The Price of Nice

nice 2

Dearest Characteristic

I am writing to you as an aspect of myself, you see I’ve been called ‘nice’ so many times… And it’s a short but complicated word, which for me has a range of connotations: it can of course be a positive trait, or it could just be on the tepid side of being good or kind. It can also be seen as a weakness – being a relentless, soft, mamby-pamby sort of quality to display to the world.

Nice in conversational terms is either a pleasant exchange or else a mannered form of connecting and conversing which is smiling and sickly.

It’s a mid-range sort of a word – denoting something which is neither powerfully wonderful nor scathingly evil.

Hear the words “How nice of you” and take them either as a quaint compliment or a biting indictment. Say the words “that’s nice” though, and the meaning is sardonically the opposite…

So from four short letters (of the alphabet) I have experienced a wide range of niceness and of course, what sticks in my psyche is when that innocuous little word is turned into a weapon.

The thing with being nice is, that it’s hard to be it on your own, so a little while ago I decided to expand the horizons of my world and started reaching out, in a new area of my life, to make some new friends and make a difference. So, as is the way of the world, many people ignored my advances, some reacted quickly then disappeared, and some readily responded.

One person in particular seemed to be at the heart of things and keen to help. I got a lot out of our exchanges and started to tentatively venture into their world. But then, when I offered some assistance, but did not deliver it at the speed required, I apologised and got short and nasty shrift. There then followed a diatribe about my ‘niceness’ and my wanting to be friendly, bundled as observational insults rather than conversational compliments.

So here is another aspect of nice – it is something I will use to glaze over my rampant sensitivity and my fear of attracting aggression and hostility; so when my ‘nice’ gambit fails, I am inevitably devastated.

I use positivity and friendliness to negotiate my way around, because it’s what I want in my world. This is what motivates and sparks me after a life time of being the opposite of nice. You see, strangely, for so much of my life – my deflecting / protecting tactic was to be sharp and snippy, wise cracking my way through life and presenting a hard shell to the world. That protective shell did not serve me well though, so I changed my ways and decided to be more vulnerable and honest and nicer.

And that niceness often gets reflected back to me, but sometimes of course as ignominy – as with my newly found sharp tongued fiend of a friend. But nice does not have to be a substitute for weak, so I responded to the barbs, defending my boundaries swiftly and assertively.

Of course what my nemesis would not know, is that in the past I had a mother who used to insult and stamp on me constantly and then apologise for being that way, but somehow it was always a non-apology because she had a good reason to be horrible ‘since A had happened and B had happened’, but at least then she would go back to loving me. That was her pattern.

There was nothing I could ever do to change that pattern, but an apology would at least mean a temporary truce and an attempt at healing a hurting. And whilst I could not change my mother, I did change myself and the way I responded to the world, seeking to master such destructive emotional patterns.

Back in the present though, my nemesis had their own agenda and not unlike my mother, their reasons for being insulting; those reasons apparently being nothing to do with me, just being lobbed at me. I have to say that it was a very long list of reasons, both psychological and physical, which I interpreted as labels used to justify, decry and hide away from many of life’s issues.

So no apology was forthcoming and the insults were not withdrawn, because that was, as this person explained, just the way they were. And because they were based on the negative observation of one of my traits, they particularly seemed to sting and stay with me.

It is easy to be stung and shamed if you allow yourself to be, but whilst those words wounded me, interestingly I can’t even remember the name of their perpetrator now. They stung because they came from a warped truth and shamed because this was a person who doesn’t do nice socially, but who certainly does do a lot of good for society.

And what is the point of nice if it is merely for show, goes nowhere and makes no difference beyond a superficial pleasantry?

Well I got over the barbs and I made my peace with my emotions. That’s when it helps that I am a Coach. And that is also one of the reasons that I’m a coach too, to mend my ways and to support others in mending and growing their ways too.

Moving on, this person and myself have not ultimately fallen out, we just don’t interact any more, because we have different notions of nice and we’ve established our boundaries.

And I find it hilarious to think that some people would characterise me as anything but nice – according to their knowing of me, in their version of observation… But hey – we can’t be loved by everyone, nor is it possible to be constantly, incessantly nice to everyone…

For a few years now, I have traversed the menopause and when those hateful hormones have me in their grip, being nice is most definitely a vice. Far from it, for being a sensitive soul and subject to heated mood swings is a rancid combination – I rant and pout and rout and cry. At those times I ain’t naturally nice. Quite frankly I’m foul and I’ve even lost friends because I’ve been the HBFH aka the hormonal bitch from hell. But I grew battle scarred and it was time to change my tactics. So now, after a few battles with the hormones I have changed my game so that I find my way around them, and instead of fighting with them, have decided to dance with them instead.

The dance is a choreography of choice, whereby if someone or something somehow rattles my emotional cage in any way, rather than rant, I pause, then I choose. And I choose nice, even though so often I feel nasty.

So I’m not just about the nice. I continue to have my nasty moments too, believe you me… But when I choose nice, it feels nice. When I decide to be positive and pleasant, I naturally attract back more of the same to myself – which makes sweet sense. Dancing rather than shooting bullets gives me the gorgeous calmness and clarity of choice. It is a very simple case of putting in what you want to get out of life.

I choose to be nice in my dealings with the world, where ever possible. I choose to take the positive route, no matter that I feel that sometimes it just lays me open to misunderstanding, ridicule and a perception that somehow I am weak.

Yet to me niceness is a strength; it is a virtue in a world of vice, and when I exercise niceness to myself – that is the strongest position of all. Yes, for all the arrows and slings that those around us can fling, none wound so much as our own weapons of self destruction, our own nasty and negative self speak.

‘Nice’ then, is a four letter word that I will continue to choose and so it is that I will end my letter to it – with another gorgeous, wondrous four lettered word: love – lots of it.

How nice is that???

Yours, for ever.

Sandra xx

PS: How would you like to read more of these Love Letters to Life ‘off blog’?  I’ve created my first Christmas written work… It’s a FREE capsule book – AKA a gem of an EBook, gathering together my nostalgia and coach-ly reflections on a Christmas theme. It’s designed to be evocative, entertaining and to make you think about this time of year – so you can embrace and enjoy your Christmas. To get your copy of a Peachey Christmas, just click the link here…

 

Love Letter to (Emotional) Resilience

Boxing Resilience

Dearest Friend

I’m writing to you today because I want to get in touch with you again and to have more of you in my life – because right now, I miss you…

I see you out in the world and you are quite ‘the thing’ now aren’t you? You are bandied about in corporate circles and trotted out for magazine articles and so you’ve become very fashionable of late and I wonder if you have time for me anymore, so I’ll put my own petty predispositions to one side and unashamedly reach out to you instead.

If I think about what you are, I can chew up a dictionary and spew out a definition of you: Emotional resilience is having the ability and resources to adapt to difficult emotional situations or surprises. When you are emotionally resilient, you are more able to accept such situations and better able to adapt – rolling with the punches of life, rather than being knocked out by them.

Interesting that I should start sprinkling boxing analogies in there… But not surprising, because I have of late, starting feeling that life has been punching me in the stomach a little too often…

I like to think of myself as a strong person, but woman cannot live by thoughts and preferences alone. As an observer of mankind and myself – womankind – the kind of woman who watches and tries to lovingly learn; I have noticed how I am subject to the rhythms of my life. So I am deliberately putting some time aside to analyse the waves of those rhythms and to decide whether to swim, surf or take a boat across them. Frequently you, see, I seem to be drowning in them; so it is time to traverse, rather to tread water. What I wonder is going on with me that seems to weaken my resilience, and what steps can I take to consciously build it up again?

So if I look at myself and where my life has taken me recently – there are both external and internal considerations. I made a big change to my work / life path around 9 months ago and I realise that I am still adjusting and balancing all the options around that. I am, I now realise, missing certain elements of that old life that filled me up emotionally and psychologically, and I want to redress the balance.

The first part of that process is to be really sure of who I am and what I want to bring to the party of life. So here is my Soul Manifesto: I want to earn a good income, doing work that supports others and enervates and pushes me. I want to go beyond existing and paying bills – to a state of feeling fulfilled. That involves putting positive energy into my corporate work, my coaching and my writing.

When I am clear about what I bring to each of these activities, then that clarity gives me a surety and strength in myself; and means then that I am not so desperately vested in the misaligned words, actions and opinions of the players and partners around me – all with their own agenda; but rather that I understand what these are, and so I dance with rather than deal with other’s demons – doing a do-si-do and a step to the side, rather than an intense one on one tango.

To be honest with you, dealing with my own demons is hard enough work and I cannot serve my soul’s purpose if I am drawing daggers with other people’s devils… But frequently I forget this and find myself out there with them in the boxing ring. So I’m standing there, thinking I’ve got the friendly audience and the outfit just right and that I’ll execute a few nifty and graceful shadow moves, when… Blam!!! Suddenly and without warning I am punched hard in the stomach by my opponent – who I thought was actually my partner. But no. Biff! Duff! Thwack! Now the punches keep raining down on me, even though I am now knocked out and lying on the sawdust strewn floor finding it hard to breathe. And then I realise that I am actually beating myself up. For the love of… Ouch!!! I can’t decide which kind of punch (internal or external) is more painful…

I’m also out in the audience, watching myself from the side lines – shouting encouragement one minute, then counting to ten the next, and I think ominously that this woman on the floor has a physical disadvantage as well as an emotional demon to fight…

And that demon / disadvantage or whatever you may call it is the menopause. I feel that I haven’t weathered it well. My hormones have raged and rampaged over my life for some years now and I feel like the layers of strength and learning that I have built up around my heart have been eroded away. It is as if my emotional resilience has been burnt out – has given up, along with my body, which has been fighting the transition with all the indecorous furore of a bull in a china shop. And I’m left, naked to my emotions and therefore open to the various blows that circumstance and psyche will inevitably rain on my heart.

Out in the audience, as I watch myself sitting up slowly, with the moths of pain and pity flying round my head (instead of cartoon birds and stars), I walk over to myself and whisper in my ear, the same things that I tell my coaching clients…

“You are sitting up, you are breathing – you are safe. Acknowledge the pain – accept it and that you are in it, for now. This too shall pass. See it for what it is and choose what you want from this. Choose to learn and if you feel that you are beyond choice, then ask yourself what you would choose if you could and ruminate on those thoughts – even disassociated choice will heal and change the psyche. Analyse and accept what has happened. Don’t fight it with recriminations, angry self-talk, and victimised surmises. The surmises that equate to you making up tales and stories – ‘but they did X / I always Y, oh why, oh why’ etc.)… This is just your mind creating tall tales, it is not your reality, so change the ending. Fighting (in whatever form it takes) is always painful, so take off the boxing gloves.

It is always tempting at times like these to drug the pain – with tablets, wine, television or whatever our real or psyched pharmacy of choice is. But instead of drugging – how about distracting instead? Take a walk, take a break; breath deep and a get a change of scene and perspective – even if that is just walking into the next room.

Find a supportive friend, colleague or coach who will be a positive sounding board. Get it off your chest. Then listen – to them, and most importantly to your self – that self that goes deeper than those perceived punches in the heart. What is really going on here for you – what is the lesson to be learnt?”

And sometimes at this point I’ve seen myself and clients snap right out of it and of course, at others, it takes a little more energy to be able to get back on your feet.

Out of that imaginary boxing arena now, these are the two vital underpinning elements to bolster emotional resilience:

Firstly – consciously keeping the right company. Not just running to someone to moan and unload, but being part of a group/community where you give and take. Somewhere where you learn and teach. For some this family and friends, others combine this with being part of communities like Broadband Consciousness or Damsels in Success – any number of options are out there and available for you to explore.

Secondly – keep up a routine of self-development practices. Read the right books (and given your situation, the choice of these will change); learn to meditate, and journal. Get a notebook and as a minimum – write out 10 things / reasons / situations / people every day to be grateful for. What can you be grateful for in those emotional punches..? This is training your brain to find positive thoughts and is ultimately building your resilience.

These two practices become even better if you combine them with getting a deeper level of support from a coach or counsellor – work through your stuff – not just in times of crises, but as a matter of course / routine. Please don’t tell me that you cannot afford the time or financial investment that this will involve. There are many forms of support out there – from free to expensive. A lot of what you choose (including doing nothing) will depend upon your concept of value, but where ever there is a will, there is a way, so find the right resources to invest in yourself.

A constant positive self-analysis along with supportive guidance, is a powerful combination. The external support means that you have a wealth of resources to draw on. The inner practices – that you can be more simultaneously wise and resilient, because you keep up a constant and conscious practice – meaning that you become humble enough to keep learning, and quiet enough to let the answers come to you, all in in their own good time.

How you do all this is part of this process, you will inevitably experiment with what works best for you and don’t think that you will find one easy source for all this support. By varying what you do, you will strengthen what you do – as with most things in life – don’t put all your eggs in to one basket.

So, my friend Resilience – of course in clichéd fashion, I find that you have been with me all along – I had just forgotten you, but knew secretly too that you were always there within me. And if I have been stripped back, and emotionally laid bare, then all to the good – it is time to build myself up again – to be better, and to be more. Always of course, with a little help from my (internal and external) friends.

So now, my emotional vulnerability becomes my learning and of course my ultimate strength and turns back in to my emotional resilience.

Thank you my friend, for all that you give me: the love, the learning and the strength to serve – myself and so too then, the world.

Yours, with dancing feet and dry eyes…

S xXx

PS: Did you know that a collection of my ‘Peachey Letters’ have been gathered together in to a beautiful book, exploring all the facets of loss, love and life in all their gore and glory? This is love seen in every aspect of the life that I live.  In it you will find the dark and the light of love, in a way that will make you think, entertain you and let you know that you are not alone in life, what ever it holds for you… You can buy ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ by Sandra Peachey, from book websites any where in the world, including on Amazon (in both Paperback and Kindle)

Letter to Mum… One Year On…

Dear Mum

There I was, rushing from one transient transaction to another – caught up in doing and being, and filling out and filling in the long hot hours; and eventually, in the middle of it all, I paused… and then the realisation racked and rocked me… You died a year ago, this very week…

A year… time and tide marked by the passing of days – of suns, moons and of tears. And laughter and anger too and all the other inner panoply of life, along with the external chaotic, diametric business of the outer life…  Then the crazy cliché of ‘how can that be’, how can this time have passed, have changed, have thrown me forward one whole year of existence – moving on from that one day..?

A day with a telephone call, a dazed evening journey to the hospital, a dark evening with a strange doctor explaining, wandering all around the verbal houses before he would say… when inside I was screaming – ‘just tell me!!!‘. And finally he told me… And so that was the beginning of this particular end…

And so my destination on that day changed, for that was the end of my mother’s earthly journey, and the start of renegotiating my own as a result. My sense of identity subtly shifting as my concepts of self, of connection, of reason, of pattern and of pace and place, all change and re-form and reinvent, and then connect back up, to a new whole, yet wholly recognisable me.

That it is what it is, with me – Sandra – newly orphaned child of this parish and currently good with where the journey has taken me, and yet I find that the relationship with my mother still lives and grows, and indeed ebbs and flows…

And as life is, I have thought of her and not, off and on, splinking on and away from the radar of my consciousness, and I know too, without doubt, that she is always with me, part of the DNA of my sub-consciousness.  I have lived my life to be so different from her and yet, so often, am so very much the same.

My mother was certainly feisty and often fiery and frequently noisy (her silences were, some how especially loud…).  At times, being with her felt like a constant drone of negativity, of bile and bitterness, of blaming and wailing and ranting. That is not the complete picture of course, but that is what I carried with me, for so so long, down trails of tears and disaster; till I found and released my own light, and then shone it back at her and then I could see her burning more beautiful and brighter in the glow…

Or so I think or thought… I’ve had a long tough period where my health has been difficult, dogged by headache and exhaustion, and this illness has been constant and chilling and it has changed the game of my life, taken me frequently to the doctor and to the hospital, and I have read and meditated and shared… and yet instead of healing, it has escalated to a recent point in time, through body and mind, onwards to the hated signs of menopause.

I remember well my mother’s menopause years, and I shared with her too my fizzing female teenage hormonal hours, as we were spitting and spatting through the transitions of our respective walking womanhood journeys.

And so here am I, now going through that second transition myself and not, I have to say wearing it well…  My body creates chemicals and has suffered them into my blood stream, changing the body that I thought I controlled; and then those horrible hormonal spheres infiltrated me deeper and deeper and then the mind bubbles, burns and bends with evil thoughts, hates and intentions.

Nothing would stop this vile onset – not doctor drugs, not change of diet, not chatting it all out with my female friends, neither incanting affirmations, or seeking alternative therapies. I was just not ready to accept and heal.  And so it all escalated and exploded and I started to speak out, to let my untamed thoughts and feelings free, like misty grey moths flying to a dark moon.

From this loosened version of me, I’ve said some really real and sometimes harsh things to those in my orbit… “Oh my god – I am my mother!!!”  Suddenly from my body being lassoed by horrendous hormones, I was actually possessed by my mad mother and it felt so intense that I was her, wrapped simply in my own outer skin…  Her disappointment, her bile, her anger and frustration were me and it was hell.  Hot, hurting, tearful, bloated and menacing hell.

And going through this, I have thought and said aloud, again and again, I can now understand more why she acted in those loud ways of hers, and have so much more empathy for what she said, did and felt…

The thing is, I could hate that my mother was so outspoken, so I always chose, in the past, to be the opposite.  Yet despite the hell, through the twisting agonies of hardened emotions turning to spoken word, I would remember that I secretly envied that chiding freedom of voice she had, and her complete ‘take it or leave it’ attitude.  And so everything I have said through that demonic time, I do not regret.  It was all my truth, and it was time to burn its’ way out and to face and feel the heat of its’ consequences.

With heaving, seething hormones – decisions and doings became heavy and difficult as I crawled this satanic pathway.  I wonder would the world who shared my surface swannings about have guessed?   The proud white swan was gliding in sweet sight on still waters and yet paddling furiously and drowning under water and out of subtle sight…

And that has been the year of my body and mind… and yet too, what an absolutely awesome year…  Mum would be so very proud (and I like to think, IS proud…). ‘Her’ Sandra has published a book, appeared in famous places – in print and on airwaves.  And her Sandra won an Award and received it in a gorgeous dress, with fabulous shoes and applause and dancing.  She was always proud when I did good and she was proud when I looked good.  And her Sandra has coached and spoken and supported and laughed and written and achieved so much and had the most wonderful time; going along and giving her gratitude for a crazy and amazing existence both in time and in head space.

Yet there it all was, the worse of me, inside of me, frothing and flailing; and I had to come, eventually to my own stubborn resolution, not overtly sought, for I could not see the way out.

It happened as I was leading my group of gorgeous ‘Damsels in Success’ to their own conclusions, resolutions and light… then suddenly for me too, the light bulb snapped on and there it was… sweet and blessed relief and resolution.  Here was my delicious clarity – to embrace this transition, these lessons in life and to joyfully receive my healing.  This is my selfish / selfless reason for supporting, for I constantly crave the same succulent thing too…

Well that was one balmy evening, and the next morning there I was chatting on a radio show in a strange city, and she would so love that… And then, later, my footsteps took me towards a cathedral I had never passed the portals of before – and I was drawn in, inexorably and naturally.  It was time to absorb, time to reflect, to celebrate and to make my peace.  I lit a candle and breathed the sacred atmosphere in, feeling my mother comfortable and close.

I wandered on through this sacred space and there were just two stained glass windows.  They were installed in the year I was born – so my attention was piqued and caught, as was my heart as the light streamed through the glowing arches above me.  I read that they represented the journey from darkness to light… and they were of course, there just for me – my sign, my message, my seal on healing.

And I walked out of that perfect place into intense July sunlight… A year ago, on another such beautiful July day – we said farewell to the physical mother and celebrated her life… That whole day, with its’ sun and singing; family and friending; remembrance and reconciliation, was a gorgeous gift from God for me.  Now, four seasons later, I needed this day too: to remember my mother in every way, and to heal and to reconcile – both me and her…

So now I have turned my cathedral corner and am again walking in the glorious sunlight…

A whole year ago, at my mother’s final church service, I stood up to speak my piece and this came to me: “mother has a message for you all – she has had a word with God and arranged this gorgeous sunny weather as a special thank you for being here today…”

And that is how that ending began, and then how this ending ends…

With love from

      Sandra

Doubter and Daughter xx

There are more letters to my mother, along with more ‘Love Letters to Life’ to the people, phenomena and happenings that make up my Peachey Life. You can get hold of your copy here…  or else from Amazon (in both Kindle and Paperback formats) and from all good book shops!

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The Journey into Light