A rough couple of weeks

I’m very sorry for the radio silence for the last ten days. I put up a post last weekend but it was too full on and raw and so I took it down again. It’s a funny old balance to get – being honest and real but also protecting yourself and your family too.

So this is a slightly less full on version of what’s been happening.

In many ways the last two weeks have been brilliant. The blog got a huge write up in the Irish Independent (thank you Leslieann and Yvonne) and as a result I was interviewed on three different Irish radio stations.

It was funny to see what they honed in on. The big main station, RTE2, seemed most interested in me chatting up the Greek and were a bit gutted that it didn’t end in love (‘if it were Hollywood you’d have married him!’ said the interviewer, a guy from Westlife. Tell me about it! ) Another one was very interested in me being naked (‘Hold on, we have Hugh Hefner on the line for you…’) and the final one seemed concerned for my wellbeing: ‘Sure, was your life so bad that you had to take such drastic action as this?’

Good question, really.

If anyone had told me this time last year that the blog would be doing so well and that I’d have been on the telly and the radio and be getting lovely messages from people everyday, I would have burst with excitement – but the last couple of weeks, despite all the good stuff, have been the hardest of this year. Harder even than the money stuff.

An ongoing situation has reared its ugly head and it’s really floored me.

The tricky thing with this blog is that while I’m happy to write about myself (to a much greater degree than I’d ever imagined), it doesn’t feel right to write about other people. I chose to put myself out there, they didn’t.

But for the last ten months, I’ve been putting myself under a lot of pressure to intervene in a situation that’s been getting worse for years. I figured I would be a self-help fairy; I thought that if I could just be more loving and forgiving – like all the self-help books say – it could change everything. I told myself that if I could just get over my fear of confrontation and just say the right thing, it would work miracles!

It hasn’t and I’ve been really beating myself up about that.

This week, in between sobs on the phone to a friend, I said, in all seriousness: ‘But someone like Mother Theresa would be able to do something.’ She burst out laughing: ‘Are you actually trying to be Mother Theresa in this situation?’ Me, more sobs: ‘Yes!’

For F**K’s Sake. I am not Mother Theresa. It doesn’t matter how much bl**dy self-help I read, I’m never going to be Mother Theresa.

I’ve been hitting my head against a brick wall and it’s time to stop.

As it is now, no matter what great stuff is happening in my life – and look, there seems to be so much! – I feel like I’m always being pulled back into a black hole. But actually, it’s me pulling myself into the hole because it’s familiar.

I don’t know what I’m saying except that I’m realising that while good habits and self-help CAN improve your life massively they do not mean that you wake up with a smile on your face every day of the year, full of love for the world.

Big stuff, family stuff, emotional stuff will always come and bite you – it’s part of being human. And when that happens it’s OK to get angry, to cry, to scream and to think really bad things.

I think the dangerous expectation that can be created by self-help books is that if you’re not walking around like a cross between Mary Poppins, Buddha and Jesus every day you’re doing it wrong. You must try harder.

You must eradicate any sense of anger with forgiveness and love! Any dissatisfaction with ten minutes in a gratitude journal! Any negative thoughts with affirmations: I love myself! I love everyone around me!

Sometimes it feels like these books want to hammer out the very nature of the human condition – a condition that has many emotions, including bad ones. A condition that’s based on complicated human relationships that can wreak havoc, even when everybody is trying their best.

Nobody is perfect, including me. But I think I’ve been trying to be.

In some ways I’ve used this year to beat myself up on an even bigger scale than I used to – ‘I’m not a saint therefore I am a failure!’ – but the truth is I’m a good person doing my best and I have to cut myself some slack when I fall short and when things don’t work out like I’d like them to.

On one of many teary phone calls this week, my friend Preena pointed out that I’ve faced up to more things this year than most people do in a lifetime, and that of course that’s going to spin me out. She told me I should be proud of what I have done instead of focussing on what I haven’t. She’s right.

I am spun out but it feels like something’s shifted. In between the tears this week it feels like I’ve let go of a lot of things – including the need beat myself up and to fix things. What will be will be.

xx

PS – I have gone off track with my 30 day challenge. The only exercise I’ve been doing is lifting my fork to my mouth. I have been eating my feelings in a major way: cakes, biscuits, ice cream, more ice cream, cheese, toast, cheese on toast, croissants, chocolate… – if it’s made of sugar and/or fat, I’ve been eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then having seconds. Oh well. I’ve done better on the booze and mediation though. I’ve been meditating like a little buddha and have only drunk four times in the last 28 days (I gave up the booze a week before November). I drank two glasses of wine last Thursday, two on Friday, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. I thought they would help and they did to a point, but not enough to make me want to drink the nights away. I’m not going to beat myself up for the lapse.

PPS – I haven’t written my eulogy either but I’m not going to beat myself up for that either.

PPPS – It’s Friday. Hurrah. xx

20 thoughts on “A rough couple of weeks

  1. David Palmer

    Glad you’re back, M. Had me worried there for a bit.

    You’ve hit one nail on the head. Many people think ‘self-help’ is seen by its fans as a cure to everything and a quest for perfection, and it’s not. It IS a desire to be as good as we can be in our own estimation, i.e. to live in a way we feel is right. We perceive a gap between what is and what could be, and we seek to cross it. Detractors see only ‘their’ way, so any alternative must be wrong. Such is life.

    With regard your point about not being able to solve other people (I like that phrase!) – you’re right, you can’t. Pretty much for the same reason I gave in the previous paragraph. But Dr Covey does write about the ‘Transition Person’ (in the final chapter of The 7 Habits if you want to see it). This is a person who takes their past, and decides that instead of living it, accepting it as the only way and then and passing it on, they will change (for their values-based, principled ‘better’) and pass THAT on, instead.

    I think that’s what you are touching on, a realisation that you can’t change what has happened and who it happened with – but you can change your response to it without judging – in fact, you can do it with acceptance (forgiveness?) and just move on.

    How’s the mission statement going?

    Reply
  2. David Palmer

    PS To illustrate my point about detractors. One friend would belittle the books I read as rubbish, then sought me out for help on a confidence problem. She didn’t see the irony.

    Reply
  3. Zoë

    Hello dear – this reminds me of your quote below. Sounds like you’re realizing not everything is fixable – even if Mother Theresa *were* to step in and give it a go:
    The ‘Circle of influence’ is everything in life that you can do something about.
    The ‘Circle of Concern’ is stuff that’s out of our control – other people’s reactions or behaviour…
    Given what you’ve been writing all along, maybe that’s why the “F**k it” therapy was so striking for you – it gave you what felt like an excuse to let yourself off the hook for not being perfect. Can’t change everything you don’t like? F it! Don’t have to! But it’s not an excuse, it’s an actuality. Somewhere there’s the perfect happy medium between F it to the things you can’t change and let’s give it a serious go for the things that you can. So basically, yes, the whole AA prayer thing. But look over your own writing – you’re getting there, step by step, to the realization of what and how you can change for the better in a way that’s productive and not maddening. I have full faith that your efforts are not only well worth it, but already working out better than you realize.

    It almost feels like F**t it therapy and that song from Frozen, “Let it go” need to get together and make a self-help baby? But yes, mourning and being sad can also be very therapeutic – it gets you to the next stage, despite the suckiness of the current one.

    As of this past weekend I also figured out the challenge wasn’t really doing it for me – I’ve still resolved to keep my apt tidier, but I’m going to try for it on the weekends rather than every day. Relaxation time during the week is too important to me, especially when work is so stressful!

    Reply
  4. Tess

    “…while good habits and self-help CAN improve your life massively they do not mean that you wake up with a smile on your face every day of the year, full of love for the world. Big stuff, family stuff, emotional stuff will always come and bite you – it’s part of being human. And when that happens it’s OK to get angry, to cry, to scream and to think really bad things.” – I’m taking this and putting it in my back pocket for guidance and reminder in the days to come. Thank you for sharing.
    P.S. going to bed earlier has been a real struggle. I have been more un-successful than successful at it. But I still keep trying. Doing a better job on being gluten-free and also trying to do a lot of walking since I can never organize myself enough to go to the gym.

    Reply
    1. Marianne Power Post author

      Tess, I’m glad those lines are of use to you. That’s brilliant. Makes me feel good. Brilliant that you’re walking and cutting down on the gluten, do your best on the sleep. I do think that some people are just night owls and that’s fine, work around it. Thanks very much for the message, I appreciate it.

      Reply
  5. Jill Bennett

    I love self help and am a bit of a SH junkie! But I too had a real guilt over one member of my family and the life they lead. I had to allow myself to let them go and to live the way they chose, even though I really knew they could have a better life and better health if they made other choices. But it wasn’t my decision and it didn’t matter how much I suggested things or how many books I sent them it had to be their decision and I had to love them and let them get on with it. As they say happiness is an inside job and no one is responsible for our happiness except us! That’s why self help books can help in some times.

    I DO wake up most mornings with a smile on my face! How? I know that those first few thoughts each day will determine how my day pans out so I make a point of saying (as recommended in E Cubed by Pam Grout) “Something amazing and awesome is going to happen to me today!” And you know what? It always does 🙂

    I go to sleep thinking of all the good things that have happened and remembering all I’m grateful for in my life. That way I have sweeter dreams.

    Keep going Marianne and at the end choose the book you love the most and work with that for a longer period to make it work.

    Reply
  6. Sue

    Well done Marianne, I have only been following you for a short while, but love the way you write and lay your feelings bare, you have the ability and talent to express how many of us feel in similar situations. No one is perfect or always says or does the right thing, yes we all try but truth is none of us gets it right all the time, that just wouldn’t be human!! But it’s the fact that we try to better our lives and others that makes us who we are. Don’t despair you are doing a great job of inspiring us. X

    Reply
    1. Marianne Power Post author

      Sue, thank you very much! Lovely of you to get in touch, I appreciate it. Will keep trying to better myself, and hope you do too.

      Reply
  7. Sue Ingram

    What a fab article! What a fab couple of weeks you have had! Yes there have been tears and chest bashing but the learning has been rich and fabulous. Why am I so delighted? Because the same WAS true of me. I tried to fix the world (check out narcisissm – the belief that you are the ‘one’!). And I twisted myself into a load of pretzel shapes in order to try and do it. I walked around with a perpetual smile on my face in order to be ‘happy’, whenever a family member had an issue I felt the pain more accutely than they did and I very nearly lost myself in the process. It took months of a therapist saying ‘But how do YOU feel?’ for me to realise that, whilst I thought I knew everything about how others felt, I was badly disassociated from what was going for me!!!

    Dancing helped – getting into the body and literally running through my mind ‘My toes feel …. My knees feel ….’ Meditation an absolute life saver – I now can centre, check my belly and throat asking ‘How do I feel?’ and literally sit, immersed in whatever feeling arises. And most of them are pretty basic! Anger, jealousy, hurt, aggrieved, fearful. There are times (like today) when I am happy, grateful, excited, amused. Sometimes – and this was a another learning for me – I felt neutral. Neutral! Reminds of a fab women on a TV show who stated ‘Beige is the colour of death!’ But netutral is a legitimate feeling. Makes me realise just how much I had bought the film and TV reality of life being high drama all of the time.

    The result of all of this? I have separated from my family – not physically and I still do give support – but emotionally and within myself. I certainly have absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for anything they do. If they ask my advice I give it. I may test out a bit with a ‘This seems to be bothering you do you want to talk about it?’ but if the answer is No I leave alone. And everything has become a lot easy and relationships within the family have become a ton better. The turning point for me was when I realised that I could leave at any point. If a conversations got too uncomfortable I could just say ‘This is not a good day for this converstion. I am leaving now. Love you and speak in a couple of days’. You would not believe how just having that phrase in my head and ability to walk out immediately improved the quality of conversations! I have never had to use it, through I must admit I have thought about it a couple of times!

    Guess I am saying focus on you. The best thing you can do for your family is to be happily independent and separated from them. Role model what you would like them to do rather than take ownership for them doing it. They might follow you and then again them might not!!!! It will be their decision.

    Reply
    1. Marianne Power Post author

      Sue, this comment is so unbelievably helpful, thank you. Sounds like we are very very similar and it also sounds like you are free. Fantastic, you’re an inspiration to me.

      Reply
  8. Mark Ramsden

    Good to see the Serenity prayer. Some heathens use a American Jailhouse version, (from an Elmore Leonard novel), ‘If you can handle it do it, if you can’t, fuck it.’ Shades of John C Parkin?

    Sympathise with your mood, glad you shared it, made me feel less guilty about not winning all the time. (I’ve been too dispirited to continue with my ‘cure for depression’ blog :))

    Reply
  9. Lotte

    Love to you M, this publuic honesty thing is hard when you’re having a particularly difficult time so thanks for sharing.
    xxxx
    PS I have policy as you re writing about other people *fist bump*

    Reply
  10. Elizabeth

    So sorry to hear about your difficulties, but I also can’t help but feel you’ve done really well to be this self-aware and call time on the self help stuff after an awesome run of it. I love the points you make about the dangerous expectations of self-help – so true! Stay well and take the best of what you’ve learned (even if it’s just one thing) into your no doubt healthier future x

    Reply
    1. Marianne Power Post author

      Hello, not ditching the self-help just have a rant, Elizabeth. I’ve started so I’ll finish, even if drives me crazy – but I don’t think it will… x

      Reply

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