Tuesday, 15 April 2014

THE TERRIBLE TWINS...



Do you know anyone this could apply to?  Someone so quirky and unique that you can't help but remember her...   someone who explodes into your life and nothing is ever the same again?  I do, and when I saw this sign, I thought of her.

She came into my life when I was ten years old.  I found her sitting on a new brown suitcase, the ones made of a kind of brown cardboard, just inside the primary school gates - two pigtails askew, big blue eyes spilling tears down her new uniform, and a curious crowd of onlookers gathering to look at the "new girl".

"What's your name?" I asked.  "D..D...Debbie," she sobbed, looking for all the world like her monkey had just died.  "Well, my name's Patsy and I can speak Afrikaans," I babbled - trying, as only kids can, to impress this little girl.  Had I had the vision to see forward into Life, had I had the foresight to see what would lie ahead for us both, had I the ability to see the silver cord that would forever bind us from that day forth, I would have raised my eyes to the heavens and thank whatever god is up there for the gift that is her.

We have been friends, solid friends, no, sisters.. no, not even that... soul mates, spanning 38 years, and counting.  It has never wavered, never changed, strengthened, yes, into something that is indefinable, but it has above all else remained constant.  She is my best friend, my fellow earth angel, who has supported me, loved me, and stood by me in good times and bad... and there were a lot of both, for both of us.  She is the second set of footprints in the sand when Life becomes too heavy for one, and I have given her light when she has lost her way in the dark.  Whatever is lacking in one, the other provides.

When there was Trouble, you could rest assured Debbie and I would be lurking in the shadows, giggling like irrepressible and mischievous imps who no doubt had a firm hand in said Trouble.  We were formidable, impenetrable.  The teachers tried their best, bless them, and separated us in class in the hope that some work would get done.  It never was.  Instead, we giggled our way through Junior School and left chaos in our wake.  

I think we were the first girls in the history of all time to be expelled from Girl Guides.  Yes, expelled. Decapped.  Debadged.  They sent us both out the hall, and locked the door behind us as they banished us forever.  So we chewed our bubblegum until it was sticky and soft, and pressed it into the lock with sand, sticks, whatever we could find - leaving the goody Girl Guides knitting - and went home.  It took them three hours to clear the lock. They were all late getting home that night.  When learning survival skills, we rolled up newspaper and smoked it.  When saluting the flag, Debbie would feign shooting herself and falling over, leaving me powerless to remain upright.  Mrs Thomas, the Captain's right-hand woman, once had the stupid  idea of squeezing Debbie's cheeks to get her to spit out whatever she was holding in her mouth.  It was water, and it was not a good idea.  Mrs T had an unsuspected shower, and we got the boot.  Again.

Debbie had one advantage - long hair - which she would hide behind when a fit of the giggles attacked. Misfortunate that I was, curly short hair did not offer me the same protection, and inevitably it was me that was sent from the class to stand in the hallway at school whilst I "thought about what I had done." We had inkholes in our desks, and she would draw funny faces on the tips of her fingers, slip them under the desk and up through the holes, and then nudge me, wiggling them about.  Me, the studious one, trying to concentrate on the lesson, would be the one sent out for giggling.  Again. 

We stole cigarettes from her father's stash.  We climbed onto roofs, and when her formidable father arrived home early and caught us, she made me go down the trellis first.  Arse first.  Our punishment from him was always maths;  fractions.  And he treated us both the same.  Luckily I was good at maths. We found money once and bought 400 bubblegums and spent the afternoon seeing how many we could stick in our mouths at once.  I fell asleep with mine in my mouth.  I never imagined how much damage it could do.  That beanbag was never the same again.  

Dinner at hers was quite formal, yet she would flick her peas at me under the table - and it was me that got sent to her room for laughing.  We rang up hundreds of rands on the housephone, ringing China and taking the micky.  We somersaulted on her mother's newly made bed.  Her brother collected little lead soldiers, which he painstakingly painted and set out in correct historical battle scenes.  We would sneak in and shuffle them all up, putting the enemies in compromising positions with each other.  We learnt to run fast, because Stephen is a redhead with the temper to match.  He once tried to  drown her in a basin of water, and I was on his back whacking his head with a silver hairbrush.  He still talks about it today.  This past Christmas, on a recent visit, she picked up one of his precious soldiers - which he still has - and he roared at us to get away and leave them alone.  In the presence of her, we are children again.

I may have slept at my own house, but her house was my home.  

We swam every day in her pool, hours of fun I cannot begin to explain.  It had an external filter pump, and we played Marco Polo.  She stood in front of the pump and just before I pounced on her, she swam off, like quicksilver.  The only thing I caught was the pump which I ripped off its casing.  We shoved it back into place and said nothing.  I think the pool went green overnight.  Oh God, we were so naughty, but not bad.  Just very mischievous, and joined at the hip in the process.  

She never hesitated to laugh at my misfortune - the time I did a back-flip over a kitchen stool, missed it, and ended up with a black eye.  The time I did a handstand at the end of the bed, aiming for the wall but missing it and sliding my nose down the plaster.  Was my best friend at my side, concerned, helping me up?  Oh she was, yeah.  Right.  She was bursting her hole laughing.  Hurting yourself around her did not guarantee tea and biscuits.  Maybe after. Na, probably not.    You'd just hear "OMG, Patsy..." followed by a doubled-over, wheezing laughter.  And poor Suzie the dog - Debbie had a knitted Mickey Mouse which she used to tease her with, and then we'd roll on the floor laughing as Suzie humped the stuffing out of poor Mickey.  

Then came the teenage years, and Debbie was moved to another school, another suburb, and I lost my arm for a while.  I had to find some other way of belonging, but I never really did and I became a loner in school.  Half of me was gone.  So we drifted apart a little while, me with my first boyfriend, she with hers (that she's still married to today), but the phone was never far away from either of us.  Her telephone number is imbedded in my brain - 532828, and mine was 537021.  Those numbers were privy to our darkest secrets, our biggest fears, our wildest dreams...  My mother locked the phone eventually to stop me using it, but I learnt how to tap-tap the numbers out without having to open the phone, so that didn't keep us apart either.  

See, if any of you out there remember us at all, it will be about the giggling.  We would set each other off with a look, nothing more, and then collapse helplessly at absolutely nothing at all, and ensuring another afternoon in the Principal's office.  I suppose the lesson in this is that nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed in 38 years.  We can't help it.  It's as though we are two halves of one whole, to the exclusion of everyone else.  It's palpable.  People close to us have given up trying to understand us.  We can hardly understand ourselves.  

A word of advice - never, and I mean NEVER, invite the two of us to a function that requires us to be serious.  The results will be catastrophic.  

Then came marriage for her, and children, and I lost her for a little while, but it was never over.  And then she moved to the UK, and I came home to Ireland, both adults now, both with our histories and our lives, our heartaches, our failures, our successes;  but still stuck in juvenile minds.  We are a little rounder, a little more jaded, and quite a bit more unbalanced, but we're still a duo to be reckoned with.

She made a joke once that frightened the life out of me - she said if we were ever to find ourselves on our own again, we could move in together.  Now you might find that a conundrum, seeing as I'm professing this wonderful friendship.  But, you see, you don't know her.  She is quirky, and funny, and kind, and lovely, but she also has an irrepressible madness; she is not quite of this world.  She is ditsy and a little la-la.  Worryingly so at times.  An interest in the afterlife, the spirits.... yet when they come to visit she does chanting, and banishes them with sage, moon-dancing her way round the house.  She won't go downstairs in the dark.  In her own house.  Ever.  So she'll wake you in the middle of the night to join her.  Or hide behind you if she hears a noise.  Worse still, push you in front of her whilst she makes a run for it.

But if I fall over, she picks me up.  When I was in my darkest hours, she rang me every single day, refusing to get off the answering machine until I picked up and let her know I was ok.  When she fell over, the first person she rang was me.  Often we'll ring each randomly, just after something catastrophic has happened to the other, without knowing why.  It's like there's a psychic connection - we just know each other.  One look from me and she knows what's in my head, and vice versa.  That's powerful stuff.  And intrusive.  There's nowhere to hide with a friend like that.

She is the Sun to all those that know her - everyone orbits around her.  Mind you, she does want to tell them all to feck off most of the time, patience is not her virtue.  Holding her tongue is not an art she has mastered, and you'd better leather up that skin of yours if you are to survive her.  She is artistic, creative, a thinker.  She's the one you'd want in your corner to discuss options, ideas, plans.  And if there was a battle to be won, or even just survive, there's no one else I'd rather have beside me than her.  And that can't be said for many.  

She is my friend, yes.  My sister, yes.  And my fellow earth-angel, yes.  But she is the other half of me. Together we are Yin and Yang, in perfect harmony and balance.  Separately we are both strong women. Together, we are powerful.  It's a gift that grows more precious with the passing of time.

As I look back over my life, all the many trials and tribulations, the many hurts, triumphs, obstacles, dramas... the one thing that has remained constant is my irreplaceable, unbelievable, incredible friendship with her.  

Sometimes in Life we never get to say what we always meant to - she and I have become conscious of what we have, and we give thanks to each other, and love, each time we speak.  

I have no fear of dying, but I have a fear of staying in this world without her in it.

Here's to you, Harobed.  Thank you for making my life a better place to be.















Monday, 7 April 2014

IT'S JUST A DOG.....




Meet Betty.  Friend, confidante, and mentor for the past twelve years.  And she's dying...

Not a day has gone past over the last 12 years where I have not seen her happy face, or stroked her beautiful fur, or thrown a ball, or simply enjoyed the presence, ever loyal, of her company.  She has been through my hardest times with me, always there, never waivering.  She never judged, she never criticised.  She has never bitten, snapped or hurt me in any way at all.  I called her my mentor, and she has been that - she has taught me about what it means to be good, kind, loyal, trusting, and honest.  She has made me laugh, and now she is making me cry.  Because my beloved Betty is dying.

Diagnosed with congenitive heart disease a few years ago, she was immediately put on the right meds to help her, along with water tablets to rid her body of fluid retention.  I've had to be sneaky and hide them in bits of cheese, chunks of juicy chicken, but Betty isn't a fool and with a deft flick of her tongue has managed, time and time again, to devour the tidbit and spit out the pills.  She's a rogue.  The most beautiful part of this dog is her heart - she has tried, every day without fail, for twelve long years, to do her best, to please me.  And she has been rewarded, I hope, with one of the best homes she will ever have had the pleasure of knowing.

She has her own beanbag, in leopard-print, which she loves.  She has a South African rugby jersey which she proudly wears when it's cold.  Being an inside dog all her life, she buries things under socks, or towels, or whatever she finds lying around.  She is particularly fond of pig's ears, although I don't spend much time thinking about what it is she is crunching on when I give them to her.  She is house-trained and comes to call me when it's time for the loo.  She is shower-trained, and walks the long mile into the shower cubicle when it's time to be washed.... albeit dragging her paws as long as she can, she still goes in on command, and stands quietly whilst I wash her.  She also likes a blow-dry, and is quite happy to be brushed and hot-dried after a shower.  

She likes to be covered up with her pink fluffy blanket when she sleeps, just her nose sticking out. When I got my second dog, she let her suckle off her even though she'd never had pups of her own.  She loved her ball.  And she has a stone fetish.  No stone is safe with her around, and she brings me anything from the tiniest pebble to the biggest rock she can find.  She lived for her ball, and no matter how many times you said Shut Up, Betty, she couldn't help but yap excitedly if there was one in sight. Shut Up, Betty.  I had a T-shirt made for her in pink once, with that on the back.  Soon I will give anything to hear her yap again.  

Up until about four years ago, she used to hop up onto the couch and snuggle up behind me as I watched my daily dose of drivel on the television.  If I stirred, she was up, ready to follow me wherever I went, even the toilet, where she'd wait patiently until I sat down again.  She'd lie on her back, legs akimbo, in my arms like a baby.  Now, she prefers her beanbag.  And the heater, which I always direct towards her.  

I can't explain to someone who has not had this kind of bond with a dog, what it's like, or what it means to me as a human.  When I split from my family many years ago, she was there.  When my marriage ended and I spent long nights coming to terms with my new life, she was there.  When my daughter was sick, or rebellious, or simply being a teenager, she was there.  I have been self-employed and work alone from an office on a daily basis - it's isolated, and lonely.  But Betty was there, right next to me, at my feet, as I worked, snoring softly and letting me know she, above all others, would never leave. When I cried hot tears of sadness, she would lick my hand.  It's ok, she would say.  I'm here.  And she was.  Every step of the way.

She has the wrong name, though.  Betty.  She should be called Angel.  She has a quiet dignity about her, a strength of character many would envy.  A sense of being.  And I love her.  I love her enough that I never go away for long without making sure to get back as soon as I can, because she doesn't like to be without me.  I have forfeited holidays, weekends away, and a more fulfilling life for myself because of her.  The guilt I feel is too hard for me to handle, and to be honest I'd rather spend my time with her on a field than with many people I know.  People aren't like dogs.  With her, I can be myself, unwashed, tatty, hair on end, and she doesn't care.  I can be sick, or sad, or healthy, and she doesn't care.  She is simply there.  She knows the difference between casual wear and work wear.  If I'm in track pants, she's eager to go.  If I spray on my perfume or slip on my heels, she quietly retreats to her beloved beanbag and knows it's time for mammy to go to work.  

For the past five days, for the second time this month, she has not eaten a thing.  I have cooked mince (she doesn't like raw meat), chicken, cheese, her favourites, and she has turned her face away from me. Each time she drinks water, she regurgitates it up.  She is lethargic, becoming weaker, and confused. She is sleeping now, as I write, snoring on her beanbag, and I can feel the life force draining away from her.  Every half an hour I take a small bowl of water over to her, and she drinks like a queen from her throne, and then throws it back up.  Regardless, maybe some of it will stay down, so I keep trying.

In a way, I wish she would simply drift off to her next world, her job well done, but I may have to take her down to the vet and do the inevitable.  And I am scared out of my wits.  How do you say goodbye, and thank you, and I will miss you forever?  I will stay with her, if it comes to that.  I believe it's not nice, they twitch for a while after death, as the muscles contract.  I will hold her, and I will cry, and my heart will break as I force myself to do the right thing.  And then I will go into mourning, and no one will see sight nor sound of me for quite some time.  

I will not leave her at the vet, but bring her home, in my arms, to be buried with dignity in my garden, if I can, or on her beloved field where we walk, every single day without fail.  It's just a field.  A square field, surrounded by trees.  Boring to most.  But to me, it's a place where she runs free, where she delights in the rabbits, and there is no other joy to behold than to see a happy dog running free.  Of late, it's been more of a hobble.  But still, it's her place.  And my place.  Our place.  Where I clear my mind, and feel the wind on my face, see the happiness in her eyes.  So simple.  

A dog teaches us how to be better humans.  They teach us to live every moment, in the moment, not to fret about yesterday or worry about tomorrow.  To just Be.  They give us love, without condition, and without fear of it being retracted - unless you are cruel at which point they will defend themselves.  So anyone who has never felt that connection with a dog will never understand that of which I now speak. They will scorn, and think I'm a little off my trolley.  They sniff in disgust at the smell of a wet dog, and never understand the power of canine love.  And it's sad, because it truly is a loss not to understand or feel like I do.  

So, my beloved Betty, whilst you are still here with me, let me tell you this : I love you with all my heart.  I have taken great care to ensure you have a wonderful life, and I know that you have.  Thank you for your love, your kindness, your gentle soul, because you have never faltered in that, not once.  Thank you for the long walks, the laughs, the comfort, the joy, the friendship.  You were the runt of the litter that no one wanted, and you turned out to be the best dog anyone could ever ask for.  I will never forget you, how can I, you are a part of me now, and I shall be part of you for all eternity.  

I am finishing this here, because you are still breathing, laboured as it may be, and I want to come and hold you for a while, and give you a tiny bit of comfort one last time.



R.I.P. Betty, my angel.  7 April 2014

You weren't a dog in a million,  
you were the dog of a lifetime.

Betty died in my arms at the vet on 7th April 2014, 6pm.  The last thing she did before she left, was to lick my hand.  I cannot tell you how I am feeling, I am broken beyond words.  She will be buried tomorrow in our garden.  





Saturday, 29 March 2014

MOTHERS - PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE


Sunday 30th March is Mother's Day in Ireland.  Flowers will be bought, chocolates, or even more thoughtful things like a day out for a lovely meal, or even a weekend away, all in the name of thanks.

So what makes a mother a Mother?  This word may evoke many different thoughts and images in the minds of every individual on this planet.  Some mothers are well thought of, there are fond memories and feelings of appreciation associated with their mothers, past or present.  Others may experience memories of abuse, of disappointment, of betrayal, ill-wishes, and hurtful times. 

In my mind, a mother of the latter description does not warrant being called a mother, so I shall not entertain those here.  Instead, I refer only to those women who have hugged, encouraged, supported, educated, advised and loved their offspring as only a true mother can.  Someone who loved from the heart, without condition or judgement.  Someone who stood by in good times and bad, and never faltered.

There is no manual for becoming a Mother.  And whilst, of course, there would be no children without the contribution - biologically - from a man, in my mind the overpowering emotion that is triggered in a woman when she first discovers she is pregnant, cannot be experienced in the same way by a man.  To know that you carry Life, a human being, inside of you, that you are its carrier, its carer, its very source of Life for nine months, before delivering it safely into this world is something you can never explain, except to another mother.  Its indefinable.  It's magic.

And so, as a Mother, you raise your Son or your Daughter to the best of your ability, so that they might one day take flight from the safety of your home to spread their wings and continue the cycle of life as its meant to be. You teach them manners, you correct their behaviour, and you develop in them a sense of quiet dignity and self-esteem that allows them to become Great People.  

I had an interesting and thought-provoking conversation with someone today.  And the question posed was this : has the Alpha Female of today's world destroyed what we once, in generations past, recognised as the Alpha Male?  Have we, by becoming strong and independent women, made the role of Man obsolete?  Has the Hunter been stuffed and nailed to the wall? 

In today's dating times, no matter the age cycle you are in, men tend to forget their roles and what a true woman expects of them.  Yes, expects.  Because, in time, that same man will expect certain things of his partner, and if she were reluctant to fulfil this role, it is doubtful whether he will stay with her in the long run. 

But let's rewind a little - all the potential husbands and wives of today have been raised by a mother somewhere at some time.  And assuming she has taught them right, surely this will be carried forward into the future lives of both?  Not so.  For one thing, wooing a woman seems to be a thing of a bygone era.  There seems to be no chase, no excitement, for the man anymore.  He meets a woman, drops her a couple of texts, and by the second or third date, he's in the sack with her.  Mission accomplished. There is no respect, no loyalty, no desire to do what is right.  After all, there's always another one waiting just around the corner.  Right?

On the other hand, what kind of Hunter would get excited about the chase of a freely-available gazelle?  There's no adrenaline in that.  No sense of achievement.  No sense of pride when he finally lands his prize.  In fact, today most men don't even try and chase - there are too many readily-available women ready to drop their knickers at the first sign of a wink.  What's good for the goose, is good for the gander, not so?  Well, not so, in my opinion.  Women, for whatever reason, have almost become too self-sufficient, rendering Man unnecessary in a lot of instances.  They are not needed to cut the grass, bring in the wood, take out the rubbish, paint the bedroom, change the light bulbs, or even earn a living to support the family in most cases.... so what happens to their sense of self-value when faced with an Alpha Woman?

Well, he is perhaps dismissive.  Reluctant to invest in her.  Has no sense of purpose in himself.  Rue to spend his time, effort or money on her.  Which in turn, makes the woman more self-sufficient, because if she can't rely on the man, she might as well do it herself - someone has to do it. 

The mating game is a dance, like the slow-sets we used to know at the discos....  It's the meeting of eyes across a room.  The feeling of butterflies in the ol' tum.  The flirting.  The asking out on a date which consists of more than a two euro cup of coffee, or six pints to get you drunk.  A date where the man does not say "we can do whatever you want", but instead fetches a woman, perhaps with flowers, takes her off to a restaurant that he has booked in advance, and an evening which he spends trying to get to know HER, not her body.  When he takes her home, he may or may not kiss her, but he most certainly should not try and swallow her whole, no matter what his hormones are doing.  If this man really likes this woman, he should invest the one commodity that will stand the test of itself : Time.

If a man does not have time for you, nor make the time for you, then he is most certainly not worth yours.  If a man says he does not want to get involved, only wants a part-time-let's-get-jiggy excursion every now and then, then understand that you will only ever be second best in his life, and somewhere to lay his head - pardon the pun - on the occasions when it suits him best.  If you are happy with this, ask yourself why.

If a man does not keep in regular contact with you, if he does not keep the flame burning by letting you know he is thinking of you, and you find yourself waiting for that contact, checking your phone, hoping....  then he is not going to change.  Don't bother trying to.  Accept this limited access, or move on.

If a man does not defend your honour when you are verbally attacked by someone, then he is not your Alpha Male.  He is Beta.  A softie.  And waiting for you to take charge of his life.  Walk away, or become hard, cold and independent pretty quickly.

If a man prefers to spend time away from you with his mates, rather than do something with you, you have not found your partner, you have found your penis.  And there are lots of them around.  Shove it back in his trousers and push him out the door.  I am not saying he has to be glued to you, but if his preference is to regularly spend time down the pub with his male friends rather than plan something nice with you, walk on.

There is a lot that can be told about a man when you watch his interaction with his mother.  If he is respectful, courteous, gives her time and love, showers her with affection and thanks, then you could be onto a good man here.  But if he is NOT doing the same for you, he is not your Alpha Male.  He is Mammy's Boy who has no intention of stepping up to the mark.  That doesn't make him bad, it makes him the wrong one for you - again, he has no TIME for you.  When a man is truly interested in you, he will make the effort, not the excuses.

Time cannot be bought.  Money can buy the material things, but the right woman is not interested in your car, your money, or your leather jacket and Ray Bans.  The right woman wants your time, your smile, your honesty, your company, your effort, and your ability to put her as a priority, at least most of the time.  There's your Alpha Male.  And any Alpha Female, in the presence of a real man, will balance out her strength with Beta tendencies, to nurture, care, love, take care of her mate.  It's not a natural state for a woman to wear the trousers.  I don't like wearing them.  I just haven't found a man on whom I can rely and trust enough to hang mine back up in the closet.  

I am no pushover.  I have moved continents, ran my own business, raised a child, been a wife, ran a household, and have stayed debt-free in the process.  But sometimes I get tired, and it would be nice to have someone to lean up against, without him falling over in the process.

So what has this got to do with Mother's day?  Well, ALL women are potential mothers, be they Past, Present or Future tense.  All women have a natural ability and instinct to love.  I am not referring to damaged women here, women who have not connected with their strengths but rather fallen prey to their weaknesses.  I am referring to Woman.  And Woman needs Man.

This was written by a man:

"She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines.  She was beautiful in the way she thought;  in the way she cared;  in the way she cried when something made her sad.  She was beautiful because no matter her own burdens, she always had time and a smile for someone in need of it more than herself.  She was beautiful because she made time for others, she wiped the tears that had fallen, and bandaged the knee that was scraped.  As she grew older, she became more beautiful to me.  Dignified.  Gentle.  Kind.  The years took away the colour of her hair, but it deepened the warm hues of her heart.  No, she was not beautiful in the conventional way in something as temporary as her looks.  She was beautiful, my Mother, deep down into her very soul."

If you find a man who could write this about your Daughters, then tell her hang onto him.  Because if he can recognise the true beauty of a Woman, then he has the true heart of a Man.  

So to all men out there - who are Past, Present or Future Fathers - would you stand by and watch as a man treated your mother or your sister with disrespect?  Who dismissed a child, or hurt an animal?  Would you condone his behaviour and feel he is the right person for your female family members?  Who made promises he never intended to keep, who broke their hearts, and caused them pain?  Of course you wouldn't.  So don't be one of those men yourself.

So, to all the Mothers out there, the real ones - thank you for raising Sons who will later become Husbands to our Daughters.  Who will love, honour and protect them. Who will romance and play and keep it alive.  And the Daughters who, in turn, will love, honour and nurture your Sons, giving him a home where he can return to rest.  If you have managed this, if you have raised a decent, kind, respectful human being, either male or female, then this is dedicated to you.

To all mothers out there, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, and take it easy knowing you have done right by the world - thank you, from all of us.

A Mother's Love - by Helen Steiner Rice

A Mother’s love is something
that no one can explain,
It is made of deep devotion
and of sacrifice and pain,
It is endless and unselfish
and enduring come what may
For nothing can destroy it
or take that love away . . .
It is patient and forgiving
when all others are forsaking,
And it never fails or falters
even though the heart is breaking . . .
It believes beyond believing
when the world around condemns,
And it glows with all the beauty
of the rarest, brightest gems . . .
It is far beyond defining,
it defies all explanation,
And it still remains a secret
like the mysteries of creation . . .
A many splendor'd miracle
man cannot understand
And another wondrous evidence
of God’s tender guiding hand.




Thursday, 27 March 2014

PROJECT ABYSS

Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster...
..and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Friedrich Nietzsche

There are many tortured souls who walk amongst us, unseen, unrecognised, for they have become adept at disguising their shame for fear of rejection - by society, by family, by a partner, or by the world at large.  And as such, they learn to live with the lies they tell themselves, trying - and failing - to justify why they do what they do : to themselves, and to others.
However, the nature of the human soul is such that one cannot live an indeterminate period of time with this conflict;  there will come a time when you do, in fact, stare into the abyss and find that what is reflected back at you is becoming harder to ignore.  
Fear not, because if this is the point you have reached, then the mirrored abyss is there to show you the way out, or allow you to remain exactly where you are - the choice, as always, lies with you. However, once you have become conscious of the image, the truth, your truth, it will be very difficult to suppress it back from whence it came.  Once seen, it cannot be unseen.
Ignorance is bliss, but once enlightened, it can become the cross you bear every day, slowly spiralling you into a life of emptiness, depression, futility, hopelessness and, ultimately, deep unhappiness.  And that in itself is sad.  But it is very important to understand that whilst you cannot undo what you have done, or become, you can choose to change who you will be from today onwards.  Every day is a day for change, a time to make new paths, and leave the darkness behind you.  Which one will you be?
Before you can move on, the first thing you have to do is forgive yourself.  We are human.  And we are deeply affected and moulded by the experiences of our past.  Perhaps you had an abusive parent, or one who neglected to praise you.  Perhaps you felt ignored, unworthy, and thus continuously got into trouble for attention - good or bad, attention is attention.  So we rebel, we become the bad guys, we hurt, we use, we abuse, and then we get the hell out of there before we are called accountable for our actions.  We close ourself off from feeling true emotion, goodness, light, kindness, honesty.  This is the food our souls crave, and when we change our diet to the negatives, we eventually pay the price.
We cannot take responsibility for the actions of those against us.  We cannot change their opinions of us, their treatment of us, and their unkindness.  But we can choose whether or not we continue to allow them to affect us.  There comes a time when blaming your past is no longer an option;  you've been through it, you've recognised the signs, and now it is time to make your own choices.  That's the gift of free-will.
When you use this free-will to hurt others, to use and abuse as perhaps you yourself were used and abused in your past, then you are merely continuing the cycle of hurt and reaffirming to yourself that this is "just the way you are".  It's not.  It's the way you have become.  And YOU have allowed this to happen, so only you can choose to walk away from detrimental behaviour, both to yourself, and others.
It feels great to be good.  To lie in your bed at night with your mind at peace, knowing you are doing your best and forgiving yourself for the mistakes you have made.  The alternative, of course, is to stay exactly where you are, breathing in the badness and the shame, and reliving it every day.  This kind of person will eventually reach the end of their ability to fool themselves, and facing yourself in the mirror is one of the hardest things you will ever do - but it's also the most liberating.  
Perhaps you are failing at life right now.  It's not because you don't have what it takes to succeed, but more that you are allowing yourself to fail because you don't feel you deserve any more than you have. You are a bad person, right?  You don't deserve to be loved, cared for, respected, right?  Well, if you believe it, then how can it not become your truth?  And you will, unconsciously, continue with negative behaviour to make damn sure your belief comes true.  And so, you are, ergo, stagnant.
If you take the properties of stagnant water - a breeding ground for algae, bacteria and all the yucky stuff that makes people reluctant to swim in the water, avoiding being around it because it smells bad, and generally seek somewhere else to lay their towels.  Are you a stagnant pool of water, pushing people away and keeping them at a safe distance?  Have you become poisonous to yourself?
When energy becomes stagnant in the human body, we simply stop functioning as we are meant to.  We are what we believe ourselves to be, and how sad is it that we believe we are inferior to others, not as successful, not as valuable as humans because of the way we think about ourselves?  And so, with this in mind, we might delve into the darker side of life seeking temporary relief, escapism, just to stop seeing ourselves as we really are, just for a moment.  
A friend asked me to write this, to share his story in the hope that it may help others.  I am hoping it will help him.  And it takes great bravery to ask another to write as it is, rather than how you would like to see it.  You see, this man is a gentle soul - he's shy, a little introvert, but has a good personality that he uses as a shield when in public, winning approval and attracting a lot of women.  Whom he then takes home and shags.  Over and over again he has practised this routine, he can't even recall some of the women.  Once he woke up after a night of debauchery and didn't even know the girl's name.  How do you think he feels about himself now that the abyss has decided it's time to reflect back at him?  He cannot commit.  He feels deep shame and self-loathing.  If a woman shows too much affection or asks to see him again, he runs.  He doesn't know why.  Yet.  But I'm working on it...

His father was the same - a womaniser.  And he does not, or did not, have a healthy and balanced relationship with him growing up.  He was told something that no parent should ever say to a child.  And it has haunted him ever since.  Yet his behavioural pattern is replicating that of the father whose approval and praise he so badly craved.  Why?  Perhaps if he emulates his father's behaviour, makes himself more like him, his father will approve.  This all happens at a subconscious level, not a conscious one.  The subconscious has no reasoning power;  it simply reacts to whatever information it receives.  
You see, if you are not being true to your instinct, your heart, your innermost self, eventually the conflict will rise above that stagnant pool you have become, and force you to take a breath.  It won't be pleasant.  In fact, it will be putrid, and hard to process.  And this is the dilemma I so often talk of.  You are now faced with a T-junction : do you go left and continue doing what you're doing, still feeling the way you do?  Or do you take a clean breath of fresh air and say, yes, I am scared, I don't know if I will succeed but what the hell, and take a right?  
What you are not understanding is this : doing what you've always done, you have already failed.  You have absolutely nothing to lose by turning right, only gain can await you.  Shrugging off that slimy cloak of your past and embracing a clean, new, revitalised YOU - and you will recognise yourself when you do - is the most liberating, healthy option you can choose.  Our souls are ancient.  Our bodies not so.  And if you are suffering with physical ailments, trust me on this - your body is telling you to wake up before it's too late.
So how does one change?  Well, it takes time.  It takes consistency.  It takes courage, not strength, but courage to admit that it's time to change.  The rest will follow, once you've taken that first step.  Perhaps you have to apologise to others for your previous behaviour - lots of therapies encourage this.  It is as much for your benefit as it is for the person you feel you abused, or hurt, by your actions. Releasing those guilty emotions and saying those words, "I am sorry" can be the most uplifting thing you will ever do.  You cannot force someone to forgive you.  But by facing your own demons, you are, in fact, forgiving yourself.  And that's a powerful thing to do.  To love yourself enough that you can now be humble and acknowledge that you did wrong.
A few things for you to remember:
What other people think of you is none of your business.  As long as you are happy that you've done good, your best, and left little damage behind you on your journey, then you are doing ok.  Everyone has their pasts, and their demons.  Everyone has an abyss.  It takes a deep and emotionally mature person to face their own.  No one else can do that for you.  Can you imagine for one second how it would feel in reality to climb out of a cesspit of slime, gunk, and bacteria and refresh yourself in a crystal clear, flowing river?  It would feel amazing.  Psychologically, it's the same thing.
You have one job in life : to be a good son, a good father, a good partner, a good human being.  There will always be people willing to tear you down a strip or two.  But that is not your problem, it is theirs.  Your opinion of yourself is all that matters.  Again, it feels good to be good, so concentrate on your own shortcomings, and change them until you feel that dark cloud lifting.  And you will.
You will sleep better, because I bet you aren't sleeping well, are you?  You will feel better, physically and emotionally.  You will feel lighter, happier and more content.  And THEN you will be ready and open to receive the good people that will come into your life.  Darkness does not attract the light;  it attracts only more of what you are trying so hard to escape from.
Why would anyone choose to stay in a dark, damp, cold place?  Because your self-image and self-esteem is so damaged that you think it's all you deserve.  CHANGE YOUR THINKING.  Thoughts create actions, and actions bring consequences.  If you are not happy with where you've ended up, don't you think it's about time you tried something different?
I commend this man for being brave enough to talk to me, to be honest and upfront about his shortcomings, his fears, his heartache.  Men do not find it easy to talk.  However, there is light in this person, he just hasn't found it yet - but I think there is a flicker, and that's all it takes.  Walk towards the light, and leave the darkness where it belongs - well into your past.  Forgive those that hurt you, and try and accept that they didn't know what they were doing.  Or maybe they did.  Either way, it is not your fault.  But it will be your fault if you choose to stay exactly as you are.  
I think you're worth taking a chance on - question is, do you?



FOR SHARON.....

This is a post that I hope a certain someone gets to read.  Enough said.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

ARE YOU AN EMPATH?



Understanding the characteristics of an Empath will greatly assist you in being able to support their needs, if you have the interest in doing so. Questions aren't always answered, but understanding will allow you to provide them with the time, space and love they need during difficult times.  

I am, without question, an Empath.  

Few people understand the real, inside me, purely because it is seldom we allow ourselves to be seen.  We prefer, instead, to give our energy to those that need it most, often at a cost to ourselves when we have nowhere or no-one to replenish us.  

If you want to try and understand, here are some of the most common traits to watch out for:
Knowing: Empaths just know stuff, without being told. It’s a knowing that goes way beyond intuition or gut feelings, even though that is how many would describe the knowing. The more attuned they are the stronger this gift becomes.
Being in public places can be overwhelming: Places like shopping malls, supermarkets or stadiums where there are lots of people around can fill the empath with turbulently vexed emotions that are coming from others.  Crowds cause stress and can leave the empath with a need to escape.
Feeling others emotions and taking them on as your own: This is a huge one for empaths. To some they will feel emotions off those near by and with others they will feel emotions from those a vast distance away, or both.
Watching violence, cruelty or tragedy on the TV is unbearable: The more attuned an empath becomes the worse it is and may make it so they eventually have to stop watching TV news and reading newspapers altogether.
You know when someone is not being honest: If a friend or a loved one is telling you lies you know it (although many empaths try not to focus on this because knowing a loved one is lying can be painful). Or if someone is saying one thing but feeling/thinking another, you know.
Picking up physical symptoms off another: An empath will almost always develop the ailments off another (colds, eye infections, body aches and pains) especially those they’re closest to, somewhat like sympathy pains.
Physical disorders and lower back problems: The solar plexus chakra is based in the centre of the abdomen and it’s known as the seat of emotions. This is where empaths feel the incoming emotion of another, which can weaken the area and eventually lead to anything from problems with kidneys, stomach, ovaries (in women), stomach ulcers to IBS (too many other conditions to list here).
Always looking out for the underdog: Anyone who's suffering, in emotional pain, or being bullied, draws an empath’s attention and compassion.
Others will want to offload their problems on you, even strangers: An empath can become a dumping ground for everyone else’s issues and problems, which, if they’re not careful can end up as their own.
People are easily drawn to the Empath, finding themselves attracted to them without knowing what it actually is.  In simple terms, your energies are being pulled by theirs. When away from them, you often feel that you are missing them, yet cannot understand why.
Constant fatigue: Empaths often get drained of energy, either from energy vampires or just taking on too much from others, which even sleep will not cure.
Addictive personality: Alcohol, drugs, sex, are to name but a few addictions that empaths turn to, to block out the emotions of others. It is a form of self protection in order to hide from someone or something.
Drawn to healing, holistic therapies and all things metaphysical: Although many empaths would love to heal others they can end up turning away from being healers (even though they have a natural ability for it), after they’ve studied and qualified, because they take on too much from the one they are trying to heal. Anything of a supernatural nature is of interest to empaths and they don’t surprise or get shocked easily. 
Creative: From singing, dancing, acting, drawing or writing, an empath will have a strong creative streak and a vivid imagination.
Lover of nature and animals: Being outdoors in nature is a must for empaths and pets are an essential part of their life.  The energies of animals help balance the empath.
Need for solitude: An empath will go stir-crazy if they don’t get quiet time. This is even obvious in empathic children.
Gets bored or distracted easily if not stimulated: Work, school and home life has to be kept interesting for an empath or they switch off from it and end up daydreaming or doodling.
Finds it impossible to do things they don’t enjoy.  To force an empath to do something they dislike through guilt or labelling them as idle will only serve in making them unhappy. It’s for this reason many empaths get labelled as being lazy when it comes to mundane chores such as housework, or shopping.
Strives for the truth: This becomes more prevalent when an empath discovers his/her gifts and birthright. Anything untruthful feels plain wrong.
Always looking for the answers and knowledge: To have unanswered questions can be frustrating for an empath and they will endeavour to find an explanation. If they have a knowing about something they will look for confirmation. The downside to this is an information overload.
Likes adventure, freedom and travel: Empaths are free spirits.
Abhors clutter: It makes an empath feel weighed down and blocks the flow of energy.  If an empath lives in a cluttered home, they are more likely to bury their heads, or have a complete clear out.
Loves to daydream: An empath can stare into space for hours, in a world of their own and be blissfully happy.  They are not always thinking about something specific, although it may appear that they are.
Finds routine, rules or control, imprisoning: Anything that takes away their freedom is debilitating to an empath - even poisoning.
Prone to carry weight without necessarily overeating: The excess weight is a form of protection to stop the negative incoming energies having as much impact.
Excellent listener: An empath won’t talk about themselves much unless it’s to someone they really trust. They love to learn and know about others and genuinely care.
Intolerance to narcissism: Although kind and often very tolerant of others, empaths do not like to be around overly egotistical people, who put themselves first and refuse to consider another’s feelings or points of view other than their own.
The ability to "feel" the days of the week: An empath will get the ‘Friday Feeling’ if they work Fridays or not. They pick up on how the collective are feeling. The first couple of days of a long, bank holiday weekend (Easter for example) can feel, to them, like the world is smiling, calm and relaxed. Sunday evenings, Mondays and Tuesdays, of a working week, have a very heavy feeling.  The empath often has no concept of actual time or dates. 
Can appear moody, shy, aloof, disconnected: Depending on how an empath is feeling will depend on what face they show to the world. They can be prone to mood swings and if they’ve taken on too much negative energy, and will appear quiet and unsociable, even miserable. An empath detests having to pretend to be happy when they’re sad, this only adds to their load - they are liable to retreat from the world and spend time alone.


If you can say yes to most or all of the above then you are most definitely an Empath.  I have lived with this for a very long time;  I am familiar with myself, my needs, and my quirky ways.  My advice is, take time away from modern-day stresses, materialistic forms, and use nature and animals to replenish your natural balance, else you may find yourself becoming overwhelmed, as I have, from time to time.  I have learnt how to balance myself with silence.