One of the things I love about spending one-on-one time with Keeley is the little things she comes out with. Like yesterday.
The kids went on a weeks' camp in the bush last week, and because it's done as part of the Army Cadets program, it's proper camping: set up your own hoochie, carry your gear, cook your food, no showers, etc. At the end of the camp, each of the platoons creates a War Cry which is then performed in front of all the students and judged by the teachers & instructors.
It's an intense competition with the winners gaining a lot of prestige over their rivals.
The girls of 7 Platoon (I hope I've got that right!) spent two days coming up with the words while they were marching, kayaking and canyoning, and an evening crafting the moves to complement the music and words. One of Keeley’s friends, Issy, is new to the school and was a little concerned about how she should behave. The school (TAS) was a boys’ school until 3 years ago and still retains a lot of the boy-ish behaviours, which is one of the reasons the girls & I love the school.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and possibly upset a few people, but in my observation, boys have way more fun than girls. That’s a vast generalisation, but as a whole, teenage boys don’t take themselves anywhere near as seriously as teenage girls, particularly not when a group of them get together. When a group of teenage girls get together, they bitch and moan and backstab. Boys just play footie and wrestle while shouting abuse at each other. TAS has managed to retain that quality and the girls there do a lot less bitching and enjoy themselves a lot more than they do at all girls’ schools. Like I say, it’s just my opinion.
Back to the story. As the girls’ were about to perform their war cry, Issy sidles up to Keeley and asks how she should behave. Should she be restrained and try not to make a fool of herself, like at her old school or should she really go for it and go all out, throwing restraint to the wind and giving it her all, no matter what?
Keeley: So, I said to her, “This is TAS, you’ve got to just go for it! We’ll get marked down if you don’t and it’s the opposite to Armidale High: people will make fun of you if you don’t give it your all”. And Mum, it was so great to watch, Issy was like a little Pistachio! You know, kind of closed up with only a little bit of the lovely green nut inside showing and then she burst open in all her glory! It was great!
Me [giggling and laughing]: A pistachio? Not a rose?
Keeley: Oh, I knew there was a way to say that but I couldn’t remember it! Rose, not pistachio, she opened up like a rose!
I dunno, I quite like the pistachio analogy, personally, it has way more character.
A 500-word-a-day challenge. Pfft. Not a problem. Except that it’s very likely to be a complete challenge over the next couple of months. Let’s rephrase that and “be responsible”: I’m EXPECTING it to be a challenge. I’m ANTICIPATING that it will be a challenge. Ergo, it will be a challenge.
Sorry, sorry, my personal development training just won’t let me get away with crap like that. “Take full responsibility”, “Nothing happens that isn’t your own creation”, “Own everything in your life, it’s the only way to have full power over your life”. Well, that’s all fine, but sometimes I just want to whinge about how hard my life is. Sometimes, I just want everyone else to feel sorry for me because I’m so busy and I’m so stressed. Also, I want everyone to be IN AWE when I post something because they know how busy I am and they’re amazed by the sheer amount of stuff that I get done in a day, plus they’re all then completely understanding when I flake out and don’t do things that I said I’d do; I’m really busy so it’s totally understandable, right? I put a lot of effort into convincing people of how busy I am, I can’t burst the bubble and admit that I actually spend half my life just wasting time.
But anyway, on with the task of enrolling you all in my story of just how extraordinarily busy and full and stressful my life is. Hopefully, you’ll all appreciate it and stand in reverent wonder of just what I have on my plate. I’m heading off to Armidale on Monday, that is, if I don’t do the trip in one go tomorrow (see the article that I still haven’t finished but is way more than 500 words long and will go up later). Hang on, let’s go back a couple of steps. I picked up Kira from the airport yesterday. Tomorrow or Monday, I’m picking up Keeley and spending most of next week in Armidale catching up with friends. The likelihood of getting any writing done over that time? Close to zero. Then we’re into the Christmas build-up, then we’re on a diving course (so excited!), then Ryan & Jo and maybe Jamie arrive, then we’re off on holiday. After that, it’s the build up to the return to school/Uni so maybe in February, I can get back into writing.
Are you enrolled in how busy and stressful my life is yet?
That’s how my life goes. I resist that busy-ness, that focus on everyone else, I get grumpy and resentful about it, but that’s how it goes. I set my life up like that, it’s my doing, I create it that way. I love my family, I want to spend time with them, they are the priority. To give you some idea of the extent to which I’ll go to prove just how busy I am, earlier this year, I signed up for an intensive 6-week course, but when it came to signing on the dotted line, I hesitated, wanting to delay starting it because the kids were coming home plus my dad was over on his bi-annual holiday from England. When I mentioned that to the course sales guy, he responded with “Well, you know what you need to do, don’t you?” No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me. I’m also certain that you’re about to disappoint me by proving yourself to be a complete arsehole with no comprehension of either family life or just how busy I am, by saying something ludicrous like ‘you could do your work on the program after everyone goes to bed’.
He lived up to my lowest expectations: “That’s not a problem!” he pompously declared “You could spend the day with your family, and then do the work you need to do on the program after everyone’s gone to bed.” He played right into my hands: he confirmed my suspicion that he was an absolute plonker and his declaration allowed me to set myself up to prove that I’m far too busy to do anything properly. But, to be fair to myself, he had absolutely no idea. He doesn’t have kids, he doesn’t have a family, he couldn’t relate at all. Most mothers will tell you that the kids come first and there’s no room for anything else. I look at women who can run their business and be a mother and I still wonder how they do it; I’ve never managed it.
Maybe that’s just me being single minded and focussed, which it totally could be. My family is scattered to the four winds, so when we get together, it’s special and it’s something that I give my complete focus to. Only someone who has no idea of what’s involved in having kids & a family (and, more to the point, someone who doesn’t know me very well) would even consider the possibility that I could spend the day with the kids and then, when they’d gone to bed, put in three or four hours work on study, because I’m not already worn out, right?
And yes, twenty years ago, I would have done what the sales guy suggested without any hesitation. I’d push myself through, I’d stay up late, and I’d make myself do it. I’ve been doing exactly that for years. It’s not pleasant. It’s stressful and exhausting and I totally get heaps out of behaving that way: I get to be a martyr and I get to push myself to the limits, I get to be a victim and I get to be better than everyone else and earn their admiration. It’s totally worth it! Or, at least, it has been so far.
As I’m getting older, hopefully wiser and definitely more tired, I just don’t want to do it any more; I don’t want to do the whole push, push, push thing. Okay, that’s not true, I totally do the whole push, push, push thing BUT I pick and choose what I push through because I know the emotional (and adrenal) strain that it puts me under. And Christmas is already an adrenal strain without adding anything else into the mix.
So, five hundred words a day? We’ll see. Am I making up excuses to not do five hundred words a day? Probably definitely. Do I care? Yes. Am I going to feel guilty about it? Totally. Man, reading this through, I’ve completely lost my sense of humour. See? That’s what happens when the adrenals take over!
PS That's 1111 words, 2 days' worth of posts! Awesome! What an over-achiever!
One of my great long-distance driving Stay-Awake tools is singing along to Robbie Williams. At top volume. I can’t sing for toffee, as Keeley so graciously confirmed once. I was happily squawking along to some swing tune or other, aiming for the high notes and missing by quite a long way, trying to do the harmonies – which, to be fair, I am quite good at for some obscure reason – but getting it wrong half the time, and, not wanting Keeley to miss out on all this fun, particularly as she’s the family musician, I enthusiastically urged her to join in; I was having so much fun, I was sure she would, too.
“No, it’s fine, thank you,” she says. I implored her to chill out, join in and enjoy herself a little. I know she can sing, why doesn’t she participate in the family singalong? It’ll be fun! “Because,” she says, “it’s really annoying when you hear people try to hit the right notes but always end up singing off key.”
Right. Bemused a little by the criticism inherent in that sentence, I finally consoled myself by singing for a while. Off key, of course.
A little later, one of Kira’s favourite Robbie songs, Go Gentle, a song Robbie wrote for his daughter, came on and as the two of us belted out the second verse (probably to Keeley’s chagrin) - “Don't waste time with the eejits that think that they're heroes, They will betray you, stick with us weirdos…” - Kira paused in her operatic efforts, “We’re weirdo’s, you know, mum.” Sorry? Are we? I didn’t expect this turn of events. Why are we weirdos? In what way?
“Well, we are,” she continued, “None of my friends have families like ours. They don’t have relationships with their parents like we do, they don’t behave the way we all do, they don’t have the conversations with their parents about behaviour that we do, their parents don’t expect them to behave in the way that you expect us to behave. And the worst of it is, you expect everyone who comes to the house to behave in the same way that we do, so a lot of people [her school mates] don’t like coming round to our place because you won’t stand for any of the usual teenage behaviour.” Well, no, but isn’t that normal? I thought that was normal? I felt this need to defend my position; I’m sure I’m not weird. Or, at least, not so weird that anyone would notice. I wanted her to clarify, so I asked, “Why would anyone want to put up with tantrums and rudeness just because that person is a “hormonal teenager”? It’s not acceptable.”
“See?” Kira said, “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Most parents believe that that’s how teenagers are meant to behave so they put up with it. You don’t accept it from anyone, even if it’s the first time you’ve met them. Do you have any idea how weird we are as a family as a result of that?” Erm, no. I was sure that she was going to tell me, though, and this was really interesting; the main reason I don’t tolerate the usual teenage crap is because, in my opinion, it’s just an excuse for appalling (and very immature) behaviour and, from my part, it’s hard work to deal with. It would be interesting to find out what the impact is on the kids with their friends and social network.
“In general, we don’t like being around kids our own age because they want to moan and bitch about how awful their parents are. We can’t relate to it. We know that we’re free to do whatever we want to do as long as we try our hardest; you’re never going to tell us that we need to do a particular thing with our lives in order to be successful or whatever. None of this is normal, Mum, we’re a bunch of weirdos.” Kira concluded.
I have to say, I was a little bit bewildered for the second time in a few minutes. First Keeley declares that she never joins in with the singalong because we all sing off key and it pains her musically sensitive ears, then Kira tells me that we’re a bunch of weirdos. I decide to do a little familial surveying, “What do you think, Keeley? Are we weirdos?” “Yes!” she snorted and rolled her eyes in a ‘duh!’ kind of way. I called Ryan and explained the conversation to him, “Ryan, are we weirdos?” Ryan was a little more diplomatic than Keeley but after several minutes of building up to the point, he finished with “Well, we’re not your normal family so if I was to be particularly blunt, I would have to say that yes, we’re weirdos.” I spoke to Jamie who was a little affronted by the fact that Kira thought we were weirdos, but it took only a couple of minutes for him to reassess everything before happily concluding, “Actually, you know what? I think she’s right: we’re a bunch of weirdos! That would explain a lot!”
I bumped into my friend and former mentor, Kat, yesterday and I remembered how she used to laugh at me for trying to fit in and comparing myself to everyone else. “But you’re not like everyone else, Karen; you’re not normal! Let’s face it, you’d be bored out of your brain if you tried to be ‘normal’!” Bored and depressed, I responded… oh, wait, that’s right, I tried to be ‘normal’ for a few years and ended up on anti-depressants. It was the saddest and darkest few years of my life. There was a lot of other things going on, for sure, but trying to fit in, trying to be ‘normal’ didn’t help at all.
I did the Hogwarts Sorting Hat quiz a few years ago (of course I did) and ended up in Slytherin. The reason being? My greatest fear is to be ordinary. Well, actually, there were a number of other things, too, but I suspect that was one of the main ones. I’ve tried to sorting ceremony under three different names now and I ALWAYS get sorted into Slytherin.
I’ve come to the conclusion – and yes, it’s taken a very long time for me to get it – that I’m not normal. I’m not ordinary and I don’t fit in. AND – get this, this is the real clincher – I don’t want to. I don’t want to be ordinary, I don’t want to be normal and I don’t want to fit in. It makes me really unhappy when I try because I spent my time constantly comparing myself to everyone else and invariably, other people are doing way better than me, possibly because that’s what they’re meant to be doing. I’m not. It’s amazing (and very comforting) how many people stick their hands up and say, “Me too!” when I talk about things like this. I’m much, much happier being a weirdo and labelling myself as one, not least because it means that people don’t expect me to do the things that ‘normal’ people do; there’s such a lot of freedom in pronouncing myself to be a weirdo. All that weight of having to conform and having to fit in and behave in a certain way, got released.
Like Robbie said, “Don't waste time with the eejits that think that they're heroes, They will betray you, stick with us weirdos…”
I’ve been thinking there was something wrong with me for the last few weeks. I’ve felt more and more listless, unable to sit at the computer and write, unable to get a string of words together. I make sure that I exercise and do all that stuff; after learning the hard way, I know that if I don’t exercise, I don’t sleep, and sleep is a vital ingredient to feeling good and having your life work. Sleep is as precious as diamonds. Hence, I exercise and stay physically active, I fall asleep quickly and I sleep well. So why am I feeling more and more lifeless, more and more depressed? Why don’t I have much enthusiasm for anything? Why are things getting to me so much? Why can’t I cope with life, taking things personally and blowing everything out of all proportion? What is wrong with me?
It all came to a head yesterday. It’s been a particularly stressful week and I’ve no doubt you’ll hear about it in one article or another. There have been massive upsets with Keeley, concerns about Kira, arguments with Jamie, things going on with Ryan, chats with teachers, emails flying all over the place, arrangements rescheduled, Christmas is hurtling towards us and I hate the whole Christmas thing, and John went into hospital for an operation on his jaw. He was understandably nervous about it, having had a similar operation 18 months ago and being in a lot of pain for several weeks.
I sat down yesterday morning, and decided to start putting down onto paper how I was feeling. Then the text messages started. I have a fantastic relationship with the kids and I speak to most of them most days. Plus, there’s always lots of text messages and photos flying round. On top of that, John’s operation had gone much more smoothly than the previous one and he was justifiably relieved and happy and wanted to share that happiness around. He was also keen for me to engage in one of our favourite pastimes: criticising other people’s eating habits and feeling all superior about ourselves.
He sent photos of the tray of food he was brought for breakfast. When the nurse put the tray containing white bread, cereal, milk, orange juice, a lemonade and (horror) white sugar down, John was told, “This isn’t yours, it’s for next door, but that’s okay.” Well, it kind of is but it also isn’t, because John asked for Gluten-free and lactose-free food. The nurses scurried round for so long, trying to find gluten-free and lactose-free anything, that John gave in, ate a packet of coco pops with milk and subsequently had to go and get some antacids to help sort out his stomach.
After heaven knows how many text messages from various members of the family, I switched my brain on and put my phone on ‘do not disturb’ but it was too late: I was so irritated that I was completely out of the flow and had no clue as to what I wanted to talk about any more.
John carried on texting me - pick me up now; no don’t, they’ve changed their minds; come now; no, do the shopping first; I’ll wait outside; you have to come in and get me – and then my emails started to play up with one account refusing to connect to the server. I tried everything Apple suggested and then did what the Apple community suggested, which was to delete the account and reinstall it. At which point, Mail decided to download three years and 3000+ emails that I already had on my laptop, and most of which were junk or spam anyway. Great. Nothing I did would stop it. By the time I left home to go and pick John up, I was late, I wasn’t sure whether I was going in the hospital or not, whether he wanted me to get stuff from the shops or not, whether I needed to sign anything or not. I basically had no bloody clue what I was meant to be doing and I was really fed up of the constant bombardment of text messages and the 3000+ emails that I now had to sort through and delete, and I was late. So, of course, it was inevitable that I would run into heavy traffic and idiot drivers. Which I did.
Probably due to the fact that I was no longer responding to his text messages, John decides to call me; he’s down at reception but he’ll grab a coffee so that I can go shopping before I pick him up. I take a left turn to head towards Robina Town Centre…
And end up on the wrong road. Stuck behind more idiot drivers in even heavier traffic. I start to swear because it’s the only thing I can do to stop myself having a complete meltdown and bursting into tears. There was a high possibility that if I started crying, I wouldn’t stop for quite a long time. The frustration at not being able to do what I wanted to do was immense, and I felt so unbelievably tired; I could have happily lay down and gone to sleep right then. What on earth is wrong with me? I kept wondering. I sleep well, I don’t have sleep problems anymore; what is going on? Am I sick? Am I depressed? Am I not eating right? What is wrong?
During a brief interlude at a coffee shop, I seriously considered whether to release all my pent-up frustration and irritation onto a single person when one of the staff was in a shitty mood and decided to take out her frustration out on the customers. I hate rudeness, I hate it. It really infuriates me. And it’s the little details that form that very fine line between disrespect and courtesy. I’d placed the serving number off to one side of the table. Having served our drinks, she asked whether we were waiting for anything else. When I responded that we were, she reached across the table, so close to me that I jumped back, grabbed the table number and slammed it down right in the middle of the table, right in front of my face. She has no idea how close she came to suffering a painful, lingering and very public death by humiliation. But I was very proud of myself, I managed to get a grip and not make everything worse by making some poor fool feel even worse than they already did.
Tea drunk, breakfast eaten, we headed home where the meltdown reached its climax. “I have no life,” I confided in John, “no future, there’s no point in me doing anything, I have no purpose, no one needs me, what’s the point?” After half an hour or so of me making no sense whatsoever, while John, befuddled from the medication, bemusedly wracked his brains to try to figure out what the hell was going on with me and what he could do to make it better, I was worn out by all the emotional turmoil. To John’s great relief, I decided to do a quick meditation to try to calm myself down and perk myself up… and woke up three hours later. The only reason I woke up was because the sun was shining right onto me and a little voice in my head was telling me that I had a chiropractors’ appointment soon.
I felt so much better! I was tired! That was what was wrong with me: I was simply tired. I am sleeping well at night, but I wake at dawn. My bedtime is the same, but dawn is earlier and earlier, so right now I’m getting maybe six hours’ sleep a night and it’s obviously not enough.
One of my friends tells me that there is a major astronomical event that’s going on that’s causing all sorts of angst and emotional turmoil and is responsible for how I’m feeling (me and half the planet, it would seem). Apparently, some planet is going backwards and some other planet is somewhere else. Oh, and there’s something about the moon being full too. All of this completely explains why I’m feeling the way I have, but not to worry, because soon it will all get better: in the next few days, the Sun joins one of the planets in some festive place, they’ll totally have a party and we can all join in and be merry. Just in time for Christmas.
In the meantime, I’m going to buy myself an eye mask to wear, which will hopefully help me to sleep a little longer and feel a little more emotionally relaxed. Mind you, I don’t really do emotionally relaxed at the best of times, and Christmas definitely isn’t one of my best times, so perhaps I shouldn’t set my hopes too high on that one.
It might be the season of planetary misalignment also known as Christmas, but, swear to god, I’m inundated with sagas of passionate people whose fervent desire to help the planet, protect the flora and fauna, and support numerous altruistic results in bullying. I’m not going to mince my words here, because I’m sick to the back teeth of how we all tolerate this behaviour because ‘they’ve got a good point’ or ‘they’re only trying to help’ or ‘that’s what they believe and they’re obviously passionate about it’.
I don’t speak up on this kind of thing for various reasons… actually, no, let me clarify that: I haven’t spoken up about this before because I do my best to be kind and compassionate to others and, besides which, who am I to tell someone that their belief isn’t right for me? Or maybe I believe that what they’re saying is completely wrong? It’s none of my business what anyone believes, everyone is entitled to believe what they like and no one else can tell them that they’re right or wrong. THAT is my belief: no one can criticise or judge anyone else’s beliefs because no one can fully understand someone else, they don’t have their experiences or personality, so just shut up and leave them alone. Consequently, I get pretty damned upset when someone forces their beliefs on me.
A friend put up a post a couple of weeks ago about animal rights and veganism and all that stuff. I get where they’re coming from, I understand it and I love their passion. What I don’t like was their comment that went something like, “If you still eat meat then you’re condoning things like this. I love you but I can’t have you in my life, so goodbye.” The thing is, I get what they’re saying about getting people who aren’t aligned with you out of your life and I agree with it. I also understand the passion and commitment. But that’s not what this statement is about. In its current form, the statement is passive aggressive, sanctimonious and self-righteous. And dramatic. The same point could be made without all of that pious superiority, but it was designed to do one thing: draw a line. You’re either with us or against us, you’re one of us or you’re the enemy. There’s no room for any belief other than theirs. No one can do anything other than what they believe because everything else is wrong; it’s their way or the highway.
That’s the problem I have with this kind of behaviour: there is no room for discussion or argument or any belief other than the one that person holds. It’s closed-minded. There’s no discussion possible, no room for anything other than what they believe. They’re right and everyone else is wrong, wrong, wrong.
It is the intolerant demanding tolerance.
‘Tolerance’ in this case meaning “accede to my demands or else.” It’s that “or else” that triggers me, I think: convert to veganism or I’ll unfriend you. Be against horse racing or show that you are cruel to animals. Agree with me or prove that you’re a fascist racist sexist white trash money-grabbing despot.
One of Kira’s (hopefully now ex-) friends called Kira “an able-ist tw*t” the other day. I didn’t know what an able-ist was, nor do I know how to spell it, but it all came about because Kira didn’t agree not to use words like ‘stupid’, ‘idiot’ and ‘crazy’ because they are (apparently) demeaning to people with mental handicaps. Oh, sorry, mental disabilities. What is the bloody term I’m supposed to use now? Really? When I say something like ‘disabled’ or handicapped’, to me it means the same thing: it’s an illness, a genetic defect, an error in their makeup or whatever else it might be. It’s a description, it’s not a judgement, negative or otherwise. Words are simply words, WE place the meaning on them. My INTENTION is not to cause offence. If offence is caused, then the offence occurs in the listeners brain AND NOWHERE ELSE. We can change the words we use, but it’s really all about the attitude and attitudes like calling someone “an able-ist tw*t” or “an animal abuser” is exactly what they say they’re not going to tolerate in other people.
I know that people say things and they INTEND others to be hurt, I’m not stupid, but you can change all the words you like but if you don’t change the basic attitude, it’s not going to make a difference. I’m not only talking about changing the attitude of the people who are saying the words here, I’m talking about giving those who are getting offended the support they need so that they don’t get offended. This is about all of us being responsible fully for ourselves and what we’re thinking. WE are 100% responsible for any meaning we add to something someone says. One. Hundred. Percent. Forbidding people from using certain words changes very little other than making them more careful about the words they’re using. Yes, changes definitely need to be made, but it’s about attitude and beliefs, not words. Quit putting your limiting beliefs on me by telling me that I can’t say certain things because you find them offensive. That’s not my problem, that’s yours. Stop spreading your pain and upset around by making everyone else feel bad and tread on eggshells around you. Take some responsibility for yourself. Stop pretending you’re powerless. No one can hurt you with words unless you allow them to.
Here’s something for those ardent zealots to consider: passion and commitment is admirable, however you cannot force people into doing something; eventually, there’ll be a backlash. We’ll all be very polite and let you rant on for a while, but sooner or later, we’ll get sick of you and things will be worse than they were before you started ranting on and bullying people. All of this intolerance, all of these demands, all of this name calling and accusation that happens when someone doesn’t agree with you is nothing more than bullying. It’s dominating and controlling, exactly what you say you’re against. If you behaved like this in the school playground, the teachers would be down on you like a ton of bricks. You’re treating people like they’re the enemy, you’re giving them no credit for kindness or compassion, you’re assuming that they need to be beaten into submission. There’s no respect in this behaviour. You might feel that you’re justified in behaving this way because of the atrocities that you see are being committed, but you’re not. You’re trying to bully people into submission, you’re trying to use fear – fear of being labelled as an animal abuser, a racist, sexist, anti-equality, fear of being outcast, unfriended or whatever else - to achieve your own ends.
This kind of behaviour is part of the problem, it’s not part of the solution. The end NEVER justifies the means. Take a good long look at yourself: you’re letting yourselves down. You’re not setting the standards for compassionate, respectful behaviour because you only show respect to those who “deserve it”, in other words, those who agree with you.
Mother Theresa said something along the lines of “I will never attend an anti-war rally. When you hold a peace rally, invite me.”
PS I wonder if anyone will ignore everything I’ve said and make a comment about “yes but things need to change…”
PPS That’s apart from the people who will do exactly that because I’ve pointed it out, lol! You know who you are!
I wandered through Broadbeach, wondering whether I needed to shake myself and wake myself up. Was this a bizarre dream? Or some kind of not-so-scary nightmare? Surely I wasn’t actually awake and walking down the streets of a tourist-focused beachside suburb. Something weird was going on. I looked around and all I could see were sparkles, extra-large bows, lycra, shiny backpacks covered in that silver holographic material, sequins, over-the-top makeup, fake smiles and high ponytails. I felt like I was wandering though some strange My-Little-Pony-Meets-Barbie world not the beachy-touristy place that I was expecting. After a few enquiries, I discovered that the Gold Coast Convention Centre, located just across the road from where we were, was host to the National Cheerleading Championships and two and a half thousand competitors plus their families had descended on us.
I’m a synchronised swimmer. I’ve gone through all that stuff with sequinned costumes, perfect hair and fake smiles. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Although, if I’m honest, I was really hopeless at the fake smiling bit, I could never see the point. But I have never, ever been around 2,500 synchronised swimmers in full regalia, accompanied by the requisite scary mothers, or possibly entire families come to cheer them along (sic)!
Working as a swimming coach in my 20’s was a great experience: it showed me exactly who I didn’t want to be as a parent. It doesn’t matter what sport we’re talking about here, some parents are just nuts. There was one moment that was pivotal for me. I’d been teaching some 7-9 year old kids to dive in 1.8m of water: “put your arms over your ears, hands together, bend over and just plop into the water”, that kind of thing. After the lesson finished, the head coach came over to me, and with his back to the grandstand where the parents were sitting, he said, “No matter what I say, no matter what you’re thinking, I need you to look really sorry and upset. Do you promise?” Unsure of what to do, I just nodded. “Right,” he said, “One of the mothers has just complained that her son hit his head on the bottom of the pool and now she has to take him to hospital because he may be suffering from concussion.”
I opened my mouth to protest: this was 1.8m of water and the kid couldn’t have been more than a metre tall! Not one of those kids managed to touch the bottom, they even had a competition going to see if anyone could touch the bottom and none of them did.
But the coach cut me off before I could say anything, “I know, I know! You promised to look sorry and contrite! Just look upset, not angry! I was watching; the kid’s lying.”
As the coach carried on with ‘telling me off’, concentrating very hard on keeping a contrite expression on my face, I looked up to the grandstand. The mother, predictably, was looking angry, while at the same time managing to also looking smugly satisfied at my reprimand. The son, little shit that he was, was gleefully dancing behind her, swapping the gloating, victorious expression that he wore when her back was turned, to a helpless one that was full of pain and suffering, whenever she looked at him.
That was a defining moment for me, and for my kids. I swore that I would never, ever turn into a mother like that. It has happened on a few occasions, I have been sucked into supporting one of the kids in what turned out to be a wholly fabricated story, but the child in question has wholeheartedly regretted manipulating me like that.
I’ve never got much involved with Parents Associations at school or kids sports for the same reason: they tend to attract the intense, fanatical parents whose life is utterly devoted to their children’s success. They’re that most dangerous breed of human: Homo Vicarien, humans that live vicariously through their kids.
Today, Broadbeach was packed to the rafters with them. It was a human behavioural experts dream. The female Homo Vicarien wear clothes that match their kids: oversized baseball jackets in their team colours, trimmed with silver, and adorned with glittery lettering, mostly spelling out the troop name. Cheerleading troops have very interesting names: “Force Elite All Stars”, “Xplosion”, “Cheer Factor” and “REBEL 4ORCE”. Astronomical names are big in this world, as are names that have anything to do with explosions.
A more interesting phenomenon were those mothers who had things like ‘Team Tyla-Jaydye’ or ‘2018 Champion: Cheltzee’ embroidered hopefully on the back. Obviously, these ones aren’t the team-player mothers. They’re not interested in the team as a whole or making sure everyone wins, these ones take things to a whole new level. Generally the cause of much bitterness and tension within both the parents and the participants, this breed are only interested in their own child, believing that their child is the star of the team, the one who holds things together and the who wins all the medals for the team. No other member of the team is as important as their child, in fact, it would be fair to say that there would be no team, if it wasn’t for their child.
One lady, who was on the phone having a highly agitated phone conversation that involved many flamboyant arm movements, sported a top with the logo “Queer And Dance” printed on it. I could be completely wrong, since my exposure to the cheerleading world is about five minutes long, but I felt that this was a… let’s say, interesting… name even by their standards. I was dying to ask her about it, but she looked so agitated and angry, that I didn’t have the bottle to go over and talk to her. Instead, I treated myself to a happy few minutes pondering the possible causes of her passion: maybe her daughter was pipped at the post for the championship by her totally unworthy arch nemesis. What if her daughter was unfairly eliminated by some judge who didn’t know what they were doing? Or - ooh, I know – what if they’d had a run-in with the judge before and the mother thought that the judge was getting payback for whatever happened in the past? Perhaps a jealous team member who wanted all the glory, elbowed her daughter at a crucial moment causing her to fall over or mis-step. It could be that another team/competitor had copied their outfits or <sharp intake of breath> they’d copied the oversized, sparkly bows the girls wore in their high ponytails.
I’m not going to talk about the bows. I keep trying and I keep sounding like I’m a complete bitch, which I might be but I don’t necessarily want to sound like one. I’m just going to say this: oversized bows. Sparkly oversized bows.
I’m off to Broadbeach again now. Hopefully, I won’t find myself in the Crystal Empire today.
PS In case you’re wondering, I made the little shit who lied about hitting his head pay. Swimming lessons can be great fun or they can be exhausting and very hard work. He he he.
PPS The mystery of the “Queer And Dance” t-shirt logo was solved a little later when I saw someone else with the same top on. The writing actually said “Cheer and Dance”!
*Image screenshot from Australian All Stars Cheerleading Federation
What do I want?
I shook myself, trying to regain some semblance of control of what was going on inside my head and quell some of the more strident voices that are clamouring for attention. Get a grip, I told myself, these are my thoughts, I am in charge here, it’s time to stop. Just stop, okay? What is it that I actually feel is right for me? Take what John thinks out of it, take what Keeley or Kira think out of it, what do I want?
Oblivious to the Pacific Ocean, its surface glassy and sun-kissed, its waves dotted with tanned, fit surfie-types who had succumbed to the ocean’s seductive call to come and play (and possibly drown or get bitten by a shark), I continued my stormy stomp down the beach, completely unaware of the sand massaging the tension from my feet but uncomfortably aware of the sand scrubbing away the remnants of the blisters there. Blisters that I got after a beach walk a few days ago, when I crossed the carpark while wearing no shoes.
It was one of those scenes that Aussies are gleeful about posting on social media with titles like “Stupid tourist burns feet trying to act like local surfies. I almost died laughing! Watch this, it’ll make your day!” As I stepped onto the carpark, it took a couple of strides for awareness of the heat beneath my feet to register with my brain. Doing my best to be nonchalant about the whole thing and pretend this wasn’t happening; I am Australian after all, I should be able to walk across a red hot carpark without looking like a shoe-bereft city slicker. I walked faster and faster across the carpark, until finally, all decorum and composure thrown to the wind, my feet blistered and burned, I broke out into a tippy-toe sprint, desperately trying to put as little of my body onto the red-hot tarmac as I could while I frantically scurried to the safety of shade.
Today, my feet-protecting shoes left at the top of the beach for the walk back to the car, I grumped my way down the beach, wrapped up in my own little anxiety-ridden, stress-filled, what’s-the-point world as I turn the question over and over in my mind: what feels right to me? This was really, really difficult, much more difficult than it ought to be.
Cue rolling eyes. I’m fifty-five years of age, I’ve done a bucketload of personal development work, I’ve been a life coach, I can smell this kind of block at a hundred metres in a rainstorm. Let’s face facts, after everything I’ve done, I should be transformed and enlightened by now, in spiritual nirvana, I should not still be doing the whole people pleasing thing. A vision of a book with the catchy and not-at-all-dramatic title of ‘How People Pleasing Nearly Klled Me’ flashed through my mind and another wave of guilt hit me. I still haven’t read the thing. I bought it knowing that I need to get out of the habit of doing things to please others but quite obviously, I also didn’t want to ACTUALLY stop the whole people pleasing thing.
I sighed. Then I sighed again, just because I liked the feeling of hopelessness that comes with that kind of sigh. You know the one, your shoulders lift as you breathe in, and then when the air goes out of your lungs, your whole body seems to sink down into the ground, so you feel two or three inches shorter, like you’re getting smaller and heavier, more depressed and insignificant with every molecule of air that leaves your body. Some sighs make you feel contented or blissful or relaxed, they enliven and invigorate you. Not this kind of sigh. This kind of sigh enhances your feelings of despondency and misery and poor-me-I’m-so-misunderstoodness.
I tried again: what DO I want to do? What feels right to me? I struggle to take everyone else’s opinion out of the equation. The thing is, when you love people, it’s very difficult NOT to take into account what they want and as a parent, a good portion of your life is given over to making other people happy. Sure, there are times when you have to put your foot down and do things the child doesn’t like, but for the most part, the driving force is to make sure the child is happy. So how does stopping people pleasing come into the equation then? I’m damned if I know.
An attention-seeking wave made a solid attempt to get higher up the beach than its friends and after a brief but bitter struggle with my inner King Canute (the one who believed his innate Kingliness was sufficient to stop the tide), I irritably adjusted my walking course to avoid the wash of water, vaguely wondering whether the tide was coming in or going out because I wanted to walk in a fairly straight line and I wasn’t going to be able to do that if I was going to be inundated with water every few strides. I wrestled my mind back to the problem in hand. I’m in completely new territory here, a land never before inhabited by Mummy Karen: what do I want? If I ignore what anyone else thinks and whatever possible consequences there might be if I do what I feel is the right thing for me to do, then what would I do?
I listened to all the thoughts skidding across my mind. I can’t just ignore what other people think, if I do that, they might not like me. What if – gasp of horror – people think I’m wrong? What if – stomach lurches in a sharp descent - I actually AM wrong? What if I’ve been doing it wrong all these years? What if I’m really a crap mother and I’ve screwed up my kids’ lives by behaving the way that I do? If I ignore what John says, came one thought, maybe he’ll finally get sick of me and leave me. I felt like a knife was twisting in my stomach. Then the rational side of me snorted. ‘Mate, if he hasn’t left you yet, he’s not going to leave you over this. Next!’ The Poor Me thoughts took a turn towards the unexpected: well, what if I really do have an emotional IQ of about 2?
I blinked. Well, if I’m perfectly honest with myself, that is probably an accurate depiction of my emotional IQ. I can be very immature in a lot of ways. Like right now. If I take away all the frills and fluffy stuff and get down to the bare, brutal facts, what I want to do, what I REALLY want to do, is emotionally hurt Keeley to the same extent that she’d emotionally hurt me. I cringed; there is such a thing as being too honest. But there it is: what I want is a bit… okay a lot… of righteous retribution. It’s what I’d normally do, how I’d normally react and to hell with the consequences for myself and the impact on others.
Tonight, though, Keeley is going to her first ever formal and is up to her well-trimmed eyebrows in nail-biting angst about the whole thing. Or she would be nail-biting if she hadn’t just had her nails done. I want to be included in that, I want to know what she’s up to, I want to share it with her and be involved in the excitement. But I also want to make her DEEPLY sorry that she lied to me. I’m almost afraid of talking to her… alright, I’m avoiding talking to her because although I do want to talk to her and find out what she’s up to and be a part of it, I also want to scream at her and make her understand that she is never to lie to me again. I’m avoiding calling her because I’m not sure which side of me will rise to the surface when I speak to her.
I groan to myself again because that’s me pussy-footing around the truth (again) but it does bring me nicely back on topic because John’s stated opinion, and the cause of this beachside existential crisis, was that I should just drop the subject until after the formal. Because, he said with upsetting candour, if the past is anything to go by, I’ll just make her life hell, ban her from going to the formal, then possibly catch myself because I’m being mean, and relent and let her go at the last minute. But I’ll only relent AFTER I’ve made sure I’ve embarrassed her in front of her friends and caused her all sorts of heartache and stress. Continuing his frank declaration, he stated that he doesn’t blame her for lying to me, what do I expect? Keeley knows how I’m going to react to what she’s trying to hide, and she’s not going to risk that getting in the way of her going to the formal.
He’s quite right. That’s exactly how I want to react. With an effort worthy of Wonderwoman, I grab hold of all the bickering factions in my mind, wrestle the different feelings - that I’ve let John down, that I haven’t done the right thing in raising the kids, that I’ve got everything completely wrong – to the ground, then firmly sit on them to give myself a bit of space (peace & quiet) to think. A couple of errant self-recriminations escape from under me and echoes of “I’m not good enough” and “I haven’t done this right” bounce around in all directions.
I really need to figure out what feels right to me. My immediate reaction of telling Keeley she can’t go to the formal is an old and well-used one, but is that just my ego wanting to spread the pain that I felt from being lied to and have the person who’d caused the pain to understand how I felt by making them feel the same way? Probably. Do I want to react like that? Yep, sure do. Is it mature and indicative of a high EQ? Probably not. Should that be a gauge in how I behave? Not if I’m going to trust myself.
Lord, sometimes I hate being able to think. I wish I was a cat and I could just laze around in the sun, looking for the next opportunity to irritate some human by sitting outside the door looking as though I want to come in and then walking away when they open the door for me. Life would be so much easier if I could just do that. Sadly, no can do. Realising that the sun is beginning to burn a hole in my nose and my chest is feeling suspiciously raw, I turn and walk back towards the car and continue my convoluted deliberations with the occasional distraction. It’s interesting how different the ocean looks, depending on whether you’re facing the sun or looking away from it; the light seems to reflect differently.
The thought that here is an opportunity to grow keeps niggling at me. I don’t know how to handle this, I’m in a strange new world of behaviour, I’m learning something new. Maybe I really could just sweep the lies under the carpet until the Formal is over. Doing that would be completely out of character, for sure. Dropping the whole thing and pretending it didn’t happen feels weird. In one sense, it goes completely against everything I believe in; I’m allowing someone to tell lies and get away with it, even if they only get away with it for a few days. That doesn’t feel right, it feels strange, it feels wrong.
The cries of self-recrimination and screams for righteous retribution were now quiet enough to allow a few new thoughts to come through: what is more important to me, communicating how upset I am (i.e. making Keeley pay) or being a part of Keeley’s first formal?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. My feelings of worthiness as a mother are intricately tied up with my children’s behaviour. If I allow Keeley to think for a second that lying to me is okay, then I’m letting myself down. I indulge myself in another one of those heaving, heavy-hearted sighs.
As I’m thoroughly enjoying wallowing in my moral crisis and pondering the depths of the ethic quandaries in which parenthood places us, a lady, who’s at least ten years older than me, overtakes me like a Porsche going past a Reliant Robin (the three wheeled car that Mr Bean had).
Where the hell did SHE come from? This is NOT acceptable. I am fit and healthy, the epitome of fifty-something womanhood. I will NOT be overtaken by galloping geriatrics.
Fine, I think to myself, I’ll leave hauling the little madam over the coals till Monday. This is an opportunity for personal growth, is it? Right, grow I will. I pick up the pace, heading after the striding woman with the sturdy legs. As I lift up my head to look around, I come to a second decision: you know what? I’m just going to go at my own pace and not worry about what anyone else is doing. Now THAT is an opportunity for growth for me.
I have my money stories like everyone else. I hug them to my chest and hold them close, treasuring them and trying to protect them from prying eyes. Sometimes, I fail miserably, and my precious stories get hauled unceremoniously out of their safe, cosy hiding place, after which a dazzling spotlight is shone on them for all the world to point at and analyse.
Today is one of those days. There’s a certain point where my money stories and John’s money stories meet. It’s a dark and seething maelstrom of twisted beliefs and painful, partly-formed ‘facts’. Most of them time, I manage to avoid getting caught up in the whirling vortex of intertwined dogmas, I know how it’s likely to go if I do get trapped in there, so as soon as I see the likelihood of this clash happening, I fire the five P’s into action: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
This time, for some inexplicable reason, instead of putting my usual preparations on high alert and pressing the big red button to launch everything in into action (Plan A in place? Check! Plan B ready to go? Check? What about Plan C? Do we have a Plan C ready just in case? We certainly do, sah!), I ALLOWED myself to be persuaded not to do that by my errant husband. It was a moment of barriers coming down, a moment of trust in my fellow man, a moment of hope for the future. I don’t know what I was thinking.
You see, I have this money belief that there’s never enough, money will always run out. I can live quite happily for. A few weeks or even months, never a whiff of a money shortage darkening my existence, and then it starts, and swear to god, within two days, I’m flat broke. There’s no money in my wallet and no money in the bank and panic begins to set in.
But then – ta da, ta DAH! Cue the trumpets and heroic music because here comes John, fully kitted out in half a tonne of stainless steel and tied to a huge white cart horse (he can’t ride for toffee, so he needs something to hold him on there), its long white mane and snowy feathers waving in the wind as they gallop to the rescue (the horse has obviously just been bathed because as every owner of every grey (that’s horsey speak for ‘white’) horse that has ever existed knows if it’s in the paddock, it will find the only patch of mud that exists for a thousand kilometres in any direction because of the drought, OR – and I know what you’re thinking here – you can just put it in a stable, right? Then your problem is solved. No! It doesn’t work. Every grey horse is genetically programmed to sleep using its manure as a pillow for its head. Or its bum, side, neck, legs, everywhere, in fact). Leaping from his snowy steed, clothes magically transforming in mid-air from noisy steel plate to suave black top hat and tails, John whips the hat from his head and pulls a rabbit out of it.
That’s how it goes: I run out of money and John comes to the rescue by - to paraphrase his favourite saying - pulling a rabbit out the hat, thereby assuring himself of remaining my hero and injecting himself with the fuzzy and warm feeling that he gets knowing that once again, he’s taken great care of his family.
All this happened yesterday: I ran out of money, John did his usual dance around his office for a few minutes (I think it’s something close to a Shaman’s Rain Dance only this is John’s Money Dance. It’s very effective) declaiming as always my profligate spending, the working of his fingers to the bone and how he dislikes having to “keep on pulling rabbits out of hats” (bwahaha!). I suggested (this was Plan A) that I transfer some money from another account into my spending account to give him a bit more time, but John assured me that no, the rabbit was already out of the hat and the money would be in my account this morning. Awesome.
I have no idea whether what happened was done on purpose, whether it was a subconscious thing or whether it was a complete accident. The thing that makes me suspicious is that this is the second time this has happened in the last couple of months: John put the rabbit into the wrong account.
Note to self: Put the 5 P’s into action next time.
For anyone who hasn’t been on the internet or seen the TV for the last week, it was the Melbourne Cup last Tuesday and social media is full of horror stories about the Cup & horse racing in general. Fortunately, the onslaught of annoying posts is starting to die down now.
Here’s the thing, right: this is not an article about the pros and cons of horse racing. This is not an article about animal rights, cruelty, veganism or anything else like that.
What this is about is whether what you’re posting is in alignment with your personal values and giving other people the freedom to live by their own personal values.
What’s happened in the last couple of weeks is that there’s been an onslaught of posts about the horrors of horse racing. They’re written in highly emotive rhetoric, stating “facts” about the racing industry and its poor animal welfare record and they’re usually accompanied by some outburst from the person sharing it along the lines of “Oh my god, this is terrible, it’s got to stop!”
A friend of mine posted an article with “statistics” about the Australian horse racing industry. Her comment on it was something along the lines of “I didn’t know any of this when I posted earlier about wishing they’d ban the Melbourne Cup but knowing this now, it’s got to stop!”
The article she shared opened with the headline: “If you don't like home truths keep on scrolling!!!!!!”
Seriously? FIVE exclamation marks? Good grief.
It went through a series of “statistics” and ended with:
“Spare a thought today for these guys [horses] who aren't being given a second thought while you're placing your money down at the TAB!!!!
Happy Melbourne Cup Day!!!!”
I put the word ‘statistics’ in inverted commas because the “statistics” quoted come from the US Racing industry not the Australian one, and they’re two completely different beasts (pardon the pun). If you’re going to argue something, get your facts right. Someone tried to point out to my friend that the statistics were inaccurate, but the damage was done.
This kind of article is sensationalist story telling with enough of a kernel of truth to make people believe the rest of it. It's designed to get people worked up with its eye-catching headline and emotional heartstring wording. It's manipulative, melodramatic and is filled with half-truths and outright lies cited as “facts”. It’s designed to get people up in arms and make them come to a certain specific conclusions and take certain actions, in this case, to share the post, get worked up and demand other people do the things that the writer of the post wants them to do.
Believing the things written in posts like these is like taking what's written in gossip magazines as being the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Core value #1 - Truthfulness. Broken.
Core value #2 - Honesty. Broken.
Core value #3 – Integrity. Broken.
Here’s what I find more disturbing: the nature of these articles is such that no one cannot comment against them. There is no reasonable middle ground and there is no tolerance or understanding of any viewpoint other than the one it puts forward. This kind of article is not a laying out of the facts in a way that allows people to make an objective choice based on their own moral compass. There is no free choice in articles like this; the tone of the article makes it quite clear that if you don't agree then you're wrong, you're guilty and you’re condemned. There's no freedom of choice and there's no room for discussion.
Core value #4 – Freedom. Broken.
Core value #5 – Choice. Broken.
There is no freedom in this kind of article/speech, there's no listening, no compassion, no thought that there may be another side to the story, that someone else has the right to their own beliefs. It's judgemental in the extreme. It's bullying. It's not a reasoned, well-argued point of view whose author is unafraid of dissent because they're confident, self assured and clear in their beliefs. It's all fear-based.
Core value #6 – Compassion. Broken.
I feel exactly the same way whether the article is talking about something I agree with or not. The style of writing/talking in the article is sensationalist manipulation. You can't even talk about the style of writing without people assuming that you disagree with the point the article was making. It’s divisive. It requires you to agree with what it’s saying or be proved wrong, believe or be condemned, support or be shown for 'the kind of person you really are'.
Core value #7 – Respect. Broken.
Core Value #8 – Fairness. Broken.
Even writing this post, about the style of writing in a particular kind of article, I feel the need to defend myself and say again that what I’m writing here has nothing to do with the pros & cons of the racing industry or the moral rights or wrongs or anything else, this is just me getting the shits about poxy half-truths written in a way designed to manipulate and dominate. And I don’t care how worthy your cause is…
…the end never justifies the means.
This is about freedom, about everyone having a right to their own opinion. It’s about the fact that if a child behaved this way in a schoolground, they’d be hauled up in front of the teacher for bullying, yet we tolerate it in the media and in posts like this because, oh well, they’re getting worked up about something, and you know, they’re right in what they say, something ought to be done about it, so it’s kind of understandable, just ignore it if you don’t like it, but definitely don’t say anything because they’ll get all rabid on you. We’re not allowed to disagree with any part of it under any circumstances.
There are many, many examples in history of leaders/causes using exactly this kind of rhetoric and method to convince people to behave in a certain way or to evoke change. Have a think about that.
If we try to change things and we use a lie or a half truth to convince people, regardless of how wonderful our cause, it’s never going to work because we don’t have a relationship or a cause that’s based in truth. There can never be any trust there, there’s no integrity or honesty in the relationship.
If we try to force people to do something (i.e. bully them), they may go along with things for a while, but it will backfire eventually. We’re showing people no respect, we’re giving them no freedom or choice.
Kira moved down to Melbourne this year and she was shocked when she saw some animal rights protesters yelling and shouting outside a steak house, then storm inside and scream and shout at all the diners, calling them murderers and animal killers.
Nice. What a bunch of respectful, compassionate and caring human beings. But I can’t even make a comment on how poor I think their behaviour is without being accused of supporting animal cruelty.
I’m very glad that people feel so passionate about things, that’s wonderful. But before we start sharing posts and getting all up in arms about things, we need to check out the facts that we’re promoting for accuracy and check out the other side of the story to see what their take on it is. Let’s show some compassion and respect for our fellow human beings. Let’s not rationalise lying or manipulating, coercing, bullying or disrespecting people. There is no excuse. We cannot justify it, regardless of how worthy our cause is, because when we try to do that, we’re going against one or more of our own personal values.
After a long day working my fingers and my brain to the bone yesterday, I decided to reward myself by binge watching some episodes of Project Runway. I only intended to watch one episode then go to bed but I got into things. Finally, at about 11pm (and I’m normally up before 6am, so 11pm is not a good bed time for me), after a brief but bloody struggle between my desire to watch more episodes and my need for sleep, I manage to stop myself from downloading any more programs and head upstairs to my bedroom.
As I’m faffing around like I normally do in my lengthy preparations before sleep, I hear a thump. Followed by another thump a few seconds later. I cautiously head towards the noise, treading very carefully in case the source of the thumping is something really vile like an oversized cockroach (though how an oversized cockroach would make a thumping noise, I don’t know), I gingerly look around.
And then instantly leap back with a shriek when the curtain moves with another thump. It’s a frog! In my bedroom. That’s located upstairs and nowhere near an external entrance. We have security screens on all the windows and doors. How did a FROG get into my room? And more to the point, how am I going to get the frog OUT of my room? Because I’m certainly not going to try to pick it up, it might squirt me with some foul-smelling and poisonous gunk, or worse, it might try to leap away, at which point, I’ll probably scream and let it go, then I’ll have to chase it through to the and I might never find it and it might die a horrible death under one of the beds and we won’t know where that awful smell is coming from until we move house. So, I need to get it right to avoid the disaster movie that’s running through my head.
I have a bit of a think and come up with the solution of a bowl and plate. I dismissed the idea of using a plastic tub because this was a big frog and if it leapt hard enough and made the lid move, I’d probably shriek and throw the whole thing up in the air, thus releasing the frog and resulting in a scenario like the one I was imagining. No, the capturing apparatus had to be something heavy. Crockery it is. Armed with my bowl and plate, I spend the next 15 minutes or so chasing the little croaker round my bedroom and, let me tell you, he played extremely hard to get. There were a couple of occasions where the bowl went spiralling through the air because Froggie jumped at me and not away from me, causing me to leap several feet in the air and squeal like I’d been stabbed.
Finally, I managed to capture the slippery little fellow and put him downstairs, outside, back in the garden, where he belongs. Unfortunately, all that adrenaline pumping round my veins as a result of a confused and disoriented amphibian leaping at me, meant that it was very late when I finally managed to drift off to sleep and there wasn’t a single dream of frogs.
There’s a lot in the paper about the upcoming 2018 Schoolies Week, which actually isn’t a week, it’s more like Schoolies Month, but the mere thought of there being a ‘Schoolies Month’ would send most parents and every local council in the tourist areas running for the hills while clutching at a bottle of Valium.
For any non-Aussies reading this, you may not know what I’m talking about. I first heard about Schoolies Week when my kids were at Primary School, but at that point in time, it was simply a vague event in the possible future, so far away that I could patronisingly chuckle at the stress and terror of the parents of the students who were about to embark on their Schoolies adventure. Then as my kids began to approach the second half of their Secondary School career, I started to experience the full onslaught of the worry, anxiety and outright panic about my children’s upcoming debut into drunken debauchery, as I heard them begin to discuss with their friends, ‘Where are we going for Schoolies?’
‘Schoolies’ happens when the Year 12’s finish their exams. Finally released from all school restraints, intoxicated with their new-found liberty, our fresh-faced young adults take off with their friends and head into unknown territory for a week. Alone, without the supervision of any ‘responsible’ adults (i.e. parents or teachers), intent on experiencing the full gamut of life that’s available to them now they’ve left school and achieved adulthood, they head off into uncharted waters (especially if they’re going to Rottnest Island), where an entirely new dimension of experiences awaiting them.
Experiences like getting so drunk that you can’t remember a) where you are or b) how you got there, closely followed by confusion about the people you’ve woken up with, i.e. who are they? After that it’s time to embark on a little investigative detective work because there’s a vile smell. This detective work is much trickier than you vaguely remember that it ought to be; your brain just doesn’t seem to want to work. At all. Like, really not at all. This isn’t Calculus, for heaven’s sake, you’re just trying to work out what the smell is. Regrettably, your brain won’t surface from the murky depths in which it’s wallowing.
After a bit of a struggle, with you trying to wrestle your brain and get it to wake the eff up, for Christs’ sake, you then realise why your brain was so reluctant to move: it’s damaged! Holy cow! Some serious head injury must have happened during the evening because the simple act of lifting your head causes extreme agony to the point where you get dots in front of your eyes! You didn’t know that could actually happen except for at the moment of impact when something actually hit you. You spend a few moments reflecting on this new-found piece of information and hazily wonder whether you’ve just discovered a new scientific breakthrough.
Then you try to open your eyes. What the hell happened? Is Armageddon here or something? The sun is so much brighter than it normally is. Did some star go Supernova or something? And the sound! The noise coming from the air conditioning unit is like standing in front of the speakers at an AC/DC concert! What is wrong with the thing? Someone needs to see to the damned device.
There’s another period of time spent while you lie there feeling disgruntled about the appalling smell (as well as the ear-splitting noise and the blinding light), wishing that you could cobble together enough brain power and energy to get out of bed (or up off the floor), close the curtains and switch off the air con to give your poor, damaged brain a little respite, but most of all, you want to tell whoever it is that’s stinking the place out to get their act together and go and clean themselves up, because it’s disgusting and extremely selfish to just lie there, smelling as badly as they do and imposing that stench on everyone else. You’re assuming it’s a person, you’re hoping that it’s not the floor or a piece of furniture that’s smelling because even in the state of damage that your brain is currently in, you know that it’s much easier to clean a person and get the smell out of them, than it is to clean a floor or a piece of furniture. Pray to god, it’s not a piece of furniture that’s smelling.
Raising your head, taking care to move your head as slowly and gently as you can, you gingerly look around to see if you can locate the source of that awful smell. That tiny movement of your head sparks a foggy memory and you can put a name to the smell: it’s the stench of vomit! Some moron has puked somewhere. And the main reason you’ve identified the smell is because that tiny head movement has brought you close to barfing yourself! Swallowing the urge to throw up, and moving as carefully as you possibly can, you look around for the selfish moron who’s spewed and hasn’t bothered cleaning it up. You mentally sneer at your pathetic roommate: obviously, they can’t take their drink, the lightweight. Your eyes drift over your own body and your brain slowly begins to light up in a horrible foggy realisation that you’re the lightweight who’s vomited all over themselves and who’s stinking the place out.
Giddy with excitement at the prospect of having this kind of experience first hand, our school leavers head for territory that has already proven itself, places that are already legend from previous Schoolies Weeks. Bali, Rottnest Island, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast feature highly on this list and the newly-hatched educational alumni head to those destinations in their droves. Once in these iconic locations, they do what young adults in the Western world have done since time immemorial: they get hammered on whatever substance they can lay their hands on, cause chaos in the local neighbourhoods, trash their hotel rooms like the rock stars they said they were going to be in their Year Book, get into fights and generally seem to do their best to get themselves banned from every bar / nightclub / restaurant / café / event / shop / taxi / uber / public transport / hotel / motel / B&B / AirBnB and every other facility in the area, with the main focus being on behaving in a way that is guaranteed to make anyone over the age of 45 say things like “what’s the world coming to?” and “humanity is never going to survive this generation” or even “we would never have been allowed to do things like that in our day, we wouldn’t have got away with it. We’d have been beaten to within an inch of our lives.”
When it boils right down to it, Australians are a very pragmatic breed who set great store by the adage ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’. They know Schoolies Week is going to happen, so they manage it as best they can. It’s basically three or four weeks of inebriated teenagers wandering round and, for the most part, having a good time (hangovers notwithstanding, but when you’re at that stage in your life, a hangover is hopefully a pretty new experience, and is treated with the utmost pleasure, as in “Oh mate, I was so hungover, I puked my guts up” or “I was so out of it, I don’t remember a thing after the 8th tequila we had in the fourth bar we went in” or “I felt so bad that I didn’t get out of bed till 5p.m., then I just got dressed and went back out to the pub to get a hair of the dog”. That kind of thing).
Schoolies Week doesn’t started for two weeks, but last Saturday night in Broadbeach it was as though Schoolies was already underway: gangs of inebriated men and gaggles of intoxicated women were staggering round, having a great time, being really loud, dressed up in all sorts of matching outfits so they could still recognise their mates even though they were off their faces after drinking for 6 or 7 hours straight. It was packed, it was loud, it was just like Schoolies Week…
Except the people wandering round in a noisy state of inebriation, laughing, giggling, falling over, yelling, losing their friends, forgetting where they were staying, wanting to hug everyone, sitting in the gutter because they were too “tired” to move, dancing down the street on bare feet because their shoes were hurting them, and dressed in feather boas and silly hats, were the parents of the kids that are about to descend on the Gold Coast for Schoolies.
The Gold Coast is currently hosting the Pan Pacific Master Games and thousands of “athletes” (I use the term loosely) have descended on the area and, free of kids and other familial responsibilities and obligations, are intent on having a good time, getting as drunk as possible, dancing the night away at the dinners and events that are an integral part of this kind of thing, vomiting in the Uber and possibly competing in one or two events if absolutely necessary. And if they’re not too hung over and are feeling up to it. So long as someone else drives and maybe brings a puke bag with them just in case.
Kind of like a Schoolies Week Class of ‘79 Reunion. These guys did Schoolies many, many years ago and they’ve been practising ever since. They out every bit of that partying expertise into practise on Saturday night. And they’re still going.
I sometimes think that there are occasions when the universe gets a bit bored, so it gathers its minions round and they all amuse themselves by creating things in my life that no one, and I mean NO ONE, would ever dream possible. If I’m going to be fair, I have to admit that the things that happen are, on the whole, equally balanced between positive experiences and negative, but just occasionally I get one that makes me curl my lip like Elvis and say “Whaaaaa?”
Last night, I’m fast asleep, the air con is on, the fan is going and the air purifier is buzzing away taking all the nasty bits of pollen that cause John to sniff and sneeze and get very grumpy. I’m happily curled up under the sheet, secure in the knowledge that if a mozzie does come into the room, I’m not going to hear it over all that background noise. Bliss.
Then I hear the familiar mosquito drone. “Are you kidding me?” I think, ducking my head under the cover. Then I stop. The droning is still there, but it doesn’t sound right. It sounds like the mozzie is injured and can’t fly properly. I must have already swatted it in my sleep. It drones some more. It also sounds like…
…the mozzie is in my ear!
I leap out of bed, desperately trying to hook it out with my fingernail while, in the pitch black of night and desperately trying not to make a noise so I don’t disturb John, I dive into the bathroom cupboard and scrabble round to try to find some ear buds so I can get the little sucker out of my lughole.
After the first foray into my ear canal with the bud, the droning stops but it’s too dark for me to see whether I’ve got all or even any of the bits of mosquito out of my ear canal. A bit of poking and general cleaning round later, I go back to bed to lie in the dark, sleep evading me, wondering what kind of warped sense of humour would create that kind of event in anyone’s life.
More family stories…
I’m probably going to get into a lot of trouble for this, but I’ve been in trouble my whole life, particularly with my family, so it’s not a new experience.
What I’d love is to hear family memories from people, not just my family but other people too. Old memories, funny memories, poignant, scary or hilarious memories. There’s so much stuff that we forget about and never really pass on the full experience to our children or younger relatives, and it’s such a shame to lose that experience because it is relevant and whatever has happened has helped create who we are today.
So, my family: I’d love to hear some of your memories. My friends, I’d love to hear from you, too. You can put comments on this post or message me, either one’s fine.
Today’s blog is one that I wrote more than three years ago about my Mum’s eldest sister, my Aunty Joan. She passed away at that time and these are some of the memories that came up for me.
I was always a little scared of Aunty Joan. She had seven children and it was always chaos at her house, so (of course) I loved going down there. It was always full of people, there was always lots of noise and there were always things going on. They also lived right opposite the local church so Sunday morning at 6.30, the bells would start ringing. All the family slept right through it and I could never figure out how they managed it.
Aunty Joan’s children's parties were legendary, at least, with me they were. She had to do everything on a budget: my Uncle Ernie hadn't been able to work since the older children were young; he was in a wheelchair and on oxygen for as long as I can remember. That didn't stop him from becoming Chairman of the Royal Deaf Children's Society, though. He worked tirelessly on behalf of disadvantaged children, as did my Aunty Joan.
Getting back to parties on a budget, Aunty Joan would always rope in my older cousins and their mates to run the games for us younger ones. I remember really clearly, it's indelibly printed on my memory in full technicolor, one party game called "The Blarney Stone". We were taken into a room, blindfolded, sat on a chair, and told that we couldn’t leave the room till we’d completed a particular task that was essential to us living a long and happy life and having all our dreams come true. The only requirement for us having everything we wanted in life, all the success, all the love, the money, the things, fame, fortune, the whole lot, all we had to do was to kiss the Blarney Stone.
Knowing my Aunty Joan’s sense of humour, some of us were naturally quite reluctant to kiss – or even pretend to kiss – anything at all and certainly not while we were blindfolded. But, when the carrot didn't work, they brought out the stick and we were promised dire and terrible misfortune if we didn’t kiss this Blarney Stone. I suspect I was quite difficult to persuade because I went in there knowing something unspeakably vile was likely to happen, something that I was unlikely to be allowed to forget for the rest of my life, no matter how blessed it was going to be from the kiss I was being asked to bestow on this piece of rock..
Eventually I caved in, played the game and kissed the Blarney Stone. At which point, my blindfold was whipped off just in time for me to see my cousin, Craig, pulling up his trousers after I'd just kissed his backside!
Those of us who’d been through the Blarney ordeal were allowed into the big secret, after we swore not to share the secret with anyone who hadn’t kissed the Blarney Stone: the kiss was bestowed on someone’s folded up arm, not someone’s a**e. But I still remember that bloody blarney stone! Can you imagine if you played that game at a kids’ party now? You'd get done for child abuse! It must have been priceless to watch the kids’ faces as you whipped off the blindfold, though and there are several children that I'd thoroughly enjoy playing this game with. I'm sure I was one of those kids Aunty Joan was very glad to have play this game.
Another thing I remember was Corporation Pop. Aunty Joan and her family lived in the city: darkest Salford, so when I came to visit them from where we lived in the country, there were some things that they had access to that seemed just amazing to me. One of them was the Alpine Man. There was a soft drinks company called Alpine who not only delivered to shops but also came round to the houses in the city every week to sell directly to the customers' doors. He was kind of like the ice cream van of soft drinks; he stopped and all the kids came running up and got their orders. Aunty Joan used to get two bottles of pop a week (I think) between the seven kids. It was gone in less than 2 minutes. After that, they were on Corporation Pop: water (water corporation => corporation pop).
On one stay at Aunty Joan’s, me and my cousin Beverly, the fifth child of the family and a week younger than me, were walking home when a car lost control (or something, I can’t remember the details) and hit Beverly. In shock, I ran back to the house and told Aunty Joan (I was probably almost hysterical) that Bev had been "run over". She gave me such a telling off afterwards because she'd been imagining Bev had been splattered all over the road. It was one of the few times she ever got really angry with me.
They had the most amazing cellar in their house, too. Well, it was actually a bog-standard normal cellar, but she’d had the boys turn it into their den. They coveredl the walls & ceiling with empty egg cartons in the hope that the cartons would help sound proof the room. I don't know that the sound proofing idea actually worked but it kept the boys busy for weeks. Particularly when they had to paint the cartons after they’d finished gluing them to the walls & ceiling.
I remember being amazed at the fact that making sandwiches for lunch for the family would involve at least two loaves of bread. She got everyone involved in buttering that lot.
Kira has a way of holding herself when she's analysing someone that I know is exactly how I used to look when I was trying to work something out. I remember looking at Aunty Joan that way one day. She'd been yelling at one of the kids for something or other and it must have been particularly bad in my teenaged opinion because I couldn't figure out why she'd want to speak to her children that way. She obviously saw the expression on my face because she sighed and said "What is it?" I'd always found her a bit scary and rarely stepped obviously out of line around her (I made sure any stepping out of line I did around Aunty Joan was entirely subversive) but I obviously felt very strongly about this because I asked her "Don't you love your children?"
Tact has never been one of my strong points.
What she said remained one of the tenets of motherhood for me and made things much, much easier than they might have been. I must also acknowledge the fact that she didn't just rip my head off and send me running, she took the time to answer my question kindly and honestly even though one of her friends was sitting with her at the time. She said, "I always love my children, I just don't always like them."
Rest in Peace, Aunty Joan, you did good.
Cat (sitting outside the window opposite where I'm working): meow (rough translation: please let me in)
Cat edges closer to the window, tries to make self look more appealing: meow (rough translation: I'm still here, waiting patiently to come in)
Cat starts to look irritated: MEOW
Me: … but thinks “Piss off, cat”
Cat gets on hind legs and scratches at window
Me: … (puts fingers in ears and sings loudly)
Cat scratches at the window louder: MEOW (rough translation: are you DEAF?)
Cat stands up on hind legs, scratches and thumps window: MEEEOOOOOWWWWRRRRLLLLL (rough translation: FOR GODS’ SAKE, YOU STUPID HUMAN, LET ME IN!)
Me: (waves to cat through window)
Eventually, sick of the constant whining and noise, I go and let the cat in but only after I’ve kept her waiting a few minutes longer while I smiled and waved at her through the window.
Cat strolls through the door, takes one teensy, tiny mouthful of her food and walks back to the door: Meow? (rough translation: can you let me out, please?)
Two days ago…
“I’ve sent my Aunty J a birthday card,” I said to my dad, “But I realised after I sent the card that I’ve put the wrong age on it: I thought she was 70 but it says on her Facebook profile that she’s 74, so this will be her 75th. I don’t think she’ll mind about getting a 70th card anyway, at least I assumed she was younger than she is, so all good.”
In true Dad style, my father responds with “Oh no, you’re not getting away with that! I’m going to make sure she minds; I’ll stir things with her until she does!”
I’m quite sure my father could hear me rolling my eyes even though he was 12,000 miles away and we were talking via text message.
I sent a message to my dad, asking how the party went. Her younger brother threw the party at his place, and all her siblings & in-laws were there, too, plus kids, nephews, nieces, etc. The usual family gathering (hopefully minus the usual family arguments & fisticuffs)
“Yes, it was great” my reprobate father tells me, “But the only person who got your Aunty J’s age right was one of her sisters-in-law, N, because N knew your Aunty J was a year older than her.”
Wait… so Aunty J wasn’t 75?
“No. Turns out she was 74 this year.”
So why did her brother throw her a 75th birthday party?
“Because he didn’t realise, he got her birthday wrong.”
What I can’t stop laughing about it that N’s husband, my Uncle T, must have known all along that his little brother had my Aunty’s age wrong AND HE NEVER SAID ANYTHING. He let his little brother carry on with the party, getting the balloons, organising everything, cards, presents, the lot, he went along with the whole thing, all the while knowing that it wasn’t my Aunty’s 75th.
And if that’s not bad enough, consider this: my Aunty didn’t say anything, either! She let the whole thing go ahead and didn’t enlighten her brother as to her real age.
What is with my family? I swear to god, we’re all a bunch of nutters and airheads, sprinkled with a good solid dash of behind-the-hand sniggerers!
Happy whatever birthday to my Aunty. I hope you enjoyed your pre-emptive 75th party.
I had to go for a root canal earlier this week. My sixth. The dentist tells me that the two biggest causes of cracked teeth (which lead to people needing a root canal) are kids and horses. Ooh look: four kids and a lifetime of riding horses. My teeth are screwed. And if you're wondering how kids can damage your teeth, then you haven't fed many babies; you're holding the baby post feed, gently trying to bring up whatever air they managed to swallow while drinking their milk and suddenly they decide to launch themselves backwards, straight into the side of your face. Maybe there was just too much air waiting to come out, I dunno, but when a baby launches themselves backwards, you'd better get out of the way or your cheekbone gets broken. As do your teeth.
Now, Louise Hay, that doyenne of New Age wisdom, has something else to say about root canals, that it's all about feeling that your root beliefs are being destroyed and you can't bite into anything anymore. I'll have to have a think about that one a bit more, I mean, middle aged, former stay-at-home parent, built a fortune and lost it, gave up work/business creating... how on earth might my root beliefs be destroyed?
I know, I know... sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I thoroughly enjoy being sarcastic. Quite a lot of the time.
So, in I go to the dentist, an old hand at this root canal lark, knowing that there'd be maybe an hour's worth of minor discomfort while I was sitting in the chair, sweating, sticking to the faux leather covering because I'd forgotten (again) that wearing shorts isn't the thing to do when you go to the dentist, my mouth wide open, jaw aching, and then it would all be over. Too easy. I know how this goes. But not this time. Oh no, this time things get interesting. This time, the heavy duty anaesthetic decided that it was tired and it was going to take its bat and ball and go home, because it didn’t work.
Okay, let’s have a second injection of the hard stuff in a slightly different place. Nope. I can still feel things. Not as much, but it’s certainly not numb.
Right, hopefully it will be third time lucky…
At this point, I’m thinking back to a post a friend put up a few weeks ago about. She’d also had a visit to the dentist and her anaesthetic didn’t work because apparently she has the MTHFR gene “and we all know what that means”. I’m sorry, my mind went into ‘What? WTF? MTHFR gene? She’s having me on, right?’ And no, I don’t know what having that gene means, what does it mean? I’m not even going to go along the track that my mind was pursuing till I googled it. Yes, there is such a thing as an MTHFR gene and one of the impacts of having it means that anaesthetics don’t work so well on you. Apparently, they didn’t work at all for her but the plentiful Valium that she took prior to going to the dentist did. So, all good. Or at least, as good as it was going to get; she was calmly in excruciating pain.
But obviously, I’m not a MTHFR because the anaesthetic finally worked on me and on we went with the root canal. Till we hit another snag: the nerve in the root was infected (I could have told you that, it was bloody sore) and it wouldn’t stop bleeding. Kind of like my nose…
Oh, didn’t I tell you that? In between injections 2 and 3, I asked for a tissue because my nose was running. Only it wasn’t running, it was bleeding. After waiting for five minutes or so for the bleeding to stop, and as my speech got more and more slurred and more and more of my face went numb (all of the right side of my face was numb EXCEPT for the tooth that he wanted to work on!), I just stuck a tissue up my nostril and suggested we just carry on regardless. So, there I am, mouth wide open, having a root canal done with a tissue sticking out of my left nostril for the entire process. Nice. Just how I want to be remembered: “Oh yes, it’s that woman that we have to inject up to the eyeballs to get her teeth numb, Make sure there’s lots of tissues handy because there’ll be blood everywhere.”
And what does the wonderful Louise Hay say about nosebleeds? They’re a cry for attention. No kidding, Einstein. I have no idea at all why I might have been looking for attention at this point.
But, on a good note, Stage 1 of the root canal is done… actually, no, we’re not even at Stage 1: we’re at Stage 0.5. Because of the nerve bleeding, he had to put antibiotics into the tooth and seal it up. I have to wait for four weeks while the tooth heals and then, when it's nice and healthy again, we go back in and kill it. Who’d have thought, eh? You have to make something better BEFORE you take it out. Hmm.
I don’t like being told what to do. Not even by myself. If I commit myself to doing something, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll come up with some (usually exotic, occasionally painful) way to not do it. A couple of weeks ago, I committed to writing 2,000 words a day. God knows why. Why would I commit myself to something when I know that the minute I absolutely confirm, absolutely commit to something, you could put money safely on the fact that it is never, ever going to happen? Based on historical data, a betting house would offer less than even odds on me completing something that I told everyone I was going to do. I have no problem, less than zero trouble, writing 2,000 words a day, in fact 2,000 words would be considered to be an easy day, kind of what I’d do when I was on holiday, so why on earth would I bother COMMITTING myself to writing 2,000 words a day?
This week I’ve lounged around, I’ve shopped, I’ve cleaned, I’ve met with friends, I’ve watched movies, I’ve researched recipes, gone to the gym, I’ve whinged, moaned, bitched, griped, searched my soul, sulked, been bored, slept, meditated, asked my ‘sacred spirit guides’ and invested literally DAYS of my time ‘trying to sort out my Facebook feed’, which I knew all along was a totally pointless exercise.
I don’t know what Facebook think they’re doing with all their algorithms & fancy technology, but what appears on my newsfeed is not at all what I’m interested in. The only reason I go on Facebook now is to see if I can get it to look the way I want it to look. I don’t ever catch up on what anyone’s doing because it doesn’t show me; it only shows videos & photos that people have liked and shared. Not their own videos & photos, some other page’s. I’m not interested. Plus it shows me stuff from maybe 6 or 7 people, and they’re the ones who share the most things, not post their own things but share other people’s photos, quotes & videos.
See what I mean? I’m focused on unimportant stuff and totally avoiding what I need / want / ought to do.
Two days were taken up this week with driving Keeley back to school, followed by several hours another day that were taken up with sending the inevitable parcel to her later on in the week, filled with all the things she’d forgotten to pack. Okay, it was only one thing but time, but it was fairly important: her sports shorts. Once she forgot her blazer. And one memorable time, she forgot her bedding. It was a difficult decision for me: make her sleep under her dressing gown for the term or buy her bedding? Ooh, the temptation. I decided to forgo stretching out my ire across the entire term and satisfied myself by yelling at her… loud enough for the rest of the boarding house to hear.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t embarrass her in front of her friends, it’s not good parenting, I’ve probably given her a defining moment, she may never recover from it, she’s going to make it mean stuff about herself, etc., etc. What can I say? #badparent
She was reminded what to bring, she has lists, she has plenty of time to get ready, she’s done all this before, there was no excuse. I have to fork out the money to buy new bedding, she needs to get responsible and understand there’s going to be a consequence, said consequence in this case being, she’s going to get yelled at in public. And it’s not like it would be a completely unexpected or unpredictable consequence, either; she’s lived with me for all of her 15 years and then some, she knows how life with me goes.
Getting right back to the story… Halfway to Armidale, at one of our scheduled toilet stops (isn’t that one of the joys of life when you travel a lot, especially as you get older and especially with kids? You have to plan your route based on the toilet stops. Not that there’s many toilet stops available on the Armidale run: there’s a 2 and a half hour stretch with no toilets! No coffee before that one!), Keeley decides to get in the back of the car and stretch out across the seat, headphones in, comfortably leaning on her pillow and snuggled up in her blanket ready for the really bendy, twisty, hilly stretch as we head up into the New England high country. I’ve got Robbie Williams blaring away, I’m happily singing (albeit massively out of tune) along, when BANG! Someone crashes into me.
The road is very narrow and winding in that stretch, and very dangerous. It’s cut into the side of a hill and there are big drops off to the side and lots of trees. It was also raining. I saw the car coming towards me as I went round the bed, but she was on her side of the road, so I just put my focus back on to the road. I don’t think she saw the corner at all. I don’t know what she was doing, but like my friend said, if she hadn’t hit me, she might have either hit a tree or gone over the edge or both. When she got out of the car, she said that it was all her fault and, true to her word, she’s told the insurance company that, too. And thank god she’s insured: the quote for repairing my brand new BMW X4? About $25,000.
Talk about a good excuse for not writing: I’m a bit shaken, my neck’s sore, I need to recover, I’d just like a bit of ‘me’ time, I’ll just take it easy for a few days, I’ve got to sort out the repairer, insurer, claim forms, better get a massage, go to the chiro, have a bath…
Let’s face facts: I like drama. My life is filled with drama. Drama and busy-ness. Everyone wholeheartedly believes that I’m SO busy, busier than anyone else could ever be, so much is always happening. I like it like that. For several reasons, not least of which is people tend not to ask me to do stuff because they know I’m always flat, chat busy, and it keeps me occupied. I don’t like being at a loose end, I need Purpose. So, this week, because I hadn’t created my own purpose to avoid writing, I unconsciously gave myself something else to do: a car crash. Then I had lots to talk about and a great excuse for doing things other than write.
Am I being hard on myself here? Judging myself harshly? Yeah, probably not.
I got up this morning, as grumpy as all hell, headache from sleeping in the wrong position, irritated about how my day was looking and generally feeling altogether crap. I’m 55 years old; how do I end up doing things that I don’t want to do? How does that happen? Why does my life not look like I want it to?
I decided last weekend that I’m going to rewrite my book. In case you don’t know, I wrote a book about a year ago, with what is for most people, the most interesting topic they can talk about: themselves. My book is about how we went from having jobs to being property developers, turning over blah blah, etc, etc. When I wrote it, there was a definite context for it: I was teaching personal development/mindset and money mindset and John & I were putting together information to begin teaching property development. There’s a definite gap in that market, let me tell you; all of the so-called property development ‘experts’ teach you how to do small scale projects. We didn’t do that. We didn’t want to spend our time building up slowly, starting small and working our way up to bigger things, we wanted to just step straight into the big stuff and not waste any of our precious time on learning curves or all that garbage. So that’s what we did. After spending a couple of years doing renovations, we thought ‘bugger this for a lark’ and found ourselves an $11 million project. Now that’s a learning curve!
I think it’s a fascinating story but then I’m extremely biased because it happened to me. I also believe fully and completely that because it happened to me, it can happen to anyone. Although I like to think I’m special and unique (my absolute worst fear EVER is that I’m ordinary), I also totally contradict myself because I believe that there’s nothing special about me and if I can do this, so can anyone else. It was all just this big learning curve, we had to keep growing, changing, adapting, letting go of things, not taking “failures” as meaning we couldn’t do it, not taking on other people’s opinions that we were mad, that we’d lose everything, that we’d fail. We just kept going till we got to where we wanted to go. That’s all. There’s no other big secret. But it has been an interesting journey.
The problem is, though, that I’m getting nothing done. NOTHING. I’ve fallen back into my old habits of doing all the things that are a bit of a nuisance, all of those little humdrum things like getting the washing in or paying the bills, even socialising & fitness training, in the mornings in the hope of ‘getting them out of the way and leaving me clear to work for the rest of the day’. I live in this happy little fantasy world where, once I’ve got all of the bits and pieces out of the way, I’m free to create and do all the things I enjoy doing. You’d think that after decades of running my life this way and decades of it never working like that, that I’d learn my lesson, but no; I still find myself organising my life like this by default. I don’t even think about it, it’s just how it ends up.
Contrary to the popular view of tortured artists (and whether I can stake a claim to being a tortured artist or not, how I feel right now is how I imagine a tortured artist would feel, constantly battling the mundanity of everyday life while they strive to bring the beauty of their artistry into the world. Cue a large sigh while I put the back of one hand to my forehead), I’m a morning person. I love the mornings. Mornings are when I get all my stuff done, when I’m the most creative and productive. So, if I’m filling my mornings with all this mundane/non-urgent/non-creative stuff, accurately or not, I end each day feeling like I’ve created nothing. Which is okay once in a while, maybe even one day a week, but it’s not okay when it’s gone on for weeks or months, like it has now. Like an overgrown toddler, I end up resenting everybody and everything. I resent John for taking up my mornings, even though I agreed to the morning training sessions and John delightfully takes me out for breakfast after most of our workouts. Ungrateful brat that I am, I find myself resentfully ordering a very nice breakfast while feeling totally put upon and abused. Then I spend the rest of the morning apologising and being overly nice to John to try to make up for my abysmal behaviour. Which pulls me further away from feeling like I’m doing what I want to do and creating & writing because by this time, I’ve managed, with a fair degree of expertise, to get myself completely out of a creative headspace. By this time, I don’t want to do anything.
I saw a post that a friend had put up this morning about how she was going to go over and play with her son till she realised that actually he was quite happy in his own space and there was nothing for her to do. That’s what I’ve spent months doing: being (and I can’t believe I’m saying this because I swore I’d never do anything like this) a helicopter parent. I’ve got great excuses, the same as all helicopter parents: Keeley’s been off school & at home sick or injured or both for 12 weeks out of the last 16. Since she goes to boarding school 500kms away and we only moved to the Gold Coast last year, she has no friends up here, she’s never been to school here, she has no one she can socialise with. With the full force of parental guilt hitting me right between my eyes, I’ve taken on the responsibility of making sure she’s happy; we moved house, therefore, as her mother, it’s my responsibility to make sure she’s happy and occupied here. The weight of that responsibility has been getting me down, though, and I eventually told Keeley that she needs to find herself some friends, maybe find some local sports teams/summer camps so that she can find a group of friends up here. She doesn’t really see the point as she’s quite happy doing what she’s doing it’s me who’s exhausted with the whole thing, but she said she would try to sort it out as it would be nice to have someone other than her mother to go shopping or down to the beach with.
Unfortunately, I can’t leave it alone. I keep looking at her and, like some obsessive compulsive, thinking, “She’s still in the house. Why is she still in the house? She must be bored. If she gets bored, she’s going to get depressed, she’s also not going to enjoy her time at home. Right, I need to make her do something” Then I find myself saying “Okay, so what are we going to do today? Where are we going to go? What do you want to do? Is there anything we need to buy?”, sounding for all the world like one of those over-attentive friends that no one wants to be around because they’re a real pain in the bum, always trying too hard to be liked. And it starts before the child even gets out of bed in the morning! By 8am, I’m thinking, “right, I need to get things done as quickly as possible because Keeley will be up soon and I’m going to need to make sure she’s happy (!), so I’d better get stuff done now because there’ll be no time later”. Then, I look at the clock and think, “Oh, there’s no time to get into any writing, there’s no point in starting, I’ll just do this piece of nonsense over here and kill some time till she gets up”... and nothing gets done and I finish the day feeling like I’ve achieved nothing that I wanted to achieve and feeling resentful and discontented at the world and his brother because I’ve had to do all these things that I don’t want to do. Again.
Maybe it’s time to stop being a discontented toddler, stop pretending that I’m not allowed to do all of the things I want to do because of the various people/situations in my life and actually organise my life so I do the things I enjoy doing. I wonder if I can manage that? Hmm…
I have these fabulous ideas, they strike me all the time, “Oh my god, I’m so going to do that! That’s brilliant”, I think to myself and off I go. For about a week. Maybe a month. Rarely longer than that. I was skimming through my downloads folder last night, looking for something, when I realised that I have all these quotes already made up into graphics. “Oh my god,” I thought to myself, “I should get some kind of opt-in going where I send people daily quotes to help kickstart their day (does this sound familiar?) or maybe I could put some gadget up on my website so a different one appears as a pop-up or something when people go there. But yesterday? Yesterday was different, because I ALSO said to myself, “Seriously? Are you serious? You HATE doing that kind of thing for more than FIVE MINUTES. You get BORED. You can’t do anything long term. What are you thinking?!” And I’m quite right. On both counts: it is a great idea AND I’d get bored in about five minutes.
I also decided yesterday… hang on, I need to have a bit of an aside here: I’ve been crook for the last few days… another aside: ‘crook’ is an Australian term for ‘sick’ or ‘a bit under the weather’, it has absolutely nothing to do with criminal activities of any kind except for the fact that when ‘crook’, you tend to spend your time sitting in front of the TV doing not very much, which, in itself, is a criminal activity for someone like me who normally can’t sit still for five minutes. Unless I’m sitting at my laptop writing, in which case, I may not move for several hours. It’s not unusual for my legs to feel slightly numb by the time I finally try to get off the chair after finishing an article (all my health & fitness friends – not to mention my trainer – are going to give me full-on lectures about my appalling sedentary habits now). I could say that I’m “focused” or “single-minded” but “lost in my own little world” would probably be the most appropriate description of me when I’m creating.
I’m completely lost now. You see, the problem with being in my own little world is that I quite often get lost in there. There are no paths, and everything looks really bright and shiny and interesting, so over the fence into the next field I vault because the grass is really green there and there’s pretty flowers everywhere and then I find myself… perplexed as to how I got there and where I wanted to go in the first place. Which is exactly what’s happening right now; I have no clue as to what I decided yesterday or why I wanted to let you know that I’ve been crook for a few days. Where on earth was I going? Okay, right, I’ve remembered one thing, let’s start with that…
I also decided yesterday that I’d start putting up the recipes that I’m cooking. Recipes is where I started my original blog about 4 years or so ago; the kids were all leaving home and were calling me for the recipes for the food they wanted to cook. Rather than even attempt to write a cookbook (though they did ask me to), I thought I’d put them all on the internet and then it was easy to add things to and easy for everyone to access. I had the great pleasure of winning a Kitchen Aid Cook Processor (a kind of Thermomix) a few weeks ago and I’ve been trying out all my recipes in that. I found myself writing the intro to the Cook Processor recipe page last night and saying, “I’ll add recipes every day”! Are you MAD? Every day?! It’s so not going to happen. I’ll add recipes as and when I’ve got the time and the inclination because they take AGES to do, and let’s face facts: I’d much rather be writing a story than setting everything out nice and neatly in a recipe. You see, I have all these great ideas, I organise them beautifully, they look incredibly good and easy to read, it’s all logically worked out for the utmost efficiency & effectiveness, and then… I get bored. It’s organised, it’s sorted, it’s done, I’ve got the experience, I can do that now, let’s move on. That’s how my life goes.
What was interesting, though, was the title that I’d put on my blog page, the original blog page, I mean. The title of the blog page was “I wish I was creative…”
Okay, you can stop laughing now.
I’ve never considered to be creative. I’m starting to come to terms with the possibility that I MIGHT be creative now, but I’m still not convinced. If I look round, there are so many truly creative people and I’m not one of them. I don’t wear weird clothes or look like a hippy or behave in a completely bizarre manner or live in some shack in the middle of nowhere.
Errr, I might have to rethink that last bit about not living in a shack in the middle of nowhere. My house in Armidale actually fits that description quite well. It’s not exactly a shack, it COULD be described as a house. By some people. If they were short-sighted and not very picky. It’s not my idea of a house. But it is in the middle of nowhere. And I actually love the place. Not the house; I love the land & the location, I loathe the house. But I have Plans. Plans for a new house… that actually looks remarkably like a shack, now I think about it. Just better finished and with better insulation and way more comfortable than the word “shack” implies.
I’ve always considered “creative” people to be the ones who come up with something new and radical that pushes the frontiers of what’s acceptable, like Picasso or Salvador Dali. Or maybe someone who can do incredibly talented artwork like Michaelangelo or Monet. Or writers like Tolkein who can create entirely new worlds in incredible detail or others like Robert Browning who can describe things in such fabulous ways that the words just naturally jump off the page and form these extraordinarily intense and vivid pictures in your mind. I am not in that category. I’m a bit of a weirdo, for sure, I like to be doing things, I like to try things but I’m not cutting edge creative. I don’t wear horn-rimmed glasses or dress in a peculiar mix of colours & patterns or go around with the back of my hand to my forehead wailing “I just can’t do this tedious life!”. Actually, I totally do that last one sometimes. John usually brings me right back to earth with a swift “Get over yourself” when I head off in that direction.
I do need to create. I create all the time. I might not be cutting edge or radical or any other idea of an actual, real ‘creator’ that I have in my mind, but create I do. I can’t follow a recipe; I have to do my own thing. I can’t write in the way that I was taught at school; I have to do it my way. I can’t follow a dress-making pattern; I have to pick two or three and merge them together. The classic example of that was my wedding dress. Keeley & I were watching ‘Brides of Beverly Hills’ yesterday (that’s how sick I felt) and she asked if I’d gone and done the whole trying on wedding dresses thing and I realised that I hadn’t. I checked out a couple of magazines, found a dressmaker and said, “I want that kind of top, only do xyz to it, I want that skirt and that train (two different dresses) but I want you to…” and ended up with a (what I think is) gorgeous wedding dress. No, definitely not a creator, right?
I read somewhere a few weeks ago, that the things we find easy are the things we discount as being of no value.
John, as the main breadwinner in the house (okay, the ONLY breadwinner), always has the brightest, biggest office space, something that will "call him into being" and make him feel good, something that’s going to allow him to create things in a big way. And he always, invariably, inevitably, ends up hating his office space. It always ends up as the worst room in the house. You see, John has this problem; I’m tempted to say that it’s a male thing, but I actually have no evidence of that other than my husband, so I can’t really. He has to use every available surface to put things on. Every. Available. Surface. And there are never enough surfaces, so he is constantly expanding the available surfaces that he can use and spreading his work out into the adjoining rooms. Right now, his office has three desks and a buffet that he can put things on, plus he’s squashed the books on various shelves back against rear of the unit, so he can (precariously) balance more things on there, too. Unfortunately, his office comes off our formal living area, which contains another buffet and a large, square dining table. Both of which are now covered in his papers. When I question him as to why he can’t just use filing trays or some kind of filing system like most other people do (i.e. me), he assures me that he has to have all of these papers out where he can see them so that he can deal with everything because he’s got so much to do that things will just get lost if he doesn’t have them out on display.
The thing is, no matter how much work he has on, there always seems to be the same amount of paperwork. And he’s always complaining about how much paperwork there is and how snowed under and overwhelmed he feels. I’ve tried pointing out that spreading things out the way that he does is going to make it seem like a lot of work so maybe he should just put it in small piles and not spread it out so much, but he just poo-poos that idea.
A few weeks ago, he decided that he could no longer work with such a small, cr***y (i.e. normal size) desk and he needed a big, sod-off, old-fashioned timber managers desk, a huge thing, that was going to be big enough to hold everything. I spent a couple of hours going through Gumtree and Google trying to find suitably large items, only to be told that they were ALL too small. Fine. I found a full-size snooker table (12’ x 6’) and suggested he use that. You might laugh at that, but I wasn’t actually being facetious. His office in a previous house adjoined the snooker room, which had a full-size table in it and was just the most useful piece of furniture when it came to wrapping Christmas presents! I just shifted all of John’s papers off it and, voila! The perfect gift-wrapping surface. Okay, I had to vacuum the baize afterwards to get all the sparkly bits that had fallen off the wrapping paper off it, but it was so handy. Most of the year though, it was used as a kind of horizontal filing cabinet that was cleared off if we had visitors who might want a game of snooker. So, you see, a snooker table could be ideal. He dismissed that idea though, telling me not to be ‘silly’.
While he’s waiting for a friend to make him a big, sod-off, timber desk, he’s bought himself a 1.8m sit/stand desk, yet another surface to put things on. He’s cleared most of his papers from out of the lounge, but I suspect that was only because he had a meeting in there yesterday, quite possibly because he didn’t have a clear surface for them to sit at in his office.
Sometimes, my personality causes me all sorts of problems. I tend to put up with little things that are a bit irritating but not really enough of a problem for me to put any effort into changing them until one day, some tiny, teensy little thing that I’ve never mentioned before becomes the trigger for the equivalent of a major tectonic plate movement. It’s as though the entire situation/relationship has been built on the San Andreas fault and everyone thinks everything is hunky dory and fine and look at all the great things we’ve built, then one day… everything changes. Which is okay for me, because I’m the San Andreas fault and when I’ve shifted, I feel much better, everything feels in a much better position. Unfortunately, for anyone else involved in that situation/relationship, they’re left with a major disaster to deal with and all the wreckage that comes along with it. Including the occasional tidal wave.
I went out with a guy for about 3 years while I was at Uni. It was love, it was serious, and everyone, including us, thought we’d end up getting married. One night, he came round to the house I was staying at and, having had more than one or two pints, drunkenly banged on about me going out with my friends. It was irritating but we didn’t argue or anything, he was just eye-rollingly exasperating. Unfortunately, even though it was a tiny, miniscule, insignificant drunken incident, it was also the final one and, to everyone’s shock, his most of all, I ended the relationship the following day.
The problem everyone had in dealing with it and in trying to work out what had happened was that there was no big argument. There was nothing anyone could point a finger at and say that was the problem. There’d been no inclination to anyone, including my ex, that anything was wrong. Nothing major had happened, nothing earth-shatteringly horrible had happened and there was nothing that I could actually point my own finger at and say “It’s because of this”. What there was were just lots and lots of really, really tiny things that I’d tolerated because they were only minor and not really anything to worry about or put any effort into; they were just slightly ‘off’.
How do I explain that to someone? It’s not reasonable or understandable behaviour when you’re on the receiving end of it, there’s no one big thing that anyone can point a finger at and say “THAT was the trouble. THAT’S what she didn’t like. THAT’S what didn’t work. I understand now”, there’s just lots of little things that don’t really mean much, and I never flagged as a problem because they weren’t really a problem. Well, they kind of were but I couldn’t articulate what was bothering me, just that something was, and if I did try to say something, because I couldn’t explain it, it just didn’t feel quite right, it just felt ‘off’, everyone (including me) would dismiss it as unimportant.
What ends up happening is that over time, I put up with all these minor little irritations, all of these little things that I don’t quite like but aren’t big enough to do anything about, partly because I can’t put my finger on what’s really bothering me or explain what it is, and I tolerate it all until one day, the San Andreas decides to re-align herself, leaving a massive clean-up zone behind her. And, like a tectonic plate movement, once it’s moved, it’s moved. It’s permanent. There’s nothing anyone can do about it and I leave people to wander through the shattered streets, trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of what just happened.
That’s very dramatic imagery; I’m quite proud of that.
In the case of my ex-boyfriend, it was a real, genuine shock for him and everyone else around us. No one understood what the hell had just happened. No one understood why or how it had happened, including me, I might add. There’s no warning, even for me, just a slow, inexorable build up that either ends in a big argument or complete shut down. The argument is better: at least there’s some logical, reasonable explanation for what just happened. My ex was about to do his final exams at Uni and he was a mess. No one was happy about what I’d done. His mum and my landlady had numerous conversations about everything (how does that happen? Really?) and the two of them spent weeks trying to persuade me to go back out with him just till he finished his final exams. There was no doing on that one and my landlady was not happy with me. She’d thought I was a lovely person until now, she said.
It goes back to this whole understanding business: no one could understand why the relationship was over. Why had I just ended it like that? Why hadn’t I said something sooner? Why was I so final in my decision that it was over? What could my ex do to make things better? How could he do things differently? How long had this been building for? Why hadn’t I done something about it? Didn’t he deserve an explanation? Didn’t EVERYONE deserve an explanation? Why don’t I just get over this and get back to the way things were?
I don’t know the answer to any of those things. Even now, thirty years later, I have no clue as to what it was that I changed everything for me. There was no one big thing. There were no two or three big things that I didn’t like. There is no reasonable or logical explanation, no understanding, and it leaves everyone involved in a horrible situation. I think that what happens is that I find myself moving further and further away from my own values and tolerating things that are just not quite ‘right’ because they’re just little, they’re insignificant and not worth worrying about, they’re certainly nothing I’d put an effort into stopping: they’re not a big enough problem. Invariably though, I find myself a long way from where I want to be, and I step back into MY line, the San Andreas shifts. From the outside, I look like I’m being totally unreasonable. I mean, everything was going okay, we had a great time, things looked as though they’re good, everyone thought we were going to get married, I’ll let things continue for so long that everyone (including me because I’m totally in denial while all this is going on) thinks I’m okay with things the way they are, that I’m okay with how things are going and what’s happening, and there’s nothing for me to point a finger at and say “THAT’S what I don’t like”.
My ex, you’ll be glad to know, met the love of his life after we split up; he’s still happily married to her and they have three children. And yes, we’re friends again now, and yes, I still feel guilty about ending the relationship the way that I did and causing the pain that I did. I still sometimes do the same thing even today: keep going, keep tolerating, keep giving no one any clue as to what’s about to happen, keep leaving a trail of disaster in my wake. It doesn’t happen very often, less than a handful of times in my life, but I’m beginning to notice the warning signs, which I suspect will be a massive relief for everyone around me. One such thing happened just recently in a business that I got involved in. I’d met the woman who runs the business at a workshop before she started the business. She was having a massive run of bad luck, there was a lot going on in her life and she was not in a good space. Being me, I tried to be kind to her, support her, cheer her on, and I tried to ignore that niggly little feeling that I need to stay the hell away from her. “She’s a lovely person”, I’d say to people, and she is. That doesn’t mean that I should establish a relationship with her or that her values align with mine. Because they don’t. I’m learning to catch myself so the people around me don’t experience the relationship equivalent of the San Andreas fault having a shoulder shrug. Occasionally, though, I get it wrong and I let things go too far. Apologies to everyone involved if you’ve been on the receiving end of that: I won’t be able to explain to anyone’s satisfaction why it happened or what went wrong or why I cut things off so suddenly and completely.
I got home from the supermarket the other day only to find that the bottle of milk had leaked all over the floor of my car. I was not happy. Fortunately, it was only on one of the removable carpets and not in the boot. I would have been really cross if it had gone all over the boot because that would have been much more difficult to clean. I got the offending bottle out of the bag, put it in the full sun, and told it in no uncertain terms “Let’s see how you like THIS then”. The bottle sat there contritely, filled with remorse, crying more of its contents over my driveway.
About 12 months ago, I was sitting happily writing an article when I felt something on my ankle. I looked down to find a big Huntsman spider making its way up my leg. With a shriek suitable for someone who was being attacked with a bloody knife in a darkened room of an eerie house that was filled with suspenseful music, I threw my laptop, mouse, cup of tea and everything else up in the air and swished my unexpected cuddler onto the floor. Full-on ‘mother’ mode took over. I pointed an accusatory finger at the surprised offender, “What on EARTH do you think you’re doing?”, I boomed in a voice that could probably be heard 10 kms away (one of the results of being a swimming teacher for so many years: I can PROJECT my voice very, very well). The spider cowered on the floor, somehow managing to look both sheepish (if that’s possible for a spider) and increasingly contrite as I continued, “That was really naughty, you gave me such a fright! Don’t you EVER do that again! Ever!”. It stayed where it was for a few moments, wrapped in what I can only assume was spider-like mortification, then slunk off and dejectedly climbed a wall before disappearing to hopefully consider its future actions.
There’s a family of swans lives nearby - actual black swans, I mean, not a family of football fans – and I had a chuckle to myself one day when one of the teenagers got told off by its mother and was made to swim at her side, away from the rest of its siblings. I have this theory that being told off by a mother is actually a universal event throughout the animal kingdom. The photo with this post is of a pelican being told off by an older lady after it had bitten her. Check out the body language of both the woman & the bird: it’s totally that of a child being told off by its mother.
I started writing this 5 days ago. FIVE DAYS! It is NOT like me to half finish an article. Okay, yes it totally is like me, I’ve got half-finished articles all over the place, but that’s because they haven’t flowed; this one was FLOWING. Unfortunately, a bigger flow came along because motherhood called and when that flow hits you, it takes over your entire life…
I’ve spent two of the last three days going to Armidale to pick up Keeley from school. She’s having her tonsils out on Monday and it’s her birthday tomorrow. All in all, a big weekend. I’m hoping that the attitude and reticence is anxiety about the operation because right now, I’m putting up with quite a lot of teenage ways of behaving that I normally wouldn’t tolerate for more than about 10 seconds. And it’s bloody exhausting. Swear to god, you couldn’t pay me enough to be a teenager. I like having a lot of money, but I don’t like it that much, I can tell you. The angst, the uncertainty, the wanting to fit in, the wanting to never conform (usually both of the last two at the same time), the hormones, the embarrassing parents.
John does an amazing job of being an embarrassment to his children. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any dad who was quite so accomplished at it. Except mine. My dad did an awesome job at embarrassing his children, with his specialty being The Dance. This one came out at family do’s and weddings. He would drag me – pretty much kicking and screaming – onto the dance floor and insist that I “dance” with him. His “dance” involved doing this weird thing where he’d stand on one leg with the other stuck out in front of him, and then do a kind of twist on the heel of his front leg, all the time exhorting me to do the same thing, while I invariably stood there, cringing with embarrassment as the rest of the family/friends formed an encouraging (?) ring around us. The grown-ups no doubt knowing exactly what my father was doing and cheering him on wholeheartedly and the younger ones displaying both patent relief that they weren’t the chosen sacrifice at this family get-together and glee at someone else’s acute embarrassment of their parents’ behaviour.
The thing is, we all knew – know – that Dads do this totally on purpose. Totally. They know EXACTLY what they’re doing and I’m sure that it’s built into them at a genetic level when they become fathers: “oh look, there goes the little sperm, yes, he’s in there! Look, it’s all happening, I’m going to be a father” and bam! He suddenly has this built-in desire – NEED, even – to be a complete embarrassment and do things that are going to make his children cringe for years to come. And weird dance moves seem to be a base part of that genetic makeup. I’ll bet even John Travolta has some weird dance moves that he embarrasses his kids with.
Or maybe it simply all boils down to Adam. Maybe Adam had this hilarious idea at some gathering of his clan that the whole evening was a bit boring and his kids were a little too prim & proper & thought too much of themselves, so he was going to lighten the atmosphere, let his hair down a little, poke a bit of harmless fun at one of his sons and get on the dancefloor to show his kids how to really enjoy themselves… and his sons have been wreaking revenge on their children ever since.
Keeley, being the youngest of four, has generally seen it all before and takes it all in her stride, with an almost subvocal snigger in recognition of what her Dad’s doing. If he applies it to her, most of the time, he just gets an eye roll and a sigh; she’s very difficult to get going in the ‘embarrassing parents’ category (except when her Dad starts dancing. Then she tries to leave the building in all haste). Jamie, being the eldest, is much more satisfying prey. We apparently managed to embarrass him so much in a restaurant when we went down to visit him, that he says he’ll never be able to show his face in there again. I don’t even know what we did. His dad hadn’t started dancing or anything.
Hi! And welcome! I'm Karen O'Connor and this is me in the photo on the right: a 50-something, happily married mother-of-four (I'm saying that not just because it's true but also in the hope that it helps stop all the friend requests & messages from weird guys), self-made millionaire, serial entrepreneur, blogger and mindset coach/mentor/expert kind of person who is unable to sit still for five minutes.
I've tried the whole 'focus on one thing and do it really well' numerous times during my life, and I ended up doing it not very well at all, to be honest. It's just so boring, doing one thing! And, besides which, life is NEVER about one thing, is it? I'm a wife, a mother, a friend, an entrepreneur, a property investor, a quantity surveyor, a synchronised swimmer, a bit of a gym junkie, a horse rider who likes to sew and cook and make soaps and skincare. Oh yes, I'm a blogger and writer, too; I forgot about that bit! I've also been a life coach (I hate that term but I can't think of a better one) since 2002. I like to have fun. I like to laugh until I cry. I like to smile. I like to poke fun at things. I like to think I'm funny. I love having friends around for coffee or dinner. I also like to have a LOT of money. I just don't see the point in struggling or limitations around money, it doesn't make sense to me, and I LOVE to see other people get past their money blocks and create the things they want, too. But I also want to share just... stuff, too, the things that interest me, the health tips, the fitness ideas, the recipes, the (sometimes hilarious) results of my attempts at arts, crafts & home making things that I could buy much more easily in the shops, the trials and tribulations of parenthood and the ongoing evolution of our relationships. This is about LIFE, not just one thing; life.
Like a lot of women my age, the vast majority of my life has gone into bringing up the kids and all of the effort, heartache, joy and laughter that entails. I think that when we get to a certain age, we have no one focus, we have multiple interests. We've tried a lot of things over the course of our lives and we're good at any number of things (and we can admit that we're pretty awful at some other things, too!). One thing we're really good at is putting other people first. I don't know about you, but I spent so long putting other people's needs first that I simply forgot how to even consider my own needs. It's been a very painful process remembering how to do that. I spent so long suppressing my own wants and needs that, in the end, I forgot how to say yes to myself; I simply didn't know what it was I wanted. Life wasn't a very pleasant experience for a few years there.
The purpose of this website, blog and all the freebies, programs & resources is to help women who are going through the same things that I went through, that loss of purpose, the feeling of 'what's the point' that seems to pervade our lives at a certain point, that sense of confusion, loss & bewilderment. Picking ourselves up from that can feel overwhelmingly difficult, and I wish I'd known that other women had gone through the same experience and had redefined themselves & their lives, because that was what I really needed. I needed someone to say "Oh my god, I totally get you! This is what happened to me and this is how I moved beyond it". Having gone into the MAWS of life and come out the other side, I can tell you that it's a simple process. It's not always easy, but it is simple.
The thing is, if you're anything like me, you don't have ONE interest, ONE focus, ONE passion (except maybe your partner, but you know what I mean 😜). We are MULTI-talented, MULTI-passionate, MASSIVELY experienced in a MULTITUDE of things, MARVELOUSLY delightful, Mistresses of Attitude, Women of Strength.
So, let's poke some fun at ourselves and the things that are happening to our bodies. Let's chat about the things we've experienced in raising our kids, the changing relationships, the empty nest, how we keep our relationships with our partners alive and happy, how we drive them insane sometimes and vice versa, food, drink (love my wine), health, fitness, mindset and money, our dreams and desires, recreating things for ourselves.
And there lies my true passion and purpose: having people remember that they really can create EVERYTHING that they want. And have fun while they do it. And feel loved, and be filled with & surrounded by laughter.
So come and join me, because life... it's all about the attitude!
PS This website is a definite work in progress. In moving all my stuff off Facebook and onto here, there's a lot of work entailed, linking things up, finding the right resources, putting up blog posts, getting everything organised an looking pretty (ish), so please be patient and come back regularly to check on things. Better still, join one of the mailing lists or sign up for one of the free downloads and I'll update you as things come together.
And I can sit here and moan about it all - the hot flushes, the weird rashes, the raging hormones, the sleepless nights - and, trust me, I DO moan about it occasionally, and then I get the giggles about it all. The things that we go through (and that we put ourselves through) are quite hilarious. I don't know about you, but I made such a MEAL out of being middle aged. I was totally stopped. I thought there was nothing else I could do with my life: I was too old, too out of touch, too slow, way past it. There was just no point in trying something else; I'd been out of the workforce for 20 years, there was no way I could get a decent job and I certainly didn't want to redo my professional qualifications. Besides which, I'm basically unemployable: I'd last about 5 minutes in someone else's company before I started taking over, let's face facts.
The thing is, why was I even CONSIDERING working for someone else? I'd had my own businesses, I'd been involved in our developments, I'd done numerous renovations for profit but for some reason, all I could think was that I had to get a job, I had to get back into the workforce. I'd be a TERRIBLE employee, swear to god. The only thing I can put it down to is that my hormones messed with my brain. I don't know whether that's actually true or not but I know for sure that I wasn't making sense.
And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, right? We feel sorry for teenagers going through all their angst, with their raging hormones making their brains fire in inexplicable ways. Well, lookee here... 50 years old and not making a SCRAP of sense.
I had 20 years of crap built up in me. There was so much stuff crammed into my head that there was no room for any new thoughts. Old thoughts, stuff that I'd thought I'd got rid of years before, were reappearing. I was defaulting to the patterns from my childhood: beliefs about scarcity and lack and what was and wasn't possible for me, how I wasn't good enough, smart enough, creative enough... I just wasn't enough. And this is from someone who'd spent a FORTUNE on personal development and business coaching. I'd spent YEARS working with business coaches and I was thinking about LOOKING FOR A JOB! What the hell was that about? What was I even thinking?
Like I said, it's the hormones! And it may or may not be, but no matter where we're at, there's always a way to get back onto a path that feels good and create the things that we really want in our lives: great relationships, great health & fitness, feeling excited about life, bringing to life all the ideas that we've had for businesses or art or charities or education, and knowing that they'll happen just because we decide to make them happen.
Welcome to the hilarious, unbalancing, highly erratic, confronting opportunity that confronts us all when we get to middle age. It's time to recreate things. Because remember, it's all about the attitude.