Reasonable Limits

I was in a conversation with a group of people earlier today in which we discussed the concept of reasonable limits. We asked ourselves what it might look like for us to set reasonable limits in various areas of our lives. I smiled ruefully when this topic came up because I know that in my world reasonable limits simply do not exist. I am utterly incapable of setting reasonable limits on anything. For example, I cannot set reasonable limits on how much I volunteer. Left to my own devices, my hand shoots in the air as soon as someone else utters the words, “would anyone be willing,” often before I have even heard what I am being asked to do. Thankfully, so far, no one has asked me to jump out of a plane or work in the reptile house at London Zoo, but regardless of where my compulsive volunteering takes me, one thing it inevitably leads to is overload.

This is true in terms of my food intake, the hours I work, the amount I spend, and the number of people I try to stay in touch with. Piece by piece I overload my literal and proverbial plate to the point where it is impossible for me to hold it together. My bank balance suffers, my body starts to break down, my mind starts to crack up and my spirit starts to isolate. It is a collective recipe of toxicity and drama that can lead to ruin.

So, what’s the solution to all of this? I can tell you what it’s not. I cannot just pull myself together and get on with it. I am completely powerless over any attempts to moderate my life. That doesn’t mean I have no will-power. I have a very strong will indeed. It’s just that it doesn’t work when battling my compulsivity. I have found that the only way to find any kind of balance in my life is to rely entirely on the God of my understanding and have God set the reasonable limits in my life. It’s not for me to decide what I put on my plate, which volunteer positions I put myself forward for, how I spend my time and my money. Rather, I need to discern what God knows to be good for me. Sometimes, this means I need to cut things out completely. For example, I have largely cut out sugar from life. Sometimes it means I need to build in a pause button that forces me to wait before doing something. I now never say yes to volunteering for something immediately. I always pray it through with God first.

How do I hear God? Through readings, prayer, meditation and conversations with friends. How do I know it is God’s voice I am hearing? If it increases the fruit of God’s Spirit in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control then it is likely to be from God. If it robs me of any of those things, then it is quite possibly not from God and not good for me.

Without God, there are no reasonable limits in my life. With God I can find moderation, abstinence, clarity and hope and above all peace, knowing that even though I am completely powerless, his power is made perfect in my weakness.

A Spring Clean of the Mind

I always used to say, “don’t come to me with a problem unless you are prepared to be a part of the solution.” It doesn’t mean that you need to have all the answers, it just means you need to be willing to contribute. It’s easy to point out the problems and deficiencies of this world, it’s much more difficult to be prepared to get down in the mud and mire and help one another dig ourselves out of a hole.

To be willing to be a part of the solution, we must first face that fact that we are part of the problem. How easy it is to point the finger of blame at everyone besides ourselves with a cry of “injustice” and how “life isn’t fair.” I for one am afraid to concede my foibles and failings because I am terrified that if I admit them then people will discover that I am the worst person in the world and will want to help me to focus on said foibles and failings. If I give up that ground, how can I possibly ever believe that they will give up theirs?

Yet the reality is that our personal shortcomings have nothing to do with those of others. What is on our side of the street is firmly intrenched there. Whether or not other people decide to look in the mirror is actually irrelevant. We can only keep our side clean. We can only live one life well. If we spend too much time taking up residence in other people’s heads, or if we invite them into our own heads to take up space, then we are losing perspective on our own lives, we are prone to assumptions, false expectations and a mountain of resentments.

But looking in the mirror isn’t about self flagellation and hatred. It isn’t about low self esteem and self neglect or self abuse, it is actually about kindness, love and humility. It’s about knowing who we are, whose we are, and where we stand in relation to the rest of humanity, in the whole of creation, and before our creator. We are not bad people. But we do sometimes do bad things. The good news is that we can do something about it. With the help of our Creator, we can put things right, we can tidy up our side of the street, we can weed the gardens of our souls, we can finally go to bed with a clear conscience and we can know peace.

I don’t know about you, but my life is a bit of a mess right now. Paperwork has been neglected, I have hardly unpacked from the last trip I went on, my mind is scrambled, and my body feels like it has been pummelled into a million pieces. I want to be part of the solution. One step at a time, one day at a time. What about you?

Progress, Not Perfection

I never thought the day would come when I would be able to announce to the world that my book was published and available to buy, but it has, and it is. I have been attempting to write a novel for twelve years. I have, in fact, written it four times over, each time close to seventy thousand words, and each time have deleted it. I know some of you will recoil in horror at this news. “Save everything!” is the advice we give one another, and you are all absolutely right. The only problem was, my internal critic had a louder voice.

But I have an editor, a friend called Ros, who has been a quiet encourager to me over the years. She has read many drafts of my supposed opus and has always told me I’m a great storyteller and she can’t wait to find out what happens next. Only the next never came and I think she got a bit frustrated with me, because she eventually said, “just write a blooming book. I don’t care what it’s about. It can be anything. The important thing is to just write it and get it published. Don’t even send it to me to edit it. Don’t worry if it has the odd typo in it, or the prose sticks slightly in your throat when you read it, get it written and get it out there! Then, once you’re an author, you can spend the rest of your life honing your craft and getting better at it.”

She had a point. I wasn’t going to be a master wordsmith if I kept unravelling and starting again. I needed to finish something and learn from that experience as well. But what to write about? I decided on non-fiction as it is something that comes more easily to me. I love writing fiction in the way that I love knitting, but I have to work that much harder at it than I do with crochet. But I digress. The subject…

I have been leading a Writing for Wellness group online since lockdown began, and over the weeks we have grown both numerically and in terms of self-awareness. This group encompasses all of my favourite things, writing, wellness, creativity, inspiration, imagination, and the equipping and empowering of others. Not only that, it is topical, as we have faced the ravages of life in lockdown together. There was a built-in deadline to it too! I was on a roll.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned about my writing is that I work so much better when I work to a routine and to a deadline. I now get up at eight every morning and go into my office to begin my working day, coffee in hand. I stop at one for lunch, and return to my office at two. I stop for the day at four as I have some other commitments I need to attend to by then. This routine works for me, and is what has helped me write this book. I can’t imagine not doing this now.

So I began to write. I spent quite a bit of time devising the chapters, sifting through the writing we had done over the weeks in the group, gathering anecdotal stories, and planning. Then I sat down and began to write. The words flowed, and when they didn’t, I used dictation software to help me get through the dryer spells.

All in all, this book took about six weeks to write and edit. It is fairly short, but it is a book and the sense of achievement I felt when I had finished it was such a relief. Now came the hard part. No, not the editing. I did the best I could with that in the short space of time I had. The hard part was the formatting for Kindle and print on Amazon. There’s an app for the former which makes things considerably easier, and there are templates for the latter. The only problem was, I hadn’t used those templates until then so had to copy and paste my book into it which meant a fair amount of reformatting. But I did it, and the print copy is currently under review.

It felt good to change my bio from writer to author. I have learned so much from this entire process and I am eternally indebted to Ros for giving me the shove over the cliff edge so that I could learn to fly. This is just the beginning. I have made many mistakes in this process, all of which I hope to learn from so that I can do better next time. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? It’s progress, and not perfection that will drive me forwards from now on, and help me to achieve things that are beyond my wildest dreams. How about you have a go at doing that too?

With much love, Liv x