Thursday, 24 December 2015

Discussions recently have, of course, focused on the nuttiness that seems to go hand in hand with Christmas when you're single/re partnered/post coupled.

For every story I hear, there's yet another stupid example of the frailty of humans and our (apparent) lack of ability to 'move on', 'get over it' and 'embrace the season of goodwill'.

It makes me very sad to hear of children who have to have a change over in well lit public places , or parents who split up the day with military operation to ensure everyone gets 'their share' of the Day.  Families who don't speak to each other grieve me even more - and that includes factions of my own.

I'm all for escaping if that's what you want to do. Christmas in a small nuclear family, or spent alone, if that's your choice - go for it, I say - but be honest about it.  Make it your choice. And don't be making everyone else feel bad because of it.

Frankly it makes me want to run away and avoid Christmas (or any other event that will require blended families to pretend to all like each other) altogether.  Except that in mine, other than for one or two people, it works fine.  Christmas morning is always spent at my house with my kids, and their Dad, who invariably ends up making breakfast in my kitchen.  Lunch with one part of the family, and dinner with another part, and usually involving at least three or four mutations of the blended family at each event.

Yes, it's possible.  It still absolutely sucks, because even after 40 years, there's still a small girl in me that would like to have Christmas with my actual Mum and Dad - and for my kids to have the same.  I'd be lying if I said I was completely fine with how life has turned out, but there's no point in dwelling, nor continuing to rehash a past that few can remember properly anyway -so it becomes a wee hurt that gets pulled out and inspected for a few days a month, and then put away with the thankfulness of spirit that allows me (and my kids) to move freely between parents, step parents, currents and exes, and everything in between.

On a slightly related note, 

Tonight I spoke to my 'host mum' from when I was an exchange student 30 Christmases ago.  I'm hoping she'll come and visit again soon.  It's one of those amazing friendships that picks up each year where it left even if it's a year between conversations. And there was much news to share. 

I was asked recently, by someone I'd not heard from in quite a long time, how life was, and what was new for me. I answered in a non committal, played down way - no, no news, and no nothing new. Life goes on. Busy busy. Insert cliche here.

Later, I was bemused at myself...why did I do that?  I had loads of news, almost all good and much worth sharing.  But at the time, I was mid pre-Christmas hooha (as above) and sadly, this overshadowed the rest.  So as I sit here, late on Christmas Eve, I am able to not only breathe in and out, and look forward to the day tomorrow (although it's very weird that tonight the little Engineer has chosen to spend the night with Dad and not here in his own bed - albeit that there's a notice of redirection for Santa on his stocking) - but I am also thinking about all that cool 'news' that makes up life since last Christmas...I'm looking forward to an exciting new job, a new look house, life with a teenager, some new community things I want to get into, some amazing trips away to semi-far flung places, and so it goes on.  

True, life may not have worked out like the fairytale that I think all kids - all people - think they want. But overall, it's pretty good. And the ability of most of the people in my life to be able to put aside their 'stuff' and embrace the season of goodwill, makes this time of year bittersweet, but still something to (MOSTLY::)) look forward to.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

the perils of navel gazing

This week I have spent time with several couples all at different stages of their repartnered life.

One couple have been together more than 30 years, another around 15 years and the other are is only just heading into their third year together.

The newly repartnered ones have a complex situation - between them and their own exes there are about 9 kids, aged between 6 and 16.  They now face the challenges of trying to blend (isn't it more like a hurricane than a blend!) everyone into a new life.  There's houses to find (can you even imagine how many bedrooms and bathrooms they need!), personalities to co-ordinate  and budgets to negotiate.

I think thirty years ago, maybe even 15, there was no where near the amount of ruminating and evaluation in the decision to repartner that there is now.  Back then, if you found yourself in the unfortunate position of being post- partnered, and were lucky enough to meet someone else, you just got on with it.   I'm pretty sure that people in my parents generation didn't spend much time on asking questions of themselves like ''but am I happy?', Will this relationship fulfill my needs? Where is my identity in this? Am I compromising too much? But how will we make it work? It wasn't even a ''love will conquer all'' mindset - it was just a sense of gratitude that you were able to find another person to do life with, and a belief that because you'd got a second chance, it would work out for the best (or you'd die trying).

On the other hand, since the natural order of things is to be in a relationship, I think modern society has made it easier, and more acceptable to repartner more than once, more than twice.  And the statistics are grim for second time around.  About a 20% success rate apparantly.

There's whole websites dedicated to making us thinking about, and worrying about whether or not we're happy in our relationships and whether they are succesful or not. And then leading us to the conclusion that if we're not, it must be the relationship that is the issue.  We made the wrong choice. We sacrificed too much. We are not being honest with ourselves, or being authentic or whatever, because if we were, we'd be just so happy and the relationship would be unfolding beautifully in front of us, the wrongs of previously liasons but hazy memories, and the mistakes we made in the ''first time round'' no longer likelihoods. And it's not our fault. It's just life. It's just relationships that have no guarantees.  We did the best we could right?

Good grief, what a total load of shite that all is.  On so many levels.  Of course people make us happy or unhappy. Or course if you feel miserable in a relationship you're going to want out. And of course there's a 99.9% chance it's not the person (or the relationship) that is the cause of the unhappiness - it's all about what's going on in the inside don't you know... (Actually there's probably some truth to that but that's not my point here)

My question today is this - who is better off? The generation ago couple who 'got on with it', or the generation now couple who get out before it turns ugly?  The person who compromises or the one who 'suffers in silence'. The one who thinks 'thank God I'm not single' or the one who looks in and thinks 'thank God I am'. I don't know.  But this I do know:

Too much navel gazing. Too much reading.  And way too much time paying attention to the fairy tales that fill the internet.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Ain't nobody love like you do

This is, I think, the biggest load of rubbish ever to appear on the interwebs.  I still agree that 'I'm not happy' when spoken from the inside of a relationship, probably has absolutely nothing to do with the relationship, or the person you're supposedly not happy with.  (and I'm going to continue to agree with that til my dying day too because otherwise there's waaaay too many people out there that I have made unhappy :p). Its quite likely that it s a contributor though, but that's a story for another post. 

But I do believe it's rubbish because of this bit:  'Love yourself'. 

What the heck does that even mean? I can say I quite like myself, most of the time, and there are things about myself that I love some of the time, but LOVE myself. Yeah nah.  Respect myself? Yes. Love my body? Only in a 'thanks for getting me through the day/down to the shop kind of way but certainly not in a 'look in the mirror and kiss my muscles' way. Consider myself my own best friend and the person I most want to spend time with? (ie love). Errrr no. I rather prefer the company of others, an OTHER, MY other. 

And what about those days that I'm feeling particularly unloving towards myself (usually involving wine, cheese, late nights or a combination thereof)? Does that mean that because I don't love myself I can't love someone else?  That those days when I don't even like myself that I can't love anyone else? (and anyone who's suffered depression knows that this can be a long few days). That's the bit I find the most offensive. 

(Now, before there is a flurry of responses from my two regular readers, I'd like to point out that whilst I think this 'you can only love another if you love yourself' stuff is total BS, that DOESN'T mean that I think self esteem is not important, nor do I think it's ok to abuse or misuse your body. Self loathing is a whole other topic, and one I have no right nor appropriate qualification to preach about.     
But back to self love.  Love is a word that gets thrown about a bit to much I think.  I LOVE that movie. I love HER. I love FOOD.  Put in this context I just can't add I love ME to the list.  And so think we do ourselves a huge disservice by trotting out responses like this one, and others like

- everything happens for a reason
- put your own house in order before you organise someone else's
- this is for the best
- by letting go of (insert thing/person/experience here) you leave space for something better!

Even 'you dodged a bullet there' is all a bit....twee? And all of those expressions, especially the first and last, imply that the person is, well a bit inept when it comes to matters of the heart - which, following the logic of the love yourself statement, also means that the deliverer of this message means that actually, you don't have very good self esteem , or worse, you're actually a bit of a loser.

Yes, I think we all need to have a good dose of self esteem in order to maintain healthy relationships. I also think that LOVE should be unconditional - given freely and without judgement.  Just in the same way it should be received.  But the reality is that even the person who 'feels' the most unlovable can still love another. And in fact that person can still BE loved by another.

I do not doubt that I need to like myself. That I need to be comfortable in my own skin even when as gets wrinkly. That I need to be ok with my own company. That I can't be constantly reliant on others to make me feel good (although isn't that what community and family and relationship is kind of all about?). That I probably have to consider myself at least a bit lovable in order to attract a partner. (funny how those that don't think that so often end up with people who truly don't love them anyway - but ah again a post for another time)

To be loved, without reservation, is what makes me feel able to return that love. Its what makes me, I suppose, feel that I can love who I am as a person.. So is that the sign of crap self esteem? Maybe. I certainly know how depleting it is to love and not have that love returned. But loving oneself to fill the lovetank? How on earth can that even work? 

Love yourself first? No way. The problem with the 'self love' proponents is that they will ALWAYS put themselves first. And frankly that just doesn't sit well with me. And it is, I think, ultimately a lonely life.   I believe, that in giving, and receiving, love in equal measure, that the internal love tank gets filled.  And therein is the key. . Or at least (in my fluffy clouds and rainbows world)  it should be.  I think to feel lovable, and to be love-able, is a result of loving others. Love is, and should be, a two way thing

And, given the choice, investing my time and energy into loving others is a far better option for me than dedicating it to loving myself. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

fake it til you break it

So I wrote a year and a half ago (which seems like a lifetime, and almost is in this crazy post coupled world...) I am still no closer to knowing the answer to the question I posted to myself other than to be able to confirm that my observation is absolutely true. Dr Phil would say (and I'm not ENTIRELY sure I agree), that 

''You don't ever solve a relationship problem by turning away from your partner. Turn toward each other to fix what's wrong, don't look outside the marriage. Any time you turn away from your partner to fulfil your needs instead of toward him/her, it's a betrayal. Want to know if some behaviour is cheating? If you wouldn't do it with your spouse right next to you, it's cheating. ''

Is this common...normal...behaviour? Seems so - if the (horribly large) number of single and re partnered people I've talked to are anything to go by. After seeing people take up breakup makeup and fake up for the past 7 years, I'd say that that almost EVERY one I know, (who didn't turn inwards to their partner) upon having a problem outside of their 'relationship' has ended up splitting, and now I'm watching yet another someone go through a 'should I shouldn't I' situation.

But here's the thing...what if it's not a relationship problem? What if the problem you have is something else entirely? What if the ''need' that the good Doctor refers to is not about your partner . Maybe Work? Family? Health? Does it still translate into 'anywhere but here'?. We seem to have this ability to think that if we're feeling loved up, everything will seem more manageable too, cos love will see us through (ah the attractiveness of that!). And so if there's no lovin' feelings, it's time to get out.  For some weird reason, we seem to be able to forget that the problems are there regardless of who the partner is (or isn't). I'd hazard a guess nearly every time, a 'relationship problem' isn't that at all. Where-ever you go you are and all that...

Seems that there's this weird combination that happens to the post married - we spend a F**ktonne more time navel gazing about the state of a life/relationship/state of mind, and yet on the other hand, having been through what we consider to be the worst of times (as a marriage or LTR ending usually is), have this ability to make a decision to cut loose without too much angst, especially if the grass is looking tantalisingly greener from the murky old window we are are looking through. And I concede, that sometimes it is...for a time. But I know of only one couple, just one, in my entire life, whose greener grass is still alive beyond the usual up to 3 year honeymoon period (as per Dr Phil and every other dating experts time line advice....) Sure isn't the drivel on blogs like this all about people who need to ruminate on what is, what was ,and could be?

Does that mean one should stick in a relationship they are not sure about, or that they believe is making them unhappy just because...well for no reason really? Good grief no. And nor should it mean pursuing one that youre not sure about. But I STILL say, having worn this t-shirt more than once, that stopping and thinking...and evaluating the NOW before jollying off elsewhere is still a better place to start. Talking from hard won experience, it's a long road to get into a quality partnership of any kind, a feckin hard thing to uncouple, harder still to get the nerve to start over, and whilst one might argue that breakups get easier the more you have them (yeah that sounds like a fun way to live life....), nothing ever changes if you don't.

If there's a lesson here (and one I've learned the hard way more than once) its that you have to know yourself and like that person before you can even know (and like) someone else for any length of time. You have to be brave enough to stop and let another person see the true you rather than (or before) taking another version of yourself to market. The truth will always out (and other cliches) apply here. You have to decide if it's the person standing in front of you that's the problem or not (probably not...).  Honesty is hard. Being true to yourself is hard. NOT being true to yourself is hard! But breakups are, in the end, harder. Just saying. 

Sermon over. Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.