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Writing on Water ~ Self-Awareness Online Book



My spirit has learned through action, and for all sorts of reasons and choices, experience has been gained by living on various continents and doing different things.  There is an alchemy to the times I have re-invented myself and an inner drive that feels I can offer support and comfort to others. My hope for this first in a series of books, is that you can dip in and out as you need and it gifts you a peaceful place to rest, reflect and find more self-acceptance.  I share through stories and loving practicality on the simplicity that can be found in today’s harried life and how we can become aware of the natural energy that connects us all.


Currently, there is a huge self-development movement running through the world and this has been gathering momentum for a few decades. My perception is the roots go back to when the swell of ‘peace on earth’ energy from the sixties, crashed and burned in the ‘must have stuff at any cost’ energy of the eighties.


We seek solace from so many external sources, yet the hollow echo within remains.


I stepped out onto the roof terrace from my flat recently and the sky was full of wispy clouds. The sight took my breath away and I captured a photograph of the moment without filters, and this is the image that came through. 

 I have never been a believer in the ‘one size fits all’ structures of set religious paths, ‘do this or never change’ self-development programs, and specific practices to the exclusion of all else. It all has merit, yet the ‘my way or the highway’ approach does not encourage individuality.

I feel we craft our own faith and path as we live and gain experience. Life tools can be gathered as we share with loved ones, spend time with friends, attend church, courses, groups, workshops, read, observe, and listen.  It’s all learning and about gaining self-awareness. Each soul is on their own path, doing things in its own way.


Self-awareness builds confidence and trust in ourselves. It raises questions though in equal measure because a curious life is a living one.


All the discoveries are leading to what? Perfection?


I hope not, because I don’t feel there is any such thing as perfection. We are perfectly imperfect just as we are in any given moment and there is grace and peace in self-acceptance.


The paradox is we are never ‘done’; yet in creating and nurturing as we live and discover, we can embrace ourselves just as we are.  The gift of life is the space to explore and find out how we can be heard and held. May the stories in this Writing on Water; Self-awareness online book help you to navigate your way.






Something out of ordinary happened one day and it stopped me in my tracks. I had called a loan company to ask for an extension on my payment arrangement with them and many emotions were flowing through as I made the call. I also had a set expectation that I would have to navigate their standard script and I’d braced myself for that. I was deep down sick and tired of financial struggle and ashamed that nothing I had tried to increase my finances had worked so far. The lady who took my call listened as I explained and then she responded with kindness and no judgment. It changed the whole feel of the communication and altered my emotional state, as I relaxed and eased back into my chair. I was unaware that tension had held my body leaning forward and I wasn’t breathing properly either. As she agreed to an extension, I mentioned that at times of change it takes time to create new ways and they don’t always all work out either.


‘It’s like an oil tanker turning around at sea. Someone told me once it takes twenty-two miles for them to change direction.’


She laughed and responded with ‘At my age I too need the grace of time.’


‘Thank you for being kind, as it makes all the difference.’ I spoke.


Then she surprised me.


‘We’re all in the same boat, Jane. None of us escape the system and the trap of borrowing money nowadays. If we can hold each other without judgment and support to change how we do things, that will make all the difference.’


Tender: that was the energy of that moment and it stayed with me.


How often are we tender with ourselves?


Busy with our days and everything that we need to do. Seeing, reading, and being told that we need to practice self-care. Do we pause to be tender to ourselves?  It struck me that we may not even know how to. I certainly didn’t. I’d done a glorious job of mentally beating myself up as I made that call and my body had shrunk into itself as I did so.


After that I noticed moments everywhere in my daily round that asked for tenderness.


A long-awaited dream was realised as I attended a wood carving course this year and in the peace of an art studio collective, a few kindred spirits started to learn the tools, types of wood and how to create in wood. At one stage I lopped off the stem of the ivy I was carving, and I called out to our teacher for help. She is naturally calm and as she walked over, she said ‘There is nothing that is a mistake.’ Then she showed me how to carve down and bring something back to life.


She was tender.


How different would life be for us if we paused to consider being tender to ourselves? The words we use internally, the actions we take and the emotions we hold onto. Goodness me, even the stories we tell ourselves. It’s natural for us to create scenarios that comfort and make us feel secure and there can be tenderness in looking at those scripts, the beliefs we hold and the things we tell ourselves. Tenderness can flow through in so many ways and we don’t have to make huge changes either. Like going to the kettle to make a cup of coffee.

Your inner chat could be ‘I have too much caffeine in a day.’ ‘Why can’t I make a healthier choice.’ Or worse, you’re busy filling your mind with the pressure of all the things you need to do. There’s a myriad of thoughts running through as you flick the kettle on, and I wonder how many of them are tender.  If you enjoy a cup of coffee, then putting love into the making of it and gifting yourself time to enjoy it, is lovingly tender for you.


I was a living paradox. Being tender and patient with others yet putting myself under terrible pressure and self-censure.


My home by the water has brought nature’s flow into the days and there is much joy in watching the birds as they fly the thermals alone. In pairs they skim across the top of the waves in harmony and as flocks they fly and take it in turns at the front, rising and dipping in unison. In all their flights I see tenderness as they flow with nature and each other.


A few years ago, deep in rural France, I flew out to look after a friend’s sensitive dog as they had to return to England for a few weeks and kennels were not an option.  They were concerned that I would struggle being so isolated.

With no village shop nearby, or even a village come to think of it, and neighbour’s a distance away, it truly was a rural idyll. I refused the offer of a hire car, as I didn’t want to feel the pressure of being a tourist and I assured them I was happy to just be there and to walk the lanes and the field edges with Belle. It was a time I will never forget. Early morning walks in the mist, afternoon naps in the heat and evening walks where the dark velvet sky was comforting.   There was an old church in the nearby farm hamlet, and it rang the bell out for the valley farmers first thing, at midday and in early evening. Belle and I fell into the routine of walking and napping to the call of the bell. We used to meet the local plum, broad bean and sunflower farmers and converse in my ‘pigeon’ French, with hand gestures and hugs. It was tender for Belle to avoid other dogs and to have peace on our walks and our daily routine gave her the security that she was alright, and life was safe.


One day we were sitting in the shade outside after lunch and a noise I had never heard before grew until it was all we could hear. Belle nestled on my lap, and we looked up to see hundreds of cranes flying over. It seemed like a long time for them all to pass by and we could still hear their calls long after they disappeared into the horizon.

They were migrating to the hotter lands of Southern Spain and North Africa for the winter and the babies among them were nestled in the middle of the flying Vs for protection. I blogged about it, as I felt so privileged to see them and buddies reached out and shared their experiences. A doctor in a hospital in Sweden wrote about the lakes he passed on his way to work each day on a train, and these were the breeding grounds for the cranes. A lifelong friend of mine wrote about how she had watched them pass by her mother’s home in Germany and another work buddy shared how some of them landed near her home in Spain.


Thinking back to that time I can still feel the tenderness that flowed through our days.



I recall a well-known agony aunt in the United Kingdom, the lovely Denise Robertson, saying that most of the letters she received were rooted in lack of self-worth.


The inner tape of not being good enough can drive us in so many little ways, most of which we are unaware of. We can decide to gift ourselves time to exercise, start a new project, try to create different meals, see friends more often, begin a night class; all manner of new things and then we prioritise other things in their place.


In our technology-led lives, we are constantly bombarded with messages on how to improve ourselves. There’s irony there, because the underlying message can be perceived as us not being good enough, just as we are, which adds to the inner tape soundtrack. It’s no wonder we stall and struggle to introduce new things into our daily round.


In the few hours I had gifted myself to write this morning as soon as I was comfortable with a fresh coffee by my side, my internal chatter started.


‘Did you put cream on your legs after your bath this morning?’


‘Have you put a load of laundry in the washing machine?’


‘Your plants need de-heading before it gets too hot.’


The inner chat is constant and is the root of much internal distraction and self-sabotage. If we listen, we get in the way of ourselves and stay safe in the familiar, whilst messing up anything new before we start.


Stalling on hopes, dreams and wishes is not a reflection on us not being good enough, because we certainly are. It’s about us living; exploring, trying different things, taking a risk, experimenting on what brings us joy and peeling back the gossamer layers to find out who we really are. It is about us discovering our truth.


I first married when I was nineteen and started married life six thousand miles away from my family, when Rhodesia had just become the independent Republic of Zimbabwe.

 My husband was a geological engineer and for a year we lived in a few small mining towns in the Great and Little Karoo deserts in South Africa. It was a place of small communities and routine, and I was a housewife. The rift in our marriage started as his employer requested re-location to Johannesburg. It’s many years ago and I can’t recall how much input I had in this choice, but we ended up living on a small holding about half an hour’s drive outside the city, which was in the bush and isolated. My husband started to express his desire to start a family and I was not ready. I love children and being around them, but my instinct spoke eloquently that the time was not right for me. I kept myself busy renovating our home and making things for it. I created a lovely garden, moving a few snakes, and made clothes during the long hours he was out at work. A model housewife stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no car or public transport.


I wanted to go out to work and we fought about this often, with neither of us budging from our positions, so I stopped arguing and started applying for jobs. With divine timing I landed a lovely one in the telex room at a well-known petroleum company.


My working hours mirrored my husbands, so I caught a lift in and out with him every day.


My colleague, Pam, and I were the only two in the communications room and at the same age and both newly married, we had a ball. The bond we formed has lasted all these years and we are grateful for the internet that enables us to communicate now as naturally as we did in those days.


However, the rift widened in my marriage. I’d bring work friends home for supper and my husband would stay silent throughout the meal. We’d be invited to parties and as friends asked me to dance, I could feel him grip my dress so I couldn’t get up.  All he wanted was for me to be at home. It became stifling and he was unable to discuss it at all, so at twenty-one years of age I divorced him.


I called my parents back in England (with international phone calls being a big deal in those days), gently breaking the divorce news and said that I had decided to move into the city and stay in South Africa for at least a year. My words were ‘If I can crack it here on my own, I can crack it anywhere.’

Was it the exuberance of youth, lack of life experience, or a generous dollop of both?

The reasoning is lost in the mist of time, but I clearly remember the confidence I had in those days and how I followed my instincts.


What do we do when that confidence gets buried?  When fear, the inner tape, past events, others’ opinions, and our circumstances layer up and hold us fast to how things are. When we have the need, call, desire or even hope to try something new, but we keep getting in the way of ourselves. We feel we are not enough to even gift ourselves the space to try.


You may feel that you have never felt that confident, so that makes it even harder to find it now.


It’s a scientific fact that our brains have no concept of time. If we feel something, then that is how we feel in that moment. If we remember a painful event from way back, then our brain reacts as if it is happening now. Our mind then kicks in, trying to help us, by supplying other memories of when we felt like that, so it’s no wonder we struggle to handle ourselves at times.


The feelings this generates can be overwhelming.


Regardless of our past experiences, we can create space for ourselves to try something new, and that in turn will help to build our confidence. When we keep promises to ourselves, we learn to trust. Life comes in moments and if we can harness a spark in a moment, and trust ourselves, then that will help us to do whatever we choose in that moment.


On the wood carving workshop, I found that the combination of starting to learn a new skill and razor-sharp tools meant I was completely focussed. I have a small hole in my hand to prove the sharpness of the tools and the need for concentration! There was only one point where my inner chatter intruded and mentioned something I had forgotten to do, and I think it was something as minor as buying a greetings card. I gently said ‘Sshhhh, I’ll do that later.’

Sea Glass


As I sit writing this there is a pigeon resting in a puddle on the roof terrace and the sun is shining on her stillness and I can feel the peace and contentment.


On the beaches here there is a wonderful collection of sea glass, which speaks of the amount of alcohol being consumed and bottles going into the water, but let’s not focus on that. It takes at least fifty years for the glass to be polished by the sea and sand, to reach its smooth opaqueness and then the cycle continues, because there is never a completeness. It is what it is. It also speaks to the intransigence of life and our lives within it, for we are never done.

At a formative chapter in my life, I was surrounded by a perfectionist energy.  You can either adopt it and the patterns it carries, or experiment till you find your own way with different patterns. One thing that life has taught me is that there is no such thing as perfect, and perfectionism is a killer of joy. Just as we are never done, it is painful to measure anything, ourselves, or others with a perfect ruler.

It all smacks of judgment and that is the last thing that anyone needs, as labels and containment are sure to follow. A little reflection on how your own perception of self has stopped you from doing something is a loving thing to do. When have you tried something different, or explored with an idea or spark of intuition, and then stopped? What new moments never see the light of day in our lives because they die at the thought stage. Your own judgment, or others’ opinions, stop you in your tracks and you find yourself thinking your way out of something before you have even tried it.

There will never be a perfect time, a perfect way, or a perfect result.  It is perfectly imperfect at any stage, just as it is, just as you are.

It is the action of curiosity, trying, experimenting, exploring, discovering, and doing that creates a perfectly imperfect energy.


Our brains are hard wired to protect us, and that programming goes way back to caveman times. I need to kill the bear before it kills me, I will then be safe, and the benefits will be food to eat and fur to keep me warm. That simple.


There are two areas to work with here and one is our perceptions and self-talk and the other is how to handle people’s perceptions and judgments of you.


Are you getting in the way of yourself, or letting others hold you back? Or both?


We prioritise what is important to us and if the drive is strong enough, we’ll make time. I know that’s a tough thing to wrap our heads around, because it means taking direct responsibility for ourselves with our choices and actions.


Perfectionism could be a defence mechanism, couldn’t it? One of the many ways in which we protect ourselves and stay feeling safe.

We catch ourselves thinking or saying, ‘It’s not perfect; not the right time, place, circumstances, situation’, or ‘my next neighbour tried it and dive bombed and just look at the state he’s in now’, kind of thinking.


Hello perfect defence shield, fancy seeing you again!


There is a fair argument for not sharing what you are doing in the beginning with anyone, because explaining or defending it before you, or the change, is robust enough for questioning, could kill it stone dead.


Sometimes the drive isn’t there in the beginning because there is no way of knowing how it will pan out. Action creates energy and that builds the momentum that carries you forward.  You’ll soon work out if it’s important to you or not and if it ends up not being balanced for you, then at least you tried.


A few years ago, the gifted author and head of Creative Writing at UCLA, Fred D’Aguiar, was visiting from America, and he kindly offered his time to run a writing workshop.

I have no idea how I got onto the mailing list, but I jumped at the chance to attend as soon as the email arrived. It was a magic couple of hours, and I loved every second, because being in the orbit of a soul at the peak of their creativity is a gift. With the invitation we had been asked to bring something along to the session that had meaning to us, which included a gentle request not to bring anything live or perishable!  I put a few pieces of sea glass into a voile bag and in that part of the workshop Fred asked us to write for five minutes about our treasure and then pass it along till we had written a piece about everyone’s.


He then talked to a few people to gain some feedback and his eyes came to rest on me.


‘Jane, what is yours?’


‘It’s sea glass’ I said with a smile.


‘Why did you pick that?’ he asked, and his focus intensified.


‘Because I am like sea glass; never perfect, never finished, and I have lived in so many places across the world that I have no roots. I carry my home in my heart.’

He nodded, unable to speak for a while as his eyes glistened with understanding.


‘That is me.’ he whispered.


A promise in my bank of dreams is that when I visit Los Angeles, I can sit in on one of Fred’s lectures at university.


I was going to share a picture of my sea glass, but then I thought the photo of Amy was more apt. I was blessed to share some time with Amy, taking care of her home and the other animals on the small holding she lives on.


We had walks with her best buddy Dilley, the border collie, who lives around the corner in the Forest of Dean.


Amy was by my side every day, unless she was bounding ahead to share the excitement of something she had found. As I talked to her, she would put her head on one side and every night she would burrow under the duvet and tuck in to sleep behind my knees. She used to sit on my lap and watch Countryfile on the BBC, as it was her favourite programme.


This is Amy fast asleep.


What We Love


Recently, I was wrapping parcels of secondhand clothes up and I was grateful.  I love being creative, but rarely is my time totally focused on that, as admin, parcels, online posts, sorting, sifting, and goodness knows what else demand to be done, including housework. I mean really! It is life in all its glorious messiness. When I was a busy mum, with a husband running his own business, while I held down a fulltime job, how well I remember all the things that called for my attention. In those days, I would promise myself that when everything was done each day, I would gift myself some time for creativity. Mmmm, it took me two years to knit a blanket for my daughter, more than two years now I think about it. So yes, there are many demands and everywhere we turn nowadays we are implored to spend our time doing what we love, which can bring even more pressure to bear. Just another thing to fit into an already ever growing ‘to do’ list thank you very much. So, how do we do it?


A memory floated up as I wrapped those parcels, and it was a treasure.


As Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom, I lived in a naturally beautiful valley in North Wales and loved it there. Home was a studio apartment in a 17th century coach house on a farm, with a grand old Georgian house in the middle of it all. The set-up was owned and managed by two brothers and the dynamic between them was interesting. It had originally been bought by their father and as the boys grew up, one headed off to London and a high-flying accountancy role and his gentle brother stayed in Wales. After finishing Agricultural College, the gentle brother returned to manage and work the farm and start a family. Years passed peacefully and then their father passed away. The high-flyer returned from London and took over the running of the rest of the estate, bringing his young family to live in the main house with his mum. The rather dashing and energetic accountant set about converting all the outbuildings and parts of the main house into apartments and ended up with over fifty dwellings available for private rent. Fishing lakes and a few fields were given over for camping, completing the eclectic mix, all nestling against a hillside in the Vale of Clwyd.


I worked from home for an online service and the front of my apartment had patio doors that opened onto a courtyard running between the coach house and the back of the main cow barns on the farm. It wasn’t long before I had plant pots out there and it was a peaceful place to work, with the clock of my days running to the time the cows went in and out of the barns. The farm was out of bounds for the tenants, but there was a gate at the side, and I used to love to walk up to it and greet the cows going out and coming in from their pasture. They used to stop and ‘chat’, rubbing their wet noses against my fingers and licking my hands with their raspy tongues. They were a dairy herd, but by the time I arrived the milking was not financially viable, and they were run for their beef. There were sheep on the farm too, but they were cared for across the driveway from our dwellings.


I used to walk the few miles into town through the country lanes, as it was the perfect antidote to hours spent working online. The kind farmer used to give me a lift in his truck when he spotted me on his travels. We discovered how much we both loved nature and time used to speed by as we chatted about the things we had seen, like a Jay flying across the fields at dawn, or the swallows and bats greeting each sunset.

Late one afternoon the cows were unusually distressed, and I sat and listened to them in the barn and couldn’t understand what was causing it. The next morning the whole valley was shrouded in mist and after a disturbed night I walked to the gate and waited for them to pass by. We ‘chatted’ like normal, but they stayed longer, and their eyes locked onto mine. I had tears in my eyes as I stroked their noses and watched them breathe into the mist. They weren’t happy and I promised them I would have a word. Bless the magnetic universe, because that afternoon I was walking into town, and I got a lift from my farmer. We may have bonded over a shared love of nature, but we had never strayed into personal territory, and I was unsure how to start. Be straight, clear and to the point, I thought to myself.


‘The cows were distressed yesterday afternoon.’ I glanced across at his face and he frowned.


‘Are you sure, Jane?’


‘Yes, and they are still distressed this morning. I know it wasn’t you in there with them, who was it?’


His face cleared and he understood. There had been someone different in there and he usually looked after the sheep, but there was an emergency elsewhere and he’d stepped in to tend to the herd.

It went quiet in the truck.


Then my kind farmer said, very quietly ‘I have always felt the cows aren’t happy around him.’


‘I know I couldn’t see what was actually going on in there, but I sense he’s mean and takes it out on the animals.’ I spoke.

‘The energy that comes from the barn when you are with the cows is loving. I can feel it every day and it just flows, that’s why I noticed the difference.’


I didn’t need to say any more and it soothed my heart that I never heard the cows being upset like that again. Also, a few months later he invited me to climb the barn gate and go and visit the newborn calves, which was a joy.


One evening I had walked to the edge of the estate and was standing at a far gate watching the sunset. I looked out onto the edge of the hills, which were heavily wooded, and across a field with big piles of earth at the edge of it. I heard them before they came into view. A herd of young heifers and steers came bursting through the trees and, jumping from their front to back legs in joy as they spotted the inviting muddy piles. Right in the middle of the herd was the gentle farmer, with buckets swinging from his arms.


They didn’t notice me at first and I watched in delight as the steers ran up and down the piles, scattering earth is all directions.


Their play was wonderful to witness and as the farmer caught sight of me, I waved. He walked up to the gate, and we chatted, as I asked about his buckets full of cooking apples.


‘I’ve been scrumping in my brother’s orchard.’ he grinned at me.


Our laughter joining with the joyful play of his young herd.


He let them take their time and didn’t fret at the earth that was being spread everywhere. When he ambled off towards the farm, he didn’t say a word and one by one they started to follow him as they ambled homewards together.


I knew I had been privileged to witness the loving moment of a man at one with what he does and those under his umbrella of care.




As the Summer Olympics opened in Beijing with torch bearers on the Great Wall, I attended a course on psychic development and found myself learning alongside kindred spirits.


We were encouraged to blossom in our own way and friendship connections were forged that still flow to this day.  One of them has made a brave choice for her young family, who were living in the South of England at the time, and they have moved to an island off the Scottish coast. They knew not a soul up there and their family and friends could not understand where this decision had come from as they were afraid for them all. She felt a strong pull to have a different life for her family and the energy pointed to the island. She said that it was instinct that fueled the choice and she had no basis in fact to support it. She just ‘knew’, and her husband trusted her instinct. She sent me a picture the other day of the children walking home on the beach after school, and it said everything.


A new life is unfolding, and they are thriving, as I applaud their courage.


I understand that this is a dramatic example, but then its only drama is in the contrast to usual expectations and accepted ways of life.


How many times has your instinct said something clearly, for you to go ahead and act against it?


Then you fall back into a mental boxing session of ‘Oh, I knew I ought not to have done that.’ While sharing with those you love ‘My instinct was telling me not to do it.’


It’s not easy, because you don’t always get to see the consequences of not listening to your instincts.


If you go against your inner advice and there are no dire consequences, then you have no markers that making a different choice would have been more balanced for you. It also plays into you staying in your comfort zone where the outcome is known.


Not listening to ourselves blurs the lines on our boundaries and hampers the life we are trying to create. We start to question our own wisdom and find ourselves getting into internal conversations, where our own judgments mess up the pure instinct that spoke to us initially.

Think of it this way; you are starting to date someone and sometimes they are fully engaged and keep in touch and at others they are dismissive and distant. Your instinct speaks ‘Pay attention for they are painting a picture on how they treat people.’ You find you are making excuses for them, because they are under pressure at work, have a sharp family situation they are dealing with, need to move home, and all manner of reasons. You play the logic game with your instinct.


If you continue to date them, then a few months down the road you will find yourself saying


‘Why is he/she not available when I need them?’


‘Why is it always about them and what they need?’


‘Do they really care?’


‘How can they be so dismissive?’


Your instinct had it covered at the start.


I found myself in a difficult position a few years ago.


I was living under a roof where control, manipulation and violence was someone else’s chosen energy. Much was at stake, because of others’ expectations and opinions and I was vulnerable. Plus, I had ignored my instinct in the first place, which was why I was in that position.


There was one ‘red flag’ incident before I moved in with him and I had applied logic and dismissed it. So, I checked-in with a trusted friend, who is straight talking and trained in dealing with families in crisis, and her advice and support were invaluable. She agreed that I was reading the situation correctly and I had to leave quickly.


Gathering myself together I started to make new plans, as I had burned my bridges to move to where I was. Practically, I could return to work for a service online, so what I needed was a cheap, clean room in a shared house to start with. Where? That was the key. I considered that my daughter was finishing University and going to set-up home with her partner, and they had not settled on an area yet, so that was well and truly up in the air. Also, following our children (when they are adult) is not always wise. My parents were getting on in years, so I didn’t want to move too far from them, which was a starting point in my plan.

I drew a circle on the map around North Wales, Shropshire, Cheshire, and The Wirral. I researched rooms to rent online, found a few options and sent them messages. As they replied I talked to them on the phone, and I did listen to my instinct on those calls and dismissed a few without having to travel to see them. Three possibilities emerged in New Brighton, on The Wirral, and I went to meet the householders and view the rooms. I chose one and within days I had put most of my stuff into storage with a family friend and moved myself and a few necessities to the top of The Wirral.


I just ‘knew’ that was where I needed to be.


Loved ones were stunned.


‘Why there?’ ‘You don’t know the area at all.’ ‘You don’t know anyone there.’


There’s a memory of a train journey into Liverpool when I first moved here, where the guard was opening the train doors for me and I said, ‘Thank you.’


‘Now you’re not from around here,’ he grinned at me ‘where are you from?’

‘Down south originally, then halfway across the world’ I replied, ‘but I chose to come and live here.’


‘Why?’ he asked.


‘Because when the people ask how you are, they mean it.’


We hugged. 



Trees grow by putting their roots down into the earth and stretching their limbs up to the sky. Seasonal flow has them shedding their leaves each year to make room for new limbs and growth. It is as natural as the varying shades of weather that surround them in each moment and the earth that connects them all.  There is much for us to learn from nature.


Thunderstorms are flowing through here today and the trees are taking a battering, yet they continue to flow with the seasons. As Autumn falls in a few months, they will shed their leaves and then hibernate through the worst of the weather, till they send their new shoots and buds forth in Springtime.


If only we could learn to follow the trees example.


We hold onto our ways, daily rounds, defence shields, routines, pasts, hurt and pain, as if our lives depend upon it. For to shed any of them questions our sense of self and creates space in our lives allowing change in, which is all scary stuff.


IBM launched the ThinkPad laptop when I was working in an environment that was mostly populated by engineers. As a self-employed technical writer, with a reputation for working at my best when busy, the middle management would come and find me when they had a project to do that didn’t fit into the usual flow of work. I thrived on the variety and learned a great deal and one day the chap in charge came along with a strange request.


‘I have a failing project, Jane. The final deadline is fast approaching, having been moved umpteen times, and it’s stuck with the old guard downstairs. I’m away on a business trip to Japan for ten days and it’s stalled again, but do you fancy taking it on?’


I laughed heartily.


‘Thanks for that, I think!’


He gave me the paperwork and I duly trotted off downstairs. To say that the two chaps I needed to see were sitting surrounded by cobwebs may be a slight exaggeration, but you get my drift. They laughed at me when I told them what I was down there for, and I clearly remember their tone.

‘That is not how we do things down here, Jane.’


I winked at them.


‘Humour me.’ I smiled. ‘Let’s give it a try. You never know.’


Looking back, I probably got away with stripping their leaves off because I was pregnant and due to leave within a few months, so it was perceived as a ‘one off’. They did humour me, and we got it done, but I am not sure that anything changed afterwards. There are some folks that have handy tubes of glue that stick life’s leaves back on instantly after the wind has stopped blowing.


We cannot change, fix, or make anyone prune and shed and one of the sharpest experiences in my life taught me this lesson.


I made a choice to not date a few years ago, as I felt that the same cycle was on ‘repeat and return’ and I needed to see what it was and how I was creating it. Life tested this of course, and ironically in the testing came the lessons and new awareness.


Some of the greatest gifts emerge through sharp emotional experience and pain.

A chap came along who pursued me and the more I said ‘No, thank you. I am not dating.’ The more he tried. I started to question my wisdom in refusing and talked myself into seeing it as a defence shield that I had created and perhaps I needed to live more fully and take a chance, so eventually I said ‘Yes.’


We dated for eight months, and I can say that they were the hardest months of my life so far. His wife has been very poorly with mental illness and after many years of marriage had passed away suddenly. There was a sad widower and three traumatised adult children in this mix, but that was not obvious in the beginning.


A pattern of daily phone calls and dating followed, and I stepped into a rescue mode of epic proportions. The more he revealed of his past, the more I stepped up my loving energy. Warning flags were ignored by me (huge red ones), and it became my mission to show him that love could be all about balance and life could be calm. He attracted sad stories and unhappy people to him like a magnet and the more time I spent with him, the sadder I became. He papered over any cracks with plentiful meals in restaurants, days out and holidays away.

It took me eight months to realise that I had allowed all my boundary lines to be breached, kidding myself in the process that we were building something together between us.

Realisation hit the first time I questioned a choice he was making, and he turned on me with a verbal ruthlessness that knocked the breath out of my body. In that instant I saw that his heart was closed, and it may always be that way. Past painful experience was running his life and he was unable to take a chance again.


I was allowing myself to be used as a comforter.


After the inevitable split, I tumbled into a deep hole, and it took every bit of my inner strength and courage to climb out of that pit. My choices had created the darkness, so it was a massive lesson in what those choices had been and why I had taken them, and how to love myself back to wholeness.


When self-sacrifice becomes harmful to us, we need to question what is driving it and what roots it’s springing from.


Why do we feel the need to put others before ourselves, so much so that we get lost?

Love is not about fixing others. 

As we hold fast to past leaves and old growth, we stifle room for anything new to come forth and our limbs become gnarled, twisted and at times bent beyond all recognition. Yet it is our choice on how we tend to our pruning and shedding and that takes courage, because it involves change.


Our responsibility is to love ourselves enough to learn how to garden in our own lives, supporting others as they do the same. Each in our own way.


Getting Hijacked


We each have an operating system which is made up of many elements. Practical ones of enough sleep, rest, food and physical comfort, inner scripts crafted from our lives so far and what our current plans are; to name just a few. With everyone running along to their own operating system, it’s no surprise that things can get messy as we interact with each other.


When someone else makes a choice that triggers us emotionally, it’s all too easy to find ourselves getting caught up in a net. Practical steps can usually sort the physical things out, but if our feelings get tangled up then it becomes tricky to settle ourselves and sometimes the tangled feelings can last long after the actual event.


Anger is an emotion that is alive and well in this scenario.


It was 11pm on a Saturday night and I was tired on all levels having just returned home from spending the day with family.  My phone pinged with an incoming text, and I looked at it, which was just plain daft, though not as daft as replying immediately, which I then did.

My landlady had got herself into an instant state of panic and fired off an unfortunate text.

Neither of us were operating in our best space, nor pausing to breathe and think and the text exchange escalated at speed. Me stating facts did little to calm things down, as she was not listening. So many things going on under the surface and the one thing I could have done to stem the tide, I had failed to do. I ought to have stayed silent, as I made things so much worse by sticking to my guns and repeatedly hitting her with facts. What a mess.


I forgot one of my golden rules; ‘when emotionally triggered, don’t communicate till you’ve settled down again.’


What caught me were the feelings that soured my system for the next few days, as I battled with myself.  I was angry with her and angry with myself for replying and disappearing down a communicational rabbit hole.  I had allowed someone to disturb my inner peace. It wasn’t about me being right, but when someone is not in their best space, not going into battle with them is wise, especially if you’re not in your best space either.


I had a revelation about anger, as I lay in my bath one evening during all this drama.


Anger is helpful when it can flow through, as it sears the nerve endings of pain and there is wisdom to be gained as we acknowledge the feelings and release them. It was the releasing I was stuck on and the more I berated myself for staying angry, the worse it got. Being in the water helped as a thought struck me. Experience had shown that when my landlady was backed into a corner, she could never be seen to be in the wrong. I had witnessed this before so holding the expectation that she would have a different perspective on what had happened, or even think about apologising, was nuts on my part. It wasn’t going to happen. I also looked at my part in fueling the upset, when I really ought to have let things lie till the next day at least.


So, that left me with the soured feelings.


I was fueling my anger with expectations held about the outcome which weren’t real when I looked back at similar situations in the past. I was increasing my suffering, and I felt a lightness come in as I became aware of this. The sour feelings started to lift.

The other thing that helped a great deal was thinking about something else. An idea for a creative project formed and after researching the internet I transcribed various face cloth patterns and then knitted them up. Whatever works is the key, and it gifts your system time to release.


When Meatloaf was singing ‘I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that’, I remember how I had handled anger differently. The memory came in as I lay in the bath, hard on the heels of my current situation, so I knew there was a lesson nestled in it.


I am ashamed of how I handled this one, but unless we show ourselves honestly to each other, how can we ever hope to truly connect and support?  I also Googled whether I could be prosecuted retrospectively, so that gives you a hint on the story I am about to share.


My daughter was a few weeks old, and I was at home caring for her, when my husband had a car accident. No-one was hurt, but our car needed mechanical assistance and straightening out on a jig. We entrusted it to a local one-man garage and had just enough savings to cover the eye watering bill, which we were responsible for.

Within a few days of the car being returned it transpired that it not been fixed and face to face discussions did nothing to sort things out. All avenues we took to resolve this with the mechanic were dead ends, so an overdraft was organised with the bank and the car mended at another garage. I was not working at the time and as I looked at the little babe lying in my lap, I talked quietly to myself.  I was in ‘red mist mode’ and knew that she did not need that kind of energy around her, and I couldn’t function properly feeling as I did. I promised myself that I would box the anger away and if, after two months had passed, the anger was still as strong as it was in that moment, I would do something about it.


Two months later I unlocked my inner box and sure enough the anger was alive and unmarked by the passage of time.


Late at night I took a large tube of superglue and pumped it into the padlocks on his workshop and storage barns. Security floodlights came on, and I carried on. I then went to his home and did the same to the locks on both his family cars, not giving a thought to any consequences from my actions, as anger blinded me to everything.


I had hijacked myself. 



Staying Small


I run a blog and it has gifted many loving and kindred spirit connections. One of them shared thoughts and a picture recently of a chicken sitting on a chair in the coffee shop she and her husband visited on their wedding anniversary. I love that image; no explanations, no excuses from the coffee shop owners, just simple acceptance that the chicken needed to be near them.


It made me wonder how many times we have kept ourselves small and unseen from fear of ridicule.


The pattern of staying small is complicated; growing over time and being fed from many sources. Possible conditioning of being seen and not heard when we were little, struggling to find our sweet spot in the world, being misunderstood in school, or in the workplace and relationships, bearing heartbreak, loss, and emotional pain. Any of these hurts all build layers of covering around us that form a cage and we get used to the view through the bars. It’s driven by a basic need for protection; saving us from ridicule, or judgment of others, and anything we, or others, perceive as failure.


We stand back; not trying new ideas, not speaking up, not saying ‘No’, being people pleasers, taking self-sacrifice to extreme levels to help others and all manner of limiting choices. We stay small because it feels safe.


The flip side is it also stops us accepting praise, gratitude from others for our good deeds, or stepping into a spotlight of any kind. We work so hard to stay small and unseen, that it is mightily uncomfortable to have a light shone on us in any way.


A recent conversation with a treasured friend highlighted this beautifully. She was expressing how I had helped her, and I cut her off mid-flow and started to talk about her qualities, which she then laughed off. We both caught ourselves and shared understanding and laughter on what we were doing.


Staying as we are, is comforting, because it feels as if we are accepting on how we are. No-one likes their choices questioned, much less questioning them ourselves. Staying small can be scary to acknowledge, because we start to see how often it has held us back from flowing in being true to ourselves.

We can’t go back and re-play the past, but we can catch ourselves in the present as we play the ‘small’ card. We can also see where we have built the bars to our own cage. I flipped into self-sacrifice mode in my early years and started to ‘rescue’ others without any kind of awareness that I was doing so.


Carrying long-held rescue patterns into my second marriage laid the foundation for the inevitable relationship breakdown seventeen years later. Coming from his own position of repeated hurt, my husband felt we had common ground. We were rescuing each other, except the truth was we weren’t. New patterns were created that were even more binding than the ones we each carried in at the start.


I was a permanent fixer and practical. He was the ideas man and had the charm to bring other people along for the ride. Many businesses were started and then failed to fulfill their potential.


There were applause and accolades from others each time we started something new and as the noise from the audience inevitably died down, and we needed to dig in and work hard, he’d blow a hole in it.

In stepped ‘Mrs. Fixer’ as I mended the holes, plugged the leaks, and tried to keep our lives on course and sailing into calmer waters.


At one time, he was working as a self-employed decorator and had done a weekend job for a friend who was setting up a sandwich shop business. I raised the invoice afterwards and it went unpaid. After a few months of fruitless payment requests, I suggested that we went together to visit the chap in his shop, and I deliberately chose his busiest time, midday. We calmly entered the shop and time froze as he caught sight of us. His face clouded over, and he barked:


‘This is my place of business and it’s my busiest time of day.’


My husband stood there silently.


‘Good’ I replied ‘so, you won’t have any trouble paying us then.’  


‘I’ll talk to you outside’ he said, coming around the counter and virtually pushing us out of the door.


He stormed off down the road and we followed, or I thought we did.

He turned to face us and started to talk. I turned around and my husband was a way off down the street, walking away at speed as I turned back to deal with ‘Mr. Sandwich’.


That moment showed me everything about my marriage.  Any laying out of facts will be from my perspective, so it’s hardly fair, but I can remember how I felt. There was a sharp wind blowing at me and I was alone on the front line. Isolated. Every time there was a mess (and there were a lot of messes) I sorted them out alone. Any time a new plan needed fleshing out and bringing into reality, I did it alone. That loneliness drove an inner script that I was nothing but useful, so I upped the level of self-sacrifice. I was not ‘seen’ and with the situations that these choices created, new bars were added to the cage.  I ended up exhausted, which is no surprise, and I raised the white flag. There was a new mess to sort out and I simply could not do it, so I pushed him out of the nest. I was done.  Paradoxically, I had organized for him to go and live with a good friend of his, so I was still fixing!


It took another ten years before I stopped romantically rescuing anyone, which is ironic. I guess I wasn’t ready to see the patterns and the cage I had built till then.


A loving friend and I were sitting knitting and nattering the other day and she said with anguish in her voice.


 ‘What took me so long to see it, Jane?’


‘The gift is you have now.’ I replied.

Copyright © Jane Sturgeon 2019

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced, or transmitted in any form electronically, mechanically, or by photocopying, recording, or otherwise, including through information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author. Scanning, uploading, and electronic distribution of this book, or the facilitation of such, without the author’s permission are prohibited. The only exception is the use of quotations in printed reviews.



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