More memories of Pharaoh!
Dear, dear Pharaoh.
Dogs are animals of integrity. We have much to learn from them.
More memories of Pharaoh!
Dear, dear Pharaoh.
But the most important step I have ever taken.
In yesterday’s post I wrote:
It was the fickle finger of fate that led me to the arms, metaphorically speaking, of a core process psychotherapist back in Devon in the first half of 2007. That counselling relationship that revealed a deeply hidden aspect of my consciousness: a fear of rejection that I had had since December, 1956. That finger of fate that took me to Mexico for Christmas 2007 and me meeting Jean and all her dogs. That finger of fate that pointed me to the happiest years of my life and a love between Jeannie and me that I could previously never ever have imagined.
Here’s the full account. (But this is quite a long post and has the potential to cause some pain. Of course, I don’t intend that. But it’s best to mention that now.)
First we need to go back to that evening of December 19th, 1956. I had turned 12 on November, 8th and had just completed my first term at a nearby Grammar School. Then the family, as in Mum, Dad, me and my younger sister Elizabeth, were living comfortably in a detached house in Toley Avenue, a road off the main street that comprises Preston Road.
Preston Road is one of the outer suburbs of London to the North-West, sandwiched between Wembley, closer in to London, and Harrow, a little further out.
Anyway, on that evening of the 19th my mother came into my bedroom, located at the front of the house and next to Mum and Dad’s bedroom, at the usual time to say ‘Good night’ to me.
But while it was the usual time for Mum to be saying goodnight to me, clearly something was different this particular evening.
Mum sat down on the edge of my bed, just where my knees were, looked at me, and said, with pain in her voice: “Paul, you do know your father isn’t very well. He may not live for much longer.”
To be honest, all these many years later, I have no recollection as to whether or not I was aware that my father wasn’t very well.
Mum then leaned over to me, gave me my goodnight kiss, got up, and went out of my bedroom switching off the room light as she closed the door. As she always did and no different to any other evening.
Likewise, as with any other evening, I went off to sleep within a few minutes.
However, when I awoke the following morning, the morning of December 20th, it was clear that something terrible had happened during the night. Let me explain that my father had had two daughters with his first wife, prior to meeting Mum, and I loved them both and saw them as elder sisters. The eldest was Rhona and she was a registered nurse (SRN). (My other ‘sister’ was Corinne.) Of course, Rhona was helping Mum care for Dad.
I got up and went downstairs. There was Rhona in the kitchen. Rhona came up to me and held me very tightly and then quietly told me that our father had died during the night. Rhona went on to add that Mum had thought it best not to wake me and Elizabeth and somehow arranged not only for the doctor to come in to certify Dad’s death but also for our father’s body to be removed from the home. Elizabeth and I had slept through it all!
I don’t recall having any emotional reaction to Rhona’s news; not even crying. It was if it was all just too unreal to take in.
A few days later, Mum, very clearly in her own mind doing her best to protect me and Elizabeth from pain, subsequently thought it wise that we didn’t go to our father’s funeral and cremation.
Now I have not the slightest doubt that many, if not all, of you will have cringed on reading the above.
Once back at school for the first term of 1957, I soon became aware of being the target of a degree of bullying, presumably because I was showing my grief through my behaviour and attitude, that my academic performance rapidly fell apart leading on to me leaving school before I went on to the Sixth Form.
The other thing that I was aware of in 1957, and for every December 20th thereafter, that this day was always a tough one. A day when I remembered with a degree of sadness and emotional pain that fateful night and morning in 1956.
Nevertheless, my adult life really was (is!) a wonderful journey for me. It included a period working as a freelance journalist out in Australia in the late 1960s, becoming an Office Products salesman for IBM UK after returning from Australia to England and then in 1978 starting my own company, Dataview Ltd., in the early days of the personal computer revolution. Then after eight whirlwind years with Dataview growing in leaps and bounds each year, being approached in 1986 by a group of investors who wished to buy me out: I said “Yes”. That resulted in me going to live on a yacht, Songbird of Kent, a Tradewind 33, out in Cyprus (Larnaca Marina).
While in Cyprus I got to know really well the wonderful, inspiring Les Powells, a three-times solo circumnavigator on his yacht Solitaire, and that thanks directly to Les offering me some very good advice, me experiencing the beauty, and the fear, of solo sailing out in The Atlantic and returning to Plymouth, in Devon, England, via Horta in The Azores, on the 16th June, 1994.
But! But! But!
But there was another part of my adult life that wasn’t such a wonderful journey. My relationships with the opposite sex! Culminating in my third wife, Julie, announcing on the day of the 50th anniversary of my father’s death, as in December 20th, 2006, that she was leaving me. (The reality of what she did to me was not pretty but I will spare you the details.)
Let me explain a little more.
After I had returned to England, sailing into Plymouth, in 1994, I subsequently sold Songbird of Kent and purchased a small house in the little village of Harberton, just a few miles out of Totnes, in South Devon. An easy decision to stay in South Devon because both Rhona and Corinne had their family homes close to Totnes.
I quickly became involved in the local business community undertaking a variety of coaching roles under the umbrella of Sales and Marketing; I was then a Chartered Member of the Institute of Marketing. In turn, Julie and I met each other and we became married.
In the Autumn of 2006, a Core Process Psychotherapist came to me seeking some business advice. ‘J’ had had many years of coaching individuals one-to-one but had the idea, the good idea to my mind, of coaching the directors of companies in the whole process of listening to their employees and offering advice and guidance whenever there was the potential of conflict. If the employees worked more effectively together then ‘J’ believed the company as a whole would be more effective in reaching their goals.
‘J’ had no idea how companies worked, for want of a better term, and my role was teach ‘J’ the fundamentals of operating the sort of company that was common to South Devon.
That’s what I was doing up to that fateful day of December 20th, 2006.
Because upon hearing the news that my then wife was leaving me, I simply blew apart emotionally. In the most terrible manner that I had never experienced before.
Very early on in January, 2007 I felt that I was descending into some bottomless pit of despair. In desperation I rang ‘J’ and explained what had happened on the 20th. ‘J’ listened and then said, quite properly, that he couldn’t see me as his client because we already had a working relationship. I pleaded and pleaded with ‘J’ to allow me to be his psychotherapy client. Finally, ‘J’ agreed but on the very strict condition that if he thought the counselling relationship wasn’t working then we would terminate it. He asked, and received, my understanding and agreement to that condition.
It wasn’t long thereafter before ‘J’ was asking me a little of my early experiences and I recounted that night of December 19th-20th and how I had not been able to say ‘Goodbye’ to my father.
‘J’ was quiet for a few minutes and then said:
“Paul, you have a son don’t you?”
I silently nodded.
“How do you think Alex would react if your death was handled for him in the same manner as your mother handled it for you?”
I gasped, conscious of how much I loved Alex, and Maija my daughter, and could hardly get the words out of my mouth: “He, he, … he would think he had been emotionally rejected ….”, continuing, “Oh my goodness! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh, my sainted aunt! That’s it! I interpreted what happened back then when father died as rejection. That I wasn’t important to my father. So that’s what I have been experiencing all my adult life – a fear of rejection! But until now that fear has been completely submerged in my subconscious! Wow!”
That is the reason why, not to sound too immodest, I have been successful in all matters to do with my working life: I did everything to be accepted by my customers, my managers, my associates, and so on.
But it was also the reason why I had been so unsuccessful in my many, many relationships with women. Why I was unfaithful to my first wife. Why I could never say “No” to an emotional relationship with a woman, whether or not that woman had the potential to be a good long-term companion. Because I behaved in ways that minimised the chances of that woman rejecting me. That was why my last wife, Julie, before I met Jean, so gravely affected me when she chose, quite deliberately, to tell me she was leaving me on the 50th anniversary of my father’s death.
So that’s how ‘J’ held my hand, metaphorically speaking, and walked me into the light of how the past had affected me.
Dear, dear reader of Learning from Dogs, I do hope this makes sense and possibly in some small way this post holds out a hand to you.
I will close with this. Heard on a film that Jean and I recently watched.
Unless you understand yourself, can you be truthful to yourself?
The journey inwards is the most important and rewarding journey we can take!
Last one from me but indebted nonetheless to Wibble
My second reflection was Never underestimate the power of unintended consequences!
Here’s my third. But first a story!!
Before I met my darling Jean I was living in the small South Devon village of Harberton. In an old converted stone barn known as Upper Barn.
Harberton was located just three miles South-West of Totnes.
Despite the population of Harberton being just 300 persons the village had its own pub The Church House Inn located appropriately alongside the church!
I didn’t stroll the 200 yards from Upper Barn to the pub on a daily basis but certainly went there once or twice a week.
One Winter’s evening I went in to the pub for a quick pre-dinner pint. David, the landlord was behind the long bar counter, again shown to you below courtesy of the internet.
Beside me there was a single, elderly man sitting on one of the bar stools supping his pint.
I was standing next to him waiting for David to serve me and must have muttered something about the weather or about the latest local news or something inane; too long ago for me to remember.
However, I do remember so clearly what this delightful man said in response to whatever it was that I muttered.
All the world’s a little queer, save you and me, and I ha’ me doubts about thee!
I roared with laughter immediately upon hearing that wonderful reflection about the world. Added, I should say, spoken by him with a rich Devon dialect. At which point this wonderful gent spoke again and it is those next words that are my final reflection.
Now’t so queer as folk!
I never met that delightful old Devonian man again so, therefore, he will have had no idea at all at how his quotation has become part of me!
Same nominations as before:
(Finally do please note that the images in this post may be subject to copyright. Learn More)
Actually it’s just about skipping! A dog skipping!!
This was seen on the BBC News website yesterday and I am delighted that the video clip is on YouTube.
Here’s how the story was reported by the BBC.
Devon dog sets skipping world record
3 April 2017 Last updated at 12:17 BST
A skipping Jack Russell and her owner have set a new world record.
There are some things we will always cherish.
Just a few days ago I wrote of the time when I was living in the small village of Harberton in South Devon, England. Harberton was a wonderful reminder that these modern times don’t reach to everyone all of the time. There were still plenty of folk who recalled the past times in very beautiful ways. (I wish I could remember the name of the old Devonian who used to come into the village pub on a regular basis and demonstrate that by listening to a local’s accent he could tell which Devon village they were from!)
It’s all too easy to lose sight of the fact that many things change very slowly, and local and regional accents are examples of that.
You know the saying Down to Earth? Chill out for 18 minutes and revel in these two Welshmen that appeared in a recent essay over on Mother Nature News.
The internet’s newest stars have lived and farmed on the same plot of land in Wales for over 70 years.
The immovable markers in one’s life.
Today, sixty years ago, my father died.
Yes, December 20th., 1956. Just five days before Christmas Day.
I had turned 12 on November 8th that year and my dear sister, Elizabeth, was then 7-years-old.
Ten years ago this very day, in other words on the fiftieth anniversary of my father’s death, something happened to me when I was living in the small South Devon village of Harberton; just three miles from Totnes. That ‘something’ started a chain of events that led to me meeting Jeannie in Mexico and us becoming married in Arizona on November 20th, 2010.
I accept that this is of little interest to you, dear reader, but I wanted to put the following ‘out there’.
December 20th will always be a poignant day, until I take my last breath.
But it will also be the most precious day in the year for, again, until I take my last breath December 20th. will always mark the start of my journey to meeting Jean.
Loving Jean and being loved so much in return is as much an immovable marker in my life as was my father’s death.
Life can offer so many twists and turns!
This report from my old country is despicable!
Before leaving England in 2008 to be with my Jeannie, I lived in South Devon. Lived in the small village of Harberton, just a few miles west of Totnes. But never had cause to form an opinion, good or bad, of my local police force: The Devon and Cornwall Police. Until now!
By: Laura Goldman, March 6, 2016
Follow Laura at @lauragoldman
Stella has spent the last two years locked in a 3-by-9 foot cage in a kennel in Devon, England. She has never been let out to exercise or play.
In 2014, Stella was taken away by police from her owner, Antony Hastie, because she was “potentially dangerous.” Did she bite or attack someone? No. Under the UK’s Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, Stella is illegal and considered a threat to public safety – but only because of her breed. Stella is a pit bull mix.
Stella was taken to a private kennel owned by Devon and Cornwall Police. She was put in a cage that she has only been allowed to leave twice in the past two years, and only for behavior assessments.
“We were always told not to exercise or go into a kennel with any dogs, regardless of character, that had been brought in under the Dangerous Dogs Act,” Laura Khanlarian, who worked at the kennel, told BBC News.
“We were under no circumstances allowed to touch any of those dogs — which was hard,” Khanlarian said. “Animal welfare comes before anything, and that was my job. I don’t believe I would be doing it properly if I would sit back and think that’s okay. It wasn’t okay — it’s not okay.”
The dogs that were “so kind and needed us the most for reassurance – we were never able to give that to them,” she told SWNS TV.
Khanlarian lost her job when she breached her employment contract by interacting with the seized dogs.
Contrary to Khanlarian’s eyewitness account, Devon and Cornwall Police issued a statement claiming that of the hundred or so dogs they’ve seized over the past two years, Stella was the only one deemed too dangerous to be exercised by kennel staff.
Apparently Devon and Cornwall Police haven’t read “The Welfare of Dogs Seized in Kennels: A Guide to Good Practice,” created for police departments by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in collaboration with animal welfare officers, local authority dog wardens and police dog legislation officers.
All dogs “must have daily access to outdoor safe and secure areas, away from the kennel area and this should be at least 30 minutes per day,” the guide states (yes, “must” is emphasized in bold).
The Dangerous Dogs Act is breed-specific legislation (BSL), laws that apply only to certain breeds (usually pit bulls). BSL is opposed in the United States by virtually every major animal welfare organization because it punishes well-behaved dogs and responsible owners. Besides, it’s expensive to enforce and has not proven to increase public safety anywhere that it’s been enacted.
“It’s terrible. It’s unjustified. It’s wasting huge amounts of money and it’s not doing a single thing to prevent dog bites,” Kendal Shepherd, a veterinarian and animal behavior expert with 30 years of experience working with dogs, told BBC News. “It’s cruel. But it’s what our system forces us to do.”
Stella’s owner has gone to court 11 times over the past two years, trying in vain to get his beloved dog back. She had never showed any signs of aggression before she was seized, he said.
But Cornwall and Devon Police said — in the same statement in which they claimed Stella was the only dog in their kennel not let out of her cage – that Stella had “threatened and shown aggressive behavior toward two Police Community Support Officers,” had shown “aggressive behavior prior to being seized” and “attempted to bite a court appointed independent expert during the dog’s assessment.”
Last month, Torquay Magistrates’ Court ordered Stella to be destroyed.
Stella’s heartbreaking situation is similar to that of Lennox, a therapy dog from Northern Ireland that was seized because he was perceived to be a pit bull mix. Despite an international outcry and pleas for his life from dog experts like Victoria Stilwell, Lennox was euthanized in 2012.
Several rescue organizations in the United States had offered to take in Lennox, to no avail.
Perhaps Animals R Family will have better luck with Stella. The nonprofit rescue has offered to fly her to its headquarters in Connecticut, where BSL is banned.
“Breed specific legislation is wrong and ineffective. In the US, pit bulls are one of the most popular dogs for family pets,” the rescue wrote on its Facebook page.
Please sign and share the petition asking for Stella to be released.
Photo credit: YouTube
Inevitably, this was signed by Jean and me seconds after it was read. Please do everything in your power to support this petition and stand behind Sharon, the originator of the Care2 Petition.
Thank you from all of my being. This is wrong on just so many levels it makes me ashamed to be a human or English. You can not torture and destroy animals because of outdated laws. Henry VIII killed people for not being Christian, where would we be if that was still lawful????? Animals only EVER ask for love. I have been around more animals than I have had hot dinners in my life and I’m 50 now. Someone please help me make this a happy ending.
Please also send a message of support to AnimalsRFamily because it might just make a difference. Their contact page is here.
The behaviour of dogs is always a product of the humans who are around them, it is never a function of the dog alone! (And please see my post tomorrow about our own Pit Bull mix.)
How many of us really, truly care about the future?
If you sense a heartfelt plea in my sub-heading then you will not be wrong.
What has happened to our instincts for our survival?
What strikes me as so tragic is that if I asked you to guess the topic of today’s post before you read on, the odds are that you would chose from any number of subjects that reveal a society hell-bent on self-extinction!
OK, let me get to the point.
A little over 10 days ago I republished a George Monbiot essay that spoke about the madness of chicken production in the UK. Mr. Monbiot’s essay was called Fowl Deeds and was within my post called We are what we eat!
Well George Monbiot has just published a sequel to Fowl Deeds that I am going to republish in this place tomorrow.
But what I am going to offer for today, as a prelude to tomorrow’s post, is a YouTube video of a BBC Panorama program that was screened earlier on in May. The program was called Antibiotic Apocalypse and was about the threat of increasing resistance to modern Antibiotics.
Why does this make such an important prelude?
Because as you will see when you watch the Panorama program much of our ‘factory’ food comes from animals that are fed antibiotics!
How to close?
All that comes to mind is a wonderful throwaway remark from a old boy, village resident, when supping a pint of bitter in The Church House Inn; what used to be my local pub in my home village of Harberton, Devon. This is what he said:
All the world’s a little queer except thee and me, and I ha’ me doubts about thee!
Indeed, all the world is more than a ‘little queer’!
Jaw, jaw is so much better than war, war!
Day Seven: Give and Take
Today’s Prompt: Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.
Remember those “compare and contrast” essays in composition class, in which you’re forced to create a clunky juxtaposition of two arguments? Just because that particular form was a bore doesn’t mean that opposition has no place in your writing.
Bringing together two different things — from the abstract and the inanimate to the living and breathing — creates a natural source of tension, and conflict drives writing forward. It makes your reader want to continue to the next sentence, to the next page. So, focus on your two starkly different siblings, or your competing love for tacos and macarons, or whether thoughts are more powerful than words, or …… you get the idea.
Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue. You can create a strong opposition between the two speakers — a lovers’ quarrel or a fierce political debate, for example. Or you could aim to highlight the difference in tone and style between the two different speakers — your call!
If you’d like more guidance, check out these ten tips on writing solid dialogue. In case you’re intimidated by dialogue tags — all those “he said,” “she whispered,” etc., here’s a useful overview.
Emulating people’s speech in written form takes practice, and creating two distinct voices could help you see (and hear) the different factors that play into the way we speak, from our diction and accent to our vocabulary and (creative?) use of grammar. (We’ll discuss the topic of voice more formally later in the course; for now, take a stab at writing dialogue on your own.)
Today’s task makes writing about dogs look like a piece of cake!
I spent quite some time wondering how to approach this, what to draw upon in terms of my own experiences, what the scene might be. In the end, I chose to write a fictional exchange between me and the landlord, David, of my local pub back in the days of when I lived in Harberton, near Totnes in South Devon. (David and his wife are no longer in residence.)
To help set the scene for you, dear reader, here are two photographs. The first is a view of the pub in the centre of the village of Harberton; population 300 persons.
The second image is of the main bar area inside where this fictional conversation is about to take place. The pub was less than a five-minute walk from my home.
“Evening David! Golly, looks like I’m first one in this evening. Must stop looking so keen to have a beer at the end of the day!”
Paul swung his backside onto the corner bar stool and lent his right arm on the bar.
“Good evening to you, Paul. Same as usual?”
“As ever, David.”
David reached out his right arm towards the pump handle at the same time as the fingers of his left hand closed around a pint glass. The sound of the mild ale being poured into the glass was a tonic in itself.
“So how’s your week been, Paul?”
“David, don’t even ask. I seem to have spent most of my waking hours wondering what the hell I’m going to do if the election goes the way it appears to be heading.”
“Well I’m sure Ralph will have clear ideas on that one when he comes in”, David remarked as he handed me the brimming glass of ale.
The pub door squeaked open in the same way it had for time immemorial.
David looked up. “Speak of the devil, here’s the man himself!”
“Somebody call my name?”, boomed out Ralph’s voice.
“David was just saying that you would have clear ideas on the election. But first let me get you a pint, Ralph.”
“Thank you, Paul, that’s mighty gentlemanly of you.”
Ralph removed his light raincoat and sat down next to Paul.
David passed across Ralph’s pint of bitter and took the ten-pound note that Paul held in an outstretched hand.
Ralph took a long swig of his beer and set the glass down on the counter. “So how do you think the election is going to turn out?”
Paul, too, took a good mouthful of his beer and looked across to Ralph. “Well if the media are reporting it correctly, it looks like there’s a better than even chance of UKIP holding the balance of power. And if that happens then I can kiss goodbye to my business!”
David held out Paul’s change in his hand.
“Oh come on, Paul, you can’t mean that! UKIP holding the balance of power will mean an end to the antics of the money-grabbing bastards who have got us into the present mess. Surely, that would be good for you!”
“Ralph, I really wish you are right. But seventy-five percent of my revenue comes from the EU countries and UKIP have pledged to hold a referendum on whether Great Britain stays or leaves the European Union.”
“Well I don’t know! Me, I just want the quiet life with me and Betty enjoying the rest of our years free from all the damned interference from bloody bureaucratic arses both sides of the Channel!”
“Ralph, I can understand that, truly I can. But I’m a long way from retirement and if my business fails I’m screwed, screwed big time!”
“Paul, you worry too much – let me get you another pint!”
Paul chuckled, “Ralph, you know how to win me over don’t you!”
“Anyway, Paul”, Ralph continued, “rumour has it that you aren’t even spending Christmas with us in the village.”
David, putting the second two pints of beer on the counter in front of Ralph and Paul, looked up, “What’s this I hear? You deserting us this Christmas?”
“Sorry gents, but it’s looking that way. I’ve been invited to spend Christmas with a couple of Americans I’ve known for years.”
“Well it’s alright for some lucky sods,” boomed Ralph, “I’m lucky if I can afford a trip into Totnes.”
He sipped his second pint. “America! Bloody Yanks!”
“I said I have been invited to spend Christmas with some Americans. Doesn’t necessarily mean it will be in the USA.”
“Come on then, tell us it’s somewhere even fancier!”
“Ralph, I’ve been invited to go to Mexico!”
And so it came to pass!
Well it was fun to write but I’m not certain that I got anywhere close to what today’s Writing 101 theme was looking for.
Oh well, another day tomorrow!
Reflections on what makes us who we are.
(Please note that this is a long post that potentially may be upsetting for some readers. Please trust me when I say there is no intention to upset anyone. I should add that the motivation for writing The Pen is from reading Sue Dreamwalker’s recent post Cracking our Inner Shells.)
Yesterday, I wrote about the circumstances of my father’s death on December, 20th 1956. I wrote:
I became twelve-years-old in November, 1956. Just six weeks after my twelfth birthday, on the evening of December 19th, 1956, my mother, as normal, came into my bedroom to kiss me goodnight. However, what transpired was very far from normal.
For she sat down on the edge of the bed and told me that my father was not well and may not live for much longer. To this day, I can still see her sitting on the edge of the bed, adjacent to my knees covered by the sheet and bedcover, a very drawn look on her face.
I had been aware of my father being at home in bed for a while but had no notion whatsoever, prior to this moment, that he was seriously unwell. In hindsight, it was more than I could emotionally embrace for not only did I not go back into my parent’s bedroom and again say goodnight to my father, I went off to sleep without any problem.
During that night, in the early hours of December 20th, my father died, the family doctor attended and my father’s body was removed; I slept through it all and awoke in the morning to find my father gone.
It’s also relevant to reveal that it was deemed potentially too upsetting for my sister, Elizabeth, my junior by four years, and me to attend my father’s cremation.
OK! Fast forward to 2006. I was happily married to Julie, my third wife, and had been since the year 2000. Her daughter from a previous marriage, Amy, was also part of the family. We were living in a three-bedroomed converted stone barn known as Upper Barn in the village of Harberton, a few miles west of Totnes, Devon, South-West England. A lovely tranquil home in a very tranquil village; population 300 persons.
I had my two wonderful sisters, Corinne and Rhona, from my father’s first marriage, living within short distances. My work, home-based, involved offering entrepreneurial mentoring to local business owners, and my wife and I had a wonderful local network of good friends. Indeed, in the last months of 2006 I had been working with a professional psychotherapist, Jon, as he was expanding his client base from individuals to working within companies. And Pharaoh had been in the family since 2003! It seemed about as perfect as it could be for me.
December 20th, 2006 was the fiftieth anniversary of my father’s death. I could never settle into the pre-Christmas mood until after the 20th December each year and this anniversary day seemed more poignant than ever. I had missed my father since the day he had died in 1956.
As it happened, that same day Julie seemed off-colour. She was frequently in the bathroom during the day and, naturally, I was concerned. Towards the end of the day I asked what was troubling her. Julie replied that she had had a miscarriage earlier that afternoon. A year after my son and daughter had been born to my first wife in 1972/1973, I had opted to have a vasectomy! Julie’s miscarriage was not of my making.
I won’t go into the details of how my life exploded but will just say that it was traumatic in every way imaginable.
In desperation, a few weeks into the New Year of 2007, I called my psychotherapist business client, Jon, and begged him to take me on as his client. He was initially uncertain, stating that we already had a relationship, but agreed on the understanding that if he thought the counselling relationship wasn’t properly established then he would ask me not to continue working with him. Of course, I agreed.
I want to offer what has been written elsewhere by me, explaining what happened in my fourth counselling session with Jon back in 2007. Clearly my memory of what was said can’t be word perfect but the essence of the dialogue is accurate.
“Paul, when we had our first session and I asked you to relate the key life events that came to you, the first event you spoke of was the death of your father. Tell me more about that time of your life.”
“I don’t have clear memories of my father much before he died that year. He was a lot older than my mother, some eighteen years, and I had been the product of a liaison between them; my father being married at the time. They met when they were both members of an amateur orchestra in London during the height of the Second World War. My father had had two daughters with his wife and longed for a son. I came along just six months before the end of the war.”
I paused for a few moments, sensing how dipping back to that December in 1956 was making me feel uncomfortable.
“I had turned twelve-years-old in early November 1956. Just finished my first term at Grammar School. To be honest, I can’t recall when my father became ill and how long he had been bed-ridden. But on the evening of December 19th, after I had kissed my father goodnight and jumped into my bed next door, my mother came in, closed my bedroom door, sat on the edge of my bed and told me that my father was very ill and that he may not live for much longer.
It clearly didn’t register with me at any significant emotional level because I went off to sleep without any problem. But when I awoke in the morning, Mum told me that my father had died during the night, the family doctor had attended and my father’s body had been removed from the house.”
Jon looked at me and quietly asked, “What feelings do you have about that night and that morning?”
“To be honest, Jon, I have an almost complete absence of feelings. I’ve often tried to discover what I truly felt at the time or, indeed, what I feel all these years later. But the best I have ever been able to come up with is that I was never able to say goodbye. In fact, because it was decided that it would be too upsetting for me, I wasn’t even present at the funeral and cremation, thus reinforcing my sense of not saying goodbye to my father.”
There was a pause before Jon asked his next question. “So, Paul, you have a son and a daughter. What are their ages?”
“My son, Alex, is now thirty-five and my daughter, Maija, thirty-four.”
Jon put his hands together fingers-to-fingers and lent his chin against them. “So your son would have been twelve in 1984. That was when you were very busy running your own business, if I recall.”
I nodded in reply.
“So Paul, let’s say that during that year of 1984 you had been diagnosed with some terminal illness, say cancer, as with your father. That you were given a life expectancy of six months or so. What thoughts come to mind?”
“Jon, you mean in the sense of what it would have meant for Alex and Maija?”
“Wow, what a truly terrible thing to reflect upon. But what comes to mind without doubt is that I would have walked away from my business immediately. After all, it very soon wasn’t going to be my business. My kids were still living at home, of course. I would have wanted to share every minute of my life with them. Try to let them understand as much about me, who I was, what I believed in, what made Paul Handover the person he was.”
Jon almost breathed the next question into the air of the room. “Translate the circumstances of the death of your father across to your son. What I mean by that is Alex experiencing the same circumstances from your death. What’s your reaction to that situation, admittedly hypothetical situation, thank goodness?”
I reacted with an immediate passion. “To know that I was terminally ill and to keep that from my son and daughter; that’s terrible, no it’s disgusting. Then to compound it by having everything associated with my death and the disposal of my body denied to Alex and Maija …..,” I left the sentence unfinished before adding, “It’s cruel beyond description. My poor children wouldn’t have a clue as to why they were excluded from what is, whether or not one agrees with it, one of life’s most important moments.”
Jon seemed to hold my anger in the room all about us, as he asked, “How would you reword your last sentences in the manner of a headline; in just a few words?”
I hardly hesitated. “The word that comes to mind is rejection. Alex and Maija, aged twelve and eleven, losing their father in a way that suggested they weren’t important. Yes, that’s it. They would see it as a total rejection of them by their father. Not unreasonably, I might add.”
There was a silence in the room that seemed to go on forever. Then Jon said, “Paul, we are not quite up to the hour but I’m going to suggest you just sit here quietly with Pharaoh and let yourself out when you are confident of being OK to drive home.”
He added, almost as an afterthought, “Just let today settle itself into your consciousness just however it wants to. Don’t force your thoughts either way, neither dwelling on today nor preventing thoughts naturally coming to the surface of your mind. As we have discussed before, pay attention to your dreams. Maybe have a notebook by your bedside so you can jot down what you have been dreaming about. I’ll see you next Friday same time, if that’s alright with you.”
When a crossroads is neither a roadway, nor a choice of pathways, when that crossroads is in our minds, we seldom know it’s there or that we’ve made the choice to take one path and not the other until it’s long past. Sometimes, the best you can do is look for the tiniest clues as to which path one has taken in life and where one is really heading.
I had read that in a book quite recently although, typically, could no longer remember the name of the said book. It had spoken to me in a way that I couldn’t fathom, but of sufficient strength and clarity for me to jot it down on a sheet of paper. I had been sorting papers out on my desk on the Sunday following that last session with Jon when I came across the sheet. The words hammered at me again, but in a way that was now so much more full of meaning than the first time around.
Because, to my very great surprise, my nights’ sleeps on Friday and Saturday had not only been dream free but had taken me to a place of such sweet contentment that it was almost as though I had been reborn. Alright, perhaps reborn was a little over the top, but there was no question that I was in an emotional place quite unlike anything I could ever before recall. Almost as if for the first time in my life I truly liked who I was.
On the Sunday morning, after I had taken Pharaoh over to the woods for our regular walk, I called in on Corinne and shared a cup of tea with her. As I was leaving, Corinne asked me if I was alright. In querying why she had asked, Corinne simply said, “Oh, I don’t know. There’s something different about you today that I can’t put my finger on. A happiness about you that I haven’t seen in ages, possibly never seen in you.”
I gave my sister a long and deep hug and gently said, “I miss our father at times, don’t you?”
She answered, “Oh, I miss him too, miss him so much at times. He was such a wonderful, gentle man who lived for his children. Then to die at such a young age.”
As the week rolled by, I found a truth that had been denied me for the whole of my life. I couldn’t wait to share it with Jon. As I drove across to Torquay, I was full of what I wanted to say.
Jon could tell that I was fit to burst. Indeed, I had hardly sat down on the chair when Jon asked me how my week had gone.
“Jon, It’s been an amazing week. I’ve at last understood some fundamental aspects of my life.”
“That sounds wonderful, Paul, do tell me more.”
“Well, it’s this. I have now realised the emotional consequences of the way my father’s death was handled. In other words, what became hidden deep in my subconscious, far from sight, so to speak, was a belief of having been emotionally rejected. That despite that being so far down in my subconscious world, it clearly explained two conscious ways in which I behave.”
Jon’s demeanour, his wonderful listening demeanour, encouraged me to continue. “The first thing that came to me was the reason why I have been so unfortunate in my relationships with women. Well this is how I figured it out. Whenever a woman took a shine to me, I would do anything and everything to come over as a potentially attractive spouse. In other words, I was being driven by a terrible fear of rejection, rather than rationally wondering if this woman had the potential to be a woman I would love as a wife. Ergo, I oversold myself and, inevitably, made poor long-term relationships; Julie being the classic example.”
I paused and took a sip from the glass of water that was on the small table by my side.
“But the positive aspect of my fear of rejection is that throughout the whole of my business and professional life, I have been successful. Because, I have always put the feelings of the other person above my own as a means of avoiding rejection. Jon, I can’t tell you what a release this has been for me.”
“Paul, that’s a fabulous example of how when we really get to know the person we are, how it then gives us a psychological freedom, a freedom to be the person we truly are, to be happy with ourselves.”
He continued, “One thing I should mention is this. It’s likely that what happened to you back in December 1956 is not necessarily ‘hard-wired’ but certainly is a very deep-rooted emotional aspect of who you are. This new-found awareness will be of huge value to you but that sensitivity to rejection is not going to disappear; probably never will. The difference is that you are now aware of it and quite quickly you will spot the situations, as they are happening, that stir up those ancient feelings. The difference is this new self-awareness will deliver a much deeper emotional understanding of who you are and why you behave in the way you do.”
There was a wonderful sense of peace and calm in the room that ran on for some minutes.
Then Jon just voiced what seemed like the perfect closing thought. “Paul, this mindfulness you have so beautifully revealed is wonderful. You do know you are fine, don’t you!”
I was motivated to reveal these details of my past by what Sue wrote in her recent post Cracking our Inner Shells. She included these words:
Sometimes we have to go within to the silent places we all have in order to find out what is really going on with our emotional bodies. Even knowing all the things I do, we are within our Human form to learn and grow..
I needed to ask myself a few questions as to why I was feeling so lost, depressed and sad… More was going on than just bereavement. Yes the fall I had had,both bruised and shook me, but what else was shaking me to the core?
For those who know a little about my Soul Journey, You will also know that my own Mother and I had not spoken for 10 years prior to her passing some eleven years ago now….Despite many attempts I knew I was only wounding myself more by continually trying to bridge the rift, to be continually rejected.. So this rejection and other issues related to overwork and stress, resulted in a Nervous Breakdown in my mid forties..
So when my Mother died, while I was sad, I guess I never really grieved her loss. Because to me.. I had grieved her long before her death as lost to me.. As I had had to shut down my emotions to cope with her rejection.. I had undergone counselling within my breakdown, and my Mother jumped up at every dark corner of why even in my teens I had suffered from deep depression.
We often go through whole chapters of our lives creating a protective shell around ourselves because we need it in order to heal from some early trauma. I know I had built many such Layers of shell around myself from various experiences over the years..
I recommend you read Sue’s post in full.
But more than that, I recommend that if you have any sense of there being hidden parts of your consciousness that would be better brought to the light, then you involve a professional counsellor or psychotherapist. For the reward will be beyond measure.
As mine was.
For on December 14th, 2007 I first met Jean when invited to San Carlos in Mexico for the Christmas period by Suzann and Don Reeves; Suzann being the sister of my very long-term Californian friend Dan Gomez.
Jean and I have now known each other for over seven years and have been married for over four years. I love her beyond imagination. Because I can reveal to Jean the strange, quirky, often fragile person that I am. And I am loved for who I am by Jean.
This is the poem I wrote for Jean for this Valentine’s Day just gone.
What’s in a number?
Numbers spell out so much.
From a year of birth,
To a year of death,
From a chance event,
To a predictable breath.
Numbers spell out so much more.
From the day that we met,
To the year we were joined,
From the day we married,
To this day of love today.
So many days of happiness.
Yet numbers that spill beyond the digits.
For they are reflections of times a past,
And they are beacons of our lives,
Numbers that carry so much meaning,
To places so far beyond their count.
Yet today there is a number,
A number that carries all thoughts of love,
Almost endless thoughts of love from me to you,
Two little figures that say seventy-four.
For seventy-four months ago,
This very day,
I met you,
And you met me.
I loved you so soon,
Loved you so well.
And still do.
If you have read this far then well done! 🙂 If only one person has been touched by my experiences then that is wonderful.
I shall close by publishing a paragraph towards the end of Sue’s blog post.
Only you can know the how’s and why’s of your life. The answers that you seek can be found when you start answering your own questions, Sometimes we have to get a little lost in order to find oneself again.. But the journey in finding oneself is all part of our Earth Journey.
All of you take very good care of yourself.