Tag Archives: compassion

The Yes in saying No

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I saw this image on the internet this morning and it caught my attention as a timely reminder of the importance of letting go. Of knowing that I can’t always make it okay for other people, I can’t always keep on giving or solving others problems relentlessly in the hope of being liked or respected in return. It is not my job to do that beyond a point at which I am comfortable or able to without detriment to myself. I hold both hands up and admit I am hopeless at setting my personal boundaries and have a long history of allowing people to invade my personal space when I didn’t want them to. I have changed and moulded myself to suit others and to say yes when really I mean a loud and definite no. I have often found myself giving far beyond the point of what is needed or what is healthy and always regardless of how the recipient treats me. On my journey towards setting important boundaries and living a life that is true to who I am, not who I feel I ought to be, I have come to know that I did those things in order to feel a greater sense of self worth.

 

Day by day I am learning that I don’t need to give just because someone asks me to do so. I know that true giving comes from the heart and not from neediness or a feeling of obligation. I can decline respectfully when I need to and hold something back for me. I can say no with politeness and grace and choose to say yes to my needs instead of throwing them to the wind in favour of pleasing others. As I practice the art of saying no and of letting go where my fear asks me to give more when really it is not my place to do so, I am learning a new form of self respect and worth. And interestingly I then have more to give and I do so freely with a huge sense of joy and love.

 

What made me write about this was hearing from someone in my past whom I had stopped being in touch with a long time ago. There had been much hurt between us; that person had turned my life upside down and left me and my life in tatters for me to rebuild. Until now, they had held back from offering any apology or compassion. That person had walked away when I was on my knees and they hadn’t looked back. They had got in touch two years down the line to apologise and wished to renew our friendship. I suspect that fairly radical and recent changes in their own life had brought about a sense of wanting to find peace and heal their past – great stuff. I am appreciative of that apology and it must have taken courage to get in touch. The old version of me would have leapt to be their friend and make it okay for them. A part of me wanted to do so, almost did as much, and then suddenly I realised one simple fact.

 

It is no longer my responsibility

 

It is not my responsibility to heal their wounds and offer soothing words (which may not have been needed or asked for anyway). They didn’t jump a puddle for me when I was in much need of support (or wellingtons) and yet there I was, for just a moment, willing to cross oceans again to help them. Today I chose to say thank you and no, politely, and I reigned myself in from trying to fix it for them. I wished them well with a genuine sense of compassion in my heart and let them go with love and hope for their future. And the best bit of doing so? It feels fantastic. I am amazed and in awe of the fact that a simple two letter word NO can bring such peace. I am in my wellies, I have drawn a mark in the sand called ‘my personal boundary’ and I am merrily skipping onwards. May you have a lovely day, draw your own line in the sand if you need to, and practice saying no. 

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Sand In My Smile

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The sand felt heavy under my toes this morning, as I took my morning walk along the beach. Heavy, cool and damp from the rains overnight. The beach is my haven and I find it fascinating for the daily routines of people and nature that can be observed if one looks closely.

There are the elderly ladies that take their early morning swim at the southern end of the beach. I watch as they gingerly dip their wrinkled toes in the water and wade out beyond the small waves, their hair as white as clouds and fragile arms held out for balance. There was an elderly couple today and I could see how the years had moulded them into one. The gentleman didn’t so much as let go of his lady once whilst they stumbled through the larger waves. Such is a love that lasts a lifetime. I admired their courage (these waters are cold), their love and sense of togetherness.

There are the dog walkers with woofs of all shapes and sizes. I find myself veering towards them if I like the look of their dog – heaven only knows if they think I am stalking them or have some weird obsession and can’t walk in a straight line. I adore the companionship of dogs and was lucky enough to meet a sparky and proud Irish Terrier today. He was a corker; all wiry copper blonde hair, wet gum drop nose and ears pricked and ready for action. His name…Fluff. I bumped into the owner of this dog on my return home and he proudly presented me with his wife and the words “I’ve brought my other Irish Terrier along this time”. How we laughed, even his wife.

There is the man with the ball. The ruby red ball and the ever present smile on his face. I see him every day on his own with his cherished ball. He spends hours playing with this shiny bouncing ball; kicking it round, tossing it in the air and he always looks so content. I wonder what brought him to this? He even takes his ball for a swim and can often be seen swimming with the ball by his side. Evidently it is an excellent swimming companion and always handy for a float.

I have made it my mission to say good morning to everyone I pass on the beach and wish them well for the day. I know how much it brightens my day when people do this for me. It was met with a mixed response and today I counted at least 5 people that looked at me as if I were insane and promptly moved on without a word or hint of recognition. Thankfully Irish Terrier Man and his jovial nature more than made up for them. And these are just the people….

Two giant jellyfish had been washed up with the tide; plump as wood pigeons, glistening in the sun like amethyst jewels and nestled on the sand. One of them was being nibbled by snails with shells shaped like ice-cream cones and I watched other snails making their way slowly across the sand to join the feast. These snails were long-distance travellers indeed…I picked up all the snails I could find and put them on their jellyfish and watched them nibbling away contentedly. I wonder if they knew I had helped them.

I bumped into Prince again today, sitting in the sunshine making his bead animals. It makes me sad that he is instantly recognisable for the slippers on his feet and the tattered t-shirt he wears every day. We got to chatting on the bright red bench facing the ocean and he gave me a gift. He had made me a photograph holder from beads and wire, inscribed with my name and the shape of a shark. He told me how he was going to throw the beads and wire away last time we met, as he felt they were worthless, but after I had told him he couldn’t waste such beautiful beads he kept them and made this gift. His thought and kindness made my day and he won’t accept any payment or charity from me. We have agreed a commission for someone very dear to me but even then he haggled the price down. I listened as he talked of his dreams, how he isn’t sure what to do with his life and I just wished I could do more for him. We shared funny stories and jokes and laughed out loud at the stares of others passing by.

But I can’t help wondering, is my listening ear really enough? Is it enough to just smile, listen and offer words of encouragement to everyone in the hope that it will change their world just for a moment? I’d like to think it is and I leave you with this.

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For the Free-Fall

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How do you love someone? Do you love them with part of your heart, with the part that isn’t afraid to be cast aside and brought to your knees? The part that can tolerate time, is a friend of patience and knows the meaning of unconditional. The part that has no memory of rejection and can only see the light and good in others. Or do you love them with another part of your heart? The part that knows all too well how painful love can be and knows the sorrow that comes from a thousand goodbyes and letting go. Or perhaps the part that wants? Wants more gifts, more acceptance, more attention, more of whatever it can take from the object of its affection?

Or do you close your eyes, take a deep breath and love someone completely, with all of you? With every curve of your heart, every blink and every whisper of your soul. Because to love completely and unconditionally is to be truly alive yet it is the biggest risk and freefall you can imagine.

You don’t have a choice who you love. When your heart finds its kindred spirit you may as well give up logic and reason because your heart will only beat louder the more you protest. But you do have a choice in HOW you love that someone. What you choose to do to change that person’s life, to enrich their days and bring laughter into their soul and your own. And that is where I am at today. Pondering love and how to go about it more graciously.

I promised myself a year ago that I would learn to love more unconditionally, that I would strive to see the good in everyone and be less judgmental and more compassionate. This is not an easy task at times. I can be judgmental and about as subtle as a brick with my opinions of others. I am compassionate but that can fade away when I got bored of hearing others moan about their lives. I have little time for pessimists and negativity despite knowing I should be more understanding of their pain. As for loving unconditionally, I am working on it but it confuses me. I can’t decide who it is I need to love more unconditionally – myself, others or both? So far I have taken it upon myself to find reasons to be truly thankful for the people that have entered my life and hurt my deeply. I figured that if I can find a way to love them, I can let them go. And it worked. It wasn’t easy but I can honestly say I am thankful for those people because they gave me the opportunity to become more compassionate, to grow in strength and forgiveness. To find a way to heal and see the good in whom they are. They were doing their best. And thanks to them I can rightly assume the title Queen of Bouncing Back – which is an ace title, I like it. I am sure you all have people in your life that have given you as much. They are strange gifts, in ugly paper, but they are gifts none the less.

I really don’t want to be a spoilt person; someone that expects everyone else to solve my problems, to shower gifts upon me and generally adore me. I suspect I have had my moments of being that way in the past. I probably still have my moments now. Do we all? I don’t know. What I wish for is to be kind to others, to recognise their greatness, to support and encourage them regardless of what their opinion of me is and to do this especially for the people that, quite frankly, really annoy me at times. If I can find the good in everyone I think it will make me a better person. If I can learn to love truly and unconditionally then I have found the gold at the end of my rainbow. But that is my tricky area…unconditional love.

How exactly do you do it? What defines unconditional love and how do you know when you are doing it right? As far as I am aware, there is no qualification in this and no guide book to show you the way. No exam I can study for and know I will pass. Though I do like the sound of ‘The Lonely Planet Guide to Unconditional Love: Find Your Paradise Within’. Do you love someone that physically hurts you and tells you to ‘go hug yourself’ when you come to them in tears? Is that unconditional love, as you are sticking by them no matter what they do to you and you love them regardless of their flaws? Or perhaps the unconditional love in that situation is to walk away because you love yourself unconditionally and they are clearly a moron. I would like to think most relationships don’t involve such extremes but they are stories I have heard from many. And at what point do you withdraw your love because someone doesn’t love you back? Perhaps unconditional love would tell you to just keep on loving them anyway and not to expect anything in return. It is unconditional after all. But then that could mean a lifetime of pining after someone like a dog that knows it has left a bone ‘just there’ and won’t move until said bone magically reappears from the depths of underneath the sofa cushion.

I still don’t know the answer, as you can tell, and I am going to keep on practising and keep on finding out what unconditional love means to me. To date my favourite quotes on love have come from two dear male friends of mine and from one of my favourite films The Horse Whisperer. They go like this:

‘I didn’t love her because it was right. I just loved her’

‘She gives me true, unconditional, uncomplicated love’

‘I just love her and expect nothing in return’

Simple but beautifully put. And the reason I have been pondering this today? Because of a story my friend told me and when I thought of her this morning that story came to my mind. She has a friend that fell in love with a woman, fell utterly in love with her knowing that she had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer before they had even met. He didn’t turn away from her because of her illness. He just spent time with her and loved her. He saw her beauty, adored and nursed her and from what my friend tells me they were utter soul mates. They only had a few short years together before she passed away but in that time they brought light and love into the world and they celebrated their love by getting married. That they both had the courage and strength of heart to walk that path of love knowing that it would only last a short time leaves me utterly speechless. That to me is unconditional love. I look around at family and friends and I see many similar stories, perhaps less heartbreaking but just as real. Examples of where two people have chosen to love regardless of what may come from it, regardless of the free-fall and with ALL of their heart. You truly inspire me.

And in case you are wondering why I have put a picture of an Airedale terrier on this post, let me explain. For those of you that have not met him, this is Mr Paddington Bear. He was my beloved Bear, my angel and one of my two Airedale babies. I have never known such a loving, enthusiastic, happy soul as his. He liked to howl every day and would swish his tail slowly in bliss with every ahwooooo. He would wag his tail for no reason whatsoever and would sit on my lap at every opportunity, no mean feat for a 33Kg dog, simply because he loved to be held. No matter how tired or grumpy I was he just loved me. He loved life and for that he deserves to be here as a reminder of what this unconditional love thing is all about. And the best bit….whilst I miss him and his sister Hester more than I can possibly describe in words, I know that they are where they belong and living the life they truly deserve. They are giving just as much unconditional love to their new family and they are truly adored in return. With Paddington’s howl, Hester’s black gum drop nose and eight big bear paws they are very much driving the unconditional love train happily into the future. And the photograph, it was taken when I was ill once and lying in bed. He lay on me all day until I was better, poking me with his wet nose occasionally when I fell asleep.