Wanting

It was spring but it was summer I wanted; the warm days and the great outdoors.

It was summer but it was fall I wanted; the colorful leaves and the cool dry air.

It was fall but it was winter I wanted; the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.

It was now winter but it was spring I wanted; the warmth and the blossoming of nature.

I was a child but it was adulthood I wanted; the freedom and the respect.

I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted; to be mature and sophisticated.

I was middle-aged but it was twenty I wanted; the youth and the free spirit.

I was retired but it was middle-age that I wanted; the presence of mind without the limitations.

My life was over but I never got what I wanted.

(Message by Dr Charles R. Swindoll’ “who gets the glory”, Northwest Bible Church, Dallas, TX.)

 

That thing called contentment

Contentment is a strange thing. It is something that a lot of people desire, and a lot of
advertisements promise. Equally, it seems as if –advertisements in particular- discourage us from reaching this thing called contentment.

“Don’t be content with what you have. You need this other thing so that you can be…. You need to be richer, slimmer, prettier, more muscly, less this or that or the other… so that THEN you can be content!” “Oh you are not content yet?! Do this/buy that and you will be!” (I am clearly not in marketing as you can tell :D)

It is promising contentment at the end of some changes, as it is creating discontentment with the current reality. But surely if contentment was the goal, all one would need to do is not change anything?!

These thoughts of mine were inspired by reading a post on motherhood. It was something along the lines of women who are stay-at-home mums being seen as “not working”, and laying out clear how ridiculous this idea is by showing their daily schedules of taking care of children and what that involves.

This article was to leave the reader in awe of what mothers do every day for their families, as well as praise these busy and dedicated women.Now, please do not get me wrong. I am all for these sorts of eye-opening posts, and if you are at all active on any social media, you too will stumble across them time after time. However, what it did spark in me was some thinking around contentment.

I was wondering whether reading this, and if I was a stay-at-home mum, would this little article cause me to be more contented? How much is contentment due to outward affirmation of my circumstances and how much of it is indeed an inward attitude already needing to be present.

If I was a mother who was deeply dissatisfied every day due to struggling to keep on top of the kids’ attitudes and needs and the lack of time to myself, muddled in the mountains of house-work and a lack of sleep…would the article cause me contentment? No, I don’t think it would for me. Would it provide some temporary encouragement? Yes probably, but eventually I would be heading back again to where I came from: being discontent with my situation!

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If I was generally content with life and happy to be with my children despite their demanding attitudes and needs, despite a lack of time to myself and all the housework, but if I just had a bad day and read the article, it would probably remind me of different days to come. It would remind me of the value of what I am doing and point me towards my own inner contentment.

Based on this thinking, I am led to wonder whether contentment is and is much more of a heart-attitude than a circumstantial feeling. This in turn leads me to think that not the circumstances are the decisive factor of whether I am content (nor is that new car, that new house, that new –whatever-) . Instead, contentment needs to sit a lot deeper than a hinged on temporary boost. My challenge to you and me is to think whether we are content with our lives in or despite our circumstances, and if we are not, what will we do about it?

I personally have come to the conclusion that contentment sits deeper than an outward
encouragement, and I also believe that it can be learned as it becomes part of our daily lives. I wonder how much of it lies with addressing deeper questions such as “Why am I here?”  and “What is my purpose in

life?”. Have you spent time to think this through? And if not, why not?

Antonia

Merry Christmas

I wanted to use this space to wish you all a very Happy and Merry Christmas. I do hope you have people around you whose company you can enjoy. But even if you will be spending this time of year on your own, it still can be a happy time. Will you do something out of the ordinary, and sit and reflect? Maybe reflect on this past year, on the people you have deepened relationships with, on new people that you have met? Will you use this time to reflect on your own life, with your achievements and mistakes, which all play a major role in making you you? And will you sit and just watch a lovely Christmas film and enjoy some silence in candle light? I hope each of us will get the opportunity to enjoy these quiet moments and truly rest this season. Merry Christmas!

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Simplify your life

What better time to simplify our lives than during this busy season, which so greedily invites us to indulge and spoil ourselves and those around us. Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot to be said for a treat and a special gift, but sadly, the way that the media encourages us to indulge and spoil is purely looking to buying things, and more things, and just a few more. Things that we might like, but ultimately have no true meaning.

If we allow the media (particularly advertisements) to tell us that true love is only shown with this product, true happiness can only be achieved with this item, and your children will be bitterly disappointed if they do not get this-whatever-thing, then we have lost. Because disappointment is going to happen. The perfect Christmas (whatever that is anyway) or true happiness does NOT lie in any of these items to be given or received. Yes, we do all want to have a nice time. And giving and receiving gifts can be so much fun. But does it have to be 10 gifts per child, when they zoom out after having ploughed through number two? Does it have to be another tie or one more jacket? Does it have to be another cream or phone?consumerism

Yes, giving gifts can show love and care, but there comes a point when the gift is no longer out of love but pressure of feeling one HAS to give, even independent of what the other might need or want. How about giving the gift of time? This could come in the form of a weekend away, if there is the money to spend, or could be as cheap and simple as a special coffee date in a lovely little café around the corner with no phones on or no time pressure. It could be the commitment to loving more and giving more of our time in the form of helping with dishes, making a cup of tea in the morning, taking the kids out so the other half can just be, or even offering to babysit for the neighbour so the parent/s can go out and enjoy themselves. It does not have to be expensive to be special! It can be a home-made cake, a drawing, a simple card that lets the other know that we are thinking of them.

Christmas TreeLet’s try not to –literally- buy into the Christmas craziness by believing our Christmas will only be special if we get or give xyz, because this is simply not true. It is a hard challenge as everything and lots of people around us tell us that we need and need and need. Well, I believe our Christmas will be special if there are cuddles around, if there is a relaxed atmosphere with enjoying each other’s company, with telling each other that we care and love, with sitting and playing a game, with making or receiving that phone-call when there is no family around, with a simple cup of coffee, enjoying looking at the fairy lights or watching the kids play. And in addition to that, it will be special as we think of the real meaning of Christmas, reading the special story of Jesus and looking back on what happened that night in a stable.

Thanks for listening.

Happy first Advent and happy home-decorating, if you are already onto that.

Antonia

The hurting Soul

Shock!!! This was my instant reaction to the attacks in Paris. Shock and disbelief. Shock that does not allow even any questions to come to mind but simply wants to freeze up my brain.

Disbelief allows thoughts to be formed, but they are against my rationale, telling me that this COULD not have happened. It could not be true. It just seems way too unlikely, too unreasonable.

Anger. Yes, a lot of anger arrived later on. How could this happen? What on earth were they thinking? How can one human do this to another? Who on earth thinks of training up someone to kill others at random?

Depression with hopelessness. The debates feel frustrating and powerless. Bombing or no bombing? To me, neither seems like a good idea. Being reactive or proactive? To me, neither seems like a good idea. Increased surveillance or no change? To me, neither seems like a good idea. The list can go on. Because neither and no option will undo what has happened, and neither and no option will bring true reconciliation.

Acceptance. Well this even surprises me but one part of me feels as if this is now just the world we live in. This is the context in which we raise our children and teach them right from wrong and teach them love by loving them unconditionally.

Please know that I am not looking to start a political debate. There are many around and they are important, but not my objective here. I am looking to process thoughts and look at the heart.

The heart of brokenness. I cannot help but feel heartbroken over what is happening, even reaching further than France, and looking at the world around. The terror that is around. This includes terror attacks, but reaches further to humans – fellow human being of all ages, all backgrounds, all religions, all hopes, all dreams, all interests, all abilities- suffering!

Would you look at  a photo series of children and youth going through the refugee crisis. Would you look at it and read about these children with me, and set aside political ideas of whose fault or responsibility it is? Just for a moment! Would you go ahead and see these individuals for what they are? Individual children,youth, adults – humans- suffering! With trauma and broken hearts and lives! That is the reality of it. Yes, there need to be wider debates on how to solve this and not all of them can be based on emotions. But our emotions and compassion has to be a major ingredient in this decision process, and I believe this is only possible if we choose to look at the individuals and get familiar with faces, rather than make them “the other”.

standing together

Again, I am not trying to spark a debate on boarder control or immigration policy. What I am trying is to touch our hearts to choose compassion as an ingredient in any debate and to choose to process with those around our and their suffering and heart-ache.

If you know anything about grief, whether this is in theory or by personal experience, all of the above will be part of a grieving process at one point or another. And what I always emphasis with my clients is the importance to walk through this grief and to process it, rather than try to bypass, run, or ignore. I am a firm believer of this being the only way to integrate what happened and what is happening. And a long way it is! And the second aspect I always emphasis with my clients is that it is by no means pleasant. And it sure is not…but nonetheless important!

Thank you for joining me in my thoughts and I hope the above support you in your processing of your thoughts and situation.

Antonia

Let’s be real!

Life is always a mixed bag. There is fun and joy, some of life is heartfelt, some heartache, there is fear and inferiority, there is laughing until the belly hurts, and there is crying until one has run dry. There are so many seemingly contradictory elements to life and most of us feel them all over time. However, most of us pretend that we are even-keeled. Well, let me rephrase: I do. This is not a conscious choice of mine, and I do not believe it is for most others either. We like to seem ok because we don’t like to be vulnerable. And not being ok shows vulnerability. It is saying to others: I am struggling here and certainly do not have it all together. I am in need of help and support, love and kindness.

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When counselling, I come across many who are open about their struggles. In fact, I believe that those with depression often do not feel anything fundamentally different from someone without depression. However, there seems to be an element of feeling more deeply. More numbness. More sadness. More darkness. More inferiority. More vulnerability. Less confidence. Less smiles. Less shoulder-shrugging.

Depression is a horrible condition. No doubt about that. I wish depression on nobody, nor to make it seem any less horrible than it is. In fact, I read an article this week, which I would recommend for people who are interested in understanding the horror a little more.If you are a sufferer and have not found any support, would you seek it out? Would you speak to a trusted friend, a confidant of some kind, contact your GP or come to see somebody like me, who is professionally trained to offer support?

Returning to my original thought, there is something about vulnerability and the awareness that comes with it. Maybe it is the honesty about these feelings, the rawness of them and how intensely they are experienced. Maybe there is a lesson for us all to be more honest, to dare being more ourselves, and be real? This could help building more meaningful relationships, create a place to be real, and save the energy wasted that is spent on faking being ok every day all the time.

Thank you for joining me today.

Antonia