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A Life Well Lived

April 18, 2021

I’ve been thinking about writing something on death for some time now. Our shared global pandemic has made us all confront our own mortality and deal with the loss of people we know and people we don’t know. 

HRH the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Majesty The Queen

The death of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, has given us an opportunity to reflect on what a full life in the public glare could look like.  I guess it is about bringing to life those things that matter to us, regardless of public opinion. In his case it was about looking after the natural world and conservation, becoming one of the founding members of the World Wildlife fund (now WWF) in 1961. Through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, he will continue to transform the lives of young people from all backgrounds across the world. What might it be for you and me?

Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet in Blackbird

I’ve recently watched two moving films which also centred a life well lived. In the first, Blackbird, Susan Sarandon plays a mother dying from a terminal illness. As death comes closer, she gathers her husband, best friend, children, their partners and her grandchildren together for a final weekend.  It makes me wonder who in my life I would want to be with me if I knew it was my final weekend of life. I choose to leave that hanging, knowing that if that did happen, I would intuitively know what to do. What’s interesting in the film is that all the projections, assumptions and unfinished arguments gets addressed. It’s like there is no place to run to. We’re so good at putting off arguments or sidestepping issues but what if there is no next time for those conversations?  

Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall in The Judge

The other film is The Judge with Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall. Here we have a father and son who both love the law and are great at it. The father chooses public service as a judge and the son chooses to become rich by defending wealthy criminals. When the matriarch in the family dies the son returns home for her funeral.  In some ways the father and son are strangers to each other, having not seen each other for more than a decade. In other ways the matriarch was the glue that passed information about one to the other  so that they knew of each other’s lives.  

The whole process of trying to grieve, reconnecting to who they were when they last saw each other, and finding who they are now, is very awkward and uncomfortable. Everyone in the film has experienced hurt and disappointment, as only family can do. Gradually the son realises that his father is terminally ill, and this may be affecting his judgement and memory. Can this proud father allow the prodigal son to look out for and look after him? Does this angry son care enough to put his big city career on hold and be there for his weakened father? We watch them tousle with each other emotionally before reconnecting to their bond.  Eventually, just before he dies, the father says how proud he is of his son. 

I’m not sure what to take from any of these stories. Perhaps it is about being true to ourselves and what matters to us.  It is also about having those difficult conversations before time runs out. My parents have both passed away. As a counsellor I knew the importance of trying to have those meaningful conversations with parents. I tried to have those conversations with both of them and was probably more successful with my mum.  My dad was experiencing some memory loss near the end of his life so looking back was confusing for him. 

We don’t know what the future holds and how much time we have left. Just thinking of that is difficult but yet it makes me so grateful for life and health. It’s such a gift and a blessing. How can I show up in my life and in my relationships? It’s something we all need to engage with. Let me know if any of this resonates with you. Stay well. 

One Year On

March 23, 2021

Reflections on a year in lockdown

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This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘choose to challenge’ and as I sit here thinking of this there are so many challenges that come to mind. Women everywhere have had to challenge systems and expectations in order to live their lives. 

I’m thinking of:

  • Malala Yousafzai who challenged the traditional view of girls’ education in Pakistan. 
  • Brene Brown who is prepared to have those difficult conversations around shame and race.
  • Baroness Doreen Lawrence who fought for justice after the murder of her son Stephen – challenging the persistence of institutional racism. 
  • US Vice President Kamala Harris for daringly running for President. 
  • The Duchess of Sussex, Megan Markle, who in trying to stay sane and make a positive difference, is seen as challenging the Monarchy. 
  • Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, Beyonce Knowles, Naomi Campbell and Charlene White for forging their own path.
  • The many sisters, daughters, wives and mothers facing daily challenges.
Photo by Ibadah Mimpi via Pexels and Canva

Choosing to challenge is not an easy decision, there is often a cost. I know for myself and from my work as a counsellor that the pain of not challenging needs to be almost unbearable, so that challenging is seen as the best option. Few people challenge without cause. More often people adjust to suffering until they become unwell.

In my book, Black Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, 22 Stories of Passion Achievement and Success, you will encounter a group of women who are comfortable challenging systems and providing alternative perspectives. That is the nature of politics. They are motivated by their beliefs, values and political persuasion. 

One way to challenge a system or role is to be the first woman to do that thing.  You will read that Diane Abbott MP was the first Black woman to become a Member of Parliament. Helen Grant MP is the first mixed (Black and White) female Conservative MP. Chi Onwurah is Newcastle’s first Black and mixed Member of Parliament. Kim Johnson is the first Black MP in Liverpool. Claudia Webbe is the first female MP for Leicester East. Kim and Claudia became MPs in 2019 so this is not ancient history.  There are many places in industry, law, medicine, arts and education that can be challenged by brave women wanting more. 

Photo by Shirley Anstis. Taken at nearby sculpture park

In our everyday lives this could be standing up for a colleague or challenging inappropriate speech and behaviour in a loved one. It all requires courage. In surviving this pandemic many of us have had to dig deep and be more courageous than we’ve been before. We’ve been stronger and braver than we expected. We’ve also felt more vulnerable, and it takes courage to acknowledge that. Even introverts like myself have missed some social gatherings. We found out that we are imperfect and human! 

When you look ahead to 2021 is there anything you need to challenge in yourself or your environment? I think many more of us now have an appreciation for the simple life.  My challenge continues to be ‘less doing and more being’. Oh, and exposing my soul through my writing.

My book An A-Z for your life, discovering and revealing who you are today is a good place to start. Over to you.

This post is written to acknowledge the role of women in the world in honour of International Women’s Day 2021. The theme is  #choosetochallenge.  Co-ordinated by Attract Readers, https://www.attractreaders.com

Black British Members of Parliament in the House of Commons #book

Black MPs in the House of Commons.

An intriguing mix of success and struggle

Reading, Berkshire, January 2021

Envision Publishing announces the arrival of the paperback edition of Black Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, 22 Stories of Passion, Achievement and Success by Shirley Anstis. The book draws attention to the journeys of serving Black members of parliament: who they are, how they got there and their contributions so far.

The UK parliament is made up of 650 Members of Parliament. Of these, 22 are of Black British, African and Caribbean heritage, representing 3%.  Despite this small number they are making an impact and can be seen as role-models for another generation who may not know of them or their work.

It comes highly recommended by leading Black political figures Lord Simon Woolley and David Lammy MP.

I love this book. It’s simple, straight forward and yet at the same time fantastically complex. Above all, though it is wonderfully inspiring.’ Lord Simon Woolley in the Foreword

This is the first book of its type and captures a moment in time. The data covers the events of the recent past so MPs are quoted on the impact of the Grenfell Tower fire, the Windrush Scandal, Black Lives Matter and many more. Every October we have Black History Month in the UK and schools are unsure how to approach it, with many ignoring it altogether. Lockdown has given many people an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the unique experiences of different parts of society. This book educates and informs adults and young people at a time when everyone wants to know more and be an ally. 2021 is the year to follow through on the hopes of 2020.

Having worked with young people for 10 years Shirley Anstis knows how much they long to see successful people who look like them. By highlighting these 22 individuals Shirley Anstis gives the reader an insight into other successful people to expand their horizons and the future they desire for themselves. 

Some of these parliamentarians have dedicated their lives to party politics and representation whilst others have recently transitioned from a different career path. There are many ‘firsts’ included here. These include Diane Abbott as the first Black female MP, Helen Grant as the first mixed female Conservative MP and Kwasi Kwarteng as the First Black African Conservative MP. 

A fascinating collection of personal stories, struggles and successes….it inspires us to fight for more.’ David Lammy

‘Black MPs in the House of Commons…’ has been extensively researched using the House of Commons database Hansard. Media interviews and MPs own social media provide many opportunities to get quotes from them. This is not a critique but a celebration of people doing their best to act in accordance with their beliefs.

Get in touch with shirley@envisionpublishing.co.uk (mob:07809829914) for interviews and talks. You can order your copy on Amazon or direct from the author on www.livingbeingdoing.com/contact

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shirley Anstis MA., BSc. is an integrative counsellor in England. For more than 10 years she has been supporting her clients to work through their stories and live the life they envision. As a Careers Adviser she witnessed many young people struggling to find role models to give them hope for a successful future.  Her other books: An A-Z for your Life, Discovering and revealing who you are today’, and They Call Me…A look at nicknames in the Caribbean island of Grenada’, explore aspects of identity. Having lived in the Caribbean and the U.K. Shirley is aware of the complexity of our stories and explores this in her therapeutic writing workshops. Sample more of her writing on www.livingbeingdoing.com and contact her here for interviews, talks and collaborations.

Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2021
Happy Valentine's day
Happy Valentine’s Day

We are living in a time that is adding pressure to so many relationships. Friendships and relationships are private affairs witnessed by others. Some of us have had more time to reach out to the people we care about and others have had less time. We all give and desire a different level of support to those in our personal lives.

Valentine’s Day is whatever you want it to be. It can be a day to remember those you have loved who are no longer here. You may also remember those you loved, who brought something wonderful into your life for a time. You may think of the ones you love now, a love that has endured through challenges. Perhaps you’ve found a new love in this difficult time.

As well as giving to others we also need to remember to look after ourselves. Loving ourselves with all our flaws may be the most challenging love of all.

There are 5 love languages and this helps us to know how we show love to those in our lives and how we let others know what we experience as an act of love. The idea is that we have a primary or preferred way of giving and receiving love. Once we know this the key is to communicate that to those we love.

The 5 love languages are:

Words of Affirmation

Quality time

Acts of Service

Physical Touch

Gifts

Consider which is your primary love language and how that shows up in your life. We’ve had to make many adjustments over the past 12 months. If holidays and hugs were your main ways of showing love then you’ll be particularly challenged by all the lockdowns. Perhaps you’ve had more quality time and now value this a bit more. Or maybe like me you’ve been using online shopping for those little gifts to keep you going.

Please comment below and share how lockdown has impacted how you give and receive love.

Journal 2021

December 30, 2020

I’ve added my love of photography to my work in ‘writing as therapy’ and created a journal for 2021. You’re welcome to try it too. It has a writing prompt, space for what you’re thankful for, how you plan to look after yourself and any goals you have for 50 weeks of the year.

2021 journal
Back and Front cover of A4 journal with 50 writing prompts and 100 pages

You can be as focused or as vague as you like , just the weekly reflection should be useful. It’s my first journal so I’m excited to try it and to hear how you find it on Lulu here. Start the year with intentionality and positivity.

https://www.lulu.com/en/gb/shop/shirley-anstis/journal-2021/paperback/product-ykkzdp.html?page=1&pageSize=4

New book!

December 30, 2020

Black British Members of Parliament in the House of Commons

22 mini biographies of serving Black MP’s, including well-known names and many groundbreakers. Be inspired by their dedication and achievement, succeeding against the odds. They are all different and represent the Conservative and Labour parties. Some have been around for many years and others only entered parliament in 2019.

Black British Members of Parliament
Black Members of Parliament in the House of Commons

Meet your representatives and read what they are trying to do with the opportunities they now have. You will be inspired by some and may be annoyed by others. Find out more by ordering your copy today https://amzn.to/37YVSLt

Writing Your Future

June 22, 2020
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/words-for-wellbeing-online-tickets-98217919441

There are lots of horrible things happening in the world at present and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. I believe each of us have a part to play in bringing about a better world.

Join me for the fourth in this series of online writing workshops where we will look forward and try to write the future you would like to create, for yourself and others.

#writingyour future Book Here

Please book early to avoid disappointment – spaces are limited to make it comfortable for everyone. Look forward to connecting with you.

words for wellbeing
connecting words to our memories – more info and booking here

Reflecting on the Black and minority experience around cover-19, police killings, no justice, Black Lives Matter, White privilege, learning, listening….

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