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Caught in gun fire!

My husband and I travel a lot. We always have, as young backpackers then as a young family, then with work as we grabbed a bunch of fabulous opportunities around the globe. We are somewhat more settled now, having come full circle and literally emigrated in such a way that we circumnavigated the globe, east all the way until we returned home four years ago, back to Johannesburg where it all began.

Our story is long and complicated and beautiful and painful and I’m slowly trying to condense it into something readable, (even though in many ways our journey has only just begun). We have been through all manner of strife of many kinds and feel as though we are well versed and well balanced in so many areas and that we have collected a healthy respect for people of all kinds, and don’t jump to conclusions or judge.

So this week as we flew into Cape Town for a week of work for him and writing for me, we picked up our little hatchback rental and headed out from the airport for the expected hour or so drive out into the country to our destination. But as we neared our turnoff and saw the Friday afternoon traffic jam, my husband made the snap decision as he often does, to keep driving instead and asked me to quickly consult Mr Google and find an alternative route. The new route was only 2 minutes longer and took us off the next exit and asked us to turn right instead of left. The route was fairly simple with few turns and all major roads, but we were starving so dipped into a side street to find the closest KFC. But we didn’t turn slow down fast enough to make the sudden change, so took the next turn only a couple of houses down thinking that we would just go around the block and come back again.

It seemed simple enough, and we could see that we were in what could be described a “dodgy” area, but as we are adventurous, non judgemental (or try to be), I simply said these people are probably as nice as can be. It was mid Friday afternoon and school was out, the sun was shining, and the heat of the day was already subsiding, ….so the streets were full of people, many of whom were children and teenagers and most of the adults were women. There were balls being kicked, dogs and children squabbling and laughing, and while there were many people around, there were very few cars. The streets were single lane each way without the need for a white line down the middle. It was by no means a major thoroughfare, and the tangle of dead ends that we came upon as we tried to get around a single block confirmed that this was nothing more than people’s homes. It was struggling class suburbia at it’s best from what I could see; salt of the earth, rich in culture, survival at it’s best. There was a part of me that would have loved to stay, and to speak to the woman at the door with the baby on her hip who was laughing with her toddler kicking his ball, to have a meal with the family who were unpacking their meagre groceries from their walk to the local corner store. A thousand or more deep rich stories to be told around me.

But we were locked into this rabbit warren for no more than 2 or 3 minutes as my husband turned the car around and we headed out again the way that we had come in. Our wrong turn had been quiet the first time, but now that we were exiting, with the same people on the streets and the same kids playing with a ball, we heard a couple of gun shots behind us. Two shots fired one immediately after the other, and as we couldn’t actually see anything happening, in the second (or less) that it took to process it, we kind of looked at each other, registered that something had gone down, and for some reason assumed that it was over …and that is was a good thing that we were on our way out instead of in.

But in front of us a police siren started just seconds after the gunshots, and a police car came flying around the corner towards us, obviously heading to the gunshots behind us. It all happened so fast that there is no way that anyone cold have called the police that quickly and we suddenly realised as the second, third, fourth and fifth police vehicles came screeching around the corner too, taking up most of the road and blocking our exit, that something huge was going down and that their war and our exit had collided. We were the only car on the road in the 50 yards or so between the good guys in front of us and the bad guys behind us, the guns started up again and we realised that they weren’t in any way small guns… It also took less than a second to realise that at least two of the police vehicles were SWAT teams in cammo, full body armour and bullet proof protection, face masks, and MASSIVE artillery which was aimed in every direction in front of them.

It didn’t occur to me until afterwards that they had no idea who we were or that we were good guys, so my husband had one guy (hanging out the  doorless vehicle like you see those army guys hanging out of doorless helicopters), lock eyes and gun on him as he came flying around that corner! We had to jump the curb to get around them and as the gun shots kept going for some reason we didn’t even look back. We just floored it and left as fast as we could.

We are still processing everything, and in a country where nothing but the worst of the worst makes the papers and news, the likelihood of us finding out what was going on was slim. So last night we googled the area that we were in, and sure enough there were a number of very small articles on what went down. Here is one of them. I’m pleased to hear that the good guys one, and it doesn’t sound like any lives were lots in the process.

I spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not to write this. I am enormously protective of this country and I do not want to contribute to it’s negative reputation. But on Friday this was my reality and part of my goal in all my writing is to be honest, congruent, transparent and to keep it all real. For me it was a massive lesson that anything can happen to anyone anywhere, that our two worlds had collided and there was nothing that we had done “wrong” and nothing in that neighbourhood that was inherently “wrong”. I still believe that most of those people are good people and I would love to hear all their stories, have a meal with them, and spend some time there.

I was asked only the week before by another family on the expat circuit whether I would recommend this country as a posting for them and my answer remains unchanged; I can’t guarantee anyone’s safety in any country, but if you are prepared to take the risk on being anywhere on this earth and you have the opportunity to live in this country, then I’d grab it with both hands as we have done …

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The Joan of Arc in me…

img_3986-1As most of you already know or have worked out, I am writing my story of my life and my abandonment and abuse, as well as all the many things that I have learnt and am learning along the way. I see a brilliant doctor at the moment and she is the best Psychologist that I have ever had. We see her together sometimes too, and he sees someone else as well. It sounds complicated but it isn’t really, …. we each grew up in deeply confusing and abusive situations and as a consequence we came together in an extremely cliched way… drawn together in our pain and as bad for each other as it gets… the worst combination. But we didn’t know that, and our love for each other, our faith, a gazillion life altering mistakes and a hell of a lot of hard work means that we are at last now breaking the chains that have bound us all our lives …and we are winning. As individuals and as a couple.

I cannot explain to you how proud I am of each of us in completely different ways. In the next few months we are going to be delving into the hard stuff and I will be writing about much of it. It is painful and it is hard, and all the people who broke me were without fail the exact same people who were supposed to love me and protect me, not break me and abandon me and crush my heart soul and spirit…

So today DrA and I discussed the upcoming topics and she lovingly hit me with one of her doozies; one of those comments that for her are probably par for the course, but for me are life changing in ways that are hard to explain…

Today she told me that we need to be careful with me going ahead, that she is worried about me being hurt by the process, and that we need to keep on top of keeping me safe. She said that over the two years that I have been with her, (that’s nearly 100 sessions alone, wow!!!!) she has come to this conclusion. She told me this:

“Because of what happened to you as a child, because it was such an injustice, the little girl became a warrior. A warrior for righteousness and justice and principals.

….It was the only way that she could find a voice, it meant that she survived.

….She became a very effective warrior and she is very accurate. She speaks truth and she stands up for people and against wrong. She became Joan of Arc. A young woman with a passion and an empathy for the downtrodden. I can’t fault her, Joan was wonderful, an amazing warrior … and you Jenn, you are a great Joan.

….But the problem with warriors is that nobody can see the broken damaged person underneath, and worse than that, …warriors get killed !!!

….Do you want to fight for justice or to be seen and heard? You can’t have both at the same time… “

I am feeling so many mixed emotions. There is something hugely complimentary about being compared to someone like Joan of Arc. But more than that there is also something extremely validating about the things that she described in me… but I’m not quite sure that I’m super excited about being burnt at the stake!

Why Read?

The more I have wanted to write, the more I have wanted to read! I have always loved reading,

….but when I started writing my own abuse story for myself, I stopped reading anything else because I wanted my voice to be only my own. I was scared that I would “accidentally” steal or borrow from someone else, and I wanted to be able to say everything that I needed to say and know that it was from my own heart and soul, even if someone else had a similar experience (which I have no doubt many have). And so I stopped reading altogether for a season.

But then I needed a break. I was having nightmares and really struggling with some of the things that I was writing and so I took some time out to read a book that I found lying around and had no idea what it was about…. it was Alexander Fuller’s “Let’s Not Go to the Dog’s Tonight” and I drank in every word. My story is nothing like hers but having grown up in the same era and in the same corner of the globe there was much that I could relate to.

At the moment I am reading Rachel Thompson’s “Broken Pieces” which is completely different to Fuller’s writings but I am soaking in every word of this book too.

Neither of these are my stories, they are their’s alone, so how and why are they good for me? Because they give me permission. When I started writing my story, I wanted it to be pure and raw and “as is”, but I also knew that I had to fit in to a “standard length” novel, and to write it in a way that people will want to read and understand. Which for me was a certain box that I can’t quite explain. But now that I am reading the works of others that inspire me, they have give me permission to be more of myself and less of that “box”.

Far from restricting my own voice, they are setting it free!

Fuller gave me permission to not have to cram my whole story into one book. To stop my story at a really obvious point, and then to move onto a new book for the next part. Thompson has given me permission to describe feelings even if they didn’t make sense to me then or make sense to everyone else now.

Both writers have given me permission to write my story “as is” without justifying anything or having to explain it so that the reader believes me. Neither of these writers judges anyone, themselves included. They state their experiences and simply leave it at that…

There are many other writers who have put words to my feelings, feelings that have been bottled up for decades but without a voice I had no idea how to describe them or what to do with them. They are still my own, but I needed to isolate them in order to deal with them, and deal with them in order to start healing. Then I could start telling my own story, and use my own words that I learnt to find.

FAQ: Why no Family & Friends Launch Pad?

IMG_3561I wrote this article a couple of weeks ago on the family and friends launch pad that many of us launch or social media platforms off, and the fact that I don’t have one, which doh, I should have realised would prompt people to ask me why. So here it is:

For all kinds of complicated reasons I have never known my own voice. I thought that I did and that I was good at standing up for myself, but it turns out that just because we can talk loudly, a lot, or boldly, does not mean that we know ourselves and our needs either deeply, or for some of us it turns out, at all. And that was me… I was absolutely gobsmacked when my psychologist worked it out, but in the same space and moment I also knew that they were 100% correct. The scariest thing was that I knew they were right but could not for the life of me find what my voice was saying. It was an extremely traumatic few years and deeply painful as for over a decade I had felt the weight of a thousand stones in my soul and so I knew that they were there and I knew that I was in deep deep pain… I knew that I had things to name and say, but I was so conditioned and practiced at silence that I could not access them AT ALL.

It was extremely frustrating, and deeply exhausting. I honestly thought at times that we would never get there, but as I started to write I started to find a voice that in one sense I never knew was there but in another sense always knew it was. I started to share that voice and those writing some of those around me and I got such a mixture of reactions. Some told me that I have to share it with the world and write my story, but many told me that these were things best kept silent. The more people wanted to silence me the more I knew that I needed to write and to tell and even to speak it out loud (which I can’t quite do yet, but I want to one day)…

Then there were those who didn’t expect me to keep silent but at the same time it evoked things inside themselves that they were trying to keep silent and so they asked me not to speak of my things around them. Others simply didn’t get it and weren’t very interested. And that’s OK too. It has to be OK, I need to let them have their own life journeys. And so a year ago I moved from my private blog that only they could see, and started my public blogs without telling them. The world can see this and I feel more free to speak what I need to than if I had any of them looking over my shoulder. Yes they might find me, but if they do then they have the choice of hopping on board or staying silent. It is up the them rather than me shoving it in their faces and expecting them to come on board.

My parents and family of origin have elected to let me go a very long time ago, so there are no family constraints as far as that goes, and my children are too young to journey with their mother, (and maybe that is not the job of children anyway). And so with only my dear husband cheering me on on the sidelines, I am going this alone, for now anyway. Thank you for coming on this journey with me … I can’t tell you how much it means to me 🙂

 

FAQ: Chronic vs Acute Abuse

Today’s post is a biggy. Not that there is ever anything small about abuse of any kind, but another blogger asked me a question the other day about the word Chronic and what it is. This is SUCH an important question, and the answer even more so.

All around us these days we see stories of the most traumatic and unbelievable abuse, from fathers and strangers stealing and hiding young girls in their basements for years on end, to brutal attacks and rapes. Like it or not, because it is everywhere on the news, in movies, and on the small screen, we are becoming somewhat desensitised to them. We are still horrified and we are still shocked, but the line has become blurry between what is real and what isn’t, but worse than that, is that our measure of what we think abuse is, is so extreme that we miss a different more subtle kind of abuse that is often right under our noses.

Domestic Abuse is also very much in the spotlight right now (and rightly so) and on those screens we see women with black eyes and swollen lips, purple and blue bruises and frazzled hair. The look in their eyes often speak even more deeply of the tragedy and the violence, as well as the deep emotional pain that they are in. We are shocked and horrified and look around us but don’t see anyone in our neighbourhood looking like that and so we assume that we don’t know anyone who is, or ever has been abused.

Sexual abuse is another deeply traumatic and violent act that we see on the big screen. This one in theory we know happens all around us, but we don’t like to pry or ask. 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys have been sexually abused in one way or another, and we assume that for all of them, they are people we don’t know, and that they were physically raped.

Abuse can be at the hands of loved ones or strangers and it can take many forms. Physical and sexual abuse are the obvious, but we do hear from time to time about emotional abuse. I don’t want to take anything from these deeply tragic and abusive physical situations, but my concern in this article is for both women and men and a different kind of abuse. One that goes “unnoticed” and “non validated” sometimes even by the victim. Emotional abuse is much harder to define and capture, and because it goes hand in hand with squashing the voice of the victim, it is very hard to see or even measure the impact. For these as well as those who are more “subtly” sexually abused, there are no dark basements, no physical bumps or bruises, but the damage can, and often is, just as bad.

Let me go back a step and explain a very important concept, the difference between Chronic and Acute. We often hear these two words associated with medical things and the easiest way to explain it is to use a cough as an example. Someone with an acute cough would have a really really bad one. It may even be Pneumonia. It requires hospitalisation to treat the cough and maybe even save the patient’s life. We all get a huge fright especially the patient who is suffering tremendously.

A chronic cough on the other hand doesn’t look so bad, but it goes on and on and on. A normal cough virus (or bacteria) should last no longer than 10 days, and then if all goes well it goes away. But a cough that lingers for weeks or months or a cough that is not so bad and heals, but keeps coming back over and over again can be a sign of something  else far worse going on.

Take a different example. Say someone hit you over the head with a hammer. Hard enough to knock you out and leave you in hospital with a major head injury. That is called a brain trauma and it is a massive assault. It is called an acute trauma.

But what if someone only hit you with a rubber mallet? Not hard enough to knock you out or cause any “damage”, but they did it over and over and over again. What if every time you woke up someone hit you once on the head with this soft rubber mallet. Over time, it would still be a trauma, but a different kind of trauma, a chronic trauma. The mild bruising that occurred would never get the chance to heal, and the same spot would become tender and damaged in a different way. The bruising and healing would become stagnant and the body would not get a chance to take the damaged cells away. A blood clot could form and the person could eventually have a stoke and land up in hospital in just as bad shape as the person who was hit hard with a metal hammer that broke through their skull. This is called chronic trauma.

Much of this may seem obvious to a lot of people when looking at the outside world or the theory of abuse, but I have a huge heart for men and women who live in all kinds of chronic abuse. Bullying is a perfect example of constantly and consistently being emotionally (or even physically) hit over the head with a soft rubber mallet.

Physically it can mean a parent, sibling or school mate who constantly and regularly smacks you on the back of the head “in jest” each time you walk in the door. One whack can be funny, or simply “not nice”, but when you can’t ever get them to stop, it is abusive. More than that, it may look physical but it is actually emotional. For the bully it is a mild yet chronic way to remind someone who has the upper hand, over and over and over again. To constantly and consistently knock a person down a peg. It may not be about squashing them under foot, but it is a way of never allowing that person freedom to grow or branch out. It is about keeping that person trapped by fear and insecurity.

If someone who is hit over the head like that every single day complains, we tend as a society to measure that against the stories on the TV. We assure them that what they are suffering is nothing compared to “real” abuse and tell them that they should be thankful that it isn’t worse. We tend to judge their experience and diminish it, and we don’t help them to rise above it and to stand up to the “bully”. But no one likes to stand up to bullies right? …and anyway, these kinds of bullies are so subtle and because as they whack us they laugh and tell us that they love us, or scruff our hair …. No one else notices the victim’s hurt, and we all think that the bully is wonderful for saying that they love them. The victim then often feels bad, as though being hurt (emotionally or physically) is their own fault, and that they should the bully like everyone else does. And so way too often these kinds of experiences are never validated or recognised.

This chronic abuse can be emotional or it can be sexual as well. We constantly hear of rapes, multiple rapes, and the massive, life destroying impact on the victim by these massive, acute, sexual, emotional and physical traumas, and my heart absolutely breaks for the victims both at the time and forever onwards. But what if a young boy or girl was being chronically abused? What if a family member kept trying to look at and laugh at her budding breasts? What if she was mocked for not growing them fast enough or big enough for someone’s liking? What if a mother kept “accidentally” leaving the buttons of her shirt undone and wore no bra when her young son is the only one home and tries to get him to have an eye full, …then mocks him when he tries to look away? What if there is no sexual touch as such, but while watching TV many evenings a mother sits way too close to her hormonal teenage son, becomes sexually aroused and makes comments and gestures that leave him feeling ill and confused, or a father who does the same to a daughter and his breathing becomes heavy and hot on her neck? What if all these children have no words to explain their experiences and one to tell anyway? What if they are confused and degraded confused about what they are feeling anyway? What if when they try to verbalise it even to themselves they sound like they are making mountains out of molehills and so they silence themselves in fear of sounding stupid or being told that it is their fault?

In a completely different way, what of the child who is constantly mocked by her parents for the colour of her hair or the freckles on her face? What if she is mocked and blamed for being a girl instead of a boy? What if the focus was too much on the negative and not enough on the positive and that she was never equipped for the world out there? What if she is never taught skills to use her voice, to stand up for herself, to ask healthy questions, or to find her own skills and passions, … what if she doesn’t know how to healthily say no? What if her parents kept her isolated from family and friends so that there were no other influences on her life to fill in the gaps that she so desperately needed? What if she was never cared for medically and always told that she was making it up, …so no one even looked to see what was going on under the surface?

Silence and secrets, unspoken pain and confusion, youth and innocence … all these things conspire against anyone who grows up in or lives with chronic abuse; the constant hits on the head by a rubber mallet, which dull our senses and keep us in fear. For every battered face there are a dozen battered hearts and broken souls. For every rape there is a handful of sexually broken men and women who don’t understand what is going on other than that somehow it hurts like hell.

Much of that emotional abuse is mild, but psychologically a good chunk of it is actually not as subtle as it appears. But even if it is all mild, the constant whacking over the head with the emotional hammer, all through a child’s growing years, does not equip him or her for adult life. It sets paths for their future which were no where near to the God-given potential that they was born with. Patterns were set for choosing partners, building relationships, and the bruised and battered effects of abuse continue into adult life….

Unless … what if they are brave enough, and strong enough and manage to break free… to start on a decades long lonely, exhausting journey to achieve what is supposed to be the impossible, …and what if they are prepared to lose everything to get there?

An anxious Piece of Pottery

I made this bowl the other day, … (well, this is only the underglaze, those pencil lines will burn off in the kiln and the colours are all actually bright and dark). But I made it after seeing a similar quote on the Facebook page of a fellow writer, and it speaks to me on so many levels. Not just because many writers can relate to this, but also as someone who has been silenced all my life and not allowed to use my voice in any forum, writing my memoir has become a powerful way of expressing a pain that is and was extremely deep …and yet I could not explain.

As I break out of that, one of the key tools that found the cracks in my enforced emotional “prison” was 6 years ago when I started to write my story for myself. It slowly began the season in my journey to healing, that allowed me (and my psychologists) a small window into my broken damaged soul. I can write things that I cannot say, my soul speaks through the keys with words that I didn’t know I had, when I write it out and let people see it I can face it without the extreme emotions of loneliness that went with living it in real life. I feel as though when I tell my story to someone I find that I lose the ability to breath and the emotional and physical pain becomes too consuming, …but when I let my fingers and my soul connect and do their thing, I feel like my readers are holding my hand as I “go there”. and I am more able to stand back and let it happen without reliving it nearly as deeply.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still painful, and I have nightmares for a few nights and through the writing sessions themselves I frequently need to make a dash for the loo, but there is somehow a level of protection. My greatest healing comes from my writing, telling this story that I have borne for all my existence …

And so this speaks to me at the deepest of levels, it is about my pain but it also about the freedom that I am finding in getting it out! This statement is extremely validating and freeing for me, and I wanted to write it somewhere that I can always see it. But when I showed it to a couple of people, the reaction was: “what an anxious piece of pottery”! They weren’t being at all unkind, but it was a huge reminder to me that my freedom, my voice, and my pain do not speak to all people, and that I mustn’t take that personally. It is not about me, and it isn’t even a negative about them…

Ethical Tweeting? Part 1

IMG_3561Is there such a thing as “ethical social media”?

I am passionate about both truth and community. They may sound like somewhat unrelated concepts, but for me they very much go hand in hand, regardless of what our belief system is. I believe that community and belonging are at the most basic level of our needs, and I also believe that the deepest and safest relationships are created when they are born and sustained in truth. For me personally, I believe that some of the signs and badges of relational truths are Freedom of speech, Respect for each other’s voices, Empathy from each to the other, Equal measures of grace with your truth, and so on.

To me, I believe that truth builds safe communities, and that safe communities foster truth. In this combination we can grow freely as human beings, we can have space to all be different, we can all be “seen”, nurtured, respected…. And I believe this of ALL forms of community. When I think about anything related to betrayal, hurt, bullying, … some of them can be connected to truth telling (done badly) and communities (functioning badly) but none of them can stand beside both truth and strong community… and I’d love yo to challenge me on that one if you can find something.

I totally understand and respect the issues with social media and that bullies can hide behind anonymity, that we need to keep “real” relationships happening instead of only relying on the internet “fake” ones, but I will deeply challenge the concept of which are fake and which are real in a few posts time. Here I simply want to focus on the concept of the depth of our most basic need for both community and truth.

And like it or not, whatever way we each use Twitter, Facebook and so on, we all use them at some level for community. This to me crosses all boundaries, both cultural and religious, and I believe that the need for community is one of the few things that I can find, that is backed up by all view points.

My Psychologist, a staunch atheist, says that it is deeply built into our DNA to belong to our own tribe or community. Deeper even than our most basic survival need for food, is our need for our tribe to survive as a whole. If it is wiped out, she says, then we will be left alone and isolated, and that isolation is the worst thing that can happen to a person, worse even than death. This rings true for me, even to the point where solitary confinement is still one of the worst tortures in prisons and armies.

From a “God perspective” I can’t find anything that contradicts these concepts either, the Bible is filled (to my knowledge) with all manner of things that all point towards building of community and truth. Jesus told us to care for the widows and orphans, that he would prepare a place for us in community in Heaven, that we are not here to judge or condemn each other. Even the old testament  stories of wars and battles, are about survival of our own communities and protecting and standing up for our own tribes.

My mission in life is to encourage, build, and restore tribes and communities (without wars let me be clear!). These concepts are the threads through and the foundations under, almost everything that I write about whether it is about my broken body, my abused and broken soul, or even on sharing my very fledgling journey on social media. I have already been battling with my gut and all that I am learning about social media, as I find a space to build my community, but to stay true to my values of truth and honesty, encouragement and integrity. In the weeks ahead I hope to explore this further and I am excited to share some of the people and places that I have found that already shine like lights in these areas. I am clearly not alone in this mission!

I’m also on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Pinterest too.

Transparency Sucks!

“Say it out loud” they say, “Be real” they say, “Be transparent” they say… And all those comments sit so well with my soul. Yes please I said, I’ll shout it from the treetops I said!

I hate wearing a mask, I hate pretending that I’m not broken, body and soul, … and every time I bear my soul, or I say it how it is, or a show my wounds, I am so encouraged by the support that I get… and it feels validating for me, helpful to others, and totally natural….

But for every measure of those things, comes an equal measure of mud. I might be shaking off the masks, and yes, that requires some strength, …but don’t over estimate me, maybe I’m shaking them off because I feel that I have no choice.. Maybe I feel that I have less to lose and more to gain than others? Maybe I’m not that brave at all…

But don’t forget those masks, and what I’m trying to reveal to the world, is the frightened, abused, squashed, trampled, voiceless little girl inside …and she isn’t so robust and nor is she immune to the criticism that comes from others, who think that I should keep wearing  my masks forever to make them feel more comfortable.

Most of them don’t mean it, … I know that it’s their own fears or hurts or lack of strength or robustness that is behind them feeling threatened. And for many of them their masks are survival techniques which keep them safe, contained, secure, and that for them to drop them would be catastrophic (don’t underestimate that, some only think that it will be catastrophic but for many it actually would be)…

We all have different journeys to walk and different timings too. And so my timing may well be different to yours. I am by no means a trail blazer, I take great strength and confidence from those who walk this journey waaaay ahead of me. And for those behind me on their journeys, I want to be the strong one for them. But being real also means being honest and being honest means telling the truth, and telling the means that I have to admit that being transparent comes with criticism and judgement… And a lot of it, …and often from where you least expect it!

About 6 years ago I found a book lying around somewhere and the title jumped out at me. I ignored it, but the same thing happened a few times over, and eventually I borrowed it reluctantly. It was called “I Quit” by Geri Scazzero. I was determined that I was not a quitter and so it wasn’t a book for me! …But I had it’s meaning all wrong and once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. It was life changing for me, …and she warns that if you want to be real, honest, and transparent then expect a cyclone to occur in every corner of your life and relationships.

Well she wasn’t kidding. NOTHING could have prepared me for how powerful, all consuming, and destructive that cyclone was (and still is)… Or that it would go on and on, and on …for so long. But I especially didn’t get that it would leave such a mess behind… Some of which would take years to clean up …plus other damage that would be permanent.

But she was 100% correct in that should you and your loved ones survive the storm, it would be oh so worth it! I can’t begin to explain how worth it it is!

… Even though on so many levels  ….it also sucks!

Twitter’nStuff; hindrance or help?

Nearly 6 years ago I started my first blog. It was private with only a small handful of readers that I trusted. “Share your heart” they said. “Share your story” they said. “We will listen and hold your hand” they said. And some did. But most just read it without support, feedback, thanks or encouragement. I felt hurt and let down, ….but a door had opened that could never be closed again.

And so I went deeper. I started to tell things as they were, unfiltered and unmasked. I didn’t invite anyone who knew me to see any of it, but I hit that “public” button instead of the private one and hid behind a pen name. Lots of strangers heard my voice and commented and replied and asked questions and encouraged. It was thrilling that for the first time in my life I didn’t worry about what anyone expected of me, no body told me that I was wrong, and for the first time in my life I felt “heard”. I was going through the hardest time of my life, going through heartache that I had never ever imagined would be mine (in this way anyway). My soul had been shredded by those closest to me and I was in so much heartache that I could barely breath.

I didn’t know until later that I was in such deep trauma that I was in danger of a complete breakdown, but every day, instead of allowing it to destroy me, I wrote and wrote and wrote and strangers heard me and carried me and for the first time in my life I belonged somewhere, to a group of fellow journeyers who were as crushed and broken as I was.

I worked hard at healing and growing and eventually I needed more light in order to survive. My heart ached for those women who were not able to climb out of those holes, often through no fault of their own. But my own light and survival was so new and fragile and it became unhealthy for me to spend time in that dark desperate place. I want to write about that place and share it one day, but first I need to create a safe enough space, up in the light of the rest of the world, before I can do that.

A year ago my physical mess of a body was diagnosed and I had a whole new space to write about, process and a different journey to share. This January I at last felt robust enough to start writing my whole story, …. and this blog was born, to carry me through that journey and hopefully lead to one day finish writing my book. I have felt encouraged and blessed in the process, but 2 weeks ago I was encouraged to take it another step further…

You need to get Twitter they said, and Instagram they said, oh yes and Pinterest they said… Just use this or that handle and everyone will retweet you they said… “it’s easy” they said…

What they didn’t say was that it is fast and overwhelming and scary and crazy! What they didn’t say was that complete strangers follow you hoping that you will follow them, and that some of them are great people but for others it is just a numbers game and if you don’t follow them back then they dump you. Even though they “tempted” me with their cleavages and their duck faces…

They didn’t say that there are apps and ‘bots and programs who churn out tweets at a great rate of knots and that if I am not careful I could sell my soul to be heard or seen or noticed… I am learning that you can’t just speak and someone will hear, …you first need to become noticed (and cool and popular? Like school maybe?)

I feel a little like I am back in school again, …. And back to being invisible … I don’t want the Twitter Train to run me over or kill the voice that I am only just now starting to find, but I’m also pretty sure that I still don’t want to have to change everything that I do so that I too can be cool and “fit in”….

Maybe I’m just feeling fragile today … Maybe today isn’t a good day to bear my soul….

Hang on …. Must I only bear my soul when I’m feeling strong and uplifting and encouraging and make everyone else smile and feel good about themselves? … Am I only to use my voice for everyone else’s good?

Thank you for all the support of those who have risked following me on this journey, I hope that I stay worthy of your follow, and if not … well … I will cross that bridge when I get there, …but I am determined not to be bowled over by the Twitter Train!