My Book as a Cocktail

My Book as a Cocktail

 

My book as a Cocktail

 

My journal, started on the night of 30 December 1995, was supposed to become a book 25 years ago.

It was powerful, meaningful, and addressed a topic not spoken about then.

It was raw and revealing.

Authentic and vulnerable.

But it drifted.

I drifted.

And after writing for eleven long years, it started dying.

On paper

And inside of me.

In 2009 I entered a competition and was not even given feedback.

The story died.

 

The story reached an unexpected, dramatic, and liberating climax four months later.

But even now that I had the perfect conclusion, the perfect ending to my story, I had lost all desire to publish.

 

Half-hearted attempts to resurrect it several times lead to nothing.

 

Now in 2020, I have started telling my story in various formats. Short stories, public talks and presentations, training and coaching, summits, and webinars.

 

I joined the course “Connecting to your creativity and innovation centre” with Lesley Callow.

We had to select any project that we were working on that we had not managed to do or complete.

I chose my book.

 

Our first exercise was to write a mission statement for our projects together with a few action points.

This part was easy for me as I have been deliberating on this for 25 years.

 

Vision

 

Walking Without Skin

From Fear to Forgiveness to Freedom

Is a bestselling book worldwide

 

Mission

 

I have written my book journalling my personal story that supports women who have experienced sexual trauma and inspires them to move from victim to survivor to thriver and beyond.

My book is used as the basis for keynote talks, individual coaching, and group coaching.

 

I will leave the actions out for now.

 

Our next exercise was to develop creative thinking.

We had to create a cocktail by answering a series of questions. After that we had to transfer the answers to our projects and then answer the same questions but relating them directly to our projects.

 

In following this process, I realised just how deep this book was inside of my very being.

My mind.

My soul.

My heart.

 

I decided the clientele for my cocktail would be omniverts, people see-sawing between quietness and boldness. When it came to describing the readers of my book, it hit me – they would be people who were initially quiet as they struggled with the trauma and then becoming bolder and stronger as they began their healing journey and started to thrive and find freedom – omniverts!

 

Both my cocktail and my book would be pink and purple with swirls, tall and elegantly presented.

My colour scheme has been shades of pink and purple ever since my darling sister painted this portrayal of me around 1999 and I came up with the concept of the name for the book in 2009.

 

 

My cocktail would have a slight bitter/sweet taste and would be refreshing.

Mmm! Sounds like my book. The bitterness and sadness of the trauma and then experiencing the revitalisation and upliftment in my conclusion.

 

My cocktail would be sipped on throughout the day.

In the same way my book, because I was designing it as part story and part lessons learned, would encourage people to dip in and out of it based on the particular point in their journey.

Naming the cocktail was pretty standard, Purple Rain or Purple People Eater, and naming the book was a given – Walking Without Skin.

But this got me thinking.

A few weeks after I was raped, I had a “happy place” party to reclaim the space where I was attacked. Friends made a vicious cocktail called “Lois’s revenge”. So maybe this should be the name of my pink and purple creation? Of my book?

 

And then the ideas came tumbling out.

  • Maybe change my cover visual to that of a cocktail
  • Maybe change the name of the book
  • Die-cut the book in the shape of a cocktail glass
  • Create a launch cocktail
  • Get readers to name the cocktail
  • Hold a competition where readers create a cocktail
  • Print cocktail recipes in the book

Okay – we have been on lockdown with no alcohol for two months now…

 

Anyway – many other ideas along different lines then emerged and re-emerged from all those years ago. Ideas that I will revisit as I finally complete this lifelong project.

 

I am so excited as I fly free from the fear of finishing.

 

Hugging – Yes or No?

Hugging – Yes or No?

 

 

Why do you hug?

 

What is the meaning or intent behind a hug?

Do you hug as a greeting? Is it a sign of affection or love? Are hugs an expression of friendship, or of consolation and comfort? Some people may hug just because it feels good. In some cases, it may be a habit, something you have always done. Something you were taught to do as a child.  Sometimes hugs are an expression of appreciation or congratulations. You may turn an attempted kiss that you are wanting to avoid into a hug. It may be as a form of connection, a way to feel close. You may just feel starved for touch and feel this is the only way to get that physical connection.

 

Some people do not like hugs.

 

Not everyone is comfortable with hugging. They may not understand why you are hugging them, and the hug may convey a message that is different from the intent it in which it was given, and they do not understand. It may just be the way they were raised.

 

  • There are health risks, or they could be germophobe, having an extreme fear of germs
  • It could just be “my space” thing. They may feel threatened or vulnerable
  • If there is no real meaning behind the hug, if it is merely a form of greeting or a habit, why do it?
  • The hug may feel like an obligation, something you must do because it is expected of you
  • People may be afraid of legal action, especially with the “Me-Too” movement
  • Some people may see hugging as a form of harassment
  • Hugs could lead to arousal or more unwanted intimacy
  • They may lack self-esteem or self-confidence or suffer from social anxiety
  • Some people may have body issues or just be touch avoidant
  • A person may have been a victim of abuse and a hug brings back unwanted and unpleasant memories
  • There may be cultural reasons to avoid hugging

 

The benefits of hugging:

 

Scientific studies and research have shown that regular hugs can have a positive effect on your life, on your brain, and on your body.

 

  • When you hug, oxytocin, the “love or cuddle” hormone, gives your emotions a positive boost and makes you feel happy and can lighten your mood
  • Hugs can comfort a person grieving or going through a tough or unpleasant experience in life. It shows them that they are supported
  • Hugs can lower your blood pressure,
  • Hugs can lower your cortisol, and norepinephrine, the “stress” chemicals and increases serotonin, the body’s natural antidepressant
  • There is evidence that suggests that the stress-reducing effects of hugging might make you heathier and reduce illness. It reduces the risk to catch a cold.
  • Hugs improve your quality of sleep
  • Hugs may even help reduce pain
  • Hugs are a form of communication and social support and can give you a sense of belonging, especially if you have been feeling isolated or lonely

 

 

What makes a good hug?

 

When you give or receive hugs that are done the right way, with the right intent, you will experience the many benefits. Done the wrong way you could be left feeling awkward and uncomfortable and it may even lead to a slap in the face. There are several types of hugs depending on the situation and relationship so there is not really one good rule on how to hug.  The type of hug will also depend on who you are hugging and the relationship you have with that person, and the reason you are hugging that person. Do not confuse a hug with a passionate embrace. Here are some basic rules for hugging etiquette:

 

  • Know your intention for the hug
  • Make eye contact
  • Open your arms and wait for a cue
  • Note the body language before going in for the hug. See if you can gauge their level of acceptance or avoidance. React accordingly and don’t force it
  • Respect the other person’s space
  • Get permission before you hug someone. This is not always required depending on your relationship. Ask them if necessary
  • The hug should last for at least 20 seconds to get all the benefits. The time, however, will depend on the intention. The hug could last from 3-20 seconds
  • You should not pat the person, they are not a pet, you should just hold them
  • Do not smother them
  • Do not squeeze them too tightly
  • Do not press your body into theirs or touch any private parts
  • Do not breathe heavily into their ear

 

How many hugs do we need?

 

Science and literature suggest that we hug eight hugs a day (four for survival, eight for maintenance and twelve for growth. Eight hugs at 20 seconds each is 2.7 minutes of hugging each day. Totally doable.

 

Conclusion

 

To feel better about yourself, to improve your health and well-being, and to support those around you…HUG.

 

And maybe you hug because you just do not have the right words so convey your feelings.

Pick Yourself Up and Forgive Yourself

Pick Yourself Up and Forgive Yourself

My colleague always says to me before going on a holiday adventure “Don’t come back broken”.

I have a reputation for having accidents or falling over when I travel and my trip to Abisco in Sweden was no exception. Dog mushing along a frozen lake, the route smooth and straight, I lost my balance and fell off the sled. And captured it all on my GoPro…

During the briefing, we were told that whatever happens, we must never lose a grip on the sled. We were told that if we fall off the dogs will run. And keep on running, and we would have to walk back. I managed to maintain a hold on the sled and our guide ran back to secure the sled and the dogs. I was both embarrassed and terrified and did not wish to continue. We were in the middle of an enormous frozen lake and there was no other way out but to get back on the sled and mush the dogs.

So upwards and onwards I went.

And so grateful that I did. The rest of the journey was mesmerisingly beautiful – riding through a dense forest with snow-laden trees. It was exhilarating, as I built my confidence, driving at speed up and down hills and around corners.

Never give up and stay on the path!

Forever Free
Lois

Falling Over

Of course – I had to fall off – on the flat and straight bit and going so slowly.

Posted by Lois Wagner on Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Blue Babushka

The Blue Babushka

Nesting Yurts – purchased in Kyrgyzstan – Similar to the Nesting Russian Dolls

The Blue Babushka

By Lois Wagner
7 February 1997

Life is like a Victorian Mystery Box, A Russian Doll
In searching for meaning and looking for soul
You open the lid to find another inside
Hoping the next layer will reveal your magical guide

The wind picks us and blows you in a certain direction
The purpose of has no meaning, no answer, no question
You have no place to hide to run – you’re trapped
As you get thrown about and your energy gets sapped

You vanish into that vast expansive unconsciousness
Vitality depletes into an infinite void of nothingness
But the greater orchestra instructs and compels
The design and pattern and even the form foretells

The future world appears and disappears
In a myriad of impulses that enhance the fears
You hide in the shadows and feel the heaviness
Punished by the raging storms of eternal darkness

To rebuild your life is incredibly hard
And I doubt that one ever finds the missing shard
Those shattered pieces, the crack that finally mends
With the loving help of supportive family and friends

The healing process is incredibly slow
And the tears will always continue to flow
The bruising lessons, they never go away
It’s all an illusion, an invisible delay

A small ray of hope – a radiation of light
Your dreams touch the sky both day and night
Wrapped in a ribbon and a blaze of swirling colour
A mirage, a vision, a trick of heart no other

You reach for that pinpoint of hope in the darkness
Fumbling out of the rigged and barren stillness
Fantasy taking on the weighty pain of reality
As you surface from the charades of conviviality

Then the reflection vanishes into darkness once again
You sink back into that dim despair, anguish and pain
At the peak of hysteria, the terrible distress
A sad pitiful reality of continued intense duress

Then and Now

2018 – and I am experiencing the exact same emotions and fears that I had while recovering from my rape ordeal and as expressed in my rhyme above. Only now it is about finding myself, at almost 64 years old, with no savings, no income, no job, no home and no country.

I have spent the last ten years in Oman in the Middle-East where I have had the most wonderful time. Being based here has afforded me the opportunity of visiting, other than my home country of South Africa, around 35 countries. I have met a multitude of interesting people and experienced many varied and fascinating cultures.

And it all came to a sudden and unexpected end.

This has left me, not only depressed, but in a state of panic, disorientation, hopelessness, and dread.
Depression saps your energy and makes it difficult to get going. Even doing the simplest things become a challenge and “snapping out of it” as suggested by well-meaning friends takes an enormous amount of effort.

Depression is more than just being blue.

Yes – we all get the blues from time to time. We feel sad, moody and a bit run-down, and feel averse to doing anything or participating in any activity.
Yes – we can “snap out of it” when we are facing some small issue or disappointment.

But when it is so intense that you feel totally hopeless and helpless and unable to face life’s struggles, it could be clinical depression.

Symptoms of clinical depression include all or some of the following: the inability to focus or concentrate (check); lack of energy all the time (check); tired and sleeping too much during the day (oh, so tired); unable to make decisions (check, check check); lack of interest in participating in social events (check); thoughts of suicide (only in passing); feeling of irritability and restlessness (check); feelings of emptiness and loneliness (check); lack of interest in doing pleasurable things (check); anxiousness and felling out of control (check); feelings of paranoia (check); panic attacks (check); uncontrolled crying (check);constant fidgeting (check);

I’m off to the doctor…

I love writing and putting this to paper has taken an enormous amount of effort.
I just completed an on-line assessment and the results are high – advising me to seek immediate professional help.
So that is what I am going to do…

 

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Forgiveness is the Best Medicine

Forgiveness is the Best Medicine

Photo by Lois Wagner of the Killing Tree in Cambodia.

Visitors leave friendship bracelets in memory of the children killed there

Your situation is unique and I am not in a position to tell you whether or not you should forgive your transgressor.

I do not know your situation and cannot pretend to understand the impact that the circumstances requiring forgiveness had on your life. You may be a victim of theft, robbery, discrimination, bullying, disloyalty or betrayal. Perhaps your partner left you, taking everything along with them, leaving you in debt. Maybe you were abused or assaulted as a child. You may be the survivor of rape or abuse by your partner or by a stranger. Or worse, to be the parent or partner of someone who was murdered. Could you, or should you, forgive the unforgivable?

I have no idea of where you are in your progress towards healing and I cannot guarantee that forgiving is a panacea that will remove your hurt and pain and will enable you to move on to a happier and more fulfilling life. You have been hurt. You are angry and stressed. You may not know how to pick up the pieces and start again. You may not want to pick up the pieces and start again.

Forgiving is a choice and you can only do this when you are ready. Getting to forgiveness is a natural process and not a single act. You may reach forgiveness only after completing a number of other steps and definitely after experiencing a whole bunch of other emotions. Don’t let me, the media, or others pressurise you. There is no reason for shame or guilt if you are not ready to forgive, and proceeding at your own pace is both healing and productive.

The Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle or Stages of Grief is a model that was developed by Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. These stages or emotions are not linear, nor are they a predictable progression and many of them are experienced in tandem. However, based on my own personal experience, one needs to experience all these stages and go through the grieving and healing process in order to realise true and full forgiveness. And it is not an easy process. In fact, it can be very challenging.

I am sure you have all heard people tell you that you are only hurting yourself if you don’t forgive, right? But you cannot forgive when you are still focusing on retribution or revenge and are still dwelling on the pain and the negative emotions that the transgression caused. Forgiveness may be an agonisingly slow and difficult process and you may want to avoid many steps, but suppressing any of these emotions or skipping any of these stages can be harmful. The feelings become internalised and you may never come out of the depression and detachment mode, or you may fall back into that stage, or suffer from self-criticism and guilt or shame.  You may want to run away and hide and deny the excruciating experiences. This could result in you suffering one of many stress-related illnesses from headaches to digestive problems, to heart problems or increased hypertension. Do not allow society, family and friends to pressurise you into forgiving before you are ready. You may say the words to get these people “off your back” and not really mean them, and then your emotions become stifled and you may fall into an even deeper depression.

Anger is one of the most natural reactions rising from a transgression, and this emotion can give you the necessary strength and power to deal with the immediate aftermath of the offence. It can even help in the healing process. In my case, it stimulated me into driving moves to have changes made to the South African constitution. On the other hand, it can be harmful. It gave me unbelievable strength which later manifested itself in psychosomatic physical ailments (that story is for a later blog).

Forgiveness is generally defined as a conscious and deliberate decision to let go of feelings of negativity, resentment, hurt, anger, suffering, and the desire for vengeance or retribution against the offender. It is about our well-being and healing and not about that of the offender. It has nothing to do with condoning or excusing the actions of the offender, or releasing them from legal accountability and justice. It can, however, go a long way towards reconciliation. But remember that forgiveness is something that you do alone, and that reconciliation is a two-way street and the two are concepts are separate issues.

Remember that forgiveness is a very personal thing and starts deep within yourself. It should not be forced, but come naturally as you progress through the grief cycle. Be true to yourself.

You may feel that by forgiving a person they may do it again. You are not responsible for their behaviour or their actions as a result of the forgiveness. So do you forgive a repeat offender, someone who continually commits wrong acts? Forgiving a one-time betrayal may save a relationship, but repeatedly forgiving a husband who continually cheats on you, can be harmful. Are you letting him off the hook by forgiving him? So when he repeats his betrayal it makes you lose self-respect, self-worth and makes you feel shame and guilt? If he portrays narcissistic characteristics and you keep forgiving him, it can be self-destructive and can promote an unhealthy and toxic relationship. Now would be the time to move on and away from the relationship.

And do you forgive someone who is not sorry, who has not apologised, who has not asked for forgiveness? What about confronting the offender? Sometimes this is not possible. They may be in another country or may not even be alive anymore. It is usually better to be able to face the transgressor but if not, remember that they are inside your head and you can forgive them there.  They do not have to be part of the process and they do not have to participate in the forgiveness ritual.

Timing is everything. True forgiveness while the pain is still raw is probably not possible based on the severity of the hurt. You are unable to forgive if you are still holding the desire for revenge and retribution.  Forgiving at this point in time may increase your negativity, not only towards the offender, but towards yourself as well. You may start questioning your decision to forgive and may suffer self-doubt and this can lower your self-esteem. It took me 15 years of hating. Looking back now, it took far too many years for me to reach this free-ing place. Circumstances led me here rather than a conscious decision, but I wish that I had been lead there much, much sooner.

At the end of the day, it is your decision and only you can make it. You can forgive, or you can choose not to forgive. Whatever you decide is based on how you feel, but working through the stages can help you find peace and light and freedom.

I found that forgiveness, in the end, was a really simple process for me. I found it to be a powerful force of healing, and it really did provide me with a wonderful sense of freedom.

Yours – Forever Flying Free.

Lois