

Yes, stairs. These are things that get us to the same destination as escalators and lifts but require a really conscious effort. They make us face things like our fitness, our health, our thoughts as we put one foot above the other to reach our goal.

Perhaps we should all do more mental stair-climbing instead of gliding along on mental escalators or lifts. Maybe being more aware of our every day “steps” will give us more insight into the value of our daily habits, blessings and otherwise.

Next time you step onto a moving escalator and gaze around you, or look at your phone – take a minute to think about your life. Are you on auto-pilot?

Next time you step onto the non-moving escalator and you get that “wobble and jerk”, think about how maybe you are also taking your life’s trajectory for granted.

Start taking the mental stairs every day – you’re body and mind will thank you.

Choosing a Diary……what’s the secret?

diary

“Buy diary” it said on my to-do list.  Such a simple-sounding task, right?

Wrong.

My local stationery store dedicated one side of a long aisle to the mysterious process of diary-selection.  As I arrived to tackle this task, there was already one other young woman looking confused and tired in her quest for the perfect day planner.

“It’s a bit confusing, isn’t it?” I joked with the young woman.  She smiled broadly and started to laugh about it, “Oh my goodness yes.  How can you choose from so many?”

We exchanged anecdotes about how we would make our decisions, and then went about trying to choose a diary.

Naturally, all the colours I liked were only available in diaries that were too heavy, too big, too expensive, too something.

I was looking for a small, week-to-a-view diary, with a colourful cover, that weighed just a few hundred grams. Again – easy right?

Wrong.

More people arrived in the aisle – all looking for the perfect diary.  Men, woman, young, old, conservative, creative – which one would they choose, and how long would it take for them to choose it?

I felt that we could have created a “diary-buyer support group” right there and then.   We’d sit in a circle of chairs, sipping on water or green tea, looking worn out and hopeless, saying things like, “last year I thought I’d bought the perfect diary, but it turned out to be all wrong.  Too big, the font was too small….”

Or, “I thought a week-to-a-view would be enough, but I ended up scribbling all over the whole page just for one day.  So, in the end I just gave up and started scribbling on blank pages and pasting them in.”

Or, “You know, I feel like such a failure, because I bought a “day to a page” diary and then at the end of the year, so many of those pages were just blank.  I felt like I’d just had such a non-event of a year.”

Or, “I chose black for the colour, but it just kept disappearing into my handbag, and whenever I needed to refer to it, I’d spend ages digging around looking for it, looking so unprofessional and ultimately giving up and scribbling on my hand.”

Or, “The edges of the plastic cover were so sharp, I cut myself so many times, I ended up with blood on the pages, it was revolting looking back on all that dried blood on the paper.”

So, ultimately, I found my “perfect diary” – it was orange, week-to-a-view, spiral inside, but smooth covered, and less than $15.  I felt like such a champion!   I was leaving the diary aisle – in under 30 minutes!  I walked out, leaving four other people still staring at the selection of diaries, fingering the books, feeling the covers, comparing the prices.

I was out of there.

But, then when I got home, I realised – THERE WAS NO RIBBON.   I had failed in my quest for the ‘perfect’ diary.  Now I had to find a ribbon in the drawer – you know, the second kitchen drawer where all the “good stuff” is kept – and make my own.  I knew there was a reason I kept that piece of ribbon……

So, I’ve jotted some things in my diary, dutifully christening it and making 2017 “real” and active.

Now all I have to do is work out a way to use a paper diary in conjunction with an electronic phone diary.

Has anyone  mastered that yet?

I kidded myself last year that I would go big-time into the paper diary world but, really, who was I kidding.  There were too many blank pages as evidence that my experiment had failed.

So, this year I’ve downsized to a much smaller version and I hope that I can make it work.

I kind of like the ritual of diary-buying at the beginning of the year, and judging by the folk in the aisle with me, there are still a few of us who like it too.

I open my new shiny orange diary, full of hope and ideas for 2017 and I wish you all the best for your new year.

Don’t forget….if you want to make it happen, PUT IT IN YOUR DIARY.

 

Got a Minute to Lose?

pondering

As I left my mechanic’s workshop at 8.15am having dropped off my car for a service, I walked calmly across the driveway of the adjacent service station, wondering what I’d do next – sit at the local coffee shop and wait, or hike back up the hill to my house nearby.   Suddenly, I felt a swish of air behind me.

Turning  to see the source, a small silver hatchback whizzed impatiently by.  When I asked him, “what’s up with you?”, the grey-bearded middle-aged looked highly agitated and flipped me the bird out the window.

Clearly, the driver was offended at me for not walking faster and for impeding his hurried exit from the petrol station.  Very clearly, he had no respect for women and was yet another in a long line of male bullies encountered by me in the past few years, both in business and personal life.

I listened yesterday to Madonna’s acceptance speech as she was voted Billboard’s Woman of the Year for 2016.  It really was an emotional but extremely well-written and rehearsed outpouring of the hard yards so many women in the music industry have had to plough in order to reach and stay at the top of their game.   Bullying is rife in society – towards children, women and those perceived to have a lesser worth.

So, Mr Silver Hatchback felt it necessary to bully and insult me with his driving and his gesturing.  Off he raced to his job, leaving behind a person left wondering why his aggression levels were so high at 8.15am.  Mondayitis at its worst.

I crossed the road and sat at a café and read Sunday’s paper for an hour or so, made a telephone call to a lonely friend, and then made a business call as I walked up my hilly street.  I was determined to make today a day where I made time to ponder.  Not anything in particular.  Just ponder.

It seems pondering is not allowed or encouraged in this society.  I was sort of pondering as I walked across the petrol station driveway and look where that got me?   I guess I should have been marching purposefully towards my next goal.

But what do we miss in our non-ponderous march to the finish line?

I guess the Christmas season adds to people’s already chronic state of agitation in our modern, busy and overworked lives.  A trip to your local shopping centre will more than confirm that something bad happens to people’s brains around this time.  Add to this, the stultifying heat and humidity in our sub-tropical home of Brisbane, and you do find some fine examples of “going troppo”.

Last night I watched again the very funny 2004 movie Christmas with the Kranks  and my all-time favourite scene is when Jamie-Lee Curtis’ character, Mrs Krank, dives desperately for the very last tin of ham in the supermarket, competing for this ‘prize’ with another desperate shopper.  She fails spectacularly in her attempt, but eventually manages to secure another ham by begging another shopper to sell her their’s at an inflated price.  Sadly, in the car park she drops the ham and it rolls away onto the road where it is hideously splattered under the wheels of a lorry.  This is sometimes how we feel when we have spent a long time chasing something, all to see it come to nothing, or worse, end up in disaster or woe.

So, is the chase worth it?   Should we walk and ponder, rather than march and lurch and dive towards the object or outcome of our desire?

My resolution for 2017 is more pondering, less agitation.  I shall try each morning to read the newspaper, or catch up on weekend newspapers, rather than diving headlong into a full schedule of chores and “must-dos” in the life of a freelancer. For, as Kathleen Noonan points out in yesterday’s Sunday Mail, “reading offers you a space that is utterly yours”.

I am going to claim some  “utterly mine” space in 2017.  Heck, I might even play my grand piano for a half hour each day and brush up on those scales and favourite bits of Mozart and Beethoven.

How many of your favourite things have fallen by the wayside as you march towards your life goals?   Do you have any “utterly yours” space in your days?

Too many of us go through our days as if we have “no time to lose” whereas we have in fact lost the ability to use our precious time to nurture ourselves, which in turn makes us a better nurturer of others – our spouses, our children, our ageing parents, our colleagues, our gardens, our pets, and even strangers.

Make a point in 2016 to “amble” instead of walking briskly, stare out the bus window and “ponder” instead of reading your emails or picking the next tune on your ipod.  In fact, how about taking out the earbuds and actually talking to someone on the bus?  Talk about the weather, give someone a compliment about their shoes or dress or hair – a bit like the good old days.

The first step to detaching from your digital devices is to re-learn how to do “nothing”.  It’s harder than you’d imagine, but well worth the effort.

The good old days may have meant a lot of elbow grease washing clothes and scrubbing floors – but it did also allow for a bit of a yarn across the back fence, or down at the shop……  There was a bit more time to lose.

And that’s the time we need to find back.