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Footprints in the Sand

Footprints in the Sand

Footprints in sand

Running is a great metaphor, and running in the sand even more so. Today as I was jogging along the beach by the sea, I thought about how, even when I set a goal, I always take it one step at a time. If I take this one step and concentrate on that, then I have the possibility of taking the next step and I don’t think about the details of what’s ahead. That seems like a pretty good way to approach life. We might think we will be at a certain point in the future – or in the distance – but we really don’t know what will happen - actually all we can really be sure of is the step we are taking right now.

So I take the steps and keep going as long as I can – sometimes its easy, sometimes it’s hard. I might need to have a break and take a breather, sometimes I might need to stop altogether. Sometimes I have to divert off the path I intended to go, take steps to move in a different direction, or to avoid an obstacle in my path. Mostly I meet my goals, sometimes I go beyond them and occasionally I fall short. But no matter, because at some point I will start again and take some

more steps. Perhaps tomorrow, perhaps another day, maybe in the same place, maybe somewhere else. All that really matters is that I keep taking the steps. One at a time. And with each one, everything is possible.

Then I thought about my footprints in the sand. They showed the path I had taken, they are my journey, but when the sea comes in they will be washed away, they will disappear from sight. It doesn’t matter though does it? Because they are in the past and it is only me that needs to know that was my path.

tide coming in
Washed away... but not in memory

Today I ran alone, in the past I have shared that run with someone by my side. And it made me think about how much pleasure there is in creating that path together, when your steps intertwine and create beautiful patterns in the sand. Those footprints disappear too, but each knows they took that journey together, regardless of what might happen in the future - and no wave can ever wash away the deep and lasting impression in memory, of the joy and love that was felt in creating them.

I’m looking forward to making many more footprints in the sand…

Love Is Not a Piece of Cake

Love Is Not a Piece of Cake

Love Is Not A Piece of Cake
Don't give a piece of your heart... give all of it
Don't take a piece of my heart... take all of it

There have been a lot of relationship changes in my life in the last few years. Some of which have caused me a huge amount of sadness – and the circumstances of those changes and experience of loss have made me think about the nature of love and why it can cause us more pain than perhaps it should.

Our perception of love is defined as much by how we feel it as how it is expressed by another. One of the challenges is that so many people see love like a cake. Both their own love and what they receive. It is finite and we slice it up and share it out. When the slices have been given out, then we compare how big our slice is to others – and when it’s gone, there’s no more cake. So if someone new comes along and needs some love, then we all perceive that we have to have a smaller slice of cake. And we’re not very good at sharing. So then we feel hard done by. Or we try to compete for a larger slice. It’s this perception that leads to so much resentment and jealousy.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can view it differently. Because although there are many things in our lives that are finite – time, resources – love is not. It is infinite. We can give love endlessly and boundlessly if we choose to – and we can also choose to receive it endlessly and boundlessly. If we detached love from the measured vehicles of its expression, we would all feel it so much more – another of life’s inevitable ironies.

And somehow in this world dominated by control and materialism, we also seem to have lost touch with the fact that love is a feeling undefined by anything other than its pure expression. If we attach something else to it – like time, gifts, then we are adding a value that creates an expectation. That expectation can then lead to unnecessary disappointment – we feel loved more or less only by the level to which we receive those attachments.

If I spend less time with you this week than I did last week, does it mean I loves you less? If I give you a less valuable gift this Christmas than I did last, does it mean my love has diminished in equal value? If I write a greater number of words in your Birthday Card does it mean I love you more? And if another human being comes into my life and I love them, does it mean I have less to give to you? Well unless I tell you so, the answer is no. Because my love for you is whole, regardless.

The point is not that we can’t enjoy those things as declarations of love, just that we need to stop measuring and comparing them – and if we feel a change and it hurts us, then we communicate with each other about the feeling that leaves us with.

And the wholeness is essential because it is not defined or constricted by the love a person gives to anyone else. It is not a competition. It is solely a connection between two people and even if they share connections elsewhere, or they individually have connections elsewhere, that doesn’t have to mean there is less energy in the relationship directly between them.  And if you regard it as always whole, then you will not feel short changed. At any point in time, we can only give what we can. If we make the assumption that someone who loves us is always giving at their ultimate level, then we will feel loved by them both constantly and completely.

We all define love and feel love in different ways. Taking responsibility for understanding how we feel love and for how another person feels love, transforms our ability to love and be loved.

I was lucky enough to be in a long term romantic relationship where all of that was innate – it’s taken me a long time to work out consciously why it was so extraordinary and to understand the elements that made it work. Perhaps ultimately, we were lucky to have shared values and were both people whose thoughts were primarily driven by our feelings, rather than the other way round. We wanted to feel for each other, so we did. But it was only the pain of the relationships that have fractured that offered enlightenment on that.

Now I know how incredibly fortunate I am and that it’s not always that easy… love is not a piece of cake, is it? But when we taste it unconditionally and without boundaries, it is infinitely more delicious…

 

P.S If you’d like to find out more about how you feel love – and how some one you love might, take a look at the 5 Love Languages on this link…

Dancing in the light

Dancing in the light

Sunset over Sansepolcro Italy

With loss we stand in darkness, feel its enveloping pain
Folded in its silence anguish courses through our veins
With arms wrapped tight around our isolated soul
We ache for consolation from the one who made us whole
If we could feel it for a moment, that breath against our skin
If only one more touch, then we promise to begin
To fill that empty void that eats us from within

Is she there in that blackness, can she see me through the dark
Can she hear my desolation as it rips into my heart
If I stay in here forever will I feel her by my side
Will she let me know she’s with me, will she always be my guide
The questions we can’t answer are the ones that make us see
That only faith, trust and love are what will set us free
Our blindness is our vision that we can only let it be

When the dawn of understanding rises up into the sky
And the warmth of the sun melts the ice of asking why
Our journey carries on, still connected by our souls
We are one, we are together, we are individually whole
Emerging from the darkness, from that never ending night
I see her now more clearly and I know the time is right
To let go, for she is happy, she is dancing in the light

Just a Little More Time…

Just a Little More Time…

Letting go is hard to do… so often we remain in the comfort of feelings from the past because it feels safer than facing the fear we have about the unknown path of our future. Unlocking our hearts, removing the barriers that protect us from the pain we have experienced in the past is a leap of faith. It is also the road to freedom:

 

Just a little more time

With a broken heart

For its shattered rhythm

To beat apart

 

Just a little more time

For the wounds to heal

For the scars to form

And start to feel

 

Just a little more time

With the walls in place

To protect from pain

And its cold embrace

 

Just a little more time

Until the light comes in

From the darkest night

Let the day begin

 

Just a little more time

Is fear’s best friend

The future’s promise

That the night won’t end

 

Just a little more time

Is the past’s desire

To fuel its flames

In the present’s fire

 

There is only one time

And in it we are whole

Our scars are the marks

Of our heart and soul

Tender reminders

That we live to love

And now is the time

To rise above

To let go of the past

Let the future remain

An unknown force

Of its own domain

 

The time is now

The moment is this

It’s the air’s caress

It’s the sunlight’s kiss

So take just a little more time

To enjoy right now.

 

This poem is copyright of Elaine Sturgess, please do not reproduce either in part or full without permission of the author.

A Grief Observed – C. S. Lewis

"Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything."

C S Lewis's A Grief Observed was recommended to me by a MacMillan nurse who had been involved in Maria's care and

C S Lewis and Ivy Davidson
C S Lewis and his wife Ivy Davidson

who had come to know us personally - and the nature of our relationship. She had come to visit me to find out if I was coping - or not. I had explained to her that everything felt pointless now. That life had no meaning. She talked me through that as best she could and recommended I read his book.

I read it about 3 months after Maria passed.

I am specific about the timing because the book, which is about the loss of Lewis's wife Ivy Davidson to cancer, is a painfully, sometimes brutally, honest diary of his grief. I sometimes found it difficult to read because it cuts through that cloak of denial we wrap around ourselves in order to protect us from the harsh reality of the truth. But in that, I was also able to identify with his precise articulation of the overwhelming, debilitating sense of utter emptiness. As if your core has been completely ripped out. Leaving a void. A void that somehow endlessly aches. He also describes the seemingly perpetual loop of feelings, disbelief, anger, fear that we find ourselves in. In a way, the fact of his frank openness gave me a level of empathy I was unable to find elsewhere.

“For in grief nothing "stays put." One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often -- will it be for always? -- how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, "I never realized my loss till this moment"? The same leg is cut off time after time.”

Lewis also addresses the subject of faith. This was a subject that would come back for me, but at the time of reading, I didn't factor it as part of my healing. Neither Maria nor I believed in God. For him, the circumstance of his wife's death makes him question his faith. It was the first time I recognised faith as needing to be blind, like love. A matter of total and utter trust regardless of the tests that life asks of it. Of you.

Ultimately, the book provides the light at the end of the tunnel as Lewis comes through the depths and emerges from the dark. From that perspective, it was the first inkling that I would find a way forward.

A painfully honest diary of deep griefA Grief Observed is a short but penetrative read, it condenses so many aspects of grief that repeat and echo through the journey. As a scholar and philosopher, C S Lewis is adept at crystallising the emotional, physical and metaphysical impact of his experience, much of which I have found to be a mirror of my own. I would add a caution, though I found it to be an essential read, timing is, in my opinion, essential. You need to be ready to look in the mirror and fully accept your feelings and the truth of grief. For those who are not grieving but wish to understand its impact, this couldn't be a more powerful read.

Available from Amazon on this link.

Letting Go

Letting Go

I wrote the following article in January 2015, a little over 4 years after Maria passed. It was a pivotal time:

This is a profound moment. This article marks the end of one chapter of my life and the beginning of a new one. I use the analogy with a novel, because generally life is so like that, though a chapter might end and a new one start, there is a natural flow between them, some threads carry on, others are released or lost and new ones begin. But every now and again the story heads off in an almost entirely new direction – so maybe this is more than a new chapter, maybe it’s the Story of My Life Part 2.

As I write this I feel like am standing at the edge of a cliff, on the verge of letting go of pretty much everything from my past and launching into a new space – very much hoping that as I flap my newly formed wings, I am actually going to fly.

My last chapter was a four year period that has been the most devastating, painful and difficult of my life, a period of intense loss that started with the death of my life partner, Maria, with whom I had spent 17 happy years. It is also the most transformational and greatest period of learning and growth that I have been through since I was a child. And in that last sentence lies the essence of what I believe to be a fundamental understanding of the choices and attitudes we can make in the process of dealing with our grief, that can help to make recovery and healing more bearable and more positive.

It has taken me all of that four years to learn, struggle with, deny, try to avoid and ultimately finally accept that the only way for me to truly move forward and start my life again, is to let go of almost all of my past. My home, my belongings, my business, my beliefs, my limitations, my blocks, my insecurities… and to rebuild with a completely fresh sheet. I am heading out with a few treasured possessions, some loose goals, some fabulous people to connect with, an idea of what my purpose is – and a trust that where the wind, my spirit and my intuition blow me will deliver everything I need to lead a happier and more fulfilled life. It is at once terrifying and thrilling.

Grief can by utterly and totally devastating. It is complex and experienced uniquely be each individual. The extent and nature of our grief is also affected by the connection we have with those we lose and at what stage of our lives – and by the circumstances involved. Where loss is unexpected, outside our natural belief about life expectancy and involve traumatic events, that loss can have an enormous impact on our own lives (and those around us): in every respect. Trauma and shock are added to the loss. And we will carry that for the rest of our own days. There are those who have lost dear ones recently who will read this article and wonder how I can possibly talk about anything positive coming out of such loss, which I completely understand. I would have had the same reaction four years ago. Maria and I were each other’s core family and we both lived together and worked together. It was a happy, fulfilling relationship and we were rarely apart in those 17 years. So I felt like my life ended with Maria’s, that I would never to able to live without her. That I might as well die too. And the circumstances of her passing, which I have still only been able to share with a few people, added to the devastation. How could anything positive possibly come out of that? Well though it might be hard for you to believe, it can. And it is. Slowly.

And don’t get me wrong. I stand here on the verge of the writing of my new chapter, with my pen in hand and a blank sheet of paper, not because my grief has ended, far from it, but because I have finally come to understand that learning to live with it and through it every day, is the only I option I have if I want to fully experience my new path. The treasured memories are by far the largest part of my current life that I will carry forward with me. Though much of the last 4 years has been dark and tough, there have been moments and periods of bright light. I went through extreme emotions – for the first 9 months I did little more than cry. Sometimes all day. I barely slept, ate little. I couldn’t believe it had happened, I tried to deny it. I felt totally broken, empty, like my insides had been ripped out. I got angry, I tried to bargain – I would have given my life for just one more hour with her. I became depressed, had the darkest of thoughts and felt like I couldn’t carry on even another day. The pain and anguish seemed relentless.

And then after a year or so, I started to emerge. Gradually a little at a time. Still so many dark days, but also being lucky enough to know and meet some amazing people who helped me to join the world again – and even enjoy some of the best experiences of my life. Now I feel like I am finally coming out of the shadows and emerging more fully into that light, but knowing that I will still have days on which I will crumble and fall back into that darkness; when I will feel hopeless about that path or want to change direction. But now at least I know that all of that is ok. That I can get through it. That I can get through anything. And it will all somehow work out for the best.

There is so much I would like to share about those four years, but it will take a book to do it. There are some really key decisions though, learnings, understandings that I came to, that I believe have been absolutely essential to helping me get through to this point. I reached those decisions out of a desperate need to find answers. Even knowing that there were no answers. At the beginning I wanted to know why. Why did this have to happen? Why Maria? Why did she have to suffer? Why me? Why did I have to lose her? And I wanted to understand. What is the point to life when it gets taken away so cruelly? What happens after death? Where is Maria now? How can people believe in God when he takes away the good people? How do I deal with this? How will I ever get over it? Why? What? How? Over and over…

So I started to read and research and absorb and talk and to take action to try and help myself – and to accept the help of others – so that I could get through it. Sometimes I did the right things, sometimes I got it wrong. Very wrong. I tried to move forward before I had dealt with and let go of the pain of the past. I started on a path to self-healing and then diverted off it in a significant way. In a way that hurt me some more and also hurt others. I was more vulnerable than I have ever been in my life and my vulnerability both opened me to healing and to more pain and then to more healing. But all of it landed me in the place I am now.

Amongst the wise advice I received during this time, was that of an old friend from my childhood who lost both her parents within a short period of time during her late teens. It devastated and informed her life. She subsequently studied Psychology at University and told me something that had a profound impact on me. She said that when a major catastrophic event like this happens, the “schemas” that we have developed up to that point – our truths as we know them and the rules that we apply to our existence, get called into question. It’s like our understanding of what life is, of who we are and what we are meant to be here for, get thrown up in the air and we can no longer make sense of it. And at this point we stand at a critical crossroads. Do we re-establish our schemas as they were before, go back to a semblance of the same life as the same person, or do we take the opportunity to take a fresh look at it all and rebuild it based on a different understanding, a new series of perspectives, on the world, our connections and ourselves. I have chosen the latter. It is not the general choice. Most people settle back into a similar pattern. Often because of the commitments we have in our life that draw us back – dependents like children and family, careers – and the comfort and safety of familiarity.

In many ways, I have been very fortunate to be able to make the choice I have, not least of all because of Maria. She was an amazing woman. Kind, generous, intelligent, a beautiful soul with an innate sense of spirituality. Far more than I. And though I didn’t learn as much from her as I should have when she was here, I have since. And I know how much she would approve of me learning those lessons and being more positive and embracing of life in a new way. I was lucky also that we had time to talk, to say all the things we needed to say. Maria knew how to really live, how to appreciate and enjoy what she had. She dealt with her illness with such bravery and dignity and reached a level of understanding and acceptance that was beyond my own understanding at the time. She told me that her only regret was that she would no longer be here to take care of me. How telling that was – and how proud she would be that I am finally learning to do that for myself. And about time too. I also have extraordinary and wonderfully supportive family and friends, who I have come to appreciate more than I ever did – some I have known for years and some I have connected with more recently and I am so incredibly grateful for their love and support and for their patient kind and gentle guidance – especially at times when I have been too broken to make sensible decisions or to see clearly the error of my ways.

So this is it. I’m letting go. Hello today, I’m right here to enjoy you – and bring on tomorrow, I’ll be right there with you too.

Connection: Soul Relationships

Connection: Soul Relationships

It is the silent moments of perfect connection in life that can have the most profound impact.

The realisation and recognition of a wonderful soul connection sometimes only happens long after it
becomes a sweet – or bittersweet – memory. And for some, sadly, it never happens at all

One of the realisations for me in my recent journey in life, is that soul connections are not always in lasting relationships. Sometimes they are fleeting or short term, sometimes they involve romantic love and sometimes they do not, sometimes they are with other people and sometimes they are not, because all life forms have a soul. The thing they all have in common is that they have the potential to be life changing.

It seems that one of the reasons so many people do not experience soul connection and the magnificence of it, is because they are not open, aware or accepting of its possibility. And perhaps that’s because they don’t have a connection to the most important soul of all – their own.

In the human perspective, many of us see love as the greatest experience we can have in life and that it is in a romantic relationship that we will find our “soul mate” – and for many soul is equivalent to sole, the belief that we can only ever find one. We tend to define that experience by the impact it has on our five senses, the emotion it generates in our hearts and the physical sensations that it so potently inspires in our bodies.

I believe a soul connection is different. It is something you can experience as much in the silence, in moments where you are entwined in the presence of another and feel so connected to their being that the two of you feel like one. It is the feeling that you have known them forever. It is pure bliss, wSoul connections in arthen the world goes away entirely and your mind is finally empty of its chatter. There is no sense of time, because you are entirely in that moment, there is no future and no past, just the intense joy of “being”. There is no fear, no anxiety, no stress because you are not affected by your ego. It is full of happiness, peace and love, love, love…

Sometimes these soul connections occur in a relationship that is not otherwise sustainable or fulfilling. Sometimes we experience those connections in a relationship that is otherwise full of turmoil and chaos, pain and suffering. But that may be the very reason why we are in that soul connection, to learn and grow, to experience, to wake up to ourselves and others, to make changes in our lives. And though the intensity of the joy in some of the time we are together is so compelling, the circumstances that surround it sometimes mean we have let go, because it is the only way we can really appreciate the value it has had and understand the lessons we should learn as a result. Such is the irony of life.

I have done a great deal of searching in recent years, for answers about life, about pain and grief about the nature of humanity and relationships – and about myself. And in the process have read and absorbed information from some truly amazing and wise people. It’s all had an impact on where I am now and has changed dramatically my perceptions and understanding (including the fact that we all have our own unique understanding and truths and this article is a reflection of only mine!). I encountered two sources of information recently that  have influenced my belief about connection, the first is a book called Seat of The Soul by Gary Zukav, which is utterly brilliant in its premise – understanding the need to align our personality, our senses, who we typically define ourselves as being, with our soul – it is fascinating and enlightening beyond measure. I not so much wanted to read it, but completely absorb it.

The second is a quote that Elizabeth Gilbert makes in her book Eat, Pray, Love. It says this about soul mates:

“People think your soul mate is your perfect fit. And that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention, so you change your life.”

Perhaps it is my own recent relationship experience and the need to understand it that made reading that definition a lightbulb moment. What I know is that I have been lucky enough to experience more than one soul connection– though I did not necessarily have full awareness of it as being that at the time. And those relationships were in many other respects, entirely different. What I do know is that both gave me times of pure joy – and (though both as a result of intense pain) the opportunity to grow and learn and change myself and my experience of life.

I believe that soul connections never end – though we may no longer be in the physical presence of the other being, we remain eternally connected. That has been a source of great comfort.

So I will be forever grateful to know – and to have known – this experience.