Showing posts with label introspection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label introspection. Show all posts

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Not So Overhead Projecting

There are times, in my role as mother, when I'm not the wonderfully empathic, serene, understanding, personification of perfection I'd have you all believe. I know, right? Who could have seen that coming?

It's happening right now, actually. I'm trying to write a post (which usually takes about an hour these days, when you take into account remembering the html, picture finding, and actual writing, but has been known to take five or six hours in the past) within the next two hours so I can hit the time-stamp deadline. The kids are playing behind me, and so far I've asked them to "just f**k up", at which they asked if they got to be hypocrites too...

Ahh kids. Always so completely honest. And blunt. You don't get to be an arse in my house and expect to get away with it. They have dispersed from the lounge, however. They don't want to risk standing on my land mines and have me project my frustration into them a little more.

Had a quick yap with Mr. Me on facebook chat. (Yes he's in another room on another computer doing his own important work; no we can't swap, what are you, mad? I can't write a blog post on someone else's machine!) To which he promptly quoted me U2:

Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief

Well that's apt.

You see, I had decided to write about some projecting that was happening last night.

One of my kids has fears that are irrational. Big fears. I find it impossible to validate them, because I feel they're invalid (they are valid because they are unresolved from a time when validity wasn't in question). So it's basically my fault they're still happening now, and weren't resolved half a dozen years ago, when they would have been more understandable, but unfortunately I was less emotionally aware.

I try now to be more understanding, but I have to fight down my feelings of disgust. And that's a really cruel thing for a kid to deal with, even if he only knows in a subconscious "Mum's not being genuine in her concern" sorta way. So he doesn't come to me with his pain, he goes to Mr. Me, and that triggers me too, because then I feel not good enough.

It's all my own trash-bag of emotional garbage that I'm carrying around, and the projection part is me saying "here, I'm tired, you carry this for a while." It's completely unfair, but I want to do it anyway. We all do from time to time.

Here's an example:

Random small boy and his father are playing in the park. All is well and fun until the small boy falls from a swing and begins to cry. Father is immediately disgusted and ashamed because he was made to feel shame about crying when he was small. Father picks up small boy and tells him he's not a baby and to stop crying. Small boy now feels shame, and his father less so. The father has projected his shame into his son.

It's not the son's shame. It's most probably not even the father's, or his father's. It's hand-me-downs, inherited through generations, and now the small boy gets to carry it in his trash-bag of emotional garbage too.

So last night, it was all I could do to just not pass on my emotional baggage by going to bed early and talking to no one. It's pretty much all I could do before to ask politely to be left alone, even though I'm in a communal room and everyone else has important things they're using it for too. And I wonder how common an occurrence this is, when we feel like punishing our children for things completely outside their field for blame.

There are a lot of very public examples of projection that have been normalised.

I think Prime Minister John Key and his gay red top comment was a good example of projection, which needed to be addressed. Why else but because of his own discomfort would he be so publicly offensive? It's certain he's been well taught in the art of interview, speaking publicly and being politically correct, even if he doesn't think that way, as all politicians must have to reach as high an office as he has. It's all the more obvious because he's trying to rationalise it as well! Someone who makes a genuine mistake doesn't try to do that.

So, if we're going to raise healthy children, we need to get rid of this projection business. We don't have a right to pass on hate and bigotry, or in my case disgust at fear and slow-learning.

Children have enough emotional baggage of their own to carry without carrying ours too.

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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Tattooing My Brain

This is a "before" picture. I'm not showing you
an after picture; I don't know you well enough
for you to see that bit of me.
I can assure you it contains several stretch
marks, one of which doubles the length of the
Many people would say she's ruined.
She's seen better days, sure. She's stretched, and warped in odd directions, her colours have faded, and she looks sad. Quite honestly, I don't even look at her much any more and I think about her less often.

She's just... y'know... there. Like the old Coca-Cola sign, faded and tattered above the derelict corner shop where you bought ice creams 20 years ago. Quietly waiting, but bursting with memories. Every glance a different association.

She has her story too.

I have a theory about tattoos. (I say 'I', but I really mean 'we'. Mr. Me and I have mused over this intermittently for a few years now, but for these purposes I'm taking credit; I'm sure he'd do the same.) The theory is, that which we permanently apply to our skin is likely a metaphor, or even a direct screaming of our innermost feelings. And it could perhaps go one of two ways. Taking for instance, those who tattoo their babies' names and birthdates on themselves. They may be doing it because they have so much emotion and pride, they need to permanently put it out there. Or they may care very little, feel guilty about that, and ink themselves to try to assuage the guilt. The beauty is, only the owner truly knows the reason, so there's still hiding to be had if it's wanted.

Last night I lay awake and thought of my Unicorn. What did she mean then, and is she still relevant to me now?

I'm going to be honest with you here, I really didn't put a lot of thought into what I would get done when my friend and I decided we'd get tattoos together 16 years ago. I loved horses and so I had a vague notion that it would maybe be of the equine variety. Also, I had decided it would not cost me more than $50, and that's what I took with me in cash. There was nothing in their pictures that I wanted... Except my wee unicorn. And she was $120. Well, it wasn't as if I was painting my wall and could change later, was it? I borrowed the balance from my friend and never regretted it.

Still, what did she mean?

When I look at her now, I am reminded of how she was. Fine, delicate lines. Colourful, wild, feminine, strong... Such a mythical creature couldn't possibly exist, but there she was. And when I think about it: that's how I felt about myself. I was young and strong, almost arrogantly confidant about who I was and what I could do. And at the same time, I was feminine and delicate and empathetic. I felt beautiful.

Is she still relevant to me?

You can see she's been in the wars. She has hugged three children close as they grew strong enough to be born, and paid the price. She has expanded against her will as I have expanded and contracted over the years. She has battled with me.

Just like when you see the weathered coca-cola sign you think fondly of the summers of your youth, when I see my Unicorn, I'm reminded of the real her: courageous and full of self worth. And she in turn reminds me of the real me. The one I very often forget exists. The me who has been stretched and warped and feels blurred and faded and sometimes, so very very sad. She knows me. Yes she's relevant. I love her.

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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Purple Carrots Still Taste Like Carrots.

I don't have a whole lot to say today.

Actually, that's not true, and you know it. I'm as opinionated and yappy about it as they come, so I'm not going to try to convince you there's ever a time when it's otherwise. But the contents of my brain are a bit like freshly shorn sheep's wool: a valuable resource just waiting to be used, but first you have to clean it up, card out the fibres and then spin it into something people can use.

And that takes a bit of work. Work which I've not yet done.

Introverts need a fair bit of alone time to process everything that has gone on, and let their conscious mind catch up with the information their subconscious takes in. And it takes in a lot! I haven't had a lot of alone time over the past few days. I like alone time. I have alone time now. I'm going to use it to garden and other simple tasks that allow me to get lost in thought.

Just as soon as I've finished here.

I've already done a little of that. Spent a tiny 10 minutes or so admiring my growing vegetables. I picked some baby carrots. We're growing "Purple Haze", because, well, with a name like that, how could you not? But they seem to be a favourite of birds too (as seedlings) so there's some thinking to be done about that too.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, picking baby carrots. So I pulled a few up, just to try. They were about 3 inches long, and very definitely purple. I was excited to try them, having never seen carrots of a different colour, and I gave one to the smallest in the family, who was nearby too.

I don't know what I was expecting. Evidently, I wasn't expecting carrot flavoured carrots! Did I think they'd be boysenberry flavoured because they're the same colour? (I think there's a deep and meaningful blog post in there somewhere too, but it's still immersed in the raw wool).

Nope. Purple carrots taste just like carrots. Who could have predicted that?

Sometimes I just can't believe myself.

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Monday, 5 November 2012

To Help or Not To Help

Imagine you're walking down the street with two friends on a calm, overcast autumn day. There's hardly any traffic. A girl you know, about 14 years old, is walking on the opposite side of the road to you, a little bit ahead, travelling in the same direction. None of this is out of the ordinary and you're chatting with your friends.

A car squeals around the corner behind you and immediately, easily breaks the speed limit before sliding to a stop next to the girl. A middle aged woman jumps out and starts pummeling the girl with fists and forearms about her shoulders and head, all the while screaming unintelligibly. The woman then forces the girl into the car, gets in and drives off.

All this takes about fifteen seconds.

What do you think you'd have done? Anything?

Imagine you were 14 years old when you saw it, and the girl across the road was a classmate. Does that change how you think you would have reacted?

It's a true story. I knew the girl, and I knew the middle aged woman was her mother. I also knew that sometimes she didn't live with her mother.

I did nothing. Well, nothing except discuss with my friends what we wished we had done, for the rest of the walk home.

Nothing except stare in horror as a classmate was beaten. Frozen to the spot. And nothing afterwards, because I knew the woman to be this girl's mother. Though it was likely legal behaviour at the time, I still knew it was wrong. My friends and I, we longed to have had super powers to react and to protect.

I think I felt as powerless as my classmate did. In a different way, of course, because I've never been subjected to what she was, and as I say it, I feel a crushing weight that you all might think I'm comparing my experience of watching with her of being the victim. No way. But I did feel completely, utterly powerless. Afterward that day I pretended it never happened, and I wouldn't be surprised if she did the same.

I thought it would embarrass her if I mentioned it, so I didn't.

I thought she wouldn't want anyone to know, so I told no one.

And that's probably how she did think, because when people grow up with that, they think it's all their own fault. That they're a horrible person, otherwise why would awful things happen to them? She probably had it internalised and normalised. She was probably very ashamed. Toxically shamed.

All this happened more than half of my lifetime ago.

I still think about it often: probably about once a month, these days. It made an impression. I'm very haunted by the fact that I did nothing. It's cliche, but I wish I knew then what I know now.

I wish I had known that the way to break through that shame wasn't to pretend awful acts never happened, but to recognise that they were indeed awful acts. To let her know that nothing she could possibly do would deserve being treated that way. That the beating was wrong and it wasn't her fault. That she didn't make her mother do that, no matter what her mother said. You can't "make" a person beat you - it's their choice.

It's the aggressor's choice. Their emotions. Their actions. Their psychological baggage. Not the victim's. All the victim is guilty of, is stepping on a hidden landmine.

But I didn't know then.

I didn't know how important being a sympathetic witness is, but I know now.

It's important for that child being scolded in the supermarket for singing too happily - though you may not feel you can step in, you can make eye contact with the child in a way that lets them know they're not bad.

It's important for the person at your office who serves as your boss's scapegoat.

It's important for that bullied kid at school to know that he's not to blame.

And it's important to know, that even if you can't step in and stop something from happening, that a lot of good can come from letting the victim know it's not their fault.

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Friday, 2 November 2012

The Shirt of Shame.

Image source: The Ellen DeGeneres Show facebook page
Sometimes it's really hard, when you come across a picture that's been shared more than 30,000 times on facebook. 30,000 times that other people were in on a joke I'm certain isn't funny. What we have here, is no better than spanking.

Now, I'm aware in its country of origin it's perfectly acceptable to smack/spank your kids, and if that's acceptable, then what's on this picture certainly won't have a lot of people stand up and explain how this form of punishment a)won't work long term, and b) will create long term problems. That those who do are asking to be ridiculed and scoffed at. Told they have no sense of humour, or worse, be informed that they'll be raising a pack of hellions unfit for society, because "that's what happens when we don't instil a fear of punishment into our kids."

Another quote that's doing the rounds though, in many different forms, is one that says:
Most People are Only Alive Because it's Illegal to Shoot Them.
And it's the one that came immediately to mind when I saw the photo of those two little children in the shirt of shame. Not because I thought their parents needed shooting (let's get that clear, because I assume a lot of people thought that was where I was going) but because one is as ridiculous as the other.

I can safely say that NO person is alive today solely because I thought I might get in trouble if I shot them. I also believe that the threat of jail time isn't going to stop a person who sincerely wants to shoot another. It could make them do it in private, however.

Now, these kids are clearly being punished for pissing off one or both of their parents. Not because they weren't getting along, but because their squabbles were annoying.

How do I know this?

Well, because when people we love aren't getting along, and we care about that, we try to mediate and resolve the issue, don't we? If our friends are having a dispute, do we talk things through with them, or do we just ensure they shut up until we're not around? And these friends, we assume, are people who have already learned about resolving their own disputes growing up. The only reason we'd tell them to shut up until we weren't around would be because we both didn't care about the outcome and felt discomfort with the dispute.

So doesn't it make sense, that if the parents both didn't care about the outcome, and also felt discomfort with the dispute, that they wouldn't try to help resolve an issue that these kids were having trouble resolving themselves, but just get them to shut up about it?

Is it any different to this?

image source
If your children were having trouble understanding something at school, would you prefer them to be given extra help, or to be stuck in a dunce cap (shirt, whatever) for not getting it right? Does this form of shaming make them smarter people, or just resentful of the enforcers? Does it build their confidence and interpersonal skills, or does it make them feel small and helpless and stupid and unlovable?

A lot of comments on the "We Will Get Along" picture were to the effect of: Look how unhappy the girl is - it must be working ahahahaha. Of course she's unhappy. She's just been humiliated by one of the people who she should be able to trust more than anyone else. Humiliated, shamed, laughed at by the world, and not helped with her conflict difficulties in the slightest little bit.

Poor kids.

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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

5 Things I'm Ashamed to Have Done to My Kids (that I still see happening all the time)

There's never been a time when I considered myself a "bad" mother. Since I've been one for fourteen plus years now though, I'd be remiss if I hadn't done some learning along the way, and if there's a parent who has not changed their style at least a little bit in the course of raising an adult, I really don't want to know them.

So there's no judging going on here. OK there's a little bit of judging, but it's the internal sort, whereby you judge, and then think I used to do that until I found a better way so you stop being critical. Still, you feel sad that they haven't learnt, or have and then decided they were fine all along, and you feel guilty for judging and a little bit superior and smug.

Yeah, I over think things quite a lot.

1) Telling your kid not to snatch, then forcefully removing said object (snatching) from the child to return it to the snatchee
I see this all. the. time. Parents and teachers do it obliviously. They must do, because I never see the furtive, embarrassed glance-around afterwards that would occur if they realised the hypocrisy. Actually, one time I stayed at daycare with my youngest to settle him for the first half hour because he was becoming more and more unhappy being there. The carer did this twice while knowing I was there trying to figure out why he was unhappy. And then she...

2) ...said hey, can I have a look at that? and prised a toy from another kid's hands. He then tried to take it back, so she held it away from him, where he couldn't reach, and made him parrot "please can I have that toy?" after her.
She looked at me for approval after that. A look that smugly said: see how I teach them manners? We left then. And after two more times of my little one screaming and crying when he realised we were going (not when I was leaving; it's not a separation thing at all), we withdrew him from that place completely. But I've done it too. I can point at that daycare and say: "look, how horrible" but the truth is, for my eldest, that would have been situation normal.

3) Spanking, smacking, physical punishment, whatever the kids are calling it these days.
This is a hard one to admit, but there was a time when I even advocated for it. I decided myself and tried to convince others that it was the only way to reprimand a child who didn't have the vocabulary to understand your, what I considered must be, lectures. Until one day about 10 years ago, when my daughter was curled on the floor with her hands over her bottom and I realised I was angry at her, really furious at her, for trying to stop me from smacking her. And I recognised that for the atrocity that it was. It genuinely took another six or seven years for me to get to a point where I didn't feel like smacking - to change my brain chemistry to the point where I automatically thought "how can I help?" instead of "stop it you little...."

4) Sat with my kids at the table until they'd finished every last bite of their dinner.
At the time, I thought I was doing right; teaching them not to be wasteful and such. What I ended up with though, was one child, my poor first born who wore the worst of everything, who now finds it difficult to leave anything on the plate, even if she's so full she feels sick. I should have known better, I think. I myself am unable to eat when I have a blocked nose, because I'm unable to breathe. Breathing through my mouth is not an option for me whilst eating. Thankfully I didn't do this for very long. Just long enough to do damage, obviously, but now, at 14 years old, she's just beginning to figure out the food quantities that are right for her.

5) Told them if they didn't hurry up, I'd leave without them.
It seems fair on the face of it, but the bottom line is that I now have an 11 year old who panics when we say we'll wait for him in the car. It's not the relatively good sort of panic where you do things in double time, but the awful, paralysing kind where you can't think, let alone act, and everything just becomes too hard. Poor guy. We're working on it.

This isn't a full list, by any means; I'll probably write another post next week entitled, "5 MORE things..." and I could maybe even write a third post. But there are a lot of things I've done right, as well. And one of those things I've done right, is learning from all the things I've done wrong. Well... all the things I've come across anyway.

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Monday, 29 October 2012

Love Letter to FlyLady

Image source. FlyLady's logo from her website. I hope she's OK with me putting it here! :)

It's no secret that I'm a big advocate for gentle parenting and conscious living. It hasn't always been the case, but what has always been the case is my love for personal growth and learning, and that's how I got there.

About six or seven years ago, in the course of discovery on the internet, several people on a forum I frequented raved about this FlyLady website that was, they said, all about how to keep your house clean. My house was pretty messy, not due to lack of ability, or lack of desire, and certainly I didn't feel as though I was a naturally messy person, but because of a niggly trait called perfectionism.

I lived under the shadow of "if you can't do it properly, don't do it at all" and so a lot of things were never done. Not because I was unable to do it well enough to suit me, but because everything became so huge! Sweeping the kitchen floor meant I needed to clean everything above the floor beforehand, because that's the order needed for cleaning - top to bottom. If I wanted to sweep the floor, I'd need a couple of hours to get it done.

I was far more than cynical when I went to check out her website, but I signed up and since, at that time, it was based in a Yahoo Group, I promptly forgot about it. Fast forward a few years and I decided to take another look. People were still raving about it and I hadn't given it much of a chance. And now she sends her emails to any address at all, so I could actually receive them. And read them...

Turns out FlyLady is out there gently re-parenting adults. Yes, she gives definite instructions to follow, which I wouldn't usually associate with gentle parenting, but there is no judgement or criticism involved and her ultimate goal is simply for you to Finally Love Yourself (FLY). There's nothing that takes the pressure off better than the line at the end of all of her emails:
You are not behind! I don't want you to try to catch up; I just want you to jump in where we are. O.K.?
which gives you permission to be at whatever place you are.

She believes in baby-steps and helps you change your mindset from the inner critic that says you're not good enough, to the logical knowledge that a little bit is better than nothing, and lots of little bits really do add up.

Also, it's all free, so that's pretty cool too.

This is just a public thank you, because these ideas have helped with all sorts of manifestations of my perfectionism, not just housework. I would not have even started this blog yet because I'm still learning how to make things work as it is, and I couldn't have started under those conditions otherwise.

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Friday, 26 October 2012

Stop Calling Me Names!

"I'm sorry I got angry when you were bad," he said.

He said that to me! In the middle of the night, with me mostly asleep and my subconscious unprotected. Of course I'm angry - I'm furious! Apology unaccepted, sir, to put it mildly.

How dare he?

It escalated, of course. With me uttering phrases such as, "keep your damned labels off me" and moving to the edge of the bed. When it got to the point where I was named "mean" for being upset, and informed that I must explain why labelling and criticizing weren't the best thing for human growth and mental health since sliced bread, I left the room.

And so, I am here at 4am, calming down, unclenching my teeth bit by bit, considering making a coffee (because it's clear I won't be going back to sleep), and clicking link after link on the ol' information superhighway during the moments when my mind is screaming too loud for me to write effectively.

He was trying to connect with me, but the connection was backwards.

A backwards connection is just the opposite of a real connection, which is based upon two people relating to each other.
A backwards connection begins with an assumption or definition of the other, that ends all possibility of a relationship, at least in that interaction.

-Patricia Evans, Controlling People

For the backwards connection to be made, I'd either have to concede that I was bad, or argue over why I wasn't. Either option would be a silent reinforcement that it was OK to define me in the first place.

It's not OK.

The only person who can truly define you is yourself. The only person who has access to your motives, your understanding (or lack of), your emotional history, your five senses, and your perspective, is you, so you're the only one with the full story. A person can accept your definition of yourself and relate, but they cannot invent their own and expect to be relating. What it boils down to, is, they're making things up.

I understand it when I step back, and disconnect with my emotional part in this, but that can't happen for over an hour later sometimes. I'm hurt and I've a right to feel that way.

I know why he felt like I was being mean and attacking him: it was because I wouldn't allow the backwards connection. So he felt rejected. It's not the first time and I'm reasonably sure it won't be the last.

I get it, but it's still no fun. I want him to relate to me, not his idea of me.

I've seen a few blog posts recently, by men, along the lines of: I'm overly critical to my partner and I don't know why and I'm scared she's going to leave me. I've seen very few from the receiving end. I imagine everyone's story is different, but I think the reason behind this is shame. And possibly fear of public reaction.

I feel neither shame nor fear in this. Mr. Me and I will sort things through today in a gentle, loving way, as we always aim to do, so that tomorrow, we don't have to.

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Image credit: photostock.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I Love You, But I Don't Give A Rat's Bum!

I had come to the conclusion that being a mother often meant feigning an interest.

Not always. Sometimes your kids have really interesting topics of conversation, things to show and tell and questions to ask. And that's awesome. But how many people have you met that have all the same interests as you?

OK, now how many seven year old kids have you met that have all the same interests as you?

Yeah. S'what I thought. None.

But we love 'em, don't we? And we love that they're excited about things and learning, even if it is about Pokemon (who knows, he could be a future animator or game programmer!) but it never occurred to me, going into this parenting caper, that I'd have to listen to incessant chatter about things I am completely apathetic towards.

Then I realised how fake that was, and if I modelled that fakeness, I'd be teaching my kids that the correct response is to be dishonest. So where to go with it? Obviously we want some middle ground between "I don't care, please don't talk" and "Tell me all about your belly-button lint, I'm enthralled." I want them to know they can talk to me about anything at any time, but for them to also have the empathy to know that some people just aren't as interested in the same topics as they are, and if we want a captive audience, we need to appeal to them.

At any time is also a biggie for me. Yes, I'm available at any time, but I don't want to be woken up so that I can be shown a new colour of nail polish, or be asked through the toilet door if there are any chores they can do to earn money. Surely it's not that time sensitive that it can't wait five minutes?

Sometimes I find myself at a loss as to how to teach these things. And then realise that always, if there's a behaviour that's happening, good or bad, it's been modelled before.

Was it me?

There have been times, I'm certain, that I've callously interrupted what the kids were doing: pulled them away from a game so I can go out shopping or bill paying or visit a friend or relative or any number of things they have no interest in. Because I'm "bigger and more important" you see. This is the default setting of pretty much all new parents. And if it's not, we're weaned into it because little babies don't really have a lot of preferences in that way, and it becomes habitual just to say "let's go" and expect it to happen.

I also remember often interrupting a game just to "remind" them of things they should do, or to ask them if they'd tried on those new, blue shoes yet... something that may be completely uninteresting to them or not time sensitive, because I unconsciously considered myself bigger and more important.

The idea that I'm bigger, and therefore more important, created second class citizens of my children.

That's not just.

I don't want them growing up believing anyone is second class, not because of their age, or because of their skin colour, or religion, or because of any physical or mental capabilities they may or may not have.

It's true, there are things I must do that are very important. It's also true that my children are the responsibility of myself and my partner and so there will be times when they have to do things they'd prefer not - so to us all in life. But there should never be times when preferences aren't listened to and considered. Very rare are the times when negotiations can't be entered into: generally, yes I can wait fifteen minutes for you to finish your game of Monopoly, and I'm sorry I didn't discuss this with you earlier.

From experience, kids get much better at these negotiations with time and practice, or they can be born into it (which is so much easier, you wouldn't believe it!) but when there are slip ups, the only way to deal with it is without hypocrisy. To politely ask for your personal or psychological space back (in an age appropriate way) and remember you're probably the one who modelled it in the past - you or a teacher they had no choice but to spend six hours per day with, but that's a story for another day.

Ahh, what I love about this blog is that I start writing about a problem and then as I'm writing, I find the solution and write that down too. I think that's what I've done here, so thank you so much for listening! You give me a reason to regularly sit down and get inside my own head for a bit, and I appreciate it.

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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Overcoming The 5 Big Advantages of Being a Single Parent

In my News Feed yesterday, there was a blog post called The Five Big Advantages of Being a Single Parent. And as someone with a fair bit of experience of being a single parent, and an equal amount of experience team parenting, I can say, those five big advantages really are all they're cracked up to be.

I was damn happy as a single parent. I had the control, baby. If you think there's an adjustment period going from team parenting to single parenting, it ain't nuthin compared to the adjustment period going the other way. The adjustment period into singledom lasted.. ummm... oh about a month, while I got used to the idea that everything was on my shoulders. While the frustration of being stuck in one place while the kids slept eased, and a more forward-planning brain grew. And while I accepted that me-time had turned into we-time and there wasn't a lot I could do about it.

I went from being stark-raving bonkers at going it alone, to fairly proficient - kinda like when you first start out fitness training: something that half killed you at the beginning, is a walk in the park after a few weeks' practice.

I didn't bother dating. Possibly that was a mix of having no time for it and being a bit scared that I could be wasting my precious little free time on someone who may or may not be a jerk... OK, I think I'll just fess up and say I enjoyed my single parenthood and I didn't want to share. Nup. It was mine and I'm selfish. An introvert, and uncomfortable with change.

But sometimes, even when you're actively trying to avoid it, love comes along, grabs you by the ankle and proves itself impossible to shake off. That's what happened to me and I'm not sure I've forgiven him for it yet, but I love him just the same.

He's not a back-seat dad either, which would have made it easier for me to transition, and he won't do as he's told!

Neither will I. Head-butt much? Sure, I often want to stick his head up his . . . wait, no, we're both just as much entitled to our autonomy as the other.

So now, "1) Guess who makes all the decisions." Does not have the same answer as it did before, and was a bit of a hard pill to swallow. I genuinely prefer being the top cheese, and I wouldn't be being honest if I didn't mention that I struggle daily to not be completely unilateral. Ahh well, at least I still get to decide what's for dinner every night. Sigh... almost every night then.

"2) Guess how often I argue about money." Yup, that was another thing that I loved. It sorta ties in with number 1 too, because if I made all the decisions, I'd be making all the money decisions too, and we wouldn't be having this conversation. Alas, I must negotiate and compromise. I'd much rather have a kiddy tantrum and get my way, but fair's fair, and if Mr. Me did that I'd probably have a cry and feel very sorry for myself (rightly so!) and being a hypocrite isn't my favourite.

"3) Guess whose kid gets to learn more responsibility." Well, actually, no. When I was single, aside from the kids being younger and less capable, I honestly didn't have the time for them to have more responsibility. Asking them to do something or have responsibility over something was just ten times more work, first convincing them to do it to begin with, then getting it done to the standard you're accustomed? ... Let's just say, if it takes 15 minutes to do a load of dishes by yourself, it takes 45 minutes and 20 extra blood pressure units to do it with a seven year old and a ten year old. Now we can tag-team that sort of thing, and there's more energy to go around for helping kids keep their responsibilities instead of just doing it for them.

"4) Guess who gets all of dad’s (or mom’s) bonding time." That was a bit of a learning curve, especially for my eldest, who honestly thought she was the queen and I was her lady in waiting. She rightfully felt as though I was being stolen from her. I say rightfully because she'd just never had to share before and it was new and painful. Of course all the time wasn't stolen from her, it just felt that way, I'm sure. Eventually, both kids figured out that there was actually more bonding time to be had through doubling the parents.

"5) Guess who doesn’t have to deal with the drama." True. And possibly that was why I initially didn't want to be in a relationship at all. But when you give up the drama, you also give up the companionship. When you give up the give, you give up the take. When you're by yourself, there's only one person to blame, true, and so you just get on with it, but when you're by yourself there's no one whose knowing glance you can share when things are going your way either. No one to hold you up when you think you're about to fall. There's a synergy about playing for a team, so much greater than one plus one. And knowing that simply makes the drama much less of a drama.

I didn't get to write this blog post yesterday as I wanted to. You see, it was our anniversary and there was more good to be had celebrating that together. But it was good to think about and know what I would write; it gave me a lovely perspective on our relationship in a lovely timely manner.

Happy Anniversary, Babe. xx

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Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Procrastinator's Curse.

I am here because I'm procrastinating. Which is a little bit funny because I'm usually not here because I'm procrastinating.

But there are only so many ways you can procrastinate before you start doing things you mean to in preference to things you meant to do before the things you're doing now.

And so it is.

My procrastination channel of choice is most often the computer. I can find all sorts of rubbish on here that I can kid myself is good entertainment. Hitting the global leader board on a word finder game on Facebook though... That was a new low. I don't think the Facebook procrastination option is open to me any more. Feels bad, man. Real bad. I did it without cheating, and I ALWAYS thought those leaders must have cheated.


There was a time when I procrasti-cleaned and procrasti-baked. That lost its appeal when I no longer had essays to write for uni, but it was good while it lasted. Nothing was more important than a few smudges on the windows when there was an essay due the next morning! I wish nothing was more important than the bathroom mirror right now, but alas...




Apparently nothing was more important than the bathroom mirror. I'm completely serious! Who knew?

Then nothing was more important than snuggling the toddler back to sleep, then cleaning the rest of the bathroom, a cup of coffee and putting on a load of washing. And now that the load of washing has finished and is waiting for me to hang out, there's nothing more important than finishing this post.

See how that works?

The chain of procrastination is a beautiful thing. Or it would be if I wasn't putting off other awesomely fun and inspiring activities. Such as playing phone-tag with government agencies so that I can, in turn, procrastinate over filing overdue tax returns. Yeah, that's fun (and important, hence the procrastination).

Over the years, I've tried to come up with ways to stop my procrastination. To be the organised ... what's a word that means the opposite of addle-brained? ... y'know, one of them people what we all wanna be like, anyway. Except that I'm scared of lists and diaries. I always feel like a complete failure when I, well, fail to adhere to them. The inner critic gets up on her high horse and does her best impression of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. Nobody's winning that war.

So I have to find another way of overcoming it.

I'm trying something new.

I hereby give myself permission to not do stuff.

Not all stuff, because some things are necessary for survival, so I'm keeping the "need to" things. But "should do" and "must do" are now hereby replaced with "could do" and "might do". Then for good measure, I'm adding a "because" after them too. A positive "because". As opposed to a negative "or else".


I might go to the gym because I'll feel much better about myself afterwards.

Feels much nicer and more inviting than:

I must go to the gym or else I won't get any fitter.

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman can bugger off; I want to give the curious and enthusiastic side of me a chance to do its thing.

Because I think that's where happiness lives.

Do you have an awesome way of overcoming procrastination that I (or someone else) can tuck away for future reference?

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Saturday, 8 September 2012

5 Languages of Love.

I love Mr. Me. I honestly do. And I'm pretty sure (okay, I'm actually positive) he loves me too. But, dammit, we don't speak the same language. Not even close to the same language. In fact, we're complete opposites!

This was first brought to my attention about a year ago by a counsellor we were trying on for size, who informed us of the five love languages:

Words of affirmation

Quality time

Receiving gifts

Acts of service

Physical touch

and asked us to rank them in order of importance. 1,2,3,4,5 for me was 5,4,3,2,1 for Mr. Me.

Brilliant. What we've got here is failure to communicate...

Armed with this knowledge we set to trying to learn each other's languages. It's a two way street, too; one of us can't just learn the other's language and expect everything to be okay, because the other person will lose a part of themselves in the process.

Sometimes we remember; sometimes we don't.

This morning we didn't. Oh, he didn't do anything objectively wrong... merely facilitated my sleeping until 8.30am, had pancakes made when I got up then organised to take the kids to the park leaving me alone for the morning. Problem is, I don't notice these as things to be grateful for. Problem is, stuff like this rather annoys me. Heck, if he'd brought the pancakes into the bedroom I'd have seethed!

Of course he was upset that I wasn't grateful. I was resentful that he had decided my preferences for me.

I think I'm fairly easily pleased. All I want is a cuddle and kiss whenever we pass each other in the hallway, but that's not easy for him. Physical touch is the lowest on his list and the definite winner for me. For me, acts of service falls well down the bottom, only slightly above receiving gifts and there's a huge gap between those two and the others. But acts of service are his number one, go-to thing. I feel disempowered by them. Indebted.

We speak different languages.

By fine coincidence, last night, in effort to wind down before sleep, I grabbed the closest book to the bed. It happened to be The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, which Mr. Me had borrowed from the library a couple of weeks earlier.

By fine coincidence, it was fresh in my mind that the big lug speaks a different language to me. We got through the perceived insults much faster than usual.

I still don't really understand his language and it baffles me how he could misunderstand such a simple, low maintenance language as I have, yet there it is:

Words of affirmation

Quality time

Receiving gifts

Acts of service

Physical touch

Our reason for feeling unloved and unappreciated while swimming in the stuff.

What's your love language? Is it different to your significant other, or family members or children?

You can take a quick quiz here to find out if you're unsure.

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Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The World Is Bored With Your Problems

We've all said it. I can't actually remember a time when I've said it, but I can sure remember feeling it, then feeling guilty about that. And before I really started paying attention to what came out of my mouth, ie, before impressionable little people entered my life, I'm sure it would have been something tactless, empathyless former me would have spouted.

"I'm totally over hearing about (insert latest natural disaster/war here)"

I've heard it plenty, and it's always said with complete obliviousness to the merest idea that others might be feeling empathy for the continued suffering of victims. Or even that the victims may still be suffering and there's a chance that they'll never "get over it."

It's a wobbly old world. This time 2 years ago, I was probably holding onto a door frame and waiting for yet another aftershock to pass. "The Big One" hit that morning - a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, just 10 kilometres deep and we considered ourselves lucky!

Nobody died.

Lucky indeed; the quake happened at 4.35am and most people were in the relative safety of their beds. Boy did it make the news though!

People weren't unaffected. Liquefaction rivers drifted through dining rooms, water was undrinkable (for those that even had any), the power was out, sewerage lines broken and shops and petrol stations were understandably closed for business. But we knew people cared. Of course they did. It was new news and for that day, there was a whole television station (maybe two!) dedicated to constant updates on the well being of Christchurch citizens. We were in a state of emergency, and people cared. For a bit.

Just about six months later, it happened again, but this time in the daytime and we did not consider ourselves lucky. It killed 185 people. Injured thousands. But we knew people cared; search and rescue teams from all over the world flocked to Christchurch and we felt cared for and loved. Everything that could be done, was being done.

Three weeks along and it was Japan's turn. A magnitude 9 quake followed by a tsunami. A complete tragedy - never ever have I felt for the victims of a natural disaster more than this, with our own so fresh and recent in my mind. I was very pleased to know New Zealand's own SAR team immediately went to help as theirs did for us. I watched it nightly on the news and thought often about the people there.

Then it happened.

I overheard it around the end of March while walking down the street. A street in my town! Where we couldn't walk near some of the buildings for safety's sake, and the roads were still decorated with cracks and liquefaction!

"I'm totally over hearing about that tsunami"

I'm glad it wasn't one of my friends, or even acquaintances.
I don't think I could have remained friends on those terms.

"I'm totally over hearing about (insert latest natural disaster/war here)"

It affects me when I hear it.

I'm not short on problems of my own, some of which may seem pretty trivial, others less so. And they don't always play nice in my head, which has led to depression (crying in the bottom of the shower because it feels too hard to turn the shower off and get dressed kinda depression), self-medicating with food, and self-hate. THIS IS OBVIOUSLY NOT THE FAULT OF THE PERSON SAYING FLIPPANT COMMENTS. There has to be fertile ground there already for tiny seeds like that to grow into brambles from hell. But it seems that every so often, no matter how much I try to sweep up those seeds, some will get lodged in a crack somewhere and take root. I start thinking Did I talk too much about what's going on for me at the moment? Are they totally "over" hearing about me too? My current problems are nothing compared to tsunami/drought/wildfire/hurricane victims... and I dial back the depth of my conversations with them to just trivialities. I can't help it.

Paranoid? Maybe.

Except now my friends are an empathetic bunch. A lot of my long time friends always have been, but I have managed to just drift away from some who might just be "over" hearing about anything that isn't them. I believe my world is a more optimistic place because of it.

Do flippant comments affect you?

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Top photo supplied by Chris Watson.
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