Are You The One In Four? A Letter To A Judgemental Friend

“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”  Daphne Du Maurier

*Long read ahead. Go grab a cuppa.

Someone, a friend (or maybe not), send me a long and well-meaning (or maybe not) message yesterday asking why I so publicly explained my current health situation in my latest blog post, including mentioning that I suffer from incontinence AND had posted less than flattering images of myself that made me look ‘sick and drained and old’. Apparently, you shouldn’t talk about ‘body failure’ so openly. They suggested that it was ‘harming my image and the potential for me to build my business.’ Finally, they added that my life was  ’embarrassing and overly drama-filled, and maybe I should keep those details to myself’. In the midst of all their advice, they neglected to ask me how I was.

I was going to write them a long message back but instead, I’m going to reply here by way of a recent experience:

Dear YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE BUT I WON’T PUBLICALLY NAME YOU!

The other morning Ben and I needed to visit an office supplies store, but when we arrived at our destination the store had moved. It was only a few blocks away, and to navigate to the new address was straightforward, but for some strange reason as we exited the carpark Ben ducked down a side street and suddenly we were travelling down a rabbit warren of narrow suburban lanes instead of using the main roads.

‘Why are we going this way?’ I asked. ‘This is a dumb way.’

‘I dunno. Felt like it I guess,’ said Ben.

Who was I to argue? I haven’t been able to drive for months. Ben could drive there any route he chose.

When we slowed to take a corner I glanced up a street that ran off the one we were on. My vision is limited right now but of my mouth tumbled the words ‘Stop the car’.

‘Why?’ asked Ben, pulling to a halt.

I pointed. ‘There’. And even though I couldn’t see more than a blur I knew it was someone in trouble. That’s one of the gifts of being psychic.

Ben reversed and we drove fifty metres down another street. There on the sloping front lawn a middle-aged woman was lying awkwardly, half across her driveway, with the bulk of her body angled down the slope and her legs bent uphill behind her. Her handbag and car keys were strewn across the ground.

Ben put the window down and asked calmly, ‘Are you okay?’

‘I’m a bit stuck,’ the lady responded as she waved one arm in a feeble attempt to right herself.

We jumped out of the car and hurried over. As I gathered her fallen things Ben helped her to a sitting position and then we both helped her to her feet. Since my fiftieth birthday in 2017 I now feel every single emotion other people are holding within them as viscerally as if those emotions were mine. This woman’s story unfolded within my own body – this was the first major fall the woman had experienced and she had been lying on the ground for some time, alone and unable to reach her phone or to get herself back up again. It was terrifying for her, and worse, it had suddenly made real the truth of her health situation and diminishing capacities. I could feel the shame and embarrassment in her, as well as the shock.

The woman told us she had Parkinson’s. She was dazed and shaking but kept insisting she was fine and asked to be helped to her car. It was only when Ben let go of her and I saw his hands were covered in blood that we managed to convince her to go back inside her home and look after herself. She’d taken off quite a bit of skin, and her scrapes and bumps looked like they would become painful bruises later. She wouldn’t let us call anyone, and she was embarrassed and upset. I totally understood. The thing she’d been dreading had happened. She’d fallen, and been left stuck and helpless. Once upon a time if that had been me I would have waved everyone off as fast as I could too!

Chronic and terminal illnesses eventually lead us down paths we may never have imagined taking. But as a species we are resilient. We adapt. Life is about making the best of what we’ve got.

Have you ever been in that place, Dear ____________? That place of wanting to hold on to something that is no longer true for you? That place of wanting to not draw attention to yourself, of not wanting to admit a situation or a problem or something else that you perceive would make you somehow diminished in the eyes of others? It’s so human. It just swells my heart with compassion and pricks tears in my eyes.

There is one thing chronic illness has taught me. We’re all fragile. Poor health, accidents, illness and misfortune can strike any of us, at any time, at any age. Statistics show that one in four adults has some form of disability, physical or mental illness or chronic pain that limits our ability to function and cope with the activities of daily life.

One in four.

One in four of us suffers from diabetes or cancer or anxiety or pain or depression or incontinence or irritable bowel or restricted movement or chronic fatigue or OCD or chronic insomnia or some weird genetic thing or bullying or abuse or an occupational injury or… the list is endless. If it’s not us it’s someone we know. Maybe you’re not the sufferer but you live with that person. Care for that person.

Right now I am that one in four. Why should I hide that? It’s not all of me but it is part of me. And I refuse to hide that because if I do it means I am endorsing a world that says we should only show ourselves if we are perfect or at least ‘unoffensive’ to others.

And what does it say about you if you think that people like me should only show the ‘better aspects’ of our lives? Are you saying that I am not worthy to be out in the world if I wear a diaper or need a cane or someone to cut up my food or drive me places?

One in four, Dear _________________. One in four.

One day, that could so easily be you. Or your partner. Or your child.

This is what I believe – we need to embrace the truth of where we are at, without shame, embarrassment or apology. The ‘Instagram Life’ is a lie, and it puts ridiculous pressure on us to be something that so few people are or are with any kind of consistency; young, rich, thin, shredded, beautiful, stylish, completely together, popular, loved by a wide and ‘normal’ circle of family and friends, well travelled, eating amazing meals at fabulous places and healthy and well-balanced inside and out – with never a hint of adversity.

As to the fact that my life is at times ‘overly drama-filled’, my darling friend Carly-Jay Metcalfe who lives with Cystic Fibrosis responded with her own hard-won insights on my Facebook page, and I’ll include her post here in full:

Can I just say that as a person with a terminal illness, I don’t think people who are unaffected by chronic or terminal conditions can understand that with each step forward, it’s usually four steps back. It’s unrelenting and just because you say you’re on the road to recovery, does not mean you’re necessarily ‘better’. I’m glad you’re being gentle on yourself, Nic. I just wish everyone’s expectations were a little more realistic.

When I think of Carly-Jay I don’t think Cystic Fibrosis. I think poet, writer, aunt to my dogs, hilarious, soulful friend. When I think of myself I don’t think illness, I think of all the dreams that reside in my heart. We are not our illnesses or our frailties. We can live and thrive despite any of that. And we never need be defined or diminished by them. Does illness impact our lives and sometimes the lives of others? Sure. It’s just how it is.

What matters is who a person is on a soul level. Bodies age, fade, fail. But our souls are an eternal brightness. So, who are you in your heart? Who are you in the way you act in the world? Who you are as you live by your values? What are your dreams? Your relationships? Your interests? Your knowledge? Where can your passion take you?

Dear ____________ , I guarantee you that our world is held up and held together by people who are limping along in life doing the best that they can, sharing their ideas and gifts and love and care even though they face their own personal adversities.

I’ve been sharing my vulnerabilities since I first started blogging, and that’s the way I shall continue.

I hope no hardship ever befalls you but statistically, things are not on your side. ‘Life is suffering’ is what the Buddha said, and from my experience that will be true for everyone at some stage. That won’t mean you have failed. It will mean that you are human. If your road gets hard I’ll hold your hand as we navigate the bumpy bits together. To think that we need to be alone in our adversity is a myth perpetrated by people like you. Let’s end that way of thinking. It serves no-one.

Much love, Nicole  xx

Saying No to Conditional Love

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“You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.” 
~ C. JoyBell C.

*Warning: Swear alert. Swears ahead.

I did something quite out of character for me yesterday.

There is someone who has been an important relationship in my life for a long time. You know the kind of relationships you just expect to endure, and to stay strong and connected. This person knew me, loved me, and was proud of me back when I was well and riding the crest of a wave of successes in my personal and business life.

The life I like to think of as my ‘former’ life. The one pre-illness. The one pre-psychic awakening.

The life I live now embarrasses the hell out of this other person. It has made things uncomfortable and awkward between us, without any kind of touchstone where we can easily connect, no matter how hard I try.

But in truth, we’ve been grown apart for a very long time, and so much of my championing and nursing along of the relationship comes from a sense of duty as much as from a place of love.

We speak intermittently. It’s been months now. I do my best to keep them in the loop of my life, so they were aware that I have been unwell. That I’m still unwell. When they called my home yesterday, Ben answered the phone because I was outside with my head in the toilet, violently ill from my lyme meds. He let the person know that I’d be a few minutes. He was politely honest about my situation.

Still, in keeping with the way this relationship has headed, the person did not ask after Ben, or me, or the farm. They talked instead of their latest achievements, and the achievements of others in their family.

When I was finally able to take the phone, this person did not ask after my health, not even in the polite way we all do where we don’t really need to hear the answer but we do want to observe social graces.

They just wanted to know what was happening with my career. Was I published yet? Why was everything taking so long? What was the hold up?

All I could do was stumble around saying that these last two years hadn’t been my finest (for those of you who don’t know, I was dying from unresponsive congestive heart failure, and then received a diagnosis of lyme disease where the treatment is saving my life but in the process making me endure the seven circles of hell) as this person insistently reminded me of who I used to be, and what I used to do. The life I had no choice but to walk away from.

For a moment I felt like one of life’s greatest losers. The shame was overwhelming. I felt so small.

Image from Midlife Rebel

Image from Midlife Rebel

I’ve been raised to be polite. But something happened yesterday. I got angry. And in that space of anger I also felt a need to put a stop to this.

“Fuck off!” I said gruffly. And then I hung up.

I shocked even myself.

But now, with some time and space between me and the big ‘hang up’, I’m feeling better about things. Cleaner.

Truth is, I still love them.

And I see the insecurity in THEM. The need for me, as part of their life, to be someone who others will judge well, and so judge this person well too.

But allowing them to heap shit upon me is not an act of self-love. Perhaps you remember that back at the end of 2013 I ran a retreat where all of us made a sacred vow – to love and treat ourselves well in 2014, to put ourselves and our needs front and centre in our lives rather than always playing second fiddle to everyone else.

I’m living that vow, and it is radically changing my world. In the best of ways.

It really is okay to say NO to conditional love. I hope that in sharing this experience, you can embrace that truth too.

Much love to you, Nicole xx

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Do Not Be Friends With Mean People!

 

“It is only the great hearted who can be true friends. The mean and cowardly can never know what true friendship means.”~ Charles Kingsley

I spent some time with a little girl yesterday who is having a hard time with other girls being mean and bullying her at school.

Madeline (I changed her name here, but she’s seven and the sweetest girl you’ll meet!) is doing her best to be nice to these mean girls, and to be a friend to them. Her mum told Madeline that if she is nice long enough, eventually the girls will see what a lovely person she is and want to be her friends for real.

But the fact is this group of girls aren’t being friends back. They invite Madeline to play and then hurt her. They call her over then ignore her. They tease her and make fun of her. But they do just enough ‘playing nice’ that Madeline keeps going back, hoping that they will finally accept her and treat her with respect and kindness. To them it’s just a big game, but to Madeline it’s a defining force in her life that’s tying her up in knots and eroding her self-confidence and self-esteem.

Madeline asked what I would do.

My answer surprised her.

I said, “Stop being friends with mean people! Make friends with people who are kind and who make you smile. Friends are people you like to spend time with. If you don’t like spending time with them then it’s not a very good friendship.”

I think that’s sound advice whether you’re seven or seventy.

advice-quotes-friendship-quotes-Associate-yourself-with-people-of-good-quality-for-it-is-better-to-be-alone-than-in-bad-company.

Don’t be friends with people who are mean. It doesn’t matter whether they are classmates, work colleagues, the partners of friends, next-door-neighbours, or family. Mean people don’t respect you, your ideas, your feelings, or your possessions.

Mean people make you feel small. Mean people cause you hurt and worry, and make you feel sick in the stomach with anxiety when you have to spend time with them. Mean people make you believe you’re not good enough, or that there’s something wrong with you.

Mean people don’t know HOW to be friends. So why would you want to waste your half of a friendship on someone who can never be a friend back?

There are lots of terrific people in the world, and lots of people who could use a friend. Mean people don’t make good friends. So stop trying to win people over, or expecting them to change. If they can’t like you for who you are and treat you well, move on.

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Ditch those Toxic Friends!

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“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”

~ Wayne Dyer

A woman I’ve known since school rang me in tears yesterday, totally confused about who she is, and what she is capable of.  She’s depressed, lost and about to give up on a dream that once upon a time was the brightest star on her horizon. Something she’s really good at.  Something she used to be passionate about. Why the change? A ‘friend’ has been in her ear, and in the ear of others, talking this wonderful soul down, and instilling these deep doubts.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this happen.  Other close friends have also battled with the pain they feel, and their sense of loyalty to the concept of friendship, when they’ve been in a relationship with a person who treats them badly.

One girlfriend, who helped another woman in their career, has had her ideas pinched and her relationship discarded when it no longer served the person she was ‘friends’ with. This person has become successful and precious, and the way she treats my friend is appalling.

Another had his tools trashed, and a substantive amount of money lost to a mate he’d been friends with since kindergarten.Not only that, the ‘friend’ did irreparable damage to this man’s business reputation with gossip and slander.

What kind of friend behaves like that?

A toxic friend.  And toxic friends aren’t really friends at all!

We’ve all had our share of unequal or downright damaging relationships, but I find that sensitive souls are at highest risk of exploitation in relationships. Sensitive souls are naturally trusting, they place a high value on loyalty and on the well-being of others, and they enjoy helping people. But they can be so busy being a friend, and a helpful friend at that, that they don’t take a moment to see if their friendship is truly reciprocated…

Image from www.themescompany.com

Image from www.themescompany.com

So what does a healthy friendship look like?

In a good friendship you may have shared interests or nothing in common, but you are interested in each other’s lives. There will be respect, trust, kindness, genuine enjoyment of each other’s company, a balance of giving and receiving, care and love, support, non-judgement, respected boundaries, laughter, tears and exchanges of wisdoms, worries, trivia and the deepest secrets of your heart. A friend is there for you, and when there are problems you can communicate and work them through. Friends lift each other up. Friends get us through the darkest hours.

There’s a chemistry to friendships, but then again so much of any healthy and happy relationship comes down to good manners and sound values. Treating people well, having consideration for their feelings and welfare, putting in effort to maintain and build on what you already have.

All friendships require work, and they take time and energy to maintain. A friend is someone to talk to, to share life with, and to be with without words too.

WiY4CC

Toxic relationships are not something anyone would willingly sign up for, so how do we end up in them?

  • we change and they don’t, or vice versa
  • their mask drops over time, and they reveal an aspect of themselves that wasn’t evident at the beginning
  • in a place of low self-worth we accept them in, grateful for their company and attention
  • we might have loyalty to them based on a shared time on our lives – ending up as friends due to circumstance; room mates, best friends at primary school, etc and it’s not actually enough to base a friendship on as we mature
  • in a dark or low place in our own lives, we attract people that mirror these unhealthy and unhappy aspects of ourselves
  • sometimes we feel like we don’t have a lot of choice – they are family members, or partners of friends and family
  • they can also be co-workers, where our relationship is based on daily connection and proximity

Here are some signs of a toxic friendship:

  • their needs are always more important than yours
  • they don’t respect significant people in your life such as your partner, children, family or other friendships
  • they steal your ideas, friends, time and money
  • they ingratiate themselves with friends and family and then erode your position with those people
  • you feel drained rather than supported
  • they lie to you, or play games
  • you begin to think that maybe it is you, and you spend a lot of time working on the relationship or ‘fixing’ things about yourself
  • they sabotage or derail your successes and otherwise stunt your growth
  • they manipulate and guilt-trip you
  • they are full of promises but never deliver, back out at the last minute, or change the rules without asking eg you organise a lunch together and they bring three friends you don’t know
  • oversteps boundaries and engages in inappropriate behaviour with yourself or others associated with you
  • borrow things and never return them, or treat your possessions with little respect eg car comes back dirty and empty after they use it, lose your stuff or loan it out to others without your permission
  • they are hot and cold with you and you never know where you stand
  • they can’t keep your confidences
  • they’re never there for you, but expect you to be there for them, day or night, 24/7
  • they speak badly about you to others
  • they use you to get something that they want, and when they have it they’re done with you
  • they put you down, or make compliments that actually are sweetly disguised insults, and if you call them on it somehow it’s actually your fault or your problem

Let’s face it, in a toxic relationship, it’s all about THEM!

It’s often harder for sensitive people in toxic relationships to end the friendship because they don’t have such clear-cut boundaries, and from a place of spiritual beliefs, empathy, love and compassion they’ll keep trying to help, keep trying to heal, and keep trying to make it better.

If you find yourself hurting and confused in a relationship where being with a person makes you feel worse rather than better, if the signs of a toxic friendship are there, then walk away. The energy you give to an unhealthy and unsatisfying friendship would be better spent on having a good relationship with yourself. Staying in toxic relationships does immense damage over time. Sensitive people can lose themselves entirely.

 

If the person is a family member, or other complicated relationship where it’s harder to walk away, minimise your time with them, stop sharing and do all you can to shield yourself from their energies.  Sometimes you even need to just sever the ties there too.

The world is full of wonderful people, and somewhere out there is a person who’ll be able to give back what you share with them – which is what true friendship is all about.

Above all, value yourself. We live in a reciprocal Universe, and the Universe gets its prompts from us about how we should be treated. If we let it be okay for others to treat us badly, the Universe will just keep delivering more of that energy to us.

EmbracingNewBeginnings

If it’s time to make some changes you’ll find these posts helpful:

Knowing When to Walk Away

Knowing When to Let Go

Speaking your Truth – Tips for the Throat Chakra

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