Monday, 1 September 2014

Life is a half finished blog post

I have spent an hour or so casting my eye over my posts from the past two or so years from both this, and my other blog .  There's sure been a pile of highs and lows in there! Things I wrote and then came weirdly true with in a few weeks - and things I wrote about that I never in a million years thought would happen to me (but did), or thought would happen (and haven't).

There's quite a list of half finished posts - usually abandoned because a more interesting pastime came up than sitting in front of the computer navel gazing - or because circumstances had led me to take a bit of a detour (or maybe a short left hand turn) on that particular days meanderings.

And my goodness there's been some detours lately.  Some days I feel like I'm still standing on the side of the road wondering what the heck happened to the traffic!

And as well as working through my own ''stuff'' (reluctant to say road crashes...) I have spent a truckload of time in the past few days supporting FOUR different people who are going through heartbreak  - all of different kinds, but still all heartbreak relating to their adult relationships.  Life is not fair. No it's not. I have got a hard time for saying that - but stuff it. It's just not.  And when I look at all of these four, regardless of the parts they may, or may not, have played in this heartbreak it's still not bloody fair! Especially when the heartbreak-ER'S, without exception, are trucking on through life, happy as Larry and his wife. And don't be giving me this ''it will all work out for the best'' stuff (because, reader I bet that's what you're thinking....), because you well know, that when you're standing in a pile of broken glass the last thing on your mind is how marvellous the world is going to look through a new windscreen.

One day I will finish some of those posts. Maybe update them. Maybe publish them as is, as a snapshot of a moment in time.  But not today.  Today I will just sit.  Cry with, and for, my friends.  Sympathise that life is not fair. And hope that much like a half finished post, these stories too might need updating with happy endings in a year or two.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Choosing love

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook today.  It's got me thinking. A lot.

I  agree with it.  I think it really is a choice to love someone.  Whether that's a SO or a friend or whomever, it's a choice.  I don't think it starts as a that in order to continue to choose love I think you have to have had it in the first place - it has to have a kick start, as it were.  Ergo, there will be people that you will cross paths with and not love.

But there will be a few, a very few, that you will love.  Maybe fall in love with, that's semantics...but love. Truly love.  And I think once you are at that starting point, love is a changeable, thing.  I believe Love is steadfast (as it is described in the Bible).  That doesn't mean love doesn't change, it doesn't mean that it will always feel the same (in fact probably you won't feel it at all sometimes...), it just means that it's there, standing steady, because of the commitment of the person/people to hold it in place.  REAL Love doesn't happen of it's own accord in my view.  It IS deliberate.  A choice every day to love someone even if you don't like them very much that day. Or those pressures like those listed above seem to be far more real feelings  than the ones of  love. Or the impulse to jump ship is more overwhelming (and God knows we've all felt that...).

I've had a tough couple of weeks. Actually, a tough couple of months.  There's been a few times when I didn't feel love, like the movies might like us to think we should.  I chose to love anyway, steadfastly and deliberately.  Unfortunately for me, it didn't work out.  And I have, I must confess, in the past few days shown glimpses my own filthy side as I struggle to come to terms with it. I have not been very deliberate in my attempts to to be consistently patient and kind. (although God knows I've tried, I really have). I've certainly let my own ego get in the way. (Then again, who wouldn't?...) To learn than for some, feelings win over form is a painful discovery.  I have had every emotion - sadness, shock,disbelief, amazement, grief, insight, disappointment, anger, self righteous fury , worry, shame, self doubt, humiliation. And for better or worse, I still haven't yet been able to ''choose'' to turn OFF love (can you even do that?).

My trust in what love is, and should be, and could be, has been seriously rocked.  Not for the first time in my life I find myself wondering if this ''love'' thing really is just a bunch of emotions that not only cant be trusted, but are somehow both ephemeral and finite. Maybe the sages are wrong, and in fact love is NOT a choice. Maybe it isn't solid. Maybe it isn't something that lasts at all. Maybe it really is just about feelings and all this ''love is patient/love is a choice type thinking is just a way of getting us to live on logic not feelings.  Many is the day I have challenged my own feelings of love toward another.  In 25 years of adult relationships I think it would be impossible not to!

So...Maybe it's something you just get carried away on a wave of - and as so, can just as easily be washed into a new wave?  Even if you've been bobbing around in it for a while, with a life jacket on,  it would seem there's no guarantee that you're going to stay afloat. That's a scary thought for me - how can I trust that love really can be steadfast if that is the truth?

I can question all I like.  But I don't believe a word of it.  I think love... IS a choice. It has to be. Or the whole world would be rushing around from ''love'' to ''love''.  Sure, to love every day can require pain.  Commitment.  Sacrifice.  Letting go of ego. But it's also full of the potential for true joy, security and safety in being able to be 'us'. And I know this because we all do it - we do it with our children, friends, family.  We choose to love these people.

It seems that the only time we forget this is when it comes to 'romantic' love.  Why is that different? I welcome your thoughts.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

body image and the 40 something

It's kind of ironic that even though I am probably the fittest I've ever been, I wear my clothes better than I ever have, and I spend more time and energy (and money...) on my appearance than I ever have before, that I feel....Old.  Yep, that horrible word. The one that makes me cringe, and want to run to the mirror and check for wrinkles.

It's not that I look that old - I reckon I look my age but no more.  And probably not less.  I put a lot of effort into my hair and makeup and clothes.  I certainly don't feel old either - and I know I've got twice the energy of many people half my age, able to ''stay up late'' and indulge in a heap of physical activity but not tire out. So why do I feel old?  Because I look at myself with a critical eye, when the light is extra bright, or I'm hanging over a mirror (don't do it!!!!!) and can see the lines, the slow loss of skin tone, the grey bits in my hair, the general ''oldness'' that comes with advancing in age.  I might only be 46 but there are days - many days - when I yearn to be ten years younger, if only to get back the skin and vibrancy of better days.

Why is that feeling old and feeling ugly are so entwined...and so pivotal when it comes to our self esteem? It's not just because of our appearance-obsessed society surely?  Because people have been agonising over this for hundreds of years, not just since the Internet got invented.  I think it's because the two concepts are not agreeable - no one wants to be old, and sure no one wants to be ugly (and for ugly feel free to substitute fat/skinny/unfit/grey/pudgy/stooped or whatever your fear is)

Probably, it wouldn't matter so much, if I had someone telling me I was beautiful. My father tells my mother every day, even after 35 years of marriage.  She laughs and says she isn't, but to him she is, 72 year old body and all.  I have never believed I was beautiful.  A  good heart, sure.  Well put together, usually.  Smart and stylish, sometimes. But not beautiful.  That's not looking for sympathy either by the way, it's just stating a fact as I see it, born and endorsed through my painful teen years of red hair, glasses and a ''bit of a weight problem''.

I'd love to be one of those women who proclaim to the world that they are proud of their bodies. Those ones that wear their stretchmarks like tiger claw scars. That are happy to wear a strapless top even when they really shouldn't - or a bikini when they REALLY shouldn't.  But I'm not, I'm just a regular person, normal weight and height, with a regular body and the usual insecurities one might expect from a 46 year old mother of two.

Do I have poor body image? No I don't think so. I have had minor struggles with an eating disorder in the past, but that had absolutely nothing to do with my weight or shape, and all to do with a feeling of control.  Do I like how I look? For the most part. Sure there's things I'd nip tuck and transfer. I'd really like less wrinkles and I'm not adverse to cosmetic enhancement - botox, teeth whitening, large pots of wax, all seem like fine ideas to me.

Do I think I'm enslaved to society's version of eternal youth? No not at all, but I do want to look and feel good  - and not be judged for doing so. Appearances might not be everything, but clothes maketh the man!

So body image for me, might be more than skin deep - for sure there are people that I find absolutely gorgeous who are no oil painting at all - but the reality is that when I wake and look in the mirror, I am reminded that age is not my friend.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Karmas a bitch

As a result of the goings on amongst a number of couple friends of mine this month, the expression ''karma's a bitch'' has been bandied around quite a bit.

I'm pretty sure that it is used these days as a bit of a throwaway line - an easy way in fact, of getting out of having to take a stand on an issue - much easier to say ''karma's a bitch'' than it is to actually have an opinion about someones behaviour, not least because I think by taking the perceived moral high ground we each run the risk of having our own shortcomings and misdeeds thrown under the spotlight. No one wants to be the one to be the confronter. To have to make a stand.  To possibly tell someone that they behaviour is NOT OK. We're afraid of it.

I'll admit it - I've been guilty of saying it too over the years - for much the same reasons.  By starting with ''I think...I can't believe...I don't agree..''.and moving through to ''but each to their own....they have to find that out for's not what I would do'' I can salve my own conscience of inaction by adding oh well karma's a bitch to my statements, as if in some way that absolves me of action.

Today I made a difficult decision to confront someone I have found out is involved with a married woman.  It grieves me terribly. It's someone I really like and care about and have known a long time.   And it would be easy to throw the karma line out there and carry on as if it didn't really matter.  But I just can't.

Whether you want to call this karma, the butterfly effect, cause and effect, or consequence - at the end of the day it is true that (cliche alert) we all reap what we sow.  There's absolutely a ripple effect for every action. often more far reaching that we could ever have imagined with one decision - whether that decision was right or wrong, well thought out or impulsive, selfish or done with selflessness.  I also think that almost ALWAYS, we don't think through consequence at all before acting, especially in matters of the heart.

Relationships are complex times difficult to navigate, often fraught with challenges, ups and downs - and I defy anyone who says that the ''right relationship'' will be easy.  That's absolute bullshit in my view. And I am the very last person to deny that my own actions have had their own set of consequences, that seem to go on. And on :).

But when I see someone I know well, doing something that will, regardless of how pure their intentions (it's borne of real love I am sure), create the havoc that I am confident this situation will, I'm afraid I can't just sit back and say nothing.

Sure, karma's a bitch, and there's a VERY good chance she's gonna come and bite both of these two of the butt pretty soon, but I will not use that as an excuse for inaction.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

the horrifying magnification provided by a second pair of eyes and how it can spur action

After 6 years of sole parenting, I'd like to think I've got it sussed.  And I do. Mostly. Some of the time. Occasionally.

The same things grind me down each day (no doubt the same things that grind down every parent, sole or not actually but that's beside the point).  Bath times. Bedtimes. Getting up times. Homework times. Meal times. Chore times.

I find myself, MOST times, ''getting through''.  Usually with too much cajoling, often too much whining (theirs) and grizzling (mine) and, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit, too often with rather more temper testing than I would prefer.

But get through we do.  The children leave the house fed and dressed, with homework done.   Their rooms are clean and tidy.  Bedtimes...well that's another story for another day...but mainly they are in bed before I am.    Yet still...I yearn for calmer routine. Less of me growling, less of them resisting my requests.

I get through, and put up with more than I probably should, mainly because I'm the only adult in the house. Most of the time, there's no one here to a/ back me up, b/ take over or c/ tell me off give me better ideas, for how I'm directing the traffic.  It's only when there IS another adult nearby that my shortcomings as the grownup in the house get thrown into sharp relief and I face the gruesome reality of how stressed I can become at those crucial mealtime/bedtime/cleaning time-poor moments.

I've put a few things in place as a result of some previous highlighted moments...and I'll admit its a continual learning curve.  FDH used to (actually no, not used to, STILL DOES) tell me that the reason there is stress in my house is because I am as bad as the kids: I answer back, raise my voice, get grumpy and generally can be disagreeable when things aren't going they way I want them to.  Well, yes, that's probably true actually - but heck, I'm the grown up here - sure I shouldn't have to do all those things in the first place (yeah yeah I GET that) but I reckon if anyone should be allowed to get iffy, it should be me.

So what to do?  This morning it happened again.  Son was being particularly uncooperative. Daughter was compliant enough but grimly enjoying co-parenting son with me (by way of echoing barked instructions and being generally bossy).  Which results in squabbling. Which results in me grizzling some more. and so on. And so on.  You get the picture.

Ordinarily I'd GET THROUGH but today, I had my young man here (a rare occurrence mid week) , and with a second pair of eyes on the scene I realised just how inadequate my morning routine was, (I really didn't think it was until now...), and how ineffective my parenting style could be. Am I being hard on myself? Yes, probably. But when I found myself mid-rant, and wishing I could wind the clock back and hour to start the day again, I knew something was gonna give.  

It's a bit shaming.  Embarrassing.  AWKWARD!!!! But I happen to quite like having that other set of eyes around the some more things are going to have to change.  And it's probably going to be easier to change my own actions and attitudes than than change my kids.

So, because I believe that writing things down makes them more likely to happen - and because I'm going to be printing the list out and putting it on the fridge, our new morning rules include:

- The TV does not, under any circumstances, get turned on before school
- Children are to be fully dressed before coming out of their bedroom
- Breakfast is compulsory if you are a minor and must be eaten at the table
- Tooth brushing is also compulsory before leaving the house

I'm hopeful that these four simple rules might make for a calmer weekday morning.  They have all been in place before but somehow get muddied...or something...and the end result is me nagging repeatedly - and it must be said, ineffectively, for action.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The houseworks never done

I was a bit surprised to see that it's been a whole three months and not a single word from me on this blog.  A few offerings on the other one to be sure - but clearly my life has been less single minded of late!

Not to say that it has been any the less exciting for that.  My young man and I have had a remarkable summer of experiences and are now planning a few more for the winter.

A recent catch up with a newly coupled friend (and his partner) went like this:

Come and sit in the garden - it's a bit overgrown but it's lovely this time of year (us)
Goodness so it is - but a few hours would sort it out (them)
Yeah but when do you/we ever have the time for that? (us)
That's what weekends are for! I got stuck into his garden last week actually (the friends new her)
No way, rather pay someone and go for a motorbike ride (my him)
Uncomfortable silence.

Yes it's true, the garden is overgrown.  It probably could do with a few hours love. But right now, this month, at this stage in life, I'm not that excited about gardening - well not enough to want to give up a whole weekend to it.  And for me it is ''giving it up''. I (nor my young man) love gardening enough to see it as a terrific way to spend a weekend.

In fact, when conversation turned today (between us) to the challenges of being the only adult in a house - for me it's been almost 6 years, for him more than two - we agreed that the ongoing, and  inherent challenge is that there's never being quite enough time to do all the 'boring' things that need doing which adds an extra layer of stress to already busy lives, and  - and as a result every spare and free minute becomes precious.  The downside is the slight shadow of the need to fill each moment meaningfully (that comes with it's own pressure) but the huge upside is that we plan and dream and DO so many amazing things, OFTEN.

Hence, gardening, blogging and other leisurely pursuits are put aside in favour of real time, real life experiences. Not a bad thing in my view.

The day will come I am sure, as it has before, when I will be content with a weekend in the garden.  It may be sooner it may be later.  But right now, while the sun is shining, and there's some dollars in the bank (to pay the gardener), the weekends are about having an (almost) single minded focus on having fun, and enjoying exciting, shared adventures.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Feliz Navidad

I am the product of a blended family.  My parents both remarried when I was quite young and Dad went on to have more children.  The relationship between my birth parents is....strained.  My brother is married and his wife's parents are also divorced.
I separated from my children's father more than 5 years ago and enjoy a fairly good friendship with him, which is mainly for the benefit of the children who are still young.
I re partnered about 18 months ago and he too has children from his marriage although they are almost adults now.

For most of the year, none of this really matters - we all get on with daily lives and cross paths on a normal basis.  Birthdays and other occasions are relatively easy to negotiate without acrimony.

But Christmas. Ah Christmas how you torture us with your call to goodwill and unity!

Every year seems to become more difficult - and with extra partners, children, long standing 'issues'', geographical differences, ageing parents with declining health...good grief...this is not the season to be jolly no matter how much I might want it.  I find myself caught in the middle, the pacifier and yet somehow also the one who is missing out all round.  Of course I want to spend quality time with my family at Christmas time - just as I do at any other time of the year.  but Christmas takes on this extra dimension of pressure, not helped by time constraints, budget challenges, traffic problems and personality clashes.

I know I'm not unique in this.  In fact, when I talk to others, it would seem that the happy-family-who-play-together idea is actually the exception not the rule.  Almost everyone I know is in this same position, of feeling the need to race around on what ought to be the laziest day of the year.  There's an overwhelming sense of duty and pressure that, in ordinary circumstances, we wouldn't dream of putting on each other.

So this year it is different.  I'm staying home for Christmas.  and its going to be the simplest one ever. I hope that my nearest and dearest will all see me and the children, and me, them and theirs.  But it might not actually be on Christmas Day.  And whilst I know for some that is the important bit, for me it isn't - and frankly the thought of packing up the car in the heat (or the rain as is expected) and spending 3 hours of Christmas day driving does nothing for me no matter how much I want to see my family.  For me, it's a season, not a set number of hours.  This year, for the first time ( I think ever) I am spending the whole of Christmas Day at my own house.  I took the kids to church yesterday (where they both starred in the nativity play) so we won't even be racing off to that between breakfast and lunch. I'm yet to decide the menu for the day, but I'm thinking it's going to be pretty simple. There's a minimal number of presents under the tree.  Some, but not all of the decorations strung about the place.

And on Boxing Day my children are going on holiday with their father. Everyone else close to me will be away so it will be just me.  Also for the first time ever.

And so, I too am having a holiday. Possibility away from home. No duties to perform. No responsibilities. Only 5 days, but this is the first break like this I have had for 11 years. And I can't wait.

Happy Christmas.