Catriona Futter – Equip For Life Coaching Becoming your best self and living life to the full – 07713 974138

Twenty years of I do

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Twenty years ago this week, I walked down the aisle to say “I do”. It was the start of a journey that, looking back, neither of us were prepared or equipped for. Twenty years of incredible highs, moments of blissful in-loveness, growing and sharing our lives, two amazing children. But also twenty years with some very low lows, deep valleys out of which I thought we might not be able to climb. Here we are, twenty years on, and both very different people. And we have changed and become who we are now because of twenty years of living, working, sharing, laughing, crying, celebrating, greiving together. Twenty years of looking below the surface of what is going on, not prepared to settle for mediochre, on-the-surface living, but striving to get to the root and pull it out. Twenty years of learning slowly how to put down healthy, strong, loving roots. Choosing to say I” do” when sometimes “I don’t” was how we felt. We are so grateful to faithful friends and family who have supported and encouraged us along the way, who have stuck with us as we have stuck with each other. And here we are, twenty years on, excited about the next twenty – excited about putting into practise all that we have learned about ourselves and each other thus far, about cherishing each other more, about wanting to be the best versions of ourselves for each other, and for those with whom we share our lives. And who knows what the next twenty years will bring – but I am content with enjoying today, now, this day. That is enough. 

It ain’t gonna happen overnight….

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I am still running. Eight months on, still running, still enjoying it, feeling the benefit and, lo and behold, getting better at it. Generally in life, if we persevere at something, exercise a degree of discipline and commitment, practise at it and don’t give up, whatever it is gets easier. More than twenty years of my life as a physiotherapist were spent encouraging people to keep going, keep working on it, small steps at a time, until they achieve the goal of their rehabilitation. I know this for myself of course, that nothing changes overnight. Having started running, I knew that I wasn’t going to become Eric Liddell in a month (or ever for that matter). I knew that time, perseverence, discipline, practise, sometimes getting it wrong – these are all required. So why, oh why do I expect internal changes to happen without the afforementioned preamble, hard graft, who-ha – call it what you will. Having identified those in my life who are most important, having examined what it might mean to cherish them, why am I surprised that I am not able to demonstrate that behaviour immediately? That perhaps valuing, affirming, and lovingly serving my nearest-and-dearest rather than taking them for granted, or being disgruntled at being taken for granted by them, might also take a bit of perseverance and practise? It ain’t gonna happen overnight, but if it is worth it, it’s worth the effort to achieve it.

Cherishing the Simple

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Today, as I was in conversation with a precious friend – one who is very important to me (see last week) – I was reminded again of the value in having a simple approach to life. One that is uncluttered by preconceived ideas or judgements, one that is open and expectant of the best of people. An approach that recognises with childlike simplicity what matters, and celebrates the small things in life. Now, I fully realise that life can be incredibly complicated, and sometimes incredibly hard.  And there can be validity and security in our often baggage-and-expectation laden way of dealing with life. But as over the last few weeks I have considered what and who are important, simplicity is a recurring theme, a lowest common denominator in my life. Loving my family. Encouraging my friends. Organising things well. Good food. Beautiful surroundings. Recognising I am loved and humbly responding to that. On one level, all simple, all straightforward. But oh how I love to complicate, or make excuses for my failings, or try to do too many things at once and lose the point. So maybe getting back to a simple, childlike approach to life will help me keep my focus on what is really important.

Cherishing the Important

DSCF5447         Sometimes we lose sight of not only what is important, but who is important. Imagine going to meet a friend you have not seen for a while. What preparation would you make? In this situation, I would probably make an effort to look nice, would look forward to the meeting, would be excited to see that friend. I would ask them all about how they are, what they had been up to, and want to share life with them. There might be laughter or a sharing of harder times. There might be honesty, encouragement, affirmation – a reconnection at a soul level. All good, and all important to sustain our emotional and mental wellbeing. But now consider for a moment – how often do I make that kind of effort with those closest to me, my nearest-and-dearest, those right under my nose? And if I am honest, how often do I take them for granted, giving them the least and the worst of me? And how much do I, and they, suffer as a result? Our lives are full of people who we know for lots of different reasons and at different levels of friendship. Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we lose sight of which of those relationships are most important. Who is it that really matters to you? How much poorer would your life be without them? What steps can you take to make sure they know regularly how significant they are to you? Little things make all the difference in communicating to them that they are a rich blessing in your life, and that they bring you joy.

Urgent? Really? Or is it Important?

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So, a short time after that last post, and already I am slipping back into gerbil-wheel-living. All too quickly my mind will fill up with Things I Need To Do, bombarding me with their urgency and demanding my attention. And indeed, many of them do need to be done, but not necessarily now, at the cost of enjoying the moment I am currently in. So I am learning to ask the question – is this really urgent? And the bigger question, what is actually important just now. So often we get urgent and important mixed up. Urgent things press round us, weighing us down and often robbing us of joy. There will never be an end to them, that is the reality of our modern lifestyles, but how we approach them and our – wait for it – perspective on them can change. But important things, well they take a little bit of a step backwards from life to identify. We can choose to climb into the box marked Important, protected for that moment from the relentless barrage of Urgent that assaults us, and relish the fulfillment of doing something with lasting value. For me, important things would be phoning or texting an encouragement to a friend; spending unadulterated and focussed time with my children (how often do I respond to the request “come and see this!” with “I’ll be there in a minute….”? What does that communicate to them about how much they matter to me?); recharging my spiritual batteries first, not thinking I can do that once I have done everything else; stopping and being thankful right here and now for whatever is under my nose. This is me – what about you?

   

An all-year-round holiday mentality?

A relaxing holiday has furnished me with time to stop, be still and enjoy the moment (eurgh, I sound like an advert for something). It has enabled me to get off the mad gerbil wheel of The Next Thing and take a breather, to enjoy The Now Thing. A very wise person once said “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Jesus, in Matthew chapter 6) – but often we choose to live our lives like this, so focussed on what is happening next, or what we need to do/organise/plan/finish next that we miss the beauty of the little moments happening now, right at this moment, in the present. Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect not. Practicing being present in the moment is another spiritual discipline that takes, well, just that, practice. But the rewards can be huge – living in and celebrating the moment, no matter how seemingly insignificant, and being thankful for that moment. Living the full life now and not letting it pass us by because of the need to get to the next thing. A holiday mentality all year round? Is that possible? I don’t know, but it’s worth a try.

The Now Thing

We have recently returned from holiday – a lovely, relaxing lazy time away. Holidays are not always like that, and it is not always possible to have a couple of weeks away from it all, but this year, we were really blessed with two weeks of great weather, a delightful location, lovely accommodation (thanks to generous friends),  fabulous food, lots of time to relax. And stop. And that is what we did. And gradually I noticed that time…started…..to……..slow………..right……………down. My brain, usually full and working overtime with the thinking and planning and lists and organisation that constitutes our weekly routine, started to empty. For me, this is an odd phenomenon – like most people, the majority of my time is spent living a busy life with family, work, friends, lots of other activities and commitments, some exciting, some very repetitive and mundane. I am an organised sort of person, a bit of a control freak, and get bored easily – not always a great combination, and the danger is I am always so busy thinking about The Next Thing that I miss The Now Thing. What is happening now, right under my nose, right at this moment.  Whether it’s a comment, a gesture, a colour, a smell, a laugh – all so easily missed when I am at full pelt heading for the Next Thing, and yet all tiny blessings in their own right that are each worth celebrating.

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Who are you at your best?

Imagine something with me – you are your best. What does that look like? Who is that person? What makes that person unique, in terms of abilities, characteristics, personality? Now here is the tricky bit – we don’t always behave or communicate as our best selves. Sometimes, what comes out in terms of what we say and do comes from our least best selves, and out of hurt, criticism, pride, insecurity, jealousy, fear – you name it. We know who we want to be, and what we want to do, but our behaviour seems quite in contrast with this. But like everything in life, we have a choice. Not necessarily a choice about life’s events, but a choice in how we respond. We can choose to speak or behave in a way that reflects us at our best. Before you make a decision, stop and think – in saying this, or behaving in this way, am I becoming more or less like the best version of me that I want to be? This self-examination is at the heart of Ignatian spirituality, as described by Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuits. Of course, it is not easy, and there is much more to it. But as a starting point this week, before you speak or react to someone or something, stop and think – who am I becoming as I make this choice?

It’s ok to get it wrong….

Yesterday my older daughter sat her first ever music exam. Well, technically she stood to do the exam, but you know what I mean. She was nervous, I was very nervous, having done quite a few music exams in my own (long ago) school days. But she played her pieces well, and came out expressing appreciation for how friendly the examiner was, and saying that she had enjoyed the whole experience. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you how proud I am of her, and how much she makes my heart sing. Throughout the lengthy practice period leading up to the exam, she would sometimes become paralysed into inertia when attempting a tricky passage for fear of getting it wrong. I was forever chuntering on to her that it is ok to get it wrong, but not ok to not try. If you don’t try, I would say (with, I regret, varying degrees of patience and grace on my part) you will never know whether you can accomplish it or not. Sometimes we are so afraid of appearing foolish or vulnerable, or not ever getting to the perfect end point, or attaining our idealised goal, that we do nothing. And thus miss out, not only on achievement itself, but also on the hard work, challenge and satisfaction of the journey to get there. Go on, take that first imperfect step towards your perfect goal.

What motivates you to be you?

What is it that motivates you to be you and behave the way you do? What are your strengths, and what are the downsides of your personality? At a recent study day on the Enneagram, those of us present were encouraged to look at each of the different types within that particular personality indicator, and consider both the strengths and weaknesses of each. But not in a beat-yourself-up sort of way, as is often the case when confronted with the less attractive aspects of our personalities and the subsequent behaviour patterns, but rather we were challenged to consider the downsides as aspects of ourselves that we have to take responsibility for. This is very freeing, as it allows us to see we have a choice in how we respond – when we recognise we are headed for negative behaviour (and there is often a definite, repeated pattern – see 10 things I like about you) we can choose to stop, see what is going on, accept and take resonsibility for what we have the potential to do or say at that moment, but then change it, change our response into something more in keeping with who we are at our best. Of course this is not easy, and takes a growing amount of self-awareness. But keep focussed on the best version of you that you are wanting to become, and celebrate small steps along the way.

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