Monday, 21 December 2009
...is the caption on the front of a card I received today from friends and neighbours, Peter and Alison. The card, together with the words they'd written inside warmed my heart and made me smile.
Sometimes it's the smallest of things that create the biggest differences - as I'm learning so well this year.
I've had an interesting couple of challenges (tests?) recently, which have helped me measure how I've grown. Both from people who one would 'expect' to be supportive and understanding. "But why didn't you tell me how bad things were?" come their pleas, when I express my frustration at their clear lack of understanding. In the olden days (just a few short weeks ago) I would simply have kept quite. I would automatically have looked to understand what was going on for them, and put my own feelings to one side.
But no more. As I said in an email to Matt (who, together with his lovely family, continue to support me and stick by me through thick and thin) it's no more Miss Nice-Girl. No more will I seek to understand other people's issues at the expense of my own feelings. Yes, it's true, I still hold 100% with my belief that I will seek to understand before being understood. But the shift now is that I'll seek to understand and support MYSELF first and foremost, so that I can then be truly authentic in my comprehension of others.
There's no bravery or brownie badges to be won in allowing others to walk all over me, or treat me in a way that is worse than I would treat others. But as I now realise, the hard fact is that it's been me (and no one else) who has been responsible for letting this happen on so many occasions throughout my life. And it's me, therefore, who has the power to change it right here, right now. I had always held on to the belief that I must be 'good' and, therefore, allow others their foibles. And on many levels that still sticks. With the proviso, now, that I know I'm already 'good enough' and that if someone is treating me with any less respect than I expect, then I will find a way to let them know. For THAT is how we are good - for if we don't respect ourselves, how on earth can we expect others to do the same?
Big lesson. Small shift. Major changes as a result.
So, last night, when I confronted one of these people, I was amazed and delighted that the person immediately telephoned to 'apologize unreservedly' for their unacceptable behaviour. And, at last, they wanted to know - to really understand - what was happening for me and for Dylan. Some might say well it's a little too late - but I disagree. It doesn't matter when it happens - just so long as it happens.
And with all the dear and caring friends around me, people who send me cards and messages, those who drop off bags of fruit and vegetables on my kitchen table, people who just 'pop in' unannounced to come and have a coffee with me - these are the friendships that continue to strengthen my resolve and renews my faith in a force that is bigger than me.
Yes, friendships are better than normal ships - and these friendships indeed serve to lift me up and carry me through troubled waters. And I feel blessed and guided, and am finding the courage to continue making the deep inner shifts that will indeed lead me over the horizon to the promised land that has always been there waiting for me.
Now I'm ready to claim it - for I AM good enough. I always have been.
Yesterday I read another chapter from my old favourite, "You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought" that has really got me thinking. Referring to the story of Pandora and her box of evils, the reader is encouraged to consider Hope as an evil, rather than the more traditional interpretation. This is what the authors say:
"...when Pandora opened the box, all the evils of the world escaped. The last evil inside was hope. What happened to hope is not clear. Some stories say it remained inside; others say it got out. But all agree that hope was the last item in the box."
Most people interpret this as good news - yes, evil has been added to the world, but we've been given hope so that we can take care of all that evil.
The Greeks, however, considered Hope to be as dangerous as all the worlds evils. Some people believe, therefore, that Zeus provided hope as the worst suffering for humankind. He did not want man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man's suffering.
As the book says, perhaps if it wasn't for Hope, then we'd have cleared up all the evils of the world - we'd have sent them packing back in to the box! But what Hope does, is allow us to tolerate evil and just hope it's going to go away. So, when I looked at it that way, I realised that Hope, rather than being something positive, can in fact make us inactive. In that respect, I agree with the Greeks that it is one of the worst evils, for it can be insidious and lull us in to a false sense of security.
This, in my opinion, is the danger with some forms of 'positive thinking' - and, indeed, a danger to which I fell foul myself all those years ago when mum fell ill as you'll have read in a previous post. Rather than speaking out or trying to get something done, we instead chose 'hope' as our only sword.
"I hope it will get better tomorrow" we can sigh to ourselves, while doing nothing to actually create a better tomorrow. By giving in to this particular type of hoping we're actually giving away our power. This kind of hope is the kind of hope that inspires passivity, resignation and stagnation. As Francis Bacon said, "Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper".
Yet I also believe there IS a good use for hope and hoping. One where we use it to lift our spirits, to give us belief, and still take positive action at the same time. By remaining hopeful, choosing to believe that there is a good outcome (no matter the evil we're facing) then we can use that to propel us forward and take action to work through our problems and find the right solutions. To quote the book again:
"You can hope things will get better - as a form of holding a positive image of completion - and that's fine. But if you're not taking specific, energetic and frequent actions to make things better, you've got the wrong kind of hope working for you - or, more accurately, working against you"
So now I am running an automatic internal check each time I find myself using the word 'hope'. I ask myself whether I'm using it as a replacement for action, or as a fuel for action. And that, although a seemingly tiny shift, I believe it's actually a major change - as is so often the case.
I have a copy of the painting Hope, by George Frederick Watts, hanging in my office. It was painted by my great grandmother, and has with it a letter from the artist, granting her permission to copy his painting. It depicts a blindfolded lady, sitting on top of the world and holding a lyre in her hands. To me, it always signified that there was always hope even in the face of the worst trials. Now, however, I'm seeing it with new eyes. I see it now as a reminder to avoid 'blind hope' and instead remember my inner power and take appropriate and matching action!
Saturday, 19 December 2009
Now only 'the chosen' - ie. you - can see my blog, so now I have nothing to hide. So I'll be writing loud, proud, and with no more hidden messages! Right now, after a few glasses of red wine, I'm still wise enough to know I should choose my timing... so watch this space - I promise you some bombshells very very soon!!! (Good job the 'draft' button is private - cos that certainly needs some editing!!!) Lots of love xxx
Friday, 18 December 2009
And the UK is meant to be a 'developed' country, one where human rights and justice form the backbone of our society? If you've read my earlier soap-box session entitled "Happyman 213, the press and the lawyers" you'll understand some of the frustrations I've been meeting along the way to rebuilding my life. Well, this latest turn is enough to make your teeth curl.
OK, so as a direct result of what I believe was my husband's deliberate deception, misappropriation of company funds and fraudulent actions, I have discovered that I'm left with a whole mountain of personal debt that runs in to tens of thousands. And he is totally completely and utterly scot-free, excuse the pun. Because he planned it that way.
He took sole charge of our finances in May 2008, and assured me that everything was in order and that financial agreements were all being honoured. And I believed him - after all, we were not only happily married, we were business partners as well. Why would I doubt what he was telling me?
But in fact this was far from the truth. He had failed to pay the mortgage for nearly six months. He had refused to pay suppliers. He had failed to pay back even a single penny of the business overdraft that I had personally guaranteed. And behind my back he was funding another life and spending money like water - on gadgets and shiny things for himself. Mountain bikes, computers, a holiday, jewellery, love trinkets, clothes, sports equipment - oh, and of course, the countless sex sites and porn channels.
So, as you know, once I discovered the truth back in April this year, I immediately froze the business bank accounts and instructed an insolvency agency to put the company in to liquidation. It was the best I could do at least to safeguard some money to get our suppliers paid. And yet - even though I personally called in the liquidators, they have still failed to give me details on exactly where we are with the process. Because, of course, they've met my ex in person - and have only spoken to me by telephone and via email. No matter how many times I ask for an update, nothing is forthcoming.
I've also been pushed from pillar to post in trying to deal with the debts that have landed on my doorstep. I accept that my situation is perhaps out of the ordinary, and as a result I've spent hours on the phone to UK and Scottish debt advisors. The messages I've been receiving are really quite astonishing.
Firstly, nobody, but NOBODY seems to be in the slightest bit interested in my ex's mismanagement of funds and deliberate deception. They are not interested that he has deserted the marriage and fled to safety in our home in Scotland where he stored all his gadgets and trinkets that have cost me so dearly. They are unwilling to seize any of these goods, despite the fact that they run in to tens of thousands of pounds worth of value. And why not you may ask?
"Because, madam, the debts you have are in your name. They are nothing to do with your husband." And that is as far as anybody is willing to look.
But I've done everything in my power to bring the truth out in to the open, and to put things right! I didn't need to freeze the company accounts, I could have taken the money out for myself! I've passed over every scrap of evidence to support my claims that his actions have been fraudulent. But no. None of that seems to matter. All that matters is that the debts are in my personal name and, therefore, it's me personally who has full liability. Full stop. No argument. That is the law.
The latest advice I had just a couple of evenings ago is just unbelievable - and grossly unfair to the extreme. I have been exploring the route of obtaining a Protected Trust Deed through scottish law, because I am still registered as living in Edinburgh. Because of the equity I hold in my share of the family home here in France, this deed would mean that I have to pay back every penny of debt that I owe, plus interest. Fair enough, you might say - and yes, I'm perfectly willing to pay back money that I rightfully owe.
But now here's the rub. Despite the fact that my husband deceived and abandoned me (and my son) and despite the fact that as a result I've been placed in a perilous financial predicament, the courts deem it just and fair that he has a claim over 50% of the family home. Despite the fact that he is currently living the life of riley in our place in Edinburgh. So this is the course of action I've been told I must take.
I have to sell my home - even though I have a child, my son, living with me full time. The proceeds of the sale will be split 50:50, and my estranged husband will receive his lump sum amount in cash. My 50% share, on the other hand, will go immediately to the Trustees, who will pay my creditors. I will then be expected to make arrangements to pay the outstanding balance.
So, my son and I will be left homeless, penniless, and still in debt. While my ex gets to keep the place in Edinburgh and also benefits from a nice bundle of cash from the sale of the house.
Is this justice? Is this fair? Is THIS what we call a civilised and fair society?
No, it is not. And, needless to say, I will NOT be taking their advice. Instead of which I'm now seeking other ways to deal with the problem - but it's hard work. And it's wrong. I've been the victim in all this, and yet I'm the one left holding the baby and being treated like a criminal.
I have a lot to learn, and as I move forward with this I realise that there ARE other options I can explore. And explore them I will, for I will NOT lose any more to that conniving, soulless shell of a man I once called my husband and soul mate.
And once I've found another way - I'm going to shout from the rooftops, and find a way to bring this injustice out in to the open. Watch this space.
It's been a while, I know, so what's prompted my return? Many things. And I'm not sure where to start.The big thing, I guess, is that it's my birthday.
Yup, friday 18th December 2009 is a huge day for me in so many ways. I'm 45 (which means I've now officially out-lived both my parents), it's my first birthday in over a decade when I can finally say I'm out of "its" clutches, the day is Friday (my day of birth) and, to top it all, it's snowing! For the first time I can remember since I was very small!
So what's been happening since my last post? Well, to start with, I took the blog down for a while after a major move forward. In response to all the messages and encouragement I'd been receiving, I wrote a book proposal - which was accepted by the very first literary agent I approached; very exciting! So that was why I stopped. Added to which I had reason to believe that it had been noticed by my estranged husband. But the book itself is now coming along very nicely, and I have decided that now is a good time to re-start my personal blogging, it being my birthday and all that...
I'm in a very different place now from the space I was in on my last entry. Lots has happened - many more challenges than I could have begun to anticipate, and I must say there have been times when I've been absolutely on the floor. But now, somehow, I've found my 'mojo' and believe I have the strength to come through everything that has happened, and anything else that is now going to be thrown at me.
My latest and most profound 'ah-ha' moment happened just a few days ago, last weekend in fact. Too many things have happened over the past few months for me to attempt to explain here and now, suffice it to say that at that point I had hit rock bottom after a series of disappointments despite my best efforts to keep strong. Try as I might, even after throwing myself in to new opportunities with all my heart, it seemed that the tables were well and truly turned against me. And I found myself sinking even further down than I had ever been before - and to top it all I'd suffered an ear infection that, had I still been a scuba-diver, would have disallowed me to plummet the physical depths, and in the meantime prevented me from reaching the emotional levels I had to go to in order to purge myself; the irony is not lost on me.
And yet, and yet... out of those depths that I could only imagine, I seem somehow to have found a new strength, a new lust for life (to quote one of my favourite tracks). This is how I found it.
Last Saturday night, 13th December, I'd gone to bed with the now familiar ache in my heart and blind panic in my mind that I'd grown used to over the previous few weeks. My financial situation was at an all time low - I had nothing left to sell. The business project to which I'd dedicated the previous two months (and which had promised so much) had suddenly fallen over, and finding work this close to Christmas was proving to be an uphill battle for which I was not sufficiently equipped. But that didn't stop the bills. Electricity, telephone, oil, my son's school fees, mortgage - all reasonable bills that I had no way of honouring, and from which I had no place (or desire) to hide. I was embarrassed, frightened, overwhelmed and exhausted from the fight.
That night, I started reading a book that had just been returned to me. It's an old favourite entitled "You Cannot Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought" and is a book I've given out to numerous friends and colleagues over the years. That night, though, it had come back to me, returned by a dear friend and adopted family member. It's often said that the teacher or book you require turns up at exactly the right time, and this was most certainly the case for me. I was shattered. I'd spent the evening putting on my best smile, but I knew I was fooling nobody with my jolliness - least of all myself. My skin grey, eyes sunken in to black sockets, skin itching and sensitive, I'd gingerly maneuvered myself in to my bed, taking care not to jolt my cruciate-less knee. Once I'd settled as best I could, I picked up the book and opened it's well-thumbed and yellowing pages.
The words instantly took me to a place of familiarity - a "home" that I'd temporarily forgotten about. No wonder I had recommended it so wholeheartedly to so many people! The book was (and is) a godsend. It's designed for people who are suffering from a life threatening illness - including, as it so wisely states, 'life itself' - and I realised that I had indeed been combating a life threatening situation myself. I may not have had the physical symptoms of an illness, per say, but the depths to which I had allowed myself to sink were certainly life-threatening in themselves. And that was brought home to me by a simple question that was posed in the early chapters of the book.
This was the question. "You have a decision to make. A question you need to ask yourself. For until you are clear, you cannot move forward. The question is this - ask yourself from deep within in your soul, do you want to live or do you want to die?"
It's a simple enough and straight forward question. And you'd think that the answer is obvious. But at that moment, when I read those words, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I could NOT answer the question. In my heart of hearts, from the deepest core of my being, I simply didn't know the answer. And that realisation absolutely rocked me - more than any of the experiences over the past few months.
My blood ran cold, and I recognised that I'd been in a place so dark, so soulless, that I was no longer sure that my life was worth living any more. I've had multiple experiences of suicides - my best friend, two of my mother's best friends, the brother of a best friend here in France, my neighbour when I lived in the flat in Brighton, and perhaps (although not proven) my father. It shook me to the core to think that I had allowed myself to sink so low that I was no longer certain whether I wanted to live or die. And the shocking truth that I hadn't even recognised it for myself was abolutely mind-blowing.
At that moment, the breath went from my body, my mind went blank, and I felt myself on the brink of the black and bottomless pit that was beckoning my soul - and I found with frightening clarity that until now I had almost been willing to accept the invitation. And that was the point when I made my choice. I made my commitment to live - more consciously and with more certainty than I can ever remember. And as I made that choice, I could easily have repremanded myself for being so selfish as to allow myself to sink so low. But instead I had the strange and comforting experience of holding myself in my arms, of singing a lullaby to myself, of forgiving myself for falling so far and so deeply.
So is this what the past few months have all been about? Has my lesson been to find a way to forgive myself? I've spent so long finding ways to forgive and accept the people and situations that have caused hurt to me and to Dylan - but perhaps the person I really needed to forgive and accept had been myself all along?I don't yet have the answers for sure, although I sense that this is indeed the case - but I do know for sure that now I am alive.
Now I choose to live. Not just to survive, not just to be strong and tough and soldier through, but now - possibly for the first time ever - to actually live. To live with joy. With excitement, with passion and energy, and to truly thrive. This is my god-given right, and I have been denying myself this right for more years than I care to remember. So now, in the early hours of my 45th birthday (it's never too late to learn!) I am finally embracing my life with arms wide open. With a heart that is now pumping with joy - and a new-found determination to thrive, not just to survive. For I am sick of that - and, indeed, I was sick. Life-threateningly sick - to the pit of my stomach and the depths of my soul.
Now I believe I am truly on the way to living with peace of mind. Yes, there are still battles to be fought and won, but somehow they've lost their hold over me. They've shrunk. The battle cries are quieter and the scent of fear has all but disappeared. Now I'm here to live. Now I am on my side. Now I understand myself better than before. And now, finally, I don't need the approval of anyone else.
For now I finally love and approve of myself exactly as I am. And I'm grateful for my life. So now, on my 45th birthday, I feel I've been lucky enough to be born again - and this time, I'll take nothing for granted and will look after the one person who can help me. The one person who has been with me all the time. The one person I chose to ignore. Myself.
Happy Birthday, Mel - life has now begun.