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

Betrayal.

Abstract Nude by Aja

Abstract Nude by Aja

“Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.”              ~ Mineko Iwasaki

Loving someone and being loved is wonderful. But when your love is rejected as a result of betrayal, the pain can be agonizing. Possibly the ultimate form of rejection, betrayal can shatter your mind, body and soul.

Where once you knew that you were the only one, you know now that there is another. But true love can’t be shared. That love that you had for each other was too precious, too deep, too tender to be passed on. Yet it has.

And from the moment you become aware of the betrayal, so begins the incessant and intense aching of your heart.  For someone else is now receiving the love you believed to be rightly yours.

When the man I loved betrayed me, I tried at first to pretend he hadn’t. I refused to consider that the relationship was anything more than a brotherly friendship. This of course, was exactly the way he justified his actions. He was simply offering support and consolation to someone who had been through a difficult time. So who was I to be challenging such kind words and offers of help?

With all my mind, I tried to convince myself that he was innocent, yet deep-down I knew differently. In matters of the heart, a woman’s intuition is rarely mistaken. And whether it is an emotional betrayal or a physical infidelity, both are deal-breakers in a loving relationship.

Actually I had known right from the start. His over-exaggeration of how he disliked her, while his body language indicated the opposite. The not-so-subtle comments about her stunning looks and amazing figure, which when repeated back to him were dismissed as a joke. Making special efforts to look nice in her company and being the first to volunteer if she needed a lift. Goodness, I saw it all.

And I heard it all too. Soothing words to reassure her in her time of need. Tender offers of assistance day or night; nothing too much trouble. Then inevitably the words I least wanted to hear were declared with passion; ‘I love you.’

Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a unique brutal pain at hearing the one you love profess their love to someone else. You listen with outraged incredulity, whilst being completely powerless. The reality hits hard.

It was when I stopped being in such denial and raised my objections, that things turned ominous. Instead of an admission of guilt or remorse, he tried to convince me that the problem was all mine. It was my paranoia, my jealousy, my insecurity.

Except it wasn’t. It was his lies. His deceit. His betrayal. And it was at that point that I learnt that the level of betrayal you feel depends on the level of love you invested. The greater the love. The greater the pain.

And betrayal raises a huge number of questions that refuse to be answered too. How could they do it to me? Why would they risk destroying everything we have? What did I do to deserve that? What do I do now? And the question that I repeated daily to myself: How could I have been so stupid to let myself become this vulnerable?

Whatever the answers, when it comes to betrayal there is a fine line between love and hate. You love the person, but you hate what they do. You love how they make you feel when you’re with them, but you hate them when they reject you. It’s the rejection that stabs you in the heart and crushes your soul.

“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”  ~ Marcus Aurelius

Being betrayed can leave you with feelings of revenge, but there are three reasons why it won’t do anymore than provide momentary relief.

For a start, it won’t undo what has been said or done. God himself can’t turn back time. Secondly, your emotions may override any sense of common sense and you may live to regret what you did. Finally, and most importantly you have integrity and self-worth, so don’t demean yourself by stooping down to their level – you are better than that!

“As long as I have a heart I can heal, as long as I can heal I have a heart.” ~ The Hurt Healer

Anyone who has gone through or is going through the trauma of a broken heart knows that the pain can overwhelm. It might feel like the agony is never going to end, but it is possible and more importantly essential to find a way to let go and move on.

Good friends can listen and comfort, family can empathise and nurture you. Yet only you can heal your heart. The fact is that no matter how hard you try to hide your hurt from the outside world, you carry your brokenness within you, where ever you go.

So let the betrayer go and it will release you too. Because the longer you hold on to what could have been or what should have been, the longer you are trapped in a relationship that is finished.

Of course that’s easier said than done. I know that had this situation occurred when I was in the grip of my addiction and depression, I would have turned to the bottle to numb the pain and blamed myself for being so unlovable.

Thankfully, my journey of recovery has made me stronger and wiser. No longer a victim that crumbles at the actions of another, I am a survivor who accepts that although she can’t control what someone else does, she can control how she reacts to it.

“All healing is first a healing of the heart.” ~ Carl Townsend

Initially you may try to manage the damage with things that gratify you.  Alcohol, drugs, relationships, work, even food can all help fill the void, numb the pain, and distract you. Yet temporary respite fades and the reality of your raw soul is exposed.

You may feel like you will never love again. But it’s love that hurts and love that heals. And there is strength to be gained from your vulnerability. Learning to confront the truth, even when that truth is excruciating, is empowering.

When you love someone deeply, you assume that your level of investment and honesty in the relationship is reciprocated. Being betrayed is the realisation that not only have you been deceived by another, but you have deceived yourself. Ultimately, that can be soul destroying.

Yet reclaiming you ability to trust is essential to emotional healing. Reassure yourself that you were right to believe in the relationship, but it was the betrayer who was in the wrong for abusing your trust.  Rebuild your faith in others by surrounding yourself with those who care for you and allow them to nurture you. Then focus not on what you have lost, but on the good things you still have in your life. Gratitude is a great pain-killer.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B Smedes

Once the initial shock has passed and you have started to trust again, the next step to freedom is through forgiveness. Personally, I couldn’t have undertaken any level of forgiveness without my faith to guide and comfort me. I learnt that forgiveness wasn’t about condoning the actions, but accepting what had taken place.

Forgiveness also meant that instead of being burdened with fear, resentment, bitterness and anger, I was free to fill my heart with hope, expectation, joy and peace. And in doing so I was able to redefine my expectations and boundaries of relationships.  Most of all, forgiveness was about saying goodbye to the bad, so that I could embrace the good.

Femme 104 by Aja

Femme 104 by Aja

With the love of friends and the strength of my faith, I was able to manage the stormy days which fuelled the tears and the trauma. It was also faith that reassured me that after the rain, there was the promise of a rainbow.

And if betrayal has darkened your days, that promise of a bright future filled with love, awaits you too.

“Everybody wants happiness. Nobody wants pain. But you can’t have a rainbow, without a little rain.” ~ unknown

Huge thanks to talented Aja, owner of the Sagittarius Gallery for allowing me to use her 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/SagittariusGallery

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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Treasures of your heart.

1254860_heart_flowersWhat are the treasures of your heart? Where can they be found?

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

Wealth, possessions, success are all things that we can desire but they don’t guarantee peace of mind or happiness. Of course they help to make our daily existence enjoyable and can provide purpose and incentive, but it’s possible to be affluent and acclaimed yet still not be satisfied with life. I believe that’s because happiness has very little to do with what we have on the outside and everything to do with who we are on the inside.

My childhood experiences of abandonment and abuse had been the cause of long-term depression and alcoholism. I spent years believing that a successful career, being financially secure and having expensive possessions could fill the void in my life. But nothing was ever going to replace the love I should have had as a child.

When I hit rock-bottom and lost everything I felt like my life had ended and should be ended. My heart was like stone and there were no treasures to be found  in my existence.

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” Lao Tzu

As I have journeyed in recovery, I have learnt to replace the ‘hurt healers’ of alcohol and depression with the ‘hurt healers’ of life – simplicity, patience, compassion, trust, acceptance, forgiveness, hope. These riches I have found through a faith that teaches love. A love that provides an abundance of comfort, healing and power.

I used the experiences of my past as the foundation for my future. Through adversity and hard times I can now appreciate the prosperity and good times. Through abandonment and loss I can cherish and nurture my family and friends. And it is by coming through such depths of darkness yesterday that the light shines so brightly today.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

Anyone who has been through a personal tragedy or is going through a time of adversity knows that when difficulties arise priorities change. The things you may have held in high esteem before, matter less. The day-to-day issues you have stressed over, become insignificant. Life takes on a new meaning.

Emotional healing demands that you turn away from what you don’t have to focus on what you do have. Losing a loved one means letting go of what you had in the physical, but holding tight to the memories that will last you a lifetime. Suffering with an illness means accepting the disease and looking after the rest of your health. Difficulties in a relationship means focusing on the good aspects whilst managing the bad.

Whatever you are dealing with, it can be tough. Yet you will be able to manage your situation so much easier if you have a strong heart. And your heart will be as strong as the treasures it holds within.

1256162_heartsIf your heart is weak, you will lack the strength you need to rebuild your mind, body and soul. If your heart is empty, you will lack the passion you need to pursue your dreams. If your heart is broken you will find it difficult to love and be loved. But a strong, complete and treasure filled heart will help you find peace, hope and happiness.

So how is your heart today?

Sanctuary of the soul.

starbrightWhen life feels like it is a constant challenge or you’re simply having one of those tough days, it’s important to be able to find some peace within the turmoil. You need to find the sanctuary  in your soul.

“When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself.  When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.” Eckhart Tolle

Our body and mind can deal with the practicalities of life, but the powerful depths of healing can only be encompassed through the soul. We may think similar thoughts or behave in the same ways but it is our soul that makes us unique. And only you can reach it.

Acquiring relief in things like alcohol, food, drugs may provide a temporary solution but learning to find that contentment inside yourself can help you manage even the most difficult dilemmas.

“When we feel whole in ourselves there is no need or desire to present ourselves as anything other than simply being” ~ Catherine Ingram

During my dark days of depression and alcoholism, I had been taken to breaking point both physically and mentally. Recovery was going to be huge. I was battered outside and inside, but my soul was completely shattered.With a whisper of hope and a speck of faith I fought to pick up the pieces and gently began the restoration that was to set me on the path to peace.

Initially the renewing of my soul came through love, which came through faith. It came through learning to find not only a physical peace but a mental tranquility. It came through accepting the past and living in the present. And while my soul healed so grew the gentle force of self-belief.

“We may get knocked down on the outside, but the key to living in victory is to learn how to get up on the inside.” ~Joel Osteen.

As my spirit became strong I learnt to have confidence in my intuition. Anyone who has been abused develops a sixth sense as to what is right or wrong, who to trust and who to doubt. Yet the impact of abuse can overwhelm your natural instincts, leaving you mistrusting even your basic feelings. When you start to heal emotionally, you can choose to reclaim your gift of discernment.

I was reminded of this only last week, when I was asked to do something for someone I  knew only a social media site. A little alarm bell had rung initially and I responded with caution. Their retaliation was plain nasty when I was unable to meet their request.

In the past I would have been filled with self-doubt and blamed myself for not being good enough. But now I know how to find the sanctuary in my soul I was able to step back, take a deep breath and see the situation for what it was. It was an issue for the other person and not for me. Calm and reassured by being able to rest in my inner refuge I could let it go in perfect peace. And also with a sense of gratitude to that person for reminding me just how far I had come.

moonbright“If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. ” Chinese Proverb.

Whilst your soul is a place of safety and restoration it can also be a wonderful place of energy and light. Just as our body and mind needs to be healthy, so does our soul. Learn to nurture it and treat it well. Then enjoy the illumination of your soul as it sheds light over the shadows in your life. And reveal the desires of your soul through vitality and passion.

Whether it is serenity or energy that you seek, may you find it in abundance within the sanctuary of your soul.

Images thanks to the wonderful talent of Jen Garcia at Etsy.com http://www.etsy.com/shop/xXSnapDragon

Searching for love.

file000329683077Many of us spend our lives searching. You can be dissatisfied with what you have and you covet the things you think life owes you. But you may be misguided. Especially if you are searching for love.

“The sweetest of all sounds is that of the voice of the woman we love.” ~ Jean de la Bruyere

It’s always amazed me that even after all the years of heartache caused by my mother abandoning me and being told time after time that it was my fault she had gone; all I wanted was for her to love me. And to be able to return that love.

I knew that I hadn’t been loved as a child but it didn’t stop me wanting it. When my mother left it was as if she had taken my heart with her, leaving an emptiness that I couldn’t understand or escape. With each year that passed, the void grew and so did the feeling of loneliness and despair.

My thinking became distorted. With no-one to reassure or guide me, I came to believe that if I could find the woman who had brought me into the world,she could give me the love I had been missing. Then of course my life would be transformed. Because if my mother loved me then other people would love me. Simple.

Except that attachment and loss are not simple at all. Tracing a missing person involves so much more than locating their whereabouts. And going through life searching for love is complicated and painful.

“A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.”  ~ Mother Teresa

In lieu of my mother’s love I tried looking for comfort in work, money, alcohol and relationships. Yet the more I failed to find what I was looking for, the deeper I sunk into depression and self-loathing. I thought too little of myself to entertain the idea of looking for a love that was genuine or precious.  So I ended up accepting any hint of love that came in my direction. Love in disguise would fill the gap until I found my true love. Until I found my mother.

But the agonising truth was yet to be faced. Sometimes the person we are looking for doesn’t want to be found. For me that concept was unimaginable. I had been prepared for difficulties once we had reunited but I never believed that she would reject me again.

One of the hardest decisions of my life was having to stop the search for my mother. I had invested so much time and so much emotional energy in tracing her, but she had killed me off in her mind and I no longer existed.

My heart told me that it was impossible. That my mother had to love me because I was her daughter. That she would understand that I needed her love to fill the void. I needed her love to make me whole again.

My head though told me something completely different. My head told me she had ruined my life. She was the cause of my depression and addiction. She owed me.

Unfortunately the choice to pursue someone doesn’t entitle you to their attention, respect or affection. You only have control over yourself and you can’t determine or demand how anyone else should react.  And it was no different for me. I could plan every move and dream of the perfect love, but I had no authority over my mother. She had her own plans and dreams. They didn’t include me and I had to accept that.

It took many years of recovery to get to a place of forgiveness and peace of mind about my mother. Today I don’t even know if she is alive. It doesn’t matter anymore. That particular journey has ended.

Yet like many things in life it is only when you’ve come to an ending that you find the beginning. As the door to my mother’s love closed forever, the opening to a new life began.

Difficult as it was to acknowledge my mother’s decision, it was an event that served as a catalyst in my life. I had to to be realistic in my expectations of others and allow them to make their decisions without judgement.And I also stop looking to someone else to fulfill my destiny and choose my own path.

Past the excruciating pain of rejection came the cognition of taking responsibility for my own well-being. I had been searching outside of myself to find the love that I needed, the reassurance I craved and the acceptance I desired. I had been looking in wrong place.

“Love is the beauty of the soul.” ~ Saint Augustine

gently_but-292113

Faith led to me to look inside my own heart,mind and soul. My disbelief and apprehension was overcome by the desire to find the love I had sought for so long. Gently but passionately, the truth emerged. Everything that I had been searching for was already within me. Waiting to be released.

The search was over.

Fearless and free.

soar“If you’re afraid to do it, do it afraid.” Life can be scary. Change can be terrifying. But fear can restrict and overwhelm to the point that your life isn’t your own.

If you’re captive of your past, living with an anxiety-filled present or dreading the future, then learning how to live fearlessly will set you free.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”  Mark Twain.

Anyone who has experienced an abusive relationship will know what it is like to be living in fear. Whether it’s physically, verbally or mental abuse, you learn to anticipate and react in a certain way. And when your worst fears are realised, you are made to believe it was your fault and you become uneasy of ‘the next time’.

Similarly, low self-esteem can make facing new situations, people or places a source of trepidation. Your mind fills with every negative scenario and statement imaginable. And this can spiral into a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure and rejection.

“We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.” Eleanor Roosevelt

As a child, my abandoning mum and my abusing dad had ensured that I learnt to never truly trust, attach or love anyone. I grew into adulthood believing everyone had the potential to harm me in some way or another. Alcohol gave me the courage to not care if, or more often, when they did.

My addiction was a direct result of not just an extreme apprehension of others but of an unnatural mistrust of myself. Complete lack of self-worth meant that I would do anything to numb the feelings of inadequacy. Convinced that my values, instincts and intelligence were inferior to everyone else fed into my foreboding of defeat and ridicule.

Whether real or imagined, fear controlled my life and my life was out of control.

“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Confronting my addiction and starting on the path to recovery was quite simply the most terrifying period of my life. It meant redefining my concept of fear and changing my perception of myself and others. And that wasn’t an easy choice to make, but it was totally necessary if I was going to be free to live my life as the person I was meant to be.

I worked hard to develop the courage to accept, trust and love myself. But as I did I was able to find the strength to confront and challenge fear. I would remind myself “If you’re afraid to do it, do it afraid.”flower

It doesn’t mean that I don’t get scared. In fact I’m still a cautious person who finds it hard to take risks. And everyday situations like meeting new people still make me nervous. But I am no longer captive to fear and its negative consequences.

Today I don’t fight the fear. I welcome it in the form of excitement and anticipation. I rise above it and use it as motivation. I go through it and come out the other side stronger.

For me that is living a life fearless and free. What about you? Are you fearless and free?

Top image: The Courage to Soar thanks to 3 Wishes Creations  http://www.etsy.com/shop/3WishesCreations

Time to say goodbye.

goodbyeoneLooking to the start of a new year can be exciting. It can be the time to plan ahead, and dream of good things to come.

But to make way for new beginnings, it’s important to let go of anything that is going to hinder or harm you. Nobody has an infinite amount of physical time, or emotional energy. So it makes sense to use what we have on relationships that will benefit not drain. That are reciprocal, not a burden.

We all have relationships in our lives that come to a natural end. For whatever reason our contact with that person has run its course. We move on without a sense of loss or pain.

But there are other relationships that we cling to. Or we continue to involve ourselves in, with the hope that there will be a shift in commitment, interest or behaviour. And it’s those interactions that we need to reflect on. Perhaps it’s time to say ‘goodbye’?

Life is too precious to waste on others who are ultimately using or abusing.

I wish I had learnt this sooner. I wasted so much of my life on my mother. Years of thinking, talking, worrying, crying, soul-searching.  And all for nothing.

When my mum abandoned me as a young child, it wasn’t until much later that the impact of her actions came into force. I spent years wondering about her, blaming myself, searching for some answers. And as an adult when I discovered she had told everyone that I had been killed in a car crash, I was in agony. But my emotions were misplaced. I was grieving for the loss of my mother, but instead I should have been grieving for myself.

Instead I sought refuge in alcohol and my life spiralled slowly into the depths of despair. I had to hit rock bottom before I was ready to let go of my mother. Letting go was a gradual process of dealing and disposing of the rubbish that filled my mind. It was ‘Goodbye’ to self-hatred, worthlessness, guilt and shame. And a ‘Farewell’ to the oppressors of addiction, depression, loneliness and fear.

With time, prayer and courage I was able to overcome the negative connections of the past. In doing so I became emotionally available. I opened up my heart, mind and soul to those who could respond out of a true sense of friendship and love. Just as importantly, I learnt how to end relationships. What freedom!

It’s crucial to recognise those relationships that are harmful or futile. But if you decide that now is the time to end your involvement, be prepared.  Don’t underestimate how difficult, how painful or how long it can take to let go of a relationship. The more you have invested the harder it will be to break free.

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”

Lao Tzu

But keep strong and it will be worth it. Visualise how you want to live your life. Surround yourself with good people. Kind people. Say ‘hello’ to those who inspire you and fill your life with light, joy and passion.accept

Accept those that accept you.

Embrace those that embrace you.

Love those that love you.

And as for the rest – time to say ‘goodbye’.

Dear Dad…

waterDear Dad

I rarely think of you. You see once I’d forgiven you there was nothing left to think about. Occasionally though your presence from the past surfaces. And when it does  I wish I could look you in the eye and say ‘Have you any idea what you did to me?’

I’ll tell you. You stole my childhood. You destroyed my self-esteem. You crushed my spirit.

There’s more. You made me feel insignificant and worthless. You made me feel unloved. You made me believe I would never deserve anything because I was never good enough.

Even when I grew up and moved from country to country, you pursued me. Not out of love but out of a need to control. You didn’t have to be with me in person, because you always found a way to make sure that I knew you were still there.

You needn’t have bothered to hire that stalker, send the hate mail, make the threatening phone calls to my work colleagues, terrify my friends. Because your voice of abuse never left me anyway. It was there day and night.

For a long time, you won Dad. You won your crazy game.

You kept on winning even after you died. I didn’t expect that. Somehow I thought that your death would terminate my living hell and I would be free to get on with my life.  But I was so used to living in fear that it had become my normality. The damage had been done. With or without you I was a complete mess physically and emotionally.

“I stopped loving my father a long time ago. What remained was the slavery to a pattern.”  ~ Anais Nin


Actually I felt quite cheated that you died suddenly. You see I remember how much you hated alcohol, and I remember you telling me as a teenager that you would prefer I get pregnant rather than drunk. So you never knew that alcohol became my ‘hurt healer.’ It numbed me from the pain and helped me to manage your manipulation.

For a while it felt like I was winning. I was getting my own back and you didn’t even know it. But the self-medication slowly grew into addiction. So while other fathers leave their daughters a legacy of inspiration and love, I was left with alcoholism and depression.

But that was many years ago and this is now. Without you to sabotage my every move I have been able to reclaim my life and rediscover my identity. I fought my way back into the game and this time I am winning.

It’s true that sometimes when I face an emotional challenge, especially where there is a man involved, I think of you. It’s the moment when  the insecurities and the self-doubt return and I sense your spirit whisper ‘Told you so.’

Today though, I am able to recognise your words the lies that they are and can send them back to where they belong. Out of my mind. Out of my life.

I wish you had been kinder Dad. I wish you had been there to protect me. I wish you had been there to encourage me. Imagine how different my life could have been if I’d had a hero for a Dad instead of an abuser.

Too late now. For you. Not for me. Because I’m still here.

And if you could see me now I think even you would be proud of me. But if you weren’t that would be okay. Because I’m of proud myself.

I found out that I was good enough. I always was.

daisy blog

From your daughter                               ~ The Hurt Healer

Image thanks to Nicholas_Gent

Love you forever.

Is it possible to love someone forever?  Or is it more realistic to believe that nothing lasts forever?

The notion of ‘nothing lasts forever’ can be effective in dealing with disappointments and let-downs. It’s like a mental shrug of the shoulders that acknowledges a setback but allows you to move on unhindered.

In the past however I used it as a permanent mind-set. It was the only way I had of rationalising and managing my life.Of course all that happened was that I became trapped in a self-fulfilling prophesy. I desperately wanted and needed to love and be loved, but as long as I held onto the idea that everything was temporary, it was never going to happen. And believing that I was worthless compounded my perception that love would never exist in my life at all, let alone forever.

A counsellor once said to me, “It’s a miracle that you are married.” She was right. I’d experienced such dysfunctional love. The grief I had felt at losing my mum was based on a false love – I had no love for her, only love for the mother that could have been. And that goes for my father too. His love came at a price. Love was a ‘deal’ – Quid pro quo.

As an adult the problem was my inability to identify what love actually was and then to accept it when it came my way. Who doesn’t remember their first true love? The bitter-sweet romance of youth with a promise that it would last forever. Naturally he broke my heart in a way that only a first love can and left me resolving never to allow myself to feel that vulnerable again.

Whilst everyone else around me seemed to be connecting with their long-term sweetheart, I went through relationships that were at best superficial and at worst completely destructive to my body and mind. Alcoholism and depression became my constant companions. They fed my fear of attachment and ensured a loveless existence. And a life without love is no life at all.

Learning to love was by far greatest challenge in my healing. With the help of faith and hope I confronted my alcoholism, dealt with the traumas of the past and reclaimed my life with a passion. But finding the courage to love myself and others was challenging and painful. Opening up myself to the possibility of rejection was terrifying, as was the notion of commitment.

When I finally believed I was worthy of a relationship, I had to learn how to manage the love within it. I’d previously had the unrealistic expectation that ‘love you forever’ meant ‘I’ll never leave you’ or ‘I’ll never hurt you.’ And I’m sure for some people that’s actually the truth. But for me I could only receive ‘love you forever’ as something for the moment.

I’ve come a long way from only believing in ‘nothing is forever’, and I truly want to believe in ‘love you forever’.  When I made my marriage vows I meant them and want the marriage to last.  But if I’m honest, there are times when I doubt that it’s possible. I struggle with having the experience that reminds me how people can let me down but on the other hand having the wisdom that reassures me that I am strong enough to trust.

Eleanor Roosevelt said “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” And that’s what I intend to do. I’m a work in progress and not a million miles away from doing the thing I think I cannot do.

But in the meantime I’ll take a deep breath and say “Just for today, I’ll love you forever.”

______________________________

Top image thanks to Freaky Peas      http://www.etsy.com/listing/89892270/blue-heart-original-multi-media-painting          Bottom image thanks to Joy Northrop           http://www.etsy.com/listing/108601989/forever-love-digital-download-whimsical