You Matter

There’s a grave in Dozenhem military cemetery where the inscription on the headstone reads:

“G. Blacker. Somerset light Infantry. 9th August 1917. Age 39”.

This man existed, and he mattered.

This man was a member of our family. He died for his country in World War 1. And like the others who are buried there in France, he was a living, breathing person. He had hopes, great plans, and dreams.

He was not some nameless soldier.

He had laboured in his farm.

He had had a wife and family.

He was difficult at times.

All these details are important; they are not irrelevant. They describe a unique person. Things that made him who he was.


All our lives are filled with details. Small things. idiosyncrasies.

And like him, you also matter. And you have a history.

Different things that happened to you. Fulfilled hopes, and tender wounds.

You’re a carrier of memories. Good ones. Bad one. Neutral ones.

Some are heartaches. Some are traumas. Things you might want to forget.

Each a stone, or coloured pebble, or a shard in life’s mosaic.


And your impact’s seen and captured in the lives of those you’ve touched. Words, and smiles, and affirmations, thoughtful gestures, kindnesses.  

Evidence that your life matters. There are imprints everywhere.  

You are not some nameless person.

Your life is significant.

You might think that you don’t matter in this world, but because of you someone has a favourite mug to drink their tea out of each morning that you bought them. Someone hears a song on the radio and it reminds them of you. Someone has read a book you recommended to them and gotten lost in its pages. Someone’s remembered a joke you told them and smiled to themselves on the bus.

Never think you don’t have an impact. Your fingerprints can’t be wiped away from the little marks of kindness that you’ve left behind.”

Not Knowing


Sometimes we don’t know the way we should go.

We don’t know if we should take the fork to the right, or to the left.  

We don’t know what will happen if we go to the right, or to the left.

That is the nature of life.

You take one faltering step. Then another faltering step.

Sometimes you sit down. And rest. Or wait.

Sometimes direction comes, and sometimes it doesn’t.


Wouldn’t it be great if we could always feel confident that the decision we were making was the right one?

That the direction we were going was the best one for us?

That whatever we did next would have the most successful outcome?

That we could confidently grasp the pen, and write out a great next chapter. With a great outcome. And a heroic ending.

If only that were possible.

If only it were that easy.

But it isn’t that easy.


Often we don’t know what to do. We don’t know where to turn, or which road to take.

So, perhaps, it’s not surprising that we often feel anxious.


But, really, you don’t need to have it all figured out.

You don’t need to know the end from the beginning.

All you need to do is to trust yourself.

To be patient. To take the pressure off yourself.

And to be willing to risk it.

And to take the next small step.

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen


Trauma overwhelms listeners as much as speakers … and talking about painful events doesn’t necessarily establish community – often quite the contrary. Families and organizations may reject members who air their dirty laundry; friends and family can lose patience with people who get stuck in their grief or hurt. This is one reason why trauma victims often withdraw and why their stories become rote narratives, edited in a form least likely to provoke rejection.”

Is this, perhaps, something you relate to as well?

Chelsea had always been a very private person. She was open, warm and friendly in most social situations. But no-one really knew what was happening in her life. To outward appearances, it looked like things were fine. 

Then, out of the blue, Chelsea’s world was blown apart – when she learned that her husband had a hidden secret life. Dating apps, pornography, webcams, and so on.

Who do you talk to when you learn something like that?

If truth be told …. It wasn’t easy. But occasionally she tried. She’d introduce the subject in a vague, non-threatening way, and try to share a little of what things had been like.

But on the whole, it was disastrous. It only made things worse. Her close friends shut her down. It made them feel uncomfortable. They didn’t want to hear this. No, they didn’t want to know.

Apart from one young mother she had met at the school gate. Her husband had walked out on her, and left her with two kids. They weren’t really close, but they would always wave and chat.  Sometimes they’d grab a coffee. Half an hour. No more than that. And it was comforting to know that someone understood.

She didn’t have to say much. Words can be superfluous. But kindness is a language that communicates so much.

The lies and the betrayal had left Chelsea traumatized. Her life had changed forever. It was ordinary no more. The grief was overwhelming. Way too much to bear alone. She often felt so desperate. How she’d love to be consoled.

Most people cannot handle pain. It feels too threatening. It leaves them feeling vulnerable. They have to look away.

This mother knew what it was like.

That lifeline was enough.

It helped Chelsea to heal. It got her through the toughest times.

The validation she received helped her to face the day.

This woman was a gift. Her presence transformed Chelsea’s life.         

I Love Me

How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.”

When we have experienced rejection or betrayal it changes the way we see, and feel about, ourselves. We can pick up the message that there’s something wrong with us. That we’re less than other people. That we’re seriously flawed.

But all of these are lies, and we need to love ourselves.

So how do we learn to love ourselves?  

1. Our mindset affects the way we see ourselves, how we interact with others, and how we live our lives. It affects our expectations around how others will treat us, and whether that’s appropriate, and what we should accept. This is an area we often need to challenge, and especially if we suffer from low self-esteem.

Some questions to ask yourself here include: Do I expect others to treat the same as/ better than/ or worse than they treat others? Why is that the case? What do I deserve when it comes to being loved? What will I put up with, and why?

2. Pay attention to how you treat yourself.

For example, do you tend to be self-critical and harsh towards yourself? Are you good at noticing and taking care of your physical, mental and emotional needs? How do you do that? How well do you do that? Do you make time to do the things you want and like to do? If not, why not? 

3. We need to show self-understanding and develop self-compassion.

It can be helpful to take the time to write down our life story, and trace how our experiences have shaped who we’ve become.

4. We need to give ourselves permission to design our own life, and to say what we want, and then to go after that.

Of course, our plans can be destroyed by the people in our lives, and it’s hard to recover when we’ve been traumatized. But our life still our own. We still have some agency. And we still get a say in what’s going to happen next.

5. Perhaps you’ve heard it said thar each of us is the average of the five people we spend the most time with. With this in mind, think about who you spend your time with. Are these people who like, love and value you? Are they people who can see your potential, and who encourage you to live your best life? If not, it might be time to make some changes here and surround yourself with people who will love and treat you well.

The Art of Letting Go


“Let it go”.

It all sounds so easy, such a simple thing to do.  But letting go of something isn’t straightforward at all. In fact, I would say that it’s very difficult.  

For you don’t just decide, and everything is different now. I wish it was as simple as just making up your mind. But ask anyone – and they’ll say that’s not the case.

Instead there’s this huge struggle for the pain has got a grip. All the hurt and the injustice – plus the need to self-protect – have wound a twisted chord tightly round your broken heart.

In fact, it’s more like some huge chain with a padlock that is stuck. You twist and turn the key. You can try to free the lock – but it’s going to take time, and you know it will be tough.

What to do?

But really wanting to let go is an important starting place. It affirms you want to change, and to write your own life script. You don’t want the pain and trauma to dictate the rest of life.   

1. So you need to face the truth – and admit what you’ve gone through. Tell it like it really is. All the heartache. All the shame. All the horror and the shock. All the shattered, broken dreams.

2. And after doing that, you must allow yourself to feel all the horrible emotions you don’t really want to feel.  

And as you start to mourn and grieve, you will find you start to heal. For your tears will cleanse your wounds, and you’ll sense a new release.

And very slowly you will notice that you’re starting to let go.   

Do not run away from the heavy emotions. Honour the anger, give pain the space it needs to breathe. This is how we let go.”

  • Yung Pueblo

Coping with Flashbacks

Trauma destroys the fabric of time. In normal time you move from one moment to the next, sunrise to sunset, birth to death.

After trauma, you may move in circles, find yourself being sucked backwards into an eddy, or bouncing like a rubber ball from now, to then, to back again. …

In the traumatic universe the basic laws of matter are suspended: ceiling fans can be helicopters, car exhausts can be mustard gas.”
― David J. Morris

Flashbacks are our memories of traumatic life events. They can occur in a number of different forms – as sounds, smells, pictures, bodily sensations, numbness, or a lack of normal physical sensations. Often, they’re accompanied by anxiety or panic, where the person feels they’re trapped, and unable to escape.

Flashbacks can occur in dreams, as nightmares and night terrors. They can interrupt our sleep, where we startle suddenly. And often we’ll feel panicky, and wake up in a sweat.

And because all the sensations are so frightening and intense – but also unrelated to what’s happening right now – the person thinks ‘they’ve lost it’ and they fear they’re going crazy.   

Coping with these symptoms can be very difficult. But there are different strategies that you can use to help you. They include:

1. When you start to experience the intense and scary symptoms, tell yourself ‘this is familiar’, and ‘you’re having a flashback’.

Tell yourself that ‘this will ease, and it is only temporary. The feelings will subside, and you will feel normal again’.

2. Tell yourself the intense feelings are just re-experienced memories. The trauma’s in the past. You have survived the worst already.

3. Allow yourself to experience all the negative emotions. The anxiety, the terror, the panic, and the rage. Don’t try to fight them off, or to repress and silence them. Doing that will only hamper, and slow down, the healing process.

And it’s right for you to honour all the anguish and the pain. The suffering was intense, and it deserves to be acknowledged.

4. Reorient yourself, so you are grounded in the present.

Breathe in slowly and deeply … then exhale slowly and deeply.

Allow the intense feelings to swell, then dissipate.

Allow a sense of peace and calm to gradually replace the terror, faintness, panic, shakiness and dizziness.

5. Keep your focus on this room, and what you notice all around you. Use each of your five sense. What can you see, hear, feel, touch, smell?

For example, what does it feel like to be sitting in this chair? What can you smell? What different sounds can you hear? Birds chirping? Children playing? Cars passing by? A police siren sounding? A fridge or freezer buzzing?

6. Speak to your inner child – who’s feeling terrified. Reassure them that they’re safe and are going to be OK.

Remind them that they’re strong, that they’re fierce and capable.

Remind them ‘they survived it, and are moving on with life’.

Just for Now

breathe

Imagine life without the painful thoughts being stuck on ‘repeat’ and replaying in your mind.

Imagine a peaceful, contented state where you lie back in the sun, and soak up its soothing rays.

Imagine simply resting.

With no anxiety.

With no struggle or resistance.

With no triggered memories.

Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely to set aside that load, and to mindfully inhabit the present.

Just for Now.

 

Holding on to painful memories is like clutching burning coals and hoping they won’t burn you – though, of course, we know they will.

Sometimes we cannot help it. The unconscious takes control. Emotions overwhelm us and the past resurfaces.

But maybe we can break out of that prison for a while.

We haven’t healed completely.

There is still work to be done.

But maybe – for this moment – we can let the weight slip off

And wallow in the lightness.

And the freedom.

Just for Now.

Does Betrayal Change How You Feel About Your Spouse?

pink sparkly rose

“Does betrayal change how you feel about your spouse?”

I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that question.

It is clear. Life can never be the same again. So, of course, it changes the relationship.

It also changes how you feel about your spouse.

Everyone is different in the changes they might list; but below are five areas I’d definitely include:

1. Betrayal leads to a loss of respect: Most of us respected our partner or spouse. After all, we chose them, and we fell in love with them. There was something we were drawn to. There was something we admired. There was something that was more than just chemistry, or sex.

However, respect disappears in the blink of an eye when you learn that your partner’s betrayed your trust and love.

2. Betrayal leads to a loss of trust: Trust is destroyed when your partner cheats on you. It’s not just the betrayal. It’s the fact you were deceived.

How on earth can you feel safe if your partner lies to you. In your mind, they’re just a cheat, and you cannot trust their word.

3. Betrayal can unleash hidden feelings of resentment: Typically, we women will juggle many plates. We take care of the family, and stay on top of things. We remember all the birthdays. We buy and wrap the gifts. We take care of appointments. We organize events.

But after a betrayal, we won’t just do it all. And especially when it comes to our partner’s family.

4. We struggle more with anger when we have been betrayed: In the past, when minor issues would annoy or irritate, we’d choose to let them go, or we’d quietly bite our tongue.

But things are different now. We are on a shorter fuse. What else would you expect when they’ve treated you like that.

5. Being affirmed by our partner doesn’t matter much at all: I think it’s fair to say that in the past we might have hoped our partner would have noticed and commented on things – like if we’d bought new clothes, or had cooked a special meal.

But once we’ve been betrayed, we’re indifferent. We don’t care. We’ve no desire to please them. We’re pleasing ourselves now.

“‘It was a mistake,’ you said. But the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting you.”

David Levithan

A Shitty Life or a Wonderful Life?

The first draft of anything is shit

The first draft of anything is shit.” ― Ernest Hemingway

I think this truth can be applied to our life, and often to our relationships, as well.

The first stab at anything is nothing more than that.

A stab in the dark. A first attempt.

We act on instinct, repeating what we’ve learned.

Unconsciously living out the scripts and messages we’ve picked up from others, and have stored in our brain.

But perhaps it is time to start over again.

To start in an informed, and a more deliberate, way.

this is the beginning

And as you think of starting over, you can chart out a course that’s a lot more consistent with the way you want to live. (Bearing in mind, we don’t control everything … And, certainly, we don’t control everyone.)

Below are some questions to help you figure what you want from life and, what you might need to change:

1. What does a healthy and meaningful relationship look like to me? (Try to be as specific as possible.)

2. If I was living my best possible life, how would I look to an outside observer? (Happy, relaxed, contented, confident etc.)

3. How would I be feeling?

4. What kinds of things would I be doing?

5. How would I describe my life right now? How close is it, to the way I want to live?

6. How would I describe my relationships right now? How similar are they to what I really want?

7. What am I happy with; what would I like to keep?

8. What am I unhappy with; what would I like to change?

9. What am I putting up with in myself that is stopping me from living my best life? How can I change that? Am I prepared to do what is needed to change things?

10. What am I putting up with in others, that is stopping me from living my best life? What can I do to change that?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I think you are doing a beautiful job

In “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” Marie Kondo offers us a reliable method for eliminating clutter (read stress) from our lives. She suggests we go through all the items in our homes, and then stop and ask ourselves one very basic question: “Does this item bring me joy?”

If it does, we keep it; if it doesn’t, we discard it.

On the whole, I would say this is a useful technique. There’s a huge amount of stuff we don’t want, and never use. So, clearly, all these things aren’t bringing us much joy.

The Dilemma

But sometimes it’s a challenging process to work through. Not everything is easy, straightforward, or clear cut. For instance, we stumble when confronted with dilemmas like:

Perhaps this tattered item doesn’t really bring me joy, but my daughter bought it for me when she eight years old.”

Or, “I know these bathroom scales aren’t going to bring me joy but, still, it might be better if I hang on to them.”

That kind of thing.

Yet, its international fame seems to indicate the book resonates, on some level, with a number of us. At least when it comes to physical clutter …

But there are other kinds of clutter that can weigh us down as well. And perhaps it’s fair to argue they’re a greater source of stress.

This is a more resistant clutter that is harder to sift through. And it’s certainly the kind that is harder to discard.

What Are we Referring to Here?

The emotional clutter we keep trying to push down – but which continues to spill over – and wreak havoc in our lives. All the bad experiences. The unwanted memories. The rejections, hurts, betrayals. All the traumas, wounds and scars.

What to do about it?

Of course, we’d love it to be gone, for it’s not a source of joy. Yet ditching it is hard; it can feel impossible.

So, perhaps, all we can do is to cut ourselves some slack. And remind ourselves, again, that some things in life are hard.

Yes, working through this stuff is like walking through quicksand.

And, despite what we might wish, it’s a lot more challenging than answering the question: “Does this sweater bring me joy?”