Hope is the fuel of progress and fear is the prison in which you put yourself. Tony Benn

My work as a mentor and personal development trainer brings me into contact with people who have lost all hope: their script is so powerfully bleak that it would be easy to feel as though I am drowning, just by listening to them talk. But it is my job to throw them a lifeline, not to drown with them: if I can’t see beyond their hopelessness, then how can I expect them to? I tell the people I work with that they are absolutely brilliant at convincing themselves that life will never be anything but hellish, but that no matter how powerfully they project this I will never, ever believe them. This often makes people angry and afraid in the short term but sometimes by the time we say goodbye, together we have sketched a mental note which says ‘I can and I will’ and this is the beginning of a new chapter.

I consider it a privilege to hold on to hope for someone that isn’t ready to reach out and grab it yet, but to be truly effective in my work I have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk: people know whether you are authentic. It leaks from your every pore. Part of what I do is simple salesmanship: I can’t sell the idea that life can be brilliant unless I am walking advert for the notion. If I am miserable, you won’t believe there is any point in reaching out for something different. I don’t give the impression that my life is perfect: I have subtle ways of letting people know that I have problems too, but that it is possible to accept this and still move forward, even if just inch by inch. Integral to this process is the ability to hold on to hope, no matter how bleak your circumstances feel. Our experiences shape our beliefs and our beliefs shape our experiences: it’s a subtle interplay between the two that creates our world. Many of the people I work with have had some awful things happen to them, and for this I have enormous compassion; however, I also believe it is possible to draw a line under the past and start with a blank slate, tomorrow. All that is required is hope, which is essentially the belief that things can be different than they are. A lot of what holds people back from making this leap of faith is fear: a negative script can also be comforting. It is what you know and feel comfortable with. To live in hope requires something more of you, opens possibilities: light, when you have been in the darkness for so long can hurt the eyes. But in light we can see where we are going, direct our steps and choose a path.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to do the work I do and I don’t believe it is any coincidence I was drawn to it. It has given me meaning and my desire to be good at it has meant that I have made changes to my own script, and begun to further evolve and grow as a person. Changes are afoot in my career, but I will never forget the people I have worked with over the past year: they have taught me so much. I hold the hope of progress still for every single one.

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Pebbles

Pebbles knock against my bones

I turn like a dog in his basket

sway in the hollows beneath my numb limbs

but the light is fading

Flies swarm our picnic leavings

so we pack the dirty plates

and wrapped in our crumby blanket

sore stumble to the car

 

In the car park

a lone plastic cooler stands

on a white line at the edge of a parking space

well used and forlorn

 

I talk through the medium of car door

 

Words fall from my dry mouth

like stones

instead of water

I drink you in

taste days spent writing

the metallic tang of dehydration

italics and ideas

half boy half man

the small animal

of your tongue

resting on my upper lip

 

Days and nights

of liquid bliss

whispers, wishes, wanting

and kisses so

long

we come up for air

divers

contorted limbs burning

heads bursting

staggering drunk on lust

blood migrating south

on the updraft of our breath

 

Curtains half drawn against

the summer light

I forgot to guard my heart

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Genealogy

 

At the railway station she pushes and elbows her way through the crowd. She just wants to get on the train, not to lose sight of her sister, for this part of her journey to be over. She doesn’t know that she will never see her parents alive again. She doesn’t guess that this moment will be replayed forever in the scribble of her pen. She doesn’t know that she is a poet, this Jew child escaping Hitler. Forty years later she sits at a desk in the semi dark of twilight and writes a poem for the grandson she will only ever see twice. He is tied to a dining room chair by a bed sheet, pulling faces at his sister, similarly restrained. His mother is sitting in the kitchen next door, crying softly, her cheeks red from the effort of wrapping the sheets around her children, tying tight knots. In an hour the children will be asleep, forcing the chairs to tip, their small faces soft in repose. A string of drool escaping from the lips of her son makes a wet patch on her shirt as she carries him to bed, her eyes still red. Somewhere in the endless heat of the Middle East their father is learning to fire a gun in the desert. The children are as far from his mind as the reality of death, so life affirming is this moment; what purpose is in the crook of his arm as he aims and fires at the horizon, how much a man he feels. In a bar five miles from the home of the children, a man with a jowly face and sallow skin around his eyes is drinking whiskey. He does not look like a monster. He has sad eyes. He is lonely. One day a woman who he has never met will be hanging dead from a noose made from shoelaces and neckties knotted together, and her last thought will be of this man. But he will never know her; never look into her eyes and see the hatred floating on the surface, like filthy petrol scum.

 

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Biography

So many girls and women in my story: it’s overflowing with them. Blonde, brunette, red headed- all of them serious. And fathers and daughters- absent fathers and present fathers: it’s all the same in the end. They thread their way through the girlhood self-narrative like clumsy stitching. These women are artists, scribblers, diarisers, poets, novelists- to varying degrees- the best a published author, never populist, but in print; the worst a writer of terrible, cliché poems about sexual desire. And then there is me, who has the biography of a writer- the miserable childhood, in which survival relied upon the reading of others, de-coding their double speak; the voracious book reading, classics all devoured like so much breakfast cereal by the age of eleven; the early attempts at poetry, aged 9 and later, the implausible short stories with nuggets of gold; the love of language, leading to the first class degree in literature at a good university where a published author lecturer nurtured and nudged raw amoebic talent; the urge to write, to speak, to sculpt, to capture, to understand; seeing the profound in the mediocre every day, measuring time in sentences, paragraphs and chapters instead of minutes, hours and days- but the novels don’t come, they won’t write themselves. Life comes. And now, even when history is at my feet, begging me to write it, I see only a basket of snakes, weaving in and out, hypnotising me- I cannot even see which tail belongs to which head. I could become a snake charmer, but a snake charmer is not a writer.

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Letting Go…

There is a beautiful song by Nitin Sawney which kind of sums up how I’m feeling today…

Ok, ok, I know I said I’d post once a week but I’m still on holiday right now so it’s allowed!

One of the first ever posts I left on here, about a year ago, was about coping with traumatic life events, and when I talked about about my experience of doing this, I put a little message in brackets which said (more on this later)- well, this is the later, which I didn’t know at the time but there we are. I had a HUGE epiphany today. I’ve been dabbling in mindfulness, not for the first time, but the first time in a long time. I’ve had a bit of a miserable Christmas if I’m honest, and been fighting feeling all those resentful, why me feelings about it- ‘It’s my first holiday since August and the last until I don’t know when, why wasn’t it happier?’ I think mindfulness practitioners call this ‘rumination’, the process by which you feel an emotion which you find negative, and your brain jumps in and puts a further negative spin on it: following this road takes you to some pretty dark places, I know it. Well, I decided not to ruminate- my Christmas present to myself- and instead, every time I felt desperate, and sad, I put my ruminative negativity (you are a misery, your life will always be rubbish, blah blah) into a cloud and floated it off into the sky, then, I sat down and tuned in to the sadness, breathed into it and said ‘welcome.’ (I guess that last sentence is a bit trite: it’s not as simple as it sounds to say welcome to a pounding heart and churning guts, but it gets easier with practise.)What happened when I did this today, is that instead of being caught up in my ruminating intellect, my senses opened and sent messages to my brain about where these feelings originated, what they are about and what I can do to move my life forward. Over the period of the last few days, slowly, a new clarity has appeared: I know where I need to go, I know what I need to do, I have a had a taste of serenity, of the feeling that, what happened over the last week needed to happen, that life is unfolding as it should, that it will continue to be difficult at times, and joyous at times but that I can and will always cope with it, whatever it is. I happened to be driving in my car at the time and the song Letting Go was playing, so hence its mention here. It felt serendipitous, as there are some people in my life whom I need to let go of and hanging on to them has been hurting me, and them. It’s a bit more complicated than I can explain here, but I need to let them go, so that they can return in a healthier form, or not at all: I guess that bit is beyond my control and I wish them love and light in their journey too.

The human psyche is so complicated: right in the middle of the moment of serenity I started to panic that it wouldn’t last and of course, it disappeared! I reminded myself that everything is transient, I just have to accept whatever comes: serenity or lack of serenity and of course, it returned. Happy New Year WordPress lovelies…may your ‘it should be’ become ‘it is’ and your “I want’ become ‘I have’.

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December 31, 2013 · 6:36 pm

On being OK with being OK…

I had a long and lovely lunch today with a true and trusted friend whom I love. (How pleasingly alliterative that sentence was!) I wasn’t my usual, fizzy self: I often find, that once the truly joyous bit of Christmas is over -giving to my little ones and making sure they have a wonderful day- and the new year draws closer, I become somewhat brooding and retrospective. I ask myself where I am going, what I want from the coming year and dwell perhaps a little too much on what I don’t have and would like. For me, this isn’t about material possessions: I am not lusting after new cars, or bigger houses, but rather examining the quality and quantity of my relationships with others. Having been through an incredibly heart wrenching break-up/make-up scenario with my partner over the last few years, a drama which continues to play out, wreaking havoc with my emotions, I found myself crying into my wine on Christmas night, having seen on Facebook that a guy I once dated has just got engaged. He, and his intended, looked so happy that I fell into a well of self-pity that I just couldn’t seem to clamber out of. Why, I asked myself, is my happy ever after taking so long to arrive?

I poured all of this out to my beautiful friend, who after a few rough years, finally got her happy ever after when she married her partner, and father of her equally beautiful son, last year. Her response surprised me: she told me that she had been grumpy and touchy over Christmas too, which had impacted on her partner and was now making her feel a bit guilty. Oddly, this grumpiness was also bound up with a Facebook induced disgruntlement: she noticed that an old school friend of hers had posted a picture of her and her husband on the impressive veranda of their new home, in Africa. When her husband, a steady and pragmatic man known as Bear, who is not prone to flights of fancy, returned from work, she greeted him with, ‘I think we should move to Africa, or France, or get a place out in the country, miles from anywhere.’ His reply? – a simple but effective ‘No’. It sounds like a rather terse response, but he knows her so well, and loves her better. He is her ballast in the stormy sea of life, and while she wanders around looking for the next challenge, the next achievement, and the next celebration and paints all her experiences with high visibility gloss, he is understated and hard-working: for him, things don’t have to be amazing, they just have to be good enough.

When we had finished laughing, we explored our disgruntlements together over a glass of vino, and came to some rather enlightening conclusions: Facebook can be depressing ( so different from the wonderful warts and all human warmth I have encountered on WordPress), it doesn’t represent reality (tsetse fly, malaria, droughts, snakes- beautiful friend is NOT an intrepid girl), it can bring out the worst in human nature- jealously and feelings of inadequacy and finally and perhaps most importantly, that my beautiful friend has to stop believing that life should turn out like an 80s movie, that she is addicted, as am I, to overachieving and being seen to be doing well, and making everything amazing, instead of just, well, nice or good enough and that this doesn’t lead to happiness or contentment. Perhaps, Mr Bear has it right? I think that is, unconsciously, part of the reason she married him.

My New Year resolutions: to start my new job as I mean to go on, by being good enough, and not spectacular; (another down side of expecting so much from life, is the way in which you punish yourself, and others when it doesn’t live up to expectation: my friend is a teacher, and if she takes one less than enthralling class, she feels utterly inadequate and useless); to count my blessings every day, and narrativise my life, and the lives of others, in ways which do not leave me feeling inadequate and depressed. Is my happy ever after already here? – But, because I am convinced other people are having a better one, or it doesn’t match the one in my head, I can’t see it. Maybe I had it and it didn’t last because there is no such thing. But I have two beautiful kids, a wonderful family, a new job, a nice home and a friend like beautiful friend, whom I can pour my heart out to and who understands. In 2014, I am resolved to count my blessings.

Her New Year resolutions: to stop painting everything with high visibility gloss (she started this one straight away by admitting that the spa we went to before lunch was, not amazing if it had been a bit hotter, but shit because it was cold and that the lunch was not amazing, but just really nice and then squealed about liberating it felt to tell the truth!) We decided that from now on, amazing will be reserved for weddings, births and the like and coined a phrase, deciding that we need to learn to be OK with being OK. Not amazing, not brilliant, but…well, OK.

I love beautiful friend: she called me later and thanked me for an ‘amazing day’.  Oops.

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Filed under General, Musings on Life, Personal Growth

Hurry up and get here 2014!

I’m not sure I know where to start: it has been a while. I think I have forgotten how to think, type and construct sentences so bear with me reader: if I still have any…

Ramblings, Spoken, Rara and Panda, to name but a few, I have missed sharing your ramblings (Rambly’s ramblings- nice!) and posting my own. I have forgotten how to write, but I remember that there is a lovely community on here: if it was a thing in the real world, this blogosphere, I imagine it would be a rather bohemian cafe,  lined with books of every kind. Oooo, can I have waiters on skates delivering delicious cakes and cups of tea? I’d like a comfy seat in the corner please, where I can watch all the comings and goings of you beautiful people unobtrusively. It really has been 6 months or more since I posted: a really stressful time in which work took over my life and my health started to deteriorate. During this time, I let go, one by one, of all the things which made me, me, including writing, and become a sort of robot, shuffling through the days fizzing with stress, holding on to just enough energy to come home and be a mum. It doesn’t help that I am an all or nothing sort of person: if I can’t blog daily, I lose impetus; if I get a job which is overwhelmingly difficult, I throw myself into it determined to conquer until I fall flat on my back.

However, all that is about to change- fingers crossed- I found a new job, which I start in Jan of 2014. It promises to be much less stressful and I am determined to start as I mean to go on, by being good enough at it, and letting myself grow into the role slowly, instead of throwing myself into it with an unsustainable gusto. I am also going to start blogging again and accepting that I won’t be able to do it every day, so once a week or fortnight is enough! I’m learning you see….

So, Happy Christmas to all: I look forward to catching up with your year and sharing some of the year to come albeit in bite sized chunks. It’s good to be back. 

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