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.

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Be strong

There are many people who are being abused on a daily basis who don’t even realise it. When other people mention abuse, these people imagine the horrors of sexual and other physical forms of abuse, but it’s most pernicious form is psychological abuse. A large number of the people being psychologically abused think that either it is normal, or it is their fault, or they deserve it.

It is not normal for the people close to you to put you down, to undermine you, to attack you verbally or in any other way. It should not be normal for people in your wider circle to do so either. If they do this it is NOT because of you, it IS because of them. They have a problem, rather than dealing with that problem they are going to punish you.

Additionally, anyone who seeks to isolate and/or control you is abusing you. People who love you will support you and encourage you to live your own life as far as their self-confidence allows them to.

No one deserves to be undermined or abused in any way. But we all have to take responsibility for our own problems and actions, we need to be brave enough to reach out to other people when we need help. It is a very strong thing to do, to reach out and ask when you realise that you can’t solve your problems alone.

I wish you all that strength in those moments of self doubt, we are social animals, we are stronger together when we support each other. Jealousy and fear are what make us weak.

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.

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.

What is Home?

On a personal level we all think we know what home is. But home means many things, and for some people it is not a happy place. I believe that home should be a safe place where you can be totally at ease and comfortable.

There is an obvious flaw in this belief. Home is often a place you share with other people, and no one can can always get on with their house mates (family, or otherwise). So, however lovely the people you share your home with are, there will be moments of tension.

But some people live in a state of almost constant tension because of their house mates. This is not a happy or healthy way to live. I, for one, think that most people should be able to have happy and healthy homes.

So, what can we do to help people whose homes are neither. Well, I suppose we could expose them to the idea of a happy and healthy home. But, if we do this, it is important to not judge or put pressure on people who may already feel bad about themselves.

This is an area I have problems with, I have a tendency to be judgemental, and I sometimes forget that my answers might work for me, but they may well not work for other people.

Before I go any further I want to talk about living alone. Living alone is not a bad thing when it is your choice, when it gives you time and space to do things that feed you emotionally, when you still have contact with friends (and strangers who may become friends).

Living alone is a form of torture when it is a choice made from fear or the belief that you are unlovable. No one is unlovable, it is a matter of finding the right person to love you, who you can love back. Coming home to a house that is always empty can be dreadfully lonely, or it can be a haven.

It can be a really useful learning experience to live alone. It is an opportunity to learn about ones own priorities without outside influence. It is an experience that many people would benefit from, even if they only did it briefly.

When living with other people something to bear in mind is that each person experiences their home differently. You might find your home environment happy, warm and nourishing. You cannot be sure that it is the same for your house mate/s.

One person’s delight is another person’s torture. For example: some people like to have loud music playing from the moment they wake up; others like to sit in silence as they come to (of course this could be the same person on a different day).

When someone else in your household does something that you cannot avoid being part of it can either be an inclusive experience, or, a bloody annoyance. This is a frequent experience for parents, it is normal for children to assume your inclusion without seeing a need to check in with you about it’s appropriateness or desirability. Parents can hope that over time their children will learn some sensitivity to other people’s moods and needs.

But many of us struggle with being sensitive right into our adult years, either because we have isolated ourselves as much as possible; or, because the people we have lived with have not been honest with us about their feelings (some times because they are not honest with themselves).

Living happily with other people is partly about choosing the right people to live with, and partly about developing both tolerance of, and sensitivity to, their moods and behaviours. Sensitivity to know when to approach (or not), and also, how to approach. Tolerance, to understand that their behaviour is for a reason, and that reason may have nothing to do with their current situation. And in the hope that they will be tolerant of us.

Wishing happy homes to everyone!

Tradition

Tradition is a good place to start. There is a reason why something has been done by more than one generation, it works, at least a little bit, for some of the people. Is that a good enough reason to keep doing whatever it is? Well, no. Definitely not. Every tradition has it’s day, and then it should be evaluated to see if it really is a good way of doing (or thing to be done)

Many cultures through history have had slavery. I can see no moral, or practical, justification for slavery. I don’t think slavery ever was, and never should be, justified. That it’s not good for the slaves, should be able to go without saying. But neither is it good for the slavers or slave owners. When you brutalise or dehumanise another human being, you also brutalise and dehumanise yourself.

We are all connected, what you do to others you also do to yourself. People who are judgemental, judge themselves first. The sad thing is they are always far harder on themselves than they are on anyone else, and anyone else is on them. People who treat other people as if they aren’t real, do so because they are afraid they aren’t real.

You cannot treat another human being badly without it having a harmful effect on you. And to close your eyes to people being hurt around you is nearly as bad, sometimes worse. When we take responsibility for our own actions, it does not mean that we can them close our eyes to what is going on around us.

It means we have to respect other people’s right to make their own mistakes and find their own answers, but we still have a responsibility to try to get other people to understand what we believe. So that they have that information to evaluate too.

Tradition sometimes lasts because it is a good way of doing things, sometimes it lasts because no one realises it isn’t a good way of doing things, sometimes it lasts because people are afraid of change. Why are people afraid of change? They are afraid because they haven’t practised stepping out side of their comfort zone and have not discovered the rewards of trying out their “stretch zone”.

In permaculture there is frequent reference to the value of edges, the edge of your comfort zone is a great place to be. It’s often both frightening and exhilarating, to dip ones toes into new water, to try out a different behaviour, can be quite wonderful. It can also be quite awful, but even that teaches us something new and good about ourselves.

Personally, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of tradition. I don’t like lazy ways of making decisions about people’s lives, our how our society should be run. There is often insufficient flexibility to cater for everyone’s personality or needs.

All women are not the same, neither are all men. Why should they be lumped into one category? That’s lazy stereotyping, it also means that some people never get to find their particular aptitude, because they are told (at a very young age) that they “can’t” do that because they belong to the “wrong” group for that particular activity.

What is particularly worrying at the moment is the disconnect between what is happening in British society (and other societies too) and what the media is claiming is happening. So many people still cannot believe that the mainstream media would lie to them because “someone would stop them if they told lies”. Why they believe this, is a mystery to me.

Our culture has changed rapidly and in an unhealthy direction in the last few decades. We have moved away from the traditional lifestyles that were rooted in a certain common sense, to a society that has little real security or resilience. This Britain could not survive the depredations that were visited upon it during the second world war. This Britain will be lucky if it survives the next ten years.

We need to revisit some of the traditions that our parents and grand parents knew, and see if they might not be more healthy for us to re-embrace now.

Liar…

All humans tell lies. We tell little lies, some people tell whoppers.

The little lies we tell are often the grease of human interaction: “you look great” to the person who looks ok, but needs a confidence boost; “how lovely to see you”, well it isn’t, but at least I can be polite about it.

We tell those kinds of lies to try not to hurt other people. There are other little lies we tell that are not so positive: “I didn’t do it”; “I only took one”; “I’ll do it in a minute”; “I was going to do that next”; “That’s what I said”. These are self-protecting lies, we usually learn to tell them when we are small children.

If we have a critical parent, we can see these kinds of lies as necessary. But as we reach toward maturity we need to acknowledge that these are lies and to try to stop using them. They are destructive and undermine both our self-respect and our self-confidence.

They are sometimes more apparent to the people around us, who will come to see us as immature and self-serving. It is a behaviour that wins no friends.

But the people to really watch out for are the ones who tell big lies… like “I love you, but I can’t leave my spouse at the moment”. This is a big lie told by someone who puts their desires above your needs. They want to keep their lifestyle and have you on a string too.

This is a form of poison, it damages the liar, their spouse and the other person. This is the reverse of the first type of lie. This is the lie where everyone gets hurt.

There are other lies like this, they are all poisonous manipulation. People who perpetrate these lies will say almost anything to try to get you to fall in with their plans. The worse thing is, that they often have themselves convinced as well as you. There is something twisted in their heads that makes it possible.

Some of them, though, belong in a different league. They are the pathological liars. They almost have to tell lies, they will lies even when they have nothing to gain from it. Leaving the people on the receiving end confused. They will tell such outrageous lies that you find yourself thinking “no one would lie about that, what would be the point?”

The point is that such people are peculiar, their world view is alien to us. They are often, but not always, malicious creatures. They sometimes gain an admiring audience for the audacity and enormity of their lies. But, more often, they are lonely creatures who only attract other damaged souls.

So, can I recommend that if you find yourself telling lies other than “that was a wonderful meal” when it was only ok, that you ask yourself why you did and whether it’s a habit you want to keep?

If you want to meet open, honest people, the first and best step is to become one yourself.

But I’m not going to let that stop me

I hate living in a city. It’s almost as if there is an inverse relationship between the population density and the friendliness of the people that you meet. Perhaps people feel overwhelmed by the number of potential friendship they could have and just shut down because they can’t cope. Perhaps this culture of envy and fear makes people afraid and hostile. Perhaps this culture that focuses on all the bad things and seldom even mentions the good things make people unhappy and shut off.

Anyway, whatever it is, I’m not having it! I know people don’t like it, but I’m going to smile at strangers; I’m going to talk to people I don’t know; I’m going to complement anyone I think deserves it. Tough.

I will not allow this world to twist me any more. It’s my life and I WILL smile, laugh and find beauty. Even when the media and political system make me both furious and sad. Even when personal tragedy hits I WILL work on the good memories.

There is always a primrose in flower, always a hint of blue sky, always a friend who will give you a hug when you need it. You might have to look for a good thing, you might have to wait an extra day, but it is there.

I’ve struggled ever since I came to the city. I’ve met some really nice people, but very few of them have been prepared to be friends. I lived in rural Cornwall before I came here and friendships just sort of grew, naturally.

I find the way some people won’t let friendship grow, peculiar. I find the way some people won’t even meet your eyes, offensive. I find the way some people pretend you didn’t just talk to them, infuriating.

But I’m not going to let that stop me.

Good to Talk

Some people bring out the best in us, some people bring out the worst. Some people build us up, others bring us down. Sometimes we get it wrong about who does what.

In recent years I have had a crash course in the effects that the wrong people can have on our mental and physical well being. Firstly directly, and then indirectly. There really are toxic people out there, they make you sick, some of them don’t even realize that they have that effect on the people around them.

Some people are born with their brain short-circuited so that they cannot interact with other people in a healthy way, other people are so damaged by the people that they grew up with that they cannot stop themselves from damaging others. These people leave a trail of pain and destruction in their wake.

They don’t necessarily mean to. They just don’t know how to operate in a healthy, positive way. Some even convince themselves and the people around them that they are ok, that they are healthy and helpful human beings. Let’s face it, if you convince yourself first, everyone else is a doddle.

These are people to be pitied, they are in pain even if they can’t acknowledge it. They are still to be avoided. They need professional help, well meaning amateurs will find they have been drawn in and are being manipulated (professionals will not necessarily be immune to the manipulation, but it is their job, and they should make sure they have a decent support network to counteract the problems they come across).

So, if someone tries to undermine your self-confidence, even by extremely subtle means, be wary. If you find that a lot of your friendships have fallen apart since you met a new person, question why. Is it that you were ready to move on from your old friends? Or is it that this new person is trying to isolate you so that you have no one to call on? If you’re not sure, what does that tell you?

What do you make of it if someone has a knack for saying two words that then upset you for the rest of the day? Is it you that has a problem, or is it them? And if you think you have a mental health problem, please, please, please, don’t be afraid to talk about it.

Many years ago my teenage daughter said to me “everyone is messed up, in one way or another”. She wasn’t far wrong, we all of us have faults and weaknesses. Some can be worked out with just some life experience and one or two really good friends. Others need years of struggle, some even need medication (though I would always hesitate to take medication, it often treats symptoms rather than causes).

Be careful of your mental health, at least as careful as you are of your physical health. Be as kind and gentle with yourself as you would be of anyone else. And if you’re not kind and gentle with anyone, ask yourself why not. What are you so hurt and angry about? Perhaps your life would be happier if you could lose some of that anger? Perhaps it would be good to talk?

The End Of My Nose…

The end of my nose isn’t too far from me. I’m quite pleased about that. However, I do try and look beyond it pretty much all the time (I go cross-eyed if I don’t). It worries me that so many people, especially people in positions of authority, seem not to even try.

That which is obvious to me may not even be visible to you, because my life has furnished me with different experiences to yours. This is good. It would be the most terribly dull world if we were all exactly the same. But to live in a world where we are all different means that we all need to try and see things from a perspective other than that of looking down our own noses and stopping at the end of them.

I don’t want to walk a mile in your boots, I do want to be able to imagine what it would be like to do so. Even if I did walk a mile in your boots my experience would be different from yours because I am not you. But I have a good imagination, I would probably do a better job of imagining than I would of fitting into your boots.

What is needed are empathy and understanding, to put ourselves in the position of someone other than who we wake up to be every day. It isn’t always easy. I struggle to understand people who lack empathy, and to be brutally honest, it’s hard to see why I should empathise with them, but I try. I think I achieve a limited success. I can see they are damaged individuals, and to a certain extent I feel sorry for them, but not very because of all the pain they cause other people as they trample on feelings and manipulate and abuse their way through their lives.

The other problem with not looking beyond the end of your nose is that you can’t see the bigger picture. For some people this must seem wonderful, they can focus on one little detail and build their world around that. These kinds of people seem to delude themselves into thinking that this makes them feel safe. I can’t see that it does, because lurking in the background of their consciousness is the awareness that they are ignoring most of the world. I would expect this to make them feel very scared and insecure.

Then there are all the people who think they see the bigger picture when they don’t. They are looking from a particular perspective that means that much of what happens is blocked from their view. People like these will often try and belittle you and influence you to compromise your morals, because they believe the bigger picture is more important than you. This is not true.

The bigger picture is stitched together from all of us, all of our behaviour, all of our lives. Each one of us makes a unique and important contribution to the bigger picture. This is where Gandhi’s saying that “you have to be the change you want to see” makes perfect sense.

So, be proud of the end of your nose, it is an important place… and then look beyond it. 🙂