Purifying salt

Though the raging waves

spray salt in your face,

hurting the cuts which cover your lips

from biting your tongue to hold truths in.

As the winds whirl around you,

whipping hair into your eyes and

lashing your vulnerable skin,

drawing tears of blood to run down your cheeks.

While you shake and shiver as

coldness seeps deep into your being,

tensing your body and spirit.

Through stinging, lashing and shaking

remember:

The waves will still,

The wind will calm,

And the warmth will return to your

thoughts and bones.

And then you will realise this truth;

A truth born out in the molecules of the universe,

A truth which is true when feelings are not…

Salt purified you.

Tears released your pain.

And that cold,

that wearying, biting, cold,

That cold preserved you.

Image: Antonio Miucci

Mindful leaves

A short note musing on my walk to work a few weeks ago…go with it.

Walking,

hurriedly,

texting,

music listening,

walking,

work-thinking,

absentmindedly

putting my hands in my pocket and

Realising:

I wasn’t aware of what

coat I was wearing.

Sobered.

Needing to ground myself

I STOP.

Putting aside thoughts of what others

think of this woman stopping mid pavement,

just standing…

looking at a plant.

I look at the leaves,

appreciate the green,

the light on its leaves,

frayed browning edges

and vibrant green,

I still my thoughts

and body

and just LOOK

For a minute.

I pick a small leaf and walk on

Slowlyyyy.

Looking at the leaf,

feeling its grooves,

Grounding myself by focussing.

Feeling more steady.

More present.

More Me.

Leaf on my desk,

I glance at my talisman through the day…

My reminder to breathe.

And be.

Sunflower counselling

Yesterday evening, for a WILD Friday night, I had my first counselling session. It’s been a long time coming. And I found a therapist I related to, who gets my comments about gender and race and keeps up with my flicking between received pronunciation and street language. A therapist who is REAL, in her gold reeboks, natural black-girl hair & statement t-shirt!

So 50minutes of ranting/ mature sharing later and I’m feeling ‘yep, I could work with you’…. and then the price was shared. Pow! The tears which had been building as I’d so freely shared my anger & pain spilled out. Cos it felt like a door that was opening had suddenly slammed shut!

Fast forward five minutes, as I came to the bottom of the stairs of her office I saw that the cosy waiting room was empty (cos y’know, it was FRIDAY NIGHT!)… so I walked to it to sit, cry, pray, & process.

AND THEN I SAW THIS: a Sunflower painting.

And I knew. This is my place. This is my counsellor. This is my God / the wall (delete according to your theistic belief!) confirming it to me. Saying ‘I see you, I’ve led you here, trust and proceed’. To add a little context, my nickname is Sunflower. But it’s more than a nickname. My being is Sunflower. I am Sunflower. So I sat, cried, listened to soothing music & prayed: I will go forward & TRUST the money & timings will work out. As sunflowers move to follow the sun, I’ll keep moving into this space that’s been offered, following the sun & helping to put the shadows behind me.

Flowers in the grey

This is a hard week. Of a hard period.

I’m struggling with feeling flat, my sparkle is gone and my smile – MY smile – is lost; my usually instant, beaming, deep, radiant smile is sluggish & dimmed.

I feel I’m in a period of emotional, spiritual, relational & physical unpeeling. It feels like life is a sea where some days waves constantly splash salty water in my face. Some days I’m sitting on the shore with my ankles in the wet sand, stuck, while everyone else is swimming. And some days, the days I’m myself, I’m enjoying gently paddle boarding, floating in the sunshine, my heart JOYED by the beauty of the shimmer on the water.

Today was a salty wave day. It was hard.

BUT as with the days before this… I showed up! I felt great singing & leading praise music at work this morning (yep, Christian places do that-at work!) – then my emotions & brain capacity went up and down like a chapati-rising one moment then flat as a chapati (or a pancake!) the next. Flattened & lifted & flattened more & lifted & flattened (you get the picture!).

This period gives me the choice – of hiding behind pride or of pursuing the path of Radical Vulnerability. I choose the latter. So in today’s greyness I wore my face as a mirror of my inner self-flat, empty, dull. Not ‘my face’- no NLB smile or glow today folks. And that’s OK. I’m being authentic and congruent.

And I’m being open with my beloveds (& now with YOU too!). I reached out to my Husband, Caramel Sister & Work Wife, sharing my flatness & asking for prayer. And WOW-the opportunities to receive grace that being honest gave me!! The kindness of loaned headphones so I could be lifted by music-my heart language & salve-as I worked! The perfectly timed deep hug & tearful chat. The food & homemade fairy-cake set aside for me. The gentle, slow-paced meeting with my manager & help from a kind colleague. And the ping of email to tell me of a ‘delivery’ at reception, bringing my first ME smile of the day when I saw the surprise delivery of flowers from my husband to bring a ‘little spark & smile’ to my day.

I’m not out of the emotionally thick woods yet (to mix my sea & land analogies!).

But my heart is not dull. It is warmed. I am so loved and liked just as I am. I have enough energy & contentment for the evening. And my home smells like flowers.

Life’s knocks, resilience & therapy

I was chatting with someone recently about a friend of his who needs therapy.  What was interesting about the conversation is that The Myth came up. You know The Myth. The ‘it’s not that serious, others have been through far worse and they don’t need therapy so why should I?’. I HATE this myth; I believe we ALL need, or at the very least would benefit from, counselling.

I know people who’ve endured sexual & other assaults, abusive childhoods & not had any therapy & who are reasonably fully functioning, healthy(ish) people.  And I know others who had secure, middle-classed lives in comfortable homes with loving but stressed parents who worked a lot, who have recognised areas in which they need help unpicking emotional issues so have gone to therapy.  And I celebrate and applause that choice because we can never be too emotionally healthy.

Some people can endure grief, illness & getting fired with supportive mates, hot baths or long runs, while others would be pushed to the edge by just one of these events. But it’s not a question of one person being tougher or another weaker. Some people have more emotional resilience and often it’s the people who, ironically, had the uncomfortable childhoods because they know it can be harder but that it gets better. And maybe they’re the people who have developed (hopefully healthy) coping mechanisms cos they’ve had longer practice.

The chat with my mate made me think of how you can drop your phone a dozen times on a hard floor and it’s fine. And then it falls 2 inches onto a carpeted surface one time and dies a thousand deaths! That’s what I thought about re resilience and life’s knocks. We can’t see the inner workings or structure of the phone; we can’t see how those minor knocks may have loosened wires and weakened the screen preparing the way for the fateful smash onto a soft, seemingly safe surface. Life can be like that. We can’t see how people’s emotions & thoughts are scratched & made brittle by words & events, but hopefully, we can listen to our own hearts & minds, & actively listen to others’ so that we are all more resilient.

Well, how??  Personally, I love using a simple ‘check-in’ technique to help identify what’s going on inside my head, sometimes just by taking a deep breath for 10 seconds to think of 5 words describing how I feel and then praying or journalling about it. And honest, open chats with emotionally intelligent friends. And reading the kind of books, & watching the kind of short vids, that make me go ‘ahhh, so that’s the word for what I’m feeling’. (Thank you so much School of Life & Alain de Botton!).  But when an objective, professional thought & emotion-sifter could be of more help, chatting with a counsellor is a fab idea.

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Photo: contrariwise literary tattoos