Categories
honest open

Say It As It Is

Beach at Rhosneiger, Angelsey.

It is that time of year when I slow down on my postings. I’ve got a job freelancing in a local high school and potential for another one. That means lots of prep and lots of waiting for funding to be approved. I find it quite tense and I have to honest with myself about that. There is no point saying I still feel creative when actually my head is elsewhere. Also with Christmas coming up I get a bit panicky about it. Silly things like feeling like I don’t have enough time to do what I need to do, see who I want to see, buy the gifts I’d like, etc. So again I have to be honest with myself.

I have just read “My Brother’s Name is Jessica“, which is about a younger brother dealing with his feelings about his older brother wanting to transgender. The parents are busy with the mother’s career in politics and they want to pretend nothing is going on. The part that, for me, opens up the whole story is when Sam shouts at the journalists who are asking probing questions about Jason, the older brother, “My brother’s name is Jessica“. I was on a train and I sobbed. For me it was then that everything comes out into the open. There is no more hiding. No more pretending everything is alright. Everything is in the open. It is at that point that things change. I won’t say any more because it will spoil the story and I would say this is a “must read”. It is one of the few books I have read this year in one sitting.

Too often we try to hide things, pretend everything is alright, hid the truth. I was working some 12-13 years old kids the other day and we were looking at the Stevie Smith poem “Not Waving but Drowning” and how too often not only are we drowning but smiling, but also we often pretend that other people are just waving so we don’t have to ask how they are, don’t have to be open with them. As with the novel it was not just that the rest of the family didn’t want to understand what Jason/Jessica was going through they also had things in themselves they didn’t want to look at.

I think sometimes we do worry that if we are open about how we feel that we have to live out that. So say I say that I feel sad/angry/jealous [those are feelings I often have to deal with especially this time of year] then maybe I worry that I can’t then be happy/content, etc. But, as I’m sure I’ve said in another post, it is possible to acknowledge our feelings, the feelings of others, but it doesn’t mean we have to “live on that island”. All of us live with nuances of a bit of this and a bit of that. It is also why I don’t like to call feelings positive or negative feelings. They are just feelings. Being angry is as true a feeling as being happy. They are both full on real feelings that come from a place of me and what I carry. But if I hide those and then wave away then I am pretending even to myself that I am not really drowning.

So like Sam with his feelings of what is going on with his brother/sister let us be open and say it as it is. Let us be willing to say “I love you because you are you but I need some help getting my head round why you are doing what you are doing“. Let us being willing to say “this is hard work and I need some help because I really want to get some understanding around this“.

Let us all learn to be honest, to say it as it is, but also to know we don’t have to live isolated on that island of confusion. We are all able to change, to learn, to move onward, and to love each other and the process.

As the sea will move over those rocks in the above picture and will change the way the beach looks as it moves the sand, stones and wares away the rocks, so we can move, change and be smoothed if we allow God/The Universe to roll over us. And also to reach out to each other. We are not alone in this, but it can feel like that if we keep quiet and pretend that we are waving when in fact we are drowning.

Categories
Alignment heart

Heart of Stone/Heart of Flesh

Stone pillar, Isle of Lewis. Taken by myself May 2018

My husband and I were discussing the whole thing of the heart of stone which God changes to a heart of flesh and I got to thinking. We have always either been taught, or picked up, in our churches that a heart of stone is something that is hard, feels negative emotions, etc, but that a heart of flesh is joyous, happy and only feels positive emotions – which sort of takes us back to the good box/bad box idea which I looked at a bit in Two Trees. But I don’t think that’s right. See I don’t think following God should be all happy clappy everything is wonderful. I think if we feel that way than we still have that heart of stone.

A heart of flesh is vulnerable, feels things, notices things, is flexible, is free to experience things not encased in boundaries. It is free to be flexible and go with the flow. A heart of flesh will feel hurt and pain, will feel sorrow and anger. It will of course also feel joy and love, carefreeness and happiness. It will feel all these things to a much deeper level that the heart of stone will. But it does not mean it will be pain free. In fact it is the heart of stone which will be more pain free because it is encased in something solid and safe.

I often wonder when we first get to know God and try to follow Jesus that we get confused when we get angry, get hurt, feel sadness, feel pain. I wonder if we try and fight our way of out it. There is a Bethel song that says “sing a little louder” and of singing in the middle of the storm, etc. But what if the pain is too deep? What is you don’t want to sing? What if you just want to curl up on God’s lap and lie there? What if God just wants us to curl up on their lap? What if God doesn’t want us to sing a little louder but to quietly walk through the valley of the shadow of death?

Your heart of flesh is going to let you know what to do and when to do it. I’m not saying it is wrong to sing loudly when things are tough but I think to only do that if your heart of flesh is wanting to. But if it is hardening of heart around what is really going on then that isn’t accepting the heart of flesh God wants you to have.

A dog walking friend was moaning about how at her young niece’s funeral the pastor said that God taken this young girl because he wanted her to live with him. My friend was so hurt that her heart has been hardened away from God. But I do wonder if the pastor was hardened too. If the pastor did not want to weep and bemoan the loss of someone so young. Sometimes it is ok to be angry with God, to shout at them for allowing something one doesn’t like to happen.

Life isn’t all great and plain sailing and with a heart of flesh it will actually be harder. Your heart of stone can protect you whereas your heart of flesh can let you feel. Your heart of flesh can let you full experience what is going on around you, let you be honest and open with yourself and with others, and with God. The heart of stone will keep you safe and closed and maybe not that much help to others.

The heart of flesh will feel the so called negative emotions as much as it feels the so called positive emotions, whereas the heart of stone will keep you safe. The question is – what would you prefer?

Categories
family Menopause

My Sister

Photograph of my sister doing what she loved best, being with horses, probably over 30 years ago!

Today is the 10th anniversary of my sister’s death. She was working as groom at an event, went to the bar that night, had a few drinks, took the wrong exit from the bar. It was pitch dark and she feel into a drainage ditch. Why she went out the wrong way and why no one stopped her going that way are questions I know I have often asked.

But my sister was no saint. She wasn’t one of those people who with all honesty we could say, as you see on too many headlines, was the “salt of the earth”, “made everyone happy” and those other sugary headlines. My sister was hard work. I have memories of her telling me off for rolling cigarettes in a pub on the edge of Virginia Water. I was in a grunge phase at that time. She would tell me I was bring my children up wrong.

When she died she was going through a very public and acrimonious divorce which she was conducting on Facebook accusing her husband of many things. True or not true we will never know. She would also phone me up and scream at me down the phone telling me what an awful wife I was being. She was hard work.

I think observing other women who hit menopause and go suddenly really strange that she was going through some major hormonal imbalance due to menopause which no one ever picked up. Or if they did she never told us. I have other friends, who are no longer friends, who just changed personality in their 40s, totally altered their belief systems and way of living, accused their partners and others close to them of the strangest of things. Something odd goes on.

Again I do believe that with a lot of “women’s issues” that they are dismissed, not looked into closely, or like many things that involved our minds and emotions, are feared and not looked at as they should be.

I do believe we need to start looking at the menopause and the change women go through at this time in more details. There needs to be real help available and we need to talk about it. Though as I know from my daughter it is only now that we really talk about periods and the changes that go on in adolescence.

So we need to get this conversation out in the open. We need stop hiding behind what appears to be some medieval superstition about menstrual blood. These are major changes that go on not just with a woman’s body but with her mind and emotions too. Let’s get this out in the open. And I’m afraid ladies that is going to be up to us to be more open, honest and real about the s**t we go through.

Categories
2020 accepting Advent being me Brexit Building a Wall Charles Dickens christmas Christmas Carol faith Joseph Mary open Scrooge trust Trust God

A Christmas Carol

Advert for BBC’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol

The BBC have done a fascinating interpretation of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, where they have given Scrooge a larger backstory than the Ghost of Christmas Past shared in the novel, as to why Scrooge is the way he is. Episode two where Scrooge is taken to Christmases past should be shown to all business people who put profit first. This is not a problem that has gone away

But the thing that stuck me most were the issues this version has chosen to highlight. Scrooge was as he was because he had been unloved and abused as a child, been told the only way to survive is to have money in the bank, not to trust others, and be be his own person. Bottom line – he was afraid and had built his own saftey net around him.

The alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t abuse their body and their families because they think it is a good idea. They do it because they are afraid. Even the person who abuses their partner or children or attacks others does so because they are afraid. And these are the things society notices. But there are also those who have more money than they could spend in a life time, but they are also afraid – of not having enough, of not being safe, etc, etc. If each of us is honest we are all afraid of something and have all built walls, big or small, to keep ourselves safe.

But this is the time of year when the Bible expounds with “do not be afraid” – to Mary, to the Shepherds, to my big hero of the Chrismas story, Joseph. Joseph has such a bit part in this story and never gets any of his own lines, but twice he is told not to be afraid; the first time when he finds out Mary is pregnant and is told not to be afraid of how she got with child, and the second when he has to leave everything he knows and go to Egypt to keep this child that is not his own safe. He is amazing because he marries Mary, but doesn’t sleep with her till after Jesus is born, takes her with him when he goes for the census so that there is no chance of her being stoned whilst he’s away, and then goes to a land to live as a refugee until God tells him it is ok to come home again, and home to a place he really doesn’t know what his relatives will think of him.

God tells him not to be afraid, and we too often read that as “dont be scared” but I think it means “to let go of all those issues you carry with you that will encourage you to build walls of self preservation around you and trust God“. I think Jesus learned a lot from Joseph about how to be open and trusting even in a place of fear. And Joseph through all that went on around him learned to trust God, to not be fearful, to put aside his own strength and not build up walls.

I believe fear kills because it causes us to shut ourselves away from not just others but from out true selves. Fear causes us not to trust others, causes us to use other things for our safety; like career, profit over people, having ‘enough’ money, etc, being accepted by others, alcohol, drugs, being the life of the party, food, overly caring for others at the detriment of ourselves, not being able to say yes, or not being able to say no, relationships, and … here ponder and name your own.

I don’t think God asks us not to be scared but asks us not to be afraid and to stay open and trusting to all the facets that make up the Godhead, and trusting others too. So as we enter this season of vaccines and Brexit and being unsure let us be open, trusting and not afraid, not build walls, and lean on the One who can hold us through.

mary-joseph-with-baby-jesus-39533-wallpaper.jpg (1291×1600) (wordpress.com)
Categories
accepting Airbnb being me boundaries friendship honest mental health issues open

How to be honest

A friend of mine shared an email he had written to his place of work to explain how he is struggling with mental health problems. You can read it here  – A Personal Message to Friends and colleagues.

It is great, open and honest and something, I think we should all be doing – being open 800px_colourbox9264852about our mental health issues. I do have a few Facebook friends that are totally open about what they are going through too. But what I have noticed with my friend’s post and with my FB friends is that they have all been diagnosed with a something. I think this helps. With my friend in his post too he works in an office environment so can take time working from home, etc. But what about all of us who have not been diagnosed either because of not having gone to a doctor, not found a professional who sees the problems and who can’t take time out.

This isn’t a gripe and a “poor me” but I do think it is harder. I work from home and some of what I do I have to keep going with – like the Airbnb stuff to keep the house clean and have beds made up for guests. This does give me freedom from not having to work 9-5 too so it is swings and roundabouts. But I do find it harder, when I can hide away at home and then put on my brave face when I go out, to be able to be open and honest about how I feel. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. There are also people who work in core-value-open-and-honestenvironments that may not understand or be sympathetic. A friend of ours with borderline personality disorder who worked in sales was given sympathy but still expected to meet his targets in high-pressure selling.

So how can those of us without a diagnosis, who have stepped out of the normal working situations or who are not in a sympathetic work environment deal with this? At the moment I don’t know but I know that I am trying harder to be honest about my mental health even if it is to have lower expectations of myself in what I can and can’t do, to be honest about how I am struggling to cope with all the changes that have gone on in the last two to three years – us moving, changes in my children’s lifestyles, all the new people we have met and new things we are doing. So when I have a meltdown because my husband has taken longer than I wanted over doing some household job or other I can say calmly, once I’ve regained my thoughts, “it’s not you but just this on top of me still coping with the changes”.

I’ve a project I’m doing that I know I should not have taken on. I need to finish the project. I need to finish it because it is the right thing to do. Yes, I work on that “right thing” but I am now downscaling what I’m doing with it, realising that I can’t get the help I expected due to other people’s commitments, and that actually I don’t have the emotional energy to get it sorted. So I will finish it but I will be kind to myself and again realise that little things like the household jobs taking longer could cause me stress but it isn’t them it’s just life.

So what I have decided is even if I can’t be open and honest to others as my friend has been in his post I can be open and honest to myself, kind to myself and say that even though I don’t need pills and therapy I do need space and time. walk-away-in-love