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

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Petit à Petit L'oiseau Fait Son Nid

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula), Austin's Fer...
... is one of my favourite French sayings. The literal translation is "a bird builds it's nest little by little" but the deeper meaning is more along the lines of "with time and perseverance goals can always be accomplished" - and that's where I am today. Finally my nest is coming together. And finally I am straightening out the little niggles that have been pecking at my conscience.

You see, things are falling in to place. Almost as if by magic. And it feels so good!

On a recent visit to the UK, for example, I had a magical time catching up with old friends I haven't seen in years. Dave on the Tuesday night for the first time in seven years, Craig on the Saturday for the first time in twenty, and Tanya's parents, on the Sunday for the first time in three years. I've also deepened existing friendships - Beatrix and I had a magical Friday evening together that lasted right through until gone 4am on Saturday culminating with an impromptu firewalk in her back yard. OK, it was only two steps, but we repeated it plenty of times!

In a couple of weeks I have another old friend from 20 years ago coming to stay. That same month I'm hooking up with a school friend who's visiting the UK, and in the beginning of September yet another old school friend I haven't seen since we were teenagers is also coming to visit here in France! Just last week I had the Princess and the Runner here to stay (you know who you are!) and it was fabulous - my friendships are getting stronger and stronger, and my life is enriched as a result.

And I'm also strengthening the relationship with myself each and every day - although I must admit it's not always easy. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I spent two days observing a 'training' event for the 250 top-tier leaders in a hugely successful UK PLC. It's the first in a series, and they had asked me to provide feedback on the event and help them to make the following planned events more successful. A great opportunity! But as I was observing the whole situation, I felt myself getting more and more uncomfortable with what I was witnessing. Double-speak, manipulation and bullying and at it's nastiest - because the delegates, the so-called valued leaders of this organisation, the very people the event was allegedly designed to help, ended up feeling that they were somehow at fault.

I heard the whispers and read the fearful thoughts that leaked through their behaviour and body language. "Perhaps I'm too stupid to understand the messages? Perhaps I shouldn't really be here? Perhaps I'm just being tested and singled out for the next round of culling?" It was nasty. Insidious. And I began to wonder to myself whether I was trapped inside the Matrix. Surely I wasn't the only one who could see beyond these masks of professionalism that the heavy-weight speakers and organisers were preaching as "openness" "honesty" and "one team"...? Or perhaps it's just that I'm now indelibly tarnished from my experiences with Cam - and my in-depth knowledge and appreciation of abusive behaviour. Perhaps I'm automatically seeing the baddie in everyone and everything?

My answers to these inner questions came in three different ways. Firstly, there was a consultant there at the event who had been working with this particular company for the previous eight months. We were sat together on the same table and we immediately bonded. She echoed my thoughts and concerns, and also shared more in-depth background on her own viewpoints over the time she's been working with these people. I felt delighted (and a little bit smug if truth be told) to discover that my observations over such a short space of time were exactly the same as hers after eight months involvement. Ha, so I haven't lost my touch then!

Secondly, as I was driving away from the event, I received a call on my mobile from the person who'd originally introduced me to the company. I'd worked with him some seven years earlier when he was with another organisation - the work had made a significant difference to him and his team, and he was keen to get me in to this place. Now I understood why. He explained to me his frustrations with the company, and how their unreasonable demands and relentless bullying had resulted in his breakdown a few months earlier. He stressed that he's not the only one, but that the culture is to keep your head down and do anything to survive the blows. That way of working goes totally against my grain, and I felt desperately sorry for these genuine people who were surely just being used and abused - empowerment was a joke, a word that the leaders were telling everybody they had to achieve (and berating those who didn't) but only so long as they remained in their box and 'did' empowerment as the leaders expected. Again, I'd seen all of that about the culture in a very short space of time - ha!

Thirdly, a great friend of mine (a very senior HR professional) gave me this simple comment when told about the horrors of this particular organisation: "Sounds like a client you don't want to be working with, however it reminded you how good you are. Cutting to the chase on the analysis issues so your team can deliver!"

So, the answer is no. No I'm not seeing horrors in everything. No it's not that I'm tainted. No I wasn't wrong. In fact I'd say that, on the contrary, I've become stronger and more accurate in my observations, and certainly more authentic in my responses. Because I sent this company a brief but honest feedback report on my observations, together with a short email stating that I'd happily go in to more detail as and when they chose to move forward with me - confident that they had no intention whatsoever of calling me back. Because, as I found out on the first morning, they already have a consultancy working with them, and they certainly don't need another. In fact I have no idea why I was invited in the first place - unless they thought they'd get a full-blown guidance report for free! The response came back as expected, that they thought the event was a huge success (of course) and they're taking my feedback on board as they plan the next events (because, actually, they don't want to change anything).

So, job done. Professional integrity in tact, safe escape from a toxic company, and a clearing of the pathway to make space for clients who really do want to make a positive difference.

And guess what? One such new client has immediately come in to play. Fun, forward-thinking, with clear integrity and a major passion for developing their people. Oh, and they're also worldwide with fantastic plans for the future. During the meeting we spoke the same language and shared the same passion. Now that's the kind of client I'm going to love working with and will happily give my all!

Petit a petit, petit a petit. What looks like a failure can be released in place of the hidden treasures that sit behind every situation. And, while it often feels as though I'm taking one step forward and two steps back, I know - I absolutely know - that little by little I'm making progress, and building solid foundations on which to create my new world.

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Saturday, 17 July 2010

Form E - Disclosure And Discovery

Paperwork
These past two days have found me completing a complicated and (in my humble opinion) unnecessary 36-page form that apparently plays a critical role in my divorce. It's all about the money, you see. It seems it's the only way a marriage can actually be measured. The disclosure of financial circumstances that define the "pot" from which a judge will decide the appropriate division of assets. Except in my case, for reasons that I've explained before, there is no pot. There is just a gaping great big financial (and emotional) hole in the place of what I thought was a partnership built on love, trust and mutual respect.

I've already been called stupid, blind, delusional and all manner of other descriptives when it comes to my explanation of the car-crash of a mess that I find myself in since the discovery of how my estranged husband had been behaving behind my back. And seeing the contents of this particular form in black and white, well, I can understand how many people can believe that to be the case. In fact one of my trusted friends said exactly that to me just this week - in so many words anyway. She told me, with tears in her eyes that I need to "get real" and "take my head out of the sand". Harsh, but meant with the best of intentions. So I chose to listen.


And through listening, and biting my tongue on many occasions, I learned that actually I have been doing the best I can and I have been facing the problems head on. What I've clearly failed to do, however, is to understand and take on board the specific and process-driven language of the law. And along with that, the accepted approach that is expected in completing such a document that is destined for the eyes, opinion and ultimate judgement of the legal system. A way of being that I have to say I have very little faith in following the scarily contradicting advice I've received from numerous solicitors, debt advisors and other professional bodies from whom I've sought advice over the past year. Each one professing to have the solution. Each one promising me that this is the law. The way. The only solution.

It's been an eye-opening journey of discovery that has resulted in my conviction that it is up to me, and only me, to find a way through the maze of difficulties I've had to overcome since I discovered the email trail that told me beyond any doubt that my marriage was a sham. The absolute and irrefutable proof that I had pledged my love, commitment and (blind?) faith to someone who was prepared to not only lie and cheat, but who would also abandon me to a pack of money-starved wolves baying for my blood, without even a backwards glance.

So to be told by this trusted friend that I'd hidden my head in the sand for too many months and also advised that I need to "get a grip on reality" was a pretty hard pill to swallow. But then my interpretation of those words is only that. My interpretation. Perhaps it wasn't the intention. And that was the only reason that I listened. And I'm glad that I did.

Because through my friend's emotionless approach (don't get me wrong, she cares deeply for me and is concerned about what's happened, but she was able to approach the task in a non-emotional way that was way beyond my capabilities) I learned that many of the things I wanted to say, in the way I wanted to say them, were in fact highly likely to go against me in a court of law. I learned that this form, this pain-in-the-arse pile of paperwork that demands my total disclosure of the miserable and excruciatingly embarrassing financial situation that I'm in - along with the proof documents that would back up my confessions - could actually be the key to the clean break I'm seeking. That I'd be wise to rise above my emotions, distance myself from the perfectly justified fury I feel, and place the cold hard facts on the table. And all in such a way that a totally dispassionate judge might be able to grasp the whole situation and make a decision in my favour. I still cringe and fight about the idea that a judge might hold the power to give a verdict on what should or shouldn't be given or taken from me, but I'm having to learn that this is the law of our land. Ass or not, it's a constitution whose rules I need to understand so that I can do my best to let them work for me rather than against me.

And yet I'm tired. I'm all washed-up. The fight and the fury has gone. I've been placing every ounce of energy in to building a business so that I can get out of this mess. To re-build my self-esteem and re-create a business that works for me rather than against me. To create and live the life I've always wanted to live. On my own this time, yes, rather than with a life-partner. But still, to find myself in a place of peace where I can breathe, relax, enjoy life and truly relish every moment rather than fearing each letter that arrives in the post. Without dreading every 'out of area' phone call on my landline. Without holding my breath whenever there's the announcement of a new email on my laptop. It's no way to live - but it's been my way of life for over a year now.

So it has taken super-human strength for me to attack this task with the same level of professionalism I employ when I attack my work. Thoroughly. Accurately. With focus and determination. And with a goal to finish it faster than expected. And, together with the patient help and cajoling of my friend, it was all done and dusted by 5pm today. The t's are crossed and the i's are dotted. The only things still missing are the 12-months of bank statements, which are on the way. Job done. My entire marriage explained in black and white via a series of numbers and failures recorded on a ream of photocopy paper. Kinda sad, don't you think?

Did I happen to mention that at the same time, this week has seen the first major project for Top Banana? And did I also happen to mention that my trusted team carried out the project without me being there? No, I didn't think so.

Surely, then, I must have mentioned that this is a week where my sleep has been racked by unusually violent and disturbing nightmares. A week where my natural optimism seems to have taken flight, leaving fear and solitude in it's wake? A time where my eyes appear to have adopted oversized suitcases rather than the habitual bags, where my laughter has become hollow, and every smile brings with it the pricking threat of tears that might engulf me? Hmmm... perhaps not.

Well then that's good. Because I don't want to dwell on that. Because, despite or because of my friend's well intentioned warnings, I've discovered that I do know what I'm doing - and with her help and understanding, she's helped me find a way to explain the facts to a judge so that he or she will also agree that I've approached my challenges in an intelligent and honourable fashion. At least I hope so.

And now's the appropriate time to mention - no, to shout out loud and clear - that the project my team completed this week went down an absolute storm. I am so very proud of what they've achieved. And it was Mary, an original Top Banana and the lead facilitator for this project, who put it all in to perspective. When I asked her what had made it so successful this week, she simply replied

"Because this time I could be me - we could all just be ourselves. And because between us all we could be even more than we ever were before"

This is what I'm learning as well. But you now what? Sometimes it's not easy being me. I'm not always nice. I don't always get it right. I can be annoying. I can be selfish. I can be delusional. Sometimes I'm downright oblivious to what's going on around me. But you know what? The intention is always positive. And I guess that's what I've got to learn about other people as well - yes, perhaps even the sociopaths among us. Well, actually, maybe that one will take a bit more time. But in the meantime, I know I'm doing my best - and if it ain't good enough for some people, well... so be it. But it's good enough for me right now. And I for one think that's a major step forward.
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