Take-A-Step Thursday #10 – Save Your Soul

Self-Talk

There are some situations you do not voluntarily wish to be in at 4:50 AM in the morning. Playing peacekeeper between your your mind and body is definitely one of them. These two troublemakers had a humongous fight today and dragged me into their quarrel. It was actually quite alarming, to be honest.

The battle went on something like this:

*Alarm rings at 4:45 AM. Goes on for another 5 minutes until I am woken up from the very depths of my being.*

Mind: It’s 10 minutes to 5 AM. Time to get up!

Body: But I’m exhausted! You haven’t been giving me proper rest and 3 hours of sleep every night is just not enough. C’mon, have a little heart!

Mind: But you’ve been doing so amazingly well for the past 11 days! Why would you want to give up at this point? You know you want to keep going and go for that morning walk!

Body: I won’t deny it, yes I do want to go for that walk. The exercise and the morning routine have been working out pretty well but really, this is pushing my limits. I simply cannot function on a mere 3 hours of sleep every night! Why don’t you just put me to bed earlier instead of sleeping at 1:30 AM or 2 AM every night?

Mind: But that’s because you are so tired that you take 3 hour long naps in the afternoon! It’s not my fault you cannot sleep at night then!

Body: No, it’s your fault really because if you hadn’t actually ignored how drowsy I used to feel at bedtime and chosen not to indulge in mindless entertainment by surfing the net on your phone, then we wouldn’t be in this horrible predicament right now. You’ve messed up my whole rhythm! Anyway, all I know is that tomorrow is Friday and if you give me proper rest today, then you can wake me up early for a morning jog. Very few people will be there and you’ll be able to workout peacefully. Deal?

Mind: No! Why should we keep for tomorrow what we can do today? C’mon, get up! You can do this!

Body: No, I absolutely refuse! Unless you want me to collapse with exhaustion later or do something equally dramatic?

*Mind throws in the towel violently*: Gah, I give up! You’re going to be sorry for this later though!

Body: Pfft, whatever. Just let me go back to sleep.

With my body emerging victorious, I went back to sleep dazed but also feeling a little guilty. Already my mind was playing tricks on me. By the time I actually got out of bed 5 hours later (yes, I indulged myself and woke up at 10 AM!), I was in a terrible mood. My mind was royally pissed off and laying it on thick with all the guilt. I was already ashamed and feeling like a failure even before I had a chance to come to my senses. What a start to the day!

When I finally rolled out of bed (it’s lucky I don’t work at the moment!), I was irritated at my willpower’s defeat this morning. I was irritated that I hadn’t accomplished any of the thousand things that I had been getting used to doing before 10 AM. I was irritated that I would have to tackle the household chores immediately on getting up without being able to enjoy the morning. I was irritated for being so late.

But wait a minute, I thought to myself. Why was my poor soul getting battered up in this epic battle of the mind vs body? Why was I being handed a free ticket to a guilt-trip which I hadn’t signed up for? Granted it was all due to my own follies but I didn’t need to be sent to the gallows for it, did I? Surely my body needed that much deserved rest today?

I didn’t feel like doing pretty much anything by then so I gave up the responsibility of making lunch to my dad and forfeit all other morning chores to do them later in the afternoon when I wouldn’t be napping for once. I indulged in some spring cleaning of my wardrobe – something that I had been meaning to do since a couple of weeks – and just enjoyed some “me time”. That certainly shut my mind up and assuaged my guilt to a great extent.

The point I am trying to make here is to stop being so hard on yourself. Guilt in any area of your life, especially in an area you are trying to improve, eats away the soul. The whole point of good health is to have your mind, body and soul working in perfect tandem to provide balance and harmony. Distract yourself. Give yourself a little leeway to be flexible and try again. A day’s failure in your life goals doesn’t mean you’re a failure forever.

This hasn’t been easy for me to be honest. I’ve constantly compared my lack of mental strength to others who seem to have it all together and sent myself on countless guilt-trips. But I think my favourite Buddhist saying says it all, “When the student is ready, the master appears.” I wasn’t ready to learn this important life lesson before, but I am slowly getting the hang of it now. My self-talk is becoming kinder and kinder to my soul. Of course, the most important lesson that I learned here is to stop getting distracted at bedtime and to make yourself go to bed early to be able to rise early in the long run. ๐Ÿ˜›

To err is human; to forgive, divine. Learn to forgive yourself.

How have you been inspired this week? Participate in Take-A-Step Thursday by following the steps mentioned in this post.

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
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Take-A-Step Thursday #9 – Je De Floop Flee

I may not be able to carry a musical note to save my life but I’m sure no one could have such a terrible ear for languages as Joey did in this F.R.I.E.N.D.S episode (which by the way cracks me up hard EACH time I watch it!)

I am going to be a walkingย clichรฉ right now and admit like millions of other French-language lovers how ‘sexy’ (as Rachel calls it) I find the language. Can’t help it. It certainly has a nice ring to it.

It has been far too many years than I can remember when I started taking an interest in French. The fact that I had amazing French-speaking colleagues from various parts of the world who would occasionally teach me a phrase or two at work just added fuel to the fire. But, as a certified procrastinator, I never did anything more about it. So far, this is the extent of my conversational French after which there are some very long pauses and awkward silences:

Bonjour, รงa va?
ร‡a va, bien. Merci. Et toi?
ร‡a va trรจs bien. Merci.

After living in the U.A.E all my life and studying Arabic for 8 years in school, I am ashamed to say I never picked it up. Even after all this time, I still cannot say, “Where’s the bathroom?” in Arabic. I can read and write the language, but I cannot understand or speak it. One of the reasons is because everyone here speaks English all the time due to the large number of expatriate population from all parts of the world. Hence, a huge majority have no idea of simple Arabic conversational phrases even though they’ve lived here for many years and studied it in school. Learning a language academically never seems to do the trick.

But this post is not about my failures as an Arabic speaker. This is about me on a quest to learn French, one of the most ‘romantic’ yet seemingly difficult languages. I’d started and stopped and re-started this mission so many times but always gave up after just one YouTube lesson or two because I didn’t have a proper plan or the right motivation.

Ever heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” In the past few days, I’ve read so many resources on the best ways to tackle learning a language and all of them said the same things: Set a specific goal, make mini-goals to tackle the language, speak from Day 1, don’t focus on grammar immediately and make mistakes!

Benny Lewis, the Irish Polyglot, even goes ahead and says in a TEDx talk about how he declared to everyone he knew that he was learning a language, because that motivated him to pick it up faster. I’m wired the same way so here’s a public declaration of my goal:

To be able to speak (and read) a conversational level of French in 6 months by November 20th 2015.

Bite-sized goals for the first month:

1. Learn 5 new French words daily with their gender and write them down on old-fashioned flashcards and post-it notes using this technique. This is to be able to recognise everyday surrounding things, places and people. I might even try Anki, a flashcard program which so many rave about.
2. Watch one conversational video daily for everyday phrases. A popular YouTube resource is Learn French with Alexa. Here are some particularly hilarious situational videos to learn French.
3. At least thrice a week, watch a French film or an English film that I have already watched – in French. Or watch a short TV series everyday to absorb the sounds of the language.
4. Start using Duolingo again from the top. The site has more explanations than the app.
5. Ask one of my French-speaking friends if she could help me by speaking to me only in French for about 15-20 minutes everyday.

I was very inspired by these other amazing polyglots – Sid Efromovich and Chris Lonsdale, as well as found some very cool language learning tips from these two YouTube channels – COOLifeDesign an ivymuse.

Here are some great blogs and websites for lots of valuable lessons, tips and resources for learning French as well as other languages:
1. Fluentu
2. Fluent in 3 Months
3. French Together
4. The Everyday Language Learner – This has a great free email course called The Ten Week Journey that will help you to start pursuing the language you want to speak.

Wow, it all seems like an impossible feat to me even as I write this post. But, I am more prepared now to start learning it actively instead of just wishing about it. I am also not delusional about French grammar. From what I’ve read, it can be quite daunting (and I’ve never been strong with grammar rules anyway!) But I’ll cross that bridge when it comes. For now, let’s get started! And as Joey would say, “Dude c’mon, French it uuuup!”

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Have you picked up a language recently? I would love to hear your tips and suggestions to help me on this quest. ๐Ÿ™‚

How have you been inspired this week? Participate in Take-A-Step Thursday by following the steps mentioned in this post.

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
You can also follow me on Facebook , Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and BlogLovin’

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Take-A-Step Thursday #8 – Get Back On The Horse

200 follows
Hello Everyone!

First of all, thank you so much dear fellow bloggers for reading my little blog! I recently hit the 200 followers mark and I am completely over the moon! Never imagined when I started blogging in January that I would hit this milestone. Really thank you from the bottom of my heart. It really motivates me to keep writing! ๐Ÿ˜€

It’s been too long since I’ve posted something in the Take-A-Step Thursday series. In my previous one, I mentioned that my mother had had a fracture and we were busy figuring out a new routine that included taking care of her and everything else. I’m very happy to say that she is recovering well although it will take her some more time to get back to normal which is to be expected. Meanwhile, we have a workable routine going on too.

I’ve been meaning to get back to blogging and everything else I had set out to do but honestly, I was at a loss for words. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about when I got back and I started procrastinating and becoming lazy. And that was making me feel guilty too. This defied my whole purpose of setting goals because procrastination, laziness and guilt were the biggest enemies I set out to defeat this year.

Anyway, I’ve jumped rightย  back on to the horse. I restarted my 2015 Reading Challenge (I was in a bit of a challenge slump – I would start a couple of books from the challenge and abandon them a few days later and would just opt for some comfort reading). Hence, I am a few weeks behind on the reading challenge but that’s okay. The point is to read a variety of books throughout the year and read them well. ๐Ÿ™‚

I have also somewhat rejoined the 5 AM Club. I say somewhat because it’s still a bit erratic. I have to mention though – the morning routine that I had established for myself earlier was working so well for me that when I abandoned it in April (I was just not feeling up to it) after my mom’s incident, it affected my health to a great extent. It’s amazing what a morning ritual can do for you in all areas of your life especially your health and I for one, can personally vouch for it. I finally decided I certainly didn’t want to let go of all the progress I was making and be another statistical number of the 92% who fail to achieve their new year resolutions. Although this Forbes article is specifically targeted at Americans, I think it can apply to mostly everyone. So this time around, I’ve made a daily goal worksheet where I can track my progress every day and have a better idea of what my problem areas are or what doesn’t work for me and where I need to plan ahead. So far, it’s only been a few days but I think it could work. I got the idea from this video.

Although the routine is still shaky, I feel like I am in charge of my own life again instead of letting my life control me. Getting disciplined and organized is my overall goal for this year and daily planning is becoming my new best friend. I hope I can tip myself into the 8% who do succeed in goal-setting. Here’s a little motivational quote I read somewhere on LifeHack which makes complete sense to me right now:

It’s never too late to start over. If you weren’t happy with yesterday, try something different today. Don’t stay stuck. Do better.

Get back on the horse
Meanwhile, I would love to hear some planning and scheduling tips from you guys! What works for you and any advice you can give me to help plan my day, week, month and year better? I would love to hear from you! ๐Ÿ™‚

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
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Take-A-Step Thursday #7 – Everything’s Gonna Be All Right

The past 10 days have been pretty rough for my family. Last week on March 31st, a day before my scheduled Take 5 post went live, my 65-year old mother fell and fractured her right thigh, more specifically the femur bone which ironically is the strongest bone in the body. For a delicate creature with many years of orthopedic problems due to osteoporosis, this was no small deal.

I cannot begin to tell you how much it shook all of us up. Seeing our delicate mamma in intense pain just broke our hearts and reduced my older sister and I to masses of constant tears. We just couldn’t bear to see our doe-like mum in that situation. My 72-year young dad, like the rock that he is in any situation, tried to keep us calm by constantly stating that everything would be all right. Mum had an operation last Thursday, started physiotherapy and hobbling around slowly with a walker on Saturday. We have been back from the hospital since Monday evening and our old comfortable routine has of course metamorphosed into something wildly different.

Before the fall, my mother was an active housewife who kept our home together. She would hardly take a sick leave from her daily duties despite her back and leg problems and even if she did take a sick day off on account of a fever, she would bounce back the very next day. You can imagine the pain we feel seeing our mobile mum suddenly confined to a bed with occasional bits of hobbling here and there. I can’t even begin to imagine what she must be feeling like inside having to become so reliant on us to help her complete even the simplest of tasks.

I have never admitted it to anyone except a couple of close friends, but I was born anxious. I can even trace this condition back to my early childhood years. A highly stressed person, I would panic in any situation that was beyond my control and felt unsafe and insecure outside my comfort zone. Things have gotten way better in the past few years since I learned to deal with the unexpected but when this incident happened with my mum, I was back to feeling a ball of wreck inside. I was going through the motions physically of being there for my mom and my family, but my mind was constantly thinking of the worst case scenarios that an elderly person can go through in this case and pessimistic Google wasn’t helping one bit.

Everything seemed like a bad dream. I wasn’t able to face the music and putting it into actual words just made it all so real and irreversible. Which is why I didn’t blog about it before. I even wrote a draft post a day before the surgery, hoping to seek blessings and good wishes from my lovely blogger peers for the full and speedy recovery of my darling mum but I just couldn’t go through with it and deleted it right away.

However, despite the terrible ordeal, I am now choosing to focus on being grateful for so many things. That both my parents are alive and well. That my mum’s surgery was a huge success. That she is in the pink of health otherwise. That she is learning how to walk again. That I am somewhat able to focus on the important tasks at hand of taking control of the household without giving away to total despair and crying like a lunatic. That I have my entire family, friends, this blog and you all to keep me sane.

I would like to thank Sherina of SherinaSpeaks for having participated in Take-A-Step Thursday last week and to the lovely inspiring bloggers of Take 5 who replied back last week. I would also like to thank Ashley of Dear World for nominating me for the Creative Blogger Award which is truly an honor, to Emily of The Diary of a Bibliophile and SlySpeaks for giving me a shout out on their lovely blogs. I am truly sorry for not having replied to your comments earlier on my previous post but please know that I have been reading and appreciating each one of them with all of my heart. Reading your blogs while staying at the hospital with my mum was really instrumental in keeping me together.

Anything that is not related to my mum is making me super guilty. And by that, I mean maintaining this blog has probably taken a backseat. While I will of course continue to read your blogs and not completely remove myself from the blogosphere, I don’t know if I can focus on this blog at the moment or even think about accomplishing any of my challenges, goals or projects but I know that writing is the one thing that will keep me going in the long run and I promise to try to be present here as much as possible.

Meanwhile, I am praying to God every single day for my mum’s speedy recovery and I know that He is listening for sure.

Thank you for reading and God Bless you all!

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
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Take-A-Step Thursday #6 – The 5AM Club

Robin Sharma's 5 AM Club Rules
For as long as I can remember, my dad has always given me this piece of advice, “Get up early! You’ll be a healthier and more active person because of it.” Of course, having considered myself the reincarnation of a lazy feline, this was a concept way beyond my comprehension. I only realized the truth of his wisdom in the past few years when I suffered with a lot of chronic health issues and had to follow a strict diet and lifestyle routine in a naturopathy centre. One of the rules included getting up at 5AM and doing yoga, meditation and breathing exercises. This habit changed my life while I was there!

Although this was easily done in a different environment where everyone had to do it compulsorily, I just wasn’t able to keep it up at home. I set it as one of my DayZero Project goals to make sure I made a permanent lifestyle change (in fact 15% of my goals are lifestyle oriented). Finally in February, I decided to actively change my thinking in order to change my habits. Around the second week, I started getting up at 6AM almost everyday (I tried my best!) consistently for three weeks and followed a particular routine to start the day right. Unfortunately, I lapsed around the last couple of days of Feb and half of March and this was depressing me to no end! However, I made up my mind I would not let a temporary lapse ruin my resolve to improve my lifestyle so I went ahead and upped the game.

Since the 18th of March, I’ve finally gone ahead and joined the 5AM Club! This is a ‘club’ started by one of my favourite authors and leadership guru Robin Sharma who has always maintained that what you do in the first holy hour from 5AM – 6AM will set the tone for the entire day. Robin Sharma has also mentioned in the following video on getting up early that a study conducted by University College London says it takes an average person 66 days to hard wire a new habit into the system.

I’m not saying that this has been a piece of cake from Day 1. The first couple of weeks are always the hardest. My body clock has gone a bit haywire. I’m surprised I was even able to wake up at 6AM so easily last month and have the energy to do several things the rest of the day! I have had two days so far where I’ve woken up feeling extremely guilty for being late. On the good days when I have woken up at 5AM, I’ve fallen asleep out of exhaustion at around mid morning! But this is all due to the fact that I have been struggling a bit with trying to fall asleep early at night which I need to work on.

However, I am really excited that I am doing it. My morning routine is inspired by what Robin Sharma mentioned in this video and this is a rough sketch of what I do to jump start my day – After brushing my teeth and having a lot of water first thing, I switch on the TV and put on a few of my favourite motivational videos to get fired up while simultaneously skipping and stretching to get the blood flow going. This is followed by reading a few pages of an inspirational book and some journaling while sipping on warm lemon mint water. At 6:30AM, I have been going for a brisk walk every alternate day which lasts about an hour (I alternate this by going for a walk every other evening). On my way home, I stop by a grocery store and have my energy boosting natural electrolytes i.e. fresh coconut water to clear the system. Once home, I have breakfast after half an hour and then proceed with the rest of the day. It’s such a rewarding experience to have so many important things done all before 9AM! ๐Ÿ™‚

Since I know firsthand exactly what the benefits of a good morning ritual are, I am determined to follow this through. Which is why I have publicly made it known to all of you out there. I might even post an update about it every Friday because I’m very much motivated by a fellow blogger Laura who has successfully completed her ‘5AM Experiment’ and blogged all about it. Also, Instagram has been of a HUGE help where I found so many others who have been successfully doing the same for fitness reasons.

If you’re planning on joining me in the 5AM Club or even considering it, you might find the following video resources and this infographic really helpful:
1.ย 5 Things Successful People do before 8AM by Terri Savelle Foy
2. My 7 Step Morning Ritual by Drew Canole
3. Good Habits and Morning Rituals for Daily Success by Brian Tracy
4. How to Wake Up at 5AM Every Morning Excited about Your Life by Project Life Mastery
5. 7 Morning Routines for Business and Personal Success by Evan Carmichael

If you’re already a part of the 5AM Club or get up really early to spend sometime for yourself then I would absolutely love to know your personal morning ritual in the comments below! ๐Ÿ™‚

Finally, a BIG thank you to the recent participants of Take-A-Step Thursday – Ashley of The Bookish Obsession and Adam of Done The Impossible for sharing their inspiration and I would also like to give a HUGE shout out to everyone who has been sending positive feedback about this event! I am very grateful to read such lovely comments so thank you so very much from the bottom of my heart! ๐Ÿ˜€

Anything that has inspired you this week and caused you to take a step in the right direction? Participate in Take-A-Step Thursday by following the steps mentioned in this post.

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
You can also follow me on Facebookย ,ย Instagram,ย Twitter, Goodreads andย BlogLovin’

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Take-A-Step Thursday #5 – Shake it off

I’m in a slump. It’s like quicksand dragging me into slimy waters which I’m struggling to get out of.

All right, so here’s the story. February for me, was all about replacing my old lifestyle with a new improved one – getting up early to exercise, watching inspirational and tutorial videos, being creative and productive, reading and blogging more. I created Take-A-Step Thursday so I could focus on getting inspired to be better by learning from others. It was a great month action-wise too. I was feeling energetic and filled with purpose too because of all the steps I was taking.

March has been acting a bit difficult unfortunately. I am slipping back into my old habits and no matter how strong my resolve is, I am stuck in this weird funk. It’s even getting hard to read and blog more – two activities which I absolutely love and disciplined myself into doing. I’ve been trying not to beat myself up about it and to shake it off and focus on the end result or else, I’ll just end up feeling like a failure and find myself in the same place next year.

It happens. You’ll probably find yourself taking one step forward and two steps back all the time. Take it slow if you must, but don’t stop trying.

Taylor Swift sang it well:

But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop grooving
It’s like I got this music
In my mind
Saying, “It’s gonna be alright.”

Have you found yourself in a similar position? How did you ‘shake it off’? Let me know in the comments below. Also, take part in Take-A-Step Thursday, a weekly event created to look for things that inspire you to take-a-step in the right direction.

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
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Take-A-Step Thursday #4 – Take-A-Step Back!

First of all, I’m so pleased and thankful to everyone who has written back saying that they have found Take-A-Step Thursday an interesting idea and that they are quite eager to participate. I created this little weekly blogging event exactly a month ago and it is slowly but surely picking up and getting good feedback. Thank you so very much to the event’s participants who have been inspired in different ways – Stu of Snailzpace Daily for creating a group blog, Ashley of The Bookish Obsession for sharing an inspirational quote and Kez of The Little Novice for writing a letter dedicated to her childhood mentor.

Speaking of letters, I was a big letter-writer back in the day. In fact, it’s one of the things I miss the most before internet and mobile phones took over. I was introduced to this activity at a very young age by my father who would send letters regularly to our relatives and to my sister who was studying in India. In my childish handwriting, I would write silly jokes and riddles that I’d read somewhere and enthusiastically share the meagre happenings of my life as a seven or eight year old with my sister and cousins.

In my pre-teen years, the screeching and groaning dial-up internet connection had already made its way into our home but I was quite wary of using it as a way of making new friends through chat-rooms because you never knew who was on the other side.

I don’t remember when, how or where I heard about pen-paling but the whole concept of writing a letter to someone whom you’ve never met before in a different part of the world was very intriguing. Finding a legitimate way of acquiring a pen pal was not easy back then so my little world consisted of writing letters only to my family. I then roped in a school classmate to be my pen pal. The funny thing is, we would see each other in class everyday but would still get excited on receiving letters in our mailboxes that contained silly secrets and gossip about our other classmates and more commonly, boys.

In my mid-teens, I shifted to India for about a year and continued writing to my parents and sister (who were in Dubai), pouring my grievances and troubles onto paper and basically just being a complaining brat. I would also write letters to a bunch of faithful school best friends who had also relocated to different parts of India. Of course, I would also occasionally chat with friends and family on Yahoo and MSN Messenger in cyber cafรฉs (remember those good ol’ days?) but the real thrill was waiting for the postman to arrive and tearing open the envelope to read familiar handwriting that would put a huge grin on my face. ๐Ÿ˜€

And then along came broadband and shifted everyone’s attention to full time emailing and chatting. Mobile phones and messaging became cheaper. Social media, instant messaging and smart phones swept us off our feet. Letter writing was sadly, a forgotten thing of the past.

Those days contain some of my best childhood memories. I have saved each and every letter and birthday card that was sent to me with so much love and every now and then, I take them out and read words that still speak to me with so much character. Those were happy and simple times where you would only stay in touch with the people you genuinely liked and not have to worry about interpreting what people said or didn’t say online.

I was reminded of my unfulfilled dream of having a pen pal from another part of the world when I saw it as a goal on DayZero Project, and I did not hesitate for a second to put it on my 101 in 1001 list! Of course, I still had no idea how to find a real pen pal. I know there are many websites that cater exclusively to finding pen pals but I am very iffy about putting up my personal details online.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across Kate’s 101 in 1001 list and saw that she too had the same goal. I commented on her post, things took off from there, and we are now international pen pals!

I have to confess. I hadn’t written a letter in several years and had no clue how to begin! What would I write to a person who I’d never met before? How would I introduce myself? How would I address her? What stationery would I use? So many of these questions ran through my mind. I was so excited at the prospect of pen-paling that I didn’t want to mess it up. The words that so easily flowed from my thoughts onto paper as a young girl were now failing me. Eventually, I got over my momentary ‘paper fright’ and wrote my first introductory letter.

It’s funny how the things that seemed so normal before were now such a big deal! My handwriting was no longer tidy and my fingers were stiff because I hadn’t actually written anything so lengthy in a very long time. Words struggled to come out with confidence so I typed out a list of things on my computer before actually writing them on paper. Even the nondescript acts of going to the post office, weighing and sealing the envelope, buying postage stamps, sticking them on and lastly, opening the squeaky mouth of the red letter box and watching the envelope being engulfed into its big cast iron belly were all things that I had done so many times before and yet it felt like I was doing them for the very first time. But the whole process brought back so many lovely memories which I thoroughly loved revisiting.

Finally my little letter was now on its around-the-world journey across several seas and an ocean to make its way into Kate’s hands! I’m now looking forward to the day when I open my mail box and find an actual letter inside and not just a bill or a bank statement. Oh, for life’s simple pleasures! ๐Ÿ™‚

What has inspired you this week and caused you to take a step in the direction of your choice? Participate in Take-A-Step Thursday by following the steps mentioned in this post.

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
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Take-A-Step Thursday #3 – Being Blogging Buddies (and other news)

guest-blogging-guidelines-300x300

Image Source: InkwellEditorial.com

Guest posting was never an option when I started blogging. It was like a microscopic wave of a thought that hadn’t even entered my mind yet. I started blogging with the intention of writing more often and even that seemed like a far-fetched goal. Would I be disciplined enough to sustain it for long? Would I have enough ideas or topics to talk about? Would anyone even read my blog?

And then came along Blogging 201. The course helped me connect with so many new and creative bloggers who are as eager to learn as I am and who I wouldn’t have been able to find so easily otherwise. And that was how I e-met Sophie of Keep Going, a lovely blogger with a passion for books and creative writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sophie and I chatted on the prospect of guest blogging on each other’s blogs and brainstormed on a bookish topic which we’re working on right now. We’ve decided to start small and see where it takes us. It’s such a fun, exciting way to get to know your peers and share interesting ideas. Added bonus: Increasing your blogging portfolio. So, hopefully you’ll soon find my post on Sophie’s blog and her post on mine. I am also open to hosting more guest posts on my blog. So hello and welcome! ๐Ÿ™‚

In other news, my first Take-A-Step Thursday event on cleaning up your act has yielded a very, very interesting result. So as I mentioned in that post, I unsubscribed to a lot of unnecessary email newsletters and updates, one of them being a regional recruitment/employment website where I had last updated my job profile four years ago and don’t even remember the password to. I no longer receive any updates from that website but a very odd thing has happened which is actually working in my favour: I have been receiving phone calls from a couple of recruitment agencies with job offers since the past few days! I was a bit suspicious and wondered where they got my number and CV from since I hadn’t even applied anywhere. On being asked, they mentioned they saw an update on my profile on the very same day that I did my unsubscribing exercise! My guess is that it must have activated an update and pushed my poor old and neglected profile to the top but this is amazing! Who would have guessed? Granted, I have only received a couple of offers and they aren’t exactly what I am looking for but this is an unexpected twist of fate and I am eager to see what happens! Meanwhile, I am going to update my old profile as soon as possible.

Moral of the story: It’s true! Clearing out clutter really does make way for new things to come into your life (and unsubscribing can be a good thing!)

Anything that has inspired you this week and caused you to take a step in the right direction? Participate in Take-A-Step Thursday by following the steps mentioned in this post.

For guest blogging/posting, please email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com with the subject title โ€œGuest Posting/Blog Buddyโ€. I would love to hear your ideas.

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Take-A-Step Thursday #2 – Going Solo

TakeAStepThursday 2“One ticket for Kingsman: The Secret Service please.” I nervously but excitedly ask a bored-looking box office agent at the mall’s multiplex cinema on a Monday afternoon.

He nods and asks, “The show is at 12:30pm. You want a ticket for 4D or 2D?”

After comparing the prices of 4D and 2D, I opt for the latter. The agent asks me to choose my seat on the screen and I observe that only a handful of seats have been taken. This is to be expected since it’s almost lunch time on a work day. I choose a seat in the right hand corner of the last row at the back and part with my money. He hands me the ticket and I place it carefully in my wallet. Phew. He didn’t say anything.

I have some time to kill so I head to the shops. An hour passes away quickly and it’s almost time for the movie to start. As I climb up the few stairs to the cinemas and hand my ticket to the usher, I feel nervous again. He merely tears a portion of the ticket and hands the other back saying, “Kingsman. Cinema 3. Enjoy the movie ma’am.” I smile and say, “Thank you.” Phew. he didn’t comment either.

The movie theater is silent and the overhead orange lights are dim but enough to lead the way. I climb up the right aisle staircase and notice that a couple of solo movie patrons are already seated here and there. I head towards the back row, locate my seat and breathe a sigh of relief again. Phew. I’m not the only one.

As I settle down and fidget with my phone to silence it, I notice a few more people entering the theater. Some are on their own while some are in pairs. My heart speeds up as a pair of giggly ladies squeeze past me and settle down just a few seats away. I relax when I realize they are too engrossed in their tub of popcorn to notice anything. The lights go dark and the screen lights up with the first advertisement. I pray to God no one else has tickets to the back row. Suddenly, I stiffen up as two gentlemen, obviously playing hooky from work seat themselves right next to me and start talking. I begin to wonder what their line of work is. Probably something to do with outdoor sales so they can leave the office whenever they want? One of them receives a phone call and my earlier suspicion is confirmed when he says, “I am busy right now. Can I call you later?” Aha! So he is clearly avoiding work-related stuff today. He silences the phone and continues talking to his friend. The ads are still playing and I contemplate moving to the row below to avoid their chitter-chatter. God is on my side when the two men suddenly get up and move to the row below just as the movie is about to start. I thank my lucky stars and shift one seat closer to the aisle, distancing myself some more from the popcorn-crunching ladies and settle down to watch the movie in peace hugging my rucksack against me like a pillow. Phew, let’s get the fun started.

Maybe watching a movie alone isn’t such a weird thing after all.

“Go to a movie by myself.” I was starting to wonder if setting this DayZero goal was a hasty decision on my part or something that I would actually accomplish one day. I had never gone to the movies alone. Actually I had. I’d been alone to the movies a couple of times before, but that was during my several years working at a film festival where watching foreign films or a big film premiere after a work shift was how we would sometimes unwind, be it alone or in the company of another. I never considered it as a special ‘me time’ activity since I knew everybody at the festival and would run into one colleague or the other who was also there to enjoy a film.

But watching a movie alone in an actual theater? Now that was something outside my comfort zone. I knew a few people who did it all the time and I used to find it strange. Like the only reason they were going alone was because they had no friends or family who would go with them. I am sure that it’s not true but somehow I had that wrong impression in my mind.

Come Monday morning, a couple of days ago, I was Googling “solo activities to do” (no kidding) because I wanted to read about people’s experiences of doing something by themselves. I came across some great stuff like this blog. As I read more and more experiences, I began to feel confident and inspired. I immediately took out the daily tabloid and scanned the movie page. I got excited when I saw that Kingsman was playing because this was Colin Firth’s first proper action film and I wasn’t going to miss it for the world.

I acted on impulse and went to the mall a couple of hours later. It was now or never and I am so glad I didn’t let my mind talk me out of it. Yes, I was a bit intimidated and felt vulnerable. Yes, I was worried about what the box office agent and the usher were thinking. I was also worried about the giggly ladies and the chatty men but when I saw that there were so many people who had just come on their own, I realized it wasn’t such a big deal after all. I’ve done bigger, scarier things alone in my life and this was just going to the movies.

I thoroughly enjoyed a movie for once without talking to anyone and just being in the moment. It was great fun and I can see why more people are tempted to engage in solitary activities. I learned an important lesson too – not to wait around for someone to tag along with you wherever you want to go and then feel disappointed when they don’t want to. If you can’t find a friend, you be your own partner in crime.

What have you been inspired by to do this week? Write about it on your blog and tag it TakeAStepThursday and link back to the original post on my blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
You can also follow me on Facebookย ,ย Instagram,ย Twitter, Goodreads andย BlogLovin’

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Take-A-Step Thursday #1 – Clean up your act

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My very first Take-A-Step Thursday! Well, technically it’s my second because last week I was inspired to create the Take-A-Step Thursday event.

I’ve become pretty much OBSESSED with organizing. This might come naturally to many but I think I missed the day when God was handing out this important basic skill and for the most part of my life, a messy room, wardrobe and desk space was what I was famously known for.

Of course, I would occasionally spring clean but it usually wasn’t easy for me to let go. I always told myself that the big fat blue folder full of yellowed article clippings from 15 years ago was worth holding on to, that the pants from 5 years ago were still wearable and that I would read those travel brochures one day. Well, that day never came, things kept piling up and I was labelled a ‘hoarder’ and a ‘pack rat’ in my work and family circles.

Thankfully, that part of my life is behind me. I don’t know how or when it happened, but about a year or two ago, my mind just couldn’t take the overwhelming chaos anymore. I went through everything I owned, item by item and threw or recycled the things I didn’t need. Not being able to find anything useful and a serious lack of storage space were big motivators for me to throw out the old and bring in the new.

I can now say this truthfully. Seeing my old junk leave the house is the best feeling I’ve ever had. It makes room for so many good things in life, two of them being a better peace of mind and a sharper level of focus. Creativity does flow freely in a clean home and I am now able to be more inspired to take on different challenges, like for example giving more attention to this blog.

This week, I was inspired to detoxify my email clutter. This was also one of the items that I gleefully checked off on my DayZero Project list (I haven’t posted all my goals on the blog yet).

It’s amazing the amount of storage space we take up both physically and virtually! I went through the arduous task of clearing out my 7 email addresses two days ago. YES, SEVEN. I know, I’m very excessive.

Anyway, I took two straight days this week to delete all spam, Facebook and Twitter comments and messages, unsubscribe to countless subscriptions to newsletters and updates which I never read, uncheck email notification boxes in all my social networks which are checked by default and went through emails from 2005 (!!!) including folders and sent items and deleted everything before 2012. After deleting more than 10,000+ emails combined (!!!!) and moving the important ones to their respective folders, my fingers were sore and my mind numb.

But man, oh man, it was the BEST time investment ever. Reading some of those emails from all of those years ago was not fun but it was interesting to see how much I have changed since then. It feels incredibly good to let go of the past. I now have a squeaky clean inbox and the important stuff is neatly tucked away where it’s supposed to be. Such a relief!

My next big clean-up tasks include cleaning my Facebook messages from several years ago which is a bit of a pain because you have to individually delete each message. Also up is decluttering my laptop because randomly downloaded stuff and personal photographs have gotten a bit out of hand. I also plan to go through my external hard drive to see if I can maximise space.

Clearing out clutter is such a liberating experience. I learned some pretty valuable lessons along the way to my home detox journey, inspired by so many Youtubers and websites:

1. If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, start by making your bed. You’ll automatically feel so much better! If it’s already made, then great! You’ve accomplished a big task already. I don’t know where I heard or read this great tip but I’ve been following it pretty consistently for some months. Admiral William McRaven also instills the same disciplinary habit in his Navy SEAL students the moment they enroll :

Make your bed

2. I discovered Terri a couple of days ago and absolutely love her motivational videos. She also has some great videos on clutter clear outs where she suggests starting with the most important room in the house and then spending just 20 minutes each day cleaning the mess that is visible on the outside and then moving on to out-of-sight items gradually.

3. Alejandra, a home organizing guru, is my original inspiration from two years ago and I really aspire to have a completely organized home like hers. She has a place for anything and everything!

4. Of course, Pinterest is just lovely. I could spend years and years on it and still wouldn’t be able to tap its wonderful potential. It’s a great inspiration tool for DIY projects and to make the best of what you already have.

5. Regina Brett, one of my favourite authors who has written this famous book, also wrote a great article about decluttering which I came across recently. Her inspiration is a Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo who lives by one rule – Only keep the things that spark joy in you and let go of the rest after thanking them for fulfilling their purpose in your life. Pretty powerful advice.

6. The biggest tip I would give is, do it periodically – maybe once every six months. Take a couple of weekends and go through all your things again. You’ll not only relive good memories but you’ll probably wonder why you still have a bunch of receipts and those worn out pair of shoes lying around. Remember, less is more.

I have by no means reached the level of organization that I want to but I am pretty happy that I have gotten so far. I hope this post inspired you in some way to accomplish a challenge that you’ve been wanting to do since forever.

So what have you been inspired by this week? Share your inspirations on your blog every Thursday with a link back to the original post and the tag TakeAStepThursday. ๐Ÿ™‚

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
You can also follow me on Facebookย ,ย Instagram,ย Twitter, Goodreads andย BlogLovin’

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