I was born in the year of the horse, according to Chinese astrology, but that has almost nothing to do with this post. Read on and you’ll see….
During my first trip to Santorini in May of 2015, my husband and I came across this handsome devil every day on the way to our hotel from the main beach road.
We always said hello and managed to catch this image. I’m not sure if horses smile and he doesn’t appear to be. Perhaps he’s happy and enjoying the land, visitors like us and the weather, but he’s not running free… something that made me rather sad each time I passed him on the hill. Is he grateful for what he does have? Does he have friend’s, a mate or even a comfortable place to live and sleep? I don’t know, but he is there and he looks healthy and well cared for.
Next photo victim.. Me
I’m smiling, the sun’s on my face, I’m in paradise and enjoying a wonderful vacation with my one true love. Everything is wonderful and I’m full of life.
All of this is true, or is it? (scroll down for more)
It is true however; no one really knows what lies beneath.
I’ve been smiling since the day I was born (nearly) and I enjoy being happy and doing pleasurable things. I counsel friends who are down, have a playful sense of humour, have taken care of my family and husband when they weren’t well and take pleasure in finding perfect gifts for everyone in my life for special occasions or “just because.” I give a lot, probably more than is healthy for me.
I have 3 pockets. I stuff each pocket with things that I don’t need or want while I’m enjoying life and happiness. My first pocket is close to my heart and holds the sadness of losing my father, the second pocket holds my worries… for everything and the final pocket holds my fears.. fears of health and fears of future.
The moment that I walk through my front door after a relaxing and enjoyable vacation or fun event, it’s there again. Me, the “me” that I tucked away in those 3 little pockets. The me that has been struggling “inside” with trauma that has taken over my persona.
My outside (public self) stays positive, optimistic and playful. Nobody realises, I am a great actress and my smile hides a lot of stories.
It’s been awhile since I’ve written you a letter, but I think of you every day.
A lot has happened in my life since you left and the piece of my heart that you took with you on your journey is still felt. I didn’t think it would be this hard… not to hear your voice, tell you about my life and hear your stories (even for the 10th time), but it is.
Your pride, your unconditional love, support and general inquisitive nature…it is a part of what’s missing in my life, my routine and my being. I am not the same person without you, I have lost the one person who made it all better just by listening and being my father.
Life is funny in a strange way…as a child, I never saw an end to anything, only seasons,the last day of school and maybe an ice cream. Those are moments that are enjoyed but their end does not leave a lasting mark.
As I reminisce about times past and the holiday season, I am reminded of how time changes things.. circumstances, people, events and myself. All of this leaves me searching for something and I haven’t put my finger on what it is yet. So this letter .. I’m an optimist but sometimes even an optimist falls. I resisted writing this, for fear that my readers would doubt my optimism, but I’m only human.
I’ve been watching videos I’ve taken of you and it’s almost like you’re here. I wish you were. I have a heavy heart writing this because I have changed since you left. I know that I was lucky to have you in my life and I have wonderful memories of all of the times we’ve spent together. Somehow I feel selfish… selfish for wanting everyone to understand my loss, but I still keep these feelings tucked inside.
I’m in a foreign land, with a man that I love however, my heart is missing family and familiar places to ease my sadness. So I listen to songs that remind me of moments, people and places and sigh.
I’m trying Dad, but there are few that understand my dreams, wishes and wants.
I hope you are safe and not worrying about me. I will bounce back but you dear father have left an large empty space.
Something amazing happened to me this morning.. for the first time since I’ve lived here in the UK, I witnessed a Monarch butterfly land in my back yard and it stayed for quite some time. So I decided to check into the meaning of this, if there was any…. this Optimist is now speechless…
Here’s little preview of what I found, but the full description is available by viewing the Monarch butterfly link added above.
Lessons and Challenges:
The monarch butterfly teaches us that life is short, and that it must be valued. Assuming that we have decades of our lives left (or at the very least, years) is all well and good for things like economic planning, but it is through recognising the fleetingness of human existence that we come to value every day, even those which get us down or which are hard to appreciate.
When I was a child, I was confident because at that time, I had no fear of the “unknown.”
In most cases, when we are young we just go with it and enjoy play, light conversation and meeting new people (making new friends) etc. There are no rules on how to be… we just are who we are at that moment in our young lives and we are not being judged by anyone. Perhaps the biggest decisions we make as children are; which toy to play with or which one of our friends are free to play jump rope with. (well.. in my day anyway)
Let’s talk about fear.. I have a very early example of this. 1973 aged 7- I was a Brownie and due to take part in a Christmas concert with my troop.. there must have been over 100 people in the audience (mainly proud parents.) We were performing “The 12 days of Christmas” and my part was.. “and a partridge in a pear tree.”
One line, easy to remember however; the act of delivering this was frightening. I was in the spotlight, which for most people is where they get stuck. At that early stage in my life, I didn’t know about believing in myself or my abilities.. who would? So I forced myself to sing to cue and almost missed my line once, before my troop leader gently tapped my shoulder to encourage me. The performance ended and I was relieved after many happy and proud parents applauded all of us kids. phewww.. it was over.
Why was I so afraid? Why are people generally nervous and scared to be in the spotlight? Actor’s who we perceive to be extremely confident also claim to be nervous every time they perform. Let me skip ahead to my working years and share with you how I overcame shyness.
So, “I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar” yes… really and this was the beginning of my confidence building because A) I was in the “spotlight” and B) I was “performing” in front of strangers.
My good performances resulted in rewards (tips) and when I was off kilter, not so much. 15 years in the hospitality industry overcoming public appearances face-to-face with happy people, grumpy people, celebrities and new event challenges, encouraged my ability to feel more confident and so, I started a new challenge.
I began working for a globally recognised company and brand, where my people skills were valued even more. I rose from service advisor to sales advisor/ team leader and then technical advisor in less than 2 years. I was the go-to person for both customers and new recruit training and loved interacting with and helping people. As my training mentor has always said, “I could sell ice to an Eskimo” and had positive persuasion skills. Positivity is a “state of mind” and so is confidence. So I soaked up all that I could in the 5 years that I was employed there before embarking on the adventure known as the next stage of my life. Hang in there, I’ll get to the point but if you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know that I enjoy telling stories and taking you on a mental journey.
All aboard…. next stop North West, England. A different culture and a new beginning. How did I prove myself to yet more strangers? My husband is one of the most confident people I know. Not arrogant by any means, but genuine and very approachable. He makes friends wherever he goes and I was never like that. He uses the “icebreaker” technique, which is such a simple concept, but one that you need to follow up and not be afraid to continue being yourself. I used to be the type of person that went to a party and stuck like glue to one or two people I knew in order to be part of it all, I didn’t have self-belief at that time or confidence in being myself to just mingle with anyone. I was simply…ME. Me from the very beginning of this story. Happy to be a part of something but froze under pressure. I must admit, with age comes a new kind of confidence and so I conjured up all of my powers and promised myself I would break down my wall.
After learning that a fair amount of companies in the UK prefer presentations as a means to rate one’s confidence in an interview, I swallowed my fear and came up with a plan.
During my first presentation, I decided to wear a mask. You think I’m kidding don’t you? Well.. I wore my glasses, which provided a mask-like protection that physcologically helped my confidence, as I felt that I was not fully exposed. I performed pretty well and if it wasn’t for the lack of a driver’s licence, I would have gotten the job. Personally, I don’t believe in presentations as part of an interview because A) It’s not a natural environment and B) I believe in getting to know the person.
I’m a people person (as you’ve probably gathered) and generally have good feelings or intuitions. So, I played the game several times during my career, with no training just being me and spreading my passion about subjects, people and experiences. I’ve created events, chaired meetings, started focus groups in order to share ideas and working practices and find that focusing on liked-minded people, relationships and common goals is by far the best way to nurture your mind and confidence. My state of mind has grown and so will yours if you’re true to yourself.
Some of the examples I’ve used might help you. I’ll break them down briefly in 5 steps:
Believe in yourself and take baby steps to master your fear
Use a conversation “Icebreaker” and stick with the conversation
Be yourself-It is much easier
Wear or use something that comforts you or makes you feel more confident
Be honest and talk about or do things that you know how to do (pretending is nerveracking)
Cities, love them or hate them they are all so different, as I learned during a spring trip to ” Le Gai Paree”.
My expectations were limited and included of course the famous tower and museums but to be perfectly honest, Paris was never at the top of my list for places to visit. In my mind I essentially envisioned the Eiffel tower as a steel structure plunked in the centre of the city and swarming with tourists, surrounded by the typical street cafe’s where you can watch the world go by. I was so wrong and my new love for this wonderful European city will be captured in a flattering and emotional review.
My visit was sparked by visiting my brother who was vacationing from the states. This was a long-awaited one-to-one period of quality time with big bro, which hadn’t occurred between us since I was about 8! He booked a quaint little apartment near the Bastille area, which suited us and housed many local trinkets inside from the owner who lovingly decorated it, plus a balcony to enjoy a glass of wine and of course local cheese! Nothing too fancy, just comfort and basic necessities.
Our first day out was visiting Notre Dame and that first day became so much more, that my feet are still recovering. (more on the power of Notre Dame in a moment) Who could resist 80 degree weather and the new spring blossoms in their amazing Tuileries?! I imagined myself basking in the sun during lunch hour, just like the locals…I was jealous of this luxury and my hope is that they don’t take it for granted. There are gardens everywhere and provide a much-needed rest when exploring.
From the moment we walked out of our apartment door, it was love at first site for me and I was on a mission to explore and inhale every nook and cranny of this friendly and beautiful city. (as suggested by a friend and writer who adores France) We couldn’t resist a coffee on the way to our next destination from a cafe called “Esmerelda” could we?
Walking along the Seine river in the sunshine and watching locals enjoy time at a leisurely pace was unusual but fabulous! Cities are supposed to be fast paced, but the beauty and feeling of love in spring was magnetic. Street artists galore with memorabilia,delicately painted landscapes and a friendly “bonjour.” Next stop, the famous “Louvre” Tuileries and people watching followed by Pont De Le Arts and Pont De Le Concorde (an adult playground of sorts along the river Seine pathway) Ping Pong anyone? Day one was a full one and it didn’t stop here! Eiffel tower……calling all tourists….. it’s the big one now! Steel towered structure with great fame… not at the top of my list but WOW.. I never expected to see what I saw..(am I teetering?) sorry couldn’t resist.
The Tower is surrounded by a lovely landscaped park with perfectly placed wooden benches that ask to be sat on.. small gardens appear in a corner near the tower, which by the way has a small pond underneath it! Locals take advantage of this outdoor space by jogging, cycling or just reading a book under a leafy tree.
The lights, the language, inspiring art, the happy gatherings with picnics and wine along the Seine, lovers celebrating their marriage on the bridges… all of this made my heart and soul swell with joy.
My brother used his french daily and locals were appreciative, patient and very friendly. Before emigrating to the UK, I never imagined that I would visit so many wonderful places and my father would be very happy knowing that I was enjoying exploring the world.
In fact, he was there with me during my second visit to Notre Dame. I’m not a religious person, but the beauty and peace as I stood inside admiring the sun gazing through arches of stained glass was awe-inspiring. As I started to follow my brother whilst he was capturing this beauty on film, I walked by a display of candles that you would typically light and say a prayer or remember a loved one. I kept walking, but something pulled me back… I thought of my father and stood there for a moment and decided to choose a candle just for him. I lit the candle and thought to myself, “Dad, I will take you with me on my travels from here on in and this one is for you and I love and miss you.” I placed his candle in the centre, because anyone that knew my Dad knew that he loved being the centre of attention, especially in the later years.
So there you have it, Paris has the power to bring out love in many forms…beauty, art, lovers and unconditional love found with family and memories.
I’ve always been drawn to people, both in life and as part of my career. They interest me, intrigue me and yes, sometimes disappoint me. As an optimist, I am not here to focus on the negative, but I do want to raise the awareness of the “good stuff” for those who would benefit from a little self-awareness and improvement. I’m the observer and the people watcher, which has served me well over the years.
Let’s talk about the “good stuff”, respect and admiration for just a moment. Over the course of my career, I have encountered many types of people:
For me, I prefer working with the first 4 types. Don’t get me wrong…being competitive and driven can be great but there is a time and a place for it and you need not forget about the people you work with. Cut-throat is not my style and it drains my “good energy”.
I recently saw a post on LinkedIn, quoting the type of work practice and ethos I’m into, so I shared it.
It’s that simple and so true. Let’s use Sir Richard Branson ( inspirational leader) as the example… he’s an extremely successful and powerful entrepreneur who develops ideas into businesses that for the most part, have excelled. Did he do this alone? No. He sought advice, created his support team and ensured that everyone worked together for one common goal>SUCCESS. He motivates and rewards his teams too, which is why and how he has done so well. So the next time you hear a story or read a story about dear Richard, know that he picked and lead his teams well to get where he is today.
When you consider how much time we spend at work each day and week… our rituals and experiences need to be positive don’t they? Yes there are targets and yes there are objectives but for me, a business cannot and will not succeed if their people do not support one another. Would you like another benefit of working together? Okay… what about learning from one another? Each person that you encounter in your workplace has a different style, level of knowledge and expertise in a company or if they’ve been doing it a while, their sector. It’s not a competition, it’s a learning experience. I myself have learned from people 10 years my junior and 20 years my senior. Make someone feel good and ask how they would go about doing a task you’re about to do. You will probably learn something great, but you will also make your co-worker feel needed and trusted. Everyone started somewhere, everyone needs help and guidance no matter the level and people do genuinely need people.