Learning to ‘do love’ better

As I strive to grow in my identity, my experiences of love with others are by far the most motivating, shocking, exciting pleasurable and inevitably the most painful ones to learn and grow from.  Love puts me in to contact with myself and others through different aspects that I like (I am at a point where I think it’s OK to say that I have some! lol) such as sweet-natured-ness, humour and compassion and passion and then abruptly points to aspects where I need to grow such as anxiety, shame and anger.  Love facilitates inner change all the way through its initiation, maintenance and ending.  Through the loss I am learning to ‘do love’ better.  So, I wanted to share some reflections.

I want to say firstly that some kinds of love set a new standard for me in life.  My first experience of being truly in love was with my son; I can remember looking at him aged about 18 months and every time just welling up with a huge emotional joy at his investigation and enjoyment of the world; it made its imprint on me forever.  That ecstatic feeling still lives in my body with those memories.  The flip side is that through this love I never saw so clearly or cared so much about my egoistic side, the potential harm of my selfishness to take someone for granted, my unresolved issues from my past.  All needing to be worked on and held otherwise the pain I feel at the thought of him being harmed, especially by me, is quite simply unbearable.  Through stages of his growth we have difficulties but because I love him, I must change in order to love him better as an individual.  Awakening the desire for Self-improvement is one of love’s gifts. 

Sometimes even strong love reaches a point where it can grow more and this can bring conflict.  I had an experience with one of my best friends who ‘adopted me’ as family almost instantly when we met on a night out at university, we connected through our love of dancing, sex with hot men and having fun!  She was already capable of deep love and showed me this consistently, eventually I was able to trust and love her back – the laughter kept us going on the way.  We only hit obstacles after many years when the deepest line between friends and family became apparent through our children and I felt hurt.  Despite this, allowing the feeling of trust and companionship to enter my body was a force for growth and the tension was a sign I was striving to love and trust myself more than I felt she did although she may not have understood.  Was conflict avoidable? Probably.  But authenticity is crucial when it comes to love.

In terms of romantic love; it is a hard process to understand the different parts of it. Many times, in the beginning I have felt the excitement, the buzz of feeling wanted; sex and orgasms that rocked my world and I thought well this must be it – ‘love’!  But in those connections, we didn’t really love each other in any depth although the pain of breaking the attachment was sometimes intense.  There was not enough consistent and genuine care on either side to hold us together.  I don’t regret these times but I am learning to hold the initial ‘buzzy love’ feeling without investing in it as something which could endure the truth of what it is to be human with each other for a lifetime.  Now I want to people in their bigger picture, not just my fantasies of them before making decisions; I am now more willing to give and receive truth and honesty to avoid more pain.

I am surprised that all of my experiences with love have nothing or very little to do with sex besides enhancing the intensity.  I forged many connections through lust and believing in a fantasy future, who’s actions were not matched in the present – usually the stronger the fantasies, the more deluded I was!  Sometimes it even felt like destiny pulling me to someone – and maybe it was, but hormones + fantasy + ego = a destination of disappointment and then a little learning.  Sometimes we can love people for the things we feel they reflect in us or how it looks to others, but this is more to do with vanity and the choice to love is a decision which highly protects the integrity and individuality of each person, this is something I’m really grounding myself in currently.  Carl Jung said “companionship thrives only when each individual remembers his individuality and does not identify himself with others”

My first experience of someone loving me meaningfully made me freak out and break the connection.  It emerged in a particular man who was a close (but I thought platonic) friend in the form of courage to protect me one in a home situation one night.  At first, I was just shocked.  It led to an admission of softness between us and a gentle light that did not want to switch off.  I had no fantasies about this man and this makes me think that maybe if someone wants me to know they love me I have to be quieter and able to listen to signs.  On that note, I have also learned that the love I take most for granted is often the most profound, most aspects of it are boring, everyday occurrences of care, tolerance and compassion and small, consistent efforts and it is easy to forget when chasing a more stimulating fantasy.  This tendency makes me sad and I am reflecting on it deeply.

In whatever form you experience love it’s a big deal.  If it doesn’t last, trust that you are strong enough to both hold the pain of loss and treasure the love and move forward.  Love makes us vulnerable and humble as we shudder at the thought that we might be insignificant in someone else’s eyes who we see as important.  But I’m seeing that the best way to find it is to be full of love before I get there.  As Will Smith said (yes Will Smith really has some wise words AND well, he is married to Jada!) ‘we need to find our individual, private, separate joy and present ourselves to a relationship and to each other already happy, not coming to each other begging with our empty cups out demanding that she fill my cup and demanding that she meets my needs.  It can be destructive to place responsibility for your happiness on anybody other than yourself”

Love makes us vulnerable as does the pain it brings but we need to experience vulnerability to allow us to feel alive and strive for deep change. All I know at the moment is that what I want is to feel love for an independent person, to enhance happiness with that person and then project it unselfishly in to the environment.  The next step is as mysterious and innocently taken as the first and last.

Repost: The relationship lie; primordial pain

 

 

Primordial pain refers to a fundamental basis of human existence and our unavoidable dependant relationship with another being; our dependency on our primary care giver; our parent.

Photo thanks to Lucas Hermann cc
Picture courtesy of Lucas Hermann (cc 2.0)

It’s a fundamental truth that is present from the moment of our birth, that our relationship with mother (or father) is thus:

  • I need you to live.
  • Without you I will die.
  • I cannot be without you.

This is a fundamental basis for relating; at the very core of our being.  It’s both physiological and psychological.

And, it’s something that we then carry into our later lives.  It’s not something we can necessarily shake off.  It can generate feelings of fear and insecurity alongside utter despair, desolation and annihilation.

Have you ever felt completely alone?  Have you had a relationship with a loved one that ended? By death or by choice?

I raise my hand, I have had this happen, oh boy have I, again and again, and it has this feeling of utter dread – it has this feeling of primordial pain, the fear of destruction.  If I lose you, I lose myself.  But, as adults though, that’s simply not true.  We are fully self dependant.

It’s also a huge lie to enter into a relationship under the false belief that they will complete you and that you cannot be without them.  Doing so is acting from primordial fear.

So the next time I lose someone special, the next time I feel that primordial pain, I’ll know what it is, and in knowing gain some perspective and control. I’ll recognise and greet the feeling, acknowledge it and in doing so lesson it.

Peace and love.

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Primordial fear - AnAccidentalAnarchist

Self care; be the perfect parent to yourself

Self care, looking after ourselves, doing or giving ourselves what’s best in each moment, it sounds so simple, so why then can it be so hard to do?

Wait! Hard to do? That’s getting a bit ahead of things, even finding the notion of an inner voice of self care is difficult at times yet alone actually doing the thing we really need to look after ourselves. Self care is that thing we need, not the something we do out of responsibility for someone else or something out of duty to some other; none of those should and shouldn’t. What I am referring to here is having compassion for ourself.

SelfCareCat

I am sure we can all think of times when we haven’t really looked after ourselves well, maybe those times are recent, maybe even today! Certainly this week or this month. So how can we find the voice of our inner self care and what does this voice sound like?

Well, I have an idea for finding this voice, finding the voice and then carrying it with you everywhere you go. So here it is, a simple idea to help develop the ability to really self care. All we have to do is to ask ourselves ‘What would my ideal parent say to me?’ The ideal parent is the one that knows instinctively what we want and what we need. The ideal parent is completely attuned to our needs, it knows all that you do, feels all that you do, its a total empath with you. Of course it is, because its you. Let’s forget about our real parents for this (after all, who apart from Jesus had an ideal parent). So we pretend to be our own ideal parent, and you ask that ideal parent ‘what I should do?‘ or ‘what do I really need now?‘ Somehow its easier to hear the words of that imagined parent rather than the words of ourself in our current situation.

So I ask my ideal parent, ‘Hey, I am tired today, I said I would go out with some friends and I don’t want to let them down, but I have an early start tomorrow and I’m tired, what shall I do?‘ What would you ideal parent say? What would the ‘you‘ that’s not caught up in expectations and responsibility say. For me, I would probably be having a night in, a bath, and an early night, and I would feel loved by my ideal parent for taking such care of myself. In other words I would be giving myself love.

Peace and love!

Leaving our cocoon

Why is it that we often imprison ourselves in the pain of the past and the pain of the future?   What if the door was open all along but we just hadn’t seen it, we could choose to walk out at any time?   Would this be so hard? Perhaps it would and perhaps it is?

After all, it is scary to look outside that familiar cell? It scary to leave the known?  That known yet unhappy prison cell. The thoughts perhaps go like this: ‘This is the cell that is mine, my cell, my prison, its me.  And besides, if I leave the cell, where will I go? What will I be? How will I live? Surely its better to stay here, just a while longer, perhaps I’ll stay a while and try to figure it out, I’ll buy some flowers, make the cell a bit more pretty… but I want to leave, I hate this cell, this cell is a torture, why can’t I leave?’ Dejected scared but familiar, we stay in our prison.

What I am talking about here are people, like myself, that have had traumas, that hold onto those traumas and cannot seem to shed them.  I am talking about people whose minds create a prison such that we are a hostage to the past.  But we don’t just do this with the past, we can also do this with our future too.  Those future aspirations, our carefully planned path, ‘When I have done this, this, this and this then maybe [if I am lucky] everything will be okay, won’t it?’ This is the prison of the future, the prison that takes us from being fully alive and locks us into another prison of suffering.  Like the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus, a man who was doomed to perpetually push a boulder to the top of the hill only to watch it fall down again; not surprisingly Sisyphus was in hell.  Our personal boulder can be the mission for self improvement; it has no end; its a path I know very well from my own experience. The path is never ending because ultimately we don’t want the path to end.  Its ending promotes the same fears as the prison cell of the past, ‘Where would I go when its over? What would I be? But most importantly – and just like the prison of the past – I don’t feel ready to leave?’

But as the Buddhists masters know, when we stop trying to get somewhere we arrive.

‘If not now, when?’

‘Wherever you are, enter Zen from there.’

So try this, say to yourself, ‘It’s okay, everything is okay.’  But not like a parent telling a child to push away the hurt, this is not about rejection or repression, the traumas were truly awful and that is acknowledged and their being is also accepted.  Did you suffer as a child? If so, ‘that’s okay.’  You got angry and shouted this morning, ‘that’s okay too.’  You feel lost and scared, ‘that’s okay.’  Be gentle with yourself, ‘its okay.’  Feel angry at me for suggesting this, ‘that’s okay’.

We can put aside the past and future, perhaps only for a brief while, but it can be done. We step out of our prison, we arrive, we come alive, we smell the roses, taste our food, see the richness of life, we experience love, love of ourself, love of another and love of life.  But be gentle, please don’t turn the goal of leaving prison into yet another prison; another opportunity to swing the whip at ourselves for not meeting our expectations.  Perhaps we begin by leaving just briefly, or perhaps we just entertain the thought that we could leave, we don’t expect too much, we are gentle, after all we have been in prison for a very long time.

So we begin with the notion of gentleness to ourselves, we allow ourselves to feel that we are ‘okay’ and that life is ‘okay’; it hurts at times, but that’s okay, its good enough.  We become comfortable with not knowing or paradoxically knowing that ‘the answer is the there is no answer.’  We cease the unending searching, the unending ‘Why? Why? Why?’  We lay the mind aside and we find peace or rather, when we surrender, the peace that was all around us finds us.

With love.

The unspoken tragedy of stillbirth; a male perspective

It was around 9:30am and I was walking on air, down the hill from the Whittington hospital in London, sunshine and snow flakes falling like confetti – a bright day – snow flakes should have been improbable but this morning was pure magic.  A small photograph in my bag of a baby (a girl unknown to me at the time).  The image measured her at around 3cm, in truth she was hardly recognisable as a baby, but I had been shown where to look on the image. I had absolute joy in my heart at the creation of this being.  I went to work that day straight from the appointment, I still had the scan photo in my bag and could not resist sharing it with my colleagues, beaming and smiling.

Weeks quickly passed and all rather uneventfully.  We were busy caring for each other. I was probably a somewhat doting father to be, ensuring the expectant mother’s fatigue levels were managed, attending to craving needs, learning about the right foods to eat, what to do and what not to do, attending all the appointments and visits; I was very involved. We had the pregnancy books that described what was happening week by week and we kind of had a schedule to read together each week.  It was a lovely time.

As the weeks passed we named our child Serena, we knew it was a girl from a follow-up scan and wanted to be able to prepare for her.  She was growing nicely. At some point, I can’t recall exactly when, the first flutter of butterfly wings were felt in my partner’s belly.  I could feel them too, “Simon” my partner would say, “come and touch them she is fluttering.”  She would guide my hand onto the right spot, I would wait very still, all concentration focused on the feelings in my fingers, waiting, for something, then, the flutter, a movement, wonderful!

As she grew butterfly flutters turned to somersaults and massive contortions of flesh as elbows and knees protruded and moved. Serena would respond to sounds, voices, even my voice!  I had a song I would sing, I would press my head onto the belly and sing:

If you go down in the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the woods today you’d better go in disguise
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic

Every Teddy Bear who’s been good is sure of a treat today
There’s lots of marvellous things to eat and wonderful games to play
Beneath the trees where nobody sees they’ll hide and seek as long as they please
That’s the way the Teddy Bears have their picnic
Picnic time for Teddy Bears
The little Teddy Bears are having a lovely time today
Watch them, catch them unawares and see them picnic on their holiday
See them gaily gad about
They love to play and shout
They never have any cares

At six o’clock their Mummies and Daddies will take them home to bed
‘Cause they’re tired little Teddy Bears
If you go down in the woods today you better not go alone
It’s lovely down in the woods today but saver to stay at home
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic

Henry Hall

I did not know the lyrics, I learnt them for her, for my baby girl.

The second trimester passed, and we were into the third.  We had moved house and began to setup home for Serena.  We had been to various baby swap events, had a nice cot, some clothes, and other items.  We had moved into a lovely little apartment overlooking the docklands of London, it had a river view, big floor to ceiling windows that caught the evening sunset over the water, fantastic.

I think there was a really hot Sunday and we spent the day preparing, I painted up the baby cot with some new varnish. The next day my brother came to visit for dinner. He lived far but was in London for business on the Monday.  My wife had told me that Serena’s normal morning exercise routine – summersault, kicks  and elbow gouges – was absent that day. We ate curry, I cooked it, I like cooking and spent hours making the curry, freshly ground spices and slow cooked.  After dinner Serena was still strangely quiet.  My heart felt assurances turned to some slight anxiety.   We decided to go to the hospital to have things checked.

We attended the royal London hospital this time, I had a friend who was a midwife there. However, it’s choice was just governed by location really and my friend was not working that day.  A kindly midwife lay my partner down on a bed, wheeled in a heart rate monitor machine.  It had chords leading to big suckers that fitted onto my partners big belly.  The midwife was young, short bobbed hair, slightly blonde ginger and freckled, jolly and very nice.

She connected the machine up and played with some of the buttons and dials on the machine, I held my wife’s hand and squeezed, looked at her and smiled for reassurances, telling myself and her that this was all fine.  We all just waited for the thud, thud ,thud of the heartbeat.   Hear it comes, I thought.  The mid-wife began to adjust the suckers, took them off, reapplied.  I squeezed my partners hand again, my partner said, “Simon, its all okay isn’t it?”  I nodded, “It will be fine”.  Inside I was beginning to panic. Seconds dragged out like minutes. The midwife began to move the suckers again, she looked more desperate. Her face began to redden, I will never forget the redness of her face and the flustered movements – she knew. Everything was now running in slow motion.

After seconds, maybe a minute, who knows, she said, “I’ll get another machine this one is not working.”  She hurried off.  We waited as she wheeled in another machine. I can’t recall if at this point she was joined by a colleague, but the atmosphere was changing.  She hooked up a fresh machine, and nothing.  They exchanged glances, I knew too, we knew.  A doctor appeared, a little Indian, maybe she had been there a while, I don’t know. Time just hung.  My partner was just calling out, “Simon, its  all right? Isn’t it, Simon, Simon…Simon”.   I felt helpless, I could do nothing.  They had drawn the curtain, around the bed, the doctor said that they needed to check fully but they could not find a heart beat and the baby was likely dead.

-x-

This has been something I have wanted to write for a while, it’s been over 10 years since this happened. Attending a funeral yesterday strengthened my resolve to finally write this. It brought back memories of that little coffin in an empty chapel, just me, my partner, her sister, a christian monk and a little plain wooden coffin.   I hope that writing it down and putting it out to the world gives another kind of closure, the pain is still there, I can still cry about this and that’s fine, it’s human. Getting over something does not mean that the painful memories turn to rainbows and sunshine, but it does mean that I accept and understand the nature of life and events, that I understand and feel a communion with humanity. I feel humbled by events, like a stone washed up in the sea that has lost its hardness, it’s all part of being alive.

Still birth is quite common – 3,600 deaths per year in the UK, one for every 200 pregnancy.  Its not something discussed or considered until is happened.  It’s an utter tragedy. Apart from the trauma of the death itself, there is the carrying of the dead baby for a few days while the labour is induced, then the giving birth of a dead baby that follows. In the UK we have the issue of organising both a birth and death certificate, then a funeral with a coffin that is painfully tiny.  What follows is a looking for answers,’ what did we do wrong?’

For anyone that has been through this or is going through this – you are not alone.  Be strong, its hard.  Time can heal this. We don’t know the full journey of our lives, we don’t know how things will be in future, so have hope as things can improve (Living free; shedding the good and bad labels).

For us, in true Hollywood style we got a happy ending.   Two years later we had Lara – our little lion as she was always so big and strong – and three years after that we had Jay – our peaceful zen master.  The tragedy was all part of our journey into parenthood.   Tragedy can happen.  I don’t for a second assume that the story of life is complete.  Life can change in a heartbeat, so I just try to savour the moments that I have, enjoy the company of those I love and give out love.  The truth is that everything passes and all things have an end. That’s the life we live.  I take from all of this a greater intensity within the transient moments of life (Freud’s requiem and the joy of transience) and my children have the absolute adoration and love of their father.

Everything flows and nothing stays.
Everything flows and nothing abides.
Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
Everything flows; nothing remains.
All is flux, nothing is stationary.
All is flux, nothing stays still.
All flows, nothing stays.

Various versions of a quote from Heraclitus of Ephesus, 500 bc

Love and peace.

And this, for me, is forever Serena’s song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZANKFxrcKU