When someone thanks you, take time to let it change you.
When someone thanks you, take time to let it change you.
It’s very easy for me to think of several periods throughout my childhood, teenage and adult life when I have felt like I was living while being ‘crushed’ and burdened by inner pain.
Intense emotional and psychological pain, fear, crippling anxiety, depression, low self esteem, rejection, helplessness, and feeling oppressed from a large part being ‘bullied’ (it’s such tame word for abuse) in childhood, for instance.
The physical pain from a nervous system all but wrecked by the overproduction of stress hormones, causing fight, flight, a sensitivity to pain sensations triggered by the smallest of things, in my brain, painful skin conditions, panic attacks, hyperventilation, dizziness, difficulty breathing, dissociation, stomach pains and physical ailments, nightmares, a brain / mind that feels like it is ‘exploding’ and might even self destruct.
And the mental pain from verbal and emotional abuse at an early and formative stage. The kind of pain that doesn’t come and go, but remains a constant for years, even as you try to make it through each day. The intensity of pain that makes you wonder whether there is a ‘way out’.
Can you relate? Do you know in your own life how tough it is, even if ‘on the surface’ it looks like everything is going fine, and even if other people think you have an enviable and ‘easy’ life?
There have been several times like that for me, that I have just had to endure, to cling on as the Grace of God holds and buffets me through the storm, and as He gently heals me through tough seasons of life. Enduring has been a challenge and in my pain and distress I’d find myself fearing that I didn’t have what it takes to keep going, fearing what would happen to me, how could I make it through, and so many other things. My reactions would be to focus on that excruciating pain, to cry out to people for help in my distress, and it was all so very hard.
Sometimes, the pain surfaces again, but the years of endurance are beginning to bear fruit. I realise that the gruelling years of suffering in these ways, even if they have been ‘invisible’ to others, have built my resilience. When you’re in the eye of the storm, thinking of the gain that pain will bring later is just an unhelpful cliché in the moment that does nothing to soothe the suffering. But just as an athlete, or as someone who puts their body through challenging exercises of endurance in time pushes past the pain to gain strength, definition, character, so too do we when we persevere through pain.
We push past our pain and develop coping mechanisms. And we cope.
But then we push past our coping mechanisms and begin to create.
We create avenues of growth, of learning, of character, of opportunity, as pain pushes us to exercise muscles of faith, as our character grows through endurance, we find in ourselves the definition of tenacity, and as we recognise that we no longer have to be oppressed by or negatively defined by our pain, we find a new, truer, deeper Identity.
WE become Overcomers.
When pain surfaces, we understand its familiarity. We no longer fear defeat, because we have pushed through every time, whether with tears or tantrums, or gracefully, but we have pushed through nonetheless to arrive at this point.
What have we learned? Mental endurance. Acceptance that this is an inevitable part of the journey but that it can be utilised as a means of growth and positive change rather than an instrument of suffering and distress.
We fall but we rise again. And with every instance of this we get stronger. Until one day we find that we are no longer merely lifting ourselves up, but reaching out to lift someone else up from the mire. WE train, and we become trainers. WE endure and we become inspirers. WE suffer, and we become overcomers. WE persevere and we change our futures.
When we take time to redefine our mental roadmaps, what the pain in our life means to us, then we change how we ‘greet’ it when it appears, we change its significance from being something happening to us, to something we can use for good. We face forward and get up again, knowing that we have always got up and we will get stronger, push onwards and not be defeated. We will become more agile in processing, drawing meaning from, and overcoming the pain in our lives. And as we do so, we use the same strength that took us through seasons of endurance, to propel us into being people who grow, who build, who teach, who equip, who serve, who inspire, who hope, who persevere with hope, who see opportunities in challenges.
The Pain will Not Defeat Us.
Summary of Approach so Far – Has it been Effective? Yes:
Well, day 3 of the retreat has arrived, and this is the final day. My approach to yesterday’s writing was not to set myself specific targets as to word count, as I did on day 1, but to focus on engaging more deeply and enjoying the creative process. Later that day I adapted my approach and set aside a time frame within which to write, but with a focus on the process and no set word count to aim for.
It turned out to be a freeing and productive approach and I have moved forwards in my writing. In case you are interested, total words written of my novel over days 1 and 2 is 6,142 words. This is something I have been working on over a number of years already, so I wasn’t starting from scratch and therefore already had a narrative and momentum in place. However, if you are approaching a retreat with the idea of producing something completely new, it is helpful to do some brainstorming before hand, to sketch out some rough ideas of what you want to focus on and write about so that you start your retreat with inspiration and not feeling at a loss as to what you are actually going to create.
As to where those words have taken me – I have been able to develop the narrative, the characterisation as well as introducing new characters. I’m happy with the quality of my writing, but I do think that I may come back to refine a few sentences at a later point. More deeply, the development of one of my protagonists, who is an expression of myself, has helped me to change the way I see myself and circumstances and potential for overcoming challenges in my own life, so that is definitely an aspect of the retreat that will stay in my heart and that I will take forwards into everyday life.
Morning of Day 3:
Taking time aside for a personal retreat, laying aside many of the usual daily distractions and everyday ‘noise’ to focus on a particular task can be very beneficial on a number of levels. However, it can also be a time when in a healing sense, difficult things can rise to the surface of our hearts, that we might be tempted to ‘stuff down’, especially during our usual busy routines. This can be challenging but also in the long term freeing if we allow ourselves to work through things to come out stronger on the other side, rather than running from them.
Final day, anxiety, and tips for maintaining momentum once you re-enter the ‘real world’:
Anxiety issues are bothering me again, but I can choose how to think and react to these unpleasant feelings. I have suffered for many years from anxiety, panic and PTSD, but I am overcoming them. That aside, in general, people may feel a sense of restlessness, anxiety and even panic when their retreat is drawing to a close.
Suddenly you are more aware of the shortness of time, you may not have accomplished what you set out to do, you may have a mess around you to tidy and have to prepare for ‘going back’ to your everyday world and routine, and after having been safely tucked away in your own creative space without having to contend with other people’s problems, thoughts, demands or chatter, it can be a source of anxiety to conclude a retreat well.
I realise that I am partly in this state, but I have found breaking things down, and blogging the process has been entirely beneficial and productive for me, and hopefully interesting to you in considering your own retreat needs, approaches and expectations.
To keep from feeling overwhelmed, I am just approaching each bit of the day as it comes. This morning I had breakfast, spent time in prayer, and listening to Psalm 119 online as it sometimes helps me to concentrate on the Word when hearing it audibly.
It is currently just after 10am, and I am blogging this update, while listening to calming instrumental background music to help manage the anxiety. This morning, I have new thoughts and developments that I’d like to write more about in my novel, so I may spend a little time doing that. However, I feel like I am also in a good place with it in terms of ‘next steps’ having had this concentrated writing time, as there are some details that I will need to research and this will enable me to have a task in mind for when I do go back into my day to day life and have less focussed writing time – I can leisurely look into researching certain things that I am including in some upcoming scenes for when I do get another chance to sit down and write.
It’s good to have something like that so that once you move into a busier routine when you have other commitments to balance, if that is also the case for you, then you won’t just be left feeling like your project has come to a halt. Maybe there are aspects of your book or project you can research, talk to people about, take notes, prepare ideas and so forth without actually having to write about them at that stage. That will help you keep the momentum going and allow yourself time to think and ‘mull over’ ideas for when the time comes around again for more focussed writing.
It’s now 10.18am, and I will spend a modest amount of time writing and laying down some ideas, and points for future research, that I can explore in more depth at a later point.
Update at 11.37am: I wrote an additional 227 words of my novel this morning, and as the new concepts and scenes I have begun to introduce are a little bit ‘bigger than me’ at the moment, I will need to spend time in prayer, reading, researching, thinking and seeking wisdom as to how to develop them further. So, with those exciting challenges ahead, I am concluding the novel writing part of the retreat, having written a grand 3 day total of 6,369 words, and feeling Thankful to God.
Sometimes the simplest lessons in ‘life’s kitchen’ are the most obvious, and yet yield deeper nourishment if we learn to feast on them.
Today’s unexpected lesson was a reminder of what I have been working through on a deeper level for several years, that there is purpose in pain, and sometimes a very specific purpose.
You’ve probably guessed by now that there was a minor injury in the kitchen. I burned the side of my finger when I touched a hot dish, and I surprised myself at the speed and efficiency of my actions in the retraction of my hand, and dousing it in cold water, in reaction to the sharp and targeted pain. An automatic reaction, and far less clumsy that had I tried to pull away and soothe myself purposely. To my physical senses, the reality of the heat of the dish was not apparent (although it should have been – temporary lapse of concentration shall we say), yet the instantaneous pain and reaction has been a saving grace. No major harm was done, I protected myself and the lingering sensation of pain, although fading, serves as a conscious reminder to myself to be aware and careful. And it has also served a bigger purpose in the expression of the lesson in this blog post!
I don’t know what pain you have in your life, but we all live in a ‘fallen’ and fractured world, in which no one is immune from pain. Perhaps it is physical, mental, psychological, or all of the above. The pain we experience differs, and often it can feel and seem arbitrary, chaotic, meaningless….unfair….? You fill in the blanks. However, just take a moment to think about how pain has served you in your life. Has it made you get out of a difficult situation (like my reaction to draw my hand away from a heat source), has it compelled you to seek healing, comfort and relief (perhaps the Rivers of the Water of Life to soothe you)? Have you sought to learn how to soothe yourself in a healthy and safe way? And perhaps has the pain of your experiences left an indelible mark upon your mind that although reminds you of something painful and difficult, in fact serves as a life long lesson that in fact can benefit you as you realise that your reaction to pain in your life can be one of protection, healing, growth and learning?
Pain is pain…there’s no way around that. Yet, we have ‘at our fingertips’, as sore as they may be, some of life’s deepest and most valuable lessons….what do you think? x
Travelling teaches you to know yourself. Sometimes we take it for granted that we know certain aspects of our character or personality well, however, it may be the case that we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned in a certain way in our day-to-day lives, or we may be drifting along with our ‘likes, dislikes, decisions or opinions’ being influenced or even imposed upon us by those around us. We may simply find ourselves going with the flow, and not really experiencing the opportunities to live in a way that authentically resonates with who we really are.
Travelling, especially when we are able to do so alone, helps us to grow in awareness of our own needs, wants, desires, as well as of our own shortcomings, failures and need to change or develop certain aspects of our character. Living a life of authenticity is so important, however, although travel is a beautiful teacher in this respect, we can also carve out in our daily lives opportunities for such growth and reflection by taking time out, and being purposeful in getting to know ourselves better, and living more authentically as a result.
Travelling teaches you to plan ahead. Travelling also teaches you to leave your plans behind.
There is so much to explore, and limited time, so we may find we gain the most from our experiences if we have in mind what we most want to see and do and focus on those. These lessons in planning and preparation can be useful and transferable into our ‘ordinary’ lives. We are so ‘wired up’ in the 21st Century to try to have multiple ‘tabs’ open in our lives, however, just as our computers and devices can only handle so much, so too we sometimes need a ‘re-boot’ or to close down some of the tabs we have so that we can enrich our experience of the fewer things we actually choose to do, and be more productive and efficient in making the most of our time in doing so.
However, travelling also teaches us to sometimes leave our plans behind, to go with the ebb and flow of experience, and to discover these new experiences organically rather than rigidly trying to set our own timetables, schedules or expectations of how we think things ‘ought’ to be. Sometimes we are enriched by being open to possibilities in the moment, to saying ‘yes’ when it is safe to do so, and to being truly present and alive in the here and now.
We all have different and unique preferred styles of learning, experience and also in our approach to travel. These may shift and change, or we may lean more heavily towards one side more than another…yet it is good to be open to learning from both, and enhancing the depth, and quality of our experiences as we do so. What is your preferred way and approach to new experiences and travel opportunities in your life? (c).
(c) Photograph I took in Bellagio, Italy, August 2018.
Travelling teaches you that there is so much more to life to be explored, discovered and experienced than you had ever thought possible, and that there are so many opportunities out there to expand your horizons. It teaches you to think beyond what you are used to, to challenge yourself not to stagnate, and to bring these lessons back into your everyday life. Don’t get stuck in a rut, or think that just because the people around you may not be able to see beyond the confines of their day-to-day routine that you also have to limit your vision. Get out there, see new things, do new things, challenge yourself, and never stop learning or growing ~ travelling is such a great life teacher, so if or when you get the opportunity, with wisdom, go for it. (c) ❤
Happy New Year Dear Friends,
I apologise for the hiatus in blogging, and have come out of my blogging hibernation to wish you all the very best of life’s lessons and blessings in 2018. I haven’t been in hibernation completely, as the wintery / festive season is quite a special time for me, and after some difficult years I have had a more peaceful and cosy season, and have been busy living life.
It’s a funny time of the year, isn’t it? I am a planner, and tend to set goals throughout the year rather than have new year’s resolutions as such, but I do love the time of more intentional reflection that this time of the year can bring, and feeling that other people are also reflecting upon their own lives, and seeing opportunities in which we might learn together.
And yet, this can also be a time of undue pressure and self and other imposed expectations to somehow transform our lives, set goals, meet goals and make big changes. So, instead of posting along those lines, I just want to offer you a big New Year hug, knowing that we all have our ups and downs, good days and bad, times where we feel motivated, and others where we just want to squirrel away into a little ball and hibernate a bit longer.
So here’s a hug. I hope that you will have someone else to hug this week. And that you take the time to just pause, reflect, and simply ‘be’ knowing that you are unique and awesome as you have been made, regardless of whether you hit those targets or not.
And while you take a deep breath, with all the lessons you have learned from the year gone by, and looking forward into the unknown of 2018, don’t forget to have some ‘down time’ to relax, rest and be thankful, and take time to heal if need be – afterall, it is the season to by COSY.