It’s my last day in beautiful Hawaii…I’m so thankful for the time and space this trip has given me to reflect, connect with my husband and explore this part of the world. Just before we start to pack up and decide what we’re going to do in our final hours on the island, I want to spend a few minutes exploring with you a thought about forgiveness from Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong

I know you’re probably sick to death of hearing me talk about her book, what with this being the 5th or so post about it but reflecting on her words with you, dear friend, is how I’m able to move the learning from my head to my heart and integrate all the wisdom into my life. So I hope you’ll bear with me. Here’s what she said:

“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die. If you make the choice to forgive, you have to face into the pain. You simply have to hurt.”

These words hit me so deeply because of a recent conversation I had with my husband on the night of our second wedding anniversary. We both shared one thing that we’d like the other person to work on, something that impacts our relationship.

I shared with Gregg that it hurts me when he calls me ’emotional’ as I feel that it’s a negative judgement about the feelings that I experience. I said it was fine for him to describe me as ‘complex’ or even ‘complicated’ because I know that I’m both those things, but I think that my emotions are a positive thing and I don’t want them used in a put-down. And to his credit, he hasn’t used this word since.

He then had his chance to share his desire for me and said that he’d like me to forgive him more quickly and not freeze him out when I’m angry. This was not really a surprise, I know I struggle with forgiveness, as described in a fairly recent post about being an Ice Queen.

I don’t want to go all cold and freeze him out, but I was unsure how I could change as it’s how I’ve been for most of my life. When  I experience difficult emotions – anger, conflict, disagreement – my go-to pattern is to lock down my feelings, which results in me distancing myself emotionally and can be experienced as a frosty, brittle anger which makes forgiveness so tricky.

And so Brené’s words about forgiveness are a revelation to me in considering how I might become quicker to forgive…it seems that the missing piece in my puzzle is to allow myself to feel the anger, pain and hurt that comes from being in conflict.

Gah, the truth is that this is such a scary prospect and I see that I have coped in the past by putting my feelings on lock-down and shutting myself down.

It’s so scary to face into the possibility of hurt, to let myself feel pain, to not numb out the feeling and instead let myself fully experience the conflict, each moment of anger, the pain.

But I can’t help but feel that Brené’s words are the key to being able to forgive, the key to living a more wholehearted life.

So I’m going to take these thoughts and share them with my life coach and work through, with her help, what this different path could look like for me.

I know this exploration and journey will take courage, grit and determination…but I can’t help but feel that this is the right path on my journey to a life of greater courage, truth and love.


Soul mate

I’ve been listening to an excellent audiobook about marriage this week. It’s called Committed and is written by Liz Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love.

Having been married for coming up to two years, it has been interesting to hear Liz’s sceptical views about marriage and see some of the worries I had leading up to the big day reflected in her thoughts.

You see, dear one, I was really excited to commit to my husband and declare our intention to remain faithful to each other, but I was acutely aware of the tension between committing forever when I had no ability to see what was going to come the next day, let alone the next week/month/year/decade.

Something else was playing on my mind too. In the lead-up to the big day, I had become a tad obsessed with wedding shows such as say yes to the dress and don’t tell the bride. If it had weddings in it, chances are I was watching it. And I became anxious about how these women in the programmes expressed their feelings for their husbands-to-be; describing them more often than not as their soul mates. Don’t get me wrong, I dearly love my husband – he makes me laugh, has endless patience with me, is so kind. But I didn’t, and haven’t ever in our relationship, feel that he was my soul mate. And I started to question whether there was something wrong with me, with him or with us.

This anxiety was never enough to doubt the commitment we were making to each other. But it did play on my mind so much that I brought it up with Gregg.

And with nearing 2 years of marriage under my belt and a bit of perspective from spending less of my life watching wedding reality TV shows, here are some of my thoughts:

In terms of saying “yes” forever, it was Gregg who calmed me (as he always does) by stating that if we didn’t work out, we’d get a divorce. And that we’d be ok. It might sound strange to have my husband-to-be consoling me by talking about divorce even before we made our vows, but it showed me that he was willing to explore everything I needed to explore and to put my needs above his, even if it meant discussing difficult things like divorce. And it put the wedding vows into perspective of being intentions, aspirations, hope for our future together as much as they were promises.

And two years on, I can see the beauty of this commitment. That when things are hard, we’ve promised to move through them together. That when he does things I’m not happy with, he knows I’m not going to walk away. That when I’m a hot mess, I know he’ll stand by me. And I think these promises give us energy to make us work – to keep spending quality time together, keep on falling in love with each other, keep growing and developing together.

The commitment and promises bring a stability to us.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a marriage is always needed to bring this stability, but I think that’s what the promises we’ve made bring us.

Now, onto the problematic pickle of the soul mate declarations that I couldn’t make about Gregg and that he couldn’t probably make about me.

Now that I’m not as wrapped up in these programmes as much, I don’t care what these other women say or feel about their spouses. Whether they are soul mates or not has no bearing on my relationship.

I still don’t think that Gregg and I are soul mates. But I’m ok about that. We’re not soul mates because we’re so different. As much as we love time together, we need time apart. We need our own friends and hobbies of our own too.

And now I’m more comforted in knowing that our relationship is one based on honesty and truth, seeing each other with all our flaws and accepting each other as we are instead of expecting each other to be something we’re not. I think it places less stress on our relationship in not putting the label of soul mate on each other.

As a society, we have a tendency of expecting that our spouses will be our all – best friend, confidante, missing puzzle piece, completer. When in reality we’re just people who can never be someone’s all. And, as Liz explores in her book, people entering marriages in the past were never subject to this level of pressure or expectation. So why do we have this expectation?

So I’m not going to put any more pressure on my marriage and just enjoy it for what it is – two imperfect people who love each other and who are committed to trying to make the relationship be the best it can be.


Rollercoasters & Anchors

In the past, I’ve described the roles my husband, Gregg, and I take in our relationship as rollercoasters and anchors.

In many ways, I’m the rollercoaster in our relationship –in terms of my personality, my emotions fluctuate between soaring joy and terrible despair, covering everything in between. I have heightened experience of different emotions whereas Gregg is far more steady and anchor-like with his highest level of praise often being ‘that’s not bad’.

I also think that I’m far more up for rollercoastering in life when it comes to the future – often coming up with crazy and out-there plans for things I want us to do together. If we acted on every thought I’ve had, we’d have walked the month long Compostella pilgrimage through Spain, have got matching tattoos, moved to Italy and Australia, travelled for months through India… Yes, these dreams often come to nothing, but I feel I fuel the twists and turn of our future far more than he.

I was surprised to realise, however, that my dreaming can often leave me unable to act in the present and that my husband is a reality rollercoaster. Bear with me…

We had some friends visiting us from China – they stayed in Brighton for two days, exploring the city during the day and exploring further afield with us by night. One evening we took them into Lewes for dinner and were going to take them to the countryside while it was still light. The meal took longer than anticipated and by the time we’d finished, it was close to 7:30 and daylight was fading fast. I wanted to be close to home, perhaps coming back to Brighton instead of venturing into the fast-invisible wilderness. But Gregg pushed for going somewhere different in the opposite direction from Brighton.

I felt myself wanting to anchor to what I knew – the beach at Brighton, the closeness of home. I didn’t want to experience the unexpected twist of my evening if I was honest with myself…but everyone else was in favour of Gregg’s choice and so we got into the car, me a little reluctant, to drive to the secluded beach.

Oh my goodness, I am so glad I followed Gregg’s lead and didn’t resist this experience because it was so magical.

The sun blushing pink as it disappeared below the horizon, the soft inky black water, the moon shine illuminating our dip, the empty expanse of the sea…I felt truly free and giddy, high on life. It was such a beautiful moment that I will remember for years to come.

With our friends we ran into the water and had 10 minutes of laughter, were tossed around by the waves, revelled in this magic, the magic I would have never experienced without following Gregg on this rollercoaster ride.

It was this experience that made me see that the label of ‘anchor’ I give to Gregg is not the whole picture. He’s so much more than that. Where I steer the course of our future, he lives fully in the present and doesn’t resist the twists and turns that come his way like I so often do.

So yes, we are rollercoasters and anchors but in a different way than I had ever appreciated before.