Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

on…becoming whole

I started writing this post just over a week ago, when I felt like I was finally getting myself into a good place. I felt I was finally feeling happy with myself, and understanding not only who I am, but how I fit into and work in this world.

Over the last week or so, a few things have happened which have rather knocked the wind out of my sails. I’ve had some set-backs at work which have left me bruised and anxious. I’ve also allowed self-doubt, worry and self-loathing build to levels which have left me questioning my purpose and paranoid to the point of panic attacks.

It’s interesting then to re-visit this and share it with you. What was going to be my recipe for how I finally figured out how to fix myself, has become a reflection on another set of disappointments.

It is still a recipe, but one that I must now try to follow.

Again.


Stretching and fragmenting yourself never happens in one definable moment. It is a slow, insidious creeping effect, the result of every failed choice, every ill-considered action.

You don’t start out trying to become undone. You don’t actively seek to damage yourself and those around you. You don’t deliberately give voice to all your inner doubts, allowing them to grow in strength, creating a cacophony of conflicting personas, suffocating your mind.

When you stretch too far, you fragment too many times and break yourself into pieces.

When you lay there broken (shattered), wondering how on earth you’re ever going to put yourself back together, just look to two things:

  • the pieces;
  • the glue.

the pieces

We over-stretch ourselves trying to:

  • do too much:
    Success at work, being creative, taking on hobbies, varied interests, seeing the “must-see” movies, reading the “must-read” novels , being the cook, host and entertainer.
  • be all things to ourselves:
    Being kind, being thoughtful, being wiser, being calmer, being happier, being in control.
  • be all things to everyone:
    A better son/brother/partner/lover/friend/confidante/mentor.
  • keep all our options open, all the time:
    The constant feeling that we must be adaptable, that we must be able to always be all 950,000 different versions of ourselves, and call on that version at moment’s notice.
  • cling onto a past that no longer influences or guides our future.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
– Anatole France

It’s easy to see how quickly we splinter ourselves into too many parts.

Instead, from this fractured state, we can pick up the pieces of ourselves that we require. The core pieces that make us, well… us. We are able to discard and leave behind the accumulated baggage of our past, the unrealistic expectations of our present and the anxieties of our future. We can strip ourselves to our essential components and identify the key elements of us as healthy, rounded balanced people.

My essential components (July 4th 2010):

  • Quick-wit and sense of humour
  • Great cook
  • Generous host
  • Caring friend
  • Gifted artist
  • Fab personal stylist
  • Lover of fashion and glamour ;o)
  • Open mind
  • Contentment in the little things
  • Sensitive (too sensitive!!) soul

Some of these things you’ll recognise in me. Some have been buried for so long, I forgot I had them myself!

the glue

The glue binds these pieces together. It may not be as hard and unyielding as a glue, it may be more fluid, more organic – weaving the pieces of ourself (our self) back into a cohesive, functioning whole.

I think of my glue as being:

  • My relationships, my loved ones, friends and families:
    My relationships are the most important thing to me, in ways and meanings that I can never adequately articulate, or convey in any action or gesture.
  • My role and the joy or value I bring to others:
    I’ve written before about the value I bring to others, questioning why the people in my life want anything to do with me.
    But deep down, I think I know that I offer something (perhaps more than one thing!) to each and every one of my relationships.
  • My own sense of being, the pride and joy I can take from what I bring to myself:
    I am of many parts, and for years I have allowed those parts to compete internally, to become points of self-doubt, to generate feelings of worthlessness, failure – even disgust and shame. I realise increasingly, that is the very unique combination of these aspects of myself, that make me special. I have a blend of characteristics, experiences and values that is not only unique, it is me. I cannot remove or close parts of myself, without changing what it is to be me. Sure, on a given day of the week I’ll be more one aspect of me than another, but that is good. That is how I choose to live.

the whole

The whole then, is greater than the sum of its parts. So long as the parts are not too many or fragmented, then simply being whole is an exceptional gift, and requires no greater effort than accepting yourself for who you are.

“Because he believes in himself,
he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn’t need others’ approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.”
~ Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu

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do you realize?

the sun don’t go down. It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.
~ Do You Realize?, The Flaming Lips

Do you realise? (back to British spelling, sorry!) That we live in an amazing country, at an amazing time of year?

So as a nation we’re broke. We’ve been broke before (individually  and collectively), we’ll sort it out, one way or another.

So religious fundamentalism (from many religions) is growing at an exponential and alarming rate. It’s often cyclical, and will be followed by a period of rationalism, as long as we keep our collective cool.

Forget these things, and all the other big stuff that would terrify you to incapacity if you sat and mulled for long enough.

summertime

Instead, why not try this?

Find a friend, family member or a loved one.

Make yourselves a drink (squash, tea, Pimm’s – whatever you fancy).

Step into your back garden (or stroll to your nearest park/woods/nature trail).

Sit awhile on the grass or in comfy chairs.

In shared silence, just listen to the sounds of a summer’s day as it unfolds around you. The buzz and thrum of insect life, a plane heading to foreign parts. Kids in the next road playing and giggling, the ice cubes popping and melting in your glass.

Let the summer wash over you, permeating your soul and refreshing your mind. The shared experience of just being, is a captivating and magical gift.

Now, do you realise?

even jitterbug skinny legs get the blues in hot climates

My best friend Richard, who I’ve talked about previously, bought me a copy of the Tom Robbins novel “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates”, ages ago. Richard has endless patience for my mood-swings and bouts of depression, and I know that while he finds it hard to understand the mindset, he will always be there to cheer me up, in any way he can.

In fact all my friends and loved ones:

  • Kate (who really doesn’t need my crap, yet still drops everything to help me);
  • her husband Alan (who wants me to chill and get a laid-back frame of mind);
  • Colin (who sits me down and tells me how the world is, as opposed to how I see it);
  • my wife, Verity (who has put up with this for 9 years and counting);

do their best. They do their best, even though I am at times, one of the most unpleasant and self-obsessed individuals ever to crawl on this earth.

But I digress. ‘Fierce Invalids…’ has been sat on my bookshelf ever since Richard gave it to me, another volume in my expanding pile of books to read ‘some day’. Well, Saturday became that ‘some day’. I needed a diversion, I need absorption in a novel to take me out of myself, to give me joy. I need writing and wit that would stretch my brain and nourish my soul.

Tom Robbins delivers all of this. In spades.

I have been a fan of Mr. Robbins’ for many years, ever since I read “Even Cowgirls get the Blues” in my late teens. I adored the writing, the sheer unalloyed joy, verbal wit and intellect. The larger than life but utterly plausible characters. The feats of plotting, the journeys of imagination, philosophising and life-affirming, dive-in-with-your-boots-on sense of fun.

“Personally, I prefer Stevie Wonder,” confessed the Chink, “but what the hell. Those cowgirls are always bitching because the only radio station in the area plays nothing but polkas, but I say you can dance to anything if you really feel like dancing.” To prove it, he got up and danced to the news.

See? I can’t read that without smiling, and loving the Chink!

Reading ‘Fierce Invalids…’ I’ve been struck by how little time Tom Robbins’ has for depression and self-absorption. To the author, it is narcissistic, unproductive and ultimately, it just gets in the way of the main event. Having fun and living.

Show your working

To wit:

“When you’re unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. And you get to take yourself oh so very seriously. Your truly happy people, which is to say, your people who truly like themselves, they don’t think about themselves very much. Your unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwellin’ on himself and start payin’ attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence.”
— Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume)

Abso-fucking-lutely.

“People tend to take everything too seriously. Especially themselves. Yep. And that’s probably what makes ’em scared and hurt so much of the time. Life is too serious to take that seriously.”
— Tom Robbins

I agree.

“Among our egocentric sad-sacks, despair is as addictive as heroin and more popular than sex, for the single reason that when one is unhappy one gets to pay a lot of attention to oneself. Misery becomes a kind of emotional masturbation.”
— Tom Robbins (Wild Ducks Flying Backward)

No comment!!!

Tom Robbins writes with such a rich, all-encompassing love of life, that it is impossible to not get carried away with his infectious enthusiasm for existence – all the ups, downs, backwards and sideways that it brings.

As Switters’ (the main protaganist) learns from his Grandmother, Maestra:

“All depression has its roots in self-pity, and all self-pity is rooted in people taking themselves too seriously.”

At the time Switters had disputed her assertion. Even at seventeen, he was aware that depression could have chemical causes.

“The key word here is roots,” Maestra had countered. “The roots of depression. For most people, self-awareness and self-pity blossom simultaneously in early adolescence. It’s about that time that we start viewing the world as something other than a whoop-de-doo playground, we start to experience personally how threatening it can be, how cruel and unjust. At the very moment when we become, for the first time, both introspective and socially conscientious, we receive the bad news that the world, by and large, doesn’t give a rat’s ass. Even an old tomato like me can recall how painful, scary, and disillusioning that realization was. So, there’s a tendency, then, to slip into rage and self-pity, which if indulged, can fester into bouts of depression.”

“Yeah but Maestra – ”

“Don’t interrupt. Now, unless someone stronger and wiser – a friend, a parent, a novelist, filmmaker, teacher, or musician – can josh us out of it, can elevate us and show us how petty and pompous and monumentally useless it is to take ourselves so seriously, then depression can become a habit, which, in turn, can produce a neurological imprint. Are you with me? Gradually, our brain chemistry becomes conditioned to react to negative stimuli in a particular, predictable way. One thing’ll go wrong and it’ll automatically switch on its blender and mix us that black cocktail, the ol’ doomsday daiquiri, and before we know it, we’re soused to the gills from the inside out. Once depression has become electrochemically integrated, it can be extremely difficult to philosophically or psychologically override it; by then it’s playing by physical rules, a whole different ball game. That’s why Switters my dearest, every time you’ve shown signs of feeling sorry for yourself, I’ve played my blues records really loud or read to you from The Horse’s Mouth. And that’s why when you’ve exhibited the slightest tendency toward self-importance, I’ve reminded you that you and me – you and I: excuse me – may be every bit as important as the President or the pope or the biggest prime-time icon in Hollywood, but none of us is much more than a pimple on the ass-end of creation, so let’s not get carried away with ourselves. Preventive medicine, boy. It’s preventive medicine.”

“But what about self-esteem?”

“Heh! Self-esteem is for sissies. Accept that you’re a pimple and try to keep a lively sense of humor about it. That way lies grace – and maybe even glory.”
— Tom Robbins (Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates)

It really gives you a sense of perspective, doesn’t it? Well, it may not to you, but it does to me.

Tom Robbins’ words hit home like daggers. He says what I imagine my friends would want to say if they felt they could. If they felt they could without upsetting me.

A thicker skin. No, scratch that. I like being thin-skinned. I like being sensitive. I like being an emotional person.

What I don’t need to keep doing is assuming that I am despised. I can’t keeping living in fear that the people I love will abandon me or dump me. Sure, they may do at some point (they have in the past). But should I let that cripple me?

What I don’t need to keep doing is assuming that I am worthless, a failure. I have achieved so much in my life. So you don’t like it? So what? I should be rightly proud of what I’ve achieved, rather than only being able to see the stuff that hasn’t quite worked.

“All a person can do in this life is gather about him his integrity, his imagination, and his individuality – and with these ever with him, out front and in sharp focus, leap into the dance of experience.”
— Tom Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues)

I’m not quite in the mood for dancing (yet!), but I will be soon

In the meantime, pick up a book by Tom Robbins, and just enjoy.

this circle doesn’t fit its little square

“I’ve been a long term disappointment to myself
But it hits like a hammer when I’m that to someone else”

~ Wonder Stuff, ‘Circle Square’

Looking back on these last 2 months of sharing my thoughts via the medium of this blog, I’m struck by one overwhelming and inescapable conclusion.

I.

Am.

A.

Miserable.

Bastard.

There’s no escaping this conclusion. There is barely a single post here that doesn’t focus on introspection and self-critiquing of the most toe-curlingly egotistical manner.* I can spend hours, days, weeks! brooding and analysing every aspect of myself. I can pick away at the smallest, most inconsequential word or deed. Scratching and poking it in my mind, until, like a child picking at a scab, I have made a scar. A permanent reminder of a perceived failing or slight, etched into my personality.

This really pisses me off.

I said in a previous post that I am not naturally a negative person. How true is that? I wake up everyday wanting to be happy, wanting  things to be bigger, stronger, faster – more.

Excuse me while I make a drink…

the glass half-empty

Am I glass half-empty kinda guy?

“Can’t I have a mug? I always break glasses… oh, okay there’s no glasses anyway? No, no, a paper cup is fine… “

Yes, I have always been a glass half-empty person, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it (and so fulfilling my earlier assertion by being down about being negative…)

a clean glass

So I tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna put away the glass I was given, and get myself a new, shiny, clean glass.

  • No chips.
  • No scratches.
  • No cat hair mysteriously stuck to the outside (eeeew!).

A clean glass, a fresh start.

the glass half-full

And every day, I’m going to fill my glass with the things I want it to hold.

Herewith, a recipe (a cocktail if you like, I know I do!) for good times ahead:

  • 2 measures: Relationships and friendships that bring me joy
  • 1 measure: Hobbies that bring me pleasure and satisfaction
  • 1 measure: Knowledge and learning that helps me grow
  • 2 measures: Experiences and living that nourishes my soul

Strain over ice into a chilled (laid-back, easy going) glass.

Enjoy.

the Circle – Squared

I know, I know – I’m mixing my metaphors like a metaphorical DJ, glasses, liquids, circles, squares. I never promised logic!

In summary then, this is my plan, to square the circle, and restore balance to my life. A delicious cocktail every day.

I’m going to the bar, who wants a drink? 🙂

*Although, is it possible to be egotistical about being worthless? Surely a conundrum that ranks alongside Schrödinger’s cat

who are you?

Who are you? WHO are you? Who are YOU? Who ARE you?

You don’t know. You do not have a simple answer to that question, a snappy tagline that sums up you as a human being, encompassing your past, present and future. Your relationship and role to everyone you know. Your hopes and dreams, nightmares and fears. Your proudest moments and your dirtiest secrets.

You are a permanent work-in-progress. You’ll never be ‘completed’. It’s utterly terrifying, but think of it as being an incredibly liberating gift that we have been given. The ability to change and transform ourselves into who we want to be.

You can never stand in the same river twice – because when you come back, it’s not the same river, and you’re not the same man.

And it is so very true.

So, next time you see me, just double-check, is it really me? Because I’m not who I was earlier this week.

Neither, when it comes down to it, are you.

try a little stronger, for your friends

“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.”

– Winnie the Pooh

I’ve talked previously about depression and negative thoughts, about pain and mood-swings.  That’s all okay, it’s stuff we go through and experience, it’s stuff we can cause other people to go through and experience too, by our actions and thoughts (or lack thereof).

I’ve been thinking about this a lot today, the effect and impact we can have on other people.  I’ve also explained before about the fact that I’m so fed-up of being depressed and hurting other people with the way I am.

It’s one reason why what genuinely surprises me, after all this time, is that I still have any friends to speak of (or to!). And that’s what I want to talk about today, the gift of friendship.

I take my friends for granted, it’s true. I expect them to always be there, always be thinking of me and always ready to listen. I like to think I offer that to my friends in return, but of course, I don’t. There are times when I’m so caught up in my life and my troubles, that I fail to see one of my friends is hurting, or in need of help. And by the point I’ve noticed, it’s too late, I’ve already let them down.

For that, I am truly sorry. It’s so easily done, especially if (like me) you are rather prone to introspection and self-absorption. That’s not to say I’m a fair-weather friend, one who’s only there for the good parts in others’ lives. No, rather that sometimes I lose sight of the true nature of friendship: Love.

I love every single one of my friends, in different ways and for the different qualities and gifts they bring to my life. You can choose your friends, but in reality you don’t, you grow and evolve your friends as you grow and evolve too. What starts as individuals, like shoots in a forest, grow together until a support is formed, where, like a forest, the whole functions more effectively than any one individual. That’s how I see it at any rate.

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Personally, I think it’s lovely, and it always chokes me up to think back to points in my life before I knew a particular friend, and wondered how I ever coped before I knew them.

There’s Emma, who I met at college when we were both 16. We met for the first time, drunkenly snogging at a party, and it took a while to get to know her properly after that awkward(!) start. She now lives abroad (not because of the trauma of kissing me!), but we still talk regularly, and when we see each other, it’s like no time has ever passed, and usually we still get drunk as though we’re 18 again! Emma lives life according to her rules, and has never been afraid to try new things, to travel and experience new cultures and new ideas. I have nothing but admiration for Emma, and I love her like a sister (Edit: to my sisters, you know I love you too!).

There’s Richard, who I met at the age of 17, the brother of another friend. We clicked over music (Dodgy, the Dharmas) and became best buddies from that fun summer of 1994. He is the most warm-hearted, open and genuine guy I have ever (will ever) known. He has an infectious jollity and humour that spreads like wildfire. He never complains, never whinges. Just being in his presence can cure all melancholy, he really should be available on prescription! Richard is if anything, the brother I never had. My wife refers to our friendship (in good humour!) as “a bit gay”. Maybe it is, all I know is I wouldn’t trade his friendship for anything.

Richard and Emma were the “best man and woman” at my wedding, and two greater friends I could never hope to have.

There’s Kate, who I’ve only been friends with for a few years, but already feel such a connection with, that I know we are going to be close friends for life. We met through work, and now she is my boss (eep!). So while we have fun bitching and moaning about the trials of office life, we have much more besides. Kate, when she’s on form is the life and soul of the party, able to put a room full of people at ease. She has a confidence and self-assuredness that honestly, makes me envious. But behind the front lurks the compassionate nature of a truly caring soul, one who has near-limitless time to help others, and provides very good counsel.

And I think that (in a round-about way) is my point, a friendship is a support, a relationship that has to function for both parties. It simply isn’t healthy to maintain a friendship that is entirely one-sided, a friendship that is a drain on your soul, rather than nourishment.

So what am I? A friendship vampire? Bleeding my friends of all they have to offer? I hope not, but at times I know that has been the case.  I know what my friends give me, but I am not sure what I give them in return. The last 12 months I’ve given out a lot of heartache, I know that much. I also like to think I have given some laughter, some great cooking and some nicely painted little metal models too!

I know that there is nothing I would not do for my friends, if I felt could help them in any way. Who can see someone they care about in pain and do nothing? Sure, I’ll get it wrong sometimes and my attempts to help will appear misguided and even make a situation worse (really? me?), but they come from my heart, and the compassion and love I have for those in my life.

I started with a quote from the renowned friendship guru Mr Pooh, and it only seems fitting to finish in the same way, as it sums up everything I’ve been thinking about and inexpertly trying to articulate:

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we’re apart.. i’ll always be with you.”

– Winnie the Pooh

To you I bestow

“I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received”

~ Antonio Porchia

We learn and grow, every single day. I know more about the world today than I did yesterday. I may not like what I have learnt today. I may, for example, have learnt that someone I respected has shown themselves to be pitied. I may have learnt new ways that people hurt each other and cause pain.

But, I may have learnt valuable insight from another. I may have discovered something that has made me stop, think and look around me with eyes that are different. Not because of what I now know, but because what I now know has changed me in subtle, almost imperceptible ways. The way I view the world around me is forever changed, and will continue to be changed, filtered in the context of my new learning – my insight.

And that may be the greatest kind of knowledge, the greatest kind of learning we can give another. Not by imparting facts and figures, dictats and opinions, but by imparting change and awareness. By encouraging and aiding those we care about to look for themselves, to grow with each day and form for themselves their own worldview.

But what does this all mean?

I’ve been thinking about learning and wisdom a lot recently.

In fact, ever since one of my closest friends asked me to be mentor to his new-born son, I’ve been thinking why? Why choose me to be a mentor? Why, of all the people he knows, pick me to be, if not a spiritual guardian and example, then at least a life and experience guide?

I’m quite a clever guy. Not super-smart, and sometimes lacking in common-sense, but quite clever. I’m a fast learner. While I may moan and complain, I’m also quite adaptable, able to pick up and learn new concepts and ideas. And I’m kind (I think) and caring, when I’m not wrapped up in my own self-absorption…

So I thought I’d try to find out what makes a good mentor, and more importantly, do I measure up?

What makes a good mentor?

(source: University of Cambridge)

If you are interested in becoming a mentor, check yourself against this list:

  • First and foremost, are you interested in helping others to succeed — even if they may surpass you in achievement?
  • Are you reliable, honest, and trustworthy to keep things confidential?
  • Are you capable of active listening — not interrupting, picking up important cues from what someone says, able to reflect back the relevant issues and check understanding, minimising assumptions and prejudices?
  • Are you empathetic – can you convey understanding of their experience without saying ‘yes me too’ and launching into anecdotes of your own?
  • Are you able to question someone sensitively but empowering to help them explore their own issues?
  • Can you pass on your knowledge and expertise clearly, encouragingly and helpfully?

“Are you interested in helping others to succeed?”

Yes, absolutely.

“Even if they may surpass you in achievement?”

Well let’s not be hasty…

This, I guess, all depends on how we as individuals measure success. Is success intrinsically personal, or is a shared success as rewarding as solo victory?

I think, for me, I am more than comfortable with the idea that success can be shared. I am also more than comfortable with the concept that I can teach or help another to success of their own, even if it surpasses my own.

I’ve done this at work, on more than one occasion. Currently, there’s a guy in my team, who is newer than I am, and at a lower pay grade, but I do all that I can to help him get the recognition he deserves. He is very talented, very smart and very hard-working. It would make me very proud, and pleased if he was able to get the promotion he is long overdue for. To that end, I try to get him on projects where he will fly and succeed, and establish a good reputation for quality work.  If it works, it won’t be all my doing, but I’m happy to play even a small part in his success.

I would love it if my protegé became a successful artist, for example. I am quite talented at drawing and painting, but there are hundreds (if not thousands) of people out there more skilled and creative than I can hope to be. But if I was able to inspire and nurture an interest in art, and see that develop into something rewarding? Well, that would be reward for me.

So, yes, I am interested in helping others to succeed.

“Are you reliable, honest, and trustworthy to keep things confidential?”

This is really a three-part question, so let’s see:

  1. Reliable?
    I try, but I do flake every now and then.
  2. Honest?
    Yes, when it matters. Yes, when it doesn’t.
    Would I say something hurtful just because I thought it was the truth? Been there, done that and still regret it.
    Honesty as a principle I support and encourage, but I also am aware enough to realise that 100% honesty, 100% of the time would make for a very cruel and harsh world.
  3. Trustworthy to keep things confidential?
    Absolutely, like the time my friend told me they’d stolen those things from the department store, I kept that to myself… 😉

I think, on balance, I just about scrape through on this question. Phew.

“Are you capable of active listening?”

Yes.

“not interrupting, picking up important cues from what someone says, able to reflect back the relevant issues and check understanding, minimising assumptions and prejudices?”

Sorry, I thought you’d finished.

I let people speak, and I try hard not to talk over people, it’s one of my pet-hates in fact. Quickest way to get to a room full of shouting is to have a bunch of people not listening. Now, I will admit, that active listening is something that requires continual work and training. I’m not sure that this comes naturally or instinctively to anyone (but am happy to be proved wrong).

I mis-read (or mis-hear) what people say a lot of the time, that’s one of the things I’m working on with the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It’s all too easy to take some words from someone else, pass them through your depression tanks and end up hearing a completely different message at the end. 

Assumptions and prejudices – well there’s a toughie. We all have assumptions and prejudices (no matter how laid back, open and liberal we claim to be) and we all filter our perception of the world through those prejudices and assumptions. I know a bit about prejudice and the fears it can engender. Yes, the middle-class white guy with the University degree and stable life. Bet you’re really crying for me now, eh?

So to take someone else’s point of view and distort with your own values and judgements can be dangerous. We all do it, but we can learn to separate our beliefs from those held by another. We don’t have to absorb their beliefs (unless we wish to, unless they affect and change us) but we must respect them.

This is close, and to answer this question, honestly – I would have to say, “not quite, but I’m working on it!”.

“Are you empathetic?”

Yes, it’s like the time that I had to be really understanding and sit and listen for hours and I was like “hello? It’s my turn now!”.

“can you convey understanding of their experience without saying ‘yes me too’ and launching into anecdotes of your own?”

In all seriousness, yes. I once lived with a girl (as housemates, nothing more) who seemed unable to relate to others unless it was in the context of a similar story of her own. No matter what was being discussed, she always had a story to match, often it would appear fully formed from her lips as soon as someone else had stopped speaking. Was she able to listen and respond that quickly? Or had she just started to listen, got her story ready and then waited for a gap in the conversation to launch? It irked me back then, and that attitude from other people irks me now.  

It’s something that I consciously make an effort to do, and it’s something that (sometimes) comes naturally to me. It also helps that I find most people endlessly more fascinating than myself (which does bring me down, but we’ll save that for another day). I have lots of stories and tales to tell, but very often these tales are related by somebody else, leaving me squirming in the corner!

Yes, I am empathetic.

“Are you able to question someone sensitively but empowering to help them explore their own issues?”

When I stop dwelling on my own issues and have the chance to help someone else, that is something I find very rewarding, even if it is at times difficult and heart-rending to do.

I have a close friend who is wonderful at this, to the extent that (as she admits) she would rather deal with fixing other people than fixing herself. It is a selfless way to be, but (from the point of view of a concerned friend) maddeningly frustrating!

I have all the time in the world for my friends, family and loved ones, and there is nothing i wouldn’t give of myself if I thought I could help. That sounds trite, I know, but I believe it to be true.

Yes, I truly believe that I can provide good counsel to my friends when they need it.

“Can you pass on your knowledge and expertise clearly, encouragingly and helpfully?”

I’m not renowned for my patience, storming out of the office is these days referred to as “doing a Carl”. More often that not, I lose patience with myself, or with the immobility of systems and bureaucracy.

For people who value my knowledge, and want to learn or try new concepts and ideas, then I can conjure up near-limitless reserves of patience and approachability.

And I’m a lover of learning myself. I crave new books and articles that contain the promise of knowledge and things to try out. I love looking at how learning materials are laid-out and constructed, and I try to apply those principles to the documents and materials I produce, and I plan to cover some of that in future posts.

I think, based on what I’ve been told, that yes, I can pass on knowledge in a clear and helpful manner.

With great power…

Being asked to be a mentor is a privilege, a real honour. And I think, on paper, I have the skills and abilities to become one.

The one thing I would love, going back to the points at the start of this post (still with me? good-o!) is that with my background and worldview (but minus my anxieties and paranoia) I can encourage my young protegé to take a different look at the world, to look beyond the surface and see the full spectrum of colour and life, diversity and difference that exists.

It’s a fabulous world out there kids, so let’s go and get it!