WELCOME BACK

April 2016: After three years away from this blog I'm back. It was originally started so I could make sense of the madness that ensued after my marriage to a sociopath. Much has changed, grown and been created since then - including reclaiming my full birth name Melanie Pledger.
My voice has become stronger, and so has my mission. I'm here on this earth to share the life-changing magic that developed as a result of my personal journey overcoming abuse, abandonment, manipulation and betrayal. I've learned that many of the rules we've been taught about life are fundamentally wrong. They've been misunderstood by most, misused by some, and deliberately misdirected by the manipulators who live and breathe among us. I've also learned that it's easier and more enjoyable than people think to shift things around...
Now I know there was a reason for it all. So now I'm back to fill in the gaps. To share what I've discovered, and dispel the myths that don't serve us... I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, and discovering new ones.
Thank you for being here.
Mel xxx

Monday, 21 December 2009

Friendships Are Better Than Normal Ships

Children in 1929. During my pre-school years, ...
...is the caption on the front of a card I received today from friends and neighbours, Peter and Alison. The card, together with the words they'd written inside warmed my heart and made me smile.

Sometimes it's the smallest of things that create the biggest differences - as I'm learning so well this year.

I've had an interesting couple of challenges (tests?) recently, which have helped me measure how I've grown. Both from people who one would 'expect' to be supportive and understanding. "But why didn't you tell me how bad things were?" come their pleas, when I express my frustration at their clear lack of understanding. In the olden days (just a few short weeks ago) I would simply have kept quite. I would automatically have looked to understand what was going on for them, and put my own feelings to one side.

But no more. As I said in an email to Matt (who, together with his lovely family, continue to support me and stick by me through thick and thin) it's no more Miss Nice-Girl. No more will I seek to understand other people's issues at the expense of my own feelings. Yes, it's true, I still hold 100% with my belief that I will seek to understand before being understood. But the shift now is that I'll seek to understand and support MYSELF first and foremost, so that I can then be truly authentic in my comprehension of others.

There's no bravery or brownie badges to be won in allowing others to walk all over me, or treat me in a way that is worse than I would treat others. But as I now realise, the hard fact is that it's been me (and no one else) who has been responsible for letting this happen on so many occasions throughout my life. And it's me, therefore, who has the power to change it right here, right now. I had always held on to the belief that I must be 'good' and, therefore, allow others their foibles. And on many levels that still sticks. With the proviso, now, that I know I'm already 'good enough' and that if someone is treating me with any less respect than I expect, then I will find a way to let them know. For THAT is how we are good - for if we don't respect ourselves, how on earth can we expect others to do the same?

Big lesson. Small shift. Major changes as a result.

So, last night, when I confronted one of these people, I was amazed and delighted that the person immediately telephoned to 'apologize unreservedly' for their unacceptable behaviour. And, at last, they wanted to know - to really understand - what was happening for me and for Dylan. Some might say well it's a little too late - but I disagree. It doesn't matter when it happens - just so long as it happens. 

And with all the dear and caring friends around me, people who send me cards and messages, those who drop off bags of fruit and vegetables on my kitchen table, people who just 'pop in' unannounced to come and have a coffee with me - these are the friendships that continue to strengthen my resolve and renews my faith in a force that is bigger than me. 

Yes, friendships are better than normal ships - and these friendships indeed serve to lift me up and carry me through troubled waters. And I feel blessed and guided, and am finding the courage to continue making the deep inner shifts that will indeed lead me over the horizon to the promised land that has always been there waiting for me.

Now I'm ready to claim it - for I AM good enough. I always have been.

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Hope?

John William Waterhouse: Pandora, 1896

Yesterday I read another chapter from my old favourite, "You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought" that has really got me thinking. Referring to the story of Pandora and her box of evils, the reader is encouraged to consider Hope as an evil, rather than the more traditional interpretation. This is what the authors say:
"...when Pandora opened the box, all the evils of the world escaped. The last evil inside was hope. What happened to hope is not clear. Some stories say it remained inside; others say it got out. But all agree that hope was the last item in the box."
Most people interpret this as good news - yes, evil has been added to the world, but we've been given hope so that we can take care of all that evil.
The Greeks, however, considered Hope to be as dangerous as all the worlds evils. Some people believe, therefore, that Zeus provided hope as the worst suffering for humankind. He did not want man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man's suffering.
As the book says, perhaps if it wasn't for Hope, then we'd have cleared up all the evils of the world - we'd have sent them packing back in to the box! But what Hope does, is allow us to tolerate evil and just hope it's going to go away. So, when I looked at it that way, I realised that Hope, rather than being something positive, can in fact make us inactive. In that respect, I agree with the Greeks that it is one of the worst evils, for it can be insidious and lull us in to a false sense of security.
This, in my opinion, is the danger with some forms of 'positive thinking' - and, indeed, a danger to which I fell foul myself all those years ago when mum fell ill as you'll have read in a previous post. Rather than speaking out or trying to get something done, we instead chose 'hope' as our only sword.  
"I hope it will get better tomorrow" we can sigh to ourselves, while doing nothing to actually create a better tomorrow. By giving in to this particular type of hoping we're actually giving away our power. This kind of hope is the kind of hope that inspires passivity, resignation and stagnation. As Francis Bacon said, "Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper".
Yet I also believe there IS a good use for hope and hoping. One where we use it to lift our spirits, to give us belief, and still take positive action at the same time. By remaining hopeful, choosing to believe that there is a good outcome (no matter the evil we're facing) then we can use that to propel us forward and take action to work through our problems and find the right solutions. To quote the book again:
"You can hope things will get better - as a form of holding a positive image of completion - and that's fine. But if you're not taking specific, energetic and frequent actions to make things better, you've got the wrong kind of hope working for you - or, more accurately, working against you"
So now I am running an automatic internal check each time I find myself using the word 'hope'. I ask myself whether I'm using it as a replacement for action, or as a fuel for action. And that, although a seemingly tiny shift, I believe it's actually a major change - as is so often the case. 
I have a copy of the painting Hope, by George Frederick Watts, hanging in my office. It was painted by my great grandmother, and has with it a letter from the artist, granting her permission to copy his painting. It depicts a blindfolded lady, sitting on top of the world and holding a lyre in her hands. To me, it always signified that there was always hope even in the face of the worst trials. Now, however, I'm seeing it with new eyes. I see it now as a reminder to avoid 'blind hope' and instead remember my inner power and take appropriate and matching action!

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Saturday, 19 December 2009

It's Personal Now!

Now only 'the chosen' - ie. you - can see my blog, so now I have nothing to hide. So I'll be writing loud, proud, and with no more hidden messages! Right now, after a few glasses of red wine, I'm still wise enough to know I should choose my timing... so watch this space - I promise you some bombshells very very soon!!! (Good job the 'draft' button is private - cos that certainly needs some editing!!!) Lots of love xxx

Friday, 18 December 2009

Bring Me My Soapbox!

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins
And the UK is meant to be a 'developed' country, one where human rights and justice form the backbone of our society? If you've read my earlier soap-box session entitled "Happyman 213, the press and the lawyers"  you'll understand some of the frustrations I've been meeting along the way to rebuilding my life. Well, this latest turn is enough to make your teeth curl.

OK, so as a direct result of  what I believe was my husband's deliberate deception, misappropriation of company funds and fraudulent actions, I have discovered that I'm left with a whole mountain of personal debt that runs in to tens of thousands. And he is totally completely and utterly scot-free, excuse the pun. Because he planned it that way. 

He took sole charge of our finances in May 2008, and assured me that everything was in order and that financial agreements were all being honoured. And I believed him - after all, we were not only happily married, we were business partners as well. Why would I doubt what he was telling me?

But in fact this was far from the truth. He had failed to pay the mortgage for nearly six months. He had refused to pay suppliers. He had failed to pay back even a single penny of the business overdraft that I had personally guaranteed. And behind my back he was funding another life and spending money like water - on gadgets and shiny things for himself. Mountain bikes, computers, a holiday, jewellery, love trinkets, clothes, sports equipment - oh, and of course, the countless sex sites and porn channels.

So, as you know, once I discovered the truth back in April this year, I immediately froze the business bank accounts and instructed an insolvency agency to put the company in to liquidation. It was the best I could do at least to safeguard some money to get our suppliers paid. And yet - even though I personally called in the liquidators, they have still failed to give me details on exactly where we are with the process. Because, of course, they've met my ex in person - and have only spoken to me by telephone and via email. No matter how many times I ask for an update, nothing is forthcoming.

I've also been pushed from pillar to post in trying to deal with the debts that have landed on my doorstep. I accept that my situation is perhaps out of the ordinary, and as a result I've spent hours on the phone to UK and Scottish debt advisors. The messages I've been receiving are really quite astonishing.

Firstly, nobody, but NOBODY seems to be in the slightest bit interested in my ex's mismanagement of funds and deliberate deception. They are not interested that he has deserted the marriage and fled to safety in our home in Scotland where he stored all his gadgets and trinkets that have cost me so dearly. They are unwilling to seize any of these goods, despite the fact that they run in to tens of thousands of pounds worth of value. And why not you may ask?

"Because, madam, the debts you have are in your name. They are nothing to do with your husband." And that is as far as anybody is willing to look. 

But I've done everything in my power to bring the truth out in to the open, and to put things right! I didn't need to freeze the company accounts, I could have taken the money out for myself! I've passed over every scrap of evidence to support my claims that his actions have been fraudulent. But no. None of that seems to matter. All that matters is that the debts are in my personal name and, therefore, it's me personally who has full liability. Full stop. No argument. That is the law.

The latest advice I had just a couple of evenings ago is just unbelievable - and grossly unfair to the extreme. I have been exploring the route of obtaining a Protected Trust Deed through scottish law, because I am still registered as living in Edinburgh. Because of the equity I hold in my share of the family home here in France, this deed would mean that I have to pay back every penny of debt that I owe, plus interest. Fair enough, you might say - and yes, I'm perfectly willing to pay back money that I rightfully owe. 

But now here's the rub. Despite the fact that my husband deceived and abandoned me (and my son) and despite the fact that as a result I've been placed in a perilous financial predicament, the courts deem it just and fair that he has a claim over 50% of the family home. Despite the fact that he is currently living the life of riley in our place in Edinburgh. So this is the course of action I've been told I must take.

I have to sell my home - even though I have a child, my son, living with me full time. The proceeds of the sale will be split 50:50, and my estranged husband will receive his lump sum amount in cash. My 50% share, on the other hand, will go immediately to the Trustees, who will pay my creditors. I will then be expected to make arrangements to pay the outstanding balance.

So, my son and I will be left homeless, penniless, and still in debt. While my ex gets to keep the place in Edinburgh and also benefits from a nice bundle of cash from the sale of the house.

Is this justice? Is this fair? Is THIS what we call a civilised and fair society?

No, it is not. And, needless to say, I will NOT be taking their advice. Instead of which I'm now seeking other ways to deal with the problem - but it's hard work. And it's wrong. I've been the victim in all this, and yet I'm the one left holding the baby and being treated like a criminal. 

I have a lot to learn, and as I move forward with this I realise that there ARE other options I can explore. And explore them I will, for I will NOT lose any more to that conniving, soulless shell of a man I once called my husband and soul mate. 

And once I've found another way - I'm going to shout from the rooftops, and find a way to bring this injustice out in to the open. Watch this space.

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I'm Back!

Birthday Cake
It's been a while, I know, so what's prompted my return? Many things. And I'm not sure where to start.The big thing, I guess, is that it's my birthday. 


Yup, friday 18th December 2009 is a huge day for me in so many ways. I'm 45 (which means I've now officially out-lived both my parents), it's my first birthday in over a decade when I can finally say I'm out of "its" clutches, the day is Friday (my day of birth) and, to top it all, it's snowing! For the first time I can remember since I was very small!

So what's been happening since my last post? Well, to start with, I took the blog down for a while after a major move forward. In response to all the messages and encouragement I'd been receiving, I wrote a book proposal - which was accepted by the very first literary agent I approached; very exciting! So that was why I stopped. Added to which I had reason to believe that it had been noticed by my estranged husband. But the book itself is now coming along very nicely, and I have decided that now is a good time to re-start my personal blogging, it being my birthday and all that... 

I'm in a very different place now from the space I was in on my last entry. Lots has happened - many more challenges than I could have begun to anticipate, and I must say there have been times when I've been absolutely on the floor. But now, somehow, I've found my 'mojo' and believe I have the strength to come through everything that has happened, and anything else that is now going to be thrown at me.

My latest and most profound 'ah-ha' moment happened just a few days ago, last weekend in fact. Too many things have happened over the past few months for me to attempt to explain here and now, suffice it to say that at that point I had hit rock bottom after a series of disappointments despite my best efforts to keep strong. Try as I might, even after throwing myself in to new opportunities with all my heart, it seemed that the tables were well and truly turned against me. And I found myself sinking even further down than I had ever been before - and to top it all I'd suffered an ear infection that, had I still been a scuba-diver, would have disallowed me to plummet the physical depths, and in the meantime prevented me from reaching the emotional levels I had to go to in order to purge myself; the irony is not lost on me.

And yet, and yet... out of those depths that I could only imagine, I seem somehow to have found a new strength, a new lust for life (to quote one of my favourite tracks). This is how I found it.

Last Saturday night, 13th December, I'd gone to bed with the now familiar ache in my heart and blind panic in my mind that I'd grown used to over the previous few weeks.  My financial situation was at an all time low - I had nothing left to sell. The business project to which I'd dedicated the previous two months (and which had promised so much) had suddenly fallen over, and finding work this close to Christmas was proving to be an uphill battle for which I was not sufficiently equipped. But that didn't stop the bills. Electricity, telephone, oil, my son's school fees, mortgage - all reasonable bills that I had no way of honouring, and from which I had no place (or desire) to hide. I was embarrassed, frightened, overwhelmed and exhausted from the fight.
That night, I started reading a book that had just been returned to me. It's an old favourite entitled "You Cannot Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought" and is a book I've given out to numerous friends and colleagues over the years. That night, though, it had come back to me, returned by a dear friend and adopted family member. It's often said that the teacher or book you require turns up at exactly the right time, and this was most certainly the case for me. I was shattered. I'd spent the evening putting on my best smile, but I knew I was fooling nobody with my jolliness - least of all myself. My skin grey,  eyes sunken in to black sockets,  skin itching and sensitive, I'd gingerly maneuvered myself in to my bed, taking care not to jolt my cruciate-less knee. Once I'd settled as best I could, I picked up the book and opened it's well-thumbed and yellowing pages. 

The words instantly took me to a place of familiarity - a "home" that I'd temporarily forgotten about. No wonder I had recommended it so wholeheartedly to so many people! The book was (and is) a godsend. It's designed for people who are suffering from a life threatening illness - including, as it so wisely states, 'life itself' - and I realised that I had indeed been combating a life threatening situation myself. I may not have had the physical symptoms of an illness, per say, but the depths to which I had allowed myself to sink were certainly life-threatening in themselves. And that was brought home to me by a simple question that was posed in the early chapters of the book.

This was the question. "You have a decision to make. A question you need to ask yourself. For until you are clear, you cannot move forward. The question is this - ask yourself from deep within in your soul, do you want to live or do you want to die?"

It's a simple enough and straight forward question. And you'd think that the answer is obvious. But at that moment, when I read those words, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I could NOT answer the question. In my heart of hearts, from the deepest core of my being, I simply didn't know the answer. And that realisation absolutely rocked me - more than any of the experiences over the past few months.

My blood ran cold, and I recognised that I'd been in a place so dark, so soulless, that I was no longer sure that my life was worth living any more. I've had multiple experiences of suicides - my best friend, two of my mother's best friends, the brother of a best friend here in France, my neighbour when I lived in the flat in Brighton, and perhaps (although not proven) my father. It shook me to the core to think that I had allowed myself to sink so low that I was no longer certain whether I wanted to live or die. And the shocking truth that I hadn't even recognised it for myself was abolutely mind-blowing.

At that moment, the breath went from my body, my mind went blank, and I felt myself on the brink of the black and bottomless pit that was beckoning my soul - and I found with frightening clarity that until now I had almost been willing to accept the invitation. And that was the point when I made my choice. I made my commitment to live - more consciously and with more certainty than I can ever remember. And as I made that choice, I could easily have repremanded myself for being so selfish as to allow myself to sink so low. But instead I had the strange and comforting experience of holding myself in my arms, of singing a lullaby to myself, of forgiving myself for falling so far and so deeply.

So is this what the past few months have all been about? Has my lesson been to find a way to forgive myself? I've spent so long finding ways to forgive and accept the people and situations that have caused hurt to me and to Dylan - but perhaps the person I really needed to forgive and accept had been myself all along?I don't yet have the answers for sure, although I sense that this is indeed the case - but I do know for sure that now I am alive. 

Now I choose to live. Not just to survive, not just to be strong and tough and soldier through, but now - possibly for the first time ever - to actually live. To live with joy. With excitement, with passion and energy, and to truly thrive. This is my god-given right, and I have been denying myself this right for more years than I care to remember. So now, in the early hours of my 45th birthday (it's never too late to learn!) I am finally embracing my life with arms wide open. With a heart that is now pumping with joy - and a new-found determination to thrive, not just to survive. For I am sick of that - and, indeed, I was sick. Life-threateningly sick - to the pit of my stomach and the depths of my soul.

Now I believe I am truly on the way to living with peace of mind. Yes, there are still battles to be fought and won, but somehow they've lost their hold over me. They've shrunk. The battle cries are quieter and the scent of fear has all but disappeared. Now I'm here to live. Now I am on my side. Now I understand myself better than before. And now, finally, I don't need the approval of anyone else.

For now I finally love and approve of myself exactly as I am. And I'm grateful for my life. So now, on my 45th birthday, I feel I've been lucky enough to be born again - and this time, I'll take nothing for granted and will look after the one person who can help me. The one person who has been with me all the time. The one person I chose to ignore. Myself.

Happy Birthday, Mel - life has now begun.


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Friday, 4 September 2009

Authenticity

English: Foggy sunrise in San Francisco and Bu...
Hmmm.. this one's been rattling around for a while. The realisation and exploration of my own desire to be real. To be authentic. And in equal measures, my appreciation of all things that show themselves in this way.

Nature, for example. Now I can't argue with that one! It is as it is - as a very dear friend of mine says "a tree is a tree, and don’t kick a tree for being a tree!" 

A perfectly simple yet beautifully profound point. As is my nature, of course, I wanted more detail and he went on to explain "Nature is as it is, and useless to fight it, like ordering the tide not to come in, or trying to fight the wind or pull the stars from the sky"

But human beings? Well now, that's another subject altogether. As you'll know, I've experienced a great deal of duplicity over recent times, so truth and realism is now even more important to me than ever before.

When I started on my coaching pathway, it was always with the intention of being authentic with people. If someone genuinely wanted to make a difference then I'd be happy to help in every way possible. If not, well, that's their free choice and there's no invitation or requirement for me to intervene ("tree is tree").

Now, though, I'm beginning to wonder - or should that read wander?

Spiritual, religious, and cultural wisdoms, in my experience, all carry the same message - although often explained in different ways. And the message is this - that we are all of us already perfect, whole and complete. We are today, exactly where we choose to be, by our own free will and use of intention.

What, then, is the true purpose of those of us who put ourselves up as "coaches" "healers" "motivators" or any other label used to describe people who want to make a difference? Does our very role imply that we believe many people are less than perfect? And through our existence are we, therefore, feeding the very mis-belief that we are so determined to eradicate...?

Right here, right now, I choose to look at myself  long and hard in the mirror. 

Many years ago, when I was running regular Louise Hay workshops around the country, I worked with Max, a fellow trainer and great friend. He and I would ponder this question on many occasions, and we'd often come to the conclusion that there was no point in running such workshops since, if we are indeed all where we choose to be, and are already healed and whole, then the very existence of healing workshops such as ours served only to give credence to the (therefore) false belief that people are somehow incomplete. A little complicated to explain, perhaps, but we'd often end up jokingly agreeing that all we needed to do was to show up at the workshop and say "thank you for coming, and good bye, you are all already healed. Thanks!" We then decided that the next phase would be to stop offering workshops at all!

This may seem glib, and somewhat controversial, but it remains to this day an interesting point that I choose to explore at certain points. And right now is one of those points. 

The story of a Taoist Farmer beautifully explains the concept. This particular version is told by Chin-Ning Chu in "The Asian Mind Game: unlocking the hidden agenda of the Asian business culture - a westerner's survival manual" 

A man named Sei Weng owned a beautiful mare which was praised far and wide. One day this beautiful horse disappeared. The people of his village offered sympathy to Sei Weng for his great misfortune. Sei Weng said simply "That's the way it is"

A few days later the lost mare returned, followed by a beautiful wild stallion. The village congratulated Sei Weng for his good fortune. He said "That's the way it is"

Some time later, Sei Weng's only son, while riding the stallion, fell off and broke his leg. The village people once again expressed their sympathy at Sei Weng's misfortune. Sei Weng again said "That's the way it is"

Soon thereafter, war broke out and all the young men of the village except Sei Weng's lame son were drafted and were killed in battle. The village people were amazed at Sei Weng's good luck. His son was the only young man left alive in the village. But Sei Weng kept his same attitude: despite all the turmoil, gains and losses, he gave the same reply "That's the way it is"

And now, as I ponder my future career, and continue my own explorations, I truly believe that my days of executive coaching as it used to be are over. I'm checking in with my thoughts and emotions more than ever before, and each time I consider going back in to the market from where I came, I feel splintered. Because I can no longer give credence or devotion to that way of being. I know that I can do it, and many people have told me I am very skilled, but in my heart I am certain that I've moved past that point.

I now feel able to honestly ask myself, was I truly coaching people for them? Or was it actually for me? I'm in no way ungrateful or dismissive of the career I've enjoyed, in fact I feel honoured to have had such wonderful opportunities. I've achieved some fantastic results, which will stay with me for the rest of my life, but was my real and authentic intention for others? I truly believed so at the time, and I consistently put my heart, soul and full integrity in to everything that I did.

But now I feel I'm wandering away from that particular pathway. I feel I'm gaining a new and richer perspective.

Now I can honestly say I'm doing things for me. And if, along the way, I can still find a way to inspire others - not necessarily just through coaching and development, but through example and telling stories, then that's an added bonus.

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Thursday, 27 August 2009

Life Is Good...

English: Sunflower (Sunfola variety) against a...

"Forgive me father for I have sinned..." well, I haven't actually, but since my Blog often feels like a confessional, it seemed appropriate to start this post with those familiar words!

Since I last wrote, life is continuing to improve and expand in the most surprising and wonderful ways as I continue to find myself and stay open to possibilities. People are asking me whether this "new me" is real... checking to make sure that I'm not putting on an act. And I find that really very refreshing. 

In my "old life" I was known for being positive, optimistic, energetic and always on top of my game. I was expected to be bouncy, full of fun, and always have something on the go. No questions asked, no checking, because this was the reality of Mel. And in many ways it was - although, as I've discovered, there was much of myself and my life that I was denying.

Over the past few months, my friends and family have seen me at absolute rock bottom. Unable to pick myself up, and unwilling to put on a pretense. Uncomfortable at first in asking for help and support, I became more receptive as the days and weeks went past. My friends will tell you it's been a battle, since I'm stubborn as a mule! And I have to agree...

Today, I'm sitting at the table outside my kitchen, the weather is perfect, and I am waiting for my son to arrive back from England with his father. All is well.

And now, when I look back at what has happened over the past few weeks - couple of years in fact - I can only smile and feel grateful, right to the very depths of my being. It has been a journey that, at times, I feared I would not survive. With my promise to fully feel emotions, and conscious of the fact that many of these would involve past experiences who's roots were deeply buried in my psyche, it's taken every ounce of courage and energy to go there. To explore the places I feared would engulf me with the intensity of hidden pain I'd chosen to lock away over the years. The small hurts, and the life-changing shocks that threatened to destroy me - all had left their mark.

And, I must be honest, given half the chance I would quite willingly have left them there, never to have surfaced again. But when I made my silent vow, the tiny whisper 18 months ago to "call in my soul" I knew some major shifts would have to take place. Little did I realise that the catalyst for this would have been my beloved husband. The person to whom I'd freely given my love and my life, and who I worshipped more than anything else. This same person who then cut me down, betrayed me, with such callous precision that I had to make a real choice.

Would I blame him? Would I fall and crumble? Or would I take responsibility, accept my own part in this journey, and find the courage to change within myself so that I could heal and secure my escape and freedom. Of course, I chose the latter. 

I honestly believe that this is the route I've always chosen - certainly in consciousness since I started studying self improvement as a serious way of life. And I honestly thought I had it sussed. I truly believed that I had cleared out all my old blocked emotions, and had truthfully dealt with the painful issues of my past. And I had - as far as was possible for me at the time.

One of my great teachers, Dr Patricia Crane, once said to us that the spiritual journey is like peeling back the layers of an onion. Just as you think you're there, there's another layer to discover and more tears to shed. It was 1997, and I was on the Louise Hay Teacher Training Programme, and boy, I'd shed enough tears that week to float a battleship! That particular experience put me in good stead and, I believe, has kept me rock solid for more than a decade.

This latest "gift" from Cam has allowed me to remove and explore more layers. To shed more tears. To open my heart more than I knew was possible. To remove the blinkers of habit and reassess my life. On my own terms.

And this time, I know I've gone deeper than before. It's already been excruciatingly painful, and more terrifying than any of the nightmares that would often haunt my dreams - and I accept there are still plenty more battles to fight and win. But now I know that I have my own army with me and within me. Not just the bouncy, noisy, laughing soul-army of previous times, now I have the added battalions of peace, measured wisdom, and a gentle inner knowing that is now part of my every day life.

I've pulled, poked and prodded at the old scars - opening them up one by one, scraping out the hurt and betrayal, facing my deepest fears... and through that process I've found myself. More of myself than I ever realised existed before. Yes, I've grown. And, like the sunflower in the picture, my face and soul now turns automatically towards the sun without me having to think about it. My scars are healing, leaving marks of experience in place of my old battle wounds. Scars I'm now proud to show, proud to know are a part of me - they're proof of my journey of love, innocence and courage to find myself. A rite of passage that I wear with pride.

Daily, now, I automatically notice the gifts in every situation, and accept the good in my life with gratitude and a sense of excitement. And the surprises are coming along thick and fast. Opportunities are showing themselves in the most unexpected of places, and I'm enjoying life more than I ever have before. At last I've discovered what it means to be truly authentic. To say when I'm feeling lost or sad, and to accept the love and support that surrounds me every day. 

Life IS good, and I celebrate the gifts that have ultimately been bestowed upon me through the absolute betrayal of the person I trusted most in the whole world. Was that person Mike? Or was that person me? That's an added gift to ponder. It keeps me chuckling, my soul basking in the warm feeling of acceptance that is deeply engrained in my being. 

So I'll finish this post once more with thanks. Thanks to Cam for his treatment of me, thanks to my friends for rallying around and showing me the richness of my relationships, and thanks to myself, for having the courage to face the impossible and come out victorious.

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Friday, 7 August 2009

Nature, Nurture, and Now For Something Completely Different

The human soul
It's like this, you see. For so many years I've "survived" and "got through" stuff that's happened in my life. I've kept a smile on my face, stayed strong and believed that "every little thing's gonna be alright" (yes, I'm a strong audio-dominant for those who are conversant with NLP!). In actual fact, these strong beliefs have meant that I have enjoyed a fulfilling and lucrative career that spans more than a decade in coaching others how to become more and achieve more than they had previously thought was possible.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking my career, nor any of the life lessons I so utterly believed in at the time - I still truly believe that I've been blessed to have experienced the many life changes that people have chosen to make where I have played a role in those "ah- ha" experiences. Some bigger, others smaller. Whether as instigator, partner or witness, those moments continue to be a huge inspiration to me, and likely always will be.

Now, though, it's just that I'm beginning to ponder on the deeper meaning, the true nature of the human soul - well, my own human soul in any case!

There's a saying that goes "we teach what we need to learn" and that has played on my mind for many years. I have shared the question with many of my teachers, co-facilitators and friends and received varying responses. The most interesting, perhaps, from my estranged husband who used to pooh-pooh any such ideas as being "hippy-shit" that he simply wasn't willing to explore (bearing in mind that we met and fell in love on a firewalking instructors course, those words were pretty hollow... or defensive perhaps?). In hindsight, it probably explains a lot about our relationship and accounts for the battles that used to appear in front of us every step of the way. 

At the time, I figured that he and I were "all that there was" - we were strong, we were eternal, we were true twin flames. So the problems and issues that we continued to fight together were, from my perspective, merely there to test our relationship - to prove to ourselves that we were unbeatable. So I didn't question any further. And through all of this, we continued to teach, we continued to inspire, and we continued to have a positive impact on peoples' lives. And together, truth be told, we did a damned fine job.

Now that I'm alone I have space to breathe again. Time to think, room to feel, the opportunity to question deeply - and finally to hear the answers.

It isn't easy. It's painful, exhausting, soul-searing and frightening. Anyone who would now stand up in front of me and say "Oh, change? That's an easy game!" clearly hasn't plumbed the depths of their soul. Hasn't asked themselves the really difficult questions - the ones that we'd often prefer to gloss over or ignore with a trite "what was that you said? What ever are you on? Get out of here!" Or, as was frequently said to me by you-know-who "well, that's just hippy-shit - get over yourself!"

Yes, I was one of those people who taught - and believed - that change could indeed be easy. And I believed that I had the right to state that fact and ask the accompanying questions based on my life experiences. You know from my previous blogs that I was orphaned, emotionally abused, ostracised from my family, and left to fend for myself from an early age. And yet I'd made it through. I'd won against the odds. And by all accounts I was living a successful and fulfilling life. And I was teaching others how to do the same.

Therein lies the tale - or the lesson, perhaps.

I'd made it to a certain time and space in my life, and felt so damned good that I'd got "here" I wanted to share with other people. Yes, as I've said, I had massive successes - and the positive changes that people were able to make are a credit to them. Not, as it turns out, to me.

Unbeknown to me, I was still the student - but I'd forgotten how to learn. I had thought that I had found some great knowledge or secrets to share with others - and each time another delegate stepped up to the mark, it reinforced my belief that I was absolutely on the right track. That I was doing something good in life - I was helping others to avoid the pitfalls that had hijacked me in younger years. All good stuff, very powerful and also commendable beyond question. It was also achieving fantastic results. What it was not doing, however, was encouraging me to learn and grow as a human being. I had been so focused on passing on all the good stuff I'd learned, that I'd stopped growing in myself.

No wonder, then, that for so many years I've felt "stifled" - since the split from my husband, Cam, I have conveniently put that mantle on him. At the beginning, I'd say to myself and anyone else who chose to listen "well, I'm free now! He's kept me down for so long - I loved him with my entire heart body and soul, and that clearly wasn't enough because still he pushed me down!" Shock reaction and instant reflex, yes of course. And I did love him with every nerve cell and fibre of my body and soul - that's fact. But the truth? The soul-searing, heart-rending, identity-shattering truth? No... I don't think so.

Yes, it's true that he put me down. He also put Dylan down. Yes, he is controlling and utterly focused on self-gratification. Yes, it's also true that I had so much faith and belief in our relationship and in what I believed was right and good, that I thought I could pull us all through. And that was what I spent my focus and energy on doing. And it kept me in the space of being "ok" - it kept reinforcing my belief that all was well and that I could encourage anyone and anything around from an unfortunate set of circumstances. After all, look at what I'd overcome myself and by myself?!

And yet... Now as I'm facing unexpected and tumultuous battles of my own, battles that are the result of my blind trust and faith in my marriage, I'm finding different answers. Some of them are unpalatable, it's true... and yet, in my soul, I know they're enriching. They are, indeed, the truths and nurture that my very nature has craved for years.

I have come to learn that I did have a choice. I chose to believe that I was meant to be the strong one. That I could carry anyone and any situation. I still can. But what I'd missed in the meantime, was to look out for me - for Melanie. For that human being, that small child who had been so badly hurt and betrayed so many times in her life that I, as an adult, had allowed it to happen yet again, so that finally we could meet - and heal together.

And so, for that, I thank Cam. I thank my husband for the chaos that our relationship has caused. I thank him for the true and honest experience I enjoyed of love and adoration beyond my wildest dreams. For the feeling of safety and that exquisite meeting of souls - of living and being with a true soul-mate, a dream that I had always imagined.

Because if I hadn't let myself go as an adult, only to be betrayed and hurt beyond the realms that any person could be expected to endure, I would not have been able to really and honestly reunite with that little girl I lost so long ago. That small innocent and loving child, who went by the name of Boo, who lost her father, her hero, so suddenly all those years ago. 

Now my life is something completely different. Now I don't know where I'm going, I don't know what my career will be - how I will earn a living, or how I will continue to reach people. This, by the way, remains my absolute driving force. This time, though, whatever form it may take, I'm doing it for me and from me - so all I can think is that, judging from the results I've had before... well, it's going to be fantastic! For me, and for those who choose to learn with me along the way.

So I finish, for now, with a heartfelt thanks to Cam. No matter how badly he's behaved, I'll hold with me the love I felt for him and I know that next time, when I meet someone who feels the same way back, well, then I'll truly experience heaven on earth.

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Monday, 3 August 2009

Something Inside So Strong

Labi Siffre

Labi Siffre's song of strength and courage has helped me through many dark days and testing moments. Now more than ever the words are ringing in my ears and the volume is turned up high, because I finally feel that I've succeeded in calling in my spirit - the quiet promise I made to myself less than 2 years previously.

Little realising at the time exactly what that might entail, and the magnitude of change and testing I would need to overcome, today I stand strong and grateful that the changes have happened. I'm free now, you see. Yes, there are plenty of battles ahead of me that will be fought and won. But now I have an inner calm and outer faith that I can honestly say I've never experienced before.

Nothing externally has changed. I am still as poor as a church mouse and I have no idea how I'm going to meet the mounting bills, my leg is still in a brace and I will still likely need an operation to fix my cruciate ligament, and there is still no movement on the divorce.

And yet.... and yet. Something has changed. Something inside. A change of perspective.  A change so deep that, although it's a very new sensation (less than 2 days) it surely has manifested itself on all levels. Because it's already working subconsciously. A couple of pieces of news today that promise to slow down my progress, have been met with a new calmness and a totally natural upbeat response. Just last week that kind of news would have pushed me back down further in to my pit of darkness.

So what has happened? How did I get to here from there? It is said that many a mickle makes a muckle, so I'd like to pay attention to a few mickles from last week that, I believe, have finally created the tipping point in my quest.
Thursday had been another particularly tough day - for no other reason apart from the fact that I was exhausted. Tired from the emotional fight, tired from my physical injury, and sleep deprived due to the continuing nightmares that continued to haunt me. My wonderfully warm and supportive friends were still surrounding me, and yet I was feeling that no matter what they were saying or doing for me I simply couldn't shake the darkness that was enveloping me. I was restless, couldn't settle, and every conversation or thought process was an effort.

We were preparing home made burgers. It had become an impromptu contest to create the best patties - Pledgers v Brightmans - and our naturally competitive spirits were thriving. Yet my smile was forced, my jolliness was a conscious effort and I simply couldn't tap in to the usual joie de vivre that is 'me'. 

I was sitting out on the front terrace, chatting on the phone to a friend in the UK and enjoying the wonderful aromas and the sure smell of victory as our creations were cooking in the oven. The front gate rattled as my son loped through the courtyard after returning from his temporary horse-feeding job. "Here y'are mum" he mumbled as a handful of letters from the postbox were plonked down in front of me. 

I've been wary of opening letters, since they all seem to contain bills and demands that I simply can't pay at the moment. But one letter caught my attention. The address was hand-written and the envelope was postmarked from Australia - from my best friend's parents. I'd just like to point out that my best friend, Tanya, had passed away very suddenly a few years earlier, and her parents have been struggling through their own living hell since the day she died. That fact makes this particular turn of events even more poignant.

I opened their letter and this is just part of what they had written:

"We can only imagine the pain you are going through coming to terms with the betrayal that has been inflicted upon you... Be strong, Mel, you have proven to yourself in the past that you have the determination and the drive to confront seemingly impossible situations and overcome them, so keep fighting..."

The words were enough to bring tears to my eyes and stir a sense of deep love and gratitude in my heart. And then I saw it. They had enclosed a cheque to help me out in my time of greatest need. That was it, the floodgates opened. Tears coursed down my cheeks, and I sobbed out loud.

I buried my head in my hands as I heaved and gulped through the details with my friend, Matt, still on the other end of the phone. Over the past few months I've experienced plenty of sobbing moments, and Matt has regularly shared these times with me through the wonders of modern technology. So he was used to the tears - but this time it was different. This time, for the first time in months, I was shedding tears of pure joy. 

Yet Friday, I hit a low again. Riding the breakers of this particular tsunami can be quite exhausting. Just as I'm coasting, with a good wind behind me and the promise of sunshine over the next wave, something comes along to pull me back down in to the depths. The smallest change of temperature, the slightest gust of wind, and I'm off the board and struggling for breath as I fight to stay away from the brooding undercurrents threatening at any moment to take me down to a watery grave.

Susan and I were at the Prefecture (French office for car licenses) with our final bits of paperwork to register an english car here in France. All was going smoothly, then they asked for payment of €350 to complete the process. My face reddened and silent tears ran down my cheeks. I simply don't have that kind of money at this moment in time, and once again I felt my careful planning unravel at the final hurdle. My darling friend stepped in to cover my embarrassment, but yet again I became acutely aware of just how vulnerable a position I am in right now.

Saturday was a monumental date for me. You see, Saturday 1st August 1998 was the day that I met and fell in love with Cam. For me, it was the most important day of the year, and we would always celebrate our special day together. Just last year we were with friends celebrating our 10 year anniversary together, so I was absolutely dreading its arrival this year. 

This year, on what would have been our 11 year anniversary, I awoke to find that my telephone was out of order. So once again I had to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get on with solving the problem. The tiniest effort was draining me, and it seemed to take for ever to hobble over to next door and use their phone to report the problem to France Telecom. They eventually agreed to send an engineer at the beginning of the week.

I was expecting another friend to come over from the UK the next day, but it was at this point that I realised I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Added to which I was struggling to find a way to collect and return her to the airport, since I am currently unable to drive. She's a good friend, and I decided the only way forward would be to cancel her visit. I knew it was short notice, but I also knew that I simply was not strong enough to deal with another visitor - even though I was looking forward to seeing her. And I knew that she'd understand.

With the phone line down, I resorted to contacting her on Facebook. It was one of the hardest actions to take, yet I knew at the same time that it was the right thing to do. I have had so much support and love surrounding me for the past few weeks, so it was about time I also demonstrated love and support for myself. This may sound daft, but it's one of the only times I can ever remember doing that - give me a fight or a cause for someone else, and I'm there straight away. Stand up for myself though and that's another story altogether. 

For years and years I've believed that I'm strong, tough and safe. Operating under those guidelines, I had felt that I did not require any help or support - that there were others more in need than myself. That I could cope, no matter what. I even prided myself in my ability to survive and flourish even in the face of the most extreme of experiences.
I've also, though, over the past few weeks been asking myself how much more I needed to be tested to prove this. What were the lessons that I was refusing to learn. Was I being stubborn? Deluded? Or could it be that in all innocence, and despite my best efforts, I honestly could not see...

I was about to find out.

The next day, Sunday, I woke up and sensed that something had changed. A cloud had lifted. I felt free. It was a fundamental shift - and felt like a miracle had occurred. It wasn't earth shattering, there had been no thunderbolts or lighting, and no booming voice from above. I just felt different. I had even woken up with Captain Sensible in my head, chirping "Happy Talk" with glee. The spooky thing about this was that my friend and other houseguest Vikki was experiencing exactly the same song in her head at exactly the same time - but that's another story to be told another time. Sarah noticed something was different as soon as I came downstairs - she said that I looked clearer and brighter, as though a grey fog had disappeared. And I felt I could properly smile once more - this time, though, with my heart and soul.

It was late in the afternoon and it had been raining cats and dogs, and Dylan had cycled out some time earlier to feed the horses. I heard the gates slam, and saw him coming towards the house. There was something wrong. His t-shirt was rolled up, as were one of his trouser legs. And he was hobbling.

It turned out that he'd slipped on one of the peddles, the wheels had jammed and he'd flipped headfirst over the handlebars about 1.5 km away from the house. So he'd had to pick himself up and stumble home alone in the pouring rain and pushing his damaged bike. He was in total shock, as you can imagine, and had blood pouring from one of his toes and also from his shoulder. It had taken him an hour to cover the distance.

A cup of hot sweet tea later, and wounds bathed and bandaged up, he was clearly still in pain and needed to rest up. And here's where his actions gave me the biggest 'ah ha moment' perhaps of my entire life. Despite being surrounded by people, and being urged to put his foot up, he was absolutely determined to use my crutches so that he could get a cushion for himself, and then to move things off the sofa so that he could sit down. He was completely ignoring every offer of assistance, determined instead to do things by himself.

It was like a lightbulb went off in my head, as I noticed my own frustration and helplessness at not being able to help him, together with the same obvious frustration showing in the faces of everyone else around. I laughed out loud, and enquired of Sarah "that's exactly what I do as well, isn't it?"  Her face and that of others told me all I needed to know, and all of a sudden I realised that the lesson I had been failing to learn was to trust others to look after me. To accept support graciously, and to stop trying to be so strong.

In my attempts to look after myself, I've inadvertently pushed away many offers of caring and support - yet paradoxically it's been care and support that I've always yearned.

And now so many things are falling in to place as I ponder that simple yet profound realisation. I could not see it in myself, yet my beautiful and brave son played it out so clearly in front of me that I couldn't help but learn. As always, Dylan has touched my soul and has once again enriched my life in a way he probably doesn't even realise.  
So now, this is where life begins. This time, finally, I have called in my spirit, and I KNOW that I am finally experiencing that specific "something inside so strong" that I've yearned to find since my childhood.



(with thanks and deep appreciation to Labi Siffre)
The higher you build your barriers
The taller I become
The farther you take my rights away
The faster I will run
You can deny me
You can decide to turn your face away
No matter, cos there's....
Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Tho' you're doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong
The more you refuse to hear my voice
The louder I will sing
You hide behind walls of Jericho
Your lies will come tumbling
Deny my place in time
You squander wealth that's mine
My light will shine so brightly
It will blind you
Cos there's......
Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Tho' you're doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong
Brothers and sisters
When they insist we're just not good enough
When we know better
Just look 'em in the eyes and say
I'm gonna do it anyway (x 4)
Something inside so strong
And I know that I can make it
Tho' you're doing me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong
Brothers and sisters
When they insist we're just not enough
When we know better
Just look 'em in the eyes and say
I'm gonna do it anyway (x 4)
Because there's something inside so strong
And I know that I can make it
Tho' you're doing me, so wrong
Oh no, something inside so strong
Oh oh oh oh oh something inside so strong

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Monday, 20 July 2009

Boy George, Handbags And Crutches

Boy George
Or how this particular 80's chick has discovered a new definition for "mind altering joints"

It was Friday night Saturday morning, and we were in full throttle. Wooden spoons for microphones, handbags on the floor for something to dance around ("it won't be a proper disco if we don't have our handbags in the middle!" Sarah had decided a few tracks earlier) all of us gyrating and singing along to Culture Club's hypnotic "Do you Really Want to Hurt Me?" the song and the music still as beguiling as it was the first time Boy George appeared on Top of The Pops.

We had all been transported back to the 80's discotheques of our youth - Suffolk for Vera, Manchester for Sarah and Eastbourne for me. We all had our favourite and quite different haunts, but the shared memories took us all to our younger days, and made our bond even stronger. Learned at different locations, we had also clearly all picked up the same dodgy dance moves as well.

We all met in France, having left the UK at various points in our lives. Vera, the youngest of the three of us, has been here since she was 18. Having come to France as an aupair, she fell in love with the boy next door and has been here ever since. Many years and two gorgeous children later, she still absolutely adores life here and is one of my "chosen" sisters. You know what I mean? People who come in to your life and you just instinctively feel that they're family.

Sarah, a year younger than me, spent 12 years here before packing up again and moving to Dubai with her husband and two children. We were already best friends before they left, and over the four years that they've been gone, our friendship has grown ever stronger. Various unforseen circumstances has meant that this is the third time I've seen Sarah this year. Another "chosen" sister, she and the kids had arrived chez-moi just one day earlier, so we'd decided that Friday night was to be a wild celebration of sisterhood!

The evening had gone well. All the children (hmmm... hormonal teenagers in actual fact, who grunt and lope around quite clearly embarrassed by their mothers!) had already started their own party while we finished off our meal in the kitchen. It was well past midnight before we finished the main course, and we'd moved out to the back terrace to enjoy the evening and a couple of vodka shots, brought over from Dubai.

We decided some time later that our other chosen sister, Sharon, should also be included in our party, so we hit upon the idea to call her so she could join in the festivities. Not, as it turned out, the best idea. She and her husband were both fast asleep, but, with typical grace and good humour she quickly got in to the groove with us. "It's so much harder to say she said than I said!" trilled Vera down the telephone, with Sarah and I cackling in the background! This all made perfect sense to us, of course, and Sharon simply commented that she was glad she could enjoy the humour without the headache in the morning.... it was an omen.

Shrieking with laughter and boosted by our ever-strengthening sisterhood bonding (and the Russian vodka) we made the fateful decision to start the disco.

Never a very confident dancer, but bouyed up with exuberance, I found myself throwing inhibitions out of the window and joined in with the ever increasing gyrations. I had just completed a rather impressive "how low can you go" routine with Sarah's very beautiful 15 year old daughter (I did pretty well actually.... considering!) when we decided to return once again to Culture Club.

I cheered loudly as "I'll tumble for ya" started to play and the memories flooded in - another omen. Half way through one of my more enthusiastic moves, my knee twisted in a way that nature never intended, and I fell straight to the floor in surprise and agony. I'm one of those lucky people who have never had an accident and am rarely ill. So when my body suddenly disobeyed my instructions, I was absolutley dumbfounded - and scared.

The past few months have left me feeling out of control as, on a daily basis, I continue to deal with the never ending nightmare that has been left for me to clear up. And now, with my knee severely damaged, I cannot even rely on my usually strong body to carry me forward.

I'm helpless and now totally in the hands of others until my knee heals. Nothing done by half, it appears I have torn my cruciate ligament. Weeks in a brace, followed by 20 physio sessions before I can have an MRI scan and then, likely, an operation to mend the damage. Then even longer to heal.

Done in a fraction of a second, the twisting of my knee joint has caused me to adapt my approach even further. Just when I thought I was getting used to the challenges, and that I was finally getting stronger again, I'm having to change my mind once more and learn a whole new coping strategy.

Fiercely independent since childhood, I've always prided myself on my ability to look after myself as well as others.

Now this, for the time being, seems to have gone as well. I am absolutely in surrender, and faith is now my crutch. I'm surrounded by great friends and a huge wave of support. But there is nothing more I can do for myself. My plans to secure work in September are now scuppered, and I simply don't know how I'm going to make ends meet. 

Over just a few weeks everything has changed - I've lost my husband, my business, my 'reality' and now my physical independence. I'm wondering now just how much lower I'll need to go before I can start to rebuild. The way things are going, I may well need to consider selling my beautiful home, as I just don't know where the money is going to come from now. My internal entertainment system constantly on play, Gnarls Barkley is now moving ominously closer with his frighteningly accurate musings "I think you're crazy"...

And yet, in some very strange and quiet way, I feel safe. I feel secure. And I know that things are working behind the scenes. 

This is what I'm holding on to, this is what's keeping me going and, as I look in to the faces of my wonderful friends, and I feel the love that's supporting me, I just know that somehow I'm OK. For the first time in my life, I truly have reached surrender and I know that in one way or another, I can trust life to throw me the lifeline I've been searching for since childhood.

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