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.
I regret a lot in life: not persevering with learning a language or instrument; not trying harder in school; saying I Love You back when I didn’t mean it (!!); having cheese and crackers tonight after a day of healthy eating; repeatedly going to bed too late, and lots more!
I think the idea that is oh so popular on inspirational Pinterest posters (ugh), that regrets are bad and we should have none just misses the whole point and deep value of regrets! They can be the best motivator and prod us to grow into the people we aspire to be; to be better friends and lovers etc, to improve at work, to save money, and take better care of our health etcccc.
Regret isn’t shame.
Shame labels us and makes us stuck.
Regret labels behaviour and moves us forward (well, for me it usually takes a few regrets to get the lesson but hey, it counts!).
Anyway, I was mulling on this recently and this short poem came to mind…
The gap between
What you do
Who you are,
And what you want to do
And who you want to be.
The gulf between
What you do,
Who you are,
And what other people want you to do
And who others want you to be.
Neither wallowing in regret,
Nor ignoring its painful lessons,
Rather striving to do and be
What and who you want to be.
And not letting others’ (imagined?) views hinder your quest.
Do you ever experience someone saying or doing something really small or simple, but it opens up a WHOLE NEW way of thinking for you? Well thank you Hollie McNish for doing that for me this week!
I read a short poem/sketch she shared and *hey presto*, I’m deconstructing the ‘bases’ of sex and doing some serious musing on virginity. Firstly, she’s absolutely right. The Male Tongue created the language of sex (and I don’t mean in the good way !*).
Why is the pleasure from a hand or tongue, which, when used with consent & consideration, is powerful and rich enough to bring women and men and others to climax deemed ‘fore‘ play? Why not just ‘play’?
Why is virginity ‘lost’ (lost?) when a person’s penis enters another’s vagina? Why not when a person first experiences the releasing pleasure of consensual orgasm with another? Why instead is female virginity bound to men reaching that ‘final’ base where they orgasm inside another? Wait-are lesbians virgins forever?!
Why are those few films which show women receiving one of life’s great pleasures (well, when done right!) rated 18, while scenes of women pleasuring men are just soooo commonplace that’ll just be a 15? (Yep, true fact: Blue Valentine; Ryan Gosling fighting for that scene to be classed R – UK 15- frankly made that film and him even hotter!)
You know why?
Patriarchy decided language.
Patriarchy decided rules of sex.
To remake the rules, we have to reclaim and remake language.
I’ve been thinking of late about love & forgiveness & voila, this poem came to me. It’s only after I’d finished it that I called to mind the wiser, more beautiful words of Kahlil Gibran ‘On Love’ in The Prophet so after you’re read my words, do read The Master’s!
What is it to choose love
when that love may bring harm and hurt?
What is it to take risks with one’s heart, trusting that after hurt,
And in typical LB fashion, we are already planning a celebration for when we reach 10 years in one year, five months and two days time (but who’s counting!). We LBs do love to celebrate (well I do, and David’s caught the bug through osmosis); but our desire to have a big party, blessing or some sort of celebration with friends & family goes deeper than just wanting to dress up, eat, drink, dance and generally have fun.
In our wedding service, as with all weddings to which I’ve been, our Vicar asked the congregation ‘do you, the family and friends of David and Natalia promise to support and uphold them in their marriage?’ And, as with every other wedding, everyone exclaimed ‘WE WILL!’.
Now, it has been said (on more than one occasion) that I take words too literally and seriously so maybe this is just me. But, to me, when I make this claim, when I shout out to my friends or family at the alter, making the biggest promise they’ll ever make, that I’ll support them in that, I mean it. But the number of people who announce their divorce to friends, family & acquaintances who are totally shocked shows that those friends or family likely haven’t been upholding or proactively supporting their marriage, or there wouldn’t be such shocked faces…and maybe there’d be fewer divorces.
But this isn’t just to tap away & judge the people who came, celebrated, ate, danced, meant well, gave a gift, and then buggered off. As adults, if we want support then we need to show that we are open to it. Yes, other people need to prioritise asking more than just superficial questions to which they expect and accept ‘yeh, we’re great thanks’ responses; we can ask ‘what’s been a highlight and challenge of marriage so far?’ or ‘what’s made you want to get divorced (this week!) and what’s made you glad you chose each other?’ etc. But we also need to be open to such input and, importantly, to provide opportunities for people to be part of our marriage (in a non-breaking of vows kinda way 😉 )…for me, that’s part of the reason I have a WhatsApp group with a couple of close, married mates wherein we can vent, seek advice, challenge & support each other.
And this part of the reason why we intend on marking our marriage milestones not just the two of us (though we do that as well), but as celebration within our community of family & friends. I love that because we so often have people live with us, they see the cuddles, the thoughtfulness, the not leaving the house without kissing each other goodbye of our LB marriage. They also see the griping, moaning, occasional shouting & swearing too (all me). Because of how open, honest & authentic we are (well, we try to be) our friends & family know that they can speak up, nudge, enquire etc about us. And what better opportunity to celebrate with, support and uphold us than at a big anniversary? Because our marriage is not just between the two of us-it’s a commitment and relationship which embraces and hopefully blesses and supports and help grow others we love too-and they, in turn, help us grow and be happier and better.
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.