I've had to go inward. I've had to take care of me from the inside out. I'm still standing.

Over nine years of going to acupuncture plus osteopath and chiropractor sessions in recent years, has taught me that where we feel the pain (unless we’ve had a specific injury to that place) or what we think it’s about, isn’t necessarily the source of the pain. We might have pain in our feet but it can be coming down from back, hip and neck issues that we’ve ignored or certainly played down. Similarly, when life serves us up a series of painful lessons for us to finally heed something, there is a journey we travelled to get to that point. They don’t happen in isolation; there are contributing factors that we have had warnings about.

At the point where it’s too big to ignore and/or we’re now experiencing the pain from the fallout, we are responding not just to what happened but all the stuff that came before it.

I don’t mind telling you all that the last twelve months or so have been mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually challenging. Yesterday I twigged that when this period of my life began, ten years before in 2004, I was also being put through my paces. I’ve had to call on everything I’ve learned and talked about over almost ten years of writing Baggage Reclaim, in order to come out the other side of these challenges. I’m still standing.

After previous challenging experiences, I’ve felt like more of a grownup and one of the things that’s come out of going through the wringer is recognising that I’m always growing up. There is no destination. I keep evolving. There’s a fluidity. But you know what? It’s damn feckin annoying because there’s a part of me that’s thinking, Ah for feck’s sake! Surely that’s me all sewn up on that front, and then I learn about it from a different angle and essentially get my self-knowledge and self-awareness put to the test.

Like me, many BR readers have gone through the grief that comes with having a kid inside of you that has been wounded by past experiences. Throw in difficult adult experiences such as relationships (romantic and otherwise), that are based on patterns honed in childhood and we have had some work to do in order to evolve and to loosen the grip of the past.

Over this last year, I’ve experienced challenging maternal relationships – mother and in-law – that came on the back of a series of things (crazy landlords, buying our new home, crazy work person, brother in mental health institution, brother-in-law hospitalised, father briefly popping into my life after a 2 now 3-year absence and the list goes on). You hope to have time to recover from things but each time I started to get my groove back, the next thing came. After a Christmas Day Dynasty/Dallas-style showdown between the mothers which resulted in some painful revelations, it brought up feelings that I hadn’t experienced for quite some time. I was furious. I felt so betrayed. I felt so disappointed and it amplified an inner whisper that the grownups (as in family elders), just can’t be frickin’ trusted.

I discovered that a part of me was angry for being “the fool” and for trusting. It brought up long forgotten feelings about being The Scapegoat and Piggy In the Middle.

I discovered that this series of things had activated this old feeling of wondering why all of this stuff was happening to me. What have I done? Why the f*ck is all of this stuff happening to me? IT’S NOT FAIR!

I discovered that a small part of me had looked to be mothered and as a result, I took my eye off the ball.

I discovered that yeah, things had happened, people had pissed me off etc, but that my pain was lingering because somewhere along the line I was taking what they did and rubbing my face in it and giving me a hard time. I briefly took up my old habit of looking for validation; wanting my pain and my point of view to be acknowledged and held by ‘everyone’. For a few weeks, I exhausted myself trying to be “perfect Nat” until I snapped.

I needed to acknowledge my pain and my point of view. I needed to acknowledge what all of this bloody stuff was telling me. I needed to acknowledge that this whole thing was taking its toll and that only I was in the position to do anything about it. I needed to get back to doing what I do best – being me. I ain’t no fool (said in my best Mr T voice).

I couldn’t do a great deal to change my outer circumstances because, well, I can’t do Jedi mind tricks. People are gonna be people – operating based on their own fears, motivations, beliefs etc and always outside of my control.

I had to go inward. I had to take care of me from the inside out. It immediately put me back in the driving seat.

I re-found compassion and self-care. I didn’t pretend that what happened was an oh-so-positive experience – most people are wide-eyed when I tell them I did an eight-and-a-half month stint of living with my mother-in-law (it was unavoidable due to circumstances outside of all our control) – but I did acknowledge the experience for what it was as well as what the hell it was here to teach me about so that I can move on from this chapter one day at a time.

The pain and the fallout has been a turning point.

Those repeater lessons that are happening are here to teach us something that’s going to turn out to be profoundly good for us and pay out dividends in the future if we are willing to put aside our egos and listen and learn now. We’re all guilty at times of feeling attached to being right but if it’s hurting us, we have to adjust our perspective and open up our minds.

It’s unrealistic to expect that because you think positive or take care of you that you won’t have challenges and hard times. Plenty of good things will happen in life when you come from a place of love, care, trust and respect, but you will still have to deal with life’s inevitable bumps as well.

While hanging with one of my closest pals, we both acknowledged how outrageous our recent mother experiences had been but that we actually needed these. We had things to face that we’d been unaware of the need to until we were in the thick of it. How else do we find out what we need to learn? When we ignore the lessons, they increase in size and pain.

One thing I’ve learned about grief related to your parents and anything that trips on old wounds is that grieving is something that’s done from different angles. You think that you’re ‘done’ and then something else comes along that forces you to grieve it in a different way and to strengthen and tighten up. Father’s Day brought up grief feelings for the first time in a long time but I observed it, took care of me, and the feelings and thoughts passed very quickly.

I could fear what the future holds for me and my extended family but I don’t have to be afraid of uncertainty if being sure of myself and having a willingness to take care of me is at the foundation of my life. I’m just going to trust them for who they are (less surprises…) and keep trusting myself.

I’m not exactly eager to go through painful experiences but I accept that pain is here to guide me (and you) on what we need to be and do for ourselves.

Sometimes we don’t realise how we betray ourselves until we feel the pain of the fallout of our dealings with those who betray us and let us down. We don’t have to mark them as ‘bad people’ but we do have to keep circling back to whether we are honouring ourselves. I’ve learned that we don’t actually get mad at us for living who we truly are; we get mad because we know where we’ve digressed and we also know where we knew what we needed to be and do but didn’t pay attention or shied away from stepping up because we were enjoying something now or afraid. We will all slip at times but we all have the potential to learn from the experiences. They become turning points for growth and change.

Your thoughts?

And before anybody asks, I used all of the stuff I talk about here on BR and BR School including Unsent Letters, self-soothing, journaling, exercise (mainly yoga), and self-care practices to help calm my busy head (lying flat for ten minutes), improved sleep routine, People Pleasing Diet. I will be sharing more insights from this last year’s experiences.

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