Saturday, 6 February 2016

Constellations [Energy... Magnetic Fields]

I’ve been wanting to write for a while, wanting but never quite committing…  So many times, as the number of internet friends increased and curiosity about my “artwork” with it, I panicked about people stumbling across this blog, with the last post being as bleak as it was, I’ve been tempted to just put a happy picture up and an apology “It’s not always this bleak, there’s beauty on one of these pages, somewhere…”

Well here it, is, here it all is. Here come the words.

This week I felt pretty damn low, to quote my poetic dad, “lower than a lizard’s bollocks”.
As a result of many things, increased workload, sleep-deprivation, not taking the time to organize my thoughts (here and elsewhere), resurgence of self-doubt (back with a vengeance) familial loss, and, just plain travel-hangover to be honest with you.


Most recently I think the long journeys, combined with returning to a flat that's colder than Lapland has eked it's way into my head and made a chilly oozy nest, freezing and clouding everything, cracking up.. 

Over the last 12 months I've spent 70 days away from the UK, squished together that's more than two long months. Luxembourg city, Brussels twice, Minorca, Berlin, from north to the south of France with an interlude of a few days each in Budapest and Figueras in northern Spain, Paris, Yerevan and Aghveran out east in old Armenia for almost 10 days (with a stamp on my Kiev stop-over as an added bonus!) and most recently (I got back Monday morning!) Stockholm, Arvidsjaur (and a day in Lulea, both in Swedish Lapland) and Stockholm again.


When I clump all this movement together in one stationary mass, without going in to the many new people I've opened my life to (and they me) and the huge lurches and sways of my emotional see-saw, it's now apparent and acceptable for me to see just why this year has been so intense, incredible and at times difficult.


In and out of relationships, up and up in clothes sizes, sexual harassment, insecure back and forth between my desire to be good at my job and my ever present impostor syndrome, it's no wonder I've needed frequent pause for reflection but, on reflection, I haven't really respected that need in me... 

Not all of this transit has been job-related, a few weeks were strictly leisure, but for the most part, the new people I’ve met and new lands visited have been in large part linked to my job.
I work for the Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services (CWVYS; http://www.cwvys.org.uk/ ).

CWVYS is the representative body of third sector youth work in Wales. Part of my job is to feed information from a European level down to our local levels (and take comments and best practice back up to our European colleagues) and to disseminate information on Erasmus Plus opportunities to our 82 member organisations throughout Wales who together work with some 200,000 young people.



I applied to go on a training course in Armenia for example, partly because the subject matter was of huge interest to me as an individual, but crucially to get a sense of how such trainings can be organised and structured, to better inform members of CWVYS who have questions about designing and administering projects of their own, as part of my job role.
Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t a case of “let’s see what I can get out of this”, but, it doesn’t mean that CWVYS or I don’t personally benefit.

For example, in September in Budapest at the Symposium on Youth Participation in a Digitalised world I had a truly memorable conversation with one of the facilitators I’d met in Brussels at the Youth Work Convention back in April. In April he was taking notes to feed into the final report/declaration and he was working with our small group on Democratic Participation. In Budapest he was there in his capacity as a worker from Jugend fur Europa. We had a brilliant conversation about, well, I’ll sample some of the digital fall-out of it;
Guten Abend Jochen!

I just wanted to say a digital "hi", and offer a "thanks" also.
I shared some interesting conversations over the last few days but our semi-philosophical discussion about (among other things) (self)acceptance and expectations stands out.

Sort of as a continuation of the subject, I thought you might be interested in this article I read a few months ago;

The whole site is worth a look, and the YouTube channel "The School Of Life".
You could say it's a sort of easily digestible philosophy for the lazy but troubled mind!

If you have a little time would you mind writing me the name of the type of alternative school you mentioned, which supports children through encouraging and facilitating? I forgot the name (began with S?).
No rush or obligation, naturally.

I hope you and your wife found some interesting souvenirs for your little ones and that you guys got home safe.

Tschüß!

We also mentioned control and having to let go of that which you cannot (which I grapple with). I told him after I’d almost knocked over our tray, that I was surprisingly clumsy on the mainland, I’d recently walked into a plate glass door in southern France and before that I’d fallen over on Unter den Linden mid-conversation, a summer of blunders!

Interestingly he said that it was probably my body’s reaction to my stringent mental parameters, meeting new people, wanting to make a good impression, too much regulation… I found it really interesting and insightful because he hardly knew me yet had a sense that this was the case (and I think it could be!).

In response to the above;
Hi Helen,
The conversation with you was as well one of my outstanding talks in Budapest.
 It is maybe these thematic areas that gather truth seekers, spiritual travellers, searchers and researchers or ...name it.
So, thank you for the Book of Life hint, I will look through it. 

Then he shared a load of useful links to different school models that encourage rather than limit kids :)

Apart from the colourful bunch of youth working wonders I met in Buda and knowing I’d probably meet a similar gang of good eggs in Armenia, on a truly personal level, taking part in that particular project  in Aghveran has had a deep impact on both my confidence and empathy, among other things.





I can't recommend taking part in such a project enough (so, it’s lucky that part of my job is to encourage applications!), they're all going to differ slightly, dependant on participants (our group was fantastic! <3 ), but, it will alter a person somewhat, usually for the better!

Through drawing, through collage, through singing, through movement in 'energizer' activities I feel like Betzavta (togetherness in Hebrew) really pushed my expressive capacity to new heights. In one exercise we had to design a logo for equality/humanity without speaking to our partners, it was so incredibly interesting, challenging and amusing!

We also had a brilliant cultural visit to an Armenian chef's house where we sampled traditional foods and listened to traditional folk music, this, along with the anecdotes of others from Armenia but also from all the other places the participants were from, had lived or had visited, really enriched my knowledge of cultural differences, above and beyond what can be gleaned through reading or even vacations to different places.




I will never forget what I've learned and also what I was able to teach others about Wales and the Welsh language.
In terms of bettering our logic and analytical skills, as part of the Betzavta method, towards the end of the week we naturally assessed the needs of each party to arrive at solutions in the most fair, inclusive or democratic way.

Additionally, we spent a greater amount of time evaluating the activities than the duration of the activities themselves. As a natural result of this we ended up being more mindful of the processes and potentially inflammatory factors at play during the sessions and largely avoided displeasing or not including people. It was a very subtle, almost surreptitious development in the group dynamic (which was fantastic!) but a hugely valuable one, quite possibly because it wasn't so obvious and thus seemed a natural evolution of our working together.



I think these last few points also highlight that we became more adept at assessing and being sensitive towards our immediate environments.
Due to the structure of the Betzavta method and the emphasis that was put on (our occasionally baring and very honest) discussion and evaluation, being exposed to these processes daily, for a week, we all learned to listen and recognise shortcomings, pitfalls and our better qualities.

It seemed as though we each discovered so much about our personal ways of interacting, reflecting, engaging (- or not) and analysing, so we got to know ourselves better and in turn, recognizing biases, patterns, faults and strengths, we became better group members, and thus the group became stronger and closer as a result.





This amazing approach of assessment and measurement of needs, compromise or change of situation, democratic practices like majority voting - ideally leading to a scenario where most or as many as possible are satisfied with the outcome, this, will be an invaluable tool I will consult for the rest of my life.

It seemed like a lot of our group were empathetic introspective people, so this method of self-reflection was something some of us had been doing throughout our lives, instinctively.
As such not only could we share this with our fellow participants who were perhaps not as accustomed to such ways of being, now that we have a name and a structured process, we are also able to share it with others. I certainly shall, and I hope this constant re-visitation will help me to develop my grasp and understanding further, and, ultimately, be a better human for it.





The whole ethos of the Betzavta training seemed to centre around how to be better participants in our communities, how to be more embracing and less prejudiced, and most certainly how to be able to cope effectively when conflicts arise - or how to prevent them outright.
Before taking part I was unfamiliar with Betzavta and so didn't have many expectations or ideas of what was to come.
On the final day we had a bit of background to the method and it just rang true!
Everything the method prioritises or sets out to do, happened, unbeknown to us, no self-fulfilling prophecy - the training was just so expertly planned and facilitated that we all got there without even realising quite where we were headed.

"The goal of Betzavta is the recognition of every individual’s equal right to freedom.  The Betzavta method makes this concrete, by looking at natural patterns of behaviour and how much each person’s freedom affects the other’s.  To what extent do these freedoms infringe on each other, and how much is each person aware of how much freedom they ‘take up’ in a group?  Becoming aware of your own behaviour leads a better understanding of one’s own needs as well as the others’ needs.  This awareness is the goal of Betzavta activities.  
In the end of a Betzavta seminar, participants are not morally superior, or necessarily ‘more democratic’.  But they are more aware of when they are being undemocratic, or when they take more or less freedom.  This awareness is a skill to be harnessed through practice, which leads to better communication and effective decision making."



This is literally what became of our group!
As a group we were given the freedom to regulate ourselves, so to avoid strains and acrimonious disagreements we improved on our listening and relationship skills.

I certainly believe empathy was strengthened, and the capacity to change an opinion (sometimes deeply held), when presented with a reasonable discussion of needs/facts is a huge skill - abandoning the need to be proved right or wrong is a critical step in being able to relate and engage wholly and holistically.

Sharing a room with a relative stranger and speaking aloud in front of a group of new people are themselves quite daunting – without the added strangeness of a new environment, different country or packed training schedule (and chest infection in my case…), I feel that adjusting to and accepting these situations (something I would have run a mile from no too long ago) has had an enormous impact on my personal confidence.

Existing traits have been built upon and improved further (empathy, understanding, curiosity in different cultures) and new skills like recognising and balancing personal styles and group dynamics have been introduced and will hopefully be expanded further for years to come.




Plus, and I know this isn’t the key reason to go anywhere and it’s not a way of saying “what you can get out of other people”, no (as I’ve written here before,  a friend is not a means, a friend is a beautiful end!), not at all, but, through meeting others and introducing yourself to a greater amount of people with which you have the potential to empathise with, not only does it widen your outward perspective in that way, but, it enriches your inner one too.

Sometimes we view ourselves through the filters of expectation, habit and possibly one or two negative assumptions others have placed on us since childhood.
One of the last “exercises” we did before leaving Aghveran, on the last night, we each wrote our names on an envelope and placed them all in the corner, we were invited, should we feel compelled to, to leave notes for the other participants, a sort of fond goodbye or take-away memory.

The idea was that after our long journeys home, we would open them and remember our time together, not forget what we’d learned and shared.
I want to share some of the truly amazing things people left in my envelope, totally unexpected and touching.
When you go somewhere and you’re in the position of basically having 20 strangers you can get to know as well as you can in a short amount of time, inevitably you don’t end up fully knowing everyone equally, you have great conversations with some, listen in on others, end up sat to different people, it’s partly chance but it’s partly that invisible pull, too. I felt it in Berlin, In Budapest, in Aghveran and I felt it in Arvidsjaur too. An attraction to certain people, out of a potential many, a gravitation to a particular individual or group that told me “I want to learn more about you”.

I don’t know if it’s unconscious meeting of like-minds so I end up in a comforting echo chamber, or, what, I honestly don’t know, but, whatever happened, certainly in Armenia, I ended up having really important meetings with incredibly warm humans. The notes I was left, even from people I didn’t get to speak with as much as I would have liked, were, just heart-wrenchingly, tear-inducingly lovely.
Ok, so I came home from an 8 hour flight and an equally long bus journey, on lack of sleep, still with a chest infection, at stupid o clock in the morning, to an empty flat (I’d missed Soph!), slumped in the living room with my bag still on my back, rolled onto my stomach and up-ended the envelope. A shower of colour and papery love hit the carpet and I started reading, eventually through the lense of my joyous tears.



“Dear Helen, I was touched by your words”

“Thank you for everything, you are so cool, Wales is relying on you!”

“Helen! You’re definitely in the top 5 of the most unusual girls I’ve ever met, in a positive way of course. Stay the same way! I’ll not forget you despite that we almost didn’t speak to each other, you’re very nice J “ – On the last night I sang a duet with this lovely gent, chest infection in its final throes, he strumming a guitar and both of us singing to Radiohead’s “No Surprises”, it was a beautiful unforgettable moment!

“Such a creative and lovely person! I enjoyed our time spent together and would have wished we would have had more time for conversations, so, let’s find a way to cooperate and meet again!”

“I like you very much and want to see you one day again!”

“Helen my dear you are so sensitive and deep inside you have a really beautiful soul, which you show maybe nobody but I’m sure that my thought is right <3 Please be more self-assured, because you really are perfect. Maybe one day we will meet each other and talk about everything, because we had no real chance to talk here, you are beautiful and should look in the mirror often <3 P.s. sorry for the English :))) “

“Never met such a positive and peaceful person as you are. Person who I admire too… Thank you for your support, help, positive energy. You are a GREAT person. I’ll miss you, may your soul always smile.”

“Right now I’m beside you and I see a beautiful person, inside and outside. I would like to know you better, cause I think you’re a special person, I hope to see you soon, you’re invited to my home any time.”

“Hey Helen, you are such a clever and cute bird, why do you always try to make you less? You are the best!”

“Dearest Helen, Thank you so much for your presence the past week. I truly appreciate our many little conversations; thank you for opening up and sharing your stories with me. You are such a kind and gentle soul, and I am so glad to have met you. J Wishing you nothing but good in all that you do. Stay creative, stay colourful. Here’s a little heart for you (origami!) to carry with you as a reminder of our time together and also for you to always remember you have me in your corner <3 “

“It was awesome meeting you! Great energy, awesome soul and beautiful mind… Let’s meet again, somehow, somewhere… Come visit, whenever you want, I’ll be very happy to host you! <3”

“Dear Helen, you gorgeous girl! There are so many things that I feel like telling, but, most of all I will tell you this… Surround yourself with good people that have positive and good energy, and purify your own, because you don’t even know how lovely you are, in every way and you deserve the best!! I truly hope that we will see each other again J <3 “

“Helen you are such a beautiful, genuine, warm person I’ve ever met, I don’t know why you doubt yourself! You truly are amazing and I can’t explain it any clearer, I am so glad I met you! Please Please Please keep in touch!”

“Helen, you are such a beautiful soul. Seeing you reflect and being so honest with yourself was intense! I consider myself lucky to get to know you during this week, thank you x “

“Helen, It was great to meet you, I wish you will set yourself free from the conditions that others may try to put on you. Be free and happy! All the best for you, thank you.”

“Dear Helen, what a unique spirit you are – individual but also able to see yourself in others. There are no victims – only opportunities for growth/learning <3”

“Dear Helen, It was so good to know you! We had such interesting and good days together, thank you for that! You are such a good person, never give up and look forward, because you are powerful and you can do everything you want. My house is always open for you, I will miss you!”

“Dear Helen, at first I want to say that I’m really happy to meet you, you are amazing but unfortunately you don’t know that you are so good. Because you are so modest, so nice, so kind, such a friendly person - I like you so much, I always listened to your ideas with great attention. I can say you are so clever. But the first point for why I love you so much is that you are so modest. I really want to see you again and let’s keep in touch! P.s. I didn’t write a long note for everyone ;) “

Wow right?

Reading all that, and the words of others which I might include below, not only is it intensely touching, but, I feel slightly uncomfortable.. How did these people jump to these conclusions?  Am I ok? I often feel I go about the world all slouched and apologetic, a bit of a negative force, but, they saw goodness, felt a kind energy and warmth, honesty, empathy and intellect… I think I’ll put them together and include them as supporting documents for the next job I apply for!!

Beauties!

On that note, if you’d like to learn more about one of our marvellous trainers, Tali, (who penned one of the above notes) you can read a little here; https://theoneswhomadeit.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/the-art-of-self-reflection-everyone-talks-about-changing-the-world-no-one-talks-about-changing-themselves/
I have picked out: “Beyond education, as knowledge and skills, reflection is just as important. You have to unlearn just as much as you learn. Education, or culture, is also a limitation – because it teaches you things you don’t question.
And then you start to believe that this is who you are – your identity, your social group, your culture, your opinions, your career. Then we see, from looking at our society today, that what we don’t question unknowingly takes away our natural freedom and peace. We draw a border between ‘my culture’ and ‘your culture’ or more personally – my ‘work life’ and my ‘social life’. I wanted to provide people a way to practice this type of reflection, so that we don’t continue the unquestioned habit of dividing ourselves based on our beliefs. These divisions in ourselves project out into the world, and then we grieve over a divided and conflicting society. But we are so conflicted in ourselves, it’s no wonder much of the world is in such a state. Being an entrepreneur for me was simply a tool to provide this kind of learning and unlearning to those who wished.”

And;
"We see, from looking at our society today, that what we don’t question unknowingly takes away our natural freedom and peace. We draw a border between ‘my culture’ and ‘your culture’ or more personally – my ‘work life’ and my ‘social life’. I wanted to provide people a way to practice this type of reflection, so that we don’t continue the unquestioned habit of dividing ourselves based on our beliefs. These divisions in ourselves project out into the world, and then we grieve over a divided and conflicting society. But we are so conflicted in ourselves, it’s no wonder much of the world is in such a state.
Sometimes people want to fix the world, but really what they want is to fix themselves. The funny thing is – nothing is broken. It’s another belief that we have a hard time unlearning.
Don’t try to change the world. Love the world.
That is the change.”

Just as a black and white literary illustration of her awesomeness, using her words of wisdom, she truly is great. Such lessons we shared and such highs and lows, stark realisations and downright fun the group had learning/reaching them.

At the end of the last day we stood in a circle and sang a song (that’s typically used at the end of non violent communication workshops) about how beautiful we all were. Linking arms with everyone and attempting a messy group hug, I’m not ashamed to admit that most of us were moved to tears (mine were torrential!), it was intense.

So. Much. Feeling.


It came off the back of a short-lived intense relationship of sorts that combusted not long before my departure for Armenia. Last year there seems to have been a series of deaths and renewal, of grief and hard won resolution.

I mentioned back here that I’d been very lucky to find work in the third sector back in January last year, and even luckier to finish that internship and jump straight into work at CWVYS almost at the same time as I moved to Cardiff my year-long relationship with a good human ended, and not long after I started with CWVYS in the spring I had an intense affair with another beautiful creature.
So. Much. Feeling.

On top of everything else, these romantic entanglements gave me less time to focus on my shifting moods, stress-inducing workload and increasingly negative thoughts.
I see now that I was expecting far too much of myself, and, it’s ok that I felt a little burnt out.

What’s not ok is that I continue to allow myself so frequently to become distracted by sex and easily dissuaded from focusing my energy on learning better coping mechanisms and becoming a more accepting loving human. I don’t need to change as such, just change my perspective… Why is it so hard?

So often we know in theory what is good for us, but, we fail to put this into practice, or our approach is wrong or, something is off
For example I know I need to move more, that's a given, but I need to be ok with it if that makes sense, like, just doing it because I know I should rather than physically crave it, it's not a help...

Last summer I ran over 100 miles in a couple of months, I went through that break up and noticed I’d started binge-eating again, so, I started running, a lot for me... 
I kept getting swollen, I put on weight, I felt like absolute garbage...

Then I read a study that said if you force yourself to exercise (which is a traumatic experience for the body, all the sudden movement and upheaval), instead of wanting to, your mind kinda makes the body register all the hormone rush, muscle strain and unpleasantness as a traumatic experience, so you might get a little adrenaline, but no dopamine or serotonin because the bod don't want to reward you and encourage you to go through such craziness in future... I was like, fuck, that's so what happens! Like my body was in shock after every run… I ended up with shin splints too...

Made me feel like a failure, like, damn this should be "working", why isn't it?! How can I get even this wrong?! Turns out, it's not uncommon, it let me off the hook a little...

Now, I just have to listen to myself better, move when it feels good (dancing alone in the dark?!), understand that the extra weight is ok, and that if I start counting this or measuring that, it's a short fall back into disordered eating and a long way out again... In short, RELAX.

Easier said than done, right?



I had a great talk with a cool human named Mohammed recently in Lapland, we were talking about expectations, fitting in, getting accustomed and de-sensitised to things. One of the (many) things we agreed on was that sometimes you reach a conclusion, you realise there’s a certain way you need to be (live authentically without being forced to conform for example) but, it’s easier said than done. His aunt died that week, a day after my uncle, and we were talking about the aftermath of death and how it makes you realise the brevity of life, you have all these notions (like, I’m going to make more of an effort to connect with my family!) then you realise… 

It doesn’t work like that! You can’t decide one day to get on with your family better, sure it’s a step in the right direction, but, unless everyone else is on board, you can’t force it, irrespective of whether you think your point of view is the most enlightened, if nobody else subscribes, it’s as if there’s no change, except now you feel a little hard done by that you had all these great plans for how meaningful everything was going to be all of a sudden and nothing took!

Whatever the case, our discussions were good ones, and, when I left and was unable to say goodbye to them he said “I just want to say that it was great meeting you and I really hope to see you again somewhere. Take care and don’t give a fuck about what is expected from you :) “



I really am touched that these people whose lives have intersected with mine so briefly seem to share such sentiments and also an undercurrent of wanting to free me from the shackles of my own imposed limitations. It’s humbling.

Along the lines of forced-enlightenment, I was reminded about how things have ended with me and all the Mr.s of late. The lack of contact, even among those who claimed a move over to the friendship, yet, have still not been in contact for months.

Lovely Dan sent this to me;
From which I have picked;
It’s unhealthy; Blanking is an avoidance tactic. Psychologists have shown that prolonged avoidance can be extremely damaging; it’s much healthier to confront your problems and accept (or resolve) them rather than avoiding them.

It’s understandable that you may be hesitant to confront the issue  and pretending the other person doesn’t exist is definitely easier in the short term — but maybe you should just grow the fuck up? Identify the reason and ensure both you and they are clear on what it is. Once you’re both clear on what the issue is and have all your cards on the table, pull your head out of the sand andtalk about the problem. Provided you’re both willing to repair the relationship you’ll be able to reach an amicable resolution, but even if you don’t feel that’s possible at least ensure both parties leave with closure and a valuable life lesson in how to (or not to) behave towards others.

I replied to him that the last part of the article particularly resonated with me.
That it’s an anguish when you try to talk things out but someone’s wish is to be left alone for the foreseeable future, respect their wishes at a huge cost to your mental wellbeing?

(This reminds me of the Betzavta method and some of the discussions we had around freedom, freedom is the right to live your life to it’s full potential without infringing on anyone else’s abilities to do the same, in this situation, whose needs trump the other’s? The person who doesn’t want to engage and just closes the book (or sets fire to it and throws it out the window!) or the person who needs the engagement in order to close it and open a new volume?)
I agreed that, whatever your thoughts are concerning what’s healthy/unhealthy engagement/communication, when someone knows how insecure and anxious you can get, that you have a tendency to depression and over the top self-scrutiny, it’s malicious to create such a gaping canyon of unanswered questions.





I’ve thought a lot about acceptance, but, I don’t think acceptance means totally obfuscating your well being in the name of “respecting someone’s wishes”. Fuck the amount of excuses I’ve made “accepting” people’s (enforced) demands to be left alone indefinitely, there comes a time when you realise they are behaving in a cowardly fashion and are taking what is for them the easy way out, and, for you, is an invitation to sleepless nights and incessant self-doubt.
Sorry this is all so muddled, I feel like I’m writing this before I run out of time… 

Recently I have committed to mentor some soon-to-arrive EVS volunteers and also an extra work-day-a-week (related to the increase in interest in European opportunities - we need to make some new resources and that's apparently where I come in!), I’ve got to fit in making a film, exercising (!), visiting Jennifer before it’s too late, a funeral, meetings, newsletters and web updates, and, you know, being social and cooking whole-food delicious meals and practicing self-acceptance, ha!

So seriously, why am I writing, and why this job fascination with Europe?

One way of looking at it from an organisational point of view is that they share more enlightened attitudes towards youth work “over there”.

The short answer is that I go because nobody else is going, I meet amazing people who have never heard of CWVYS, of Welsh words and some even who don’t know that the UK is more than England and Scotland.

I go so I can get a better understanding of application processes and, crucially, so that when CWVYS members ask me about the Key Actions and funding possibilities, my answers are much better informed and insightful.

It’s working too, I’ve already encouraged individuals to apply for training courses and already sowed some seeds of possibility in the minds of others who will likely put in bids for the April deadlines.
 I go too, so that I can build our contact network (we are already working with 4 partners, if their bids are successful it means that when they put a call out for participants on the training courses they’ve proposed, it will be an opportunity for me to find participants from the UK, which means first going to our members, which means the Voluntary Youth Work Sector in Wales has a first say! The youth workers have great experiences, meet other youth workers, future partnerships/exchanges explored, which, for the young people they work with means more opportunities and better trained youth workers! WIN).

I also go because Wales was the 1st in UK to sign the UNCRC, with the pledge that no child should be in poverty by 2020, but now there are as many children in poverty in the UK as there are humans in Wales, by 2020 that will rise by half a million to Scotland’s population. We have the data that says this will happen, but, what’s the government doing, what are we doing exactly…? Nothing.

In a similar story to Austerity (which the government’s own economists say is bad for the country but which the greedy Tories went along with anyway!) and Renewable Energy/Climate Change/Fracking/Nuclear Power. 

We are a bloody windswept island for goodness sake, why can’t we harness tidal and wind power? What are we waiting for? We know the future forecast is bleak, but, we seem to be…waiting

Why do we need to use shaky and just plain dangerous means of generating energy? I don’t understand why we haven’t made a viable shift to cleaner energy already? What are they waiting for? Or is it a case of pleasing friends and existing wealthy contractors?
 It makes me angry. Anger is better than Apathy perhaps but it’s not exactly healthy, it’s not ‘sustainable’.

Which brings me to something I often grapple with, to blunt this anger, should I look again to Acceptance?

Always.

In the very wise words of Tali Padan, “don’t try to change the world. Love the world. That is the change.”

As I feel myself slipping into downward spirals I’ve been reading a bit about self-compassion, self-sabotage and Dialectical Behavioural therapy.

What is DBT?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) treatment is a cognitive-behavioral approach that emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment. The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations, primarily those found in romantic, family and friend relationships. DBT theory suggests that some people’s arousal levels in such situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a significant amount of time to return to baseline arousal levels.
People who are sometimes diagnosed with borderline personality disorder experience extreme swings in their emotions, see the world in black-and-white shades, and seem to always be jumping from one crisis to another. Because few people understand such reactions — most of all their own family and a childhood that emphasized invalidation — they don’t have any methods for coping with these sudden, intense surges of emotion. DBT is a method for teaching skills that will help in this task.

Characteristics of DBT

  • Support-oriented: It helps a person identify their strengths and builds on them so that the person can feel better about him/herself and their life.
  • Cognitive-based: DBT helps identify thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that make life harder: “I have to be perfect at everything.” “If I get angry, I’m a terrible person” & helps people to learn different ways of thinking that will make life more bearable: “I don’t need to be perfect at things for people to care about me”, “Everyone gets angry, it’s a normal emotion.

Additionally, thanks to an awesome human I met in Sweden, I started to look into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy; Developed within a coherent theoretical and philosophical framework, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a unique empirically based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behaviour change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility.

This particular brilliant human is trained in the above and is also otherwise enlightened to some of the trials and tribulations of the human condition. During our short time in Sweden together, we had some interesting talks about humanity, eco psychology, veganism, and, ahem, energy.

I mentioned my talk in Budapest, that we had some really good discussions about how empathetic learning, providing a space for humans to thrive and embrace differences (as he and I had already mentioned, acceptance rather than forced change).

Then I said that there were lots of great ideas but that I also think I need to be a better person individually, first, before I'm able to have a positive impact in the lives of others.

He asked me if I’d heard of “Family Constellations” it's a technique that intends to clear family issues that are being passed on through generations. It's a technique from a German man (Bert Hellinger) who lived among some kind of African tribe who solves these family issues by 'role play. It's not really a role play, but definitely effective and interesting.”

And when I read that, about stopping negative familial cycles, it really appealed to me, but, again, I wondered, “how does he know?”
It really appeals to me because I think there are negative patterns at play in our familial dynamics and I think it's something I should research further but again, as the talk with Mohammed touched upon, I’m not sure it’s something my family would get on board with… Perhaps I’ll ask after the funeral next Tuesday… 

Regardless, I do love the idea of focusing on acceptance rather than denial and forced change, as with DBT which (,unlike CBT that points out defects that need altering,) promotes the idea of being able to accept your flaws and then maybe change your perception of them. It would truly be awesome, preferably through communion with nature and artistic expression... !

It’s a life-long apprenticeship, a “co-evolution”, and, I’m going easier on myself, to quote Pedro Juan Gutierrez; That's where I was, still. Coming to all those conclusions. Madness lurked, and I eluded it's grasp. Too much has happened in too short a time for one person to handle...
It’s ok…




As mentioned I’ve met a lot of people this year, and, from the notes I typed up and included above, to the messages I’ve pasted below, my energy has been mentioned on several occasions. 

Now, I wasn’t really sure what that meant. I always assumed it was that… sensation that someone is good, or interesting or that you want to know more about them, you know, that ‘good feeling’ you can sometimes get about people or they you… But this person mentioned that I had a really strong good energy, he reached out to touch me and stopped maybe 15 or 20cm short of me, like, the length of a small/medium ruler, and said he could feel it there, and that usually it’s not as vast for others. 

Usually it’s felt much closer to their bodies… I was intrigued and confused, so I reached out slowly for him, and, whatever it was, I could feel a palpable heat, a resistance almost. Much closer to his skin though, maybe 5cm away, and, well, I know me, I’m a cynic and a highly-sexed one at that, I just assumed it was because we were in a warm room, beer was involved as was arousal… even so… I can’t help but recall that wavering resistance.

Before that conversation, we had been sitting next to each other in our wide circle of participants and our feet almost touched constantly, I was wearing my trusty fake leather boots and he was wearing just thick socks, even so there was no mistaking a kind of vibration, a warmth, through so many layers! At the time I attributed it to basic arousal, but, I’m not so keen to brush it off in hindsight, I don’t think it was limited to that. So, energy then!
On return to our respective countries there’s been a little contact, and so, I asked this person, for some reason, I don’t know exactly what compelled me to, but, I did it anyway, I asked what sort of first impression I made. I then immediately felt foolish and apologised and said not to worry, that it was probably forgettable or insignificant (oh Helen, do shut up with that, whatever you are it certainly isn’t boring).


A day later:
Of course you've made an impression on me, a very positive one. 
My impression of you is that you're a tolerant, non judging, peaceful, compassionate, creative, open minded, fun and friendly woman. I guess you're well aware of that. It makes you a pleasant person to be around. 

In Sweden I told you that you have a unique powerful energy. I was honest with that and I believe that if you manage to find your ways, how to get in touch with that and to make good use of it, you will thrive and be of great service to humanity. What I mean to say is that you have a lot to offer to this society, on whatever scale, I believe even more than you do now. Seriously you're a very strong woman, and I know that you are aware of that, and maybe you're afraid of it. Anyways it looks like you're reluctant to explore that part of yourself. 

Now you ask me this question and it makes me wonder whether you really want to know what I think of you or that you ask for a kind of confirmation that you're still a good person. I realise this sounds a bit rude (sorry Dutch style), but I believe there is absolutely no reason to doubt yourself. You're a wonderful person as you are.

First of all, after the initial bodily thrill of receiving such words, I did panic slightly, I thought, what if I wasn’t asking for a personal view, what if I was just hoping for some compliment that I could cling to…?

Am I collecting the words of others here, now, just to make myself feel momentarily better?

Well, I definitely am compiling a catalogue of compliments, that seems to be true, but, I truly don’t think it’s a case of just unceremoniously taking the goodness and kindness of others and never giving, I sincerely hope it doesn’t feel that way to anyone, like, I would just do or say something just for the sake of response.

Yes of course if I ask something I do so for a response, of course, but, not just a confirmation of my existing bias. In this particular case for sure I asked because I truly give a damn what this person thinks, not just of me, but, yes, that too. It warmed my heart to think I could be part of such a connection, with such a person…

So where am I, messily gathering the threads of my thoughts… Energy, love, acceptance…

My advice;
Dear dear Helen,
You are a beautiful person
You have so much energy to share
You are noted by others
But with every thing its more easy to think about the difficulties than about possibilities.

And all the other kind and good words I’ve heard recently…
I can't remember where I read it, but it went like this; If you have space in your heart, you have space in your home. From one of the other participants in Sweden maybe..

Which reminded me of Andy, opening his home to me in Stockholm both before and after the week in Lapland (<3) and Mohammed opening his for some of the other participants who, like me, weren't leaving Stockholm for another night after the course ended.

I didn't get the chance to say a proper goodbye, we (eventually!) shared a Saturday night dinner in old Stockholm and as we parted (they went north I went south) we tentatively planned to meet up the following day.

Sadly it just didn't synchronise and I still owe some farewell hugs, but, I truly hope to see them in future, you know when you just get a good feeling about people?
 It's not a simple or easy thing for me to let my guard down and embrace strangers, but, maybe Kat, Jan (the beautiful Czechs, what ambassadors they are for their country!), Mohammed and Thomas weren't strangers. Maybe that's why it seemed easy to hang out with them, to have a laugh, share interesting conversations and eat some pasta together in a foreign land...


On the subject of foreign lands, Dan and I were discussing meeting for a cuppa recently. We were discussing places to go and it transpired that I hadn't been to any of the suggested spots, he was like, WHAT?!
And I said, I told you before, I'm lame, I barely go anywhere! (it’s certainly true of Cardiff, apart from a few solo-cinema excursions I barely leave the house when I’m home, I’m a bit worried about having to show the new EVS ladies the ropes, but, somehow the good people coordinating the thing seem to think I’m ideal, maybe it’s the hair, maybe they think I’m “hip and in the know”! Or, [gulp!] young and cool!)

He said; (That would be a lot more convincing if you hadn't been on at least six adventures in the last year.)

Which made me think immediately of a chat me and my dad had had before I left for Armenia. The utter contradiction that is my mind!

He was like, "you're a classic avoidant personality in many ways, barely socialise, barely leave the house, lacking confidence... Then boom, you go to fucking Armenia on your own to live with strangers for a week! Can't work you out sometimes".

I definitely think it was meant in a heartfelt, proud sort of way, you’re a conundrum but we love you all the same.
I think this much is true, and, I’m many things. That’s ok.

Even so, all this vacillation, these extremes of heat and ice, they take their toll. I wrote this not too long after something or other had ended and something or other was doubtlessly hot on its tails, last November.

There were too many episodes from which to glean some experience, grains of potential wisdom pelting me from all sides.
I was never any good at editing.
Time was I had so little stimuli in my outer life that my inner force was able to concentrate and turn those grits into endearingly misshapen pearls. 
Now there is so much sand that I am buried under its weight and all forge-like energy has become extinguished and desert.

Is that ok?

I read this not that long ago and maybe it might help you guys too?
It’s an Everyday feminism article on 3 things to remember when you can't stop beating yourself up:

We want to honour all of the feelings that we feel, which means even the crummy ones, but it’s only actually healthy if we let ourselves off the hook for feeling whatever it is we’re feeling.
It’s kind of like Confucius said: “To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.”
Letting yourself be as you are is hard, but it’s also possible.
Their articles are usually useful and compassionate and are structured in a way that they outline common issues, whether it's reluctance to discuss white privileges, perpetuating harmful stereotypes or self-hate, and they offer tips (usually numbered, so the articles are "7 ways to help with..." And so on) on how to deal with these things.


I feel like I've offered a lot of issues up in this post, but, rather than structuring it in a helpful way so that others can learn or be helped by it (like Dan’s blog about Blocking or the Everyday Feminism article around letting yourself off the hook), I've written it confusingly, as its come out of me. I haven't written in a while so I've chucked every loose end together and hoped for the best...

I know if I gave myself more time I might be able to structure it in a way that was more easy-to-consume, but, you will know by now reader, it’s over 8000 words long, it took a lot of time already, and, selfishly, I just NEEDED to write something, and, this is it, all of it.

I missed out some and probably added more than I anticipated (it's hard to tell where these things will end up, but... It's ok).., it's OK.

And that's ok. It means I'm human. It means I have a HUGE capacity to feel and connect, but an equally large capacity to experience pain.

That's ok.

A couple of days ago I shared the Kings of Convenience song I’d Rather Dance With You on Facebook with the added text “I'd actually rather be wrapped up warm watching a lovely film with a beautiful person stroking my hair and telling me everything is going to be ok.

I kind of realise now, that I’m that person, right?


That’s ok.