The Beauty of the Month of May

~ May ~

The month of subtle. Subtle winds and subtle rain… subtle warmth and subtle chill.

The unique month of beautiful oranges – an array of burnt and bright oranges.

May is a compromise between summer and winter. The morning breeze holds within it a chill encouraging winter coats, graceful scarves and stylish gloves. A subtle fog is visible upon your breath.

As the day fully blooms and the sun rises to its peak, the rays bathe our faces in the glow of the warmth. It is a warmth as a deceptive comfort that the cold has gone. Or equally simply easing us in…inch by inch to an inevitable winter.

As the sun sets, the warmth of the day lingers ever so slightly. It is a bareable evening, even suited with simply layers. The night air settles heavily against the windows, slowly seeping through the home, having us reach for blankets to hide beneath and heaters to toast the air.

The next morning brings the white frosting decorating the windows. It’s almost artistic.  A subtle reminder that summer is now but a distant memory…

~ F.P

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The dirty buzz word that is motivation…

Wednesday.  It’s a day with similar stigma and negative connotations as Monday but holds a glimmer of hope that we are over the worst of it.  Wednesday reminds you we are on the home run for the weeks’ end.

First as a matter of clarity, as parents say of their children ~ I too confirm I love and appreciate each and every day of the week… further as honest parents will confess, there is a child they may prefer… I too confess Sunday is my slightly more preferred day.

So, Wednesday seems the most appropriate day to share my thoughts on motivation.

Motivation is a dirty buzz word. It’s a term reserved for adult life, attached to strings of expectations and responsibility, able to be attached to any task imaginable.  It also affectionately referred to as ‘can’t be f#@!‘ ‘Ceebs‘ and varying other colourful, choice phrases…

As adults we talk about it frequently in terms of not feeling motivated but equally acknowledging that we need it. As children, our motivation stemmed from varying external sources that we often choose not to question. Namely parents, teachers or simply just blind acceptance.  Often and more realistically, as children we were much more motivated about life and didn’t need a word to describe our enthusiasm.

However, as adults there are times when life itself requires a little kick of motivation to simply get out of bed. I am not immune to lifes little speed humps. I have needed motivation to finish an assignment or even getting to a uni class on time or at all – hell I’m feeling very honest… I needed bucket loads of motivation to finish the marathon degree! I have needed motivation to complete a 200km charity bike ride… half way through! And whilst cycling up a ridiculously steep hill nowhere near anything resembling civilization!  I have needed motivation to get up from a snug bed on a winters morning; motivation to leave the house to go to the gym or out to meet friends once I have gotten comfy on the couch!

Lets be dangerously honest. Sometimes life is traveling great! Everything is working out – we are well on our way to completing a goal – and out of nowhere we have run out of life petrol to keep pushing as hard … or pushing at all. Sometimes it is easier to crawl into bed or sit on a couch and check out of life. Sometimes our beings are tired of pushing through.  So here I have come up with a list of my own personally life motivating activities, most of which require little to no extra exertion but I do warn you it may motivate you to take hold of life.

1. Grass – Find yourself a patch of it and sit. Press pause. Basic. Take your shoes off if possible, although as a courtesy public service, if you’re having a smelly feet kind of day, simply pick a mindful remote patch of land. This works well when there is accompanying sunshine but if not, don’t worry… there is always your imagination.  Simply close your eyes and imagine it as the earth beneath your feet grounds you.

2. Communal coffee spaces – Find yourself a space that has a communal feel. Think shared tables kinda places. Sit yourself in there with an open mind, a book or notepad if you need a safety net of feeling like a loner, and just be. Take in human interaction. Take comfort that you do not need to spend your time making conversation but you’re still amongst people. Community spirit in itself is contagious and can enliven your creativity and enthusiasm.

3. Favorites – Your younger self carries with it, a variety of favorite things that transport you to a time when life was, even in the most briefest form … magical! Use it! Watch that favourite, inspiring movie regardless of how childish it is … Listen to that song that reminds you of that unforgettable summer… Look at those photos that capture the spark of life in your eye (don’t be shy… everyone has one!)… Read back old diaries if you kept them… or merely allow yourself to drift back in time and reminisce…

4. Lists – I was once an obsessive list maker. My lists were long and detailed – now they simply appear in my head. But goal orientated lists can re align a potentially threatening derail of your goal. By way of example, during my degree I kept a running list of all the things I want to accomplish when I was done. While I have no clue about where that list is or if I ticked any of them, it reminded me that life was still out there… and will be there whenever the clutches and strangle hold of uni would release me from its capture and slavery and return my life and soul!

5. Notebook – this will sound like homework but I assure it’s not… or maybe just a little but there is no due date, no right or wrong and no mark.
I always carry a notebook – its tiny and not intrusive. I write little bits and pieces that inspire me – whether its a quote I read… a recommendation of a book or movie or simply a place to go.  A comment made by another or something I simply want to hold onto and tuck away for later.

6. Inspirational Public Spaces – For those studying and lacking the zest.  Head to a place that is saturated with brilliant works such as the State Library… Melbourne Law library… an impressive studying… a bookshop…hell if you have a bookshelf sit in front of it…and read something completely irrelevant to your expected subject. Think a trashy magazine… a kids book or a book on a completely different topic you have been interested in. Read for the love and not the obligation… it’s just like sniffing coffee beans between fragrances – it should assist in resetting your motivation.

7. Art – Whether in a fancy or local gallery, street art or done by yourself, allow your creativity to open and your mind to get lost in it. Allow your ideals to bend when faced with unconventional things.  Get lost in the abstract of color and fall deep within another persons mind and brilliance.

8. Quotes – I confess that quotes are ridiculously addictive and strangely powerful … but proceed with caution. There are many quotes that break your motivation.  While it may seem unauthentic and cliche` to be attracted to positive affirmations and quotes – I am a firm believer in surrounding yourself with positivity and inspiration, even if that is simply in the form of a pretty picture of a butterfly on the corner of your computer screen.

9. Mentors – Assign yourself an unofficial life mentor. However be realistic… there is no point picking someone who does not appeal to your lifestyle or life mission; or someone who is somewhat unrealistic about life because that defeats the purpose. If its someone who gets every job they apply for, has the perfect holidays and perfect hair and perfect handbag, perfect outlook and the perfect everything it will leave you feeling deflated, inferior and probably far worse as though motivation is not attainable.  You will most likely learn more from someone who is molding their lives.  You will also learn more by watching someone deal with the curly aspects of life and appreciate life generally.  Having a generally open conversation with your mentor about any aspect of life often picks up your spirits and can help to kick you up when require.

10. Breathe – you will undoubtably hear me talk a lot about breathing – this sounds odd but pressing pause and just doing something that you love, whether that is playing a rough and tumble game of soccer, shopping, going for a long drive, heading out for a drink, dancing, hoola hooping in the park… twirling in the park… there are hundreds of ways that you could press pause and doing something that doesn’t make sense in your life – do something without expectations… do something that doesn’t have any rules… do something that doesn’t require an expectation.  Not everything in life requires a reason.  Some things in life just are and it’s okay to spend your time your way…it will then make the other life expectations bareable…

Luck – Lets be clear about this… luck should remain in the realm of leprechaun’s, rainbows and pot of gold – not life.  In times when motivation has dropped to an all time low, it may feel as though you have run out of luck or simply wait for your luck to change.  I emphasize this strongly.  With every aspect of life it requires you to be an active participant.  If you are doing nothing to row your own boat forward, do not expect it to arrive at your destination.  Life owes you nothing and karma will not pay you in this lifetime.  Luck comes to those who prepare, are persistent with a dash of patience…
Life in itself is an amazing blessing… allow it… when you need to hit pause do it… but equally remember that it’s all too amazing to keep it on pause…

Remove the concept of motivation and simply take every opportunity as you feel it.

~ F.P

Living Below The Line ~ a week on $10

As I wake to the gentle sounds of the rain falling outside, I contemplate boiling water to make a cup of tea or coffee I do not just walk to the kettle on autopilot out of habit. My body tells me “not yet” – so I will wait.

I reflect upon the last five days and do so watching a perfectly timed show of ‘Masters of Chocolate’.

I will not be cliché and say the challenge changed my life.  It didn’t. Im not leaving my job to head to Cambodia and set up a school (not tomorrow anyway). I’m not going to become a vegetarian (for the hundredth attempt). And I’m not going to give up coffee now that I am past the headaches and realise how much money it costs (that challenge is not tempting even in the slightest).

I will be cliché and tell you how it changed my perspectives. This challenge made me realise:

1. That basic food is very nourishing;
2. The food itself can be delicious without adding many things;
3. Food, drinks and meals are our connection between one another;
4. We are a nation pre occupied with talking about food and watching things about food;
4. We live in a nation consumed with wasteful eating habits;
5. Between 8am and 11am virtually everyone in the city is walking and holding a cup of coffee (a few times I would walk uncomfortably close to people just to smell their coffee – I concede it’s creepy);
6. Food is sometimes no more than a comfort and sometimes very hard to resist (I inadvertently made a comment to a senior person at work that I wanted to lick the icing on the cake as he cut through it in the kitchen, virtually whilst drooling – he wasn’t impressed);
7. I should be generally making more conscious decisions about what I consume and how much is really needed; and
8. People are generous, thoughtful and willing to assist (particularly on the day I forgot my lunch and had to wait until dinner to eat – my dinner of pasta and tomato sauce tasted amazing that night!)

The challenges were honestly minimal.
Once I had made my purchases the Sunday before, the wheels were set in motion. The habit of popping into the local breakfast spot on the way to work required readjustment of my autopilot morning routine. But overall the biggest challenges were:

1. Everyone asks ‘how hungry are you’ while you spent all morning not counting the hours, minutes and seconds to lunch;
2. After you have reasoned that your meal is great and will fill you right up, everyone asks ‘what did you eat’ followed with ‘you must be starving’… only a subtle reminder that your stomach will start rumbling in 20 minutes;
3. Staying focused. When you are limiting your range of food (ie no meat or fruit – my budget didn’t allow for them), my body was crying in terms of headaches and fatigue. I substituted long food lunches for walks to occupy my mind and tummy to assist to refocus;
4. Having to reschedule or deflect all coffee / drinks / lunch and dinner invitations;
5. You grieve – for the loss of food choice; for the loss of freedom of just grabbing a coffee or chocolate; for missing the tastes of flavours that dance upon your palate; for the comfort of enjoy a well made coffee slide down your throat like silk, warming your insides.

On the positive:
1. Your awareness to intake is heightened. You become mindful of what you need and not simply what you want;
2. Your sense of smell is heightened and you appreciate the aroma of coffee and cooking in a different way;
3. Your body learns to crave food only when it’s actually hungry and not because ‘i’m feeling stressed so I need a coffee’…
4. You become aware of different challenges people face. Not just those who cannot eat but it opens your eyes generally to people around you and all sorts of challenges they face. It motivates you to want to simply be part of a solution.

On that note, I will end this piece by telling you about the interactions I had with a homeless man on days 4 and 5 on my challenge.
It was a ridiculously cold morning and there was a man sitting outside my work. He had all the hallmarks of being homeless. I saw him sitting there – silently and with his head down. I was aware of the feelings of hunger on a much more minimal scale but I knew where my next meal was coming. Scooping out two $1 coins, I approached him and said “good morning sir” and handing the money to his hand. “Wow” he responds, “thank you so much! I can get something warm this morning. It was so cold last night.” I agree that it is very cold and not a pleasant morning. He then looks at my feet – out of habit to and from work I wear thongs. He exclaims “they aren’t shoes! You should wear proper shoes! You are going to get sick!” I thank him for his kind shoe advice and wish him a warmer day. The following day he is there, in the same spot and in the same state. I again approach him and give him another $2 after our good morning banter. He looks at my feet and recognises me – “Still in thongs?! Wear sandals at least – you will really get sick!” His thoughtful observations touch me.

I am fortunate. I will continue to do what I can, when I can to try and make a difference in another’s lives. One very important lesson I keep in my pocket is that I never underestimate the impact we all have one the lives of another – lets aim to make those impacts, regardless of how small, a positive one!

~ F.P