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.

 

 

Garden…

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Image: Alexey Khromushin | Dreamstime.com

I spent love and a fortune on renovating my old house. It was to be my ‘forever’ home. But the universe had other plans...I met The Belgian and life became a trans-continental juggle. The garden, which of course the builders had trashed, lay dormant.

2016 was one of those horrid years, where the bad news kept coming and the good stuff got lost in the haze. My garden got lost in the weeds, along with my good intentions for landscaping the plot. And yes, the universe had other plans…

Periodically, I made futile attempts to weed and plant, but to be honest my heart was not in it. Which is strange, because I love gardening. The plans of the universe?…Not so much. The task ahead seemed too daunting, too much just another thing on the ‘to do’ list of my life.

Each time I looked out of the French doors, all I saw was failure. All the things that hadn’t happened in the way I’d planned. All the things that were stuck. ‘You never realise anything’ went the negative refrain in my head as Summer, Autumn and then Winter rain pelted the house and watered the weeds.

I was determined that 2017 would be different. After what seemed like a long wait for January’s ice and frost to clear, I’m pleased to say that the garden is finished.  My contractors came and went in a whirlwind – laying a footpath and shingle, creating raised beds for planting. Ready for a new beginning.  Now when I look out of the French doors, the vista – and my mood – are transformed. Thanks, universe!  I learned a valuable lesson or two…

With the right tools, you can do anything!  One of the worst rows I’ve had with The Belgian came after we’d made a half-baked attempt to lay railway sleepers ourselves.  My garden guys had whacker plates and a digger. Voila! In half a day, they did twice as much as we did on several tiring weekends. And they did it beautifully!

When you are stuck, get help! I’d spent months planning to landscape the garden myself, against a punishing work schedule and planning a wedding to aforementioned Belgian. Crazy!  Asking someone else to carry that load was ultimately the road to sanity, not self-flagellation.

sometimes you have to start over, in order to start right. 

 

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’.

The Year of the Cat…

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Image: Copyright Chiromancer

The cat – as with so many things this year – arrived in an unexpected way. The Belgian and I were enjoying a late-evening aperitif and some ‘hapjes’ (a.k.a. bar snacks) – when a skinny creature made it’s approach, miaowing plaintively.

Since we were living in two places and I was working in a third, pets were not on the agenda.  We had only just had a funeral for the gerbil so I really didn’t need another crash course in  pet care for step-parents!  

 ‘Do not feed the cat!’ I was instructed. Which of course, I was compelled to ignore. Surely a small and surreptitious snack would not do any harm? ‘He won’t leave’ The Belgian muttered. And he was right…the next night the cat arrived for another late night bite.  Clearly the cat was domesticated, so he must be someone’s pet. ‘If he is here again, I’m going to take him to the animal shelter’ said my husband, darkly.

Instead, he took the cat to the vet, got him micro-chipped, vaccinated and issued with a pet passport so he could travel.  The Belgian is nothing if not kind-hearted, and that is why I married him!  We named the cat Watson. He purrs louder than a tractor, and since his batteries must have been removed in one of his previous 9 lives, sleeps 18 hours per day. He is of course, totally perfect for us.

Sometimes in life, you get what you need, but it’s not necessarily what you thought you wanted.  Thanks Watson, for being one of the good things in 2016.

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.

 

Wicked…

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I’ve just returned from a 2 week stint in South Africa – looking after my gorgeous nephew/godson, (5) and his equally gorgeous sister, (18 months) while their parents were away. I love them deeply and I’m more than a little melancholy I don’t get to see them as often as I would like. Which is funny, because I never wanted children of my own.

As a single, career-minded woman, I was happy to be the godmother/aunt/interested adult…as long as I could hand them back to their parents and go back to my own (semi-interesting) life.  Of course that all changed when the Tadpole (a.k.a. aforesaid nephew) was born, but I still had the luxury of hot-footing it back to corporate life and champagne-ville when it suited me. I quite enjoyed playing the role of not-so-wicked godmother!

Having learnt the entire theme song to Paw Patrol last week, along with reaching the dizzy heights of supercool stardom in Slugterra, I have also been reflecting on my role as an aunt and godparent. Parent– being the operative word.  It’s not something you prepare for. But damn…you need to be prepared.  For the questions, the challenges and the absolute clarity of a 5 year old.  For the high energy, instant requirements of a little 18 month old soul who is seeing things for the first time and demanding everything!

Which got me thinking.  In my other life, falling madly in love with The Belgian has also brought children into my life. They are not mine, but they are the most gorgeous boys. Two of them. When we first met, I was.. a single, career-minded woman happy to be the interested adult.  As long as I could hot-foot it back to corporate life and champagne-ville.  Of course that changed when The Belgian proposed. Suddenly, I faced the prospect of being a step-mother. I wasn’t prepared. I felt…wicked. In every sense of the word.

I hadn’t had kids of my own. How would I know what to do when they came home with bruised knees. Wicked!  There are loads of Brady-bunch type books on the market.  You know, the blended family, step-parenting-for-dummies publications that are totally – and I mean totally – geared towards those people who a) have been married before and b) are bringing their kids together. Eh?   What about me?   I simply could not relate. I wasn’t sure whether ‘stepmom’ was something I actually wanted. Even more wicked!  Yes, I am a single, career girl by choice. My career is still important to me, regardless of whether I do the school run or not. Wicked-er!  And yes,  of course I have never had kids so will probably not know how to parent.  Oh so, super-Wicked!

Nevertheless..I’m not half bad with small people, and despite my own misgivings, I will probably make a semi-cool parent. So far, I have presided over the funeral of the pet gerbil, given big hugs when disappointment strikes and taught the boys to love jelly and bacon.  I am prepared to take on someone else’s most precious possessions, along with their birth mother’s foibles. I am prepared to hug them, love them and make sure they are well-fed and watered.  I am there to tuck them in and cuddle them when they can’t speak to mom or dad. More importantly I am happy to spend my spare time, teaching them things they might not otherwise learn.  Getting them to make a perfect champagne-cocktail  however, might be some way off!