I’ve learned that whilst I now know there are people out there who’ll lie, trick, cheat and bully, I don’t have to change myself, my essence, as a result of this new knowledge (this was a comforting lesson to learn). I can still be me: open-minded, open Helen…I just need to be more cautious. Just because someone took advantage of me doesn’t mean I have to fence myself off and be on my guard all the time (this thought, this assumption that I’d need to change, was one of the hardest mental battles I fought). He rocked my foundations but he won’t change my outlook or my world view. A world view that’s based on a strong belief in human goodness and in the power of kindness. I’ll be damned if he changes me, alters the very essence of who I am.
I’ve learned that evil exists. It disguised itself as love but let’s call it what it was. Evil. A mockery of all things good. A disguise. A fake. Multiple masks, worn, exchanged as necessary (I now understand the repeated visits to the mask shop in Venice, understand his morbid, bordering on obsessive, fascination with it – my deeper me knew something was amiss but I refused to acknowledge it at the time, my ever hopeful ego trying to make amends). Evil. It touched me, touched us. Got close to us. Tried to pull us all down. It’s a real thing. Excuses can be made, upbringing, circumstances, psychiatric diagnoses conveniently accepted when it might mean the possibility of lighter sentences, but I saw it. Sometimes you can’t make excuses. You have to call it what it is. Evil. It can come disguised as whatever it wants; that disguise is never good enough to trick those who are guided by love and light. It won’t win.
I’ve learned that I’m one strong momma! I always knew I was strong (due to my fierce independent streak). I always knew I was resilient. I always knew I can do many things. But surviving what I have? Coming through that not only alive but stronger? I’m proud of myself. I take pride in my tenacity and my bravery. I don’t care if that sounds like I’m showing off when I say that. I’ve been through a – quite literal – Hell on Earth and I survived. I didn’t die. I’m alive. And I’m thriving. We’re thriving. It’s not only amazing. It should be celebrated. Shout it from the rooftops, Helen: “You’re a survivor”. You stared Hell in the face, came nose to nose with it, so close you could smell it’s skanky useless breath and you stared it down. You took your collected wisdom, concentrated your strength and you fought, silently but strongly, you fought that beast down. With good. Only with good. Truth. Love. Only good.
I’ve learned that life doesn’t end when you think it’s about to. (This was a hard one to learn!). At the point when you’ll be forced to your knees, to ask to be shown a way through. At your very lowest point, when going on didn’t seem possible, but it was only the thought of the beauty of life that kept you going, the ant scuttling past that distracted you sufficiently you simply couldn’t do it, couldn’t even hold the thoughts necessary to contemplate the practicality of it – at that point things will change. Your lowest point will be your turning point. It might not be fast. It certainly won’t be easy, but you’ll go on. Because life goes on. You’ll have setbacks. You’ll battle yourself in your own mind. You’ll feel lost, uncertain, alone. A myriad of negative emotions will bombard you each and every day. But you’ll feel hopeful and…
I’ve learned that one grain of hope is stronger than any amount of fear. And that you must take your hope where you find it, however you find it, and it’ll grow. You’ve just got to believe it’ll grow and it will. [Yes, it sounds corny but it’s not – it’s one of the truest certainties there is]. Take a little bit of hope, however small, and focus on that and nothing else, nothing bad, and it’ll get you out of that dark place, that despair, and it’ll lead you onwards, out, to brighter places, better pastures. Don’t let the fear in. Do whatever it takes to not let it in. Yes, that’s hard to do, because fear is insidious, it slinks in to every corner, every thought but…
I’ve learned that you need to train your mind, to leash it, to control it, to be able to tell it what to do, what to pay attention to, what to ignore. If you don’t train your mind, when you’re trying to get through something tough it almost killed you, then your mind will finish you off. Your own mind. It’ll a slow death, a living death. You’ll be alive but you’ll be consumed by dark thoughts, by thoughts that don’t have any positive purpose, and this heaviness, this weight you carry around in your mind – mostly of your own making – it’ll drag you down, heavy, heavy clothes clinging to you as you try to stay afloat. Train your mind. Tell yourself you must let it go, let it all go. If you don’t do this, if you don’t make the effort to do this, you’ll be lost. You’ll lose yourself, long stretches of time will be lost. That you’ll never get back. You owe it to yourself to be brave and to face the beasts in your head, to stare them down and show them who’s boss. To control them so they don’t control you. If you don’t do this, you won’t be living your life, you’ll be living a life based on fear and what fear makes you do and how it makes you act.
I’ve learned, all over again, that life is beautiful. Beauty-full. Full of beauty. Wherever you care to look. Full of things to be happy about, to take joy in and to revel in. Focus on that, on all of life’s beauty, focus on choosing to find, to see, beauty where you can and it’ll give you strength and lead you out of your state, of your no-living, barely alive state of fear. Choose beauty. Once you do, fear, ugly thoughts, evil, they won’t be an option any longer. You won’t have space in your head or your heart for negative, you’ll be so filled up with joy. It’ll elate you, show you a new way and you’ll want to run towards it, arms wide open, drinking it in, this feeling that’s been so long gone.
I’ve learned that life, every day, is full of a million little moments and that happiest comes when we stop and savour them. When we take time to mark the moment, to register it’s passing by observing it and giving thanks for it. Gratitude: a state of being that allows us to be in this state of eternal now, of eternal thankfulness for everything positive, everything beauty. Give thanks for all that you have, all that you are, for your feet that carry you, your eyes that help you see, for the world, the stars, the grass, the way things work, function. Give thanks and the cracks that negative enters through will close, they’ll seal up, boards marking ‘No room at the Inn’. Thanks occupies a lot of space.
I’ve learned, through all of this, that I want to learn how to be me. How to express my talents, my joys, my sadnesses, how to use the gifts I’ve been given, to the best effect. I’m nearly 41 and I find I’m re-learning what those talents are and how very strongly they’re calling me to be used. That voice, that calling, it’s strong and it’s determined. It’s waited patiently all this time but now it can see the light and it wants centre stage. “Use your talents, Helen” it shouts. And now, because I have space to listen, for the things that need to be heard, to be internalised, I am listening. I’m learning to unfold, to trust, to be led. I’m learning, I realise, learning how to be.