Tag Archives: challenges

For better or worse

Every day brings uncountable numbers of choices and opportunities, many of which we don’t even notice. It’s so easy to do things out of habit without considering the implications. I tend to wander round urban spaces in a slightly oblivious trance, especially days when I’m in a lot of pain. I don’t pay as much attention to other people as I might. That might come over as me being rude, proud, aloof or uncaring. Even without particularly doing something, I may have done something that has significant impact on another person. While its offputtingly easy to get bogged down in all of this, making a mire of inactivity out of fearing the consequences, I still think it’s worth stepping back and having a ponder now and then.

I’m actually a big believer in habits, when properly arranged. It is easier to maintain that which has become normal to us. The trick is to pick and craft the habits rather than absorbing them from external influences and pressures, or cobbling them together by accident. I try to make a habit of smiling at strangers, to break the ‘far away’ habit described above. Recently I’ve also been trying to get the boy into the habit of noticing what’s around him – with massive success, I might add. It’s nigh on impossible to take care of your things and space if you don’t first notice when it needs some attention. A habit of paying attention feeds a habit of taking care. Equally, a habit of ignoring anything that is wrong feeds a habit of inaction.

For me, paying attention is part of what it means to be a Druid. Sloughing off the conventions of apathy, disinterest and oblivion in favour of knowing and noticing; even when it isn’t comfortable to do so. Those throwaway remarks, those unconsidered actions can roll on to have unforeseen impact. I’d rather know what I’m doing, although I find I never can truly live up to that.

There are daily opportunities to put other people down, pick holes, criticise and complain. Sometimes that’s really important. Right now you might want to complain on twitter about proposed gagging laws and tweet #gagginglaw and #ldconf to encourage the Liberal Democrats to properly debate the issue at their conference. You might want to complain about the sheer insanity of the badger cull, which isn’t going to help farmers in the slightest. You could complain about fracking, about war, or any social justice or environmental issue that grabs you today. Those things are so worth challenging over. Complain to the people in power. Do it directly. Make a difference.

So often though, where we pour our energy isn’t into the big issues of the day. It’s not world peace, or saving species… its small, nitpicky grumbles with the people around this. You did this… I did not say that… you’re so unreasonable, I’m so put upon… we let the small problems seem like really big ones. Perhaps in part because we don’t want to think about the big problems. Let’s face it, most of them are terrifying. I’d rather not think about that. Or, more precisely, I’d rather not *need* to think about them. Fracking and gagging laws won’t go away just because I’d really rather they weren’t out there waiting to happen.
Every day there are chances for small acts of warmth, kindness and encouragement. Every day brings opportunities to praise and encourage, to share inspiration, to reach out in good ways to those around us. Equally, every day is full of reasons to get cross, feel put upon and lash out. I’ve been tired of the lashing out business for a long time. Let’s do less of that thing, especially on the internet where trolling and bashing are rife. Let’s not pour energy into hurting each other. Let’s try and support each other so that we can turn our energy to the big issues, the big fights.

Between us, we have an amazing amount of power. I don’t care who left the toilet seat up. I don’t care that it is up. Let’s be splendid. Let’s be proud of each other, supportive of each other, and from that, able to really challenge what’s going on out there. And to those of you who are innately splendid and weave your lives out of compassion and careful attention, please know that you are hugely appreciated and a source of much inspiration to people who encounter you. I’ve been blessed with a few such folk in my life, and you represent a standard I would very much like to live up to.

Finding Strength

So there I was yesterday, cycling into the wind, the hail in my face making it very hard to see where I was going. My waterproof coat wasn’t equal to the amount of time I’d spent in the downpour, I’m not convinced most coats would have been. Life throws physical challenges my way on a regular basis. Living in a rural area most of the time means nothing is conveniently to hand, many things require significant journeys. I’ve learned how to jump safely from a moving boat to the bank, how to tie decent knots, and lots of other things. These kinds of challenges are good for me. I’m stretched by them, I grow because of them.


I’m conscious that without challenges, it would be easy to stagnate. There are days when I think it might be nice to seek out my own challenges for a change, and maybe have a few days off from the process of being stretched though. When times are hard I try very hard to convince myself that this is another opportunity to grow, and to do better.


I’m a firm believer in having a positive attitude. I know how to make the best of things. At the same time I’m aware that this is a double edged blade. Knowing how to make the best of things can mean accepting a diet of crumbs while those around you feast. Embracing the challenges can mean not tackling the unfairness underpinning them. A stoical mindset can get you through hard times, but it can also encourage us to tolerate the intolerable.


Which leads to interesting questions about how to decide which is which. Some of those challenges are good, they make me stronger and more capable. Some of them are a bit much, and historically, there have been challenges in my life that I look back at and consider hideously unfair. There are times when a challenge is the consequence of someone else taking the piss. I know that I’m not good at telling when to tough it out, and when to challenge the source of the latest trial. No point arguing with the weather, but when the sources are human, there is scope to question what’s happening.


Fairness matters to me, and I recognise that fair to me needs to be part of that. Compassion to others can require a stepping up, a shouldering of burdens. Trying to act fairly in an unfair world, to deal honourably with people who have no honour, is an ongoing challenge for me. How much compassion should I show? How many challenges should I take on with calm equanimity, and when is it time to say ‘enough’? My best yardstick is whether my own behaviour remains honourable. That’s not an easy one to apply either, but more manageable than anything else I can think of.


Meeting the challenge of a wintery day is all about my own courage, strength and determination. Meeting the challenge of a selfish and unco-operative fellow human being requires similar things of me, but is a very different experience. I’m determined not to have anyone else’s lack of integrity provoke me into responding in kind. More subtle and harder to guard against are those things I am engineered into doing to myself, and when the act of challenging is not about the normal trials of being human, but instead about someone else trying to exert power or manipulate me. Of all the challenges I’m up against, the hardest by far is working out how and when to say ‘you are taking the piss’ and what on earth to do after that point.


Give me a hailstorm any day.