Monday

66. Cyprus

Tomorrow we are heading off to Birmingham, taking my Mum home after her week's visit, and the following morning we head off to Cyprus.

We wouldn't be going without your kind generosity and I do so very much appreciate it. We both desperately need a holiday and some sun ... and to be visiting Tim for the first time since he and Anastasia moved to Cyprus two years ago is such a treat. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

It seems so significant that a year minus two days since I found the first bump, we are going to a Christening of a much-loved son's daughter. Ariadne's Christening is on my birthday, in the cathedral in Nicosia.

Tim's father, Jon, was Lion's best friend for 18 years. He was murdered in 2006 saving the life of an elderly lady who was being attacked in their block of flats in Croydon. Lion and Tim had met at Jon's second wedding and known each other off and on through more than a decade. But I first met Tim when we picked him him at Kings Cross station in London four days after Jon died. He had taken the train from his home in Edinburgh and we had driven down from Worcestershire to pick him up and take him to identify his father's body.

This tall red-headed lad came out of the station and smiled nervously at us and climbed into the back of our car where Puzzle, our 11-year-old beagle (an experienced mother), pressed her warm furry body against him and, when he opened his arms to her, climbed on his lap to love him.

He held her with his head buried in her fur all the way to Croydon and, when he had stood with me for a moment looking through the glass at his father's body, said 'yes, that's him,' he walked out, he took her lead from Lion, who was waiting outside, and walked her round the block.

He stayed that night at the home of another friend of Jon's just half an hour from his Dad's home, David got him comfortingly drunk on good wine and food and put him to bed. Lion and I stayed in Jon's flat (which Lion and he had shared in earlier days) and searched for his will. As we hoped, it left everything to Tim.

For two days, we talked with police, sorted stuff out and made plans and by then, Tim and I loved each other. Maybe it was the war spirit but I have no physical child of my own but if I had, it would have been Tim. Karma perhaps—past-life stuff—I don't know. But his Christmas cards read 'Mum and Dad no. 2'

We were with him at the Old Bailey as the man who had killed his father sat in the dock, we talked of the whys and wherefores and we loved his visits at Christmas and New Year.  And when he and Natasha got together he wanted us to meet her before they flew off for their new life together.

So, on 26th of April I will hold the grand daughter I never thought I would have in my arms and I will give her my grandmother's pearls with a note telling her their provenance and how Margery Hayward met George Crosbie when a Zeppelin came down in Suffolk at the end of the First World War. He was guarding it and she rode out on her bicycle with a raincoat over her nightdress to see what on earth had happened that had lit up the sky in flames.

They say that blood is thicker than water but soul-connections are stronger even than that.

N.B. This isn't what I intended to write at all this evening—but there you go. I was going to write about the love and healing and forgiveness between my mother this week. But that will have to wait for another day.


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Friday

65. On Death and Resurrection

It was my friend Rachel who taught me the metaphysical meaning of the Easter story. When you think about it, it's incredibly simple but, being me, I'll drag it out a bit and shove in a couple of stories.

It's incredibly relevant to me because a life-enhancing disease means that something must and will die. There is no getting around that part of it.

The story is that Jesus is betrayed by Judas, is tried, crucified, dies and resurrects. Christianity teaches that he died for our sins. We should be very grateful for that, feel appropriately guilty, not play with ourselves under the bedclothes and thank Grandma nicely for the gifts she gave us that we really, really didn't want.

And we are asked to believe in an all-loving God who would cheerfully send His only-begotten son to such a horrible death. Tough one that. After all, if that's what God would do to his own child, what would He do to us? And that leads to the last judgement, to purgatory and hell.

'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' cries Jesus on the cross in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

'Father, forgive them,' says Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.

'It is done,' says Jesus in the Gospel of John.

Kabbalah taught me that the symbolism of numbers is inherent within the stories which became the Bible and that the four levels of creation is an enduring and important pattern. Four elements: Earth, Water, Air and Fire, four courts in the Temple, four Gospels in the New Testament. There's more to it than that but, in a nutshell, Earth represents the physical world, water the psyche and soul, air the spirit and fire the Divine.

Our bodies scream when they are hurt. So do our psyches. But our spirits see deeper into the mystery and know that there is a greater magic afoot. The others are nearly always just doing the best they can with the level of understanding that they have and following their training and the social mores of the world. And they are all our reflections; they are in our lives for a purpose.

Our Divinity sees the whole picture from beginning to end and totally accepts what is, seeing it as perfect.

In the physical and psychological we focus on the suffering. I always thought Deepak Chopra made a very good point when he said 'I'm not asking you to give up your pain—just your suffering.' Pain is. Suffering is optional.

My first husband died once; in my heart and mind I made him die 10,000 times. My second husband left me once; in my heart and mind I made him leave me 1000 times. It's natural to go over the pain for a while but it's not natural to re-empower it. There's a North American Indian tradition that you may tell your story of woe three times only. After that, you start to embed it in your soul. A developed soul, in touch with spirit, feels pain but does not suffer.

So, Jesus, in Matthew (body) and Mark (psyche) is expressing the pain and suffering of a mortal man. In Luke (spirit) he is out of the suffering and into the level of understanding and compassion. In John (divinity) the emotional level is pretty much unimportant—he's completed the most difficult part of the job he came to do and can let go and move on.

For me (for us?) that's the story of what it's like when life goes 'wrong' whether it's bereavement, divorce, losing your job or facing a difficult diagnosis. We can yell and rant and blame and suffer as much as we like—and we do. Our wounds become a long-lasting part of who we are; how we relate to others ('oh they can't possibly understand what I'm going through' or 'he/she really gets me'). We compare wounds in building relationships and often even require our friends to maintain their wounds so we all have a lovely excuse not to develop and move on. (Caroline Myss is brilliant on this subject).

I discovered very swiftly what kind of temptation a life-enhancing disease gives you. For the first time for me it was entirely possible to say 'no, I won't do that' without having to give any excuse. People would just say, 'well, it's understandable given what she's going through.'  I suddenly saw all the manipulations and control mechanisms that 'suffering' gives to those who want that kind of power. Hopefully I haven't succumbed to them because, once you do, it's going to be very hard to surrender that dis-ease and its benefits. The ego loves a bit of power and control.

The healing is about re-discovering the soul and working in spirit. No matter what anyone has allegedly done to me over the years, it's time to let go of it and move on. To forgive is rarely for the other person, it's to let go of the poison in us. To forgive ourselves is even more important.

In Luke, Jesus talks with the two thieves on the cross. One is unrepentant—wants to be set free without atoning (at-one-ing) for what he has done. The second understands that this is cause and effect for him but not for Jesus, who is innocent. It is to the second one that Jesus says 'today you will be with me in paradise.'

It's all about letting go. Once you let go, then the problem is solved. That's true whether the outcome is life or death. Because, as Rachel taught me, it's not the crucifixion that matters, it's the dying. Once you die to the problem, then resurrection is a done deal.

You die and you resurrect. You let go and let God. You release the suffering and you transform.

That, for me, is the real message of Easter. Am I doing it? More and more each day, each blessed day on this beautiful earth. Is it healing me? Absolutely.

It's also worth noting that Jesus was on the cross for six hours. That's all. I'm sure it was more than enough but it's less time than the average woman is in labour. We've kept him on the cross for 2000 years.

Yes, his suffering makes us believe that he understands our wounds. But his death and resurrection shows us that we can heal them. It will probably take considerably more than six hours but that's the challenge of true Christianity. How long before we can truly forgive and move on?

G. K. Chesterton said, 'Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried at all.'

It took a life-enhancing disease for me to take the time and energy to really get into this forgiveness lark. I'd played around with it and thought I was doing okay, but when you get down and dirty, it is truly amazing and liberating. My friend Adam-who's-Jewish said 'Maggy, this is your crucifixion. You can do it.' Yes I can. And what an incredible journey it is.

Oh—and God doesn't need to forgive us or them. God loves us unconditionally. But we need to believe that we are forgiven to feel set free. If we forgive ourselves and others, it opens the door to that all-embracing love.

How do we forgive? Well the simplest method is the ho'oponopono I mentioned in the previous thread. It's not swift and it works subtly but it's very effective. Say the mantra 5,000+ times a day. Ah, yes ... it does need commitment. The lovely thing is that it works without telling you what it's working on. You'll just suddenly find that a thought that used to hurt doesn't any more. It's gone.

In closing, forgiveness does not mean to condone the cruelties of others. Not at all. It means to set our hearts free of the ongoing suffering. As my friend Janet-the-Methodist said, 'forgive by all means. That doesn't mean you let them get away with it.'


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Saturday

64. Blessing the Dust, a poem by Jan Richardson.

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners
or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—
Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?
This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.
This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.
This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.
So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are
but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.


Jan Richardson

With thanks to Rev. Harriet Every.


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Friday

63. The Woman Who Walks Barefoot On The Moor.


That's a nice wanky bollox title isn't it? Implies that I'm a tree-hugging spiritual being in floaty purple clothes with too many buttons.

At the moment I'm a woman with a thorn in her foot who's just scared silly the man delivering poll cards by lying naked on the vegetable patch. Our garden runs around the house and the veggie patch is pretty sheltered if you're not actually coming into the driveway and I was decently covered with dressing gown but he probably thought I was a dead body for a moment.

It's called 'Earthing.' I think it's simultaneously the latest thing and the oldest thing on the planet. According to Earthing.com: "Earthing is a fast-growing movement based upon the major discovery that connecting to the Earth's natural energy is foundational for vibrant health."


Major discovery eh? 


Well there is a lot of truth in the fact that we humans are more and more disconnected from the Earth. I used to walk barefoot around the house and garden all summer but stopped probably about a decade ago. And even on the Moor, it's trainers or walking boots. We're also insulated from the vitamin D from the sun in our anoraks and trousers. Apparently at the UK's latitude, we can barely get optimum vitamin D from walking for a couple of hours in shorts and tee-shirt at Midsummer.


Anyway, my friend John (who owns about 30 acres of land) has bought himself an 'earthing sheet' to lie on in bed for his aches and pains. You can buy an earthing pad to put under your office desk to put your feet on. After all, who has time to sit outside or walk barefoot in the garden any more? We're too busy on the internet.


I don't know yet if it's worked for him but I was given two strong hints (I might say instructions) from friends that I 'should' get into some earthing. This was a couple of weeks ago when the temperature was still very chilly and the earth was wet and deeply cold. Oh, and grass wouldn't do. It had to be earth.

I tried it for ten minutes and nearly froze my back off. Yikes!

But it made sense. So I starte to walk barefoot on the moor. Yes I know that's grass (and poo) but you have to start somewhere. Oh so much city-dweller 'it'll hurt' stuff came out ... and it was frickin' cold too ... but actually it felt amazing and it certainly focuses you down on where you put your feet. There are tiny, tiny fledgling gorse bushes on the Moor and they hurt.


But there is also a feeling that comes in that is palpable. Not to mention the a re-recognition of the extreme comfort of socks and shoes when they go back on.


Now it's a bit warmer, on sunny days, I will go and lie on the vegetable patch for half an hour covered either with dressing gown or single duvet. I'd just started doing it when the healing crisis arrived so who knows if it was contributing to that or not. But today I managed it again, having walked barefoot on the Moor yesterday (and picked up an unremovable tiny thorn which will have to dissolve its way out).


I'll vouch for it for one thing already. I'd been getting achey backs nowadays because my neck vertebrae have been strained. But earthing dissolves that for the rest of the day, just like that. And the problem is lessening every day.


Now I've researched it a bit more, it appears that grass is just fine, and so is water and so is sand—there are lots of interesting websites out there so I won't point you to just one. Just google 'Earthing.'


In a nutshell: when our bodies lose contact with the earth we start to carry a positive electric voltage relative to the Earth's own voltage. Research indicates that this is not good for health and wellbeing. 

Earthing the body returns the voltage to zero. The whole thing is about free-radicals which are there to help us heal as long as there aren't too many of them. When we touch the earth, the free radicals that we don't need appear to go 'yippee!' and dive down into the earth, leaving us clear.


Thank God summer is coming (and we're off to sunny Cyprus at the end of the month) so I shall be able to test out the theory very thoroughly over the next few months. And yes, I shall continue to walk barefoot on the Moor because it's a wonderful thing to do. I shall just examine my feet with tweezers afterwards.


I am leaving interesting footprints in places as I'm very happy to walk barefoot in the muddy parts too. When just the ball of my foot and toes show up it looks like a very weird mark. I'm looking forward to passing some curious hikers on my way back down to Aslan's How who are wondering if they have seen the elusive prints of the mythical Beast of Dartmoor.


Mind you, she'll be flying down the hill behind me, tongue out and leaping for beagline joy.

P.S. The thorn vanished after this afternoon's walk on the Moor.


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Thursday

62. I Chose the Road of Faith

Today I walked on the Moor again. This has been my delight and my spiritual discipline most days since we moved here to Devon. Nowadays I walk barefoot and consequently with much more care. Prickles still catch me and there is much hopping while I clear the foot but I have dodged all the moor-poo successfully so far. The sun shone and I sat down against a tree and said my prayers of blessing for this land and for me while the beagles did their own beagly stuff.

I promised to rest entirely for a week even before the latest healing crisis—which has certainly made me keep my word. On Sunday it was so hard to swallow that I finally (finally) did the three-day juice fast that most of the world recommends. When they don't recommend a seven-day or even longer one.

Hideous, just hideous. Sorry healthy folk but it made me weak as a kitten; there is nothing you can do with juiced spinach which is going to make it taste good and dear Lion's frustration at stuffing bags of kale into the juicer and getting half an inch of liquid was heart-breaking to a Taurean.

Today I am up again and into the second day of eating again and for the first time I have strength again, but I will still spend at least every morning in bed again until Sunday, as a discipline. I don't rest enough. My homeopath tried to tell me weeks ago and I still didn't listen. This morning, I was pottering in the kitchen before I went back to bed and listening to instructions from above and I said, 'yes I'll do that and that but I'll have to stop when I'm tired and rest.'

Suddenly I was doubled up with laughter that wouldn't stop for minutes. That was God laughing at the idea that I would be the one who decided when I was tired instead of having to be beaten into bed.

I'm not afraid. I know this internal journey has more than turned the corner; these last days I've been deep into my soul in the company of Caroline Myss, working with the Tree of Life and chakras and clearing the levels of endurance and intuition and giving my will up to God. I've also worked with the most beautiful healer, Deb Rowley, whom I met on Facebook and who has been of unfailing support and a total delight. As she lies in her bed at night in New Zealand with her husband sleeping beside her, I lie in bed in the morning covered in beagles and we talk and talk in messages.

The ho'oponopono chant that I have been using off and on for years has become my confessional; any time I feel a negative or judgemental thought coming in, I move into ho'oponopono (I'm sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you) and it is dissolved.

But probably the biggest gift Caroline Myss has given me this time round is the acknowledgment that this is a road of faith. I always promised myself that if I ever got a life-enhancing dis-ease I would not go down the route of chemotherapy. So many, many times I have broken my word to myself over the years—I would meditate more; I would eat better; I would do this, I would not do that.

And I broke my word. Again and again. For decades. I thought it didn't really matter but it does. So my will (neck) has been compromised.

But when it came to it, when the chips were well and truly down, I kept my word. I chose the long and sometimes arduous road of faith.

I did have some treatment with an interleukin which was not a lot of help but that was not a breaking of faith because I have always believed in interleukins since Henry's sickness. At a time when I was seriously scared, it may well have given me a couple of months of faith to continue on my journey. But I have been adamant that I will take the route of inner healing and I have kept my word.

So the days of breaking my word to myself are over. Hopefully so are the days of breaking my word to others. And if my will is committed to that, then it is now a will that is worthy of handing over to God.

And in that knowledge, and the deep inner knowing that I now have that God loves and supports me and that my mission as a spiritual comedian is my new ordination, I place it, and myself in God's hands and I commit to following my guidance as much as I possibly can. I don't promise to do it all the time and all my life because I might not make it, so I simply say that I will commit to doing my best.

(My guidance incidentally hasn't shut up since then and seems to be very insistent that it wants to hear me sing and laughs its non-existent head off whenever I do).


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Monday

61. Chemicalisation, Vulnerability and Shame.



I was going to write today about 'earthing' and walking barefoot on the moor and all sorts of lovely things.

But I feel like shit and I've been in bed all weekend with a flare-up in my neck that hurts like hell and has made me look like the Elephant Man. It's a little better today so I know that it's probably okay (mostly), and a Goddam healing crisis from the homeopathy. I'm also coming to realise that riding may not be the best thing for me to be doing at the moment. It's obviously jarring my neck badly and it has enough to deal with as it is.

This morning, a friend, David Wetton, posted a link to Brené Brown on Facebook which was just perfect timing. Brené talks about shame and vulnerability and that's so appropriate for me today.

Why? 

Because I'm not physically better yet and there are so many people cheering me on and believing in me. I think I'm not doing enough. I'm not doing it right. I'm afraid I'll end up in hospital being dosed with chemo by doctors who tell me that I've left it too late and I should have been more sensible.

Because I think I am going to have to tell Carrie the horse's owner that I'm not well enough to help her out right now.

Because Britain's Got Talent is airing from next weekend. And that means it's very likely that several million people will watch me failing and being told I'm not funny by unimpressed judges.

No, I don't know yet that I will be on the TV—apparently they'll call to tell me if it's so. But, if I am, I don't want to watch it because I remember so well that awful moment when I'd finished and looked at the impassive faces of three judges who didn't clap. I don't want to tell friends and family because I don't want them to see me fail. They know I didn't get through but telling them with a light-hearted "well, it's probably for the best and they didn't get me" is one thing. Having them watch it is another.

And also because the guy who promised to fund me for Edinburgh seems to have vanished off the planet. He's not answering messages or emails so my precious 'therapy fund' is empty again because I paid out for the entry fees and air fare and the posters in the happy knowledge that I was being sponsored. And there's a load more expense to come now that I'm now committed to Edinburgh. So I need to ask you guys if you can help out again please? If you can and if you want to sponsor me to perform at the Edinburg Fringe, please donate. I'd be so grateful. Thank you.

Several people have said to me how brave it was to ask the first time. Well it wasn't easy. I did feel shame and vulnerability but as I'm on a very, very healthy diet, I can't hide them behind a bar of chocolate or a glass of red wine any more. They have to be faced and dealt with. And that's one of the fascinating things about this journey—all my cover-up techniques are gone. 

Brené Brown says that when we numb shame, we also numb joy, gratitude and happiness. We can't have total delight if we are not willing to face our darkness. And I say that she is right. Because even though it's been a shit weekend and I hurt, there have still been moments of such joy and such peace and such profound prayer. I asked Lion to ring my Bishop and ask him to pray for me and he has phoned twice and been so kind. Until I was ill I always kept him at a bit of arm's length but now he is one of my best friends as well as a teacher and we love each other.

Brené quotes Theodore Roosevelt (and that really helped with the BGT thing too):

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Yes, I am in the arena. And I can be proud of that.


And Simon Cowell, of all people, said "yes." He didn't say it because he thought my performance was good, I believe he said it because I was in that arena, failing magnificently. It may also have been because when I looked at him, I loved him. Not in a sexual way, in an 'agape' way. I can't explain that, but it must have shown.

And, you know, even though some days are shit I can in all honestly put my hand on my heart and tell you that I've never been so alive; I've never felt so filled with joy; I've never known I was loved so much; I've never loved so deeply; I've never had a heart so open as I have had this last year. I would not have missed this experience for the world—even though I so want to be healed physically too. I don't know what the outcome will be but (as someone said) faith is not about being sure, it's about not being sure but betting with your last dollar.

Thank you for being with me on this journey.

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