Saturday, 12 July 2014

SMOKE or OXYGEN? IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE...



Above is a picture taken at the Allen Carr's Easyway Annual Conference 2014 - with just a few of the therapists representing some of the countries from around the world who share the same passion.  

There are stop-smoking seminars in more than 150 cities in over 50 countries around the world, with passionate and dedicated therapists striving towards freeing as many smokers from the trap as possible.  Allen Carr's method has spanned over thirty years.  A scam? With a full 3-month money-back guarantee?  Er, I don't think so. Just one man's vision to save the world without perpetuating the problem by offering any kind of replacement nicotine products.

It's not often you can walk into a roomful of people of such diverse nationalities, yet share the same vision, the same goal, the same passion, regardless of language barriers.  I am privileged to be part of this Global Team, but I don't want you to take my word for it.  Have a look at an article written by a Journalist who recently attended a session - and see does it give you the courage to pick up the phone.  

We are waiting for you. 


[quote]
Journallist:  Anne Sheridan
Limerick Leader

"AGAINST a backdrop of bare concrete walls, smokers hung to the four corners of the enclosure like caged animals afraid to take their first steps towards freedom.
Heads were bowed in solemnity, desperate draws were taken on the cancer sticks, and prematurely lined faces looked relieved, depressed, afraid.
We were saying goodbye and stubbing out the last cigarette of our lives. 
The GAA complex in Mallow, Co Cork, may seem like an unlikely place to stop smoking. 
But smokers, like all addicts, would travel any distance to get their fix, and when they’re ready, would travel the same distance to try to stop.
It looked as if we were at a funeral, our own wake. The irony being that if we weren’t here today we could have been signing our own death warrant.
Moments earlier the final call of ‘last cigarette’ had rung out.
The chattiness of earlier smoking breaks throughout the day was gone.
“Isn’t she very good?”
“It makes complete sense.”
“The five and a half hours is going very fast.”
“I’ll tell you a short story now about how I tried to give up,” said the Corkman with the pipe.
We looked at each other with a wry smile, and lit another cigarette.
Now there was just silence. It was just past 6 o’clock, and less than half an hour remained of a day that would change our lives forever more - if we chose to let it.
As our instructor at the Allen Carr's Easyway to Stop Smoking clinic explained, the T-junction was right in front of us.
One path was familiar, ‘safe’ and yet self-destructive, that of the smoker; the other was unknown, daunting, and full of potential and endless possibilities.
What would happen tomorrow if we didn’t smoke?’ Nothing. ‘And the next day?’ Nothing. We would simply get on with our lives.
I had an image built up in my mind throughout the day that I would glide out of that seminar as if floating through fields of barley.
It didn’t happen. I stood in the wine section in Tesco overcome with indecision about whether to drink or not on that first night as a born-again non-smoker. I drank one glass, and fell asleep.
The next day my boyfriend had that worried look on his face, the kind that said ‘Maybe she should be sectioned?’, as I went from a state of hyper-ness to tears. It was ‘Sunday evening syndrome’ on a whole new level.
There have been a few more tears, but thankfully, calmness was restored quite quickly, as more and more nicotine left my system. 

Today there is none left, and I am a happier, more relaxed person than I have ever been since I stopped smoking (though on occasions, my colleagues might disagree!)
Whatever about the body adjusting to a whole new level of energy, the mind has a lot more to grapple with - and that is where the root of the battle in quitting nicotine lies.
I initially had trouble letting go, even though I was desperately anxious for ‘it’ to work.
As we paid our final ‘respects’, we thought about all the times we smoked, how they had punctuated our daily lives, controlled us, held us back, all the times they called on us to keep smoking, and keep that little niggling nicotine monster alive.
The times we perceived them to have given us pleasure - only to overlook the tightening of the chest, the cough, the anxiousness, the guilt, the shame, the self-disgust of being an addict, and worse, the most socially acceptable and life-threatening addiction of all.

Our addiction to nicotine, wrapped up in 4,000 chemicals, that we injected at least on the hour, every hour, didn’t make sense on any level. We were here to learn how to break free, and get back to our true selves.
Our addiction counsellor Patricia explained that she hasn’t had a cigarette in 12 years and said why she will never put one in her mouth again.
“I don’t want to be like you,” she said. 
“I don’t want your life”.
She wasn’t being callous. She was absolutely correct - we were all here because we didn’t want our lives anymore; not that we didn’t like them in their entirety, we just wanted to remove one crucial part.
I had had enough of being ‘Anne, the smoker’. It wasn’t who I was meant to be, nor is it meant to be the fate of any other person on this planet.
Patricia stuck a cigarette in her ear, and out of her nostril, and asked us how we thought this looked.
Ridiculous, of course. 
Smoking, although increasingly vilified, has become normalised. However, when you stop, looking at smokers stick cigarettes into their mouths becomes an increasingly bizarre sight and a strange phenomenon. You would wonder why anyone would do it. It would be laughable if it weren't so serious.

I had first emailed those behind the Allen Carr clinic in June 2013. It had taken me a full year to get on that bus to Cork. And I was as nervous as hell. Was it the right time? What if it didn’t work? 
Should I wait until after the next holiday / wedding / hen party?
It would have been a waste of five and a half hours, I thought. 
It was only when I smoked my final cigarette that I realised I was sacrificing a mere few hours to save the rest of my life; to live a happier, longer and healthier life.
What was six hours in comparison to the hours I had already wasted puffing my life away?
I wasn’t going to die, I was dying already through the course of my own actions.
Over the course of my smoking life, and having smoked a (modest) estimate of between 10-15 cigarettes a day, I have smoked more than 98,000 cigarettes.
Now, I can’t stop looking at the app on my phone that tells me how many cigarettes I haven’t smoked since the clinic.
The number is a tiny fraction of the figure above, but each day I take great joy in seeing it increase.

As Patricia explained, when we smoked that first cigarette we didn’t sign up to become smokers for the rest of our lives. 
We didn’t sign a contract, or make any commitment to ourselves, or the tobacco companies that we would sacrifice our own health and that of our loved ones to keep them in billions of dollars of profit.
Who was the winner here? Not the smoker.
Stopping smoking is not just about willpower - and I believe it does take some self control even with Allen Carr’s Easyway method. It’s about opening your eyes to common sense.
It’s also about debunking the myth the smoking does something beneficial for you - it doesn’t.

I have tried to quit many times before. I am still afraid of failure. I am still aware that it takes just one cigarette to become a smoker again.
I don’t know what the Allen Carr clinic did exactly, but although I still occasionally think about cigarettes, I don’t want to pick one up. It has made the hardest battle of my life immeasurably easier. 
Even in just a few short days, there is no comparison between the life of a smoker and a non smoker, and it keeps on getting better.
Patricia asked each of us in the session why we wanted to stop smoking. 
One mum explained how her partner would shrug away from her on the couch as she lent in for a kiss after a cigarette. Another said her kids would request their bedtime kiss before she went out for a cigarette.
A third mum kept smoking clothes to wear while she lit up. She shook her head at the incredulity of this.
Instead of grey smoking areas, smelly fingers, bad breath and dirty teeth, we imagined a different world. We were only a few short steps away from the freedom we always craved.
I said I wanted to do better things with my life than sitting there smoking cigarettes. I had wasted more hours than I could count doing that. Heads turned. We are all worth a lot more than our old-smoking selves wanted us to be.
Now, when the urge takes me, all I have to do is - keep walking towards those imaginary fields of barley, and think: 

“I am finally free”. 

[unquote]

- Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking sessions run in the GAA Complex in Mallow, Co Cork, and in the Red Cow Inn in Dublin
See www.easyway.ie, phone 1890 379929/ 01 4999010. 
Allen Carr’s Easyway clinics offers a 3-month money back guarantee, including two top-up sessions for those in need.
Head Office / International www.allencarrseasyway.co.uk











Tuesday, 24 June 2014

EULOGY FOR TONY

My Angels and my faith in all that is good gave me the strength, the courage and the will to read this tribute to my brother, Tony, at his funeral mass.  My strength comes from my belief in mankind, in my trust that there is kindness left in the world, and my hope that we shall all find Eternal Peace.  I thank the heavenly beings who gave to me a voice with which to speak, and a heart with which to feel.  For the unbelievers, may you find your reason, your core, your souls. 

Eternal Rest
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

SUNRISE 2/8/58 - SUNSET 17/6/14

My brother was born deaf.  Not slight of hearing, but stone deaf.  Never in his 55 years has he heard a sound, or a bird twittering, or someone singing, or even the wind in the trees on a stormy night.  To live in that kind of silence brings its own penance, for he was ostracised by a society that did not understand, or who were too afraid to try.  Communication was difficult, because he had not heard the sound of Words, and therefore his own interpretation of them needed a careful ear to listen, something not everyone was willing to give.

Before his accident, Tony was training to become a plumber – and he was always a diligent and hard worker.  When he was an apprentice and working for a large construction firm, there were those who would tie tin cans onto his overalls unbeknownst to him, and laugh as he walked around dragging them behind him.  There were those who did not tell him when the lunch siren had sounded, and so he missed meals on many occasions.  The only times Tony had so-called friends was on payday, when he was generous with his money and willing to buy a round so that he might have the company of fair-weathered fiends.

He was not lucky with the women, either.  And so Tony lived with many emotions – there was anger, hurt, and frustration.  There was a feeling of not belonging, of not being normal, of being the odd one out in a sometimes cruel and difficult world.  But he loved one thing, and that was Karate.  He adored Bruce Lee, his all-time hero, right until the very end.  And so he would practice his karate skills on anyone silly enough to stand close to him.  Sadly, I was not clever enough in those days to escape a couple of chops or kicks, but I learnt pretty quickly to be light on my feet where he was concerned.  As did we all, because all of us were used as targets from time to time.

After his tragic accident, and after being subjected to diabolical treatment in hospital, my father signed X on the card and brought his son home.  I will never forget the day my father carried my broken brother into our sitting room in South Africa.  Brain-damaged, they said.  A vegetable, they said.  No life there, they said.  Yet my brother cried when my father placed him in the sitting room, and his tears mingled with our own.  Real tears borne of a memory so damaged, but still functioning at some level – he knew enough to recognise Home.  I was thirteen years old when this happened, and from that day forth, all of our lives, every single one of us, was forever changed.

A funny thing happened, though.  My brother found peace in his tormented state.  He found God.  Each morning when we woke we would hear him shout “Good Morning, God!” in his guttural way.  With the irreversible damage to his brain, Tony could not remember yesterday let alone last week.  But there was one story he told, for 35 years, over and over again, that has never wavered, never changed.  He told of his accident, of being in the hospital, of floating outside himself and seeing people who visited him – people he had no possibility of knowing about, because not only was he deaf, but he was in a coma.  He told of a white light that pulled him, and that he was happy, ad that he saw a man in white with a long beard, and a silver thread connecting them both.  When Tony tried to reach him, this man told him “Go back, Go Back”.  And despite his best efforts, Tony could not reach the light.  This from a boy whose brain capacity was severely damaged by brain trauma.

He was sent back – that much we know.  For 35 more years.  For what?  Tony should have died in that accident, so severe was the trauma to his head and his body.  There was no reason, no purpose for him to survive.  And yet he did.  And the reason?  In my opinion, the Lord sent him back to us to teach us all lessons we had to learn.  Not one member of our family has been unaffected or unchanged by his accident.  We have each had the opportunity to reach deep inside ourselves to find compassion, kindness, empathy, love.  We have learnt that true joy lies not in material wealth, but in a smile, or a laugh, or a warm hug, or an honest kiss. 

For me personally, Tony taught me to be grateful, and humble, and above all else, he taught me to be kind.  Because he lead from the front.  Grateful for his meals, for the sun shining, for the dog coming in to see him, for the drives my father took him on, for the barbecues they had in summer.  Things most of us never stop to think about;  things we all take for granted.

And today we are returning Tony to his home, where perhaps he should have been sent 35 years ago.  But his work here is finally done.  He has brought laughter, tears, and heartache along the way, but above all else, he has found Love – in God, in his parents, in his siblings, and in himself.  May his suffering give us all a sign of what it’s truly like to be honest, pure, kind, and innocent.

May you travel safely, Tony, now that your time has come.  You are surrounded by the love you have taught all of us during your damaged life;  may you now transition home in peace, and may all the pain you have endured during your days on earth,  be worthy of the place to which we all seek to return : Home.

May you rest in peace.

A CATHOLIC GOODBYE...

There are many different religious denominations the world over, that have formed slowly over centuries for a variety of reasons.  Possibly due to historical accidents of geography, culture, and influence between different groups of individuals, people slowly begin to diverge in their views and opinions of religion.  This results in varying degrees of beliefs on theology, philosophy, religious pluralism, ethics, religious practices and rituals.  But which one of them is the right one?  Which one of them is true?


The above forms the general consensus of the formations of differing beliefs formed over centuries, but the common denominator of them all is that they are all a matter of personal perception.  And perception, of course, is influenced by personal experiences, life's challenges, and ultimately, spiritual awakening.  

Often people are confused between an Atheist and an Agnostic, and for intents and purposes of this article I would like to clarify as follows:  

Agnostics claim that it is not possible to have absolute certainty about God or gods, or - alternatively - that whilst individual certainty may be possible (perception), they personally have no knowledge to back up their claims either way.

An Atheist, however, simply believes in the absence of any God, or gods.  In other words, they believe in nothing.  

I think being an Atheist is unbelievably sad.  Even if they believed in Angels, or stars, or aliens, or were at least open-minded enough to believe that the possibility exists that there are Higher Powers out there in our Universe, is surely better than having an emptiness of nothing inside your soul?  I have met many bitter, unhappy, empty vessels in my time, and I've often wondered if they sought to find some kind of spirituality, albeit a flimsy one, is surely more fulfilling than having nothing at all?  Again, this is my perception, my opinion, and is based on nothing more than the reasoning of my own mind. 

I was born and baptised a Roman Catholic, and went through years of Catechism to prepare me for my First Holy Communion and Confirmation into the Church.  Is this a form of brainwashing?  Yes, of course it is.  Anything that is repeated often enough inevitably forms the basis of your belief system in life, like advertising. But it also gave me a grounding, a ruler against which to measure my decisions in life, a compass of right vs wrong, and it has kept me a good person all of my life.  And for that I shall always be grateful.  Granted, I have varying views on certain aspects of the Catholic Church and its stance on society, but nonetheless when the chips are down, it is the Catholic religion I am most familiar with, and therefore it is only the Catholic religion I can have a reasonably experienced opinion - or perception - of.  

It's amazing, really, that we say we are not practising Catholics, those of us who have chosen to be too lazy to rise on a Sunday to give thanks for the good things in our lives, yet when we want to get married, or have our babies baptised (for fear of future retribution), or want to bury members of our family, we become quite incensed if they dare ask us if we attend Mass regularly.  A kind of "I don't believe in the Catholic religion but please be there when I need you".  And they always are.  

For those of you who read my previous blog titled "He Ain't Heavy..." you might recall that my quadraplegic brother was very ill.  He has recently passed - last week Tuesday 17 June at 5.05pm to be exact - and I'd like to share with you the experience of a Catholic death, of what it entails, and of the purpose behind the long, drawn-out affair of the burial ritual.  In my opinion, remember.  For that's all we have, really, isn't it?

At around 4.30pm the family of my sister Bridget, my brother Bobby, my mother Margaret, my father Patsy, my daughter Christen, and myself, together with a Health Nurse, were gathered around my brother's bed, watching him grow paler, more grey, listening to his breathing become more ragged, wondering with each breath whether it would be his last.  As I held my hand to my brother's forehead, I was very conscious of the fear and hope in the room - fear that he would soon be gone, and futile hope that he might somehow, this time, pull through again.  To watch one's parents in that state of agony, of hurt, of sheer devastation is beyond what I can capture in words.  I had to be strong.  For them.  My sister and my brother were not present - in body yes, but in mind they were removed by pure and utter grief.  But it was his time, and at 5.05pm on the nose, according to the plastic wall clock in his room, my brother breathed oxygen for the last time, and passed to the world beyond.  

It is not necessary here to tell you of the emotions, the raw pain, the tears, the loss that other people in the room felt. That is private, and something that all grieving families have at one time encountered.  I can only speak for myself.  And whilst I shared the sense of loss, I was somehow in such a peaceful place in my mind that I released my brother to the arms of those that awaited him, because I knew it was time.  For him to rest.  He had suffered enough.  Death is for the living, it is not for the dead, for they have moved beyond the veil of an earthly being to the spirit world beyond.  And the living have to process that which has just occurred, and so the Catholic ritual begins.

News spreads fast, phone calls are made, people call to the house to see him one last time, to offer their condolences.  Family members walk away to grieve, to try and come to terms that we have lost our brother, and we stand lost, confused, not knowing what to do next.  Again, my sense of calm and acceptance at this time leaves me flabbergasted  I did not cry too much.  Why?  I still don't know.  I am yet to break and to grieve in my own time.  This was a time to be strong, for him, for them, for everyone, and I called upon my faithful Angels for their help during this time, and they did not fail me.

The Undertaker was called, and to say he was brilliant is leaving him short of what should be said. Compassionate, respectful, highly professional, nothing was too much to ask.  We met with him that night, and my brother was taken out on a stretcher at 10pm to be prepared for his final journey, and to be returned to his bed at our home at 11am the next morning, looking beautiful.  Yes, there is beauty in Death, too, when the suffering has left the skin smooth, the face calm.  He was a Bruce Lee fan all of his life, and so the family took a towel with Bruce Lee on it down from his cupboard door where it had hung for years, and placed it over his legs.  Bruce was going to fight his way through for Tony, come what may.

My sister, brother, daughter and I had work to do.  The coffin had to be chosen.  The flowers had to be sorted.  The Readings for the Mass had to be carefully chosen with the Priest in the sanctity of the Catholic Church.  Music had to be organised. What songs?  Not too sad, yet appropriate for his journey.  Notices had to be put into the paper, and on the radio.  A photograph that could be placed on the coffin.  And all this time, so many, many people calling to the house to pay their respects.  

Catholic burials are very fast.  Usually on the day of death, there is a Rosary said that same evening. Family members, friends, neighbours all gather at the house and together with the priest, we chant decades of the Rosary, and in its own way it is kind of cathartic, it numbs you, hearing those voices together praying for my brother's safe passing.  But we chose to have the Rosary on the Wednesday at 7pm.  I was so tired, so emotionally exhausted at this time, that I had gone home around 4pm and my daughter and I promptly fell asleep - it's what stress does to us both, it knocks us out completely.  Suffice to say I was late for the Rosary, woken only by the persistent ringing of the phone as my sister frantically tried to reach me.  They waited for us, and I am eternally grateful that I was there to hold my father's hand, whilst my sister held my mother's.  

Tony was then left to rest in his bed until 4pm on Thursday, Day Two, when the Undertakers came to remove him to the Funeral Parlour - called The Removal.  We were very conscious of our parents, and none of us wanted them to be left with the memory of Tony leaving his home in a coffin, and so we arranged that he be taken again by gurney and transferred into his final resting place without them having this picture imprinted on their minds.  The Removal was from 7pm to 8.30pm, and this is where the family sit around the coffin, open, as the town comes out to shake our hands, to say they are sorry for our loss.  At 8.30pm, the curtain was drawn around the coffin and the family, leaving us to say our private goodbyes and to see his face one last time.  

Pall-bearers were chosen, and Tony was heaved upon weary shoulders and carried out to the hearse, my mother struggling on her walker but determined to see her son home.  My father's car followed the hearse, and the rest of the mourners and family walked behind them to the Church - police stopped traffic for my brother, he would have been impressed with that.  At the Church, my sister and I had agreed we would wheel my brother to the altar ourselves.  And that was so hard I cannot begin to tell you, nor can I explain where the strength came from.  It's amazing what you find when you need it most. Prayers were said, and we departed the Church, exhausted, depleted, broken, to rest before the final day, the worst of the lot, Friday 20 June 2014.

Day Three - arriving at the Church, setting up the music, thanks to the knowledge of technology and the skill of my daughter, we set up speakers, we seated our parents, we guided cars to their places. Readings had to be shared out, who was doing what, who would take up the gifts to the altar, who was able to speak, who was not, so much to do, I had no time to grieve.  Mass commenced, with the family sitting up front in their grief, the coffin with our brother, and my parents' son, not two feet away from us.  I had written a Eulogy the night before, something I so badly wanted to do for Tony, my contribution, my words, to share with the congregation, and I called again upon my Angels for strength for one last day, just one more day.  All too soon the Mass was over, and it was time for me to do my bit.  My daughter came up with me, and said if I wasn't able to finish it, she would step in.  Just as well I was, because she was bubbling away next to me and wouldn't have been able for it.  She had been so strong, so very strong, the entire week, and she herself expectant with child.  I shall post the Eulogy as a separate blog hereafter.

The worst part for me, always, at any funeral, is the very end, when the priest anoints the coffin one last time, and waves incense over the coffin, the church bells ringing forlornly over the town.  The silence is so deafening that all you can hear are the sounds of hearts breaking.  To the final song of "May The Road Rise Up To Meet You", my sister and I again wheeled my brother from the altar to the hearse, and at this point my heart could no longer stay inside my chest, and made a run for it out my eyes.  I could not see.  But I could walk.  And so I held my head up and I walked my brother to the hearse, as did my sister, each of us on a side of the coffin, and the strength it took to do that, with people shaking our hands and patting our backs as we passed, is something again I cannot find the words to explain.  I turned once or twice to make sure we were slow enough, to wait for my parents, and to see my father, 88, and my mother, 84, behind us, broken, destroyed, I had to look forward, I could no longer look back.  

To the grave, a slow drive to his final resting place, more prayers, and then the final moment : the coffin being lowered into a hole in the ground.  Roses being thrown onto the coffin, my sister threw in a Springbok peak cap as a nod to his South African days.  More hand shaking.  My mother was so out of it she did not recognise anyone that came up to speak to her, yet her manners prevailed and she tried to be strong, and she was, under the circumstances, as was my father.  I am so proud of them both. Holding their hearts in their hands yet retaining their dignity.  Having the strength and the sense of righteousness to be there, to see it through.  

It is now Tuesday, one week to the day since my brother passed.  The house at home is emptier.  My mother keeps going into my brother's room and running her hand along his empty bed.  Reading his cards.  Touching his photographs.  My father is coping, in some strange way, but my mother, God be with her, is not.  I am trying to help her, and I'll keep trying.

"I keep thinking of when it rains," she says.  "He will be so cold, and when winter comes, with all that snow, him so cold beneath..."  

No, mam, he will not be cold.  For he is not there.  He left your home, that is where he spent his last moments, where he was loved and cherished and cared for like no one else could have done, nor should have done.  He was your son. and shall forever be thus.   She saw him, you know.  In the dining room.  And he was standing.  She did not see his face, but she saw his body, and she was afraid.  To me that is his way of showing her that he is ok, but for him to transition on, my mother must mourn and release him to the next phase of his journey.  And she will, given time.

So that is my knowledge, my experience, my understanding of a Catholic Goodbye.  Time to grieve, to mourn, to say goodbye, to process, to accept.  Three days.  Does this make it right?  I don't know. Would it have been easier to have removed him from home the day he passed, and never see him again?  I don't know.  Is an open coffin the right thing to do?  I don't know.  Is prolonging the pain the right way to process?  I don't know.  But it is all I know, and the tradition, the familiarity of the prayers, the understanding of the rituals, knowing the responses to psalms, how to say the Catholic version of Our Father, all these things serve to bring a sense of belonging, of not being a stranger, of not being alone. 

So what I do know is this :  to have nothing to believe in, to have nothing to hold onto, to have no faith, to have no sense of being part of a bigger world, is to live a bitter, empty, soul-destroying life on earth. There is no better peace than sitting in an empty church for a while.  A comfort it brings, if you allow it.  My Angels saw me through.  They gave me a strength I did not know I had.  For all of my life I have been afraid of death.  I have run from it.  My heart would beat faster as I approached an open coffin, my fears of what might lie beyond would petrify me to stone.   

But after laying my brother to rest, I discovered that if you do, in fact, ask, you shall always receive.

Be kind to everyone - and live your lives in peace and harmony, forgive those that have sinned against you, and you shall find peace within yourselves.



For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, 
the door will be opened


And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, 
encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.










Monday, 2 June 2014

CAN YOU LOVE WITHOUT RESPECT?



People are so quick to throw around those three little words : I Love You.  I wonder how many utterings are accompanied by feelings of Respect?   Can one exist without the other?  Can you love without respect?  And let's take that one a little further :  what IS respect?  How is it defined, how is it upheld, how is it proven?  Your actions prove respect;  the way you think about a person proves respect.  

But what if you meet someone who has no idea what this is?  What if this person is unable to respect his partner, despite saying that he wants to be with them?  And which party is more guilty of sin - the one who does not respect, or the one that allows it to happen?  I think both parties are guilty - and must both have very low opinions of themselves, and ergo, others, for this to be acceptable to them.

I had the most bizarre conversation with someone this evening, and it provoked enough thought to - yet again - put pen to paper.  I was having this chat with a friend, and somehow the conversation turned to gay sex.  Now this was a man I was speaking with, and he despaired at the thought of two men together. Granted, mental images of their private sex lives turns me off, too, but when I block out those images, I have no problem with two members of the same sex loving each other.  Because it is more than sex;  it is companionship, building a life together, sharing, caring, moving forwards in life and weathering the good times with the bad.  Sex is only a small part of their lives.  So I overlook that and suppress the nasty bits I don't want to think about.  The same applies to two women - I have no problem with it.  Just don't make a pass at me, I don't swing that way.  

So I probed a little deeper by asking more difficult hypothetical questions, such as:  

Would you sleep with two women, being a man?  Yes, says he, it's every man's fantasy.  

If you were in a relationship with a woman you cared about, would you have a problem with another woman in your bed?  No, says he.

If you were in a relationship with a woman you cared about, would you have a problem with another MAN in your bed?  And this was the shocker.  No, says he, we are all adults.

Now whilst I have no doubt he would stay miles away from a second man in the bed, what perturbed me was the nonchalance with which he was prepared to accept another man "giving it" to his woman. According to him, it would cause him no concern to watch another man being intimate with his woman, doing things to her that should be reserved for just them.  He is not a jealous person, he tells me. Really?  My question is then, why not?  She'd be even worse for allowing it - or wanting it - to happen.  
So in order for me to process this, I had to put myself in this situation - mentally, of course. Hypothetically, I am involved with a man.  Here goes:

The thought of someone I am involved with touching, and making love to (or just plain sex) another woman in my presence turns me cold.  It makes me feel quite ill.  In fact, even thinking about a person I have feelings for doing it to others IN HIS PAST makes me uncomfortable.  Because making love with your partner is incredibly intimate;  it is a time of bonding, a time of reaffirming to each other the feelings you share.  It is a mutual sharing of your bodies, of speaking to each other at a much deeper level, spiritual almost.  It is showing through your actions, your touch, your emotions, the way this person makes you feel.  It is, in my opinion, the epitomy of making love.

Even worse, the thought that my man would find it acceptable to allow another man inside me - in his presence - had me running for the vomit bin.  Surely the most beautiful part of a loving relationship is being secure, and trusting, in it?  How does trust come into play when you are content enough to hand your partner out like a sex toy, and say you'd have no problem with it?  There is something very unnatural about that thinking.  It is strongly indicative of someone who has no self respect.  How else could they justify it?

We are all adults?  Really.  Adults who have respect, and show it through their actions, do not say things like this.  The most basic instinct in a man - and a woman - is to protect and be possessive of his/her mate, and by extension, family.  Not in a jealous, nasty, manic way, but caring enough that you'd step in front of anyone who tried to intervene in your relationship - be it physically, mentally or emotionally.

So I have a question now to pose to this man :  How would you feel if you saw or knew that two men were entertaining your mother?  Or your sister?  One who supposedly cared for them, and one who was a relative sex toy.  Would you think the respective partner was showing love?  Respect?  Duty of care? Would you slap them on the back and say "nice one!"?  Somehow I think this particular person would beat the living daylights out of the partner who dared to subject people he cares about to this level. And yet, he says he has no problem to subject his own partner to this?  I don't understand.

Better yet - I don't believe him for one minute.  I think he would kill the bastard.  I think he would kill her, too.  He would be devastated, hurt, betrayed, broken.  How could he not be, unless he has no heart?  And he does have a heart, for I have seen it.  I see it in the way he cares for his family members, and I see it in the way he is kind to animals.  And neighbours.  And someone in need.  Someone with no heart does not have the capacity to feel empathy or show kindness to others.  

So what is the problem, then?  Again, we go back to fear and lack of trust.  Fear of rejection, fear of letting go, fear of getting hurt, so rather engage in random sexual partners without emotional attachment, than chance a ride on love.  Love hurts, right?  Yes, it can.  But it can also uplift, and take you places you never thought possible, but only if there is trust, and respect, to go with it.  

Trust is possibly the most important ingredient to bring to a relationship.  You can have great libidos, the same goals, dreams, desires, get along well, even wear matching spiderman suits during sex. However, without trust, it all means nothing.  It's empty, pointless, unfulfilling and soul destroying.

For some people, trust comes easily.  They work on the assumption that someone will be faithful until proven wrong.  If this is you, count yourself as one of the more fortunate ones.  Sure, that's not to say you won't get landed with a nasty surprise every now and again, but at least you're giving each relationship a fair chance.  Giving someone your trust means you are placing your heart in their hands for safekeeping.  It's a precious present, and it takes courage to do it.

Then there is the rest of the crowd - battle scarred, wounded, hearts sellotaped together with band-aids.  If you've been hurt before, or if you grew up with parents who cheated, trusting your partner can seem as foolish as standing in the middle of a four-lane highway and expecting not to be hit by a car.  Others again hover somewhere between the two.

Either way, if you are in a relationship, trust is the issue, and jealousy - a healthy amount of it - is natural.  Of course you should feel threatened if anyone tries to poach your partner.  Irrational, insane jealousy, however, is another issue altogether, but it is natural and in fact necessary to feel a healthy level of possessiveness around what you care about.  You wouldn't let someone steal your car without a fight - why let them steal your partner?  Of course, if you don't respect what you have, you will not care either way.  Let them steal the car.  The woman.  Sure, it's no loss, really, is it?

Thus, if someone tells me they don't care, they don't feel love, they don't get jealous, they are not bothered about their partner's shenanigans, simply reaffirms to me that they are emotionally-detached and reluctant to commit for fear of being hurt.

So if you are involved with someone like this, it is up to YOU to decide whether it is worth investing your time and commitment on someone who probably will never offer you the same in return.  You can't change someone.  You can lead by example.  Build their trust up.  But you cannot enforce change.  If they are flighty, if they move from relationship to relationship, if they are rue to own and question their own immorality, then who are you to think you can change them?  Don't be arrogant.  It has to come from them.

The good

It is a privilege to go through life with your partner.  Granted, there are more bad marriages out there than good, but there are wonderful relationships that have stood the test of time;  I saw an elderly couple in Tesco once - he had hair growing out of his large ears, no hair, stooped, crippled, and she was a doddering old woman with a trolley.  And there they were, his hand on her back, walking together, chatting away, and living their lives.  So beautiful.  

That's what I want.  To grow old with my mate, and to know the love he has is only for me.  That I have been enough for him.  That he has had no need to look around, or shop elsewhere for someone younger, better, brighter.  That his own grass is as green as he wants it to be.  That together we have survived all the threats that relationships encounter - other people;  disease;  hardships; financial pressures. Heartaches.  That we have celebrated all the highs and triumphs, the sunsets, the quiet nights in, the cosy winter days.  That when we look at each other, we just know.  And that comes from years of rubbing together, forging our paths into the rocky road of Life, so that no matter which way we turn and no matter what drives us apart for a short while, the road we are on will always lead us home. 

It may sound poetic;  something out of a Jane Austen novel.  However, throughout the ages, every writer and musician has written of this same desire.  Every song on the radio is either about finding the love of our lives, or mourning the loss of one.  We can't all be on the wrong path now, can we?

Love.  Respect.  These two go hand-in-hand but they can never be taught.  You either get it, or you don't.


Saturday, 31 May 2014

TOO ANGRY FOR LOVE.....


This is an article I have been meaning to write for quite some time.  We hear so often of PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, which can manifest itself in the form of generalised anxiety disorders, social anxiety, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder after being exposed to severe emotional trauma.  The medical industry are now recognising anxiety in its own right associated with divorce trauma, or the break-up of a long-term relationship, and the impact it has on Life going forward.  I am, at present, writing a book on this intricate matter, but in the meantime, some food for thought on this very common problem. 
[note:  "spouse" refers to both married and long-term relational partners]

Anxiety is a complex and powerful emotion.  The emotion, and the person's reaction to it, will then manifest in physical ailments, but for now, let's remain with the emotional aspect of anxiety.  Someone suffering with anxiety often suffers the loss of ability to trust, or feel safe, may experience increased worries or feel an excessive sense of responsibility to others, a weakness in self-confidence, and guilt.  As trust and confidence in oneself decreases, anxiety and fear are the two demons that come to the fore, and often manifest as Anger.  After all, if you're angry, people will stay away from you, not get "too close", and therefore you will be safe.  Right?

When the mind is in conflict, in other words, not at peace with itself, anxiety usually develops.  It is a learnt behavioural pattern, but first one must understand and accept it before one can choose to change and work with it.  Conflicts in the mind can have a damaging impact on one's physical and mental health and thought processes, which in turn can - and often do - impact on important relationships.  Anxiety disorders, although invisible to the naked eye, are as debilitating to the human body as a physical injury.  It stops you from functioning in a normal, happy and balanced way, thus impacting across the board on all aspects of your life.

Quite often, the origin of mistrust is often formed from hurts in the Father Relationship, and can unconsciously develop after being successfully repressed for years, even decades, before emerging and being directed at a completely trustworthy spouse - with incredibly damaging consequences.  The spouse with such a "father-wound" will often feel intense anger which is often misdirected at the person (s) closest to them.  Alternatively, they may shy away from intimate enounters for fear of losing control and being hurt.  

As with anger, anxiety and mistrust can develop at an early stage of life, be denied or repressed, and can then emerge to be misdirected years later.  When one does not feel safe in childhood, over-reactions in mistrust, fear, and irritability are very common in adult life. Anxiety is strongly associated with both the sadness and anger of life-hurts, and unfair treatment experienced in the developmental years.

At all times, your subconscious mind - or Higher Self, if you will - is communicating with us. Therefore, when this emotion is emerging, it is a signal that something is (or has) occurred in our lives that needs to be understood and addressed.  Ignoring it will do nothing more than exacerbate the symptoms.  

The ability to feel safe is essential to giving and receiving the emotion of Love.  If a spouse does not feel "safe" within themselves, they often turn inwards and there is a marked limit on the ability to give oneself, to receive love, and to cope with the demands of daily life, leaving them with a continual feeling of discontent.  Spouses can then respond to this anxiety by developing a need to remain in control, or feelings of irritability, anger, sadness, weakness in confidence, and even social isolation.  They fear criticism, are highly-sensitive, are reactive, fiery, and sometimes even cruel - all in the name of remaining in control.  However, guilt often ensues bad treatment of others, because at the core it is not who they really are.


It is so important to know this, and to understand it, because the lack of trust ultimately diminishes the spouse's ability to "feel love", and this lack often tempts the spouse to consider extra-marital affairs, separation or even divorce.  The flight or flight instinct is activated, and more often than not, escaping the situation rather than facing it, seems the easier option.  However, escaping is a short-term solution.  After all, the problem is in your head, and your head is going where you go.  Simple as.  

Right - so there's the science bit.  But what has this to do with divorce, or ending of a long-term relationship, and more importantly, how will this impact on future relationships?  
Perhaps you were feeling unloved, rejected, misunderstood, or unappreciated in your relationship. Whatever your feelings, the point is you were feeling unfulfilled and unhappy. The slightest provocation then has the power to make you retaliate in high defense mode (protective instinct), often resulting in a breakdown of communication, understanding, and empathy from either party.  Your spouse is not responsible for your peace of mind and your happiness.  That is your own cross to bear.  As a unit you should complement each other, so that one can be weak when the other is strong, and vice versa.  It's about balance. Friendship.  Trust. Love.  And to keep this alive, communication - open and honest - needs to be the foundation.


The ending of any relationship of substance can be so emotionally shocking that the body experiences the same kind of chemical reaction as people who suffer with post traumatic stress disorder.  Women are more likely to suffer the fall-out in the short-term, whilst men are more prone to long-term effects if they do not remarry, or re-engage in a secure and loving relationship. 


But what if they can't?  What if they cannot accept or receive Love?  What causes this?  How do they overcome it?  


Well, the fall-out is that the spouse now has a fear of becoming intimate, or close, with anyone in the future, due to a fear of being vulnerable.  So to "protect" themselves from this, control is necessary and a "closing down" of emotional connection seems a safe enough bet.  This is an incredibly intricate and in-depth subject which cannot be covered here in a mere blog.  However, the one emotion attached to all of this is the one I want to concentrate on here :  ANGER.


Relationship between sadness and anger

Anger manifests itself outwardly, but is made up internally of a combination of factors : depression, frustration, insecurity, hurt, and an inability to feel "safe".  Anger is a defense mechanism. It protects the true emotions within its folds. 

If you consider a wounded or cornered animal in the wild, he is vicious and snarling and snapping at anything that approaches - but this anger is based on fear, not aggression.  


This may, or may not, have stemmed from early developmental years, perhaps  a parent who was controlling, angry, critical, selfish, violent, or distant.  A parent who, perhaps, did not praise, encourage or support will often be a significant root cause of future anxieties. Perhaps, in the presence of violence, a child would feel helpless and frightened.  Perhaps one parent did not show respect or love to the other.  Again, this treatment is shown to the off-spring and it becomes a learned way to deal with the opposite sex which is transferred from the child to the adult they will become.  Two options here - either they develop a disregard for their partner, or they be come overly needy and paranoid.  


Many go on to develop an excessive sense of responsibility for others - perhaps siblings - which makes it difficult for them to relax, sleep, and lead healthy lives. They will suffer physical ailments such as IBS, pain, muscle spasms, coronary artery disease, headaches, nausea, rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, cholesterol, Colitis, to name but a few. Others find themselves drawn to healing careers such as nursing, social workers, counsellors, and alternative therapy healers.  By helping others, they are validating their own sense of self-worth which was missing in their own developmental years.  By helping others means they do not have to look too closely at themselves.  How do I know? Because I have been there.


By identifying the root cause of anger and learning to trust, Past fears and mistrust begin to have less influence over the Present, and the emotion of anger will begin to dissipate.  Conversely, the healing (or releasing / forgiving) of anger actually facilitates and strengthens and grows the person's ability to develop trust and a feeling of safety.  



In other words, forgiving the failures of people in your past can help you to move forward in a healthy way into your future.   Your past does not govern today - 
your choices do.  
Choices have actions, actions have consequences.  Choose wisely.

Emotional trauma and pain can have a powerful influence upon the mind, resulting in unhealthy and distorted thinking patterns.  Not everyone is out to "get you", although those kinds of people always walk among us.  The trick is to recognise the good from the bad.  For example, damage to trust can lead to thoughts such as "no one can be fully trusted", or "I need to control my emotions so that I won't be hurt in a similar way again, and the best way to do this is not to feel anything at all".  Run, rabbit, run.  

Additionally, damage to confidence from hurts can lead to cognitive distortions such as "I am a loser, I am unlovable, I am no good to anyone", giving you the excuse you need to detach from anyone who becomes close to you.  You are protecting yourself, and that's a good thing - but it is not a healthy thing when it stops you from living and feeling.  You will be dead long enough;  life - and love - is for the living.  

Breaking down the walls of anger is a big step.  You are going to feel vulnerable. Unprotected.  You are going to feel, perhaps for the first time in a long time, both happiness, sadness, hurt, and elation.  But feeling is good, it's what makes us human, it's what separates us from the animal kingdom.  You do not need to remain a prisoner of your past. However, you have to find your courage to admit, own, and release, before you will reach a higher state of enlightenment.  Which, ultimately, is peace.

Once you begin to understand yourself better, once you begin to realise that this whole entire world we live in is only about You and your Journey towards finding peace, harmony and love within You, only then will you be free from the chains that bind you.  Be kind.  Be understanding.  Be compassionate.  Let your heart shine, and you will draw to you those that are meant to be around you.  Open yourself up to new possibilities, take good things in your hands and hold onto them, let go of the bad.  Flick away negative people, or people who drain your energies, or who are not adding any value to your life.  This way, you are making room for better things.  

I had so much anger when I was younger;  I have none now.  It is all gone, released into the stratosphere.  Now I feel perhaps a little too much, but I am at peace with myself, and have a greater understanding that those who are showing signs of anger, resentment, frustration are only mirroring that which they have been exposed to in their lives.  People who run are not cowards.  They are hurt.  And afraid.  And probably lonely and in dire need of comfort, security, and love.  Isn't it a fright that we live on a beautiful planet with fellow human beings who have the power to cause so much distress in another?

I read this once : wouldn't the world be a beautiful place if humans had hearts like a dog - kind, honest, trusting, loyal, forgiving, consistent.  A mistreated dog, however, would show a different picture altogether - fear, aggression, doubt, and retreat.  

People who are lovers of animals get to enjoy the good bits from their four-legged furry friends if they treat them with love and respect.  Isn't it a shame that we don't learn to treat others as kindly as we do our dogs? The reason we don't?  Because we know our dogs, we trust them, and we are one hundred percent sure of their love and commitment to us.  And it makes us safe to love them back and express ourselves without fear of retribution or rejection. Dogs are honest - they will show you exactly who they are.  People are more cunning.

Be it animal or human, I practice love as best I can - not because I need anyone's approval, but because it makes me feel better about who I am. And it brings me peace.

And as you all know from my previous posts, Love, to me, is the greatest emotion of all.  


Friday, 30 May 2014

WHEN A CHILD IS BORN.........




It feels like forever since I was a child;  I can barely remember that kind of freedom - the long summer days, the careless wasting of sunshine days, of not eating vegetables or tidying a bedroom, or worrying about electricity bills and emptying dustbins.  These mundane chores and responsibilities were not the world of the young; they were taken care of by magical house fairies.  A hot meal on the table when you were hungry, a lift to school on rainy days, the comfort of a home in which to dream safely and without worry.  A plaster at hand for a grazed knee, new shoes when your feet began to grow, a gentle pat on the back when you were feeling sad.  Ah, the life of the young, careless whispers in the dark could not forewarn you of the tangled roads ahead.

And you grow up, don't you?  You can't wait to finish Primary School, Secondary School - you can't wait to leave home, get your first flat, your first car, your first love.  The enchantment of youth is surely wasted on the young, for we do not learn to appreciate the freedom we enjoyed until we find ourselves burdened by the life we yearned for, so disappointing to some.

My first flat, ah, I was so happy, so proud.  My bed had three legs and a brick;  my bedside tables were cardboard boxes craftily covered with fabric;  but the greatest of all was my own space, my own rules, my own regulations.  I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, without fearing the repercussions.  And boy, did we enjoy that freedom.  Linda, my lifelong friend, and I were sharing our new flat - and a fancy one it was, too.  It had two double bedrooms, two bathrooms, a shagpile carpet (no comments, please), a nice kitchen, and sliding doors opening onto a grassy garden, which further lead out onto a communal swimming pool.  Not bad for two girls in their early twenties.  Linda's furniture had been in storage, and I remember the day she was unpacking her curtains in her bedroom.

"SHIT!"  I heard her say.  "Look at my curtains!" she called.

I trundled along to her room and collapsed laughing - during her storage period, moths had eaten their way right through the folded curtains, and she held them open to show me the cut-out pattern that resembled the paper dolls we used to make as children, the pattern repeated over and over as the moths had munched their way through the unresistant fabric.

"It's not funny, Patricia," she admonished, but oh, it so was.

Years passed, life's challenges became a little harder, life's knocks a little stronger, but you grow, you survive, and you live to fight another day.  And so now, many years later, I have progressed from a reckless and sometimes inconsiderate Maiden, moved forth into being a Mother and all the beauty, heartache and sacrifice that it entails, and now finally, it seems, I am about to enter the beginning of my Crone phase.  What I have learnt along the way is kindness, understanding, acceptance, and compassion.  Things they never teach you in college.  And Mastercard certainly can't buy it.

My baby, once teeny small and so dependent on me, has grown into a beautiful young woman and has flown the nest.  She has been a young Maiden herself, found her Prince, set up Home, and is now about to enter her own phase of Mother.  Which makes me a Crone.  I am being unceremoniously promoted - or demoted - from a MILF to a GILF.  Dear God.  I am not sure how I feel about that yet.  I am not ready, my life hasn't started yet.  It feels like I'm on a moving escalator, going the wrong way and staying in the same spot, never quite reaching the starting point of my life.  But it's more than started. It's passed the halfway mark.  I better hurry up.

Perhaps this is what it means to stay in the moment.  I am blessed and cursed with a bad memory; blessed in that I cannot recall in much detail all the bad things that have happened to me, and cursed in that I cannot recall the good either.  I am too much of an "in the moment" kinda gal.  I guess in psychological terms it is called repression.  Best that it stays where I have buried it, because now I am entering the next phase of my life cycle, and I need to bring the wisdom I have learnt along with me.

My daughter and her beau are expecting their first child in December.  It will be a winter baby, this side of the hemisphere, and there are knitting needles a-clattering and thimble-pushing needles in frenetic activity across the water.  Not my activity, I must admit - I can't knit.  Nor sew.  Both stress me out big time.  I wish I could, because it would distract me from the thoughts that come tumbling into my head.  My baby is having a baby.  My baby is not a baby anymore.  She is grown, she is flown, and now having a babe of her own.  It is hard to compute.  It is delightful, exhilarating, exciting, yet simultaneously frightening, worrying, and nerve-wracking.

Will they cope?  Will she cope?  The late nights, early mornings, I smile in trepidation, for my daughter, she loves her sleep.  There is one fundamental difference, though, between her and I.  When I announced that I was expecting at 28 years of age, my family ran for cover.  Not you, they said.  No way, they said.  For I was a motorbiking, fishing, pool-playing, the-rougher-the-better kinda woman.  I had no interest in kids.  I didn't like them.  They evoked nothing in me.  Give me a puppy and I was a goner.  But a kid?  No way.

And yet.... into my life she came.  This little bundle of joy that brought me peace, solitude, love like I have never known, she became my conscience, my drive, my reason for trying harder, my compass in a stormy sea.  The bike was sold, the pool cue put away, to be replaced with car seats, cots and bottles - lest we not omit the nappies.  God, the nappies.  But like a duck to water, Nature did her thing and I became a Mother, the greatest achievement of my life.  You can keep the degrees, the certificates, the cars, the stuff.  You can have it all.  But never take away from me the gift of being blessed with a child.
The wheel has turned full circle.  I am entering the Autumn phase of my life, albeit a little early, and yet I have not felt enough of Spring.  I have not lived enough, loved enough, felt enough... yet.  Somehow I think December will change all of that, as I once again look down upon a tiny angel that will join our family, make me smile, keep my heart beating, evoke the feelings of a distant past and remind me that yes, life is good.  And there is always a reason to live one more day.

But my daughter, well, she was born to be a Mother.  Children flock to her, they adore her, she has a natural beauty and gentleness that they seek out, and feel safe with.  There is nothing false in her manner with them.  She is stern, but fair.  And so playful.  And they adore her.  So if I, who had nothing going for her as a mother when I started out, did such a great job with my own, I can only imagine what a true calling for Motherhood will bring out in her own.  Bless you, Christen.  Always.  Love with your heart. It is the only thing that matters in the end.

Congratulations to Christen and Kieran, two young parents in the making.  It's an emotional ride, but my, what a ride it's going to be.  May the Angels shine upon you both, may you be blessed with love, happiness, honesty, truth...and may you be forever young.

Always be forever young.

Where are you going, my little one, little one
Where are you going, my baby, my own?
Turn around and you're two
Turn around and you're four
Turn around and you're a young girl
going out of my door...
Turn around, and you're tiny
Turn around, and you're grown
Turn around, and you're a young wife
With babes of your own...