The Gorse Bush Analogy

Gorse bushes are a bit like life. They can stick with you long after the event!

We were out walking on Conwy Mountain and I slipped. For some reason I chose to grab gorse busha gorse bush to steady myself. Not the best idea. I squealed. My hand went all numb and tingly like it had been poisoned. I poured some water over it and all seemed fine. A week later part of my hand started to throb. My husband graciously used his first aid skills and found bits of gorse bush spikes in my hand! For a week these little spikes kept making their way to the surface of my hand and often had to be dug out. Even now, nearly a month later, my hand is still sore in places and rough where the spikes were gentle encouraged out. But it made me think about how like life this is.

Often things happen to us – we trip, something hurts us, we move on and think we’re fine. Then something else happens and we feel a hurt, a pain, that is not quite related to what is going on. This is because the previous hurt has got deep inside of us and, even though we cannot see it, it is still inside of us.

I wrote on Medium – another blog type site I have started using – something along those line. Read it on Path of Least Resistance and if you like what you have read hold the little path-of-least-resistanceclap hands down for up to 50 clicks. But as you read you’ll see if is from something that is embedded in my childhood that is having an affect on me many years in the future.

Yesterday I saw a dead seagull in the road as I was walking the dog and I sobbed. It was a young seagull and it was flat. We have loads of seagulls here and they nest in the chimney pots and the parents will swoop on passersby! I didn’t cry for the seagull though but for those I have loved and lost, for others who are going through grief at the moment and also because that uncared for death struck something deep inside of me that maybe I can’t even quite explain. It was a gorse thorn that was embedded in me that wanted to get out. I didn’t have time to write or journal about it because I was rushing off out. But later that day I was at a gathering of well-being providers and we were “selling our wares” and so I shared it when explaining about writing for well-being and how I run a course.

Even that passing dead bird had become embedded. Often when I explore in blogs I think of sad things but I think that is because they are the things that get embedded into us that we do not see. I will bring out the lovely times of my life regularly to share with my friends and family but the sad, unhappy, confusing times I hide away keeping them hidden from view. I wonder if that is just a British thing or do all societies do that? Is it just a human thing?

handsSomeone once said you need 10 encouraging comments to balance out one bad one. And also that it is easier to pull someone down and off a chair than it is to pull someone up on to it. Maybe that is why the negative, painful things get lost in our skin and then worm their way to the surface? But actually, on a positive finish, if we keep to the gorse thorn analogy, then eventually they will work their way to the surface where some kind and gracious person can pull them out for us. [Note I could not pull it out myself because the hand I had used to save myself was the hand I use to do things with]

 

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Deuteronomy 30!

As I ponder my life today there is a long list of things that I am happy and grateful for – from sunshine and a washing machine to friends and family. Each of these can be countermanded by a negative – too much washing, friends sick and struggling, uncertainty about seeing family. It was then that these verses struck me. God goes on a life-and-deathlot, it seems, in the Old Testament about whether to choose death or life, blessing or curse and I must admit I never quite got it. I was a bit like “why would you choose death or curse? Surely everyone chooses life and blessing!” But I know a lot of people who will look to the negative – the family visit and list all that could go wrong, the day out in the sunshine waiting for the rain, etc. I never realised until today when I was doing my “mindfulness” stuff of looking at the good things in my life – my blessings – that it is about attitude as much as what we do. So today I’m not going to steal anything, murder anyone, covert anything, hopefully not use God’s name in vain, etc, but I could very easily slip into the negative thinking.

Example – I’m off to the circus tonight. All very exciting. It’s an interactive one with pancakes. But I have to catch the train to meet up with my husband so we can go now or never circus.jpgtogether. I could very easily be dreading catching the train, worrying that he’ll be late, being nervous as to what they are going to be doing with pancakes, anxious about going and doing something I’ve not done before. I have a choice. Do I want life and so be looking forward to it and seeing it all as a blessing, or do I choose negativity and death and spend my whole day under a curse?

Relationships – now we all struggle with relationships whether family, spouse, friends, workmates, people we see in passing (though these seem to be easier to deal with 🙂 ) . Each of us can choose who we view those relationships. If we are always putting someone down then that relationship becomes a curse and in the end we often have to kill it off, but if we are always saying and thinking good of someone, even if they can be a bit of a pain, then that relationship is a blessing and we want it to live.

So today I list all the things I have to look forward to – all the blessings in my life. I will not do that in a Pollyanna sort of way and believe they don’t all come with difficulties. I pollyannawill be real and honest about them – like the catching the train tonight. If I don’t catch it I won’t get there. I will have to eat and walk the dog beforehand and I do find having set times to do things in my life isn’t what my personality enjoys. So I know it will be hard but I can choose to look at the things I don’t like or I can choose to focus on the good.

We’re off to my son’s new regiment’s family day on Saturday. Again this is a mix of good and bad and I can choose how I focus on it. It is a long way to go; he will be stressed; it will be busy; we don’t know what’s happening. But I will get to see my son and his fiancée and I haven’t seen either of them since Easter; because it where he is stationed is an hour from where we used to live we can catch up with friends; and we get to bring my daughter home with us for her birthday. Which will I focus on? Which will give me life and which death?

So those verses in Deuteronomy 30 and other places are not about physical death but life.jpgabout that thing inside of you, that part of you that is alive. Your soul? Your spirit? I’m not sure what it is called but it is that part of each of us that either draws or repels others. Today I chose life.

Watching Those Stats

I am trying to sort my social media out and so have taken the Facebook app off my phone. That has been great because it has stopped me checking who’s said what on whatever. But actually, apart from putting pictures of my dog on there and advertising my workshops I don’t use it much.

social-icons-51I have just started a blog with my writing on Medium. Find me on  https://medium.com/@barefootatthekitchentable  It is a great site with lots of other writers and is easy to do. One of it’s great features, for those who haven’t yet gone on Medium yet,  is that there is a button at the side of each post to press for “claps”. A reader can hold down the button and let it run up to 50 claps. This morning I was checking my emails and it gave me my statistics. Please note I have only posted 2 pieces on there and not that many people know as yet! But I got into checking who was following and how many claps I had received. It is also possible to check how many claps each person has given you. I could feel myself hovering over to this place but stopped myself. Would it change what I thought of my followers if I saw that they had only given me one or two claps and not the full 50? What would it make me thinking of the posts I had put up there? Wold I get into condemning my writing?

We seem to live in a world now where we are judged all the time and encouraged to judge each other. Medium does reward those who gain over 1000 claps for a piece which is great, but it can still bring in that insecurity.  How often do we look to see who’s “liked” or similar on Facebook posts, on Instagram, on Twitter and more? The media talks of how Facebook and others sites make us insecure about our lifestyles and our looks but I have yet to hear it spoken of about how we feel about the “rewards” we receive.

It is great as writers that there are so many places we can post but I think we do still need to guard out fragile writers egos.

Being a natural encourager I will always “like”, clap, click the heart, etc because that’s who I am. I know of people who are not like me – and I do struggle with them 🙂 – but their way of supporting and encouraging is hold back, to be more restrained, and that is fine too. What is the point of having to be able to give from 1-50 “claps” if everyone gives every piece the maximum? But it does mean that we all need to be careful that we don’t get too caught up in the rewards and turn ourselves into performing seals.

I love to watch Dragon’s Den and some of  what I like is the comments that the ones whoDragons-Den-new-image1 don’t obtain a dragon get. These people are often not unkind but they are harsh. They tell people they are unprepared, tell them that they need to do more, have not researched, etc. They cannot take on everyone who comes through the door, cannot give them all the 50 claps. There are people who are not ready.

So I will continue to post on here, on Medium, on my Barefoot writing workshops website because all three take me in different directions. I will also continue to write for myself and for some friends I share with. I will do my best not to worry about what the reaction is but continue to hone my skills and trust to me not the “fish” I get thrown. I am not a performing seal. I am a writer.

Taking Thoughts Captive

aid3019-v4-728px-Spear-a-Fish-Step-1-Version-2I have heard so many preaches about “taking every thought captive” and think from one I gained an image of spearing the thoughts like they were fish and casting them away. But I think that is not the point. I don’t think that is what Paul meant when he said

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

My thoughts are not wrong and do not need to be killed. Yes they do need to be captured and shown in the light of Christ, in the love of God. They need to be acknowledged and accepted as my thoughts.

In an Abbey of The Arts online mediation course she talks about focusing on your thoughts, feelings and emotions:

… allowing some time to move your focus and attention to your body. Allow some time to breathe and connect with what you are experiencing. Notice both physical pain as well as emotions. Bring your full awareness to whatever the experience is, without trying to change it. Notice how you experience this in your body. If you feel sad, how is that manifested in your body? Don’t try to change anything. Just stay present.

So I am capturing all my thoughts but not like the spearing fisherman to then discard them but to accept that these are my thoughts. I think making our thoughts “obedient to Christ” means that we learn to accept who we are, what we think and then give it to God. Not to fix, not to change, but to accept.

Here is an excerpt from a fictional piece I wrote around that:

She took a breath and tried to relax. Then all the thoughts and worries and things to do came rushing to the surface of her mind. She held their joys, their fears, their richness and their frustrations. Then she let them go. They rushed onward to the surface of her mind. Each task, each important concern, each trivial chore, believing it should take priority of her time. She let them go. This was the thrum of her existence. This was the pulsating of her life. She smiled. Instead of fighting it she must learn to relax into it and be lifted up on the current of her life.

Being a follower of Christ, I believe, isn’t all about “getting it right” so that God loves us, but is about believing that we are really alright people just as we are accepted and loved by God. And really it is about time we got on a loved and accepted ourselves as He does.

On Thursday I was having some healing prayer and God called me His little princess and showed me a picture of me sat on a rug with Him behind me. He had me between his legs pulled back close to His chest. As anyone, child with parent or with a lover, has sat huglike that, this is where you can feel someone’s heartbeat. I haven’t done anything momentously good. In fact I’d gone for the prayer because I was feeling seriously grouchy with a lot of things and God didn’t tell me to take capture all those thoughts and get rid of them and start doing things right. No! He showed me that He just wanted to be close to me and to hug me just as I was.

So taking those thoughts captive – I truly believe means accepting when we’re down as well as up, when we’re depressed as well as joyful, when we’re anxious as well as calm, when we’re angry as well as understanding, when we’re fed up of the world as well as when we’re content with the world. It is about accepting not rejecting who we are and how we feel. So I’m not going to throw away those thoughts because also some of my so-called “negative” thoughts are actually a great help to me in understand how I am, why I am and what I’m meant to be doing next.

Writing Your Life Story

truth.jpgMy group asked me the other day about how to use real people in their memoir writing. I wish I had found this quote when I was looking for information to share with them.

Mark Twain said,

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

So obvious and so true, but how often it is hard for people to hear. I have been trying truth telling but often feel unheard.

Another suggestion I tell my group is that it is their truth and may not be someone else’s. Another quote:

Keep in mind that memories are subjective and tend to evolve over time.
[http://helensedwick.com/how-to-use-real-people-in-your-writing/ found 30th July 2018]

That is not to say that the truth changes but how you view the truth changes. There are facts that never change however. Things like “yesterday I went to see a waterfall with my in-laws.” That is truth. But then things like how busy it was, how warm/cold it was, whether it was a good time, bad time, etc become subjective. Even things like “your mum was really happy there” can be subjective. In reality she seemed happy to me but to other members of the family she could have looked sad, angry, distant, crazy, etc. Even thingswhat is truth like “Bob is an alcoholic” is not a truth unless Bob has told the family. So one could say “Bob appears to drink a lot and I am concerned that he is an alcoholic” or “Bob says he is an alcoholic”. Both statements are true because one is that I have seen Bob drink a lot and he has said he is an alcoholic. The concerned bit is my opinion. So with “your mum” I could say she seemed happy to me because that is my opinion.

So even though Mark Twain says tell the truth what is the truth is not as clear. Also as the second quote says our memories evolve over time. Emily Dickenson has a lovely poem:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant By Emily Dickinson
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

So facts are facts and are unchangeable but our personal truths of what happened to us to change and evolve depending on what story we tell. There are people who say that the truth of their story doesn’t change but I don’t think that is true 🙂 We are an evolving people and so how we remember things will change.

Another quote that came to me as I wrote this was

Jesus said “know the truth and the truth will set you free” John 8:32

Now I wonder with this if Jesus meant that as we grow and evolve our theology will change and alter. Hopefully grow. He was talking to Pharisees who had spent years looking at the scriptures and working out the truth of them. Jesus says it is those who are his disciples and who follow his teachings who will know the truth and be set free by it. For myself I find that understand that how I perceive a series of facts is not how truth_set_freesomeone else might perceive them then I do feel freer to know that what I understand is what I understand and not to have to spend time browbeating the other person to believe in things how I see them. So going back to “your mum was really happy there”. That is my truth. Another family member could say “mum was really upset there” and that is there truth. Maybe we need to ask mum and see what she thinks? But then maybe mum was happy at the waterfall but upset as she walked back. Maybe both things are true and each person saw her at a different time (Note this is made up to help with a point and not factual 🙂  )

It is not about having different morals as is feared by some with the post-modern conversation, but it can be that all truth is subjective to who I am, my experiences, where I am as I tell this tale.

So my hope is, with my memoir writing group, that they can be free to write their story in their words with their memories of the facts that happened in their lives, as each of us should be free to.

Self-Care

stones.jpgThere is a lot of talk about self-care at the moment and yes it is very important, but what struck me yesterday was how you actually need a level of confidence to be able to care for yourself. I was made aware of this because when I mentioned that I was going to start kick-boxing the response I had hoped for, and needed for my confidence, was “well gone. Good on you” but the response I did get was “what do you want to do that for? It’s violent and dangerous.” Now if I had got that response a couple of years ago I would have not gone to my classes because my confidence would have been knocked, but I am still going to go because my confidence isn’t that fragile now. I am able to step out and do things without the need of full approval. The comments, once I was able to challenge that person, were all valid and made sense but they were not encouraging.

I think often we see people who are abused, in a bad place, addicts etc and think “why bigger-heartcan’t they get out of there?” “Why don’t they care for themselves?” But they can’t. They need someone to say encouraging things to them. I have a friend who works in a women’s support group and one of the things she says they try to do is to make the atmosphere as loving and accepting of the women as they are as possible. This is something we should do for all people – accept them as they are not as they should be. Even if we think as they should be would be a much better place. We need to give people encouragement so they can have the self-confidence to look after themselves.

I come back to the verse “love your neighbour as yourself” which doesn’t mean, I don’t What-is-Self-Carethink, giving and giving to someone else. But, I think, it means saying “if I’m an ok person then my neighbour is an ok person, if I can be kind and have self-care for me then I can be kind and care for my neighbour.” Or to look at another often misunderstood Bible verse about turning the other cheek. That again wasn’t about being abused and downtrodden but was about saying “the law says it is ok to slap my right cheek but I give you my other cheek which by law you are not allowed to slap. Will you do that too?” It is about being strong enough to stand up to justice not to lay down and be beaten. It is about self-care not humiliation. It is about self-care and humility rather than putting yourself last and being humiliated.

How have I got to this place? Slowly and with the help of others who didn’t even know. My work at Gwrych has been a great help even though at times it has been a struggle; a struggle with putting in clear boundaries, which of course only come with confidence and self-care; a struggle learning to say what I think about things but in a gentle way not aggressively, which I often stay quiet rather than say anything due to lack of training in how to gentle speak my mind; of learning to balance my time and not do everything. I put on, almost single handedly, an amazing production for WWI working with the local schools. I made mistakes doing it but didn’t feel down heartened by my mistakes. Doing that exhausted me but also energised me. I am running great writing workshops. Not a lot of people come but those who do are faithful and keep coming and I get amazing comments and compliments. Starting to take care of myself help. That started small by getting Kinspa membership and going for a swim and a relax in the hydro-pool regularly, which has led to going horse riding which has led to the kick-boxing.

For me some of it has helped that I am impulsive and do jump in, but when I am not feeling confident I also jump out quickly. As I said a negative word, like I got yesterday, would have caused me to cancel, but now I can keep going and doing what I want notself-love what other people approve of.

Coming back to the topic though of getting self-care – I would say when we see someone who needs self-care instead of expecting them to just do it we need to let them know that we think they are worthy of that self-care. Our role, as we come slowly able to lift our heads up from the gutter and look at the stars, is to help others know they are worthy.

(Interesting note – as I was getting images for this so much was about getting self-care so you could be better at …. whatever …. rather than just saying that it is ok to care for yourself. I don’t want to be better, do more, etc. I want to just be a more contented me doing the things I like doing. That’s why I care for myself. But again it does seem like we are always having to project outward and be “better”. Thoughts for another blog?)

Royal Wedding

prince-harry-meghan-markle-wedding-tI have been pondering all this wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan and it struck me that their wedding was not much different from weddings from Medieval times. Anyone who was anyone would be invited, which would include people famous in their field. Royalty liked to be with the movers and shakers unless they had been banished from court. So having actors and musicians turn up to Harry and Meghan’s wedding is no different from having Geoffrey Chaucer turn up. Actors were not seen in the same light back then but there would be more than just royalty.

The common people would also want to be a part of it. Any excuse to indulge. So there would be lots of people lining the streets and cheering. There would be places where prod-the-banquet-of-henry-viii-in-york-placethese common people could then go and eat, drink and be merry. Very similar.

As for who Harry has married. Yes in days of old princes would be expected to marry who they were told to but that was to strengthen the kingdom. Many would have someone who would not make a good alliance as a lover and mother of their children. Some may then go on to marry their lover once the throne had enough heirs that their marriage would make no difference.

We no longer have a monarchy that needs to make political alliances to hold on to power. Our royal family doesn’t hold any real power at all.  Our royal family now mixes in different circles to those of the Middle Ages. The demarcations between the upper class and lower class are not as divided as it was. I do think too that our top actors, top pop stars, and top celebs are the elite of today when titled people, knights, lords, kings, princes, were back then.

Both Harry and William have been mixing in what appears to be a different circle to how we think royalty should behave but that, I believe, is because we still see a Victorian view. When in fact there many of them were related to each other. With travel and Spiral Staircase Winding Down in Historic Buildingchanges in lifestyle, our young royal family are actually doing very similar to their ancestors of old. William’s children won’t die of some unknown death because most of the things young princes use to die of back in the 14-16th Century can now be treated very easily with modern medicine. Harry does not need to give heirs to the throne in case his brother’s die out. Neither of our princes needs to keep the crown secure.

Things have not changed as much as we think they have!

(NB – these are my thoughts from what I remember of history. I wanted to get a post out. I have not managed to check them out properly yet. Wish I had more time 😦  )