Category Archives: Spirituality

The Feels

During the summer, I won the biggest photography competition of my life. I have no clue why I entered. It was an organization I don’t usually have any dealings with and I can’t even remember now how I heard about it, but once I knew it seemed to constantly be on my mind.

It was a global competition with potentially millions of entries. “There’s no way on god’s earth I’d stand a chance of winning” I thought to myself, yet I entered anyway. And the reason I entered was because I had The Feels. Something in my gut told me it was important for me to enter. I knew I’d be amongst the winners, even while dismissing my own intuition as wishful thinking.

I get The Feels about places, events and people. A new couple have moved in to a house next door to me. They are perfectly pleasant and haven’t really put a foot wrong, yet I don’t like the woman. I’ve tried to like her because there’s no tangible reason not to, but I know that there is something about her I should be wary of. I’m not sure what yet, but it’s there. Her husband, OTOH, is absolutely lovely.

We all have intuition, we just don’t accept, tune in, or acknowledge it. But as I’ve aged I’ve learned to trust my gut more and more. It never lets me down, even if I don’t understand situations when they happen as with the bungalow-which-fell-through sitch, which felt absolutely like it was meant to be in my soul.

An old school friend of mine used to say this “what is meant for you, won’t go by you”. I thought when I was younger that this was absolute bollocks, but now I totally get what it means. There’s all sorts of stuff I’d like in life which I don’t get yet which I think I deserve, and all sorts of scenarios which I think should have panned out but didn’t, but the truly important things have always come easily. Chance encounters, unasked for help from unlikely sources, money from nowhere landing in my lap. I haven’t worked for, or looked for, or asked for any of it yet it’s appeared anyway.

My partial recovery is a case in point. For 6 years I spent tens of thousands of pounds trying to get better from very severe M.E. I tried every ‘cure’ known to man, yet none of it helped. Then one day, skint and exhausted from the fight, I decided to simply accept my lot. I was going to be bedridden forever and I just needed to get the fuck over it and live my life as best I could despite it. And that’s honestly when my recovery began – when I stopped trying. Which doesn’t mean to say I just lay there like a blob all day! I still paced, and tried to eat well, and took medication for my sleep and pain and all manner of other stuff but I wasn’t trying to get better, I was merely trying to live my best life within my given set of circumstances. And having done that, the Universe helped me along.

I don’t get The Feels very often. We don’t encounter life altering situations every week, so when I do have intuition about something I listen. The more something feels wrong, or the more it’s on my mind, or the more it feels right……the more I listen. My gut instinct is the Universe’s way of speaking to my soul.

The Sign

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d asked the Universe for a sign on a walk with my dog.  I told the Powers That Be that my soul needed to move to a quiet house, with a view, on the flat and with room for my photography but that I was struggling to find a suitable house that I could afford and it was negatively affecting my health.  I offered the search up to the Universe because I couldn’t deal with it anymore and I knew the Universe had my back.  However, I needed to know I’d been heard so I said “I’m losing hope, so I need a sign.  I want to know if the right house will be found and I will move in by summer 2021”.  And for some reason, the sign I asked for was an Owl.  I’ve no idea why I chose an Owl, it just popped into my head!  I didn’t want anything obvious that could just be a coincidence and Owls are rarely seen or heard as they are nocturnal, so an owl it was.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That night, needing inspiration, I read some of my favourite quotes online and as I clicked on a page I saw something which stopped me in my tracks.  It was a photo of an Owl!  But it wasn’t just any old Owl – it was identical to this picture which I’d taken 2 years previously.  It’s a Great Grey Owl, but we don’t have Great Grey Owls in the UK!  They’re only found in a small number of wildlife centres, so for me to have a photo of one when they are rare and I hardly ever leave the house was weird to start with, then to see an almost identical shot on a page of spiritual quotes was insane.  So I said out loud to the Universe “THANK YOU!”.  I’d had my sign 😀.

The next morning I wrote my weekly roundup blog post, then went out in the car.  As I reached the bottom of my drive I saw my deceased neighbour’s daughter and her husband.  They live 350 miles away in Dorset and it was the first chance they’d had to come up since lockdown to visit her Mum’s grave.  I stopped and had a chat and they were telling me they’d stayed overnight in their camper van up the lakes.  “And guess what?” the lady said, “we shared our camping spot with an Owl!  We could see it plain as day and it kept us company all night hooting!”  I just grinned from ear to ear and said to the Universe in my head “just in case I missed the sign the first time eh?”

Out of curiosity, when I came home I looked up the spiritual significance of Owls and this is what I learned:

  • The owl symbolizes ancient wisdom, maturity, and strength of character, and can guide us into exploring the unknowns about life.
  • Owls use their intuition to guide them.
  • Owls often symbolize death, however this can be the death of a situation rather than a person.  In other words, Owls represent transition. Maybe you will leave one relationship and enter into a better, healthier one, maybe you’ll get that job you’ve been wanting, or maybe you’ll leave your current city and move to somewhere that better suits you.

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It isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been given a sign.  I mentioned in my Pep Talk post that the signs I was meant to adopt Bertie were so obvious I couldn’t possibly have ignored them.  Plus, I had a cat before I got Bert and he was with me during my bedridden years. Some days he literally kept me alive and when he passed away it was devastating.  I was driving into town one day a week or so after he’d died and I was thinking about him and remembered a photo I had of him where it looked like a rainbow of light was over him.  And in that very second a HUGE rainbow appeared in front of me in the sky.  That cat might as well have said “hi Mum, don’t worry I’m fine and I’m always with you” – makes me emotional just thinking about it.

When I bought the cottage I’m living in now, I’d been looking for 5 long years for the right house.   I was still mostly bedridden then, so thought to myself that having a sink in the bedroom would be really useful but it’s not something I was ever going to find.   An en suite yes, but just a sink?  Plus I’d always fancied tongue & groove panelling instead of tiles in the bathroom, and this was 16 years ago long before t&g bathroom panelling was in fashion.  I did see houses I liked but kept being outbid by people moving to the Lakes from down south and was so fed up I was just about to give up the search when I came to view this cottage.  And what did it have?  Yup!  A sink in the bedroom and t&g panelling in the bathroom.  I knew in that second I would end up living here, and although I’m now ready to move on I was really happy here for the first 12 years.

I’m a difficult woman to please and am not going to accept namby pamby signs that could mean anything.  If the Universe wants to speak to me it’s going to have to SHOUT loud and clear and the Owl photo couldn’t have been any clearer if it tried.  So watch this space!  I’m excited to think that my forever home is just around the corner and I can’t wait to be guided to it.

 

 

 

 

The Pep Talk

When everything seems to be going wrong it’s easy to become despondent.  Defeated.  Overwhelmed.  The pandemic hasn’t helped anything and when the very air we breathe has felt hostile and threatening it’s no wonder many of us are struggling.

To add insult to injury, having poddled along in my menopause journey for a good 7 years now and prided myself on doing OK emotionally for the most part, the past 2 months everything has turned to crap and I have become a blubbering wreck.  Nearly all-of-the-time.  And the times I’m not crying I want to wreak vengeance on anyone who crosses my path, preferably by causing them intense bodily harm.  Neither is good for my mental health.

beating shit

So, having allowed myself to wallow for several weeks which we all need to do now and again I realize it’s time now to get up off the floor because it’s not good for my soul to feel this miserable.  I can’t do much about my hormones, so I have to let the guilt of being a raving loonatic go and just be forgiving and understanding of myself even if others aren’t, but I can do something about the rest.  And this is how I do it.  It might not be your way, but it works for me.

1. Happiness is a choice

Twenty years ago, if someone had said that me I swear I would have punched them in the face.  There are times in life where it is impossible to be happy and if you are currently in that place I send you love and hugs.  You can’t be happy in grief, poverty, turmoil, fear, intense suffering or huge loss and no-one would expect it.  If that’s where you are now, simply be kind to yourself.

For me, however, I thankfully live in a space where happiness is a choice.  The question is……………what makes me happy?  Which is a post for another day.

2. Count your blessings

I’ve been struggling to keep up with housework and meals recently, due to feeling ridiculously tired, and it’s got on top of me.  However, 15 years ago I couldn’t even clean my teeth and would have sold a kidney to be able to cook anything.  The fact I can scrub my toilet, hoover my lounge carpet, or change my own bed is nothing short of a miracle and I need to focus more on how lucky I am that I am able to self care at all.  The majority of my M.E. friends from 25 years ago are still severely affected and I should never, ever forget my privilege at being able to function.

3.  Remember the law of physics

I am not religious, but I am spiritual and do believe that this existence is not all there is.  Too many “coincidences” have happened in my life for me to not believe in miracles (for want of a less biblical term) and I truly believe our souls are made of energy which never dies.

I have gone round this year grumpy, whiny, angry, confrontational, judgemental………….and the universe has responded in kind.  I have been on the receiving end of anger, judgement, resentment and negativity and it’s no wonder.  The law of physics states:

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object.” 

In other words, what you give you receive and I need to switch the energy back to abundant, loving, kindness.  It’s not easy when you’re a raging hormonal psychopath but I’m trying and I can’t ask more of myself than that.

4. The Universe has my back (to steal a phrase 😉)

The Universe knows my soul’s purpose and the Universe knows what my soul needs.  Things happen as and when they are supposed to, and in the meantime I just have to keep the faith.

When the bungalow fell through in February it felt like the end of the world.  But it turned out to be a HUGE blessing in disguise, because 3 weeks later we were in lockdown and living in a one room annexe with no kitchen or proper bathroom, on my own in a village where I knew no-one for months on end, would have been a total nightmare.  That the house didn’t go ahead after lockdown ended just proves it wasn’t meant to be for me and the person whose home it has become obviously needed it more than I did.

I do believe we receive signs which give us guidance and point us in the right direction.  Whether we choose to believe them, or just brush them off as ‘coincidence’, is up to us.  This week I’ve asked the Universe to give me a sign on the house situation and will let you know if I receive it.  If I don’t, that too is a sign – that I’m not moving this year and will have to be patient a bit longer.

Update: Less than 30 minutes after writing this I received the sign I’d asked for on my walk with Bertie yesterday afternoon.  I now excitedly wait to see which house is going to become my next home 😊.

5. Offer it up

Sometimes, despite my best efforts, life gets on top of me.  I can’t raise myself up no matter how hard I try and life seems utterly overwhelming.  It’s then I admit that I can’t do this on my own, and offer up my burdens to the Universe.  It’s amazing how freeing that is and I invariably feel lighter.

6. Live with intention

IF YOU WERE GIVEN A WEEK TO LIVE, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

I ask myself this question a lot.  And while we can’t go through life ignoring the dirty dishes, questioning what we truly want and what truly makes us happy and then striving for that every day can only lead to a joyful life.

7. Live with integrity

Which is my guiding principle and a must for my soul to be at peace.

However, I forgot that this weekend.  All my neighbours have been torturing me with their various noise for months and showing me no consideration whatsoever.  So to get back at them I hoovered my car at 9am on Sunday morning with the radio blaring at full volume.  But it didn’t make me feel good.  Quite the opposite.  It’s not who I am.  I’m not vindictive in any way and am always very considerate of other people’s feelings and spaces.  I need to stay true to myself, regardless of the provocations which come my way.

Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” – Oprah Winfrey

Having said that, this doesn’t mean I lie down like a doormat and let other people walk all over me.  Living with integrity also means setting boundaries and expectations for others’ treatment of you, which is why it was important for me to let my ‘friends’ go last week, as neither of them had my best interests at heart.

integrity

8. Know your purpose

I am by nature an open book.  I share my life easily, even the bad bits that most people want to keep hidden.  I believe that part of the reason for the many negative experiences I’ve encountered is so that I can share these with others so they feel less alone and can take strength from the fact that I have not only survived but thrived.

I am also a bit bolshy.  I remember a friend saying to me once “for someone who hates confrontation you seem to encounter it a LOT” and that’s because I will not allow behaviour which negatively affects me or others to go unchallenged.  I will stand up for my rights and for what is fair.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but I can always sleep at night knowing I tried my best.

I do strive every day to be authentically me.  I am by no means perfect, and am always a work in progress, but to quote Maya Angelou:

maya angelou

9. Miracles happen every day

My chances of any kind of recovery from M.E. were 7% and my chances of spontaneous recovery from severe M.E. were zero.   Yet here I am.

In 2008 I had a car crash.  My car flipped twice at speed and was so badly damaged it was written off.  I walked away without a scratch.

In 2011 I went to small, local, rural kennels to choose a rescue dog for adoption.  What are the chances I would find a dog with the same name as my Dad and who was born on my Nanna’s birthday?  The signs couldn’t have been clearer if they’d been written in 6ft neon letters.  And if it weren’t for adopting Bertie I would never have become a photographer.  Speaking of which…..

I live in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  I am chronically ill and spend a minimum of 17 hours each day in bed, alone and invisible.  At the age of 45 I didn’t even own a camera let alone know anything about photography.  Yet in the past year I have won my 10th international gold medal, was exhibited in London, been on the cover of a leading American photography magazine and won a global competition beating photographers from 90 countries across 5 continents without barely leaving my house.  Photography feeds my soul and the Universe has my soul’s back.  Enough said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intuition or wishful thinking?

As many of you know, I want (need!) to move house and in February was in the middle of purchasing a property when it fell through.  I was absolutely devastated, as I’d been looking for a suitable new home for 5 years and this one had everything I wanted but didn’t ever think I could afford and I’d been working towards securing it for months.

Looking back now, however, the house sale not going ahead was the best thing that could ever have happened to me.  I would have been moving the week before lockdown was announced to a property which needed total renovation.  The plan was for me to live in the one room annexe on the side of the bungalow, with a make-shift kitchen and horrible spider riddled shower room for 2 months while a team of builders made the main house habitable.  But, of course, none of this would have happened due to Covid and I would still be there now, 4½ months later, having had to live with no kitchen or proper bathroom during the pandemic.  The stress would have been unbearable, not least because I would have taken the bed bugs I didn’t know I had with me in my bed frame and would have thought I’d been infested with them at the new house which would have put me off living there forever!

Having put the failed move behind me, I hadn’t really given the bungalow a seconds thought………..until last week, when it popped into my head without bidding.  The thoughts were persistent and I couldn’t work out why I was suddenly obsessed again with the house.

On Saturday, bored with our usual walks, I decided to take Bertie out for his afternoon jollies to a beauty spot 10 miles away and for some reason decided to travel through the village where the bungalow was on the way, just for a peek.  It was just as I had left it and I got the warm, fuzzy feeling I’ve talked about before just driving past.  Weird, and I’ve never felt that way about a house before in my life.

I’m signed up for alerts on Rightmove for suitable bungalows in my area, and on Tuesday received an email about reduced properties.  And there is was, the bungalow!  It had been reduced by £10,000.  It’s almost as if my brain knew something was in the offing the week before and was gearing me up to start thinking again about the house.

One of the reasons the sale fell through was due to issues with the septic tank, which was in a farmer’s field.  So this morning I rang my conveyancer to ask if we’d ever heard back about the easement over the field, which is legally needed when the house is sold.  He didn’t know, but got back to me this afternoon to tell me that the easement was in place so if I wanted to try again to secure the house it was fine.

My next port of call is to contact the builder who I’d lined up to do the renovations, just to see if he’s still available this summer.  His answer will determine whether I still try to buy the house, or not.

I am someone who gets gut feelings about things and when I was younger I used to doubt and ignore them, but as I’ve aged I’ve trusted my intuition much more.  Which is why, when the house purchase fell through, I was so devastated – every instinct was telling me this was going to be my forever home, yet everything went belly up!  It really shook me and made me question whether I’d ever had intuition at all, or had it just been wishful thinking?

But the bungalow wasn’t even on my radar last week – it just popped into my brain and refused to leave.  Then literally a few days later I get an email saying the vendor had reduced the price, which makes me hope that he will be open to negotiation now where he wasn’t back in February.  It’s all just too coincidental to be chance.

So I will be making another offer.  And if it’s meant to be it will be accepted.  And if it’s not meant to be it won’t.  And if it’s not, maybe it’s just been filling a gap while the right house becomes available.

 

 

 

 

Watching for the signs

When I adopted Bertie in 2008 I felt like it was meant to be.  I looked at loads of dogs online in local rescue centres but the signs that he was The One shouted at me loud and clear.  For a start he has the same name as my Dad – I know, freaky!  And for seconds he has the same birthday as my Nanna.  The Universe couldn’t have been clearer if he’d had He’s Yours tattooed on his cute, furry forehead.

I moved into my current house in 2004.  I’d been looking for the right property for 5 lonnnng years, but due to my health problems I had strict criteria.  It had to be within a 7 mile radius of my parents – tick.  Outdoor space but no lawn to mow as I couldn’t cope – tick.  Two bedrooms – tick.  A good sized bathroom with a separate shower – tick.  And I longed for a separate utility room – tick.  But there were things I was uneasy about.  I absolutely didn’t want to live by a road due to my brain issues and need to rest, and this house was literally 4 feet away from the curbside. I’d also desperately wanted a view and this house really didn’t have one.  I would have ummmed and ahhhhhd over buying it, if it weren’t for 2 things: when I’d lain in bed dreaming about my next house, for some reason I simply knew it would contain a sink in the bedroom and tongue & groove panelling in the bathroom rather than tiles.  Don’t ask me how I knew this, I just did.  And sure enough my current house has both.   It’s weird when you think about it, because what house these days has a sink in the bedroom?  An en suite maybe, but just a sink?!  And to add icing to the cake, the postcode for the property is my parents’ initials 😮

Having said all that, I didn’t get the warm and fuzzies over my current house.  It felt like a compromise being next to the road and having no view and even when I bought it I felt a bit flat.  My intuition knew it was the right house for me at the time, but not for all time.   And although on the whole I’ve been really happy living in my little cottage for the past 15 years, here I am moving on.

Like last time I’ve been looking for a bungalow now for 5 lonnnnng years and had said internally to myself that if something hadn’t come up by Xmas I was going to stop searching and try and be happy where I am.  And, blow-me-over-with-a-feather, I had my offer accepted on the house I’m buying 4 days before Christmas – sign number 1.

The house I’m moving to is in a tiny hamlet that I’d never been to in my life before, yet when I drove through it to view the property I genuinely got the warm and fuzzies and a word kept jumping into my mind in capital letters: HOME.  Even now when I approach the village I suddenly feel happy for no reason.  Sign number 2.

I desperately wanted a large room to use as a photography studio and it never crossed my mind I’d find a bungalow with a separate annexe.  Sign number 3.

I have a gorgeous view – tick.  The house is on a slight hill and set well back from the road – tick.  In fact, all those years ago when I was living in town and dreaming of living in the country what I ideally wanted was a detached house with a private, south facing garden, a view and to have space but not be totally isolated from neighbours and as it turns out my Dad knows the neighbour opposite, who came over to introduce himself and seems lovely.  Tick, tick, tick and tick!

We have “gut feelings” about things and voices whisper to us that we simply don’t listen to.  We push thoughts away because our reason tells us we’re being ridiculous, when we really should be trusting our intuition more.  We should take heed of the signs and not poo pooh them as wishful thinking.  As I get older, and more confident in who I am as a person, I listen to other people less and my inner self more.  Which isn’t to say this move will be easy or stress free.  In fact, at 3.30am this morning I woke having a panic attack at what I’m about to take on and what could go wrong and I remember lying in bed on the first night in my little cottage and wondering what the fuck I’d done!  Following our dreams takes courage and a leap of faith but when the signs are there we know everything will turn out OK in the end.

 

 

 

Bucket List

Bucket Lists, ie a list of stuff you want to do before you die, are popular at the moment.  I look at them and wonder when people list “swim with dolphins” or “jump out of a plane” exactly what kind of hole jumping 10,000 feet into thin air is going to fill in their lives.   How empty can a life be that swimming with fish is the pinnacle of achievement?

I seem to think very differently to the majority of people.  I don’t understand sport for example.  The current obsession with the Olympics baffles me.  That someone would spend their lives training to the point of exhaustion to chuck a metal ball on a bit of string to see how far it will go.  Or spend their lives running round and round and round a track in circles or chasing a ball of air up and down a pitch.  It’s all just so……..pointless.

Someone posted a different kind of bucket list on Facebook recently, which at least has a bit more thought behind it but his bucket list seems like really hard work to me.  It feels like a shed load of pressure to be perfect, instead of accepting our flaws and loving ourselves with all our imperfections.

I thought long and hard about what I would put on my bucket list and I couldn’t think of anything.  That’s because I already do the things which bring me the greatest joy every day.  I gaze into my adoring dog’s eyes and feel love so profound it makes me tearful.  I get lost in nature with my camera, watching with fascination the soaring life of birds and the hard-working toil of insects.  I marvel over the cycle of birth, life and death and watch with awe the changing faces of the seasons.  I am appreciative of the food I eat and the warm bed I sleep in at night.  I set myself challenges and goals every day, whether it’s to take a better photo, or write a paragraph of my book or to do something to help my parents, even when I don’t feel like doing any of it.  I appreciate my friends and I try to be kind.

We in the developed world are so spoiled.  We constantly seek out new thrills, new stuff to be bought, new horizons, new adventures…….and forget we already have everything that truly means anything.

If you wake up every morning with a passion for the day ahead, with gratitude at what you have not regret at what you don’t, and joy that you get to spend another day on this wonderful planet of ours then I’m not sure what else there is to a well lived life.  My bucket is already full.

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”  Max Ehrmann, Desiderata.

Chosing joy

I’m a bit reluctant to write this post.  On my really bad days if anyone says to me it’s not the situation but the reaction to the situation that’s important I want to poke their eyes out with a blunt stick.  You cannot feel joy when you are sleep deprived, in relentless pain and sick to the very pit of your stomach, or when you can’t pay your electric bill.  You are miserable and rightly so.

Having said all that, I’m happier in my life now than I have ever been so I wanted to share with you why that might be, bearing in mind most people would say my life pretty much sucks.

After 6 years of being bedridden with ME I just stopped fighting it.  I stopped looking for the non-existent miracle cure, I stopped being frustrated, I stopped yearning for my old life.  It hadn’t helped and just made me depressed on top of already being sick as a dog.  Instead I accepted I would be horrendously ill for the rest of my life, however short or long that may be, and started trying to find some joy in each day. If I was going to die I didn’t want my last days/months on earth to be crap.

I started playing the “what if this were my last day on earth” game and now I play it every day.  If this were my last day to be alive  I would be ignoring my sickness and my pain and I would be relishing everything – a beautiful sunset, my best mate ringing for a chat, a cuddle from my dog, a soak in a hot bath.  If this were my Mum’s last day on earth I’d relish her voice, her smell, her friendship, her little mannerisms.  Try it.  It really makes you appreciative.

I also needed a purpose, some reason to open my eyes every morning.  So I volunteered for an ME charity from my bed and volunteered to help with an online ME support group.  I could only do ten minutes here and there but I felt I was contributing to the world and helping other people through my experience of chronic illness.  My suffering stopped being meaningless and started being meaningful.

As far as was humanly possible I stopped dwelling on the negative.  I stopped listing in my head all the things which were wrong and started listing all the things which were right.  Every time a negative thought came into my mind I replaced it with a positive: I’m in pain became I’m thankful for my hot water bottle.  I’m lonely became I’m thankful for my dog.  I’m skint became I’m thankful for my beautiful home.  I feel dreadful became I’m thankful for my peaceful country, my peaceful home, my security – can you imagine being sick in Syria or the Congo?  It works much of the time and the times it doesn’t I allow myself to wallow in self pity – it’s impossible to be thankful when you have your head down the toilet vomiting.

The other thing which has helped enormously is to live in the moment.  It’s a much over-used phrase but really stop and think about it.  My biggest fear is having a reaction to something I’ve eaten, and I have to eat at least 3 times a day.  That’s a lot of anxiety.  When I start to feel panicky about an upcoming meal I tell myself this “are you having a reaction now?  No.  Enjoy the moment.  Will worrying yourself stupid about having a reaction stop a reaction from happening?  No.  So quit worrying.  And if you have a reaction you’ll cope.  You have before.  It will eventually settle.”

When your life is literally down the toilet it’s easy to play the “when x, y or z happens I’ll be happy” game.  When I lose/gain 20lbs I’ll be happy.  When I find Mr Right I’ll be happy.  When my pain is under control I’ll be happy.  When I can eat chocolate again I’ll be happy.  When I’m over the menopause I’ll be happy.  When I’m well I’ll be happy”  And all the while your life ticks by and you’re miserable.

I have a friend who has a well paid job working in the one of the most beautiful places on earth.  She has no responsibilities: no children (she never wanted any) and her parents live 300 miles away so she doesn’t have to take care of them.  She works from home so no soul-destroying hour long commute on a packed underground train and, although she does travel a fair bit with her job, it’s in the Lake District with some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.  She is (apart from a few minor niggles) healthy.  She has 3 months of holidays a year, where she takes off to the wilderness for total peace and tranquility surrounded by nature and wildlife.  Most people would kill for her life yet she is depressed and constantly asks me “what’s the point to it all”?  I want to shake her.  If, tomorrow, she’s killed in a car accident or gets diagnosed with terminal cancer her last 5 years on earth would have been miserable.  Why would you waste your life like that?!

I’ve found that, because I’m ill, people want to share their ill-health with me because they’re fed up and think I’ll be sympathetic.  Er, nope.  Are you dead yet, cos if you’re not I can’t work out why you’re moaning.  I’m happier than 90% of the people I know and everyone comments on how passionate and excited about life I appear to be.  That’s because I am excited about life – it’s the only one I’ve got and it fucking beats being dead.

Today is all there is.  Fill it with joy.  Fill it with gratitude.  Fill it with purpose, passion and meaning.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Stop worrying about things over which you have no control.  Embrace life – it’s the only one you have.

One last day

I’m going to go off on a tangent unrelated to my health and this post might seem controversial, but as you all know I just say what I think based on my own experiences.

When I had severe ME in my late twenties I was told on two occasions that I was critically ill and might not make it through the night.  I’ve also suffered the loss of several friends and family members as outlined in this post.  For many years I’ve been acutely aware that life is fragile and it can be taken away at any moment.  It’s had a profound effect on how I live.

I love to watch Mediums on TV, like John Edward, but am amazed at how many times the people he’s reading are in tears saying “I didn’t get to say goodbye”.  While I totally understand this in very unexpected deaths, eg that of a child or younger adult, I’ve never really understood it when it comes to older people.  The second my parents reached 60 I started to prepare myself to lose them.   None of us live forever and the one certainty in life is that we’re all going to die.

If you have something to say to an older relative get it said.  I don’t really do gushy, but I always buy my parents lovely birthday and Christmas cards with verses in which tell them how much I appreciate and love them.  I also show how much I love them every day in everything I do for them.  How much more time do you think you’re going to have?  Every day when you say goodbye to an older relative realize it could be the last time.   If you don’t have the relationship you would like, fix it or let it go.  I let the relationship with my biological Father go when I was in my twenties, I’m at peace with my decision, and if he died tomorrow it wouldn’t even register with me.  Have no regrets that are going to haunt you when they’re gone.

My Facebook feed is full of people saying how much they miss their parents.  Every Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, anniversary of a death and birthday they post how much they are thinking about their departed relative.  I just don’t get this need to share grief with the entire universe.  Your parents are fundamentally the most important people in your life.  What do you think is going to happen when they die?  You will miss them every second of the rest of your life.  You will never be the same again.  Why do you need to tell everyone you know this?  Isn’t it bloody obvious?

I’ve been to lots of funerals.  The friends and relatives stand there and give glowing eulogies telling us all how special their loved one was and how much they meant to them.  I wonder just how many actually told the dead person while they were still here?  I really don’t think I’ll have anything to say at my Mum’s funeral.  She already knows how much she means to me.  We  often reminisce about her childhood and my childhood and our life experiences.  For sure I’m not going to stand there and make her out to be some kind of Saint because that she most certainly is not.  She’s a complex, flawed human being who’s made a ton of mistakes and some very poor choices, many of which have impacted my life in extremely negative and destructive ways.  Which doesn’t mean I don’t love her and won’t miss her every second of the rest of my life.  I just don’t need to tell a church full of people this because it’s only relevant to me and my Mum.

We all seem to sleepwalk through life and I don’t get it.  We always think there’s going to be a tomorrow.  A better day.  A day to sort things out.  But life isn’t like that.  Today is all there is.  Live it like it’s your last, or someone else’s last, because one day it will be.

 

Divine Intervention

I am not religious.  I was brought up in the Christian Church but in my late teens decided religion is not for me.  I’m not saying there is no God.  I’m also not saying there is a God.  Just that, for me, Church is nowhere I need to be.

I’m also not particularly spiritual.  It’s great as a concept, and as I’ve said many times I watch Oprah’s Soul Sunday programmes and feel a warm fuzzy glow afterwards.  Which lasts all of five minutes before I remember it’s way too simplistic a solution for someone in a situation such as mine.  Asking the Universe to get my laundry done doesn’t get my laundry done.

I am fascinated by life after death though – we all wish it existed.  I’m an avid watcher of programmes by Mediums such as John Edward (even travelled 100 miles to see him live when he came to England) and Teresa Caputo.  But I’m still not convinced.  When I hear Teresa say things like “when you didn’t die in that car crash it was your Mum watching over you from the Other Side” I think to myself what about all the people who do die in car crashes?  Does that mean their dead relatives don’t love them and aren’t watching over them from the Other Side?!

I had a friend whose Dad hung himself in the garage when my friend was just a child.  40 years later my friend, too, hung himself in the garage after a long struggle with depression.  His poor Mum and sister had to face that twice.  Surely if his Dad could have intervened to help from the Other Side he would have.

Having said all that things have happened in my life that, on the surface, look unexplainable.  As you know, I’m having a rough time of it at the moment.  At the weekend I was just so exhausted from the relentlessness of the struggle I said out loud “if anyone out there is listening, please just let something nice happen to me for a change.  Something huge that will change my life for the better and bring me some joy!”  And literally the next day I received an email saying 3 of my photographs had been accepted by iStock, following a competition I entered before Christmas and had forgotten about!  iStock is owned by Getty Images, the number one stock photo company in the world, and it’s really quite hard to get accepted by them.  OK, so I’m only going to make a few dollars on each picture so it’s not quite the monumental life changing event I asked for but it still made my day.

There is a flip side to events like these, however.  I’ve always tried to do something useful with my life.  I’ve gone through a LOT one way and another and the reason I blog, write media articles and talk about my experiences is to share the things I’ve learned with others in a similar situation.  If my life’s purpose is to help others through my struggles then I try very hard to fulfill that purpose.  Everyone tells me I should write a book, and I’d love to.  But I just don’t feel well enough.  By the time I’ve cooked, eaten, bathed, walked the dog, looked after my parents and seen to the running of my home there is not an ounce of energy or brain power left.  I’ve tried to make a bargain with God and the Universe: stop clobbering me with new crises and symptoms to deal with, let me be well enough to simply think straight and I’ll write the damned book.  Or let me win the lotto, so’s I can employ people to cook, clean and run my home then I’d have the energy to write.   But, if the past few months are anything to go by it’s pretty obvious God and the Universe aren’t listening.

In difficult times it’s human to look for Divine help and intervention.  To bargain with God and the Universe.  It’s easier to cope if you think some loving energy force is watching over you, rather than the fact that actually kid you’re all on your own.

As I’ve said before, nothing has fallen in my lap from the heavens.  Everything good that’s ever happened to me has been the result of my own sheer hard work and determination.  Even having my photos accepted happened because I spend hours studying and perfecting my craft, freezing my butt off outside taking pictures every day of my life, and I spent hours making sure my competition entries were immaculate.  It didn’t just happen willy nilly.  Things which happen by pure luck or chance are events I would be more inclined to believe were due to some kind of Divine intervention.  Only they never happen to me.

I still hope we travel on to somewhere better when this life is over.  I’ve found my time here on earth really hard going and I’m ready for a rest.  And I hope that, if there are any lessons to be learned I’m learning them, because I damned sure don’t want to have to pass this way again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

We’re all individual and cope differently with chronic pain and illness.  Our coping strategies are complex and will depend on our innate personalities, upbringing, beliefs, past life events and current living arrangements.  I sometimes beat myself up that I get fed up, angry, frustrated and tearful about my life where other people with chronic illness seem to “rise above” their situation on a cloud of calm, accepting gratitude. That was, I did beat myself up until I realized that the people who are further along the path to self-actualization to me live very different lives to me.

I learned at school about Malow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which looks at the motivations behind people’s behaviours.  Maslow’s original work proposed 5 stages to reaching self-actualization:

1. Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.

2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, freedom from fear.

3. Social Needs – belongingness, affection and love from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.

4. Esteem needs – achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.

5. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Only when our lower level basic needs (eg. food, shelter) are satisfied can we progress to meet higher level growth needs (eg. achievement, status).   And once these needs have been reasonably satisfied we may be able to move on to reach the highest level called self-actualization.

Christopher Reeve, who became quadriplegic following a horse riding accident, was truly inspirational, meeting the challenge of his new life with positivity, determination and a passion to improve the plight of others with spinal injuries.  He had a loving wife of many years, healthy children, a beautiful million dollar home, the best medical advice in the country, hand-picked carers, all the latest equipment to aid his disabilities and support from highly influential friends who helped him fund raise to achieve his goals.  I often wonder how he would have faced the challenge of his new life if his wife had left him, he was broke, lost his home and had to live in a rented house in a poor neighbourhood, had state carers who visited him for 15 minutes a day and who didn’t have time to see to even his most basic needs, had no health insurance, had rubbish doctors and his friends and family abandoned him in droves.

I admit to getting irked with Oprah when she harps on about self-actualization like it’s achieveable for all.  It’s really not.  Oprah had a tough life, but she managed to escape her childhood.  What if she hadn’t?  What if she’d been illiterate and unemployable, or sick and unemployable, and was still living a dirt poor life in the town where she was born?  Would she still be the person she is today under those circumstances?  I’m guessing not.

From comments made on my blog it seems to me that the most important factor in coping well with chronic pain and illness is whether or not you live alone.  The more self-actualized amongst us all appear to be married or living with parents or other care-givers.  Their basic needs are met.  They have food, shelter, love, companionship, care and financial security through another’s ability to work.  They don’t have to worry where their next meal is coming from or the fact they’ve no clean undies because they’ve been too sick to do the laundry (having spent 3 days in the same knickers last week, trust me when I say it’s truly icky).  Having our basic needs met makes the difference between living well with pain and illness and merely existing.

I take my hat off to all those living alone yet still managing to live life with passion, humour, grace, fortitude, determination and empathy for others.  You are stronger than the Oprahs and the Christopher Reeves of the world and I, for one, salute you.