Apologies for my absence on here for a few weeks. I have been working on a new book – Jaded Heart – which came out today!
Jaded Heart is the story of love, loss, grief, addiction and recovery.
After the sudden death of my parents and my son, thirty years ago, I spent decades looking for personal peace.
This book shares my personal journey through trying to cope with loss, addictive behaviour and coping mechanisms.
After three decades I have finally come to a place of greater peace and share the journey in this very honest account.
Jaded Heart will help those struggling with loss, grief and addictions.
Jaded Heart is my story, but it may be your story too.
Here is a short video about the book.
The book is available on Amazon here…
We all feel angry sometimes. That’s part of being human. Feeling angry isn’t a sin. However, we need to be cautious if it happens frequently. If we have made anger a lifestyle, we are in real danger.
I’ll hold my hands up – I’ve been angry for a long time about the death of my son. It was no one’s fault. It was just a serious health issue he was born with. Those who tried to help did miracles. For the three years he was with us, we are very thankful. But small children should not die. That is just wrong.
I was never sure what to do with those feelings of frustration and hurt. For the most part I tried to block them out. I can think of times when I felt really angry about things that really didn’t matter. I’m sure I was projecting my frustration and anger onto those petty situations.
The word ‘anger’ is one letter removed from ‘danger’ If you fly into a rage, you can be sure of a bad landing. When our emotions are out of control, so is our life. Anger makes our mouth work faster than our mind. We end up saying and doing things we will regret later.
Anger is like a theatre curtain ready to part for the first act of the play. Behind the curtain stand all our lonely feelings – the actors ready to perform – guilt projection, discontentment, discouragement, abandonment, despair, unending feelings of inadequacy. Anger is the curtain that hides all these feelings from the outside world.
It’s easier to be angry than to deal with the real feelings because then people won’t see how much you’re really hurting because anger keeps people away.
Getting into a rage doesn’t make us ‘big’ or clever. In fact, the opposite is true.
Anger and rage are really unpleasant for those around you. If you are just an angry person, who takes things out on your family and those around you instead of dealing with the real issue, you will soon be without friends and your family will look for ways to avoid you.
Anger never accomplishes what you want it to.
In addition to all of that, anger is actually dangerous for your physical health.
Emotional stress and anger trigger the release of stress hormone cortisol in the body. Small releases of cortisol can give the body a quick burst of energy.
However, higher and more prolonged increases can cause lots of negative effects.
Cortisol is public health enemy number one. Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease. The list goes on and on.
Anger does kill. A study in the journal ‘Circulation’ finds that those who explode with anger are at a greater risk of strokes and sudden death.
Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels also increase risk for depression, mental illness, and lower life expectancy.
So what can we do?
If we don’t deal with the cause of our anger, we end up projecting that anger onto other people and situations.
After years of feeling overwhelmed by past hurts I think I have somehow come to terms with my grief and anger. Life is a bit poo sometimes. That’s just how it is. Time to move on.
Better to make some new happy memories with those we still have than waste our life with rage.
We do have a choice. We don’t have to be angry. We can change.
What is the root of your biggest frustration? Does it come out as anger to those around you sometimes?
If so, what are you going to do about it?
Whatever you do, do something! Don’t let anger become a lifestyle!
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A quick glance at nature now and then will tell us that living things are always growing and changing. The world changes. Society changes. Our lives change from one season to the next.
When I left school (years ago!) someone advised me to get a job with a big successful company and work for them for life. That was the route to security apparently. But since that conversation those jobs have all evaporated. Big companies have downsized and reduced employees to a bare minimum.
Wiser advice today would be to work out what your gifts and skills are, develop them, and then see who is willing to pay you to do those things. And it may be several people or jobs rather than just one these days.
One danger with success is that it feels so good we don’t want that season to change. But it will, so get ready.
Kodak dominated the photographic world for over one hundred years. It had a 90% market share of photographic film sales in America. Almost everyone used the brand.
What followed was a colossal story of failure and missed opportunities. Kodak was a gigantic casualty in the wake of digital photography – a technology that Kodak invented!
Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the first digital camera in 1975. But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘That’s cute, but don’t tell anyone about it.’
As a result the company entered into decades of decline, unable to perceive and respond to the advancing digital revolution.
In 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy.
Simple steps to avoiding your Kodak moment:
Understand your passion
Kodak’s leaders thought they were in the film business – instead of the image business. They misunderstood the essence of who they were. When you boil it right down, what is your passion in life? Write it down. Stick it on your fridge.
Kodak thought their success was fixed. Life and technology are changing all the time. They made a lot of money from selling film so it was hard for them to think of a world where no one used film.
How is your world changing? What trends are happening in society? True, we don’t always want to be following the crowd but, if a sea-change is going on that affects you, shouldn’t you try and understand it?
Don’t be paralysed by fear
Kodak was so afraid of losing their lucrative film sales they buried their head in the sand. Don’t cling to the past when the past way of doing things is already passing away. Find someone who knows about the new way and learn from them.
Take some risks and experiment
In 1994, in my spare time, I set up a charity to develop my work in Africa and the UK. I wanted to see lives transformed and people rescued from poverty. Four years later, in 1998, my job contract came to an end. I was about to lose my home, which went with the job, and my monthly income.
I decided to try and go full time with the charity I had founded. I’m glad I experimented and set up the charity four years previously. I didn’t have to start from scratch. Although it was a big risk and a scary time, it worked. We now employ three people and are not only still viable but also still growing, these seventeen years later.
As we start 2015, is it time to do an audit of where you are going in life?
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Well limbo is coming to an end – those few days between Christmas and New Year. As Ian McMillan put it:
‘At the tail end of December, the days huddle together for warmth.’
– Ian McMillan
I don’t know how you feel about 2014 but I have mixed feelings about it.
Several friends were diagnosed with life threatening cancer in 2014. So there has been lots of prayers and visits to different parts of the country. So far so good.
This in turn made me get myself checked out. I’m not very good at going to the doctor – I average one visit every decade. But this time my visit turned into blood tests, scans and having a camera shoved up my rear end!
Fortunately, it turned out I only have a slight problem with my prostate but nothing serious. Old age apparently.
But remembering that gratitude increases happiness, what am I thankful for in 2014?
At the beginning of May I finally gave up alcohol. And in September I gave up caffeine. These were two things I’d been trying to do for years, so well done me! (Pats self on back).
(By the way – if you want to quit alcohol all together but you are finding it hard or impossible, I can recommend Jason Vale’s book Kick the Drink Easily! Lots of people think they could just stop if they wanted to, but find it’s a lot harder than they think!)
In November I began keeping a food diary again, which is the only way I’ve found to lose a bit of weight.
I took more exercise this year specially cycling to work more.
All that has given me an increased feeling of health and wellbeing, so I plan to stick with all of those things.
These are things I sometimes have as New Year resolutions and then fail to achieve.
Resolutions never work unless we are prepared for a change of lifestyle.
Dieting for a coupe of months achieves nothing, if we just go back to unhealthy eating at the end of it.
As ever, I am very grateful for a loving family and the friends I have, and all the great supporters for the work we do in Africa and the UK.
I want to continue to take more simple steps to improve my life every month, so that the accumulated effect of these simple steps becomes transformational.
I’ll be putting together a FREE e-book and also publishing a more substantial book on Simple Steps to Improve Your Life in 2015.
If you want the link to the FREE e-book, it will only be available to members of my email list. They also get a FREE extra thought on life improvement each month. One email a month. No SPAM. I NEVER pass on your info to anyone else. Period.
One click unsubscribe option in every email.
You can sign up for FREE here.
Happy New Year! All the best for 2015!
There’s a big problem with email. It constantly distracts us from what we were doing. It wastes thousands of hours of productivity by interrupting our train of thought.
Many people allow email to act like an untrained puppy – yapping and jumping up any time it likes. It poops all over the place and leaves us to clear up the mess.
If you don’t take control of your email, your email will take control of you.
I know there are some jobs out there where people are employed to reply to emails as quickly as possible, perhaps they are the exception. But even so this simple step will help most people take control of unruly email.
Here are a few simple steps I use for email:
1. Switch off automatic email delivery
Some email programs are set to check for email every five minutes! That means every five minutes you could be interrupted by emails that could easily wait.
Our paper mail comes in one bundle every morning around the same time. It gives one interruption. If we are not in it sits and waits on the mat. We open it when it’s convenient.
Now imagine that the mailman brought each letter separately and knocked on the door ten times a day. I would find that really irritating. But that is exactly what most people’s email does!
So here’s the thing. I have switched my email to manual delivery. That means the app only checks for email when I ask it to.
And I only ask it to check for mail once or twice a day – normally first thing in the morning and late afternoon.
It is hard to think of any email being so important that it can’t wait half a day to be read.
That’s my personal email. My office email only gets checked once a day on the three days I am in the office, and normally around 10:30am.
2. Set up an auto-responder if you have to
Set an auto response that says something like, ‘Thanks for your email. To increase productivity email is only read early morning and late afternoon. If your message is extremely urgent and really can’t wait a few hours to be read, please text my cell phone 000-0000-0000.’
Most people won’t text you because 99.99999% of all email is never that urgent.
So instead of your email beeping and putting little read badges on its app icon, distracting you from what you are really working on, just check it once or twice a day.
If you had a puppy that was being disruptive you would quickly train it and put some real boundaries on it. Soon the dog would know to only poop outside, not to jump up all the time, and to stay on its bed when told to. It would know there was a set time for walks.
It is time to put a leash on your email and give it a strict routine so that you are in control, rather than it controlling you.
What about you? How do you control your email?
Do you ever feel guilty just by being you? Do others express impatience with you when you are just trying to be you?
Let me explain. I’ve loved writing since I was fourteen years old and my Dad brought home an old fashioned black typewriter. I loved the clackety-clack sound of the keys as I typed. I loved the black and red inked ribbon. I wrote bad poetry and poorly written stories. But I wrote because I like to write.
When I grew up I had to go out to work. I had to do things that earned money to pay the bills. I worked in a factory, in a shop, in a community center, in a church and finally I started a charity to help some of the poorest people in the world. All those things earned me just enough money to keep my head above water. But no one paid me to write. I had to fit my writing in around other things. I wrote some booklets and finally published my first book.
All my life, other things have pushed my writing onto the sidelines. Sometimes I was busy trying to save the whole of Africa but really was just building an orphanage or a school or starting a feeding program for street kids. All those things take time and, once you start them, you have to see them through.
From time to time we all have to face the difficulties life throws at us – relationships, the end of an era, moving house, losing a job, trying to start something from scratch and so on.
It must have been during one of those times when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and a little low. Walking and chatting with a friend of mine, the situation looked impossible. Then he said something that changed my life.
‘Keep being you and keep doing what you love.’
I found that a very profound statement because the more I thought about it the more it made sense. When we are just being ourselves and doing what we love, it brings energy to our whole being. A photographer spending a day taking photos will find energy and joy in what they are doing. A painter likewise will come alive if they can spend a few days painting.
My best days are days like today, when I have marked a day in my diary to just be alone and write. It refreshes me. I used to have to take a day off to do this. But now I manage my own time, it’s not a day off, it’s a day ‘on’. It has taken me years to reach this point.
I’m not sure I have ever made any money from writing but writing leads to other things. Money is not the whole point. If we only focus on money, it will crush our creativity. But if we keep being who we are and keep doing what we love, we’ll get better at it and one day, maybe, we’ll become someone who makes money from what we do. But either way, we will be more alive, happier in ourselves, and more at peace with the world.
Having written a dozen or more books and having a few more in the pipeline, I am happy in my little writing corner. Some people ask ‘How are you able to write a whole book?’ Simple tip: write one page a day – between 500 and 1,000 words. Do that for 30 or 40 days and you have a book. (More writing tips on my other blog How to Publish Your Book.)
So who are you? What do you like to do?
Let me say to you what my friend said to me:
‘Keep being you. Keep doing what you love.’
At the start of 2014 I wanted to confront four addictions in my life.
Why these four things? I observed that many, if not most, of us in the UK live as though these are daily essentials. They are also four things where the negative effects outweigh the perceived benefits.
Maybe you think that ‘addiction’ is too strong a word for our relationship to these things, and maybe it is. But the vast majority of people seem to struggle to get through the day without all four.
We are surrounded by plastic. It is a useful material and is used to great benefit in many areas of life. I’ve not got a problem with that.
However, we are generating millions of tons of waste from single use plastic items like water bottles and milk containers and carrier bags and… And most of it ends up in the ocean.
There is so much plastic waste in the ocean that destroys life. Fish are eating it and when we eat the fish we are eating our own plastic waste.
That’s why I’m trying Plastic Free Tuesdays. It’s quite hard and requires a lifestyle change. We consume a lot of sparkling water, which previously came in single-use plastic bottles. So we switched to making our own sparkling water with a Soda Stream gizmo – one small example of how we have reduced our plastic waste. We are still working on this addiction.
Like most people, I really thought I needed that hit of caffeine first thing to crank up my body to face the day. But caffeine is a strong addictive drug. It is the fact that we are addicted to it that makes us think we ‘have to have it.’
Caffeine is in coffee but it’s also in tea – lots of teas not just ‘normal’ tea. It’s also in cola drinks and most energy drinks.
It might come as a surprise that caffeine is not just an addictive drug, it’s also a model drug of dependence
Caffeine is produced by more than seventy-five plants, which use it as a pesticide. That’s right – a pesticide! When we consume caffeine, our body thinks that some kind of emergency is happening. It floods itself with dopamine, epinephrine, cortisol, and acetylcholine. That’s what gives us that feeling of stimulation and being wide-awake and alert.
It takes about 24 – 36 hours to come off this drug so, if you are a daily consumer, prepare for a serious pounding headache for a whole day. Once you are off the drug, you’ll feel calmer, happier and less irritable. I quit thirty-six days ago and I’m not planning to go back. I no longer wake up with caffeine cravings and I can even have a cup of decaf right before bedtime and it doesn’t keep me awake.
I know I’ll have very few takers on this one! But… the whole nation has been brainwashed about this drug. A few facts:
- Each year more than £800 million is spent on advertising alcoholic drinks in the UK, with the global estimate approximating $1 trillion.
- In 2013 the UK government made £10.5 billion in tax on alcohol.
- Average alcohol consumption has gradually fallen in many OECD countries between 1980 and 2009 with an average overall decrease of 9%. The United Kingdom however, has seen an increase of over 9% in these three decades.
For me, the thing was that alcohol is a big fat liar!
It’s a lie that it helps us relax – if alcohol caused us to relax then, when two drunks get into a fight on a Friday night, we would give them some more alcohol to calm them down… We associate it with relaxation because we often consume it in relaxing situations, and in moments when we are in relaxation mode.
It’s a lie that it ‘takes the edge off.’ If there is an edge, it was probably caused by the effects of alcohol the previous day. A healthier diet can produce a steady feeling of calm.
As I said, I’m not expecting a queue to sign up to this one(!), but having eliminated it from my life 198 days ago, I have to say that life is better. So many are cranking themselves up with caffeine in the morning and then calming the feelings of irritablilty that causes in the evening, by using alcohol numb their feelings. This pendulous swing in our metabolism places stress on the heart and other organs.
If, like some people I know, you have a small glass of something once a year if you remember to, then it isn’t an issue you need to think about.
Here is the one I thought would be easiest and has proved to be the most addictive and difficult drug to kick. Our body needs some sugar and we can get the healthy version of this from things like fruit and honey. It’s the refined sugar that we get addicted to, and some have suggested it’s as dangerous as heroine.
Now the point of this blog is to suggest simple steps to improve your life. Tackling these three big beasties all in one year is a huge challenge. Also it may be possible to restrict or reduce them rather than giving up all together. So maybe pick the one that you think will be the easiest for you and see if you can go a week, a month, or a whole year without it.
I’ll let you know when I manage to kick the sugar (and the plastic!).
How many of these would you struggle to let go of?
Some days are a bit poo. Nothing really works, someone yells at us, someone else doesn’t bother to turn up to an appointment you made.
Some days are devastating. A relationship breaks down, you lose your job or your house.
So here are two steps to improve your life:
If today is just a bit poo, embrace it – the day not the poo! Some days are a bit like that and we all have them. Don’t waste too much emotional energy being frustrated by things. There’s a new day coming tomorrow and it probably won’t be as poo as this one was. In fact, it could be one of those days when everything goes right. So, do your best and know that tomorrow is a new day.
If today is devastating, that’s a different thing. Years ago I was chatting to a man whose wife had left him. The kids stayed with him but all he could see was that everything was finished. It was all over. The pain of his situation told him so. I didn’t know him that well so I wasn’t emotionally attached but I did empathise with his situation. It was awful.
But from where I sat, this was only a half-time defeat. He was young, good looking, motivated and a great Dad by the sound of things. He couldn’t see a way forward.
I said to him, ‘No one remembers the half-time score.’ He thought for a moment and hope seemed to flood his face. He repeated the saying.
‘That’s really powerful!’ he said.
That was years ago. He’s doing really well now. His marriage was over and that was devastating, but everything wasn’t over. He moved on to a better life after that day one step at a time.
I don’t know what you are facing right now, but no one will remember the half-time score in your life either. Until the final whistle blows, there is a new day to make a difference.
Make a few plans to improve your future. That’s a much better use of the limited emotional energy we get each day. Don’t waste that energy on frustrations and regrets.
The best is yet to come.
‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?’