Live in your strength

Philippa Gregory (in The Taming of the Queen):

“…if you are a writer, you will find that you are driven to write.  It is a gift that demands to be shared.  You cannot be a silent singer.”

Lyn Thurman (in The Inner Goddess Revolution):

“I made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t be with anyone else who didn’t ‘get me’.  I needed to be 100 per cent myself, not feeling as if I had to play a role of how a dutiful wife should be… There’s a part of our culture that hints that we are somehow less than whole if we’re not in a relationship… ” 

The Lover’s Path… if you follow your heart and are true to yourself, you cannot help but walk on the lover’s path.  Love for friends; love for family; love for children; love for the world; love for the person you adore the most in the world; and love for yourself.

“To truly love another, you must follow the lover’s path wherever it may take you .”

images-1

 

“If you ever find yourself stuck in the middle of the sea,
I’ll sail the world to find you
If you ever find yourself lost in the dark and you can’t see,
I’ll be the light to guide you.”

 

There you are, standing, feeling broken-hearted, looking out at the sea as the ship drifts over the horizon.  The wind blows your hair and clothes; blows the tears from your cheeks leaving nothing but a vague memory.  The words of Morag’s Cradle Song come to mind: “Gaze I seaward in the gloaming; gaze I skyward, sad and weary…“.

Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting or no longer loving – it means accepting.

Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean not being sad – it means understanding.

Understanding means loving enough to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Truly loving means that even while you miss and yearn for the beloved, you accept him for who he is and that he must do what he believes is right for him; believing in him and thinking he’s amazing; knowing he’s great; letting go of him.

He has left on that ship and you had to let him go – maybe for a while, maybe for ever.  You can only step away from the sea and get on with your life, holding the beloved in your heart and trusting that the Universe, Fate, God, Allah – call it what you will – has it all worked out, and that ‘all will be well and all manner of thing shall be well’.

And of course the pain recedes and it is easier to remember the good things – the love – and not feel hurt by the bad; the doubts and questioning and disdain.

Live in your strength – be true to yourself – let yourself shine.

copyright 2017 R Lewis
“There are no goodbyes for us.  Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart” – Mahatma Ghandi

photograph copyright R. Lewis 2017

Advertisements

Almost a Final Farewell

“take the road less travelled and simply open your eyes” – Laurence Shelley

icarus

The end of a year makes most of us consider all sorts of things: what we have achieved in the past year; what we have learnt; how next year will be different; how this year compares with those that have gone before.  As we approach 2017 I am looking in to setting up my own business, continue to try to promote my singing and writing, and am also trying to get extra work.  More importantly I am in a different place emotionally (calmer, happier and more accepting) to where I was this time last year or even a few months ago.  I have become aware that I just can’t do everything: and blogging is one thing which may need to take a back seat.  I don’t feel at the moment as if I can add anything useful or enlightening and I am conscious that I have started repeating myself.  It feels as if this blog has now come to a natural end (unlike in Febuary, when I thought of finishing but actually was only at the beginning of an emotional journey).

I started blogging in April 2010 with UnemployedinCumbria on Blogspot.  It was intended to be a blog about getting a new job in a rural county which has a small, low-density, population and not much of a commercial property market (I’m a Chartered Surveyor by profession) – though I also wanted to change career.  I had more of a career change than I expected as I found to my surprise that I was pregnant with a third child – at age 48.  The blog ended up being about being pregnant in my late 40s, having a baby at age 49, and having no job and therefore a much-reduced household income.  We had also moved into a house which needed a bit of TLC so there are bits about my coming to terms with sorting out the garden as well – the children still remember my poisoning the fish in an attempt to rid the pond of algae…!

Once child no. 3 was lustily here I began to think about doing triathlon again, and started a blog which was meant to be more or less a training diary – Supervet-Sarah.  As this second blog developed I stopped the other, but the aim of once again competing regularly in triathlon and at ‘supervet’ (50+) age still hasn’t been achieved.  However it did track my training for Kielder Marathon at age 51 including various micro-adventurous training runs I did with Kerry, who also did Kielder, and during that time I did Kendal sprint triathlon – though very badly (I was slow on the swim and fell off my bike: First Triathlon in How Long? ). That blog ends rather abruptly in August 2014, shortly before David left.  The final words of the final post are “I’m very proud of my little girl” – something I need reminding of from time to time as she’s also very feisty and wilful so I frequently get cross with her, sometimes quite unfairly.

In early 2015 I started this blog.  There’s a hiatus between David leaving at the end of August 2014 and the start – a time when I adjusted to being ‘young (at heart) free and single’ again and to being without the children every other weekend.  By the end of the year I had come to the conclusion that 2014 was the year of broken things – my marriage, my washing machine and my dishwasher but on a less frivolous note sad ‘broken’ things happened to a lot of people.  They always do but I guess it’s how the year has been for you overall that remains in your memory.

By contrast 2015 was then a year of freedom, joy and passion.  I relished my new-found freedom and realised who I truly was.  By the middle of the year I was on a high – I got a new job; fell deeply and whole-heartedly in love with a man who had fallen passionately in love with me; and my singing seemed to be flying too: I had more confidence and performed solo more than I had previously, including arranging concerts for my group Eight + 1.  I flew high – but like Icarus I perhaps flew too high – too close to the sun – and like Icarus I crashed.

Unlike Icarus I had plenty of people to catch me before I hit the ground, and to support me, but it led to a challenging time and made 2016 a challenging year.  It has also been a year of farewells – obviously the usual round of celebrities have died, including David Bowie and Alan Rickman – but also people who were briefly part of my everyday life have moved – Chris who worked at Capernaum and left to join the navy; my lovely neighbours Margaret & David, who moved to Cornwall; and – sadly – Capernaum restaurant itself, which was one of my favourite restaurants ever – the children still judge food by ‘the Capernaum scale’ with few restaurants beating it.  It was also farewell to my friend Clare’s husband, Bob.  He had suffered from severe COPD for several years but hung on strongly for so long.  I am incredibly glad that Deborah and I went to sing Songs for Bob at their house in April, accompanied by Martin Johnson; I am sad that I missed the funeral; and I shall always appreciate the fact that he called me ‘Pocket Venus’.  Clare and her family at times have had more faith in me than I have had in myself.

At the same time however there were plenty of hellos and I got to do some travelling in a minor way, which is something I love and hadn’t done for ages.  I was pretty reclusive for the first part of the year, barely even going into the town centre where I live in case I bumped into anyone I knew and most of the time feeling desperate to run away abroad and ‘hide’.  Six months ago (June), just as I was finally coming out of my depression, I wrote “I want to learn Italian; 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 want to fit in some time for trail running out on those lovely hills or along by the sea; for yoga; and for meditation.”  I have in fact managed, to a greater or lesser extent, to do all those things.

As I look forward to 2017 I hope to travel more (I still have a yen to go abroad to do some voluntary work, but it’s difficult with children and needing to earn money to pay for things for them); to write (I need to finish my long bike ride and write it up); to sing (there are four gigs coming up for Bellissima and we now have our own Facebook page as well); to run and cycle; and to earn enough money, ideally doing things I love (fingers crossed for the job I have applied for, but for keeping doing surveying as well, as I have a great boss and I don’t want to let him down) and to perhaps start my own business.  And, of course, to spend time with my kids – if I can earn enough then I want to be able to take the whole of August off to spend it with them – my dream is to tour Northumbria in a camper van.  But who knows what the new year will hold – I learnt long ago that you can’t plan your life.  Things you want do happen, but rarely in the way you expect.

I learnt a lot of lessons in 2016.  One was about being true to myself, which I already knew I should do but which, I learnt, means that sometimes I need to swim against the pack and follow my instincts and my heart despite what anybody else says (I’ve done so in the past and proved people wrong… and if you don’t try then you never know, do you?).  Another lesson, again which I already knew but which was reiterated, was that there are different outlooks on life and none is right or wrong.  David and I separated; we are happier separated but we still get on.  For us – and for our children – that works, but it’s not the solution for everybody and not everybody can manage to be as amicable as we (mostly) are (we had an argument today – he came round to make peace, we had a chat and he gave me a brief hug.  We no longer love each other but we can at least get on and not use the children as emotional blackmail against each other – which I  hope is best for the children too.  I guess he’s sort of a friend – which is what he was before we got together so there’s a sense of resolution in still being at least on friendly terms).

Finally, I learnt that I can’t do everything.  Emotionally, physically, mentally or even in terms of time.  I have had to accept that Child Tax Credits may need to bolster my income if I want to spend enough time with my children as well as, importantly, allowing the creative side of me some outlet; I also have to accept that there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do.  I tried to do it all: to be a mother (teacher, taxi service, cook, housekeeper, gardener…), a writer, a singer, a lover, to keep fit, to work full-time and to commute, and it didn’t work.  2016 as much as anything has been about getting some balance back.  I’ve even said ‘no’ to some things – I didn’t sing with choir this term and I’m not going to be touring with them in May (I can’t afford to but more importantly I don’t want to go abroad without the children).  I have learnt over the past few years though that allowing the creative side of me some outlet is hugely important: it’s a fundamental part of who I am.  It’s not about being self-gratifying however but about how you can make it fit into a life where you have to provide for your children and do the washing up as well.

This blog has been great for getting my head straight and I hope I will look back at my posts and still enjoy reading them.  People have criticised me, mostly when they have felt criticised by me, but writing has always been a type of therapy for me.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be so public (though the maximum number of readers I have had for any post has been 210, which really isn’t that many) but if just one person has felt better because of a post I have written – if just one person has thought ‘yes, that’s how I feel too’ – then this blog has not been in vain.

From time to time there may perhaps be another, but for now this, my 99th post in this blog, is a farewell – with best wishes for the New Year to you all.

butterfly-in-hand

A song

There’s a song here – I’m dimly aware of the music, though can’t ‘hear’ it clearly enough to write it down.  It’s a light, trippy, cheerful tune with an element of tribute to U2, as U2 fans will see from the words (by the way did anyone see that alleged competition on Facebook to win places at a U2 rehearsal?  I bet it was a scam but if it wasn’t it would be fab.!).

You broke my heart; tore me apart

Left me to fall, careless if I hit the wall

I was born to sing for you and yet you were so cruel

I fell for you utterly but ended feeling a fool.

Chorus:

I’m picking up the pieces, the pieces get fixed up

I was close to being shattered, completely, utterly *ucked

But I’m picking up the pieces, the pieces get glued back up.

 

You told me you were serious, didn’t want to lose me

Held me close on waking, trying not to move me

Slept with my jumper when I wasn’t there

Worshipped me, adored me – of that I was aware.

Chorus:

So I’m picking up the pieces, the pieces get fixed up

I was close to being shattered, completely, utterly *ucked

And I’m picking up the pieces which get glued back up.

 

Life goes on regardless – in fact it’s pretty good

Knowing all along that for my kids it really should

Despite the times when, broken, I wanted it to stop

We were one, we were much the same – and the pieces got picked up.

Chorus:

I’m picking up the pieces, the pieces get fixed up

I was close to being shattered, completely, utterly *ucked

But I’m picking up the pieces, the pieces are glued back up.

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

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

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.

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

 

 

 

Children – and finding peace

At top of Hartside 10th Nov (2)The pendulum swings… I was on a high for much of last year, loving my newly-found state of being single and free from being a domestic drudge (as I had felt).  I loved my child-free time but also loved seeing them, and had enough money to treat them to things and take them places.  Having felt trapped and resentful within a marriage which was plodding along, the love having died some years earlier, life then swung the opposite way.

It’s now settled back down a bit: but the interesting thing is that I now miss the children far more when they’re not around than I did for much of last year.  I love my single time, when I can write or sing or meditate or see friends – but the house feels empty and I miss the touch of warm squishy arms and children’s kisses. It’s made me realise how very hard it is for people to separate when children are involved: how low David must have been feeling (and for a long time) to want to leave badly enough that he was prepared to risk not seeing much of his children.  He and I have no feelings for each other, apart from a vague sort of friendship, if it can even be called that – the things that annoyed me about him when we were together still annoy me, but I’m now separate from them rather than living with them day-to-day: likewise I’m sure the things that annoyed him about me still irritate him at times in the same way. There’s no way we’d want to be back together, and the children seem to have adjusted happily to their new life with two homes: and at least we only live a few streets apart.

But the love you feel for your children… well, that’s surely the strongest love one can ever feel.  Certainly I was overwhelmed on the arrival of all three of my children at just how much love I felt for them: a love which seems to take over and possess you, which you can’t deny.  And with all three of them there is a special and individual angle to that love: the horrible ‘labour’ I had with Alex and the fear that he would die, so the relief when he was then finally in my arms, and the joy of my maternity leave; the beauty of Isabella who, even being delivered by c-section, was exercising her lungs and making her presence felt before she was out in the world; and the miracle that is Edward, who I had so late in life and yet who is – like the others – so perfect.  And so Heavy Metal and funny and loving.  Anything approaching that depth of love occurs infrequently between two adults and is a different thing in any case, a precious and rare thing.

As these thoughts and more whirled around in my head, I was reminded of something I wrote last year.  Here it is:

Finding Peace

Peace is, in the words of the hymn, the still, small voice of calm.  It resides somewhere inside your ribs and runs like a silent light through your body from tip to toe.   It doesn’t explode energetically with the vim and vigour of joy; it runs deeper than mere contentment and acceptance; it is less materialistic and self-centred than fulfilment.  All those are elements which can lead to peace but the real sense of peace is that connection with the world – with the universe – when all is still and for a few moments you can just Be.

Peace can be found in the eye of a storm; in the tiny things which happen in the middle of the tumult and craziness of everyday life.

When I lived in bustling, busy, big cities, peace was often hard to come by.  In the heart of the city a visit to a cathedral would provide some peace.  I would step in off the rushing street and wander in amongst the shadows, small against the grandeur of the building, hoping that not too many tourists would be there chattering and clicking away with their cameras.  The age of the building and the fact that I was just yet one in a long line of people who had trodden these stones, some perhaps with similar worries and woes, was a comfort.  I might sit in a side chapel and contemplate life for a few moments; I might light a candle in the hope that somehow my anxieties and pain would be carried up and away and be eased.  When I stepped back out into the hustle of the rush hour I would carry a morsel of peace with me: for a short time.

The countryside has always provided more peace for me than the centre of a city.  There is something soothing deep into your being about sitting overlooking water, or pausing at the top of a hill or mountain with the wind in your hair, or running amongst the trees.  It’s a force so much more powerful than man: it can take life but it also gives life.  It can provide a tangible sense of escape: get on that water and where might it take you?  All around the globe, if you choose.  And ultimately it reminds us that we are part of nature; that we are made of the same matter as the stars: ‘star dust to star dust’.

Peace is running up to the Ridge and looking across to the Solway Plain and over to Scotland.  It’s pausing for a breather with the sun on your face while running through Rowbank Woods, and looking across at the northernmost Pennines; or lolloping through Quarry Beck Woods with snow floating down with a whisper around you, creating a hushed world where only the crunch of your footsteps and the gentle rushing of the stream can be heard.  Peace is running to the top of one of the hills overlooking Lanercost Priory, once so troubled and now so tranquil, to see it huddled there amongst the greenery, centuries of history wrapped in its walls; or having ascended Talkin Fell on a clear, sunny spring day to gaze across at the shadowy Lake District fells or towards Scotland where the ghosts of ancient reivers charge silently across the border.  Peace is running up Carron Crag in Grizedale Forest and seeing a world of peaks spread around you from the top, pointing hazily up amongst the clouds.

But a deeply fulfilling peace is the children asleep at night after an energetic day.  However fraught or frenetic with fighting or fears the day has been, when they are asleep they look seraphic.  As I creep into their rooms to kiss each of them goodnight my heart fills with a deep, peaceful love.  I have made lots of mistakes in my life but bringing these three people into the world was not one of them.

Goodnight, my cherubs; my best beloved.

From Darkness into Light

Easter 2016 (5)
Down in the valley bottom

Down in the valley bottom

The cows ambled in an orderly line returning from milking,

Hugging the field edge.

Evening spring sunshine burst goldenly –

Suddenly – (then faded)

Against the grey distant rainclouds feathering the further hills.

 

Twin souls shone in the summer, and

All basked in their glimmering goldness.

Did it rain that year?  Nobody could say for sure:

Their adoration glowed so brightly

Happiness poured forth, a warm bright sun

Covering everything in the miracle of new love.

It was a marvellous, wondrous, majestic time.

 

Then early one morning on the cusp of winter

He left.

The door banged shut and the house echoed emptily.

She tumbled blindly, cascading, spiralling

Down

Down

Down

Into the deep dark pit

Stripped of appetite, of flesh, of energy.

Desolation and despair engulfing, smothering her,

Their thick heaviness stifling all feelings.

Null and void

She gave up the struggle of grappling with her inner fears

And closed her heart to pain; to love;

Felt nothing.

 

And yet too much.

The torture of a broken heart;

Too great a pain, this time, to cover it and walk away;

Too deep a love, too profound the lessons to learn

To ignore it.

 

Yet not forgotten, not alone:

The miraculous hands of friendship reached out;

Pierced the walls with kindness.

Brick by slow brick they pulled her, lifted her;

Stone by hurtful stone she clambered,

Climbed, scrambled, hands bleeding,

Heart bursting –

Eventually raised her arms, spread her wings

And flew

Free

Up and out of the blackness.

 

It was dazzling out there in the world, in the light,

In the unaccustomed brightness.

But the strength of emotions

Was life coursing richly through her veins:

An awakening; an opening; a rebirth.

 

Up in the woods on the hills the trees stood black and stark.

An exhilarating icy wild wind

Blew away the remnants of winter.

Through the devastated woods – nature’s clutter

More beautiful than mankind’s –

Yellow bursts of jubilant daffodils shone,

Shouted joyfully against the brown of the earth,

The grey of the sky;

Nodded their heads, “yes, look closely!”

Buds on trees;

The glorious green shoots of spring underfoot;

The colour of the heart opening: a widening door.

 

Everything in its season.  Live life.  Fly free. Shine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this was the last day of my life…

Out running in the woods the other day, I felt as if there was something on my mind which I couldn’t quite grasp: some concept or certain thoughts were just out of reach of my consciousness, but I knew they were there.  I was worrying about money (more specifically my income) and in the end the only thing that came to me was ‘what would I be doing if this was the last day of my life?’

I wouldn’t be worrying about money.  That’s not to say that I don’t need to try to ensure that I have enough money coming in to cover my costs and for some treats (I would very much like to take the children on holiday abroad, as much for my own sake as theirs).  But I wouldn’t be running around Ridge Woods with ‘money’ prying on my mind and preventing me enjoying my run.

I didn’t completely come up with an answer to what I would be thinking about or doing if this was the last day of my life other than in one way or another I’d be trying to live life to the full, and to be happy.  I also concluded that I would rather live each day as if it were my last just in case it is.  A friend is fond of the saying ‘we’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time’.  Whilst there is something which could be taken as quite selfish about the last part, it’s a saying that’s always made me think: we’re only here temporarily – and, as far as we know only once – so make the most of it and be happy.  On the same day or the next my Italian calendar also had a saying of the Dalai Lama’s about being here to be happy (there are loads more fantastic quotations from the Dalai Lama at GoodReads.com and it’s also worth looking at his website).  It’s something I’ve been struggling with recently – I did feel happy and felt I had regained a certain equilibrium, until my ex-husband threw a comment out the other day and then my daughter did something which hurt me.  And I think we’re somehow brought up to think that there’s something wrong with being happy: that we don’t deserve it or should feel guilty for feeling happy when others don’t.

This morning I was getting ready to go out for a bike ride when I picked up a book which I bought as a complete spur of the moment purchase when I was buying some music online.  It’s called The Untethered Soul (by Michael Singer) and the chapter I opened it at was talking about happiness.  Now – if you think anything a bit spiritual is mumbo jumbo and claptrap, you may as well stop reading this blogpost now.  I happen to think there’s an inner part of us, call it spirit or soul or awareness or whatever you will, and I believe we’re capable of somehow tapping into that deep well of greatness inside us and not only being happy but also of being altruistic.  Self-esteem comes from there (the saints are no pushovers) but so does the ability to transcend potentially negative experiences and turn them into positive ones, by learning from them and using them to develop ourselves.  This chapter was talking about the way to achieve that, by opening up our hearts (or our heart chakras, if you want to use a yogic idiom).  I remembered one time recently when I had done just that, I had had a very positive reaction – but I had failed to carry it through.

Interestingly, the book starts with the exact same Shakespeare quotation I have used on the Eight + 1 concert programme: one which has always felt as if it held a profound truth for me.  “This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Being true to oneself means having the self-esteem and self-awareness to do so and not being afraid of the ups and downs of life or of what other people may do ‘to’ you.  I also think that by following this ‘open’ type of path you truly become a ‘free spirit’.  That is, not someone who is careless of other people or selfish but who ultimately can transcend the things that hurt him or her and make life better, not just for him/herself but for those with whom (s)he comes into contact.

The difficulty is, of course, doing that all the time, particularly if your past (your ‘baggage’) has taught you to close up and become defensive or detached when you’re hurt by something or someone.  The chapter I was reading was talking about opening up, facing up to the pain, and using it.  In the same way as you would be aware of the pain in your body telling you something is wrong, pain in your heart or mind is telling you something is wrong in your psyche.  I think this is why I came off my anti-depressants sooner than the Doctor would normally have recommended: I felt I wanted to experience my feelings, even those of pain, in a more genuine way and not just to camouflage them.

I’m sure there will be plenty of future times when I want to run away and hide from pain; when my reaction is anger, removal or detachment.  But if I can at least remember to be more often conscious of what I am doing and to stop myself, I hope I may learn to be a more loving, relaxed and happier human being, beginning with with my beautiful, feisty, gorgeous, bright daughter whom I love to bits whether or not she thinks she loves me.

So, if this was the last day of my life I would be trying to be loving and to be happy: to enjoy whatever I was doing.  Part of that is also to be brave; to be fearless and open – to face up honestly to things that I’d rather not face up to and to be open to all experiences that life can throw at me.  I would be trying to live with an open heart: and I would start by apologising to all those I have hurt, intentionally or unintentionally.

I was lucky that today I had a great bike ride – which I’m hoping to turn into a feature soon – in the Good Friday sun, and a conversation at the end of it which seemed, synchronistically – even serendipitously – to confirm my thoughts.

And I hope that there will be many more days for me to live my life yet.