Saturday, December 31, 2016

A joyous New Year

On the morning of the last day of the year, I'm reflecting a little on this year about to end. It was a relatively quiet year for me with few major highlights. My personal highlight was my time at the retreat in New Zealand. I am so happy I took that risk and flew my wings.

On a relationship level, my mind immediately flew back to a morning in the country, mid-winter. My husband and I had rented a darling little cottage. He asked me what toys I had brought along and I told him of a ripple-y butt plug. He asked me to produce it and he had me lay on my side as he put it into position.

He told me later that the transformation had been immediate; something that he would not have believed possible if he had not seen it with his own eyes. One minute I was a girl and the next I was a toy; soft, compliant, suggestible; hungry.

There is little point in dismissing the life blood of this toy inside the girl. She's hardly a fabrication of my imagination when she rises up and is visible to others.

When this toy gets an opportunity to be fully alive, it's a wonderful time for those in her company as well. There's something about her presence that makes me, and my husband, abundantly filled with joy. I'm younger, more carefree, and what's exciting is that those benefits don't last for a minute or an hour, or two, but for days and days. Here I am writing about a morning in early June, six months ago now, feeling all the delight again of remembering the time of "simply letting go".

I listen to a CD regularly where the man talks about this: "simply letting go". "More and more" he will say in a voice that lulls one further into the trance-like state. "Deeper and deeper", he will say, and a little smile is formed because I wait for that phrase, softening a little more each time he says it throughout the meditation.

The toy (aka bimbo or cindi) and a spiritual state became blended in my mind quite some time ago. I give in to both experiences and I benefit from both experiences. In the main, I need some guidance to get to both states, but I can go solo, if necessary. I can meditate alone and that's good; beneficial, always. But the meditation in a group has a quality that I can't find in meditating alone. So it is with the toy. I can take measures to sink into the toy state; a more, mellow mind. However, it is only with the guidance of a 'top' that bimbo can really come alive. She needs someone to guide her, to play with her; to provide her with experiences that she can't provide herself.

I have a number of goals for the coming year, but none is really more important than seeing to it that the toy has more time to call it's own. She's sweet. She's giving. She's loving. Okay, she's slutty. But, her joy is infectious. More joy. That seems a perfectly acceptable new year resolution, I think.

Wishing you a joyous New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A review of 2016 at Christmas

Few people would disagree that it has been a turbulent year. One feels this turbulence in the air and there is little doubt that there's been a lot of anger and upset expressed, as evidenced in the American election process, to name just one oddity this year. I heard one psychologist express the opinion that Trump, an undeniable narcissistic individual, could not have been elected if the nation wasn't so full of people who felt perfectly fine with identifying with those qualities. Food for thought there.

On a personal level, the year has been something of a process for me as well. Ross Rosenberg, a psychologist who specializes in Love Deficit Disorder uses the analogy of a person who is wearing glasses that are foggy. Such a person can only see what he (or she) sees, but once fitted with suitable glasses where he (or she) is able to see quite clearly, the thinking transforms. That's the way I have felt.

When I look back on the last several years of my life I was somewhat blinded to what was going on inside of me. I knew that something felt very uncomfortable sometimes, but I didn't know how to fix that feeling. Part of that was to do with the fact that my husband really did become excessively preoccupied with a range of matters and I missed his attention and affection.

However, by looking too closely at his behaviour and not my own, I was missing a vital clue. Then, I started to examine my behaviour more closely and to listen to his observations without dismissing them as him making excuses for being distant.

I'm a researcher, by instinct and training. The Internet gave me the opportunity to delve into issues, but it took more than the reading itself. It was a giant jigsaw puzzle and I was often short of a piece or two of the puzzle. I'd read Pia Mellody, or Ross Rosenberg, and I'd get it, but only intellectually. By that I mean I couldn't quite understand how it related to me and to my life; what I thought, what I did; how I reacted to circumstances.

I identified, eventually, that I had been neglected in childhood and that was a major move in the right direction. I still don't and never will see it as a wilful act of neglect because it just was not that way. However, it was neglect. I was left to my own devices to bring myself and my younger brother up as best I could. I was often alone. I was forced to revert to a fantasy world. I never came first in anybody's eyes.

Still, I was loved. I could feel the love and that kept me whole. Or, so I thought. I didn't understand until earlier this year that there had been damage caused to me that left me vulnerable and open.

I am someone akin to an 'echoist'. I put others' needs first. I'm the opposite to someone who puts their own needs first.

Okay. So, I identified that about myself. The psychologist several years ago identified that about me too and tried to help me with 'boundaries' and doing something for myself and not feeling bad about all that. I tried hard to get it but that part of me just wasn't ready to understand what she was saying such that I could put it into practice. Oh, I did the Masters and did well, but my self-esteem still needed a great deal of work. I can't blame her, or anyone, for thoughts that I was useless at something for which I got very high grades. That was my issue and something that still needed a great deal of work.

The problem lay in the fact that I was relying on other people for my self-worth; good grades, successful husband and children; being a good bimbo; that sort of thing. I had to learn to esteem myself; to have a sense of inherent worth equal to others. Importantly, I needed to stop feeling 'better than' or less than' other people. I've a great deal of empathy for people so I didn't realize I was doing this until it occurred to me that I had always felt empty outside of relationship. Think carefully about that if this relates.

Next, I had to learn how to set boundaries; to stop just doing what other people wanted me to do and expected me to do. I had to learn to negotiate; to stand up for myself; to express my upset when I was upset and not hold it, eventually becoming over emotional when it seemed that I was being taken for granted. This is a work in progress. It has caused some dissent but on the whole I have received great encouragement. I have experienced some kick-back but most people have accepted that I must finally express and put in place some boundaries for myself. I'm proud of my work here. I can't stop being me, someone who cares, but I can explain what I need and that's apparently exactly what I need to do to develop interdependent skills.

When someone isn't sure who they are, they are susceptible to making up a personal identity and reality out of who they think they should be. I knew I wanted to be a mother and a wife, and I knew I loved to write and read; that I loved children and I trained as a teacher. However, my fantasy life was vivid, real in  a sense, and it became confused with my reality.

I love submission in the bedroom. I love to feel a helpmate. For example, on the whole, in the garden I'm happy for my husband to take the lead and I get to do what he lets me do. I follow his lead, offering suggestions that he takes up, or not. This is the way with us. It has always been this way. But, then I got into other things, honed down into darker fantasies, and it was confusing.

The challenge was to sort out the reality from the fantasy and this took a long time for reasons I'd prefer not to go into. Suffice to say that it is vital that a person sort out their reality from their fantasy in order to have a stable identity and to feel comfortable in their skin. 'Submissive' is difficult terminology because someone can so easily throw at you that you aren't submissive enough, as if that's a flaw. Watch that.

Finally, I had to learn how to identify my needs and my wants. I need intimacy.  Pia Mellody writes that 'children who are neglected and abandoned may grow up with issues of feeling needless/wantless.' I confused the two things, or I used the wants to deal with the lack in my life of my 'needs'. I have learned to go and ask for a hug, or to arrange to spend time together. I am learning how to do this and I am proud of that. This area still needs work.

In her book 'The Intimacy Factor' Pia writes on page 118, 'Without boundaries, there is no relationship. Without relationship there is no intimacy. Without intimacy there is no love, and without love the spiritual path is hidden from us. Boundaries create the experience of truth and respect in which love can grow. We recognize that our inherent worth cannot be taken away from us by the display of our authentic selves...Trauma work aims at identifying the abuse that first made us allergic to ourselves - to our flawed and imperfect humanity.'

All that to say that 2016 has for me been a year of extraordinary growth and vision. I can point to several wonderful successes in the family - my eldest son has become the youngest Director and Junior Partner of his company worldwide, and my youngest son has gained entry into the second year of the highly selective course he has set his sights on for several years, and I am very, very proud and happy for them - but I am also very proud of myself. I had to work extremely hard on myself this year to get the insight and vision into my own failings and the issues that held me back from happiness and peace. I look forward to my future and the future of all people. I do believe the best is yet to come.

May you all have a very happy and blessed Christmas. Please do think about inviting to your Christmas Day someone who may well not have somewhere to go. I have come across a good number of these people lately and it reminds me that 'family' includes anyone who needs a good dose of love and care.

Be well. With love.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Considering the future

We tend to have our own individual versions of how to make a better world. I think that relates to how we see the world and how we see ourselves. The more extroverted, global thinkers tend to take the political track. I don't dismiss that as a powerful course of funding for good quality day care, tax incentives for families, access to excellent education for all children and so on.

In my case, I continue to believe that it starts with the children, at the grassroots level. You can have all the policies in the world about children and for children but if they are neglected by their parents, you have a real problem. The simple fact is that parents need to spend time with their children, listening to them and talking to them. It is a basic and fundamental right of children that they have the attention of their parents and that they are given permission to be themselves and to be accepted as their authentic selves.

I spent the day with my daughter yesterday, a treat for me since she has a very busy life. Over lunch she talked of wanting a family soon. She's a teacher. She can neither afford, nor wants to give up her career completely, but having seen children in child care situations at school she doesn't really want that for her children. Most of the people at school with children of their own have grandparents involved with child care, she says.

'Well, I'm good for a day a week,' I told her.
'But, it's a long way to come,' she said.
'Well, I can manage. And, I wouldn't just stay at home. I'd take the child/children to the park or to a music group or to a movement class, or for a picnic, or to the library. We'd get out and do things; have experiences.'

You see, I don't like the thought of my young grandchildren in child minding situations either. If I have oodles of them, well, then I have to help  find the best child care, but I don't think I will have oddles of them and not all at once.

A step-brother of my husband has a 14 month old and last weekend I could have scooped him up a hundred times and smothered him in kisses; breathed in his scent. But, that's not how he wanted to interact with me, preferring to study me; to hold one of my fingers or gaze into my eyes, or hold my necklace. He wanted to be held and touched by his mother and his father, mostly.

 I'm just so darn ready to interact with a little being again, but I had to hold back. The older kids (6 and 4) wanted to chat and that's fun too. Funny how the 6 year old went to each person for something different. He's desperate for my older son to rouse him up; hold him upside down; scare him.

If kids experience neglect, for whatever reason, fantasy becomes more important to them than reality, because the brain does that; creates in some way a place where the need is fulfilled. Too much time alone as a child and the early opportunities to relate to people are taken away, making fantasy seem soothing; changing the way the mind feels and keeping the fantasy alive as a joyful and soothing experience.

This feeling about fantasy can be taken into adulthood making them vulnerable in their relationships. It's not at all a good outcome and what we don't want as a society is a society of adults who are trying to overcome the neglect of their childhood. People wonder about the 'bout' of narcissism these days, but it didn't just arrive out of nowhere.

It's strange too how some people think being there is parenting when what parenting really is is being present for the child in a mindful way. Like, stop what you are doing and listen; really listen. That is important to do at any age. That's the best present you can give: your time.

In my opinion the damage of early neglect has far more palpable repercussions than anything else. I don't dismiss the danger of a narcissistic, self-involved President, or of a culture that praises possession over the more meaningful aspects of life. However, there are billions of people in the world who come into the world individually, dependent on those who brought them into the world. The real power lies in individuals taking that responsibity very seriously.

Imagine if we put the focus on the children. Imagine the world then.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Receiving and giving love

My experience at the meditation retreat was profound and I've found myself wanting to build on it. I've been quietly mining that experience looking for personal answers, sometimes patiently allowing clarity to rise up and sometimes trying to force revelations by focusing in on them.

In effect the meditation retreat was a sort of  'running away' experience. To put it another way, I was doing a 'geographical'. As my 60th year of life approached, my 60th birthday stood out to me as one day I wanted to completely avoid. When I looked at the dates of the retreat and discovered the final day was the day I turned 60, the deal was sealed. I filled in my registration and sent off my deposit.
I was to be travelling to the retreat with a friend and I mentioned to her the fact that I would be turning 60 on the final day.  She tucked it behind her ear.

The first sleep of my 60th year was not a good one. I woke at 3 am restless and it came into my consciousness that the day had arrived. I managed to get back to sleep but a half hour or so before the morning gong sounded alerting us to the fact that we had to get ready for the morning meditation I woke from a dreadful nightmare. It was a traumatic and confusing dream wherein there was some psychotic man running about causing havoc whilst at the same time I was somehow looking after a young child (who happened to have abilities beyond its age) and trying to keep it safe. Somehow, in all the mayhem and chaos the man was causing I lost the child.

It was at this moment I woke up. I lay there, tired, and bit by bit the details of the nightmare came back to me. It sunk in that I had lost a child for which I was responsible. It was then that I began to cry; soft, woeful, tragic tears for a child that didn't exist. It wasn't the greatest start to the day but I became conscious of birds singing outside my bedroom window and it brought me back to the physical moment. I got up and showered and dressed and made myself pretty. That's a defence you know; a defence against any slings and arrows of the emotional kind that might come my way on this day I'd rather pretend wasn't happening.

There was a knock on my door and when I opened it there was my friend holding a paper plate on which sat  a large golden kiwifruit and a skewer through it with little white tags attached to it with messages written on the tags wishing me a happy birthday. The darling girl had improvised. Without a candle or a cake she'd used what she had. We were supposed to be in silence, but I giggled. She'd made me so happy. I wasn't sure about golden kiwifruit at the time; had been ignoring them, but she insisted I eat it right there and then and I quickly discovered the golden kiwifruit are absolutely delicious. I buy them now all the time. (They are great for preventing bowel cancer by the way.)

The morning meditation was lovely but  at the conclusion of it my friend who led the final morning meditation couldn't resist informing the group that I had just turned 60. They all gave me silent hugs, a little hand gesture we learned earlier in the week. I took in the love. It wasn't easy - I was shy -  but I took it in. I was learning. I was growing. I was healing. At breakfast people silently came up to me and hugged me and it effected me deeply that these people who were strangers to me a few days ago and I were now quite closely connected. It was more lovely than I can say to be in silence but to take in love.

It was a very profound final morning, for all of us. We all spoke and it was clear we were all moved by the experiences of the week. I never have, and I may never again, be in such a stirring experience. We had shared vulnerability and loss together and in the bearing of those sadnesses, we'd bonded as a group.

Our final meal together before the bus would wisk me away to the airport, so that I'd be home to my family for the evening, was lunch. I was finishing off a plate of salad when I saw from the corner of my left eye a woman carrying a huge cake with candles approaching me. Everyone was suddenly huddled around me singing me 'Happy Birthday'. It was such a shock, so unexpected, that when they stopped singing I simply couldn't find words. They smiled and giggled a little. 'Thank you everyone,' I finally managed, 'from the bottom of my heart. I will remember this moment for a very long time.' And, I certainly will.

The bus carried me away shortly thereafter with a group of lovely girls, and I was fine. Happy. At the airport, alone, I checked my phone to discover these amazing messages from my children, how I was the best thing since sliced bread yadda yadda, and that's when I completely fell apart. The emotions of the week but particularly the day had toppled me over. I sat and cried. My makeup dissolved. No-one approached me, probably too frightened at watching a woman emotionally collapse before their eyes. I put  myself together in the bathroom such that the kind gentleman that sat beside me in the plane back to Australia thought, hopefully, that I was relatively normal.

I could go on and on but let's get to the moral of the story. The most important lesson of the retreat for me was that I have trouble receiving love. Although I hold a great deal of love in my heart and express it in all sorts of ways to others, I am, I think, so frightened of not receiving love back and wondering if I'll survive that, that I shield myself from love.

On my 60th birthday I let love in. I let people love me and it felt great.

There's a theory that I'm still trying to digest that says that people like me who have trouble letting people love them are attracted to people who have the same difficulty, and that they are attracted to you. The dance gets going and never stops until or if somehow the cycle is broken.

The experts on this stuff say that healing starts when you can love yourself, embrace yourself - no longer giving without receiving, or receiving without giving.

First comes the awareness; second the putting into practice.