I started writing this blog so many times over the past few years (in my head) and now I am finally getting down to putting my thoughts out there into the Universe, albeit it being much slower than I had anticipated. I have allowed FEAR to suffocate many opportunities that have been presented to me throughout my life and the sad thing for me is, that I have dedicated my entire career to helping and supporting people through their own life challenges of trauma, pain, grief etc… and didn’t feel worthy enough to heal my own immense pain that I carried.
I made a decision last year when I turned 50 that I would start living my life on purpose and do all the things that I long to do. I decided that I would live my life coming from a place of being true to myself, being more creative with my writing and poetry, begin public speaking and in general work towards a healthier mind and body.
7 months on and here I am just beginning with the writing bit…
I am writing this blog for me.
I am giving myself a space to be free of the critical restraints that I have so beautifully bound myself up with.
I am giving myself a gift, of loving myself enough, to be okay with being who I am, just as I am and being alive because I am worth it.
So my journey begins with me being as open and authentic as I can be right now. This is the start of something new for me and I am excited and a little nervous too but I know thats okay.
So here I am, the other side of that painful story.
It has taken almost a year to write so very little and yet such a massive part of my personal history and now I need a break from the deep and painfully bleak writing.
IT’S NOT WHO I AM.
MY STORY DOES NOT DEFINE ME.
I AM SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT.
And, there is so much more to the story.
So who am I?
I have a name, but that’s not who I am.
I have a beating heart, but that’s not who I am either.
I wear many hats-wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend and so on…
I have often questioned myself about why I am here?
What is my purpose?
What is life all about?
I feel so deeply and am forever questioning the world around me. I don’t see life as black and white and I believe that we are all connected on some level.
In 1986 having just turned 18, I qualified as a Nursery Nurse (NNEB) and then travelled to Chicago to become a live in Nanny which only lasted 4 months. That’s a story for another day!
I worked as a Nanny for several different families whilst starting out on my career path and then progressed to supporting young single Mother’s with children and often times, children at risk.
Over the years, I have worked within a specific needs capacity, intensive behaviour support and learning support.
I have also run three small businesses part time whilst being a stay at home mum and not forgetting all the extra jobs to earn money whilst caring for my young family-working in a shop, taking in foreign students, cleaning, care in the community and ‘out work’ which consisted of putting screws in to tiny plastic bags.
I have certainly have had a ‘varied’ working life.
Continuous personal development has always been a fundamental part of my growing and evolving and for many year’s I have continued to attend training courses and study many different schools of thought.
In 1999, I was so blessed to have been given the opportunity to travel to the USA and complete my Practitioner training in Humanistic Neuro-Linguistic Programming (HNLP) and then the following year, my Master Practitioner.
What I learned blew my mind away and challenged my core beliefs and values.
I literally felt like I had woken up and my thinking changed phenomenally. I began to see everyone and everything around me, from a completely different view point and this led to my ability to have a greater understanding of who you are and why you do the things you do.
The difficulty for me was that I had made such a significant change and was ready to take onthe world but the world (the tiny Island I live on) wasn’t ready for me and I was often met with hostility and sometimes humour when in conversation with others about this modern and new way of thinking.
When I look back now, it was never really a modern way at all… I believe that the world just needed to catchup and wake up.
Over the past 20 year’s I have worked independently 1-1 with adults and young people in a therapeutic, support and mentoring role. Awareness about the possibilities for change for each and everyone of us is crucial if we are going to thrive and maintain a happy, healthy life.
My passion for my work is insurmountable.
My commitment to lead my client to a greater resolve has always been and will always be a humbling and profound experience.
I am full of gratitude to be able to serve.
My commitment to myself remains to be chaotic and I don’t use that word lightly. I am fully aware of the difficult path that I am choosing right now.
There are many lessons that I still have to learn…
Everyday is a new day which is met with new learning curves for me and that’s okay. I know that when I fully commit to myself, allowing my life to unfold gently without my pushing my past in front of me, then I will serve an even greater purpose to others.
For that… I am excited.
With studies of human potential and the mind body connection, we are beginning to reawaken and remember what we have always known…
Moving back home after my Father died, was extremely difficult for me.
I lived in fear before he died and now I was afraid he would appear as a ghost and having worked with children for many years, I now know and understand, that it really wasn’t necessary to be told that he died in my bed.
Some details are better left unsaid until a vulnerable mind is able to process it.
I was unable to enter the bedroom alone and refused to sleep in there too, so continued to share my Mother’s room for a further year.
Feelings of anxiety was rife and I can not say that anybody really understood how I felt-how could they? We are all individuals and make sense of our world differently and all those years ago, access to grief counselling or therapeutic help, wasn’t readily available.
There are three things in particular(apart from the obvious) that stand out for me that happened over the weeks that passed after his death.
At night my Mother would take me up to bed and say goodnight. She would then go downstairs to watch television. I’m sure, it was a much needed escape from the situation she found herself in and from a grieving teenager. I laid in what would have been my father’s bed and for as long as I possible, I managed the overwhelming fear that engulfed me.
All of a sudden the panic would take over and I’d rush down the stairs sobbing.
It felt impossible to contain the fear and anxiety.
My brothers were never really home at this point and my mother was trying to bring some normality back into our live’s. Bedtime for me, mean’t time out forher etc… I know that I would have felt safe, if the boys were upstairs nearby but instead I was alone in a room that was jammed packed with trauma, next to a room that felt full of loss and ultimately death.
My running downstairs went on for sometime and in the end my mother lost her patients with me and began to offer punishments as a threat if I didn’t stay in bed.
I just couldn’t do it.
She just couldn’t handle it… or me.
I remember clearly getting to the point where I would grab my bed pillow, creep down the staircase quietly and sit on the bottom step of the stairwell. I sat awkwardly on the step so that I could continuously turn my head upwards, in the direction of the landing, where my father may show himself.
I felt sure he would.
I was consumed with fear.
Eventually as I recall, one of my brothers found me sat upright, with my head in my lap on my pillow, asleep. On waking me, I cried telling him how afraid I was and that I was being told off for not staying in bed to which he reprimanded our Mother for not understanding.
Put simply, she didn’t have the energy or emotional understanding and was wrapped up in her own grief.
The second memory that is poignant, is when my big brother surprised me with a kitten one evening. Something of my own to love and nurture. He was living and working at a holiday camp at the time and a stray cat had given birth to a litter of kittens. My brother and his then girlfriend whose nickname was Tiggy, placed this tiny little tabby bundle of joy, into my arms whilst I was laying in bed, unable to sleep. My Mother knew nothing about it but my brother knew only too well, that she wouldn’t have the heart to take the kitten away from me.
I fell in love instantly and named the kitten Tiggy too.
My brother knew and understood how much I was struggling and I wanted so badly to go and live with him.
I hated it every time he left me.
At some stage I had to return to school and this is where the third most significant memory comes from. The day I went back, I remember walking up the main school pathway with my friend and people were staring at me. There was one particular group of girls stood to the side and one said very loudly;
“That’s the girl whose Dad just hung himself on the gas pipe out side of her house!”
The story that was spreading quickly around the school was that my father had hung himself on the gas pipe that lead from above the back door, to the shed, as a result of my mother failing to pay the bills.
A gentle and courteous re-awakening for the coming day.
It is quite possible that the very last person to see my Father alive was my school friend Allie, whom had returned my roller boots home after borrowing them. They were also the last gift that my father had given me for my 13th birthday, 3 months previous to his passing.
Allie told me sometime after he died, that she was worried about me because I hadn’t been attending school and decided to take my roller boots back to my house to see where I was. After several attempts of knocking on the door and as she turned around to leave, my father opened the door only very slightly and she asked;
“Is Michelle in please?” and my father told her I wasn’t there.
Allie passed the boots to him and he quickly shut the door without another word.
She said he looked unshaven and terrible.
As I have said before in my previous posts, I can not be exact about the timings of what happened but I do know that the boots were taken back, the day before my father died.
So right now I find myself back at the evening when I prayed for God to take him back to Heaven…
and the prayer was answered…
My Mother’s belief is that my father would have been cold because she left the house that Sunday morning, without lighting the fire. For years, the guilt about leaving him like that, has eaten away at her.
A neighbour had felt concerned because she hadn’t seen him for some time and as the gossip had hit the street so effortlessly, she contacted the police.
And she was right to do so because my father was found dead, lying on my bed wearing his Snorkel Parka coat zipped all the way up to the top, as if to keep warm.
What I ImagineHis mind weary
wretched and confused
He laid down
Covered in a shroud of grief
cold and alone
to live no more
Once a handsome young boy
with jet black
A melancholy heart
His eyes fell closed
his prayer unheard
He gently whispered
A thwarted Soul
A Ruptured life
A weeping childLet this be his Deliverance
My eldest brother was asked to identify his body as my Mother was unable to do it and he told me many years later that he wanted to make sure that,
“The old man was definitely dead.”
He was only 21 years old.
My father was only 47 when he died.
There was no money to pay for a funeral and it must have been a nightmare for my Mother to arrange. I know that my Grandmother sent money from Australia to help with the costs and I believe my mother sold my father’s car too. My Godparents were a great help, organising the wake at there house.
The day of his cremation, seemed surreal and a bit of a blur really. I recall us having one black car for my Mother, my two brothers and myself. The neighbours were standing out in the street watching on, as we drove off down the road and I also remember my brothers laughing in the car at some point.
I felt terribly sad about that and the sadness turned into numbness.
At this point, I still hadn’t cried at all.
I don’t remember the service but I do remember sitting on the stairs of my Godmothers house during the wake, feeling angry at all the people who had come to eat and drink when my father had just left this world.
It felt very wrong…
A few years back, when having a conversation with my mother about my father, I asked her why she would allow my father’s coffin to be left open at the front of the Crematorium for people to pay their last respects? I told her that I felt it was a terrible thing to do, to allow a 13 year old child to see her father dead and that it had caused nightmares for several years. My Mother was mortified to say the very least, telling me that she didn’t know what I was talking about-that it had never happened.
Up until that point, I completely believed that my father’s coffin was left open during the service and he was wearing a blue hospital gown. His arms were crossed, resting upon his chest and he had a blue complexion. I had even shared this with friends during conversations about loss and grief etc…
My 13 year old mind made that part up.
I never got to say goodbye.
The trauma that settled in that day, had such an lasting impact that went on to effect my whole entire adult life.
The Post-Mortem determined that the cause of death was Ventricular Heart Failure.
My Father was born in 1934 in Malaya. He was the youngest of three children and I believe they lived a fairly wealthy life. Somewhere, in the boxes that are still piled high in my garage is a photo of the house that they lived in and I will add it here when I find it. It is an amazing property and a huge contrast to where I lived during my childhood.
There is a child missing in the family photo above. My father had another older sister who passed away from contracting TB. I was told that the house keepers, who lived in a small cottage on my grandparent’s land, had a daughter who was taken ill. My young aunt had gone to visit her and take some fresh fruit to the little girl. Sadly, she too caught the infectious disease and died soon after.
My father had already experienced an horrendous trauma at such a very young age.
As I write this now I have had the realisation that my father must have been older than 4 years old when he was detained in the POW camp because Singapore was taken in February 1942. Having a January birthday, would make him 8 years old.
He remained in the camp for 3 years.
My Grandfather was born in Scotland and was an engineer in the either the Navy or Merchant Navy and I believe his parents were tea planters. I have no idea where my Grandmother actually originated from but do know that she was a school teacher and had two brothers and two sisters whom were all very well educated. I was told that my family owned a small town in Malaya but I really don’t know how accurate this is!
They were living in Ipoh when Singapore fell.
I wonder now, if there are any descendants of my family still living in that area of the world?
I was blessed with having the chance to meet my Aunt Joan in 1996. I travelled with my husband and my 23 month old son for a four week holiday. It was an incredible journey being able to meet and spend time with my family on my father’s side. Joan was able to share some stories with me about their childhood and in particular, fragmented parts of their POW experience. I am sure that there was so much more information that my Aunt could have given me and I feel that she only scratched the surface with what she did share.
It was just too painful to revisit.
That was the only one time I met Joan and she passed away about 9 years ago.
I never met my Grandmother.
This is is Joan’s story;
My grandparents, Joan and my father were living in Malaya when the war broke and along with many other people, were evacuated by ship from Singapore. The ship came under attack and was bombed. forcing my family into life boats fighting for their survival. Joan shares in part, the scene of horror and devastation that her and my young father had witnessed. Surrounding them in the water were dead bodies, burning people, screaming cry’s for help-just utter chaos etc…
Joan recalls one memory of seeing a burning baby and how terribly that had affected my father after the event.
Some of the evacuee’s survived and made it to a near by island where they were taken care of by the local people for a few weeks. The Islanders took a huge risk in hiding my family, knowing that if they were caught harbouring them, they would be killed instantly. Eventually, they had to hand the evacuees’s over to the Japanese soldiers in order to save themselves and my grandparents, Joan and my father were taken to the prison camps.
I just can’t imagine how frightened they all must have been…
On arrival at the camps and during the separation period of men and women, my grandfather lied about my father’s age in order for him to be allowed to stay with his mother and sister.
The family were separated.
My father never saw his father again.
My Aunt didn’t really say much about the camps but what she did share, was enough for me to understand the mental and emotional damage that was inflicted on my father at such a young age.
My grandmother Alice used to grind banana skins down into powder and give it to my Father for the nutritional benefit as food was not of the plenty and he was the youngest. Joan tells of women being raped openly and that the children would watch. Men were beaten daily and left for dead, some actually not surviving the beatings. If the children disobeyed, a swift punch to the stomach was a familiar punishment, especially the boys.
These were the experiences that were shaping my father as a young boy and his view of the world and also later as he became a man.
Whilst in the camp, my father learn’t to trade items to get different things that they needed. Joan told me how at times he would take risks trading with particular guards and through doing so, he learnt to speak some Japanese.
As a child, he taught me how to say the rhyme ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ in Japanese.
I guess you can come to your own conclusion about how a traumatic past can effect a person’s mind. I know that for my father, he went on to repeat the patterns of behaviour that he had learned from such a young age, inflicting it on his own children.
He used aggression and violence to control when he felt so out of control.
He used punching my eldest brother in the stomach as a form of punishment, seemingly for no reason but to apply force when he couldn’t contain his own demons.
He stole my Mothers jewellery and traded it for other people’s medication to feed his own habit.
He would pull my trousers down, hold my hands behind my back and slap my legs until it would sting as a reminder, not do do the very thing I was being punished for, again.
He would force us to eat every scrap on our dinner plate, telling us how lucky we were to have food because so many others didn’t.
And… my Mother told me years ago that when he wanted another child he enforced it.
Saying no to him wasn’t really an option.
The prospect of going home again scared them. They couldn’t imagine how they could ever settle to it. How they could just walk around the streets and pretend to be normal, look women in the eye again after what they had done and seen, ride on trams, sit at a table with a white cloth, and control their hands and just slowly eat. It was the little things that scared them. The big things you could hide in. It was little ones that gave a man away.” ― David Malouf
I have no recollection of what happened and it was sometime later that I found out my Father was at my Godmothers house when he made the call to us.
I wonder what they talked about?
I wonder if Aunty Barbara was able to console him?
I wonder if she held him just for a moment so that he knew he was loved?
I wonder what was going through his haggard mind?
He had lost everything, his wife, his children, his self respect-his mind…
At some stage, either that day or the next, my brothers went home to collect some belonging’s for us.
This is their account of what happened;
They awoke the sleeping Giant when going upstairs and his rage was tenfold. My father tried to stop my brother Ashley taking clothes from my bedroom and demanded to know where we were. He refused his fathers enforcing and all hell broke out.
The dog was going crazy once again, confused as to whom he should protect and somehow during the eruption, the younger of my two brothers, who was only 17, had his head jammed in-between my wardrobe sliding door by our father.
A scene of commotion.
My brothers have said that he would have killed them to get to us.
They escaped the house and took the dog with them.
Everything that he had ever loved was gone and now his home was not his home, it was his external prison too.
An unbearable prison.
During a conversation with my Mother not so long ago, she added another layer to the story that was kept from me for many years. On entering the house, my brothers were hit with the stench of gas. My father had opened the oven door, left the gas on and gone upstairs to lay down.
I have no words to describe the pain that is inside of me now that must have been inside of him at that very moment, to arrive at a place in his life where he believed he could no longer live.
I felt that feeling for a split second some time ago when driving home one day in floods of angry tears. The thought crossed my mind at how easy it would be to drive the car at speed off of the downs and end all of the overwhelming inner turmoil that had been plaguing my life for so long.
Just for a split second…
and I reached out for help.
Depression, drugs, trauma, loss, grief, devastation, abuse, loneliness, self disgust and anything else you can throw into his dark pot, had WON the emotional and personal battle that he was fighting.
It didn’t take much for my Father to find out where we were staying and I am surprised that he didn’t come to the house and smash the front door down.
He wasn’t the kind of man to follows rules and I think he had finally broken.
Going to school that Monday morning wasn’t really an option because of the severity of our situation and I remember quite distinctly, what I was given for breakfast;
Scrambled egg with ketchup.
“Go on eat it up, it’ll do you good to get something in your stomach and stop all that worrying, worrying won’t get you anywhere.”
Said the friend!
I had never tasted it before and I really didn’t like it-so I didn’t eat it.
The phone rang. It was my Father asking to speak to my Mother and that look upon her face returned… the one that she momentarily, had a reprieve from.
I can see clearly in my minds eye, her standing there holding the phone up to her ear. Words are coming out of her mouth and I can not hear what she is saying… but I do know that she denied his begging for us to go home.
He asked to speak to me and she handed the phone over and this time, was the very last time I heard his voice.
Hello darling, it’s me Dad.
Please come home I can’t live without you and Mum.
Please Shellie, please… it won’t happen again!
I’ll get help.
I don’t want to hurt you or Mum, she won’t listen to me just come home.
He was sobbing.
I was sobbing.
I didn’t know what to say, I had no words, just tears, uncontrollable tears, I could have drowned in them.
I couldn’t breathe… my father was pleading with me to come home and I could hear his desperation.
I could feel it…
His words were clear,
he was coherent,
he was present.
I told him that I was scared and sorry but I couldn’t come home.
There was silence-even though we were crying together and then he told me that he loved me and followed with, “I will always love you, you are my everything.”
I hear her sleeping, gasping at the air and check her several times through the night; mouth wide open, face matured, skin anemic.
My Mother is 84 and desperately wants to stay alive and for someone who has such a strong Catholic faith, she is also so afraid to die.
Four weeks ago she had a hip replacement and what a trial it was/is and I have been caring for her in my home, whilst she is convalescing-hence no time to write.
I pick up the pieces of other people’s lives so well normally, but right now I want to run a mile (yet again) and I know that must sound very selfish of me!
After all, how many years was she at my beck and call during my childhood.
It is my duty.
I haven’t really introduced my Mother properly throughout my writing and I wonder why? It just feels difficult to write about her, like I’m pushing against something rather than allowing the words to flow so this is going to be a very short post and maybe in time my words with regards to her, will become easier to write.
Our relationship has always been somewhat tumultuous and as a teenager, I longed for the day that I could leave home at 18 and be free of her parental constraints and pretty much feel the same way now as life has become overwhelming.
She would be devastated if she knew that I felt this way.
For me, there has always been an under current feeling of resentment that I felt, she had for me with regards to the love I shared with my Father. Once, during my teenage years and after his passing, I was trying hard to defend him in an argument and she told me that he was ‘obsessed’ with me and that I really didn’t know what kind of man he truly was…
The hurling of angry remarks about him were both painful and confusing.
My mother was born in Bedford and is the eldest of three siblings whom she practically raised until she turned 16 and life was very hard for them all. The relationship she had with my Grandmother was flawed to say the very least and I can only ever remember meeting her twice before her death in 1995/96 (can’t actually remember the year to be precise). What I do remember though, is seeing her lifeless body in the Chapel of Rest on the morning of her funeral. My Grandmother was a tiny lady and her skin looked very orange due to the fact it was late to view the body and also the undertakers, trying their best to make my Grandmother look more presentable for my Mother and I.
I looked very closely, trying to feel some emotion for a lady that I knew I should feel something for, but there was nothing-just compassion for a woman that once had lived.
My Mother cried.
There have been many recollections that she has shared with me over the years that have painted a childhood full of anguish, shame and poverty.
Mum still washes her whites by hand today having been humiliated at school by the Nuns for bringing in a dirty, grey looking hand towel for cookery.
How our past experiences effect our present life?
My parents met on a blind date in Somerset arranged by a mutual friend. At the end of the evening my father declared that he would marry my mother to which she replied, ‘Your mad!’ and sure enough, 6 months later, they were married.