Test of love

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Love is love is love, so it is said.

Love is a feeling I hope we experience throughout our life for people who come into and out of our life, people who are forever tied to us through their presence or our memory of them, and places that leave indelible impressions in our life.

Love is a feeling that ebbs and flows; this is inevitable as change occurs and love diminishes or reinvigorates.

Love is not just a noun; it is not just a “thing” that we have or do not have. Love cannot persists without conscious attention. How will we know love unless we know love by noticing what it inspires?

The feeling of love cannot sustain, not for long anyway, the practical reality of living with or being with a loved one. We are attracted to the supportive words, kind gestures and quiet presence that we know to be love. And we are not immune or blind to the socks left lying on the wet bathroom floor, the promises not kept, the lies told… and what then?

Therefore, love is also a verb. “To love” as well as “to have love”.

Whether a romantic relationship, or a parent-child relationship, or friendship, doing love is an imperative. Love is a precondition, and loving becomes the act to preserve love. It means doing for another at times by denying our self. I am not referring to the martyr parent or companion; this can be as simple as shortening time out with friends in order to collect your child, getting out of bed on the weekend after a long work week to make breakfast for your spouse, listening and supporting a friend even as she repeats the same mistake – the “little” but significant attention offered willingly and lovingly.

To cease doing love is when we take love for granted.

The test of love can thus be this – Are we consciously attending to our loved ones, to their physical, psychological and emotional needs? Are they to us?

This I know, loving inspires love.

 

~ FlorenceT

 

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

Capricious #Haiku Challenge 157 @RonovanWrites

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RonovanWrites Haiku Challenge 157 with prompt words – Amuse, Irate

 capricious antics
irate I cease to be, so
amused I look on.
~ FlorenceT

 

And here’s a song to go with the haiku 😉 :

 

 

 

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

 

Apocalyptic movie or documentary?

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The promise of a movie night, with a simple dinner and a little sugar-filled treat we had bought for later. All seemed in place. She picked an apocalyptic movie – humanity’s only survivors from a climate disaster on a train to nowhere under the control of the greedy in power.

Twenty minutes in and I’d had enough. The portrayal of violent, selfish and evil people causing pain and suffering was too much for me to handle. She said I was ‘soft’. I laughed. “I don’t need to see the horrors humans can inflict on other humans”, I said.

If he had been here, I would have been mocked for the ‘loss’ of movie night. He wasn’t, and there was no loss. We decided to watch David Attenborough’s “Planet Earth”, again.

And what a pleasant gratifying experience that was!  To be reminded that
• our vast world still sustains us, even as we humans continue to test its limits;
• the natural world still holds many mysteries and wonders so let’s be humble;
• we ought not lose sight of or interest in this world we inhabit for it has much to teach us;
• we and the world beyond the boundaries of human-made structures are inter-dependent, and the survival of one is reliant on the other.

Sitting with her on the couch watching this documentary felt right. I had moved away years before from “indulging” in pain and suffering, the overcoming of which is worn as a badge of honour. No. There is more to my life than that. And no, I was not avoiding the reality of life.

I am aware of the trauma that can be life. I have experienced some of that. I am also privileged not to have experienced the worst of it. But as was told to me by a wise woman those years ago, “where you expend your energy, that is what you feed”. The media creation of need to consume the worst of humanity, the normalising of voyeuristic, and perhaps narcissistic, tendency to feed upon the plight of others – not where I intend to be.

As James Redfield said, “[E]nergy flows where attention goes.” And so where I can help, I do. Where I can’t, I choose not to energize.

But I told her none of this, only relaxing into the moment of a Saturday evening at home. We discussed natural history and geography, theory of evolution, the behaviour of the male species in the animal kingdom (humans included)… 🙂 and much more.

I was content that we were not expending our energy on a movie focussed on the darker side of the human condition, which propagated the narrative that fighting is the way to success and freedom, and being physically tough and psychically hard were the only ways to be. She wasn’t, not in that moment, further indoctrinated into the cynicism and distrust that can fuelled our existence.

Granted “Planet Earth” had its gory scenes of predator and prey, life and death. I was fine for her to see the cycle of life, the natural order of things if you like. To appreciate the black, white and grey areas of living. It gave me great comfort that nature knows what to do to survive, so long as we humans do not impose our will on it.

I was not ‘soft’, not in the sense of being weak and scared. I was perhaps just tired of the perpetual narrative of fight, dominance, ‘toughness’, and pessimism on the inevitable plight of the human experience. I have no wish to spend more minutes on negativity and pain. “Be like water” comes to mind. Flow and leave your mark.

Maybe I was over-thinking it, putting words to the experience. The feeling of my body constricting during twenty minutes of the movie, in contrast to the sense of peace and inspiration of the documentary, the choice was clear.

So I am soft, in choosing to be positive, to expend my energy on matters which lift and on creatures of beauty, to contribute to a positive consciousness.

What would you do?

~ FlorenceT

 

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

Turning home #Haiku Challenge 156 @RonovanWrites

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RonovanWrites Haiku Challenge 156 with prompt words – Ocean, Shore

 

On your shore, it calls
Oceans apart, waves carry
Echoes’ crescendo.
~ FlorenceT

 

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

 

We touch lives…

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It was masked in righteous indignation and criticism because they were easier to tap into. The holier-than-thou feeling of ‘how could people not see this’, and ‘how could they be so mean’… The suppositions that everyone ought to see or be, and when they don’t, their actions were intentionally hurtful…

I noticed moments after they arose what IT actually was, this surge of aggression that welled up.

A mentee contacted me seeking help to address a bureaucratic process which compelled her to “prove” she was financially unable to meet a required fee. This fee would impact on whether she could pursue her career or not. Now, providing documentation in support is no big deal, guess we are all so used to supplying proof that we would hardly blink.

The reply she had received was a template email reply, which failed to respond to her request and the reasons she provided. The reasons for her financial hardship told of an estranged relationship, a proud family getting by, a neglectful father, the indignities of abandonment and much more. How does one provide proof of these? Do we require bank statements showing minimal balance? Do we require proof of the anxious feelings of insecurity and sorrow? Do we put a fellow human being through greater indignity and embarrassment? If someone had taken the time to make a phone call, her voice over the line spoke volumes, as I found out.

I needed to know ‘why’ for the impersonal reply and was told it was sent because she could have been lying and that she might be taking advantage of the system. Thus, by implication she was required to overcome this baseline by “proving her case”.

Two days of emotional processing later (subconsciously it would seem as the matter resolved that day and I didn’t think much of it after), I realised over and above the anger, I was sad.

I was sad that we have been “programmed” to expect the worse of another, to have a baseline from which we had to prove we are good and worthy.

I was sad that we are “programmed” to see our work as isolated from our environment, as a means to an end of just making a living, and to not see that our actions however small they may be and wherever we may be located, impact on another person.

When did we learn to disassociate our humanness from the industrious machine we call ‘work’?

As Maya Angelou said,

Your legacy is what you do every day. Your legacy is every life you’ve touched, every person whose life was either moved or not. It’s every person you’ve harmed or helped, that’s your legacy.

If we had taken time to put ourselves in another’s shoes and to mindfully exercise the empathy we are all capable of, we would realise few would create a family story such as that told to me. If we had stopped to have a real conversation, we would not have assumed the worse and prejudged the situation.

And in the failure to attend to the interactions and the relationships, we lose the opportunity to stay true to our humanness.

So in spite my anger and sadness, I believe we are not inherently mean nor are we intentionally hurtful, few are. Yet our unthinking and not-mindful actions can hurt.

We can choose to engage with and to make a positive difference to another’s life.

  1. Pay attention.

Behind every letter, email, text message, and in every conversation… there is a person and a story. Pay attention to it.

Listen, truly listen with a compassionate heart and an open mind. In that moment, be prepared and seek to understand.

  1. Be mindful.

Let go of judgment of another or what they may think of us. Attend to the person, not your idea of the person. Choose to be mindful to every word, every gesture, every pause, … they are meaningful.

Let go of time as the arbiter of our actions, there is always more time. Easier said than done, I agree though it is not undo-able. Perhaps we’ll be inspired by what’s next.

  1. Stop, know this.

What we do is not just about us, our efficiency, our productivity, our task completion. What we do impacts on another person, what we do influences the culture in which we work and how we live.

Kindness shown is always felt, and more likely to inspire kindness.

 

Not everyone has to do “great things” to make a difference; every one of us can do small things with love and that makes a difference to those we come in contact with.

 

~ FlorenceT

 

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

 

 

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.