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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Loving What Is

Now that I have been attending the Mindfulness course for three weeks, I am starting to see some interesting results. The most profound (for me at least) of all is that after practically all of my life, I can finally start to put names to the emotions that I feel. You see for years I was one of these people who was totally out of touch with what she did feel. It is then a revelation to be able to look at my feelings and thoughts and say to myself "I am feeling anxious" or "I am feeling nervous today". What is even more of a revelation is the understanding that I do not have to become attached to that thought, and that when I choose not to do this, my life becomes much less stressful and my body and mind both become at peace. I have caught myself at various moments this week thinking such negative thoughts and when I have realised what I am doing, laughed out loud at the stupidity of it all. The people with whom I work have no doubt been wondering what drugs I am on !
Seriously though my job as a cleaner, which involves working both in and outdoors (walking around a fairly large site to various other buildings and departments at least one of which is actually based outdoors) is the perfect environment to be practising this stuff. Because the job is routine, the mind tends to wander a lot, and this gives me a myriad of opportunities to notice this and try to gently bring myself back to awareness. It is also gives me the opportunity to practise my work mindfulness - when cleaning tiles for example the other day - as I sprayed the cleaning fluid I really noticed the smell, and as I began to clean, the texture of the tiles as my hands brushed against them to remove the dirt. Walking across the garden too can become a meditation (although only when on one is looking, another thought that I need to let go of - why does it matter what others think?).
One of the other more interesting revelations I have had this week was connected to my work and the fact that I have this need for routine and to be constantly busy. When I looked at this, and I mean really looked, I realised that the reason I prefer this way of working is because it means that I can work in automatic pilot and do not have to think too much about what I am doing - in other words, it gives me an excuse or a reason not to be mindful and to continue living inside the monkey mind. What a revelation that was. Since I first became aware of this towards the beginning of the week, I have been making an effort to really practise the mindfulness a lot more.
Of course it is not always easy. With the long awaited meeting on Thursday with my nemesis and her sidekick, the monkey mind and indeed my pain body have been positively licking their lips and feasting until they have both become big and fat. I though am aware of this as well, and am wise enough to know that you can sometimes use this to your advantage, for it is only by allowing yourself to be in this state that you can start to examine those thoughts and those negative patterns that arise.
I have been doing this for the past few days through he medium of a wonderful book by Byron Katie called "Loving What Is". The idea of this book is that we have really no choice other than to accept and what is or has happened in our lives, whatever that may be, as well, it has happened and it is there and to resist and struggle against this is futile and only causes us stress. Katie then has devised a series of four simple questions which she calls "The Work" to be used in these situations as a source of inquiry to find out what really lies beneath these thoughts and indeed who you would be if you were able to let go of them (usually a lot more peaceful and less angry). At the end of this process you achieve what she turns the turnaround where you realise that whatever it is that is causing you stress is actually a mirror image of what you are doing to yourself, so for example if you feel that someone should respect you more, then actually it is you that should respect yourself.
This is what I have been doing then this weekend, using this process of inquiry with my nemesis. What I wrote was this (her name has of course been changed):
"I don't like Lucy because she doesn't respect me, she thinks that I should go running every time she snaps her fingers and that I should always do what she says. She has a need to always be in control. She needs to realise that I am my own person and make my own decisions as to how to do my work, as it is my work. She is not my Manager and shouldn't tell me what to do. She doesn't have the right to shout at me and belittle me in front of clients who are vulnerable people, as this is a form of abuse".
When I turned this around I finished up with:
"I should respect myself and pay attention to my own needs, following my instincts and intuition. I should learn to let go of control and just go with the flow, accepting what is. I should learn to be comfortable with the decisions and choices that I make and not be afraid that others may not approve. I should learn and recognise that the world does not revolve around me and I do not have to be right. This does not mean a loss of power. I do not have the right to mentally shout at and torture myself with constant thoughts of negativity, trying to control everything and everybody, as this is a form of abuse. I should be gentle with myself and others."
What a turnaround that is !
As I have delved deeper into the book and read some of the exercises, it has become apparent to me that really lies beneath all of this is a great deal of anger and frustration - anger and frustration at feeling that I am not accepted as part of her team and that I do not fit in. Indeed when I think back to that day in August when all of this kicked off and her deputy first shouted at me, that was the thought that came out of my mouth as the tears began to fall. I can though also turn this around to read:
"I should accept myself and not worry about whether or not I fit in. I should learn to trust in the universe that it knows best what I need, and be safe in the knowledge that there is a place for me here on this Earth. It is okay to be different".
There will I feel be some interesting discussions then taking place both on Wednesday when we meet for the fourth session of Mindfulness and for the meeting itself the following day. Rather then being defensive and going in with all guns blazing, I need to sit in Mindfulness paying attention to those thoughts and feelings and approach the whole situation with compassion. I may end up thanking her for showing me these things about myself, which would certainly be a surprise to everyone.
Having said all of this, although I can accept that she (in fact both of them) did shout at me, and did fail to apologise, this does not mean that what they did was right. Maybe what I can do to really knock the wind from their sails is apologise to them for any hurt or misunderstanding that I have caused in their lives. I can't think of a better way of opening up a dialogue. When faced with these kinds of revelations and this degree of openness, very few people are able to resist and it is only a matter of time before they too begin to open up and be honest and truthful with themselves. That above all else is what I now wish to create and on that one I can be absolutely clear.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Love changes everything

Last Monday, one week today, we started our new routine at work with me working in the main house and my colleague in the onsite care home. Although this had been discussed at the time that I started this job, for various reasons, including major building work in the aforementioned care home, it had been put to one side. Negative comments to do with my work have now pushed this to the forefront, as it became apparent that the Manager of the Care Hone would be a lot happier were I not such a regular presence.
I admit that to begin with I felt resentful about this change, as I am familiar with working in care homes and so the routine feels safe and secure. This type of work can be very routine, and so much of the enjoyment is derives from contact with the clients with whom I converse sometimes quite deeply. This is one of several issues that the aforementioned Manager has brought to the attention of my own Manager, along with (according to her) eavesdropping on private conversations (how can they be private when they take place in communal areas), reading confidential documents (something which I have never done) and the fact that she is not happy with the standard of my work (strange, as 99 percent of the other employees say how much cleaner the place is since I started there). All of this leaves me to conclude that this is nothing to do with the way in which I work, but more to do with me as a person - that something about me is pressing her buttons.
The fact that these issues seemed to start around the time that I announced my engagement to Coran has not escaped my notice. Neither has the fact that things seemed to get worse after the Mental Health First Aid course when I was very open about some of the mental health issues that I have faced both in my own life with in relation to my the rest of my family. This leaves me to suspect that this is more to do with my relationship with Coran and her own issues to do with gender and sexuality. It is interesting that my own Manager has also picked up on this and without prompting from me, voiced the same opinion. If I am right regarding this, then the meeting that has been arranged between us for 20th November may be very interesting indeed, and for her at least, challenging to boot.
I have though got to the point where I am secure enough in my own skin and in my relationship to be able to fight my corner and deflect everything that comes my way, making it clear that this is her stuff and that she has to deal with it rather than projecting it on to me and making my own life difficult in the hopes that I will go away. This is not going to happen, for I have finally found a job where I can be me and where I am seen and heard for who and what I am and can be that openly and freely without having to hide and continually wear a mask. I am not going to give that up for her or for anybody else.
Now that the meeting has finally been arranged there is a huge sense of relief in that something tangible is actually (hopefully, she could refuse to go) happening that will enable us both to move forwards and hopefully accept each other. Who knows, we may end up as best friends.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Sewing the seeds

What with the New Moon in Scorpio on 23rd, the sun entering that same sign on 24th and the Solar Eclipse at around the same time, there have been some pretty dense energies floating around, which of course have brought with them the opportunity to clear an awful lot of stuff.
At this time of year, as the clocks go back and the darkness starts to descend, we start to turn inwards to hibernate in a sense while we wait for the light to return at the end of the year. This then is the perfect opportunity and the perfect time for introspection, to think deeply about what it is we wish to create in the New Year and the Spring that is to come. Winter is the time in nature when everything goes to sleep, hiding deep beneath the ground to be born again, and so it too for us..
To begin then at the beginning of the past week, I think I knew it was going to be an interesting day and an even more interesting week, when I got to work on Monday morning to be confronted by the sight of one of the male clients sitting on the toilet with his pants around his ankles. I rapidly closed the door to give him (and everyone else) some privacy, and turned around and walked rapidly back the other way. There I found two female residents discussing which one of them had produced the smelliest fart. I think it was at that point that I pretty much realised I had reached the bottom .....
Monday though was such a beautiful day weather wise that it was hard to remain in a gloomy and miserable place. I handed my letter to my own boss and read the contents out loud to him before handing a separate copy to the HR Manager who has been dealing with this mess. The HR Manager was busy and did not have time to stop and talk, but I had a good talk with my own boss, and was thoroughly reassured by what he had to say, namely that he agreed with what I had written and that he would support me all the way, even if meant picking me up off the floor ! Hopefully that won't happen. Monday then, all things considered was not a bad day.
Tuesday weather wise at least, was more of the same. The Manager who is the cause of these troubles was back at work which pressed my buttons slightly, but no more than usual. Towards the end of the morning my boss handed me a letter from HR in response to mine, which blew things wide open again. Basically it seems that during my absence the week before, he had spoken to the 2 ladies concerned and explained to them that I would he happy with an apology from them. He had given them a few days to mull things over, but they had come back to him and said no, that as far as they were concerned there was nothing to apologise for. And there I was thinking that the one who had the accident had changed. He wanted though to know what I wanted to do next, whether I wanted to still hold the meeting that I had proposed, and continue trying to meditate on an informal basis, or whether I now wished to make a formal complaint. My initial thoughts were that I wanted to kick the shit out of them, but after a chat with Coran and my own boss, I decided that this is really not the way to go, and that my initial analysis was correct. When you have a conflict of any kind, the only way to really resolve things is to sit down and talk. He explained though that although he could see where I am coming from it does sound inflammatory to ask someone about the cause of their pain and why they feel the need to hurt me, and so this may need to be slightly amended. Perhaps I could use the word challenge instead, for that is what it is; for some reason this woman, these women feel challenged by something I am doing, or being. That though was that.
On Wednesday the weather changed, and so did my mood. I felt as low as low can be - as if I could burst into tears at any moment. Throughout the day, I tried to do my Mindfulness, but was just not in the mood - one has to be in the right frame of mind, so in the end I gave up, there is no sense after all in beating yourself up. Once I had made that choice, the anxiety lifted a little, and I was able to function a little better, but the main problem was just tiredness. When I am in that space, where there is nothing but tiredness, the sadness gets amplified, and I feel everything much more deeply. My boss was a little concerned when he saw me sitting in the car with my hands over my eyes giving myself some Reiki, but I explained to him that I was trying to rest. He said that if things got that bad I must let him know and he would go and beat people up - he was jesting of course, but I know he is good man and that I have his support, and knowing that makes all the difference in the world.
In the midst of this angst, I had a revelation, namely that my father had also struggled with issues very similar to my own for much of his working life, with very similar consequences to my own, namely at times, depression and anxiety. From this came the realisation that because of this, I grew up with the expectation that my own working life would be the same, and so that is what I created. This though it not my stuff, but my Dad's and the time has come to hand it back, so that is exactly what I did, knowing that at this time of year when the veils are thinnest, it is the perfect time to do this.
On Wednesday night Coran and I began our Mindfulness course and despite the tiredness, it was interesting indeed. Ten of us took part, a mixed bunch all with their own reasons for being there. The teacher whom we had already met and spoken to at length, discussed what Mindfulness is and how it can hopefully help in how we react to stress. We did a few exercises to get the ball rolling - the full body scan and the raisin exercise where you look at a raisin with all of your senses as if you are seeing that raisin for the very first time, exploring it through touch, taste, sight, smell and even hearing. I suggested afterwards that we do the same exercise the following week with chocolate !
On Thursday morning Coran's anxiety levels were high again and she was in the same state that I had been the day before, this time giving in to the tears. I took the morning off then to be with her and we went for a walk in the sunshine and fresh air to try and clear our heads. Following her Doctors appointment towards the end of the morning, I returned to work and tried to carry on the best that I could.
That brings us to Friday, yesterday and the end of the week, where I was once again my usual buoyant self. One of the things to have come out of this debacle is the idea that the other housekeeper with whom I work and I will rotate duties from now one, whereby I work in the care home for one month while he works across the rest of the site, and vice versa. Until now I had always worked in the home, while he for the most part covered the rest of the site. This will create some space between the Care Home Manager and myself while also enabling me to learn about the rest of the site and what needs to be done. The two of us then had a meeting with our own Manager to iron out the details of this swap, so we both know exactly what the other does.
I admit that to begin with I was unsure as to how this would work, and whether it was the right thing to do, as it seemed to be borne from the need to create distance between myself and the Care Home Manager, although it is true that we had always planned to do this. Various things, including major refurbishments of the Care Home have conspired to place the idea on the back burner, but the problems with the aforementioned Manager have pushed it back to the forefront. Now that I have got used to the idea, I can see this as a good thing as although I will miss the routine and the interaction with the clients in their place of residence, I will still see them around the rest of the site. It seems to me that this is an opportunity to not only learn new skills, but also to practise my work Mindfully, as I will have all the time in which to do this. This will also show the powers that be just how good I am at my job when they see and realise the standard of my work and how much cleaner everything is when I do it, showing this female Manager up for what she is - for she has stated in contrast to everyone else, that I am not very good at my job and the standard of my work is lacking.
When the clients start to ask where I am, as I am sure they will do (as will the rest of her staff and for that matter, even the builders) she will start to realise perhaps, the error of her ways and that she was been hasty in her judgment of me. This will, with any luck start to sew seeds of change within her as during my absence she is forced to look at these feelings and these thoughts and begin the process of self examination. Yes, a little distance can only be a good thing.