Thursday, 27 August 2009
"Forgive me father for I have sinned..." well, I haven't actually, but since my Blog often feels like a confessional, it seemed appropriate to start this post with those familiar words!
Since I last wrote, life is continuing to improve and expand in the most surprising and wonderful ways as I continue to find myself and stay open to possibilities. People are asking me whether this "new me" is real... checking to make sure that I'm not putting on an act. And I find that really very refreshing.
In my "old life" I was known for being positive, optimistic, energetic and always on top of my game. I was expected to be bouncy, full of fun, and always have something on the go. No questions asked, no checking, because this was the reality of Mel. And in many ways it was - although, as I've discovered, there was much of myself and my life that I was denying.
Over the past few months, my friends and family have seen me at absolute rock bottom. Unable to pick myself up, and unwilling to put on a pretense. Uncomfortable at first in asking for help and support, I became more receptive as the days and weeks went past. My friends will tell you it's been a battle, since I'm stubborn as a mule! And I have to agree...
Today, I'm sitting at the table outside my kitchen, the weather is perfect, and I am waiting for my son to arrive back from England with his father. All is well.
And now, when I look back at what has happened over the past few weeks - couple of years in fact - I can only smile and feel grateful, right to the very depths of my being. It has been a journey that, at times, I feared I would not survive. With my promise to fully feel emotions, and conscious of the fact that many of these would involve past experiences who's roots were deeply buried in my psyche, it's taken every ounce of courage and energy to go there. To explore the places I feared would engulf me with the intensity of hidden pain I'd chosen to lock away over the years. The small hurts, and the life-changing shocks that threatened to destroy me - all had left their mark.
And, I must be honest, given half the chance I would quite willingly have left them there, never to have surfaced again. But when I made my silent vow, the tiny whisper 18 months ago to "call in my soul" I knew some major shifts would have to take place. Little did I realise that the catalyst for this would have been my beloved husband. The person to whom I'd freely given my love and my life, and who I worshipped more than anything else. This same person who then cut me down, betrayed me, with such callous precision that I had to make a real choice.
Would I blame him? Would I fall and crumble? Or would I take responsibility, accept my own part in this journey, and find the courage to change within myself so that I could heal and secure my escape and freedom. Of course, I chose the latter.
I honestly believe that this is the route I've always chosen - certainly in consciousness since I started studying self improvement as a serious way of life. And I honestly thought I had it sussed. I truly believed that I had cleared out all my old blocked emotions, and had truthfully dealt with the painful issues of my past. And I had - as far as was possible for me at the time.
One of my great teachers, Dr Patricia Crane, once said to us that the spiritual journey is like peeling back the layers of an onion. Just as you think you're there, there's another layer to discover and more tears to shed. It was 1997, and I was on the Louise Hay Teacher Training Programme, and boy, I'd shed enough tears that week to float a battleship! That particular experience put me in good stead and, I believe, has kept me rock solid for more than a decade.
This latest "gift" from Cam has allowed me to remove and explore more layers. To shed more tears. To open my heart more than I knew was possible. To remove the blinkers of habit and reassess my life. On my own terms.
And this time, I know I've gone deeper than before. It's already been excruciatingly painful, and more terrifying than any of the nightmares that would often haunt my dreams - and I accept there are still plenty more battles to fight and win. But now I know that I have my own army with me and within me. Not just the bouncy, noisy, laughing soul-army of previous times, now I have the added battalions of peace, measured wisdom, and a gentle inner knowing that is now part of my every day life.
I've pulled, poked and prodded at the old scars - opening them up one by one, scraping out the hurt and betrayal, facing my deepest fears... and through that process I've found myself. More of myself than I ever realised existed before. Yes, I've grown. And, like the sunflower in the picture, my face and soul now turns automatically towards the sun without me having to think about it. My scars are healing, leaving marks of experience in place of my old battle wounds. Scars I'm now proud to show, proud to know are a part of me - they're proof of my journey of love, innocence and courage to find myself. A rite of passage that I wear with pride.
Daily, now, I automatically notice the gifts in every situation, and accept the good in my life with gratitude and a sense of excitement. And the surprises are coming along thick and fast. Opportunities are showing themselves in the most unexpected of places, and I'm enjoying life more than I ever have before. At last I've discovered what it means to be truly authentic. To say when I'm feeling lost or sad, and to accept the love and support that surrounds me every day.
Life IS good, and I celebrate the gifts that have ultimately been bestowed upon me through the absolute betrayal of the person I trusted most in the whole world. Was that person Mike? Or was that person me? That's an added gift to ponder. It keeps me chuckling, my soul basking in the warm feeling of acceptance that is deeply engrained in my being.
So I'll finish this post once more with thanks. Thanks to Cam for his treatment of me, thanks to my friends for rallying around and showing me the richness of my relationships, and thanks to myself, for having the courage to face the impossible and come out victorious.
Friday, 7 August 2009
It's like this, you see. For so many years I've "survived" and "got through" stuff that's happened in my life. I've kept a smile on my face, stayed strong and believed that "every little thing's gonna be alright" (yes, I'm a strong audio-dominant for those who are conversant with NLP!). In actual fact, these strong beliefs have meant that I have enjoyed a fulfilling and lucrative career that spans more than a decade in coaching others how to become more and achieve more than they had previously thought was possible.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking my career, nor any of the life lessons I so utterly believed in at the time - I still truly believe that I've been blessed to have experienced the many life changes that people have chosen to make where I have played a role in those "ah- ha" experiences. Some bigger, others smaller. Whether as instigator, partner or witness, those moments continue to be a huge inspiration to me, and likely always will be.
Now, though, it's just that I'm beginning to ponder on the deeper meaning, the true nature of the human soul - well, my own human soul in any case!
There's a saying that goes "we teach what we need to learn" and that has played on my mind for many years. I have shared the question with many of my teachers, co-facilitators and friends and received varying responses. The most interesting, perhaps, from my estranged husband who used to pooh-pooh any such ideas as being "hippy-shit" that he simply wasn't willing to explore (bearing in mind that we met and fell in love on a firewalking instructors course, those words were pretty hollow... or defensive perhaps?). In hindsight, it probably explains a lot about our relationship and accounts for the battles that used to appear in front of us every step of the way.
At the time, I figured that he and I were "all that there was" - we were strong, we were eternal, we were true twin flames. So the problems and issues that we continued to fight together were, from my perspective, merely there to test our relationship - to prove to ourselves that we were unbeatable. So I didn't question any further. And through all of this, we continued to teach, we continued to inspire, and we continued to have a positive impact on peoples' lives. And together, truth be told, we did a damned fine job.
Now that I'm alone I have space to breathe again. Time to think, room to feel, the opportunity to question deeply - and finally to hear the answers.
It isn't easy. It's painful, exhausting, soul-searing and frightening. Anyone who would now stand up in front of me and say "Oh, change? That's an easy game!" clearly hasn't plumbed the depths of their soul. Hasn't asked themselves the really difficult questions - the ones that we'd often prefer to gloss over or ignore with a trite "what was that you said? What ever are you on? Get out of here!" Or, as was frequently said to me by you-know-who "well, that's just hippy-shit - get over yourself!"
Yes, I was one of those people who taught - and believed - that change could indeed be easy. And I believed that I had the right to state that fact and ask the accompanying questions based on my life experiences. You know from my previous blogs that I was orphaned, emotionally abused, ostracised from my family, and left to fend for myself from an early age. And yet I'd made it through. I'd won against the odds. And by all accounts I was living a successful and fulfilling life. And I was teaching others how to do the same.
Therein lies the tale - or the lesson, perhaps.
I'd made it to a certain time and space in my life, and felt so damned good that I'd got "here" I wanted to share with other people. Yes, as I've said, I had massive successes - and the positive changes that people were able to make are a credit to them. Not, as it turns out, to me.
Unbeknown to me, I was still the student - but I'd forgotten how to learn. I had thought that I had found some great knowledge or secrets to share with others - and each time another delegate stepped up to the mark, it reinforced my belief that I was absolutely on the right track. That I was doing something good in life - I was helping others to avoid the pitfalls that had hijacked me in younger years. All good stuff, very powerful and also commendable beyond question. It was also achieving fantastic results. What it was not doing, however, was encouraging me to learn and grow as a human being. I had been so focused on passing on all the good stuff I'd learned, that I'd stopped growing in myself.
No wonder, then, that for so many years I've felt "stifled" - since the split from my husband, Cam, I have conveniently put that mantle on him. At the beginning, I'd say to myself and anyone else who chose to listen "well, I'm free now! He's kept me down for so long - I loved him with my entire heart body and soul, and that clearly wasn't enough because still he pushed me down!" Shock reaction and instant reflex, yes of course. And I did love him with every nerve cell and fibre of my body and soul - that's fact. But the truth? The soul-searing, heart-rending, identity-shattering truth? No... I don't think so.
Yes, it's true that he put me down. He also put Dylan down. Yes, he is controlling and utterly focused on self-gratification. Yes, it's also true that I had so much faith and belief in our relationship and in what I believed was right and good, that I thought I could pull us all through. And that was what I spent my focus and energy on doing. And it kept me in the space of being "ok" - it kept reinforcing my belief that all was well and that I could encourage anyone and anything around from an unfortunate set of circumstances. After all, look at what I'd overcome myself and by myself?!
And yet... Now as I'm facing unexpected and tumultuous battles of my own, battles that are the result of my blind trust and faith in my marriage, I'm finding different answers. Some of them are unpalatable, it's true... and yet, in my soul, I know they're enriching. They are, indeed, the truths and nurture that my very nature has craved for years.
I have come to learn that I did have a choice. I chose to believe that I was meant to be the strong one. That I could carry anyone and any situation. I still can. But what I'd missed in the meantime, was to look out for me - for Melanie. For that human being, that small child who had been so badly hurt and betrayed so many times in her life that I, as an adult, had allowed it to happen yet again, so that finally we could meet - and heal together.
And so, for that, I thank Cam. I thank my husband for the chaos that our relationship has caused. I thank him for the true and honest experience I enjoyed of love and adoration beyond my wildest dreams. For the feeling of safety and that exquisite meeting of souls - of living and being with a true soul-mate, a dream that I had always imagined.
Because if I hadn't let myself go as an adult, only to be betrayed and hurt beyond the realms that any person could be expected to endure, I would not have been able to really and honestly reunite with that little girl I lost so long ago. That small innocent and loving child, who went by the name of Boo, who lost her father, her hero, so suddenly all those years ago.
Now my life is something completely different. Now I don't know where I'm going, I don't know what my career will be - how I will earn a living, or how I will continue to reach people. This, by the way, remains my absolute driving force. This time, though, whatever form it may take, I'm doing it for me and from me - so all I can think is that, judging from the results I've had before... well, it's going to be fantastic! For me, and for those who choose to learn with me along the way.
So I finish, for now, with a heartfelt thanks to Cam. No matter how badly he's behaved, I'll hold with me the love I felt for him and I know that next time, when I meet someone who feels the same way back, well, then I'll truly experience heaven on earth.
Monday, 3 August 2009
Labi Siffre's song of strength and courage has helped me through many dark days and testing moments. Now more than ever the words are ringing in my ears and the volume is turned up high, because I finally feel that I've succeeded in calling in my spirit - the quiet promise I made to myself less than 2 years previously.
Little realising at the time exactly what that might entail, and the magnitude of change and testing I would need to overcome, today I stand strong and grateful that the changes have happened. I'm free now, you see. Yes, there are plenty of battles ahead of me that will be fought and won. But now I have an inner calm and outer faith that I can honestly say I've never experienced before.
Nothing externally has changed. I am still as poor as a church mouse and I have no idea how I'm going to meet the mounting bills, my leg is still in a brace and I will still likely need an operation to fix my cruciate ligament, and there is still no movement on the divorce.
And yet.... and yet. Something has changed. Something inside. A change of perspective. A change so deep that, although it's a very new sensation (less than 2 days) it surely has manifested itself on all levels. Because it's already working subconsciously. A couple of pieces of news today that promise to slow down my progress, have been met with a new calmness and a totally natural upbeat response. Just last week that kind of news would have pushed me back down further in to my pit of darkness.
So what has happened? How did I get to here from there? It is said that many a mickle makes a muckle, so I'd like to pay attention to a few mickles from last week that, I believe, have finally created the tipping point in my quest.
Thursday had been another particularly tough day - for no other reason apart from the fact that I was exhausted. Tired from the emotional fight, tired from my physical injury, and sleep deprived due to the continuing nightmares that continued to haunt me. My wonderfully warm and supportive friends were still surrounding me, and yet I was feeling that no matter what they were saying or doing for me I simply couldn't shake the darkness that was enveloping me. I was restless, couldn't settle, and every conversation or thought process was an effort.
We were preparing home made burgers. It had become an impromptu contest to create the best patties - Pledgers v Brightmans - and our naturally competitive spirits were thriving. Yet my smile was forced, my jolliness was a conscious effort and I simply couldn't tap in to the usual joie de vivre that is 'me'.
I was sitting out on the front terrace, chatting on the phone to a friend in the UK and enjoying the wonderful aromas and the sure smell of victory as our creations were cooking in the oven. The front gate rattled as my son loped through the courtyard after returning from his temporary horse-feeding job. "Here y'are mum" he mumbled as a handful of letters from the postbox were plonked down in front of me.
I've been wary of opening letters, since they all seem to contain bills and demands that I simply can't pay at the moment. But one letter caught my attention. The address was hand-written and the envelope was postmarked from Australia - from my best friend's parents. I'd just like to point out that my best friend, Tanya, had passed away very suddenly a few years earlier, and her parents have been struggling through their own living hell since the day she died. That fact makes this particular turn of events even more poignant.
I opened their letter and this is just part of what they had written:
"We can only imagine the pain you are going through coming to terms with the betrayal that has been inflicted upon you... Be strong, Mel, you have proven to yourself in the past that you have the determination and the drive to confront seemingly impossible situations and overcome them, so keep fighting..."
The words were enough to bring tears to my eyes and stir a sense of deep love and gratitude in my heart. And then I saw it. They had enclosed a cheque to help me out in my time of greatest need. That was it, the floodgates opened. Tears coursed down my cheeks, and I sobbed out loud.
I buried my head in my hands as I heaved and gulped through the details with my friend, Matt, still on the other end of the phone. Over the past few months I've experienced plenty of sobbing moments, and Matt has regularly shared these times with me through the wonders of modern technology. So he was used to the tears - but this time it was different. This time, for the first time in months, I was shedding tears of pure joy.
Yet Friday, I hit a low again. Riding the breakers of this particular tsunami can be quite exhausting. Just as I'm coasting, with a good wind behind me and the promise of sunshine over the next wave, something comes along to pull me back down in to the depths. The smallest change of temperature, the slightest gust of wind, and I'm off the board and struggling for breath as I fight to stay away from the brooding undercurrents threatening at any moment to take me down to a watery grave.
Susan and I were at the Prefecture (French office for car licenses) with our final bits of paperwork to register an english car here in France. All was going smoothly, then they asked for payment of €350 to complete the process. My face reddened and silent tears ran down my cheeks. I simply don't have that kind of money at this moment in time, and once again I felt my careful planning unravel at the final hurdle. My darling friend stepped in to cover my embarrassment, but yet again I became acutely aware of just how vulnerable a position I am in right now.
Saturday was a monumental date for me. You see, Saturday 1st August 1998 was the day that I met and fell in love with Cam. For me, it was the most important day of the year, and we would always celebrate our special day together. Just last year we were with friends celebrating our 10 year anniversary together, so I was absolutely dreading its arrival this year.
This year, on what would have been our 11 year anniversary, I awoke to find that my telephone was out of order. So once again I had to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get on with solving the problem. The tiniest effort was draining me, and it seemed to take for ever to hobble over to next door and use their phone to report the problem to France Telecom. They eventually agreed to send an engineer at the beginning of the week.
I was expecting another friend to come over from the UK the next day, but it was at this point that I realised I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Added to which I was struggling to find a way to collect and return her to the airport, since I am currently unable to drive. She's a good friend, and I decided the only way forward would be to cancel her visit. I knew it was short notice, but I also knew that I simply was not strong enough to deal with another visitor - even though I was looking forward to seeing her. And I knew that she'd understand.
With the phone line down, I resorted to contacting her on Facebook. It was one of the hardest actions to take, yet I knew at the same time that it was the right thing to do. I have had so much support and love surrounding me for the past few weeks, so it was about time I also demonstrated love and support for myself. This may sound daft, but it's one of the only times I can ever remember doing that - give me a fight or a cause for someone else, and I'm there straight away. Stand up for myself though and that's another story altogether.
For years and years I've believed that I'm strong, tough and safe. Operating under those guidelines, I had felt that I did not require any help or support - that there were others more in need than myself. That I could cope, no matter what. I even prided myself in my ability to survive and flourish even in the face of the most extreme of experiences.
I've also, though, over the past few weeks been asking myself how much more I needed to be tested to prove this. What were the lessons that I was refusing to learn. Was I being stubborn? Deluded? Or could it be that in all innocence, and despite my best efforts, I honestly could not see...
I was about to find out.
The next day, Sunday, I woke up and sensed that something had changed. A cloud had lifted. I felt free. It was a fundamental shift - and felt like a miracle had occurred. It wasn't earth shattering, there had been no thunderbolts or lighting, and no booming voice from above. I just felt different. I had even woken up with Captain Sensible in my head, chirping "Happy Talk" with glee. The spooky thing about this was that my friend and other houseguest Vikki was experiencing exactly the same song in her head at exactly the same time - but that's another story to be told another time. Sarah noticed something was different as soon as I came downstairs - she said that I looked clearer and brighter, as though a grey fog had disappeared. And I felt I could properly smile once more - this time, though, with my heart and soul.
It was late in the afternoon and it had been raining cats and dogs, and Dylan had cycled out some time earlier to feed the horses. I heard the gates slam, and saw him coming towards the house. There was something wrong. His t-shirt was rolled up, as were one of his trouser legs. And he was hobbling.
It turned out that he'd slipped on one of the peddles, the wheels had jammed and he'd flipped headfirst over the handlebars about 1.5 km away from the house. So he'd had to pick himself up and stumble home alone in the pouring rain and pushing his damaged bike. He was in total shock, as you can imagine, and had blood pouring from one of his toes and also from his shoulder. It had taken him an hour to cover the distance.
A cup of hot sweet tea later, and wounds bathed and bandaged up, he was clearly still in pain and needed to rest up. And here's where his actions gave me the biggest 'ah ha moment' perhaps of my entire life. Despite being surrounded by people, and being urged to put his foot up, he was absolutely determined to use my crutches so that he could get a cushion for himself, and then to move things off the sofa so that he could sit down. He was completely ignoring every offer of assistance, determined instead to do things by himself.
It was like a lightbulb went off in my head, as I noticed my own frustration and helplessness at not being able to help him, together with the same obvious frustration showing in the faces of everyone else around. I laughed out loud, and enquired of Sarah "that's exactly what I do as well, isn't it?" Her face and that of others told me all I needed to know, and all of a sudden I realised that the lesson I had been failing to learn was to trust others to look after me. To accept support graciously, and to stop trying to be so strong.
In my attempts to look after myself, I've inadvertently pushed away many offers of caring and support - yet paradoxically it's been care and support that I've always yearned.
And now so many things are falling in to place as I ponder that simple yet profound realisation. I could not see it in myself, yet my beautiful and brave son played it out so clearly in front of me that I couldn't help but learn. As always, Dylan has touched my soul and has once again enriched my life in a way he probably doesn't even realise.
So now, this is where life begins. This time, finally, I have called in my spirit, and I KNOW that I am finally experiencing that specific "something inside so strong" that I've yearned to find since my childhood.