I had been bent out of shape, and the things that had happened to me had left me disfigured inwardly.
I had bowed under the weight and pressure that comes from deep traumas that left me twisted and disfigured. Issues, relationships and incidents leapt out of their past and held me hostage, forever chained to emotional pain. These events of long ago had permanently altered me, the wounds may not be fresh but the scars last a life time.
I had walked down the aisle of the church twice secretly saying, "save me, rescue me".
The silent scream of a desperate heart that was in love with the idea of love, in love with the hope that someone will love me so well, that I would finally feel good about myself.
I had not learnt the art of being warm alone. Society has put so much pressure on us to be completely selfless and any attempt at self-nurturing and self love is condemned, eliciting accusations of being selfish and narcissistic.
Yet, in order to truly give we must appreciate the gifts we posses, in order to be effective we must develop the ability to embrace ourselves and a positive self image is not arrogant!
It is first about reaching inward can we learn to reach outward, the inward reach of our soul that enables the outward reach of the body. We can love others with no more wholeness than that which we love ourselves.
I had sought from others the kind of love and affirmation that must come from within first.
I had not demanded my own respect, so it was the hour to set the table for one and sit in the presence of my own personhood, celebrating myself, drinking wine of my own thoughts and laughing at some memory, and that maybe, just maybe before the night was over I might find myself warmed by the fire of my own dreams.
I had to learn that if I could not value my own existence and presence I would continue to have trouble relating to others.
I was newly separated from my husband we had agreed that he would have the boys for a time and that they would spend weekends with me so as to not upset their schooling and routine.
So with my Ute packed to the roof, all my worldly goodies boxed up, I headed for the water. A batch by the sea that I had rented short term to find the time to strengthen myself, my spirituality and my personality so that I could clearly discern when those offers came whether I was in love or in need.
I wanted my heart to look in the mirror and smile at the image reflected in it, to wink at myself and appreciate my own gifts, to celebrate my individuality and to learn to determine whether I am loving someone because they are lovable or because I was so famished and in need I couldn't tell the difference.
My batch was tiny, but perfect. It was peaceful and provided everything that I needed for this time of self recovery and discovery. I was working part time not far from where I lived as a finance analyst and the rest of the time I had just for me. It felt strange initially, the quietness, the aloneness, the lack of demands, I had no needs to meet other than my own and my days were spent leisurely doing nothing.
I was sitting outside on the deck enjoying the Tui singing on top of the Christmas tree, soaking in the sun, drinking my tea and lost in thought when I heard this " Hello Neighbor".
I turned around to see a wrinkly old face weathered by the sun, clear blue eyes like the ocean and a smile that stretch from one corner of his face to the other looking at me over the hedge. "Hello" I said, not wanting to really engage in any conversation. The point of me being on my own was to be on my own, but he seemed insistent walking up to me to shake my hand and introducing himself, " Im Werner" he said, "how are you settling in? If there is anything you need don't hesitate to call over the fence"
"Thank you" I said, with no intention of doing any such thing.
I left him standing there, hovering, mouth open as if he were about to say something else, I never gave him the chance as I almost ran back into my house and closed the door behind me.
I needed to sleep, and sleep and more sleep. I felt so tired, a tiredness that seemed to defy sleep. I knew I was suffering from adrenal fatigue, or chronic fatigue syndrome so went with the flow of sleeping whenever I wanted or needed to. Later in the afternoon I awoke to banging on my back door. I couldn't imagine who it could be, I didn't know anyone in the area except for my landlord and they generally left me alone. I opened the back door and who should be standing there but my frail, weathered , blue eyed neighbor Werner.
"I've come over to invite you to dinner, do you drink red wine?" "Yes", I replied, I didn't want to impose and I hardly ate anyway, my stomach at that time just seemed to reject food and I lived on protein shakes instead, to build myself up. I had lost a lot of weight which was an added bonus of course. My weight had always been an issue, a recovering anorexic.
He was obviously lonely and I felt sorry for him, and so I agreed to have dinner with him.
His house was old, he had lived in it for 40 years. It has huge landscaped gardens and a view of the water and Islands in the distance to die for. His house had it's own personal entrance to the beach and despite being in need of some TLC it oozed a welcoming warmness.
And so the evening ritual began, I would not always stay for dinner but I would go over for a glass of wine and sit in the garden and listen to his stories and experiences as a prisoner of war. He was German and his heritage was fascinating. I found myself looking forward to our evenings together despite my commitment to be alone!
He began to subtly and manipulatively take me under his wing, despite me not wanting to be taken under anyones wing, it just happened, and I allowed it. He clucked around me, endlessly fussing making himself indispensable and obviously very needy himself for company and a companion. He was a widower, and 81 years old.
As time passed and we built a relationship based on companionship, he became more and more controlling. He would phone me at work wanting to know what time I would be coming home so he could open his gates for me to park my car in his garage. He insisted on this, although I was more than happy to leave it parked in the street.
He would be waiting for me when I arrived home, he would be sitting in his chair at the end of the drive way waiting, looking at his watch, the gates open and ready. Barely out of the car, I would be hustled into the house for my glass of wine. I never had the chance to go to my batch first and unwind, check my mail, have a shower, relax. If I were later that what he had calculated I should be from the distance and time it took from work to home, he would interrogate me as to were I had been and whom I was with.
I found I couldn't bring myself to say NO, I had lost my voice AGAIN and was allowing this old man to lead me around the garden with a collar and chain around my neck.
I was in the MEANTIME, a time of not being where I wanted to be but not where I had been either.
He began to impose on my sense of independence and invade my personal space.
Everything I needed or wanted he had, or would provide, find or buy and I would take it, in-debiting myself further and further and the weight of obligation hung heavily around my neck choking me.
When you feel terribly grateful to someone, you feel you have to take what ever they dish out, and so together we danced the dance of him rescuing me, persecuting me when I didn't quite toe the line and then him playing victim when I tried to confront him about it.
He had crossed all my boundaries and I had let him, because he was caring, nurturing and I found myself in the same old situation as before, allowing someone else to fill the void, meet my needs and not standing my ground. I was falling into the same old trap where I allowed someone to make me feel complete and secure.
We feel obligated when we give part of ourselves away to appease the guilt of being so needy .
I had been a sad result of a life filled with too much work and no play. The fatality that evolves from too many empty promises and too many empty wine bottles. I have been on a love deficient diet that has turned to anorexia of the soul, and I mourned the woman I started to become and lost along the way.
I wondered how I was going to get back what I so carelessly gave away year after year looking for that someone to want me long enough not to abandon me.
One afternoon, sitting on the patio, drinking red wine, and marveling at the Kingfishers who had a nest on one of the near by trees, he took my hand into his weathered wrinkled hands and lifted them to mouth gently kissing them.
"Janie", he said, I have decided to change my will and leave you my property, this will all be yours"
I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I had lived a lifetime of being robbed of my inheritance, my dignity, my self- worth, my parents, and security was so very important to me.
I looked at him, disbelievingly, thinking, why would he want to do this, he hardly knows me, surely he has relatives he should leave this vast property which was worth over a million dollars to.
I had now climbed the ladder of being neighbor to heiress!
We agreed that I would move in with him, resign from my job, and focus on my crafting and take care of him. The price I was to pay for this acquisition would be his companion, housekeeper, gardner, cleaner of the toilet. But I could live with that, besides look what I was getting! A million dollar house!
He decided that he would put the property into joint names and we would become joint owners rather that me wait till he hit the bucket. I was delighted and still had to pinch myself occasionally to believe my good fortune. It was just too good to be true!
I resigned from my job, gave notice on my little batch, subconsciously saying goodbye to my independence and privacy, a price I was willing to pay nicely wrapped in delusional wrapping paper for a piece of security, despite the niggling in my stomach I ignored it. I never honored myself, I just needed to feed the growling need that continuously made itself know in the pit of my stomach and this was unexpected instant gratification at its best.
An opportunity arose after I had moved in with Werner, and a huge argument as to why we couldn't share a bedroom together. I should have know that this was the underlying motivation of him wanting me to move in with him. But I just couldn't go there and it began to build a bridge between us.
I never for once considered or even thought that this was what he wanted. A lover at 81 my God!!
I was invited to join some girlfriends in the South Island to attend the wine festival for three days.
At this stage, my lawyer had been notified of what had been decided about joint ownership and was preparing the legal paper work. Werner had instructed his lawyer as well.
I have not mentioned as this is another story in-itself, that I was also suing a medical doctor for rape which had taken me three years to gain the courage to do so.
Werner agreed that he would pick me up from the airport and bring me home.
Unbeknown to me, my lawyer had sent the papers for me to look at and sign whilst I was away.
Werner did not respect my privacy and opened the letter.
I arrived at the airport and waited ages looking everywhere for him, he was no were to be found.
I phoned home and instead of him answering the call a woman's voice answered instead.
" No Werner won't be coming to fetch you, you will have to catch a taxi back"
I sensed impending doom in her tone and felt my heart jump with fear at what would be waiting for me when I arrived. It was at least three quarters of an hours journey home and a taxi would be horrendously expensive. I didn't even think I had any money left after our splurge at the wine festival.
I checked my account and surprised to find over $70 000 in it!! Thank God for that, obviously my settlement with the doctor issue had come through. I breathed a sigh of relief and caught a taxi home.
As the taxi drove up the drive way I noticed a lot of activity in the garden, at least 8 people were gathered around, some carrying boxes and clothing and dumping it onto the lawn.
I got out of the car and paid the taxi driver and immediately noticed that it were my belongings that were being haphazardly thrown onto the lawn like old rubbish.
I was confronted by the leader of the group who had obviously designated herself as speaker on behalf of the rest of them, and was told in no uncertain terms that I was nothing but a gold digging trollop. Victimizing an old man and trying to take his home away from him. I should be ashamed of myself! She flung the legal documents in my face and wanted an explanation. Nothing I said was believed, their minds were made up that I was only with Werner for one thing his money. Werner was no where to be seen, the coward, he had headed for the hills with his dogs literally!! He had told them that he had never agreed to any of this joint ownership thing, or even me living with him and that he wanted me out. It was then that I realized with startling clarity that he was suffering from severe Dementia and the fact that he hadn't go this own way by using his property to lure me into his bed.
I felt like a dog that had been beaten and was now whimpering with my tail between my legs, whilst they continued to throw my belongings on the lawn with no regard for my privacy.
Fortunately I had some money and was able to arrange for a removal truck and store my belongings within the hour.
My ex-husband came and picked me up, by now distraught by the trauma, the name calling, the accusations, the misunderstanding, their unwillingness to listen to me, or believe me and the lack of the said person in question where I could confront him and ask him for myself left me feeling obtrusively robbed and betrayed.
I went back home to my husband and children and I hid, I cried, I closed my curtains on the world and crawled into my bed, I ignored the phone, kicked the cat for kneading me in contentment.
I replayed the last few months in my mind, willing myself to believe that in every situation I am confronted with, whether it be in my body or in my outer affairs, every situation contains somewhere within it the seed for my own good.
This moment was not about right or wrong, but rather about strength and courage.
I now needed to trust in myself and in the process of life. Even though I had been given a box of candy only to have it taken away from me and told I can no longer have it!
I wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all, venting my pain, shouting at the world, " It's not fair, you gave it to me, give it back, its mine and I want it!"
To trusting that the universe had something better for me even though outwardly it looked as though my world had just fallen from beneath me and I am lying at the bottom of a large crater trapped.
I was being protected from something worse.
My "seed for my good" my lesson here has been to learn that security comes from the deep recess of yourself, it cannot be given or taken away. It grows as real love from your sense of self.
I had reached outside of myself, and tried to hold onto to what was not good for me in case there wasn't anything else or better and I found myself embroiled in my mistaken beliefs that security is material.
Did I now have the patience to wait till my mind was clear and the water was still, remaining unmoving till the right opportunity presented itself?
I began to develop my intuition, by becoming consciously aware of my thoughts, watching them like cars on a motor-way passing with endless speed across my mind.
Knowing that once I attached to a thought and fueled it with emotion I would attract again the very thoughts I had grappled with and they would manifest as reality in my life yet again.
I had feared abandonment, of being alone, and I had created what I feared by my thoughts, images, my ingrained beliefs and perceptions.
I now needed to address these fears and beliefs that I carried and knew it would take work to change habits and develop personal safely. Grunge work, the hands and knees scrubbing kind of work.
Did I have the patience? Patience is what enables the distance runner not to collapse from fatigue. Patience is a sedative for the broken heart. The patience to wait, remaining unmoving, and not making rash decisions based on fear and panic.
Patience is a balm that is rubbed into those aching muscles when your soul is being stretched and you must still run the race.
It is patience and grace that will sustain you, the inner hysteria stops and you settle down and realize that it will take as long as it takes!
Crying relieves the soul like the exhaling of carbon dioxide. Just because the soul weeps doesn't mean it is dying. I believed that once I let the flood gates of my tears open I would literally die from the pain. Conversely, it has cleansed and released much of the pain, like a summers rain settling the dust leaving you refreshed.
Waves of grief will come like the sea, throwing its current on the beach. It will come and go but I needed to persevere step by step without drowning in my own pool of grief.
Dip my feel in if I must, but do not dare stop there and allow myself to be pulled under the current.
I needed to feel the grief, the years of grief, without tying it around my neck. Rather, let it land on my shoulders but no anchoring to my heart its talons.
The experience has been like climbing out of a deep pit, and at the brink when I though I had made it, a hand reached out of the dirt to drag me down again.
Like the ugly duckling, I have had to hold on, hold out, and search for that which I belong to and preferably outlive, out thrive, and out-create those who have vilified me.
Deepak Chopra says " whatever relationship you have attracted into your life at any given time are the relationships you need to be in at the time.
Would I change anything if I could do it all over again?
No, I wouldn't for in those experiences I have become who I am today and I am grateful for them.