Life is not a straight line. It's a downpour of gifts, please – hold out your hand

Thank you for being here. I'm so glad you're here.

Friday, December 24, 2010

fearLESS Friday with Nigel Atkinson

This Christmas Eve morning I feel very lucky to be the one who gets to introduce you to Nige.  I "met" Nige via blog land and immediately knew that I had connected with a very special person.  Those of you who have the pleasure of already knowing Nige, know exactly what I mean.  

Through his spirited blog, "An Experiment in Conscious Dying," I have had the honor of glimpsing into the life and heart of an honest man; a man who is brave enough to share his deepest parts, to tell us when he cries, when things are hard and everything in between.  I usually walk away from his posts with lingering tears or giggles (in addition to his wisdom & depth, he's really quite hilarious). Nige's deep commitment to moving out of fear and into love is truly and inspiration to me.

Thank you so much for being here today, Nige.  

To all my beautiful readers, Happy Holidays!

In the following story the names of the characters have been changed..

by Nigel Atkinson

During a visit to my hometown in 1997, my partner Helen and I drove around some of my favourite childhood haunts. It was Boxing Day and the streets were empty. Suddenly, Helen asked me to stop the car and reminded me that we had just passed the old house on Kendal Avenue that I grown up in. I began to tremble with fear. How could I possibly go back to that place? However, with Helen’s support, I decided to turn the car round and drive back up the hill, in search of the old house with the yellow door. The idea of seeing Edna again terrified me, yet I knew in my hear that I had one last thing to complete.

We parked the car, and hand in hand, walked towards Edna’s door.

During the summer of 1977, Edna and Marty had become our new neighbours. At first the sheer size of Edna overwhelmed me - after all I was only seven years of age and not very big at that. Soon, the families became good friends and could often be found wandering into each other’s homes.

Dad became Edna’s favourite handyman and spent most of his spare time doing odd jobs around her house. Meanwhile, Mum would be out lending a hand with the shopping. During this time, I grew very fond of Edna, who had become almost a second Mother to me. She was always emotionally available - for hugs - and I spent many an evening sitting on her knee, painting and drawing. And on the nights that she looked after me she would read stories in her strong Austrian accent and make me laugh. And when bedtime came around, she would smother me with kisses and affection.

It was only many years later that I came to realise the sexual abuse I had suffered. The room in which I slept was not bigger than a shoebox and, during those nights when Edna would babysit, she would take advantage of me and suffocate me in an attempt to meet her own selfish needs.

One day, she removed her cardigan and revealed the lash marks on her back, supposedly the deeps scars of a woman imprisoned in Auschwitz concentration camp, who saw her son killed a the hands of a bloody German army. I remember trembling at the mere thought of having become a replacement for her dead son.

One evening I heard screaming and shouting from Edna’s house next door. I was terrified. Dad had been ill and unable to perform his usual odd jobs for her. After expressing her disgust, Edna turned into a monster. Moments later, my parents returned and warned me to stay aware from her. This confused me - Edna was my friend and now I was being told that I could not see or speak to her again. What started as a beautiful friendship had turned sour.

Edna had gone mad. Her constant banging and destructive behaviour frightened me. She would hammer on the walls in the dead of night and break glass in the gutters, in an attempt to damage Dad’s car. Cats would go missing in the neighbourhood. Children’s footballs were never returned and then, one night after a snowstorm, she accused me of throwing snowballs at her windows and threatened to break my neck! I began to fear for my safety, often hiding in my bedroom. Mum’s health began to deteriorate. She was on the verge of a breakdown. I blamed myself. Edna wanted to get to me and would do anything to achieve that, even if it meant hurting Mum.

In March 1978, I saw Edna’s face one last time, before leaving for Cedar Street, and the hope of a new beginning.

It was not until 1992, that I finally found the courage to share the physical, mental and emotional abuse I had suffered at the hands of Edna. Years of intensive therapy followed. Initially I became angry with all women and would attack and blame at every opportunity, always at the expense of my own happiness. Eventually, after years of anguish, I was left facing my own guilt and shame for believing that I couldn't protect mum, and I wept for that little boy who had had his childhood torn away from him at such an early age.

So there I was all those years later, standing at Edna’s front door. I took a deep breath, knocked loudly and waited for an answer. A lady appeared at the window peering through the curtains. It was Edna. Eventually, the door creaked open just enough to see part of her face. I could barely see her, but I could hear her voice, ranting and raving hysterically about ‘intruders’ from behind the door. The door slammed shut in my face and she called the police. I was about to walk away, yet I knew in my heart that I had to face her.

I turned around and knocked again. Once again, the door opened slightly. This time, I told her my name. A silence followed. From behind the door, she muttered about how difficult her life had been since my parents had taken me away and said that no one wanted to be her friend. I felt compassion for her in this moment, as I came to understand that her struggles were no different from my own.

I felt sad to see Edna this way and told her that I was willing to be her friend. I encouraged her to open the door, but she refused, ordered that I reveal my identity and then retreated inside. I fumbled around for an old bus pass with my name and photograph on it and moved over to the front window. Slowly, she moved back the lace curtain and finally, after 20 years of torment, we were both standing face to face, with only the glass separating us. Silently, we looked into each others eyes.

She was not really a monster after all, but a frightened little girl. She wept that day. We wept together. Everything that had ever been done was undone in a moment of forgiveness. Only the love remained.

I will always treasure the memory of that moment, and the expression of peace and relief on Edna’s face. Soon after the police arrived, demanding an explanation. I replied, ‘Just visiting an old friend, to wish her a merry Christmas.’

Later that day, I watched the snow falling, I smiled to myself. I could not have asked for a more beautiful gift.

So I ask you readers, is there anyone in your life you need to forgive this Christmastime?
You know who they are. Do it now. It may save your life.

For more life-saving techniques, follow me as I journey through An Experiment in Conscious Dying 

Nige is a spirited student/ teacher of A Course In Miracles who is committed to remembering truth about self and other. He lives in Sussex, England, near the big sea, rolling South Downs, and his beloved Elloa.


  1. Dear Nige,

    Thank you for having the courage to share your journey of forgiveness and being set free and setting another free, instead of creating more war, (which to many would be so justified in this case). You are truly inspiring, and your healing extends to all. Thank you. You are one of those beautiful surprises that I never saw coming!



  2. Hi Nige,
    I am amazed at your fearlessness. And then, of course, to find love on the other side. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is good to be reminded that that is what is here for us if we open to it - love.



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