Ageing and such like

I have come across various quotations recently, including one today which said ‘it’s never too late to become the person you want to become’ and another – an advertisement by the Sanctuary Spa – encouraging women to relax and to ‘let go’ .  As I am just starting a college course, aiming for a change in career and it’s my birthday next week, both got me thinking.

Changing career is both exciting and daunting.   I am old enough to be the mother, if not the grandmother, of some of the other students.  But for some while now I have wanted to do something more creative.  Singing and writing were never going to pay the bills; cooking on the other hand, although at most levels not as well paid as surveying, could do.  I am torn between wanting to do something which is fulfilling for me; having to provide financially for my children; trying to balance work with looking after my children (picking them up from school, not too many hours in after school club, trying not to ask their father to look after them more than I do, etc. etc.).  I don’t know whether I’m doing the right thing – I’m definitely stepping out of my comfort zone in many ways – but I do know that drifting along as a surveyor is not satisfying, not fulfilling and, ultimately, doesn’t seem to be providing the right opportunities to make of it either a career or a vocation any longer.  I’ve applied for jobs and got nowhere, whereas already opportunities for catering are coming my way.

The other issue I’m debating in my head is whether it’s selfish to find something which is fulfilling, career-wise (which is why being able to provide for my children financially is an important factor).  The Sanctuary advert popped into my consciousness at just the right moment: my Thursday evening run had been cancelled (partly by me – the weather was atrocious) and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and a bit low.  Straight away I was thinking about my ‘to do’ list and how, as I wasn’t going running I then ‘must do… singing practice; learn/practice Italian; sort out my college folder; write all the features I’ve been meaning to write; go out for a run anyway…’ as if the suddenly empty time had to be filled.

The Sanctuary advert pulled me up short.  I roamed around a bit on Facebook, finding an inspiring clip about a man who had started running at 95 and long jump at 97; I lit some candles and had a bath (I normally have a shower as it’s quicker), lying there for ages not even reading but with bubbles about a foot higher than the surface of the water, just day dreaming; I eventually did some singing; and then I roamed around a bit more on Facebook and pinterest before writing this post.

I haven’t done all the things I could have done; but instead of feeling sad and sorry for myself I’ve enjoyed having some contemplative, peaceful time on my own.  I’m happy that I’m following my dream of being more creative, and excited about my change of career and where it might lead me: and I’m glad I’m doing it before I’m too old.

I still have a list of things to do, or that I wish to do, and I don’t want to live to regret not doing anything – but at the same time I know that sometimes it’s OK just to take some time out and do nothing.  As the Italians say, “la dolce far niente”.  And at those points, when you’re happy enough and confident enough to stop – to have a break from the rushing around we all do – you can look into yourself and see who you really are.  And you know what?  I like who I am (phew!).

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Mantra for 2017

butterfly-in-hand

The not-quite-the-final-farewell was perhaps in particular a farewell to 2016.  Watching the fireballs in Stonehaven at just gone midnight on 1-1-2017, I learnt later that they are intended to burn off the bad spirits of the past year and introduce fresh cleansing energy for the new.

Even so I started the new year feeling very low and tearful, for a couple of reasons.  Then today I read a feature which gave me my mantra for 2017:

I am enough; I have enough.

For anybody else who is feeling low or even depressed, the author was a therapist called Marisa Peer who was writing in Breathe magazine.

And that, for now folks, is enough.

 

Acceptance

We’re told there are three stages to grief.  The initial devastating sorrow; anger; then acceptance.  There’s a peace in acceptance but, I have realised recently, it doesn’t necessarily mean that happiness has returned and that all pain has gone.

I had thought that acceptance was about feeling cheerful again; moving on; forgetting the loved one and the past.  It’s not.  It’s about accepting that you have a great hole in your life and that life goes on despite it.  You learn to live with it.

In the past I always ran away: a different country, a different job, a change of address. My immediate, and ongoing, reaction to the sad events of the past year or so has been that I would move away: but because of my children I can’t, and nor do I want to, leave them.  Not only do they need their father as well as their mother (however crazy and emotional/volatile she may be at times), but I need them.

What my recent trip to Italy made me realise in any case is that you can’t run away from the pain of losing someone.  That hole where that person fitted goes with you wherever you travel.  And, at the same time, I miss my children when I’m away, especially if – as occurred this time – I can’t contact them.  Coming home was painful in some ways but the cuddles of my children and their pleasure at seeing me more than made up for it.  My daughter, who doesn’t normally like kisses, has kissed me a couple of times over the past two days, and given me plenty of hugs; my eldest didn’t stop chatting in the car when I fetched him from school (he can sometimes be a silent almost-teenager); and my youngest was full of cuddles and kisses as he always is, but also didn’t object when he had to leave his Dad’s and come to my house.  Their love is priceless.  Perhaps I should add that they have just as much love for their Dad as they do for me, and if we can live separately but be amicable enough that the children don’t feel torn between us, then we will have, in some small way, succeeded.  Another form of acceptance: that we offer different parenting styles and a different emotional ‘background’ to the children, but that neither is wrong or right, and neither is better or worse than the other.

Meanwhile two authors have brought the pain of loss and how to deal with it home to me recently, both of whom found some solace in their children.  I’m grateful for their books as whilst they’re about loved ones dying, loss is loss however it occurs.  However much you try to put a brave face on it, get on with life, and be cheerful, ultimately there are times when the tears just have to be allowed to come and the hurt and pain surfaces all over again.  This beautiful passage from Cathy Rentzenbrink’s heart-rending book The Last Act of Love (pub. Picador), about coming to terms with the devasting accident to and then death of her brother, was something I wanted to keep and to share:

“I know I’m damaged.  As I’ve walked through fire, bits of me have burnt off – but I accept that.  I’ve come across a new word.  Kintsugi is a Japenese style of ceramics where broken crockery is mended in an intentionally obvious way.  Rather than try to hide the crack, it is filled in with gold and the breakage becomes a part of the object’s story.  I love this idea.

I think how I am often drawn to broken people and find them beautiful.  I have decided that I can stop yearning to be fixed or trying to hide the scars: I can decide to think of my brokenness as an integral and even beautiful part of me…

…I no longer expect that my tears will come to an end.  I am no longer surprised that my reservoir of grief is so full and refillable.  Because I am no longer surprised, I am much better able to live with it.  I weave it into my days.  I can cry and laugh at the same time.

I have worked out that the only way to be alive in the world is to carry out acts of love and hope for the best.”

kintsugi

Shattered

Broken glass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glass splinters.  A hundred pieces, sharp shards and lethal motes,

Shrapnel sticking in the vulnerable skin and pricking the vessels.

Rain runs down windows.  Pooling, flooding, ponding,

Creating bog where once ground was firm.

Broken hearts shatter, softness torn by unseen glass,

An explosion within the shell of ribs.  No protection now.

 

Running, she stops, doubling over as the pain

Blasts through her body.  Mind breaks, tears flow

Expressing sorrow where once was joy, laughter, love.

Everything now an effort.  Work might distract – doesn’t –

Children bring laughter but questions and memories –

Bed is a soft lingering haven but for the recollection of adoration

Lying there imprinted on the pillow.

Unfinished, a love not given the chance to become mundane

Creates endless heart, mind and soul ache where once was joy.

You learn to live with it.  But shattered.

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Grief, marriage, life – ruminations

I’ve just finished reading Nora McInery Purmort’s book It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too).  It was one of those impulse buys in Waterstones – and a compulsive read (I’ve now passed it on to a friend).

There’s an awful lot in the book which reflects things I have thought and written myself, albeit triggered by different events and reasons.  She comments in one chapter on how grief makes you quite self-centred: I had been thinking recently how introverted and rather insular I had been as I moved through my depression.  To a certain extent I beat myself up for not thinking about others more, but I think it’s probably a survival of the fittest thing – face up to your blackest thoughts and moods on your own and come through them the stronger for it, and also give yourself the time to do so in order to recover.  Sadly, one of the things which stopped me being quite so self-centred was a friend’s husband leaving her: I began to think about her and supporting her rather than being quite so wrapped up in myself, although having said that I have only been able to do so as I had moved on enough from my blackest place.

I’ve always believed that too much time on your own engenders being self-centred in any case, but I also now think that sometimes it’s just necessary.  It’s like the passage I have previously referred to from Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, about walking into depression.  Recognising such feelings and living through them, instead of trying to sweep them under the carpet and pretend they don’t exist, is just sometimes what you have to do.  Nobody can be happy all the time: though Nora Mc P’s title is significant in that it is perfectly OK to laugh even in the middle of the worst grief you’ve ever suffered.  I’m sure the inmates of the concentration camps managed to laugh at times despite the appalling conditions in which they existed – they made the effort to form orchestras and play music, so why not also to laugh, difficult as that may seem?

There were a handful of passages in the book which I noted down as I wanted to keep them.  One chapter was, I think, perhaps as much as anything the writer wanting to make herself feel better – it was full of positive self-belief comments, and was about how you’re doing a good job.  I especially liked “you’re single because you just cannot be tamed right now”.  She also had things to say about marriage (I’ve always loved the comment that marriage should be to someone you can’t bear to be without, and also what she says which is “don’t marry a friend” – something which I’ve realised for myself (you need passion in a marriage): “Marriage isn’t supposed to feel like a cage, it’s supposed to feel like a hug that lasts just a few seconds too long”.

Related to that was her philosophy about life generally, and about giving up certain things, and taking risks: “the world will keep spinning, and your life will get a little bit better every time you give up on the shit that is taking you away from your one wild and precious life”.  And along the same lines, I can’t remember whether she wrote this or quoted it or I read it somewhere else: “Life’s journey is not to arrive safely at the grave in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘holy fuck, what a ride!’ “.

The book was a fantastic reminder to live life to the full – to follow dreams and take risks (without being stupid about it).  Most of us still have to pay the mortgage and be responsible for our children, but we can surely do so whilst being true to the very essence of who we are.  And usually when you take the (sometimes brave or seemingly foolhardy) step of following a different path, of taking what appears to be a risk, things just amazingly slot into place and you find a happiness and fulfillment you never dreamed possible: your one wild and precious life.

One wild and precious life

Leaving Depression behind

Everybody hurts… Hold On… my thoughts are with those for whom depression is a long-term if not ongoing chronic condition.  I was lucky: it was temporary and, in the overall scheme of things, not that severe.Weeping Angel

When I was walking around a regeneration area of Liverpool with that happy, slightly giggly, feeling in my stomach I knew I had finally said goodbye to depression.

In fact it’s not just the return of the giggly feeling (that returned once before – see my post Feeling Good two months ago, and others) but perhaps more importantly the fact that in the past couple of weeks I have coped with setbacks and criticism far better than I would have done even a month or so ago.  Rather than becoming a jelly of tears, fear and angst I am now able to be more objective about things.

The past few days I have had moments when my heart has felt light and I have felt carefree – something which has happened so rarely over the past 8-9 months or so.  Previously when it happened it was almost because I was trying to convince myself.  Now I know it is a genuine feeling.  For a few days now I have noticed a new acceptance, calmness, even optimism and joy; feelings which deserted me in the winter and were too easily snuffed out on the rare occasions they appeared in the late spring.  That’s not to say that I don’t still feel sad and weep at times; nor is it to say that I don’t have regrets.  But I feel inwardly stronger and more at peace with life, and therefore able to deal with setbacks and ‘attacks’ better.

As I look back over the past three-quarters of a year I can see how I have progressed, and how my mental and emotional health has improved.  I fell into a dark place back in November, a gloomy twilight world where I was too low to see more than a glimmer of light behind a grey haze.  I was too compos mentis to go completely loopy but each day (and during the night) I would wake to an almost physical pain, like the pins in the Little Mermaid’s feet, my heart feeling shattered and my mind a whirr.  I had no energy and no appetite, lost a lot of weight, and even the smallest things took a huge effort.  I remember one day when I really just could not get out of bed, and if it hadn’t been for my daughter pestering me, I probably wouldn’t have done.

While suicide crossed my mind, I don’t think I seriously contemplated it.  Someone in a YouTube video commented that suicide isn’t because you want to die, but because you want to stop hurting.  I toyed with the idea, but I think that’s all it was: trying to imagine what it would be like no longer to exist and how I would achieve that end.  Not existing doesn’t appeal and nor do any of the ways one might achieve it.  I want to see my children grow up, for a start – I am curious about how they are going to turn out, and I’m curious about how my own life is going to turn out.  In addition I’m not ready for complete oblivion, if that’s all that happens ‘next’, and the good things about life are really good whereas I suspect that heaven might be a bit boring.

By January I had decided I wanted to come off the anti-depressants.  I’ve never been a particularly avid drug-taker, and I wanted to feel my emotions genuinely rather than in a kind of numb haze.  The main emotion now was one of grieving anger though: I easily felt hurt, betrayed, belittled and criticised.  Sensitive and vulnerable to any criticism, I returned it.  If anyone hurt or criticized me, they got it back.  I would plunge into wound-up angst or fly off the handle, often with the children or at the smallest thing.  My moods were not stable.  At least I had more energy, but I did and said some things I regret – though some also ironically opened new doors for me.  I can understand how and why, though.  I was scared: scared of my own fragile emotional balance and that perhaps I really was ‘losing it’; scared of losing my children; scared of being out of control both emotionally and in terms of my life.  One Sunday in February, when I hit rock-bottom and felt as if my life was falling apart, I phoned the Samaritans.  I bless the sane, calm voice at the end of the phone who told me he thought I was being too hard on myself.

I carried on trying: trying to be cheerful; trying to put in more hours at work; trying to earn enough money; trying to keep it all together.  And writing – reading and writing about all sorts of things, trying to find some answers to the big unanswerable question which is ‘life’ and why mine had fallen apart in quite the way it had and how I could move forward.  Thank goodness it got no worse – but I realised how easy it would be to lose it all, and at times thought that was what was about to happen, partly because of my own volatility which seemed so difficult to control.  What I wrote wasn’t always taken how I had hoped it would be – a friend commented recently that what we say and write isn’t always understood how we intend it (if it is heard at all) – and we are all guilty of that.  So I’m attempting here to be honest and open about how I felt through the past 8-9 months, but it may be that some of you will interpret in a different way to how I mean it.  But then I’m sure there’s validity and use to other interpretations as well.

All the time I was conscious of climbing up – sometimes with a struggle, sometimes more easily (From Darkness into Light).  There were even moments when I felt as if I was flying free again, usually when I was singing or running.  And ultimately, eventually, I feel I have come back out into the daylight.  There is still much that I need to sort out, but at least my head and my emotions are in the right place to do so and I have more energy to push forward with the things I really want to do.

And my main feeling as I conclude this piece of writing?  Relief.  Relief that I am out of the turbulent, troubling place that I spent those months in.  Relief that I don’t wake up wishing that it wasn’t another day and that I could stay in bed; relief that I don’t drive along wishing someone would drive into me so I could just escape for a bit; relief that I feel as though I can handle life.

Thank You to all the friends who stood by me and supported me, whether in big ways or small, through those agonising months; and to the strangers whose comments or blogposts have inspired me, perhaps without them even knowing it.

sunflowers

Finally: 

I found this on the internet.  I have cut it drastically and edited it slightly, but I feel this expresses ‘transformation’ and emotional development well, for all of us:

There comes a time in your life when you finally get it…when in the midst of all your fears, angst and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out: ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying or struggling to hold on. You realize that it is time to stop hoping and waiting for happiness to come galloping over the next horizon. You come to terms with the fact that there aren’t always fairytale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you. Then a sense of serenity is born of acceptance, and you find your real source of power and strength.

You stop blaming others for the things that were done to you or weren’t done for you, or indeed stop taking all the blame yourself.  You learn how to say ‘I was wrong’ as well as ‘actually I did my very best’ – and to forgive people for their own human frailties. You learn to build bridges instead of walls and about the healing power of love as it is expressed through a kind word, a warm smile or a friendly gesture.  At the same time you eliminate any relationships that are hurtful or fail to uplift and edify you. You stop working so hard at smoothing things over and setting your needs aside. You learn that feelings of entitlement are perfectly OK and that it is your right to want or expect certain things, and you learn the importance of communicating your needs with confidence and grace.

And you make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting and to stay open to every wonderful opportunity and exciting possibility.  Finally, with courage and faith in your heart you take a stand, you take a deep breath and you begin to design the life YOU want to live as best as you can.

Thank you to Sonny Carroll for writing an inspiring piece which captures this journey of the spirit.

 

A Snowy Journey

OK, so I took down Chapter One (London) and I haven’t yet finished Chapter Two (France).  But here is Chapter Three in all its glory for you to enjoy or not… if you want to provide some feedback that would be great…  and if anybody knows Joachim from Munich, please say Thank You for the postcard but I didn’t have an address for him by then – and that I think this demonstrates that some of my best memories from Norway were of skiing with him.   I haven’t even mentioned the stave churches, or Lillehammer… One day I shall go back to Norway.

snow-sculpture-norway

It was early February.  It was raining yet again in London.  It had been raining in London, it seemed constantly, for weeks.  I gazed out of the office window at the cars, buses and pedestrians splashing up and down Fleet Street and wondered for the umpteenth time what I wanted to do with my life.  Cycling into work at the moment was a pain: one arrived covered in filth and soaked to the skin having narrowly missed death by motor vehicle on several occasions and I was still in a temporary job, having seen no others I fancied applying for recently.

Lack of sunlight always depresses me.  It had got to the point where the rain was making me angry – I was beginning to take it as a personal affront.   Even on the days when life dawned bright and sunny, as soon as got on my bike to cycle home the heavens would open.

So the surprise phone call from the holiday company I had previously worked for was rather timely.  They needed a cross country ski rep in Norway as the rep who was already out there wanted to come home.  In some ways I knew straight away that there was no decision to make: this was my chance to escape.  I had never done any cross-country skiing, having seen people plodding around in circles around frozen lakes in France and having regarded it as rather boring and tame, but as I wasn’t too bad a downhill skier I thought I could master cross-country.  Being the insecure person I was my worries and doubts began as soon as I started thinking I’d probably go, of course.   Would I really manage to cross-country ski to a standard high enough that I could not only keep up with, even guide, the holiday clients but also teach the beginners some of the basics?  I spoke to a colleague who had skied in the police or the army or something before returning to a more sedentary civilian life.  His response was typical of him and put me at ease: “Well, you can skate can’t you?  And you’re one of those sickening sporty types – all muscle and bone.  No problem!”  I hasten to add that he always exaggerates and says I’m built for speed rather than comfort, but in fact I’m not as fit as I was and if nothing else this would, I hoped, be an opportunity to become fitter.

The following day I bought the Bike mag February edition.  Not only was there an article about Norway and how difficult it was to buy replacement inner tubes, but also a brief clipping on how cross-country skiing was excellent cross-training for cyclists.  Apparently Olympic cyclists use it for their winter training.  I had also read somewhere that it was more physically demanding even than swimming, and my worries and fears began to be surpassed by excitement.

For a while at least I would have no more office or tube claustrophobia (there were days when the rain was so off-putting that there was no way I was going to head off by pushbike into the vehicle-splashed-up dirt of the London streets with early morning rain pouring down on me); and, best of all, I would get away from this blasted rain.  I went mountain biking in the Peak District the weekend before I left and both days we had glorious sunny weather.  Oh well.

From the start Norway was different from any other country I had previously visited.  When I’ve been skiing in the Alps I have travelled from greenery up into the mountains, getting higher and higher and increasingly worried about the fact that there seems to be NO SNOW.  From the moment I landed in Oslo I was surrounded by snow and ice.  I had never seen so much snow, and found it difficult to believe that it could continue to fall, sometimes for days at a time, much the way the rain does in England.  A Norwegian woman I was talking to in the hotel one evening said “oh yes: it snows from November to May here.  We get as fed up with it as you do with your English rain!”

The plane came in to land immediately over a fjord on which people were skating, and the sense of anticipation and excitement I always feel to a greater or lesser extent when travelling, but which often diminishes when I reach a half-way point in the journey and am exhausted with the emotion of it all and the sheer movement from A to B, continued unabated.  I had none of that sense of ‘well, I’m in the country, what now?  Where do I go next?  Have I done the right thing?’  Everything was a delight, from the miniscule size of Oslo airport compared to Gatwick, Geneva or Paris, to the easy ride on the ‘Flybuss’ to Olso Central Station, through the wait at the clean and enclosed (i.e. not windswept and freezing) station – where time flew by as I people-watched and which was quite unlike the wait I had had when crossing Paris once, in a grubby station served coffee by a grumpy French waiter – to the train journey along the edges of icy and sometimes frozen lakes and rivers, with a train window sill to rest against which seemed to be heated.  Luxury.

Venabu, where I was to live in the FjellHotel, turned out to be nothing much more than a couple of hotels surrounded by holiday huts in the middle of nowhere, not too far to the north of Lillehammer.  However it was friendly and comfortable and many of the meals were buffets: I could eat as much as I liked and have gravad lax every night if I really wanted.  I do love smoked salmon and this was some of the best…  Alcohol was hideously expensive but what the hell – I was going to be healthy and this was meant to be therapy of a kind.

The basic cross-country ski technique proved to be fairly easy to pick up and I am sure that being able to skate and having strong quads from cycling helped.  What I did find difficult initially was keeping my arms straight and this was where, eventually, being a swimmer as well as a cyclist helped: remember the ‘tricep kickback’ in front crawl?  The other difficulty was hills.  Not the ascents, which just took extra effort (especially with the wrong wax on the skis) but the descents.  Where, oh where, were my alpine skis and boots?  These flimsy, long, thin skis with no heel attachment felt at first as if they had minds of their own!  Braking and turning sharp downhill corners seemed impossible: except I saw other people managing so was determined I would too.  Needless to say one improves with practice until alpine skis are the things which feel odd – heavy, cumbersome and unwieldy.  And I loved the daily ritual of waxing your skis each morning: taking off the old wax, the smell of the wax warming up, and then getting a fresh layer on your skis, the pots colour-coded according to the outside temperature.

Around Venabu there is a wide choice of tracks, cut and uncut.  The ‘railway lines’ not only go all over the plateau but also up into the mountains.  One of my favourite routes went up around Svartfjell (Black Mountain,) from where there was a magnificent view across to the Rondane National Park, and then across the saddle between Swarthammern and Tverrhogda.  From there it was downhill nearly all the way back to Venabu, the first bit down to Fremre Uksan being a ‘go for it whoosh’ – get in the tuck position at the top and don’t stand up until you come to a natural halt at the Fremre Uksan signpost, quads-a-quiver.

It’s amazing how your speed can vary with the quality of the snow (or ice), especially on ‘off piste’ sections.  Towards the end of my stay I sampled different types of conditions just in a single day trip from Venabu to Masaplassen, about 25km along the Troll-loype.

I find I notice small details when I’m away from home, especially when I’m alone.  The time is clearer and more defined; it takes on a new dimension.  There often seems to be much more of it and little details which in the humdrum routine of a week at home and in the office would slip by unnoticed, become vividly alive and important.  Day-to-day experiences somehow have more emotional impact: seeing a vole burrowing in the snow is a moving and memorable experience and I could watch the vole for minutes on end.  At home it would be all too easy in the daily rush to miss the vole completely.  On another day when a group of us had been out skiing in rather misty conditions, we had all jumped out of our skins when a snow ptarmigan had suddenly taken off between me and the skier behind me: it had been so well-camouflaged we had had no idea it was there.  Or there was the time when I was out on the tracks on my own one afternoon, and it was so quiet I could hear a bird’s wings beating as it flew overhead.  The latter was a moment which I think will stay with me for the rest of my life: that sense of absolute aloneness (even though I was hardly any distance from the hotel) and peace, apart from the gentle pulse of the wings.  That was a moment when my worries about what I was going to do with my life just melted away and were completely unimportant: solely what mattered was the here and now.

 

My trip along the Troll-loype was an opportunity to enjoy these small details and again to forget about my ‘real’ life in England.  It was sunny but bitterly cold when I set off with a German, Joachim, to whom I had got talking at dinner one evening.  He was skiing the entire Troll-loype, staying in ‘DNT’ (Norwegian Mountain Association) huts and some hotels en route.  The hotel at Venabu had promised to arrange for someone to collect me from Masaplassen while Joachim continued along the Troll-loype to Lillehammer.  Needless to say he was far more heavily weighed down than I, with a large backpack of his necessities for staying in the basically-provided huts as well as in the luxury of an hotel.   We’d been out skiing a couple of times, one day in temperatures of minus 15 which with a strong wind must have taken it down to about minus twenty or more with the wind chill factor.  In fact that day not only was it bitterly cold but we could hardly move either because of the wind, and it wasn’t long before we gave up trying to get anywhere and went back into the warmth of the hotel.

But Joachim had to move on, so on a relatively fine day we headed out of the hotel and joined the Troll-loype.  Bamboo posts mark the route as the Troll-loype is not usually cut, although there may well be tracks from other skiers who have passed the same way.  The wind was quite strong and cold as we departed, heading north, and the snow had become icy.  But the sky was blue, the sun was out, and we knew that as soon as we turned east the wind would be more or less behind us and would help us along.  So optimistically we battled around the edge of the frozen lake which Venabu overlooks, then cut away from the tracks and down into the little valley of the Myadalen, one of the many rivers and streams which cross the mountain-ringed Venabygdfjellet plateau.  Joachim suggested skiing up the river valley as it was more sheltered than the route the marked track took along the top of the adjacent slope.  Feeling a little apprehensive in case we suddenly plunged through the snow into icy water, I followed: which was when we saw the first spectacular view of the day.  Some discussion of which words would be used in German or English to describe such views ensued, Joachim summing it up neatly by concluding “I normally just say ‘wow’!”

The river beneath our feet was barely perceptible but the snow-clad valley walls reached above us, startlingly white against the blue sky, the snow folding over on itself like a blanket.  I think the biggest revelation for me in Norway was the sheer variety of the snow: not only the difference between new powdery snow and older stickier snow, but also the way it lies.  Sometimes it can be like skiing on icing sugar, fluffy and compacted all at once; sometimes it is like meringue as your skis cut through a crust into soft powder underneath; and sometimes it is icy, alternating often with powder so that you shoot along faster than you intended and then suddenly and unexpectedly slow up as the powder takes you by surprise and puts the brakes on for you (in my inexperienced case all too often leading to a fall).

The snow also forms all sorts of different patterns.  Some are like waves of drifted sand, and especially when the wind is wispily brushing away the surface you can believe you are in a cold and white desert.  Some patterns look like white semi-buried bones; some like rock strata; and some have a small, mossy pattern.  The same route rarely looks the same twice, as I had discovered even in the short time I had spent in Norway.

We joined the Troll-loypa proper at Brennflya, marked, like all junctions in this area, by a wooden signpost.  In other areas they have signposts accompanied by a map of the entire region and a red circle with ‘you are here’ distinctly marked on it.  To me the latter spoils everything: it makes it too easy, and is far too similar to being a tourist in a strange city.  I enjoyed trying to match up my map to the signpost, which sometimes doesn’t point in quite the direction along the trails one might expect.  “Troll-loypa” the Brennflya signpost said in red on whitened wood, “Osksendalen 22km”.  Oh good – we’d completed 3km of the trip and just had the remaining 22km to do.

 

Joachim’s ‘real’ map of the area had informed him that we could see a waterfall from the Troll-loypa near the next signpost at Dorfallet (which means, unsurprisingly, ‘Waterfall’).  We could see nothing, and as there is the danger of avalanches due to the snow overhangs on the edge of the canyon which runs south from Dorfallet, we decided to play safe and not to go too near the edge (a brief aside: the canyons were created when a lake went ‘down a plughole’ in the sandstone at the end of the glacial period).

We realised soon after this point that we were not the only ‘explorers’ on this route: a lone skier caught up with us and overtook us, soon vanishing into the distance and leaving us alone again (much to the chagrin of my competitive spirit).  But then he wasn’t carrying a heavy backpack nor stopping to take photos at every ‘wow’ view, but possibly training for the race which was due to take place along the route in a fortnight’s time.

We could see back to Venabu and also across to Kvitfjell (the downhill slope near Ringebu, used in the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics).  We weren’t just out in the middle of nowhere, but explorers in the Norwegian mountains, dwarfed by the white wilderness around us which stretched for miles but which at least had some definition (unlike skiing in a white-out) and reference points in terms of peaks and valleys which could be named and located with the aid of the map.

We stopped at a brook for lunch, with interesting ice formations above the rushing water.  We took shelter behind some trees nearby which were so deeply buried in snow they were more like bushes, and turned our skis upside-down in time-honoured tradition to use as a bench.  I discovered that the thermos flask I had been carrying had failed in its duty of keeping hot liquids hot, and tried to mix my ‘choc’n’orange’ powder into a drink with tepid water.  It was not particularly drinkable – in fact it was vile – and I tipped it out in disgust, feeling guilty at making an ugly dark brown stain on the pristine white snow.   Fortunately my German friend had brought with him that most English of drinks: tea.  And it was hot.

I had provided myself with two bread rolls as a packed lunch, while Joachim had packed a lunch which seemed to consist mainly of dried fruit and chocolate.  Having proudly told me that ‘Milka’ chocolate was German (I always thought it was Swiss), he made the mistake of offering me some.   When has a girl ever said no to chocolate?

Fortified by lunch, we set off once more and we soon arrived at the next signpost which bore the surprising news ‘Masaplassen/Oksendalen 7.1km’.  We had a cold drink to celebrate which tasted to me like a rather nasty form of Lemon Meringue Pie, but which Joachim insisted was orange.  The conversation turned round to a time when Joachim had been staying in a B&B in the Lake District and the landlady had insisted on giving him cornflakes with the milk already on them, so they went disgustingly soggy.  After a brief conversation about various countries’ culinary oddities (going to Munich and being served just a huge slab of meat loaf; baked beans; frogs legs and snails), we set off again.  At the next signpost we joined what in summer is a road.  The snow – or rather lumps of ice – meant that it was bumpy and quite hard-going, but we were rewarded by views across the Gudsbrandsdal valley to the mountains of ‘Peer Gynt’ land: breath-taking.

We turned right and decided that it might be easier to ski off the road rather than on it, only to find that the open ground was nearly as icy.  At one point, my downhill skiing on ice being a little more hesitant than Joachim’s  – or perhaps ‘more uncontrolled’ would be more accurate – I found I was flying down a slope in the wrong direction, moving further and further away from my skiing companion and the next signpost.  It didn’t take long to cover the extra ground, to discover that the signpost only stood about 15cm above the surface and that the writing had faded so as to be almost invisible.  With the help of the map we worked out that one way indicated Masaplassen and the other Pulla.

Turning in the Masaplassen direction we found ourselves on the most wonderful fast but soft, compacted icing sugar track, with deep powder either side.  My pride was somewhat appeased when Joachim, definitely the better skier, suddenly fell over backwards in some deep snow which had taken him by surprise.  It always makes me feel better when the experts fall over too: there must be hope for me yet.  I was also pleased not to fall over in the way I had done a few days’ earlier, when, taking a corner too fast, I lost control of my steering completely and flew off the track head first into a snow drift, just to lie there laughing while several other skiers whistled past, probably wondering what on earth I found so funny.

The track wound its way prettily up and down amongst some trees, until it suddenly came out on a four-lane cross-country skiing motorway which took us up to a road.  After a fairly short and level track you then turn off the Troll-loypa onto a steepish downhill, at which we shot quickly but safely and enjoyably to the bottom and across the road into the café at Masaplassen for coffee and cake.  I felt a sense of achievement at being there, of pleasure at having completed a real tour, albeit to some people a short and non-challenging one.  It was such a pleasant place to end a journey: the wooden buildings snuggle amongst the trees in direct opposition to Venabu’s windswept position in the middle of a plateau.  I liked them both.

But whilst I loved being in Norway and skiing nearly every day, rather than being confined in an office in London, I missed my friends and my social life.  I can still clearly remember the day I was skiing along on the loype near the hotel with a client who happened to be an architect.  I suddenly realised that what I really wanted to do with my life was return home – to London – but that my main purpose for working was that I could then afford to travel to some of the many places in the world I wanted to, and to go on activities holidays.  After all many outdoor sports take place in some of the most spectacular scenery this world of ours can offer: and whilst sometimes progressing up the career ladder has some appeal, what is the point in arriving at the pearly gates and not having done many of the other things you wanted to do?  Someone once said to me that if you don’t experience the wider world then your own world shrinks, and the very truth of that rang clear to me straight away.

Meanwhile whilst Joachim was set to stay a night at Masaplassen and then ski onwards tomorrow, I had Venabu’s Norwegian buffet supper to look forward to.

And at least it would be spring when I got back to England

 

Apologia to a lost love

I had a man who adored me and whom I adored: but we lost each other.  This is for him.

Every time we say goodbye…  (I remember you watching me as I sang this: I couldn’t look at you).

If You are reading this, maybe just skip to the P.S. at the end before reading the rest.

sunflowers

I am sorry.  I am sorry for the hurt we caused each other – we who adored each other.  In the passion of grief, I lashed out: wanting to protect myself; wanting to hurt you as you had hurt me.  An intense, passionate love became an angry, agonising grief: confused and churned up, I was unable to be rational or calm.  I was angry with you for hurting me, and yet frustrated with myself for my own part in creating the situation which meant I got hurt – and which I think also hurt you.

My anger lasted only a little time, relatively speaking, and in any case was interspersed with calmer moments: but you weren’t to know that.  Even so I never stopped loving you – torn between a genuine love which wanted only the best for you and anger for myself, that I could not be part of your life, I was in turmoil.

You said months ago that I didn’t understand.  To an extent you were right – on one level I didn’t – my divorce seemed to be going smoothly and life seemed good – but then my life seemed to fall apart, which has given me a far better understanding and acceptance.  Even so I understood better than you thought I did at the time.  But falling in love makes baggage rise to the surface and my baggage was lack of belief in myself – that someone could adore me so very much.  You told me early on that you “didn’t do casual” and that you had fallen for me, that I wasn’t just an escape or just for sex; but I still felt vulnerable and insecure about you, and hated myself for being so.  I have had to step back to realise how very much you adored me and how much turmoil you must also have been in.

You always said your children came first, but you also gave the clear impression that you were thinking of ending your other relationship, which you said had been on the rocks for years.  Once I asked ‘should I back off while you sort things out?’ and you replied ‘no, I don’t want to lose you’.  But I could see only too painfully clearly how incredibly difficult it would be: you stood to lose too much.  I tried and wanted to support you but ultimately the conflicts and complexities we both had in our lives were ignited into a volatile and confusing emotional cocktail, fuelled by lack of sleep.  It got to the stage where I had to look after myself but in the agony of trying to do so, my mind and body broke, and with them my heart.  I could no longer think straight about my own life, let alone have the capacity and compassion to continue to support you fully and completely understand your feelings.  I had to step back and regain my sense of self.  Likewise I understand how you couldn’t support me when I needed you the most.  Neither of us, I think, could cope with the situation we had created.

One thing I was always consistent about was that I loved you, and could no more stop loving you than stop breathing.  I never, ever was inconsistent – if ever you felt let down by me, it was only at those times when I felt pushed away and I had to withdraw, in pain, to protect myself.

When I wrote to you – and that was such a difficult letter to write – to try to clarify things, you said my letter made you love me even more than you did before.  I was on a high from your adoration of me: but the next evening you said it was all about me and that I didn’t understand.  I am still hurt and puzzled as to how you could change so suddenly but perhaps by then we were both each too churned up by our own feelings to hear each other correctly.  You accused me of wearing rose-tinted spectacles: in fact I never did and my very insecurities and internal conflict arose because I could not see how something so precious and amazing could continue.  You said once “I don’t know where this is going”: neither did I.  I think perhaps we wanted to be together but that neither of us could see how we could be: but we never really talked about that, not properly, although looking back now I remember brief phrases which were perhaps the beginnings of conversations which never developed.  You told me you had decided months earlier that you wanted me: I think we were both swept away by our feelings for each other, by wanting each other so much, without having thought further ahead or practically.  It was not black and white, but maybe I gave the impression of thinking it should be straightforward despite knowing it wasn’t.

All I knew was that I wanted to have you in my life, to love you and to be loved by you: but understandably you were afraid of losing your children.  I was lucky: I still saw, and see, my children regularly and frequently and on the whole now have a relatively amicable relationship with my ex.   At the time I couldn’t understand why you couldn’t have the same with your partner and children, but having gone through a very difficult period re. my divorce and childcare I do now understand better.  You are a good and very loving father.

I still miss you and think about you almost all the time, but it’s not the near-physical, seemingly illogical, agony that it was.  I remember that when we came together it was as if we had both found something – had come home – and it feels now as if a part of me will always be missing, however rich and rewarding the rest of my life. In the same way as you said you don’t do casual, neither do I.  I don’t get involved with a man just for the sake of having a man around, nor for what he can do for me.  I fell for you without meaning to and because you’re you, and I fell more than I have ever fallen for anyone before: you were the most wonderful man in the world to me.  I now fully understand how love is an addiction, and a broken heart is a physical thing.  The ‘spark’ was huge – a fire, like in that U2 song – and wasn’t something I was ever going to forget or to get over quickly.

I lost someone who mattered to me almost as much as my children do.  I am sad that at the moment you are not in my life at all and I can understand why you asked if we could be friends – why you seemed to want to keep me in your life even a little bit – and I am sad that we hurt each other so much.  It especially hurt and saddened me to feel your disdain; and hurts that I no longer sing for you (“I was born to sing for you“: you were my biggest fan and the one who mattered the most, and I miss that: in my heart I’m still singing for you).  But I am grateful to you for having tapped into the very essence of who I am – you ‘got’ me – and for always being expressive about how very much you adored me.  It’s an incredible feeling, to be so adored and to be told that you make a positive difference to someone’s life.  Thank you.

To have had this even once in my life is Dove and olive branchfantastic: like first love but better in a way because it was freer (of expectations and, ironically, of day to day life) and more mature.  And I hope that one day, whether it’s a month, a year, or twenty years down the line, we will be able to meet again amicably and I hope even we may get a chance to write Chapter Two.  You said once that perhaps it was too late for us: if anything I think it was too early.

Until that time I hold close in my heart the precious thing that was our love; cherish it: and move forward.  I am lucky that I got to know and to love the great man I know you can be, and to be adored by you.

For now, Fare Well.   E finita (per adesso) ma ti amero per sempre.

P.S. 4th Jan. 2017 – I see photos of you with her online, and it hurts – though (obviously) I don’t know what’s going through your mind or how you feel about me any more, and you gave me a gorgeous smile when I saw you the other week.  What I do know however is that I have been feeling really low at the start of 2017, and it’s because – whilst I miss you still – I have been missing my kids dreadfully.  I saw them today and the world took on a different, brighter, hue.  This must have been how you felt when you first got together with me – you must have been missing yours so, so much (I wish I had got to know them better, as you did mine) and I so completely understand how your children come first, and are what makes the world worthwhile.  Maybe you’re happy with her – maybe you’re not but doing your hardest – but you can at least be in a large part happy because you’re with your children.  When you truly love your children – I think perhaps especially if you didn’t really expect to have any, as I don’t think either of us did – they are amazing and surprising miracles and more important than anything else, and sometimes you don’t even realise you’re miserable about them until you get them back.

David said that he was so unhappy with me that he’d even risk losing his children – but I think in his heart of hearts he knew I wouldn’t do that to them or to him, whereas you I think had a genuine fear (especially not being married and perhaps because you were spending so little time with them).  My house often feels empty and the past few days have been hideous, so I also understand why you said you wanted to see them every day, and why you wanted your house to be their childhood home.

I miss you so much – we were twin souls, and so similar in so many ways – but I also completely and utterly understand about your children.  I hope we can be friends at least again one day; but meanwhile enjoy the time with your children, as I do with mine.

25th April 2017.  I still miss you.

Balance

 balance

Sometimes it hurts to follow your heart.  Sometimes however it can take you years to hear your heart properly – to trust the essence of who you are – and it takes several traumatic events happening at once to get you back on the right path.  Your heart can be yelling out at you to take a risk and do something you know feels right; but you ignore it because you ‘ought’ to do something else; you ‘ought’ to play safe; you ‘ought’ to be so-called responsible.

Sometimes responsibility is about being apparently irresponsible.  For me it’s the work-life balance and how much creativity I ‘allow’ myself in my working life.

Having been going through a separation leading to divorce, and just as I started a new job with a long commute, I fell in love last year – passionately, deeply in love – and was loved in return.  In many ways it was rather unreal and yet that was its very life-giving, mind body and soul reality: it was a wonderful, magical, romantic time.  The ‘real me’ was already stirring – this awoke it further and pushed it out into the world.

I flew high but I crashed hard.  For the past few months or so I’ve been working back towards balance: balancing the me I know I really am with the practicalities of life.  On an emotional level, getting a balance between self-esteem & self-awareness.  Not getting put down and falling to bits as soon as somebody criticises or attacks me, but being able to admit my own faults as well… seeing that in all relationships, apart from perhaps with your children, ‘it takes two to tango’.

Having the confidence to believe that my singing is good (it wasn’t years ago and it’s taken a long time not to have that little voice in my head saying ‘who do you think you are, standing up here and singing to people?’) and that Deborah and I have different strengths when it comes to singing. I think she is a far better singer and performer than me, but my voice appeals to a different section of the audience and has a totally different quality – but we now should have the confidence that we are good enough to be paid for singing.  Again, the man last year was a huge part of that as he always supported my singing – as did, also, the friend who came back into my musical life having not seen him for 35 years.  A huge Thank You to those two men: and to the man who kissed my hand when I last sang in the restaurant in Brampton; to the man who said it was ‘classy’; to my choir master for letting me sing the solo in Stanford’s Bluebird; and to my friend Clare and her family… etc.

Accepting that I can’t do everything – there just aren’t enough hours in the day – despite the fact that I want to live life to the full.  Life is an enormous playground and I’ve only tried out some of the rides so far, and I’m greedy to try more!  I want to learn Italian (that’s been an ambition for goodness knows how many years – I think it may possibly get fulfilled this year… watch this space); do lots of long bike rides and write them up; travel; sing; write.. and of course there has to be time for my surveying work, which is what, after all, pays the bills (and I have a great boss who again is supportive by being understanding).  And I want to fit in some time for trail running out on those lovely hills or along by the sea; for yoga; and for meditation.  But again – it’s getting the balance.

Going through a divorce is making me reconsider my financial and childcare balance – perhaps I have to let child tax credits provide some of my income in order that I have more time with the children.  My ambition last year was to work full time and not need any child tax credits at all, and I wanted to be able to afford to take the children abroad on holiday with me.  I failed miserably but I was trying to do too many things – to be too much to too many people – and hence I crashed, letting down in the process my children, the man I loved (though he then failed to help me up when I was down and when I needed him most), my boss, and also myself.

The last point, about looking after yourself, is important because it reflects so much wisdom that is ‘out there’ – if you don’t look after and love yourself first and foremost, you’re pretty useless to other people.  It’s not about selfishness – it’s about (going back to the beginning) being who you truly and genuinely are, and being happy, in order to give happiness to other people.  And when you’re deeply, profoundly, happy in your own skin then it’s no effort to give to other people (I was good at that at the beginning of my love affair but then got insecure and tried too hard/gave too much; and with my ex-husband I always felt I gave a lot and then got resentful… and didn’t appreciate what he was doing (giving me freedom; being a good father)).

As a child – a good, going-to-church on a Sunday and singing in the choir-child – I was brought up to think that I should think about others first and that if you didn’t you were being selfish.  Years later I was at a church in Brighton where a friend sang in the choir, and the sermon was about ‘love others as you love yourself’.  It was a pivotal point for me as the vicar was saying that if you don’t love yourself you’re useless to anybody else… (though not in quite those words).  It’s not always easy to put into practice when deep down inside you think you ‘ought’ to put others first: but actually I’ve seen what happens when you identify too closely with others and put their needs and feelings before your own.  When you lose yourself, you are completely lost.

In relation to children again a balance has to be found, of course: they need to learn to grow up to consider others but have enough self-esteem to look after their own needs.  And whilst a parent has to look after their children, and to a certain extent put his or her children first, again showing them how to look after themselves and be kind to others as well is a fantastic lesson to teach them (and a difficult one if you struggle with it yourself).

So over the past few months I’ve been trying to scramble back up the mountain of self-esteem and happiness – but now I’m beginning to realise that I was making too much effort even to do that, although I’ve had some success.  It’s about letting go – truly letting go – and that’s when things fall into your life; abundance will return in due course (and it’s perhaps also about seeing that it is indeed abundance and joy – seeing that the glass is half full, not half empty – i.e. perception).

If you have constantly to make too much effort for anything and it’s not happening – if you feel as if you’re banging your head against a brick wall and you’re miserable for years on end (as David was in our marriage) – then you’re on the wrong track.  Having said that, my friend Clare wisely said she had realised that when things felt hard it wasn’t so much about giving up as working out how to keep the things in her life that she wanted (she works full-time;  has a very ill husband; has a lovely boyfriend and other people in her life she cares and worries about, and has got to the stage where it works) – again, balance between putting in the effort to keep what you really want and letting go at the right time.

So this week, after feeling incredibly low again on Monday morning, has been about letting go.  I’ve read some useful things which have helped (thank you to the facebook pages and writings of Lyn Thurman* in particular – and also to Phil Robbins whose fantastic photos of me on Caldbeck Fell made me feel better about myself than I have for ages**) and then I burnt a whole load of paperwork yesterday and deleted some files on my computer.  I think that will do.  Again, balance – making too much of an effort to let go is again too much effort!  I have to just let it happen (and not beat myself up for the times when sadness overcomes me).  I’m hoping that letting go will let me fly again – this time in a stronger and more controlled way than I did last summer.  To soar, as my voice has been described as doing in The Bluebird.

There’s a passage at the beginning of one of the chapters of Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (Peter Hoeg) where she says that she just walks into the tunnel, the blackness, that is depression: she lets herself fall.  It’s always stuck with me.  There’s no rule which says that you ‘ought’ not ever feel depressed.  Yes, life is amazing and we’re lucky to be here and to experience its rich, colourful tapestry – but if there are times when you get depressed or low, go with the flow (just don’t wallow).  There are events in life which are sad, and the unhappiness is a sign that you are human and have emotions – but learn from them, let go, and move on. Everything passes; everything changes.  Again, there was a short features in Psychologies magazine once which pointed out that bad times pass – and so do the good ones! – just to come round again (the wheel of fortune).

At least, that’s what I’m trying to do!

 got-balance*  I’ve previously recommended Lyn’s book The Inner Goddess Revolution but will again here in case anyone who might be interested in it has missed it.

** I can highly recommend Phil for professional photographs – if you’re looking for a photographer for any reason whatsoever, contact him via his Facebook page.  He’s based in Carlisle.

Sorrow, pain and hope

The Invitation
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

From Lyn Thurman (who wrote The Inner Goddess Revolution), quoting Ernest Hemingway: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

From the Dalai Lama:  “Hard times build determination and inner strength. Through them we can also come to appreciate the uselessness of anger. Instead of getting angry nurture a deep caring and respect for troublemakers because by creating such trying circumstances they provide us with invaluable opportunities to practice tolerance and patience.”

“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.”
Oscar Wilde

“You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.”
Oscar Wilde

“If someone treats you poorly, keep being you.  Don’t ever let someone else’s bitterness change the person you are.”  (Ayurveda website).

“If I keep a green bough in my heart the singing bird will come.”
Chinese proverb