Posted by: starrystez | October 23, 2014

Setting myself free

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Image from http://www.cnncd.com

I’ve hardly dared say this, never mind believe it, but for the first time ever my life has reached a stable plateau. While there are the inevitable struggles, I am not constantly struggling. My life isn’t an endless uphill journey anymore. This realization is astounding.

Of course, every situation is relative. I am still ill, although slowly improving. I still encounter difficulties with my autistic son and these will almost certainly increase as he gets older and myself and his father begin to consider long term accommodation and care for him. My relationship with his father will never be wonderful. Not least, the pain of the past, my childhood, will never leave me, particularly as it re-lives itself over and over in the present, through the struggles with my son and the unfulfilled wishes I have owned.

It may seem to the outsider that my life is still full of ongoing struggles and perhaps in some sense it is. What has changed is my state of mind. I accept that the past has gone and I can’t change it. I can only do the best I can with what I have in this moment. My son was never the medicine to cure a painful past. His disability reinforced my awareness of this very obvious and yet frequently under-recognized fact. No child is a substitute for the loss of a childhood. There are subtle ways in which a son or daughter can help heal our wounds if the focus remains on them, but the child can never be expected to heal us. Experience tells me how damaging this expectation is.

I have to accept my son for who he is. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I struggle with this even now. Yesterday I was very poorly and watched my son destroy my bird-table because I was physically too weak to stop him, that is, before I managed to get him back inside the house. It hurts to know he has little empathy, for me or anyone or thing else. At times something has clicked when I try to explain, such as ‘the birds will be sad without their table’ but more often he reacts in the moment, apparently without much thought or awareness.

My pain is very self-focussed, however, for it stems from the belief of not mattering. What is conjured up, time and time again, is that it doesn’t matter what I say to my boy, or said to my family in the past. Just like it doesn’t matter how many treatments I tried, or how positively I thought about my illness, it did not go away. My words, my existence, my good intentions, my emotions, make no difference. This is what hurts so much. And this is the key to my freedom.

My desire to matter has taken me on a long inner journey where I have had to come to terms with endless turmoil as I attempted to ‘prove’ myself to others. I have since learnt that this is futile because the outside world will never present me with all the validation I crave. I might be the most loving and attentive mother in the world but my child, disabled or not, has his own path to lead. I might be the most considerate and understanding ex-wife only for my ex husband to be lost in his own issues and negative perception of me. And I might confront my family about how painful my childhood was, only to be met with denial.

All that is left is me. My inner journey has included psychotherapy, where I was beyond blessed to work with wonderful counsellors who believed in me and helped me on my way. In many ways they gave me what my childhood family could not; self-belief, positive reinforcement, and strength to carry on. I worked through a lot of trauma and grief, as well as continuing my endless struggle to beat my illness and lead the life I wanted. As my understanding of the past increased, so did my awareness of clinging to certain identities or assumptions about life, such as ‘it will always be a struggle’ or ‘I need to work through this some more.’ As necessary as it is to work through past pain, it becomes more important to be able to let the process go, to shed the metaphorical skin.

And this is where I am now. I am letting go. I accept that my life has not been as I’d have chosen it. My external choices are limited now due to age, illness and pure emotional exhaustion. But my internal choice is strong and it is here that I remain blessed. I have always done the best I can, even if others don’t see that. I can accept what has happened to me and move forward. My health is improving. I have a kind and understanding boyfriend with whom I am looking forward to spending a good future. I get to see my son once a week and it is (mostly!) quality time. I am studying for a second degree. I am able to travel again, within reason. I am not in constant pain and anguish anymore.

It can a tough decision to give up past identities, particularly when there are secondary gains from hanging onto them. I could remain angry, bitter and sad for the rest of my life, with therapy a constant companion. My pain would become my identity, enslaved to my anger and loss. But as I look out on this beautiful autumnal day, watching golden leaves loosen their hold on the claw-like branches of my horse chestnut tree and gently sway in the wind, I know acceptance is the right choice. I have set myself free.

Posted by: starrystez | October 21, 2014

Windy morning at the seafront

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The tail end of a hurricane produced gale force winds which affected a large part of the UK overnight although where I am in the south escaped the worst of the weather. Despite this the winds were still blowing strong this morning, particularly at the seafront where the frothy waves made stunning views. I sat inside the warm and ever-packed seafront cafe and enjoyed my large slice of coffee and walnut cake and orange juice ( a much needed sugar rush!) as I watched the huge waves crash onto the pebbles in quick succession, creating beauty in a truly magnificent scale. The photos don’t really give nature its due.

Posted by: starrystez | October 16, 2014

Magic and the Divine peach

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image from students.expression.edu

A couple of nights ago I had a funny vision as I lay in a dozy, half-sleep state. I saw the peach from the famous novel ‘James and the giant peach’ by Roald Dahl. I haven’t read this book in years but liked it as a child. What was even funnier was that I was one of the insects that had been transformed by the magic croc tongues given by the mysterious man to James at the start of the book. These tongues turned an ordinary peach into one large enough to house James and several now human-sized insects and squash James’ abusive aunts to death on its travels. Dark yes, but Dahl was no sickly sweet children’s author.

All I can remember of my vision is walking towards the peach knowing I was going on a great adventure and that I had to trust it. As I awoke I knew I had to remember what the book was about. As it turned out, it certainly involved a great adventure: the child James and his insect buddies had to overcome several terrifying obstacles such as nearly having their peach-boat pecked apart by birds on their way over the Atlantic in search of a new life, and friends, in New York City. Orphan James had lived most of his life with his horrible aunts who made his life an utter misery; he was shut away when it suited the aunts, did most of the chores, and he had no friends to play with.

And yet, his plight did not go unnoticed. The stranger with the croc tongues brought the magic that was needed to instigate James’ transformation. No one knew who he was in the book; he was never mentioned nor thought about again. To me, he represents Divine Grace. Grace is that little bit of magic sent to each of us to ensure we follow the path we were meant to, or the nudge that we need to get off the incorrect one. It is the feeling that, when looking back on our life more objectively, despite the inevitable suffering and pain at times, or perhaps most of the time, people and events showed up exactly as we needed them.

However, the man with the croc tongues obviously did not take James across the ocean to his destiny. He didn’t play any part in that. It was up to James to use his bit of magic to find his path. It was no doubt a very scary journey indeed for an orphan boy travelling with people/insects he didn’t know, inside a peach that just a short time ago had been growing from an ordinary peach tree but now had suddenly grown to mega proportions and killed his aunts. The only life he remembered was gone. He had to trust it was all for the best. He had to place his faith that the journey would take him to where he needed to be. To do that, he had to lose everything he ever knew to embrace an experience unlike any he had ever had.

Of course, this is simply a children’t story and can’t be taken too seriously. But at the same time it’s difficult to avoid the profound truth that lies within it. It has added significance for me because I’m terrified of most insects. I know this is relevant because I was writing about this the evening before I had the vision. I try hard to show compassion to all creatures and avoid killing them unless absolutely necessary, but my fear quite often gets the better of me. I feel out of control when insects come near me. I fear they are going to get in my face or my hair which leads to a feeling of being attacked. So it is very interesting that the story of James and the giant peach came to me in a vision. I believe it is saying ‘do not fear the unknown.’ In the story, the insects turned out to be the best friends James had ever had or known. He lay all his trust in them and the strange territory that was the peach.

The vision is thus a reminder to embrace the unfamiliar. It shows me that each of us are being guided to reach our destiny, yet it is up to us to make it happen. Divine Grace can give us the magic but it is up to us to trust and use it.

Posted by: starrystez | October 14, 2014

The autumnal heart

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After a long, wonderfully hot summer here in the UK, give or take a few not-so-warm days, I’m starting to feel the chill on my fingers again. My dog in particular is sensing change in the air as she reluctantly allows me to compress her already tiny body into a woolly Christmas-style red jumper. As we experience the rapid movement of seasons, ripe green into rich red and eventually decaying brown within the everlasting cycle of life, my thoughts follow thus: What and where is the beauty growing through my own autumnal muck? Perhaps harder to see is the muck itself. Unlike other forms of nature, we humans have a habit of clinging to decay, for we remember the beauty and remain ever fearful that there will be no more. Many of us distrust the flow of life and rely on our memories to keep us. We hold onto the past.

Of course, I’m hardly saying anything new. People, especially spiritual seekers, but more often now it is those who are simply tiring of old habits, have said this for many years. There can be a real resistance to the flow of energy that is called life. And this is totally understandable. Aside from fear, our memories are precious and make us who we are. They may be a joy to remember. Who wants to let go of some of the happiest times?  Who wants to forget loved ones who are no longer with us, or special times in our childhoods or significant times in our lives, such as a wedding or a birth?

This is what makes humans so endearingly complicated. This is what makes me pause at 2am and wonder why I am crying my eyes out over someone I haven’t seen for nearly four years, someone who helped me more than I can ever express in words, who largely made me who I am today. Suddenly the thought of never seeing her again, never experiencing certain moments or feelings that I did while with her, ever again in my entire life, was more than I could bear. I was gripped by the terrible human agony of loss and all the knowledge of ‘keeping her in my heart’ was lost along with it. I wanted those memories for real.

Everyone has the capacity to feel like that. Grief and loss are part of every human life. They remind us that our relationship with a person mattered, that we cared, that we had opened our heart to something beautiful. The grieving process is life itself, flowing through us in one of its million expressions. The wishing and longing for a physical presence with a lost person is thus part of that flow. We don’t have to forget those memories to move forward. If we did, no one ever would. The knowledge that we never really ‘lose’ what we shared with that person is horribly inadequate at times, but nonetheless true.

During my tears I convinced myself I was doing downhill because after several years of feeling fine I was suddenly feeling the depths of my loss to nightmarish proportions. By the light of day I realized that the emotion is not taking me back into a dark place. As long as I remain aware, it is reminding me of the importance of that relationship and what it taught me about myself. The message is to let go of the ‘muck’ which symbolizes old feelings and patterns that I have outgrown. It is a reminder that as much as I loved this beautiful person, I also loved who I was when with her. And I am still her.

And yet, paradoxically, sometimes that will never be enough. The worst pain inside any human heart must be knowing a certain person or experience will never be again. This is where I find comfort in nature and the ever changing seasons. Every single relationship I experience is part of a flow of energy and I can keep the energy alive in creative ways. I will always miss their presence. However, their energy remains in my heart which can be seen as a tree spreading its branches into the lives of others. While I know its leaves (people and experiences) will change and die, my inner beauty that is enriched in turn by people I have been truly blessed to meet, is eternal.

I made someone smile the other day when I said ‘Trees don’t grieve for their leaves.’  We add layers of emotion to the story. We add our joy, despair and longing. These are Divine gifts. The difficulty is when we doubt ourselves or get ‘stuck’ and energetically block growth because it’s easy to hold onto times past, letting the energy stagnate. As I said earlier, we distrust the bigger flow and hold onto smaller stories. It’s easy to forget that life is always moving, or seeking to move through us. Even when the pain of loss feels too much, there is a message to reflect on and remember the beauty shared with that person or experience, and keep it alive inside us. Trees don’t need to grieve because they would know their leaves are part of themselves that never die; they keep growing, shedding the old and opening up to the new. In the same vein, each person we meet who touches us, however simply or profoundly, is part of ourselves.

It may be Jung who says ‘We meet the self in many guises along the path of life.’ To remember that is to be blessed indeed. It doesn’t take away the pain of loss, but it transforms it into something greater.

T I miss you so much but will grateful for the rest of my life for the light you shone onto me.

Posted by: starrystez | October 9, 2014

What I’m looking for

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