What's happened over the past couple of years?

What's happened over the past couple of years?
Come and find out about our life-changing work!
Update April 2018: It's been a while my friends - and such a lot has happened since I was last active here!

When it finally dawned on me that I had been systematically abused - and not just by one person - my whole world collapsed around me.

You see, I had always believed myself to be a strong person. Capable. Successful and somewhat sassy to boot. A fighter. Someone who could overcome any challenge, as I'd proven to myself since early childhood, time and time again. So the knockout thud of recognition that I had been a 'victim' hit me with the full force of a steam train, tsunami and earthquake rolled into one.

"How could that have happened to me? How did I let it happen? Why didn't I notice it? Why didn't I stop it, or at least speak out?"
...and then came an all engulfing darkness of shame. And then the deafening silence.

It took me years to come out of that place. Years of hard work, self reflection and excruciating pain.

Which was how, ultimately, Light Up was finally born.

Now this work is being experienced and shared by many - and is growing in numbers and momentum. And I am grateful.

Grateful not only for my own experiences, also for the fact that Light Up gives people the tools to escape from their shame and pain in far less time than it took me!

We are already working with trafficked women, abused children and traumatised adults, successfully guiding them back to completeness (without having to relive their horrors) in as little as two sessions.

People are waking up and finding their voices. I am a firm supporter of the #metoo movement, and every other group that sheds light on and offers a platform for people to speak out and seek a complete way of living.

Yes, there is darkness in this world. Yes, there is much that has been hidden away. And yes, now people are speaking out. Thank goodness for those voices! The quiet ones. The angry ones. The sad ones. The loud ones. All have their place. All have their unique message to share. All are warriors.

I am honoured to be in service, and to play my part in reigniting this beautiful world of ours. We are coming together now. We are gathering force. And I am glad.

Fellow warriors, I salute you. I commit to continuing to stand in this arena alongside all my brothers and sisters who know there is a better way and a brighter future.

Come and find out more www.dnalightup.net

In continued love, recognition and gratitude

Mel xxx

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Cottleston Pie

Young Milne with bear
What a fantastic response to any question or situation, as I've just discovered for myself this afternoon. A A Milne's Winnie The Pooh had it so very right in so very many ways!

And Cottleston Pie has been my mantra because I haven't been able to make sense of what's going on. I am swinging from elation to frustration. From excitement to fear. From supreme confidence to shrinking violet. Schizophrenic? I don't think so - but sometimes it certainly feels as though I might be "Slipping Away From Sanity" as Kim Carnes so aptly sang back in the 1980's!

It's been one of those weeks you see. After the amazing high of last Thursday, I've been expecting something magical to materialise. It hasn't, and I'm not very good at waiting. Patience has never been one of my virtues. And then again, neither, I suppose, has self-belief. Yes, I'm learning all about it now, and yet there are still traces of niggling doubts. Smaller, fainter and much further away than ever before, but sometimes still there in the distance.

"Are you sure you're doing the right thing? Have you done enough? Surely everything should have worked through by now? It's been a whole year you know - are you really trying hard enough?" Last year I would have likened these kind of thoughts to self-torture and cackling witches. Now I am faintly aware of them some of the time, but now more just as the background hum of a mosquito. Annoying yes, capable of causing an unpleasant reaction yes, but also very very controllable - so, you see, I have moved on in so many ways. 

These days, when those kind of questions arise, I just find myself feeling a bit muddled. A bit fizzly - you know the picture and sound the old TV sets used to make when we tried to tune in to another channel? Well, that's what happens to me. And the mis-tuning today has been simply to do with my questions around the progress of the business - as in, what more can I do to get the contracts flooding in?

To prevent any kind of negative tailspin and make sense of these sort of times, I now consciously do my best to distance myself from what is happening, and take an objective look at "the facts". So I did just that this afternoon. And the facts are:

  • I've contacted all my old clients to tell them about the business, and I have numerous promises of work as a result. 
  • I've met countless new contacts through referrals, and the work opportunities are massive. 
  • I have an amazing bunch of talented and inspirational people in the team, and more wanting to join. 
  • I've already held the first Team Day and I'm absolutely certain that we can create amazing results together. 
  • I already have two new clients on board and projects booked. 
  • And Audrey is an absolute super star! 

And... and... and... The Top Banana Bunch has only been going since the middle of February for goodness sake! The first Top Banana took 5 months even just to land the first client!

And so I found that, upon reviewing these facts and reminding myself what I HAVE achieved, it really was to be simply a question of trust. Trust that there are things going on in the background that I just can't see for the moment. Faith that I AM on the right track and that I HAVE been doing enough. In order to feel that fully, though, I decided to give myself some time to realign myself - literally, to re-tune again.

So I went out in to my garden. Shorts and T-shirt on again, to de-weed the beds and plant my tomatoes and my flowering plants that I bought yesterday. It's a beautiful day, and as I pottered around the garden, listening to the birds, smiling at my ever-present entourage of pets, and feeling the warm earth beneath my hands and creeping under my fingernails, I started saying Cottleston Pie to myself in a "couldn't care less" sort of a way. Over and over again "Cottleston Pie!" every time any question or doubt popped in to my head. The words were always the same, but the intonation varied depending on the question. Sometimes the tone of my response was considerate, sometimes kindly, other times indignant and at some points downright bolshy. It didn't matter, because the response fitted every time.

What a brilliant solution! It stopped the annoying buzz from my mosquito thoughts, and also kept all options open! And so slowly slowly I let myself re-group and gently sink back in to the here and now. Until once again I now have the smile of contentment and safety back on my face and in my heart.

And it was at that point, literally just a short while ago, that I came back to my computer and opened an email. It came out of the blue from a dear friend of mine who has just landed a very senior role in a very major company. Great news all round! Great for her, and also potentially great for the business!

As my dear friend Anna just reminded me, there is indeed magic afoot 


Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie,
A fly can't bird, but a bird can fly.

Ask me a riddle and I reply
Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie.

Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie,
Why does a chicken? I don't know why.
Ask me a riddle and I reply
Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie.

Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie,
A fish can't whistle and neither can I.
Ask me a riddle and I reply
Cottleston Cottleston Cottleston Pie.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, 24 April 2010


Cover of "Thank You (Gift Books)"

It's Saturday early evening, I'm sitting outside on the back terrace, white wine spritzer in hand having just enjoyed an early dinner that was finished off with strawberries, meringue and a splosh of fresh cream. The sun is shining, I have Hamish at my feet as usual, the cats are lazily patrolling the fields, and just above me a birds nest is clearly being built in one of the holes in the stone wall. Elsewhere, other birds are singing their evening songs, and the crickets are beginning to chirrup.

And I am filled with gratitude. None of that namby pamby teary "oh you really shouldn't have!" sort of gratitude in response to somebody's kindness. No, this is a deep inner peacefulness and contentment. This, to me, is the feeling of a low hum of an engine - perhaps a boat just about to pull out of a Mediterranean marina - a core inner knowing that all is well and I'm on my way. And that all is becoming even better, in every possible way. The gratitude I'm referring to is one of total acceptance - and at the same time one of expectation. For while certain dreams and plans have yet to materialise, I absolutely know within my soul that they're already happening - in fact, it feels to me as though they've already happened, and I'm just waiting to experience them in the here and now! Why else would I be having these wonderfully satisfying sensations?

This past week has been amazing on so very many levels that I don't really know where to begin. So let's start with the most obvious shall we? Thursday 22nd April 2010 was, as you'll know, the anniversary of the day I found out the truth about Cam, which also happened to be the day I outlived my own mother (and, therefore, had officially lived longer than either of my parents). So it was always going to be a big day anyway, but coupled with the trauma of my horrific discoveries, no wonder the shock-waves ricocheted so many times in the times that followed. No wonder the undulations of change have reverberated their contractions so strongly and so relentlessly over the past 12 months! For over that time I have been  re-born and re-vitalised as a result. And it's been a testing and at times exhausting journey navigating the pitfalls and treacherous twists and turns that threatened to throw me to my death or suck me down to something much worse. But I've made it.

And this year, the first anniversary, was a testament to just how far I've come since then. Proof of the abundance of possibilities in my life and in my future. For this year found me leading the very first team event for my new company. This year was the inaugural meeting of The Top Banana Bunch, and I spent the day surrounded by the brightest, warmest, most talented and inspirational people anyone could ever hope to meet. These people knew and accepted the trials of my past . They understood that I'm still on a journey, that I don't know how everything is going to pan out. And, like me, they felt curious and drawn by the pull of something bigger. Something that holds so much promise, that has the potential to enrich and inspire people. Something that I'm now calling "the magic of Top Banana".

I didn't know exactly how the day was going to pan out - and neither did the group. I had expected that we would end the day feeling like a team. Wanting to help each other. And knowing that together we can achieve so much more. And, for me, all of those were achieved - and how!

I watched the open mouths and warm smiles as people shared their stories, experiences and skills. I heard the laughter, and noticed the gasps as they found the most extraordinary links between each other. I felt the sense of pride and achievement as people did things they hadn't thought they could - or would. And I thrived on the growing sense of connection and commitment between us all. And I felt grateful. Grateful that I've been given the opportunity to grow and become myself. Grateful that I'm able to convey my belief in what we can do together. Grateful that the right people have turned up at exactly the right time. Grateful for the continuing signs and "coincidences" that tell me beyond any shadow of a doubt that I'm absolutely on the right track.

Back at home I was reminded of how I'm surrounded by love and friendship. Anna had very kindly dropped me at the train station on Wednesday, taken Hamish home with her while I was away, and had then agreed to drive for 2 hours to collect me from the airport on Friday morning. At midnight on Wednesday I received a "Happy Birthday" text from Matt reminding me that the cycle was now complete. Thursday found me surrounded by friends - some old some new, and all of them filled with a wonderful warmth and openness towards me and this new venture. I had woken up at 4.30 Friday morning to catch my flight, and Audrey had chosen to wake up with me to wish me well. This is the same Audrey who, by the way, had driven down from Newcastle for the event, and had brought me food, wine and a beautiful card ready for my arrival! Once home in France, Julie came round in the afternoon for a coffee and catch up. Later on I collected Dylan from the bus stop, and in the evening Anna came back to join me for dinner and a bottle of fizz. During that time I had seen numerous emails already going backwards and forwards between the team, already referring to themselves as "The Bananas".

So now, with the sun still warming my face, the birds still singing, the smell of blossom from the apple tree wafting over me as I type, and my clean sheets waving on the washing line in the distance, I am deeply thankful for everything that I am and for everything that I can become.

To quote a favourite phrase from an affirmation by Louise L Hay that I keep by my bed "All IS well and all IS working out for my highest good".... and now I know for sure that it always was, it always has been. I just didn't know it. Life is good indeed, and I for one intend to stay grateful for the rest of the long and fruitful life that lies ahead of me. Thank you!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Where It All Began

English: Seedling
Sunday's beautifully warm and sunny afternoon found me in shorts and T-shirt for the first time this year. And after a wonderfully lazy impromptu lunch outside on the terrace - sausages, spare ribs and salad - I decided it was the right time to organise my vegetable garden.

Armed with a hoe, fork and trowel (well, the beds really aren't that big!) I marched down the lane, whistling loudly and accompanied by my constant shadows - Hamish (dog), Geoff and Tiggy (ginger cats). Misty (the third cat - white, fluffy and really quite peculiar!) has become decidedly independent and hasn't yet wanted to join in on family expeditions. But she will in time, I'm sure of it!

I have four raised beds, each about 1.5 x 3m, surrounded by white stones on a small plot of land just next to my house. They are exactly the right size for growing vegetables - well, they're just the right size for me anyway! I am still considering digging up the adjoining area of grass so that I can expand in to more demanding vegetable growth (potatoes, carrots, onions and parsnips - vegetables that "proper" gardeners seem to grow with pride!) although perhaps I'll just see how I get on with this year's crop.

As I surveyed the job ahead of me, I realised that there was actually quite a lot to do. The beds were filled with greenery... of the wrong sort. Plenty of rain and the recent warm weather had encouraged a mammoth growth spurt of weeds (mauvais herbes - how is it that so many words sound so much nicer in French?). I bent down and dug, pulled and twisted at each and every one of them, removing great handfuls of unwanted growth from every bed. The large prickly beasts, the smaller varieties with long deep roots, and the flatter large-leafed spidery weeds that seem to spread quicker than a heat rash. I wanted to be sure that I removed them all. I wanted my seeds to have the best possible start in life, so that they would yield the best possible crops later on.

I pulled and tugged at them all, happily throwing them over in to the field where they will rot down in to the earth. Once all the weeds were out, the earth needed to be turned over. It needed to be prepared properly for the mass of seeds I had brought down with me to plant. Runner beans, dwarf purple beans, climbing peas, butternut squash, courgettes and a few gourd seeds that were out of date - but you never know!

Still whistling and humming to myself all the while, and chattering away to the animals, I became lost in my own little world, while the unusually constant trickle of cars and walkers went past me in search of the Barque of Licheres. It has just been renovated you see, and the area is now perfect for picnics - so our tiny hamlet is expecting a much heavier footfall this year. Stopping only to nod the occasional "Bonjour messieurs! Bonjour mesdames!" I felt thoroughly alive and completely content - and, more to the point, I RECOGNISED the feelings, and let them grow even more. Now that's new!

Mind you, who couldn't feel peaceful and happy in this place? Warm sunshine, twinkling river and the friendly banter of French passers-by (one winked at me, nodding towards my raised beds while telling his fellow walkers about these four ancient tombs of Licheres being the latest tourist attraction... I love their sense of humour!). It was nothing less than an experience of total contentment and joy, as I prepared the soil. Removing the larger stones, watering the earth, planting all the seeds in straight rows, and patting them down in the sunshine, knowing that very soon the green shoots would start poking up to greet the warmth of the sun. I just love the sense of creating something. Of starting something new. Of nurturing a future.

And then there it was right slap bang in front of me. All of a sudden I realised I was crouched in the very place where all of this started. Back to the home of my little lolla rosa lettuces of last year. I sat back on my heels, took in a deep breath, closed my eyes, and smiled. Because my oh my, how things have changed since then!

Yes, I truly am right back where it all began... in so very many ways! Today I have been making final preparations for the first ever team meeting of The Top Banana Bunch. And it feels absolutely amazing! I have somehow managed to re-capture all the old innocence and positive energy from the original start up all those years ago - every single ounce of it, and so much more as well! For on top of 11 years experience, I now have the most fantastic, inspirational bunch of people right here with me - and I just know we're going to create magic together. Bigger, better, and even more powerful than ever before. I am literally fizzing with the excitement of it all, and the anticipation of the future.

As well as that, I now know for absolute certain that I am loved and supported in so many wonderful ways and on so very many levels. I have never felt happier in my entire life! And now I have also finally realised that I AM worth it. That I AM exceptionally good at what I do, and that I DO deserve success. And this time I'm brimming with confidence and determination, because all of it now is up to me - just me, nobody else. And I now welcome all of these good feelings in to my life - all of them. And, remembering that Top Banana was incredibly successful all those years ago, then how's it going to be this time around? Well... there's simply no limit!

As you know, Thursday (our team day) is also the anniversary of the very day I finally found out the truth about the snake who had been masquerading as my loving husband. Such sweet and beautiful irony, and such a wonderful way to bring closure on the old and breathe new life-force vitality in to the new.

They say true life mimics art? Well in this case I would defy any director to produce a better plot or structure than the masterful labyrinth of experiences that have brought me to this place. I honestly couldn't have planned it better even if I'd had a lifetime to prepare the script! Which, I suppose, I have had in all reality. Perhaps there is no such thing as coincidence. I'm much more inclined these days to believe that we are all part of a major plan. And that every moment of my life has been leading to this point - not through some random journey, but through purpose.

Perhaps now I'm just learning to read the signs and listen to my instincts better...!

So now, preparing for my epic journey across to the UK tomorrow there is another beautiful irony to this whole tale. Like so many other people, my flights have been cancelled due to Iceland's volcano. On Sunday, though, I had still believed that I would be OK, since I was due to fly on Wednesday (tomorrow). This time I decided to take precautions in any case (a marked change in approach and attitude I can tell you!) and I persevered in calling Eurostar. After countless failed attempts, followed by 57 minutes on hold, I finally got through to a very helpful lady called Paula. She said it was fully booked, yet still she searched. And she searched. Until finally she found me one last remaining ticket for tomorrow evening.

I shall arrive in to Kings Cross at 21.12. But I will not be taking the normal route from Paris Gare de Nord. For this time, the only way that Paula could get me across to the UK was by taking the train from Disneyland Paris. You know what? I've ALWAYS wanted to go to Disney. What a wonderful model for the new Top Banana, and what a perfect route to take on my way to the start of my whole new life!

Come on, altogether now: "When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true!"

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, 15 April 2010

I Know You're Out There...

... I can feel you now. And I know that you're afraid... afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell how it's going to begin...

That is one of my favourite quotes from The Matrix, and Top Banana used it as part of a presentation to open a conference to teach some area managers the rudiments of coaching. And I am using it now because I know for sure that this blog is now being read by my estranged husband. So I thought I'd say hello in a style that would be sure to grab his attention.

Yes, it's true... once I found out he was watching me I considered shutting the blog down again. I worried that perhaps it might give him some kind of sick hold over me again. And then I decided to stand proud. I decided that I have nothing to hide. And there's nothing that he can do now to hurt me. I'm free. You see I am not afraid anymore. This blog is MY voice, it's MY journey, and it's MY truth. And the truth will always out in the end.

I can't begin to guess his reasons for suddenly taking such an avid interest in what I'm doing. After all, he hasn't given me or Dylan a backwards glance since the day I found out the truth about him. And yes, I've been through hell and back in the days and months that followed. At times it has felt as though I have been trapped inside my own matrix, and insanity has felt never less than a heartbeat away. I had loved him with all my heart and with all my soul. I believed he loved me too, you see, and the shock at discovering the depth of his betrayal and deceit was just about enough to kill me.

I didn't know who I could trust. I worried that perhaps everyone else had known what was going on. I felt ashamed and stupid for not seeing what had been going on right under my nose - for years - how could I have been so blind? I couldn't sleep. Some days I could hardly breathe. The pain was indescribable, and my days were spent wading through treacle and trying to keep my head above the quicksand that was threatening to drag me down in to the abyss. Dylan and I both stuck together like glue, and together we worked our way through the mire. Together we made sense of a tortuous situation that forced us to realise that our family life had been nothing but a sham - and so inconceivable that there have been people who simply cannot take the whole truth on board.

And I missed him. Terribly. Heart-wrenchingly. I missed his touch, his smell, his voice. The smile and the face I knew and loved so well. The way he would hold me. The way our bodies just seemed to fit together so well. The way he walked. Even the noise he made when he cleared his throat - I always said I could pick him out from a mile away just from that sound!

Yes, there would have been a time when I would never have wanted him to know the pain and destruction his actions have caused. There would have been a time when I would have wanted to keep everything quiet. Damage limitation and all that malarkey.

And yes, I've questioned whether there can be any threat to him now reading my stories. Perhaps smiling, sneering, thinking he's had such power over me. Perhaps he takes some kind of sick pleasure in reading my stories of soul-searching and making sense of my shattered life.

So yes, the questions have been running around and around my head, and I have thought long and hard about what I was going to do. And I've decided through it all that I'm sticking exactly where I am. For I am now safe from harm, and beginning to live the life of my dreams. I decided that that this blog, my story, my life is just that. MY life. And I'm never going to shut up, bow down, hide or apologise ever again. I did that for far too long.

And you know what? Now I'm glad of it. Glad of the opportunity to clear out ALL the old shit. Not just the rubbish I'd accumulated over 11 years with my so-called soulmate, but also all the other emotional baggage I hadn't realised I had been carrying. I'm GLAD I was on my knees, and I'm proud of myself for doing so. For it was MY strength of character that allowed me to go there - not HIS perceived power over me.  So, as I said in a previous post, thank you Cam. Thanks for leaving just enough of a trail for me to find you out. For had I not discovered the truth I would be in a very different place right now.

Now I am free. Now I know for certain what it's like to feel secure. To feel loved. To feel inspired to dream big and have the self-belief to follow those dreams. I've started now, and nothing and no-one can stop me.

I don't know how this is going to end. I'm here to tell you how it begins. For I have changed, and life will never be the same again.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Wake Up And Smell The Roses!

The delightful Eko alarm clock - it's only 4in...
Last night, you see, was another of those moments. A moment where another lesson is learned. A wake-up call when something 'pops' and all of a sudden a lightbulb goes on. Typical. These moments have a habit of happening when least expected!

We were having an impromptu barbeque at home with my dearest friends and neighbours as it was their last night here before they head back home to the UK. Wine and conversation was flowing, and somehow we got on to the subject of bullying. My friends have three sons - aged 13, 15 and 19 - so together with Dylan at 14, discussions had quite naturally moved on to school, university and teachers. The difference between France and UK, the move from school to university (Tim is in his first year) and the way to deal with bullies.

Dylan, you see, has been dealing with a particularly obnoxious roommate this year. The teachers are aware of the problem and have promised to do something about it. Hmmm..... suffice it to say I'm having a further meeting with his form teacher next week.

It seems that the UK is further ahead on this subject, and the boys have all experienced some kind of intervention or focus on how to overcome bullying at school. There have been competitions to design posters, talks from teachers, and strong statements given that "Bullying will not be tolerated here!" And yet, if last night's conversation is anything to go by, there is still little faith that anything will actually be done. Because the teachers don't have the right or sufficient support to take sufficient action against the bullies. It's an emotive subject and we all became very animated. Voices were getting louder, and opinions stronger, as we all put our energy in to debating the entire issue from varying viewpoints. I felt we were likely to need a gavel and  someone to shout "Order!" if we were to carry on in the sam way for much longer!

And then a calm, measured and relatively quiet voice silenced the table. It was Tim.

"You can't actually be bullied unless you feel it" he said, picking at the tomatoes from his third bruschetta. We all shut up and turned to look at him. Encouraged to explain further he continued "Bullying's not a THING. It's a reaction you choose. It's nothing to do with what's happening, it's to do with how you choose to feel about it"

And that was the lightbulb moment. Firstly, Tim had explained so succinctly exactly where, in my opinion, any focus for combatting bullying needs to be placed. Secondly, and on a personal level, he'd just reminded me that I am totally in charge of how I choose to react to whatever is and has been happening around me. Not a new lesson, but certainly one that needed re-stating. And I suddenly felt both humbled and inspired at the same time.

I listened intently as Tim continued to share his opinions, his wisdom and calm approach seeming to include everyone's point of view whilst at the same time presenting some workable and well-reasoned alternative solutions to the problem. We may not have solved the whole problem last night, but we certainly left the table feeling more able to deal with the issue. For me, I also came away with two personal intentions: determination to take things much further with Dylan's school, and also commitment to keep calmly focused on where I am heading. And realising that, actually, I'm doing pretty darned well!

As an aside, I also discovered during the course of the conversation that this incredibly wise, centred and modest young man had been awarded a prize last year for being the person who had given the most contribution to his school. That's quite some achievement by anyone's standards, and yet Tim had kept it very quiet. I hope, like me, that you'll agree he's a very special person. And for me, he's one of the biggest inspirations in my life, and he never ceases to amaze me. For there's one small thing that I've omitted to explain about Tim.

And that is that he was born with the condition known as SMA - Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He has never been able to walk, and he needs 24-hour care, because he is totally reliant on others. Without them he is unable to do the most simple things that you and I take for granted - wash, get dressed, cut up his food. Even just turning over in bed is impossible for him on his own. He has had countless operations over the years, including one to fuse his spine and insert metal rods either side to prevent his internal organs being crushed because he cannot hold himself straight. But he never lets things phase him.

I didn't explain Tim's condition earlier, because to Tim, his family and his friends, it doesn't count. He is just like everyone else, and is treated in exactly the same way. This young man is living with a crippling disability, but he's discovered a way to take everything in his stride. He grasps life with more energy and determination than I see in most people, and he's making an absolute success of his life - as well as inspiring others along the way! And because of that, people see past his very large motorised wheelchair - it becomes invisible. Here is a typical example:

A couple of years ago we arranged a massive Easter treasure hunt here in France, with a whole gang of people rushing around the village finding clues. One of the younger members, a 6 year old boy, had taken a particular shine to Tim, and had stuck by his side for most of the day. He was still filled with excitement when explaining the day to other members of his family. When asked to point him out in the photographs of the day, he replied "Oh, he's the one with the big smile. He's got darker hair than the others - can you see him?" 

Note to self: Wake up, think of Tim, and smell the roses!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Rock And A Hard Place

...is where I'm feeling today. Well, not everyday is going to have a Pollyanna outlook - I'm pretty sure even she had her occasional bad hair days, they just didn't make it in to the book or the film!

It's not that my life is bad - or that I've lost the plot. Nope, it's just that I am feeling flat out drained and exhausted. Nothing has changed, there are no more shocks or bad news items to report... it's just that I'm feeling the need to curl up in to a ball and escape from "all of this"... whatever "this" is. I'm also hormonal at the moment, which I know is making me feel a little more vulnerable and raw than most days!

I was reminded last night, during a surprisingly emotional telephone call, that once you reach the top of the hill, it's natural to feel tired and drained. And of course that is perfectly correct. Kind and wise words from a very kind and wise friend.

Yes, I can now fully acknowledge that am surely at the brow of my particular hill - which, at times, has felt higher and steeper than the tallest mountain! I also fully acknowledge that compared to so many people in the world, and the hardships they have to face on a daily basis, that my trials are small fry. Totally minuscule by comparison. And I am aware every single day that I have a huge amount to be grateful for - and more and more things to add to my gratitude list with every passing day. So yes, I know that in the grand scheme of things, my battles are tiny. And most of the time that perspective helps me to carry on. Today, though, it's not helpful to me. For today I feel the need to let my feelings out. To acknowledge the exhaustion and aloneness that I'm feeling. So today I am honouring those emotions and letting them make themselves known.

I know that if I were with a friend who felt this way, I would tell them it's OK. I'd say it is a natural process. And I would sit with them and hold space with them. If they wanted to talk, I'd listen. If not, then I'd still listen. And hold the silence with them. For that's what it's all about isn't it? This whole idea of being true to ourselves, of being authentic in our life? We are wise to acknowledge our true emotions, allow them to exist, and give them the freedom to move through in the way they must to help us heal. I know the damage pent up or denied feelings can have on a person - I've witnessed the evidence too many times through my work.

So, acknowledgement of all emotions, including the "negative" ones, is what authentic means to me. And today I've decided to treat myself as my very best friend, and allow my feelings to come to the surface. Good, bad, positive, negative - whatever label anyone may choose to give, I'm just letting myself be. And, as this blog is continuing to help me through this particular journey, it seemed only natural to write about what's happening.

It's true. I have expended so much energy turning my life around - and in the process grown fitter and stronger than I ever dreamed could be possible. I've had so very much to deal with - it's been relentless... the slow moving monster of my childhood nightmares, moving ever towards me no matter how fast or how far I run, or how many times I destroy it. Still it keeps coming back like the Terminator - but without Arnie's humour! There have been so many battles to fight. So much to change. So much to save and nurture. And now, today, I recognise that my reserves need replenishing. I have no more fight left in me. To be honest, I don't really know what more I can possibly do to improve my situation, because I believe I've done (and am continuing to do) everything within my power to move forward. And yes, I absolutely am now at the top of the hill.

And this is the rock and the hard place I refer to in the title. I have the vision, the commitment, the certainty that everything IS good. That I AM guided. That I AM safe. That I AM heading in exactly the right direction. And at the same time, I feel it's necessary and helpful to acknowledge that, quite frankly, here and now, I am feeling like shite. Because, if I fight that feeling, then I'm denying my self. The trick is, though, to observe the feelings without wallowing. Without falling in to the pit. Without losing sight of the goal. Without forgetting the massive progress I've already made, and am continuing to make.

I THINK I'm doing OK with this process - I certainly know I'm dealing with things in a very different way from ever before. I seem to have found a way to feel what I'm feeling - fully and without judgement - and also let the feelings pass. It's like I'm an observer, if you like. I'm absolutely aware it's all going on, and I'm allowing the emotions to happen. The difference is, unlike previous times, I'm neither denying them ("Stiff upper lip, Melanie! Can't let the buggers grind you down!")  nor am I allowing them to engulf me. So I'm not in denial, nor am I a victim - the rock and the hard place.

So where am I? I'm questioning. I'm exploring. I'm noting what's happening. I'm curious. And I hope I'm learning in the process.

I'll let you know how I get on....!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Anyone Seen My Friend Arbutt...?

... his name may not be familiar, but he's everywhere. You'll find him at your place of work. You'll likely notice him at home. He'll lurk quietly among your friends and family, suddenly appearing when you're least expecting it. He's quite the celebrity you know, and once you recognise him, you'll see him on TV and in the newspapers, and you'll hear him on the radio. You won't be able to escape him - he'll be everywhere!

He's a pain in the butt, a killjoy, a potentially lethal threat to dreams and ambitions. And yet he sneaks around unnoticed, under the clever guise of  "the voice of reason". Or "the level headed sensible one warning about potential danger". Yet to those who encounter him - those who have the big ideas, others who may already have had to dig really deep to find the courage to voice their opinion in the first place - to these people he's the demolition man. His huge steel wrecking-ball destroying hopes and splintering frameworks of possibilities that were beginning to form a structure. One mighty swoop. Straight hit. Annihilation. Devastation. And all in less time than it takes to  pour a cup of coffee.

Can you recognise him yet? He can be tricky to spot at first - for he can take form as a male or female. He has no body, no real identity of his own. He choses instead to latch on to anyone who will give him just the slightest opportunity. That's how he survives. And until you can spot him, he'll return time and time and time again, like an unwelcome visitor. The thing is though, until you can identify him, you won't even know he's visited you! You may not even notice if he's visited your friends or colleagues!

You may not... but somebody will. Because every time Arbutt turns up, at least one person is left less confident than they were before he arrived. While that person may not have noticed how it happened, they will be left reeling from the after effects. And if you look carefully, you'll be able to spot just who has been affected. It will be the person who's face has suddenly lost its smile. Who's shoulders have slumped a little. Who's suddenly gone quiet. The person who's dropped their gaze and perhaps stepped back from the group. That is the person who's been hit by Arbutt's wrecking ball. And the damage has been done.

And until more of us become aware of him, and become more vigilant about policing his activities, more people are going to end up with broken dreams and a shattered confidence. Which is why I am asking whether you've seen him? Whether you'd even be able to spot him if he turned up among your group of colleagues or friends?

If you're still confused and scratching your head, perhaps it will help you if I gave you his full name. He's been around since god was a boy so has a long lineage and a grand double barrelled name. Once you hear it I know you'll recognise him. And all at once you'll be able to identify his familiar all too familiar calling card. Are you ready?

His full name is Arbutt The-Prollem.

When he appears he usually causes people to fold their arms and shake their heads. Some will even waggle a finger as well. It will often be in a lively discussion that he'll suddenly turn up, just as some of the best ideas and most encouraging solutions are beginning to form. For that's when he loves to strike, and suck up all of that positive energy for himself. All of a sudden somebody will suck in a deep breath, lean backwards, fold their arms, shake their head... and then it happens. That same person will open their mouth and say the words "Ah, but the problem is...." and there he is. Slap bang in the middle of the group, and nobody even noticed him sneak in!

I'll bet you can now think back over countless situations when Arbutt has been in your presence. Do you remember the effect he had on the conversation or business meeting? He may even have snuck in and persuaded you to host his arrival on some occasions. So let's take a fresh look at the powerful effect he can have. Let's acknowledge the original intention of the person who says "Ah, but the problem is..." as well as the reactions from those who hear those words.

Let's start with the speaker. Their intention is usually positive. Caution always has a valuable part to play in any discussion, as does the calm voice of reason. So the intention is absolutely to be commended. When hijacked by Arbutt, that positive intention cannot be fulfilled. For just by mentioning his name (or that of his brother, Yesbutt) all previously aired ideas are automatically erased or dismissed. Instantly. Deadly to the flow of conversation. Think about it. Imagine you've just put forward an idea or opinion - you've usually ended the sentence with "Isn't it?" or something similar, and are likely smiling and nodding your head. The person you are talking with has another opinion to put forward and starts the sentence with"Yes.. but...." and continues with his view. The very second that Arbutt or Yesbutt are introduced, you automatically stop smiling and nodding. You do something else. You might furrow your brow. You might start to feel a bit niggled. You may even feel angry. Or you might just close down and decide not to say anymore.

Whatever happens, the flow of conversation and group thought has just been disrupted. It's now become disjointed. And much more energy is required to get it back on track.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with that person having a different opinion from yours! That is to be expected and accepted in any discussion. It has everything to do with how that opinion is introduced.

"OK then, so what would you suggest?" I hear you ask.

Well, luckily all of Arbutt, Yesbutt, Wellbutt, Nobutt and indeed all the little butts have an arch enemy in who's presence they simply cannot survive. Familiar to all of us, few people acknowledge her power. Her name is Yezzand. A mightier force is harder to find in the art of communication and negotiation. For with Yezzand in your toolbox, you're equipped for just about any eventuality!

Shall we have a go?

Let's go back to that original scenario - the one where you had just presented an idea or offered an opinion. You've just finished and are smiling and nodding, waiting for a response. Let's suppose that the other person, in PLACE of the"Yes...but..." we've already explored (which automatically accompanied with a shake of the head and often a folding of arms) instead nods and smiles and says "Yes.... and.." and then goes on to explain their opinion as well? Think about it... what would you be doing? You may agree or you may disagree with what is being said. Either way, you will be taking on the other person's perspective, expanding your understanding and still feel in the mood to continue with the discussion.

It seems so simple - and it is. Yes, it takes some getting used to, and once you're fluent you'll be amazed at the difference it can have in conversation, even if the people involved have totally opposite opinions! This is a true-life example of a conversation I witnessed between two people in a newly decorated pub:

First person, smiling: "The landlord's choice of wallpaper is rubbish. I have never liked brown as a colour!"

Second person, nodding: "Hmmm... yes... and.... to me it looks more of a rose colour, in fact I don't see any brown in it at all!"

First person, nodding: "Hmmm... I suppose so..."

Imagine what could have happened had any of those Butts turned up?

First person, smiling: "The landlord's choice of wallpaper is rubbish. I have never liked brown as a colour!"

Second person, leaning back with arms folded: "Yes.... but it's not brown. It's rose! There's no brown in it!"

First person, frowning, putting drink down: "What? Are you blind? It's brown!" You can imagine how it could continue

So, my invitation to you right here and right now, is to be vigilant. Stay aware and keep Arbutt, Yesbutt and all the other members of the family out of your conversation. Instead, invite Yezzand to take her well deserved place of power, and notice how much smoother discussions can be - yes, even when you don't necessarily agree with what's been saying!

Three word slogans have a history of being strong and powerful "Just say no!" "Frankie says relax!" "Just do it!" so here's one to help us fight against the on-going threat from Arbutt and his invisible family:


Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

When The Shift Hits The Fan

GE electric fan from early 20th century.
... what a fantastic saying, don't you think? I first came across it a couple of weeks ago, and it made me laugh out loud! Succinct, honest, less words more impact - I loved it and thought it would make a great title for this post.

Change. Growth. Personal development. All powerful words that strike a chord with a noble desire for progress that most of us can identify with. Out with the old, in with the new! These rousing battle cries can stir a response in even the most risk-averse among us! But what does it really mean? We can get so fired up about these inspiring ideas for revolution that, in reality, usually demand so much more than we had anticipated.

How often do business leaders preach that change is something positive that we should learn to embrace?  Or boisterous office wannabes brag that only the weak-willed and inadequate can't handle this roller-coaster ride to certain success?

So what makes us continue to strive for improvement, and how can we stay sane through the process?

Billed as a surefire route to happiness, fulfillment and endless possibilities, this advertisement for what appears to be a stay in a five star health-spa resort where change and shift can be gradually introduced in to the system, actually turns out to be a harsh cold boot-camp that would strike terror in to the hearts of even the toughest of the tough!

Because you know what? Even when it's invited or premeditated (which is often far from being the case!) when shift actually comes knocking, it's here for the long-haul. It means business, and it demands results. It's a ruthless taskmaster - and BOY is it hard work! And the thing is, once you've opened the door, there is simply no going back. No refund. No choice. No return. It's started, so now you simply have to finish - sink or swim, for if you fight the mighty wave of change you will surely drown. Or at best be buffeted against  the craggy rocks of guilt and failure, then spewed out on the shore of shame and derision.

No, our challenge here is to learn to ride those waves. Gear up for the challenges ahead. Always keep our eye on the goal. And always remember that no matter how dark the skies may become, or how choppy the sea, behind the clouds the sun is always shining, and beneath the waves the sea is calm.

"Yeah - great platitudes, Mel, but if you're so damned smart, tell us exactly HOW to do it?"

Well, I guess that's become my intention through this blog. It started off as a vehicle to vent my feelings. To purge my anger, disbelief, hurt and bitterness about the living nightmare that had suddenly become my life. To make sense of the journey - navigating the new roads that were opening up, and letting go of the routes that had closed.

But now.... well it's growing. I'M growing. And while I'm still worlds away from having all the answers, I have a whole heap more than I had just 12 months ago! And I'm now in the position where I can honestly and openly give thanks for what happened. Every single bit of it. In fact, every single facet of my life since birth - for without all the so-called good and bad events I've experienced, or the wise and stupid choices I've made, the successes and failures of projects over my 45 years on this earth, then I wouldn't be who I am today.

And today, I can look back at all of it with a genuine smile on my face - and the dawning realisation that I have never ever truly been able to do that before. At some point, at some level, there had always been a lurking feeling of guilt or shame that no amount of analysis or conversation has ever truly shifted. But now it's gone. I'm free. For the first time that I can remember. And you know what? I don't even know how it happened - or why.

But I DO know that now I'm on a mission to keep writing about what's happening for me. I know I'm on an adventure. I know I am responsible for my own experiences. And I know beyond shadow of a doubt that I'm about to step in to a whole new world of excitement and opportunity.

And I have absolutely no idea how on earth I'm going to cope. Or even how I'm going to survive long enough to reach that place. I just know that I AM heading in the right direction, and that whatever is now thrown up in my path, I have the tools and experience to cope with them. For I have found that when shift happens, the best route is surrender. And this is just some of what I've learned:

Feel the emotions - don't try to block the pain. Ask for help - for by sharing with someone else, both people benefit. Accept assistance - stop blocking or thinking we should be able to cope on our own. And be real. We don't have to put on a show - we never did. We don't "have" to be anything or anyone, and there's absolutely no need to seek approval - so be yourself, and not who you think people want you to be. For that's not real - and it cheats both people of an authentic experience in the process. And it's only once these protection barriers are knocked down that we realise they'd lost their value a long time ago, and had instead become a prison. They were keeping us down, not protecting us. For in the end it turns out there was nothing to be afraid of all along - only our own misguided fears.

Yes, change is hard. It's frightening. It's challenging. It brings in to question everything you thought was real. And no, it's not something I shall ever be able to look forward to - but it's something that now I can learn to embrace. For through the toughest pain, I'm learning to shine. And I hope my experiences help others to shine as well.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." 

(Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles", Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3])
Enhanced by Zemanta