Flushing out the Truth of Brexit – and most other things too.

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So the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has been found holding back, and people have foolishly assumed she has no cards of value in her hand.  Criticism from left and right has been piled on her for NOT giving away her intentions … and thankfully she has resisted the temptation, nay, the manipulative bullying, to do so.

Well done her, for she knows that ‘Time Discovers Truth’ as Seneca observed – and it is doing just that. How different are today’s commentaries than those of just six months ago! Even the BBC is subtly shifting its approach.

The bullying EU presidents are becoming more conciliatory as they get over their pride and have to face the power of democracy.  The mandarins are slowly changing their minds (and their jobs), relearning the meaning of the two words ‘Civil’ and ‘Servant’.  The economists are now making excuses for the (terrorising) forecasts they declared. And the europhile politicians are realising that the horse they were flogging is now beyond resuscitation. A sensible realisation in the light of the arrival of far more useful means of transport.

Except a few like Blair and Clegg who, for whatever reason, are finding change personally difficult. They are paying a high price in terms of lost credibility, though still raking in their millions I notice, Mr Socialist Blair.

Waiting takes the vanity out of things

It has been good for us to wait these last six months.  Yes, I personally longed for Article 50 to be invoked immediately in July, but I can now see the wisdom of not doing so.  I’m a naturally impatient person, but I know the very world we want to do business with post-Brexit is watching, and we need to be – and be seen as – trustworthy, law-abiding and thorough. The prize, I think, will be worth the wait.

Time discovers truth in my coaching practice too.

It may take years of discomfort for a potential client to finally accept that they cannot blank things out for ever, or fix things on their own.  The cracks get wider, the unhappiness can no longer be shouted down. Truth will out.

Time and again, that’s when the call comes – “Andrew, I think I need to come and see you” – and for my part, waiting for that moment makes working with that client so much more successful. The inner protests, the denials, the confusion, the medication, the disappointment are now revealed as what they are: cover-ups, painkillers.  The need to discover – or accept – the truth overtakes the embarrassment of having a need that cannot be satisfied by short-term, shallow fixes, or toughing it out. The painkillers are no longer working.

Thankfully there comes a time when the waiting is over, when the truth has become evident, when the cracks no longer respond to Polyfilla or being papered over.  We’re beginning to see that in the EU as outgoing president Martin Schulz said today that the EU is “hamstrung”.

If you feel like that here at the beginning of 2017 (or know someone close to you who is) it may be time to do something about it.  Here’s the number 0777 163 1945 or email me at andrew@powerchange.com.

And have a Happy New Year.

Andrew.

 

 

 

 

To Believe or not to Believe.  That is the Question.  TEN Reasons Why I Believe in God

Charlotte Gyllenhammar’s ‘Double Bind’ in Gothenbourg’s art gallery  illustrates the tension some people face about believing in God. A Double Bind in a relationship is where a person is caught in a trap of contradictory messages.  

In the absence of any ‘proof’ either way, I have decided to simply believe. Here are my …

Ten Reasons Why I Believe in God.

1. It’s so simple.

For me it is the most obvious thing, and anyone can do it. For 60 years I’ve listened to people duck and dive around the simplicity, thinking it is far too easy to innocently ‘accept’ the honest possibility of a Designer/Creator. I’ve heard all the “Who created God, then?” arguments. In the face of such design intricacies and interlinked complexity in the natural world, simply to accept that there might be an Eternal Being who was and is the Source of it all seems so obvious to me. Why fight it?      Here’s the next one…

2. I have someone to thank, thank God.

Yes, someone to blame for all the GOOD stuff. The atheist’s most embarrassing moment is when she or he feels supremely thankful  for something and doesn’t know who to thank. Beauty. Love. Health. Sleep. Life. Children. Hope. 

3. It inspires faith.

I love the fact that you cannot prove God doesn’t exist.  Or does, of course. Believe it or not, it’s a choice! (Yes, I know this argument is rejected by all the logical people in the world who question whether we have choice or not. They rather miss the point methinks.) This doubt-ridden world is crying out for the beauty of simple trust.  Who better to trust than a loving  Creator?    OK, here’s my next one …

4. It’s healthy.

It is now well established that belief in a benevolent God has physical, emotional and psychological health benefits. They live longer, have better relationships, are more socially contributing, less stressed,  and healthier. He has to be a benevolent God though.  Malevolence has the opposite effect.

5. I’m never alone. 
Allowing myself to sense the presence (pre-sence?) of an Eternal Spirit who is interested in me and ready to connect with the deepest part of me is massively reassuring. It means that I always have someone to share my life with, who loves me unconditionally and listens to my every heartbeat, wherever I am, whatever I’m thinking, in good days and bad. 

6. It answers the question “What’s the Point?”

It has been said that the two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you found out the purpose of that event. I personally am happy to accept that there IS an objective reason for my existence – which gives a sense of fulfilment and purpose beyond the decision of a couple of people to mate and have a baby. Belief in God may be subjective, but if it is true then he is ‘beyond’ us in so many ways.  I think human beings need that ‘something, someone beyond ourselves.’ 

7.  I haven’t found anything better.

I’m talking about an all-forgiving, kind, all-powerful, GOOD God here, not a legalistic, authoritarian, punisher of human wrongs who spends his (or her, of course) time dreaming up nasties for bad behaviour.  Mine is a God who accepts me and loves me just as I am, no strings attached. ‘Love personified’ describes him well. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more … or love me less.

8.  Heaven and hope.

The God I love has prepared a perfect home for my spirit the other side of death – heaven. Bring it on … in due course, needless to say. He knows the perfect time for my transfer from this world to that one, and has it in his control.  This conviction provides deep reassuring hope.  Self-deception? Maybe. How will you or I know? (Frankly, I don’t care. This works for me.)

9. I feel deeply deeply safe.

As in ‘deeply’.  I still feel insecure sometimes, and occasionally afraid, but the safety I’m talking about is much more profound than that. It runs very deep, the reassurance that whatever happens to me physically or emotionally, spiritually I’m safe.  Secure.  It’s an all-encompassing awareness that this God is absolutely on my side and that it will be, not just alright in the end, but unimaginably amazing. To quote that 2012 classic Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (sorry!) “It’s going to be alright in the end, so if it’s not alright, it’s not yet the end.”   I love that line!

10. History.
When I was sixteen I had a stunning experience that changed my life. I may tell you about it sometime. For me it was my personal entry into an understanding of God that has affected everything. There have been hundreds of similar moments since. Some people might call them coincidences, or lucky moments, or the ‘universe’ looking after you’, or just flukes. They may be right, but that doesn’t work for me. I think such moments have a spiritual origin. They are the Creator actively participating in my daily life.  I like that.

I’d LOVE you to comment on this.  Feel free to add your honest (but polite please, or they will be taken down!) thoughts.

Experiment.

You need this invitation … to experiment.

Every day, every moment of your life contains uncertainty.  No one knows what the future holds, even the future just a short few seconds away.  As I write, and you read this, neither of us knows what is just around the corner. Your corner. My corner: joy or sorrow, good or bad, life or death, ‘win’ or ‘lose’.  No one knows.  Life – each and every day – is an experiment, with billions of ‘unknowns’.  Everything – everything! –  we think about the future is speculation to one degree or another.

Find the (slightly) mad scientist in your heart.
Find the (slightly) mad scientist in your heart.

 

Navigator.

Yet we manage to navigate our way through these exploding billions of predictably unpredictable happenings, learning from them, adjusting to them, taking advantage of them, and even enjoying them. And as we grow up, we begin to recognise and react to these patterns, noticing how things happen, together and in order, and how we can profoundly rely on them to guide us through our never-twice-the-same inner and outer worlds. And how something we do seems to affect what happens around us. A baby’s physical hungry cry produces real actual milk spilling from its mother’s breast (how does that happen?) or perhaps a warmed version of nutritious something in a plastic bottle!

"Hmmm... I wonder what is going to happen?"
“Hmmm… I wonder… ?”

Experimenter.

Reflecting on this recently (experimenting, not breast feeding!) I thought about how I can be more the Experimenter than the experiment.  I’m not a fatalist.  I don’t accept that we are all caught up in a hopeless universal inevitability, because I don’t believe it’s true. I believe that to some extent I – each of us – can significantly influence what happens around me, and what happens beyond that. There’s no such thing as a failed experiment, just an unexpected result. I also believe that I am first of all a spiritual being, in a different realm from that perceived fatalistic inevitability, and that the spiritual part of me has huge unknown power. It breathes with the creative freedom-giving breath of its Creator.

Butterfly in Brazil? I swimmer in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Butterfly in Brazil? A swimmer in Rio.

Creator.

Once I understand that a butterfly in Brazil can cause a hurricane in another part of the world, then choosing to alter my habitual behaviour today, given time, will indeed make the world different from what it would have been. And I believe that everything is connected in some way. You, me, that butterfly, everyone else and the Creator. Flapping my wings differently (or choosing not to) will just as inevitably change things somewhere. We cannot NOT communicate.

So how is that going to affect what you think, say and do today as you leave this blog?

Experiment. You cannot fail.

(Then let me know what happened.)

Inevitable Success – the reason I coach.

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“What is success?” the man leading the seminar asked brightly, wanting some audience participation. I put up my hand, and along with several other participants, gave my answer. “The inevitable result of being human.”  I knew it wouldn’t be regarded as a normal answer, but I want success now, a lot  –  and I want to use today’s successes as a springboard to more rewarding ones – and not just my own successes. My definition guarantees me success every day, and makes me aware of how natural success is for us all.

Success is inevitable.

You cannot help but achieve your deepest goals. Without knowing it, you succeed. Look close enough and you’ll find you’re a success.  Every day. Pretty much all the time!  

Here are some of my successes (though not in chronological order!)  Waking up.  Talking to my family. Cuddling my children and grandchildren. Breathing. Doing my emails. Writing this blog. Cooking breakfast. Laughing at a TV programme. Doing some reading. Having a bath. Walking. In fact I’ve succeeded so many times today it is so normal to succeed that I’m completely unaware of how much of a success I am.

However, your deepest goals may not be so obvious. You might be missing them. Even embarrassed by them.

Less obvious success…

Here are some successes that people have that they may not want to own up to:  

  • Backing off. Being successful at making sure they don’t need courage.
  • Avoiding potential pain by staying within safe, risk-free limits.
  • Never experiencing rejection (by not putting themselves in a relationship where that could happen, or by making sure they themselves do the rejecting first.) 
  • Staying an emotional child. (There are plenty of people out there looking to mother the emotionally needy.)

Perhaps you’ve successfully taken whatever decisions you need to make absolutely sure you never stand out in the crowd. Solution: keep your head down and your mouth shut.

It is easy to make sure you never fail an exam. Simply never take one. Success!  

You need never fear mockery.  Never ever come up with anything original.

You need never fear being made redundant or getting the sack. Simple: resign at the earliest opportunity, or don’t take the job in the first place! 

But of course, such dubious success is linked to other dubious successes – successfully avoiding responsibility for your life and future for example.  And that means other people will begin to take over what you could contribute, and you will become poorer, more isolated, more vulnerable and more depleted. Some successes can produce unwelcome results.

What do you WANT to want?

Time to dig deeper. (As you know, I don’t do shallow.)  

Do you REALLY want what you’re getting out of life at the moment? What do you WANT to want? What WELCOME outcomes?

What are you prepared to go for, to sacrifice for (everything in life has a price), in order to get an outcome you’ll be PROUD OF?  

What is the next step for you?

From the day I stepped out from behind my mummy’s skirts to do something on my own, fear and courage have fought for supremacy. As I stepped out, eventually courage won.

My job is to make sure all these years later that courage continues to win, not just for me, but for you too.  

YOU are the reason I choose to coach.    Here are some others. 

 

 

 

Courage Always Triumphs.

SnapnDrag153
David Cameron reads the Gospel at the Queen’s 90th Birthday Thanksgiving Service.

So here we are in a post-referendum world. Of the 7000 million people on the planet, just a comparative handful of ‘little people’ on a little island off the coast of Europe have spoken with their hearts, and made a difference. Little people, each with just one vote. It’s called democracy.  Their courage changed the course of history. Things will never be the same again.

Courage always triumphs.

People who choose a life filled with courage will always win in the end. Over these last weeks, onslaught after onslaught of terrifying predictions were thrown at these courageous ones, and they STILL voted “No” to fear. The direst consequences, financial ruin, the inability to feed your kids, poverty in old age, the elites of pretty much anywhere did their very best to intimidate, rubbish, persuade and bully, but in those few quiet safe and sacred moments in the sanctity of a polling booth in our little Sussex village I ticked the Leave box, joined my heart with the risk-takers, and voted for a better – and quite possibly a more prosperous world.

Of course, we’ll never know what might have been, because no one can predict the future. Every decision you and I make is irreversible, so alternatives at that time and place no longer exist. There is only one life, and we are all living it.

Big Mistake. Huge.
Julia Roberts' famous Big Mistake Moment in the classic film "Pretty Woman"
Julia Roberts’ famous Big Mistake Moment in the classic film “Pretty Woman”

Just two weeks before the Brexit vote David Cameron publicly read these words of Jesus to a fearful world. “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after.”  He listened to another David, David Attenborough, read the words of poet Minnie Louise Haskins reminding him that going out into the darkness with his hand in God’s hand is “better than a light and safer than a known way.” In the vote of his and our lifetime, he chose away from a life of faith to lead us with a message of fear.  As Julia Roberts famously said in Pretty Woman when she had been treated as ‘trash off the street’ by an elite clothing store, “Big mistake. Huge.”

It cost David Cameron his career, and us a very good Prime Minister.  Let’s not make the same mistake ourselves.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

Minnie Louise Haskins

 

Another reason for voting Leave: Big isn’t Better.

SnapnDrag108

 

In today’s world it is not size but flexibility that matters.

Big does not equal better. The greatest success stories in the animal kingdom are not huge elephants and rhinos, but ants. Billions and billions of them, in multiple self-sustaining colonies, underground, chattering away, getting on with the work of looking after each other and forming what is now believed to be a global network.

Today’s most successful wars are not won with nuclear bombs.  They are won with IEDs, Kalashnikovs, an empowering vision, and inspiring words. Small things. Lots and lots of them.

Big things are vulnerable and are easily crippled. “A bee can bite the bottom of the Pope in Rome” (Les Miserables”).  An easy target. Billions of small things are difficult to get rid of, as anyone who has had an infection knows only too well.

So how does this reflect on the Brexit campaign? 

The EU is focused on more and more centralisation and regulation, with fewer and fewer people making the crucial decisions. Common this, and common that. Fewer decision-makers mean slower decisions – and less time to make them so the quality becomes compromised. In today’s world that is bad news. The problem is not size in itself.  It is speed. Big things take a long time to get going, buy-in from all the parties takes close to eternity, and once they are on the move they are very difficult to stop – or even redirect.  And almost impossible to reverse.  Eventually they stop.  (See image above.)

In this world of exploding chaos and complexity, where centralised decision-making cripples progress, the world’s key decision-makers are those at the edge, ‘little people’ facing the immediate local situation who can switch twice in a day, adjusting to what they find.  And the best leaders are those who understand that principle, training those people, educating them, inspiring them … and then giving leadership-power away to them, empowering them to decide ‘there and then’ at the point of need, equipped with the knowledge they need. It is immediate connectivity and flexibility that are key in this context. The delivery driver on his mobile phone in his little white van phoning the customer, the school teacher in the classroom dealing immediately with the behaviour of a student, the bobby on the beat sorting an argument, the child deciding on what to have for breakfast.

SnapnDrag109

Think ant not articulated truck. When faced with a challenge, ants get into a little community group and sort out the problem, attacking, defending, and even dying when necessary. (They are typically called ‘worker’ ants.  I like that!) When the problem is solved, they go back to their work until needed again.  They will go to incredible lengths to support each other, sacrifice, and work.  The one in this pic is carrying a seed many times its weight and size.

And it all happens in seconds and minutes, not months and years. Quick, efficient, local decision-making by those affected by the decision sorting the problem out together. Collaboratively.  Without a formal structure.

So the predictions for the EU are speculated upon for the next 15 years. “It will be like this in 2030.”  One thing is sure.  Every prediction will be wrong, whoever makes it. Remember 15 years ago? It was the everyday people, filled with vision and purpose, who decided that for them there was no box to think out of. Like the bumble bee that is technically unable to fly because of it’s weight and wing area, they just get on and do it.

When I see the EU voting for the development of smaller government, disbanding important parts of itself (especially those that currently meddle uninvited in the detail of human community), distributing decision-making power to the edge, promoting freedom, encouraging diversity and speed by building connectivity (roads, airports, internet access), maybe it will get my vote.

I’m not holding my breath.  Today it seems to me to be more of a big overloaded truck stuck in a narrow lane, shouting at us about how we cannot do without it because it’s going places, yet blocking the way for the farmer, mother and deliveryman queued up behind, trying to get on with real life.

Meanwhile the flexible little ants quietly march past, over, under and round it, vote it off the job and get on with the work of living.

Those who want the EU are welcome to it. I’m voting ‘ant’.

 

Willing Surrender, Part 1.

What it isn’t, and what it may be for you.

Surrender? For some it is a dirty word, implying weakness, fear, or lack of endurance. However, depending on the context, willing surrender has huge power. I’d like to re-write the word ‘Surrender’ for you. I believe it will profoundly transform your life.

handing over a key

Surrender is not capitulation to fate, chance or luck, but a willing handing over of something to another. For some, that is about re-trusting their inner selves, about allowing that deep sense of intuition, that gut feeling, space to respond. It is a million miles away from throwing your hands in the air and giving up. For others, it is releasing (or re-releasing) your life or a situation to a higher power – God, perhaps.

Surrender isn’t evidence of a lack of resilience but rather the opposite. This sort of surrender is evidence of courage. Deliberately opening your clenched fist and letting go of the rope isn’t anything like the same as giving up. In the process you overcome fear of NOT letting go. The first is characterised by willingly accepting the consequences of making a courageous decision (to deliberately decide not to interfere with the ‘natural’ process of events takes a lot of courage and self control). It is characterised by a ‘faith choice’ that, as you let this dream die, another dream or pathway – a richer fuller better one will be revealed.

One key reason for the absence of depth in the life of many human beings is the absence of surrender. Depth often comes from slowing ‘forward’ progress, so that our energies are refocused in a different direction: Downward.

Like a pebble flung across the surface of the water we can keep afloat by spinning round and round and going ‘fast forward’, skating over the water. Hydroplaning. However this is not the way to discovering depth. Depth is revealed when we stop.

ducks and drakes spinning a pebble

Some of us are terrified at the thought of stopping. We fear we will discover our own shallowness when we commit to testing for depth, that, all too soon, ‘going deeper’ will end in us discovering what we are not. We also suspect that we will find a significant amount of mud, unwanted rubbish (plus a shipwreck or two) below the surface. We become concerned that we will be embarrassed by the rubbish as it is seen for what it is. That may well be true. We may well be. But until we are serious about facing the less obvious realities we will continue to forfeit the sheer joy and relief of deep, secure, and comparatively unassailable lives.

Ready to willingly surrender? Maybe we’ll come back to this in another blog and ask what, how, and to whom. In the meantime, you could record a little of what you know about willing surrender in the comment box below.

Posh or Poor? Reactions please!

IMG_1512

I’m writing this in the humble little’ Cafe Roma’, opposite the grand main entrance to The Royal Marsden Hospital in South Kensington, London. (I’m looking after my sister who is recovering across the road from a nasty cancer operation.) ‘South Ken’ one of the poshest areas of London. Two weeks ago I was riding my motorbike in the Balkans, one of the poorest areas of Europe. It’s been a bit of a culture shock.

In Bosnia my three course dinner, coffee, two carafes of wine, ensuite double room, secure parking and breakfast cost £20. Here a carafe of wine will cost that – forget the dinner, the bed and the breakfast. Secure parking? You wish.

In the Balkans I needed a new tyre for my well-worn motorbike. “Follow me!” the man said, and generously led me 30 miles to a different country – literally! – to get me to the right supplier, and gave me an engraved lighter as a goodbye present. That won’t happen here in ‘South Ken’. (Old motorbike? This is stunning sports car and black limo country. Blacked out, exclusive, custom-built £200,000 limos, Range Rovers and Ferraris abound. The main Lamborghini dealership is just up the road.)

In Albania ‘poor’ is normal, yet people don’t think of themselves as poor. Just normal. I did see one reference to the poor in South Kensington: “Don’t give them money” the poster warned, “they will use it to kill themselves with drugs and alcohol.” So giving becomes murder. Hmmm.

Clothes? Every possible fashion house is here, from Stella McCartney and Prada to Versace and YSL, with a pair of jeans costing … 550. Pounds, that is. (850€). In Montenegro it is likely to be 550 too. £5.50. 100 times less.

My new friend in Serbia earns in a day about the same as the basic wage in the UK for an hour, yet he STILL gave me a gift to take back to Britain worth a day’s wages for him.

I saw a three bedroom apartment advertised for rental today. £2,800 (4,000€) a week. A WEEK! A year’s wages just 1500 kilometres south of here.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta said “The more you have, the less you can give.”  (Jesus Christ pointed out a little lady who gave a tiny coin. “It is all she has,” he said. When it comes to generosity, it’s what you have left after you’ve given that seems to be the measure.)

How comfortable in your skin are you? What does rich mean? Are you rich?

Brighter … greener … bluer… ??

IMG_1255
Ready for take off. There are 12 people in that basket!

Jenny (not her real name) came out of her second session recently describing what she felt like as she came out of her first. “It was as if the whole world was brighter. The colours were brighter, the greens greener, the sky bluer.”   That’s a key motivator in my coaching. I can turn the light on for my clients – and giving others a brighter future is a JOY. 

This week I’ve had several life-brightening comments like that – two from people who I coached over fifteen years ago. Fifteen years!  And they BOTH called this week, with real, deep, kind, oh-so-rewarding things to say. Completely out of the blue.

I stopped to think of how much they would have missed if they had not connected up.  They both have children in their teens and twenties now, whose lives also are brighter (greener, bluer?) because these two men – their dads – chose to take action on the tough challenges they were facing.

Although it is impossible to guarantee results from coaching (no coach can do that) the long-term effect can be massive. The whole world can come alive in a way you have not noticed before. It is like hitting the Enhance button on your photo app, only to realise what you now see is how life actually is, the real deal, not an ‘enhanced’ version at all. It is just that yesterday was duller, a faded (tarnished, darker) version of how life is, and you hadn’t noticed.

Or perhaps you have.  You’ve known a time when you were happier than you are now.  You suspect there are dark shadows in your life that you want to get rid of.

And if I’ve coached you in the past, and you’ve not been in touch for a while, I’d love to know what happened and what you’re doing now.  Sharing your joys with others multiplies them.

Either way, call me on my mobile 07771631945 (or email me a few lines at andrew@powerchange.com) and multiply the benefit for both our lives.  I’m itching to hear what happened to you.

Davey’s Redemption

Davey was frightened. He had made all sorts of mistakes in life, and now it had come to this, he thought to himself as he gazed fixedly into the putrid black water.

IMGA0060Thinking all the usual thoughts  that people think in Davey’s position – he was practiced at them by now – he contemplated the ordinary bleakness of the future and what he might do next. After all the comings and goings of the last few months, he was low. Very low.

One thing was for sure, he had no more ideas.  His energies for life were all used up on the efforts he had made throughout his life’s journey and, here, in this decade of his life, he had finally come to a standstill. He had run out. In more ways than one. 

The black water looked menacing and cold. It flowed slowly and silently round and round, yet if he stopped to listen he could hear it’s siren song calling him towards its clammy waters. It was all he could do to resist the water’s damning message.

Yet the stranger had definitely said that it was possible for good things to come out of bad, or even to actively turn bad things into good. “There is always a way” he had said, if you are patient and reach for it.

In despair and the deepest disappoint in himself he had ever known, Davey had finally given up the fight, declaring himself hopeless and the stranger’s words deceptive rubbish. The guy clearly had no idea of how bad bad can be. Bad things into good things? That could only be a platitude. There was no way forward from here. Yet the stranger had said that one day he would find out for himself.

Davey reviewed his life for a few moments.  Had he not become a respected scientist? Was he not indeed a competent entrepreneur? So how had it come to this? He had the finest of university educations and been taught by world class professors. He had a caring family, who even now we’re grieving for him in his sadness.

He felt overwhelmed by self pity. As he stared into the black sludgy polluted water he felt hopeless seep through his clothes and into his heart. Good out of bad?  This bad?  It was all a meaningless cruel joke, and now he would indeed take the next step that would… that would … that … would…

He stopped. A flash of moonlight on something in the water caught his attention. Swirling innocently in the incessant gurgling flow was a little glass bottle complete with its stopper.

In some strange way, it floated clean and sparkling on the surface of the blackness.  He felt it was waiting for him, a last chance perhaps, and he knew without doubt he must have it.

It was a long way down to the waters edge, but something in Davey’s heart came alive sufficiently to prompt him to action.  Stepping back for a moment from his precarious position (and his self pity) he climbed down to the bank of the putrid pool and reached out. He would need to reach out much further than what was safe for him to rescue the bottle (and maybe himself) from the fate that called them both, but driven by his sudden inexplicable change of mood, he was determined. That little fragile bottle might change his life he thought irrationally. Perhaps it already had. He must have it at all costs.

He reached out, accepting the risks of his new passion, no longer afraid, no longer obsessing about his failings and fortunes, risking being carried away, or sucked into the sludge.

No, it was beyond him. It was out of reach, but for the first time in his life he threw aside his inhibitions and looked around for help.

That was when he saw the stranger just a few yards away who had been quietly watching his efforts all the while, and seemed to read his mind. Unselfconsciously he asked, “Can you help me please? I need that bottle.” The stranger stepped forward and anchoring himself into the bank, grasped Davey’s outstretched hand. 

Trusting his weight to this Kind Stranger made the difference.  Davey felt the bottle at his finger tips, and with one last stretch, grasped it firmly in his hand. It was his. Looking up he saw, in the moonlight, a glimpse of a smile on the stranger’s shadowed face.

Davey sat for several minutes, still and quiet at the water’s edge, reliving the last few minutes of what had seemed an impossibly challenging day (and the last few years of what felt like an impossibly challenging life.)  He took a deep breath, and as he exhaled said to himself, “This moment is a turning point for me.  I know it. Life will never be the same again.”

For the first time, in a single moment he had reached out for help, and it was as if all the struggles to achieve, all his efforts to be accepted and loved, all the disappointment and inadequacy no longer mattered.

The magic words had been “help me” and he knew it. He had never asked so blatantly for help before. He had always tried to make it on his own, brought up with the expectation that he should be independent, self sufficient, stand on his own two feet and manage his own affairs.

The very walls he had built to keep himself safe had imprisoned him.  He felt a deep sense of love filtering its way into the rocky caverns of his heart; a strange lightness beaming it’s mellow rays into its grey shadows.

And the little glass bottle was here in his hand, rescued from the very waters that he, just a few minutes before … He preferred not to think about that.

It was many years later he told me this story. He was now a wealthy man, with a loving family around him. Things had turned out well.  Reaching into his coat, he drew out the little glass bottle, complete with its stopper…

…and a crumpled, stained, scrap of paper.

“This is what was in the bottle” he said, passing it to me. “I just accepted what it says, and that has made all the difference”.

I smoothed out the paper and felt my own heart leap. There on the paper were the very words I had so longed to hear as a child – and actually through all these demanding and challenging years of life.  As I read them over and over, I could feel them washing me too, cleansing and healing me to the very core.

And I accepted them.

And that has made all the difference.