Heartache to happiness

“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.”
 John Joseph Powell

As as pondered what I had learnt this week and what I could share that was interesting and meaningful, I scrolled back through my posts. I’m not sure what compelled me to do so but I stumbled upon this unpublished draft and wondered why I had shelved it. Even as I wondered I realised, despite my willingness to share and be vulnerable, that perhaps this was too raw, too private, something to be kept under wraps. As I write this introduction I have second thoughts about sharing. I have a gnawing unease. Will people think I’m mad? Probably. Will people think less of me? Does it matter? Will people judge me and ridicule? Perhaps.

Then another set of questions were raised. What’s the point of sharing? What’s the value in it? Is it self-indulgent? Is it interesting and meaningful to others? Oh, heck. I don’t know. Maybe it is self-indulgent but perhaps it could be cathartic and healing. This story might set some eyes a rolling but then it might also hit a nerve for one or two. Interesting? Most assuredly not. But confirming and validating for some, perhaps.

Well, I figure, you  can’t change if you don’t feel uncomfortable. Right?  I’m feeling VERY uncomfortable. But it’s interesting too, to see that so much has changed in 12 months. This post was written a year ago (I had almost forgotten how desperately dark and ill at ease I was) and maybe that’s why it’s begging to be released now. When all is said and done I believe there is a place for celebrating change and growth and new found peacefulness. There is room for celebrating life and choosing a different focus. Life can change. We can change it with small actions and with a choice to be, think and act differently.

Okay, here goes. I have resisted making any changes to the original post, it is as I wrote it all that time ago.


Moved to tears over years of anguish. And for what?

I recently read a brilliant post by Elizabeth Gilbert in which she shared a personal experience of releasing pain after fifteen years. She eventually. After trying everything sat quietly and asked her body what it wanted her to do to heal a knee injury. She got a clear message and was from then on able to move freely after following the advice she received.

I’ve tried this strategy myself many times with mixed degrees of effectiveness. Too often my rational brain pops in to make its voice heard, as does my ego.  Anyway, I felt, after reading this I’d give it another go.

I sat quietly, hugged my knees to my chest and asked my body what it wanted me to do to help it heal. The answer brought tears to my eyes. Very clearly I heard the words “Love Me”.

I cried for several reasons. Imagine being unloved for 40 odd years. I cried too because after 40 or so years of not loving my body, I didn’t know what that meant. How was I to do this?

Suddenly all the hateful self talk, all the anguished bathroom mirror rantings and frustrations flooded back to me, all the times I’d compared myself to others and felt lacking, all the times I’d ‘hidden’, dressed in nondescript clothing, refusing to wear make up, not wanting to stand out, came flooding back to me and I was ashamed. I was also suddenly aware why things weren’t working, why there were imbalances, why there was extreme fatigue and lethargy. Wouldn’t anyone feel this after being treated so poorly?

I saw the pattern of my behaviour over many years mapped out in an instant behind my closed eyelids. I recalled too an agonising self depreciating tirade my sister had delivered just the week before. She was on a diet. Another one. To lose weight for a wedding in which she is to be Matron of Honour. My sister is the mother of four beautiful children. She is stunning. If you were to see her you wouldn’t think she needed to lose weight at all. She looks fabulous, stylish and she is an outrageously entertaining woman. I asked her why she thought she had to lose weight. Her response was that all the other bridesmaids were younger and skinny.

She felt she had to be skinny to be accepted, to be worthy. All this was said in front of her teenage daughter.  I couldn’t help but wonder how very damaging family patterns can be. I’ve read a lot recently about the importance of mothers teaching their daughters to love their bodies. How can broken women do that? How can years of patterning be reversed? Do we even realise these patterns exist? Does our walk match our talk?

I remember saying to my niece that our family had always equated being thin with being valued. That she should be aware that she was so much more than her body and that her personality, her intellect, her talents and skills were the bigger parts of her that contributed to the world, that her body needed to be healthy to help her reach her goals. There I was, telling her the very thing I couldn’t and had never been able to do for myself – value me for me and be grateful to my body for enabling me to move through life. There I was encouraging her to ignore what she heard us say and saw us do. I was asking her to understand what she’d just heard her mother say about her own body was unhealthy, irrational and unfounded. I was so impassioned that my beautiful, strong, energetic, sporty niece should not go down the same path we did, without realising I should have been preaching to myself.

I recall too, many years ago sharing my self loathing with a massage therapist and she didn’t understand. She had never experienced it. Her story was equally foreign to me. She told me she often looks in the mirror appreciatively and thinks “Hmm, looking good!”.

What to do? I’m thinking start small. I’ve been writing a gratitude note each day this year. I’m just going to shift my attention to focus on my physical body and thank it for something each day. Surely gratitude is one step along the path toward self -love.

I can barely see through the tears in my eyes. I guess I’ve just found a kernel of truth right there.

Sending you all love and wishing for you great wads of self-love and appreciation.

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Two pressing questions I need answered.

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Whatever is in me is stronger than what is out there to defeat me.  Caroline Myss

What is the point of perspective? You know those times when things are pretty shitty and life seems difficult then something happens to you, someone you know or in the world and BAM everything is suddenly put into perspective.  What’s the point of that perspective gaining moment?

Numerous times I have had cause to pause and consider this, either as a result of my own experiences or those of others I have witnessed.  Numerous times I have experienced the clarity that comes from such a wake up call and the conviction that I will live differently, be different as a result. Then, as often happens, the perspective fades, the conviction dwindles and the clarity smudges and becomes murky again.  Why does the perspective fade?

In search of some answers this is what I have discovered, so far.

The definition of perspective , which originates from the Latin word perspicere meaning transparent, clear, to see through, is a term used today, especially in art, to refer to a process of representing, on a flat surface, an image as seen by the eye. From this Wikipedia definition I get the sense that perspective, related to my questions, is about seeing something in relation to where we stand and seeing something from another person’s view-point.  This led me then to the Dalai Lama (Yes, it’s a leap but go with me on this).

The Dalai Lama believes the purpose of life is to be happy. He discusses how humans naturally prefer happiness to suffering.  I do not wish to misquote the Dalai Lama but in the interests of expediency I hope to paraphrase what I learnt.  Happiness and suffering fall into two categories: physical and mental. From what I understand, our mind can influence the degree of our happiness and suffering. It’s there, in our mind, that our suffering inflates, drags us down, consumes us.  It’s there too that we can learn to heal from the tragedies, upsets, upheavals we face.

Suffering helps us develop compassion and love for others, this aids us in supporting our own sense of wellbeing too. Compassion and love help us to maintain hope. If we are discouraged and lose hope, says the Dalai Lama, we risk diminishing our ability to face difficulties. The reality of other people’s suffering helps us improve our determination and capacity to address not only theirs but our own suffering as well.  So, if I understand this correctly, when our ability to develop compassion for others grows, our own inner strength and peace increases. Therefore, regardless of the severity of what we ourselves are facing, be it minor first world problems or nightmarish injustices, these issues become easier (perhaps marginally) for us to deal with, their weight becomes less burdensome, the edges softened and, through this, our mental stability increases which in turns allows our physical wellbeing to be addressed. I guess, in this way, there is a small shift in the balance of the universe also.

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. Rumi

I know for myself, whenever faced with a ‘perspective’ defining moment, I realise how very small I am in the grand scheme of things, how tiny I am in the cosmos, and then come the resolutions to live differently, to think and to act differently.   This mental state lasts for  a few weeks, or months, depending on the severity and impact of both the initial situation and the ‘wake up call’. I determine to focus on what really counts in life and then, slowly but surely small issues creep up that become over inflated problems and the cycle begins again.  Am I, through this process, increasing my resilience? Am I, through this process, increasing my compassion? Am I, through this process, making any progress or contributing in some  minute way to the greater good?

Caroline Myss talks about healing being a type of pain that allows us to become aware of our own strengths and weaknesses and of our ability and capacity to love and do damage to ourselves and others. She talks of how the most challenging person to control in life is within each of us. Myss says that if we define ourselves by our wounds (our suffering) we lose our physical and spiritual energy and therefore risk illness. So, these wake up calls, are they designed to pull us back from the brink of whatever small or large tragedy we are facing to repair us a little so we can continue to function purposefully in the world? Are they designed to allow us, through our empathy and compassion, to lighten the way for another, so they too can step back from the brink of suffering, if even just a few inches, to catch their breath?

If what Myss and the Dalai Lama say is true, that what affects the mind affects the body, is there some grand universal plan to keep us on a somewhat even keel so that what drains our spirit is not allowed to completely drain our body?  So that when one is addressed the other is also addressed?  Is this too grand a leap to make?

Is this why our perspective fades? Is it because, once we have righted ourselves a little the urgency dissipates? Is it because once liberated from the crushing weight of our problems, once our head is again just above water and we drink in more resuscitating air, our quest to change is abandoned in the luxury of the respite?  Is it because these tiny moments of grace are enough to transform us and the world by infinitesimal increments? Is it part of a beautiful and elegant design that we each must improve ourselves and make continual small contributions to  ensure the cultivation and preservation of compassion and love in the world?

I fear my thoughts have steered me off course. Perhaps my initial conclusions are outlandish and naive.  So, where am I as a result of my initial pondering?  I’m not greatly more enlightened and I now have more questions than answers.  What I do I know for sure is: that suffering is part of life; that we will have things put into perspective for us is inevitable; that this helps us regain a semblance of equilibrium in our search for happiness; that perspective will fade is also inevitable. I know too that to make change as a result of our experience is hard and not always actioned (how to address this and ensure our resolve counts is too large a question to tackle here).  Something else I know for sure is that the beauty of the human spirit lies in its strength to overcome, to feel compassion for others in our darkest times and to continue to love despite the travesties and trials of life.

What in your experience is the purpose of perspective and why do you think seems to fade?

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Waiting

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With a tormented mind and aching heart I wade through the fog. Each day,
hoping, praying
for your safe return.

Ever vigilant I wake,
sensing you in my arms
but you are absent.
A cruel dream
sent to dull my pain.

The agony of time has become a weight,
strangling me,
binding me,
leaving me breathless, anxious.

Return to me my love,
whole and sound.
Return to me my love,
so we can embrace, unite as one, again.
Return to me my love, so the sight of you, the smell of you, the touch of you can soothe my aching heart.