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

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Spa, Sea And Signatures - The War Is Over

English: The Saturday morning launch, overlook...
It's been an astonishing roller-coaster of a ride - and the past couple of weeks have been no less exciting as I come to the end of an era. This, for the time being, is the final post for Life's Little Lettuces - because the war has been won. I have come through, and as I said recently, there is no longer any need for me to fight or 'survive'. Because I've done it. All the things that two short years ago seemed impossible have been achieved. Mind you, had I realised at the time just how tricky it would be to navigate my pathway to freedom through such a cruel and unrelenting jungle of circumstances, I'm not sure that I'd have had the courage to continue. It is said that ignorance is bliss - and in this respect, I totally agree!

But enough of that - my battles are well documented in this blog. So now I'd like to update you on the quite extraordinary twists that have happened over recent weeks. All of which have brought me to the conclusion that yes, I HAVE won. I CAN move forward - and for the first time in my life I can move with neither baggage nor the need to prove myself. Instead, just to enjoy who I am and embark on wonderful new adventures - just for me.

A couple of weeks ago I secured all the signatures from my ex that have been necessary for me to get closure on the mess that was left for me to deal with. As you know, I have had no contact with him since the day I discovered the truth - and he has steadfastly refused to respond to any number of solicitors letters. Yet on 20th April he came to his senses and agreed to put his signature to every piece of paper that was put in front of him. No mean feat - but mission accomplished. And two days before the two year anniversary of my discovery as well. Full cycle. Job done. The relief was indescribable - when I received the call to say it was done I dissolved in to a heap of grateful tears, having been told by numerous ill-informed professionals that this would be an impossible route, with no hope of achievement - Pah!

That evening I collected Dylan from Angouleme train station (he'd been at a friend's house for a long weekend) and told him what had happened. Tears rolling down both our faces, we hugged each other and he asked "so is it really over now mum?" Nodding, and holding him closer, I managed a quiet "yes, my darling. It's over. We can move on now" before we headed off to the local supermarket to choose some suitably expensive champagne and a delicious supper of baked fish, salad, and asparagus.

That night will stay in my memory of one of the best nights of my life. He and I spend the evening sipping champagne, listening to music, eating some of our favourite foods, and chatting - about everything. We shared secrets, we laughed, we cried, we told jokes and - most importantly - we were just 'us' together, finding out so much more about each other and both thoroughly enjoying each other's company. My beautiful son is still only 15 years old, yet he is wise beyond his years and fantastic company to boot! Quick witted, mature, and growing in to such an amazing young man in front of my very eyes, I am so very proud to call him not only my son, but my friend as well. Thank you, Dylan, I love you beyond any words I can find to explain.

The next morning I dropped him back at Angouleme train station, since he was staying with his father in London over Easter – a journey that takes him north to Lille where he changes and gets the Eurostar over to England. It’s only the second time he’s done it on his own, so I was a little nervous. Leaving with plenty of time to spare, our journey had been hijacked by unexpected roadworks and an interminable queue of cars in front of us. Patience doesn’t seem to be a word or attitude known to the French, and there was much tooting of horns and revving of engines, accompanied by shouting and waving of fists out of car windows as many decided to turn around and find an alternative route. There was no alternative route for our destination, as we were literally a couple of kilometres from the station – so we had no option but to sit tight and trust that we’d find a solution. Warning his dad that we may miss the train, we battled on through and finally arrived at the station ten minutes after the train had been due to depart. Chucking open the doors and urging Dylan to “run for it!” I went to park the car while he scurried off to his platform, in the thin hope that perhaps the train was late. Just as I was locking the car, Dylan called me to say he was the luckiest boy in the world because his train had indeed been delayed, and he was just boarding now. Phew – what a relief!

But my relief it had been short lived. Because less than 5 minutes later he called me back. The tone of his voice said it all, before he even explained what had happened. He was on the wrong train and was now hurtling towards Paris, rather than Lille, his intended destination. My stomach on the floor and panic coursing sharply through my veins, I reassured him that all would be well, that his father and I would get on the case, instructing him meanwhile to stay calm and find the on-board attendant and explain what had happened. Flurries of texts and phonecalls followed, until finally we found a solution. Dylan was to get off the train at Poitiers and re-join another one that would take him to Lille. As it happened, timing must have been with us, because he ended up on the original train he had been due to board at Angouleme. Phew again. All’s well that ends well – and some useful extra information learned as well. We now know that there is more than one way to get to Lille should we be faced with similar challenges in the future. Good.

That afternoon, bags packed, I set off for Jonzac, to the Thermal Spa where my friend Anna had started the first of her three weeks of treatments. Covered by the French equivalent of the NHS, this is a place where people of a certain age come - often on a yearly pilgrimage - to relax in the natural healing 'thermes' and receive treatments for their aches and pains, bronchial disorders, arthritis and general aches and pains. It's an amazing place, and a wonderful service. No wonder all the residents looked so perky!

Anna had suggested a while ago that it would be good if I could join her for a few days. I wasn’t completely sold at first, it must be said, as I wondered what it might entail – and part of me was also nervous at the thought of going to a spa. At the time, my internal policeman wagged his finger and admonished me for even considering such a thing “What? Who do you think you are? You’re thinking of going off and spending valuable time being pampered? Don’t be so ridiculous – there is work to be done! Mustn’t take your eye off the ball!”


As luck would have it, it turned out that I was to be on my own at Easter, what with it being so late this year the normal village visitors would not be here, and Dylan was away in London. Since it is also a Bank Holiday – both in France and the UK – my policeman was at least quitened by the fact that there would be no pressing business calls or emails to deal with. After all, I was either going to be sitting at home or sitting at the spa – and perhaps with a bit of physical rest and care I was more likely to come back to work with a renewed sense of energy and determination. “Alright ma’am, I’ll let you off this time. You can go. But don’t get yourself too comfortable there, I’ve got my eye on you!” and with that he marched off in to the distance, tutting and writing in his notebook. I had no doubt he’d be back later to check that I was towing the line.

So I turned up on Thursday afternoon to be greeted by a beaming Anna who already looked as though the years were falling from her – and she’d only had two sessions! Her accommodation was a small but perfectly formed little bungalow that was to be her home for the next three weeks. It has a reasonably sized white-tiled kitchen and living room, double bedroom, bathroom and terraces at the front and back. There is a click-clack sofa-bed in the front room, and a welcome note that encourages all visitors to help themselves to the array of herbs that are growing in the surrounding grassed gardens – where there are small tables and chairs dotted around among the trees and shrubs. Immediately there was a sense of peace and tranquillity that welcomed my weary body and soul, whispering a promise that this was only the beginning.

My sessions were due to start at 11.30 the next morning, and Judi filled me in on what was to be expected. I simply turn up – with my costume, rubber flip-flops and the obligatory ‘bonnet’ (swimming cap) that can only be described as a religion at French swimming baths. I count myself lucky that I'm female, as the men have to wear not only the bonnets, but also the nations favourite swimming attire, the Speedo trunks. Practically antiques in the UK, these tight underpants are less than flattering to even the most finely honed physique. To people of a certain age, I would call them torture! 

Once inside, I was given a swimming bag, together with a pink dressing gown, towel and hanger to leave my clothes. Duly changed in to my costume and flip-flops, I was ushered in to speak to one of the medical professionals to discuss my treatment. I noticed that all the other people milling around at reception were dressed in biscuit-brown gowns, and I was conscious that I stood out from the crowd. I wondered whether it was because it was my first day. “Oh no, Madame. You see these people are all here for health reasons – they have been sent by their doctors. You are here by choice – to give yourself some personal care.”

We went through the options available on my package – a choice of four sessions from their regular menu, and two additional sessions from the a la carte. After answering some simple health questions (Any allergies? Medication? Pregnant – “at your age I would highly doubt that!” she answered for me, crossing through the possibility before I’d even opened my mouth) we opted for a river of jets for my legs, an aromatherapy spray treatment for my body, a water-jet session for my back, a steam-room for my lungs (all from the regular menu) and a kaolin bath soak for muscle relaxation plus a 45-minute aromatherapy all-over body massage from the a la carte. “You’ll see Madame” she chirped “you’ll come out feeling en pleine forme!”

She accompanied me to my first session – the bain de boue – a kaolin and sulphur bath where up to 12 people float around in weightless silence. Waiting our turn, the crew of people on the benches seemed curious about my pink bath-robe. One gentleman plucked up the courage to ask why I was wearning a different colour, so I explained what I had been told "Wait til you get to our age" they chorused "it's free, and you can come every year!" their bright eyes twinkling as they nudged each other with knowing smiles. The treatment was amazing. Hollowed in to the caves, with low lighting and white-coated assistants at every corner, this warm bath is like walking in to a pool of double cream. For the next 15 minutes, we all floated off into our own worlds before gently climbing out to shower ourselves free of the creamy residue that seems to get everywhere. I smiled at my new friends in agreement - "isn't this wonderful?"

I had two more treatments (water jets massaging my back, a river filled with jets that massage legs) before heading off to a treatment in a private room where you stand naked while aromatherapy jets squirt  over your back and sides. Waiting on the benches I bumped in to the same gentleman who had questioned me about the colour of my gown “Ah – la madame en rose, tres jolie!” he beamed “oui, la vie en rose et vraiment belle eh?” I smiled, as the rest of the brown-robed residents winked and nodded their agreement.

I finished off with a 45 minute aromatherapy full-body massage, and then a session in the steam room, where I contemplated the experiences. I remembered the conversation I'd had earlier that week with my friend who told me about his pendulum theory, and I burst out laughing (luckily I was the only person in the steam room!) It suddenly occurred to me that the French instructions to "soignez-vous" (care for yourself) doesn't mean emergency sticking plaster! It means taking the time to give yourself recognition and appreciation - at any time, and ALL the time. In that moment, I suddenly realised that I could care for myself - with these wonderful treatments, for example, just for the heck of it! Why wait until I'm sick or tired! No wonder those biscuit-gowned oldies had such twinkling eyes and a spring in their step!

I had three days of these wonderful treatments, broken up only by the Sunday when the spa is closed. So that day Anna and I decided to take a trip to the seaside. I adore being by the sea - having been brought up on the south coast, I know the ocean to be a place that always brings me a sense of peace and calm. So, off we trotted to find ourselves some sea, and a dish of the French coastal speciality, fruits de mer.

It was a wonderful day. Filled with laughter, chattering, exploration and eating. The fruits de mer was absolutely delicious - clearly fresh from the sea that day, and served in such a simple manner, it was one of the best meals I've ever had. 

By the time I had completed my sessions, and was packing to come back home on Tuesday morning, I knew that something had fundamentally shifted inside me. I have been losing weight (13lbs already melted away as I write this, only another 7lbs to go to hit my target) - but I am lighter in every way, not just physically. Because gone too at last are the cares and worries that I’ve been fighting to overcome for so long. Those cares and worries that, in essence, had kept me going for more years than I care to remember. The same cares and worries that made me resilient, that gave me the determination to overcome every new challenge - no matter the enormity - so that I could finally set myself free. It's true that the resulting battles of recent years had left me broken and weary, sinking even in to depression over the past few weeks as I struggled to find peace and a new way forward as more and more battles were won. Because for decades, 'survival' had become a part of my being. I’d become so adept at handling any kind of adversity that, once the war was well on the way to being won, I simply didn’t know who I was anymore.

But now, as a result of the spa, the seaside, the signatures - and so much more - I DO know who I am. The healing is complete, and the recognition of what my life can now become is profound and exciting. I am calm. Clear. Clean and washed free of past struggles. Reborn, if you like, to thrive... My burdens are finally gone. I am light, wide eyed and full of wonderment. Oh, and as for that pesky internal policeman? He's on long-term gardening leave - a one-way ticket.

Don't get me wrong, I am still grateful for the gifts that my struggles have brought me. I've learned many things about myself and about others. I've learned that not all people are 'good' - at least not all the time. I've learned to steer clear of anyone who drains my energy - or who doesn't respect me for who I am. I've learned that I love to write. I've learned that I can create a successful and worthwhile business on my own merits. I've learned that I am loved and supported... That friendship and connection is the most important thing in the world.. And I've learned that I am rich indeed. I've learned that I enjoy my own company, and trust that no matter what happens everything always works out.  I've learned that I'm a loving soul who has worked long and hard... And also that the work has been a gift. Because now I appreciate myself... And if I was to meet 'me' in person, I'd shake my hand and say something like "bloody well done old girl... You've exceeded expectations" and I'd ask myself to be my friend. Because I like me... Very much indeed. So now I'm going to spend time developing my friendship with myself. I'm going to play and have fun. Lighten up, shine, and relish the freedom and beauty that is here for me to enjoy.

I am the key to my own happiness... No-body and no-thing else.

So I'm off to create magical experiences from choice, not necessity. I already have plans for a whole new set of adventures... I'm in no rush. I have all the time in the world. 

For now, I'm signing off from this particular blog and phase of my life. Instead I'm off on my own adventures - who knows where they may lead me, but rest assured I'll continue writing. It will be in a different format, and I will let you know when there is more to read.

So, til we meet again, thank you all for your support, your feedback and most importantly your love. I wouldn't be where I am today without you. In deepest gratitude, and from the core of my being, the very essence of who I am, I salute you and I thank you all.

Toodle-oo and pip pip for now... Look out for the postcards!

Mel xxx

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