This is serious stuff for the week before New Years – a wrap up before the celebration. Which, as you may know, I spent in Corpus Christi. As I drove into the city from Aransas Pass – which is on a sort of long, thin slice of land hugging the coastline of Texas – there was a thick, thick fog everywhere. It seemed like someone had clicked the ‘mute’ button on the world and for at least forty miles everything was blanketed in grey, cool, dampness and hushed sound. From my balcony at the Omni Hotel on the waterfront, fog hung over the dark grey Gulf and I could hardly see Harbour Bridge. The curved, tall white bridge disappeared into low cloud. It seemed a fitting end to what’s been a difficult year for so many people. 2011 was being gently faded out.
I started thinking… Maybe it’s the end of an era for me?
This modern world is such a harsh place for the sensitive amongst us? Including me. I think that’s the motivation that’s driven me to write? I would love to find a way to pass on what I’ve learned – sometimes at great cost. Life shouldn’t have to be so painful? Out of this fog of life experience I’m looking for clarity. I could almost touch what I was looking for when I was back in Victoria. But not quite. So I left my comfort zone behind and traveled. Pretty scary sometimes and I must admit I often felt foolish? I wanted to explore new places, where I knew no-one and everything was done in different ways. I wanted to explore ‘me’. I think I’ve started to find what I was looking for.
One day I was a gawky teenager dancing at the local disco and the next I was a harried young mom. I was so busy finding good day-care, paying the mortgage and washing diapers (and there may well be disposable diapers now but there are 4 other jobs to take their place?!) I was simply too busy to do it quite the way I wanted. Or well enough, for me? I did the best I could. Always. But. Somehow that wasn’t quite enough.
What a difference hindsight – or even 20:20 vision – could make? I would live my life and parent very differently now. For their good (my kids) and for my own. I would certainly never have given up dancing, which was the last vestige of the original me. It turned out that to hold on to ‘me’ was more important than I could ever have guessed.
In days gone by I imagine women of all ages doing their laundry together, perhaps down by the river, and sharing priceless ‘old wives tales’ while they worked. And men working alongside their sons and grandsons and passing on ancient truths as they work.
Today we’re on our own.
As a new parent, I wish I had known how important it was to teach that helpless little baby son (or daughter) to understand who they are. First and foremost. Long before they learn their a,b,c’s.
To truly know themselves and to accept – and like – their own precious needs? I have almost finished making some cards which will help people to reconnect these parts of themselves. Parts which were often lost in early childhood. And ultimately reconnect with partners and families. I used something similar to these cards with my clients for years and was delighted with their success. Very exciting! Working with myself though I found that I was a lousy, resistant client!
Back when I was a young mom, I didn’t think of the importance of ‘connecting’. Not with others, much less with my self. I assumed it was automatic? Besides which, I was far too busy getting through the day. If only I’d known this was not only so important but that I had to do it? Myself. If only I’d known – and known how – to teach my children to explore their inner worlds and find out who they really were and what they needed to be happy?
If only I’d shared with them the magic of their uniqueness. I adored them but I never put into words and told them what it was exactly that I found so adorable. Later I learned that they weren’t even sure if I liked them sometimes. I often seemed so angry and so fed up with them. I had no idea – although in retrospect I can see exactly how they could have thought that.
I believe that seeing their own reflection in my eyes would have filled them with confidence – so incredibly important. Probably the single most important thing: confidence. What a blessing it would have been to my life too? Instead of which, I was full of fear.. For them and which, in turn I filled them with. Stress. I was anxious to shape them so they would slip easily through the round hole that my square edges had rubbed so hard against.
I sincerely believe now that our #1 job as parents is to teach our children how to meet their own needs? To do that we have to know first who we are and what our needs are. We must learn to meet our needs without hurting either ourselves (like the people I was thinking of today) or others, who hurt those around them. And although I would never have entertained the thought when I was young, the unspeakable acts we hear about on the news do happen to ordinary people. Like us.
Before we know it, years peel by. Life speeds up and our children become adults. How wonderful it would be to have the confidence to seize every moment and leave nothing but a trail of successes in our wake!
In reality and in an effort to please those around us, many of us crush our own sensitive selves. Not realizing our own pricelessness, we betray our selves. Our souls? The only books I had to help me find a path through life were Grimm’s fairy tales and the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Those and some naughty books I found under my dad’s mattress?! Yes, there were pearls of wisdom there. But they were written – all of them – for adults. I needed a mature adult mind to understand. And struggle though I did – and although I thought myself very grown up! – I was a child.
I wanted badly – still want – to give the best to my children. To all my loved ones. I tend to be generous with riches I don’t have?!
The way I’d been taught to get success was at odds with who I was, inside? Until the last decade, I felt totally misunderstood. To get the results I wanted, I had to ignore my inner voice and use the tools I’d learned in school. And a child’s interpretation of Grimm’s fairy tales. I badly wanted to be seen and respected as I really was. Yet I didn’t know how. Eventually I couldn’t even hear my inner voice any more.
In the struggle to be what I thought the world seemed to want of me on the outside – achieving the ‘right’ ‘things’ and results – I often lost touch with who I was on the inside. The bridge between action and intention became foggy until I couldn’t even see both sides at the same time at all.
When I listened to Marshall’s song “See Me Beautiful”, staring into the eyes of of a stranger/colleague, I found tears rolling down my face. This was me. I was horrified to cry in public. And I felt so accepted. Wonderful! It was addictive, this insight! I wanted more.
In the desperate struggle to survive, I’d ended up behaving in ways that weren’t ‘me’.
I was totally unaware that it was possible to succeed in this world and hear life’s rhythm in your own way. You need to learn what you need to hear and how to listen for it. Either with simple tools like NVC and my cards. Or with a guru – someone who is willing to walk with you on your journey of self discovery. I have been incredibly lucky to have have known at least five such people.
This is how it is for so many people, either from birth and or because of an accident. We are sensitive and, in order to succeed, the person inside doesn’t jibe with the person outside. Eventually the disonance becomes so intolerable that we have to find peace.
In my own case I was born sensitive. But I was able to fake it and ‘do’ whatever was necessary to succeed and fit in with what the world seemed to want from me. That was before my accident. Afterwards I was changed. I didn’t have quite enough stamina to re-create the successful fake. Perhaps lucky for me? Whoever I was before was gone forever.
The enormity of that loss, the demise of who I was, I had no concept of. My arms and legs worked again. I could see them? I assumed everything inside my head was working just as it always had. After all, my hair had grown back and I looked fine? It would have been wonderful if a counsellor or social worker had shown me how to mourn the part of me that was gone? They did tell me “I should cry”. But I had no idea what they were talking about.
I spent my life from that point feeling uncomfortable and full of self doubt. Wondering why I didn’t quite ‘fit’? Trying to keep up with ‘everyone else’ who looked like me on the outside? Feeling confused. And angry and frustrated.
I wasn’t sure why I wanted to sell my lovely house and leave Victoria? I tried to explain it and when asked said something like “I just don’t feel quite right?” I had started to rediscover myself when I trained to become a counsellor and along the way I’d learned to listen to my instincts. As I said, self discovery and insight can be quite addictive! Somehow I had to find the courage to take that last leap. It was hard, especially as I wasn’t quite quite sure that I was leaping in the right direction? Maybe everyone was right and I shouldn’t listen to my instincts? (And at this point even my newest clients would be saying “oooo oooo oooo… never listen to a should!!)
It was especially difficult leaving a place so wonderful and filled with friends that I had such a good time with. I’d spent a lifetime ignoring my instincts and acting ‘normally’. I can’t tell you how full of ghost feelings I was at that time!
It’s taken a few months for those ghost feeling to settle. They still rattle me on occasion! It’s easier to behave differently in a new place though. No-one here knows the ‘me’ that I spent half a decade being. I can be the real ‘me’ with not a single eyebrow raised!
The me inside – the me I was born with – is starting to recognize the me on the outside. The ‘me’ packaging on the outside dictated who I was for so long. I felt one way but looked, behaved and spoke, another. During the last few years I almost found the congruence I craved but I knew something was still not quite lining up. Slowly those last separate threads are becoming one strong plait.
On a completely separate note… Perhaps another note in the same song?! My favourite subject! Dancing!
Loving music and being compelled to move my body at the very sound of it, might be a part of all this too? I think there’s more here than meets the eye?! One of my friends who is as besotted with dance as I am, said that dance could be an expression of all the passion that’s been cooped up inside our bodies for a lifetime? I just know she’s right. Partners dancing together in perfect harmony thrill me to the core!
Slowly, the fog is lifting.