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!