Sunday, 9 June 2013

What don't kill you probably nearly killed you

"What don't kill ya makes ya stronger!"... That's an expression I used to hear a lot. It was the sort of thing an old Cockney woman would chuckle as she took a huge pull on her Benson and Hedges fag (Oh the irony. I can't help but feel the saying was not referring to budget brand cigarettes). She'd disappear back inside her two up, two down, door on the latch, dog yelping because he needed to be let out to roam the streets of East London, unencumbered by such silly nonsense as a lead... or an owner. Ah the good old days. er hum... I digress.

This week I realised however, there may be more than just a kernel of truth to this popular phrase. 

I'd never seen any hardship I've encountered as anything other than a royal pain in the arse. I've often thought, why can't life just be easier? Wouldn't this whole, being a human being thing, be a lot more straight forward if we didn't have to tolerate all the heart ache, emotion pain and general crappiness?

Especially in the midst of turmoil, it can be difficult to see your experiences as anything other than rotten luck, your just desserts or the meddlings of a God who has a serious attitude problem. I know I for one have metaphorically looked to the heavens and thought, why me? What did I do to deserve this?

Break ups have been one of the hardest life experiences I've been served up. I remember weeping while my older brother consoled me as yet another relationship bit the dust. I think I even gurgled a snotty, 'Why me? Why again??!" Although to my brother it would have sounded more like "Baaahmaaaare? baageeeehhhn??" what with my noisy sobbing.

Though I didn't know it, the answer to my "why me, why again?" lament was because I was continually making the same mistake, over and over again. I was not learning my lesson and so the Universe, always the diligent teacher, kept offering up opportunities to discover something. Either something about myself or people or life. Eventually, after many years of failed partnerships and a lot of counselling I finally started to get it.

I started to see that the place I was approaching relationships from was part of the problem. It wasn't the boyfriends that were the issue, it was me. I was the consistent factor in this situation. And so I started to heal that which was in me that needed to heal (which is a whole other story) and I started to gain some clarity and understanding  not only about why these relationship had broken down, but why they were destined for disaster from the get go.

Last year, I enthusiastically devoured four of the best dating self-help books seeking answers as to why I had made the same mistakes in relationships. Every book illuminated pretty much everything I'd ever done wrong. It was an exhilarating and embarrassing and depression and hilarious read all at the same time. I couldn't believe I'd continually fallen into the same trap, never learning from one disastrous partnership to the next.  These books illuminated something that hitherto I had been unable to see (again, a whole other story). It was a revelation and a relief!

On a subconscious level, I'm sure some kind of learning had always been in process but it wasn't until I read these dating tomes that I was ready to consciously take action. My comprehension went from intellectual to experiential. I got the teachings on a visceral level and it was only because I'd experienced what I had that I was able to comprehend it in this way. This information could now reshape my reality so that I could approach relationships in a way that no longer guarantee heartache.

Instead of racing into a union with my usual paradoxical combination of a closed heart and gay abandon, I learned to have fortified boundaries but an open heart and as I continued to work on healing past pain I could see that all kinds of possibilities could open up. 

Excitedly, I told my 19 year old niece all about this new-found knowledge from such reads as The Rules and He's Just Not That Into You. We even went to Foyles and I picked out copies for her. The advice cascaded out of me. I wanted to make sure she didn't make the same mistakes I did. I wanted her to bypass the arseholes, the 'of course I'll call yous' and all that horrid stuff to do with dating. She politely listened to me rabbit on, like you do when someone tells you about a 'crazy' dream they had or the last time they saw a double rainbow. She looked at me like, that's all very interesting but what does that have to do with me?

Mid-conversation, I stopped. I could see that what I was saying to her was meaningless. She had to find out the hard way what relationships were all about. My imparted wisdom may or may not have been of use but the bottom line was, she had to make those discoveries for herself. 

For example, say you really wanted to go on holiday to the tropical paradise of Goa but your mate told you, "don't bother. It's too hot, it can be dangerous, you can't drink the water and you'll probably get sick. I'll save you the hassle and just describe it to you instead" You'd be like, thanks all the same but I'll take my chances! 

And this is why we, as humans, need to have first-hand experiences, so that we can experientially understand why something is or isn't good for us or those around us, why certain behaviours work and some don't, who we can trust, what we like, what happens when we don't do certain things... or when we do certain things too much. We must experience all those things in order for us to grow. Not only are they needed, they're vital for our development as individuals and as a species.

I went out with a guy and we never really argued. We were very proud of this. Friends would observe how happy and contented we always seemed to be. Then, around the 18 month mark, we had one almighty fall out about kids. (I wanted them and he didn't). 3 months later, we broke up. Far from it being a good thing that we never argued, it was probably our downfall. Couples need conflict. Couples need struggles to work through and resolve because when you do, it makes the union stronger. You hold on to a relationship with much more vigour when you've been through hell and back together. You fight for the relationship because you think it's worth it. When me and this guy were put under strain, we conceded defeat way to easily because we'd never built up the strength to fight for 'us'. We hadn't had the ups and downs to exersise that conflict resolution muscle.

A friend posted this Paulo Coelho quote on Facebook recently and it really struck a chord. 

"Straight roads do not make skillful drivers". I recently took my California driving test so I should know.  Here, the left turn is the hardest so some people avoid them, preferring instead to go, right, then right, then right again round the block. Me personally, I practice taking the lefts because I know it'll make me a better driver. And more importantly sometimes you can't go round the block. Sometimes, in life, you have no option but to take the left turn. 

In life, we should look for those difficult junctions. We should welcome them in because anyone who is brave enough to face up to a new challenge guarantees themselves personal growth. Even if the endeavour fails, the growth will endure and the more challenges you encounter, the more you permit yourself to grow. And I believe this is true of situations we create as well as those thrust upon us.

Even depression can be a gift, a warning light on the dashboard of our consciousness indicating that something needs to change, a mode who's usefulness has expired, a new way waiting to be ushered forth. Death or change. Is that a saying? It should be. 
I went to an NLP weekend a while ago and the trainer said that setbacks were an indicator that you were on the right path for achieving your goal. Hmm? I thought, how can things going wrong or fucking up, be a good thing?

But then I started to think about what happens when things do go awry. We learn and we strengthen which leaves us even better prepared for the future which awaits us. You see it in children all the time. It doesn't take long before not touching the hot thing, leaving dad to sleep on a Sunday morning or having a mustard eating competition become good life lessons of how best to navigate existence. Trial and error should never end.

And so, in business, in life, in love, in work, at home, in families, in marriages, perhaps fuck ups are opportunities in disguise.

Furthermore, perhaps this is why, as a planet we are still in a place of struggle. Perhaps the struggles are our collective obstacles, laid out for us to learn from and grow as a species. Certainly we can all agree we are not the same species we were 500 years ago or even 50 years ago. We have changed, developed, progressed. This growth we continue to make must surely be attributed to our ability to learn and is essential for the survival of our race.

When we look back to dark parts of our history such as the Holocaust and we utter the haunting phrase, lest we forget this is as much about securing our commitment to progressing as remembering those atrocities and is the most concise reminder that we must continue to look at every setback, failure, horror, disaster, pitfall as our saving grace, our blessed opportunity to grow, develop, seek new ways, new ideas, become better people, thrive, overcome and flourish. 

What doesn't kill us probably did nearly kill us... nearly. But we overcame it and because of this we are stronger. This is a greatest testament to the human race.We are still here. Yes we still have problems but look how far we've come and imagine how far we will get if we follow this trajectory. I am hopeful for us. 

I look back on the challenges I've faced (and the list is a long one) and I remind myself, every crap boyfriend, every shitty job, every unkind word, every unpleasant encounter, unhappy day, tearful night has got me to where I am today and I am still here and I am OK and further more, it has all equipped me for the future better than any straight road ever could. 


  1. I'm the other blog obsessive - not from Northern Ireland, but England, found you via 'Best Female Standups' and liked your act.
    So, can you give some info on the NLP thing - my bigoted opinion would be that they seem a bit weird, but you may have a more grounded view...

    1. probably best to google NLP to form your own view. I have mixed feelings towards it but got a lot out the course I did.

  2. It's not that I don't mind driving down a winding road, it's just that I thought I'd have reached somewhere nice to stop for a picnic ages ago.

  3. Hi Andi,

    I would just like to say for the record that you are one of the most inspirational people I can think of. Thanks for your blog. I look forward to it every week.


    1. thank you. that's lovely and inspires me to keep writing. x

  4. Hi Andi...I think I am in love with you, so if you are still looking for a guy, would be great to hear from you! I don't play badminton, but I like staying in as well as going out! Andy (funnily enough) x

    1. haha. Thanks Andy. I am mightily flattered! x


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