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

Sorry.

mariana stauffer

Mariana Stauffer

Sorry. A little word with a big impact. Genuinely meant as an expression of remorse, it has the power to restore a relationship.

But how many times can someone say sorry before it becomes valueless?

If you have heard ‘Sorry’, once too often or worse still, don’t hear it all,then it’s time things changed.

‘How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.’ – Wayne Dyer

My damaging and dysfunctional childhood resulted in a complete lack of self-esteem and worth. So it wasn’t surprising that as an adult I found myself in a relationship where sorry was never spoken. In his world sorry was a sign of weakness and to preserve his perception of his superiority he would say or do anything but apologize.

It didn’t matter how abusive he became, it was always someone else’s fault. Actually it was nearly always my fault – I was too sensitive, too intense, too controlling, too critical. And even when I would feel brave enough to confront him about his name calling and put downs, I would be accused of having no sense humor. But believe me, there was nothing funny about the verbal abuse and his unreasonable demands.

Thankfully I started to challenge my own victim mentality and realized that although he wasn’t going to change, I could. Finding the courage to make the transition from victim to survivor, I learnt that the responsibility for my happiness lay with me. And I grasped a truth that was the catalyst for my healing –  you can ‘t change other people and you can’t change the past. But you can choose how you react.

Of course I did want to hear ‘ I am sorry and I shouldn’t have behaved like that’ or ‘I won’t treat you like this again’ and ‘How can I make it up to you?’, but I didn’t need to hear any of it, in order for me to make a decision about my relationship.

For those of you who have the opposite experience of someone who apologizes all the time only to carry on hurting you time and time again, remember that ‘sorry’ can be the last thing they say before you walk away.

‘Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Exchange love for hate — thereby, making the present comfortable and the future promising.’ – Maya Angelou                          

As I learned how to define my boundaries, and to hold others accountable (myself included) I realized that it was also important to maintain a sense of serenity whenever I was offended. For me, a peaceful soul keeps me joyful and positive whatever my circumstances.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, people do act thoughtlessly and cause harm. But a heartfelt apology from a place of love can heal the deepest wounds. Sometimes a simple ‘Sorry’ is enough, but you may require something more. Sincere remorse and a willingness to make amends are all steps to restoring trust and love.

Whatever is spoken or promised however, what really matters is how the person behaves afterwards. When it comes to apologizing, actions do speak louder than words.

‘Write injuries in sand, kindnesses in marble’ – French proverb

I love the gentleness of that statement and the sentiment of remembering the positive rather than the negative is how I would like others to view me. Nobody is perfect and when I mess up and say things I regret, I want to be able to say sorry and for my mistakes to be forgotten and forgiven.

Mariana Stauffer

When I say sorry it means I’m not perfect, and that’s okay. It means I didn’t intentionally want to cause offense and I want to make amends. It means I am hurting as much as you. and I don’t want either of us to feel that way again.

When I say ‘Sorry’ I mean it. Do you?

Huge thanks to Marianna Stauffer for allowing me to use her wonderful and inspiring artwork  (May not be reproduced in any form without her permission.) Take a look at her other work here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/malorcka

Travelling light.

vintage-luggage-winona-steunenberg“The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. What is grievance? The baggage of old thought and emotion.” ~ Lao Tzu

Take a look at the baggage you are carrying around with you today. If grief, resentment, pain or regrets are weighing you down then it’s time to unload.

When you’ve suffered disappointments or been left disillusioned by love-ones it can be hard to move on. The shock, denial, guilt, anger you can experience as a part of grieving are natural for a time, yet if you don’t progress through those stages it is all too easy to become trapped in the past.

But life is about living in the present and anticipating the future. You can’t do that if you are carrying the baggage of yesterday into today. And when difficulties arise they simply add to your luggage of psychological pain. It gets heavier and you become encumbered.

Instead of embracing each day afresh, you return to the same mental battleground. You replay the same scenarios or repeatedly hear the same negative thoughts, only to be hurt yet again. Your bags are stuffed with rejection, shame, bitterness, jealousy, mistrust, apathy, confusion, anger, fear. In fact they can be filled to the top but it doesn’t matter, you find another bag and carry that too.

“Live, so you do not have to look back and say: ‘God, how I have wasted my life.’ ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

I spent years carrying the baggage of my childhood abandonment and abuse. I carried them for so long that they became part of me. Where ever I went those bags came with me, because the loss of my mother and abuse by my father were all I had to define me.

Instead of using those traumas as stepping-stones to a better tomorrow, I used them as a prison wall. Instead of taking each day as an opportunity to restore and renew, I added to my pain. Instead of living my life as the person I wanted to be, I lived as a victim of my past. Not surprising then that depression and alcoholism became my coping strategies to help me carry my emotional load. Until they too become too much to bear.

Like many who have gone through life clutching on to the baggage of trauma or tragedy, I realised the damage being caused physically and emotionally. However, not only did I not know how to let go, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to.Because the prospect of change was so terrifying.

I had dragged those issues of rejection, abuse, depression, alcoholism with me for so long that I couldn’t imagine being without them. My fear of the future overwhelmed the familiarity of my existence. And what a terribly dark existence it was.

The truth was that all I possessed defined me as a victim. When I finally crumbled under the pressure of my past, I knew deep down though that I had to make the choice to give up or get up.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30

The only way to move forward was to throw away all those things that held me as a prisoner of my past. I was so weary. I’d had enough of it all. Still it was only when I hit rock bottom that I turned to faith.

It wasn’t easy, but I gave myself permission to hand over everything that was harming me. Gradually over time I released all the pain and fought the demons that had troubled me for as long as I can remember. Faith taught me that I didn’t have to understand why I had endured such trials and that there was nothing I could do to change the past.

Acceptance of what had gone before helped me to begin living in the day and start looking to the future. Then forgiveness provided the key  that set me free to clear out all the baggage. With my lightened load I could  reclaim my life and fill it anew.

Now I have a faith-filled heart full of hope, love, joy, and trust. I continue my journey in sobriety with gratitude and serenity. No longer burdened by yesterday I choose to appreciate today whatever it brings and eagerly await tomorrow.

And that is what I would wish for you. Don’t let the events of the past keep you from enjoying the future that awaits you. Put down those bags crammed with destructive negativity. Leave them and don’t look back. You don’t need them those things any more. .

liberty-london-suitcasesTime to find some bright, new vibrant luggage and fill them with everything that can bless and fulfill your mind, body and soul. Those things that nourish and uplift are weightless.

Believe me, it’s time to start travelling light.

Who do you think you are?

happiness“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Are you happy being ‘you’? Do you have confidence in yourself and your abilities? Or have you become your own worst enemy by believing what others have labelled you?  So that instead of living your life as you the person you were meant to be, you are simply a reflection of someone else. If so, it’s time to find out who you really are.

I’ve always had difficulties with my identity. Being abandoned by my mum as an infant left me growing up with extreme insecurities about being unloved and unwanted. It changed how I perceived myself and the thought that I was worthless was reinforced by growing up with an abusing father. My dad defined me in terms that reflected his misogynistic attitudes,which as a child I accepted as truth. There was no-one else to tell me otherwise.

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” ~ Maya Angelou

It’s wasn’t simply the amount of derogatory traits that were attributed to me that caused the damage, it was the lack of anything positive or encouraging. The result was that for many years I really didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to say or do. I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like. I didn’t know what I wanted out of life. Because I didn’t know who I was.

All that I knew was that I didn’t want to be me. I wanted to be someone else. The onset of depression in my younger years held me trapped in the view that I was never going to be pretty enough, thin enough, clever enough, confident enough. I was never going to be good enough for anything or anyone.  I lacked so much, yet everyone else seem to have what I desired.

So to numb the pain of the disappointment in being me and to help to manage the idea of being me for the rest of my life, I turned to alcohol. And for a while it worked. It gave me the confidence to be indifferent to my failings and took away my fears for the future.

Unfortunately, self-medicating led to addiction and over time the depression and alcoholism took over my life.Together with my lack of self-love I existed through others and allowed relationships to continue to define me. All to my detriment.

“True happiness is living life authentically.”                                                   ~ The Hurt Healer.

Perhaps you have also allowed past events to define you, or perhaps you used to feel you knew who you were but somehow your sense of self has disappeared over time? You can take on so many roles which meet the needs of others that your true identity is overwhelmed, leaving you mourning the loss of who you used to be,whilst your dreams and hopes have been abandoned.  Whatever your circumstances, maybe it is time to give the real you a chance to shine.

The turning point for me was a complete physical and mental breakdown. I could no longer go on existing as a product of my past. Enough of the fake smiles that covered the heartbreak. Enough of the false mask of confidence that hid the fear. Enough of the pretense. Enough of the uncertainty.  I had had enough of it all.

It was time to reclaim my life and find out who I really was. It was time to listen to my inner voice, nurture the child within and allow my authentic self to emerge. And in doing so I found out that I was everything I thought I wasn’t and a little bit more.

Refusing to enable my past to have power over my present, I was able to allow the real me to emerge. Initially the fears of who I had become revealed my rawness and vulnerability,, but over time my confidence and self-worth grew. No longer was I controlled by others.  No longer did I compare myself to others. After all the years of believing otherwise, I was okay being me.

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

fearlessWith faith as my guide, I allowed my mind to explore, my heart to love and my soul to bloom. Faith taught me too that I am valuable and precious. And that even my failures have a purpose. My weaknesses have become my strengths and my imperfections have become my uniqueness.

Something I could never have conceived in those dark days was that I was ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ But to today I think am.

What about you? Who do you think you are?

Who cares?

catherine jacobs 2“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” ~ Margaret Mead

The world is so chaotic. Depression, suicide, and addictions are increasing world-wide at a rapid rate. It shows that people are hurting and feel alone with their pain. But why care?

Because even if you feel you can’t change the earth, you may be able to change somebody’s world.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

No matter how small your gesture, it can make a difference to someone. A smile costs nothing but it may just brighten someone’s day. A sympathetic ear can help someone feel that they are not alone with their problem. An offer of help may give someone an extra boost to achieve their dream.

It’s not important how you show you care, as long as you do. For when you do, you initiate a chain of kindness that is passed on to others and it is this collective caring that helps to change the world.

Sometimes though it isn’t the lack of care that is the concern, it is the ability to receive it that is difficult. If you’ve experienced rejection you can be left with a lack of trust that forms a barrier to accepting any level affection.

I went through many years convincing myself that I didn’t want anyone to care for me out of pure fear that I would attach to their love only to have it ripped away from me. And even believing that someone would want to care was improbable. How could anyone care about me when my own mother had physically abandoned me and mentally killed me off in her mind?

Yet I did need someone to care. I needed it desperately. Whilst I was too terrified to take the risk to reach out, it was impossible for anyone to reach in. The combination of depression and alcoholism constructed an emotional barricade that was impenetrable.

“The walls that you build as a safeguard are the same walls that will in turn isolate and imprison.” ~ The Hurt Healer

Unfortunately my mental fortress served only to trap me further in my own cycle of despair by restricting me to living each day based only on the my experiences of rejection and abuse. Worse, it prevented any chance of allowing healing or restoration.

There was only one way that I was going to ever be able to be helped and that was for the walls to come down. Of course this was an inevitability that I hadn’t the courage to face, and so it was my mental breakdown that resulted in the collapse of my barriers. As they came crushing down, my vulnerability was exposed and I waited for the end of my life to come.

But it didn’t. Because someone cared. Professionals stepped in and there were friends who stood by me. They cared for me when I was unable to care for myself. Over time I learnt how to renew my boundaries in a positive way. Life stopped being simply a battle against the bad, and became a home for the good.

“Pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us.” ~ Psalm 62:8

Most importantly I found a faith that cared unconditionally. I realised that God cared, and that He had done all along. When I was willing to receive the love that had been waiting for me, I was then able to heal.  And as I handed over my past, present and future into the security of His hands, so I found the refuge I had longed for. Today I am safely in His care. 

We all need someone to care for us. But that love needs to be rooted in truth. And it needs to be given freely. If someone is showing you that they care only to want something from you in return, then it isn’t genuine. Steer clear.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”  ~ Dalai Lama

catherine jacobsIt bothers me that so many people are hurting and nobody seems to care. Yet I know that the best way to feel cared for is to care for others. Doing something kind for someone makes you feel good too.

So in answer to the question ‘Who cares?’                                                 I do. I care.

All rights reserved. No part of these images may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of Catherine Jacobs.

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Time for change.

change 2“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” Lao Tzu

Kindness, generosity, compassion, patience, trust, loyalty and honesty all make for a good relationship. But what if the person you extend these forms of love to doesn’t reciprocate? Not just on the odd occasion but consistently using or abusing your friendship? Then it’s time for change.

In the past I have been caught up in relationships that were simply no good for me. On reflection I can see that I was willing to put up with being let-down and mistreated because I didn’t believe I deserved any better.

Anyone who has been involved in an abusive relationship knows how difficult it is to think clearly in that situation. It starts with comments and actions that undermine you. If you have self-confidence then you are able to deal with these incidences appropriately. But if you’re feeling vulnerable or depressed as I often did then the doubt is set in your mind and so begins the downward cycle.

From my own experience I know how dangerous that can be. The longer I stayed the more I enabled the other person to carry on belittling me and making me believe that I was always at fault. Which in turn confirmed my uselessness as a human being. I gave my all but my all was never good enough.

Then when it reached the point that I literally couldn’t do or say anything right, instead of questioning how wrong it was to be living in a constant state of fear, I kept trying to change myself to fit in with the other person’s demands.

I ended up feeling like something that had crawled out of the ground and had no right to life. Except it wasn’t a life. It was an existence. It wasn’t a relationship, it was a one-way ticket to hell on earth.

“Even the worm will turn.” Proverb

You may feel like a little worm that is worn-out and weary but you can fight back. You are still alive and you as long as you have breath in your body you can change your life. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight, but you don’t have to live one more day as a victim if you don’t want to.  Get ready to tell yourself, “It’s time for change.”

I had to hit rock bottom before I could make that choice, but with the support of friends, the guidance of professionals and the grace of faith I was able to reclaim my life.

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

When my time for change came I knew it was never going to be simple or pain-free. It was time to accept my failures, time to let go of the past, time to forgive and be forgiven, time to live each day as a new beginning.

change1Time to live my life as the person I was meant to be.

What about you? Time for change?

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Ghandi