Across the pond…

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Image: Chiromancer 2018

It’s been a while since I packed passport, arranged a visa and hot-footed it somewhere else for work.  This week took me to New York for a new assignment.  In my previous, pre-stepmom life, this would have been an ordinary trip. I travelled a lot. For work. For pleasure.  I used to do a lot of other things…a lot. Now that I’m married to the Belgian – and stepmom to his boys – this trip adopted new significance.

Being alone in NYC as a kick-ass consultant reminded me of my days when I really was kick-ass, no-kids. No husband.  Fun. Me. Just me. Me…alone. This time, being alone in New York also reminded me that I have some boys at home who might be missing me. Turns out they did…even Watson, our cat was happy to see me…But, it also reminded me that I’m good at what I do, that in my professional life, I am respected, valued and rewarded as…me! Sometimes this is hard to know when your role is being a stepmom and wife to boys who are from a different culture.  Sometimes a different planet…

Change – which I do for a living – is not rocket science , but somehow, having to change my life from careerista singleton to married stepmom was harder than I expected. Not so much science as a rocket up my butt!  Ouch! Much harder! Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Belgian and I would not swap my current life for the world, but it’s nice to be myself – just me,myself, I – for a change.  For a change…being a working woman alone in New York meant I could order juice for breakfast, spend hours blowdrying my hair, explore the city after hours and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Sometimes you have to go back, to see how far you have journeyed…

 

 

 

Enough…

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I started my week doing outdoor yoga with a view of a windmill and a canal on one side and the most beautiful medieval city (Bruges) on the other.  So far, so…okay.

‘Okay!’ I hear you yell! ‘Stop bragging, Be grateful woman! ‘ I am. I mean… I am grateful. Nevertheless, no bragging involved as I am the most caterpillar of all the yoga class – between translating from Dutch to English, then having to learn the moves while breathing in or out…or is that out or in.  Buddha knows, because I certainly don’t! I still struggle to tell my downward dog from my derriere and my warrior pose resembles a wobble…

The highlight of this morning was the warm down – everyone lying in a circle, being zen. Except me, because an insect bit me so hard I shouted out loud while everyone else was ohm-ing! The humiliation! ”Eina!’ is not ‘ouch’ in Dutch. Nor is it ohm! There I lay, berating myself for being so ungraceful and on top of it all, just being the outsider. ‘Not good enough! Not…enough!

The ‘not enough’ demon is one who comes to visit fairly frequently – perhaps I’m peri-mental (more on this in another post) or just deranged, but he seems to have taken great delight recently in making me feel somehow smaller, and less than I am. I mean, less than I know what I have been and accomplished. He’s also managed to add a few more kilograms than are necessary!  How can I be less when I weigh so much more! Earghh! He’s there when I examine myself in the mirror, he’s dogging me when I’m on assignment (or looking for work), and today, he showed up in my yoga class.  Really?

The thing is. I got home and read a post from our yoga teacher, where she shared how she felt…’not enough’.  I was puzzled. Here is this fantastic teacher , who runs a great business and on top of it is super bendy and slim…and yet, she felt like me…well, sort of…except, she can do warrior pose in her sleep!. 

Which got me thinking…

As women we judge ourselves so harshly.  Not thin…enough! Not perfect…enough! Just not..enough. Too old. Too fat. Therefore not good enough as a parent, lover, wife, sister, stepmom, CEO…Is that really how others see us? When did this happen? And why are we accepting this heretic inner dialogue as the gospel truth?  What a crock! 

The truth is…we are enough. We are women, and we have power. We just need to reclaim it. One breath at a time…

 

 

 

 

Waterloo…

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Image © Miceking | Dreamstime.com

For several months now, the battle of the brush has been raging in our Belgian household. Perhaps it’s my Virgo sensibilities which are not jiving with adolescent male standards for toilet hygiene, or perhaps it’s because I expect cleanliness before godliness. God knows I expect the loo to be flushed! 

Whatever the reason, every second week that we have the kids I find myself waging a campaign of Napoleonic proportions with regard to the downstairs toilet.  One revelation of moving countries and sharing a house with The Belgian and his boys is that I am able to set my watch by their bowel movements. Regular as clockwork. Yeah, I know…possibly a bit too much information!  

Nonetheless, I make this claim as it means I can also predict what will happen should I need to avail myself of the facilities.  Picture this scenario...desperate for a pee, I head to the nearest loo, only to find it resembling a Calcutta hell-hole. Cue a loud shriek from me and lengthy discussions with my husband, who shares my views on clean loos, but seems less bothered by this than I am.  I am extremely bothered by this…

Clearly the second revelation of living in a male-dominated household is that the sexes have opposing views on what is acceptable in terms of keeping things spic and span in the smallest room in the house…

We tried a cordon sanitaire, complete with photographic evidence. No discernible effect!  We tried logic and an appeal to their better selves. No discernible effect!  Were they doing this deliberately?  Was I being unreasonable? I didn’t think so. However, in the absence of an outside portaloo and a mandatory bidet regimen, I was ready to pack my things and move back to a place where the throne room really sparkles…

It all came to a head this week. Yes, I’d really had enough of other peoples crap! Sensing my distress, The Belgian, who is ever resourceful, has now come up with an incentive plan to ensure that brushing happens after flushing. No skid-marks means a bonus on pocket money, but only if both toilets are spanking clean. Where there’s no muck, there is definitely brass. Meanwhile, I have drafted in reinforcements with industrial amounts of toilet cleaner. And if that fails…well, I can always use the boys’ toothbrushes to polish the bowl!

How to be a grown up…

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Image: Copyright Oleg Dudko | Dreamstime.com

A few years ago, I wrote a post called The Year of Living Dangerously – about using the New Year to live fully in the moment, and to dispense with things that no longer served me.  What I did not know at the time was that 2015 would be the year I met The Belgian and began to write my own happy ever after.

Three years later, it’s been a fairy tale with it’s own peculiar array of villains and heroes. We’ve had the best of times, and we’ve had the worst of times, which is why as this New Year begins, I was tempted to call this blog The Year of Living Sensibly

A few days before Christmas, I had a high-speed blow-out in my car, lost control of the vehicle and ended up trapped against the central reservation – in the fast lane!   Clearly not the sort of dangerous living I’d recommend!  Luckily for me the emergency services arrived in time. Luckily for me, no one else was involved and I walked away with minor injuries.  It was a sobering experience.

It’s made me reflect that perhaps the universe isn’t quite finished with me yet…and that if I am to set a New Year’s manifesto for 2018, it has to be about courage and commitment.  Being brave enough to make the life changes I need, and showing up as a fully fledged grown up – and I don’t just mean with my hair brushed and my laces tied!  

The reality is that no matter how magic the fairy tale ending, Cinderella still needs to do the dishes, Snow White has to deal with her wicked stepchildren and Prince Charming steals the duvet and farts in public. Yes, really!  Adult is the only antidote here.

So here are my resolutions for the New Year. In 2018, being grown up will be about striking a balance between acceptance –  not wasting energy on things I cannot change – and ownership, which means taking mindful charge of my goals, setting firm emotional and spiritual boundaries and putting my well-being first.  Dishes or not!

Happy New Year. May 2018 bring you a sprinkling of fairy dust.

 

Christmas, present…

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Image | Copyright Chiromancer 2017

I have always loved Christmas, even though I’m a grown up and don’t quite believe in Santa any more – well, a little bit of me does, so I always leave a carrot out for the reindeer, but that is another story!

I love the sparkly lights, I adore the shiny decorations, I sing along to cheesy Christmas songs. Most of all, I love Christmas dinner.  Well, everything except the Brussels Sprouts! Since I grew up in the Southern Hemisphere, we always had dinner on Christmas Eve –  doing a roast with all the trimmings on the day is a bit hectic when it’s 30 degrees celsius outside and you are dying for a swim instead of turkey with stuffing!

This year, my Christmas will be special.  My mom and middle sister are joining us – me, The Belgian & his 2 reindeer – for a continental Christmas. I feel so grateful we have this chance to connect and spend concentrated time together.  It’s been over a year since we’ve seen each other, and several years since we’ve had a family Christmas.  This brings a whole new set of blended traditions – crackers, trifle, hapjes and kroketten – unfortunately for me, I’m outnumbered by the Anglo-Belgian mini cabbage-lovers! 

One thing I do know – there will be loads of food, laughter and warm memories made. It’s the best present I could hope for. So…here’s my present for you –  wherever and however you choose to celebrate – I wish you peace, I wish you light, I wish you hope. Merry Christmas 2017!

Effing & blinding…

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Image © Bortn66 | Dreamstime

I am so grateful for how I grew up.  I lived in a family where the worse thing you could be called is a ‘besom’ – as in ‘you little besom‘ which, translated from Irish means broom. This – of course  – was only when you had done something naughty. Otherwise you were ‘angel’ or ‘darling’.

Swearing simply did not feature. Even my dad, who was a man’s man in his work – at home, an officer and a gentleman. I can never recall him being profane. Emotional, yes. Ugly in his language towards others. Never.

So…I am somewhat amazed how over the last year or so,  I seem to have morphed into a sailor with Tourettes. This is not a new phenomenon, but after yet another frustrating conversation this evening, I found myself muttering the F-word darkly…even worse, aloud!

Now, there are many women out there who – at this point – will loudly shout that it’s our right as feminists to use language as we please. Yes. It is. We can and should claim our power. However, I spent my youth filling in Readers Digest ‘Improve your Wordpower’ quizzes, and I have a postgrad degree in English Literature, so actually, I have no excuse. I have at least 171,476* words at my disposal, so effing and blinding should not be my ‘go to’ strategy.

  • Note: This is the actual number of words in the Oxford English Dictionary – Google it, if you don’t believe me.

The truth is that I am angry. And I am not being heard. And therefore not understood. Language can connect us, but it can also create barriers – we think we speak in the same way, but actually our words are the bricks we use to construct the walls of silence that bind us unwillingly…or…the brickbats we lob at one another when we feel threatened.

I feel like shouting and swearing. Yes, it will relieve my frustration (temporarily). Yes, it will make me feel like I’m expressing my emotions (temporarily). But it will not and cannot remove the core issue, the seed of this extreme emotion. My anger. My hurt.

Which got me thinking…in this hour, and of this evening…might silence be the better option?

 

 

 

In Flanders fields…

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. – Rupert Brooke, 1914

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Image: Copyright Chiromancer 2017

If you read my earlier post Adventures in Benglish…you will know that I have set myself the task of adventuring across the A-Z of Belgium.  It’s a sort of therapy for me.  A way to kill my inner conflict about living here, by being a tourist and acclimatising simultaneously.

I’m not doing it in any kind of chronological order, the only requirements are:  #1 that I hit all 26 letters, and… #2 that I try to visit places that are a bit off the beaten track.

Visiting Ypres (Ieper) probably breaks condition #2, but it does cross off the letter ‘Y’ which I thought might be problematic.  As I headed out of Bruges for an appointment I spotted it on the periphery of my satnav… ‘I’ll give it a go’ I thought, as the sombre stanzas of several War Poets began running through my head…

Two things I had certainly not anticipated. #1 As a town, Ypres is a lot bigger than you think, and…#2 there are war graves everywhere. And, I mean e-v-e-r-ywhere. In fields outside of town, in the middle of residential areas, and of course at the emblematic Menin Gate (Menenpoort).   In the 1920s the Commonwealth War Graves Commission built 150 military cemeteries in and around Ypres in the honour of all those who gave their lives during WW1. I must have missed that part of the history lesson…

What I found so moving today was the realisation that it wasn’t just Germans, French, British and Belgians, who made the ultimate sacrifice, but South Africans, Algerians, Senegalese, Chinese, Indians and loads of other nationalities. A conflict to end all others… It’s estimated that half a million people died between 1914 and 1918.

Which got me thinking…it’s time I started my own inner peace talks. Sacrificing the best of who I am to bend my current world to my will isn’t working. It’s not the way forward. George Orwell wrote that ‘happiness can exist only in acceptance’.  I think he was right…