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Dr Brene Brown

I rarely recommend books but the other day I came across a youtube clip of Dr Brene Brown talking about the difference between sympathy and empathy and it was fascinating and thought provoking.  So I went to the large bookshop in Shatin and hunted down one of her books I thought it was just me (but it isn’t). 

I love that she says it takes courage to admit our vulnerability and not a sign of weakness, to be avoided at all cost.  It reaffirms our fundamental human nature; are we not all vulnerable at certain points in our life?  Who can be strong, sorted and keeping it all together all the time?  If they appear to be then they are just better at masking their fear and putting on their game face.

I used to think I was fundamentally flawed, over-emotional, irrational, would cry at the drop of a hat, didn’t get on with the in-laws, obviously I was the problem, fell apart with my recurrence rather than being stoic, keep the stiff upper lip and look on the bright side of life, counting my blessings, after all there are people worse off, right?  I was a coward, an imposter at work pretending to be a good teacher but soon I’d be found out by Ofsted and exposed, I couldn’t be calm and carry on and take what life had to throw at me.

I didn’t just shrug and took it on the chin when my husband chose to have a mini nervous breakdown when I needed him most during the chemotherapy.  Nor when he left me to my devices to sink or swim afterwards when I had struggled with superhuman courage and strength to get better, when I thought we had weathered the storm and things could only get better,  He chose that precise moment to excommunicate me from his life, heart and mind.  Still gobsmacked how he could just comparmentalise the past, present and future.  He announced my position as the devoted spouse was surplus to requirement with immediate effect, no redundancy package, no pay in lieu of notice, nope, zilch, as if he was saying I fancy fish and chips tonight.

I felt it was because of my myriad of faults, weaknesses, merely being me that caused the marriage to fail so dramatically and utterly.  I had made his life hell, my recurring depressions, the recurrence led to the demise of the business as he couldn’t focus on turning it round, my social ineptness at getting along with his parents made him piggy in the middle all the time adding further stress …  He’d waited all these years for me to change but it is clear I wasn’t going to.  I am too stubborn, I could get better, I knew how, God knows I have been advised by enough therapists, psychologists … but I had to do it my way. 

I wasn’t tough enough, rational enough, socially skilled, fun enough, chilled enough, in short I just wasn’t good enough.  There was something seriously wrong with me.

Dr Brown’s message comes as a great relief, there is nothing fundamentally flawed with me, I am not paranoid, the problem, I am just human, like the rest of the homo sapiens, imperfect and vulnerable.  This is the best present Santa could have brought.

 

 

 

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melancholy

Gorgeous is a little melancholic today, suddening realising that this day 21 years ago she was a beautiful bride in plum silk cheung sam sitting on the love of her life’s knee to take their wedding photo.  It was the  best day of her life followed closely by that early morning half a year later when her beautiful baby came into this world.  Her angel and shining light.  She was beaming from deep within and so was he.

Alas the fairy tale didn’t last; the princess turned into a middle aged cancer survivor/divorcee living with depression and nursing a broken heart literally and emotionally.  Rejection has hit her hard, to the very core of her being and she has had to dig deep, grit her teeth and go on.

patchwork

patchwork 
(for all those who live to fight another day)
nothingness hollow emptiness numbness
frozen murky grey confusion depression
misty sandy mirage flashes of the past
bits and pieces sewn into a patchwork
some brilliant joyful contented moments
others a paler shade of grey black blue
yet others turbulent clashing violent red
i see shiny multi-coloured quality street wrappers
floating in the air illuminated by a shaft of sunlight 
kids chasing them spellbound a magical moment
i remember going on the train to canton when i was 6
entering this dark spooky house lit by a lone candle
up the stairs where a wrinkly old lady dressed in black
lay dying my maternal grandmother but i did not know then
i am jolted back to the instant the boeing 747 landed with a bump
out of its metal belly spewed a chinese country bumpkin
in two black pigtails smothered by the london august heat 
welcome to heathrow your new life the year was 1969 i was 8
i see her wearing headphones in this language laboratory booth
repeat after me and that’s how my sister and i learnt english
and duely lost our childhood as our parents’ keepers
i am rudely awakened by vicious angry shouting familiar voices
it is not the melodic sound of dad singing after winning on the horses
nor the loving words of mum telling us to be careful when we went out
it is the heavy violent banging of mum’s head against the headboard
mum confronting him about the shanghai mistress his infidelity his lust
he hits back by threatening to kill her rushing back with a chinese cleaver
my superhero sis jumps in to avoid bloodshed while i cower under the duvet
i recall fairy godmother does not step in wave her magic wand make it all ok
the drama intensifies dad buggers off no kiss and make up no heart to heart
leaving in his wake a suicidal wife two unsupported traumatised teenagers
i remember thinking he didn’t love us enough to stay we weren’t good enough
i see two girls rushing home after school terrified of what they might find
if mum should have made good her threat what was gonna become of us
would we have to end up in a children’s home could we stay together
i see from the corner of my eye fairy godmother half waving the wand
mum pulls herself together after a good talking to from an old family friend
wipe your tears shelf the self pity your two girls need you to be strong
dad eventually came back with his tail between his legs mum took him back
fast forward 1980 i sit in a lecture theatre in cardiff full of nervous 18 year olds
true taste of freedom without the weight of ancient culture breathing down my neck
my feet metaphorically unbound an eye opener of how the other half lived
i was gobsmacked when my best friend hazel told me she was staying put
i assumed you went home after graduation that is what you do
by then i was addicted to my liberation not boxed in by somebody else’s rules
i thought up a cunning plan told mum i was off to hong kong to find my roots
that was the only way she would let me out of her claws not watch my every move
this time the boeing 747 landed at kai tak international airport with a bump
narrowly missing the high rise in kowloon welcome to 80’s hong kong
i see a 22 year old beautiful woman the world at her feet having a ball
charming her students though chinese like them she was very different
she didn’t walk the walk talk the talk like the natives but still cool and fun
enter the first boyfriend short overweight not brad pitt but heart of gold and keen
charmed her said nice things she’d never heard before like you are beautiful
put her on a pedestal she felt the dizzy heights from her throne she surveyed
all was good in her world she was loved adored free soaking it all in loving it
i recall in my mind’s eye a gorgeous bride in french plaits flowers in her hair
beaming with joy and pride in her plum coloured silk cheung sam
with the mandarin collar slits either side all the way down to the ground
clutching a bouquet of flowers it was her wedding day she gets the prince
determined to be married by 30 i made it with two months to spare
after we exchanged rings kees knelt on the grass i sat on his lap cameras flashed
it was the happiest day of my life for the first time i felt i belonged had come home
i remember moving into the first home we bought on the isle of dogs
a narrow town house on a square with open plan lounge and kitchen
two bedrooms and a box room we made into an office and integral garage
i see a woman lying in pain feeling fed up in a hospital bed
wishing the baby would hurry up her waters would break the labour over
36 hours later a baby girl is sucked into the world taking her first gasp
the father is beaming with joy the mother lies exhausted but proud
i have 1998 etched in my mind it was the year we had our best ever holiday
cape town gorgeous sunshine coastal drive ocean waves misty table mountain
kruger park elephants giraffes lions hyenas roaming the wild vultures circling
mei with her pink shiny barbie camera attracting unwanted attention
the guide and kees fighting off the baboon baring its teeth trying to get in
sleeping in cosy mud huts having barbecues out front putting sun tan lotion on
also the year it all started to go wrong at 36 i was diagnosed with breast cancer
i feel the huge hammer from the sky hitting me hard on my head like a nail
i lost my mind three years earlier let’s just put it down to workplace bullying
do you know that even happy life events like marriage buying a house
having a baby can be extremely stressful now my body was letting me down too
the worse was the not knowing torturous waiting endless tests needles
you run through various scenarios in your head best being no cancer 
worse was unthinkable and sod’s law the evil word ‘mastectomy’ resounded
i come to in a deadly silent room except for the machines beeping looked around
knew instinctively i was not back on ellis ward not enough beds for a start and quiet
no phone constantly ringing visitors’ voices nurses rushed off their feet bright light
i knew i hadn’t died gone to hell cos where was the furnace the welcoming party
my life hadn’t flashed before my eyes no light at the end of the tunnel pearly gates
a scottish male nurse appears like a genie this is the high dependency unit phew
soup has never tasted so good the op took longer than expected lost a lot of blood
i am minus left boob but replaced by brilliant reconstruction with implant muscle
less lymph nodes to ensure cancer hasn’t spread and additional scars front back
good news no further treatment needed bad news .5 cm of invasive cancer found
excellent prognosis nevertheless you are one of the lucky ones cho wan mmmm
who am i to beg to differ it’s all relative ain’t it i didn’t die it hasn’t spread so maybe
once is unlucky twice is careless especially as you can smell the finishing line
i’d passed the all important 5 year remission mark on the last strait to the 10th
i was getting too complacent just as you think it is safe to get back in the water
finally leave it behind the grey cloud hanging over the back of your mind
that’s be too easy wouldn’t it come on you are always up for a challenge
tough old bird survivor let’s see how far you can be pushed before you crack
God does not give you more than you can bear rubbish sorry He does
but what is the alternative lie down give up and die or shout bring it on
so what i lose my health hair i can’t swallow eat i am abandoned go it alone
i am in bed it is the afternoon but i have no desire to get up do anything
i don’t see the point makes no difference if i put the washing in now or later
i thought i’d be ecstatic the last day of my radiotherapy it felt a huge anti-climax
i believed i could slip effortlessly back into my old life of humdrum normality
how wrong my mind body soul went on strike shut down declared they’d enough
sulking pissed off the body assaulted poisoned the mind deprived the soul crushed
i took to my bed for 8 montnhs operated on sleep standby mode recharging
i am staring at a tall dark stranger who looks remarkably like my husband
he talks smells the same but i cant quite believe the words coming out of his mouth
they seem to take on a life of their own the sounds hanging heavily in the air
it feels like he is talking about somebody else’s marriage some other wife
who never made any effort in all the 16 years who made her husband’s life hell
it didn’t matter if she couldn’t help being depressed her cancer coming back
to top it all his business failed cos he couldn’t focus on turning it round he wants out
i hear a heart silently breaking the death throes of a marriage love strangled
anger what in all the 16 years of marriage not one single happy memory
i see a traumatised woman ripping out treasured photos from her white album
tearing them up scattering them like confetti on her wedding day
screaming there is no marriage anymore so why keep them
she wished for amnesia to wash over her blocking out i don’t love you anymore
i haven’t for 3 years i stayed waiting for you to change but now i know you won’t
i remember jumping into my red polo with early dawn behind me a broken woman
i drove to norwich having looked up the map a leap in the dark if ever there was
but i knew i was very unhappy i was dying inside i had to walk away or go insane
life hasn’t been one big bed of sweet roses in norwich the grass not really greener
i had no choice it was what i had to do to save myself from going under forever
i needed to get away from it all seek sanctuary a place to rest and heal recover
i had to have time for contemplation heartache for crying mourning self discovery
now what next brown cow who knows what tomorrow brings i don’t plan no more
i go with the flow embrace what life brings try not to sweat the small stuff
really in the scheme of things we are terribly insignificant a speck in the galaxies
our individual tragedies drama appear gigantic disastrous but they too will pass
despite the involuntary stay at heartache hotel regular custom at lonely hearts cafe
i would not swap a single piece of the patchwork of my life every bit a rare memory
every square rough or smooth a defining moment empowering me to go on

Poem a day challenge #7 delete

if it causes pain why hold on
delete
if it brands your soul why hang on
delete
if it eats you up why bite
delete
if it poisons your well being why hesitate
delete
if it suffocates why continue
delete
if it makes you feel less than human why permit
delete
if it makes you feel shit why admit
delete

Poem a day challenge #5 Voices

Happy Days

 (for fighters and survivors wherever you are)
Unexpected sunshine through clear blue skies
Dad pushing swing kid shrieking with delight
Elderly couple holding hands very much in love
Break of dawn stillness silence before the storm
Another stab at freedom happiness
Reprieve from hospital stays climbing the wall
Hairless angels of mercy watching life go by
Happy days again reasons to be cheerful many
Fight another day
Twittering birdsong rumbling traffic chatter
Baby’s cry bike blasting by drop of rain bouncing off my head
Alive did not vanish from operating table 
Nor perish from heartache struck by lightning
at the door of recharged life
The lady is not for turning full steam ahead on the mystery tour
Not doing xmas turn convention on its head
Flush brainwashing down the loo
Declutter people things 
Emptying mind of negative thoughts 
My way to the promise land free happy at peace 
Past self naive alter ego mistakes forgiven forgotten
What awaits the little crocodile clear cloud
As she thunders towards half a century on planet earth
Events defined but not extinguish her flame
No ignorant bliss awarded soulless living dead
Lifting head up to observe as a child
Who passes by why
Love of writing first took root not shy away from the truth
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