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?

 

 

 

Rinse, repeat…rinse, repeat!

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Image: © Picstudio | Dreamstime

Ever get deja vu?  Feeling that you know what happens next because you’ve been here before?  Or as in my case, deja-poo? The point at which you notice it’s the same old crap makings it’s debut – complete with the same old feelings.   Knowing that you’ve hit the exact moment where the stuff you suppress, floats to the surface like a rotting corpse. ‘Out, damned spot…! ‘as Lady MacBeth would say.

Facebook has a nifty (or not so nifty) feature which prompts you with memories of a year…or three…or five ago.  There are days when I can look back on these reminders and smile, and others (like today) where I still remember how I felt and how I actually was when I wrote those posts.  In any event, today’s musings were not prompted by carefully curated social media posts, they were prompted by a paperwork spring clean. Rinse, repeat!  Tidiness is probably next to holiness in my own particular dictionary of karma, but that is the story for another blog.

So back to the past-present-past. In 2009, the wheels fell off for me.  In a serious way.  House, heart, health and work were tanking. My immediate family were far away, and being isolated in thought and location, I was able to hide from most of my close friends just how hideous life had become for me.  Cue more carefully curated social media posts!  As if this wasn’t enough of a ‘growth experience’, my soul was sinking silently into the murk of long and very deep despair. If I could have washed it all away, I would have.  Rinse, repeat! My recovery was just as long, but eventually the bad times became bad memories which faded as the good stuff started coming back.

Fast forward to 2017.  Today.  I’m in a study, where I’m renting space, sorting out (and shredding) paperwork as part of my ‘the girl who finally got her sh*t together’ self-improvement project. And then…it happens… I turn to a file which is full of paperwork from 2009. It’s pretty annoying when the universe bops you upside your head, even more annoying when you suddenly realise that this is going to keep happening unless you let the genie out of the bottle, and deal with the deja vu. Again.

I felt my tears begin as suddenly I was taken right back to the person I was at that time.  I felt my fear rise at the thought that I never want this to happen ever again, even though I’m terrified it might. I felt angry that I hadn’t dealt with it sufficiently to make it go away and that current circumstances were triggering all sorts of renewed negative charges inside me. Rinse, repeat! Rinse, repeat! 

And then…Something curious…

I was reminded that emotions are just that. Emotions.  It’s our feelings about those emotions that give them context and power. Negative or positive. You may not be able to wash them away with soul soap, but you can distance yourself from the feeling by acknowledging the emotion.  So I did.  I sat looking at the papers and just let myself feel the anger, the hurt and the fear.  And then I wiped my cheeks, and shredded the file.

Rinse, do not repeat! I feel lighter and cleaner somehow. So much that I was actually able to hit my blog and write it all down, something which has not happened in a while.  It’s been a day for soul expansion and growth. And for that I’m grateful.

 

 

Every time we say goodbye…

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I hate goodbye… Whether it’s wishing my far flung family farewell, or saying ‘sayonara’ to someone special…I’m a real wuss when it comes to goodbye.

For the last two and a half years, The Belgian (a.k.a. my lovely husband) and I conducted our courtship across the English Channel. Every other weekend was spent in another country, and since we both work as consultants, our weeks were spent apart.  Long working days, long distance love, and lonely nights… It meant we crammed as much into our weekends as possible, before that dreaded Sunday moment, when – having repacked our respective suitcases – we hugged and hoped that the week would pass quickly so we could see each other again.

This Sunday, The Belgian and I hugged, and said goodbye. As he drove away, I stood in the driveway of our cottage, feeling familiarly sad, but somehow different. As I walked back to the house, I was deep in thought.  Perhaps saying goodbye is not so bad, when you know that you will see each other again. There is fondness in farewell when you realise that time apart brings the opportunity to share your adventures over a glass of wine at the weekend. Next weekend, darling! As that wise philosopher, Pooh Bear once said: ‘how lucky I am to have someone that makes saying goodbye so hard’.

Up-side…down?

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IMAGE: DREAMSTIME

So it’s been a huge year so far, but that is the subject of another blog. Mostly it’s been a bit mixed. As in…Up-side! I finally got to marry The Belgian – on a crisp November day, we tied the knot in front of a select coterie of friends and family who’d travelled from across the globe. Such a happy day.

A week later…downside. I went back to work to discover my contract had been terminated because they’d restructured the project. Major bummer? Erm..no. Up-side! This meant that I could put my affairs in order and bring forward a move to Belgium to be with my husband, who has been extremely patient with his workaholic, long-distance wife.  Trust me when I say that planning a wedding when you are holding down a hectic job and living in three locations is challenging!

A day later…the lump at the back of my ear had turned into a raging case of Shingles. A.K.A. Chickenpox for grown-ups.  On my face. Definitely no up-side!  Well, apart from the fact that I was channelling a look that was the cross between Shrek and the Elephant Woman.  Oh..and the disinfectant powder and red, terminator eye made me look like some sort of crazed Halloween raccoon. Up-side?  That seemed a bit hard to find last week. And yet…

My immune system crashed and burned and the vision in my right eye is impaired. The up-side…well, the upside is that this cosmic siren call is calling time on my hectic lifestyle.  It signals a shift my priorities as much as my perspective – as in ‘work less, play more’. Life is short and we are a long time dead. Lying in a darkened room for 10 days has given me plenty of time to reflect. It’s a bit like the Hanged Man card in the Tarot – a card which in some cultures is thought to represent the Norse god Odin who suspended himself from a tree to gain wisdom. My learning? You see the world differently when your own is upside down.

Sisters under the skin…

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It may of course be my age and stage in life, but frankly I don’t care for the Kardashians, the TOWIE babes or any other half-witted, self-promoting bimbos. I may have boobs, but I do have brains, and no – my face isn’t at chest level nor is it surgically enhanced!

It seems to me that these days, superficial is super-cool, plastic (as in surgery and friend-fakery) is fantastic.  If you don’t have 40.5m followers on Twitter, you aren’t working hard enough. If you can’t influence on Facebook you are simply not worth friending.  Not writing your own cook-bake-make blog …while hand-knitting nappies for your test-tube triplets?  Shame on you, woman!  Worst of all, social media has given ordinary women such an inferiority complex, we have actually begun to buy the crap promulgated by popular culture. We actually think it’s ok to be a size zero, or to deprive ourselves of coffee, sex or ice-cream…all in pursuit of some photo-edited ideal that simply isn’t reality.

Instead of supporting each other, I see countless examples of women being disparaging about other women.  And no, the Kardashians are media freaks and do not count – they are only nice to themselves and Kanye!  Eating disorders are at an all time high. It’s estimated that 10% of young women will suffer this.  And the phenomena of on-line bullying is a worrying trend. Not content to bash you in the playground, girl-on-girl violence has evolved to the digital age. We’ll get you in cyberspace…For goodness sake, our’s is the era that has spawned the term ‘frenemy’…as in, people you loathe but are friends with? I rest my case!

As a grown up (sometimes) I’ve experienced first-hand how mean, petty and bitchy women can be. At one time, I used to be the only single woman at the dinner table…or not. Sometimes I was not invited, because being single clearly I must be on the hunt for a husband/promotion/shoes and therefore a huge threat.  Really? Shoes and promotion, I earned and paid for myself several times over.  Husband?  Well…I wouldn’t want to steal your bald, fat wallet! 

However, I’ve also seen how wonderful, supportive and giving women can be. Instead of competition, collaboration. Instead of combat, caring.  Women friends who hear your sobs and will be your solace, women friends who will cheer your success with champagne, women friends who leave money behind or buy you dinner, so you don’t need to worry about spending, women friends who will send you postcards so you don’t feel alone. Perhaps it’s a female destiny to love too much, feel too much or give too much…but it’s done gladly.

So here is a shout out to the women of my generation -my friends and my family. Let’s support each other. Let’s be present enough in each other’s lives to share the good moments, and the bad. Let’s be pleased for each other’s bravery, success or happiness – not envious. Let’s share the love, and magnify the support. Because…whether or not we are related… we are all sisters under the skin.