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

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.

Miss you.

miss you“Even though you’re always in my heart, I long for you to be with me today.” ~ The Hurt Healer

As the seasons in our lives change, so do the people. Transient relationships that are meaningful in the moment can disappear into our past without detriment to our selves. As quickly as they transpire, so someone new takes their place. People come. People go.               Life moves on.

 

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”     ~ Aristotle.

Then there are those relationships that you wish could last forever. Everyone has someone who plays an intrinsic part in their life. There is a bond that you never want broken. There is a uniqueness that you never want to share. It’s special. It’s precious. And it’s all yours.

Unthinkable then that one day you may have to live without your kindred soul. Unimaginable that you may have to go through each day without the one that filled your heart. Yet it happens. It doesn’t really matter how, because the outcome is the same. You have lost a part of you. And you will never the same again.

But even though that person is no longer present doesn’t mean they are gone completely. You can’t be with them but you can sense them. You can’t touch them but you can feel them. You can’t talk to them but you can hear them. What a comfort to know that whilst the physical relationship has ended, your deep connection continues in the spiritual.

“True love stories never have endings.” ~ Richard Bach

Sometimes it takes me by surprise when I start to miss someone whose existence has long passed from my life. The heartache has ceased but still the emergence of the memory of that special one can bring reminders of the agony of my loss.

        “Even though you’re always in my heart, I long for you to be with me today. Maybe it’s because I’m facing a season of change that I wish you could be here to share it with me. I miss you more than anyone can imagine. 

Strange though that missing you reminds me of just how far I have come. In those dark days, the lack of your presence would have fueled a cloud of despair and kept me in a depth of depression. No matter how hard I tried to numb the pain, your absence was an endless void.

           Now I can dwell on your memory and know that it’s because you went away that I found my strength. It’s because you left that I could find out who I really was. And I’m grateful not only for what you were able to do for me, but for what you were not. You have helped me become what I am, but that doesn’t stop me missing what we might have had if only you had been here.”

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” ~ Psalm 73:26

Thankfully I have a faith that not only comforts and heals, but gives meaning to my life. You need all of these things when you’re heartbroken. For when there is nothing you can do in the natural, it is the spiritual that must relied upon.

Making that connection didn’t come easily for me, because I blamed God for the loss in my life. It took time to learn how my anger and bitterness was misplaced and that God had been with me through the tears. My pain had been His pain too.

heaven and loveGently and tenderly faith restored my brokenness and replaced the emptiness with love. It healed me of the past, gave me meaning for each day, and the assurance of a hope-filled future. But most of all I have the promise that the one day, I will be reunited with the one I love and no longer will there be the need to say ‘ Miss you.’

Thank you to Kim Sisto-Robinson whose fabulous blog My Inner Chick, written in memory of her beloved sister Kay, inspired me to write this post.

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

Shooting for the moon.

moon-tree-stars“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you will land among stars.” Les Brown.

Who doesn’t want to shoot for the moon? To aim for something spectacular in life? To feel that life can be filled with infinite possibilities? I hope that you do.

Or is your belief that shooting for the moon is only for those who are special in some way? And you’re not good enough? Well, it’s not and you are.

When I was reminded of this quote this week, it made me smile. It’s clichéd and twee but with the right frame of mind it’s uplifting and fun. I say in the right frame of mind because I know that in the past I would have looked at it and thought that there was no point in me shooting for the moon, because there was no prospect of success. And there was no chance of my landing in the stars. Much more likely I would fall down a black hole and spiral further into my depressed and alcoholic oblivion.

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” ~ Oscar Wilde.

A childhood of being repeatedly reminded that I was worthless, ugly, fat and inadequate in every way, laid the foundation of an adult who became a self-fulfilling prophesy. I never believed in myself and couldn’t imagine anything good happening in my life.

There was no point having dreams because they would be crushed. There was no point having goals because they would never be achieved. There was no point planning for accomplishments because I was a failure. There was no point looking for love because I was unlovable.

It was hard to break out of that victim mentality. It took some radical rethinking and a strong will to change my life, but slowly I was able to overcome the negativity in my past and start to view my future with renewed optimism.

I remember a counsellor who having listened to my woes of my abandoning mother and abusing father as my justification for my emotional and physical wreckage, looked me straight in the eye and asked, ‘What makes you different?’ Essentially what she was saying was that we all have difficulties no matter who we are and we all have a choice as to how to deal with them. She was right. I was no different to anyone else.

Life is tough for everyone at different times and at different levels. Your response to challenges is what sets you apart. You don’t  have to beat yourself up when things don’t go to plan. You don’t have to give up because the moon is further away than you thought and it is harder to reach than you ever imagined.

Instead you can determine to enjoy the ride bumps and all. And you can use the hardships and heartaches as platforms for learning and growing.Keep your moon in sight and at the same time look around and find some stars to use as stepping-stones to your destination. Remember that a breakdown can be the experience that broke you or helped you break through.

“I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be. I’m OK, and I’m on my way!”  ~ Joyce Meyer.

My mindset used to come from a combination of never feeling good enough with comparing myself to others whose lives seemed perfect. If that rings a bell with you, let me give you some advice. Give yourself a break. Affirm with yourself that It’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes.

As long as you are accountable, honest, realistic and genuine in making amends, it is possible to begin again free from shame and regret. Forgive yourself and celebrate the fact that you are a work in progress. You can change but the moon doesn’t have to. It will still be there to guide and inspire you.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” ~  1 Corinthians 2:9

For me though, passion and purpose are meaningless unless I have faith. Faith not only reassures me but fills me with expectations of what can be achieved. With the belief that the possibilities are endless and the impossible can be made possible, life becomes a journey filled with aspirations and hope .

Whatever your spiritual convictions, dare to dream that there is something greater than you wanting the best for you. Use your intuition to find and follow your heart’s desires. Reach into your unconscious and become consciously inspired.

“Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.” ~ Khalil Gibran

file0001409747445No one knows what tomorrow will bring. But I do know that  I want to be a better person tomorrow than I was today. I don’t want to exist. I want to live. I don’t want to survive. I want to thrive.

I want today to be as good as it can be and for tomorrow to be even better. I want to shoot for the moon, for the stars and for everything else that there is out in the universe. Anyone want to join me?

Thank you to Paul at Message in a Bottle whose post http://messageinabottleblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/sainthood-scrupulousness-and-the-emerging-case-of-the-now-whats/ inspired me for this post.

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.

How to heal a broken heart.

il_570xN.433732644_hlyp (1)I wasn’t going to write about affairs of the heart in this post but the recurring theme in many of my messages this week concerns broken hearts. Anyone who has gone through or is going through the trauma of a broken heart knows that the pain can be unlike any other. It can feel like the agony is never going to end. So how do you heal a broken heart?

We will all experience the end of a special relationship at some point in our lives, whether it’s by death, divorce or other break-up. But you can also have your heart broken by someone who you are currently connected to or want to be with. Whatever the circumstances, the fact that the love you need is missing from your life can keep you trapped in anguish. No matter how you try to hide your hurt from the outside world, you carry your broken heart within you, where ever you go.

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” Hippocrates

Whether it’s emotional or physical injury, time can be a great healer. However when it comes to a broken heart, the passing of days can dull the ache a little, but time itself cannot restore you to happiness.

In fact no-one and nothing can mend the wound for you, it is something you have to do for yourself. Good friends can listen and comfort, family can empathise and nurture you. But no-one can heal your heart. How could they? How can they ever reach the depths of your frustration, your fears, your loneliness, your despair?

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

It’s only when you believe you can heal and you want to move on that the true recovery can begin. Initially you may try to manage the damage with things that gratify you.  Food, alcohol, drugs, sex, work  all can help fill the void, numb the pain, and distract you. Yet temporary respite fades and the reality of your raw and vulnerable soul reappears.

When my mother abandoned me as a child it felt like she had taken a piece of my heart with her. Then my father ripped the rest to shreds through his abuse. By the time I reached adulthood I all had were fragments that I sought to protect in the hope that one day someone would love me enough to help me rebuild my brokenness. And along came my first love.

Who doesn’t remember their first love? The passion, intensity and promise of that relationship is what made it so special. But for me it was the fact that someone actually loved me that made me want to hold on to it forever. Of course, it didn’t and when the painful ending arrived it was excruciating.

The loss of my first love reinforced the rejection and worthlessness that I had experienced all my life. It reminded me of the words that had been spoken over me as a child that I was unwanted and unlovable. It made me believe that I would always be discarded and alone. So I put a barrier around the fractured remains of my heart and vowed never to let anyone hurt me ever again.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

When you reach those dark depths of despair that a broken heart brings, it can feel safer to barricade yourself against the world and hide your true feelings, rather than allow yourself to heal. But heal you must because the alternative is to spend the rest of your life trapped in a mental cocoon of distrust and anger, loneliness and grief.

Emotional restoration takes time and courage. And it demands that you use the very entity that wounded you to heal you – love. It starts with giving yourself permission to love yourself unconditionally and in doing so finding forgiveness for yourself and others.

In the beginning I found this almost impossible to even contemplate. The fear of being hurt again was almost overwhelming, but I took my fragile heart and trusted in a faith that healed through unconditional love. It was a process of tears and time, but eventually the wounds were less tender and the sorrow  less severe.

Once the scars formed I was able to move onto what was for me the hardest part – letting go. You have to be able to release yourself from  whoever caused you so much suffering. Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting the love you had or dishonouring the memory of a special individual. It does mean accepting that the past is over and can’t be changed.

il_570xN.433008725_hwpuThrough faith I was able trust in the knowledge that season of my life had come to an end and a new beginning awaited. Through love I was able to celebrate my self-worth and reach out to others.

All this and more came from a courage to heal. The courage to heal a broken-heart.

Images thanks to the fabulous talent of Kathleen Tennant at http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/KathleenTennant

Freedom.

Sagittarius gallery one“The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.” 
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Would you say you are free? Or do you crave to break out of your life? Freedom is something I often take for granted. Of course there are restrictions imposed by my domestic or work situation, but generally I can travel where I choose, I can read what I want, listen to the music I enjoy, practice my faith – all without fear. Many around the world can barely imagine such privileges. But whilst I accept these liberties as usual in my life, the opposite can be said for my personal freedom. Being able to live my life as the person I was meant to be is something I appreciate and cherish daily.

“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

I wake up and am glad that I am alive. For anyone who has never experienced a deep depression, waking up each day is not an issue. But my depression took me to suicidal depths that held me trapped for many years – fearful, hopeless, stuck with past memories, fighting a daily battle to simply exist. So to find myself living a life of joy, expectancy, enthusiasm and creativity is an existence that I could only have previously dreamed.

I wake up without the need for a drink. For anyone who drinks socially or is teetotal from choice that is no big deal. But alcoholism controlled me physically and mentally for many years. So to be able enjoy sobriety and reap the incredible rewards it brings is a  breakthrough that I could only have previously coveted.

Both the freedom from acute depression and addiction are something that I have received for many years. Never do I take them for granted. They are something I thank God for, thank my family for and thank my friends for every single day of my life.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~ John 8:32

It’s through my bondage that I have found my release. It’s by enduring the trials that I have found the solutions.  It’s by confronting my personal truth that I have found my authentic self.

When you are feeling trapped and weak it is hard to imagine freedom. If you are the grip of victim mentality, it is practically impossible to feel empowered. But whatever the restraints of your situation and however hard it is to change what goes in your physical world, you are still a unique being. How you react and how you feel inside are choices that have within you. Choices that will encourage and expand your personal freedom.

sagittarius gallery twoMy journey of self-discovery meant facing truths that hurt. With the comfort and restoration of faith I dealt with the pain. I allowed myself to start walking in freedom.  Freedom to accept myself for who and what I was. Freedom to say ‘Yes’ when I wanted and ‘No’ when I didn’t. Freedom to accept my  mistakes and to celebrate my successes. Freedom to love and be loved.

Freedom to be me.

What does freedom mean to you?

Images thanks to the wonderfully talented Aja of the Sagittarius Gallery at http://www.etsy.com/shop/SagittariusGallery And many thanks to Val Andrews  Escape Artist who’s blog regularly inspires me to consider and revere my freedom.

Alone doesn’t have to mean lonely.

janeoneIs loneliness part of your life? Are you in a relationship because you are scared of being on your own? Well then, you are not alone.

I spent years battling with the feeling of emptiness. The dysfunctional love I received as a child left me with a fear of attachment and a fear of loss. My head told me that I wouldn’t miss what I didn’t have and to be prepared to let go of anything I did have. My heart of course told me otherwise.

My heart ached. I compared my existence to those around me and saw only their happiness, their success, their sparkling futures. Whilst in my life I focused only on my pain, misery and failure. I didn’t believe in myself, so how could I be good enough for anyone else?

Not liking myself naturally meant that I didn’t like being on my own.  Medication and alcohol offered some relief but in they end my depression and alcoholism served only to reinforce my worthlessness and compound my loneliness.

“Loneliness is never more cruel than when it is felt in close propinquity with someone who has ceased to communicate.”  ~ Germaine Greer

I had plenty of friends and work colleagues but even they were kept at an emotional distance. Whilst on the inside I yearned for a meaningful relationship, the outside accepted anyone who would give me the time of day. It would be hard to describe these encounters as relationships as that implies some sort of connection or purpose. There was none. And I regularly played the game of ‘someone’s other-half’ even though being in their company made me far more lonely than being single.

Occasionally there would be someone who sensed my vulnerability and made it their mission to rescue me from myself. But the moment they did something nice, treated me well or heaven forbid told me that they loved me I would run. I knew that if I could leave before them before they left me, then it wouldn’t be as painful. Except it always hurt like hell.

When I had a complete mental and physical breakdown my isolation was excruciating.  It was something I will never forget, will never return to and would wish on no-one. But I had to face the reality that no-one could make my journey for me.The brokeness was mine. And mine alone. Only I could get sober. Only I could heal.

As faith filled the void left by alcohol so love filled the void of loneliness. Little by little I learnt how to connect with my inner soul and listen to my heart. Through forgiveness of others and of myself I was able to come to a place of peace with my past. And then I was free to live life as my authentic self.

“Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.” ~ Barabara de Angelis

I discovered that I as much as I appreciated being around others, I also enjoyed my own company. Instead of trying to shut myself out, I embraced who I was and what I was. And it was through this process that I learnt that being alone didn’t have to mean being lonely.

In fact the more I healed, the more I was open to relationships and the less time I spent on my own. The wonderful position I find myself in today is that I am filled with faith and surrounded by friends and family who bring me contentment and joy on many levels. Yet I am not dependent on them to fill any emptiness.

I am now in that privileged place of being able to say that I don’t feel lonely. For me, being alone means to be at ease with oneself. And for anyone who has stayed in a relationship rather than be single, they will know that this is a gift.

Amazingly, where once I would have craved company, I now seek times of solitude. Instead of a need to be in the presence of others, I look for space to be alone. A day is not complete without the experience of a few minutes of serenity.jane two

“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”  ~Wayne Dyer

Alone doesn’t have to mean you no longer care for those who have passed. Alone doesn’t have to mean that you no longer care who comes into your future. What it does mean is that today,if you love yourself, alone doesn’t have to mean lonely.

Thanks to Chris Edgar at purposepowercoaching.com for his comment on ‘What’s love got to do with it? which prompted this post. And thanks to the multi-talented Jane Hinchliffe for permission to use her artwork – http://www.etsy.com/shop/JaneHinchliffe