The first theme that Nobody’s Victory will be focusing in on relates to an Identity Crisis that came through getting married. It is titled ‘Unboxing the ID in ‘I Do’
Before reading any further, I would like to suggest that you first click on the following link below to see the Preview and to understand the background to part 1.
Upon getting married, the previous six month romance which had been full of the excitement, anticipation and imagination that naturally comes with finding ‘the One’, began to slowly settle down and fizzle in to our everyday life.
As we came down from the clouds of Love that our heads had been floating in, we began to land upon the hard ground of reality. It had only been six months since we left behind our time in Israel. There, our daily life had been very different to what had now become our new found life in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Now we were married, together, and as far as we were both aware, our destination was now onwards and upwards. After all, getting married not only meant coming together to be together for Life, but it also meant building a life itself together. right? Oh how little I knew.
As we both moved forwards into married life, we both began to get to know eachother properly. It was an exciting and interesting time for us both.
Slowly but surely however, it wasnt long before our personal differences became visible. Our personal differences were bigger than we thought they would be.
Our own individual expectations of the Married life into which we had entered also began to reveal themselves, and so too did the frustrations that came along with them. It wasn’t always music.
We simply seen this period of time as an observational phase that was a natural part of being newly married, and one that we both had to learn to just accept and get on with.
In the months and years that followed however, getting on with it seemed to get harder and harder, and married life crashed into challenge after challenge.
Despite wanting to move onwards and upwards to build a life together, our Love for eachother seemed to take us downwards into the ground instead, to where the Heart itself was pointing.
Not only did this leave us both questioning our relationship and Love for one another, especially when we compared it to other marriages (Big Mistake).
This reality also led me to look inwards, and I began to question myself more and more regarding my own capabilities as a Man, Husband, and later as a Father. This was the beginning of the identity crisis that I mentioned towards the end of my Nobodys Victory preview Blog post.
Falling in Love, led me into a situation where I began to lose myself. Over time however, it would eventually lead me to the point where I slowly began to find myself again, but in a whole different way.
Apparently, I said ‘I do’ to all of this, I just didnt realise it at the time.
Over the years, and like any marriage, we have both been faced with many difficult challenges and in those moments we have often thought and felt that our marriage is failing, but rather than failing, I have come to understand that our marriage was driving us into the ground for other reasons.
Unknown to us at that time, Foundations needed to be made so that our relationship could be properly planted into good stable ground in order for it to have a chance to grow in a healthy way.
Just like someone digging out the foundations on a contruction site, this challenging and timely process required us to get dirty. It involved digging out and clearing away all the stones and dirt that lay in the way.
The dirt and stones represent many things in each of our lives, past and present, that are an obstacle to establishing a good, positive and healthy relationship and which only serve to weigh it down.
In future Victory drops, I will explain more about this.
Each stone and each bit of hard ground that gets removed not only makes space for proper foundations to be layed, but each one can also be used elsewhere for other purposes such as in a garden where one finds rest.
My hope is that through this particular ongoing theme of ‘Unboxing the ID in I do’, I can take the stones and dirt that needed to be removed, and use each one to help others.
Although different topics began to rise to the surface at the beginning of our Married Life, a few topics had already presented themselves before we had even got round to ‘tying the knot’ (An english phrase for getting married).
One of those topics was regarding the lack of a sense of belonging on my part, in terms of National Identity. Let me explain, though do keep in mind that I am no Historian, I’m a Nobody Nobox.
For those of you from Northern Ireland who may be reading this, I am going to go over some old ground in this part for the sake of those for whom it is new ground.
Some of you in Northern Ireland come from one side or the other of the Political divide, and so if you agree or disagree with what I write in the following paragraphs, then thats ok.
I do not intend to offend, nor do I intend to try to tip toe around everyone. Im not a ballet dancer.
Everyone has a perspective, and this is mine going from what I grew up with and how I experienced growing up there. I can only draw from that.
I will also take into account changes in my own attitude which have come from the experiences that I have had, and observations that I have made over the years up until this present day.
Let me first and foremost introduce you to my Parents.
My Father and Mother are from working class backgrounds within the Protestant community in Northern Ireland, and ‘Hard Working’ class backgrounds at that. I am very proud of both of them.
My Parents Work Ethic right up until their recent retirement has been a very good example given, and their commitment and perseverance in the face of adversity over the years testifies to this.
They grew up immersed in British protestant Identity, and as they entered adulthood, conflict broke out throughout the country in what is now commonly referred to in Northern Ireland as a period in History known as ‘The Troubles’.
These troubles were themselves an extension of a conflict that goes back hundreds of years into the past. The video below explains it all.
At one side of the troubles were Irish Republican Paramilitary groups (commonly but very wrongly referred to as Freedom Fighters).
Their ultimate goal was, and still is, the establishment of a United Ireland under Socialism, free from British Rule.
Those that support the Irish Republican cause, are known as Nationalists.
As the territory of Southern Ireland was bigger than the north, and under a strong and very perverted influence of the Catholic Church at that time, compared to the Influence of the Protestant British Monarchy in the North, the Irish Republican terrorists, and the Catholic Community both North and South were intertwined with one another.
At the other end of the spectrum were Loyalist Paramilitary groups, (commonly but very wrongly referred to as Defenders of ‘Ulster’ (the name given to the province of Northern Ireland which is made up of six counties)
The goal of these Loyalist Terrorist groups was to counteract the political, economic, religious and terrorist threats to the protestant people, institutions, and overall sovereignty of Northern Ireland as a British Province.
These Loyalist Terrorist groups were intertwined with the Protestant population of the North who declared their allegiance and loyalty to the British Monarchy.
The people who support the Loyalist cause are called Unionists, due to their commitment to the Union with Britain
The troubles kicked off in 1968, and ended 40 years later in 1998. Do take note however, that it ended with an agreement on both sides, to work together on a peace process.
Though it bought many positive changes to Northern Ireland, many things remain unresolved, and because the Peace Process is a process, it can stop at any given point, which it has done on a few occassions since it was agreed.
In ending my explanation, I should say that the main Political Party on the Republican side of the process, Sinn Fein, are one of the biggest and wealthiest parties in Ireland, both North and South.
Sinn Fein’s ultimate aim in being a central part of the present powersharing executive in Northern Ireland is to actually ensure that the project and province known as Northern Ireland, will fail.
It’s a Trojan Horse. The reason for this remains the same, A united Ireland under Socialism.
For this reason, and in my opinion, the road to Northern Irelands future success will inevitably lead nowhere because of the Republican rock that blocks it, and the only foreseeable outcome I see happening, is that those who identify as British there, will eventually be sold out by both the British and Irish Governments.
Well, Ursula didnt know anything about Northern Ireland when she met me, then she moved here, we married, and we started our married life here.
I enjoyed being away from Northern Ireland and I personally wanted to remain outside it as I had grown to dislike many things about it in my late teens up until the time that I got married.
Actually, as I may have said in previous posts, I had grown very fond of Israel instead.
There I felt much more of a sense of belonging there than anywhere else that I had been to, but then Love hads its own way. I met Ursula and found myself back in a country that I had grown to hate.
One key event happened when I was around sixteen or seventeen years old, although there are others that contributed to this hatred of my own country,
I had just left High School, and soon after I began a computer course in Belfast City centre. I was invited out by a fellow student and overtime I got to know some of his friends who just like himself, were all from a Catholic Nationalist background.
The first time I went out with them, My Dad drove me down to the location where we were going to meet, and asked me a simple question.
He asked me if it was a mixed crowd or if they were all from one side.
The reason he had asked me this was because we were meeting in a Nationalist area, and he had known of enough people who had been deceived by groups from one side or another into going out only to then be attacked by them because of their background and left injured or killed in the process.
Looking back now, It clearly obvious that my Dad was asking because of his own experience and out of sincere concern for his Son.
Being young and dumb however, and longing for my own independence, I received his words differently.
From that point onwards, Northern Ireland and its politics became an obstacle to myself becoming fully free and independant.
Although we went to some pubs and clubs that were in a neutral location, there were more than enough times were I found myself in pubs or clubs or private houses in areas of Belfast that were known to be populated by the Catholic Nationalist community.
They all accepted me as part of the group, and we got on well together. We seemed to acknowledge our differences and respect eachother for the fact that we could ignore them.
That said, there were enough times where under the influence of Alcohol or drugs, wreckless words would have been spoken that just had to be ignored.
Despite it all though, that period of time opened my eyes in many positive ways, though I still found myself wanting to disconnect from the politics of Northern Ireland.
When I began travelling in July 2002, people would ask me where I was from, and I would naturally respond by telling them the simple truth, I was from Northern Ireland.
Many people, though not all, would then question what the difference was between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland etc to which I would then go on to describe it.
I described myself as Northern Irish, or as British, and in confusing those that asked me, I ended up confusing myself in a way that only someone from a British, Protestant background in Northern Ireland would understand.
This confusion and uncertainty that I had developed on an individual level, is I beleive just a small glimpse of a problem that continues to exist nationwide within the Protestant British community of Northern Ireland today.
Though I have never denied my national identity, I just simply wanted to enjoy being out of Northern Ireland and the cultural chains that I had felt bound by and I simply wanted to avoid going into it.
Whether I explained to people or not, as to why Northern Ireland is called Northern Ireland, most people referred to me as Irish anyways.
Over time this became a quick fix to my problem and I became very comfortable with it. I was now Irish.
To be honest, I didnt care anymore about it. I was Happy enough just to be all three. So much for my lucky charms though, because three became four upon getting accepted for Swiss citizenship. At that point I officially went Neutral 🙂
After years of meeting people from around the world, regardless of their nationality, colour, religion, language etc, etc, Love eventually brought me back to the reality I had been trying to escape.
Not only did it bring me back, but Love got in the way of me escaping again, and Love forced me to learn to Love and respect my country in way that I never did before.
Soon after Ursula arrived in Northern Ireland for the very first time, I went to the Northern Ireland Tourist Welcome centre with her to try and find some nice positive things to show her about Northern Ireland.
It was the beginning of a journey of discovery for her, and also the beginning of a journey of Rediscovery for myself. What a Beautiful country it truly is and the longer I am away from it, the more I appreciate it.
Protestant? Catholic? Northern Irish? Irish? British? Swiss? 🙂
Well sometimes when asked, I’ll just say that I’m from China and then calmly watch as they politely accept my answer in confusion whilst trying not to be rude to question me on it.
Truth be told though, I’m Reuben, a Child of the Living God who created all peoples and calls them unto himself. I simply view all the rest as just baggage that needs to be handled carefully.
Thanks to Christ, My citizenship is in Heaven, but down here on Earth, I’m just a Nobody Nobox with a Crown that refuses to be boxed in to something I boxed out of along time ago.
Who Am I? The Song below says it all.
Although the problem with National Identity worked itself out over time, another issue which happened to be directly connected to it, rose to the surface upon moving to Switzerland, one and a half years into our Marriage.
This issue of which I speak, can be summed up in one word.
Before coming to Switzerland to Live, I had only really lived in Northern Ireland, and Israel.
Concerning Israel however, a large part of my time there didn’t involve having to fully integrate into the entirety of day to day life there. One example of this being that I communicated with everyone in English.
What both places did have in common though, was a political conflict, and a society that had grown accustomed to it.
In both countries, there was and still is a Political, Religious, Cultural, and Social divide between the two opposing people groups.
Both divides are deeply rooted in the land itself, and have only been strengthened by the hurts of history.
Bitterness, Unforgiveness, and a history of failed attempts at resolving differences continue to leave both locations in a never ending state of Dèjà vu.
Although there may be times in each country when the situation either improves or worsens, the overall situation integrates itself quite naturally into the day to day Life of the populations affected.
Both an awareness and a cautiousness of potential political drama exists within both of these countries, and because of this, a background tension/conciousness also exists on both an Individual and National level
This tension has the power to shape ones thoughts, expectations, attitudes, conversations and behaviours etc.
This tension is regularly re-enforced through both the politicians and media, along with society’s own response to both.
When I moved to Switzerland, a land known for both its neutrality and good quality of life, I still had a sense of that awareness and cautiousness in my head from both Northern Ireland and Israel.
The reality of day to day life here in Switzerland however, is that no such dramatic political, religious, social or cultural tension exists.
Over time, As I began to integrate by learning German, working, socialising and reading newspapers etc, It started to become clear that here in Switzerland things just seemed to function and tick over without any drama.
As for me, I began to feel a little lost, quite dry, and very bored in what seemed to be a very Beautiful, yet landlocked location where not much happens.
Please dont misunderstand me though. Peace, Security and Stability are wonderful things that many around the world can only dream off, and that many others die trying to find. I do not take it for granted, and I am very thankful for it.
I should also say that I myself have never been directly involved in, nor directly affected by the conflicts mentioned above.
However, I do beleive that in being conditioned to conflict cultures, I found myself feeling pyschologically unsettled and insecure when fully surrounded by the qualities of peace, security and stability here that I found here in Switzerland.
All that aside, I was also challenged by the reality of learning to settle into the responsibilities and restraints of Relationship.
In ending this Part, I should also mention that Peace, Security and Stability were qualities that I lacked as an Individual and something I was looking for on a personal level and struggled to grasp.
This only served to further my frustration and sense of boredom, all while immersed in Beauty.
Communication is a very big part of a Relationship which depends on the ability of both parties to know and understand the same language.
English is my Mother Tongue and is therefore a very big part of my Life but I never imagined it would become an issue.
Its how I communicated, expressed myself, and understood others. It was a part of me that I simply needed to surive.
Although Ursula’s own mother tongue is Swiss German, communication between Ursula and myself began in English and has remained in English ever since.
She knew enough of the English language to function well in conversations, where as my knowledge of Swiss German was Zero, Zilch, and Diddly Squat all rolled into one.
With being part of an International group in Israel who spoke English to one another, and spending the first year and a half of our married life in Northern Ireland, English was all we really needed in order to get by, or so I thought.
As time went by, English was of course, a big part of how I got to know Ursula, and how she got to know me. It was also a big part of how My Family and Friends got to know her and how she got to know them.
Everyone spoke to Ursula in English and understood her in English and vice versa. It was as simple as that.
Soon after arriving in Northern Ireland, she was able to find a full-time job amongst a very international German speaking team at a contact centre in Belfast.
There she would handle calls and emails from clients in Switzerland, Austria and Germany on behalf of a large technology company.
Because of this she was able to spend the majority of each working week speaking both Swiss German, and German which I guess helped her feel a little closer to ‘Home’.
Talking of her ‘Home’, we made two visits to Switzerland between when we met in Israel, to the end our time living in Northern Ireland.
Once was to meet Ursulas Family for the first time, and the second time was to attend her Brothers wedding.
Both of these times, I got by quite easily with speaking English. After all I was a tourist.
When it came to her Parents, Grandparents along with a few other Family and Friends, two way translation was a must.
This worked but it cost everyone involved extra effort, time and patience.
It was during these two visits to Switzerland where I was able to observe Ursula who was fully surrounded by, and immersed in not just her own Language, but also her own people, culture and mentality etc.
Seeing Ursula in this way made me aware of the fact that there was alot about Ursulas character and personality that I simply did not know.
Though I became more aware of it, I was very much limited in discovering it simply because our relationship was being built up in my language, people, culture, mentality etc.
One year after we got married, and during our second visit to Switzerland, we went on a small camping trip together.
One evening we did a Barbecue in some forest at the other end of the lake from where we had pitched our tent
Whilst keeping my eyes on the two bratwursts on the grill, I made the suggestion to Ursula about covering the other side of the Relationship.
I spoke about how I was open to trying out Life in Switzerland for the same amount of time as we had lived in Northern Ireland.
Little did I know that those words, spoken over a hot fire, were in fact little sparks themselves. Little Sparks, which would lead us over to a new Life in Switzerland just four months later, and over time would eventually grow into a fire whose heat I would struggle to handle.
That heat will be explained in the following parts of ‘Unboxing the ID in I Do’.
Eleven years after we moved to Switzerland, its the other way around.
The majority of my day to day life now involves only Swiss German and very little English.
My Family Life at Home, my work life, and life in general all takes place in Swiss German.
Though I speak to my children in English and they speak to me in English. Everyone else they know speaks to them in Swiss German.
Swiss German is their mother tongue and also their stronger language and so because of this, they prefer to express themselves through it and rightfully so.
They speak to eachother and Ursula in Swiss German and vice versa and therefore the main language at the dinner table is also Swiss German.
Though I understand the language, I must admit that for a long time I struggled with this Home/Dinner Table reality and sometimes still do, especially now as the youngest children seem to speak a lot of Swiss German and very little English.
That said however, it is what it is, and must be worked around using the right strategy.
A strategy like my own Nobox approach where through vulnerable situations, opportunities can be found and developed in a way where I can be strengthened and brought through to the other side.
Though it is a challenge, it is a challenge that I have very much grown accustomed to over the years.
To make up for lost English communication, I very much had to think outside the box.
Most of the English contacts I have these days is through my phone and online activity, however from time to time I also meet up with one or two English speaking contacts who I am very thankful for, not just because of the english, but more importantly because of the Friendship.
As for all the rest of my Family, Friends, Co Workers etc, they think they fully know me as we communicate in their language, mentality, culture etc, and oh how I must laugh and cry simultaneously.
They know me to an extent, but I can sense that which they dont know, that there is so much more to me here in Switzerland in the same way as there was so much more to Ursula in Northern Ireland.
I came here to get to know Ursula better, and I have done and continue to do so. However, in coming here to her country, and language etc etc, I ended up getting to know myself much more than I could have ever imagined.
Life is funny, Life is Ironic and Life is Fast.
I used to like Fast. Now I just wish Life would slow down and have, well…a little more English.
Communication and Language was just one of many themes that began to challenge me upon arriving in Switzerland.
Because I was not a tourist, but instead an immigrant through marriage, I soon realised that I had to put alot more of myself on hold in order to find my way into a new culture so as to be able to properly integrate and live there.
My whole character and personality had been shaped by my upbringing, my travels, my work and life experiences etc.
As I mentioned in the last chapter, my character and personality were best expressed through the English language and yet this was the first area that needed to be pushed more and more to the side.
All that I had become Familiar with in my Life seemed to become more and more irrelevant.
My background, culture, mentality, work experiences, life experiences, humour, ways of socialising and so on, was what made me… ME. It was all part of me and mattered to me, but for most people in my new location, it didn’t matter at all.
All of the factors mentioned in the paragraph above, simply became useful reference points in conversations and only that.
All that I had known until that time, was now in the past.
It seemed to be the case that everybody else was living in a Life they were largely Familiar with, whilst I on the other hand had left mine, to instead be confronted by unfamiliarity on a grand scale.
I had felt strong in my own Familiarity but when it was confronted directly by all that, which was unfamiliar to me, my own personal weaknesses and insecurities began to rise to the surface.
In times past, I could always cover or avoid many of my own weaknesses and insecurites through English, Humour and everything else I was familiar with.
This option was no longer there for me and my weaknesses and insecurities not only rose to the surface, but they also became visible. Visible to me and visible to others just like the tip of an iceberg.
Because they became visible to me, I then became confronted with my own self to the point of being unsettled at a time when I should have instead been settling in.
I soon found myself learning German and communicating through it in Family, Social and Work Life, at the same level as that of a young child.
It was also difficult for many of the people with whom I was communicating with.
This was especially true in my rough and ready, high pressured work environment that was and is quite often limited by both time and weather.
For a long time (many years) I felt very much misunderstood, unexpressed and not taken seriously.
I often felt like a bystander in many of those moments and because of this I experienced a deep sense of loneliness and isolation on so many occassions to the point that it began to affect my emotional and mental health.
It was an Isolation that mostly occurred in the presence of Family, Friends, Work colleagues and Church rather than when I was physically on my own.
On one hand I knew this was a necessary part of integrating. On the other hand I knew that this integration process was a necessary part of getting to know my Wife Ursula for who she really is. I just didn’t expect to lose myself so much in the process.
The more that I immersed myself into all of that which was unfamiliar to me, the more I felt forsaken and the more my mental health and Marriage suffered as a result.
Do you ever have moments in Life when it feels like all your hard work has been for nothing? Most Probably. I have had many moments like that myself.
One of those moments happened when I began to search for a job, upon arriving in Switzerland in 2009.
At that time, I was a complete beginner to both the German and Swiss German language and because of this, I became fully dependant on Ursula for everything that involved communication.
She would write up all of my paper work in German, as well as sending emails and making phone calls.
We visited a wide variety of recruitment companies to discuss possible options, and each time, the conversation would be between Ursula and the Recruitment specialist. Needless to say, but I often felt like a child at a parent teachers meeting.
On paper, I described all the different jobs and roles that I had previously worked in, most of which were Marketing, Sales or Customer Service oriented roles, and all of which had involved a lot of communication.
I also described my general Life experience, including my travels and all that they had entailed but despite all of this, one thing would always be lacking, and that was a Professional Qualification.
On this note, I should quickly highlight the fact, that ´Transferrable skills` are not so often considered to be as important within Switzerland’s work culture.
If a person decides to move to a different job in a different field of work, he/she usually has to start all over again in getting qualified for that new field, and to do so, one normally has to have already achieved a professional qualification, regardless of which area it is in.
Although I had attended and completed both Primary and Secondary School education, I was never really that interested in it, and I seen it as something that simply needed to be done.
It was to some degree, an immature and ignorant approach but so too a very real struggle to fully grasp and understand both the relevance and importance off that particular time in Life.
I also struggled to find my place in school and I never really felt talented in any particular subject that would make me want to invest my time into learning it.
I guess you could say that School for me felt like a pointless effort.
Since leaving school at 16, I have tried many different educational courses which at times have helped me in particular jobs, however due to my own different ways of learning, I have for the most part kept my main focus on the world of work rather than the road of study.
I have come to accept the fact that I am not academically gifted, but instead gifted in other ways. Nobody Nobox itself is an expression of some of these giftings.
The more we searched for a job, the more I was told that without the language and a qualification to back up my work experience, they could not help me.
I was told countless times that it would be very difficult for me to get anything, as I had no qualification or training to offer.
Eventually I found work as a labourer for a small roofing company owned by two brothers, one of which knew my Father in Law.
Over the last 11 years, I have been working on the roofs for different companies, and through this, I have learned not only the language, but also a lot about the Roofing/Building Trade, and so much more.
For a long time in work situations or social situations etc, when people would want to know what I was qualified in, I would say that I had a lot of experience but no specific qualification.
This is ok I guess, if its only said once or twice, but when it has been said many times over a long period of time, it becomes very easy to fall into the trap of feeling and thinking like a nobody, with nothing to offer, and going nowhere.
It is a trap that I fell into and one which very much contributed to my Depression. It took me a long time to get out of it, especially in a country where many place their identity in what they do for a living whilst running the Rat Race.
Getting caught in this trap, left me feeling very unqualified, forsaken and insecure.
I came to believe that my only hope in this situation would be a qualification that would bring about some respect and opportunity to move forwards in Life.
It was a false belief that I fell for, one that led me to a Roofing school and in turn, back to my learning difficulties. This eventually led me into burnout itself.
I have come across enough people over the years who have, and still do try unsuccessfully to use this lack of qualification against me for the purpose of empowering themselves.
Some people treat me with less respect and take me less serious compared to how they do with others, but that says more about them than it does about me.
They make the foolish mistake of thinking that Identity lies in a job or a position or anything else for that matter.
Just like a Roof, a Persons Identity lies in his/her maker and its a winning formula all by itself. Who needs a gold medal? Not me.
In my recovery, Nobody Nobox became my own way of Fighting back against this socially accepted form of foolishness and utter stupidity.
It is my way of overcoming Evil with Good, Winning through Weakness, with Victory through Vulnerability and to help others do the same.
Be Encouraged. I labour on… and learn, one day at a time, one box at a time.
In presenting part seven, let me start of by saying that the very theme of presentation itself has played a big part in my life over the years. (Please feel free to have a laugh at the pictures I have included, at my expense of course).
In some ways you could say that both family and social culture played a part in the importance I gave to presentation.
My Father wore a tidy, crisp and crease free uniform throughout all of his working life, and my Mother took a considerable amount of time and care to ensure a spick and span household.
This was all evident in how my clothes would have been washed, dried and ironed. Just one example out of many.
Education also played a big part as my schooling included a uniform policy as shown below.
Switzerland’s education system on the other hand takes a non-uniform approach as you can see with my own children in the following photo.
As with many people, clothes, fashion and all round presentation were also an important part of both my social life and work life.
As I mentioned in Part six, most of my work before I came to Switzerland was in the areas of Marketing, Sales and Customer service
Because of this, presentation was also a very important theme, not just concerning what I wore or how I physically appeared, but also with how I spoke, listened, empathised and served etc.
Then I came to Switzerland, and reality hit me smack bang in the middle. Empathise with me here…please 🙂
Trying to present myself in a culture that works very differently to that of where I grew up, was like fighting a losing battle, and one that left me feeling more and more like a hollow shell.
I began to work in the construction trade as a labourer doing scaffolding and roofing etc, and getting dirty was part of the job.
For the first 5 years in Switzerland we had no car as we lived very close to the train stations in each area where we had lived.
For those of you that know, Swiss transport facilities and connections work very well and are normally very punctual.
I must be honest though, as someone who has prioritised presentation over a long period of time, getting on packed trains in dusty dirty clothes was certainly a challenge for me.
I would often find myself amongst people who were dressed for work in the same presentable ways that I used to be dressed when going to work.
This transport did not only help transport me to work and back but it so too helped transport me into the bigger picture of Life.
It challenged some parts of who I thought I was, and of what I considered to be highly important to the point where I was forced to reassess my priorities.
Over time the situation began to win over me in more than enough ways.
Family and Work responsibilities and the quickening pace of Life that came with them, slowly helped to eat away at my focus on presentation, and of course my very kind and considerate Wife used her camera focus to zoom in on that.
As well as Ursula using the camera, God used Ursula and her Farmyard upbringing to plant my feet a little more into the ground and still continues to do so.
As for the theme of presentation however, well… even the kids are highlighting it these days, or the lack of it 🙂
The older I get and the more I learn, the more I realise how little I really know.
Let me start with a small confession. I struggled for a long time with my Wife’s farmyard upbringing and in some ways I still do.
I was brought up on the outskirts of Belfast City, not too far away from the countryside itself and so rural settings were nothing new to me.
I also spent some time on a Kibbutz up in the north of Israel that earned a good percentage of their income from farming and agriculture. I was able to help out from time to time by picking fruit in the Orchards along the Lebanon border.
After marrying my wife, and later moving to where she grew up, ´Rural` took on a whole new meaning.
As much as I have lived both in or close to rural communities, I have never really had to integrate into them. In Belfast, most of my Life was city orientated, and on the Kibbutz in Israel, most of my life involved living, working and at times travelling with people from all over the world
Being a city person and having no real interest in or genuine connection too rural life, I didn’t see the point in pushing myself to learn more about it. I guess this was a mixture of both ignorance and insecurity.
My wife on the other hand grew up in a farming family. As a child, almost all of her school holidays were spent at home helping out on the farm. At one point, her Family were more or less self sustaining,
They grew most of their own food. They used their own well system to provide water to the house. With it being very clear and fresh water, it was drinkable as was both the apple and pear juice that came direct from their small orchard.
Like many other Farming families here, they used the wood from their own wooded areas of land to heat their home. They also had their own cows slaughtered for meat, and made the most of every part, including the cow tongues. Nothing was wasted.
As you can imagine, I felt like a seed being planted in new soil. In many ways I was amazed at Nature and their connection to it and yet for me personally, it felt very unnatural. I couldn’t connect to many aspects of their life, and I also struggled to connect to them on a personal level, and vice versa.
In some ways this was due to language difficulties in the beginning, but it was also because I was very much out of my comfort zone and they weren’t and being out of my comfort zone, I often tended to react to the situation rather than respond to it. because of all of this, there has been alot of misunderstanding between us all over the years.
We are also very different from one another in so many ways including communication and humour etc.
Most times it feels like we don’t really share anything in common other than the fact that My Wife is their daughter, and My Children are their Grandchildren etc.
Like everything in Life however, it is a situation that God uses to show me the true state of my Character, and hopefully it´s the same for them. Maybe I should ask them sometime what he has shown them 🙂 then again, maybe not.
You see I have learned a lot both from and through Ursula and continue to do so. She is everything I’m not, and everything I need in a person.
I have also learned a lot from and through my In-Laws and I’m very thankful for them. There are times where our relationship with one another is really good and much easier and times when it seems difficult or complicated, but isn’t that the same for all of us in one way or another.
The Challenges are there to grow us, change us and develop us and interestingly, what I have discovered in my own life is that sometimes difficult relationships often tend to be more real and when approached in the right way, both parties can truly find a middle ground, if not a higher one.
This is especially true when both parties want to, and most of the time, that’s the case 🙂 Lets just say its a work in progress, and as it continues so too does Life for all of us up here on the middle of this hill. Thats a middle ground in and off itself I guess 🙂
For the last five years I have also been working for a roofing company in the local area and many of my work colleagues, though not all, either grew up on a farm, work on a farm, or are farmers themselves.
So many of my breaks and lunches have been filled with conversations involving tractors, hay balls and machines etc (zzzzzz) and oh how I look forwards to the end of the day to just get home where the tractors and hay balls are 🙂
I still have a lot more to learn in the time ahead. That much is clear. Iron sharpens Iron after all.
What is also clear to me is that I do have much more respect now for Nature and for the effort involved in both Farming and Agriculture.
With My own kids growing up in this environment, I´m learning more than ever. God is good.
I miss a lot about the City life, and yet at the same time I´m thankful for the Country Life.
At the end of the day, just like Ursula and myself, both depend on each other and both can learn more from each other much more than each one thinks.
Enjoy the Pictures and see you next time for Part 9
Like everything in Life, there comes a time where some things just have to be accepted in order to move forwards.
A small example of this is when I first met Ursula. I went the extra mile in everything I did but over time, like many of us, I eventually got real. The more accepting that I became of my own limitations, the more I simply settled for doing what I could.
Another one of those times came about in recent years.
Since moving to Switzerland I always made a point of putting myself to the side in so many ways in order to both help and quicken my process of learning, adapting and integrating into each aspect of the Swiss culture. After all, I was the foreigner.
More than that, I wanted to make as good an effort as possible to understand, connect to and get to know my In-Laws for it is they themselves who played a very big part in making Ursula the woman that she is today.
In putting myself to the side, I learned a hard but very valuable lesson. Other people (some family members, work colleagues, People in general) didn’t acknowledge my effort or care about it. Instead it made me more vulnerable.
In trying to be nice, kind and friendly with them, I soon realised that my kindness was misunderstood for a weakness which instead, many people used to take advantage of me. I persevered over and over again and learned even more hard lessons along the way.
In the back of my mind I was always aware of the fact that there was still so much more about the people, culture, job etc that I hadn’t yet come to know and so I would continually bite my tongue and struggle on.
As with a new pair of shoes that still needed to be broken into properly, I continued to do my best to ´fit in` despite the discomfort, for the greater good of long term integration.
Just like the shoes, I became worn and torn through the integration process and needless to say, I didn’t always get it right. Most times I remained quiet and let things pass.
Some times however, I blew up there and then after letting things pass for way too long. I ended up going over the top in my thoughts, words and actions on a number of occasions. Lets just say that finding the middle ground has never been easy,
I got great insight in to this when I took part in a music therapy program just after my burnout. Each person had to pick an instrument to play around with from what was a very wide variety of instruments.
I picked the Drums. Soon after, the therapist had us sitting in a circle and instructed one person to start playing, with the person to the left beginning with their instrument soon after and so on.
Soon, the whole group were playing, but if I’m to be honest, I found it hard to know when to come in with the loud drums.
Once this particular exercise came to an end, the therapist in question spoke with each person in front of the group, where he would not only ask questions to each person concerning their own role, but he would also invite the group to share their thoughts on each persons role as well.
A long story cut short, after a lot of conversation and feedback regarding my role with the drums, it transpired that I seemed to be too concerned about making too much noise, and uncertain about which exact moments were right to go ahead and play exactly that which I had myself decided to play.
In a strange kind of way, this experience was music to my ears. It was a very deep revelation into my inner workings, and certainly touched me emotionally because I knew that a few different issues in my life were connected to it. It was also however, a wake up call concerning what I needed to work on and change.
Since then, I have been moving forwards in this area. Although I still believe in being kind etc, I don’t feel the need to keep relating or integrating in ways that only serve to protect the illusion that people have of themselves from inside their comfort zone. Simply put, I’m getting on with it, and if someone has a problem with it, well…its their problem 🙂
I know more than anyone that I’m imperfect in so many ways, and I am forever in need of growing and changing and developing more.
It is just as necessary however to accept myself, be comfortable with my potential (as in the Drums example) and the noise that can be made from that potential and to simply play my part as best as I possibly can. That said, I have no doubt that many more hard lessons still lie ahead. I can`t wait 🙂
During the time when I first got to know Ursula, we were both involved in an art program.
Being a trained Potter, she used some clay and made a sculpture of a woman worshipping God which she then went on to present at the final exhibition in Tel Aviv.
After we got engaged to one another and visited each others Family in both Northern Ireland and Switzerland, Ursula returned to Israel as she had previously arranged to volunteer and help a well known Israel based Canadian Sculptor by the name of Rick Wienecke.
For two or three months she was based in the City of Arad which is situated between the Negev and Judean deserts and just west of the Dead Sea.
Whilst there, she contributed greatly to different projects, including commissioned pieces and needless to say, she also learned many new techniques along the way.
If you are interested to know more about the potter who Ursula worked for during her time in Israel and his most famous work to date, check out the following link: Fountain of Tears by Rick Wienecke. Its quite touching.
When we eventually moved to Switzerland almost two years later, Ursula went back to working as a Potter. Below are pictures from of one of her work exhibitions in 2010, for which Ursula and her fellow Potters formed all of the Ceramic products on display.
Sometimes when the finished form goes into the oven, the clay can crack under the heat, and so quite a number of those high quality ceramics that Ursula’s previous employer couldn’t sell due to the smallest of cracks have ended up with us at home, which of course is a great thing 🙂
These days Ursula works with her friend one day a week doing pottery, but more as a simple hobby in between managing the kids and quite literally everything else. That said, they get enough requests from family and friends as shown below.
Recently both Ursula and her friend tried out a different way of baking the clay and of course involved the children
They even have a group booked in for a pottery class and so as you can imagine their hands are full of Kids and Clay.
As for me, well, lets just say I’m currently a lump of clay that is being formed on the wheel of Life, and yet at the same time cracking in the oven, but just like all the cracked Ceramics from Ursula’s old Pottery job, Ursula took me home and for that I’m thankful.
That said, just like a sacrifice crawling off the alter, I wouldn’t mind getting of the wheel at times and instead getting behind it but then again… I’m no Potter.
See you in Part 11.
At the end of Chapter 10, I mentioned how I wouldn’t mind getting off the wheel of life at times and to instead get behind the wheel and have it pretty much my way, and only my way.
I know, how selfish, right?
Truth be told, Like many of you, I have tried to carve out my own path throughout my life:
Along that path I have tried many different things in an attempt to develop, improve, and well… pretty much find myself.
Almost all of the things that I have tried in Life, I eventually gave up. This was of course a good thing, at least when it came to such things like smoking, getting drunk or experimenting with drugs etc.
However, concerning the many positive and constructive attempts that I had made in order to move forwards in Life, only to then give up on soon after, it has for the most part, been unhealthy and detrimental to my growth.
I’m not going to go into every one of those previous areas where I failed to follow through on the initial commitments made, simply because there are far too many.
Instead, I’m going to very quickly highlight the areas that I haven’t given up on. They are my Faith, Marriage, Fatherhood and my original Nobody Nobox Vision.
I fall short, and sometimes very short in all four of these areas, but despite that, and the lack of strength that exists at times to cover them all, the commitment still continues, but maybe that’s just me deceiving myself, and Reuben.
Rather than me being the one who is not giving up on those things, its’s more than likely the case that it is God himself, who is not giving up on me.
After all, my Faith, Wife and Kids are all Blessings and Gifts from Above.
As for me, I’m gonna give up on Chapter 11 now 😆. Sorry that its short lived, but you never know, I may just try again in chapter 12… if I have the strength to do so😉