In Everything Give Thanks…

Words that can be found in a scripture verse (1 Thessalonians 5:18). And also a principle that can be found in a number of idioms (wise sayings), such as:

Always look on the bright side of life.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

And there are more to choose from. In essence, what is being articulated or suggested, is that there is a positive to be found. And we are being encouraged to find it.

I remember musing on the scripture verse mentioned above when I was younger, and thinking, “Is this really possible?“. Here it is in full:

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (taken from The Message – A contemporary rendering)

I had major doubts, but eventually posited that if it was written -and written in such a way as to be a directive- it must be possible. So I decided to put it to the test.

My method was simple. When anything unwelcome, annoying, provoking etc. happened, I tried to express some thanks. E.g.

“Thank you God that even though it’s me washing the dishes again, my Mum doesn’t have to come back to them.”

“Thank you God that though that person stepped on my foot (and didn’t even say sorry) I have the use of my feet.”

“Thank you God that though I’m standing here waiting forever in this queue, I’m fit enough to be able to do so.”

And so on and so forth. Yes, they may sound a bit contrived, possibly even a bit silly. And they were definitely, initially, said through gritted teeth, and sometimes suppressed anger.

However, as time went on, my jaws loosened, my ‘thank yous’ were more easily expressed, and at some point I realised that their had been a change to my heart. A change in my attitude. Or you could also say, a change to my default setting.

Now a change like this. A change to one’s thinking, perspective, and chosen responses, can be hard to maintain. It requires some intentionality and consistency on our part. I also personally believe it requires something ‘other’ than ourselves.

A change like this can also be hard be hard because life’s happenings can be challenging. They can put our resolve to be thankful or positive to the test. And though, for myself, I feel I discovered that it is actually possible to ‘give thanks’ in all circumstances. I’m not convinced that there is always a positive to be found in all circumstances.

Especially, because sometimes…

When it rains, it pours!

*If embeded video doesn’t work, click here*

In my case at the moment, and the trigger for this post, literally!

#indonesiaproblems #myjakartalife #rainyseason #bocor

As I was doing earlier tonight, and have been trying to do on some other nights, I made myself find things to be thankful for. The struggle was real. I def faired better when I focussed my thoughts, and prayers, on others. Whose housing situation will most likely mean they are dealing with a way worse scenario than mine.

I also tried to refrain from being like, “God please stop the rain.” I mean, like it’s not all about me right. And rain is necessary. But I ain’t gonna lie, I did eventually go there on a couple of occasions. I mean, having seen the video wouldn’t you? And that was when it was calming down after almost an hour.

Well at least my water catching solutions are fairly colour co-ordinated! #givingthanks 🙂

Earthquake Tales

So this happened earlier. My first experience of one in Jakarta. Possibly my first in Indonesia. But not my first. My first was in Tokyo. But I digress!

When it happened, I just so happened to only be clad in my unmentionables. – It’s hot here! And I was at home on a break after a long meeting!

So I’m sitting there, eating a snack, drinking my ginger tea, and watching an episode of Scandal. Suddenly, I think, I’m shaking… but it somehow doesn’t quite connect. Then I can see that things in front of me are wobbling, and out of the corner of my eye, the mirror on the wall is undeniably swaying from right to left, right to left. And I’m sat there, tray on lap, in me unmentionables! Beginning to hear excited voices from across the way, speaking over each other about what had happened.

And then it stopped. So I put down the tray, stood up, and decided I better put on some clothes. As if it happened again, I did not want to possibly end up running outside in my underwear! 😄

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As I checked in with a few peeps/they checked in on me, I heard other earthquake tales that had me laughing out loud. Like this from a friend in Japan. It was her response to me sharing how inappropriately dressed I’d been. I think she beats me!

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And then another friend, who felt the tremors too.She is explaining that as she ran out the office, she took her laptop.

She was the only one to do so. Why?Because in that moment she remembered she still had payments to make on it!

 

So why post about this? Well, because the hilarity of it -our responses not the quake- got my blog brain lit up. Which as I haven’t posted in a while, and to do so, is one of my ‘to dos’ for this week, is a good thing.

Also, while laughing about the whole thing with another friend, the question was posed,

“What do earthquakes tell you about what’s important to you?”

She laughingly pointed out that of course I would still go and get my clothes first. Even if I was going to die. And I was like too right!

But jokes aside, I think it’s a good question to ponder. When faced with the possibility of imminent danger, what would you grab for, try to save, be thinking about? Or if imminent danger is a bit difficult to imagine, think significant upheaval, or a life changing moment. Basically, an occurrence, when without much time to think or process, you need to act. It is possible, that at such a moment, things become much clearer. Some, and maybe even much of what we thought was so important, turns out not to be so important after all. And we may even be surprised by what does actual reveal itself as of primary importance.

I’m thankful, that my earthquake tales did not amount to anything serious. I’m mindful, that for some in Indonesia the effects of an earthquake in 2004, has forever changed their lives. I’m also aware, that in different parts of the world, for a number of reasons, people live their lives acutely aware of how things could change for them in an instant. I cannot dare to presume to know what they think or feel. But I do wonder, if they might have a greater measure of clarity when it comes to what’s really important.

So can I encourage myself, and you, to ponder the question posed. Even if only for 20 seconds.- The length of time the quake lasted.

Life in Candid

This moment was captured last week. A friend and I were taking a nostalgic trip to our kampung halaman (hometown) here.

We were trying to take a ‘selfie’ by the river, and her camera kept self-adjusting the light settings. We finally thought we had got the setting right, were just waiting for the timer to countdown, then at the last second, it adjusted again!

The resulting moment, is probably clearly captured by the photo.

When I looked up the definition of ‘Candid’, this is what came up:

can·did ˈkandəd/

adjective

1. truthful and straightforward; frank.”his responses were remarkably candid”

synonyms: frank, outspoken, forthright, blunt, open, honest, truthful, sincere, direct, plain-spoken, straightforward, ingenuous, bluff;

2. (of a photograph of a person) taken informally, especially without the subject’s knowledge.

synonyms: unposed, informal, uncontrived, impromptu, natural “candid shots”

It made me muse for a bit on the thought that so much of our lives, or what is portrayed in society, can be contrived, posed, lacking in true openness…

A silly, yet possibly serious, example of this can be the time spent getting the right photo for facebook, instagram and so on. I’d like to know how many photos on instagram these days are really ‘instant’.

I’ll confess. I’ve been at a nice spot, or event, and have been so busy trying to get the ‘right’ shot, or ‘record’ the moment, that I’m actually missing the moment! Even if you haven’t got a confession like mine, I’m sure you’ve been somewhere behind a sea of raised mobiles at a live event.

Now, I think I’m honest in saying that when I take a ridiculous number of shots (I now limit myself to 10 tries!), in pursuit of ‘the’ shot (of that sunset, coffee, me, me n my peeps etc.), that I’m not trying to contrive the right shot in order to portray some particular image of myself or my life to the ‘world’. But I do reckon that it is possibly the ‘thin edge of the wedge‘. Meaning that though not there (or a serious issue) at this time, the potential could be there -if not careful- for ending up there one day.

This musing also reminded me of an article I came across a few months back entitled, ‘If you really want to remember a moment, try not to take a photo‘, by Manoush Zomorodi

Part of the article’s key premise is summed up in it’s opening,

People worldwide upload more than one billion images a day, preserving their memories to enjoy them in the future. But it turns out: all our photography may be obstructing our recall,…

Manoush also set a challenge of having a photo-free day,

…For 24 hours, see the world through your eyes, not your screen.

I took up the challenge. And was both more aware of how many times I reached for my phone to ‘capture a moment’. As well as how much more a part of the ‘narrative’ I felt. I was more present and aware of my day. Especially as seeing as I resisted the urge to take a snap of those things I normally would have, I took more time to take them in, and experience it.

Now don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying that taking photos is bad.- I currently have a significant number of photos on my phone and laptop which would support this! And this post itself, started because of a great moment captured by a camera.

I am though positing, that life in the candid, unscripted, moments can be some of the most joyful, precious, meaningful, and of more lasting impact. Even when with some of them comes pain.

So therefore, it is possibly worth considering what, if anything, could be changed in our current daily lives in order to make more room or capacity for them.

Be that taking up the challenge of a photo-free day, lessening some of our regular activities, delegating some of our responsibilities, being open to a bit more spontaneity, embracing being dropped off at the wrong spot by your gojek driver (as you got to try out that coffee shop you’d previously noticed, but probably wouldn’t otherwise have got to), getting together with that friend(s) you haven’t seen in an age etc.

Whatever you choose (or not), I hope that life is providing you with authentic moments, -candid and otherwise- that add to your collection of experiences and memories.

For some related reading/another perspective:

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life*

Impression Management

Both interesting reads. Especially if you want to dig a bit deeper into some of the wider context touched on in the post.- As a heads up, they are both more ‘academic’ in style.

*Thanks going out to another writer -Stirlyn- for sending me this link after reading the post

Self-Expression (2)

So… the previous post, self-expression (1), actually started out as the following. However, once I started to dig into the subject a bit more, it grew into what I felt was a post of it’s own. But I still want to share the original inspiration, as it is an example of how I express myself. One of my mediums is poetry…

Who Am I?

@The Poetry Cafe, August 2016

Daughter of Trevor & Carmen,

Sister to Geoffrey,

Aunty to Donovan & Gabrielle,

Cousin to many, friend to some, acquaintance to a few,

A Londoner by birth, a Jamaican by heritage…

I don’t like to be boxed in, give me room, give me time,

A product of my environment, yet still trying to swim against the tide,

Got my fears but in the words of a friend trying to, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

I used to like white, now I appreciate red,

I never liked coffee, now according to some I’m addicted,

Running for the bus was a no no, now I’ve been known to run 26.2…

Usually quiet, but if you hit the right button, you will enjoy surround sound,

A lyricist with pages to fill,

Acquainted with pain, restoring my joy,

Living a life prescribed, but trying to draw outside the lines,

Jack of many trades, one day I’ll master a few,

A ‘contradiction in terms’, yet easily read if you have the key,

Full of emotion, seen only by a few,

A deep thinker, a deep feeler, yet content to ‘go with the flow’,

If it matters I’ll speak, if it doesn’t, I won’t…

Love the spontaneous, but need a rhythm,

A framework to scaffold this journey I’m on,

Seeking my identity, longing to be known,

Keeping at arms length, but open to being drawn close,

A narrative still unfolding,

Unsure of myself, but certain of Him,

A work-in-progress, He’s promised faithfully to complete,

A unique expression of His love,

A vessel for His service,

Trying to live His truth,

To use a turn of phrase of my people, “A me dat!”

Or at least, in part.

©Janice Whyne

Self-Expression (1)

Google dictionary

self-ex·pres·sion

noun

1 the expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, or ideas, especially in writing, art, music, or dance.

Another definition adds in the word ‘personality’. Yet another uses the word ‘behaviour’. And there are still more variations to be found. Whichever collection of words one prefers, the abiding theme is the expressing of oneself/one’s self, by various means.

In a Psychology Today article I read when doing a bit of internet surfing for this post, it said,

Neuroscience is teaching us that ‘self-expression’ might be one – if not the most important ways for people to connect, navigate and grow with each other.

In a podcast I came across featuring Najwa Zebian, she shared the perspective that self-expression (her key mediums poetry and journaling) was important to one’s own well-being.

In my own words, I’d say it is the intentional articulation of who you are, or the parts of you that you wish to present, to the world around you. Articulated via a myriad of mediums, and not limited to those included in the opening definition.

A friend, and a true gent, who is no longer with us, was known for his often bright and outlandish, socks. While the rest of him was clothed in fairly standard office attire. Another friend is committed to their body art. Each piece has a personal meaning, and makes a statement first and foremost to and for themself. Yet another friend is known for what I call ‘kick me, kill me’ shoes. I think I’m right in saying it is one of the ways she gets to display her flair. And one of my cousin’s is an artist, and via her MA, she is exploring and expressing different concepts, and taking the opportunity for some self-‘reflexing’. You can check out her journey here.

Interwoven or integral to all of this, I believe, is the need to be self-aware, or know yourself. Possibly an obvious statement, but yet, I think not. As though I posited that ‘self-expression’ is an intentional articulation of who you are, knowing who you truly are seems to be a struggle for some. As partially evidenced by the amount of books, posts etc. (based on a quick google search) which aim to shed light on the subject. If you are not truly aware of who you are, what you are expressing may not be the best version of yourself. Or your truest self. Which in turn may lead to challenges, internal and external, as you seek to navigate, and engage with those around you. And this thing we call life.

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” – Polonius, Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3

Home is…

Taking in the view of Gunung Pangrango

Over the weekend I was away at a team retreat. Something we aim to do around this time each year. A time to hit pause, have fun, review the past, look ahead to the future etc.

To our surprise, the journey there was fairly traffic free. I had built into the schedule a 4hr journey, however we got to where we were staying with loads of time to just take in the views, feel the freshness of the air, relax on the balcony, and breathe…

Later that evening I received a whatsapp from my Mum checking in to see how I was. Part of our chat inspired this post.

I both laughed at my Mum’s cheekiness, and reflected on how I did indeed have things that have travelled with me. Things that feel like ‘home’.

I’m sure we all have those kind of things that make any place where you are feel like home, or at the very least feel like they have a bit of ‘you’ in them. Something which in general may not be as important on a holiday away. Though, having said that, I know a friend who sometimes carries a special pillow on trips away, as otherwise they struggle to get a good night’s rest. And some true coffee connoisseur friends who carry their own coffee, coffee grinders, and even one who carries their own espresso cup. Why? As this is integral to their coffee moments, which whether home or away, they want to enjoy fully.

When you make a move to live abroad, even if just for a time limited period, it is unlikely that you can transplant everything from one home to the next. For one thing, some things that work in the UK, just won’t work in Asia. For another, that could be uber expensive (though if making a permanent move poss worth it). And for another, one could miss out on the opportunity of discovering what ‘home’ looks like in another country, culture, and context.

However, having that familiar piece of gold & bronze material (that used to be a flowy skirt), the talking alam clock from uni days (that has survived many a throw across the room), the light hoody (as something about a hoody makes you fill chilled out and comforted) can be really good to have. As they feel familiar, don’t take up too much suitcase space, and can cover up and add colour to a makeshift bedside table. You get the picture. 

Simple things, that can have effective results.

 

So what simple things would you take with you and why? If you’d like, pop the answer in the comments box. Feel free to also add to the sentence “Home is…”.