A little ray of sunshine.

you are my sunshineKeep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.’ – Helen Keller

Do you believe that every day brings the possibility for a little ray of sunshine? Or does negativity overshadow your life? Is your glass half-empty and running out fast? Or is it half-full and waiting for a sparkling refill? The choice is yours.

An upbeat attitude can bring brighten up the gloomiest of circumstances. Choosing to think positively can revive you when you feel weary, provide clarity in chaos and keep you encouraged during uncertainty And when you make a conscious decision to refuse to allow the darkness to engulf you, you keep the way clear for your optimistic thoughts to shine.

Admittedly there are some days when tragedy strikes or a huge disappointment has to be dealt with and it is impossible to feel anything but despair. That’s a natural and expected way to react to a serious life event. It’s during those times however that you need to dig deep into the warm memories from the past until the shadows of your trauma have passed.

‘Whoever is happy will make others happy too.’ Anne Frank

Some people however have a consistently pessimistic outlook that overshadows everything. Their negativity can be emotionally draining not only for themselves but those around them. My advice is to steer clear of those who continue to wallow in self-pity and misery. You don’t need that in your life.

Instead surround yourself with those who can nurture, support and encourage you. Allow their positive support to strengthen you and motivate you. Happiness is infectious, so keep near to bright, cheerful souls and catch hold of the light. 

If that sounds too simple or too good to be true, I understand. It took me many years to catch hold of that light.

I grew up in a fearful atmosphere of darkness. As a result depression and alcoholism took their hold on my life at an early age. I developed a self-fulfilling prophesy of doom and gloom. Experience taught me not to expect good from anything or anybody, so I set myself up for repeated disappointments.

Whilst I had alcohol – ‘my sunshine in a bottle’, I could manage the rejections and failures in life. But of course my reliance on a drink rapidly developed into addiction and I spiraled into the darkness of despair.

‘Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.’   Psalm 119:105

An alcohol induced suicide attempt signaled the need to give up the drink for good, yet my pessimistic self feared the worst. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever be happy again. I held on to the tiniest glimmer of hope and somehow found the courage to make my way towards the light. The light of love.

It was faith that shone the light of love in my way and helped smash through the bleakness of my life. My journey of recovery involved breaking down the psychological barriers that were keeping me in dark oppression.

I replaced each negative omen with a little ray of sunshine that came in the form of trust, kindness, hope, healing. And if you are fighting your way through some dark times let me offer each and every one of those to you too.

On those days when I feel the clouds have gathered or I’m in the midst of a personal storm I am reassured that it won’t be long before I feel the warmth of affection. Those that love Rengahenk_by_Doriahme are my little rays of sunshine. They are family and friends who illuminate my life and reveal the glittering promises of good things to come.

And it’s good to return the love. Even the smallest gestures can bring brightness to someone’s day. So follow the wise words from Amma;

‘Always have a smile on your face, kind words on your lips and a compassionate heart.’

 And you too can be a little ray of sunshine.

Image thanks to http://doriah.deviantart.com/

A Soft Place to Fall

Amanda Cass

Amanda Cass

‘I will soothe you and heal you,
I will bring you roses.
I too have been covered with thorns.’  Rumi

Life can be wonderful yet sometimes it can simply be tough. Whether it’s a broken heart, a damaged relationship, work problems, an unexpected illness or a disease that you’ve been battling with for years, there are times when everyone needs a soft place to fall.

As a mother, it’s something that I accept without question for my children.  If they hurt themselves, if they fall-out with a friend, if they didn’t do as well as they had hoped in exam – I’m there to hug, hold and soothe. Then later when we have more time I can reassure them they are not alone and encourage them to put the difficulty behind them and move on.

I do it without hesitation and for as long as required, for the knowledge that I am their soft place to fall is as beneficial to me as it is to them. They are loved unconditionally. They are wanted and needed. And so am I.

‘My heart is as strong as the depth of my scars.’  The Hurt Healer

In an ideal world everyone would grow up feeling secure and safe despite the stormy seasons, but many don’t. I didn’t either. Being abandoned and abused as a child left me searching for anything that would numb the memories and heal the scars. Alcohol became my soft place to fall, or my ‘hurt healer’ as I called it. It worked for a while but soon the drink turned from friend to foe and I was forced to make a choice between ‘addiction and death’ or ‘sobriety and life’.

The thought of losing the security of alcohol and having to join the real world was terrifying. And by that time the depression I had battled with for years had spiralled out of control. Fearful of the real world, my worry was ‘Who’s going to catch me if I fall?”  In reality I was so physically, psychologically and spiritually broken that I was at rock bottom anyway. I’d already fallen, there’d been no one to catch me and I’d never felt so completely and desperately alone.

 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’  Matthew 11:28 NIV

To get up and stay up though I had to find another sanctuary that would fill the void of alcoholism and lift me out of the darkness of my mind. Initially it was through faith that I started to find healing. It offered me a resting place of comfort, and peace. Nothing was required of me except that I stay in the presence of spirit of love. Faith was and is my ultimate and infinite soft place to fall. And even during those times when life seems like a roller-coaster of chaos and disappointment, it never lets me down.

As started on the slow process to self acceptance I began was able to leave behind the need to be critical and judgemental. Instead I choose to view myself with compassion and empathy. And rather than stay trapped in the torment of the past, I decided to forgive the unforgivable.

‘Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.’  Brené Brown

As I travelled along my journey to recovery I discovered that my vulnerability was no longer my weakness, it was a revelation of my authentic self. So I didn’t have to be confined by my past and I didn’t have to be defined by others. I found the freedom to recreate myself as the person I was meant to be.

But I also discovered that I had a new soft place to fall and that was within me.

Amanda Cass

Amanda Cass

Life will always have ups and downs, celebrations and disappointments, miracle moments and tragedies. So when times are hard make sure that you surround yourself with those who will nurture and care; inspire and encourage. Whether it’s faith, family, friends or from inside your soul, it’s always good to have a soft place to fall.

Where’s yours?

‘Smile, breathe and go slowly.’  Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Huge thanks to Amanda Cass for allowing me to use her beautiful artwork  (May not be reproduced in any form without her permission.) Take a look at her other work here: http://www.redbubble.com/people/theartoflove

My broken heart.

my tears my pain‘I see the tracks of ev’ry tear that ran right down your face.                         I see the hurt, I see the pain, I see the human race.’ ~ Annie Lennox, Universal Child

Is the person you love hurting you? They express remorse, promise to change, declare their love for you, but then it happens again. The let down. The lies. And all you have is the pain. The tears. And the broken heart.

When I look back now it is hard to imagine why I stayed in a loveless and destructive relationship for so long.  I was devoted yet received so little in return. I gave my all and forgave all in the mistaken belief that I was being compassionate and supportive.  Yet tolerating isn’t loving and existing isn’t living.

I poured out my unconditional love because even though my head kept telling me it wasn’t worth it, my heart disagreed. Because you reap what you sow. Right?

Not necessarily. Just as to reap good crops you have to sow your seed in good soil, you have to sow your love into a good relationship. That is, a shared partnership of mutual affection, trust, commitment and respect. My relationship was void of all of those.

‘You either teach people to treat you with dignity and respect, or you don’t.’ ~ Dr Phil McGraw

The problem was that I should never have got involved in the first place. The abuse I had encountered in my younger years had destroyed my sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Consequently, I didn’t require anyone to treat me any better than I thought I deserved.

Additionally the rejection issues I had experienced as a child had left me with a fear of attaching to anyone, so that even when I did form a bond I never expected it to last.

Little surprise then that my relationships were at best short-lived and superficial, at worst destructive and detrimental to my well-being on every level. One thing I knew for certain though and that was the result would be a broken heart. Usually mine.

If like me you have been hurt or are hurting still, it’s time to heal. If you thought that your love would be good enough for them, it was. But their love was not good enough for you. Not then and not now.

Remember that the more you invest in a relationship, the greater the harm to your soul if the commitment is not reciprocated. And when the love you have given is exploited, it strips your spirit of joy and dims the light of your inner-being.

‘He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.’     ~ Psalm 147:3

Faith taught me that just as love hurts, so does it heal. In the rawness of an ending of a something you believed to be special, it can feel that your heart is broken beyond repair. But it is possible to recover and to discover a love so infinite and so complete that the pain of the past is but a wisp of a memory.

That same love you gave away you must now be used in abundance to nurture your mind, body and soul. Stop telling yourself that you will never love anyone again. You will. But only when you completely and unconditionally immerse yourself with the love that lies within.

‘The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.’ ~ Steve Maraboli

Your new life, your new love awaits. But you can’t embrace either if your heart and mind hold on to what’s gone before. As devastating as it feels, the ending also signifies a beginning.  And forgiveness is the key to unlock your wonderful new start.

All that resentment, anger, fear and loneliness can only be overcome through a willingness to forgive. Forgiveness isn’t condoning what someone else had done or said.  It is empowering yourself by replacing the negativity of the past with compassion, happiness, truth and peace.

Forgiving yourself is equally as important. Release yourself from the blame and shame that keeps you captive for by doing so you will find the freedom to live your life with the love of your life.

Help your heart to heal by accepting that love is accountable. You can’t make anyone change but you can take responsibility for your own life. It’s time to stop living your life through someone else and start taking your love to a new level by putting yourself first. Because if loving someone else means you have to stop loving yourself that is too high a price to pay.

‘He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.’ ~ Epictetus

Finally, in those times when the pain is ripping you apart, dig deep into your soul and search for those things for which you can still be grateful.  When your wounded heart is screaming for attention, focus on what you have and what you will have. Whatever your circumstances you can always find something or someone who gives you a speck of hope.

broken heartIn my own journey of recovery, I found it was my moments of despair that the light of my faith shined the brightest. It provided me with the strength, comfort and gratitude that I needed to affirm my worthiness. And it reminded me that as broken as I was, I was lovable and precious. And that I could be restored.

Join me by resolving to be stronger than the pain of yesterday, find peace for today and pursue your dreams for tomorrow.

For my broken heart has healed. So can yours.

‘You have within you more love than you can ever understand.’ ~ Rumi

 

 

 

Amazing grace

the special one amanda cass

The special one
Amanda Cass

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.” Lao Tzu

If you are struggling with feeling ‘not being good enough’, or holding on to shame that is preventing you from accepting who you are, you are not alone. Society idolises celebrity status, bombards us with images of what we should look like, and manipulates what we should have and aspire to be. And there is an expectation to be perfect in everything and in every way.

Yet perfectionism is a myth. It’s a powerful myth that damages lives. Because when you fail to live up to those expectations, it can have devastating effects on your self-esteem. It’s natural to feel disappointed if you make a mistake or fail to do something, but if that feeling turns to shame then you could be heading down a spiral of self-destruct.

If the shame of ‘not being good enough’ has left you battling with low moods or depression, or your lack of self-worth has led to self-medicating with food, drink, drugs or prescribed medications, then you need to start challenging that myth of perfection.

“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” ~ Brené Brown

My own long-term issues with depression stemmed from unresolved childhood trauma which led to a dependency on alcohol. From early childhood the experience of being rejected by my mother and abused by my father had a devastating effect on how I valued myself.

As I progressed through adulthood those feelings of ‘not being good enough’ intensified. Outwardly I wore the mask of the ‘independent, capable, confident woman’ but underneath I was lonely, confused and broken. But most of all I was ashamed of who I was.

At the lowest point of my life I was a chronically depressed alcoholic who had lost everything. By society’s standards I was a complete failure. I had nothing so I was nothing.  Except that was not strictly true, I did have something.  I was breathing and I had a speck of faith.

“T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.” ~ Amazing Grace by John Newton

I would love to say that I came to faith and an appreciation of grace through an instantaneous moment of spiritual enlightenment, but I didn’t. I came to believe through doubt and fear, and if I am totally honest because I had nowhere else to turn. Yet a speck of faith was all that was necessary to receive the gift of grace.

This is what is so wonderful about faith. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, as long as you believe and then receive. I know that receiving can be just as hard as believing if your sense of self-esteem is low, or if you feel that you have messed up too much to be forgiven. Anyone who has experienced heartbreak, loss, abuse, addiction, depression will be all too aware of how difficult it can be to start seeing themselves in a positive light.

Yet you are precious. You have value. You can be forgiven. And you owe it to yourself to receive the gift of grace and start to live your life as the person you know deep down, you can be.

“Courage is grace under pressure.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Maybe taking that step of faith seems impossible, but be reassured that it is through your weaknesses that you will find your strength. Dare to expose your vulnerability and you will reveal the intense beauty of your authenticity.

Grace is the antidote to shame. Grace through faith allowed me to accept my past and move on from it. It is grace that helped open my heart to forgive others and myself. It is grace that has enabled me to find my inner-strength and courage to heal.

It is so empowering to learn that you don’t have to be perfect and that you can embrace your imperfections as part of your uniqueness. And it is liberating to be able to accept yourself because of what you are, not despite of it. Grace is the key to both self-approval and emotional freedom.

“The gift of grace is a fresh start to each day, every day.” ~ The Hurt Healer

making a fresh start

Making a fresh start – Amanda Cass

Imagine being able to wake each morning knowing that your past didn’t have to define your future. Think of how good it would feel if you knew you could begin again. Consider how good you would feel if you believed that you were simply okay as you are, but with the desire to fulfill your potential. Those are the spiritual promises that I choose to embrace daily, and they are there for you too.

The gift of grace allows me to accept yesterday, live for today and dream for tomorrow. It’s the privilege of living with a peaceful mind, a vibrant heart and an illuminated soul.

Now that’s what I call ‘Amazing Grace’.

Both images thanks to the super talented Amanda Cass                                                      at http://www.redbubble.com/people/theartoflove                                                                     All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission

 

Colours of frost

frost appleI love this time of year. I love the brightly decorated shop displays and the anticipation of Christmas. I love the chance to meet up with friends and exchange gifts with those I love and care for. But as the year draws to an end it seems like each day gallops away in a blur of things to do and people to see.

“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” ~ Pablo Picasso

It was my youngest daughter who reminded me of the need to slow down so that I could appreciate the little things that this season brings.  We were talking about what she liked most about winter. She didn’t mention presents or school plays or holidays. Instead she said she really liked the ‘colours of frost’. And to be honest, I had no clue what she meant!

For me frost is purely the covering on the ground we wake to in the mornings. It’s a sign of winter. It’s cold. It’s white. It certainly doesn’t inspire me. For my daughter though frost is a magical substance that gently sparkles on all that it touches. For her the frost isn’t only white. No, the frost takes on the colour of whatever it is attached to. The colours of frost change with the light and the heat of the day. And they are beautiful to her.

My daughter’s eyes light up when she talks about winter. Her imagination is amazing as she describes what she sees. Her frost covered world is one of marvellous patterns and exiting shades of white.

But the most important thing she shares is the importance of taking the time to find pleasure in the little things in life. I forget to do that, especially when the pressures of everyday life are building up around me. Yet it’s so important for me to take that time and allow myself to see things through the eyes of a child.

“Children have neither past nor future; they enjoy the present, which very few of us do.” ~Jean de la Bruyere

My childhood was too full of fear to feel any happiness. It was too full of loneliness to share the visions. It was too dark to see the light. I grew up way too quickly and as an adult I mourned the loss of my infancy and youth. It’s one of the reasons I take such care in nurturing my own children. They need to experience the security, the love, the fun that all children deserve. And sometimes it is through my own daughters that I find my own inner-child and my own child-like creativity. They show me what it is like to be innocent. They show me how to enjoy the moment. They show me the colours of frost.

If you are struggling with the past or find it hard to manage the present because you are grieving the loss of your childhood, be reassured that it is never too late to reclaim your inner-child. Look to the lessons that the young can teach you – they forgive easily, they laugh lots, they find time to play. But most of all they embrace the new day. And so can you.

As a thank you to my daughter Charlotte I am finishing this post with a poem that she wrote for her final homework of the term. And I hope that like me, you will enjoy finding time to time to think about what and who you love.

                            What I love about Winter by Charlotte Hughes – age 10

I love

the dew drops as they cling to the spiders’ webs with all their might, the sunshine when it shines on the frosty grass and the pretty colours of white.

I love

the snowmen built by little children all around, until the melt and make pools of slush and ice on the ground.

I love

the snow as it falls on to the slippery ice covered earth, and how we join together on Christmas day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Wishing you all a blessed and peaceful Christmas. Thank you to each and every one of you who have supported and encouraged me this year, and I look forward to sharing much more from The Hurt Healer in 2014.

A mother’s love.

mother child painting latin americaEveryone has a mother but not everyone has a mother’s love. A mother’s love is unlike any other because no one else can take the place of the woman who spent 9 months sharing her body with you, nurturing and protecting you before going through the miracle of birth.

It is this unique bond that forms the basis of a mother’s love for her child. A love that is unconditional and perpetual, absolute and profound.

In a perfect world every human being would experience a love such as this. But this world is not perfect. And those who lack mother’s presence physically, emotionally are spiritually wounded as a result.

“Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. -Erich Fromm”

The benefits of a strong attachment with a mother can not be underestimated. To grow up secure in the knowledge that you are loved because you are you, that you are cared for because you are you, that you are valued because you are you, sets a firm foundation of self-belief and self-worth.

Without that affinity, the effects can be devastating. It was being abandoned by my own mother as an infant that resulted in my feelings of insecurity and inferiority that I would carry through into adulthood. Like many children I internalised the rejection and believed she had left because I wasn’t good enough. Leaving me with an abusive father only served to reinforce my lack of self-esteem that manifested itself for years to come through depression and alcoholism.

“The human race tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments. What’s left of kisses? Wounds, however, leave scars.” ~ Bertolt Brecht

It isn’t only the physical presence of a mother that is important, her psychological availability is crucial. And not only through childhood. A mother’s support, encouragement and care is needed just as much when you are adult as it was when you were an infant. To have a mother who is alive but emotionally distant  can be hard to accept. To yearn for that connection only to be rebuked or worse still abused can cause intolerable damage.

Abuse by a mother, whatever form it takes is something I find difficult and disturbing to contemplate. I have no idea how a woman can harm the very one they should protect. But some do and the consequences are severe. Whilst the bruises and marks of a physical attack will fade in time, the emotional wound of that event can last forever. And words too can cut like a knife causing a mental laceration that may eventually heal but leave a permanent scar of rejection and hatred.

“Even though the mother somehow falls over, even though she has nothing to offer, the offspring will develop and grow independently and still thrive.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My biggest fear when I became pregnant was that fear that because I had been abandoned by my own mother, that I would also repeat the pattern and reject my own child. I need not have worried, because from the moment I had my pregnancy confirmed I was filled with such a need to safeguard and treasure my unborn baby, there was no doubt that I would love my child.

There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for my daughters. My love for them is unlike any other love. It is unconditional and perpetual, absolute and profound. As it should be.

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” ~ Diane Mariechild

mother child painting eskimosIt proves that no amount of bad experiences from the past need define the future. Having a bad mother didn’t make me a bad mother. In fact it was the lack of love in my childhood that fueled my desire to find love and pass it on to the next generation.

What a blessing it is to be able to give my offspring the love that I never had. To be able to give what I never received is one of those miracles in life that I never take for granted.

Yet, whilst I rue the lack of love from my own mother, she did give me life.                        That is love enough.

Thank you to Judy Lai of http://www.motherchildpaintings.com/ for her permission to use Painting of Mother and Child in Latin America – Top Image and Painting of Mother and Child Eskimos -Bottom image. All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of Judy Lai.