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Women What Whistle

This podcast is about not falling in line or fading away. Stories of bravery, accounts of resilience and even tales of sheer bloody-mindedness. It’s about finding our voice, and sometimes our brave, through the stories of other women who’ve had to find theirs.

Apr 23, 2020

Why do we wait for a disaster in order to show our true colours? What is love anyway? Universal laws v laws written by man, unconditional love, gloves made from ants, shinrin yoku, the Truman Show, the green and the blue - its amazing what fits into 30 mins!

I have found it so inspiring and uplifting to see the outpouring of love during this time of lockdown because of the Corona virus and I really hope that this love continues to infect and effect us so much deeper than any virus ever could, because we are seeing it pouring out everywhere and its GOOD!

Elle magazine wrote an article earlier this week called “12 individual acts of kindness proving love and humanity will win over the coronavirus” and they talked about moving our focus from scaremongering to caremongering so in this episode we are going to celebrate and talk about, LOVE.

Tonight, Comic Relief and BBC Children in Need are coming together for THE BIG NIGHT IN and the Comic Relief Tshirts are drawn by artist Charlie Mackesy with the simple caption saying LOVE WINS Amidst all the catastrophic effects that this virus is having across the globe, the devastation that it is causing to families, to friends and loved ones, to communities, businesses, and economies across the board, we are seeing something else pushing through ….. acts of love and kindness that otherwise would probably never have occurred.

From people reaching out to their neighbours and communities for the first time, conversations from the other side of the road, shopping for one another, kids leaving parcels of cookies on doorsteps, writing letters and sending notes, the grandson moving in with grandmother with Alzheimers, companies donating skills, materials and anything they have; hotels giving rooms to NHS staff, businesses changing the way they do what they do in order to support and give – through to the more public stories of Captain Tom (£28million) and Kia/Ken 17 year old carer Kia gave one of her patients, 94 year old Ken, a cushion with his wife’s picture on it …you don’t have to go far to hear any number of these stories of kindness and compassion which way outbalance the frantic fights for loo rolls we all saw just a few weeks ago.

The truth is, in the words of Wet Wet Wet "Love is all  around us" …we are seeing it, there is no denying it

WHAT IS LOVE? When push comes to shove, we know, at least rhetorically that love is all that matters, it’s almost so familiar to us that we don’t hear it, it’s a word that we use all the time, I love coffee, I love holidays, I love Christmas, I love my dog – but what does love mean – what actually is it?

Google says Love is a complex set of emotions, behaviours, and beliefs associated with strong feelings of affection, protectiveness, warmth, and respect for another person

Oxford dictionary says Senses relating to affection and attachment - A feeling or disposition of deep affection or fondness for someone, typically arising from a recognition of attractive qualities, from natural affinity, or from sympathy and manifesting itself in concern for the other's welfare and pleasure in his or her presence. Also, a feeling or disposition of benevolent attachment experienced towards a group or category of people, and (by extension) towards one's country or another impersonal object of affection – did that tell you anything?

If we look to the music industry, artists who are the orators of love and emotion:

  • John Lennon – all you need is love
  • Frozen – Love is an open door
  • Wet wet wet – love is all around us, it’s everywhere we go
  • Pat Benatar – love is a battlefield
  • McFly – love is easy
  • Adele sings about feeling at home or feeling whole

It’s like how the internet connects us all in the 21st century, we can reach out and connect with anyone anywhere – love is a web that has connected us since the very beginning, to each other, to nature, to peace, to life. Wherever we are in life, no matter our age, our background, our situation or our position – there is one thread that joins us all together and that is LOVE

So, why does it take something like this in order for us ALL to step up.

Rebecca Solnit studied spontaneous responses to some of the world’s worst natural and man-made disasters for her book A Paradise Built In Hell and writes “the history of disaster, demonstrates that most of us are social animals, hungry for connection, as well as for purpose and meaning”. And that a truly dire situation, as tragic as it is “drags us into emergencies that require we act, and act altruistically, bravely and with initiative in order to survive or save our neighbours, no matter how we vote or what we do for a living”

So we come back to the question, what is love? Is it just a feeling or is it something more powerful?

The School of Life wrote an article called The Definition of Love  and in it they suggest that it manifests itself through charity, imagination, kindness, forgiveness, loyalty, generosity and patience

  • So the supermarket worker who shows up to work even though they could be furloughed despite still getting coughed on and customers walking too close to them as if social distancing doesn’t count for them as they work there
  • The taxi driver who is now delivering milk for free to those who are self isolating
  • The carers who are giving every minute of their time to keep their patients feeling ok about life even though they can’t have visitors, teaching them how to use Zoom and facetime
  • The technology companies who are making ventilators and the local seamstresses who are sewing gowns for the NHS
  • The award winning film maker who is cleaning at his local hospital

Those are all expressions of love aren’t they? So if love is indeed all around us – does that mean gooey cuddly feelings or does that mean that like the air we breathe, love is around us to give us purpose, passion, energy and a reason to be? Does the existence of love give us opportunities to go beyond ourselves? If we look at love as being the substance behind who we are, the thing that gives us life and energy as opposed to something we feel, can we then connect with something deeper? Something bigger than ourselves? And the things we want from life? Does that help us rise above all the hurdles we are facing right now as we desperately cling on to a sense of normality?

In my experience, when we lean on what we are familiar with and get our sense of security from what is around us, as soon as change comes along, we fall apart because what we were leaning on was never permanent in the first place - It’s like that wonderful scene in Only Fools and Horses when David Jason’s character Dell has been leaning on section at the end of the bar and then it gets flipped up and he leans back and falls straight to the floor – let’s not lean on the end of the bar!

If we have inner strength, that comes from a permanent source, ie love, we become as strong as Aslan the lion! It’s like being a parent, the whole focus of parenting is to bring your children up so that they can stand on their own 2 feet. Now how we go about that is all very different, across the world there are many different coming o…f age celebrations and rituals age 11-20 where the child proves they are able to survive.

I watched a documentary last year which showed how young boys from a tribe in the Brazilian Amazon, mark their coming of age when they turn 13 in a Bullet and Ant Initiation. They are sent out into the jungle to search for bullet ants which are then sedated by a leader who submerges them in an herbal solution. The ants are then weaved into gloves with the stingers pointed inwards. The ants are said to have the most painful of all insect stings, and so when they wake up, super angry, they don’t sting just once, when one ant stings, it releases chemicals that signal other ants in the vicinity to sting repeatedly and so the excruciatingly painful initiation begins. Each boy has to wear the gloves for ten minutes.

Enduring the pain demonstrates the boys’ readiness for manhood -- so few cry out as doing so would demonstrate weakness. Each boy will eventually wear the gloves 20 times over the span of several months before the initiation is complete.

Now I’m not suggesting that we all inflict pain on ourselves in this way, however, if we pin our survival on something transient, temporary or transitory, we put ourselves in a position of weakness. We talked in episode 54 about finding your inner strength and resilience with Cathy Madavan ….this is how we survive. By drawing strength from and leaning on something that is permanent, never changing, life giving.

So in a world where everything changes and nothing stays the same, what is permanent?

Love – it’s the very fabric of everything. It gives, it expands, it grows. We know in psychology that green is the most soothing colour, it brings rest and relief whilst blue brings calm and peace – so the very existence of nature in most basic sense right now, is that it brings us peace – In Japan they have a practise called shinrin yoku which means forest bath and their practise is to take time every morning to walk in the forest, with the belief, and scientific evidence to back it up, that time with nature is good – so nature isn’t just there for the sake of it, it is giving out beyond itself, you could say, that is an expression of love. It’s not just a feeling, it’s action, it’s a noun AND a verb

And what’s even more fabulous about love, is that it’s infinite.– when Brian first came into the children’s lives and we started to negotiate the life of a step family, I could see the guilt the children battled with, eventually they learned that your heart grows the more you ask it to. The more you love, the greater your capacity becomes to love even more

It’s another universal law, like gravity – what goes up must come down, in the same way, the more we give, the more we get. Like the universe which has been expanding for millions of years - if we are able tap into the source, then we get to grow and expand with it, rather than shrivel up with resentment, fear and anger. There’s so much finger pointing at the moment and of course we will learn lessons and mistakes have been made, some intentional, many others not – but love is bigger. It provides space to give, to forgive and to move on into what will become our new normal. There is more to this than what we see right now, we just need to trust the process and the universal law of love – as I’ve been saying over the last few weeks, we aren’t the first ones to have trodden this path.

I think that the reason why we often feel unsatisfied with life is because our focus is on getting rather than giving. When actual fact, our need isn’t to get, our need is actually to give, to reach out beyond ourselves and to connect as we are seeing all around us right now.

So in that case, if it’s all about love, then ultimately, love wins …doesn’t it? We get there eventually. We realise, even in the midst of a pandemic that there is more to life than the Truman show that we were all existing in before this happened – did you ever see the Truman show? Brilliant movie starring Jim Carey if you’ve not seen it, it is a story about a man named Truman (Jim Carrey) who was born and raised in a movie set. This set is the size of a small town, and is enclosed by a large dome that, when looked upon from the ground, looks the same way our sky looks with changing weather patterns and a sun that rises and falls.

Truman’s whole existence is this movie set. In fact, it is all he has ever known. He was born and raised on set, and now goes to work, comes home to his wife and hangs out with his best friend drinking a few beers here and there. But he doesn’t realize his entire life is a stage and everyone – from his wife, best friend, co-workers, policemen, newspaper boy, etc are all actors, part of a production that is being broadcasted to the entire world 24/7. Truman is an unwitting experiment, manipulated by a large TV network and used for the world’s entertainment.

Fairly early on in the movie, the truth begins to eek its way out and he twigs that there is more “out there” and the story unfolds of his search for truth, for more, and the trials he encounters as he tries to escape are gripping, not only making it a fantastic move, but also a fascinating truth because I think it draws many parallels to our lives today – even though this was made over 20 years ago. We too have been institutionalised by our very own Truman shows, believing that it’s about owning a house, getting a degree, owning the latest technology, getting married.

In another great movie Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman’s character Red says I’m telling you these walls are funny, first you hate them. Then you get used to them. Enough time passes, it gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized." – and I wonder, have we sometimes been institutionalised by the systems around us, the ones that tell us that you need to earn a certain income, or climb the career ladder, or have children, or go abroad in order to have a holiday all those “things” that we work so hard to achieve, what actually matters?

Love matters. Its all that matters.

PRAYER = PEACE A couple of weeks ago I said a prayer on my IGTV and was amazed at the amount of people who got in touch with me saying how much peace it had brought them and that they used to go to church, or grew up with prayer perhaps at home or on a Sunday but that they had not continued with it in their life as church or religion hadn’t been such a good experience ….the very place that is meant to be the model of love has often been the complete opposite and feels like a place of judgement and criticism. …and so because of that, we ditch that source of peace that we once might have really benefitted from.

MAN MADE RELIGION This makes me so sad – I’ve had a love hate relationship with the institution of church my entire life, however I think it’s really important that we separate the human intervention here. We created church, we created religions that have rules and boundaries, conditions and laws ….I have long believed that the worst ambassadors for love are so often the ones that proclaim it from a pulpit. We hear about horrendous child abuse taking place at the hands of religious leaders who are meant to be the very ones to provide safety and security – the absence of love is evident …and then we throw away the very source of where it all began because of human behaviour

Love is part of who we are, its more than who we are, it’s when you move beyond yourself. Before religions and temples and churches came along and took ownership of these things, there was already love, giving, growing, hovering and protecting.

And maybe if we can look beyond the mistakes and misgivings of human nature, we can embrace our humanity, our spirit or God-given humanity which is to love, to allow love first in all we do

“but first love” has become my mantra over the years - I don’t actually think I’ve ever shared with you – I mentioned it on the Feed Your Fabulous podcast a few months back – for me that’s where all begins and is about – when we allow love to permeate through all we do, we find purpose and passion but more importantly right now, we also find strength that sees us through the storms, challenges and inevitable losses in life…. Because we know that there is more than this.

So my hope and prayer for all of us is that love continues to infect and effect us and that you find peace.

LOVE WINS - by the way, click the link for the book by the same title, it's by Rob Bell is absolutely fantastic!

Have a good week, I’ll talk to you next time and if you want to reach out, all my links are on my website