Kindness, like a second skin

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Today is Nelson Mandela day and when my boyfriend told me about what him and his team are doing today- handing out sandwiches and soup to people in Cape Town- I started thinking what can I do today? 

Something that may help change the world for the better, no matter how small. You never know how your actions are going to affect others, but even something as simple as a smile or a kind word can turn someone’s entire day around. So today I have decided to write from my heart, with the hope that maybe it will inspire just one person or make someone read this post and think “Me too!”

I want to talk about kindness. We can get so caught up in our own lives, obsessing over things that aren’t even really such a big deal, that we can forget to be kind to people, kind to ourselves. We get so wrapped up in our own problems, that we forget the bigger picture. We need to be more kind. Not just to people around us, but also to ourselves, to animals, to the planet we are so lucky to call home.

Start your day with a grateful heart, for being alive and healthy. Whisper something kind to yourself and really mean it. We could all do with being a bit kinder to ourselves. Be thankful that you have a warm bed to get up from, because so many others don’t. When you eat your breakfast and wash with clean water, say thanks. These are privileges that not everyone has access to, and we take them for granted. We do. And that’s not all we take for granted. When was the last time you listened fully to the person speaking to you, the person who has chosen to share their feelings with you? Most of the time we are so preoccupied with our own problems, with staring at our phones and mindlessly scrolling through photos of other people’s lives, we barely even acknowledge that there is someone right there in front of us asking to be listened to. Be kind. Put down your phone when you’re with people. Do you really need to be on Facebook when there are actual humans around you?

It’s scary the way we think we can multitask like this and it’s not on. I am absolutely guilty of this and recently I’ve just been leaving my phone in the other room when I have company. It’s refreshing and rare. Remember the days before phones when we actually had to talk to people in real life about real issues, instead of reading them online? When you are having dinner tonight, whether it’s with your husband or your mum or even if it’s just you, leave your phone in a different room. Be kind to the moment by being in the moment. Look your wife in the eyes and enjoy the sensations and flavours of whatever it is you are blessed enough to be eating. Laugh. Compliment whoever is sitting with you and if you’re sitting by yourself, well then, darn well compliment yourself.  And if possible, choose to be kind to yourself and to the planet by only eating wholesome, plant-based foods.

Being kind and grateful isn’t hard. It’s actually the most simple thing in the world, but sometimes we just forget this. A smile costs nothing. Helping someone in need, whether it be by offering them some positive words when they’re feeling down, or by listening to them and giving them your full attention, will do wonders. We can start small, and eventually, hopefully, kindness will be like a second skin again. Something we’re enveloped in, something that fits as snugly as a favourite outfit, something that feels as good as the first rainfall after a drought of many months. At one point in time, I’m pretty sure we must have all been kind all the time, but somewhere along the way we got side-tracked, lazy, selfish. Well, I’m choosing to keep that second skin of kindness wrapped tightly around me. It feels good.

Today I choose kindness, and from everyday here on out. I choose to celebrate all the kind people in the world, and in doing so, strive to be as kind as them. There is always something more we can do to make the world a better place, but starting with growing kindness in your heart and choosing to wear it proudly every day is a good start. Smile at everyone today, and smile at yourself. It might even freak people out a bit because do strangers even smile at one another in this day and age?

Smile. Who cares if you get wrinkles. The kinder you are, the more your face will be like a map, full of lines connecting you to all the people around you. No-one can resist a bit of kindness. So what are you waiting for? Go be kind. Start with yourself and watch as it spreads. I hear it’s pretty contagious…

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Image by Patrice Murciano

Peel back the Safety Blanket

I could choose to sit back and let these days pass my by, let these thoughts float away to the furthest corners of my brain where they’ll slip away, lost in amongst all the stories I never chose to share over the years, or I could pop this gigantic procrastination bubble that I seem to have found myself enclosed in and get on with doing all the things I’ve always wanted to do but not had time for.

Things like writing this blog, writing my novel, inhaling books, practicing yoga with my stiff but grateful body. But also de-hoarding EVERYTHING in my house, and by house I mean my mum and dad’s house. There’s something about a big life change that just requires you to clear away all your old junk, your old treasures, and get rid of it. I want my life to fit into a few boxes. I know that may seem crazy, but it feels so good. I love minimalism and I’ve embraced it with wide open arms these last few months. When I packed up my life in China (oh yeah, I left China after 7 years…more on that later), I donated everything except two suitcases of clothes and old journals and some other random bits and bobs that make me smile. I donated ALL MY BOOKS. Guys, that is huge. I love reading and books are basically my babies and I gave them all away. Then I got home to Scotland and gave all my books away here too…I think they totaled more than 200. When I was struggling to do this, my boyfriend reminded me that if I just leave them to get all dusty on my bookshelves, they’ll feel upset and unloved. Well, that was enough motivation for me to send them off to new, loving homes. I hope everyone who has my books are getting as much joy from them as I did.

It’s amazing how much stuff we hold on to. It also makes me so much more aware now when I feel I want to buy something new. Do I actually need this thing? Or do I just want it because I’m feeling low and a new dress will make me happy for a day or two? I want to consume less, own less. I only want to buy things that I need and that are good quality and preferably locally made or sourced. The book addiction, however, isn’t going anywhere, so I will just need to join the library in Cape Town.

That’s right. I have moved to Cape Town! Back to Cape Town. And yet it feels like a brand new adventure, I guess because that’s exactly what it is. I quit my full-time job as a voice actor in China, gave away all my books, said farewell to Asia and headed back to South Africa. Why on earth would I do that, right?! Just kidding. Hi Dane!

I did it because why not? Because sometimes even when you love your current life, there is still something more out there. Because being too comfortable isn’t a good thing. Because change is something we need to strive for more. We need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, peel back our safety blankets and take a leap into the unknown. Or known. But a new known. Life can sometimes whirl us back around to the beginning, back to where we started, but in doing so, give us a fresh perspective, a new set of eyes to view this place all over again. The circle of life. If you delve a little deeper, this is what it all comes back to. Around and around we go, learning lessons, coming back to the beginning a little wiser, a little more disheveled, but ready for more.

My life has brought me back to South Africa and I cannot complain one bit. It must be where I’m meant to be right now. I’m just going with the flow. The Universe, my heart, my gut, they were all pushing me in this direction and even though it took me a little while, I managed to slip out of China’s fierce but loving claws, for the time being, and skip ahead to the next chapter of my life. And it feels good. I was terrified at first. No-one telling me what time to wake up at, what time to clock in to work at, no job to go to actually, but slowly things are taking shape and I’m beginning to take control of my own life, my own time, and isn’t that just the most empowering and simultaneously nerve-wracking thing? My Chinese safety blanket has been removed and it’s all up to me now.

Where to from here? Well, hopefully more writing, more creativity, more control…of my time, my days, my every little moment. I feel positive that this can only be a good thing. Time is precious. How are you spending your time today?

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Photo by Anthony Pontillas