A Wordless but Excruciating Battle


Marilyn in thought 1960s

Whatever is good to know is difficult to learnGreek Proverb

Thinking deeply about what this quote means to me is actually painful because it brings up memories of some awful times, from my childhood onwards. I don’t think ‘good’ is the right word in this proverb. Maybe it got lost in translation from the Greek. ‘Whatever is essential, life changing, character forming is excruciating to learn.’ Yes that’s better.

The kind of situation I think this most applies to is, for example,  when you have had a hideous argument with someone. You might be fuming, full of adrenalin and thinking things like ‘if only I’d said that’ or ‘and yes I really am right because of this and this’, or ‘they hate me, I am useless, I will always be useless’ or ‘they are awful, I don’t want to ever be friends again, just think of all the rotten things they have done to me in the past’.

All sorts of nasties can creep in whispered by the gremlins, or ‘pain body’ (Eckhart Tolle) or the devil, if you will. As your mind tries to work out the solution to ease the discomfort you are feeling, and find a way to dissipate this anger, you don’t realise that you may be using the wrong tools to solve your dilemma; like using your elbow to clean out your ear.

We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them – Albert Einstein

As a child, you are likely to continue on this path, storing hurts and painful memories. You might avoid the other person until you’ve forgotten what you were arguing about and eventually sweep the hurt under the carpet. Or the fight escalates and others get involved until so much damage is done that you fall out permanently. The worst outcome is that you decide you really must be useless.  You create this opinion about yourself (which you are sure is based in reality), thanks to all the information you have gathered in this terrible hyped up state. You condemn yourself and slowly slip into the habit of depression, imprinting your brain until it’s in your neural pathways and hard to fight off, useful as a reliance mechanism; a mental way out that’s like a stinky but familiar old blanket.

But, with maturity and a lot of difficult soul searching, I learned what was ‘good to know’, namely that it can all change in an instant. The path is not set; it is created by you as you take each step. For it is you and only you treading the path and creating your own consequences. I later learned how to effect that change in myself and learned what needs to happen internally and externally.  These kinds of situations will be offered to you again and again until you learn the lesson, so you might as well learn it sooner rather than later.

Here are some of the ways this situation can be resolved, either by our own hand which has longer lasting effects or by others;

– The other person comes to apologise and all those destructive thoughts you were having evaporate, until perhaps the next time.

– You gather yourself (it comes with practice, but try focusing on your breathing for a start) and look at the situation more objectively until you calm down and start to see the other person’s side also.

– You realise you might actually be wrong if you would only admit it, and that it’s OK to make horrible mistakes.  You will live and survive, head held high. Perfectionism be damned!

– You reach out and say a simple sorry to the other person, whether you feel sorry or not (everyone always thinks they are right, but really there is often no such thing; it’s too subjective).

It’s best if you do feel sorry of course, having recognised the nonsense of the argument, your part in it (why don’t we dare admit to ourselves that we are far from perfect?) and remembering why you have a relationship with that person in the first place.  Even ‘faking it till you make it’, nips the destructive and out of control feelings in the bud.

To me the most important lesson is to not give yourself time to wallow if you are running down this thorn-filled path. Tell yourself you are not listening to this rubbish and won’t make any decisions about anything until you are calmer. Hop off this runaway thought train this instant.

I guess that’s why they say ‘don’t let the sun set on an argument’; so that you don’t have time to create mountains out of mole hills in your head. This can be sturdy advice but here’s another way of looking at it;

My ex (still good friends) and I agreed to never argue at night, when somehow things seemed worse because of being tired or due to the darkness. The sun coming up the next morning makes a huge difference to one’s psyche. It’s just biology. If you are calm and fully able to sleep, knowing the other person is OK too, go for it! You might agree to continue the talk later; at least forging some kind of agreement between you amidst the discord.

If you are centred enough to mend bridges now, do that. But if the person who is battling the strongest emotions needs time to settle down and has the capacity to calm themselves, then distance is good. This process of learning to calm yourself may take years to acquire; or if you are a mature soul, you may be born with it. But it is difficult to learn, it is good to know and so essential to finding happiness. The reward is trust in yourself and your ability to endure and enjoy living as a flawed human being, when life’s inevitable changes are thrown at you or you let yourself down.

And why is it so difficult to learn to change our thoughts instead of be ruled by them, with the accompanying emotions and dramas; to try a completely different path; to put ourselves out there and be vulnerable, especially to ourselves?  Why protect our egos?

I guess it’s difficult because we have to put ourselves in an uncomfortable situation where we don’t know the outcomes.  We are afraid of ourselves, not of the other person.  This new thinking will change the dynamic of the relationship with the other person of course, but most importantly with our story about who we think we are.

So we dither. Why we dither and how to get around it is one of those ‘good to know’ things to which this Greek Proverb alludes. It’s probably one of the hardest things in life to learn to know and accept yourself, warts and all and then test it out on other people.

Anyway I digress.  I believe if you practise learning to center yourself, calm down and forgive yourself it becomes easier with time. Say sorry to people. See how they react! Are you nervous of their response, of making them feel uncomfortable or of your being rejected? If so, a hug goes a long way and does just the same as words, without any need for eye contact.

Marilyn Hugging

And if they push you away, you will still feel good for trying. You haven’t pushed you away.  You are now a stronger person. Their response has nothing to do with you. It is their journey; only they can mend their inner world. You can only work on your own inner peace and happiness, but I bet you will have left your mark.

Marilyn and Joan Copeland 1957


The Perfect Fool

Only the ignorant man becomes angry. The wise man understands – Indian Wisdom

This seems a little harsh. Who likes to be described as ignorant? Actually I don’t mind it!! If I am ignorant, and I surely am, then I have much to learn and so many adventures ahead of me. (I do not enjoy being angry though). I do not mind my ignorance because I have a secret. It’s OK to fail!! I do it a lot. For example, I make silly mistakes at work and forget to send attachments. (Outlook now reminds me as of recently if I mention the word attachment in my email – clever!) I even send emails to the wrong people occasionally with results that can seem awful, unless you ask why your subconscious did that and what can be learned. Then you take a deep breath and talk to the person involved to resolve the conflict you were too cowardly to face. And you grow!

Because the ignorant man gets angry, as above, I think we need to look at our anger when it arises and ask ourselves what’s really going on. Then we learn from it and and can dissipate the anger, which is surely a preferable state. We are smoothing ourselves over, perfecting our thinking, in a way, by removing the buttons which others can push. I ask myself, what story am I telling myself that might have triggered this emotion? What emotional baggage of mine has had its buttons pushed? Only then could I calm down. And you are a much easier person to be around if others don’t have to watch what they say and tiptoe on eggshells around you!

The best part of my workplace is that we are free to say “Oh oh, I stuffed up. Sorry. I have learned from this and will definitely try to avoid doing it again. Let me make it up to you!!” And off we go. No self blame, just acceptance of our ignorance. It is a safe environment and full of beautiful souls. How much of that safety is external I wonder? Maybe I do get in trouble but I don’t know it! 🙂  But I have created internal safety instead. I feel safe because I can handle the emotions that arise in me by stepping back and looking at them. I forgive myself, over and over.

If ignorance creates anger in you and you feel berated by another person, you will become defensive and time and learning will be wasted in the explanation. You will get even angrier. How often have you told your partner off for being late and they attack you for the way you told them off instead of addressing the issue? (How often have you ‘told someone off’ instead of having a mature discussion?). Win/win for learning if you look for the lessons.

I am reminded to always try to understand, first and foremost, in any situation, even if it reflects badly on me. The first step to fixing your problem is to realise that you have one, and to know it’s OK to have been ignorant until now. Provide your own internal safety net, by whatever means you choose.

It’s your choice!


Get Along Go

If you want to get along, go along – Sam Rayburn

When I am short of time, I quickly choose the first quote which seems simple and easily explained. I don’t have to write pages. This is my outburst, I can do what I like. What on earth could I expand on this with?

The main premise of this I believe is that in order to build relationships you have to spend time with people. Seems obvious really. When I first read it, I thought of my work colleagues. We work in a unique place where the thing everyone seems to love most about working there is the relationships we form. It is full of the nicest people! My theory on that (and of course I have one) is that everyone is inherently nice. People are wonderful! No one thinks of themselves as not being a good person. No one, not even that unbelievably cranky woman you may have come across at x, y and z. We can all be that cranky person. I behave badly sometimes and hopefully I see it, can work out why I behaved badly, forgive myself, apologise to the person involved, forget it and move on. What makes us into not nice people temporarily, and behave badly, is being under pressure and feeling insecure about it. It can be from the outside – a demanding boss,  or it can be internally – I must make this perfect cake for my daughter’s birthday before morning. Silly pressure. Anyway, the company I work for give us time and space to be nice people. They create ways for us to mingle and form these relationships. They value the niceness and say that they employ primarily by personality and fit with the culture and then look at work skills. This culture means that as we like each other we socialise outside work also.

Unfortunately this is where I can come unstuck. I am uncomfortable driving to new places. My satellite navigation system helps for the most part but can also get things wrong and the stress really builds. This means that sometimes when my fellow customer service team go to trivia nights in far away places, I tend not to go. By not going along, I can’t join in the fun chat about it the next day. I love them all and have know them for 3 years, but those little extra bonds are formed without me.

How easy is it for us to agree to go somewhere and do something and then on the day feel lazy or tired or blah and bail out? Actually this is something I rarely do now, if ever! I have seen it over and over again where the person creating the event goes to so much time and effort to ‘give’, in order that we receive and enjoy.  If you might be feeling too unmotivated to show up on that day, imagine the host not being in the mood either but having to do all the work anyway!!

When I was in my early 20s, a lovely girl I met invited me to a lunch party. I had no car and was stressed about getting there and called to make my excuses. As I cannot lie (guilt, blushing etc etc) I said i just wasn’t up to it and she quite rightly persuaded me to pull my head in and come. So I went along! Not only had she created this amazing gourmet feast (I had no idea anyone in their early 20s was so generous, talented and motivated) but she had decorated her whole house.  Only about 6 people showed up! We felt bad for her but we made up for it by having a ball and staying till very late. I even met my next boyfriend there. I went along and I got along. Relationships can also be ruined by now showing up.

My conclusion is that if you really have no excuse but laziness, nine times out of ten you should show up to whatever it is – a play, outing, picnic. It will certainly help you get along with the host and form new relationships by actually being face to face with the people you meet there. How much is learned from smiles, body language etc that you just can’t see on a phone call, email, text or some other form of social media?

Anyway I digress. This expression could also refer to something else. Get along might mean get along in life, get promoted etc, not get along with people. I imagine it works that way also of course. I am sure many employees will lose half their weekend to golf with the boss or some such activity in the name of promotion. Just doing your work isn’t all that’s required of most jobs now because we work best as teams. We cannot work in isolation. The result is greater than the sum of its parts etc etc. Goodness, a few more quotes popped into my mind just then on that subject. Do I live by quotes now? Why do I remember so many? Probably because they can put into a few words what I take 3 pages to explain 🙂

Anyway, what I am coming to learn from today’s outburst is the importance of socialising; of actually being in the same space and interacting with other people. Especially your kids. And it’s lovely to socialise with your work colleagues. It takes trust to let others know the real us, but if we did, we would have more tolerance for each other when small flare ups inevitably occur as a result of work pressure.

Once we start to accept everyone we work with, well everyone we meet in fact, as the complete package and probably more like us, simply by dint of being human beings, this ‘getting along’ could take us a long, long way.  Sting sang back in the 80’s ‘Don’t the Russians love their children too?’ – we are all essential the same. So go along and get along!