Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Step 30 - The Key to Happiness and Contentment

Well I've done it!  I can't quite believe I've managed to blog every day for 30 days.  Despite at times being tired, having sick children and having the busiest month ever at work.  I haven't always felt like it, my house is a mess, the washings piling up and my intray's overflowing, but I've done it!

"So how much money do you get for doing it?" my dear husband asks.  Typical!  He's completely missed the whole point.  Money doesn't bring you happiness, what I've gained from doing NaBloPoMo is much more worthwhile:
  • The satisfaction of achieving a goal I set myself
  • Discovering some great new blogs and bloggers
  • Receiving support and encouragement and some really insightful comments
  • I've discovered that even when I don't feel like it, I can always pull something out of the bag
  • You don't always have to write reams to make a point
  • It's helped me to reflect on and share experiences in my life
  • It's given me a good grounding for creating a book
Over the month I've been investigating ways of achieving happiness and contentment.  It's helped me enormously to think about the things that make me happy and to look back over my life and analyse events to help find meaning and illustrate why I think what I think.

I've shared many personal events in a hope that by revealing my experiences it will help others gain some insight into how I feel.  I hope that some have been interesting and useful and if nothing else have helped you to reflect on your own life and how you react to things.

I don't consider myself to be the font of all knowledge, I don't have all the answers, but I have come to a point in my life where I can say I'm happy in my own skin.  I'm generally happy, contented and grateful for the life I have.  It hasn't always been that way and I've gone through many hardships to get here and I know there will be more to come, but right here, right now I'm happy.  I hope that when those difficult times come again (as they surely will), I can look back over these posts and find strength in the fact that I know the there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments.  It's been invaluable to have feedback and reactions to my words - I have learnt so much from you all.  Particular thanks to Sarah Mac and Midlife Singlemum who have cheered me on with daily comments.  And let's not forget NLP Mum my thanks to her for starting the Facebook page and keeping us all motivated.  I'll miss you all and hope you'll stop by from time to time to see what I'm rambling on about and I promise to stop by and say hi on your blogs too.

I'm planning on expanding the posts and adding further examples, taking into account your comments and to make the series into an E book.  I even intended to do NaNoWriMo and write a 50,000 word book in November - but that was just a step to far this month!  I know I'm mad, but I'm not completely mad and I came to my senses before I had a nervous breakdown!  I will do it, but I want to give it the time it needs, which is something I've had precious little of this month.

I'd like to leave you with a final message on our quest for happiness and contentment and that is you have to realise that nothing and noone can make you happy and content. Back during Step 22 - Enjoy the moment, I had a comment from mauishopgirl where she said  happiness 'lies within ourselves, our outlook and our acceptance'.  If you're still searching for happiness and contentment, you're looking in the wrong place.  You are the master, you hold the key - happiness and contentment come from within.


One final request.  I'd like to pick out my best post of the month as I often join the Happy Homemaker with her Post of the Month linky, but I'm really struggling to choose one, so I'd like to ask you all which one of the following you would single out as the best?

Now I'm off to have a large glass of celebratory wine and propose a toast to all my fellow #NaBloPoMo bloggers wherever you may be (I can start an hour before you lot in the UK because we're an hour ahead in France).  Congratulations, we've done it!!!! 

Step 30 - The Key to Happiness and Contentment
Step 29 -You are the master of your own destiny
Step 28 - Don't give up on a good relationship
Step 27 - Don't Judge , Live and let live
Step 26 - Don't Worry, by happy
Step 25 - Never give up
Step 24 - Get by with a little help from your friends
Step 23 - Go with the Flow
Step 22 - Enjoy the moment
Step 21 - Love what you do
Step 20 - Forgive and Forget
Step 19 - Unconditional giving
Step 18 - Smile and the world smiles with you
Step 17 - Work to live, don't live to work
Step 16 - Surround yourself with Positive People
Step 15 - Always look on the bright side of life
Step 14 - Where there's a will there's a way
Step 13 - Silence is Golden
Step 12 - Feed your Soul
Step 11 - Follow your Dreams
Step 10 - Use your time wisely
Step 9 - Don't be too hard on yourself
Step 8 - Consider what you value most
Step 7 - Find time for Yourself
Step 6 - Make time for Family and Friends
Step 5 - Don't take yourself too Seriously
Step 4 - Feel the Fear and do it Anyway
Step 3 - Love what you Hate
Step 2 - There's no such word as CAN''T
Step 1 - Find the Best in Every Day

Monday, November 28, 2011

Step 29 - You are the Master of your own Destiny


Do you believe in fate?  I do to a certain extent.  I think that some things are meant to be and there seems to be certain things that happen in our lives that lead us in a certain direction.  However, I’m not a fatalist.  I’m not one to just sit back and let life happen.  I believe that in order for things to change you have to make them change..

In an earlier post (Go with the flow), I told you about the many difficulties we experienced when I first went to live with my husband before we were married.  We changed course by moving area and then everything seemed to fall into place.  We then had a run of about 7 years where everything went well.  We started a business, we got married, we sold our flat for a good profit and brought a little cottage in the country, we started a family and we couldn’t be happier.  But then during the recession in the early 90’s in England, everything started to go wrong for us.  Interest rates rocketed so our mortgage payments doubled, we had several building companies go bankrupt owing us money and the work started to dry up.  Everything we’d worked so hard to build up came crashing down around us.  Over the next few years we lost our house and business – everything we’d worked so hard to achieve and through no fault of our own.  We had to start all over again from scratch, so I do know what it’s like to have nothing. 

There have been times when I’ve wondered where the next penny’s coming from.  Many times when we’ve had to scrape by, making do with what we’ve got, living on handouts from friends and family.  I also know how hard it can be to pick yourself back up and carry on.  There were lows when I felt ‘what’s the point, we worked so hard and for what, we’re never going to make it’.  My husband tried to get work, but couldn’t get the jobs he wanted because he didn’t have the qualifications to prove he had the skills and knowledge he had. 

At this point we could so easily have given up, accepted our fate and just settled for jobs that would not have fulfilled us, settled for a life of scraping by to make ends meet.  But that wasn’t what either us wanted from our lives.  So, we made the decision for my husband to go to University and study for a degree.  It meant 3 years of struggling while he was studying and we had 2 small children at the time.  But, we knew he’d never be able to get the sort of work he wanted without that bit of paper.  He studied hard and worked hard, I took on part time jobs to supplement our income, I studied part-time too.  At the end of his studies he was offered a lecturing position at the University he studied at – at last he was starting to get the recognition he rightly deserved.  So, after another 7 years of struggling and working hard we were back where we had started and in a position to get on the property ladder (where we had been nearly 15 years before).

We bought a guest house, did it up and ran it while we were both working part time in other jobs.  We spent a further 3 or 4 years working hard to build up the business, maintaining our other jobs and bringing up our now 3 children.  Life was definitely looking up for us, but we wanted a better quality of life for ourselves and our children.  Property prices had increased significantly and we were now in a position where we could sell the house and have enough money to buy a much better house in the country in France and live happily ever after (can you sense a touch of sarcasm creeping in here).

Ok, it hasn’t happened overnight, but unfortunately these things rarely do.  We’ve come a long way and we’ve still got a long way to go, but I don’t regret anything.  Even the hardships we experienced were a necessary part of our journey and we’ve learnt such a lot from them.  Someone once said to me ‘you make you’re own luck’ and I think he was right.  We’ve had some really bad luck and we’ve had some really good luck, but that’s what happens when you take risks.  I understand it’s not for everyone.  Not everyone can live with the chance of loosing everything and would prefer to play it safe.  That’s fair enough, each to their own, but if you really want a different life, then you just have to go out there and get it.  It may not be easy, but I can guarantee it won’t be boring!

Too often we seem to get stuck in a rut and put up with things because we don’t think we have an alternative.  There are always alternatives.  You don’t have to just carry on in that rut, you can change your life.  What you have to realise is that nobody’s is going to do it for you.  If you really want things to change, you have to make the changes happen yourself, you have make efforts to change the things you’re unhappy with in your life.  You are the master of your own destiny.  

You may be interested to read the other posts in this series:

Step 30 - The Key to Happiness and Contentment
Step 29 -You are the master of your own destiny
Step 28 - Don't give up on a good relationship
Step 27 - Don't Judge , Live and let live
Step 26 - Don't Worry, by happy
Step 25 - Never give up
Step 24 - Get by with a little help from your friends
Step 23 - Go with the Flow
Step 22 - Enjoy the moment
Step 21 - Love what you do
Step 20 - Forgive and Forget
Step 19 - Unconditional giving
Step 18 - Smile and the world smiles with you
Step 17 - Work to live, don't live to work
Step 16 - Surround yourself with Positive People
Step 15 - Always look on the bright side of life
Step 14 - Where there's a will there's a way
Step 13 - Silence is Golden
Step 12 - Feed your Soul
Step 11 - Follow your Dreams
Step 10 - Use your time wisely
Step 9 - Don't be too hard on yourself
Step 8 - Consider what you value most
Step 7 - Find time for Yourself
Step 6 - Make time for Family and Friends
Step 5 - Don't take yourself too Seriously
Step 4 - Feel the Fear and do it Anyway
Step 3 - Love what you Hate
Step 2 - There's no such word as CAN''T
Step 1 - Find the Best in Every Day

Step 28 - Don't give up on a good Relationship


Day 28 of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month) where we're taking a journey to Happiness and Contentment and today I’m going to tackle relationships with our nearest and dearest.  Difficult to sum up in one blog post I know, but I thought I should at least mention it.  

Our relationship with our significant other (if we currently have one) is one of the most important relationships we have.  If we don’t have a partner, most of us are looking for one.  That’s not to say we can’t be happy and content without one, just most of us want and need to share our lives with someone.

I was fortunate to meet my Mr right at 18 and so I suppose you could say ‘What can you tell us about relationships as you were just lucky from the start’.  Well, I do consider myself lucky, he is a good man, hardworking, supportive (usually) and would do anything for his family, but it’s not been easy.  No relationship is easy, it’s something you really have to work at all the time. 

What I can tell you is that there are many times when we could both have given up on our relationship.  Times when I’ve questioned my feelings for him (and I’m sure this works both ways) and could easily have walked away. 

I’m going to share one of our darkest moments to illustrate how things can look so bad and yet can turn around so quickly.  In the late 90’s when we only had 2 children (8 and 4), we were going through a particularly bad time in our relationship.  It was strange really, because we ‘d just gone through several years of great hardship and stress and were now just coming out the other side.  Things were looking up financially, we both had quite good jobs and could start looking forward to the future.  My husband was going through a bit of mid-life crisis (he was about 35 at the time).  I think he was starting to question what he’d done with his life and started wanting more.  We got a sporty car, which he loved (I thought it was OK, but cars don’t really do it for me) and he started taking flying lessons (which was something he'd always dreamed of doing).  I went along with it in the beginning (I'm not really sure why), but it was getting to stage where we just couldn’t afford it.  We were living in rented accommodation and going without things so that he could satisfy his boyish dreams of being a pilot.  It got to a point where I’d just had enough of going without.  He does get a bit carried away sometimes and unfortunately because it's me that handles the finances, I have to be the big bad spoil sport at times and put a stop to things. 

I confronted him and he wasn’t happy at all (he can get a bit sulky sometimes to say the least).  We had some big rows, which is unlike us because we don’t really argue much - I tend to shout and he ignores me.  Anyway, the situation was spiraling.  I started questioning if I really loved him anymore and when I thought about it I didn’t feel anything at all.  I think the lack of feeling at the time was mutual, so we decided to have a trial separation. 

It wasn’t until we were apart for a while that I realised that this wasn’t what I wanted at all.  I was desperately miserable.  I’m a comfort eater and usually when I’m down I tend to eat, but this was different.  For the first time in my life I went completely off food altogether – I couldn’t eat.  I've never felt so desperately lost and alone.  I lost a lot of weight and just felt awful.  It gave me lots of time to think though and as I thought I realised that I had been feeling nothing for years.  Not just about my husband, but about anything.  The financial difficulties we had experienced in the early 90’s had taken it’s toll and it had actually affected us both more than I had realised. 

I came to the realisation that it wasn’t all my husband’s fault, I was tending to blame him for everything.  I feel his wanting to get out and do other things was partly to escape the depressing rut we’d got into.  I had taken charge of things with the children and the house and because I was depressed and not particularly loving towards him, I think he’d felt as though I didn’t need him anymore.  The separation helped me to realise that in fact I did need him and the children needed him.  Anyway, luckily we realised that we didn’t want to split up and that we had to start pulling together and finding a way out of the rut we’d got ourselves into.  We started making plans and goals for the future together and that helped us both enormously. 

When we got back together after only 2 weeks apart, I distinctly remember wondering how my feelings towards him could change so drastically in a matter of weeks.  The loving feeling was back. It was frightening to think how easily we could have given it all away and yet all those feelings were still there, just hidden under the stresses and pressures of everyday life. 

Going through this time definitely made us stronger.  Things could so easily have been different.  If I’d continued to turn the cold shoulder we would have gone our separate ways and I would, no doubt, have gone through the difficult task of trying to find another partner who would love me and accept and love my children the way I do.  Looking at people around me in similar situations, I think I probably would be still searching for that person.  Luckily I came to my senses in time and realised that person was there all along and was my own dear husband!

It’s too easy to give up on a relationship when you hit tough times, but if you ride the storm it’s really worth it when you get to the other side.  Difficulties can push you apart, but if you try to support each other through the rough times, it brings you closer.  Every relationship goes through peaks and troughs - we still get times where we're closer than others.  We try to have maybe a day or two away on our own a year if possible to just help us get back on track. 

It's important to remember that nobody's perfect, there are always things about another person that irritates us, but you have to weigh up the good and the bad.  Let me just add though, it’s worth trying to save your relationship if your partner is a basically good person and you’ve had a strong and supportive relationship in the past.  There are of course people out there who are not worth wasting your time and energy on.  A friend of mine who has unfortunately had a string of bad relationships sent me a list she was given to remind herself not to get into another one.  Here’s a list of  Mr Wrong’s (or lets not be sexist maybe Mrs Wrongs) characteristics –
  • Shouts
  • Sulks
  • smashes things
  • glares
  • calls you names,
  • makes you feel ugly and useless
  • cuts you off from your friends
  • stops you working
  • never admits he/she is wrong
  • Turns the children against you and use them to control you,
  • Never looks after the children
  • expects sex on demand,
  • controls the money
  • threatens or wheedles to get his/her own way
  • seduces your friends
  • expects you to be responsible for his/her welfare
  • Blames you for drinking/drugs etc
If you recognise many of these, then do yourself a favour and don’t bother trying to make this relationship work, because they are never going to change and you're worth more.

Thankfully, there are plenty of Mr/Mrs Rights out there, you just have to be careful to avoid the wrong ones and learn to recognise the right ones.  Easier said than done I know and when I come up with the winning formula I'll let you know.

So, the moral here is don’t give up too easily on what was a good relationship.  We all go through rough times, but these can make our relationships stronger.  Just stick in there and it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Step 27 - Don't Judge, Live and Let Live


Day 27 of the National Blog Post Month challenge where I’m writing a blog post every day along the theme of 30 Steps to Happiness and Contentment. 

Ok, it’s the last Sunday of NaBloPoMo so I thought I’d do a bit of a preachy one!  As we go about our daily lives it’s so easy to slip into the habit of judging others.  We all find ourselves saying things like ‘Well I wouldn’t do it that way’ or ‘how could they do that?’, but it’s really not good to be so judgemental.  Remember these words:

            ‘Don’t judge a mans actions until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes’ (or something like that)

We don’t always know all the background to what’s going on in someone else’s life.  We tend to judge things by comparing how we would react in our lives, in our reality.  But, how can we know how we’d react if we’d had a different life, different circumstances?

I’m a great believer in live and let live.  I try to live my life the best way I can and try not to judge other people harshly for doing things differently to me.  It’s not easy, but I think it’s good to make a conscious effort to try not to judge others.  Judging others may give us temporary self-satisfaction in that we see a situation that someone has reacted to in a manner that we consider unacceptable.  We feel satisfied (dare I say slightly smug) that in the same situation we wouldn’t react in this way.  Self-satisfaction does not lead to happiness.  It’s actually quite a negative state of mind because in order for us to feel self-satisfied we’ve had to scorn someone else’s actions, so the negative effects of judging someone else cancels out any satisfaction we may feel. It’s far better to feel compassion for someone.  Consider what could have led them to take a decision we consider to be wrong. 

I’d like to tell you about something that happened many years ago to try to give an example of what I mean.  When I was in my teens, a very good friend of mine spread a rumour about me that was totally untrue.  I was devastated when I found out and confronted her.  She admitted she had stared the rumour and I was so shocked and hurt I cut off all ties with her.  I judged that this was not something I would do under any circumstances and therefore it was no longer worth continuing our friendship.  What I failed to consider at the time (and I very much regret) was why she did what she did.  She had not had the comfortable, cosy upbringing I had with parents that were always there for me.  I was all she had at the time and she felt she was losing me to the boyfriend she had introduced me to.  She was desperate and started a rumor she thought would split us up.  Unfortunately it had the opposite effect and caused me to cut her off completely. 

I didn’t speak to her for over 6 months until one day she called me to tell me she was pregnant.  All my bitterness and hurt melted away to be replaced by guilt and regret.  How could I have turned my back on her?  I know how important our relationship was to her at the time and I’m sure she wouldn’t have been in this situation if I hadn’t been so judgmental.  I forgave her (Forgive and forget) and we’ve enjoyed many years of friendship ever since.

Just remember that none of us are perfect, we all make mistakes, we all do things we regret and we are all sometimes forced to take steps that on the outside may appear harsh or wrong.  But, nobody really knows what’s going on in another persons life, so don’t judge – live and let live.

You may be interested to read the other posts in this series:
Step 30 - The Key to Happiness and Contentment
Step 29 -You are the master of your own destiny
Step 28 - Don't give up on a good relationship
Step 27 - Don't Judge , Live and let live
Step 26 - Don't Worry, by happy
Step 25 - Never give up
Step 24 - Get by with a little help from your friends
Step 23 - Go with the Flow
Step 22 - Enjoy the moment
Step 21 - Love what you do
Step 20 - Forgive and Forget
Step 19 - Unconditional giving
Step 18 - Smile and the world smiles with you
Step 17 - Work to live, don't live to work
Step 16 - Surround yourself with Positive People
Step 15 - Always look on the bright side of life
Step 14 - Where there's a will there's a way
Step 13 - Silence is Golden
Step 12 - Feed your Soul
Step 11 - Follow your Dreams
Step 10 - Use your time wisely
Step 9 - Don't be too hard on yourself
Step 8 - Consider what you value most
Step 7 - Find time for Yourself
Step 6 - Make time for Family and Friends
Step 5 - Don't take yourself too Seriously
Step 4 - Feel the Fear and do it Anyway
Step 3 - Love what you Hate
Step 2 - There's no such word as CAN''T
Step 1 - Find the Best in Every Day

Friday, November 25, 2011

Step 26 - Don't worry, be happy!

Day 26 of the National Blog Post Month challenge where I’m writing a blog post every day along the theme of 30 Steps to Happiness and Contentment. 
I have spent much of my adult life worrying. I worry about everything and anything, our children, the dogs, the business, the house, my family, my friends, the world... But, I'm starting realise (ok it's taken me nearly 45 years, I'm a slow learner) that worrying is pointless.  What purpose does it serve?  Lying awake worrying in the middle of the night does nothing except cause you stress and make you tired.

It's difficult to stop worrying if you are prone to it - believe me, I know!  Earlier this year, we were going through a critical stage financially.  I would lay awake night after night worrying about how we were going to manage.  We were working as hard as we could, but it still didn't seem to be enough.  I couldn't see a way out.  But lying awake for hours worrying was not helping and I was making myself ill.

We had a couple of days away on our own, without the kids, and I had a sudden dawning that I had to take control of my life as it was getting out of hand.  I was really unhappy with myself and my situation and I decided to do something about it.  I took control of my weight problem (Losing weight in France) and I took control of my problem with worrying.  I couldn't do any more to change the situation we were in, but I could change how I was dealing with it.

The only way I could think of to stop me worrying so much was to focus my attention on something else.  Give my mind a challenge to occupy it.  I needed a focus, something I enjoyed and so I decided to start writing a book about our experiences of moving to France.  It's somthing I've always wanted to do.  I didn't know if I could do it, I'd never written like that before, but I really wanted to try.

It turned out to be my saviour as I loved it.  I enjoyed writing and it gave me something positive to focus on.  It also helped me to look back over the last 8 years and realise just how much we've achieved and done.  As I worked my way through the chapters of our lives, memories started flooding back of the hight lights, the funny moments, all sorts of great things we've achieved and experienced.  

So, by giving my mind something more positive to focus it's attention on I forgot about our worries (not completely of course) but gradually things started improving.  Our hard work was starting to pay off and I feel as though we've turned a corner now. Maybe this would have happened anyway, but at least I didn't waste another year of my life worrying myself stupid about it.  I came to the realisation that worrying was doing nothing to help the situation.  We were doing all we can and if the worse came to the worse and we got to the point where we couldn't continue, then so be it.  We couldn't do any more.  Somehow this acceptance of the situation helped.  I think by channeling my thoughts on something positive rather than worrying made me able to spend my time at work more productively and positively.  I was starting to feel better about myself from losing weight and also I was satisfying my creative side with the writing, so rather than have the depressive air of doom and gloom I had previously, I was feeling more confident, satisfied and happy.  I feel this was enough to help me recognise and act positively to the opportunities that arose to help us through this difficult time.  Maybe those opportunities had been there all along but I was too paralised by fear and worry to notice them before.
The morale of this story is don't waste your time worrying, find something else to focus your mind on be it writing, painting or perhaps studying something you're really interested in.  Reading's good, but it's not enough to really occupy your mind fully, it needs to be something that you can loose yourself in.  It's not about ignoring your problems, it's about confronting the negative tendances of worrying and turning them into something positive. If you stop worrying, your problems may not disappear, but your perspective on them changes which can give you the strength to deal with them.   Don't worry, take control and be happy!

You may be interested to read the other posts in this series:
Step 30 - The Key to Happiness and Contentment
Step 29 -You are the master of your own destiny
Step 28 - Don't give up on a good relationship
Step 27 - Don't Judge , Live and let live
Step 26 - Don't Worry, by happy
Step 25 - Never give up
Step 24 - Get by with a little help from your friends
Step 23 - Go with the Flow
Step 22 - Enjoy the moment
Step 21 - Love what you do
Step 20 - Forgive and Forget
Step 19 - Unconditional giving
Step 18 - Smile and the world smiles with you
Step 17 - Work to live, don't live to work
Step 16 - Surround yourself with Positive People
Step 15 - Always look on the bright side of life
Step 14 - Where there's a will there's a way
Step 13 - Silence is Golden
Step 12 - Feed your Soul
Step 11 - Follow your Dreams
Step 10 - Use your time wisely
Step 9 - Don't be too hard on yourself
Step 8 - Consider what you value most
Step 7 - Find time for Yourself
Step 6 - Make time for Family and Friends
Step 5 - Don't take yourself too Seriously
Step 4 - Feel the Fear and do it Anyway
Step 3 - Love what you Hate
Step 2 - There's no such word as CAN''T
Step 1 - Find the Best in Every Day

Step 25 - Never Give Up


Day 25 of the National Blog Post Month challenge where I’m writing a blog post every day along the theme of 30 Steps to Happiness and Contentment. 

Moulin d'en Bas
In Step 23 – Go with the Flow, I was talking about when things go consistantly wrong when you’re on a certain path, don’t fight it, change path and go with the flow.  This is not to say give up, don’t give up whatever you’re working towards, just change direction slightly and approach it from another way.  Using the example I gave of the catalogue of misfortunes showered on us during those first 6 months of our lives together.  Our ultimate goal at that particular time was to set up home and make a life together.  We didn’t give up on that, we just moved areas and everything fell into place.

There have been so many occasions in my life where I could have just given up, but I haven’t. I’ve battled on against the odds and come out on top (eventually).  I won’t go into all that now, I’ll save it for another time.  I’m going to fast forward a few years now, well nearly 20 to be exact, to the time we were planning our move to France (8 years ago).  It took a long time to plan the move – it was 18 months before we had a buyer for our guest house in England.  During that time we spent every holiday and break in SW France researching different areas, looking at different houses to decide exactly what we wanted.  We found the house of our dreams (a watermill), the offer was accepted and we arranged to pay our 10% deposit.  In France you have to sign within 7 days of agreeing a price and pay a 10% deposit up front.  If you drop out, or fail to meet the completion date (which is usually 3 months from initial signing), you loose your deposit.  We didn’t have that sort of money so we had to borrow it from the bank with the agreement that we’d pay it back when our house sale completed.  Initial contracts were signed and we agreed to complete by early July 2004.

All seemed to be going well, then our buyers dropped out at the last minute – they had said they were cash buyers, but it seemed they had to borrow some of the money and they were having problems raising it.  We were desperate, we only had a few weeks until completion on the mill and we could loose our deposit if we didn’t sign and all dreams of moving to France.  We managed to persuade the seller to give us a couple of months extension on the completion date and miraculously we had another buyer within a week.

This buyer was much more serious and their solicitor meant business.  He had us running round and signing and agreeing to all sorts of things.  About a month into the sale process and we had a major setback – it seems we had a big planning problem.  I won’t go into details here as it’s very long (and you’ll have to read about it all in my book when I finish it, if you are remotely interested).  But, suffice to say it was complicated and extremely stressful.  There was a strong possibility that our buyers would drop out over it as it could have meant them loosing half the garden (which was already small).  

We could have given up at this point, everything we tried seemed to come up with a big barrier.  But, we were determined to do all that we could to get to our goal.  We wrote letters, visited the planning office on several occasions, pleaded and begged.  Gary almost reverted to violence during a particularly annoying meeting with a stupid planning officer.  Gary is the calmest person you could ever wish to meet, so it just shows the pressure we were both under.  Anyway after weeks of stress and pressure the day of the planning meeting came and the permission was passed with no conditions.  What a relief. The sale then went on smoothly and we finally got to France at the end of September 2004, 3 months after the date we should have.

The point here is we had so many obstacles put in our way, we could easily have given in, but we persevered and I’m so glad we did.  I can’t say life has been easy here in France – we’ve had loads of difficulties to overcome and lots of hard times.  But, it’s a beautiful place to live, we have an amazing property (a bit big and scary for most people), we have some lovely friends and our beautiful family.  What more could you want?

So go with the flow but don’t ever give up on your dreams or you’ll never have a dream come true!
Our house as it was when we brought it in 2004 - yes we are completely bonkers!
You may be interested to read the other posts in this series:
Step 30 - The Key to Happiness and Contentment
Step 29 -You are the master of your own destiny
Step 28 - Don't give up on a good relationship
Step 27 - Don't Judge , Live and let live
Step 26 - Don't Worry, by happy
Step 25 - Never give up
Step 24 - Get by with a little help from your friends
Step 23 - Go with the Flow
Step 22 - Enjoy the moment
Step 21 - Love what you do
Step 20 - Forgive and Forget
Step 19 - Unconditional giving
Step 18 - Smile and the world smiles with you
Step 17 - Work to live, don't live to work
Step 16 - Surround yourself with Positive People
Step 15 - Always look on the bright side of life
Step 14 - Where there's a will there's a way
Step 13 - Silence is Golden
Step 12 - Feed your Soul
Step 11 - Follow your Dreams
Step 10 - Use your time wisely
Step 9 - Don't be too hard on yourself
Step 8 - Consider what you value most
Step 7 - Find time for Yourself
Step 6 - Make time for Family and Friends
Step 5 - Don't take yourself too Seriously
Step 4 - Feel the Fear and do it Anyway
Step 3 - Love what you Hate
Step 2 - There's no such word as CAN''T
Step 1 - Find the Best in Every Day

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Step 24 - Get by with a little help from your Friends

Day 24 of the National Blog Post Month challenge where I’m writing a blog post every day along the theme of 30 Steps to Happiness and Contentment.

I'm not very good at asking for help.  I like to think I can cope and manage everything on my own and most of the time I can, but every now and then it's good to have a helping hand.

Yesterday was one such day.  I was up to my eyes in work at the Garden Centre.  It's our busiest time of the year - Gary's out till all hours collecting plants from suppliers, delivering, planting etc and I'm busy at the shop taking orders sorting out deliveries, labelling up the new stock, trying to sort out our Christmas Fayre, dealing with customers - I could go on, but I can feel you nodding off!  

Anyway, in between sorting out an impossible amount of things for one person, my teenage son texts me from school - he's been having headaches every day for the past week and they're getting worse.  So, I have to arrange for my Dad (bless him) to pick him up from school (30 minutes away) and drop him off at the shop with my 3 little ones to coincide with Gary returning to the shop (after a days tree planting).  He can then watch the 3 little ones and cover the shop for the last hour before closing, while I get Ryan to the doctors.  Why is my life so complicated!  You can't get appointments here, you just have to go to the surgery during opening hours and wait.  It's on a first come, first served basis and I've never got seen in under 2 hours - longest wait was 4!  So I knew it would be a late one and I was unlikely to get home before 7pm and then I'd have to make tea, bolt it down and then take Ryan back to school (as he weekly boards).  Another impossible day!  In the midst of this I sent an email, in passing, to a friend and just mentioned Ryan was ill and I had to get him to the doctor.


I had an email back offering to watch Luc our 6 year old, which was a big help, at least Gary only had 2 children to watch.  Then, a short while later, I had another email from her offering to cook our dinner for us as she had an extra chicken.  My immediate response, was 'no, you can't do that', but then I stopped and thought.  Actually that would be so nice of her and what an enormous help.  So, I decided to accept her very kind offer.  We got back from the doctors at nearly 7,30pm, armed with a bag full of medicines for his sinusitis.  It was so nice just to warm up a whole roasted chicken and veg - she'd even done roast potatoes.  I was so glad I'd accepted her very kind offer, as it was I didn't get in till gone 9pm from dropping him back to school, but it would have been much later than this if I'd had to make tea as well.  It also meant less washing up too -  double whammy!

So, it's great to give, but it's good to know when to accept help where it's offered.  We all need help from time to time, so when someone offers their hand in help accept it and be grateful you have such great friends! 

You may be interested to read the other posts in this series:
Step 30 - The Key to Happiness and Contentment
Step 29 -You are the master of your own destiny
Step 28 - Don't give up on a good relationship
Step 27 - Don't Judge , Live and let live
Step 26 - Don't Worry, by happy
Step 25 - Never give up
Step 24 - Get by with a little help from your friends
Step 23 - Go with the Flow
Step 22 - Enjoy the moment
Step 21 - Love what you do
Step 20 - Forgive and Forget
Step 19 - Unconditional giving
Step 18 - Smile and the world smiles with you
Step 17 - Work to live, don't live to work
Step 16 - Surround yourself with Positive People
Step 15 - Always look on the bright side of life
Step 14 - Where there's a will there's a way
Step 13 - Silence is Golden
Step 12 - Feed your Soul
Step 11 - Follow your Dreams
Step 10 - Use your time wisely
Step 9 - Don't be too hard on yourself
Step 8 - Consider what you value most
Step 7 - Find time for Yourself
Step 6 - Make time for Family and Friends
Step 5 - Don't take yourself too Seriously
Step 4 - Feel the Fear and do it Anyway
Step 3 - Love what you Hate
Step 2 - There's no such word as CAN''T
Step 1 - Find the Best in Every Day

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Step 23 - Go with the Flow


 Day 23 of the National Blog Post Month challenge where I’m writing a blog post every day along the theme of 30 Steps to Happiness and Contentment.

Do you ever feel like everything’s an uphill struggle?  Does it seem like everything you do goes wrong and nothings going right?

As I look back over the last 25 years or so of my adult life, I can see a pattern forming.  There are times when everything seems to be going fairly smoothly and there are other times when everything I try just seems to go wrong.

We are faced with lots of choices in life.  Sometimes we choose to go a certain path, but try as we might to follow this path, obstacles keep getting in our way.  Life is full of trials and difficulties and I think part of our purpose is to find ways of overcoming these obstacles.  But, there are times when we have to accept that maybe we’re following the wrong path.  Maybe we need to change route and by doing so everything will start to run smoothly again.  This is what I mean by ‘go with the flow’.  If everything is going smoothly and you seem to be making progress, run with it.  But, if it feels like everything's an uphill struggle, maybe it’s time to change tack and choose a different path.

The first time I experienced this was when I was in my late teens.  I left home at 19 to live with my boyfriend Gary (who I married a few years later).  He’d got a job starting up a nursery in Surrey (we were both from Kent).  The job came with a flat – it seemed the ideal start for us.  I gave up my office job in London and we both moved to Surrey to start our new life together.

The day we woke up to move, Gary was feeling really ill and I had to drive us the 1 ½ hour journey to our new home.  Perhaps we should have taken this as an ill omen, but it was a new opportunity for us, so we decided we just had to try and make the most of it.

We arrived at our ‘flat’ which turned out to be ...  well little more a barn really.  It was a room above a stable.  It had a kitchen (of sorts).  The cooker was an old electric thing which was really fierce.  It wasn’t until sometime later when I had a proper cooker that I realised that I wasn’t as bad a cook as I thought I was.  (Not sure what Gary thought of the burnt offerings he was dished up in the early days, but then he was so ill he probably didn’t hardly notice).  The sink had running water, but wasn’t plumbed in, so when I let out the water it went into a bucket which I had to remember to empty downstairs in the drain.  I can’t tell you how many times I’d pull the plug out of the sink and then get that sinking feeling (excuse the pun) when I realised the bucket was full!

We had no bathroom – we had to go to the owners house for baths, which was guarded by 2 fearsome looking boxers.  We had a chemical loo – how pleasant, which was shared by the people employed to help Gary at the nursery.  That was a lovely experience emptying (definitely Gary's job).

The main room was quite large and a bit shabby (dirty shabby, not shabby chic).  All it housed was a bed and a table and chairs (nothing else), except a pair of velvet curtains on the floor by the window.  When I picked up the curtains they fell to bits in my hand as they were riddled with mouse holes.  We obviously had a bit of a rodent problem.  That first night we set up some mouse traps that Gary's boss (the owner) had so thoughtfully left out for us.  We didn’t get much sleep that night and it wasn’t for the reasons you would normally think a young couple would not get much sleep on their first night living together.  No, the traps were going off all night (and anyway Gary was far to ill for anything amorous).

It wasn’t a great start, but we’re not ones to give in easily, so we persevered.  Gary worked really hard every day to build up the nursery.  He was really ill and every evening he’d just come in and collapse in bed.  Not the romantic start we’d planned really.  It turned out Gary had glandular fever, so it was a miracle he managed to do anything at all.

I got a job at a local removals company and Gary worked hard (despite his illness) to get the nursery off the ground.  He employed staff as requested by his boss. We started making friends in the area.  It wasn’t all bad, but there were many things that seemed to go against us. 

We had a nasty run in with Gypsies “We’re from Surrey Highways, we have a bit of tarmac left over and we noticed you have a few holes in the drive.  Would you like us to fill them in for you.”  “Oh that’s very kind of you, yes just the big holes”.  2 hours later we go back to find they’ve tarmacked the whole drive and want paying more than a few thousand for it!  After a meeting between “the lads” and the owner (who was pretty fearsome herself), they came to an agreement.  A few nights later, we’re just about to get into bed and Gary hears some bangs outside.  He gets dressed to see what’s going on (despite my pleas not to).  Good thing he did because he discovers our car's on fire and he calls the fire brigade.  The police arrive and we tell them we’ve had some trouble with Gypsies.  Hmmm strange, there’s been a few mysterious cars fires in the area, but of course that’s as far as it goes.... 

Anyway, we claimed on the insurance and it paid off the loan, but because there’s a penalty for paying the loan off early we ended up with not enough to buy another car.   My Mum very kindly lent me her car until we could save for another.   A few weeks later and I’m driving to work along a country lane in the rain.  The road narrows and there’s a lorry coming the other way.  I put my foot on the brake and before I know what’s happening the car’s spinning   It does a full 180 degree turn and ends up in the ditch on it’s side facing the opposite direction.  I’m hanging there on my side with all the glass shattered around me.  The lorry driver stops and lifts me out of the car.window.  I shake my jumper and shattered glass falls to the floor and yet I have not a scratch on me.  What a lucky escape, but I’m really shaken up and the car is a total write off!

There were other things going on too.  Gary’s sister had a serious motorbike accident and was in hospital so we had to travel back to Kent every week to visit her and at the same time a  friend’s boyfriend got tragically killed at their engagement party (which we had attended). These are just a couple of examples of the catalogue of events that happened to us in our first 6 months of living together.   

The final straw for Gary was when his boss decided to lay off all the workers that Gary had employed for her and it was down to him to do it.  He resigned, we moved out and all we could afford to rent was a bedsit in Guildford town centre.  It was miserable.  A tiny room in the attic of a tall building with shared bathroom.  We had no money, but we did have each other and that’s what kept us going.  In the end we decided to admit defeat.  It felt that no matter what we did things kept going wrong and so we decided to move back to Kent and try a different path.

This time everything fell into place.  We immediately found a cheap flat to rent next door to my parents Hotel in Folkestone, I found a job for an Insurance company at the end of the road, Gary quickly got a job too and within a few months we had the opportunity to buy the flat we were renting at a bargain price. At last, it seemed, we were on the right path again.

This was an important lesson for me and I suppose I was lucky enough to learn it quite young in life.  I don’t give in easily but if it seems as though nothing’s going right and whatever I try goes wrong I’ll rethink my position and change the direction I’m going and (so far) I've found that it works every time.

So when things start going wrong, don’t fight the tide, go with the flow and you’ll find things will run more smoothly for you.

You may be interested to read the other posts in this series:
Step 30 - The Key to Happiness and Contentment
Step 29 -You are the master of your own destiny
Step 28 - Don't give up on a good relationship
Step 27 - Don't Judge , Live and let live
Step 26 - Don't Worry, by happy
Step 25 - Never give up
Step 24 - Get by with a little help from your friends
Step 23 - Go with the Flow
Step 22 - Enjoy the moment
Step 21 - Love what you do
Step 20 - Forgive and Forget
Step 19 - Unconditional giving
Step 18 - Smile and the world smiles with you
Step 17 - Work to live, don't live to work
Step 16 - Surround yourself with Positive People
Step 15 - Always look on the bright side of life
Step 14 - Where there's a will there's a way
Step 13 - Silence is Golden
Step 12 - Feed your Soul
Step 11 - Follow your Dreams
Step 10 - Use your time wisely
Step 9 - Don't be too hard on yourself
Step 8 - Consider what you value most
Step 7 - Find time for Yourself
Step 6 - Make time for Family and Friends
Step 5 - Don't take yourself too Seriously
Step 4 - Feel the Fear and do it Anyway
Step 3 - Love what you Hate
Step 2 - There's no such word as CAN''T
Step 1 - Find the Best in Every Day

Step 22 - Enjoy the moment

Day 22 of the National Blog Post Month challenge where I’m writing a blog post every day along the theme of 30 Steps to Happiness and Contentment.

Most of the time as we go about our daily lives, we moan about the niggly things that happen in the course of the day, we brood over things that happened in the past and we worry about things that may or may not happen in the future, Then, suddenly out of the blue something happens that makes us realise that life is fragile, life is precious.. 

Nothing is certain in life except one thing, and that's that we will all make our exit from this life sooner or later.  So we should make the most of the life we have.  Don't waste time moaning about the present, brooding about the past or worrying about the future.  Enjoy the moment, the here and now.  Every moment is a gift, so don't waste it!

You may be interested to read the other posts in this series:
Step 30 - The Key to Happiness and Contentment
Step 29 -You are the master of your own destiny
Step 28 - Don't give up on a good relationship
Step 27 - Don't Judge , Live and let live
Step 26 - Don't Worry, by happy
Step 25 - Never give up
Step 24 - Get by with a little help from your friends
Step 23 - Go with the Flow
Step 22 - Enjoy the moment
Step 21 - Love what you do
Step 20 - Forgive and Forget
Step 19 - Unconditional giving
Step 18 - Smile and the world smiles with you
Step 17 - Work to live, don't live to work
Step 16 - Surround yourself with Positive People
Step 15 - Always look on the bright side of life
Step 14 - Where there's a will there's a way
Step 13 - Silence is Golden
Step 12 - Feed your Soul
Step 11 - Follow your Dreams
Step 10 - Use your time wisely
Step 9 - Don't be too hard on yourself
Step 8 - Consider what you value most
Step 7 - Find time for Yourself
Step 6 - Make time for Family and Friends
Step 5 - Don't take yourself too Seriously
Step 4 - Feel the Fear and do it Anyway
Step 3 - Love what you Hate
Step 2 - There's no such word as CAN''T
Step 1 - Find the Best in Every Day

Monday, November 21, 2011

Step 21 - Love what you do


Day 21 of the National Blog Post Month challenge where I’m writing a blog post every day along the theme of 30 Steps to Happiness and Contentment.

Do you love what you do with the majority of your time, be it paid work, home maker, job seeking or retiree?  Do you enjoy what you do?

If you’re working make sure you’re doing a job you enjoy.  I know that’s not always possible.  You may be stuck in a job that you hate because you need the money to live.  But if you really dislike the job, don’t just put up with it, look at ways of either improving the job your doing, look for another job or  retrain for a different career – something you enjoy doing.  Life is too short to be wasting time and energy in a job you hate.  How can you be happy and contented if you spend the majority of your time doing something you don’t enjoy? 

There have been many times when I’ve had jobs I don’t enjoy and I’ve had to do them for the money, but I’ve always had plans and goals and if ever I had to do a job I didn’t like, I’d know that it’s only a means to an end and then it wouldn’t seem so bad. 

I’ve also had times when I’ve been a stay at home mum.  I know how difficult and lonely it can be.  I especially found it hard in the beginning with my first child.  I was used to working and found it difficult staying at home with no one but a baby to talk to.  But, I managed by finding things for us to do together to get me out the house and meeting people.  I joined tumble tots, baby music classes, I went to all the clinics and joined up for the toddler group as soon as he was old enough.  That was in England where there are loads of things for you to do with your little ones.  When we moved to France it was a different case.  There is not so much to do with babies – no tumble tots or toddler groups and I started to feel really isolated.  So, I started my own group – I advertised on an English forum for other English speaking mums in the area and we started meeting weekly at each others houses.  So, if your bored or lonely, you have to go out there and join in something or start something yourself. Nothings going to happen if you just sit and wait for it to come knocking on your door.

I know it’s difficult when you’re looking for work and maybe can’t get the job you want or maybe even any job, but try to use your time wisely.  Join the local library and read up on things that interest you, take advantage of the free courses and training you can get while looking for work.  Think about maybe starting your own business – you don’t have to have loads of money to start a business.  Why not volunteer and help out a local charity, by doing something useful with your time, it will make you feel better about yourself and it’s more likely to open up other opportunities to you.  It will also give you something more positive to talk about in interviews.  Companies will be more impressed if they hear that you’ve been using your time usefully.  Don’t wait for things to happen, you have to make them happen.

Think about your life – what do you spend the majority of your time doing?  Is it something you enjoy doing?  If it isn’t, look at ways of changing it.  If you spend the majority of your time doing something that makes you unhappy or dissatissfied, how can you expect to be happy and contented with your life as a whole?

I can't say I love everything I have to do, but I do enjoy the majority of things I do with my time.  It hasn't always been so and I've had to work hard and continue working hard to make it this way. It's so important to enjoy what you do with the majority of your time, so make sure you give it the effort it needs to make it happen.

  How about you.  Do you love what you do? 

You may be interested to read the other posts in this series:
Step 30 - The Key to Happiness and Contentment
Step 29 -You are the master of your own destiny
Step 28 - Don't give up on a good relationship
Step 27 - Don't Judge , Live and let live
Step 26 - Don't Worry, by happy
Step 25 - Never give up
Step 24 - Get by with a little help from your friends
Step 23 - Go with the Flow
Step 22 - Enjoy the moment
Step 21 - Love what you do
Step 20 - Forgive and Forget
Step 19 - Unconditional giving
Step 18 - Smile and the world smiles with you
Step 17 - Work to live, don't live to work
Step 16 - Surround yourself with Positive People
Step 15 - Always look on the bright side of life
Step 14 - Where there's a will there's a way
Step 13 - Silence is Golden
Step 12 - Feed your Soul
Step 11 - Follow your Dreams
Step 10 - Use your time wisely
Step 9 - Don't be too hard on yourself
Step 8 - Consider what you value most
Step 7 - Find time for Yourself
Step 6 - Make time for Family and Friends
Step 5 - Don't take yourself too Seriously
Step 4 - Feel the Fear and do it Anyway
Step 3 - Love what you Hate
Step 2 - There's no such word as CAN''T
Step 1 - Find the Best in Every Day