I’m not that kind of girl!

Alright, I’ll admit it, I’m female! There that shocked you didn’t it? No? Well according to so many stereotypes I’m not… I can remember the time I did a test that told me in the results that I have a man’s brain. They didn’t tell me his name, so I couldn’t give it back.

I didn’t believe them anyway because I don’t believe that only men can reason logically (plus I’ve met a lot of men who don’t even have a nodding acquaintance with logic). I don’t believe that only women can be caring either. Some women are wonderfully warm and supportive, an awful lot aren’t. Some men are just the best at taking care of others, it doesn’t mean they’re not men.

It frustrates me that these stereotypes are still kicking around, the pressure that is put on children to conform is phenomenal, when you add in gender expectations it becomes ridiculous. So, girls and boys… I hate pink. I virtually never wear it, I own very few things that are that colour. I’m not really a pastel person. I don’t wear make up, I can’t be wasting my time faffing around with it. I’m not a sucker for babies, I’m sure they’re very nice, but I’d rather have a puppy.

Are you beginning to get the picture? Well, the thing is, I can knit and crochet and sew. I can also do DIY, fix broken toys, wire a house for electricity. I get interested in things, and then I like to find out how to do them. I like to read books too.

So my advice is: ignore other people’s expectations, find out about the things that interest you, go fishing, or ballroom dancing if you want to, and don’t worry about gender stereotypes. If someone has a go at you, realise that they are almost certainly more worried about what they think they should be doing, than you are about what you should be doing. They are threatened by you, and scared of you, that’s why they’re attacking you.

I know it isn’t always easy, but you have a responsibility to yourself, plus all the generations growing up in the future. Be who you are.

Don’t put the clocks forward (or back) for me

Please, please, please, can we stop changing the clocks. I always have about two months of totally disrupted sleep after the clocks are changed. The dog can’t understand why her meals times have changed. And more than that I pity anyone with a large number of animals to care for, trying to equalise everything.

I can accept that for some business, possibly for some people the changing of the clocks makes sense, but for the rest of us it’s at best an inconvenience, at worst hell. Why do we all have to conform to this?

I read an article last time the clocks were changed that stated that changing the clocks effectively gives the whole country jet lag. Apparently there is always a spike in accidents of all types just after the clocks are changed… in either direction.

Please, please, please can we stop doing this unhealthy and dangerous thing twice a year. Please!

The Days When Everything Is Too Much

I would like to explain how I experience depression, it’s important to recognise that not everyone experiences it the same way. My experience of depression starts with a gradual disconnection from some of my feelings, the good times just don’t feel so good, the things I’m sad about don’t plunge me quite so far. To the outside I seem quite normal, apart from sometimes I don’t engage properly when in conversation, I don’t seem to have heard everything that was said, I’m distant and vague.

Gradually this all gets worse until I feel like I’m living in a very foggy day, everything is deadened, everything is damped right down, and I have retreated to a tiny corner of my mind where hope is hard to find.

Any attempt to engage with the outside world, however, is terrifying. It makes me physically sick, I get panicked, I can’t breathe, I sweat and shake. I can overcome it, but it takes all my will power, and because of the level of difficulty I can seem quite angry to anyone I interact with.

I feel like everything is too difficult, I feel completely overwhelmed, I feel like I have been buried alive. I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m trying to reach out to those of you who do understand, so that you know you are not alone.

I’m also trying to reach out to those of you who don’t understand, to help you see that depression is not the blues, not a bad day, but a life threatening illness. You can’t just switch it off, most of the time you don’t even realise that you’re ill. You can’t just “pull yourself together”, it’s not that simple. Talking to someone is really helpful, but not if they are going to judge you in any way.

It’s an illness, and you can recover from it. I’ve gotten over it before, and I will do again. But, not everyone does. Not everyone is strong enough to hold on until their own mind starts to see a way out, starts to see that there is hope, starts to blow the fog away and feel things fully again.

This information is here so that it is easier to empathise with people who are depressed, so that you understand you cannot make that person better, you can be there for them, you can listen to them repeat themselves for the 200th time and not judge them for the fact that they are stuck. But neither you, or they, can force a change, it has to happen when their subconscious mind (back brain) is ready.

And there will be days when they seem fine, and then suddenly they are back at the beginning again. And there will be days when they are angry at everything. It’s not your fault, it’s not theirs either. And there will be days when they don’t want to engage with anything.

Just remember, both the good times and the bad times pass, change is the one constant in our lives. And it’s good to embrace that change, and work your way forward to a better place. It’s where I’m aiming at. See you there.

This too shall pass…

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m struggling. My depression hasn’t left the building like I thought it had. The many and varied atrocities committed by our government, the precarious situation globally, and one or two personal stressors have got me down.

Don’t think I’m giving in without a fight. I have my lovely Tim and the wonderful Shelley G Shepherd, some fantastic friends and relations, who help buoy me up with their love and support (thank you all). I take great solace from nature, even stuck in the middle of this city.

But the world has gone so far down the wrong road, the current British government more than most, that my personal emotional resources are currently at a low ebb.

Because of the changes made by Ca-moron, Osborne, IDS (such a nasty disease) and their cronies, I’m going to have to stop being self-employed… just before Christmas. Not that we spend much on Christmas, but now we can’t spend anything.

I know “this too shall pass away”, but just at this moment I feel more like a mountain has been dumped on my head. I WILL get over it. I will continue to try and persuade people that we need a kinder, less judgemental world. There is (as Gandhi said) “enough for everyone’s need”, we need to sideline and marginalise those who are driven by greed. Not with hatred but with a sorrowing compassion. They are truly unhappy souls, I wouldn’t trade my depression for their unhappiness.

So, my friends, to all of you who are finding these times hard, know that you are not alone. We are the many (maybe even the legion) working for a better, kinder, more generous world. And know that I, and all our fellow travellers, are holding your hand.

Wrong On Both Counts

I was talking to someone the other day who has to claim JSA. They aren’t happy about it, but they can’t find a job. They’ve been put on something that bears the title of a course, but it isn’t a course, it’s a series of meetings where they are coerced into producing their CV in a variety of different formats.

From what they were describing it seems to be an exercise in duplicity. The CV that they are expected to produce does not bear any resemblance to their real experience or even personality. They are supposed to sell themselves, not to be honest.

I find this disturbing. How about young people with no experience and poor education? How are they supposed to sell themselves? They have no experience to inflate, so they will have to lie outright, rather than exaggerate (which is bad enough).

Those with poor educational results can’t make them look good without lying. And a mismatch between claimed skills and educational attainment is going to raise a red flag for any potential employer.

Worst of all, if someone does get a job using one of these misleading CV’s they are unlikely to be able to live up to the expectations of their new employer. This means they are unlikely to keep their job. Also they will not get a good reference when they try to get their next job.

The whole exercise seems to me to be a waste of time for both the person I was talking to and the person they have to meet, as well as being a complete waste of money. It also reinforces my belief that our British government thinks that we are all liars, and that they think lying is an acceptable thing to do.

For most of us they are wrong on both counts.

Just popping in

I’ve not been blogging for a little while, because I’m working on a longer piece. It’s very similar to what I write here, but I want to make it coherent whole. So, I won’t be sharing bits of it here.

I’m also busy with some other stuff, so finding time to blog as well as everything else just hasn’t been possible.

Anyway, I’m still here, still thinking stuff, still want to find ways to help people make their lives better.

So… look after yourselves. Try to find something beautiful in every day. Hold on to every little (or big) happiness. And know you are lovable.

Hurt

It is my experience that when someone tries to hurt you it is generally because they have already been hurt themselves. Sometimes by you, more often by someone else, sometimes by many others. Sometimes this hurt is the result of deliberate, abusive behaviour. Sometimes it is the result of well-intentioned, behaviour that is based on a misunderstanding of what is helpful, or good for, that person.

Understanding that there is an original hurt does not excuse the behaviour, but does make sense of the incomprehensible.

It has recently come to my attention that several years ago someone was bad mouthing me behind my back. When I was told what was said I laughed, because the slander/libel was so unbelievable… to me. I’ve been turning over in my mind the fact that it may not be so unbelievable to people who do not know me.

This is how such abuses work. The defamation of someone’s good name is a serious legal issue. After all, who will deal with someone they believe to be bad. Unfortunately, most people who commit this offence do so in such a way that legally challenging it only increases the number of people who get to hear the lie. And they make sure that the lie is one that would be very difficult to refute, and the more the defamed party protests their innocence, the more desperate they seem and the less credible they appear.

It is often a mystery to the victims of such defamation why they have been targeted for such abuse. Jealousy if often part of the trigger, but it is seldom jealousy based on the reality that the victim (for want of a better word) experiences, but a jealousy of a fantasy created in the mind of the perpetrator.

It is very sad that the internet can now be used to spread such lies, usually to a large audience who have no personal knowledge of either protagonist, and usually without the awareness of the “mark”. Such lies can be spread by other people in all innocence. Having no first-hand knowledge of the liar or their target, why should they disbelieve what they have been told?

The additional problems are, firstly, that mud sticks. People find it very hard to believe that they have been lied to, especially if they think the liar is their friend. We all like to think that we can tell when we’re being lied to, but some kinds of liars convince themselves first and because they believe it (well nearly) they are very plausible.

The second problem is that once it is on the internet it is always on the internet. I’m sure you can see why that may be a problem.

I’m not setting myself up as any kind of saint. I’ve done some things that I’m really not proud of. But I’d rather be hanged for the sheep I did steal than the ones that someone created out of thin air.

‘moron Again!

The newly re-elected British prime minister has just made an extraordinary statement. He has said “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’,” !?

What is that meant to mean? That the government has the right to intervene in our lives when we have broken no laws? This from the party that eschews the “nanny” state. Do this bunch of over-privileged, socially isolated, socio and psycho paths really think that they have been given a mandate to tyrannise the whole of Britain?

He wants new laws to “crack down” on people holding minority extremist views! People who don’t conform to the great British consensus. I think you translate that to mean “anyone who doesn’t agree with Dodgy Dave and his mates”. Will you look after my family when they come for me?

Apart from the self serving, xenophobic, divisively, dividing subtext to this utter bollocks, I’m intrigued by who he thinks is going to enforce Dave’s law? He’s consistently cut funding to both the police and the armed forces, is he going to start a new private enforcement body to do his dirty work? Because as quiet as they are, he’s not popular with the official bodies who might be expected to do it.

What a sad, paranoid world Dave must live in. It’s such a shame, Britain used to be a haven for people who needed a safe place because their ideas were radical, or before their time. People have come here through the centuries to get away from persecution for their beliefs (mind you a lot of the early emigrants to America felt they were persecuted).

Britain has never been a perfect place, it never has been a beacon of hope (don’t let them kid you), it’s just a convenient little island which used to bully every other country it met. It’s politicians (and some of it’s population) still haven’t gotten over their delusions of grandeur. There are good things about this collection of countries, but expect frightened people to be trying to get away from the knee-jerk actions and paranoid rantings of the government the rest of us will probably have to put up with for the next 5 years.

On Being A Parent

Being a parent is the most difficult job you can ever do. I am no expert I have only one child, and two step children. When I had my child I was aware that many people don’t think about parenting, they just repeat what their parents did to them.

My parents thought about how they had been parented (bear in mind they grew up during the world war 2). They tried to be better parents than their parents were, I tried to better them.

I started from the belief that no child asks to be born, and, whilst not everyone who becomes a parent wants to be one, they do at least have the advantage of having some knowledge of what’s going on (though I doubt that anyone fully understands just how demanding a job it is until it’s too late). So, as I had consciously chosen to become a parent, it was only right that I put my child’s needs before my own.

This doesn’t mean that I didn’t take care of myself, but that I did so in ways that I hoped would be helpful to her. I was very lucky to do a ParentLink course (before it got muddied by outside pressures). It reinforced some of my ideas and challenged others.

I learnt that saying “no” is sometimes the most loving and supportive thing you can say to a child. I learnt that I didn’t have to be a perfect parent, just a “good enough” one. I learnt that I didn’t have to know everything, or be right all the time, I just had to be honest (congruent).

I already knew that the most important thing for my child was for her to know that she was loved. I also knew that a certain amount of structure in her life was important to give her a sense of security. But I learnt to think about what I wanted her to learn from me (through my behaviour, as well as what I thought I was teaching her), and what would be the best way of helping her understand.

I already knew that many parents have little understanding of their child’s age and how this impacts on both their behaviour and what they are capable of learning. It was a steep learning curve for me, to work out just what was appropriate to expect from her. I saw mothers shouting at their children for being to young to understand what was expected from them. I had to stop myself from intervening.

I also saw mothers who had handed over all control to children too young for that level of decision making. I found that scary, I wanted my child to know something of the freedom of childhood. I wanted to allow her to be a child, and to see that I valued her play at least as much as I valued her work. I wanted to give her the time to grow up at her own pace.

I also realised that I had to provide her with a role model. There are so few positive role models, especially for girls, that I had to show her that she didn’t have to conform to anyone’s stereotype, she could be herself.

I struggled with all these things. I made lots of mistakes. But I tried.

I love my daughter very much and I am immensely proud of her. Every now and then I apologise to her for the mistakes I made, for the fact that I was also trying not to succumb to depression all the way through her childhood. And I am so grateful for all the fun we had together, and for the joy she still brings me.

And I wish I could have done more of these things with my stepchildren. But things don’t always (ever?) turn out the way you want, let alone expect, them to. I will have to live with the feeling I have let them down.

And I remind myself that very few people have a wonderful childhood. Most of us wish things could have been different. But the past is gone, and, whilst it’s shadow may still hang over us, all we can do is make the best we can of today – and make sure our children know we love them.

Media Rules

Many of us read the papers or watch TV and assume there is some kind of gatekeeper watching any and every thing that is published. We assume that such a gatekeeper evaluates every item that is published against certain criteria that we never fully formulate even in our own heads.
We expect out and out lies to be seen and stopped before ever they reach us. We expect the many and varied media to be both honest and transparent. Why we do so is a mystery as virtually none of them are.
Why is it that even the most cynical, hard bitten, hard-headed thinker is convinced that because a certain newspaper printed it it must be true? That the news on a particular TV channel is both complete and completely unbiased?
The media of all it’s hues employs many fine and honest people, who are well intentioned and fair minded. Unfortunately, like the rest of us, they have to pay their bills. The people who bankroll them have certain expectations, and they will only continue with their support if those expectations are met. And, whilst biting the hand that feeds is a fine old tradition, one can only go so far before that hand is withdrawn.
This doesn’t mean that everything in the media is a lie, it means that everything in the media should be evaluated against the knowledge that there is a bottom line. Additionally, there is a paradigm of “what is interesting to the audience” that limits what is reported. The news, as Terry Pratchett so beautifully put it, is very often the “olds”. (As a matter of fact his book “The Truth” is woven through with an insightful critique of the media, which is not surprising when you know that Sir Terry worked in newspapers for a number of years.)
But it isn’t just what is reported, or even if it is reported honestly, that is an issue. What of the things that aren’t reported at all? What of the things that are so oversimplified that they become a misrepresentation? What of the things that are over-reported and become distorted because of that?
The media doesn’t have to be dishonest to mislead us. It has it’s own rules, it’s just they are not necessarily the ones we think they are, let alone should be. What they leave out is often more important to us as individuals than what they put in. Whatever they currently focus on inflates it’s importance in most people’s minds, without them consciously evaluating why.
And we are encouraged to think that the things that are not reported are not important or are delusions of “cranks”. As a cranky crank I stopped reading newspapers many years ago, reading between the lines and evaluating every sentence became tiring and unrewarding.
Finding the wholesale trivialization and distortion of a large proportion of the population angered me. Reading articles that were blatantly designed to stir up hatred and divide the population further infuriated me. The whole blame culture made me ashamed, but not as ashamed as the blame the victim culture that the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat government encourages.
Iced on the top of everything else is the prurient celebrity obsessed culture. Which raises unfortunate individuals to a precarious pedestal and then knocks them off, often in the most unkind ways possible.
I find it deeply upsetting that firstly these poor souls are raised up, supposedly, above everyone else; that their private lives are then scrutinised with a magnifying glass; and then, when they are found to be human, they are cast aside and ridiculed. We might want heroes and gods, but can we not be kinder about it. It is not fair to expect anyone to meet the impossible expectations of the celebrity media.
But in addition to setting some people up for a painful fall, celebrity culture is negative in another way, it trivialises and devalues our lives. It tells us we are not important. And we are important, every single one of us is vitally important. No one is more important than you are, and don’t you forget it!