Category: resilience


Happy Christmas Everyone

I do hope that you are otherwise occupied and really do not have the time to read this post. Whether you are with family, eating a special meal, enjoying entertainment, going for a walk, visiting church etc, I hope that you have some joy today.

But I do realise that, for some of us, today is a difficult day. When we are supposed or expected to be “merry” but most definitely are not feeling that way. Perhaps there is someone who is not here today whom you really miss. Or perhaps you are not well; or maybe you are not in a place you would like to be.

When we are on our own – or perhaps surrounded by other people – our loneliness, sadness, disappointment or frustration stands out all the more in contrast to the lights, laughter, excitement and music which are associated with today. There are all kinds of reasons for feeling low today. Maybe that is you.

That is OK. Believe it or not, today will not last forever.

I don’t know whether you will decide to hide away somewhere, or go away for a few days or simply put on a brave face for the sake of others. That is up to you. I would like to remind you that you are not the only one and that you have not been forgotten.

And if you are having a happy Christmas, please do enjoy it. Please, also, spare a thought and a prayer for those, for whatever reason, who are not.

May I wish you a “Happy Christmas” and may God bless you.

In December of this year this blog will be five years old. Originally I started writing as one way of coping with depression. I have never intended to write about depression as such but I have discovered that writing, humour and making a point of taking an interest in things have all contributed to building resilience. It is not true to say that I now no longer get depressed. It is true for me to say that depression is less frequent, usually (!) not as low as before and that I have some strategies to help. Depression is managed rather than cured. The most important strategy is permission to tell a couple of trusted people when I am feeling low without them assuming that my world is about to fall apart. Often the fact that I can say what is going on in my thoughts and feelings helps to deny depression of some of its power.

Over the years I have used “Sundry Times” as a place to share what I love about England, to post photographs that have caught my imagination and to pass on the least worst jokes that have come my way. I have included prayers and reflections as well. When I began “Depression” was the biggest tag, then “Resilience”. They are still there on the tag cloud but they are no longer number one.

This is not a valedictory piece but at the end of the year I shall retire this blog for the simple reason that I am running out of memory and prefer not to have to buy on-line storage. Instead, look out for “Sundry Times Too” which I am in the process of setting up and will go live at the end of 2015/beginning of 2016. I will post a link nearer the time.

Thank you for taking the trouble to read this.

God bless, Kangerew

Nada te turbe

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

— St. Teresa of Avila

“This book is impossible: Thirteen years ago I knew this couldn’t happen. I was going to die, you see. Or go mad.”

So begins Matt Haig’s book, “Reasons to Stay Alive” in which describes his breakdown and how he adapted to life afterwards. I hesitate to say “recovery” because, as he himself points out, you can be a happy depressive just as you can be an alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in years. There are five sections of unequal length: falling, landing, rising, living and being which approximately describe his feelings and insights following his breakdown when he was 24. With hindsight there were warning signs – but then hindsight generally has better glasses than foresight.

I noticed that most reviews on Amazon were very positive but there were a few who either did not like or did not ‘get’ the idea. Having read it all the way through I can see that this book could be helpful to someone who suffers from depression or who is close to someone who is. If you are not familiar with it, this book may not help at all. For example, one person criticised it because it was all about the author, “all about me”. That is to miss the point: depression is indeed often “all about me” but not in a “Look at me and see how important/special I am”. It is more of an “all about how worthless I am and I don’t expect you to take any notice of me let alone agree with me”.

Some useful ideas include page 126f “How to be there for someone with depression or anxiety”. For example, “Don’t take anything personally, any more than your would take someone suffering with the flu or chronic fatigue syndrome or arthritis personally. It is not your fault.” (p 127). The list of “Things that have happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression” rang a bell too. Meanwhile, on page 166 onwards, there is his list of famous people with depression. It may or may not help you to know that the list includes: Buzz Aldrin, Winston Churchill, Carrie Fisher, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton and Emma Thompson. The point being that depression does not happen only to “bad” or “weak” people. In fact, it has been remarked elsewhere that it is “The curse of the strong“. A useful metaphor, on page 181, is that if depression is a dark cloud then you are the sky: depression is smaller than you. Although that makes sense, convincing myself of that truth may take some doing.

And finally,

Self Help

How to stop time: kiss.
How to travel in time: read.
How to escape time: music.
How to feel time: write.
How to release time: breathe.

Overall four stars or eight out of ten. Worth buying a copy to read and to lend.

A few cracker jokes

To be honest, I thought that this year’s crop of cracker jokes were quite poor. I don’t mean that the puns were terrible (that’s what they are supposed to be, after all) but several “jokes” seemed to have been machine generated by a mindless contraption: Not AI (Artificial Intelligence) but AS you might call it (Artificial Stupidity).

These are some of the least worst plus a few from “Cracker Jokes” collected by Amanda Li

Q. What do you get if you cross an elephant with a hose?
A. A jumbo jet.

Q. Who hid in the bakery at Christmas?
A. A mince spy.

Q. What sort of sentence would you get if you broke the law of gravity?
A. A suspended one.

Q. Why did the bloke get fired from the orange juice factory?
A. Because he couldn’t concentrate.

Q. What has 22 legs and 2 wings but cannot fly?
A. A soccer team.

Q. What jumps from cake to cake and smells of almonds?
A. Tarzipan.

Q. What is read and white and goes up and down and up and down?
A. Santa Claus stuck in a lift.

Q. What do you call lobsters who won’t share their toys?
A. Shellfish.

Q. What shouldn’t you eat before breakfast on Christmas Day?
A. Christmas lunch.

Happy New Year


							

Boxing Day Blues can begin any time after sunset on Christmas Eve.

It’s a bit like Vogon poetry. You may recall, if you have read or watch “The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy”, that when Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect have been ‘rescued’ by a Vogon starship, they were invited to comment on Vogon poetry (said to be the third worst in the galaxy). The two heroes suggest that underneath it all, the dreadful Vogon poetry reveals that deep down the Vogons are really nice guys who just want to be loved like any one else. It turns out that the Vogon captain uses poetry to put his meanness into sharp relief – in other words to emphasise how really bad they are. That said, he then orders Arthur and Ford to be jettisoned out of an airlock into space (without spacesuits) and that is where, you could say, their adventure really begins.

Christmas can be a bit like that sometimes. The magic, the joy, the fellowship, the “poetry” of Christmas can sometimes stand in stark contrast to our circumstances and/or to how we are feeling. Does it make us feel better if we realise that some of the jollity is a bit forced or exaggerated? When it seems that everyone else is happy, warm and well fed and we are not (perhaps two out of three?). I can count my blessings but I have not forgotten the Christmases when my spirits were low including the year when they were bleak. The cold winter brought snow but there were few sparkles in the frost that I had on the inside.

I can’t tell you what you feel or what you could/should do. Christmas may or may not feel like Vogon poetry. The thing is, and this is not much of a plot spoiler, Arthur and Ford do get rescued.

As for the religious message of Christmas: Jesus was tested in every sort of way that we are – that is one of the meanings of “the incarnation” (sorry about the theology during Christmas). God in Jesus knows what it is like; he knows from personal experience the sort of things we go through (short of actually sinning, that is). He is with us.

Merry Christmas, despite everything.

Too many quotes can end up being merely twee or saccharine-sweet. However, the sentence “Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing” stood out for me.

Positive Outlooks Blog

Move on from what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you. Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing. Every great success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there. Good things take time. Stay patient and stay positive. Everything is going to come together; maybe not immediately, but eventually. — Unknown

Man walking at sunset

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The New Serenity Prayer

made me smile and wince in equal measure

Picture Me

God, grant me the serenity

to accept the people I cannot change,

which is pretty much everyone,

since I’m clearly not you, God.

At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,

please give me the courage

to change what I need to change about myself,

which is frankly a lot, since, once again,

I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.

It’s better for me to focus on changing myself

than to worry about changing other people,

who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,

I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up

whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter

than everyone else in the room,

that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,

or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,

grant me the wisdom

to remember that I’m

not you.

Amen

(Written by…

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Psalm 143

“My heart within me is desolate” (verse 4) (other translations use ‘appalled’ or ‘dismayed’)

There is something that I wish I had been told when I was a relatively new and young Christian. I understood about Jesus being the Son of God, I knew about the cross and resurrection and believed that God’s Spirit was present in/with me as a Christian, a follower/brother of Jesus etc etc. Somewhere, though, I had got the idea that if you are a Christian, if you have faith, then everything will always be OK – or at least that you will always feel OK. It followed that if I felt low, sad, depressed, upset etc, then I was not a proper Christian or perhaps not really a Christian at all. Now, that is nonsense, of course. People of God do get upset, sad or lonely from time to time. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept; in Gethsemane his heart was breaking. Even when Jesus was in the boat with them, his disciples were afraid when a storm blew up. A few minutes with the Old Testament with the likes of Job or some of the Psalms of lamentation should quickly show the same thing.

I have learned that desolation, feeling upset, sad, dismayed or the like, is part of the Christian walk with God. If your heart is set to follow what is right and good, you want God’s just and merciful kingdom to come, it is your intention to do his will; then, when something goes against that, it hurts. If you do something you believe to be wrong, your conscience will hurt; if you see an injustice, it will move you; if someone you love dies you may weep like Jesus did. Mind you, if your heart is not with God, you can feel desolate just because you are not getting your own way.

Then there is the opposite: consolation. That is the sense that every thing is right, in proper order, going well, at peace. If your heart is set on God’s will and his kingdom it will be when your life is in harmony with his will. Those moments are precious and a gift from God to be enjoyed – they are not a right to be demanded of him.

In psalm 143 I think the Psalmist shows that they understand this. They feel like they are in darkness and their spirits are low – but they remember what God has done in the past and therefore have confidence to tell him like it is and to pray for help.

The joy of the Lord is indeed our strength, but that does not mean we shall always feel happy. It might mean that we feel secure because we can trust God to walk with us in both the good and in the bad times. And because he loves all his children, we can be sure that he is with us whether it feels like it or not.

A prayer from “Common Worship”

Gracious Father, you gave up your Son out of love for the world. Lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion, that we may know eternal peace through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Additional Collect, Lent 5)

You might be surprised to learn that at the beginning of every January the earth is at its closest to the sun than at any other time of year. How come it is generally warmer six months later in the year, when we are furthest from the sun? It turns out that the tilt of the earth’s axis has a greater effect on our weather and climate. When it is Winter in Britain, the northern hemisphere is turned away from the sun and we get longer nights than days. In Summer, when our part of the world is turned more towards the sun, we benefit more from its heat and light.

Whether we feel hotter or colder has more to do with whether we are facing the sun (as in daytime) than with how close to the sun we are. Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, reaches over 400 degrees C on its daytime side but below –170 degrees on its night-time side even though it is about a third of the distance to the sun compared to the Earth. In other words, even though it is closer to the sun, Mercury’s night is colder than Earth’s.

As the seasons here progress through January and February, our part of the planet is turning more and more towards the sun. Gradually the days become longer and we might just start to believe that Spring is just around the corner.

I do not want to press the analogy too far, but I think that in our journey of life, our faith, can be experienced in a similar way. There is no physical measurement for how close we are to God, but our hearts are warmed and our minds are enlightened the more we turn towards him.

This idea of turning towards God is behind the word “repentance”. It means seeing and doing things differently by turning away from what is wrong and instead turning towards God. We include repentance in Baptisms (Christenings) when we are asked “Do you turn to Christ? (the perfect image of God)” and “Do you repent (turn away from) your sins?”

I want to suggest that when is seems that God has gone away, it might be that we are looking in the wrong direction. What is more, it may be that some of our darkest and coldest times in faith occur when we are closer to God than we think but, because we have turned away from him, we do not benefit from his presence as much as we might.

I cannot tell you what this looks like for you – we each have our own personal experience of life and of God. It may be that in times of grief we think God has turned away from us and we need the reassurance that God is near even if it does not feel like it at the time. It may be that we get caught up with being busy and we are so preoccupied with our daily lives, that we do not stop long enough to give God a second thought. What do you think? What are the times when you feel more turned away from God? What do you need to do about it?

I shared those thoughts in our Parish magazine and offer them to you for you consideration.

O Lord, let the light of your face shine on us. (Psalm 4 verse 6)

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