Am I me?

This is a question that I have continually considered. 

I hear many people ask questions of themselves and others – who am I? What am I? Is this the real me? Do I know myself? Do I know you…..? It is what makes us human, what makes us create beautiful works of art, music, poetry and literature. It is what makes us want to explore the oceans, reach for the stars and try to unravel the workings of the human body and mind. Through these pursuits we seek ourselves, our identities and our own truth..

Who am I? 

Why am I here?

Where am I going?

Am I loved?

Can I be my genuine authentic self?

These are the questions that tormented me for many years throughout my loss of self confidence through bullying and mental illness. Who am I really? Can I just be me with no apologies and no regrets? 

I have come to the understanding that I wear many hats, literally and figuratively, and they all belong to me. They all reflect a part of me, a facet of my personality. I am not the same all the time in every situation. But, I am congruent now more so than I have ever been. That is to say I am me, I am still kind, caring, sensitive, accepting, non-judgmental, a huge softie, a true friend, emotional at times and loyal….whichever hat I am wearing I am still all of those things. 

I have spent many years trying to fit in, work out my place and what I want to be. I never dressed conventionally when I was young but as I got older I felt more and more pressure to conform, to fit and to meet the acceptable norm head on. As my children grow and my health issues, physical and mental, seem to settle down I find I am caring more about what I think and less what others think about how I look, what I wear and what colour my hair is this week!

I remember going to see my wonderful long suffering hairdresser Luke a while back and asking him to strip the red out of my hair so I would be a more conventional colour because that was what I thought I ought to do as I began my forties. He did as I wished of course and I was content for a while thinking that I was getting too old for such frivolity. 

However I wasn’t truly happy. I looked at myself in the mirror every day and wondered what had become of that wild girl who once wore black clothes so tight they looked as if they had been sprayed on and then rainbow everything as if the sun refracted through her. Where was she? 

But I am a Mum now I though to myself. I must be sensible and wear practical things that reflect my age and sensibilities. All the while thinking “but I don’t feel any different….I don’t think I really want to be sensible after all….”

So I started wearing black again…and purple…and red and I started feeling a bit more like me again everyday as I began to care a little bit more about myself and a little bit less about other people’s opinions of me, which after all as we know are usually more about how they are feeling about themselves than me. I know that because I was them. 

So I went back to the hairdressers 18 months or so ago and asked my lovely friend to put my red back in, not all my hair, just at the ends. I thought he might throw me out on my ear but he smiled and shrugged and did it anyway. I loved it and felt more like me every time I looked in the mirror. 

Then I was fortunate enough through a strange set of coincidences and circumstance to meet someone who showed me how to wear a hat that suited me and not to be scared of wearing red lipstick again because it is not the privilege of the young alone. She knows who she is and that I will always be thankful for that. 

And I felt like me. Finally I felt like me. For the first time since the depression, the misdiagnosed bipolar, the post natal illness, the Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, the death of my Mum, the years of self doubt and hiding and my childhood years of being bullied. 

I felt 

Like

Me

I had no desire to impress, to show off, to hide, to explain myself, to justify anything, to be ashamed anymore. I just was. 

I still ask those questions of myself of course because recently the doubts have crept in as there have occasionally been comments made about how I look (at your age! Are you having a midlife crisis?) the friends I keep and the life I choose to lead. But mostly they are made on assumptions as people do that without really understanding what is underneath it all. I don’t mind. I can’t be everyone’s favourite flavour or shade. I’m okay with that. 

I am finding out who I am. 

I quite like this me who does not need to fit in or apologise so much anymore. 

I am still a Mum, a wife, a friend, a student,  a pain in the arse and a thorn in the odd person’s side too as I have always been but I am becoming the me I like. Not like anyone else because I can’t be and don’t want to be. 

I am me. 

You are you too you know?

To quote Dr Seuss:

“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

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What do we want?

As humans we seem to be on an eternal quest to find our place in life, who we are and where and how we fit. I have thought a lot about this lately, maybe it is a midlife crisis or maybe I am just beginning to care more about myself and less about what other people think of me. 

Sometimes we try to fit ourselves into either our own or other people’s idea of who or what we should be. We have a picture in our minds of how the world should be and how and what we should be. Go to school, go to university, go travelling, make friends, get a job, have a career, find the perfect someone, get married, have children…and so on. 

So the majority of us attempt to follow this path called life and for many it is joyful and fulfilling. My point here is not to disrespect anyone’s choice because as long as we are happy and it is enough then it is good. But what happens when we try to pursue a path out of a feeling of duty and societal norm? What if we find our feet in shoes that do not fit correctly? Or maybe they did fit once and now all of a sudden they feel constricting and uncomfortable? What then? 

Is this what we mean when we say we do not know who we are or what we want from life anymore? 

Some train for a new profession, go back to their studies, go travelling, seek themselves on spiritual retreats, get a pet to fill the gap, move away from restricting friendships and some even face the realisation that their current relationship with the person that they thought that they would spend the rest of their lives with no longer feels good and true. Sometimes we wake up and wonder exactly how we found ourselves where we are and feel we have lost ourselves in the minefield of daily duties. 

Sometimes we lose things – friends, family, lovers, partners, jobs, our health, our homes, our dignity, our pride and even our sanity. Sometimes these are taken away from us with no say in it. These losses for me are the hardest ones of all….when we have no control at all over what is taken from us. Sometimes we lose ourselves and then if we are fortunate we find ourselves again. 

Many decisions we make sadly are born out of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of looking foolish, fear of being alone and fear of walking the path less trodden. Most of these boil down to what others think of us rather than what we think of ourselves. This is what I mean when I say that I am beginning to care less what others think of me and my decisions. It does not mean that I care less for other people, rather instead I feel that I should care more for myself. 

I wish to be able to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning knowing that I can sleep with the choices that I have made. That they have been from my heart, that I have been honest with myself and with those who matter to me about who I am and how we walk this path together. When I cannot do this it tears at me and makes me restless. When I cannot convey my feelings and thoughts with open honest communication and I cannot receive the same in return from those I love I feel I begin to fracture and become disjointed. 

How often do we wish a conversation had gone a different way? How often do we feel the weight of words unspoken or uttered in pain and anger? How often do we lose people from our lives through jealousy, misunderstanding, unfounded suspicion and stubborn pride? When it is too easy to walk away rather than say I am sorry you are hurting, I am sorry if my words and actions have hurt you. Even if we are not sorry for what we have said or done we can apologise for the hurt another feels. We can apologise for sadness and pain even if it was never intended. This is what it is to be human. To own your own words and behaviour even if you feel you have done no wrong and understand the impact they have had on another. 

So perhaps as I move often disgracefully into my middle age this is what I seek. Honesty and open communication at all times. The ability to be myself and welcome others as exactly who they are so that we can rejoice in our imperfections together, cry and laugh and hold each other close at the worst of moments and dance together joyfully at the best of times. 

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health. 

For as long as we are together. 

Relationships

I have been thinking a lot about relationships this week. Primarily because it is a big part of my studies in my counselling course. But also because it is making me see what I am and how I have allowed myself to behave and be treated by others. We look at the different dynamics between people, the way we form these relationships and the impact they have on each of us.

Some relationships are strong and unbreakable. They are pure and good and the people we make these connections with are true and loyal. They stay with us through good times and hard, we change together and we cannot imagine them ever not being part of our lives. We feel their joy and pain and they in turn feel ours. We make each other better for being in each other’s lives and we support each other in our choices.

Some are passionate yet transient, intense, burn too brightly and then fade away just as quickly as they arrived leaving holes in our lives that make us feel empty and incomplete for a while. The scars they leave need time to heal yet often we seem unable to prevent ourselves from repeatedly picking at the scabs and opening ourselves up to yet more pain as we relive it over and over again, unable to break the pattern.

We tell ourselves that we need these toxic destructive relationships and that the people that cause us this hurt and torment need us too. We become co-dependent, not able to function without constant attention and contact. We think we have to know where they are all the time and spend every waking moment trying to understand what we could do to make it better because we think we need them to function. We think we cannot do without each other when in reality they need us far more than we need them.

We lose ourselves and allow ourselves to be treated as we would never treat another, accepting our pain is if it is a trophy to take out and gaze upon with pride. We tell ourselves they will change and realise the impact of their behaviour and be what we want them to be. We tell ourselves that they don’t mean to hurt us, they can’t help it and they are doing their best. We tell ourselves that it isn’t their fault that they behave the way they do and worst of all we tell ourselves that it isn’t our fault that we are running head on into yet another train wreck whilst screaming for help.

Every word from them is analysed for it’s true meaning. Every time we tell them how upset we feel at their behaviour it is turned back on to us as our fault. Our neediness. Our misinterpretation. That we are spoiling things and not accepting them for who they are, that they are giving us what they can and we should be grateful for their minimal attention. They come to us when they need us and leave us panicking and desperate when they leave yet again. We are gaslighted into feeling that we are the ones with the problem when in fact it is them that are incapable of empathy and the maintenance of a normal, healthy relationship.

Some people stay and some people go. Some we will fight to keep because it is right and good. Some we must let go for our own sanity before every part of us is stripped away. Our pride, our self worth and our dignity.

I am blessed to have some incredible people in my life who have been through more torment than any human should conceivably be able to survive yet somehow they have made it anyway and come out wiser, better and stronger. They know who they are, what they are capable of and are respectful of other human beings. They are strong, resilient and able to see what serves them well and what does not. They value and respect themselves and me.

I am proud to call these people my friends. They make me a better person for knowing them. We understand each other with no judgment and give each other unconditional positive regard, accepting each other for who and what we are.

Together we are strong.

We help each other grow and we understand that sometimes we will make mistakes but that at the end of it we still love each other because without that we are alone.

I am not alone.

If we have people in our lives that we love and we are able to support each other and help each other grow into the best we can be then we must hang on to that and never let go.

Anything less is not good for us no matter how beautiful and tantalising…if it continually causes us pain and we know it then however sad we are and however falsely we believe that we need it, we do not.

Thanks for joining me on the ride…

Too much

A remembered conversation with my Art teacher in secondary school….I was struggling to deal with the depth of emotions that I was experiencing and I asked her:

“Why am I not like other people? Why can’t I live life on an even keel like they do? It is too much for me.”

She replied:

“They will not experience the lows as you do, they will not feel that depth of emotion but because of this they will also never know the great highs, the huge passion you do….no, they will never know that.”

I was fourteen. 

I sometimes feel as though I still am. 

I am still passionate, driven by my heart always. I love with all of it and I don’t know how to live or love in any other way.  I give all of myself in great enveloping waves…it is all I know. I am intense and driven in my quest to display my feelings. For my husband, my beloved children, my family and my friends. 

I never thought that I would be so blessed as to have the friends I do now. I have some very precious ones who have known me for the longest of times and are still here and I treasure them. I have new ones that I made the decision to make, throwing caution to the wind and being proactive rather than wait to be approached. I am very very glad I did. I couldn’t imagine my days without them. 

There are those who listen to me daily as I do them…finding our way through life’s dramas together. There are those I rarely see in the flesh, but who accept me entirely and call me out when I am not being wholly honest with myself – we lean on each other when needed. 

There are those who’s warmth and kindness brings me to tears at times, the words they share that are unexpected and delightful. The comments on social media of old friends and new, each as valued as each other. Thank you for those connections. 

There are those who find me in my darkest moments and draw me into the light. 

There are those who join me there and celebrate it with me not trying to fix me or label me or call it anything. They stay there with me. It helps me to breathe. 

Sometimes my heart is so full I feel it might explode into a million fractured fragments of joy. Sometimes it feels so full it might sink down…down…down into the darkest of depths. 

It is too much…

I am too much. Too weak, too strong, too wild, too passionate, too caring, too constrained by what society expects. Trying to fit in. Trying to find my place. Trying to find who I am. Seeing who will take this journey with me and hold my hand and not be scared of my too big heart and my too much of everything….

Will you stay and walk with me a while if it is not too much?

Happy days

Well it’s been a few months since we moved schools and it is nearly the school holidays and we are all okay. It hasn’t been without it’s bumps in the road and some of them have felt more like small mountains rather than sleeping policemen but we are still here. 

Funny that it was my daughter that I worried about the most initially, she has inherited my unhealthy desire to please and to be liked and that often comes at a price. She disturbed the status quo in her new class which made for some tough lessons but she seems to have settled in as much as possible and I hope when she goes back in September that she will just be a familiar face. She’s made some good friends and loves having play dates in our village with neighbours’ children. I’m proud of her and her resilience. 

My small boy found it much easier at first and because of that I’m ashamed to say that I took my eye off him a bit. The day I took him to school because the bus broke down was the day I had to accept that he was finding it as hard as the rest of us. We were early so he had time to run about for a bit but he never took his eyes off me. After a few moment he sidled over and asked if he could have a word with me. 

“Of course baby” I replied (knowing that he is still only little I suspected that my clean up services might be required..oh please no…) “What’s up?”

He looked up at me, his little face absolutely deadpan and said “I’ve had enough now Mummy, when can I go back to my old school? I’ve saved all my pocket money and I don’t care if we don’t go on holiday and I don’t want any new things. When can I go back?”. Then he burst into tears. We both sat on the floor in the playground whilst he sobbed on my knee. 

Fuck. 

I felt like the biggest failure in the world because I couldn’t fix this one. I just had to be there whilst he was sad. I still have to be there whilst they are both sad but it is less often and I am learning to stop trying to fix everything. Because I can’t and they need to know that too. But I can love them and I can teach them that I don’t always get it right either. 

I have been very glad of the constants in my life. My amazing husband, family and my wonderful friends. I will forever be bloody grateful for all of them. I have had to dig deep and keep moving forward which has meant that I haven’t been able to keep up with some people as much as I would like to but I hope they know that I am still here, I do value them enormously and I will sort my shit out soon. 

I have mainly survived by keeping my oldest and dearest friends close and they have stepped up amazingly. I am finally feeling really part of our lovely village too and new friendships here are proving to be very awesome indeed. Also I kind of live at the gym too. I have traded my daily coffee dates for multiple gym classes which asides from the obvious bonus that I appear to have lost 2 stone (I must have been eating a shit load of cake) has blessed me with some seriously awesome people. 

Somehow I never thought that at 43 I would make that connection with anyone else and it has come as a bloody joyful surprise that I have. So not only do I have my amazing girls (and the odd long suffering guy) who I never have to explain  my crazy shit to because they have known me forever BUT I now have some more crazy ladies who I feel like I have also known forever. We laugh, dance, grimace and sweat and cope with our mad shit together and refuse to grow old gracefully and I bloody love it. 

My wonderful husband gave me an enormous hug in the kitchen yesterday whilst commenting that I felt tiny (another reason I adore him) and I grinned at him and said “I’m so happy!” and you know what? I am. I can’t remember the last time I said that and truly felt and meant it. All the depression, the craziness, the illness…everything. 

I don’t know how long my body will let me do what I am doing physically but I will carry on whilst I can. I have the support of amazing people who get my kind of crazy obsessiveness. I get to dance, punch the shit out of life, lift weights and laugh. A lot. I love it and it is beating my years of depression hands down over any medication and I am 10 years in remission from my MS. 

Feels good. So….friendship plus exercise..

Happy days!

I am who I say I am.

I haven’t written on here for ages. I haven’t really had anything much to say to be honest, it’s not that I don’t have anything going on, I do but there’s a lot that I can’t talk about because it’s not mine to discuss and it involves family and friends. I’m not going for one of those passive aggressive mysterious Facebook posts here I hope you understand, I just don’t think that it is right to share other people’s stories. That’s up to them. 

So what can I talk about? Well, I’ve taken my children out of the school they loved and moved them to our local school which I know they will grow to love just as much given time. Yeah. That was a biggy. 

The realisation that my husband and I had that we just could not continue financially if they stayed at the Independant school that they had been in since Reception was a bitter one. They loved it, we loved it, we had all made some amazing friends. We cried a lot and there was much heartache. It was not a decision that we made lightly and the tears really were for them not us because we can handle it (or so I thought). Telling them was the worst thing…..the confusion on their faces….even now they talk about their old school and I see the “why?” that goes unsaid. 

They are trying to make the best of it, it’s easier for my whirlwind of a 5 year old son. He is who he is and makes no apologies for it, if people don’t like him he just moves on and finds those who do. I aspire to be more like him. But under that bravado he misses his friends I know. My 8 year old daughter finds it much harder. She misses those friendships hard won over the last 3.5 years. She is struggling to find her place and she has inadvertantly disrupted the status quo in her new class, creating a new dynamic and there are consequences in that. I can’t protect her from that, how do I explain that sometimes children can lash out when they are unsettled or frightened by change? I have tried, I know it will just take time and I hope there won’t be too much hurt along the way for her and her friends. 

Children are fragile whilst at the same time being amazingly resilient. Which is more than I can say about me. I think I find this the hardest of all. I miss my friends, the children mainly take the school bus now so I don’t really see anyone and I feel disconnected from my old life and my new one. I feel in a strange sort of limbo that reminds me of how I felt when I moved schools when I was young. I must be careful not to let my own experiences colour my feelings about where my family is at right now and I try to be positive about it all in front of them.

I have told them that it is okay to be sad too because denying them their emotions and making them feel that they have to be super happy and enthusiastic all the time is really not helpful. It comes out in their behaviour at home though, they are more confrontational and emotional and regress to childlike behaviour and old rituals. They take comfort in watching tv programmes and reading books that they loved as little ones and want more hugs and reassurance. I do too. 

So that’s been one of the biggest things but really it is a first world problem after all, to choose between two really good schools and be in the fortunate position to do that. Really not a problem at all is it?

I just feel like I am constantly apologising for everything though. That I chose the path we took in the first place, that we have chosen a different one now. As well as apologising for what feels like a million other bloody things on a daily basis – that I don’t work, that I have MS, that I am trying to get as fit as my body will allow, that I have completely fallen out of love with cooking and borderline hate it now, that I find it really hard to maintain friendships through lack of confidence and self-belief, that I seem to forget everything and that I am just really tired most of the time. 

Why do we do it? We apologise for someone else bumping into us in a shop, we apologise for not being able to fit yet another thing into our already busy lives, we apologise for not being who we think we should be and who we think others think we should be. It’s like a constant stream of mental torture. I’m sorry for not being whatever perfect idea of me that you had. I’m sorry if you thought that when I said one thing you thought I meant something entirely different – when often these are our thoughts alone. Agonising and over analysing continually. 

We are constantly criticising and judging  ourselves and I have really been doing a number on myself over the whole school and friendships thing recently.

What I really want to say is – If I say I care, I do. If I say I have done my best, I have. If I say that I made the best decision based on the information that I had at the time, I did. If I say I am your friend no matter what, I am. If I tell you I love you, I do. If I say don’t hurt the people I love or you will regret it, then you can’t say you weren’t given fair warning. I am who I say I am. I am going to stop apologising for being me.  

I have found myself starting to apologise for going back to college even though I know it will lead to bigger and better things for me and my family. I feel selfish about it somehow. I love learning though and firing up my rusty old brain, it’s wonderful. So I won’t apologise for that again. 

I don’t think that I am coming to any particular conclusion here but the words of a dear friend came to mind as I wrote this “never apologise for what you have or haven’t got”. I want to add to that –

Never apologise for who you are or who you are not. 

Sorry for the ramble. 

Damn.

I did it again.

  

Fibs

Let’s face it, we all tell a little fib now and again don’t we?

Sometimes because we can’t face going into deep explanations, sometimes so that we don’t hurt someone and sometimes to save face.

Like the times we’ve told a friend that their butt really doesn’t look big in those jeans that they just spent a fortune on and obviously really love. And the time when we forgot someone’s Birthday and happened to leave the card at home that we haven’t actually bought yet. And the time when we hadn’t really double booked and couldn’t go out with a friend we just wanted to get our bras off, get into our PJs and watch crap on the telly.

(All my friends are reading this and crossing me off their Christmas lists, Birthday lists and possibly deleting me from Facebook as we speak. Oops sorry, I do love you all honestly and these are just examples I promise!)

And then there are the whoppers that we tell our children.

When I was little my Dad told me that a twat was a female fish when I asked him what it meant. Thanks Dad.

My Poppa told me that a haggis was a wild creature that lived in Scotland in the mountains. He also told me because it ran round and around the mountains the legs on one side of it’s body were shorter than the other so that it didn’t topple off. I totally believed him because he was my Poppa and I told all my friends.

One of my children’s teachers said that if you whistle inside a building your ears will eventually fall off. I use that one a lot. Genius. There must be one for recorders too?

And then there is Father Christmas. I mean really? We are teaching our children not to lie and every year we drag out the massive big fat white-bearded man clad in fur trimmed red. We can dress it up as Christmas spirit and how it all adds to the enchantment of childhood and so on but let’s not mess about here – one day our kids are going to know that Mummy and Daddy told them a big fat fib. I am not sure where to go with that. I remember my friend telling me that her son had come home from school saying that some of the boys had told him that Father Christmas wasn’t real. I held my breath knowing that one day this was going to be me. She had one of the best comebacks that I have heard and said “Oh. That’s a shame that they don’t believe anymore. They won’t get as many presents.” Her son decided to hedge his bets and keep on believing for a bit. Wise boy and smart Mum!

I still don’t know how I honestly feel about it all though. Part of me thinks “oh shut up everyone does it what are you wibbling on about” and then there’s the other part that shouted at her daughter twice this week for not being honest.

Let me elaborate. Earlier this week I noticed after school that my youngest had a very neat wiggly scribble on the back of his neck on the collar of his brand new school shirt. I had in fact sat lovingly sewing in his name label that morning at breakfast. I questioned him about it knowing that he can be a little sod and has a previous record of drawing on things that are not paper:

Boy “Mummy, I can’t reach the back of my collar can I and anyway it was my sister”

Girl (red faced and shrieking) “It was not me I would NEVER do that I did not draw on his collar!!”

Boy “She did!!! She did Mummy I am not lying!!”

Me “Beloved daughter. Did you draw on his collar? He can’t have done it because he can’t reach so someone else has done it and it wasn’t there when we got home. I didn’t do it, Daddy isn’t here and you are the only other person in the house. Apart from the cats and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t them.” Eat your heart out Miss Marple.

Girl “NO MUMMY WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE ME I DIDN’T DOOOOO ITTTTTT!!!”

She is a terrible liar and I hope that she never plays poker when she is older.

Me “I know you did it because you are a rubbish liar and I can tell. I have asked you twice now and I am giving you the chance to tell me the truth”

Girl “I didn’t do it I didn’t and oh I didn’t there was a pen……it was in my hand…..I didn’t do it though…..then I wanted to hug my brother……..it was an accident.”

See what she did there? Snuck in a hug. Because obviously that makes it all peachy.

Me “So you did do it. Why didn’t you tell me the truth straight away?”

Girl “Because then I would get in trouble”

Me “But now you are in even more trouble because you lied. That’s worse. Plus you still are telling me a massive whopper because that is not an accidental-I-was-holding-a-pen-in-my-hand scribble. It is a perfectly neat zigzag.”

Cue massive meltdown, sobbing and running to her room slamming doors.

Sometimes I really am shit at parenting and have no bloody idea how to handle this stuff. She did it again yesterday when she suddenly announced “Ooh look Mummy I have a shorter bit of hair at the front sort of like a fringe, I don’t know how that happened?”. So I asked her “Did you cut your hair?” to which she replied “Noooooo Mummy I would never cut my hair”. And off we go again. I asked her 6 times and each time she denied it. I really had to go on at her and eventually she gave in and admitted another accident. We went to homework club afterwards at the local cafe and her friend said “She cut her hair in humanities!”. Gotcha!!

So is this a phase? A developmental stage? Or is it happening….she is beginning to enter the very grey area known as ‘becoming an adult’ where sometimes it is okay to tell a little white lie and sometimes……it really is absolutely not. I don’t know if I am well enough equipped to help her with this. I seem to be shouting a lot and then talking rationally, explaining that it is really important to tell the truth but this approach doesn’t seem to be working….

And it’s nearly Christmas…..