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

Tiny Dancer

Today I was in Glasgow and I was caught up in all the early seasonal sparkle. The whole city looked like it was gearing up for a big party; and everyone was invited, well almost everyone.

I met a couple on the street, they had a dog, a tent and lots of sleeping bags. Their stories, like most living on the streets, were torrid, sad and seemingly hopeless. Yet they were funny, upbeat and ridiculously kind as they offered me “the newly donated, clean sleeping bag” to sit on. For some reason I was completely taken in by this couple and their banter was true Glaswegian wonderfulness, but while I was sat on the ground it made me notice every grumble of the passers by. “The poor dog” or the “dog didn’t ask for that life, such a shame”. The dog, the dog, the dog. The dog, as far as I could see, was well fed and blissfully unaware that it was living on argyle street or that it was any different from any other canine. I however, was sad. Sad that so many had so much time for a dog, and yet so little time for people. I was so sad, that I asked this couple how it made them feel, the man laughed and said “I don’t need them to feel for me, or to worry about me, I have real love and I wonder if any of them do”.

Taken a back I asked them how long they’d been together? Not long but they were married, she said he was her safe haven and he said “aye but she is my tiny dancer” (like the song). They told me they’d been clean since they got married, and I could well believe it, and that their goal is to live a life protecting each other. It’s hard to say what they were protecting each other from, but you could see it. There was no house, no stuff, not a lot of food but there was an abundance of love the likes of that which I hadn’t seen in such a long time.

Homelessness in this wealthy nation in 2017 angers me, almost as much as anything else, the notion that in winter people will pitch a tent to survive makes my blood boil with rage. To be sneered at by passers by because they see fit to have a dog which they so clearly love, and to be scorned for having no shelter was almost enough to tip my anger into a shouting match with strangers. But what would that achieve? Very little. As we work in or out of politics, it’s our job to just love on those less fortunate with the vigour in which this couple loved each other. I don’t mean romantic love, I mean a love for humanity which ensures it’s survival.

I bought gifts, shoes, coffees, lunch. I jumped into my BMW. I drove to my lovely little terraced house. I hate a load of food in a warm home. I will sleep alone in my big comfortable bed. I so wish they had even a little of what I have; but I did all of this alone. So really it would be a wonderful exchange if they got even a fraction of my life, and I had a fraction of their love. I’m so thankful for all the lovely things I have, but I’m so ready to acknowledge that others have so much more even when it first appears that they have so little 💛

Breakups and Brexit

Every time I speak to Italians they ask me about Brexit and why we want to leave. I quickly and firmly tell them that Scotland doesn’t want to go anywhere. I’m like a freshly dumped woman “we had a great relationship… I wish this never happened…. don’t forget us”.

While I was out of the country I managed to stream in question time and as usual Brexit was a highly debated topic. One of the questions that got me was “should we have another referendum?” And that’s when I started to think that Brexit was becoming a bit like a romantic break up.

I think most people who’ve broken up with someone, will at some point in their life regret one of those breakups. I once broke up with a guy who’d just driven to Calais and back in one day for me because I felt he was a little immature. Yes because you see I’m pretty perfect, not. That man now lives in Dubai, has a lovely life, a good job and a partner who he’s taking care of. Regrets see, awful things. There’s also the breakups which have come along suddenly, when they’ve been in the heat of an argument and I’ve cried and begged said lover to come back, seen the error of my ways, deeply sorry etc. We all need that little fright now and again to remind us of what we had. I’m starting to think the Brexit vote has been a huge unromantic shock to our nation.

The brexiteers promised us a green land with lots of money. It was plastered on a big bus, money for the NHS they said, no more immigrants they nastily sneered. People were catapulted into the dream of more money and more self control. That’s what the single life promise me, wrong, it was all a lie. The grass isn’t greener, it’s scorched and dusty; with the tumbleweed of failure all around; Brexit that is, single life is marginally ok. None of the UK lead politicians have a clue, it looks like there will be less money in the pocket of an average family, the migrant population fill a vast skills gap, the pound is a stable as Mays government and this country is the laughing stock of the EU; and that’s only the tip of the nightmare. The UK leaving the EU is such an acrimonious divorce it makes even the most publicised Hollywood split look idyllic.

I think the British public should be allowed to ask for another chance. They should be like me when I dumped my high school sweetheart for not being exciting enough. They should be allowed to reconsider. Someone once said that if we had referendums all the time we would never get anything done, but politics isn’t stagnant; we have general elections every five years “yes I liked you, I thought you were the right man for me but now it’s just not working”. People should be allowed to change their mind when they are armed with the facts.

May and her cronies are making a right arse of Brexit but Nicola Sturgeon is like “relate” giving good council and showing us how a good relationship can work. The British public have all the facts now, mainly the fact that Brexit is an omnisbambles and it’s time they were allowed to say…. I’m sorry, I want you back, we can make this work!

Is chivalry dead?

On one of my “research dates” I went for a walk and the man insisted that he walk on the road side of the pavement, he took my elbow as I stepped off the kerb and held open every door. I loved it. The odd thing is that when my boss, my brother or a male pal does it for me I snap at them “insisting I’m a strong independent woman and I can open a God damn door”. Weird right?

So this date got me wondering, is it that chivalry is dead? Or is that women have become so independent we think we don’t need it any more? Or have some men just become lazy? Could it be a combination? I believe in all things Equality, I really do but the fact of the matter is I was raised by a man who brought me, my sister and my mum breakfast in bed every morning. Some may say I was spoiled, but my dad (who’s very Latin with his emotions) claims that Gods greatest gift to him was the ability to shower affection on his girls. So now when I’m in a relationship I expect to have a door opened, a chair pulled out and it seems to me I have to accept hats who I am. Blame Jimbo he perpetuated it.

I do toy with the idea that as a feminist we should take turns to walk on the inside of the pavement or pull out a chair. If I pay date night cheques then it makes sense to open a door right? Yes, on paper it does but in my heart I want to be swooning all over the chivalrous gent of choice. On my first night in Lucca I went to a pizzeria and there was a beautiful young couple. He stood when she went to the bathroom, he kissed her nose when she returned and he held her jacket on when she was leaving. The feminist in me didn’t even come to the surface, the young lady looked adored and cherished. Oh to be a girl of 21 again…

So if chivalry is manners, kindness, affection, love and care; then that should be a feminists dream. Wouldn’t we rather a man said “send the cheque” than “send nudes”? Well I would, I am so old school romantically I have mental visions of me sitting like Scarlet O’Hara in a buggy with Red while he drives me off to a paddle steamer. Scarlet is the best example of a woman who can accept chivalry and yet be hugely strong and powerful, she may have put on curtains to impress a man; but in turn that man saved her life, her family and her Tara… If you’ve never seen gone with the wind, you can’t date me.

So why don’t I like unromantically linked males opening doors? I don’t know, maybe it’s because there is no need for them to do it? Maybe it’s because I do everything else myself, so why should they get that? Maybe I’m a control freak? Answers on a postcard to Tuscany.

When it comes to Romance, for me Chivalry is a sign of the man. If a man can be rushing to work and stressed out his head; and yet still bring you a croissant and coffee, he is a provider. In Italy I’ve been overwhelmed with the chivalrous gestures, I’m not looking for Mr Zambonini the second here, but I am enjoying the romantic notion that chivalry does still exist. Yes there are a few creepy B’s but they’re everywhere. The key is to look for the one who looks left and right for you before you step off the road, not the one with the most money, not the one with the flashiest car or the one with the biggest….. house. The key is to look for the one who will treat you like his mama taught him to, with dignity, kindness and respect. That way your feminist self can be in harmony with your romantic notions….

So yes it exists but just let it happen when you find it…

Caio 🇮🇹

My God is Proud of Pride 

I’ve not written a blog in months but I think now, with this very short one, is a good time to start. With pride on in Glasgow this weekend it got me to thinking why we should be proud of our LGBTI community, but more importantly why we should love them, and of course each other.

One of my most read blog posts was around the issues of Christian politicians, and if they can serve the LGBTI community. However, I suppose as a Christian mum, the bigger question is why can’t ALL Christian’s love the LGBTI community? The bible was written in times that were very different, there was interpretation and cultural influences on everything that was written by MEN, God passed on his word; but ultimately the bible was written by humans who have opinions. A pastors wife recently said to me that we would never dream of sacrificing children to God and yet that was a practice discussed in the Old Testament, it was a thought provoking statement and true.

As a mum of a trans child all I want is for her to be happy; almost weekly I’m reminded that her life will be harder than everyone else’s. She will always be “different”, she will always have “battles” and she will also have “hurts”. However Charlie also has a great big God who loves her. In the bible the word love is mentioned almost more than any other, over and over and over it tells us to love EVERYONE. This “love the sinner and hate the sin” chat is also rubbish, imagine if christians went to church and said “I love you even though you said shi*t and you’re a big fat gossip”, it’s unthinkable. We are told not to judge and that means YOU! If you’re a Christian reading this just don’t.. ok? No one likes pious nonsense and it brings no one closer to God.

The God I know is loving, he is kind, he is giving, he catches me when I fall, and he is always near. I understand why many don’t believe in his presence because life is hard right? Look at me: a diabetic trans daughter, another with cerebral palsy, almost choking with a stroke at 35… so you could say it’s hard to believe he’s even around, but I think he is otherwise I don’t think I’d be able to put one foot in front of the other. What I also believe is that God loves everyone and I mean everyone. No one is excluded from the love of Jesus, Jesus didn’t die on the cross and rise to say believe in me and you will live (apart from the gays, they’re out). 

God loves everyone even the gays whether you like it or not. In Glasgow we often hear “let Glasgow flourish” but often we miss out the second part “by the preaching of his word and the praising of his name”. Last year at Pride the only thing that upset my Christian daughter charlie was when a group of “evangelists” hurled abuse at her while she walked proudly, even though she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. So I’d like to ask them this: will God judge me for loving or will he judge you for hating and making a very fragile 13 year old girl cry by telling her that her own God has disowned her? 
Glasgow welcomes the Gays, the trans and everyone in between this weekend. Glasgow will flourish by the very beautiful and colourful spectical that is pride. God will be there because pride is a place of love and where there is Love there is peace….

Happy Pride Glasgow