How do you want to start your new year, gratitude, or resolution?

I am certain your first intention for 2021 is to set some new year’s resolutions and to say, ‘Thank God 2020 is over!’ It certainly has been a year we won’t soon forget.

Ten months ago, the world slowed down, and plans got cancelled. In a matter of days, our lives were put on hold as we went through new challenging times. From being forced to stay home, on furlough or redundancy, to being affected by illness or loss of family members and friends, we have found ourselves many times at breaking points. All those challenges took a lot out of us and made us revise our priorities, forcing us to strike a balance in our lives.

While some people were terrified and emptied the supermarket shelves, I delved into different topics with good intention of avoiding the pandemonium. As it turned out, the pandemic not only helped me to turn my attention to those things I once loved but abandoned due to lack of time and self-doubt, but I also reconnected with the person who was hidden inside me for many years.

New Beginning

At the start of this new year, I have decided to reflect on the months gone by – the challenges I faced and what I have achieved. I have been counselling others for more than 10 years … those who struggle with addiction, depression, abusive relationships, lack of self-love and suicidal thoughts. But until last year, I never applied that advice to myself. I felt I had more to give to others, rather than focusing on myself. I think that is what we call being selfless.

Many times, I have been called ‘super woman’, but only a few people saw how fragile I was inside. I would not have overcome the onslaught of the pandemic, had I not leaned on my family, a few friends, and the selfless online teachers. The techniques I learned, whether it being mindfulness, writing, art, and design, helped strengthen my mental resilience. I overcame anxiety and avoided sinking into depression.

Practising daily meditation and connecting with newfound online friends, helped me to feel more grounded and combat stress. I learned to reassess my health and adopted a new eating regime – no more emotional eating. I designed a new diet following the same approach as Keto and made my own goat’s milk kefir which helped alleviate my IBS symptoms and gave me a healthier skin tone. The difference is astounding. I feel so much better – I am no longer bloated and have a spring in my step.

Onward and Upward

In 2021, I choose happiness and good health. I look for light and hope to rise above all challenges. I think about all the people, present and deceased, who have helped me through the challenging times. Those who have enabled me to keep going when I would otherwise have been at the mercy of negative thoughts. I feel grateful for all those who gave their time free of charge. They have gratified many of us with freebies and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

January is a perfect time for me to look ahead and reflect on what I want. Before, I would regularly binge-read fiction books or watch movie marathons to chill. Now, I have learned the ability to be still. By being quiet, I can easily attain that level of satisfaction. I start my day with 15-30 minutes of meditation – that could be prayer, deep-breathing, or just complete silence. There is no time to feel guilty in giving myself some self-love.

I have learned that there is no need to look back and regret. Change comes from accepting who I am and what I am grateful for. I focus on ‘what I want’ and not on ‘what I don’t want’. I choose to be happy. I can reach out to anyone I have not spoken to, for ages and let them know how much they mean to me.

As I share with you these beautiful words from Pope Francis, I wish you all a healthy and peaceful year.

“Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is, life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you. Let us all remember then that every changing colour of a leaf is beautiful, and every changing situation of life is meaningful, both need very clear vision. So, do not grumble or complain, let us instead remember that Pain is a sign that we are alive. Problems are a sign that we are strong, and Prayer is a sign we are not alone!! If we can acknowledge these truths and condition our hearts and minds, our lives will be more meaningful, different, and worthwhile!!”

Someday, I Will Be a Beautiful Butterfly

“Someday, I will be a beautiful butterfly, and then everything will be better.”

It is the 20th of November. It is a special day. As I watch my baby girl blow her candles, my heart soars with pride. My baby is no more. She has transitioned from a teenager into adulthood – like a caterpillar, she has metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

A caterpillar wraps itself in its silky cocoon, awaiting the long transformation from chrysalis to butterfly. Similarly, my baby has gone through several stages in life, maturing into a beautiful young adult. Long gone are the mood swings, hoodies, and awkward shyness. Long gone are the monologues and erratic behaviour.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou

There is no job more important than being a parent, and as your child grows, parenting gets even harder. I had no clue how she was going to turn out. Still, I lived in hope. As I watch her evolve from a gawky teen into a compassionate person, I am filled with joy mixed with a smattering of fear. For soon enough, she will discover she has wings and will want to fly further away.

I tell myself I will be okay. I hope. I have done a good job teaching her valuable life lessons so I should not let myself be consumed by sadness. She is expected to journey alone, to experience trials and challenges. Sure, she will want to create a new life for herself and undoubtedly, she will go through successes as well as setbacks. And when she falls, I will be there to catch her.

“And then God created the butterfly to remind us that change is a beautiful thing.”

Fortunately, the process of finding her feet will take a while. Like a recently hatched butterfly which tests its wings, she, too, will hesitantly learn to trust her own instinct. There will be time for her to blossom, responsibilities to handle. Not only will she find success but will also experience failures and heart aches. As I have learned with butterflies, the more you chase them, the more they evade you, but if you stand still, they will surreptitiously land on you.

As I watch her embarking on her new journey, I hope she does not collapse under the weight of adulthood. May she always remember that a storm today makes a brighter tomorrow. I wish I could take away her pain but in time she will learn nothing is achieved in vain. She will grow more empathetic and open-minded. And when she makes mistakes, I hope she learns from her experiences.

“Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness yet become something beautiful.”

So, what lesson can you learn from a butterfly? Life comes with all its challenges. A butterfly represents change – a spiritual rebirth. Let go of any darkness and fill your being with peace, love, and hope. You too will become aware of your consciousness and will wait impatiently for the right moment to fly.

When Life Gives you Lemons

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is a popular phrase used to encourage optimism and positivity. Lemons suggest sourness of life’s challenges and making lemonade out of lemons, is turning those difficult times into something positive and achievable.

Not many people will agree with that. When we become sour with life’s adversities we turn into a sourpuss. In the video game Portal 2 the character Cave Johnson, angry at the proverbial phrase quoted this:

“When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons, what the hell am I supposed to do with these?”

Yikes. So much angst, but I understand. When you are going up shit creek, it is difficult to be philosophical and positive. However, we can learn how positive people turn their lemons into something sweeter.

In 1915, writer Elbert Hubbard wrote an obituary post (The King of Jesters) about actor Marshall Wilder’s optimism and achievements despite his dwarfism.

“He was walking refutation of that dogmatic statement, Mens sana in corpore sano. His was a sound mind in an unsound body. He proved the eternal paradox of things. He cashed in his disabilities. He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand”

In those days, dwarfism was considered a disability and to be successful, was a great achievement. How time has changed. Nowadays we look up to those famous actors. Who hasn’t seen Game of Thrones?

In 1940, The Rotarian published a poem entitled The Optimist

“Life handed him a lemon,
As Life sometimes will do.
His friends looked on in pity,
Assuming he was through.
They came upon him later,
Reclining in the shade
In calm contentment, drinking
A glass of lemonade.”

It is true that life can be pathed with lemon trees. To be resilient against the adversities, we need to find the mental and physical resources that help us deal with those challenges. But how? Well, there are two options in life: abandon and live in misery or plough forward even if it kills you. We need to realise that we cannot overcome our troubles on our own. We need to reach out for help.

Or, you could do what I do: throw yourself on the floor, have a tantrum that a two-year old would be proud of, then get to the supermarket and pick some real unwaxed lemons and make something with them. I have three recipes that keep me going through rough time: lemon and ginger drink, for a morning boost, jam marmalade on my toast and lemon pickle when I feel under the weather.

Lemon juice in warm water is believed to melt belly fat and ginger has been used to treat a variety of cardiovascular conditions. Lemon juice increases our body’s metabolism and improves our immunity due to the presence of vitamin C in it. Without this antidote, I would be the size of a bus by now!

Lemon/Ginger Recipe:

Cut a 5 cm piece of ginger and 1 lemon in small pieces and add to 2 cups of water in a pan. Slowly bring to boil. Turn the heat off and let it steep for 10 to 15 mins. Strain the liquid and it is ready to drink hot or cold.

When I am in a pickle, I go for the spicy one:

Lemon Pickle Recipe:

Boil 5 lemons for 10 minutes until soft. Remove and cut in quarters. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon each of salt, chilli powder, cumin seeds and crushed black pepper. Mix well. In a saucepan shallow fry half teaspoon of mustard seed and add to the mixture. Pickle will be ready in 3 days.

Lemon Marmalade Recipe:

Take 10 lemons, remove the peel and cut into 4 cms strips. Cut the rest of the lemons into quarters discarding seeds. In a saucepan, combine everything with 4 cups of water and simmer until soft. Add four cups of sugar, increase heat and let boil for another hour until set.

So, what are you going to do with your lemons?