The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde

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“Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant’s garden.

It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. ‘How happy we are here!’ they cried to each other.

One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own castle. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.

‘What are you doing here?’ he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away.

‘My own garden is my own garden,’ said the Giant; ‘any one can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.’ So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.

TRESPASSERS WILL
BE PROSECUTED

He was a very selfish Giant.

The poor children had now nowhere to play. They tried to play on the road, but the road was very dusty and full of hard stones, and they did not like it. They used to wander round the high wall when their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden inside.

‘How happy we were there,’ they said to each other.

Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still Winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. Once a beautiful flower put its head out from the grass, but when it saw the notice-board it was so sorry for the children that it slipped back into the ground again, and went off to sleep. The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. ‘Spring has forgotten this garden,’ they cried, ‘so we will live here all the year round.’ The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney-pots down. ‘This is a delightful spot,’ he said, ‘we must ask the Hail on a visit.’ So the Hail came. Every day for three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke most of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast as he could go. He was dressed in grey, and his breath was like ice.

‘I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming,’ said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold white garden; ‘I hope there will be a change in the weather.’

But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave golden fruit to every garden, but to the Giant’s garden she gave none. ‘He is too selfish,’ she said. So it was always Winter there, and the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced about through the trees.

One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some lovely music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it must be the King’s musicians passing by. It was really only a little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be the most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped dancing over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and a delicious perfume came to him through the open casement. ‘I believe the Spring has come at last,’ said the Giant; and he jumped out of bed and looked out.

What did he see?

He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children’s heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still Winter. It was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it. ‘Climb up! little boy,’ said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the little boy was too tiny.

And the Giant’s heart melted as he looked out. ‘How selfish I have been!’ he said; ‘now I know why the Spring would not come here. I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children’s playground for ever and ever.’ He was really very sorry for what he had done.

So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became Winter again. Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full of tears that he died not see the Giant coming. And the Giant stole up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree. And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them round the Giant’s neck, and kissed him. And the other children, when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any longer, came running back, and with them came the Spring. ‘It is your garden now, little children,’ said the Giant, and he took a great axe and knocked down the wall. And when the people were gong to market at twelve o’clock they found the Giant playing with the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.

All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant to bid him good-bye.

‘But where is your little companion?’ he said: ‘the boy I put into the tree.’ The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him.

‘We don’t know,’ answered the children; ‘he has gone away.’

‘You must tell him to be sure and come here to-morrow,’ said the Giant. But the children said that they did not know where he lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.

Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him. ‘How I would like to see him!’ he used to say.

Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could not play about any more, so he sat in a huge armchair, and watched the children at their games, and admired his garden. ‘I have many beautiful flowers,’ he said; ‘but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.’

One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing. He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.

Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked. It certainly was a marvellous sight. In the farthest corner of the garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its branches were all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and underneath it stood the little boy he had loved.

Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, ‘Who hath dared to wound thee?’ For on the palms of the child’s hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet.

‘Who hath dared to wound thee?’ cried the Giant; ‘tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him.’

‘Nay!’ answered the child; ‘but these are the wounds of Love.’

‘Who art thou?’ said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child.

And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, ‘You let me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.’

And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.”

By Oscar Wilde

Like the giant in this tale, we find friendship when we give something of ourselves. But it also, depicts Jesus giving Himself so that we’d be able to receive life to the fullest now and in the life to come. May you find abundant joy and heartfelt meaning during this wonderful Easter weekend.

©2014 Susie Lee

55 gentle ways to take care of yourself.

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Perhaps this winter has taken a toll on your mental state and you can’t wait for spring to arrive or you feel the weight of family responsibilities are crushing your shoulders or the people around you are vying for your attention/affection. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing or however you’re feeling, here are 55 simple ways to take care of yourself on a daily basis. Sometimes, we need to crash and burn before we realize that we need to take care of our bodies, give permission to be good to ourselves, and love ourselves but why wait until then? Let’s take proactive steps toward self-love everyday of our lives.

©2014 Susie Lee

Say no to anything that is not important to you
Laundry, phone calls with your mom, demanding girlfriends – this is not the time to be nice and “responsible”. Give yourself the permission to focus on what’s important. Getting the unessential responsibilites off your schedule will not only create som extra time and space, it will also lighten the burden you’re feeling to keep up with it.

Ask for help
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, and you’ll quickly learn that most people around you actually love to be asked! It makes them feel useful and important. What usually helps the most is to get help to do the normal things; cooking, shopping and regular every-day tasks. However, don’t underestimate how important the people in your life can be when it comes to feedback, motivation and supporting your self-confidence regarding the important work you’re doing.

Get enough sleep
An oldie, but a goodie. This old advice is not only essential when it comes to self-care, it is also absolutely essential when it comes to being able to do your best. Particularly important when it comes to exam periods and work stress, sleep will help you achieve. It’s easy to think that a few extra hours of work will do you more good, but it won’t. Sleep will.

Drink tea
Coffee will only get you that far, before it sends you down into tiredness again. While still being hot and comforting, tea (and especially the herbal kind) won’t make you dehydrated and shaky. If you’re feeling tired and think you need a coffeine boost, go for cold water (or iced tea) instead. Cold water will help wake you up!

Listen to your favourite music
Calm music will help you calm down and upbeat music will help you up your game. Pick music that won’t distract you (like music without lyrics or in a foreign language). Your favourite music will boost your mood and keep you happy, no matter how tired you are.

Eat healthy and green food
I know it’s tempting to order pizza, but it really pays off to take your time to cook and eat nutritious and healthy food. Not only will it help you achieve better, it will also boost your mood! I truly recommend heading over to The Stonesoup for some quick and easy recipes. Most of these recipes can be made in less than 10 minutes!

Take 5 minutes in the morning to just stretch and breathe
If you start your day in a stressful way, you’ll probably feel stressed for the rest of the day as well. Make sure your morning starts with 5 minutes of silence and ease. Stand up and stretch your body to make you as tall as you can be. Then bend over and touch the ground. Stretch again. Try to just feel your body and pay attention to your breath. Starting the day in a way like this will make you more relaxed as well!

Walk everywhere
You might be busy and think that every minute is valuable time to put into your work, but some extra minutes of walking might be a better way to spend some time. If you live close to where you’re going, it’s better to walk than to use public transport (or your car). Not only will the exercise be good for you, you also get some important fresh air and daylight. If you have to commute, get off public transport one or two stops too early, or park your car further away than usual. The extra minutes of fresh air will save you lots of time when you start working and feel more focused.

Take 5-minute mini-breaks every hour
You can’t stay focused all the time. No matter how efficient you work, you’ll always get distracted, let your mind wander or end up spending time reading e-mail (and blogs) instead. A better way to spend this time is to get up from your chair, walk outside and take a 5-minute break. The change of place, the change of physical posture and the movement will make it easier to start again when your break is over. You’ll also give your brain a chance to relax and process information, which is essential for your well-being.

Break your self-care habits into smaller tasks and do one each day
No need to look like you’re constantly running after your life, even if you are! Just break up your routine into smaller, and more achievable chunchs. Shave your legs one day, paint your nails the next day, wash your hair the day after, etc. This approach also works with keeping your house tidy – just do one little chore every day and you’ll stay on top of everything more easily.

Make a plan of everything that needs to be done
Instead of juggling all your to-do’s and must-remember’s, write them down on a piece of paper. Then make a plan of how you are going to manage everything before your deadline. You may have to schedule a lot of tasks on certain days, and it may seem like too much to do, but at least you’ll know that everything will get done. Make sure you stick to the plan, every single day. Don’t fall for the temptation to start on tomorrow’s tasks today, trust that the plan will take you there, and enjoy some free time on the days when you finish your tasks early.

Make sure you keep in touch with your friends
Just a few text messages, tweets or the occational coffee will make sure your friendships don’t suffer. You will feel much better when you focus on something else entirely, and it will prevent you form becoming a workaholic hermit. You don’t have to keep in touch with everybody, most people will understand that you’re having a busy period. Just make sure you stay in touch with the people that make you happy and inspired.

Make room for rest
This one’s important. Make sure that whenever you plan to rest – really rest. That means that you will have to make a conscious effort to push all work-related thoughts and worries away. It’s also important that you rest your mind as well as your body. 5 minutes of stillness is better than 30 minutes in front of the TV!

Surround yourself with inspiring photos
Put up some of your favourite photos where you can see them when you work. Whenever you get unfocused, you will feel much better if you can rest your eyes on something pretty, rather than everything that reminds you of how busy you are. If you can’t put up photos at work or in a study hall, bring a scrapbook or use Pinterest on your computer.

Write a daily gratitude list
A daily gratitude list is really helpful to shift your focus and help you appreciate the situation. It doesn’t have to be long, a few sentences will do. If you keep a gratitude journal, you can also look back on your previous entries whenever you need a little boost of happiness and motivation.

Spend your lunchtime as sacred you-time
… and enjoy your healthy food with a little journaling, blog-reading, or people-watching. See it as a way to nourish your soul on several levels. It’s important to eat, but it’s equally important to be inspired, creative, silly, whimsical and happy.

Write a worry-list
Stress makes us more vulnerable, and worry can be a nasty side-effect of a busy period. If you find yourself worrying a lot, it’s a good idea to write a daily worry-list. Whenever you catch a worrying thought, write it down and save it for later. Spend 5 minutes in the morning and 5-minutes in the evening worrying about whatever you put on your list. It may sound simple, but postponing your worry will actually make it less worrying whenever you sit down and actually think about it in peace and quiet.

Take a run or a long walk
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Any sort of excercise will release endorophins, your body will thank you + it clears your head so you can focus on all the important work that lies ahead.

Keep a planner and schedule no-appointments time
To make your life less chaotic, it’s a good practice to keep a planner. Make sure you write down every single appointment, to save yourself from unwanted surprises and missed meetings. Just remember to schedule time for yourself. Honor your appointment with yourself just as much as you would keep an appointment with anyone else. Just make sure you schedule time with yourself first – anyone else needs to come in second in your life.

Keep track of your achievements
It may seem like you’re never going to get over a busy period, which is why you should keep a list of achievements close at any time.Whenever you hit a milestone – write it down! It will be very useful when you’re feeling tired by the end of the day and know that you still have several more hours of work before you can call it a day.

Wear your pretty clothes
… and be busy with style! If you dress nicely, chances are you’ll feel better too. All it takes is 5 minutes in the morning, and with your most powerful, wonderful and pretty clothes on, you’ll feel like a million for the rest of the day.

Go to a yoga class
…Or do some yoga at home. Even ten minutes of savasana is better than nothing, and will recharge your batteries (and your mind).

Take a hot bath
Nothing helps you relax like a hot bath. Use your favourite bubbles, turn off the light, light some candles and you’re good to go. One hour in the bath in the evening may be the best way to relax because of this simple fact – you can’t take your work and your computer with you.

Light candles
Candles have a relaxing effect, especially gently scented ones. If you can’t light candles in your workplace, make sure you light them when you get home. Lavender and cedarwood are scents that can help you relax.

Write support-thoughts and affirmations
Support-thoughts are thougths written down when you’re calm, that can support you when you are really busy and tired. For example, a gentle reminder of why you’re doing all the work, a short pep-talk, or a reminder of how wonderful you are is an amaxing way of taking care of yourself.

Craft an emotional emergency plan
Ideally, you should have this written down before you enter a really busy period. If everything goes wrong, and you’re maxed out, panicky or just plain exhausted – who do you call? what do you do? where do you go? Planning this in advance is self-care on a high level.

Breathe
Do I need to say more? When stress builds up, take five seconds off and just breathe. Deep.

Do something silly
Don’t forget to have fun! Who said you can’t laugh, even though you’re busy! Make jokes, engage with you co-workers, read comics and just allow yourself to be silly for a little while. I promise it wil boost your mood, your co-workers’ moods and a little laughter every day will help you through a really challenging time.

Single-task
Now is not the time to play superwoman. Be nice to yourself and let your brain tackle one task at a time. Rumours have it that this is more productive in the long run…

Read Focus by Leo Babauta
This book is quick to read (and there’s a free version!) and it will change your work habits and make it much easier to be you. Enough said.

Take the last evening off
The last night before your big D(r)eadline is the night to relax. Panicking in the last minute isn’t a very good way of taking care of yourself. And you don’t want to oversleep on your exam day, have dark circles under your eyes on presentation day or distroy everything in the last minute because you spent the last night cramming. Take the last evening (or even the last day) off and relax. You’ve done your best, there’s nothing more you can do. Pat yourself on your back – you made it.

Keep a tidy workspace
It will make you more focused, relaxed and less overwhelmed.

Create some routines
When work or studies take all your focus, it can be useful to create some new habits or routines to take some of the burden off your back. Make it a habit to cook a larger batch of dinner on day 1, and eat leftovers for the next two days. Use Sundays to prepare what to wear for the next couple of days. Wear your hair in a ponytail five days in a row. This is not the time to expect yourself to find lots of different and exciting outfits, hairdo’s or recipes.

Write things down
When you’re mind is working over-time, let it relax by helping yourself remember everything. Write down any ideas, to-do’s, must-remember’s and other things you have to remember. This way, you don’t have to carry the additional stress of remembering everything you need to remember.

Accept a little clutter and mess
Just let it be. Some dust and a little dirt has never hurt anyone. Focus on what’s important to you, you can always clean up the mess later. Just don’t go around and feel bad about it on top of everything else!

Allow your emotions to come to the surface
If you’re tired and sad, cry it all out. If you’re stressed, don’t try to put on a mask and hide it. Get it all out, all the frustration, the overwhelm, the anger and the fear. You’ll feel much better after.

Honour your limits
Set some limits and stick with them. A lot of tasks when we’re busy don’t have a set limit, like when you’re studying and being creative. It’s easy to feel like you’re never quite done. Set some clear limits for yourself and honor them. Say to yourself; “when the time is up, I’m DONE”.

Take the weekends completely off
If you’re under constant pressure over an extended period of time, it’s good practice to keep the weekends completely sacred. This means no work e-mail or calls, no appointments or catching up.

Gather your support group
Call your mother and ask her to help you take care of the house, tell your girlfriends what you’re dealing with, seek out others in the same situation as you, and make sure your partner is on your team. Not only can they help with practical tasks, they will give you lot’s of moral support and you’ll feel less alone.

Outsource
Outsource what you can, for example your home cleaning, laundry or bookeeping.

Delegate
If you’re working on a team – make sure you don’t try to do everything yourself, delegate as much as you can to lighten your load.

Get more sunlight
Especially if your busy period is happening in winter, make sure you get your daily dose of sunlight if you’re spending a lot of time in gloomy libraries and workplaces.

Take your vitamins
This won’t even take you a minute – just go for a multivitamin paired with your breakfast. Especially important if you’re eating a lot of processed and unhealthy foods when you’re busy, but remember that vitamins don’t make up for an unhealthy diet.

Eat fresh fruit and vegetables
Keep some fruits and nuts close by and snack when you’re hungry. Don’t forget the veg, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and carrots are great snacks!

Use scented oils in the shower
Lavender to relax, or a little peppermint to wake you up – all you need is a drop or two of essential oil in the shower.

Resist the urge to be productive all the time
You can’t be equally productive every single waking moment, so you might as well schedule some off time right away. Be nice to yourself and don’t expect to accomplish as much in the late evening as you do in the morning.

Limit your media consumption
… because your brain can only process a limited amount of information. When you need your focus to be on work, don’t overflow your brain with tv news, newspapers, magazines and books.

Meditate in the morning
Ten minutes of stillness can make all the difference.

Block out distractions
Need to get some work done? Consider to pull out your internet cable, switch off your phone and lock the door. If only for a few hours, you won’t miss out on anything, and you’ll feel a lot better afterwards.

Compliment yourself
Positive self-speech can seriously impact your mood. Instead of adding to the monkey-brain thoughts of not good enough, too stressed and panic – tell yourself you look good, that you’re doing great and that you can manage everything that comes your way.

Do the dreaded tasks first
There are always tasks you’ll love to do more than others, and it’s tempting to do those first. However, it’s a good idea to do the hardest tasks first. That way, you’ll save yourself from all the dread!

Brighten your day with colourful pencils and pretty stationery
It doesn’t have to cost much, but it will make a huge impact on your happiness – especially if you’re a stationery and design geek… (well, who isn’t?)

Reward yourself
Maybe not the best overall habit to get used to, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If you need it to get through – reward yourself with gifts, chocolate and breaks whenever you finish a task. Just don’t make it a habit to kick yourself if you don’t make it. Maybe you need the treat anyways?

Postpone all major decisions
… This is not the time to move houses, quit your day job or break up with your spouse (however tempting any of those changes are). Save the big stuff for when you’re calmer and can think clearer.

Accept yourself as you are
Let yourself off the hook and accept that you are only human. You are doing your absolute best, and you are doing exactly what you need to do. Trust your instincts and keep doing whatever you’re doing. You don’t need to change anything about yourself – trust that you are perfect just the way you are.

Written by Marthe Hagen

Giving something up in exchange for something greater.

Around this time of year, many Christians and Catholics from around the world observe Lent. They choose to abstain from certain foods or pleasurable activities for 40 days leading up to the single most important event of their faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, otherwise known as Easter. Some popular choices include, giving up desserts, taking time out from social media, refraining from deep fried foods, being caffeine-free or simply unplugging the TV… I know it sounds absurd, why would anyone want to give these up? It’s an annual spiritual pilgrimage believers go on to grow closer to God and grow stronger in their faith. So instead of surfing on their iPhone they might use that time to meditate, read their Bible, or write in their journal. Or when tempted to reach for the sprinkle colored donut, they might see it as a reminder to pray for family, friends or the world around them. This may be a foreign, even strange, concept to those who aren’t familiar with Lent.

I believe this practice of ‘giving something up in exchange’ can benefit anyone. Your exchange may not be for spiritual reasons but you can make it deeply personal and meaningful. It can be giving up something tangible like your late night snacks to the intangible like a negative attitude? Or instead of giving something up, why not take something on? Aim to encourage at least one person everyday, ‘ungrudge’ those grudges, look on the brighter side of things, read to the elderly, become a Big Brother or Sister, be intentional to connect with friends and family, write that book or take that class?

Over time, this practice will de-clutter the mind and create more space within the soul to grow. It’ll help you to focus by letting go of things that slowly steal your time or letting go of attitudes that unconsciously hold you back. I’m not advocating that vices are bad but I believe, sometimes, they have an invisible hold on us. How strong – only you would know. I’m confident that you’ll feel and see a difference within 40 days. If you’ve decided to take up this challenge, I’d love to hear how your journey’s going – where it’s taking you and where you are.

© 2014 Susie Lee

Words of wisdom to live by.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious
to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter, for always
there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment;
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations
in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

-Desiderata

My dear friend and sister, Angie, sent me these timely words of wisdom to live by today, and in the days to come. We all need friendships that we can draw encouragement, strength, and a shoulder to lean on when our hearts grow faint and weary. I hope each of you can find inspiration and courage in the unexpected places of life.

If you’re having a rough day, be gentle with yourself. Find some time today to retreat to a quiet place, perhaps re-read your favourite book, or soak in the beautiful words of poetry, slowly sip a hot beverage, paint, read, write, play with your pet, go for a nature walk, take a nap, do something that’ll restore your peace, joy, and ultimately bring you rest.

©2014 Susie Lee