Stubbonly turning my face toward the light

I love Jesus.  As Evangelical and American and annoying as that statement makes me sound, I don’t care.  I get emotional every time I say it. There it is. I believe that God is love and that we are put on this earth in order to love each other through words and thoughts and actions. ‘Til Kingdom come.

This is sometimes very hard. Especially when people do things that aren’t very easy to love.  Being a Christian is not for the faint of heart.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a post which can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FGilbertLiz%2Fposts%2F1033035980111850%3A0&width=500” target=”_blank”>

about being kind on the internet and staying away from the comments as they will make you lose your faith in humanity. An extract is below:

“It’s always devastating to witness ignorance and heartlessness, Julia. But you are clearly a sensitive and kind-hearted person, and, as such, I beg you to stop reading the comments section of contemporary newspapers, and I beg you (and everyone) to disengage from participating in, or even reading, Internet arguments. There, you will encounter some of the darkest and most wasteful behavoir in the world. (I mean, wasteful of our stupendous human energy and potential.) Don’t linger where the bottom-feeders lurk, Julia: You can’t change them, and hanging out around them will only put your own compassionate spirit in jeopardy. (As we say in my family: STEP AWAY FROM THE BURNING VEHICLE.) It takes discipline not to tumble into black holes of online aggression and savagery — but such tumbles are voluntary, and thus staying away from the darkness is a discipline you can cultivate. In my own life, I consider it a public service for me for to avoid such shadowy places, because it only darkens my own spirit and then I can’t serve anyone. I would no more hang out around those “chats” than I would attend a public execution. Turn your face stubbornly to the light, and keep it there. Look for love, act from a place of love, work for love, consider yourself a servant to love and a student of love, and you will soon see love everywhere. This is how we begin to serve. Bless you for your kind heart, darling, and please keep your energies safe and bright and strong. We need more people like you, so stay with us.”

I have been trying to practice that particular spiritual discipline in recent weeks.  I’ve picked some tough weeks to do it in.

The internet has annoyed me to unprecedented levels recently, so much so that I contemplated deleting my social media accounts.

First it was the tragic incident of the little boy in the gorilla cage when the internet erupted in outrage at the boys’ mother and her “bad parenting” (the father was rarely mentioned, because y’know, Dads just “babysit” they don’t really parent, so all the righteous indignation could be squarely thrown at the mother, a nice bit of media sexism to boot).  I don’t even have kids and I know how tricksy they can be, your back only has to be turned for a nano second and they’re gone.

Then there has been Brexit.  I am going to preface this one by saying that I am firmly of the opinion that everyone has a right to express their political opinion and vote in the way in which they see fit, so long as they have armed themselves with the facts.

I have been so disappointed by the tone of the conversation around this important political debate.  It has been fuelled by fear.  The absolute worst was that AWFUL, 1930s Germany evoking, racist poster unveiled by Nigel Farage.  Using some of the worlds most vulnerable people to deliberately mis-inform and stir up hatred and fear is just plain wrong and cruel.

Then there was the murder of Jo Cox MP.  She sounds like a wonderful woman, a humanitarian, she was an advocate for some of the voiceless in our world, she did some wonderful work on women’s rights, something which is very close to my heart, and now her husband doesn’t have a wife and her children don’t have a mum.

I have thought long and hard about what I have posted, shared and “liked” on the internet recently and have tried to only do so to positive posts that promote love, equality, understanding.  I have tried not to read the comments, I haven’t engaged in debates with people whose political opinions are so different from mine and who won’t be swayed by my engaging in that with them, I didn’t say anything (until now) about the treatment of the mother of the boy in the gorilla enclosure.

I have been trying to stubbornly turn my face to the light.

When Jo Cox was murdered I shared this quote from her husband:

“”Jo believed in a better world and she fought every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.

She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion it is poisonous.

Jo would have no regrets about her life. She lived every day of it to the full.”

The only way to beat hate is through love.

I will continue to do my best to speak out with love, with my actions, the sharing of others’ words who are more erudite and wise than I will ever be, and sometimes with my own words, although I’ll be sure to consider whether in doing so it is necessary and whether I am being kind.  I don’t want to be silent in the face of hatred and discrimination otherwise my silence indicates complicity and we all know how that ends up.

I went to yoga last week and it always helps me to clear my head and commune with God.  I shared this picture afterwards (photo credit: mercimerci.etsy.com):

Namaste

I honour your soul and your light today and always.  Let’s try to keep seeing that in each other, even when it seems so dark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grateful for Dad #100daysofgratefulnessday27

 

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“#grateful for a brilliant Dad who is also a feminist and raised his three daughters to also be feminists.  We were always told we could do anything we wanted and were raised to hear every sort of sexist put down so when we heard it from someone who meant it we would know how to “treat it with the disdain it deserves”.  My Dad holds my Mum in the highest esteem and they raised us to be independent, thinking and fierce women and for that I am truly grateful”.

My Dad is a bit of a legend.  Everyone knows Big Tel.  My Dad is from a little known place called Whitechapel in the East End of London.  Whitechapel is famous for Jack the Ripper, The Krays and a wonderfully close knit community of Cockneys who are a “salt of the earth” kind of people.  His upbringing was “old school” and tough.  His family were not wealthy, by any stretch of the imagination, but they made do.  He was the first to go to university and to have a profession.  He is widely travelled and he believes in the good in people.

Tel is a big character, an extrovert, he’s tall and has a voice that carries when he wants it to.  He can seem scary, especially to boyfriends, and he was incredibly strict with us when we were younger.  He is also incredibly generous with his time and he has a heart as big as his personality.

My Dad is a champion of people who are a little bit lost, a little bit down, who lack self-belief.  He is a giver of confidence and I love him for it.  My Dad doesn’t believe in a “God” in the traditional sense of the word and wouldn’t describe himself as a Christian, but he does a better impression of being a Christian than a lot of self-proclaimed Christians I have come across.

My Dad is a talker; you can’t keep secrets from him about how you feel.  A lot of girls can’t talk to their Dad once they get to a certain age.  My Dad may have struggled to relate to us at points but he never let that show.  He has always been present in our lives, he has always taken an interest in us, in our friends and in what we were up to.

My Dad taught us about social justice, that it’s not “how people say it, it’s what they say and do that counts”.  He taught us to be compassionate and caring, to have empathy and kindness for those who are vulnerable and to understand how a disadvantaged background can impact upon a child and then an adult.  He often says that things that seem small insignificant things to you are big kindnesses to others, and you often don’t know the impact that you have.  I always try to bear this in mind and I think it’s better to give people the benefit of the doubt and I try to always be gentle with others, everyone after all is generally doing the best they can.

Despite this, my Dad was keen that we should not to suffer fools and not to be taken for granted.  My Dad taught me to stand on my own two feet and to demand better from those I form relationships with including friends, lovers and employers.

Father’s Day is hard for a lot of people.  A lot of people have complicated relationships with their Dad, or they don’t have one at all; sometimes through choice.  I appreciate that some people find today particularly hard, a painful reminder of what they are missing.

I also appreciate that I am very lucky.  My Dad loves us girls fiercely and is our greatest champion.  He raised three girls so it’s a jolly good job that he is a feminist: he believes that women are equal to men and deserve to be treated as such; he raised us to believe that too.  The older I’ve gotten the rarer I’ve realised that is.  A lot of women are not so lucky to have such a champion in their Dad.

I have also come to realise just how important the role of a father is.  That’s not to say that if someone doesn’t have one they will be messed up or incredibly disadvantaged, I know a few single Mums who manage both roles admirably.  However, if you’ve got a good one, you’ll know about it forever.

If I ever need my Dad he will be there; if I ever need someone to stand my corner for me he’ll be there; if I ever need to discuss that state of the world and put it to rights, he’s my go to.  My Dad is a constant.  A constant support, a constant source of love, a constant source of open honest opinion and encouragement, as is my Mum I might add, but she already had her own post here.

I love him dearly.  He gets me in a way few other people do outside of my own immediate family.  He makes me laugh heartily and I have my Dad to thank for my sense of self-worth, my confidence and my love of Rod Stewart.  None of those are small things.

Happy Father’s Day Big Tel!  Love you.

 

Heartbreak is not a Team player (#100daysofgratefulnessday29)

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“Grateful for this guy.  My Teamie.  I waited long enough and had my heart broken enough times before he came along.  I’m glad I waited and didn’t become a Charlotte Lucas.  He was worth the wait.  And that’s why I am also grateful, strange as it may sound, for all the horrible, horrible heartbreak.  I needed it to learn what and who would be the right guy for me.  Thanks for loving me back, even when I’m a diva”. #100daysofgratefullnessday29

So here’s the background.  Carl and I have known each other since I was eight and he was ten, my Mum was his year six teacher.  We went to different secondary schools from the age of eleven and saw each other occasionally.  There was a period when we got the bus together in sixth form, and I totally fancied him, he doesn’t remember so….yeah…We went to different Universities and almost ten years after leaving school re met at our mutual friends’ wedding.  The rest as they say is history.

I kept Carl at arm’s length for the first six months of our relationship.  I had been single for almost two and half years immediately prior to meeting him having been in a couple of relationships almost back to back from the age of eighteen to almost twenty five. I had been hurt.  Badly.

Unrequited love.  I’ve been a victim of that both whilst in relationships and out.  I saw a future where there wasn’t one and I became consumed by it. I was always the one doing the chasing, the giving, I totally made my life fit around those guys for a time.  I considered the impact that every decision would have on them as part of an “us”.  They didn’t do the same, and really, who can blame them?  I shouldn’t have been doing it.  I should have been more selfish, I was young and romantic and in love and I let it become all consuming.  I think that might be a trait that women have, we are socialised to be considerate, to think of others, to be polite, to be care givers, and sometimes we go too far, and suddenly we wake up one day realising we’re the only one doing all the running, all the caring, all the giving and inevitably we are the one getting treated like crap.

It’s horrid when you realise it, that yet again you got carried away and have been letting yourself be treated badly for quite some time now and that makes you MAD.  You, the independent, educated, woman who knows her own self-worth and her value has been letting herself be walked all over and played for a fool.  Unacceptable.

It’s especially bad if well-meaning friends have helped you get carried away “but he obviously loved/loves you, you just had/have to see you together”.  Yeah, my response eventually became “but not enough”.  I know my own value, I know what I deserve and it’s not to be someone’s back up, or to be the person he’s with until someone else shiny and new catches his eye.

I know all of this, but when it happens, again, it’s devastating.  You feel so betrayed and so crappy.  You have hopes and dreams and plans and structure and then it’s all up in the air and you just DON’T KNOW.

I was often just plain sad and then angry that I was sad.  I constantly repeated to myself my mantra that “you can’t help how you feel, so don’t feel bad about how you feel”.  Whilst true, I often felt overwhelmed.  “I shouldn’t be feeling this”, “it wasn’t meant for you”, “let it go, let it go, let it go…”.

I am lucky to have some great friends and in particular, a couple of very special ladies who would listen to me being sad.  Other friends who have basically been married for years don’t get it, and as much as they may have tried to I felt bad for seeming to bother them again with my broken heart.  My two ladies who listened to me most have been there and they didn’t feel the need to offer solutions, they understood that sometimes when your heart is broken the only thing that helps is constantly repeating yourself.  I’ll always be grateful to them for this particular kindness.

At one of my lowest moments, one where I felt I couldn’t whinge to any more even to those two particular friends because this was getting boring now and I should be over it and #firstworldproblems, I was sobbing on my bedroom floor in my underwear (oh the glamour) and I started to feel panicked, I didn’t know where my life was going: “I don’t have a plan, this wasn’t the plan, what am I going to do? Why do I still feel like this? Will I ever feel any better? I am sick of feeling like this I am so tired, I don’t know anything anymore*”.  I started to hyperventilate.  I couldn’t catch my breath.  I mentally cried out to God “help me, make me feel better!” and: instant calm, instant serenity and a sense of love.

I immediately picked up my bible and opened it, randomly, the passage it fell on was one of many variations repeated throughout the Bible of “do not fear, I am the Lord your God and I will not forsake you”.  I have never felt closer to God in that moment before or since.

Some people will think that is a load of bollocks.  To those people, I will say – whatever.  I may not be able to remember what happened immediately after that (I mean I’m assuming it involved picking myself up off of the floor, eating some chocolate and watching Grey’s Anatomy, but maybe it involved eating granola and going for a run!), I may not be able to remember the exact Bible passage but I know how I felt and I know that God was there, right with me in that moment.

From that moment I found I started to believe my mantras and slowly I became very contented being single.  I prayed a lot, asking for God’s help and guidance, I spent a lot of time with other single friends and basically said yes to every single opportunity which wasn’t great for the bank balance but kept me very busy and made me laugh a lot and make some awesome memories.  I won’t lie and pretend that I was completely happy all of the time (who is?); I often still felt lonely and disappointed and sad but it became less as I learned to trust God that there was a reason and a plan.

When Carl and I re met I was determined that I wouldn’t “be back at square one” if it all went wrong, I fiercely kept my independence, refused to adjust my schedule that much or spend all my time with him.  I initially saw him once a week and then twice.  I liked spending time with him, but I questioned all the time, I wouldn’t let myself fall head over heels and get carried away.  I was cautiously optimistic, but I didn’t reveal his existence to my wider circle of work colleagues and friends for ages.  In fact, I felt quite bad recently when remembering a colleague asking me who I was going on my holiday with and I said “my boyfriend” and she (understandably) expressed some surprise that I hadn’t told her I had a boyfriend (we sat next to each other).  I responded a bit more harshly than I’d intended that “we’ve been together four months, it’s not a massive deal.  I don’t like to talk about my personal life at work”.  Poor girl.

After about six months I realised that I could trust Carl and that I had to.  In order to have everything I wanted – be in love, part of a team and eventually happily married and raise a family together then I had to risk a little.  It’s the way it is, you both have to be a little bit vulnerable, as terrifying as that is: you hold part of each other’s hearts and as corny as that sounds it’s also true.

Carl and I aren’t really “alike” I’m an extrovert, he’s an introvert, I blow up, he stews, we have different music tastes and tastes in films.  We do have the same work ethic, the same ideas about family and we do both enjoy walking, eating and the cinema (even though we often compromise on film choices).  Generally it makes for a pretty good life.  Our main difference is in theology, I have a faith, Carl does not.  I pray every day that Carl will come to know God, he knows this and doesn’t mind, much like he’s known about my secret Pinterest wedding boards for an age now.  He comes to church with me sometimes and supports me in my choices because it’s important to me.

After almost four years together, buying a house together and living together for two and a half years Carl finally (!) asked me to marry him in April in Cinque Terre when we were watching the sunset on a little hike.  It was perfect for us, no other people there, he said some lovely things about us and he cried, and I cried and he proposed with a massive fake ring and then we amused ourselves by laughing and trying to take selfies with said massive ring.

We have already started building our life together, he’s a great partner in that respect.  I can’t wait to marry him next year, to me marriage is important, it won’t change the way we feel about each other or how we see ourselves but it’s an important sign of our commitment to being a team and sticking at it together, through the good, bad and the ugly.

Like so many things God’s version was better than what I had imagined or thought that I had wanted.  Carl and I are team mates or “Teamies” a bit soppy, but to the point.  We are a unit, we’re on the same side, and we love each other even when we hate each other.

Grateful to get the opportunity to do life and marriage with someone who makes me laugh, mainly at myself, and who is more kind, caring, compassionate and principled than I had ever dared hope my future husband to be.

 

 

*obviously this wasn’t true but the broken heart is nothing if not dramatic.