Living in the Present Moment

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My life is full of challenges at the moment. Here are a few:

  • Due to the situation surrounding my breakdown in May I am still separated from my three lovely children.
  • The above is also because I’ve chosen to separate from my husband of nearly 14 years. This is not a decision I’ve made lightly, in fact it has been excruciatingly difficult and the emotional stress this has caused contributed to my mental breakdown.
  • I’m living in a bedsit on my own. It’s lovely and light, but my children aren’t here and every time I spend time with them and then have to leave I find it really hard.
  • One of my children is particularly troubled by all that’s happening.
  • I have many hours to myself and when I don’t have much booked I’m find having so much free time can be lonely!

I’m managing fairly well by learning to truly live in the present. A friend of mine recently posted this quote and it’s really stayed with me.

7012f24f9828f81e813341418dbd2a80I am learning that I can be at peace in every moment even in the midst of all the hard. I have an underlying peace and knowing that I am enough, I am loved and I am and will continue to be okay.

This way of living in the present moment is truly amazing. If I feel upset, or angry, or sad, or joyful, or frustrated…whatever I’m feeling I know it’ll pass. It’s okay and very healthy to be feeling these emotions considering all that is happening. Sometimes I need extra help to get in touch with these emotions and so I’m grateful for my relationship with my therapist, in particular.

I’m also very grateful for friends who are choosing to be available to me during this time. The majority of these are local and fairly new friends seeing we only moved to the UK 10 months ago. I’m amazed and blessed. I make sure I reach out and ask for contact as I know that I will get through this season much better with their support.

One revelation that has been really consolidated through my breakdown experience has been The Power of this Present Moment. If we really slow down we will realize that in each moment we have everything we need. In this moment, even though I may not feel it, I have everything I need.

I have everything I need within me. You have everything you need within you. We don’t need to go looking outside of ourselves for validation and proof of our worth and value. We are enough and valuable just because we breathe.

Relationship breakdowns don’t mean that there is something defective within us. I have said I cannot stay married, but this doesn’t mean that I am a failure. In fact, as I’m learning, being able to say that I choose not to continue being in a relationship that does not nurture my soul is actually a sign of courage. It takes courage to be honest and say when a relationship isn’t working. It takes courage to leave.

I’m not even sure if my ramblings in this post make a complete post, but I offer it up in hopes that it’ll touch someone out there. I know I am far from the only one going through this brand of hard. And so, dear reader, if you can relate and are going through something similar know that you are not alone. Reach out if you like as I’d love to hear from you. I may be a blogger, but my life is far from perfect right now.

I take heart knowing that it will get better.

Love and blessings,

Elizabeth

P.S. I have a small but growing group of women in a closed FB group where I am trying to post most days. If you’d like to come and check it out and it resonates with you I’d love to have you join.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1082731435124092/

Rediscovering Balance

FindingBalance

Two nights ago I picked up The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown again, my own copy purchased with Christmas money. Yes, it’s worth buying! As I read I felt my soul climbing out of the slump it’s been in lately. Feeling the lift in my spirit reminded me that to thrive I need to be learning and growing. I’m going to make sure I’m reading a learning book every day.

That night I was reading Guidepost #6 Cultivating Creativity, Letting go of Comparison. Looking back now nothing really stands out as being what inspired me so much. I think it was more the thoughts I was having as I was reading that were really inspiring me. Does that happen to you? I had already been thinking lately about how I want to encourage my children to have balance in their lives.

I recently bought The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey, recommended by another blogger, to read with my son. The seven habits are simplified for children, but important for us all. I wish my husband and I had been taught things like this when we were children.

Habit 7 is Sharpen the Saw: Balance Feels Best. Sophie Squirrel spends all her time reading (using her mind) and becomes really tired. Her mother tells her it is important to also use her heart, body and soul. “You use your heart when you play with your friends. You use your body when you exercise. You use your soul when you find something quiet to do that makes you feel fresh inside. You need to do all those things to get balance in your life.”

I love that advice. Don’t we all need to ‘feel fresh inside’? I believe that including creativity in our lives is an important part of balance.

“The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity. If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing – it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.” p 96, The Gifts of Imperfection

I want to model balance for my children. Children are naturally creative – I want to support mine in the creative outlets they express interest in. I also want to show them what creativity looks like for me as an adult. Taking pictures and writing are the activities I’m most interested in these days. And walking out in nature (exercise!) with my camera is an activity that makes me feel fresh inside.

During a conversation with my Dad yesterday I realized that another part of the imbalance I’ve been feeling (the feeling like I’m under a cloud) has been that due to my illness I’ve not been keeping in touch with friends. Connecting with friends is vital to my sense of well-being.

In summary, I have realized that the following things are necessary for me to feel balanced, happy and at peace:

  • Reading inspiring books = learning and growing
  • Making time to connect with friends
  • Exercising/walking in nature
  • Being creative – with words and photography

It’s amazing the difference a few days can make to one’s outlook on life. I’m feeling so much more positive and at peace with where I’m at.

How about you? What ingredients are important for your sense of balance and peace?

Elizabeth

Creativity

Great Posts #5

GreatPostsReadThisWeek

Hello all,

After posting a quote earlier in the week about loving ourselves, here is a longer article on the subject. Happiness Means Loving Yourself.

One of my new blogging friends shares her thoughts on learning to love herself enough.

A new follower posted this recently: Finding Life-Change in a Men’s Rest Room. A good reminder that we can find peace in any life situation.

Here’s another great little seed from The Seeds 4 Life: If You Start Now, You’ll Look Back at the Challenge and See that You’ve Won – B.G.

I’d like to introduce you to another blogging friend of mine. I love the way Lou writes in such an open and real way. She is truly inspiring.

What posts have you enjoyed this week?

Blessings to you all as we enter a new week!

Elizabeth

At Peace with Ourselves

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On Thursday I ended up in tears again at some of the parenting issues I’ve been facing. Hubby has been away for almost six weeks (due home soon!) and the pressures of solo-parenting began to get to me. Master Speedy (middle child and 7 years) has been regularly coming out with negative comments about himself and even tries to get his sisters to hit him to make himself feel better. Among other things.

I’ve been seeking outside help because I have often been at a loss to know how best to help my boy. I’ve been observing that the help he has recently started getting is too little and not often enough. He’s been even angrier with himself than usual. As I was continuing to read The Gifts of Imperfection I had a ‘brainwave’. Why not get a special journal and write some of the key points I’m reading about in Brené’s book and leave spaces for him to write his thoughts as well. Journal keeping has helped me stay grounded over the years and it has helped Master Speedy in the past as well.

I followed up on my thought by purchasing a journal and a special pen for him to use and began to write some entries. Here are some of the thoughts from the book that I’ve simplified or paraphrased a bit for my 7 year old:

If I want to fully experience love and belonging, I must believe that I am worthy of love and belonging.

You are worthy now. Not if. Not when. You are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.

Belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.

We grow love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something that we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic (not a copy), imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Practicing self-love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and loving toward ourselves.

Obviously there is only so much of these that he will take in, but he seems to be understanding enough to make a difference in his thinking. He eagerly began writing his own thoughts in the book and is making decisions about ways he is going to change his words and behaviour to be more loving towards himself. It’s very early days yet, but I’ve seen big enough changes for the better that I’ve realized I need to be committed to helping him establish his own learning and journalling habits.

I also printed out this picture and pasted it in. I spoke to Master Speedy about the fact that his life is like a seed. If he speaks negative words about himself it is like pouring bits of poison onto the seed and that to grow into a big healthy tree he needs to water the seed with love and kindness instead.

I’m aware that I’ve likely contributed to my son’s negative view of himself due to my own dysfunctional upbringing. But I’m so grateful that I got started on my own learning journey, which has included therapy. When I realized just how unhealthy my home life had been for me I worried to my psychotherapist, “I don’t want to repeat the cycle with my own children.” His response was:

“The best thing you can do for your children is to work on yourself.”

I am finding this to be very true. As I’ve worked hard on myself by reading and learning I have become more understanding of my children and better equipped to relate to them on an emotional level. I know that it’s going to be a continual journey of learning and growth, but the rewards have been so huge that I find it totally worth it. Already I have become so much more at peace with myself and who I am. I actually like myself and the woman I’m becoming. I couldn’t have said that 6 years ago.

It’s a privilege to be coaching my son on this most important journey of learning to accept and value himself. Do you have children who struggle to love themselves? Did you struggle as a child? Still? What resources have you found helpful on your journey?

Soul Food and World Peace

Readying for school this morning is proving stressful. Miss Bookworm (10 years) says she is going to move back to New Zealand as soon as she’s old enough. She’s struggling to settle into school, mostly because she hasn’t found any special friends to connect with yet. She tells me she is behind all her classmates in her learning, particularly in maths. She keeps sending me accusatory looks while making her breakfast and lunch, like I am to blame for all her troubles. I know she doesn’t really mean that, but either way it’s hard to see her struggling.20151119Landing

After seeing the children off to school I decide that, rather than doing housework, I will take my camera and go for a walk for the hour I have free. I head towards my favourite lookout point which is just 3 minutes from our house. I snap a few photos of the sunlight on the bay and some nearby birds before heading down to the beach.

I pause often, taking more photographs of the sea, birds and waves crashing on the landing as the tide comes in. All the while I can feel my soul being refreshed, the stress of the morning draining away. Eventually I head up some steps to the cliff top and stand for a moment to catch my breath. I look out over the bay reflecting…and feeling completely blessed.

I listen to the waves on the beach, feel the wind blowing my hair, and observe the silvery light of the sun on the bay. I think about how far removed my little corner of the world is from the wars, killing and hatred that seem to abound in other places all around our planet. I think about how it would be so good if collectively we could focus on what really matters: we are all inter-connected, all human.

It’s not about race, religion, the roles we play or our outward appearance. We are all souls and we all want connection, love, and to belong. But isn’t it so easy to get caught up in our own little worlds: the stresses and dramas of raising children, working to make ends meet, etc? Sometimes we forget to take a step back to look at the bigger picture, to really get an understanding of ourselves and why we are here.

When I think of all the pain and suffering being experienced around the world I wonder what I can do in my little corner of it. It’s easy to feel really helpless. But perhaps in our day to day interactions with those around us we can spread a message by the way we live. A message of respect for our fellow man, even if we think differently or believe different things. This pulling down of others, exclusion of others, and this us vs them mentality – it only causes more conflict and hostility.

It boggles the mind that after all these millennia we still don’t get it, we still haven’t figured out how to live in peace and harmony TOGETHER. But let’s not stop trying. Let’s see if perhaps we can make a difference in our little corners. And I think to be able to do that, we need to find ways to refresh our own souls, to find contentment and peace in who we are. Not looking outwardly for validation or love, but learning to love ourselves first. As we take care of ourselves first we will have what we need to love others better.20151119Robin

I’ve discovered recently that taking walks and photographs in the fresh air nourishes and revives my soul. It helps me to stay grounded and peaceful in the midst of my busy life. I am learning to make it a priority and I’m so glad that I did today.

What nourishes you? What are you going to do today to take care of you?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Thoughts on My Target Audience

20151108Martin'sRavine5aRefreshing: serving to refresh or reinvigorate
Invigorate: give strength or energy to

I have been thinking a lot this week about the direction I want to take this blog and who my target audience is. I could be journalling instead, so it’s obvious I want something more. And then I always come back to my long-held dream which is to encourage others as I have been encouraged.

We are all on this journey called life and I know how good it feels to know I’m not alone in my struggles. There is always someone else out there who has faced or is facing similar challenges. I’m grateful for the information, resources and encouragement I’ve found on my journey to being at peace with my story and who I am. I’d like to offer hope and support to those who are on similar journeys.

If you can relate to any of the following then you are one of my target audience:

* Raised by toxic parents, including a narcissistic mother. Was the scapegoat of the family, controlled and manipulated. Suffered spiritual abuse and emotional neglect.
* Raised in a Christian home, but have been questioning my faith for the last 5+ years. Am enthusiastic about how much more there is to life and spirituality outside the box of religion. Still have much to learn and reevaluate.
* Love reading and am often talking about a book I’m excited about. Will be sharing my recommended reads.
* Am a wife and a mother to three children. Marriage and parenting come with their own sets of challenges and rewards, as many of you know!
* Have a great interest in psychotherapy and plan to do further study. Will likely blog about what I’m learning.
* Learning photography and will often preface a post with a photograph.
* Had a desire to write for years but not had the courage. Finding it now!
* Figure life is about unravelling mysteries or at least trying to. This blog will detail all sorts in my effort to understand life as I live it.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Maya Angelou

I often find myself sharing this quote with people. Probably because it has been one of the toughest lessons I have had to learn in my life so far. Have you ever experienced inner confusion because of inconsistencies between a loved one’s words and actions? I did for many years in regards to my parents, but because I was raised to never question them I didn’t really see or start trying to analyse the discrepancies until my mid-twenties.

My mother and step-father “became Christians” when I was 3 years old, so I grew up believing that this was true. Many of their actions did match up with this claim of theirs. We attended church every week, they held family devotions daily and they home-schooled my siblings and me using Christian programmes. Most of their talk was about their beliefs and world view and the fact that it was the only right way to live.

Being taught by them from an early age I believed them and took everything they said at face value. I admired teachers they endorsed, I read books they recommended and I tried to live my life as I had been taught a Christian should. To me that meant being a person of integrity, a truth teller; it meant being loving, showing compassion and kindness, encouraging others and giving.

Within a year of marrying and having my husband’s perspective on interactions with my family I began to see things that didn’t add up with who my parents said they were. Our relationship with them became fraught with challenges. The opposing messages we were getting from them created a lot of emotional stress for me and my husband. We knew there was something wrong, but we couldn’t put our finger on what. As hubby liked to say, “It’s insidiously subtle and subtly insidious.”

Fast-forward through a decade of trying to resolve the issues between us and things finally came to a head when I read my Dad’s journal of the year I was born. Suddenly I was confronted with a completely different truth about my parents than what they had led me to believe. It was shocking to discover the infidelity, yes, but more that they hadn’t been truthful about it. I went to them again and asked them for an adult version of their past; no longer believing I would get the truth, but hoping nonetheless.

Sadly, they were unable to be honest with me, instead choosing to continue to lie and twist the truth in an effort, I think, to maintain their image as ‘godly, righteous people’. I have been able to verify my Dad’s story and in fact observations he made about their character in the ’70’s are consistent with what my husband and I have lived through with them. It was an incredibly painful time of discovery, but also a freeing one. Finally, I was able to see them as their actions showed them to be and not as the people they had made themselves out to be.

After years of making every effort we could to find a way to have a healthy relationship with them I finally realized that it was not going to happen. I cannot change them, but I can choose to protect myself. For me and my family this means no contact. I wish it were not so, but for our family’s emotional health it is necessary.

My mother and step-father may not be people I can trust or want to be around but I do feel compassion and forgiveness towards them. I just choose to live my life without them in it, and have found peace with that decision. Do you have people in your life who cause you stress and anxiety? Do they say they love you and care about you but treat you badly? If yes, please do start to give yourself permission to choose whether you want them to play an active part in your life.

We could have saved ourselves so much grief and pain if we had believed who my parents were as soon as we began to see the inconsistencies. For too long we allowed ourselves to be taken in by their words, giving them way too many second chances. It is my hope that in writing about our story others might be spared some unnecessary pain and heartache. When someone shows you who they are, believe them!