Finding the Positive in Change

It was a back-to-school picnic and I was sharing a Tartan blanket with another mum. As we munched on the carrot sticks and houmous someone commented, “It’s almost like a New Year”. She was referring to the summer holidays drawing to a close and I could see what she meant; with the school holidays over and students preparing to journey back to their universities, this time of year heralds a significant change for some of us. For me, it is an unmarked ending, a full stop or at the very least; a punctuation mark in the year. However, unlike New Year there is no media fan-fare to acknowledge the shift, it just happens and the parents and children push on and hopefully adjust to the new schedule without further ado.

school kids

Sometimes, if one of our children is going to college or leaving home, it can be a more far reaching change with the loss of their daily presence in our lives. This time last year I found myself writing about the phenomena of the ‘Empty Nest’, it proved a popular subject.

For the school children, the new school year involves transitioning back into their role as pupil, reintegrating into friendship groups and getting down to some work (we hope). For me, I notice the house is quiet, devoid of laughter and squabbles and the distant chatter over social media. It’s a relief, juxtaposed with a little sadness, does that make sense? I’ve enjoyed not having to rush every morning, the general slowing of pace and the joy of having a family holiday together. I won’t however miss imponderables such as:

How much Nutella is okay for one teenager? Should I be more curious about the nutritious content of the consumables stashed under my eldest’s bed?

Can I get away with yet another twist on an old pasta dish without incurring a chorus of eyes rolled heavenwards?

Is it worth a confrontation to get each child to take their turn at loading and unloading the dishwasher or doing a little ironing? Sometimes they just do it, I could wait and see if it happens …

Do other parents punctuate their day taxi-ing teenagers around to limitless destinations for no particular reason other than to hang out with their mates? How much walking to the station or the town is too much walking?

Why is it that on the days I’m not working I don’t sleep in – something I’ve fantasized about before the holiday.

All these small dilemmas can now be put to one side and be replaced by something we all recognise (and let’s be honest most of us really like) our routine!

Responding to Change

We don’t have any choice about change, it’s a certainty of life and we’d be bored if nothing ever happened to stimulate us. However, many of us naturally favour a routine which allows us to feel secure and navigate life more easily – hence my relief at returning to it. What I notice, which is really positive, is the shaking down effect that the transition brings. It is subtle, but in stepping out of the routine for a while I seem able to tune-in to some changes I could make as I transition back into it? I’m taking a fresh view of my week and what I do, even though I didn’t stop working in the holidays, I can see that too with a fresh eye.

I have a little more time now, as my youngest is joining her siblings at senior school I won’t need to arrive at the gates at 3:30 pm every day. For thirteen years, whatever the weather, whichever continent we were living on and whatever else is happening, I’ve battled to find a parking space (in recent years one where I won’t risk a parking ticket) and the change hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Wow! Writing it down has helped and I feel a real opportunity opening up in my weekday routine. Flexibility, hmm, I love that word.

I’m not quite sure what I’ll do yet, but its good to just let the change settle over me. I’m also aware that I’m still acknowledging my children are growing up and they won’t need me so much. I notice I’m not required to get out of the car at the morning drop off, “Don’t do it Mum, its social suicide”. No more goodbye kisses for me then …

Change vs. routine, part of the ebb and flow of life that keeps us energised and encourages us to grow and change as individuals, as a nation even … Here in the UK we have been undergoing a process of referendum to allow people living in Scotland to decide if they still want to be part of the UK. It has imposed an opportunity for all of us in the UK to think about what devolution might mean for us individually and collectively; the impact on our culture and identity, not to mention the financial implications, many of which are uncertain.

Whether it is a matter of State or personal impact, what feels important, is to face your feelings and find the positives in any change. Ultimately to find our own place of acceptance is to navigate our way through.


January Jitters

I don’t know about you, but giving up chocolate or alcohol for the New Year never appeals, particularly as January is a month of family birthdays for me; excuses excuses I hear you say … well there is always February.

Have you been thinking about what’s in the offing for 2014? Briefly reflecting on my life and what could be evolving within it, I seem to be struggling this year to capture images for what lies ahead; there are mists swirling at my mind’s edges and I can’t quite capture them. Or perhaps I don’t want to.

I’ve a hunch my resistance could be connected to my mother having Alzheimer’s disease. Sadly, it is a certainty that she will continue to lose her memory and my fear is she won’t recognise me by this time next year. I don’t want to have an image for that. Other changes are in the pipeline too and adjustments will need to be made.dawn

I’m finding it helpful to separate what is largely beyond my control and instead offer my energy to making sure I care for myself. I’m thinking of mind, body and soul, in short, resilience for the challenges that lie in wait.

The first challenge of 2014 came on the second day with an operation to my nose. It was preceded by the most sober of New Year celebrations, ever! I am beginning to recover, from the operation that is, and am reminded how even a short procedure involves facing the fear of going under; waiting for the injection of anesthesia, whilst trying to make polite conversation (a diversionary tact by the nursing staff no doubt) not wanting to feel the liquid coursing through the back of my hand and up my wrist, but also wanting to be back in my bed and alive as soon as possible. Then, a painful and grim post op twenty four hour period and thereafter the best you can hope for is feeling exhausted and aching.

The good news is I was able to have an operation at all and I hope to be breathing through both pipes very soon, something I don’t have any memory of! I’m excited to find out how that will feel and keeping my fingers crossed that when the swelling goes down I will discover all has gone to plan …

Perhaps my focus should be to breathe in life this year as I’ve never done before! With that goal in mind, I have put together a selection of thoughts (below) to help me stay positive. My hope for us all is to find our best selves and focus on feeling happy and fulfilled.

A selection of positive thoughts and ideas to banish the January jitters:

1)      “Celebrate your life no matter where it takes you – no matter how difficult – and know that it is only a transition.” ~ Kryon

2)      What are you not happy with in your life?

Ask yourself what is stopping you from making the necessary changes.

Imagine a friend is telling you about the problem, what would you advise them to do?

3)      Enjoy yourself and strike a healthy balance.

An example of my own will be enjoying a couple of the melt in the mouth Hotel Chocolat chocolates my brother bought for Christmas, two at a time each day, as opposed to scoffing the whole box. I’ve included a photo just to demonstrate the magnitude of the task at hand.IMG_2024

4)      It’s feels like a cliché, but bears repetition; getting enough quality nutrition, exercise and sleep will make you more resilient in the face of life’s challenges.

Having said that, each year (or is it each month) I resolve to get into bed earlier. Still working on that one!

5)      ‘Set boundaries. Protect your precious time and energy.’ ~ Cheryl Richardson.

I would add that allocating regular free time to just be allows space to unwind and emotionally nourish ones self.

6)      ‘Reconsider commitments. You have the right to change your mind.’ ~ Cheryl Richardson.

Some people are over committed whilst others lack the drive to make a commitment, how is your balance?

7)      ‘We are all students and teachers. Ask yourself: “What did I come here to learn, and what did I come here to teach?” ~ Louise Hay.

Somewhat profound perhaps and yet I find it helpful to look for the higher purpose of what and who is happening in my life.

8)      “To reach out with love, to do your best and not be so concerned with results or outcomes – that’s the way to live.” ~ Brian L Weiss, MD

As someone who is task orientated, I find this thought both positive and freeing.

If you would like to comment or have any self care tips of your own, please go ahead and share them below.

N.B. The quotes that aren’t mine are taken from a selection in Everyday Positive Thinking,by Louise Hay, Hay House Inc.

On Twitter or want to join? Follow Cheryl Richardson @coachoncall, Louise Hay @LouiseHay and me @LauraJStephens

Links to reviews of An Inconvenient Posting

1) Read a review of An Inconvenient Posting (Laura J Stephens) which was published in written by Shelley Antscheri. Click here for review.

Shelley Antscheri writes a blog Disparate Huisvrouw, find her at is the leading provider of quality Dutch news in English for an international audience. Some 18,000 people read every day, either online or through a free subscription to its daily digital newsletter. was founded in 2006.

2) Read a review of An Inconvenient Posting (Laura J Stephens) published in the popular blog Adventures in Expat Land, by Linda Janssen. Click here to read review. Linda A. Janssen is the author of The Emotionally Resilient Expat