Janine Rees 31st August 2017
It’s been a week of signs and symbols for me. It seems every conversation I’ve had, every article I’ve read, every thought I’ve had has culminated in some very challenging, yet life affirming direction for me. I have been grappling with a few issues this week and this blog was set in motion by me not being able to think straight. I had let myself become a little overwhelmed so decided to go for a walk to clear my mind.
In a past article (Happy Valley) I wrote about my strong sensitivities as a young child. It was, I’m sure, very difficult for my parents to deal with my, at times, crippling sensitivity. I remember many hours of tears for fish that my parents murdered at the beach under the guise of recreational fishing, for dolphins and whales murdered by whalers, baby seals beaten to death…the cruelties were too much to bear.
When I was older I realised that these horrific things also happened to people, I just couldn’t understand the injustice and inhumanity. Perhaps that was when my body and mind began to shut down the strong sensitivities for my own self-preservation. My father’s illness and subsequent death also added to the closing down of feelings. It is much easier to turn it off, or supress it, than feel the pain. It happens to everyone I imagine, we all learn at some stage that the world can be unfair and cruel.
As a child I had other sensitivities. I only ate the most bland of foods, the sensation of eating cooked peas made me gag. My parents felt I needed to eat my greens but I had other ideas. Often the peas or beans or broccoli ended up under the table or sneezed ever so cleverly into a tissue or remained in my mouth until I could go to the bin in the kitchen. We came to a compromise of only having 3 peas or beans, at the most, on my dinner plate. Funnily, my grandfather had a similar habit.
I hated the sensation of my skin feeling dry and would hate the feeling when my fingers or toes would rub together so I would continuously wet my feet and hands when I could. As a teacher the dry feeling of chalk on my fingers still gave me the heebie-jeebies; thank God for whiteboards. I had once chewed my pinky nail clear off from my repetitive chewing behaviour; first a hole in the middle and then completely gone. I hated going to bed as my imagination would run wild, I could never get to sleep as I was scared of the dark.
My attention was all over the place, I daydreamed my way through primary school. My room was always a mess. I was the child who always had a rotten apple, banana, mandarin, sandwich in their schoolbag because I’d forgotten about it. Once in year 3 I’d taken a pet gecko to school for show and tell and kept my companion in my desk for the day. I forgot about him and left him in there over the weekend, poor thing died of course and Monday when my desk wreaked I was in terrible trouble with the evil Sister Michael Mary for bringing that foul smell into her room. I was tormented by the other children who jumped onto her bandwagon but not as much as I tormented myself for murdering my pet.
I remember telling a girl in year one, very matter of factly, that the lady over there in the blue dress was very fat. My comment didn’t have anything attached to it other than my unfiltered observation that the lady was quite large. The lady was that child’s mother and I remember the terrible angst of then realising I’d said the wrong thing. I hadn’t meant to be rude or mean or judgemental.
I once mentioned to my mother a memory I had of a huge statue of a bull, it was just a fleeting, momentary, wow, look at that giant thing, memory. I remembered being in the car and I described the scene to mum and she told me I couldn’t possibly remember that as it was a memory from a trip to Rockhampton from when I was about 4 or 6 months old. She said I must be remembering a photo but I could see the memory as a video in my mind and it was as clear as day to me. We looked back through the photo albums for mum to show me the photo I must be remembering but there wasn’t one. She seemed worried and I thought, note to self, don’t talk about memories from when you were a little baby.
All of these things I had seen as negative aspects. I suppose now days, had I not worked out ways to conform or mask my behaviours, I would have been diagnosed somewhere on a continuum with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I’m glad I wasn’t because I didn’t have a terribly strong self-esteem, I already had realised other people didn’t seem to suffer from my shortcomings and to be labelled as anything other than the same as everyone else wouldn’t have sat well with me as a child.
On my walk earlier today I was thinking of my dear friend who passed away 5 years ago. I have written about her before, All You Need Is Love , we were close probably because we were so very similar. I believe she died from lack of self-esteem, lack of love for herself. She had suffered trauma in her life and she couldn’t get past it. I know that feeling well. I write with tears now as a few moments ago, I paused and I said out loud, what am I trying to say here… then there was an almighty smash from the laundry.
I had been tidying some laundry cupboards the other day and had taken a basket out of the cupboard to move to another spot. I wasn’t sure where it should go, so placed it on top of the front loader washing machine and had left it there (there’s that ADD again). I had a load of washing on and it was on the spin cycle and the basket obviously made its way off the top. On investigation the smashed item was the last birthday gift my dear friend had given me before she died, a scented candle in a glass container. It shook me to the core and I was just flabbergasted at the strength of the sign.
I know with every cell of my being that in that moment she answered my question. She said to me to “keep going”. Your message is that we need to understand ourselves we need to love ourselves, we need to have compassion for ourselves and then extend that same understanding, love and compassion to all others. My friend had love and compassion for others, she was just the most beautiful soul, but she didn’t have the same for herself. She became so engulfed by her negative filter that she let her obsessions and addictions kill her. She didn’t take charge, she didn’t find the strength to beat her demons.
The serendipity of the day continues…
I have pretty well perfected the skill of avoidance. Straight after my walk and before this blog side tracked me, I went to get some lunch. Lately I’d fallen back into a few old habits and hadn’t taken the time to eat well and I was feeling it physically. I jumped in the car to buy myself a healthy salad. I was still thinking about my friend and the demons we all have to deal with. The song on the radio as I tuned the car on was “Devil Inside” by INXS, I had to laugh and was reminded that there are always signs around us, but I hadn’t really taken heed at this first sign.
The next smashing coincidence definitely got my attention. What I was supposed to be doing, but was avoiding, was finishing off preparation for a workshop I’m running tomorrow with 14 and 15 year olds and I realised that the universe was giving me the content and writing it for me, even though it had to smash a precious gift to get my attention. I want everyone to know the difference you feel when you are true to yourself. I want everyone to know that you can choose to go blindly or with your eyes wide open and honestly listen, look and feel. Sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s blissful. We can move from fear or we can move from love and the mechanism that takes us from one to the other is choice. You have the choice, each of us has free will.
I think of great teachers like Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Dr Martin Luther King Junior and the very many women that should be in this good company but have not had their voices heard or memories kept alive. These are people who moved from love and compassion. They were living examples of choosing to do right. They were still human, I’m sure they slipped up here and there, they were no different to anyone else, but achieved great things. If there was a difference it would be that they chose to do right and many of them paid with their lives. Not easy at all. Hard.
I think of all the great artists, musicians, songwriters, poets, writers who have grappled with the human condition and given us so much to appreciate, enjoy and mull over. All we need to do is be ourselves and instead of focusing on the negatives or things that are difficult for us, focus on our strengths and being positive. In the past I saw my sensitivities as a hindrance to be covered up or changed. Now I know they are my strengths and I can use them for good. When my obsessive tendencies are channelled in a positive way I can use them to be tenacious, to reach a goal, to create change.
Understanding where and how my own beliefs were programmed and shaped has changed my life for the better. Living a life where I am my authentic self makes me more content than I ever thought possible. I want everyone to feel that joy. That is my purpose and my goal.
BE – LISTEN – FEEL – THINK – CREATE – CONNECT – LOVE – BE