SURVIVING AIN’T LIVING

fight-or-flight-uncertainty

I had a realisation in early November that I had spent a lot of my life in survival mode. In fact it has become a recognisable bed I was lying in, but not a very safe one. The last 3-4 years have been particularly bad and my external life had reflected that financially, in my home situation, physically via the cancer and emotionally just feeling numb and being okay about having so little.

Living in survival mode means you are always living in fear: fear of death, fear of destruction, fear that the few things you have in life will crumble away and you will fall into the abyss.  That is how I have felt for as long as I can remember. This terrible fear led to becoming a control freak – trying to manage aspects of my life – money, relationships, day to day living, and my son – so as to feel “safe.”  Pretending to yourself, “its okay you’ve got it all under control Maxine,” while inside your’re freaking out.

Control does not allow for love to flow and controlling addictively to avoid fear is unloving. Avoiding fear is living in fear and is unloving, restrictive and self-denying as well as unloving to others, because your thoughts and actions are driven but that unhealing emotions. Even people pleasing, which I have done all my life, is about control and avoiding people’s anger, judgement and attack. It is heavily disguised as taking care of others, but in fact it is about taking care of yourself.

Being in survival mode is really bad for your health too. When we are in flight or fright mode we produce adrenalin and cortisol by the pint and all this adrenalin constantly pumping around our system isn’t good. In the end it creates a toxic environment and it is exhausting.

I have become an expert in batting back, ducking, avoiding, distracting myself from feeling fear. In the process I have created a facade that is dull and hard and uncreative. I have lost more and more of myself.

However, there are some deep causal events and emotions that started this whole survival mode. John Bradshaw, in his book Homecoming, says “a witness to violence is a victim to violence.” I had a father who was violent, a step father who was even more so both, physically and mentally to my mother. I sat on the stairs or behind my bedroom door many times listening to the shouting and violence going on near me. I even have a memory of standing in my cot and feeling this big dark red cloud coming into the room. It was rage – I think it was my father’s rage at my mother, I don’t have the details, but I feel panicky, tense and scared at the memory…and there is still much I haven’t remembered yet.

Then there is the other day to day violence, of being shouted at, clipped round the ear, blamed and shamed in one way or another as our parents, unable to cope with their own emotions, send them our way: it is normalised parenting in soceity. As a small child, all these things shake you to the core and it has left me with the constant feeling that my world will end at any moment, that there is no solid foundation to exist from and no unconditional love to be found.

When I hit a metaphorical wall in November, my body aching from doing a job that was too demanding and pushing myself to the limits with it, and only months after major surgery and cancer and then coming home to live in a place I really don’t like, reduced down to living pretty much in one room with no space to get the things I love out – my art materials and writing materials and no money to buy new clothes when I need to or enjoy things I love, counting every penny and struggling to pay off some debts.

So I started to feel some emotions about it – yes mostly effect emotions – sadness, and some frustration, but mostly sadness, at the situation I was in, and created by my unhealed emotions, my choice to keep suppressing them.

In relation to this, for the last 2-3 of years I have also become aware that I have attracted a large group of spirits who do not want what is best for me, but only want to control my life, zap my energy and keep me small and at times completely destroy me. Every time I try to take a step forward I feel they come for me. It has felt like a real battle for my soul and it is. They reflect what I feel at times: small, unimportant and helpless. I am acting as if I have no choice, but I do.

So I have made a few changes, started to look at addictions/facade and done some activities that bring up fear. We have a choice, but to change we have to stop denying what is really going on and what we are really choosing.

I wanted to share this, to help those of you who may be doing the same as I have been. It is so important to be honest with ourselves, to look at our lives and see what it is showing us about our unhealed emotions, our self worth and our denial. We do have the power to change all this and we have much greater power to change all this if we include God in the process.  

Maxine

THE GREAT SEAMTRESS

embroidery_by_hrfleur

Once upon a time there was the Great Seamstress. She lived in a place far, far, away, but with eyesight that could see far and wide, and yet could also thread the thinnest cotton through the tiniest eye of the smallest needle. This Great Seamstress had always existed and only she knew the secret of her existence. For many, many years she had been gathering threads of every colour, making needles of every size and printed fabrics of every design she could think of. She had a plan, a most incredible plan that would change her life forever.  For a long time now, the Great Seamstress had been sewing alone and had created many beautiful things in the first stages of her plan.

She had stitched a huge black fabric, and weaved into it circles and spirals of colours, and small sparkles of gold and silver that created light against the dark. Amongst the dark, were also many wonderful circular planets of different shades and colours and one particularly special circle that stood out among the rest, because of its vibrancy.

On this planet, which she called Earth, she had stitched many blue and green fabrics in swirls and waves to make the sea; she had sewed white and violet clouds into the sky, as well as a yellow circle, she called Sun that was so bright it lit up everything around it. Her needle had gone up and down millions of times creating tiny delicate flowers in many colours into the grass, which had been made from stitched thousands of times in shades of green and brown. From there, sprouted small and large trees made in rougher fabrics and tiny leaves in many different, intricate patterns and shapes: the Great Seamstress loved variety.

As the patterns grew, grey, red and brown rocks appeared in solid, thick fabrics with translucent blue rivers running over and around them. Some were big enough to create magnificent mountains. In other parts the land shapes were in yellows and ochre, soft hills of sand. As she sewed the Great Seamstress was pleased with her work and was having great fun in her creating. She began to add more and more shapes, more stitching, more hues so that more and more plant shapes were formed, more landscapes of every variety made. Her work was good, very good indeed.

She looked at her design. Here was a place to live. But who was to live there? One of the secrets of the Great Seamstress was her heart. It was a heart that spanned time and space, that grew infinitely and was so full and overflowing with love that she wanted to share this love with others; others that would be creators like her; others that could enjoy the playground she had so lovingly made, stitch by stitch. She formed a plan and she looked inside herself, for the Great Seamstress held another secret and that secret was that she was also a Great Tailor. She possessed the qualities of the imagination and skill of a Seamstress as well as the practical and mathematical skills of a tailor.

She now knew who she would like to share her love with: she would make many, many little seamstresses and tailors, who could learn how to sew, and in time become as good as she was at creating and together create a great and magnificent tapestry. She knew that as they grew, that through her magic, more threads and fabrics would be created and she would put no limits on their potential, as long as they worked with love, as she did. She grew very excited and in no time at all the first little seamstresses and tailors were born. The purpose of their life would be to learn about the greatest of all things, love and to discover their individuality, for each seamstress and tailor was capable of making their own unique part of the tapestry.

And because the Great Seamstress knew the love of her own Great Tailor, she made it so that each individual was half of one picture and when they found the other half of the image they were to make, it would bring them an even more blissful and wondrous life as one work of art. Each work of art would be one piece of the Great Tapestry of life so that she could share her love and the spark of life and existence with all of them and as they became more and more skilled in their making, the tapestry would become more and more beautiful.

However, the Great Seamstress was also very, very wise as well as loving and she knew that to truly allow her little seamstresses and tailors real creativity and growth they would need complete freedom to experiment and discover the wisest and most beautiful ways to stitch. She also knew that would make mistakes and some may even want to destroy what they making, not being able to see the potential of what could be and that they would even forget the Great Seamstress herself.

Before they came into being, to start stitching, she had already anticipated the mistakes that would be made and she had used her magic and her love to make laws that would allow her little ones to see their mistakes and encourage them to try a new or different stitch: one that would lead them back to her love and to their own potential. Those little seamstresses and tailors that progressed would learn over time about these magic laws and know how to follow them and they would not be afraid to ask the Great Seamstress for her love and help. Some of the little Ones would, however, take a bit longer to learn, would refuse her help, and would make more mistakes, before they realised the right and better way to sew their life into the beauty she had planned for them.

But the Great Seamstress was in no hurry. She would wait for eons, for all her little seamstresses and little tailors. She would rejoice in their triumphs and wait patiently during their mistakes, quietly and gently guiding them back onto the right path. For she loved her little Ones greatly, and wanted them to all to find a blissful life where they could truly express and create their uniqueness, where the stitches that they made, fabrics that they used, would make a beautiful, sparkling, everlasting tapestry together, that they all could enjoy.

And so whether you are a little seamstress or a little tailor, please know that even if you think you have forgotten how to sew, you never truly can. It is in your very beingness that the Great Seamstress created you to sew, to find your other half and to find the Great Seamstress herself. Sometimes she may seem unreachable, but that is just our own insecurity, because she is always there, always waiting and always loving you very, very much. So do not give up hope, but know that you are a very, very important co-creator of your uniqueness and part of the Great Tapestry of Love, so keep sewing, one stitch at a time; one stitch closer to your Self and one stitch closer to the great Love of the Great Seamstress herself.

@Maxine Bell 2017

SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE

goldfish

“You use your strength to separate yourself from everyone, but it’s thrilling when your defences are down.”

This is a line said by Harry (Jack Nicholson) to Erica (Diane Keaton) in the film “Something’s gotta give.” I am not writing a film review, but I watched it because having never heard of it before it came into my view twice in 12 hours   – firstly, it was mentioned at dinner with friends and then the next day I wondered into a charity shop so see if I could find a film to watch and there it was standing out among the DVD’s on display. I felt I was being guided to watch it and so I bought it.

It came under the guise of a romantic comedy, about two people, who in their own way had shut down the idea of the possibility of a deep love and connection, both for different reasons. They were thrown into the path of each other and despite a tricky start they fell quickly and deeply in love. However, fear came up and one of them pulls back. I won’t say too much in case you want to watch it. It is funny and touching and I waited to see what it had to offer me.

On one hand it is obvious, I am terrified of giving myself to love and I struggle to receive love. I am very suspicious of someone saying they love me, because ‘love’ has meant departure, manipulation, feeling used, disappointment, confusion and pain. In truth none of that IS love. I know this intellectually, but my emotional wounds, my parent’s/ world’s version of love, like many of us, was wrong, is wrong and now I am attempting to understand what love is, but I am scared. Scared by previous experiences and my emotional knowledge of love. Yet to keep saying this is also an excuse and an addiction and re-educating myself about love is within my own power and choice.

Then on the other hand is this issue of strength. When this line was said it struck me – it was me. I use my “strength” to separate myself from everyone. I have noticed that I call my mother the bounce back queen. Despite all her own lack of self love, the damage she has done to herself and to others, how she has treated her body, she still survives, she still keeps going. She has a chronic illness, which requires horrible medication. Because of this her bones are fragile and the smallest fall she breaks a bone. This year she fell and smashed 6 ribs, had a metal plate put in to fix them. She was home within 3 days. Last week, she discovered she had 2 fractures in her neck, that had gone undetected for a week and she still got on a plane to Spain for a week. But is it being strong or is it being self-reliant and avoiding her vulnerability?

Last week at work, someone asked me some questions about myself, which I answered honestly and their comment was, “you are one strong lady.” It was said in a way, that I should be proud of myself, proud of my strength. It has been said to me before a number of times. But right now I don’t want to be strong. What does it really mean? I am addicted to it. I am addicted to “being strong:” to surviving through many things, to getting back up, to pushing on, to keep going. I am addicted it, but I am sick of it because it is as Harry says my strength has become the space I use to stay separate, to avoid relationships, to avoid love, and to avoid feeling. It also involves appalling self care at times because I ignore so much of my pain.

I can feel the damage this ‘strength’ is doing to me, emotionally, spiritually and physically. I have pain in some part of my body daily and I don’t take analgesia. I haven’t for long time and I used to consider myself to have a high pain threshold. I do, but this is not a good thing, this is shut down of feelings…and I am one of millions who do this in the world.

There is no judgement is this because we live in society, that celebrates this kind of strength, this way of coping. I am English and we have had a long tradition of stoicism: that “stiff upper lip;” “chin up!” In other words, pretend it doesn’t hurt, don’t be emotional, just grin and bear it. The words that aren’t said here are “don’t be emotional because that will trigger all my emotions which will make me and everyone else around me upset and we don’t want to be upset because we don’t want to feel our emotions/pain either. Avoidance, facade and all of us meeting each other’s emotional addictions to avoid our emotional pain.

What I feel now, is that this is incredibly sad. It is incredibly sad that we are so locked up, that I am, because when I lock up my negative emotions I also lock up my positive ones. So I can not experience my joy and happiness as I should. It is the way our soul works – suppress one emotion and we suppress another and it builds up to the state of numbness and de-tunement many of us live in. (Click here if you would like to listen to some FAQ’s on how the human soul functions)

I am not happy being like this and I am sick of being “strong.” I am overly self-reliant and I don’t let others in and I don’t let them help me. Then I feel alone and then I feel upset and angry that no on will care for me: a vicious cycle. I became “strong” as a child: it was a survival technique and I was taught to be this way, to support my mother and to care for my brothers and I certainly wasn’t encouraged, in fact actively discouraged, like many, to feel or acknowledge my own needs. I may be “strong” to the world as it currently is, but the truth is I am weak in knowing myself, and allowing myself the real strength and courage to feel all of my emotions.

There is small part of me that wants to be vulnerable and the times I have allowed that have been the most amazing times and I have felt almost beautiful. After the crying, we often feel more peaceful, especially when it is a causal emotion. I long for that peace and yet I must have a greater desire not to feel at the moment, to hold on and if I really want to progress more quickly something’s gotta give.

Being vulnerable is something I don’t emotionally understand properly. I feel inside it is weakness, as many do. Most of freak out when too much emotion hits the room. We can cope with a bit, but if it goes on too long, either with ourselves or others we judge it; we get fidgity; distract ourselves; talk ourselves out of it; eat ourselves out of it; drink ourselves out it: anything to lessen the “drama” of a roomful of emotions.

But emotions are E – motions. They are meant to move in and out, like a river. Often, instead , they sit in us like a rock and despite on some level we feel the weight of stuck emotions we have become experts in pretending they are not there. It is similar to being very overweight, we keep buying bigger clothes, bigger chairs and bed, put elastic in our belts so we don’t have feel too uncomfortable and aware of that extra flesh.

Being vulnerable would be to put on those trousers we can’t fit into, feel how uncomfortable they are now, walk out in them, feel exposed and allow all the feelings of that to come. So for me this acts as a key to accessing my vulnerability – getting out my comfort zone.

In November I did a four day workshop called Solo Autobiographical theatre. I had 4 days of being right outside my comfort zone and it was transforming in the sense that I faced fears (did it despite of them), felt emotions, felt exposed and at the end felt empowered and discovered bits of myself I hadn’t before. So now I am signed up for 2 terms of this and I keep looking for ways to get out of my comfort zone.

Actually, let’s call if our addiction zone, because I would say most, if not all, of our so-called comfort zone is full of emotional and physical addictions. It is a pretend safe zone, but truly an avoidance zone that seems to make us ‘happy.’ But I think our view of happiness is pretty limited. It gives us a sense of gratification ( I got what I wanted), but it has not brought us real happiness, love or joy. No real love in our life is no real life at all: it is living life in the greyscale, instead of vibrant colour.

I have so much to learn about vulnerability and blocks to work through to allow it more in myself. Then I feel, I will also learn more about being strong in the true sense: courageous and loving enough to feel my emotions, to be my Self and start waking up to truly living again. God didn’t create robots after all. She created living, breathing, dancing, singing, creating, thinking and most of all, uniquely of all, emotional beings: all that makes us human.

The ability, the desire to feel all of our emotions all of the time is humility. Humility allows vulnerability to be present and allows us to move those negative emotions out of us and let in the new, more joyful ones in. Our current definition of strong for me is rigidity and denial: a painful holding on: the inhale. Vulnerability is softening, allowing, surrender: the doorway to more truth, joy and freedom: the exhale.

“You’ve got to learn how to fall, before you can learn how to fly.” (from the film).

@Maxine Bell 2017