WELCOME BACK

April 2016: After three years away from this blog I'm back. It was originally started so I could make sense of the madness that ensued after my marriage to a sociopath. Much has changed, grown and been created since then - including reclaiming my full birth name Melanie Pledger.
My voice has become stronger, and so has my mission. I'm here on this earth to share the life-changing magic that developed as a result of my personal journey overcoming abuse, abandonment, manipulation and betrayal. I've learned that many of the rules we've been taught about life are fundamentally wrong. They've been misunderstood by most, misused by some, and deliberately misdirected by the manipulators who live and breathe among us. I've also learned that it's easier and more enjoyable than people think to shift things around...
Now I know there was a reason for it all. So now I'm back to fill in the gaps. To share what I've discovered, and dispel the myths that don't serve us... I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, and discovering new ones.
Thank you for being here.
Mel xxx

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Love Stays With You

Remember Ghost, that classic 1990 film with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore? Well I've been thinking about it today, and in particular one line that Sam says to Molly. He'd just 'borrowed' Oda Mae's body (brilliantly played by Whoopi Goldberg) so they could say their last goodbyes, and as he's leaving her for the final time he tells her: "It's amazing, Molly. The love inside, you take it with you. See ya."

Well I woke up this morning knowing that for myself - but unlike Sam, I didn't have to die first! I woke up knowing that whatever feelings I've already experienced, they're mine to keep - I take them with me wherever I go and whatever I do. And you know what? I can choose which ones I'd like to remember and have with me on a daily basis. But somewhere along the line I'd forgotten that (sometimes I really do begin to think that I'm perhaps one of life's slower students!)

I had another dream you see (hmmm... perhaps my 'teachers' have decided it's easier to get the lessons through to me this way, since I'm less likely to argue or stubbornly dig my heels in when I'm asleep?) and once again it involved Cam. For months and months he's been nothing but a dim and distant memory - but he's been making regular nocturnal appearances over the past few days. And you know what? It's actually been incredibly useful and enlightening. Last night's episode has resulted in a huge 'ah-ha' moment for me. There was no malice in this dream. No fighting. No fear. No danger - none of the usual warning signs that show themselves when he appears in my dreams. No, this time there was only comfort. We were in the huge sitting-room at the place I had lived in as a child, both lying together on a sofa that belonged to my mum. Yup - pretty symbolic! Anyway, I was listening to his voice and feeling his heartbeat next to mine. I knew what had happened in the real world, and that what I was experiencing was just a dream. I knew I was not to let him in, and I also knew at the same time that there was something to learn. So I became curious, and dropped the barriers.

All of a sudden I was enveloped by this amazing sense of safety. That feeling of being looked after, of knowing that all is well and that all will always be well - and it felt great. (Even though I was asleep, I'm sure my smile would have been seen by anybody who had been sharing my bed at that moment! Sadly, there were only the cats - and to the best of my knowledge, they can't talk in that way...) Then just as suddenly I found myself sitting in the passenger seat of the car we used to drive - a huge black Mitsubishi which, Cam justified, was necessary to carry around our training equipment... yeah right, I won't even go there. Anyway, it was summer and we were parked outside the office of one of our clients, and I was just opening the door. We were both booked in for a coaching day, and I got out of the car beaming and brimming with confidence - something that in recent months has not come naturally to me. No, it's been a constant and conscious shift of personal determination to recapture that feeling of confidence. I've done it, of course, and achieved great feedback as a result. But it's been a conscious effort rather than a natural flow.

In the dream I realised that, along with many other things, I used to feel safety all the time I was with Cam. In fact, I now understand that I depended on him to give me those feelings! There were two of us, you see... two of us who were both very skilled at what we do (although his skills originated from a completely alien intent and purpose as we now know) who loved each other and who were together through thick and thin. He would always squeeze my shoulder or my hand to let me know we were doing well (or to remind me of his control?) and I would happily walk in to any given situation knowing that we'd get a positive result. In my dream I felt those feelings all over again - and it felt good, really good. Even though I knew those feelings had originated from my being with Cam, I suddenly realised the point I'd been missing. My smile widened, and as I relaxed more in to those feelings, I was suddenly back on my mum's sofa - but this time I was alone. It didn't matter. Because the sensation stayed with me - and the lesson was learned.

Yes, it's true, I now know that in the 'olden days' I was unwittingly giving my power away to him. I believed that I felt the safety because of him. What I now realise, is that in actual fact I was able to feel the feelings through him not because of him. Much like the episode in the summer at the Reggae festival, when I could so clearly identify that the love I was feeling was through Simon and not because of him. I had made the mistake of putting too much emphasis on what Cam brought to me, how he made me feel (even writing that now makes me giggle and let out a great big Homer-style "doh!") and how much I loved him as a result.

But you know what? I was wrong. Because in actual fact it doesn't matter a jot what happened afterwards - in either of those situations, nor any others come to think of it. The fact remains that had those feelings. Those were genuine emotions that were mine to experience and remain mine to keep. Regardless of whether anyone else is here with me or not - and regardless of, in Cam's case, how false those situations were in the first place. It doesn't matter! He doesn't matter! Nothing 'matters' apart from the fact that in those particular moments I felt safe and secure - and it had nothing whatsoever to do with the person who was with me at the time.

People talk about losses and will use phrases such as "never being able to find someone who'll make me feel like that again!" and I confess that I've also fallen in to that trap myself. For years I mourned the loss of my parents and other people who'd either died or moved out of my life - thinking, wrongly, that the good memories I had of them could never be replicated. But today I've realised that I was mistaken - more so than I've understood until now.

Because today I've realised that the feelings stay with us... forever. Yes, forever - and they're at our disposal any time we choose, so we can dust them off, take them out and experience them whenever we like and as often as we like. Because those experiences were felt through the person or people who enabled us to have them in the first place and not because of them.  For me, they were simply mirroring something that I chose to feel inside, something I chose to accept. And I believe the real connection was made with something much bigger and stronger than me - so even though that person I was with at the time may no longer be around, or may have turned out to be something I hadn't expected, the experience is always with me because that over-riding energy from which those feelings come remain with me all of the time, ready to deliver again and again whenever I ask.

So, this morning I awoke with a huge grin on my face, feeling grounded and secure - more so than I can remember for many many months. And I knew that another wonderful gift had been given to me. The gift of knowing that every emotion I have ever had is always mine to keep. I can experience them any time I choose - not just as a memory but right here, in the here and now. You see they're all right here in front of me - just like the clothes in my wardrobe. I get to pick which ones I'd like to wear. I can pack away the ones I don't like, and I can care for the ones that give me a lift. I don't have to use all of them all of the time, and I'm sure my choices will change with the seasons. I'm also certain that my emotional wardrobe will continue to expand - now, though, I'll be conscious about choosing only the best quality clothing that suits me.

Back to the dream for a moment. Even though Cam had gone, I kept that feeling of safety - during the dream, and when I awoke - so now I have the confidence and knowing that whatever I've liked about my experiences so far I can recall and 'wear' for today. As a real thing, not as a memory of something lost. Because they've never been lost at all - they've always been inside of me. As I've said before, I had just been looking outside myself to replace them, mistakenly thinking that they'd gone forever.

The word 'remember', according to Neale Donald Walshe, can be broken down and deciphered as 're-member' - or put another way, the process of re-joining with who and what we really are. My oh my, the mysteries of life are really so very simple aren't they? Like I said, I sometimes think I really must be a particularly thick student....

Monday, 29 November 2010

All Change - Or Is It?

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08:  Members of the Qu...
Call me a victim of media manipulation, a saddo, one of those weak willed women enticed in to Cowell's Coven, but I love so many things about the X-Factor that I refuse to boycott it - even though, yes, it's become a farce in so many ways. And one of the reasons why I love it is hammered home to me as I watch and re-watch Matt Cardle's haunting rendition of Roberta Flack's classic song "The First Time". This, remember, is a song written for a woman. The pitch is specifically chosen to suit a female voice. The words are crafted to describe the singer's feelings in relation to a man. So, to all intents and purposes, it would appear that this classic song occupied a very special and very unmovable place in music. Until now. Until talented male contestant Matt Cardle came along and showed the 13 million-plus viewing audience that, actually, there was another way. That the song could be a different shape and occupy a very different place. That it had the power to reach and move a wider audience than the original composer could ever possibly have imagined. This is the kind of thing that gives me goosebumps! This, surely, is what life's about! Because this is growth. This is expansion. This is the very thing that many people often refer to as 'change'....

Change, though, is a word that I now choose to avoid as much as possible. Because for me, I'd prefer to give a different sense to this very natural process of life. I now consciously refer to change as an opportunity to explore more of what already is. An invitation to push through imagined limitations. To seek new grounds. And to find the courage to embrace and accept all of it in its entirety.

Change, you see, is a word that frightens so many people. No matter which way you look at it, the word implies failure, because it means that something is wrong, was wrong or is going to be wrong. Think about it. Why else would anyone be asking us to change anything? Because something isn't right! Is it any wonder, therefore, that people shy away when invited to make a change?

How many times have I heard board directors boast about "a new change initiative! Something that's really going to make things different around here!" And then they wonder why people back away from it at the first opportunity, instead of jumping up and embracing it with both hands - eager to make the changes happen for themselves? People don't like change - and for those of us who have been through any period of personal change, we know that it's painful. Yes, even though we might feel stronger or wiser as a result, the process can be quite simply horrid. So when bosses tell their teams that things are going to change, there's the potential of a double-whammy negative response from the very people they'd hoped to inspire! There's the sense that, by definition, they're currently doing something wrong; and for those who've experienced any personal change, there's the absolute certainty that this is going to hurt!

Imagine the different response leaders could probably expect from their teams if, when they have ideas about how things can improve, rather than announcing these ideas as "a new initiative" or"new ideas for change" they instead chose to refer to them as "exploring the power we already have within us as a team!"  The chance to "shine" and to "do more of the good stuff" to "nurture what we're already doing well, find any cobwebs that might be clogging the system, and define how we're going to move forward from here?"

In my experience, people respond much better to praise and encouragement than to any expectation of change. I can be a funny creature when it comes to language, as those who know me will testify. For it's the everyday words people use that give me an insight as to where they're at in terms of living the life they say they choose - and the progress that can be made just through shifting a couple of specific words can be astounding!

So I know the effect that well thought through phrases can have in the workplace. I've seen a coaching client finally find the strength to voice his opinions about a project that was going disastrously wrong - simply by changing his every-day language from third person to first person. He had been continually referring to himself as "you" and, therefore, giving away his power. By helping this man to shift his language, he re-connected with his self-belief, and found the courage to speak out. As a result of his actions, the company reversed some bad business decisions and brought the project back on track. The result? Massive cost savings, and respect and recognition for my client.

People don't like change. People do like growth and encouragement. They do like the idea they can do something to become more or do more with their life. And, in the main, people also like watching other people develop - hence the clever concept behind X-Factor and so many other real-life TV competitions. How many times have we heard comments on these programmes: "he's really developed" "she's come out of herself over the past two weeks" "I was feeling frightened at first, now I'm much more confident!" These are all observations that prove a change has happened - where people have achieved and become more than they might previously have thought possible. And these people go through this process in front of millions of viewers. Viewers who, on the whole, feel equally inspired, connected and delighted by the progress of a contestant who was, after all, just an ordinary person before the show. So... change can happen in front of our eyes, and we can feel lifted by the feel-good factor during the process.

If the original headline invitation, however, was to apply for a programme that required you to make changes, would they have attracted the huge numbers of applicants needed for the show? I think not. So, please let's stop parading 'change' as a good thing, or something to which we should aspire. Change is merely a vehicle - it's certainly not a destination, and it's far from being a motivator! It's all about re-adjusting perspectives, that's all...

Speaking of which, I heard a wonderful story the other day. It concerns a little girl in an art class at school. The teacher came over to her and asked her what she was painting. "I'm painting a picture of God!" replied the child. The teacher looked surprised "But nobody knows what God looks like!"she exclaimed. The little girl carried on painting, and simply smiled "Well, they will once I've finished my picture!"
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Slippery Little Suckers

Prisoner (drawing)
So here it is. Just when I thought I'd surely got to the bottom of things and found out all there was to know about myself... well along comes another hidden driver that had been hiding away for all those years. Something that has been ruling my life in a way I simply did not recognise. Something that, I now believe, is dissolving - because I've found it you see. I've acknowledged it. Finally I noticed what was there - something that for years has been asking for acceptance and was doing everything it could to get my attention.

So what am I referring to? What am I talking about? Well, tons of stuff has written about this subject, and there are many different opinions and labels for the thing I'm talking about, which is, essentially, a deeply held pattern or belief that drives the way we act. Some people talk about unconscious beliefs. Some speak of childhood patterning. Others mention karma. Others still tell us about previous life experiences that follow us in order to be cleared. Me? I'm choosing to call them parts of ourselves that have been longing for acceptance. Parts of ourselves that are so deeply engrained in our psyche that we don't even stop to think about them - or the effect they have on our experiences. Until they finally cause us to sit up and take notice. I call that healing.

It's like this you see. As you already know, the past 18-plus months have been a time of reflection and growth for me. Relentless shocks, setbacks and tests that have pushed me to become more than I was before. Experiences which, now, I can totally accept as gifts. I may not have had any conscious control over what was happening to me, but I sure had conscious control over how I chose to respond. I could either sink or swim. Give up or get up. They say that whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger - well, I sure am lots stronger than I've ever been before. And calmer. More peaceful. More understanding. So, you see, I got my wish - to grow as a person. To become all I could possibly be. I guess that perhaps, though, I've just been one of those particularly stubborn and wise-cracking students who can only learn these things the hard way eh?

Anyway, so all that said and done, it hit me really hard this week to discover I felt down and depressed. Yes, I've been working myself hard - and it's paying off. Yes, I'm still fighting battles - and slowly winning the war. And yes, as a result I've achieved a colossal amount over the past few months. So, OK, yes, it would be perfectly acceptable for me to feel tired. But this was more than tired. I felt absolutely exhausted. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.

So when I received some less than positive news at the beginning of the week, I found myself spiraling out of control and in to self-doubt. Blurred focus, nagging voices in my head, and the overwhelming feeling that I just wasn't good enough. That I was about to be found out as a fraud. That despite my best intentions I just couldn't hack it. That people were laughing at me behind my back. And anyway, who did I think I was kidding?

During coaching sessions I talk regularly about pushing comfort zones. Encouraging people to move out of the familiar and in to stretch - but rather than stretch, it seemed I'd moved myself in to total panic! I knew I was in a mess, and I also knew this wasn't "me" - that all these thoughts were delusional, unfounded and totally unwarranted. But I sure as heck felt trapped and worthless - even after everything I've already achieved! So something had to be done.

First of all I went down my normal tried and tested route. I pulled myself back and away from the situation, found a change of scenery and started noting all the good things I've achieved. Work is piling in - check. Last week I facilitated two life-changing coaching sessions - check. My status in France is now confirmed - check. I am surrounded by wonderful friends and family who I love and who love me - check. I have a beautiful home - check. I'm looking and feeling pretty good - check. Yup. Did all of that and more, but still I felt drained, useless, and very teary. So what was that all about then?

I knew that somehow, somewhere, I was being given another gift. Another opportunity was presenting itself to me so that I could grow, although it didn't feel much like a gift at the time. I joke sometimes that I'm fed up with all this character building rubbish, and wouldn't it be better to just live my life asleep and unaware? Hell no! This is my choice, and on a soul level I know I'm lucky to have these opportunities.

So I let the tears fall. I let myself feel rotten. I allowed the feelings of despair to pass through my system - without judgement or resistance - and I knew the answer would come. And it did. This time the answer came through my dreams.

I dreamed that I was being offered a precious and ancient gift - funnily enough it was a small glass bottle of perfume (those who know me will tell you about my addiction to lovely smells!). Amber coloured, with beautifully clean lines, the bottle had a simply shaped old-fashioned stopper that perfectly echoed its rounded form. It was offered to me time after time, yet each time I went to take the gift, something went wrong. Either I couldn't open the lid, or the perfume had gone off, or I would drop the bottle. And each time I felt myself getting more and more frustrated, and heard myself apologising for not being able to accept what was being offered to me. And each time that happened I imagined Cam's face grinning at me - grimacing, actually, is a more apt description. Like some kind of malevolent energy, I began to feel his presence wrapping around me, pretending to give warmth but instead choking the life out of my body until I could hardly breath. And then all of a sudden I decided to stop apologising. Forcing a huge breath in to my body, and drawing myself up to my full height, I found my power and screamed out at the top of my voice "NO! I'm not taking this any more! It's NOT my fault! I'm INNOCENT!" And all of a sudden the darkness subsided and instead I was bathed in light - and in that very moment I knew I'd broken the spell.

In the shower the following morning, I noticed that I felt somehow different. Freer than before. Lighter. As though a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Standing under the hot running water, I looked up to the ceiling and asked myself what had happened. That's when it all made sense, and I burst out laughing. Guilt. That's what it had been. Guilt. Nothing more, nothing less, but a pattern of guilt I'd carried with me for more years than I care to remember. And as I thought about it more, I saw my life experiences flashing before me - all the times when I'd thought something had been my fault. Times when I'd admonished myself for making mistakes, for failing to put things right - for failing to save the people I love, including myself. I realised that at some level I felt guilty about my father's death. Guilt that I had survived. Guilt that I resented the birth of my sister. Guilt that as a result of my failure I had also lost my mother and failed to look after my sister. Guilt, even, about the way in which I was born - with my arm wrapped around my head, making it a very painful process for my mother. Guilt about some big things as well as some totally minor things - for all these things, being the first to hold my hand up and admit to something that was never my fault in the first place!

I remember one such situation a few years ago while I was on holiday in the Dominican Republic. We'd gone there for Christmas, and I was part of a jolly crowd of people enjoying the Christmas festivities. In my usual enthusiastic way, I'd put my drink down on one of the big glass tables a little too heavily than was necessary. The table smashed in to tiny pieces with an almighty crash. So what did I do? I immediately stood up, waved my hands in the air and shouted out "I did it! It's OK! It's my fault! I'll pay! Let me make it better!"

And you know what? Pay I have, through my own personal guilt-trip. Time and time and time again. For all those episodes where I've assumed responsibility. Far too much and for far too long.

Slippery little suckers, these unconscious belief patterns. They're with us and around us all the time - like the air we breath - but until we notice them, they have more power over our lives than we can imagine. So, having acknowledged this unconscious guilt pattern as a living breathing part of me, I did some research as to how this belief can manifest itself. I found references to people suffering from an unconscious need for punishment (hmmm) as well as feeling responsible for the emotional and physical well-being of everyone else. The drive to make things right, to put others first, to heal the world and to make amends. Because, after all, it's all my fault - isn't it? The more I researched, the more boxes I ticked - and the more my smile widened. Ha! Gotcha! I see you - and you see me. And, right in front of me, the guilt dissolved, and we both gave a sigh of relief. It had been accepted, and forgiven. And in it's place stands innocence - something I thought I might never feel again. Another gift - more valuable than anything money can buy. And it's mine to keep - thank you.

I went back and reviewed the less than positive news from a new perspective. And I realised it wasn't my fault. Whereas my fall-back position has often been "what could I have done differently here?" it suddenly became clear that the issue laid not with me, but with something outside of my control. I had already done more than enough, so I responded with strength and kindness. And the situation was dissolved - right then and there.

Now I have even more flexibility. Now, yes, I can still ask myself the often healthy question "what could I have done differently here?" and I can also take a step back to ask myself whether it really is something to do with me - or whether, perhaps, it's nothing to do with me at all. Now I know that I'll recognise the difference.

I thought I'd done it all. I thought I'd come just about as far as I could. I thought I was doing really well. And you know what? I have been doing really well - and I still am. I shall continue to take responsibility for my actions, and for the way my life is unfolding. Now, though, I can accept that precious gift of perfume in the way it was intended - with innocence and love.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Lessons From The Men I've Loved

Well here it is - and here I am. More learns, more growth, more emotions and more questions - some helpful, others less so. Some warming, others painful. All, none the less, useful lessons resulting in unquestionable personal growth. So, in the shower a couple of days ago, I decided to think about all the lessons I've learned from the men I've loved - whether as friends, family or lovers - because I'm realising that some of my deepest learns have resulted from some sort of relationship with the opposite sex.


Let’s start with the earliest male influence in my life – that of my father. Whenever I was around my Daddy I felt totally loved and adored. And I, in turn loved him back completely and utterly. He always told me that anything is possible, and through him I believed in magic. After all, wasn't he the person who could build a plane out of bits of wood, paper, glue and paint, and make it fly... with a real engine? He taught me how to play and how to fight as well "you must always know how to stand up for yourself" he'd say to me. We would walk together, laugh together and sometimes cry together – and I knew he’d always be my world. So when he died so suddenly when I was just four years old I learned some profound lessons. Some of which have been helpful, others not so – all of which have certainly had an influence on the way my life has unfolded since then.

The helpful lessons include these specific ones I still hold dear, which are that anything is possible, there is such a thing as magic, and that dreams really do come true. These remain some of my guiding values and, rightly or wrongly, have keep me going through many of the darkest periods of my life.
One of the not so helpful and equally influential lessons – a subconscious one I’m still unravelling – was the belief that I wasn't good enough for him. That quite clearly he didn't love me enough, because if he did surely he would never have left me? I learned what it means to feel abandoned, afraid and alone; and as a consequence I learned to keep my distance from anyone who might start to mean too much to me. I also learned to keep myself locked away so that I could never be hurt like that again.
My less than positive lessons were compounded twelve years later by the treatment received from my guardian. It was while I was under his roof that I learned it was safer to please than to speak out – better to fit in, to be a good girl, to do everything I possibly could to make my guardians' lives easier and make myself invisible. I believed that if I could do that successfully, then perhaps I would be able to maintain the unstable home he and his wife were providing for both me and my little sister after the death of our mother. I’d seen the way he treated his wife. I’d witnessed his cold behaviour towards his small children, together with the endless jibes and gossip about his friends and family behind their backs. I understood the threatening uncertainty of our predicament and knew I had to keep both my sister and myself safe and away from his radar.

But in the end my best wasn’t enough and I couldn't save the situation. I couldn't win his heart and we were both thrown out despite my best efforts to placate. And so another lesson was compounded – that once again I hadn’t been ‘good enough’.  This time, though, I'd not only let myself down, I'd let my sister down as well because I'd failed to keep her safe. And on top of that I must surely be a very bad person to deserve this treatment. Again, a deeply engrained lesson that has clearly been behind some of my less than healthy life choices since then. 

Fending for myself at a relatively early age made me toughen up in a way that many of my female friends had yet to discover. So rather than having close girlfriends, I tended to have a collection of close male friends. I found them straight forward, straight talking, and fun to be with. I found I could be myself with them, and felt chuffed when they called me 'an honorary bloke'. I learned a great deal about their approach to life, and being in their company strengthened the male side in me - something, I'm sure, that has encouraged me to be so driven in business. So determined to carve my own path and make a name for myself. These, I believe, were all good lessons. Perhaps, though, there was a fall-out as well. Perhaps I neglected my feminine side as a result. My instinctive, nurturing side. 

Oh, sure I could be nurturing to others - but not to myself. You see, I'd learned from the men in my life to stay strong - an approach that served me well at the time. If I hadn't been strong during my teens and twenties, then surely I would have broken down in to tiny pieces. So I learned how to become driven and focused. To believe that I was invincible so that I could deal with any situation. I would be the first to stand up against any injustice that had been suffered by another. I would put my neck on the line time and time again for those I believed had been wronged or misjudged. Because I knew I was strong enough to handle anything - look at what I'd already survived? On top of that, for much of my life I believed that I had a point to prove - that if I kept myself together and could prove that I was a good and worthwhile girl, well then perhaps, just perhaps, maybe one day I would no longer be a bad person and might be loved for just being me.

The change happened with the birth of my son when I was 30 years old. All of a sudden I started to consider that perhaps I was already good enough - in fact, perhaps I always had been. Through him I learned the meaning of unconditional love. I was enchanted and intoxicated by the exquisite and sometimes overwhelming feelings of gratitude and love I felt for this small defenseless person who utterly depended on me - and who absolutely trusted me to provide whatever he needed. And through my love for him, I finally realised for sure that my father would never have left me on purpose. I also began to understand that I had been holding on to a series of unhelpful subconscious beliefs that had shaped my life in to some less than positive twists and turns. So I embarked on my quest to consciously re-shape my life - a journey that is still continuing. I became a dedicated student of self-development and self-discovery in a bid to help me unravel the harmful lessons I'd absorbed through my earlier life. 
Paradoxically, I was the strongest I'd ever been - emotionally, spiritually and physically - when I met Cam nearly three years later. At the top of my personal game, it never occurred to me that he was anything other than who he professed to be. Through my relationship with him I learned about commitment, contentment and the fulfillment of my life's dream - to be accepted and adored for who I was. 

Despite the fact that since then I've discovered the grisly truth about him, those experiences are still mine to keep. Despite the fact that my feelings were never reciprocated, it doesn't matter a jot. I'm proud and grateful for those feelings. Because I felt them myself... honestly, willingly and with all of me. And I loved those feelings. And through what's happened since I discovered the truth, I have learned for certain that I am a good person. That I am enough. Because even though I could have crumbled as a result of his deceit, instead I've been able to draw on my strength and positive determination and I've pulled myself and Dylan through. On top of that I've grown further in the process - and am continuing to grow on a daily basis! So, as I've said before, I'm thankful for the deeply cleansing qualities of the whole ten-plus years he was an influence on my experiences. How on earth could I choose to feel anything else but gratitude?

And the most recent lessons from a man I've loved? Well, Simon has shown me the depth and breadth of the lessons I've been learning - and I know for sure that through our relationship, some old and deeply engrained patterns have shown themselves to have been finally shifted. I'm confident that those lessons are well and truly learned and absorbed - and there is no need for me to experience them ever again, at any level. And as for the thunderbolt of love I described at the summer festival? It remains with me to this day and is mine to keep for ever. Because, as I said at the time, it came from something bigger than the both of us, and stirred something deep within me that had not been reached before - at least, not on a conscious level. The power and innocence of that love meant I could love safely with Stuart - deeply and honestly. And at the same time be authentic to myself - something I'd failed to do previously in countless other relationships, be it with friends, family or lovers. So thank you, my Chevalier, for helping me on so many levels that will positively shape my life going forward. Thank you also for an on-going friendship that I know will stand the test of time.

And now… now… I have a sneaking feeling I may have found a new teacher to take over from all the male influences in my life. Someone who has been there all the time, but who has been waiting in the wings. Or, put another way, perhaps someone who I'd refused to acknowledge. This person, though, is someone who will never leave me - someone who has never left me. Someone who cannot let me down, and who understands me completely. Someone who is absolutely with me, on my side, and will do everything within their power to make sure I live my life to the full, and fulfill or exceed all of my dreams. 

So who is this person? Well, it may come as no surprise to learn that this person is me. Yes, little old me – Mel Carnegie. Here it is, and here I am. And I'm now very happy to announce to anyone who cares to listen, that I’m in once again in a committed and deeply loving relationship. But this time, it’s with myself. And right now, that’s the most important relationship in the world.