Do you ever come out of a situation wondering how on earth what just happened, happened? Feeling that your head's been taken off, messed around, blown away and then replaced? Knowing that, on the deepest of levels, your life has somehow changed for ever? Well, I'm in that very place right now - and I didn't even see it coming. Something totally unexpected. Completely left-field. Crept up while I wasn't looking - then again, ain't that just like so many things?
I've found love you see, just when I wasn't looking for it. That in itself is a huge shock to the system. But even more peculiar is the fact that it's not 'love' in the conventional meaning of the word. Or at least, certainly not in my usual understanding of it. This may not be easy to explain, so I'll just do my best.
It's all centered around a recent visit from Simon, a friend of mine I used to work with 20 years ago. I hadn't seen or heard from him in many years until we hooked up last summer on Facebook. Instantly we had the same easy click we'd always shared before. At that time, I'd only recently discovered about my husband's betrayals and I was just beginning to realise the enormity of the trouble I was in, so to re-connect with someone I'd counted as a good friend all those years ago was great, particularly because of the setting in which we originally became friends. For me you see, the time when we worked together was one of the most energetic, expansive and enriching times of my life.
We were part of a team of 20-plus people from all walks of life, who worked and travelled together selling advertising space for Yellow Pages. It was the first time I'd ever experienced the power of working in a cohesive team that really looked out for each other, supporting each other through thick and thin. To feel the pure magic of team spirit, the almost unquantifiable 'something special' that succeeded in pulling together a diverse and exceptionally colourful group of people with the most extraordinarily strong bonds. For me, that was the time when I first felt truly successful at what I was doing, and I loved every minute of it. It was also during this time that I fell totally and utterly in love with another work colleague - a passionate but illicit affair that was doomed to failure, but that none the less touched my heart and soul in a way that has only ever been matched by the man I went on to marry (another doomed relationship as we all now know, but this time for totally different reasons!)
Simon, of course, was there throughout all of those times - he was always the calm voice of reason, the person others could turn to for advice and guidance, and a loyal friend to everyone in the team. I was delighted to find him again after such a long time.
Over recent months, Simon has had his own issues to deal with culminating in the breakdown of his marriage after a 30-year partnership. It was clearly a very bleak and frightening time for him, and I could feel his pain. Although my situation was very different, I felt I could empathise and help him in some small way. I keep copies of the huge collections of emails, texts, messages and letters that I received from friends and family who continue to send me love and support over my difficult times - and I re-read them whenever I feel in need of a boost. So, appreciating the power of positive messages from my own experiences, I determined to do my best in supporting Simon in the same way. I'd post a message on his wall when he described a dark day. I'd send private messages with more details - words of encouragement, directional pointers, positive reinforcements. And I'd let him know that, as my friend, he was welcome to come over here and chill out. To relax in the natural healing energy that is abundant in this welcoming French countryside I'm lucky enough to call home.
Well, a short while ago he did exactly that, and arrived at my home for a stop-off on his epic journey that was going to take him way further south. It was great to see him again - I could see that the 'old' Simon I'd always known was in there somewhere, but the person who stood in front of me was a stranger - care-worn, fatigued and clearly in a great deal of pain. A brittle shell bravely fighting for survival, and my heart went out to him because he so closely mirrored my own pain from last year. And I promised myself, and him, that I would do everything within my power to help him through.
The first couple of days found us talking, sharing and laughing about the old stories as he gradually opened up - allowing me to freely employ the range personal and executive coaching skills for which I'm known. Every angle, any opportunity, without respite - I focused on re-igniting the spark I knew was there. On finding the true essence of who he is so that he could move as quickly and effectively as possible through the pain that he must overcome.
We talked. We walked. We cried. We challenged. We fought. We ate. We drank. We played. We sat in silence. We roared with laughter. And no matter what, we kept on going - kept on moving through, even when it was scary. And little by little the spark burned brighter as we breathed life back in to his soul. Before my eyes I saw the person I had known so well coming alive again. His eyes gave the first sign that things were changing - clearer, more open, as once more the deep hazel green hues started weaving the mischief and fun I recognised from our Yellow Pages days. Then came the smile - the dimple that suddenly appears from nowhere, the crooked cheeky smile and familiar chuckle that made him so popular all those years ago. And I was pleased. Pleased that my friend was returning, and pleased that I was clearly still as skilled in the profession I love so much. But it was more than that - because the more Stuart regained his strength, the more he started replaying the lessons back to me. And the more he continued to reflect back, I too started to change.
It was slow at first - creeping up so that I didn't notice what was happening. But soon it became clear that I was, perhaps, not as far forward as I had previously thought. Clear that, even though I had believed I'd done really well over the past 18 months, there was still room for growth and learning. Clear that although I'm now happy and feeling free, there was plenty more within me yet to be discovered - and, therefore, plenty more outside of me that I can achieve and accept as a result. So, with Stuart's help, I found myself starting to open to the idea of more possibilities and joy in my life...
At the weekend we travelled south to Bordeaux to the Sun Ska Reggae festival. Simon had secured VIP access all areas passes for us both and while it took us over three hours to foil the determined efforts of the French resistance security team who were hell bent on refusing us correct entry, once we finally got in it was amazing! It was Friday evening just before midnight, and there we were standing in the wings backstage while Bob Marley's Original Wailers performed to the crowd of some 30,000 fans. It was absolutely breathtaking! We were touching distance from these legendary musicians while they opened their souls and shared their messages with the crowd - I thought I might pop with the enormity of the experience!
I have always loved live music - but this was something else. To actually be there. To be surrounded by the sounds, the vibes, the people, the atmosphere. To see the backstage workings. To meet the legends whose music I had loved since I was very young. Bob Marley himself has always had a special connection for me, since he died of cancer in 1981 just a few months after my mother - who died on his birthday, 6th February. So it is somehow fitting that it was there, at that festival, that my own spark was jolted in to being.
Simon and I continued with our chats and explorations - bobbing and weaving, challenging and cajoling, encouraging and edging forward on our healing mission. And on the Saturday it happened. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but I remember with crystal clarity what it felt like. All of a sudden it was as though I couldn't breathe. My heart started fluttering, and I felt the crown of my head opening up as an enormous whoosh of light and love flooded down to me from beyond the clouds and right through in to my body. It seemed to reach in to my soul, and I was rooted me to the spot. I remember the stunned blinking, and turning to face Simon, my mouth opening and shutting because I was unable to speak. And at that moment I saw it in his face as well. It wasn't just me. He'd had exactly the same experience. As if from nowhere, like a bolt from the blue, both of us had fallen in love. With each other, through each other, as a mirror of each other... all of those things, none of those things, and so much more.
But this wasn't what you'd expect. This wasn't 'normal' boyfriend girlfriend stuff - no, it was something quite different and very very safe. A sense that the love was coming from somewhere beyond, somewhere much further reaching than either of us could comprehend. A feeling that the love from the universe had suddenly reached us - both at the same time. And suddenly I knew that I'd come home. I knew then that some of my antics in my efforts to find connections over recent months, some of which make me wince with embarrassment, were all OK. I'd been right to search for connection. For love. And in seeking it so honestly, finally it had been delivered.
Through Simon, on that day (particularly auspicious, not just because of the Wailers and my mum's connections, but also because it happened to be the very day when I'd made my commitment to Cam 12 years earlier... also in a field, and also camping... ain't life sometimes weird that way?) I had been given the gift of love.
And this time - now - I know it's for real. This gift is mine to keep, no matter what the future might hold.
NOW I'm alive. NOW I'm ready. NOW I am me - and I accept it all, at last. I've seen the light and I've felt the love... and it's absolutely amazing. Life has now begun. I AM alive, and things will never be the same again.
Sunday, 1 August 2010
Hardly a labour of love, it's much more what you might call 'cathartic' as I find the courage to write my story. Keeping the end result in sight helps enormously, and it also helps to imagine in detail the reactions of people I intend to benefit from the tale - their expressions, their words, their situations. But going through it - well, that's another matter. It's been necessary to revisit certain episodes of my life to give credence and colour to the narrative. And it's tough. And it's draining. And it's very very sad.
It's tough to go back in to the black experiences in my past where I've felt so helpless and lonely. It's draining to dredge up old emotions, to go through old evidence, to revisit past happenings and see everything with new eyes. It's sad - heartbreaking - to understand how my naivety, positivity and trusting nature, the very part of me that friends and clients react to so positively, are the same parts that led me so willingly in to the lions den that very nearly claimed my sanity and perhaps my life.
Pain and shame is a good way to describe some of the emotions that are swirling around me at the moment. Not for the 'real life', not for the 'here and now' but for the 'then' which made up so much of my life. Pain at the excruciating hurt and anguish that came as a result of my naivety. Shame at the way I allowed so many things to happen. At my willingness to sacrifice myself at the alter in the wolf's lair - without any hesitation or even a backwards glance. At the fact that despite all this, despite giving my all, I still failed on the one goal I'd set out to achieve - being part of a nurturing and happy family for the rest of my life. That, indeed, is what has proven to be my downfall. Staying so fixed on the subconscious goal that I was blind to the realities. Oblivious to the day-to-day signs that could have shown me another way. Ignorant of the deliberately manipulative tactics of others, instead believing that the 'bad stuff' was somehow my fault. Instead accepting 'the edge of sanity' 'exhaustion' and 'crazymaking' as a normal set of feelings. Because I was told that this is what normal life is all about - and I believed my sources.
So this book is about taking meaning from the madness - for others as well as myself. And it's a tough journey to explain in writing.
Today is the twelfth anniversary of the day I met and fell in love with Cam. It's a massive confirmation to me for how far I've moved forward, since I didn't even realise the significance of the day until this afternoon! As I've said before, this day was always the most important day in the year for me - a day that signified true love, gratitude, safety, the finding of my true soulmate. It was a day that we would celebrate with gusto, and I would look forward to it for weeks!
This time last year I was trussed up in a full leg-brace, not yet realising the extent of my knee injury. I was equally ignorant as to the level of debts that were going to come out and bite me, since the major ones still hadn't hit. Surrounded by wonderfully supportive friends yet still I felt so desperately alone, and was still torturing myself trying to make sense of what had happened. Where had I gone wrong? What could I have done differently? How could I have been a better wife? How did it all fall apart when we'd been so strong together? All questions which, as I now realise, were utterly futile - but perfectly normal for people who have a healthy emotional response - and the very same questions that did nothing to alleviate my blindness in the past. The same sort of mindset that kept me oblivious to the truth. The very same approach that must have made me a superbly lively and entertaining mouse to the fat cat who was just toying with me.
At the same time, I did my best to keep hold of my optimism throughout all the difficult moments of last year. I believed, despite all indications to the contrary, that somehow I would find a way through. That somehow Dylan and I would be alright. That I'd be able to keep our home, and somehow find self-respect once again. That one day my confidence would return and that I may be able to earn a living using my skills as an executive coach. That one day I'd be able to look at myself in the mirror once again. Yes, I kept hold of those ideas even through overwhelming evidence that I was clearly kidding myself. No income. Debts. Injury. Who was I trying to convince...?
It's these very same attitudes of optimism, self-exploration and personal responsibility that made people perfect bait for the coldest most ruthless of sharks. Sharks who sneer at the pain of another and who thrive on confusion as they deliberately muddy the waters to disorientate their target even more. Pain and shame is what allows these sharks to win - and that's all they want to do. It's the only thing they know how to do. Anything else they pretend to be, is just that. Pretence. But for the rest of us, the 96% of the population who have a code of ethics, an emotional response, a conscience, we simply cannot comprehend that this kind of creature can exist among us. It simply will not sit in our frame of reference - even once pointed out. For even once the truth is laid bare, we will still struggle to come to terms with the fact that the person we thought of as being like this or like that is actually no more than a hollow shell. Automatically we will still revert back to our own feelings of guilt for some imaginary support we failed to provide. And that's what can make recovery such a slow and painful process.
But these feelings of pain and shame are what are driving me right now. And I must find the courage to work through them - honestly and in detail - so that I can make my story real for others. So that, perhaps, other people reading the book will finally be able to move through their own feelings and do something to help themselves. And in that way, then perhaps I've secured one more step forward in my battle to move in to the light - perhaps the very attitudes that led me blindly in to the lions den are going to be exactly the same attitudes to lead me through the darkness and out to salvation. Because when I take a step back to see what I've achieved by staying positive and (some would say) naively optimistic in the face of continued challenges, they seem to be working pretty well so far!
- Top Banana is set up and I'm making all the right contacts to keep work coming in and growing the business - clients new and old are all poised to make this autumn a very busy time!
- I've met all of my day-to-day financial obligations and paid every single bill on time - although sometimes I really don't know how!
- The book is coming along nicely - and the plans becoming more audacious by the day!
- Most importantly, though, Dylan is thriving on all levels - and is growing in to just the most wonderful young man, and cool and handsome to boot!
- Plus, I've got more friends than I can ever remember, new as well as a raft of old friends now coming out of the wood work - I am rich indeed!
Oh yes, indeed, pain and shame may be the winning game for sharks - but it will also be their downfall. Because it's taught me how to beat them at their own game. And soon, very soon, I'll be showing others how to do exactly the same. They ain't seen nothing yet..... Bring it on....!!!