Maternity Leave Laws F&#* S!€%!!! Gaaaaahhh!!

I don’t live in the US, but I still find this incredibly frustrating! As the (currently) most powerful country in the world, shouldn’t you be setting a much better example? Much of the world still needs fairer parental leave laws which are harder to justify and demand when the US is famously lagging so far behind. A lot of developing nations do look at the US as an example to follow in many aspects. Get your act together please!

It’s things like this that have had a lot of us women (myself included) worried about “leaning in” in the world of work, because when the time comes, will we have any support? Will we even have the time to enjoy raising our own families? Or would we just have to pay someone else to do that?

Another thing: I do not call it maternity leave. That puts a lot of unfair pressure on women who may lose out on opportunities because an employer may not want to hire a woman who could, at any moment, “run away for a year to have children”. I actually read about an employer saying this when discussing why not as many women are hired for high level positions (read Darling, You Can’t Do Both: And Other Noise To Ignore on Your Way Up, AMAZING book!) It also does not favour families where the woman may actually be the main bread winner or have the more demanding job.

Call it parental leave, and do like some central European countries where a very decent amount of time (say… one year) is allocated to a couple to split between themselves as they see fit! Yes, there are cultural norms and yes, the majority of families may swing one way, but leave room for change. Leave room for flexibility because not everyone is the same. Our societies are shifting and those in power need to catch up!

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Things I Want To Do With My Life

Door... Oh symbolism!!

Door… Oh symbolism!!

Trying to organise my thoughts and life plan here… So many ideas but there’s this whole time/money thing that I have to figure out.

So here are the parameters that I have to work within:-

I am 24 years old and basically would love to do MOST of this before I am 30…

Please don’t ask me about money… We could talk about that another time!

Here goes…

1. There was something here but I am now leaving it blank… Too personal even for an anonymous blog! Meh :-p

2. A good few trips around this country so that I can photograph all the beautiful, strange, dark, and unique things there are to see.

3. A good walk around all the parts of London that I SHOULD HAVE photographed while I lived there, but hey you don’t ever realise what you’ve got til it’s gone! Specifically, Hammersmith, West Kensington, Camden and Fulham. All of those areas have a special place in my heart. Oh yea and Shepherds Bush! Yep I said it. I WANT TO photograph random normal places (said with the exception of Camden which is known universally amongst Londoners as a little quirky/strange)

4. I want to take my husband to my hometown in Scotland so he can see where I spent the first 11 years of my life. It really is beautiful.

5. I also want to take my husband to Singapore and Malaysia to meet more of my family.I have gone there for at least a month every 2-3 years my entire life so even if I’ve never actually lived there it is still a big part of me.

6. Australia… Cos husbands friend travelled all the way from Australia to watch us get married and its only fair we return the love!

7. So just combining numbers 2-5…. Basically one huge mega trip because it doesn’t make sense to travel all the way to Australia without making a few stops on the way!!

8. Buy a car

9. Buy a house… Combining incomes, not wanting to waste another penny on rent.

10. Decorate said house… gradually while spending as little money as possible! Might be kinda hard to do with all this other stuff on the list…Hmm… Just a distant dream this one!

11. a) Get an MA in Construction Management or become a fully qualified archieeaAAaasjfmcndkakrncnglll!!!!

OR

11. b)  SCREW COMBINED INCOMES and become a blissfully happy and hardworking housewife!!!

Ugh…. This list is giving me a HEADACHE!!

What world am I living in? Seriously!!

Why can’t I just be a Disney Princess????

The Wedding Post!!

I AM MARRIED! :D OMG I can’t believe how crazy everything was in the 10 days leading up to the wedding… and how at peace we finally are now!

Wow.

I kinda half expected to be calm throughout the whole thing, I was ever so slightly worried about it being anti-climactic and just feeling like nothing was different. Very glad I was wrong!

The week before was a tough one though. I was perfectly calm despite being really busy up until the cake lady called me on the Friday before the wedding saying she had no notes on what I wanted…. not “Sorry, I seem to have lost my notes.” But “Hi, I need instructions as to what you want on your cake” despite the meetings and phone calls made months in advance to sort everything out, and many follow up calls to try and find out when we should expect to receive a costing. Despite all that, the cake lady called me exactly one week before the wedding day to find out what I want as a wedding cake and seemed to have completely forgotten that we had spoken many times before and that I had in fact watched her write at least 2 pages of notes! Anyway, I told her to speak to my future Mother-In-Law. I did not want to hear from her again!

That set me off, from that moment up until the wedding day I was being bombarded with phone calls while running up and down all over the place, feeling nervous, busy, worried, tired, overwhelmed with all kinds of adrenaline spikes showing up throughout each day.

Basically I think the underlying worry (sugarcoated with cake issues, bouquet hang ups bla bla bla) was the dreadful thought that I could potentially ruin a wonderful mans life by marrying him. Yea I sound a little crazy, didn’t think that I would be that bride ESPECIALLY after being with this same wonderful man since we were both 14! But I was. Why was I worrying about that? Because I have no real idea what kind of person I will be 20 or 30 years from now. My Dark Side has managed to surprise me in the past… I hate to think of what kind of surprises it has waiting further down the road. Ugh!

The worst was every morning when I woke up early to do whatever else needed to be done for that day. I woke up with all these tasks looming over my head, plus that worry! All my belly could handle was fruit :P I think I lost some pounds in that week, not on purpose because my dress had fit like a glove by the end of my last fitting!! My stomach just doesn’t handle food and adrenaline very well :-s

Anyway, once I got busy and surrounded myself with my wonderful family and bridesmaids I calmed down by the end of the day :) the hen/bachelorette weekend was wonderful. We went to my favourite hike in the whole world!! It is a beautiful river in a jungle and you can either walk along the river or wade/swim up the whole way until you reach 3 pools one after the other. I had not been back since the last time we lived here in the year 2006. Went with my family and my bridesmaids :D One of them was very scared as she had never been on a hike before and was worried about snakes, I re-assured her that she was safe but of course she was still scared, I almost offered to end the hike but she kept on going and I really feel she deserved a medal for trekking on! And then doing 3 more hikes as well before going back to London after the wedding! Anyway… I can’t put in words but the end of that hike was beauuuutiful and I was so happy to share that with 5 of my favourite girls and again with my family!

Then for the actual hen night we started off at my best friends house and they surprised me with food and drinks and of course explicitly shaped confetti and games and drinks… oh yea I said drinks already hehe! :D it was great having my mum and sister there too, plus my now Mother-In-Law and Auntie-In-Law and Cousin-In-Law’s and a bunch of old friends from high school. I had not partied with my mum and sister in a while! In fact I don’t think I had ever properly partied with my sister before! Then the Mother-In-Law and Auntie-In-Law left and the rest of us (with my mum) went to a gay bar :D most likely the ONLY gay bar in this country. One of my friends had got his connections there to book us a separate booth which was great :D and we got a surprise show at the end while we were sat inside the mini-bus. Some guys decided to start wining up in front of the bus, and then would stop and try to look inconspicuous as soon as anyone walked past.

Then the next day was a big family get together at our house in which my family were introduced to a LOT of the Husbands family. I loved it! My dad especially made sure to socialise with EVERYONE and we all enjoyed ourselves so much! That was another blessing because our families are so different I had always wondered if it would be an awkward introduction but it wasn’t. It was just perfect!

Then from that Monday to the Friday was back to business and worrying with a break for the rehearsal dinner on the Thursday. The Friday I had a good cry to at least 2 of my bridesmaids and also the Husband. All at different times of the day. They each managed to reassure me that I probably won’t become a horrible person in the next 20 or 30 years :P I just needed to vent! I had hoped to spend that last day relaxing with my family, but instead ended up getting caught up with more tasks all the way up until 8:30 that evening. As I sat down ready to close my lap top and head over to the hotel where I would spend the night with my family, I checked my voicemails and had an ANGRY message from the nun! One of the documents she needed for the marriage certificate was not there, so luckily my dad was already on his way to pick me up. I just told him we needed to go and deliver this document to the nun’s convent which happened to be on the top of a hill that was deep into one of the not so nice parts of the country :-s at night as well! The Auntie-In-Law managed to direct us all the way there and I was able to deliver the document to the nun who lowered a basket on the end of a rope from her balcony for me to put the document in… felt so old school! My husband calls that nun Sister Thug. She is very assertive and strict and opinionated.

I finally got to the hotel at about 10:30-11ish and spent a few hours sitting and debating social/racial/historical issues with the rest of my nerd family INCLUDING my relatives from Canada and Fiji who I had not seen since my cousins wedding exactly 11 years before my wedding date! That is a complete coincidence by the way! Her wedding was on the 10th August 2002. She was 24. Now I am 24 and our wedding was the 10th August 2013 :) Aaaah life! But after sitting and talking with them it is very easy to see that despite distance and time, we are all one family of hard core nerds :P I ended the night snuggling in bed watching cartoons with my sister and brother as we have done so many times before. OMG this post is getting long….

Anyway, the next day I woke up and got married!! :D It actually went by so well, it was beautiful. My nerves all seemed to go away as I walked up the aisle. Even as my dad whispered “you know, it’s not too late to turn back now! :D ” and I turned and whispered “SHUT. UP.” I was just cool… like this is exactly where I was meant to be. We hugged and then Dad “gave me away” to my husband and as we sat down I realised… wait for it… my calm and collected man was very nervous!! I squeezed his hand the whole time, and to be honest, this helped me a great deal. I loved that I could support him just as he had supported me. My favourite part of the wedding was reading out our vows. We went with the traditional vows as although they are simple they are also as perfect as they can get. Husband and I used to talk about writing our own vows years ago when we were teenagers, but over all this time it’s kind of like we have said everything we could possibly think of that we are happy now with the vows the church has given us. It’s like they are the only thing left to say.

My heart was pounding but I can’t call the feeling nervous. I just remembered to tell myself not to stumble over my words, to focus, to concentrate on what the priest was saying. I was telling myself all this in my mind because these had been big worries of mine before as well. I often think of the worst way I could possibly mess up at crucial situations so that I can try and make sure it doesn’t happen. Believe me, I can think of many ways and they can get pretty bad! But even though I was telling myself not to mess up I didn’t need to. I felt so relieved to hear myself say each word and I loved to hear each sound as I said it. As I said, this is exactly where I am meant to be.

Oh, another little detail, it was POURING rain throughout the ceremony! There was even some thunder that happened to come at a crucial point… I can’t remember if it was during the priests homily or right after the gospel reading. Perfect timing anyway :P Will have to review that when we get our wedding video… It continued to rain as we took our family photos in the portico for shelter.

It stopped raining just in time for our portrait session in the Botanical Gardens! Photos of just my husband and I with our Best Man and one out of my two Maid of Honour’s (my wonderful sister!) with us to help with the veil, bouquet, wiping sweat from my husbands brow etc! That was so nice and intimate, husband and I were talking to each other through most of it. The photographers were so professional while also very relaxed and interactive! Helped to let us just feel comfortable instead of micromanaging every pose.

Then we got to the reception and that is when I started to feel the adrenaline again! Neither my husband or I could eat more than a couple bites of the really good food. And we also only had a bite of our cakes as well, and completely forgot to ask the staff to cut it up and serve it to everyone. We are now desperately trying to eat all of my cake before it goes off :P. Husbands cake is a fruit cake with brandy in it so that is fine.

The speeches were beautiful. A little nerve wracking cos I was wondering what stories were going to be exposed to all of our guests but it wasn’t so bad. My sister was the one worst! She spent the first half talking about how mean we were to each other growing up to the point where she actually stopped and said to me “don’t worry, it gets better!” and it did to my relief!! We were at each others throats as kids, but since we both grew up we have definitely become much closer and I am very happy to have her. My husbands speech was very RAW and that is because he was so sure that he would remember everything he wanted to say without writing notes, and then as we stood up by the mic he made sure to begin with “I forgot what I wanted to say!” Psssshhhh, we all told him before to at least write some notes!! But oh well, he did actually manage to say most of what I remember him preparing to say before, it just came out sounding much more free-styled. He made sure to thank everyone for helping to make me and him into a wonderful couple, and also to tell everyone that he loves me with all his heart even though he usually doesn’t like all that public mushy stuff :P

The dances were a little awkward, especially since we just picked songs we liked rather than songs with a more dance-y rhythm :P plus my dad cannot dance at all!!! AT ALL!! That’s ok I lead our dance with a sort of two step thingy and we sang along to the music.  My husband and I just kinda cuddled and swayed to our song which was a very nice song, I wish it could have gone on longer :)

After that we went straight on to cutting the cake and tossing the bouquet most likely because everyone just wanted to start dancing and partying :P the ceiling was pretty low so I had to make sure to try and toss the bouquet directly behind me, and it landed right in my bridesmaids hands she didn’t even have to fight for it, just stood there… Husband says I cheated and was aiming for her :P I swear I wasn’t!

Either way, it was a very good wedding, I wish it went on for two days instead of just one but that would have gotten very expensive :P after the party my husband and I went home to pack our overnight bags and headed to the hotel. It was beautiful! Luxurious! Never stayed in a room so fancy! There was a shower with a rain effect shower head and it was placed in a glass enclosure in the middle of the room! For breakfast the next day I still couldn’t eat everything :P It was such a good night though.

We went on our honeymoon 3 days later as a lot of our guests only arrived a few days before the wedding and we wanted to spend more time with them. I have a couple of stories for that as well but I think those will have to wait for another post :P I might even write it tomorrow just because there’s still so much to say about the past couple weeks!

Of course there were mishaps on the wedding day as well. No one ever seems to mention those so people end up working so hard to achieve the perfect wedding, but the truth is, everything can’t go according to plan! I could list a bunch of mishaps! From little things like food stains on my dress, cake issues, to proper family drama on both our sides and even between ourselves (just a little bit!) as when you put enough people together in an emotional situation I think it’s just fate :P but the point is no matter how you put it, a wedding is a beautiful occasion and any mishaps do not need to overshadow this.

My husband and I are now united together for the rest of our lives by God. I think one of the nicest feelings that I am feeling right now is pure relief and gratitude that we got this far. Despite everything. Despite all of my issues, all of his issues, all of our drama that took us through ups and downs over the past 10 years we are finally here and married!

Thank God!

Lots of Love

Mrs. Smileyface

My First Grown Up Christmas :-D

* started writing this Christmas Eve… got half way then had to finish the rest today!

Our very full Christmas Tree!

Our very full Christmas Tree!

*Oh my gosh I have SOOOO much to rant talk about!!

But it’s Christmas Eve.

I have today off!

And everyone else has work :D so it’s just me, Bob Marley and my laptop :)

And rather than rant today it would probably be much better for me and my wonderful readers to reflect upon the importance of this season and what it means to me.

First of all, what this means to me :)

The first time I really discovered Bob Marley was Christmas time when I was about 15… So now Bob Marley never fails to put me into the Christmas spirit!! Is that weird?

Some other “Christmas” albums for me include:

Usher Raymond – 8701

Destinies Child – Survivor

Miseducations of Lauryn Hill

Wale – Ambition beautiful song, but I decided to link to a clean version for the sake of the internet!

J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story

Drake – Take Care

Note that the last three were all out before last Christmas and always take me back to my days sitting on the tube on the way to work in North London….. I know that NONE of these tracks actually have anything to do with Christmas!! But it’s the memories I associate with them! There’s more too but I guess these will do for now :)

My job in North London wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for as an architecture graduate. I was a site secretary (a.k.a. secretary in an office on a construction site) and there were many days that I really had to draaag myself out of bed and into the 75 minute commute to work. But in this world there is beauty that can be found in everything. Looking back I am VERY happy for my experience there and the many fun/different/annoying/happy characters I got to work with. Even my daily commute provided much needed time for prayer, contemplation, reflection, people watching, entertainment and observations. I tried to make sure I always had a rosary in my pocket :)

One moment of beauty was when I was sat on the tube and the last view I had before going underground was a wet and grey Hammersmith… then about an hour later I came out from the tunnel and was greeted by a wonderful snowy white view of the park, roof tops and trees! It brought a smile to my face, it was beautiful!

There were other funny/awkward memories, like when I was rushing into the next tube in the middle of my journey and was elated to find a carriage with THREE free seats all next to each other! So I rushed in and sat right in the middle, only to notice everyone nervously staring next to me. I looked to my right and, yep, I was sitting next to the crazy person! Changed carriages at the next stop :-p but not before he had time to stare in my face and proclaim to everyone that “she must be in love!!”

* So I have just spent my very first Christmas with the fiance.

He is amazing.

I really do miss my family a lot. They went to visit my Granny and Uncle in Wales, and are now in Switzerland for a week as has been the tradition for the past four years… I know… lalalaaa the life of an expat brat!

This is also the first Christmas I have not taken time off for. The office has been closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Today is a half day and tomorrow of course I have off again :) Last year I took two weeks off. The year before that I was free as a bird (a.k.a. unemployed/volunteering :P) and before that I was a student….

My first GROWN UP CHRISTMAS!!

And despite my little emotional outbreaks I get from time to time, especially when I miss my family but am trying very hard not to(!) my fiance has been wonderfully supportive and I am very happy to be with him this year.

This little reflection I am doing right now on where I was this time last year in relation to now is a wonderful perspective to view the past from… So although I have things to rant about at the moment and probably always will, a year from now these inner rantings will probably cherished memories. Why? Because it is all part of making me who I am… dare I say that in the past year I have (gasp) become me again?

I cherish the memories I have of being miserable on the tube for two-and-a-half-hours a day! It makes me appreciate my current position even more!

I wasn’t always, but I am now VERY grateful for all of it :)

Now on to the next part!

Christmas in this country is certainly different e.g. NO SNOW! It is warm and sunny at the moment, which kinda adds to the reason why it took me ages to realise we are actually in December. Christmas music is Parang (Spanish instrumentals, usually English lyrics these days) food is more ham and pastelles than turkey with brussel sprouts and yorkshire pudding… similar but different! No one really stays home either, everyone is driving around to say Merry Christmas to all the different family members and friends.

I think I’ve just given away where I am living with all of those links… oh shucks! Not writing it down here though!

As for the religious part… well this is a Catholic multi-religious/cultural society!

Lots of church! And lots of people proclaiming the joy of Christ without being afraid of sounding over religious or freaking out the secularists :P Haha!

I love it!!

Happy New Year everyone!!!

P.S. If anyone from work ever happens to stumble across this… don’t worry… I LOVED working with all of you!! I didn’t like the commute :P

Cute Angel!

Cute Angel!

Shubh Diwali!

Pretty!!!

Deya’s!

I love living in a country where people embrace the good in all faiths!

I’m sure that anyone from here will be able to guess where I am now, but hey as long as I’m not actually saying it :P

Christmas, Eid Il Fitr and Diwali are all public holidays here. (Yes I know that does not encompass ALL religions, but they are the most prevailing faiths in this culture) That means that multiculturalism is embedded enough into society that decades ago the GOVERNMENT decided to make it official. Think about it!

Multiculturalism is embedded into society at all levels to the point where it is actually official.

I know I can’t say that we are living in peace, or that racism and prejudice are dead and all that… They definitely aren’t. But I trust that we will get better. And I can say that at least I am living in a society where FAITH is respected and not mocked or scoffed at! Whichever faith it may be!

My mum’s side of the family is Muslim, and my Dad’s side is Christian. I grew up celebrating both Eid and Christmas. Merging cultures is a concept that up until I was 11 years old had been ingrained into my family and our upbringing alone, separate from everyone else in our neighbourhood. I didn’t mind, people were curious and interested in my background and I was always happy to share what I knew! My background was a spark for conversation, for learning, for self expression and for my own sense of self, sense of pride and my interest in other cultures. That being said, I was very happy to discover when I first moved here the last time (just over 12 years ago now) that this concept is actually ingrained into an entire society.

I would love to say where I am right now, but unfortunately when I did a search on posts that this country has been tagged in it came up to maybe one or two posts a week… I don’t want anyone guessing who I am! That happens when you live in a small world!

Anyway, for anyone who doesn’t know, Diwali is the Hindu Christmas! As in, it’s the biggest festival on the Hindu calendar. It is known as the Festival of Light and celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. Of good over evil.

To everyone who has decided to stumble across a blog named The Story Of My Dark Side, I believe that this is a concept we can ALL vibe with! That ultimately Light will triumph over Darkness.

Sincerely

Smileyface :)

My Sunday (Thoughts About Faith and the Material World)

Did you know that The Big Bang Theory was invented by a Catholic priest?

Look him up! His name is Georges Lemaitre.

I love science, so was very happy to find this out! About 10 years ago I did have some trouble with the whole “science vs. religion” debate as although I did want to believe that there was a God, I didn’t want to forget science. It was one of my best subjects at school! Luckily I learned a few years later that actually science and Catholicism can easily go together and one very useful way to see it is that science is merely another one of Gods tools with which he creates this world :)

Boom! I find that quite easy to comprehend, and any science nerds that still try to debate that whole aspect of religion with me (a.k.a. Dad, brother, sister, classmates…) I feel just can’t handle losing that argument :P haha!

I could write an entire post about science and religion but would instead rather talk about my day today! Might come back to this later.

Today’s Gospel reading at church was the one where the rich guy asked Jesus how to achieve eternal life and Jesus tells him to give up all his possessions and follow him. Then the rich guy walks away feeling sad and Jesus proceeds to say how difficult it is for a rich man to go to heaven.

Right.

I know this passage might bring relief to a lot of people who are struggling financially. As for me, on the other hand, this passage always makes me feel kinda uneasy. I’m a spoilt expat brat. No other way to say it! Sure, I have known P-L-E-N-T-Y of kids who were more spoilt than I am, but I also know plenty of people who are much less spoilt than me and all I can do to make myself feel better is resort to relativism e.g. “at least I am not like them!”  In this case, “them” referring to all the other spoilt kids I ever knew or encountered! Although, I do try to hide it as much as I possibly can I am sure it must show through sometimes.

Today has been one of those days…. Nuff said, moving on!

Another thing I can say is “well, I don’t know anyone who would be willing to give up all of their stuff!” with the exception of the few nuns I’ve met briefly at church of course… They are different!

And also, by nature, as an artist and a designer I have an undying desire to surround myself with pretty things! My clothes, my accessories, my home decor, my blog theme etc…. My career (oh yea! I finally got a job!) is based on the principle of making material possessions both practical and aesthetically pleasing.

Human beings appreciate beauty! I love just being able to see! From the trees and birds, to the cities, home decor, fashion, people and my own reflection. Yea, I said it. I am not one of those girls who always hates the way I look! No way! I appreciate it whole heartedly and I hope 30 years from now I can still say that!

I appreciate the things I see so much that I thank God for allowing me to see everything I get to look at everyday.

I also appreciate the things I see so much that I always want more. I always want more clothes, hair styles, shoes, ornaments, lamps, clocks, bed sheets… you get the picture?? It was a task being able to give away everything (yea right! Not everything!!) that I didn’t need in order to ship the rest during my move over here.

People do soften the impact of this particular Gospel reading by instead saying that it means that God does not want us to be “too attached” to our material possessions. That does make me feel better. I know that if I had to give away all my possessions then I could. If it was out of necessity. There are more important things out there and I know this at the bottom of my heart. I just hope that I won’t have to, and I hope that by writing this post I have not jinxed myself. Eeek.

Anyway, I am not quite sure how to conclude this post… I always suck at conclusions!

After hearing todays Gospel reading and then analysing my own attitude… I can at least thank God that he has brought this to my attention again and continues to on a regular basis through the world around me. I am reminded all the time that I should be grateful for everything in my life, material and immaterial. I pray that he continues to remind me, that I continue to grow in my ability to show thanks for all the good blessings in my life, and that I can grow and learn new ways of showing thanks and gratitude by contributing in my own way to the world I have been given.

Faithfully,

Smileyface! :)

Easily Influenced?

I can be easily influenced.

So…

I try to surround myself with POSITIVE influences!

I think people underestimate the power of other influences in their lives. I had to say this because many people (including myself) often feel too proud or even too “grown up” to be influenced by others. I used to feel like I was too smart to be easily influenced.

But then I realised, it’s not that I was too smart to be easily influenced. It’s that I had been surrounded by intelligent people that acted as positive influences in my life and my self-image. So how could I possibly go down a bad road when I am only interacting with positive influences?

This realisation didn’t happen overnight. But from my experiences over the years with a few different groups of people, my standards and views on life flow in response to who and what is going on around me. If you surround yourself with people who have what you would consider a lower moral standard than yourself (and lets be honest, cutting all the niceties and polite-ness, you KNOW when this is the case!) you begin to feel like you are an amazingly wise and saintly person! You may then start to feel like because of all your hard work and moral value, you can afford to relax a little and give in to that one vice which appears innocent compared to what’s going on around you. After all, it’s not like you’re being as bad as them!

This is not healthy, this is how bad habits are formed. But it happens. As humans we always compare and most things are relative. I know it!

The wake up call comes when you suddenly find yourself surrounded by people of a higher moral standard than you. It’s very simple! All of a sudden you realise that you would rather not share the stories of those tiny little vices you’ve been indulging in, however small they are. You may even feel a little ashamed! Stay around these people long enough, and you will find yourself phasing out those vices once again. Eventually.

I guess it comes down to which influence you spend more time with. This will end up being your primary influence and the winner of your soul. Boom.

I know that everyone has different degrees of this. We are not all EXACTLY the same. Some people appear much harder to influence than others, but I would like to argue that no one gets this way on their own. If I meet someone who appears to be very well grounded in their values and principles… someone who is simply just very hard to influence, then I will assume that they probably have a much stronger influence in their life with which they choose to really focus themselves. Positive or negative.

This is why I find that religion is such a gift to humanity.

I am fully aware that there are lots of atheists out there living full and happy lives filled with deep inner peace and a love for their neighbours and the world around them. My Dad has always been a real example of this to me. He is an atheist, and I can easily say that he is the most kind hearted person I know. The influences that contribute to who he is are his parents (who are in fact Christian) and his siblings. Their influence is held on to and continued through my Dad’s strong sense of purpose to be a good Dad and provider for our family. I could dedicate an entire book to his example (if I could write a book!).

But family is not the only influence in anyone’s life. I’ve had friends, teachers, classmates, communities, culture, tv, music, art, the list goes ooooonnnnnn….. All of these things are my influences and all of these things have a tendency to send mixed signals from time to time.

I need guidance to know when to follow and when to lead, when to hold on and when to let go, what to believe in and what to be wary of.

I can’t come up with this all by myself.

I need a positive and constant influence to surround myself with.

This is one reason why I have been gradually introducing Catholicism to myself over the past few years. It’s a lot to take on all at once.

But God is one influence in my life who I can say with confidence will always lead me down the right path, keeping in mind that I need to know how to apply my belief and understand God according to the context of what is written and what I have been taught. God is also the one influence who I could present any issue to without worrying about the shame or embarrassment I would rather not put myself through when I am afraid to speak to anyone else. Stating the obvious: I care about how people see me, especially the people I am closest to. God however already knows all there is to me so there’s no point in hiding.

I can’t say that religion is black and white, the Bible, as with any religious text, is very open to interpretation hence there are many different sectors of Christianity who all interprate the Bible differently. I need to take the time to read, pray and meditate on what I am reading and maybe speak with someone about it as well. Someone who I respect and who also knows the Bible and Catholicism better than I do! Speaking indirectly about an issue with someone by asking questions about the Bible may be a lot easier than speaking directly about whatever the issue is. Of course they may read me and figure out what it is that is really bothering me, I have to decide if I want to take that risk!

Anyway, what this all comes down to is I believe that no matter how “mature” we are, we are all easily influenced. The key is to try and choose your influences as wisely as possible. Be picky! Be picky with who your friends are, be picky about the music you listen to and be picky about the TV you watch. Be mindful about how much time you spend with negative influences you can’t avoid, and be determined to spend at least equal or more time than that with the influences you need.

In fact you can start by just choosing one influence that you know you can always depend on to lead you down the right path. When you have found that influence feel free to question it at times, questions lead to a deeper understanding, but do not ever turn your back on it. Keep it with you.

I would like to recommend this post, Everyone Worships Something, on a blog which I don’t always agree with, but I do believe holds a lot of insight and wisdom which I can’t get enough of! I love reading each post as it comes up on my Reader and they always give me something to really think about.

I think I could write half a dissertation about influences, so I will just leave it at that for now!

Much Love!

Smileyface :-)

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