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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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?)

Searching

I love this quote from Velveteen Rabbi’s son on her post Seeking: Seeing the ordinary through new eyes about how he feels on the eve of Pesach we search for hidden hametz and about searching for Easter eggs with his Christian Grandma.

It’s fun because it’s about finding something new in regular places. If you find something new to do, then you always have it with you. And that makes it like you’re traveling, finding new places, even though you’re not going anywhere.

It was this whole thing of “if you find something new you always have it with you” and about travelling and finding new places even though you’re not going anywhere. I think this is so profound and so deep and I wonder how often we, as adults miss it.

From my reading of Mindfulness if it about looking at what we know and finding newness in it, of being ‘present’ full with what we already know. How often do we take a walk along the same route and not notice how amazing it is and yet if we take a child or even just someone who’s not been that way before they see things we have gotten used to?  How often in a relationship do we just get used to the same old same old and forget why we got involved with this person in the first place? How often do we forget that some of the flaws we see glaringly now we used to gloss over before when we saw them through new eyes?

I want to be able to travel to new places without going anywhere. It is why I write. I can be here in my room, can take something I know and can rework it. I am working with some of my memories which come from running memoir-writing groups and I was looking at them with new eyes. What slant do I want to put on them now? That isn’t lying about what happened but, I think, saying I want to look at what I think I know with new eyes. I want to travel somewhere new with what I already hold in my hand. I can then choose what light I want to see it in. Even the most tragic circumstances, if I want I can see amazing things going on. But also if I choose, even in the best of circumstances I can focus on the one bad bit in it. I can choose how I view my life. Sometimes I need to search hard, sometimes like with the Dragon Easter Egg Hunt at Gwrych Castle, where I volunteer, finding the eggs is easy because they are so big, but sometimes it can be hard to find that spring flower trying to appear through this unseasonally cold time. But the buds and growth and colours are there just not as visible as the Dragon eggs.

It is so true that once we do find something new in familiar places we remember it and hold on to it. I remember finding a clump of primroses along a path where I walked the dog regularly. Primroses for me bring back special memories of a bright patch in a hard time in my life which does make them special. But now whenever I walk this path I not only look out for these primroses but also look out for other changes. For me finding that something new and special in familiar places makes me want to look more and look harder and find something else that I didn’t see before.

I think I need to make sure I do this in places that I have yet to find something new. Who knows what is hiding in those familiar places?

How to be honest

A friend of mine shared an email he had written to his place of work to explain how he is struggling with mental health problems. You can read it here  – A Personal Message to Friends and colleagues.

It is great, open and honest and something, I think we should all be doing – being open 800px_colourbox9264852about our mental health issues. I do have a few Facebook friends that are totally open about what they are going through too. But what I have noticed with my friend’s post and with my FB friends is that they have all been diagnosed with a something. I think this helps. With my friend in his post too he works in an office environment so can take time working from home, etc. But what about all of us who have not been diagnosed either because of not having gone to a doctor, not found a professional who sees the problems and who can’t take time out.

This isn’t a gripe and a “poor me” but I do think it is harder. I work from home and some of what I do I have to keep going with – like the Airbnb stuff to keep the house clean and have beds made up for guests. This does give me freedom from not having to work 9-5 too so it is swings and roundabouts. But I do find it harder, when I can hide away at home and then put on my brave face when I go out, to be able to be open and honest about how I feel. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. There are also people who work in core-value-open-and-honestenvironments that may not understand or be sympathetic. A friend of ours with borderline personality disorder who worked in sales was given sympathy but still expected to meet his targets in high-pressure selling.

So how can those of us without a diagnosis, who have stepped out of the normal working situations or who are not in a sympathetic work environment deal with this? At the moment I don’t know but I know that I am trying harder to be honest about my mental health even if it is to have lower expectations of myself in what I can and can’t do, to be honest about how I am struggling to cope with all the changes that have gone on in the last two to three years – us moving, changes in my children’s lifestyles, all the new people we have met and new things we are doing. So when I have a meltdown because my husband has taken longer than I wanted over doing some household job or other I can say calmly, once I’ve regained my thoughts, “it’s not you but just this on top of me still coping with the changes”.

I’ve a project I’m doing that I know I should not have taken on. I need to finish the project. I need to finish it because it is the right thing to do. Yes, I work on that “right thing” but I am now downscaling what I’m doing with it, realising that I can’t get the help I expected due to other people’s commitments, and that actually I don’t have the emotional energy to get it sorted. So I will finish it but I will be kind to myself and again realise that little things like the household jobs taking longer could cause me stress but it isn’t them it’s just life.

So what I have decided is even if I can’t be open and honest to others as my friend has been in his post I can be open and honest to myself, kind to myself and say that even though I don’t need pills and therapy I do need space and time. walk-away-in-love