The Art of letting go

Is God a nice God?

Is ‘letting go’ a brave act of surrender or merely giving up?

They say the hardest choice you’ll ever face is whether to walk away or try harder, but what if someone else gives up before you.  Do you let them walk away? Or do we grab hold of their leg shamelessly losing all self-respect and let them drag us a long as they try to get away from us? Do we even have a choice?

I’m pretty sure there is an art to letting go.  I’m pretty sure I don’t have it! In fact I’m certain I’m absolutely rubbish at it!  It says a lot about me I guess.  I am fiercely loyal.  Ask any of my friends, they know full well and from experience, you mess with one of them I’d personally rip the face of the perpetrator if they wanted me to – they never do funnily enough.  I also work hard.  I believe life is difficult and meant to be worked at in order to get the most out of it.  I believe good things don’t come easily and you have to work to get them and work even harder to keep them.  I think this should be true of everything perhaps except love.  Surely love should at least come easily even if it’s like holding on to a slippery eel to maintain it – or at least in my experience.

I know relationships are hard work but shouldn’t it be easy to love someone and to be loved??

Cliché phrases come about because they usually have some sort of truth or wisdom in them even if they do become a little simplistic or sugar coated along the way.  For example, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is – I realize I secretly believe this.

The problem is whatever we secretly believe determines our outlook, expectation and experience of life to a large extent in my opinion.

Do I believe God is nice?  I believe he is good as in ‘just’ but do I believe he is nice?  Hmm, I’m not so sure… Would he do something just because he thinks I’d like it?   Doesn’t everything have to have purpose in the big ole master plan?

Recently I was given something so beautiful, so perfect, so taken from my innermost secret dreams that I wondered if it was too good to be true. Well, guess what?  It was!  So what was that about?  Did I just serve a purpose in the plan, did the experience exist for the greater good of the greater plan. Or was it just a bit cruel?  Not so much a sick joke in a sadistic way, but not very kind.

Certainly as I get older I’m less sure about much more and realize I actually understand very little.  I’ve been contemplating the notion of whether we have a ‘right’ to be happy and fulfilled in life which is of course the message sold to us in this generation more than ever.

I’m known for going on about going for your dreams, about holding out for the life you’ve dreamed of and not accepting any less.  I still believe we should aim for the sky but I am less convinced we are entitled to this privilege.  I read a thought-provoking article recently that challenged the sense of entitlement today’s generation expects.  There are simply not enough dream jobs or dream people to go around.

When is it time to let go of the dream and start accepting reality?  But don’t the dreams to an extent also create our reality? My head hurts!

Even if we do want to let go, how do we do that?  How do you stop believing even something you no longer want to believe?

Recently I’ve been really gaining some spiritual revelations through The Magician’s Nephew by C.S Lewis while reading it to my son. Yes it is a kid’s book!  Like this is exactly what I meant about dreaming and hoping:

“Well, you know how it feels if you begin hoping for something that you want desperately badly; you almost fight against the hope because it is too good to be true; you’ve been disappointed so often before.”
― C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew

Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to hope.  Hope is more than wishful thinking but I think it is also different to the certainty of faith.  I came to the conclusion that Hope can only come from believing that God is a good God and also a nice one.  When Digory (in The Magicians Nephew) resisted picking the apple for himself to take to his mother to heal her but stuck to what Aslan had asked him to do and returned with just one apple for him, he was sad and afraid that he had let his mother down – that his dream of seeing her well would no longer happen.  However, he’d forgotten about the power and heart of the one who had asked him to go on the task.  Of course, Aslan then gave him an apple to take to his mother.  The key was waiting until Aslan offered the fruit rather than taking it.  This is how it would have a lasting affect.  Aslan goes on to explain that although the witch would gain the benefits of the youth and beauty of the fruit, it was spoiled for her due to her stealing it, uninvited:

“Child, that is why all the rest are now a horror to her. That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Oh, the fruit is good, but they loath it ever after.”
― C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew

I’m sure it was no coincidence that I also heard Philip Yancey an Inspirational American author speak at the weekend on suffering and pain and our response to it.  He said many amazing things but the quote that stands out to me was, ‘Nothing that happened to you is irredeemable.  God is the great recycler who turns our junk into something better.’  So I guess there is always hope.  And as C.S Lewis says;

“When things go wrong, you’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start to go right they often go on getting better and better.”
― C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew

It’s a scary thing to wait, and not take matters into your own hands.  To trust that there is an even better plan. One that is given as a gift to you rather than a poor reflection from something you’ve plucked yourself at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Image

I strongly suspect that this might be the Art of letting go.

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The Mexican

Meeting the Mexican confirmed to me my theory that there is no such thing as ‘The one’ in that there can be many ‘ones’ – well not perhaps ‘many’ but definitely more than one!

You see, I could easily imagine a future with this lovely man.  I could picture our troop of beautiful little mixed-race kids – ¼ Mexican, ¼ German, ¼ St Lucian and ¼ English! I could see us travelling around in a camper van with the family experiencing new places, having new adventures, talking into the night and planning new dreams as we collectively conquered our goals.  I would be happy with him.  He found me interesting and listened when I spoke. I found him fascinating and inspiring.  I knew we’d be good friends.  I knew he was solid. An exceptional man.

I am extremely fussy and hardly ever fancy men but as with all fantasies ‘The Mexican’ can of course remain ‘perfect’ in my mind.  Our future is solid, certain and unspoilt.  We will of course forever find each other engaging and attractive.  I won’t ever need to know his bad habits and he won’t ever need to be annoyed or irritated by me. It can remain perfect.

That said, what really inspired me about The Mexican was his approach to life.  He was single-minded in wanting to achieve his dreams and live life to the full.  He knew that travelling and experiencing new things is what centred him and brought him ‘back to the middle’ when it was needed.  I loved his sense of adventure and just the way he seemed to enjoy life.  Amongst the million and one things we talked about that night I realised that meeting the ‘right person for you’ is all about having the same outlook on life.  Not necessarily the same actual goals and plans (though that does of course help) but it’s about finding someone with the same way of thinking as you.  The same approach to life.  It is no good being with a ‘settler’ if deep down you’re an ‘adventurer’.  That doesn’t mean your family hols are climbing Mount Everest, it just means you’ll understand when your partner feels the need to travel to feel alive or to escape to find a new experience.  If you have a similar outlook it can be an adventure you work out together and you won’t feel fazed or threatened by it and neither will they feel trapped or guilty for feeling it.

Meeting the Mexican made me think a lot about what I should and shouldn’t accept and expect in a partner.  It was very healing and empowering.  The experience at least showed me what is possible in a man.  That really are out there not just in the movies!

I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again but he will now always be a part of my journey and a significant part at that.

Is there such a thing as ‘The One’?

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No I’m not talking about Neo and the Matrix, but you know… the One! Soul Mate.  Life Partner. Destined one and only!  I used to be very sure that there was.  Growing up since my mid teens as a Christian and being a self-confessed romantic I felt sure God would lead me to the man who had been prepared in advance for only me and we would therefore be completely compatible in every way and he would be my prince and rescue me from all messed up views due to a lack of a strong Father figure and we’d basically live happily ever after.

As you know, this was not my story and it didn’t work out anywhere close to how it was meant to in my head seen as I am now divorced and a single parent!  So did I make a mistake?  Did I simply not choose wisely? Did I give up too easily?  Did God get it wrong? Of course I have gone over all these questions many times in the past few years and it’s caused me a lot of fear with regards to whether I would ever be able to make a ‘right’ choice of partner in the future.  The whole experience made me distrust myself more than I distrusted God about it and I am often heard to proclaim how ‘bad I am at relationships’.

However, recently I had a bit of an epiphany:

There is no such thing as ‘the one’ unless you choose one!

My ex was not a ‘wrong’ choice.  It just didn’t work out and the right choices were not made to enable the relationship to continue.  Just like to a certain extent your happiness is a matter of choice – i.e. you’re as happy as you choose to be – the right partner is the one you choose.  Bar of course those who are a clear bad choice as in they are damaging to you in some way.

This is not to say I believe you should choose just any old person.  I still long to be swept off my feet by someone who rocks my world, mind and body all with one look/word – which is no mean feat.  I want a best friend, some one I respect, some one I can have lots of fun with and talk all night with and some one I fancy the pants off! I am extremely fussy and hardly ever fancy anyone so it is quite a tall order to even turn my head.  But what I am saying is once all those boxes are ticked (which is hard enough to do in the first place) there is no need for the agonising over whether they are the ‘right’ person or ‘the one’.  By choosing someone and loving them, you make them the one.

I think there are many ‘ones out there – a few people with whom we could make a happy, healthy, fulfilling and therefore successful relationship with.  This is not to say it would be easy and plain sailing.  It may well be that your choice means you have your work cut out for you with many hurdles and obstacles ahead, but it will always feel worth it, because you chose the person and made them ‘the one’.

50% of why I have come away on my travels is to get over a man I loved who didn’t love me.  We were quite nearly perfect together except for he couldn’t choose me.  He is not my ‘one’ simply because he didn’t choose me!

I guess there will be another ‘one’ but in the mean time I need to put a few countries, a big bit of sea and hundreds of miles in between us in order to get over it and move on.  Life is beautiful and time is precious and not to be wasted.  There is fun to be had in this wonderful world and adventure called life.

Can you help who you fall for?

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Many a time I’ve heard it be said, ‘Well you can’t help who you fall for’ usually given as some explanation, justification or observation of an unhealthy relationship or unsuitable partner.  But can you?…Can you help who you fall in love with or are we completely at the mercy of it’s grip?

I mean, no doubt, there is no accounting for taste.  We can sometimes be surprised by who we find ourselves attracted to.  Perhaps they are not the ‘type’ or ‘look’ we usually go for or imagined ourselves with. But, if we’re using the phrase to excuse a bad choice of partner, are we really being honest with ourselves?

I agree there is often a point of (seemingly) no return when it comes to tipping over the precipice of reason and falling headlong into the depths of love but, there are always stepping stones that precede that approach and various sign posts along the way – but were we reading them properly? understanding them? or just plain ignoring them?

I’m completely unlucky in love (or again maybe it’s my choices) but I do seem to only attract highly dysfunctional people.  I’m rubbish at relationships.  However, looking back I can see how I quietened a few early alarm bells and averted my eyes from a few warning signs.  There really is a lot to be said for trusting our instincts and gut feelings.  I like to believe I’m a head over heart girl (and usually am – eventually) but the truth is I often go with my heart.

So why do we go into/stay in relationships we know are no good for us?  I suppose we want the relationship to be something it could be and it takes us a while to face the fact it is not and may never be – see blog post on the problem of ‘potential’.

I suppose we are missing out if we go through life like a robot clinically and methodically making every heart decision according to carefully thought out calculations of probability rather than the giddy hope of possibility but, neither should we be so utterly foolish as to try to fool ourselves.

Maybe we can’t help who we fall for but we can choose who we walk along the edge with in the first place.

What do you think?

Big questions from little people…

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I must admit I thought I had a bit more time on this one so I was taken  back when my sister informed that Bear Cub (my son) had asked her, ‘Aunty, why doesn’t my daddy live with me?’ He has a very close relationship with my sister and will often ask her ‘life questions’.   At three and a half we are also at the ‘why?’ stage so she knew a fobbed off answer would not suffice and rarely does with Bear Cub anyway.  He has a friend he likes but they argue a lot and wind each other up so my sister used their friendship as an example saying mummy and daddy are better friends when they don’t live together and see each other all the time.  He seemed to accept this but did ask me about it again a few days later

As Bear Cub’s Father has not lived with us since just after his first birthday I’d hoped it seemed ‘normal’ for him as it was all he’d really known.  I wasn’t sure if he even ever remembered his dad ever living with us at all.  I’d expected the question when he started school when children would inevitably talk more about their families and perhaps ask him where his daddy was.  Any friends we do see during the day often have husbands or partners at work so Bear Cub would rarely see ‘dads at home’ to feel that his situation was any different to anyone else’s.  However, he’s an observant and smart cookie and figured out the situation for himself.

I never lie to Bear Cub and always try to plainly explain to him the truth about things whenever possible – but obviously in a way he can understand and digest appropriate for his age.  There are a number of answers I could have given and not one of them particularly nice – ‘Mummy and daddy don’t love each other any more’, ‘Mummy and daddy argued a lot and didn’t get on so are better friends when we don’t live together’, ‘Mummy and daddy are friends but not special friends anymore’.  I somehow wanted to take out the negative as I knew whatever I answered would be faced with a ‘why?’  I think I ended up saying a combination of all of these statements leaving out the details of why we no longer got on or loved each other.  I didn’t want him to think that it was any negative or bad reason that his daddy didn’t live with us anymore but the reality of course was.

In some ways I wished I’d given my response more thought but then I realised I felt that way just so I could sugar up an answer that whichever way you looked at it, realistically, was just not ‘nice’.

It is right and normal that all parents want to protect their children from harm, bad experiences or negative feeling in the world for as long as possible, however, the question came up now at three and a half years old and he wanted to know.  Therefore as he questioned, he deserved a response – without one he may have made up his own conclusion possibly even taking some blame himself which would be a more awful scenario.

The question was a reminder for me of the failure I feel that my son has not had the secure, stable, loving upbringing from both parents I’d always envisioned – one he so innocently deserves.  It is far from ideal and a life away from what I’d hoped and planned but, it’s our reality.  In truth, Bear Cub does have a loving and stable home and I do a good job as a mum (most of the time).  It’s not how it was meant to be but it’s how it is.  I’m sure I could have handled the situation better but then you always think that when you over analyse things afterwards.  To balance the negativity in the truth of the matter I never speak ill of Bear Cub’s Father and instead try to point out the positives to him.

There is a helpful book called ‘Where’s Daddy?’ if anyone is facing or thinking about the same question coming up.

Where’s Daddy? is an invaluable guide for mothers and fathers with broken families.  It will help them answer children’s questions concerning separation and divorce. And provides forewarning of the doubts and problems which may arise later.  The authors make an ideal team to discuss the subject: Jill Curtis is a well-known psychotherapist and her daughter, Virginia Ellis, with two small children, has been through the pain of separation followed by divorce.  The book is based on a questionnaire sent out to hundreds of separated and divorced parents. The wide variety of their replies revealed the confusion, problems and agony caused by lack of advice and knowledge of where to go for support.  Where’s Daddy? Contains a list of resources and helpful addresses

I only wish I’d read it before Bear Cubs question came up but I’m sure there’ll be plenty more interrogation along life’s way.

Any tips/stories/advice of how others have dealt with this scenario would be greatly received.

This post also appears at More than a Mum

The Problem of potential

I have a problem with potential.  It’s a notion I’ve been exploring in my mind for quite some time.  What has struck me recently is the fact that on the surface it seems like such a positive, encouraging word – ‘so full of potential’.  And it is….if it is realised.  And herein lies my issue with the word.

po·ten·tial

Adjective:  Having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future.

Noun: Latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.

Synonyms:     adjective possible – feasible – eventual – contingent noun.  possibility – potentiality

On the one hand potential speaks of new beginnings and hopeful futures.  A fresh, exciting, anticipation of greatness.  ‘Shows great potential as a student, singer, artist, lover…..’.  The potential you see in someone, or that that someone sees in you, is everything you could be.  In some ways it’s even more certain than that, more of a promise than an idea.  Based on what is inherently evident in you, if you carry on that path, progressing in that manner and at that pace it is almost a sure thing that you will succeed in that area, flourish, glow and be great.  It is a word if spoken over you at a certain stage to be taken as great encouragement and inspiration.  However, as I mentioned before, this in only the case if this potential is actually reached and realised.

If potential remains unfulfilled it becomes the most depressing, hateful, stinging word ever.  What was hopeful becomes a crushing, ever-present reminder of what a person, situation or circumstance could have been but is not.  What was well within our grasp but simply not reached.

When it comes to potential in ourselves, its important to take note of what others see in us as an indication of what we could be as sometimes we can’t always see it but, it is always more important to identify it for ourselves.  In this I mean having some self-belief about becoming all we want to be and having our deepest dreams and desires fulfilled, refusing to settle for second best.

People who don’t reach their potential often use ‘blame’ as an excuse for their lack. It will always be someone else’s fault for not helping enough, encouraging enough, or circumstances were against them holding them back or standing in their way somehow.  However, I have found this to be true through observation in others and myself:

It is only you who can stop you from fulfilling your full potential. 

True, people and circumstances may make it harder or even delay your journey but really and truly, it is only yourself who can ultimately hold you back and no one else will be to blame.

We can often get stuck on this word potential in ‘others’ in relationships in particular.  We choose someone based on what we see they could be or become – hoping that they will, ignoring where they are now.  It may be true and your judgement may be correct – this person really could deal with their problem/s, make the required adjustments, mature, grow up  and develop – however, just because this is something within their power to do, it does not mean that they actually will.  I have been flabbergasted to find there are people who actually don’t want to get ‘better’ who to a large extent, not necessarily enjoy but take comfort, in their pain and issues.  It has become part of their identity and they perhaps fear who they will be without them.  They therefore hold on to them, refusing to open themselves up to healing, growing and moving on no matter how wonderful the promise on the other side is.  I’ve seen before my eyes people forfeit amazing treasure and certain happiness and fulfillment in return for staying where they are, wallowing in their own disappointment and regret. Giving up a bright and hopeful future in place of holding on to a dark, disappointing past.

As a person who embraces change, loves life and basically wants to be happy, I find this utterly astonishing and cannot understand it in the slightest.  I too feel pain and regret, and disappointment just like everyone else but as we all know, life really doesn’t turn out how we often expect or hope it to be sometimes and we have to deal with it.  We have to choose to let go, to face the pain full-on and walk right through the middle of it and it hurts like hell.  But you know what?  One day you come out the other side and the sun is shining and you realise the pain is behind you. You see, when you try to dodge pain and walk around it, you end up going round and round in circles, simply circling the pain and never moving on from it.  You might be travelling but you’re certainly not getting anywhere!

It’s not wrong to base decisions on potential – we may choose a house on it’s potential or a project but there are always risks, often hidden ones, along the way.  And most importantly we have to know when to call it a day.  One of the most powerful quotes I have come across recently is this:

One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.

As a fixer and someone who is passionate about dreams and seeing people live theirs out to the full, I rarely get the balance in this quote right.  It deeply saddens me to see people bound who could so easily be free.  To see people burdened and sad who could so easily be happy.  What I have had to learn though is that we can only be responsible for our own walk and our own actions and our own potential.  We can’t live someone else’s out for them.  We can encourage and spur on and believe and hope.  But in getting stuck on someone else’s unfulfilled potential we can sometimes neglect and miss out on our own.