#SecondHalf Update

So, I can’t quite believe it’s been nearly a year since we said goodbye to corporate life, and our world in Joburg. I’ll do a proper update on July 2nd when the year is up, but today was a very special day for us. As most of you will know, we’re on a two year sabbatical to detox from corporate, work on personal stuff, regroup, heal, pray, read, write, publish, and seek God’s will for the second half of our adult life.

It’s been a huge lesson in patience, and will no doubt continue to be. It’s been well over two years since we decided to do this, and the answers are coming slowly… but as always… perfectly. It’s been a huge leap of faith in every way, but we’re starting to bear fruit of our hard work, trust, patience and obedience.

There’ve only been a small handful of concrete directions since the first plans thirty months ago and we’ve just had to keep trusting and pushing forward. Then a month ago there were a couple of biggies and today, almost out of nowhere, a bunch more! In some ways they feel like they’ve come tumbling out of nowhere, but as the kids have reminded us, looking back, everything’s pointed to this!! For so long! Even the little things!

I’m sorry to be so vague, but we’re still working through details and we don’t have all the answers ourselves yet. And we’re so excited and I want you to know we’re working hard on stuff and we aren’t just following our noses around Italy or anywhere else for nothing. And because people keep saying “I hope you’re enjoying your retirement!!” as if we’re wasting our lives doing nothing. We aren’t collecting seashells and we aren’t being mindless.

So if you’re part of the tribe who’re praying for us, please keep praying! If you’re not, that’s ok too and we still appreciate your support and your messages and you’ll know what’s happening the same as anyone else 😊

Thanks too for sooo many book sales and climbing! This is all coming together and we’re enormously thankful!

With love from both of us,

My Captain and his Stoker (photo cred: the Captain 😊)

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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 🙂

 

3: Self Care is not following a script…

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.58.44 PMThis one is really simple. There is very much a formula around the space of implementing self care; knowing when to self care, what works for us personally, and sometimes even needing to methodically implement it. Paradoxically however, the worse shape I am in the more I need self care, but also the less my brain is helping me to do the right thing. A formulaic approach to self care really helps me in that I have taught myself to know what helps in theory and to just do it. To trust the process and go with it. And it nearly always works.

But sadly there isn’t a script on working out what our self care needs are. There isn’t list of things that work for everyone and nor is there a list of trick questions to tick, which will then spit out the answers at the other end. Self care is extremely personal and trial and error with a deliberate mind appeared to be what worked for me. I painstakingly “stumbled” upon the things that worked for me, ….slowly over many years. They seem so simple now, but my brain had never searched my soul for answers to what I needed before, so it didn’t know where to look and my soul did not know how to tell me or my brain what it’s needs were.

So if someone you love is struggling and can’t find how they need to self care, or is forgetting to self care, maybe ask them if they need help for sure, but don’t be too hard on them if they are struggling to fit a list of self care options, or work out what their needs are.

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.

The Ultimate in “Keeping it Real”

Last night we watched the movie “What we did on our holiday“. It was the second time that I have seen it and I love it more and more. Through a brilliant and totally unpredictable story line, Billy Connolly and David Tennant at their best, and a cast of other actors who all do an amazing job (especially the children), this cleverly written British comedy, to me, is the ultimate in why we need to be “keeping it real”.

With layer upon layer upon layer of reasons, consequences, twists and turns, though hilariously funny, it is also deeply emotional with some very strong messages; Life is short, wearing masks and keeping up appearances is taxing and totally not worth it, and no one wins, least of all those who pretend the most.

Movies like this inspire me and remind me that transparency is the way to go at every level. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and watch it, ….but bring the tissue box and be ready to laugh like you haven’t laughed in a long time!

(…and with so much Scottish blood running through my veins, that didn’t hurt the experience either …stunning scenery and so many threads running through it, up there on my all time best list).