Monday, 3 August 2009
Something Inside So Strong
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.