Tag Archives: belonging

On getting ill, Vulnerability and Taking Stock

  There is nothing like getting ill for raising the feeling of Vulnerability when you’re self employed! Especially when it comes out of nowhere and you think your immune system is rock solid.

The interesting thing about this week of not working and not feeling up to much though, is that it has made me think about one of my favourite enemies – SHOULD.

It’s a word I ban in my teaching room, yet being solitary and incapable made me realise just how much space I still allow it in my own life, and particularly since my daughter left for University.

I think any big change in life circumstances calls us to take stock, and with good reason, but here is (some of) my list of ‘shoulds’ that have been sharing my bed and head since she left and I have reviewed the 7 years since we came to York:

I SHOULD HAVE …..

  • worked harder
  • studied more
  • made more money
  • been more successful
  • recycled more
  • cooked better food
  • taken more care of the planet
  • kept the house tidier
  • been a better role model to my daughter
  • dared to try and have another relationship
  • practised the piano more
  • helped her practise her music
  • encouraged her to play more sport
  • encouraged her to act
  • helped the needy
  • volunteered more
  • complained less about poor service in restaurants (🙄 really??)

OMG no wonder my immune system was under attack with all that lot going on.  And what a relief to have to let go of it all and just sleep, and almost feed myself and definitely not tidy the house! Talk about physician heal thyself! Because of course it became blindingly obvious to me that I much preferred being with this gentler, more tolerant me than the me with the big stick and long list, and for sure the big stick didn’t make me achieve very much more, just made me and I bet my poor daughter, fearful and miserable and bowed down and unwilling to try, to take risks, or as my wise Safari guide friend says, to Dance with Life.

 

One of my other wise friends asked how I was doing with vulnerability because he didn’t think I was going to make much progress until I was willing to embrace it a bit more.  Interestingly I couldn’t really answer the question, because I have been so busy hiding from it that it hadn’t really come up!

Of course I have had the excuse of having to make a living in a small place where everyone knows pretty much everything and I couldn’t afford to make mistakes because it cost cost my reputation and my job, etc etc. Doesn’t mean I have managed to avoid making mistakes anyway, interestingly- just haven’t deliberately put myself in their way.

So now I find myself looking back on 7 years where I started out enthusiastically with high hopes thinking I could crack this and make a wonderful new life for me and my daughter, and realising that 7 years have gone by, and I have done some stuff, and we’re still afloat, which is something, considering, but in the major life choices department, I have not danced with my life, more like hobbled on crutches, and then I have got angry with myself for hobbling, and knocked the crutches out of my hands….

Hmmmmm. …..Old habits die hard, and as I regain my strength, I can see that the voice of SHOULD is waiting for air time and the slightest opportunity.

 

So this next little while is going to be interesting as I see if I can find a different way of being with myself, talking to myself, and flexing the muscles of compassion  instead of self judgment….

 

 

The 3 Illusions on which many of us build our lives

Many years ago I came across the book ‘The Heart Aroused’ by David Whyte – a book about bringing Heart into the Business world and found it inspiring.

Last week I came across one of his talks, where he propounded the theory of my title. These are the 3 illusions of which he speaks:

  1. That we can somehow construct a life where we are not vulnerable
  2. That we can somehow construct a life where our hearts do not get broken
  3. That we wish to see to the end of our life from where we stand right now

1. He talked of how we hope to avoid the pain of loss and illness. Yet just as nature is cyclical – an unavoidable cycle of birth, growth, decay and death, so too are many aspects of our lives. In wishing to only relate to the first half of that cycle, we find ourselves at war with ourselves and nature for 50% of the time.

That struck a chord. I am no lover of vulnerability, and have spent a great deal of time and energy from time to time, attempting to avoid it. Yet as Brené Brown so succinctly puts it:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

Oh heck……

2. It goes without saying then, that if we are going to live a life imbued with any of these qualities, that at some point, we will get our hearts broken. David Whyte argues that if we love the work we do, we will get our hearts broken professionally as well as personally.

Rock and a hard place then, folks. It’s that full cycle thing again. Most of us (all of us?) want to love, to belong, to experience joy and to connect. So apparently the choice is, allow yourself to be heartbroken at some point, to feel pain, sadness, rejection, or be alone, disconnected, numb and half dead while alive.

Oh heck…..

3. The recent spate of terrorist attacks on innocent people eating in restaurants or walking across the wrong bridge at the wrong moment, and the floods sweeping Africa, Asia and America are a stark reminder that we have no guarantee of safety in this lifetime. (Interestingly, reports of Hurricane Harvey flood my newsfeed – 9 dead, 30,000 homeless. I have to search harder to find the 1,200 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless in the recent monsoons, but that is a rant for another time).

Last December my father, though 88 and suffering from dementia, was hale and hearty. I stood in the shower one Saturday morning and suddenly remembered my passport was about to expire and I would not be allowed into South Africa until I had renewed it. That lunchtime I had a text from my mother to say my father had fallen and was in hospital, but seemed OK. He died at 4am the following morning…

I mentioned at the beginning of this month that the blogs I would write were a way of reflecting on issues that troubled me. If they help anyone else, great, but at bottom I am finding ways of pausing to consider the ramifications of the choices that I make in my life, to think consciously about them, and to try and change them if I find them unhelpful. The principles espoused in this last sentence are of course also the basic tenets of the Alexander Technique. They say you teach best what you most need to learn…..

http://www.davidwhyte.com/

REFLECTIONS ON MOTHERS’ DAY

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REFLECTIONS ON MOTHERS DAY

My parents, though British, have lived all my life in Africa. I am the divorced mother of an only daughter. Her father’s family have always got together at Christmas and celebrated lavishly. If I loved my daughter, it seemed obvious to let her spend Christmas Day with them, and I learned to hold the day lightly, and to celebrate whenever I was able to get together with what family I had here in the UK. But I also learned to dread the familiar question (as early as September) –‘What are you doing for Christmas?’

Today, having the gift of a daughter here, but a mother on the other side of the world, I have been aware both of the joy of having a child, and the sadness of those who do not have, or are not able to be, a mother; of those who have had a child but no longer are with them for whatever reason, for those who are not able to be with their mothers.

These days of supposed celebration, much touted by the media, are often for many, a reason to feel disenfranchised, on the periphery, lonely and not part of something which feels important.

Because I know that pain, I wanted to write something to let those people know that they are being thought of, and reached out to, even if only in writing.

My training in Alexander Technique taught me the importance of peripheral vision. On days like this, this translates for me into being aware of those of our friends and acquaintances who may be feeling isolated, and finding ways to connect with them.

As someone who faced the very real threat of losing a child in the process of divorce, I also wish to encourage everyone who knows of someone in that situation to do as much as they can for any parent (mother or father) to help them bear that excruciating loss, and further to help prevent it if at all possible.

I have been pondering what it means to be a mother:
• Motherhood is a lifelong commitment, whether one outlives one’s offspring or not
• It is a gift that demands one’s utmost – in creativity, resolve, patience, selflessness, energy, time, fierceness, and longevity of commitment.
• It is way of loving which transcends dislike, exhaustion, frustration and pain
• One can leave country, city, town, village, job, lover or husband, but for me the bond with my daughter is the one constant that it would be unthinkable or impossible to sever. Even as I write this, I am aware that for some, because of fear, illness, pain, or addiction, this may not be true, and the children of those mothers carry the excruciating pain of rejection – whether or not that rejection was deliberate or unconscious.

And those who have not been granted the gift of motherhood have to find other ways to express their creativity, resolve, patience, energy, time and commitment without the daily reminder that children offer. It is therefore a harder task, and I honour those who manage it.
So while I rejoice in this ‘Mothers’ Day, for what it is worth, I send love and good wishes to all those women for whom this day would otherwise be one of sadness, loss or isolation. And to those who have chosen otherwise, I wish them a very happy ‘in-Mothers’ Day!