Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dieting by proxy

I am suffering from that most depressing of syndromes.

WeightWatcherhousen’s Syndrome.

Or ‘Dieting by Proxy’

This is the distressing effect on a man that is caused implicitly by having a wife that is doing Weight Watchers. Life suddenly becomes just that little bit duller.
Its not just Weight Watchers of course, there are billions of variants of the dieting by proxy illness that affects us husbands. Whatever the latest diet is called though, the results are the same.
Unfortunately, an earlier agreement that seemed to make so much sense at the start of the marriage comes back to bite us on the ankles. For years we have benefited from our wife’s skill at doing the weekly shop. Not for us men, the chore of dragging a trolley round a crowded supermarket – oh no, you enjoy yourself love! Suddenly this becomes the biggest mistake of your marital career. Once the lady of the house is dieting – the whole house is dieting.

No treats will be purchased, in case our weak willed women are tempted by them. Every meal will be carefully planned in the finest detail, including portion size. This is vital so that your wife can control her intake, I accept that. I just can’t see why these women’s infamous multi-tasking skills don’t apply here. Why do my portions have to be the same? So much thought is being put into mealtimes that there are suddenly no mistakes being made, no longer will I get a text on my way home saying “We are all out of chicken, want to fetch Chinese?” No way – now we will be having something with Chick Peas in it instead.

Then there is the atmosphere to contend with.

There are two atmospheric issues to deal with.
Firstly, you suddenly have a woman running loose about the house that has not been chocolateized recently. This instantly causes tension. Should your wife be strong willed enough to continue this insane situation during her ‘special week’ then frankly you are better off spending some money on a hotel for a few days, because life would be hell at home. Even during normal days it is bad enough. Women need chocolate to make them cooperative, you can’t live in the same house as an under chocolated woman, everyone knows that.

Then there are the vegetables.
Every meal has vegetables, and where there are vegetables there is methane. It’s possible that across the globe diets are responsible for a greater release of methane than McDonald’s cows. That means that diets are causing global warming!

So I’m here, tip toeing around a walking time bomb of attitude and internal combustion, whilst coping with a distinct lack of culinary gratification.

WeightWatcherhousen’s Syndrome affects 1 in 3 married men in Britain, and Dieting by Proxy is the biggest cause of male depression in the world.

Bear with me readers – I’m not feeling at my best.

Also on my Blog: Glen's Life.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Appealing to both sexes? Is it possible?

Please will you help me. I have just had a non fiction book proposal rejected by a publisher and this is what they said:

"I think your pitch was really great and the stories luridly fascinating, but the bottom line is I don't think it has an audience. As a feature article both men and women would give it 5 mins and love it. But as a book it has to be primarily for either men or women and I think it falls down between the two. It is about the lives of the ultra rich but it is quite dark and misogynistic. We recently came a cropper with a similar book called Divorce Confidential which was a brilliant read, but was not finally for men or women."

Divorce Confidential - Amazon link

I would like to understand this better. If books are for men or women - what ingredients do I need to make the book appeal to both? Or is it simply not possible?

It would be great if you would be willing to read the book and then feedback, via the comments, why you think this book hasn't been a success. Apparently, it's a great read. I am going to get a copy too.

I would welcome your help in this matter. Of course, if you can't be arsed then that's fine too.

I have posted this on my blog too.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Parents aren't perfect

Your parents aren't always right.

They are not flawless. They're not always virtuous. They won't always be there when you need them.

They lie.

They err.

They fight.

They sometimes set bad examples.

They are unreasonable.

They are demanding.

They are needy.

A lot of times they're simply selfish.

At all times -- they're human.

And we have to recognize them as such.

Like all children, I put my parents on a pedestal for the longest time.

Until I became a teenager.

I remember analyzing them a bit more critically. Calling them out on their "wrongdoings." Not taking their word for everything.

Respecting them, but not worshiping them.

I was jaded, you might say.

But I also recognized early on that they were just trying to do their best.

Juggling their jobs, their relationship, their aspirations, their ambitions, and their only child.

Parenting is no easy task.

I'm observing my friends struggle every day.

Since most of them have toddlers, the biggest thing right now is making sure they mind their language in front of their kids. No saying "shit" or "crap" or "damn."

They will repeat everything.

As the kids grow, the parents -- my friends -- will start minding other things. Behaviors, habits, beliefs.

But just as I don't acknowledge them, or myself, as perfect, in time their kids won't either.

It's hard when the myth shatters.

I remember the time I started seeing my parents as just two individuals with all their follies.

It hurt.

Why couldn't they be perfect?

And why did I have to feel like an ingrate for thinking of them such?

They had so many expectations of me.

But I had even more. Of them.

I resented them for being who they were -- thinking I was part of a dysfunctional family.

Why did this have to happen to me?

Until, years, later I realized that all of us are part of dysfunctional families. There is nothing like a functional family.

All families are comprised of people -- and people aren't perfect.

The disappointment faded away.

I started empathizing with them -- as an adult. A flawed, imperfect, human being.

They were just like me.

Like the rest of the world, I used to see them in myself -- the eyes, the hair, the nose, the jawline.

Now I started seeing me in them.

It's been easier since. I relate with them on a completely different level now.

In their head, I will always be their six-year-old.

And they will always be my parents, telling me to not do this, to do that better, worrying about me, encouraging me, brimming with pride at my smallest accomplishments.

Some things will never change.

But some things have.

I don't dwell anymore. Neither do I expect the world of them.

I listen more.

And try to rationally understand.

I see them objectively for who they are.

I am able to say "it's ok."

They are my parents. But they're also adults figuring their way about life.

Just like the rest of us.

Also posted on my blog.

Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2010 Mansi Bhatia

Monday, April 26, 2010

Be Willing to be Touched by Others

There is a place I noticed called, Blind Massage. The blue sign would be darkened, the shades drawn, and I would exhale deeply at the missed moment. I was drawn to this place like a magnet, because I like to find things that are in plain sight. The title intrigued me, a new mystery for me to discover, that seemed to taunt me on my evening walks.

Sometimes, you forget things when the door appears to be closed, and it just seems like a missed opportunity. On one night, I peered in because I just couldn't let this place go. Every time, the same scene; a strange foreign girl (me) peering in at the massage tables...only three of them...and a darkened room. Blind Massage seemed like a strange name. I would have easily forgotten it, had it been named something else. I could have gone anywhere else, but I would look at the glitzy spas and just keep walking. The young women dressed more like call girls, rather than masseurs. Long red lacquered nails and gowns with furs that said nothing of any deeper ability. Sure, I shouldn't judge them. I don't. I just kept thinking of a little place where only the locals frequented.

After, I returned from teaching today, I decided to take my walk earlier. My messages to friends and family could wait, after all I was filled with thoughts of a lecture I had just given on our need to create and to imagine. It was a strange walk, one of those walks where I just felt like everything was magic. Those too happy moments, that tend to irritate people. I was in a strangely great mood on a Monday, a day that everyone hates, and I always have loved (yes, I love Mondays). Mondays were a day were I would think about how I could improve on something, during the attitude, a belief, a habit gone wrong - in short, a day of new beginnings. Instead of once a year, I got 52 opportunities to recreate my life. That was the way I used to view Mondays...the placebo effect worked, because that mindset spread to everyday.

A PhD student was staring at me in class, and he apologized, "I'm sorry, I just realized you are beautiful." Every teacher with gray hair should be so lucky to hear that from a student, let alone from a culture that doesn't believe Western women are 'hot'. I went into a store and found a pair of pants I liked, but they were too long. "Wait, try them on and I can shorten them for you in 20 minutes." Ah...OK? Yes, look at the map...ah...yes, I am in China. I went down the block a little further, and there was a make up store...ladies...I can't tell you how hard it is for me to find foundation...yes, foundation in this country...I have been looking for 3 months. A lady was making up a young girl. I smile, and look around, and then pull out my compact...and let her know what I need..."Oh, of course we have that here..." REALLY? I went through a search of at least 50 stores...not a one...OK... The next, had a scarf I was looking for...the right fabric too.

It's Monday...a special day. And the blue light was on. Blind Massage was open. Oh, no, this was tooo good. Not for a moment did I hesitate or even worry that I might be turned away. I walked in and there was a line, but oh, just enough space for me to sit down. I didn't know any Chinese, but I saw with my own eyes...why...the blind were giving massages. I was excited...and became willing to be touched and not just touch.

I pulled out my practice script, and showed a lady my limited ability...and was encouraged by them. "Look...she's learning..." I took a picture and realized what I was seeing. I learned how to stop seeing when it was my turn and closed my eyes and surrendered to feeling. A massage with my clothes on...that felt like I had been invaded with healing fingers. A man articulated every muscle and I realized the journey in that moment.
A beauty that surpassed the girls I walked away from, to the beauty of their sighted hands in this little place. I felt I learned how in this moment to be touched by people who are normally either stared at or walked away from. I was the first foreigner that had ever come into their business, who wasn't afraid to be touched by their hands.

Simply Stunning

I am really hot and bothered this morning. No, seriously, I am mad enough to spit nails, breathe fire, see red and all at the same time. Have you seen the latest about the good Samaritan left to bleed to death on a street in Queens? It is enough to make you cry and I did. Seems a woman was being mugged and this homeless man stepped in to stop the assault. He was stabbed by the mugger and left to die. For over an hour. As people walked by. And took his photograph. And lifted his body, saw the blood and walked away. What the hell has happened to us?…..hell being the keyword here. Have we become so numb to evil acts that we can just walk by as someone helplessly bleeds to death right in front of us?

I am going to tell you all something right now. I will never, and I mean never, walk by. I can’t. It’s not the way I was raised. It’s not the way I raised my children. It’s not the way my grandchildren are being raised. I would rather get hurt or even die doing what is right than to live a safe life that I am ashamed of.

I do not regret for one minute, the time I moved a battered woman and her baby into our home. Yes, her six foot tall “husband” came to my door looking for her. Yes, he threatened me. Yes, I was scared. But guess what? I never showed my fear. What I showed that woman beating coward was claws and fangs. And he left. Without another word. Because that’s what cowards do when confronted by a short crazy woman. Now do you think that six foot man was afraid of me? Not for a second. What he was, was stunned. Stunned that someone would stand up to him and speak the truth. And the truth, as spoken to him that day, was that he was not getting into my house to get to her. Not without a fight. And if he chose to fight, he better make it a good one because I would go down to the end fighting like a crazed lunatic to protect that woman and her son.

I don’t regret jumping into the middle of two grown women fighting as a group of men stood by watching and laughing. I could not walk by the “entertainment” of seeing one woman pummel another woman at the beach. Sorry, I’m just strange like that. Was everyone involved drunk? I am pretty sure they were. Does that matter to me? Not in the least. All I saw was someone being hurt while others watched and it made me crazy. So I grabbed the injured girl by the shirt and pulled her back while stepping in front of the other girl. And you know what happened? The other girl just stared at me and the idiot men got quiet. Because I am so big and bad and brave? Hardly. It all stopped because they were all stunned that some ridiculously short, round, middle-aged lunatic would actually step in. Do I think they listened to a word of my tirade against the inhumanity of man? Puhleeze! They laughed in my face and walked away. So I won. They. Walked. Away.

I don’t regret confronting the man who was beating his girlfriend in public. Yep, right there in the Taco Bell parking lot. Sitting in his truck. Beating her. So when I confronted him, he stopped and stared at me. Because he was stunned. Because other people had just parked, looked at them and walked inside to order their tacos. And when his girlfriend didn’t want to come with me, she was stunned that I gave her my phone number and told her I had a room for her when she finally got sick of being hit.

I am not telling any of this so you will think I am wonderful or crazy or desperate for therapy. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you think of me. It does matter what I think of me, however. It matters when I am laying in bed at night trying to fall asleep. It matters when I look in the mirror. It matters when I look into the faces of my husband and children and grandchildren. What I do, what is in my heart towards my fellow man, matters.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Rains May Fall

    Laying my head back I close my eyes. Corralled tumbleweeds are given free range. The wind is howling. It is going to rain. Holding the coffee cup in my hand I watch the curtains of the day close and the rain descends. The tumbleweeds take a sharp turn and gather up the dust of past rains. There was the Conspiracy Rain in my early twenty’s. Late afternoon, the pinks of the sunrise were peaking out. The radio played one of those songs that makes you laugh and cry as memories tap on your heart like the rain on the windshield. I pulled into a parking lot, parked the car and opened the door. Finding just the right spot, I walked over to the perfect puddle of rain and jumped square in the middle. Just one jump was all that I needed.
    Then there’s the rain of the Benevolent Gods. While on a five month journey cross country on motorcycles, a severe band of rain squalls found us along one of those unending stretches of Texas highways. Unable to see we inched along until we found an overpass. Motorcycles safe from harm, we scaled the cement wall and popped a squat. There we sat in our bright yellow rain slickers soaked to the skin and pouring the water out of our shoes. Luckily we had a few cinnamon rolls left over from breakfast. You’d be surprised, when you’re hungry, how your mind can conveniently not notice the only food you have is as soaked as your jeans. As we carefully portioned out little pieces, as always with a picnic, the ants found us. I tossed a couple of crumbs away from us hoping they would follow the trail and leave us alone. Soaked, hungry, cold and wet I found myself drenched in laughter, almost falling down the cement overpass wall. Would they go back to their ant hill and tell the others about the day the Giant Yellow Cinnamon Roll Gods visited and gave them mana?
    There’s also the rain of the Not So Good Helper. Ever have that experience of watching a car accident happening and there’s nothing you can do? Watching the young construction helper work on the deck was one of those experiences. You just knew this was not going to be good. The day had been beautiful. When night fell so did the rain. With the rain came the flood streams into the house through the basement windows. I now understand the Little Dutch Boy nursery rhyme. Standing on chairs, step ladders and the back of a recliner I tried to abate the flooding as best I could. The rains lasted all night as did the towel vigil. I remember the combination of panic and anger welling up inside me with its own flood until my inner dam burst and I yelled out to my deceased mother “I could use some help here Mama!” With that plea, I dropped my weary arms, watched the water pour into the house and had to laugh. 
    Finally there is always the Rain of Tears. We’ve all had those days. The Rain of Tears when the events of life so overwhelm you yet offers no reprieve, no sanctuary nor place to hide. Lest we think life malevolent or cruel, the skies open, the rains fall and we stand composed and camouflaged with our tears.
    Yep, it is raining tonight. Holding the cup of coffee I notice the tumbleweeds have settled. Alternatively, they simply could be plotting. Whatever their intent, I shall go outside and listen to the rain. I shall tell the stars, hidden but always there, to bring the joy of a mud puddle to those whose hearts are heavy. I will tell the clouds as they continue their course to feed those who are hungry – physically, emotionally and spiritually and keep them safe from harm. And to the ever present moon which is partnered with the sun, I will instruct these sentinels to seal and heal the broken hearts and those who are crying – silently and in the rain. They do not have to be so strong that they can only cry in the rain. Yes, it is raining tonight. This is good. Every drop that falls has a purpose.

[also posted on my blog']

Escape From Bombay (written circa 1993)

Bombay hit us the instant we stepped off the train. Millions of people ran around in disorderly chaos. The air was thick with breath. Our main aim was to get to Bombay Dadar and depart. To get there we had to risk the local services which are a cross between Network South East and the Tube. The train doors never close and crowds rarely wait for the train to stop before they jump on and off.

Bombay is India’s biggest city with an ever increasing population of ten million, 3000 a day arrive in search of hope. It is the city of fortune. A metropolis of corporate enterprises, businesses, the media and India’s film industry. As a direct result of all the hope it offers it is probably the city with the worst poverty my little eyes have seen. Miles and miles of ghettos and slums line the outer and inner city. Some are run-down and some are enterprisingly green, with yards full of lush green herbs; but they are all poor.

We made it to dastardly Dadar to discover that the waiting list for the waiting list for a reservation was fully booked. Onwards and upwards. Trains, crowds and crowds; lost looks and a million faces, colours suspended within a dusty, musky, stale smell. More waiting, asking questions to puzzled eyes. Eventually Bombay Victoria Central Reservations. First train to Bangalore at 10.10pm; six hours to kill. What do we do? Jeremy deposited me in the refreshment room while he went to phone Aeroflot to try and change the flight.

“I speak English.” I looked up. A British born Indian named Clayton chatted to me, tried very hard to buy me a coffee and spilt dahl on the guide book. The conversation was somewhat limited; essentially to do with the geography of the U.K and where I lived in relation to London. Eventually he left to further his geographical knowledge with another unsuspecting tourist.

Where is Bombay Kurla? At 7.00pm we walked straight into “Rush Hour”. Within seconds of standing on a deserted station we were surrounded by mad, foaming at the mouth, commuters, all of them desperate to be on the first train to Bombay Kurla even though a second was due a minute later. As the train was arriving the crowd surged forward; Jerry and I, with the help of an Indian business man, held back against the torrent of bodies, barely able to remain standing on the platform. Sedately we boarded the next train.

The forty minute journey allowed us to watch the city tick along. A snapshot look into the lives of thousands. Bombay life at the close of play seemed very soothing after our hectic day. We arrived in Kurla two hours before the train was due to leave. We sat on the platform, drank chai, ate plumcake and teased the chai boys. The warm, sweet tea refreshed and energised us. The station was like a huge aircraft hanger in the middle of suburban Bombay. The atmosphere was much more relaxed than the centre of town. The hours passed quickly and pleasantly.

The Bombay Kurla - Bangalore Express arrived. It was to be it’s virgin journey. There was great celebration as the guard handed out coconut and sugar crystals. We had a four berth carriage to ourselves. Bliss. With our ten rupee (25p) bed rolls we settled down in crisp, clean, sheets and slept.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Speaking of Strange Islands

We made the mistake of taking the slow boat, thinking it would give us a leisurely tour of the spectacular island-strewn waters of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. Leisurely it was, so much so that after hours of winding our way among sharp, jutting rocks and lush green islands, we were now sitting in the pitch dark on a creaking wooden boat that had no running lights—well, that had no lights at all. Instead, a boy had climbed to the front of the boat with a flashlight that seemed to have faulty batteries. There were no lights anywhere around us, either, except for our own lonely light, which the boy had to shake occasionally to revive. The islands and rocks were invisible in the inky blackness until we were already upon them. I was recalling warnings in some of the guide books about pirates occasionally preying on tourist boats in Ha Long Bay. If there were any pirates in the area, we were surely easy pickins—although they would have had to locate us in the dark first. I wondered how much the captain of the boat could see—did he have cat vision, or bat vision? I could only hope he knew this area like the back of his hand, because floating dreamily through a labyrinth of tropical green islands by day had turned to navigating menacing rocks by night.
Full Disclosure: You can also (perhaps wisely) hop a fast boat and reach Cat Ba Island in one hour. The island has seen a dramatic increase in hotel construction in past years, mostly funded by overseas Vietnamese. But at the time we visited, things were still a bit more rustic, which made for more adventure as well.
Ha Long Bay (which supposedly means Descending Dragon Bay) in north Vietnam is dotted by, according to some estimates, 2,000 “islets”—which is to say, miniature islands of widely varied shapes and sizes. The scenery is stunning, and gliding through it on a slow boat can be an otherworldly, hypnotic experience. Our somewhat rattletrap wooden boat chugged along with a small number of passengers, including my sister and myself, as well as a French family. The boat operators used the small on-board space efficiently, cooking up a meal for us in the engine room as they piloted the boat. Old tires were scattered about the boat which appeared to be our life vests. On the way to Cat Ba Island, we passed floating fishing villages where entire communities spent their lives living on the water. After it turned dark and the boat plowed blindly on, a French passenger timidly asked, “Is this safe?” At that point, it didn’t really matter—the only way left was forward.
When we fortunately reached the island, a bus arrived to take passengers to our various hotels. Whenever the bus stopped, the driver put a cement block in front of it as a parking brake. When we finally entered our hotel room, ready to collapse after a long day, we noticed the sheets were dirty…as if someone had slept in them with muddy shoes. When we inquired about this, the proprietors responded by taking us to another room. The only problem was that in this hotel room, somebody’s possessions were still there. Unnerved at the prospect of other guests returning in the middle of night to find us sleeping in their beds, we requested a third room. In this room, the only problem was a non-flushing toilet, but otherwise it was clean, and completely empty of extra guests. I remember looking out the window into the alley below and seeing a sleek, fat rat the size of a medium-sized dog devouring something (probably a medium-sized dog.) Maybe it was some sort of water rat/native creature, but whatever it was, it was huge.
As you can tell, at that time, Cat Ba Island wasn’t about luxury accommodations. However, it was and still is about dramatic scenery: waterfalls, forests, hills, cliffs, caves, lakes, and sandy beaches tucked here and there among the otherwise rocky coastline. But the best part of Cat Ba Island is probably the breathtaking and nerve-wracking experience of getting there.
Also on my blog Strange Islands

Are Your Beliefs the True Barriers to Your Success? Unlocking Your Mental Filing Cabinet

Humans have a limited capacity for processing information. So that means that in any moment there is simply too much going on in the immediate environment to process. What reaches our consciousness is only a fraction of what we take in. We are selective out of necessity and we don’t see things as they really are, but rather as we are. So things that are relevant to the beliefs we have about ourselves, and others, and the world pop out from a sea of other information. This is a selective process that occurs outside of our awareness to spare us from feeling overwhelmed.

So there is some information that we are totally unaware of being stored away. Beliefs about the way things are or should be, or about our own abilities can be filed away, but remain an enduring influence on our thoughts and actions.

One way of finding out what you have been subconsciously filing away is to ask yourself what your beliefs are about a particular topic and then force yourself to keep coming up with answers until you have exhausted the in- tray and you are forced to access your locked filing cabinet.

It’s no secret that the process of doing a PhD has been as much about self discovery for me as it has been a quest for the truth about emotional processing. So I want to know if my unconscious beliefs are a help or hindrance to my success.

To access my mental filing cabinets and to discover what my beliefs are about my abilities to finish my PhD I have forced myself to come up with a list of 21 responses to the following statement:

Regarding my abilities to succeed and finish my PhD I believe that:

1. I can do it

2. I am smart enough

3. Maybe I’m not good enough

4. I don’t deserve to do well

5. I have to persist

6. I am weak

7. I block my abilities

8. I constantly put obstacles in my way

9. I can do it

10.I want to do it

11. I can’t do it alone

12.I need other people’s help

13. On my own I will not succeed

14. I must be independent

15. I must do it on my own

16. I won’t succeed unless I do it all myself

17. I fear involving others because they will find out my flaws

18. I hold on to the idea of perfection

19. I have to lose the idea of perfection to succeed

20. I need to put that energy into doing the work and assembling the team to ensure my success

21. I can do it.

What I have come up with although conflicting at times shows me that I already know that I need help to succeed, but that I resist it because I want to maintain a facade of perfection.

Some of my beliefs are affecting the way I am doing the work of my PhD. I find this information both surprising, and very useful.

It is only through the conscious mind that we can reach the unconscious beliefs that drive our behaviours.

What’s in your mental filing cabinet?

Hat Tip to Karen McCreadie for her 52 Brilliant Ideas Interpretation of Napolean Hill's Think and Grow Rich (2008) Woodlands Press
Image from WeHeartIt

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sticks and Stones

The following Blog is also posted on my page
" The Soap Box Truth "

“ Sticks and Stones may break
my bones, but Names
will never hurt me ”

Remember singing that as a child ?
Do you also remember being told

“ If you just ignore a bully they will simply go away ”

Unfortunately neither were true words of wisdom, in fact in the real world exactly the opposite would actually happen. Sticks and Stones in most cases may cause cuts and bruises that you can see heal with care and time while with words the wounds can not always be readily seen but can cut so deep that they never truly heal and if they do scar up then normally they permanently effect they way the persons spirit develops.

I was a victim of continual bullying while growing up, not so much the physical type but the verbal and behavioral types. I was always a overweight child and have always been a very emotional type of person. I am one of those people who just can’t hide their emotions and I wear them on my sleeve for all to see. This unfortunately while seen as a fairly admirable characteristic for a S.N.A.G “ Sensitive New Age Guy ” in adulthood it was just a big red target for other kids while growing up.

What better past time for a board kid then to take a poke at me when they were guaranteed a response every time, I never let them down !

I never felt like I belonged anywhere or as a part of any group, I was always the one on the outside looking in and wondering what it would be like to be one of them !

I was always the biggest kid in both height and weight and with time as I grew up I managed to build a exterior image of the Big Silent Guy which ( thankfully due to a couple of fights I managed to win ) no one quite knew how to take so by the time I hit mid high school I was left alone, completely. I may now have been completely alone but at least I wasn’t the butt of everyone else’s boredom and taunts.

Have you ever stopped to contemplate just how powerful your words are?

Those early years have profoundly effected how I deal with life to this day, even though I understand the pettiness of what was said all those years ago. My attempts to change my reaction to them as an adult is futile as my flight or fight responses are so ingrained that they are fundamentally a part of who I am for the rest of my days.

These days I talk very long and very hard with my son about what people say to him and how he deals with others words. I constantly tell him that words can only hurt if you give them the power too but you know what, that’s not true, once the words have been thrown at you they stick to you and corrode away at your spirit. As I write this I realize that they are just more of those fable words that we are taught as kids because adults don’t have the right answers for us.

My son “ Grub ” is very much like me in build and personality. He sees the world though very innocent eyes at times which is a characteristic I have openly encouraged as he grew up, after all we are adults long enough, all children should be able to enjoy the innocence of childhood as long as they can.

Because Grub is so sensitive, the littlest word can hurt him and parenting a sensitive child can be a tight balance at times preparing him for his teenage years and the real world verses trying to keep some of that gentle innocence within him so that he may grow into a strong compassionate young man.

I caught myself using the wrong words in frustration this morning when talking to Grub. In a frustrated moment while discussing Grub’s wish to drop one of his extra curricular activities I told him he was lazy for not wanting to put in the effort.

Now “ Lazy ” is such a small word, it is such a common word, it’s not considers a nasty word or a rude word and yet its effect on Grub was profound. He got extremely sad and upset, quite some time later he sent me a simple text with the simple message “ I’m not lazy, I’m just not interested in it anymore ”. The word had stuck to him and was eroding his spirit.

Now I know better, I know how words can hurt and I will apologies profusely this afternoon when I see him next but the damage is done and words can not be unsaid. I love my boy beyond words and I am forever protective of him from the outside world which makes my laps in judgment all the worse.

Each year you read about the new words they add to the dictionary, wouldn’t it be a giant leap for mankind if we could also remove words from the dictionary. Just think of it, our children would never have to hear words like Hate, Fat, Ugly, Dumb, Stupid, Unattractive & Lazy just to name a few.

Wouldn’t that be an amazing world !


Sharp Words

Please don’t whip me with you’re sharp words,
They cut so deep and burn.

They etch scars upon my heart,
And cause my innocence to turn.

Please don’t tell me your cruel untruths,
My soul screams for you to stop.

Please don’t push me down again,
Just to make you feel on top.

All smothered in hate and lies,
I can not breath.

I am like you,
I breath, I bleed.

I am not what you say I am,
But I’m starting to believe.

Please don’t whip me with your sharp words,
They cut so deep and burn.

They etch a scar upon my heart,
And my innocence can never return.

Andrew Swansson
© April 2010

100 Things

by Kristin (kbxmas)
This was posted on my blog, Wanderlust, where it truly is my 100th post.

In honor of my 100th post, I offer you 100 bullet points.
  • 100 posts
  • 5 months
  • 58 sexy flags
  • A web of connections across the continents
  • new friends, more than I dreamed
  • a world opened up before me
  • one marriage, lost
  • one voice, found
  • one future, unknown
  • Tonight I sorted through boxes in the basement looking for things to give away
  • digging deep into the past and pulling up armloads of clothes and jetsam from days gone by
  • I found an old purse and realized it had never been divulged of its contents
  • One by one I pulled out pens, lipstick, chewing gum
  • Then I froze
  • This was my mother's purse
  • The purse she had been using when she died
  • Here was an address book from 1990
  • and she had carefully written in and scratched out my various addresses, tracking me across the country, across continents
  • and her last paystub, dated January 3, 1993
  • The chewing gum was still soft
  • I stood there for a long time
  • When the purse was empty I handed it to Jim to put with the rest of the stuff we were giving away
  • He handed it back to me, gently, told me to smell it
  • I did
  • but it didn't smell like her
  • Too many years gone by
  • Here is what I want
  • To hold a mirror up to my children so that they may never doubt
  • the incredible light of their own souls
  • To never stop writing
  • To travel the world, all of it
  • To speak my truth, all of it
  • And come late June, when the days stretch long and coreopsis and phlox and coneflowers blanket the prairie floor and the sky is a thousand miles wide
  • I’m getting in my car and driving to western Kansas
  • to Amy Leigh’s farm
  • where I’m going to run naked through a field of wheat
  • with or without you President Obama
  • And that’s not all
  • You know that new URL I have (wanderlustlust)?
  • I didn’t buy just one
  • Uh huh
  • And what the hell
  • That’s right
  • I’m an org
  • Care to donate?
  • But on this, my 100th post, I'm thinking mostly about you
  • Without you
  • all of this wouldn't exist
  • and to me you are more than just someone who reads my blog
  • because when I fell
  • you were there to catch me
  • and I’ll never forget that
  • People can say what they will about virtual friendships
  • and people have
  • but I know better
  • I know that you are not just a name on a screen
  • that you live and breathe and love and hurt and write a piece of yourself into every post
  • that you are gloriously imperfect
  • as am I
  • as are we all
  • We are nevertheless blog gods and goddesses
  • are we not?
  • Expression spilling from our fingertips
  • onto pages
  • so that we may rest another day
  • tame the wild beast
  • Well, quiet her at least
  • And something in the telling helps us know that we are not alone
  • in what we feel
  • in who we are
  • because we are not alone
  • ever
  • ever
  • ever
  • And through each other’s eyes
  • we see ourselves
  • reflected back
  • in all our wonder
  • and in that reflection
  • we hold a vision of each other at our best
  • Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters
  • we become our consummate selves
  • courageous in the face of pain
  • gracious in the face of slight
  • We are artists in the medium of life
  • dreaming dreams of who we really are
  • fearless explorers
  • genius creators
  • lovers of venusian proportion
  • hot bloggy sex on a popsicle stick
  • That’s us
  • you
  • me
  • we
  • shine


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Unorthodox Meditation

I've been absent from blogging for a bit longer than is 'normal' for me, although I already exist outside the accepted norm of multiple posts per week. Usually, my blogging process is to wait for inspiration to strike. I don't stress over it, or worry that it won't happen because it always does. People, places, things, moments all come together in a beautiful harmony that will inevitably spark thoughts which lead to a blog article being born in my mind. It is a pulse of sorts, with a rise and fall aspect to how inspiration and writing occur for me on a personal level.

These past ten days or so have been curiously quiet in that regard. Again, I haven't worried overly much. Friends online have begun to email with concerned questions of, "Is your RSS feed messed up? I'm not getting your blog posts. What do you mean, you haven't been writing?? You always write!" That's a composite comment of many. If nothing else, it was a pleasant thing to know that people who follow my blog do look forward to reading my newest work. This didn't do anything, however, to spark that next line of thought that would create a blog post.

So, I have remained open and receptive, but somewhat detached. There are simply times when we all feel the need to retreat. It is not that there are not words or topics to be written - there are many. I just haven't felt that sense of rightness that I normally do with blogging, so, although I have been writing, I haven't posted anything. Tonight, I spent time thinking about this. It suddenly occurred to me that I have been engaging in what I would call an active state of meditation.

'Active', in that I have been living the process outwardly, rather than only mentally and emotionally. I have been writing, quite a lot, yet none of the drafts of posts have resonated as being just the right note for being published on my blog. So, I have written thoughts in snippets, lines of text to come back to or delete, some fully realized posts that will eventually be posted. The sudden epiphany that just hit me is that this is the same process we experience with traditional meditation.

When meditating, we usually sit or recline quietly, allowing thoughts to flicker across our consciousness. We study those thoughts, embrace them enough to honor the thought, then we gently tuck them away and come back to quiet. It is usually a completely mental, inward exercise. Occasionally this will manifest in a different manner - through exercise, through creating art, through music, through spending time in nature. For me, these past 10 days or so have become a physical manifestation of meditation.

I have been physically processing a great deal of information and experiencing the effects this information, these contacts and these thoughts are all having on my body and immediate surroundings. I have been discarding some long held behaviors and activities that no longer serve me, while giving deeper thought to some I wouldn't have even contemplated mere weeks earlier.

I am sure this is nothing new under the sun. I am positive we all go through these active meditative states occasionally. For me, it is a bit unorthodox, but a method that I do occasionally feel shifting to the forefront of my attention. Because it is so completely different to my regular process of meditation, it can be slightly uncomfortable and cause frustration and confusion. I remind myself that this is another instance of Stackable Energy and breathe deeply as I navigate my way along, casting the occasional assessing gaze upwards at that tower of blocks of energy.

Generally when this physical type of meditation takes hold, I do tend to retreat a bit. Sometimes I will become mildly or aggressively ill, depending on the nature of the shifting and meditative energy that I am facing. Indeed, this past weekend, I came down with an indeterminate stomach bug that further pulled me back from the world. I have found that this is part of the whole process and seems to be the physical body's way of cleansing old energy, clearing the way for fresh, new energy to flood forward.

Perhaps this all sounds slightly cryptic and muddled. If so, forgive the indulgence. It makes perfect sense to me and is part of a concept I have been working on for a while. So, rather than writing about a specific topic that struck me in that lovely rush of excitement and enthusiasm, I chose to write about the less sparkly, more subtle aspect of inspiration....that of doing constant inner housekeeping and refining of mental discipline, energetic flow and methods of communicating. Without this slower, more quiet interaction with Self, I would not be able to write the lighter, or, conversely, deeper, more evocative posts. Yin and yang. Endless processing and striving for balance is what I chose to write about this time.

When this type of energy hits my personal horizon, bigger shifts are in the works. I have come to recognize this particular rhythm and cycle. What is it bringing my way? I have thoughts and dreams, but at this moment, I am choosing to not limit the possibilities with labels and words. I am staying open to the experience with arms open and heart full of expectation. I am going through a dramatic shifting of energy, which generally occurs in my life every 5-7 years. This shift has been enveloping me for the past 18+ months and is still in a state of flux. Some of it is mutable, meaning I have control over the eventual outcome; some of it is immutable, and something that will happen regardless of how I resist or embrace the inevitable outcome.

No, I don't always immediately embrace it. Oftentimes, I fight it, resist it, struggle to impose my own will, my own wishes and my own wants. I have learned over a lifetime, however, that this only postpones the inevitable and puts me through a lot of needless grief. Knowing this still doesn't always make the process enjoyable, but it does help to adapt and assimilate the new energy patterns.

I have somewhat of an idea and understanding of what is coming towards me. There are days it feels just right and other days it feels like my shoes are on the wrong feet. This is when the physical act of outward, active, unorthodox meditation becomes necessary. I am navigating my way through it all, swimming with and against the currents at various moments. In a few days, or a few weeks, I will step back into my regular routine, slightly different than it used to be, but better for the changes.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.

The calmness within

There are some things that you just can't take your eyes off of.

Like these stone sculptures.

There was something about their still presence that captivated me.

Someone had spent the time to find the right-sized, right-shaped stones that could be aligned perfectly. Stacked them up. And then left them there for others to enjoy -- or destroy -- as they pleased.

Here were these smoothed-over rocks lying around randomly that someone had picked up and turned into artwork.

They sat there gracefully. Enjoying the view from their new vantage point.

Eliciting smiles.

The volatile ocean in the background providing a stark contrast to their quietude.

They looked unmoved. Resolute. Strong.

Yet so fragile.

Later that day I found myself experiencing the same swoop of silence.

A large cement ship, christened The Palo Alto, stoically resisting the throbbing sea.

A haven for birds. A sightseer's delight.

Built for one purpose. Cherished for another.

Abandoned as they were, the stone sculptures and the ship shared a sort of silent bond.

Witnessing time fly by.

There was movement all around them, yet they stayed unruffled.

Each of them with some history and an unknown future.

Inanimate objects that somehow managed to inspire a deep sense of calm.

The longer I looked at them, the more grounded I felt.

Invoking a sense of calm.

I saw a parallel with the demands of life.

Every day a series of turbulences. Big and small waves.

If we could learn to stay cool and collected -- face the crashing tide with equanimity -- life would be so much easier.

And we could appreciate the beauty of it all from a unique vantage point.

An inanimate frame of reference.

Experiencing the rough seas but not reacting to the turmoil.

Finding peace within.

Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2010 Mansi Bhatia

Also posted on my blog.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Twitter Delivers

I’m enjoying Twitter. Most days I am tuning in to other people’s thoughts, complaints and shared information because I am chained to my computer for up to 8 hours a day.
And because I’m working from my home I have lost that angsty space that exists between work and home-The Commute.

I think I must really miss it because lately I’ve caught myself following the tweets of a 20 something Australian girl as she is homeward bound on an (often late) Brisbane train.

At 4.04pm she tweets: Why the hell am I only at Bowen Hills when I left work 50 minutes ago?! Goddamn #bnept.

4.08pm She then tunes in to the conversations around her: This yuppie across from me on the train is gossiping about someone jumping on the tracks near her house. I really don't want to hear it :(

4.10pm : And apparently gay men tip better than straight men. I'm assuming the girl is a waitress. #traintalk

4.17pm She receives the following complaint about Sydney train passengers by another commuter - Seriously. Can Sydneysiders please learn to put their bags on their laps or on the floor? I would like a seat too.

4.17pm She advises - ask them to move. I also glare at people or talk to others there about it loudly.

4.21 pm (I imagine an exasperated, weary tone) Finally approaching train station. Long trip home this one has been. Stupid.

Then nothing for an hour or so and I imagine her off the train and walking towards home, checking the mail, letting the cat out and kicking off her shoes.

*Sigh*- I really do miss coming home.

Hat Tip @nicolejensen

Diary of A Fading Rockstar — Episode XII: NEVER TRUST A MAN IN A BLUE TRENCHCOAT Or, You Kids Get Off My Lawn | CWG Magazine

Diary of A Fading Rockstar — Episode XII: NEVER TRUST A MAN IN A BLUE TRENCHCOAT Or, You Kids Get Off My Lawn | CWG Magazine

The Inspirational Cynic

Afternoon all. Thank you Kathy for allowing me to join your merry band of scribers. I am truly delighted to be here.

When I was 9 years old I read a book called Little Ed by Ed Tully, and from the moment I had finished it I knew that I wanted to be a writer. When I was 8 years old, we moved from the north of England to the south. I had a little typewriter and I would correspond to Toni Smith, my northern best friend, who I have known since I was 5 years old (and we are still writing to each other 30 years on but via email now) using my clumsy fingers on my clumsy machine.

As I got older my passion for writing grew but I it was always underpinned by a need to make money from it. I have never been very good at writing creatively just for the joy of self-expression. In fact, when I do such endeavours invariably the result makes my toes curl, and I hope and pray that they are never discovered. If they are, then at the very earliest, after I am dead and ideally completely dead, and not hanging around in some transitional plane having to endure the criticism, but not having the means to defend my intentions. A bit like Joe Orton’s diaries, I am sure that he never expected to have his shorthand decoded and the world to read about how often he bashed one out. In my teens I had heard that you could make £200 per Mills and Boon novel so I thought this was an ideal way of writing to formula and earning some easy cash. My friend’s mum was a Mills and Boon member and had hundreds of them, so I read a few, which was very entertaining and then began my first draft. The problem was I just couldn’t take it seriously and it always ended up as some stupid parody, full of sexual debauchery and drunken frolics that amused me, and my school chums, but didn’t really stand any chance of earning me the coveted £200.

While I was at university, my housemates and I, on rainy, cash strapped days, would pen erotic fiction stories about each of us in compromising positions with celebrities of our choice. Again, they just turned into stupid parodies, which were hilarious. The olives and the pool table were a nice touch. Anyone who has seen Priscilla Queen of the Desert will know what I mean. As I was studying a PR degree we thought it would be funny to try and sell them to men’s magazine Maxim. It was my first pitch into a features editor and it wasn’t my crowning glory. It went something along the lines of, “Hi, we have written these really funny erotic fictions stories and as Maxim is a glorified porn mag with words we thought they might be your cup of tea.” Click, as the features editor put the phone down.

After graduation I started working and was given the opportunity to work with the press photographer for Lawrie Smith’s yacht racing team, Silk Cut, who were participating in the 1998 Whitbread Round the World Race. I became privy to an inside look at these globetrotting, womanising, yachtsmen. At a summer bbq at my parents, I was introduced to a literary agent who had given up the big smoke for life in Middle Earth. I pitched the idea ‘Silk Sluts – The Inside Tale’ to her and we began the proposal writing process. The book looked like a winning combination and Silk Cut were definitely the team to watch when it came to debauched behaviour. It wasn’t long before they made the tabloid front pages when boat driver, super sexy Gordon Maguire, left his wife, and began a year-long affair with Page 3 hottie Jo Guest. However, my literary dreams were once again shattered, when I broke my leg, while watching the start of the race, onboard a speed-boat and spent the next year learning to walk again.

I next came into contact with the world of publishing when I was managing the communications programme for, British yachtsman, Mike Golding. He was competing in a yacht race called the Vendee Globe, a non-stop, circumnavigation of the world. As he approached Cape Horn his winning strategy looked like it might deliver, and so, in-conjunction with The Daily Telegraph sailing correspondent, Kate Laven, we began drafting a book proposal. She introduced me to literary agent David Luxton, from Luxton Harris ltd, and he agreed to represent Mike, with Kate Laven as the co-writer. Kate wrote a great proposal and David managed to muster some interest from publishers. Mike eventually, after a dramatic finish, secured a brilliant third place but he felt that third didn’t warrant a book so once again my brush with publishing dissipated.

However, I stayed in touch with David Luxton and kept my ear to the ground. On another gig as Communications Director of the Velux 5 Oceans, a global solo yacht race with stopovers, the sailing legend Sir Robin Knox Johnston, who in 1969 became the first man ever to successfully complete a solo circumnavigation of the globe, decided to enter. He was going to be a big media pull and was in a severely under funded campaign. In order to boost his income and on the back of a front cover of the Sunday Times magazine, it was time once again to pull in the dynamic trio of Luxton, Laven and Macnaughton. Before the proposal was even drafted we were beginning to get offers from publishers. I managed the relationship between Kate, David and RKJ, just because of the complex logistics involved with RKJ trying to co-ordinate his sailing campaign. Kate drafted a fantastic proposal and it went out to tender. There was huge interest and the book finished in a bidding war between two publishers. In the end, in a nail biting board level sign off, a six-figure advance was offered which secured the book deal for ‘Force of Nature’, with Penguin. Our editor was to be Rowland White, the author of bestselling aviation non-fiction novel, ‘Vulcan 607’. Before Kate got stuck into the writing we all went up to London to meet Rowland, I shook his hand, we chatted a little and I mentioned that I had married a Chinook pilot in the RAF. Rowland, who obviously has a keen interest in aviation, he mentioned another Chinook pilot, who was a mutual friend and it was all very jolly. I then walked away from the publishing world once more to get on with my very time-consuming day job.

After the race had finished, and Force of Nature had been published, Kate, David and I met up for a celebratory lunch at Soho House. David and I were talking and he mentioned that non-fiction military history was very much the books of the moment. He asked that if I got a sniff of a tale in this field, knowing I lived amongst the military, in a military house, as I was married to a Chinook pilot, that he wanted first refusal. I didn’t think much of it but agreed that I would only do so if I got to write it.

About six months later I was having a cup of tea in the living room of a fellow wife, who lived two doors up the street from me, and her husband, a Major in the Royal Marines, on an exchange tour with RAF, came home with a book in his hand called, In Foreign Fields by Dan Collins. He threw the book at me and said, “read that – it’s about me” alluding to a chapter in it. Her husband had earned a gallantry medal, called the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in Afghanistan, and his endeavours were described in it. I said to him that I thought that I could get him a book deal. He agreed to let me try but only because he didn’t believe that it would ever happen. I contacted David and the machinations began. We, in-conjunction, with the Major drafted the proposal and then it was submitted. Somehow it ended up in front of Rowland at Penguin. At first, he turned us down, but he did agree to a meeting to see if we could expand the story a bit further to give it more substance. At this meeting we did so, I then wrote a sample chapter, and it was with great jubilation that I received a call from David to say that we had an offer from Penguin.

The contract was signed and I was the co-writer. I couldn’t believe that finally my dream to write a book was finally going to come to fruition. Then I found out that I was pregnant and we were being posted to Dorset. Penguin gave me a deadline of March 1st, this gave me time to grow the baby, move, have the baby, get the baby to nursery age and then have 6 months to research and write the book. No problem. Thankfully, the world had invented Skype and I was very resourceful. On the 1st January 2009 I declared myself teetotal until handover and began my writing marathon. Against all odds, and under some pretty extreme endurance writing sessions, ‘Immediate Response’ by Major Mark Hammond was drafted.

After a series of edits and a faff with the MOD, it was released on the 6th August. In it’s second week of sales it debuted in The Sunday Times bestseller non-fiction chart, at number 9, making it an official bestseller. The next job for me is now to publish a book in my own name. I am working on a non-fiction look at life onboard a superyacht, through the eyes of a stewardess. It’s going to be like Hotel Babylon but with teeth and I am loving every minute of it. It is a comedy noir and I guarantee it will be a page turner. However, I am currently still looking for a publisher to agree to take it on so watch this space. One day my dream will come true and I am not going to give up trying.

Immediate Response by Major Mark Hammond DFC RM with Clare Macnaughton Michael Josesph 2009 ISBN 0718154746



There is nothing more disappointing then discovering, no matter how much you were born to scribe that becoming a bestselling writer and earning tonnes of money from my dream career is an enormous mountain to climb. I am still looking at the summit but I am not daunted by the prospect of never reaching the top. I don't choose to write. I have to write. I look forward to sharing, and receiving your words.

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Facebook fan page:!/pages/Clare-Macnaughton/183239909321?ref=ts

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I sweat the small stuff...

Here is a list of some of the worst things that can happen to you: (Author’s note–This list is not all-inclusive as there are many, many I will leave out for the sake of space and time available!)

Being five minutes late.

Getting stuck behind someone who does not think they can make the light.

Spilling something.

A lost button or broken shoelace.

Children acting up or being loud as they play.

Not getting everything I want.

A broken fingernail.

Running out of hot water in the shower.

Someone eating the last of the peanut butter.

Your jeans not fitting as they once did.




For the sake of progression, I will move onward...

As you can see, or hopefully see my point is that for me at least, these things I listed can often derail us as if they were indeed “the worst things that can happen to us.”

Recently, there have been circumstances that have challenged me. I have been absent from writing for a week, as these issues have kept me away from one of my passions and pastimes that allow me to recharge, reflect, and simply keep me in conscious contact with that which energizes me.

I have found though, and with a degree of peace, that the things I often write about: acceptance, checking my expectations, releasing results to powers better qualified to handle them– to name a few, have paid off. I have been pleased that many of these situations I have been dealing with, which are considered “bigger stuff,” have not taken me down or out. I feel blessed that some of my insight on these matters, and keeping a calmer demeanor in the chaos has allowed me to be of better support to my loved ones, and also to be able to maintain my own serenity and stability.

I find that through an ongoing awareness of myself, as well as the stuff I continually need work on, allows me to cross the chasm with a greater degree of agility. Chance favors the prepared mind. I also find that it is better to practice first aid prior to the bleeding, and for that awareness sometime back, I am thankful. I still need work, the situations at hand can use some prayers, the future is unpredictable but I have faith, but that is not the reason I write today.

I have noticed that through my self-work, I still need some major work. Normally I would not think so as in my recent tests, I have fared better than I thought as far as how I am coping. What came to my attention is the fact that I have "termites."

What I mean by this is this analogy: As with termites, there are things that creep beneath the surface that can slowly eat away at our foundation. It is sometimes the little things, the “small stuff” mind you, that can cause an erosion of us that can eventually weakens our resolve–our foundation. Like termites, being small, they are often seen as either harmless, tiny, or something to attend to later. However, if left to increase in numbers, they can cause large-scale and sometimes permanent damage. Often this damage is done before it is recognized as a problem.

These little situations often surface as “little frustrations”, but often it is the reaction to them that starts the erosion. If I come undone over my kids’ misconduct, but then try to counsel them on their behavior, I am not being a good role model. If I get upset over being a few minutes late, but try to send a message of patience to others, I must heed my own advice. It is the stuff that lurks in the shadows that can often take us down, and it is those things that are patient– very patient to get their turn to infiltrate our space.

I now realize that because the “big stuff”, although a formidable opponent does not have to consume me, I do realize that the little things can also weaken us. If I am able to become aware a little quicker, I can intercept the “termites” before they cause too much structural damage. This way I do not allow my foundation to crumble causing me to topple on top of those I love. I need to be aware that although I am increasing my spiritual integrity, I cannot forget the nooks and crannies, and to dust in the corners.

Like everything else, this requires practice. Practice I will. But just for the meantime, until I get my rhythm, don’t eat the last of the peanut butter.

Repost from Artisan of the Human Spirit ~ Awakening to life's lessons

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Love Thy Self

“If you aren't good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you'll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren't even giving to yourself.”

Barbara De Angelis

I have loved someone very close and dear to me for near on half my life. This person is an incredibly intelligent person who also has a pure heart and is one of the most thoughtful people I have ever know. This dear friend is also an incredible musician with natural God given talent and has a photographic memory that can recall details 15 years old as if they happened yesterday. They have completed a Bachelor of Business externally while working 60 plus hours a week and helping to run the family house and raise their child and in her spare time she both trained in Martial Arts and instructed.

Sounds like an incredible person ? I certainly feel and think so !

Not that what I think matters because having said all of that, my friend hates herself ! Why, no one really knows. Yes she had a terrible childhood but her level of self loathing is incredibly profound.

Her despair and self loathing combined with her non existent self value has driven her to self harm over the last 3 years and attempt suicide twice in the last 12 months.

We all love her, we all want to help her and share this beautiful world with her but she is so convinced that she is worthless and irrelevant that any attempts to help her or share love with her is simply rebuffed and stone walled.

How do you convince someone that they are beautiful and a treasure to the world when every cell in their body screams at them otherwise and tells them that the world lies and that they are a bad person and that they don’t deserve to be happy or healthy.

When someone believes with their very existence a belief, even if it is totally baseless and unsupported by facts .. It is true to them !

Night may as well be Day and Black be White.

I am only 42 years old and to date I have personally known 4 people who have committed suicide. All four differed in many ways, age 19 – 50, Social Status ( Only child to comfortable family – Hard working grandfather ), Religion ( Atheist – Devout Christian ), Education ( Uni – Left at 16 ), Nationality ( Dutch, Australian, Scottish ) the only thing to date that any of them have in common is that they were all males. Depression and Mental health Issues know no boundaries.

Mental health issues are incredibly devastating conditions to deal with as it is not only debilitating to the sufferer but also places incredible pressure on the loved ones and carers of the sufferer.

Because of the profound beliefs that the sufferer holds as truths, there is no rationalising discussions with the sufferer for treatment plans or goals because the person doesn’t want the help due to their belief that they are not worthy of the effort or that they deserve to feel better.

The health care system even with its major advances in both medication and psychiatric practices, still offer very little relief from mental health conditions and due to the fact that each and every patient is different the process of trial and error in the treatment can mean years of hit and miss before limited if any relief can be found for the sufferer.

Mean while the sufferers loved ones and primary care providers are left powerless to protect their loved one and in most cases can do nothing but watch ( with guilt of inadequacy ) the sufferer self harm and hope that they will always be near enough to get help when required.

Mental Health issues reach every corner of society, it is non-prejudicial and non-discrimatory. It destroys both the sufferer and those who care and are associated with the sufferer, it destroys both male and female, young and old, rich and poor, black or white.

For the carer there is a profound sense of isolation and hopelessness. I believe on most occasions primary carers do not speak out about what they are enduring. This I believe is for two reason, the first being that they do not want the person they care for to be judged in any way by others who do not and can not understand the full picture and also because on most occasions if a carer does talk to someone they normally get the response of “ I don’t understand why they do it ” on more then one occasion I have pointed out to people that even the sufferer doesn’t understand and but for the grace of God I hope you never understand because to do so would put you in the same place as the sufferer, and that is something I would not wish on my worst enemy.

So if you know a sufferer or a carer, don’t run away ( it’s not contagious ) talk to them, support them but most of all Don’t Judge Them.


You may as well try to hold back the king tide or to shift the seasons as easily try to love someone who hates themselves.

Andrew Swansson


Article also posted on my Blog " The Soap Box Truth "

Thank You for sharing your time with me and reading my post.

G'Day Mate, Introducing Andrew Swansson

Greeting & Salutations from Brisbane Australia

The Andrew Swansson Story

First up I’d just like to say a huge G’day to you all and thank Katherine Jenkins for introducing me to Writers Rising.

I only started writing my Blog “ The Soap Box Truth ” about 6 weeks ago after being introduced to blogs by my sister Wendy.

I have always enjoyed writing and have been looking for a forum to share both my writing and my poetry for some time now.

I originate from large mining town called Mt Isa in Central Far North Queensland but have lived most of my life in the bright lights of Brisbane, Queensland.

I am a single dad to a fantastic 12 year old young man by the name of Dylan ( Alias “ Grub ” ) who lives with me since his mother and I separated.

I work fulltime in the steel industry as WHS / QA, enjoy writting / poetry / photography & drawing, I have been a Professional Massage Therapist for over 20 years, I am Spiritual but not Religious ....... tbc

I could go on and on about the smaller details of my life but truth be told, I am just an average working class dad nothing more, nothing less who has something to say and is willing to get up on his soap box to tell anyone who can hear.

One of the principle reasons I started to write was to share my stories, feelings, beliefs and ideas with my son. I honestly believe one of the greatest tragedies in life is to not know who your parents are as people and not just figures of authority.

One of the other reasons was to share my poetry with whoever will listen.

My blogs to date tend to be about the world through my eyes and can tend to cover any topic that is relevant to my day. I do write a lot about my son who is a constant inspiration to me and also about Depression and Mental Health Issues which has strongly influenced my life for the last 16 years as a primary career.

I sincerely look forward to contributing to Writers Rising and hope that you enjoy reading my entries even a fraction as much as I enjoy writing them.

I have read many brilliant contributions to Writers Rising and other individual Blogs to date and also look forward to any assistance anyone can offer in refining my writing skills.

Until then, ciao from the land down under.

Andrew Swansson
The Soap Box Truth

Friday, April 16, 2010

Underwater Breathing

Sam didn’t know if it was wonderful or a complete disaster but she knew that she was beginning to breathe under water. She first noticed this ability when she took her 5-year old, Julian, to Matthew’s Beach on Lake Washington for a swim. The boy played on the sandy, weed-strewn shore with another boy and Sam had been lazily watching the two, occasionally looking up from her copy of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. She must have dozed off for a moment when an uncomfortable sensation, like falling from a height in a dream, forced her to sit up. She heard the familiar slosh of water on the shore and the ambient music of children splashing and shouting; she felt the warm press of the sun on her body but something was missing. Sam scanned the beach, her eyes traveling out to the deeper water. Nothing. Nothing. There! She spotted Julian’s hand, raised as if to politely ask a question before it slipped under the water.

In the few seconds it took before Sam dove into the lake and swam toward her son, she felt her senses sharpen. A slight breeze made her skin prickle and she could hear the quickened pump of her heart. She noticed a crow gracefully landing in a pine tree, saw the way its feet pushed forward like landing gear, heard its cry so piercingly that tears filled her eyes. Sam felt the raw sensation of panic clutch at her chest and throat, but her mind seemed to split into two kinds of awareness. One half of her mind remained steady and clear, sought the lifeguard and tried to calculate how much time she had to find Julian before he drowned. The other half of her mind became dreamlike, unreal. When she spotted the young lifeguard, his arm propped against one side of the lifeguard chair, the pose emphasizing his muscular arms and slender waist, Sam traveled back to the summer when she was fifteen and had a crush on the lifeguard at her neighborhood pool in Maryland. As if her senses were a tape that looped back and then suddenly sped forward, Sam could smell the delicious summer aromas of baby oil, chlorine and juicy fruit gum, could feel the sensations of that time nearly thirty years ago colliding with the present sounds of splashing and the melody of voices at the beach. In the midst of this floating reverie, which seemed to take place in some kind of hole in time, a place where each second slowly unfolded, Sam heard her own voice yelling from a distance, ”My god! Someone help me! My son!”

Not waiting for help to arrive, Sam raced to the water and plunged in, the muscles on the side of her body straining. Where was Julian? Sam opened her eyes to a murky, greenish underworld, heard the sounds of the surface made hush and gauzy soft underneath. Grasses and weeds swayed beside her like the hair of dead mermaids. Her feet touched a stone, felt its smooth hardness, then the lake bottom muck, cold and gelatinous as it shifted under her weight.

In the quiet under the surface of the lake, Sam searched for Julian, pulling through the weeds and debris near the bottom. Despite her fear, she felt the freedom and ease in her body that water had always bestowed upon her. As a girl, Sam had floated for hours on her back in lakes, pools and oceans, sky gazing. Those hours in the water were her happiest, brief slices in time when the boisterous cacophony of her siblings, who always seemed to be fighting, was finally silenced. In the water, the responsibilities of school and the complexities of adolescent friendships dissipated. She felt peaceful, engulfed by the water like a fetus suspended in a womb. As Sam searched for Julian, she became aware that she felt no urgency to surface, even after a full minute had passed. Two minutes passed. Finally, her gaze turned toward the shore. She spotted Julian’s legs, instantly recognizing his orange suit with its print of black flames. Sam surfaced just in time to see Julian pop up, a wet grin on his face. “Marco!” he shouted. It was only a scare.

The next day Sam breathed underwater in the bathtub. Before Julian arrived home from school, Sam laid in the tub, looking down the length of her 45-year-old body, the water returning to her breasts the buoyancy that aging had begun to strip away. She slipped her ears beneath the surface, sinking into its muffled peace. Soon her whole face was submerged. Sam lay like that for five minutes; the breath came, not through her mouth or nose, yet there was breath. It’s real, she thought. I can really do this.

Afterwards, Sam experimented with underwater breathing as often as she could. She took to visiting Lake Washington nearly every day, leaving the house as soon as her husband headed off to work and she returned from dropping Julian off at the bus stop. In the summer months, Sam was well-camouflaged among the many swimmers and waders at the lake. She would stroke to the diving dock and then, when no one was looking, plunge down deep before she propelled herself underwater all the way across the lake. As the weather began to turn and the beaches closed, Sam, fearful of being noticed as a lone bather, sought new ways to pursue what had evolved beyond a passion into a physical need.

She took to night swimming. Satisfied that her husband and Julian lay deep asleep, Sam would quietly rise in the middle of the night. She kept a swimsuit in the trunk of her car that she slipped on, feeling physical relief as she shed her clothes and felt the chill, damp elastic of the suit snap against her skin. In her first forays into night swimming, Sam climbed the fence and broke into several members only outdoor pools in North Seattle. Chlorine soon began to bother Sam; she longed for briny or at least brackish water, so she drove all the way to West Seattle and snuck into the saltwater Coleman Pool. Under the moonlight, in storms and once in snow, Sam did underwater laps, gaining strength and energy the more she swam. Cold water had ceased to bother her. Even in the depths of winter she could manage the waters of Lake Washington. Sam found herself losing the need to sleep through the night. Instead she began to spend her days in a kind of slowed down, almost trancelike state, as if storing energy for her night swims. She roused herself to full alertness only when her family was around.

At first, no one in the family suspected Sam’s secret activity. Determined not to be discovered, worried that maybe she had become a kind of freak, Sam was meticulous about keeping up appearances. Her husband, a heavy sleeper, was used to Sam’s longtime habit of showering at night. Unaware of the time of her return as Sam climbed back into bed, he enjoyed the earthy smell of her damp hair. No ripples were created in the life of her child either. Julian loved the routines with his mother, the daily walks to the school bus stop, the way she would stand there waving until the bus pulled away. He loved the delicious snacks he would come home to, the sound of her voice as she read him his bedtime stories, the feel of her arms embracing him and the softness of her lips as she kissed him goodnight. But in time Sam’s ability to keep everything normal became a challenge. To do so took energy. It took energy away from where she felt her energy to be naturally drawn. Into silence. Into freedom. Into the swaying, cradling womb of a large body of water.

After three months her family began to notice odd changes. Her husband noticed the water bills had risen dramatically and thought maybe there was a leak in a pipe. In truth, Sam had been filling the tub near the brim several times a day and showering for over an hour when no one else was at home. Her husband noticed subtle changes in Sam too. She had always been prone to coldness in her extremities but lately her feet and hands had become shockingly cold. He worried about her health. The warmth had seemed to drain from Sam’s personality as well. Though never a big talker, Sam had always been an attentive listener, her words well-timed and caring. Lately, Sam shunned physical contact with her husband and she answered most questions with a simple yes or no. Julian noticed, too, that his mother didn’t seem to enjoy their time together as much as in the past. It was always he, not she, who initiated a cuddle or a kiss anymore. She would yawn during his bedtime stories and tell him that she felt tired. Instead of finding a nicely prepared snack awaiting him after school as in the past, Julian would have to call out to his mother, who seemed distracted and distant, “Mom, I’m hungry!” Sam’s husband suspected depression, or worse, an affair. He planned to confront Sam soon with his suspicions.

Around Christmas, nearly a half a year had passed since Sam first discovered her ability to breathe under water. She decided to fabricate an elaborate lie to buy extended swimming time. Realizing that her husband had grown suspicious, Sam decided to “confess” that she had been very depressed and that she knew she hadn’t been acting herself. The relief on her husband’s face was clear. Not an affair. She told her husband that she wished to visit her best friend in California. She needed to be with a close woman friend. She promised that if she didn’t feel better afterwards, she would go see a therapist. “A short trip, a few days is all I need,” Sam pleaded.

Her husband gladly accepted the plan, thinking it might help Sam to spend time with her friend. Sam made arrangements for Julian’s care for the days she would be gone and bought a plane ticket. On the day of her flight, she parked her car at the house of a friend who lived near Lake Washington. She knew her friend’s family would be away for a few weeks vacationing in Canada. Her car would go unnoticed.

Sam decided to follow the lake waters as they flowed out to Puget Sound. She needed to reach open water, felt the urge as strongly as one feels the need for food or sex. She entered Lake Washington at Matthews Beach just before sunset, feeling an odd stirring in her limbs, a deep and thrilling excitement, as if she were returning to her true home. The park was empty: the boaters come ashore and the bicyclists and walkers on the Burke Gilman Trail gone home. Wading straight out to the deep water, Sam firmed her thighs and began to undulate, her legs working together like a strong tail. The movement propelled Sam quickly through the water. Occasionally a fish would eye her, and Sam would eye the fish back, no threat passing between them.

Heading south from her point of entry, Sam sped toward the Montlake Cut. There she noticed a group of UW students dangling their legs over the cement walls, cigarettes glowing like red tracers in the dark. She swam silently past them, feeling no curiosity, only a mild level of threat. Passing through the Cut, Sam entered Portage Bay and headed to Lake Union. As she glided past Ivar’s Seafood Bar, she glanced up and felt a wave of sickness as she watched the diners fork pieces of fish into their mouths. Sam moved deftly past the house boats; her ears took in the strains of Mile’s Davis’s “Kind of Blue,” which seemed vaguely familiar but she could not recall how she knew this sound. In truth, Sam had loved this music for nearly 20 years, but she heard it now as just a sound, different from the churn of motors in the water, different from the bubbling and swishing of tides. She caught sight of a man and woman kissing as they slow danced on a deck and observed them coldly. Sam swam westward toward the Ballard Locks, straining to reach open water.

Following a yacht into the Hiram Chittenden Locks in Ballard, Sam could feel the waters’ turbulent pull beneath her, the force of gravity in the locks as it began to drain. She instinctively hovered near the yacht, grasping the bottom rung of a ladder to steady herself. She heard voices from the people in the yacht. They spoke loudly, drunkenly. Suddenly a man appeared at the side of the yacht and looked down at Sam in the water.
“Goddamn seals!, he said.
“Eat all the goddamn salmon. Ought to just shoot ‘em.”
Though she didn’t understand the man’s words, Sam felt alarm rippling through her system, electric, urgent, primal. She dove deep down into the waters below the yacht, the swirl and force of the churning currents spinning her around. The lock finally opened and Sam felt her blood quicken as first the smell of the salt water brightened her senses and then the briny waters of the Puget Sound caressed her skin. Pumped with energy, she swam, her kick gaining power as she felt herself pulled toward the San Juan Islands.

The next morning, when Sam’s husband called California to speak with Sam, he found out she had never arrived. He called the police. Her car was found where she left it, parked at the house of the friend who was in BC. They found Sam’s clothes in the car and speculated that she had been assaulted. A tip hotline was set up. An emergency search began through the thickets in the park. A team of waders scoured the waters near the shore and divers were dispatched to search the deeper waters, but no body was found. The Seattle Times reported the mystery of the local woman who disappeared and the TV stations repeated the story endlessly. Footage of the grieving family was shown, a heartbreaking image of a man cradling his boy whose face turned away from the camera as he sobbed into his father’s pant leg. “Please, Sam. If you can hear this, know that we are here and we love you,” her husband pleaded.

Out on the water, Sam swam with the orcas of J-Pod. It was they who had approached her, curious, playfully racing alongside, urging her to leap. Sam mimicked the orcas, her body springing from the water with the freedom of a child on a trampoline. Again and again she alternated swimming and leaping. A memory of dolphins she had seen in Greece flashed in her mind. But the memory was different than in the past. No longer was she standing on the deck of a ship with her husband on their way to the Greek Islands. No longer did she feel the same set of feelings, the human awe of seeing the dolphins leaping through the air, the human joy of being young and in love and sailing on the Mediterranean, the human pleasure of thinking, “I, like Odysseus, sail upon the wine dark sea.” This time the memory came as if she were inside the body of the dolphin, her joy a dolphin joy. She swam through the night, occasionally resting on the currents, but possessed of a great free vitality that pushed her forward. After three days in the water, no trace remained in her memory of her life on land.