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.
Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...