Sorrow, pain and hope

The Invitation
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

From Lyn Thurman (who wrote The Inner Goddess Revolution), quoting Ernest Hemingway: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

From the Dalai Lama:  “Hard times build determination and inner strength. Through them we can also come to appreciate the uselessness of anger. Instead of getting angry nurture a deep caring and respect for troublemakers because by creating such trying circumstances they provide us with invaluable opportunities to practice tolerance and patience.”

“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.”
Oscar Wilde

“You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.”
Oscar Wilde

“If someone treats you poorly, keep being you.  Don’t ever let someone else’s bitterness change the person you are.”  (Ayurveda website).

“If I keep a green bough in my heart the singing bird will come.”
Chinese proverb

 

 

 

From Darkness into Light

Easter 2016 (5)
Down in the valley bottom

The cows ambled in an orderly line returning from milking,

Hugging the field edge.

Evening spring sunshine burst goldenly –

Suddenly – (then faded)

Against the grey distant rainclouds feathering the further hills.

Twin souls shone in the summer, and

All basked in their glimmering goldness.

Did it rain that year?  Nobody could say for sure:

Their adoration glowed so brightly

Happiness poured forth, a warm bright sun

Covering everything in the miracle of new love.

It was a marvellous, wondrous, majestic time.

Then early one morning on the cusp of winter

He left.

The door banged shut and the house echoed emptily.

She tumbled blindly, cascading, spiralling

Down

Down

Down

Into the deep dark pit

Stripped of appetite, of flesh, of energy.

Desolation and despair engulfing, smothering her,

Their thick heaviness stifling all feelings.

Null and void

She gave up the struggle of grappling with her inner fears

And closed her heart to pain; to love;

Felt nothing.

And yet too much.

The torture of a broken heart;

Too great a pain, this time, to cover it and walk away;

Too deep a love, too profound the lessons to learn

To ignore it.

Yet not forgotten, not alone:

The miraculous hands of friendship reached out;

Pierced the walls with kindness.

Brick by slow brick they pulled her, lifted her;

Stone by hurtful stone she clambered,

Climbed, scrambled, hands bleeding,

Heart bursting –

Eventually raised her arms, spread her wings

And flew

Free

Up and out of the blackness.

It was dazzling out there in the world, in the light,

In the unaccustomed brightness.

But the strength of emotions

Was life coursing richly through her veins:

An awakening; an opening; a rebirth.

Up in the woods on the hills the trees stood black and stark.

An exhilarating icy wild wind

Blew away the remnants of winter.

Through the devastated woods – nature’s clutter

More beautiful than mankind’s –

Yellow bursts of jubilant daffodils shone,

Shouted joyfully against the brown of the earth,

The grey of the sky;

Nodded their heads, “yes, look closely!”

Buds on trees;

The glorious green shoots of spring underfoot;

The colour of the heart opening: a widening door.

Everything in its season.  Live life.  Fly free. Shine.

If this was the last day of my life…

Out running in the woods the other day, I felt as if there was something on my mind which I couldn’t quite grasp: some concept or certain thoughts were just out of reach of my consciousness, but I knew they were there.  I was worrying about money (more specifically my income) and in the end the only thing that came to me was ‘what would I be doing if this was the last day of my life?’

I wouldn’t be worrying about money.  That’s not to say that I don’t need to try to ensure that I have enough money coming in to cover my costs and for some treats (I would very much like to take the children on holiday abroad, as much for my own sake as theirs).  But I wouldn’t be running around Ridge Woods with ‘money’ prying on my mind and preventing me enjoying my run.

I didn’t completely come up with an answer to what I would be thinking about or doing if this was the last day of my life other than in one way or another I’d be trying to live life to the full, and to be happy.  I also concluded that I would rather live each day as if it were my last just in case it is.  A friend is fond of the saying ‘we’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time’.  Whilst there is something which could be taken as quite selfish about the last part, it’s a saying that’s always made me think: we’re only here temporarily – and, as far as we know only once – so make the most of it and be happy.  On the same day or the next my Italian calendar also had a saying of the Dalai Lama’s about being here to be happy (there are loads more fantastic quotations from the Dalai Lama at GoodReads.com and it’s also worth looking at his website).  It’s something I’ve been struggling with recently – I did feel happy and felt I had regained a certain equilibrium, until my ex-husband threw a comment out the other day and then my daughter did something which hurt me.  And I think we’re somehow brought up to think that there’s something wrong with being happy: that we don’t deserve it or should feel guilty for feeling happy when others don’t.

This morning I was getting ready to go out for a bike ride when I picked up a book which I bought as a complete spur of the moment purchase when I was buying some music online.  It’s called The Untethered Soul (by Michael Singer) and the chapter I opened it at was talking about happiness.  Now – if you think anything a bit spiritual is mumbo jumbo and claptrap, you may as well stop reading this blogpost now.  I happen to think there’s an inner part of us, call it spirit or soul or awareness or whatever you will, and I believe we’re capable of somehow tapping into that deep well of greatness inside us and not only being happy but also of being altruistic.  Self-esteem comes from there (the saints are no pushovers) but so does the ability to transcend potentially negative experiences and turn them into positive ones, by learning from them and using them to develop ourselves.  This chapter was talking about the way to achieve that, by opening up our hearts (or our heart chakras, if you want to use a yogic idiom).  I remembered one time recently when I had done just that, I had had a very positive reaction – but I had failed to carry it through.

Interestingly, the book starts with the exact same Shakespeare quotation I have used on the Eight + 1 concert programme: one which has always felt as if it held a profound truth for me.  “This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Being true to oneself means having the self-esteem and self-awareness to do so and not being afraid of the ups and downs of life or of what other people may do ‘to’ you.  I also think that by following this ‘open’ type of path you truly become a ‘free spirit’.  That is, not someone who is careless of other people or selfish but who ultimately can transcend the things that hurt him or her and make life better, not just for him/herself but for those with whom (s)he comes into contact.

The difficulty is, of course, doing that all the time, particularly if your past (your ‘baggage’) has taught you to close up and become defensive or detached when you’re hurt by something or someone.  The chapter I was reading was talking about opening up, facing up to the pain, and using it.  In the same way as you would be aware of the pain in your body telling you something is wrong, pain in your heart or mind is telling you something is wrong in your psyche.  I think this is why I came off my anti-depressants sooner than the Doctor would normally have recommended: I felt I wanted to experience my feelings, even those of pain, in a more genuine way and not just to camouflage them.

I’m sure there will be plenty of future times when I want to run away and hide from pain; when my reaction is anger, removal or detachment.  But if I can at least remember to be more often conscious of what I am doing and to stop myself, I hope I may learn to be a more loving, relaxed and happier human being, beginning with with my beautiful, feisty, gorgeous, bright daughter whom I love to bits whether or not she thinks she loves me.

So, if this was the last day of my life I would be trying to be loving and to be happy: to enjoy whatever I was doing.  Part of that is also to be brave; to be fearless and open – to face up honestly to things that I’d rather not face up to and to be open to all experiences that life can throw at me.  I would be trying to live with an open heart: and I would start by apologising to all those I have hurt, intentionally or unintentionally.

I was lucky that today I had a great bike ride – which I’m hoping to turn into a feature soon – in the Good Friday sun, and a conversation at the end of it which seemed, synchronistically – even serendipitously – to confirm my thoughts.

And I hope that there will be many more days for me to live my life yet.

Aim for the clouds

Valentine's Day on The Ridge (2)
Snow on Cold Fell

We have fab. skies in Cumbria: you can’t help but stand and stare at them sometimes, and feel your inner self somehow being tugged up towards them, whilst your feet remain on the earthy – and often wet and muddy – ground.  The trees at your side reflect your stance: their roots deep into the earth but their branches reaching up for the clouds.  When I sing I feel the same: my feet are rooted to the ground, giving me a firm base, but my voice and my heart are trying to reach the sky.

The weather has been simply stunning recently and the outdoors has been calling all the more loudly than usual.  Whilst I’m desperate to get out on my bike, I know that I’ll find it uncomfortably cold: and also rather than cycling for hours I do have plenty of other things – including work – which I’m meant to be doing (and have, in fact, done quite a few of).  I have however been out for a run for the past three days.  Each time I’ve run up to the Ridge and to Ridge Woods, my breath short in my chest to start with as it’s so cold, my fingers and toes icy.

Valentine's Day on The Ridge (1)
Looking north

I had my camera with me yesterday and took the photos here: I wish I had taken it today.  As I got to the top of the first hill and glanced across to the north, to the Scottish hills, I exclaimed ‘Wow’.  The white frosted icing covered mounds in the distance shone in the sun under a bright blue sky; and once again I was struck by how much I love living in the countryside, as the scenery changes from one day to the next and you’re so aware of the seasons.

I’ve said it so many times before: my spirits feel lifted (and also calmed) when I’m out running, particularly at the tops of hills.  I feel a strength in me to overcome all obstacles, whatever they may be.  Yesterday all the times I’ve been told I ought to or ought not to do something had been spiralling in my mind before I went out, and whilst I was running I was aware how completely disregarding them had not resulted in complete disaster but often taking what had appeared a risky step had resulted in something positive.

Almost as a poem they listed themselves, the do’s and don’ts which had come sometimes from my own worries and insecurities and sometimes from other people:

“you said I was crazy to switch to music…”  Look at me now – I’m a singer; a good singer…

“you told me I was not to chuck in a well paid job and go to be a holiday rep…”  But I had one of the best experiences of my life, and came back with a calmer attitude to ‘career’ and continued up the career ladder more quickly, confidently and successfully than previously – it got work into perspective

“you worried about me having children in my 40s, even saying ‘was it wise’ when I was pregnant with Edward…”   Look at my three gorgeous, healthy, lively children, who have given me so much self-confidence and love

“you said a freelance lifestyle wasn’t reliable enough; that the income wouldn’t be steady enough…”  It’s scary but it feels like exactly the right thing to do, it feels as if I’m getting the balance right, and I’m convinced it’s going to work

“you told me I wouldn’t be doing mountain biking ‘in a few years’ time’; that I was too old to be entering long runs…”  Well, I don’t see why not.  I’m still trail running and skiing and this year is the year that some of us ‘from the old days’ are going to get back together for a mountain biking weekend – the only question being whether we drag our children along as well.

“you said my husband shouldn’t leave me…”  But he did, and what a gift he gave me: more freedom to be myself and for us both to be happier.

I loathe 9 to 5; what I ‘ought’ to do; what is ‘wise’; what is ‘sensible’.  All too often I get wound up and worried by thinking too much about what I ought or ought not to do – things always work best when I follow my gut feeling, my intuition rather than listening to insecurities and doubts.  I’m not a crazy risk-taker but David and my sister certainly always thought I was more likely to take risks than they were.  Some of the people I most admire are those old people (aged 80 or so) who still run marathons or do parachute jumps.  Many of them are far braver than me and take far greater risks than I ever will: I have no desire whatsoever to do a bungee jump or a parachute jump (the thought of either terrifies me).  However give me an invitation to try out some off-road 4 wheel driving, or to drive a rally car, and I could be tempted.

As I ran home the low winter sun rested at head height and blazed straight into my eyes. “Il cuore ha le sue ragioni che la ragione non conosce” – Blaise Pascal, from my Italian calendar for this weekend.

Follow your heart.  Your heart – not anyone else’s.  And aim right up there – right up to the sky.  As someone said to me on Saturday, “you only have one life”.  Make sure it’s a full one, and live it with as much joy as you can muster.

 

 

 

 

 

Of love

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I would add… and hope that he or she is a little bit mad too…

It’s been so pleasant – even uplifting – to be able to walk along the harbour in Whitehaven at lunchtimes, instead of having to dash from one shop to another to keep out of the rain.  Today I walked right down to the further side of the harbour so I could look out at the open sea.  Gazing across the Irish Sea I felt a sense of calmness and freedom – even joy – which I hadn’t felt for weeks.

I don’t understand how someone (New Man) can go from telling me just weeks ago that he adored me to now being almost unfriendly.  I don’t think you can just switch off your feelings like that, but he’s given me no explanation (despite having said he wanted to talk to me, he has done nothing to instigate that recently and when I was at my most troubled we both at times chickened out of doing so) so I’m left feeling hurt and puzzled.  All I can do is ‘protect’ myself: concentrate on things that make me happy, such as singing, writing, running and the children; or things which keep my all-too active brain occupied, including learning Italian in the car and planning trips abroad.

What I do know is that he adored me, and made me feel like a Queen, with him as my Courtier, or my Knight in Shining Armour.  I could kick myself for not having been more secure and trusting of his feelings for me, especially as he always made an effort to reassure me.  Having said that, signs that he was confused, even somewhat overcome, by the strength of his feelings for me were there from early on.  But I want to set out the positives, the lovely things to remember, as once the grief is over they will be important to look back on.  It was a golden, sparkling time and we both glowed with happiness.

He always and frequently said how beautiful and how sexy I am but emphasised that I was not just an escape and not just for sex: and I never felt as if I was.  To his eyes, it seemed, I was the most wonderful woman in the world.  He always had eyes only for me: so much so that other people could be talking to him and he wouldn’t even notice.  He said he knew when I was around even if he hadn’t seen me come in – when he came over to Whitehaven to see me (all that way for about 5 minutes!) I sent him a text telling him he’d spot me because I was wearing pink trousers.  He said he’d have known where I was anyway, without being told the colour of my clothes.  When he gave me my birthday flowers, in front of my friends, he later said it was if there was nobody else in the room.

He said he thought about me constantly: that everything reminded him of me (even a turnip… I’m not quite sure why!).  He loved the taste, smell and feel of me.  I felt that he lifted me high and safe when I was with him, and I loved his huge, protective hugs (that’s one of the things I miss the most).  For both of us when we made love (and he always called it making love, not having sex) or slept cuddled up close together, it was as if our very souls were meeting.  I have never before been able to sleep so physically closely to someone and yet sleep so soundly and feel so safe.

He even mentioned marriage – not as a proposal, but saying that marriage should be to someone you can’t bear to be without.  And listening to the U2 songs he liked best and played to me and danced with me to, also makes me realise the strength – the passion – of his feelings for me: he said if he was Bono up on stage it would be me he would pick out of the audience.  When I gave him a key for my house he said that the problem was that if he stayed there with me, he would never want to leave (one time when he did he missed a delivery the next morning!).  And my singing gives him goosebumps – such a lovely compliment.  He has been fully supportive of my singing since before he even heard me.

One of my very favourite memories was when he sent me a text saying that my eyes were greeny-slate ‘and right there, just at the front of your head’ (or something very similar).  He also stated that he was jealous of my Lycra the time I went for a bike ride and met him at the pub!  And he even liked my feet, he said purely because they were mine and at the end of my legs.  Even I don’t like my own feet, and David used to call them hobbit feet!

But… he has young children, whom he doesn’t want to let down and whom he wants to see plenty of, as do I of mine – understandably.  I can’t help thinking that if he was happier and less stressed that they would also be happier, calmer and more settled – one of his team said he was a different man when I was around : more relaxed and happier.  At one point when he was feeling particularly gloomy he said I was the only good thing in his life – I know that was an exaggeration but it shows how much I mattered to him.

In terms of me, my self-esteem and how I move forward, the positive things to take from this are that it is wonderful to have been so loved and adored: and to have found myself as capable of loving just as deeply and openly in return.  It’s heart-breakingly painful at the moment, but he always referred to the saying ‘if you love someone, let them go – if they’re yours they’ll be back’.  It’s all I can do – to let go.  And in fact at the moment it just hurts too much even to see him: not to be able to touch him; listen to music with him; be held by him; to feel that he possibly doesn’t even want to be friends (or perhaps he finds it as hard as I do?  I hope so, but I don’t know).

I can’t deny hoping and even believing that he is mine and that one day he’ll be back, but there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it other than take that step away and look after myself.  It’s funny how often people who matter invariably do pop up again in life – sometimes in a completely different role.  In particular I don’t want to be further hurt when he doesn’t even seem friendly towards me.  I loved him more than I have ever loved anybody – body, mind and soul – from the very depths of my being, feeling fully the essence of me, of my femininity.  I don’t think you get a love like that – especially that’s mutual – very often in a lifetime, and some people never do.  But sometimes day to day life gets in the way.  At the moment I’m not quite ready to give up the hope that the gap won’t be for ever.

Just how nuts about me was this man… and I didn’t fully appreciate it.  What hurts is not knowing whether he still is, and feeling when he talks to me that he isn’t even being friendly.  But then maybe that’s more a sign of his feelings and inability to deal with the situation than a reflection on me.  And ultimately, if he can’t be bothered to be pleasant to me – rather than continuing to hurt me – then all I can do is walk away.  The ball’s in his court; if he chooses to loose something he loved and wanted so much, and said that he didn’t want to loose, then there’s nothing I can do about it.