Trust kept knocking…

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I set out to write about trust and ended up with a post on hope. That was a week ago.

These thoughts crossed my mind as I attempted to begin. Do you need trust to hope? Can hope be sustained without trust? And this line of enquiry got me to the hope post.

Hope is spiritual. It is an innate sense which has propelled human behaviour and societal changes. It is the “there must be something better”, the “we can improve on this” and ultimately “there is a tomorrow” to which humankind anticipates.

But it seems trust is not about to leave until I deal with it. So here it is.

 

Trust is the glue of life. … It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.   ~ Stephen Covey

Trust comes from the human experience of being with each other. Trust is relational. We are not born with an innate sense of trust. Trust is cultivated over a series of words and actions between people – parents and children, sibling to sibling, romantic partners, friends and colleagues… etc.

Because it is relational, trust is perhaps harder to access and maintain. We are working with someone else’ expression of trust, someone who carries with him or her a different worldview or lifestyle from ours. To understand this of each other and to create a trust relationship is tough indeed.

We often look to another’s words and actions as guidance to our sense of trust. The lawyer in me puts it this way. What has he done to prove I can trust him? What did she say which proved she cannot be trusted? And how much of this “feeling” can I trust of myself?

The reality is we will never know for certain. What holds a relationship of trust is the set of “norms and rules” that you and I have created around this relationship. It is the authenticity of us with each other that builds trust. Consider your relationships – the sibling you would trust to have your back no matter what but not when it comes to choosing your wedding dress; the friend whom you will call upon in times of material need but not for emotional support. It is circumstantial. An inherent element of reliability is required for any relationship of trust.

Let’s not however jump to judgment. To cultivate trust requires time. It requires patience, and the desire and the curiosity to explore what makes another tick. And if their tick matches our tock, then we are heading in the same direction.

 

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.”   ~ Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

It is worthwhile asking – how often do we examine our own words and behaviours, to assess if we are worthy of another’s trust? If authenticity in relating is required, how authentic, genuine, real have we been?

I have written about my friendships and the notion that every friend knows something about me, but not every friend knows everything about me. A thought – if every friend gets together, will they collectively know all there is to know of me? 🙂  I digress.

Being authentic does not mean wearing our heart on our sleeve or baring our soul to all asunder at all times. We get to choose when, how much and how soon. It means when we choose to do, we do so with truth and integrity. We are not faking it for reciprocity or to achieve an end.

To be trustworthy is to be real. To be open, vulnerable on our road to connect with another. Sometimes, it may backfire. Disappointment and betrayal are possible. Yet at least one of us has to be bold, to dare to risk the pain… one of us has to have the strength of character to trust one more time…again and again.

When our real-ness through our values in action meets another in their real-ness, we see the beginning of a trust relationship.

 

“Don’t wait for them to prove themselves to you. Trust them.”   ~ Karl Eikenberry

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

 

A real occasion

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Authenticity – when your beliefs, your words and your actions are aligned. Be real, that’s the common understanding. Simple, isn’t it?

I do my best to be honest with my children, including about Santa or the Easter Bunny. I am not a “truth” activist, out seeking to destroy fantasies but when they were old enough to ask me the Question, I told them my perspective. The same goes for Mother’s Day. In one view, it is a social construct that we have a day dedicated to mothers. This is not a judgment on whether it should be celebrated or not, or of its ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. To be fair, at the time when it first began (in the US in 1914), perhaps it was needed to raise awareness of this important and valuable role women play. Just as special Days are now being “proclaimed”.

So what happens when these same now-teenage children tell me they don’t see the sense in Mother’s Day, that it is an advertising hoax?

I could take offense and judge their reasons or worse, them, for saying so; or feel unappreciated or unloved; or be compelled to “forgive” them because “they are just being typical teenagers” and we would love them no matter what (even though we didn’t like them much that day); or I could be thrilled that they are perceptive and aware of the potential “fakery” of the world we live in, but with a lingering sense of loss for the occasion.

With our expectations, the emotional reactions when confronted with this will be varied, and so are the words and actions we use to make sense of it all.

And my response? A little hurt, initially. I bet not many positive thoughts were running through your minds reading this. Here is the thing – this ‘poor me’ feeling didn’t sit well. Something nagged at me and it dawned on me; this feeling was a “you should feel” feeling as a reaction to an expected narrative of what ought to happen. But should I?

What was real for me is this. This isn’t about what they do, but about me (after all, it is “Mother’s Day”). I who choose to be a mother, I who choose to love and guide them in the way I do. I who choose to see the reality of a young man who made time to spend his day with me, despite his many commitments and protestations of the commercialism of the day. No grand gestures of flowers, chocolates, breakfast in bed etc. I see a young woman contributing to the day in her usual sweet way, baking. I see these young persons who have been mindful and caring for my feelings, and not just on the day. And for these, I am loved and filled with gratitude.

Okay, the sense of occasion was still calling (I succumbed a little to the big hoo-haa after being bombarded by the media telling us the day had to be significant and “big”). The occasion I desired was to have a time of meaningful connection. Stepping into my authenticity and as any independent woman would, I asked for what I wanted. This was the result. I spent time with my family.

Ultimately, the motivation behind an occasion such as this matters. The real-ness is not about what prompted an occasion or how it is celebrated, it is in the ‘why’ of it. Why did you celebrate Mother’s Day, or any occasion? What feelings go with or into the occasion?

In a similar vein, why do we do any of the things we do each day? Does the doing match the values we hold and the words we expound?

Is what you do an authentic expression of who you are?

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Letters into the human psyche

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I have a fascination with what I call “the human condition”, and this probably charted the course for my training as a lawyer then a psychotherapist. I have taken (guilty?) pleasure reading the emotions and thoughts of others, the whys of their action and words, as they examine their lives in one form or another. Some may call it voyeuristic and over-thinking, and there were moments of these; often it is a genuine curiosity about what makes us tick and tock.

I have written about “Letters of Note” (2013) a compilation by Shaun Usher of correspondence by history figures in different facets of life. I came across his second compilation, unsurprisingly titled “More Letters of Note” (2015) last year.

At the heart of the correspondence in both volumes is the meaning and purpose of life, and love; shared from one to another which demonstrated our shared humanity.

No matter the time in history, our station in life, our wealth, our sexual preference or gender, our racial or ethnic background, our religious beliefs – we love and we seek to find meaning for those transitory moments.

Here is a letter written from mid-19th century Georgia, USA.

And here, a letter from a famous turbulent relationship.

 

Ah, so what is love?

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

It is not what it seems… maybe

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I wrote an email, somewhat scathing in tone, a few days ago. Entirely justified at the time, I thought. I felt I was being unduly taken advantage of, that the prospective recipient of the email was intentionally obstructive and perhaps malicious, at best unthinking and uncaring. Well, I had to defend myself, don’t I? I am entitled, don’t I? And anyone who knew the circumstances would see this and I would be justified in my action.

But no one saw this email. I did not send it.

My tapping away at the keyboard was cathartic, but catharsis could only go so far in making the situation “right”.

Thankfully, one of my habits is to never send an email drafted during an emotional flux.

Taking a large step back from the finished (but then unsent) email, these were what I realised:

  • Obviously, I was emotional. Of its own, perfectly acceptable and normal. But what happened when the emotions took over …
  • I turned inward and my mind took over. My thoughts revealed me at a low ebb – “I was being unduly taken advantage of”? Really? Have I in that one thought buy into a belief that I was a victim? That I had no say in this? Have I in that one thought about to give way my power?
  • Then, the construction of the “baddie” who was “intentionally obstructive”, “malicious”, “unthinking and uncaring”? This is judgment with a capital ‘J’. I’ll grant that my thoughts, being the rational person that I am, could be correct. Or they might not. But in the moments when I was drafting that email, my mind was closed to any other possibility. It was closed such that I (unconsciously) chose not to see an alternate perspective.
  • And really, what did it matter, if she was or was not? I was there to solve a “problem” not to make judgments about another’s motivations. Why would my actions be guided by anything other than respect for another human being, integrity and compassion?
  • Moving forward in a positive manner requires me to maintain a constructive relationship, moving forward requires me to let go of any and all of the history that could bind me, moving forward requires me to be able to look at myself in the mirror and not cringe or feel compelled to be defensive.
  • And that little voice in my head (?) or my heart said, “you are better than this.”

We have been there, this “feeling small” and “feeling helpless” place.

We have imagined the architects of our misery, rubbing their hands in glee with a malicious grin and gloating.

Well, in those moments we have also handed over responsibility for our self to another and blaming them for not looking after or caring or loving us.

So, this story ended with a phone call, expressing my concerns and being open to a response. The response – the words at least – was as I had expected but there was something else. The response was not “intentionally obstructive”, not “malicious”, not “uncaring”, perhaps a little “unthinking”. Okay, I can live with this, for now. And I (or my ego) would like to say that I had modeled an attitude and a behaviour which hopefully encourage reciprocity. Only time will tell.

What matters most to me is that, it felt right, it felt good, as the email if sent would not.

The lessons, which I keep close to me?

  • Be open to different perspectives and possibilities. There is a world beyond our experiences.
  • Proceed with the empowered self. Our words and actions will reflect this.
  • Let go. We can’t control the future.

 

Namaste.

~ FlorenceT

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

A different love letter…

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A letter of love which is somewhat different from the love letters (or emails or texts) that are being written now.  This letter is from 17th century Japan. 

Listen to the language of destiny, where ’till death do us part’ had greater significance, and the voice of dedication, and in particular, gratitude in love.

letter lady shigenari

This letter was extracted from ‘Letters of Note: Correspondence deserving of a wider audience‘, compiled by Shaun Usher. I did a book review on LitWorldInterviews about this book, if you are interested.

Wishing you Love,
– FlorenceT

 

© 2015 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Love can bring out the best in you

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“You bring out the best in me”, many says when in love while many others quest for the ‘you’ that would bring out the best in them.

Ever wonder how you would bring out the best in me, and vice versa?

Psychotherapists speak of “the gaze”. The gaze of acceptance of your flaws, the gaze that speaks of your ‘perfection’ in another’s eyes. I know the value of non-judgment and acceptance, of seeing the best of my clients.

That is a necessary but insufficient condition. Do we not also see the potential? I certainly do, and my job is to facilitate a journey of self-awareness, that my clients may also see their potential, their resources, their abilities… and take personal action towards it. I am not attached to a particular manner of journey-ing for I cannot walk their paths for them; nor can I appoint the destination. But this does not prevent me from encouraging the process of self-awareness.

As with my clients, and perhaps more so I see potential in my loved ones. And is it my ‘job’ then to also facilitate their journey of self-awareness? Why would I not, in my love for them?

And as a recipient of their love and thus their gaze, should I revel at being seen, to their belief that I possess potentialities? Should I not welcome a loved one’s encouragement and teaching? Perhaps then we may be at our best and with each other?

So then why is it that often, the “encouragement and teaching” are perceived as criticisms and unnecessary feedback? Why do we lament that “s/he should accept me for who I am” … when we can be more than who we are? Don’t we want to be the best we can be for ourselves, and for our loved ones? Encouragement and teaching do not equate to non-acceptance or worse, rejection.

In the dance of love, each has the responsibility to teach and to learn to perfect our part in the dance.

Love is to be the safety within which we explore our Selfs together.

 

~ FlorenceT

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Once a mother…

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“One day someone calls her “Mother”. That is what she remains for the rest of her life.”
Cao XueQin

Chinese-mother-baby

What a profound quote. And one which is open to many interpretations.

What does it mean to you? You women who are mothers, and who are not? Men who have known Mothers in your life?  What feelings rise to the fore as you read these words – joy, sadness, fear, resentment, uncertainty…?

My initial reaction was one of cynicism and somewhat scornful. So, this statement of popular sentiment became a subject for reflection. 

I don’t think Cao’s statement was intended to be limiting or denigrating to women. Here’s the context:

Cao was an 18th century Chinese writer whose novel “A Dream of Red Mansions” is considered a literary gem and was pronounced one of the Four Great Works of Chinese literature. The book was a romance novel on its face but represented a social commentary on family and social life within the Qing Dynasty. His book was, as Cao stated, “a memorial to the women he knew”, and the female protagonist though rebellious was a representation of aristocratic women of the times, restrained and fragile, and their unfortunate fate in feudal society. Cao’s awareness of the plight of women in a patriarchal and largely mysogynistic society suggests his sympathy.

So back to my less than enthusiastic reaction to this quote.

Like Cao, I am of Chinese origin. Unlike Cao, I am a modern woman and one who straddles two worlds – a woman who has lived in and thus familiar with a reserved collectivist Chinese culture and who now lives in a liberal individualistic ‘Western’ culture. I am a working mother of two, and myself a daughter who has experienced a version of ‘mother’.

Therefore, Cao’s statement is bittersweet.

The ‘bitter’ part of Cao’s statement is a suggestion on its face – that once a woman becomes a mother, that’s all she’ll ever be for the rest of her days. Her identity is entrenched in the role of ‘Mother’ and obliterating the other facets of ‘Woman’.

It brings forth the perceived universal ideals of ‘Mother’ – loving, caring, nurturing, protective, giving, selfless. But is it? These ideals have served to homogenise varied experiences of being a mother; they bind women in their expression of mothering. What of the mother who struggles to love her children, what of the mother who does not care or nurture according to societal expectations, what of the mother who ‘fails’ to protect, what of the mother who also takes?

Do these ideals give space for the “good enough” mother? I certainly prefer to operate on the ‘good enough’ principle, though my actions are informed in part by these ideals and will continue to do so, I’d imagine. I choose not to be bound by these ideals, and to celebrate the uniqueness of my individual children, my relationship with each of them and thus my mothering.

Cao’s reference to “Mother” may of course be intended to embrace the many faces of a mother. Of this, I will not know. Suffice to say, the ideals of ‘Mother’ are likely to be barriers to women’s social, economic and political empowerment. But only if we allow them to.

Am I a mother for the rest of my life? Yes, and with a joyous heart, I accepted this role many moons ago. I cannot unlearn what is within me nor do I want to. My children will always know me as mother and for that, I am grateful.

Am I the ‘Mother’? I don’t think so, and I am pleased.

Am I more than ‘mother’? Yes. As my children grow, they journey with me and experience me as a woman, whether they would be prescient to know this. They experience the mother as I am, and I fervently hope, a good enough mother.

Perhaps one day my children will see me as ‘Woman’ first, notwithstanding my mothering role – a woman who loves, who provides, who supports, who fights for those she loves and for her beliefs, who retreats to create peace, who forgives, who challenges, who celebrates her achievements, who creates. Perhaps one day, they may also forgive the woman who criticises, who gets angry because she was in a mood, who prefers to read instead of talking to them, who says ‘no’ without reason or explanation, who makes decisions without discussion. One day, they will see the complexity of the human experience, and that which I embody.

Woman is a ray of God: she is not the earthly beloved.
She is creative: you might say she is not created.
Rumi

– FlorenceT

[Edited 25 Nov 2016]

 

References:
Chineseculture.org, ‘Cao Xueqin’ at http://www1.chinaculture.org/library/2008-02/08/content_23134.htm
Wikipedia, ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_of_the_Red_Chamber

 

© 2014 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Contemplation on Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving… giving thanks… for what do we give thanks? Today? At this time?

In a time when every change, great or small, is tracked, accentuated, dissected, analysed, discussed… its volume so loud that we lose sight of its actual significance, we lose the measure of their relative importance. Everything is the same, and nothing is the same. The noise causing us to lose our sense of what is true.

So perhaps at this time of year – whether we are religious or otherwise, whether we are alone, with family or friends, whether we are home or missing home – we may carve out a space to contemplate on what is true – the circle of life which connects us andtouches everyone, as it crosses every boundary underneath the sun“.

 

Some say
The walls between us stand so tall
They don’t see there’s just one sun
Shining on us all

I say
We each choose roads to call our own
But none of us is travelling through
This universe alone

And this circle
Just goes on and on
It began before us
It will be here when we’ve gone

And this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Connecting our humanity
Joining me to you and you to me

Seasons
Keep spinning on the wheel of time
We stand we fall
We struggle up

The mountains we must climb
Different dreams
May color what we see ahead
But our lives are strong together
On a common thread

And this circle (circle)
Just goes on and on (on and on)
It began before us
It will be here when we’ve gone

And this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Connecting our humanity
Joining me to you and you to me

Around and round and round and round we go
Around and round and round we go
Love and learn and change and grow
Round and round and round we go

And this circle
Touches everyone
As it crosses every boundary
Underneath the sun

And this circle
Just goes on and on
It began before us
It will be here when we’re gone

Yes this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Someday we will come to see
I’m joined to you and you to me

So to my American friends and readers:

happy-thanksgiving

~ FlorenceT

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

She, a micro story

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She did not know what hit her. One moment she was in the dumps, disappointed with life and who she had become; the next she was awakened to life’s possibilities, her dreams no longer a distant past but a possible future.

 

If she knew the road ahead, she might have been less thrilled… then again perhaps not. She had made a right turn without realising, chosen a fork on the road without being asked to… but then she had been asleep, dead to herself so how would she have known. Which made it all the more miraculous, incredible in its simplicity and bounty.

 

She would never understand how it had come to pass but it did. Simple words, always words that meant so much. Her longing grew each day as they were all she had on this path… just that and even so, more than she had thought herself deserving or needing. Before, rarely a thought for herself but of the needs of others; and at times resenting yet persisting with the duties that made her who she was, without which she had believed rendered her nothing. She knows now she is more, those words arrive daily of the mundane, the unique, the humorous, of everything – to comfort, to support, to hold – filling her days with meaning and purpose.

 

She has walked this path longer than she thought she could, inspired by the goodness she felt, the strength she desired, the vulnerability she respected, the peace she yearned – this uplifting journey she hopes to remain. And on the low ebb days, those fears of rejection and abandonment still arise. She had lost her faith a little, tempered her trust of others; she might even have told herself she would be better alone. But she is healing on this path; and though confident she can be all that she wants on her own, she knows it’s manifold better and greater here on this road.

 

She is reminded of her needs and desires, those she had met for others, those she will now embrace for herself. For she craves attention too; care and kind gestures a balm. Now she loves again, she trusts; she has faith again. She will truly be free, she will have it all… perhaps. No matter, the journey is enough, more than she hoped. And all because of the enticing words that beckoned in the beginning, and the many many words that have followed across space and time… words, his.

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.