To Forgive Divine

As I sit looking at my Christmas tree I’m thinking about people, loneliness, isolation and what causes so many people to end up “alone”. Christmas is a time where we spend a lot of our thinking time and reminiscing, and many of those memories involve people who are no longer in our lives. Some have left because they’ve passed away, some may have just drifted on to a new life and some may be missing because there was, or is, a rift too deep to bridge. I think the later are the hardest of all to bear.

In my last blog I spoke of real love, of love in a romantic notion and the power that it has when we just accept the good with the bad. Truly that’s what forgiveness can entail, accepting the good with the bad; but it can also mean forgiving hurts that have cut so deep it feels like wounds that will never heal. When you’re a little kid and you get a scab your mum will say “don’t pick at that…” and there’s a good reason too, the more you pick at it, the deeper the wound will be and ultimately the more scarred you will become. It’s the same with hurt, the more we look back at it the more we damage our own hearts. That’s where the magic of forgiveness comes in, it frees you and let’s the scab fall off.

So I hear you say “but I’ve been so wronged, they’ve ruined my life, I could have been someone else, I could have had more….”. Could’a, should’a, would’a; the reality is we don’t control the past, we don’t even have control over those who wrong us but we do have control over how we react to it all. Do we go back to the wound daily, creating a deep emotional scar? Or do we say “it is forgiven” and move along, living our best lives? Forgiveness, comes in many guises and there is some forgiveness which is offered from the heart and will never be heard by the recipient, we will never understand why it happened to us but we allow ourselves to be free. There are people who you may never want to set eyes on ever again, but by releasing them from your heart you create space for new things, and new love.

Then there is “daily forgiveness”, falling out with a friend or someone you love, quite often because both parties feel somewhat aggrieved. I’ve lost so many friendships and gained them back, simply because I chose to recognise I needed their forgiveness; and at the times someone bugs me or feels disposable, that’s when I remember the most those who have forgiven me. I had to exercise such patient yesterday, someone had irked me, and then I realised there was no hurt or intent in their actions. Clumsy? Yes. Did it need my twenty minute silent treatment? Possibly not. So I text saying “we cool?”. We were. I instantly felt better.

Life is incredibly short and can feel pretty tough at times. Most people have felt abandoned or lost, under appreciated, used and, sadly, abused. I want to share with you a story of my brother, he wasn’t “ours”, his mam wasn’t able to do what most Mammy’s can and his young life was broken in many ways; so he came to us and he was “ours” from the minute he walked through the door, or alternatively I was his from the minute they took me home on Christmas Eve. If you ask my brother about his mammy he will never ever utter a word against her or her little heart. Many would have felt abandoned and lost, but he forgave her with the most willing of hearts; in return my brother is the most loving, honest and caring man you will ever meet. His forgiveness is spectacular, as is his soul and we are all the better for learning from him.

I am not right with everyone in my life, there are bridges that could be mended and maybe some hurts that I need to let go of. I have one friend in particular that I miss dearly and I know it needs fixing, and that’s the hardest part about forgiveness. Sometimes you need to ask for it, even if you feel aggrieved in doing so.

My sister once told me “that offering forgives when you least expect it will change your life immeasurably”. There is never a truer word said. I thought my best pal in the world hated me at school. I asked her to forgive me. Now we she is more solid to me than the oaks that stand the toughest winds. My life is enriched by both proffering and receiving forgiveness. Sometimes you don’t even have to offer the words out loud, sometimes you just have to close your eyes and let it all go….

It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year, and if you want to offer a really special gift think about forgiveness. Right a wrong with someone who maybe does, or doesn’t deserve it. Close the wounds and enjoy the freedom it brings.

I will leave you with my three favourite forgiveness quotes:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.

Love cannot survive without forgiveness and forgiveness cannot be offered without love.

Forgiveness is not an attribute of the weak, only the strong can forgive.

All my love

Rosa

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Where has she been?

The atmosphere has felt thick and heavy all week, almost like Scotland has forgotten where it sits on the map and has moved to a more tropical latitude. The weather has been sunny and warm, and lots of people seem to be happier, more positive and feeling a little more invincible; that’s why it’s surprised me that I’ve spent the week feeling just a little “uneasy”. I suppose there are periods in life when it swings like a pendulum and I’ve read that the moveable, changing state is probably the most comfortable place to be, but I can’t help but think that periods of real highs can often lead to those dippy “tummy churning lows”.

I’ve not blogged for a while, I think over the winter when I was convalescing from “stroke-gate” there didn’t seem like much to write about; and as a matter of fact, I took the time to read and learn. I suffered from anxiety so severe I would have horrific tummy pain and only being sick would settle me. My MO when I’m stressed would be to walk away, to hide in my bedroom on the “third floor” and to try and avoid people. I wouldn’t just avoid strangers, my loved ones would also be pushed aside and only the brave one or two would be able to pull me out of my dark mental place. Stress and anxiety didn’t just rob me of happiness it left a physical imprint on me so severe I couldn’t eat, speak or walk. It feels comfortable to stay with what you know, and hiding in darkness is almost as cosy as working at being something new; but I no longer had a choice. I either pulled myself out of the mire or I sank completely.

As many of you will know from my dating and comedic blogs, I took myself off on a little trip to Italy and I spent hours alone. I prayed, I walked and most of all I was silent in my own company. I took several books including one entitled “how to be a badass?” and I also took my bible. Quite the combo and shockingly both had a profound and deep impact on me. So why had I become so unwell? Was it sexual harassment at the council or Holyrood? Was it the incessant need to fit in with who I thought politics, and the media, wanted me to be? Was it the stress and strain of having two children with profound and definite needs? Was it having poorly parents? Was it that feeling of constant rejection from men who said they loved me? Was it being alone? Was it being lonely? The shocking reality was that it was all and none of these things. While these issues had caused deep and damaging stress in my life, I still hadn’t fully learned to manage the impact; but more than that I hadn’t learned to accept that none of these things were my fault. Then one day I was standing on a mountain in Tuscany, I had driven there using an old school map, in a fiat 500 in one of the scariest roads in the world and I did it on my own, I was enough. There were no loud noises, no bright lights and no one there to hear it; but I knew then and there that if I loved myself so hard, and loved others the same amount everything would be better, and eventually they would be brilliant.  I came home from that trip and I was truly a new person. Yes, I had opinions and yes I still wanted to change the world somewhat but I gave a hundred less shits about what people thought, unless those people were the ones willing to come to the “third floor” in my darkest moments and pull me back into the light.

Mental health and its manifestation can be different for everyone. I’m not suddenly some sort of genius who is happy all the time (see opening paragraph). I’m just a person who decided that life would be easier with a little more joy, a lot more love and a massive amount of tools which help when the lows get low. So what actually does work? I go to the gym and eat better, not all the time, but enough that my body is well. I yoga a lot and read books which in the past I would have thrown scorn on. I spend a lot of time in silence and in prayer, and with people who are like me, people who really love me. I’ve confronted a situation which caused not just me, but several other women, hurt and harm, and I would do it again; because allowing someone to hurt me without consequence was destroying my peace. However, I also have a deep forgiveness for that man; I will never speak to him or be in his company but I do wish him no ill or harm. I hope his life is happier. Forgiveness frees your heart. I continued to be me with my strong opinions on fairness, social justice and equality, only now I recognised that when I anger people with my opinions, that’s not me, it’s only my opinions. I will never ever change or be silenced on these subjects; ever. I write down lists of gratitude constantly, especially for my amazing girls. I “be” with family as often as possible and spend a huge amount of time with my sister who makes me laugh. I also spend a massive amount of time with my friends who are some of the fiercest and funny women you will ever meet, especially my big Karen. Karen is a woman who has taught me more about not “giving a shit” than any other human being I know, while at the same time also showing me deep and unwavering kindness. I’ve also allowed myself to fall in love, and while I still question what he sees in me, learning to love myself means I manage to be thankful for this beautiful man who loves me so ferociously. He is truly the man I will spend my forever with. Finally, I have deepened my faith to the point where I understand that if God is for me then nothing can be against me. Faith, however, makes things possible not easy.

So you’re probably reading my ramblings and wondering why if “she has all these tools” is she so down this week? The answer is that I don’t know, busy week ahead, a tough week past and maybe just feeling a little bit out of sorts because there are lots of new things happening; to be honest I just don’t know. What I do know is that instead of hiding on the third floor and avoiding the world. I got out of bed, put on some music, drove to Starbucks and decided to write this piece.

Last week I was in the car with my friends and we saw a man by the side of the road. He had taken 32 paracetamols; he wanted to die because both his parents were also dead and he “had no one to love him”. Suicide is so prevalent at the moment, and it doesn’t matter who you are it can steal the rich to the young men across our industrial towns; we have to do more. You can go into a shop and buy something shiny and new, but psychologists say you will feel low again within hours; however, if you hug someone you strengthen your immune system, treat stress and anxiety, release dopamine (the feel good hormone) and so many other amazing things. So the moral of the story is that loving harder is the greatest of all the tools.

My sister Caroline has suffered from poor mental health in recent years, and often at times I have blamed her for this because she gives so much of herself to loving others. I thought that was the cause, but it wasn’t, but allowing and supporting her to do that was the cure. To this day she still suffers and more often than not it’s when her emotional resources have been all used up; but my job is simply to love her harder to allow her to be the best version of herself. That version is a woman with a servants heart and a wise mind. A woman who has never let me completely drown. A woman who is simply made up of love. For these reasons, I dedicate this blog to sweet Caroline and all those who need to know it’s ok not to be ok. We are only here to be one thing and that is the best version of ourselves, the version which is more than good enough, love yourself first and everything else will get better. I promise.

Miracles of Love

I need a miracle.

In the last year, or maybe in my recent life, I’ve fallen into my bed many a night and asked for a miracle. Asked for Charlie and Skye to have better health, that their lives wouldn’t be filled with so many trials and tribulations. I’ve begged God, whoever he may be, to cure my mother who is deeply tortured by mental health issues. I’ve closed my eyes and asked him to let me live when I was seconds from dying. Now, I’m not sure if it was God who saved me, or if it was my ridiculously stubborn will power but here I am; just being here isn’t the miracle though I think it was the details that saved me.

When I was taken into casualty I was assigned a specialist stroke nurse who was strong willed, feisty and spoke when I couldn’t. I will never forget her whispering in my ear ‘if you take this drug you will die’; I didn’t take it and I lived. Her love, care and compassion was my lifeline in my darkest hour. There were so many micro-miracles that its hard to place them all in my foggy memories; the joiner who installed a tone of rails in my house free of charge, the food which just appeared to feed my children and the constant love which would fall on me when I would least expect it.

Earlier in the year I took a trip to Italy, I went alone and spent so much time in reflection, my wee mum is sick; she is so poorly I often wonder how she opens her eyes every day. It was in Italy during some of the quietest moments of my life that I begged for a miracle. I wanted my mum to be able to annoy me again, to tell me my fake tan was too dark, to instruct me on the art of laundry or to simply sit in my home watching me live my life. Instead of feeling miraculous the allegations of sexual harassment started to tumble out across Scotland, and while far away from everyone I loved, my own memories were swirling around my brain like a storm of dark nightmares. I started to get sick. My face started to freeze and I was miles away from home. There was a night which was so dark that I wondered how much more of life a person could take when the mountains seemed so inexplicably high. I told the young hotel owner that I would be taking to my bed for a day or so and not to worry if he didn’t see me, I explained that I had been sick and I needed a rest. At eleven that night there was a loud bang on the door and his mother instructed me to drink some holy water for my pain, it wasn’t the water that brought me back to life it was her love and kindness. The next morning when I opened the shutters I kept thinking that I had been missing the answers all along. Nothing was exactly as I had planned in my life, but being so deep in my own worry had led me to miss the amazing things that happen around me every single day. I was having my own personal pity party.

I’ve recently got to know a young mum of three, a care experienced girl who beat the system and got her degree; was married and pregnant when her world came tumbling down around her. Husband left, rent was too high, benefit cuts too deep to let her survive. My sister took this family into her heart and she told me that they would fly. Homeless, alone and with nothing. We asked for a miracle. It wasn’t a blinding light, it wasn’t a lottery win; it was Councillor Cannon making sure she got the right caseworker, it was the people of Wallacewell who wouldn’t let her sink, it was in my friends who are painting and decorating her new wee home, it was in my sister who believed in her. It was in the hope that life could be more. Those were her miracles. On Friday this girl didn’t even have food in her cupboards but on Saturday night she was thanking the world for her wonderful new life. You see, she has her eyes open to what love is.

Charlie started her hormone journey today. I sat in the Royal Hospital for Sick Kids listening to her medical history as it was read out to me, heart defects, epilepsy, diabetes, depression; and now her body is going to have to battle so hard to be what it should be anyway. Just to be who she is on the inside. As I sat I kept thinking about all the current right wing press condemning these young trans people. I thought my heart would shatter. Who would pick this? I wanted to pick her up and run, run as far as I could; but she didn’t want to run, she wanted to stand up to this and to carry on. As we walked out the hospital we passed kids, some of whom were so sick they couldn’t walk and my heart felt like it was going to explode. Wandering through the corridors with Christmas trees and cheery festive music I was sure my emotions were going to betray me, seconds from tears and my stomach in knots we walked out to see a rainbow so big and bright we both stood for ages, eventually burst out laughing. You see we cant change our problems but we can change how we react to them. We can choose to let them topple us or we can decide to make our broken moments make us stronger. Dolly Parton once famously said ‘Storms make trees take deeper roots’.

To that end I’m going to be doing something to make micro-miracles for others. James (the boss) is collecting toys for local charities but I will be collecting (and begging) for small gifts for young women just like the girl in my blog. Women who have been given so little in life but who deserve a little hope. If you could donate a small, wrapped gift for a young lady then let me know. Ill be giving them to WAVES on the Southside and to the women of Wallacewell. It’s time for me to open my eyes. If you are struggling with life, and if miracles seem like a fantasy, let someone know. People in this country are getting poorer, austerity isn’t killing the debt, its killing people; but I believe in good. I believe in hope. I believe that Jo Cox was right when she said “there is more which unites us than divides us”. If you cant donate to my precious ladies that’s ok, we all have budgets but try and give something. A hello to a grumpy neighbour, five minutes babysitting to the single mum in your street, dinner to an elderly relative; change will come of that I have no fears but until then we must look out for each other. If your give a little, even if it’s just your time, then eventually you’ll be your own miracle.

Gifts can be handed in to our Glasgow Cathcart office on Clarkston Road, or alternatively shoot me an email at rosa.zambonini@parliament.scot

Just TIE me up in love

Recently there have been figures being banded about on the wait times for CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services). I don’t have the answers but I do have a thought. My daughter Charlie was self harming, slashing her arms till they looked like they had been clawed at by a wild animal and contemplating taking her own life. It took love, support and many weeks at Camhs before we got to the root of the problem…. She was trans.

Camhs were an exceptional tool and I know the Scottish government are committed to reducing wait times, however like every other illness, I think we should be looking at prevention where possible. A cure is good but prevention is always better, and nine times out of ten more cost effective. That’s where TIE (time for inclusive education) comes in. Many of the young LGBTI young people I’ve met during Charlie’s journey were in the same boat, the  story is so often repetitive. Fear of being who they are, fear of being bullied, fear of telling parents. Hatred of themselves, hatred of who they are, hatred of their own flesh. Then comes a Camhs referral, an opening up and finally acceptance…. not always but most of the time.

TIE aims for a better understanding of LGBTI issues, a reduction of bullying and a removal of stigma. If you think “hey I’m gay/trans/lesbian but that’s ok it’s as normal as being left handed;” then wouldn’t you be less likely to hate yourself? I think so! It’s about seeking to engage everyone from the straight community, the LGBTI community and the educational departments to ensure young people don’t resort to horrific acts of violence on their own precious skin.

This won’t just change the lives of young people but it will create generations of more tolerant adults. Workplace bullying, especially for trans women in very male dominated environments, is a huge issue. This results in many adults seeking the same support as our young people, but many often think they should be stronger, the shame overcomes them and they decide the only way out, is the unthinkable.

I’m not saying for a minute that this will resolve every issue faced in the treatment of young people and their battles with mental health, however I believe it would be a start. I speak out all the time on trans issues because I face it along side Charlie every day. This week my mum (gran sheena) realised she is wearing a  jacket in summer because she is ashamed of her own wee shape and my 70 year old mum has been researching special bras! Awesome right? But what if your family isn’t like that? What if charlie spent the whole summer roasting because of shame? That would damage her mental health beyond words. So we have to do more and in my heart I believe the schools are where we can achieve this.

I spoke at the SNP conference earlier this year where the members supported the TIE pledge (I will link the speech below). However words are not enough, if you want to reduce wait times, encourage children and most importantly save lives, then we must act. This is not a liberal versus conservative argument; or indeed church versus state; no – this is LIFE or DEATH. I urge everyone, especially the straight community who might think this will never effect you, to keep acting! The only way we can change the world is to get up and do it. Not just for wait lists, or Charlie; but for every young person in our country! Love wins. 

Growing Up Trans and Without Practice 

For most young women some of our best memories are sitting watching our mothers and sisters making them selves glam. I loved stealing my sisters lippy and using the lovely neon eyeshadows of my mothers 80s collection. Makeup and beauty doesn’t define a woman but as a glam lover, I understand the confidence that comes with a freshly painted face or nice new blow dry. 

When Charlie came out she stared to wear makeup and wasn’t quite as adept as my younger daughter Skye. That’s when it hit me, Skye’s had her whole life free to copy me and to experiment. While wee charlie had only ever been able to sit and wish from sidelines. Thankfully she is only 14 so we have plenty of time to get her glowing like Elizabeth Arden herself; but what about the ladies who only come out later in life?

It got me to thinking. No one teaches them how to blow-dry, use GHDs or do a winged liner. It would be quite difficult to go into a shop during the early stages of transition and ask for this kind of help. Trans women face many outer beauty problems, thinner hair, facial hair, different skin types; but all of this could be tackled with a little help from a glam squad. 

There is a fabulous hairdresser in Motherwell who had invented a technique to help thicken thin hair. I’ve had a lil chat with her and we are keen to have a trans night of Glam! A safe space to see hair, makeup and skin care techniques. Trans women from all over Scotland will be welcome and it will be a completely welcoming envrionment for every woman of EVERY age.

Like I say, outer beauty doesn’t define us but I think all women deserve support and encouragement. So if you would like to come to this event or know someone who would please let me know. Please share this amongst any LGBTI groups and beyond….

Beauty is only skin deep but a little rouge never hurt anyone 😘

Why is my mummy sad?

In a week where the spotlight shines on mental health, I wanted to share the story of my beautiful and brave mammy Sheena. My mum is a fierce, proud and an incredibly smart woman. She has fought poverty, social stigmas and cancer in her life time. She raised two girls and took on her nephew as her own. Ever selfless. Ever loving. Ever fighting. 

My mum would tell me to this day that there is no battle fiercer than that of depression. After her mother died a few years before I was born, my mum started to struggle with perpetual sadness. After my birth, she got worse and was prescribed an array of drugs designed to numb the pain. Tamazepam, lorazepam and anything else which would shut out the darkness. Sadly, these drugs also shut out the light. She was a great wee mammy and I was loved deeply, but the outside world was a hard place for her. She would feed the birds outside the glass doors of our home and I would watch them, it was all she could do to make me smile when she was in her darkest hours. To this day, seeing a robin is one of my faveourite things. She wasn’t able to go to some parents nights or school sports days, she was ill. Unwell. Poorly. She was a wonderful mother.

Then came along a CPN called Veronica, ever so patiently she helped my mum ween off the crippling drugs. My poor wee mum would cry and scream with the withdrawals and I would wonder “why is my mummy sad?” You see, children of depressed people are often the forgotten carers. Yes their mummy can wash herself and make dinner, but these kids often spend hours reassuring and loving someone who often cannot even register their own self worth. I remember my mum cared for her friend who had cancer ever so diligently and a relative asked her “why are you depressed? You have it all. Nice house. Nice life.” She was ill.  Give yourself a shake, we heard this all the time. Us kids would think but our mammy isn’t well; Would we ask someone who has a broken leg to run? I think not.

Through her whole life my mum has been open about her mental health. When she had cancer she noted all the flowers and cards that surrounded her; a few years later during her period of electro convulsive therapy, a very different story. Yet my wee mum would tell you that there is no fight worse than that of mental illness. And fight she does.

She has tried everything, therapy, counselling, medicine, shocking her body to oblivion. She fights every day to face a world which is extraordinarily bleak in her eyes but she continues to try anything to help a little sunshine penetrate her dark walls. She is heroic. 

I’ve had depression so I now know what it was like. I know why my mummy cried. I know why the battle is hard and I know I could be more understanding. I often wonder how many people around me have been touched by this evil illness but are too afraid to ask for help incase they are told to give themselves a shake. I love my mum and I love my girls, I love that in my family if you struggle someone will catch you. Someone will drag you to a doctor. However, not every family is like mine but there will always be someone who can help you. Sadly the stigma is huge but don’t be afraid. If the mammy Sheena can fight then so can you. 

I lost one of my most beautiful friends in he world to suicide and I will learn from him and from my mammy. You can too. My mum has always got time for others and she never ever ever ever gives up. Find time and don’t forget the little children who ask why is my mummy sad. 

Www.seemescotland.org

For the Mamas 

This was written by my sister who works in the third sector…. she was born to be a mama! 

For many years I’ve been involved in running groups for mums and babies . I started when my own little ones were tiny and here I am today , definitely not young and my little ones now have 4 legs and wagging tails . Still I find myself surrounded by mums and babies , frankly it’s more wonderful than ive words to describe . At times it’s been a battle . Always , ALWAYS, my mums come first . Why ? Because happy mums , loved mums , cared for mums can more readily do the same for their little ones . Babies and toddlers will play happily with their own feet. They pay no heed to the fancy organic nature of their environment or the like . They just want to be surrounded by love and happiness . So many new mums are consumed by the pressures of life and motherhood that this aura of love and happiness seems like a impossible , unreachable dream . I don’t believe in ” waiting lists” , I cannot buy into structured, time pressured sessions . I don’t care if you eat half the cake table! If your toddler is a terrible two then I believe you need sympathy, support and a good sense of humour . Judgement has no place whatsoever . If they’re dressed to the nines or come in looking like a typhoon has brought them

 to me .. so what ? They’re there that’s all that matters . Relationships suffer when babies are born why should mums hide it, why not share and feel not only a burden lighter but a lot less alone. Life can be brutal regardless of where a person’s house is , what car they drive or how beautiful their baby is .. grief , loss , financial strains , health problems tend to be completely without prejudice or bias . All of this AND a tiny vulnerable human depending on them for love , nourishment , sustainment and attachments that will influence their whole lives . No pressure eh ? There’s many things that I love about my precious wee Nurture Group. The adorable tiny people , the lovely mums ..but mostly what I love is the absolute and unrelenting solidarity that exists between every person at nurture . I have NEVER heard anyone once be cruel , gossip or judge another. I’m serious not once . They constantly love and support each other, they sacrifice for each other and they care in ways that continue to astound me . It’s never just a Wednesday it’s much much much more than that . So to all my mums past present and those still to come , you have enriched my life in ways I cannot describe . I have been allowed to love and care for so many people over the years but on reality all of you have given me so much more than I can ever describe . In a world where women and girls are so often portrayed as a cruel , selfish , decisive and self seeking you girls are shining lights of love and joy . It matters not what you have financially , if your children become even a little of who I’ve seen you all to be then they will have wealth that money and ambition cannot ever attain . Our little Nurture Group is a family . It is everything this world endlessly seeks and often fails to be . It’s love , it is belonging .. it is home . Girls tonight I’m reflecting over a few little events that have reminded me just how amazing you all are and just how proud I am to be your mamma caZza xx