Friday, 31 August 2012

Broken hearts..broken lives

Welcome. You are invited to consider something important with me today.

If we look at the image here it is a recognisable symbol of a broken heart and probably a broken dream to accompany it. 

Familiar to many.

Most of us try to hide our pain, our brokenness, as best we can.

Others literally 'wear their hearts on their sleeves'.

Last night I was privy to another person's pain and I couldn't ignore it.

When a Twitter message entered my stream it roused a degree of curiosity and concern. 

I tried to ignore it and read on. But I felt compelled to take it seriously. 

It purported to be a note of intention to commit suicide.

I read it

I replied
I thought.
I prayed.
I wrote a poem.

The thoughts wouldn't go away. I couldn't ignore it.

During the course of my nursing career, and through personal experience in the family, I have witnessed and been affected by people who have had intentions of self-harm and suicidal tendencies. 

Very sadly, some have been successful in following through with their intentions. Each left an indelible mark on those left behind.

All of us need to realise - 'there but for the grace of God go you or I'

Most of us have experienced a broken heart or broken relationships to some degree or other. Discouragement is common and Depression too.

We live in a fractured, selfish, 'It's all about me', driven sort of world that often has little patience, time or sympathy for the hurting. Our cries for help may be overlooked by carelessness alone, never mind indifference. 

We may have to make an effort to stretch out a hand of support, comfort or empathy to:

Those who may be unemployed, sick, poor, marginalised, lonely, lost and weak, devastated by circumstances beyond their control.

Yet God wants to bestow on us 'a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair' ~ Isaiah 61:3

It helps to know that there is no pit so deep that God cannot pull us out of - if we surrender to His care.

Take your pain to Him - He can handle it and bring relief, peace and strength. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain

The poem below is not sweet, nor polished or easy to read. You might want a stiff coffee or something first. 

It is a raw attempt to see into the mind of a potentially suicidal person, through the power of imagination, and feel their pain. 

Suicide is commoner than we might like to think. Our young people are particularly vulnerable to it, but all age groups are at risk.

We are all connected by virtue of our humanity. Could we be the ones to answer someone's heart-felt cry?

'To Whom it may Concern'

I'm reaching out,
my soul is bared.
A message sent - 
As if you cared.

Cry from the heart,
rending tears that fall.
In a silent whisper - 
"Do you heed my call?"

What does it take
to shake your core?
Given all I have -
I can do no more.

Too many voices,
clamouring for Attention.
Why should I think - 
I would get a Mention?

A letter's been penned;
It could even be read.
Though by the time that happens -
I just might be Dead.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Moving on ..experiencing change

Welcome to my 'School of Thoughts'.

Have you bought an apple for the teacher? Actually, any fruit will do. I'm not fussy. But I have a confession to make - I'm not really a teacher, either, although it does run in the family. There is no homework to do and any 'lesson' you receive from these words is incidental.

Back to the picture here. It reminds us that some young people are getting ready to meet and greet their new teacher for the first time and may be viewing it with a mixture of excitement and trepidation - as indeed may their parents. It will bring a whole host of changes to their lives, some of which may be welcome and others not.

Change - what does that word conjure up for you?

Perhaps you embrace it gratefully

Perhaps you dread it
Perhaps you feel alternately scared and happy about it

A lot depends on the type of change and whether or not you have had any say in the matter.

When I developed M.E. over 20 years ago I was ill-prepared for how my life would change from the one I had envisaged and hoped for. Subsequent health problems steered me even further from my hopes and dreams.

What has helped me is summed up in this:

'What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us' ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Change can be very unsettling. The familiar can be reassuring and comforting.

We all need a place to feel safe and secure and people we can trust. That place can be our inner life with God - an anchor of stability in life's ever-changing circumstances.

We can have great turmoil going on around us yet be at peace because God either calms and quietens us in the midst of the storms or may indeed remove them if He chooses. This promise remains though:

'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid' ~ John 14:27

Here are a few suggestions for what the process of change may involve:
  • Courage
  • Hope
  • Adaptation
  • New - ways of thinking, doing, being
  • Grit - and determination to see it through
  • Energy - and enthusiasm helps

I'm sure you can think of many more - all suggestions welcome!

The poem below reflects the experience of leaving school but it could also be viewed as moving from any place where the leaving is final and the leave-taking is without choice. It was written with a degree of trepidation for facing the future, at a time before I fully trusted the One who holds the future in His hands.

'Reflections on Leaving School'

Barriers down -
shut me out
of their personal
bars, locks,
of bitter regret.

can chain the feeling
walls are alive.
speak to me,
softly whispering

Do heartaches,
and inspirations
wither - 
or do they
beyond this

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

How does your garden grow?

Thanks for paying a visit to my plot - not the garden pictured here, I hasten to add, but rather my place of productivity and creativity as a poet/writer.
In this summer season that speaks of growth, variety and fruitfulness in our surroundings, I would like to ask you a question:

How does your garden grow?

It's that time of year when many of us are enjoying the fruits of our labours outside - after months of sweat and toil perhaps -  maybe gleaning our own home-grown produce, having a BBQ, relaxing, reading, or just basking in the sun (hopefully) and admiring our handiwork. Even if we lack a space of our own to call a garden, we can still admire and visit other people's gardens and enjoy them second-hand instead.

Have you ever imagined your life as a garden? 

That's not as fanciful as it sounds. Life involves labour and toil, sweat and tears, joys and sorrows, heartache, pride and envy too sometimes when 'the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence'.

What if you felt there was precious little in it apart from weeds?

Our tests and trials can feel very much like thick, tenacious weeds that choke the life out of us and appear to prevent any good thing from developing.

I have frequently felt like that about having M.E and other attendant long-term, chronic ill-health conditions over the last 20 years. For those who may have no idea what that could feel like (although many symptoms are unique to the individual in variety, intensity and persistence) then I tend to suggest it is like: 'either going down with flu, having flu, or recovering from flu'.

Most of us can relate to that feeling to varying degrees - the weakness, pain, letargy, cotton-wool head horribly familiar. During a recent bad spell of M.E symptoms I found myself expressing how I felt in verse, as I am prone to do at times of intense emotion.

I hope the poem 'Invasion' below will help you understand a little about what an M.E sufferer can go through.

Still on the garden theme - sickness and disease can reflect those tenacious weeds and thorns that seem to spring up out of nowhere, invade the space, stifle the vitality of the growing plant, are so persistent and seem impossible to remove no matter how vigilant we are at trying to get rid of them. Our hope is that God may either teach us how to live with them or provide relief such as this verse describes:-

'Instead of the thorn-bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow' ~ Isaiah 55:13a


Do I have M.E 
or does it have me?

Snaking tendrils of pain
coil through nerves, muscles, sinews
joints and every fibre of being,
leaching energy from each cell,
until I am left wrung-out
like a discarded dishcloth.

Fiery darts attack at random,
invading, crippling, agonising - 
Everything hurts.

Foggy clouds encircle the brain,
obscuring clarity
of thought and purpose.

Living in a limbo-land,
a living-death of exhaustion,
pain and weakness,
 as normal life passes by - 
too bright, too fast, too alive
for me to join in with any ease.

Then a voice calls to me
in my dopey, yet sleep-elusive state;
A Voice of Love, of Calm, of Peace.

It is my Lord, reminding me
that I am His and He is mine
through every circumstance of life
and transcending them all.

Yes, I have M.E -
but it doesn't have me -
God does;
so I am safe
in His arms.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The age of Conversation

Photo credit Kris Hoet - Age of Conversation on Flickr

Thanks for stopping by and joining in the conversation. It is good to share this space with you. 

After all, a monologue would be rather tedious  for me, whereas a dialogue is far more interesting and stimulating - don't you agree?

The 2 children pictured here look absorbed in their book. Reading tends to be a rather solitary pursuit but the information absorbed cries out to be shared with others.

In this age of mass communication we have never before had so many opportunities to 'talk' to one another. Yet how easy it is to offer only scant attention.....hello, are you still there?.... to one another. 

As our attention spans have shrunk, our ability to concentrate, focus and really 'listen' to others has suffered accordingly. So I'll try not to keep you too long. I'd love you to simply pause a moment to reflect on these thoughts.

"Given the crush of technology, email, social media and the 24-hour news, most of us react and decide too quickly" ~ Frank Partnoy (author of 'Wait')

 My poem below centres on the theme of listening and being there for one another.

Just talking

Pale suspension as liquid tones of 
in our ears
Tell me, do we ever really listen to
each other's
sighs and dreams?

Or do we use a social smile
in our hearts?
Maybe that is why we find that
just goes on by

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this topic. So please feel free to 'join the conversation'. More on this theme to follow soon.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

If the hat fits...

Hi  there,
Glad you could join me. I'd like to ask you a question. "What hats are you wearing?" No, I haven't suddenly turned into a fashion commentator or savvy sartorial stylist. My interest is due to the following:

On a recent family outing it struck me afresh that I am different things to different people. To the restaurant staff I was a 'customer', 'client', 'consumer'. To my family I am a wife, mother, sister (including 'twin'), 'half', 'in-law' and 'step' - complicated family!), plus an aunt and great-aunt. When you factor in friend, acquaintance, neighbour etc. it is clear that I have many 'faces' in the eyes of others and wear many 'hats' - as we all do through life.

Literal hats can be good as they are indicative of our function, role and responsibilities and can be things we wear with pride (or embarrassment perhaps, depending on the hat?!).

Metaphorical hats, however, can be either willingly or thoughtlessly jammed on our heads by ourselves or (most likely) by others. They are the labels and titles we may assume or be assigned.

I have lost a few hats on the way. Sadly, there is nobody left to whom I am a daughter or daughter-in-law. As for 'work colleague' - that term vanished, along with my nursing career, full independence and health, around 20 years ago. Since I am pretty reliant (to a large degree now) on my husband to take on most of the necessary domestic chores, I cannot honestly call myself a 'housewife' either! 

Neither do I wish to define myself solely by the labels of 'sick/incapacitated person' or 'ME sufferer' as they are not really how I see myself as a person. Long-term chronic illness and/or disability carries its own stigma, consequences and expectations from others; but those who suffer in that way want to be seen for who they really are beneath the effects of the disease or infirmity.

So how do we define ourselves?

Much of our identity and worth seem to come from what we do rather than who we are. It can become quite puzzling to answer the question: 'Who, or indeed what, am I?' I pondered these issues some years ago with relevance to the role of women in particular and it resulted in this poem below (previously published in 'Womens Words' anthology - 'Breaking the Chain' 2001), which seeks to verify and validate the essence of who a woman might be.

What am I?

I'm a goddess
I'm an angel
a harridan
a whore.
I'm a mother
I'm a lover
a sweeper 
of the floor.
I'm a puzzle
an enigma
no pigeon-hole
can fit.
I'm a nurturer
a nourisher
full of passion,
feelings, wit.
I'm fruitful
I'm decaying
I'm changing
all the time.
What am I?
I am woman
and I am
in my prime.

How we view ourselves may alter with time and circumstances. But there is a core, a centre of our being that is the essential person we feel we are. Maybe the hardest task we face in this image-conscious age is to allow that 'real person' to come to the forefront and be true to ourselves and others. For me, getting to know God as Father and Jesus as Lord and Saviour was instrumental in discovering who I am and what I was created for - a unique and valuable purpose - to be in relationship with Him. Because that is His desire for each one of us.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Can you hear me?

Welcome. It's good to meet with you here. After all, getting connected is what it's all about, right? Never before have we had such a varied frenzy of social networks to have our voices heard on. It used to be said that everyone could be famous for 15 minutes. Perhaps that should be 15 seconds these days as the demand to be heard increases while the attention span wanes in the midst of so many conflicting messages.

Sometimes it can feel like SHOUTING (sorry - very rude of me) is the only way to claim attention ~ to make us stand out from the crowd. But does it really help us to 'get heard'? It can be hard to be our true, authentic selves when we can so easily be different things to different people as the mood/social network takes us. After all, who can tell who we really are? An element of trust is involved.

We all have an intrinsic need to feel safe, loved and accepted. It is hard-wired into us from infancy and helps us to fulfil our potential when we have affirmation and positive regard from others and an equally balanced regard for ourselves. 

How we go about meeting our desires to be heard in adult life can vary according to what extent those basic, fundamental needs were met and satisfied (or not) during our early years when the foundations of loving and being loved were laid.

When we want to connect with those we love then things are usually quite different. We have several choices before us, but nothing beats 'face- to- face' contact. Focusing and giving undivided attention may feel alien in our distracting and distracted lifestyles but it's the very life-breath of close relationships. 

Within the context of a supportive, loving relationship we can hopefully be real, let down our guards and be open and honest ~ warts and all ~ knowing that we are loved for who we are rather than for what we say or do. Rather than needing to shout to be heard, we often don't need to say anything at all. And that's so refreshingly restful!

The poem below speaks of communicating with the one you love. It can also be interpreted in the light of hearing God's voice of love speaking through creation, where His name and fame are broadcast loud and clear. Yet He also speaks with a 'still, small voice' to our hearts ~ if we desire to hear from and be in relationship with Him. 

As the Bible says: 'Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear' - Isaiah 65:24. 

So even if you may feel nobody else hears you, cares what you are going through or can understand you, please remember that God hears the unspoken cries of your heart. He made you, understands you better than any other person can and will fully meet your need for love and acceptance.

'Whisper Your Name'

Whisper your name in the 
cold cubes of ice that
melt with heat's breath

Whisper your name in the 
wild, swirling tussle of 
leaves on the ground

Whisper your name in the
snow that is black
with your words

Whisper your name in the
warm, woody ashes of
Winter that's gone

Whisper your name in
Spring flowers that
nod out your greeting

Whisper your name in
the heavy haze of Summer sun
and Autumn sunsets

Whisper your name,
my love
and I'll.....
whisper MINE