Thank you for your continuing comments after my posts. I feel deeply honoured to be here, and I am so glad that my stories seem to help in some way - it makes all the bad experiences worthwhile! As each new week arrives, and the time comes to writing an article, I look back and search for something that has hit home in some way shape or form. Something that has made a difference to me and that, therefore, I hope will be of value to my friends here on Lovefraud.
This week there have been a couple of things – a photograph that a friend sent to me was one of them. It was one of those quotes that tends to do the rounds on social media sites. One with a photograph and a motivational or poignant phrase. This one was a quote by the author Anne Lamott, and this is what it said: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”
And that, of course, is what I’m continuing to do. Even when it appears that getting the truth heard and acknowledged is sometimes harder than it was living through the reality! But I’m continuing. Because if I don’t, then I am guilty of allowing the bad stuff to carry on regardless – and I simply cannot allow that. I’ve spent too many years staying quiet, letting things go, keeping my head down and generally doing my best to please people who, as I now realise, viewed kindness as weakness, and silence as stupidity. It’s taken many years to find my own courage. So there is no way that I am going to back down now – heck no. For goodness sakes, the fact is I’ve only just started!
Home Truths And Inspiration
So along with that comes the second thing that hit me this week. As has been the case many times before, I have once again been inspired by my son. Dylan has been through his own fair share of difficulties over the past three years. Like me, he has had to make sense of what happened, and survive through the emotional and financial devastation that happened as a result of my husband's betrayals. It’s a huge ask for anyone – let alone for a boy who at the time was only 13 years old and in the middle of a hugely important school year. Yet despite the odds he has come through. He has excelled in his studies and this week is the week of his baccalaureate exams (the French equivalent of “A-Level” or sixth-year studies), which will determine whether or not he can continue his education in the way he has chosen. He has already been accepted in to his university of choice, now he just needs to get the grades.
The thing is, he is still only 16 years old – whereas his contemporaries are 17 or 18. He was skipped up a year in junior school (despite coming in to a foreign country and having to learn a foreign language) and has managed to maintain his grades since that time. So, as I said, it’s a pretty major achievement and this week is a pretty major deal. Assuming everything goes to plan, he will be moving away from home in the autumn and settling in a new town a couple of hours from here. So, as you can imagine, I have been concerned to make sure I’ve been giving him as much guidance and day-to-day skills as I can while he's still living with me so that he can flourish as he starts his new life.
Well, I needn’t have worried. It turns out that my son is light years ahead of me in so many ways. How do I know? Well, it was a conversation we had this morning. It is Sunday afternoon as I write this, and today I am flying out to the UK for one of my regular work projects. Before leaving, Dylan and I shared a coffee and a chat (around my newly refurbished table - the one I talked about a couple of weeks ago) as I was keen to give him some final words of encouragement for his big week. He told me that last night, while lying in bed, he had felt suddenly overwhelmed by the prospect of what he was facing. He explained how it had hit him that this was the week that his entire school-life had been leading up to, and he’d found himself thrown in to a minor panic.
Yet when he was explaining this to me, he was very calm. So I asked him what he had done to abate his fears.
“Well, it’s quite simple really” he said “As soon as I recognised what was happening, I took a few deep breaths to calm myself and give myself some space. Then I decided to just imagine myself as a teacher, so that then I’d feel really confident about taking any exam! That made me smile, and I fell asleep.”
Now, here’s the thing. It would have been so easy – understandable even, given the circumstances – for him to have allowed his fears to grow and overwhelm him. It might arguably, then, have been perfectly reasonable if he’d tossed and turned during the night, restless with worries and concerns. But instead, he slept soundly and felt refreshed the next day. So what happened? What did he do that made the difference…?
The simple answer, so far as I can see it, is that he took a decision based on his awareness of the situation. First of all he recognised what was happening, then he decided to do something about it. Now then, of course he couldn’t actually do anything to change the situation he was facing – as is very often the case with things that worry us. But what he could (and did) do something about was to adapt his response to the situation in hand. I know I’ve spoken about this before, and I feel it’s worthy of another reminder here. If we look at it, the word responsibility, can be broken down to mean a person’s ability to respond. So when we take responsibility, it simply means we take control of our personal responses in a given situation. By doing this we can stop letting other people and situations control us, and instead start to reclaim our power.
All it takes is a decision. A decision that says “No, I’m not willing to feel this way any more!”or “Yes, I’m ready to start feeling better!” And then, even if it seems impossible (and to start with it may very well be tricky to achieve any significant changes), the fact that the decision has been made means that we are so much more able to find a solution.
Focus On What’s Already Within Our Control
What kind of things can we control? Just as Dylan did, we can choose to control our breathing. A few slow deep breaths can work wonders in times of stress. We can also choose to control our thoughts and focus – granted it takes practice. The fact is, though we can ultimately direct our mind to focus on thoughts of our choosing. In fact, I’ll bet that when we really start to think about it, there are many more things we can choose – or at least influence! Whether or not to have milk or sugar in coffee. What food to put on the plate, and how much of it to eat. What underwear to put on. Which station to watch on TV – and even if the choice in that instant may not be ours, then we can still certainly choose whether or not we allow ourselves to focus in on the programme!
Little by little we can reclaim our power – no matter how hopeless the situation may seem at the time. How do I know this? Because not only have I learned how to do it myself, I’ve also witnessed the results in others. Just the other day I was talking to a young French lady I often chat with. I don’t know her that well, but through various conversations we discovered that we share some similar childhood pain. Hers came from cruel treatment by her stepfather, who would regularly beat her mother and had started to do the same to my friend and her sisters. For a while she adapted to what was happening, learning how to walk on eggshells and keep the peace, particularly after he’d had a drink or two.
She told me that one day, though, she suddenly decided that she’d had enough. That she wasn’t going to put up with what that man was doing to her family. She was 14 years old at the time, and she described how what started as a little niggle gradually grew to become a huge “NO!” that coursed through her body. At that stage the decision was made. She confided in other family members and the police were informed. The process took a long time to yield tangible results, but ultimately the stepfather was jailed and the family was free.
“But that didn’t matter” she said, her eyes flashing at the memory “it wasn’t what happened in the end that was important. The only thing that was important was the moment in which I decided I wasn’t going to stand for it. From that instant, I started to become free”
I know, of course, that everyone of us has a different story and different experiences. I know that what works for one may not necessarily work for another. I also know though, that no matter how large or small the issue, and no matter what action follows, it’s the decision that counts. Step by step, breath-by-breath, decision by decision – we can reclaim our power.
With much love. Mel xxx