Happy Father’s Day

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It’s Father’s Day in the UK today.

So,  once more it’s time for the perfunctory buying of cards, searching for one that doesn’t include: “You’re the greatest”, “Number one Dad”,  or “I love you”.  Because,  I am many things, but I am not fake or false.  I often wonder if he knows;  if he realises that I do things like this out of duty,  rather than love.

My dad’s not a bad person,  not at all.  But, not an easy one to like,  either.  Part of me feels sorry for him:  his mum died when he was 13,  and he had a tough adolescence,  leaving home to join the army when he was 17.  He very recently revealed that he had been on anti-depressants for nearly ten years,  over 20 years ago.  I remember him drinking a lot in those days,  and he shared with me that he was in a bad place back then.  He was horrible during those times.  We would sit in dread waiting for him to come home from the pub;  cringe as his loud voice permeated through the walls as he ranted and raved, hurling horribly abusive words at my mum.   I remember standing on the other side of the wall with hands balled so tightly,  anger cursing through my impotent 14 year old self,  as he swore and raged.  During those years,   I would ask my mum repeatedly in exasperation why she didn’t just leave him, why she stayed with someone who had a tongue so viciously cruel (both under the influence and sober),  yet she never had an answer.

I wasn’t allowed to have friends home. If,  by some chance,  they were there when he turned up,  he had the ability to cause a scene without saying a word.  He would enter the room,  his face contorted with fury,  snatch up the newspaper with dramatic force,  and slam the door for good measure. There was never any need for words,  for his hostility stabbed deeper than anything he could say. It embarrassed and humiliated me;  made my insides shrivel to the size of a pea.  Life with him was like teetering on egg-shells.

Some days,  he was happy.  He would sing,  grab us in an arm-lock,  or give us “stubble-burn”. I loved those brief moments,  when we’d laugh as a family,  just for a second.  But he was unpredictable;  his euphoric mood could be wiped out in seconds,  often by something inconsequential or irrelevant we’d say,  or do.  The memory of laughter fading as quickly as it came.

For a long time,  I blamed my dad for everything that was wrong with me.  If only he’d told me he loved me, I wouldn’t have needed to wade through a ton of selfish,  useless boyfriends,  begging to be loved. If he’d told me I was beautiful,  perhaps I might believe it was true, instead of having a fragile, easily shattered self-esteem. Had he not been so critical, then maybe I would go a little easier on myself,  be happy with my achievements, rather than always feeling inadequate. With age has come the realisation that it is not his fault, not really.  My lack of self-esteem might have been boosted by an empathic,  observant parent,  but not necessarily so.  My dad is the product of his own upbringing. He is a man simply trying to deal with the cards he has been dealt.  He is clueless. I feel no anger towards him now;  there’s no wallowing in the past.  I think it unfair to apportion blame;  how can you hold someone accountable when they are totally unaware of their actions?  And he is blissfully unaware of the effect he had on me.

There’s power in letting go. There’s also power in accepting everything that has happened, and laying it quietly away in a box. It’s a choice,  simple as that.  I could have chosen to be bitter and hateful about him for the rest of my life,  or I could take the mistakes he made,  and ensure that they are never repeated with my children.  Because of him,  I will never underestimate the crushing power of the spoken word,  or how easily a sensitive soul can be trampled into the dirt by a casually flung criticism.  Because of him,  I am so aware of the influence I have as parent,  and how to hold that gift of authority in my hand,  like a fragile butterfly.

Despite that,  I am aware of the envy I have for people with parents who are everything to them; jealous of the close,  protective bond between father and daughter.  If I am honest,  I could simply cut all ties,  without feeling any regret or remorse.  I once read that if someone doesn’t enhance or contribute to your life in any way at all,  you should cut them free.  My dad doesn’t bring anything into my life,  other than a feeling of inadequacy.  Only I can’t do that;  I can’t just eject him from my life.  He would be confused and sad;  and despite everything,  I wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings,  even though he’d trampled on mine over and over again.  And,  because I know he loves me;  I just don’t love him the same way.

So,  I continue to act out the dutiful daughter routine;  to keep up the illusion that our relationship isn’t strained,  that it wasn’t permanently damaged all those years ago.  Some would undoubtedly say that it’s not too late,  to make amends now,  before it is too late.  But the stark truth is that I don’t want to.  Will I one day live to regret it?  Possibly.  I just think some things deteriorate so far that there isn’t any way back;  and for me,  I don’t even need there to be a way back.

 

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (plus Buses) – Why Travelling is Torturous for a HSP with Misophonia

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Travelling is rarely fun at the best of times,  but it can become pure torture for a Highly Sensitive Person with Misophonia. There are loads of reasons for this (perhaps too many to mention here),  so I will provide a brief taster of what it is like when I travel,  and why being around so many people,  for so long,  can leave me jabbering away in the nearest corner.

1. Space Invaders:  When travelling,  especially on budget airlines,  you are forced into the very close proximity of strangers. This sends my highly sensitive personality into a tailspin of abject terror.  On both legs of my flight,  I sat next to a man (not the same one – I don’t have a stalker);  and both times,  they sat with their legs wide open.  Yes, guys.  I get there’s a reason why you can’t close your legs completely,  but do you have to sit with them so far apart?  Is it some kind of macho,  non-verbal communication?   We are talking small kiwis,  not huge melons,  so let’s get some perspective and quit with the wide leg gape.  Their chivalry was extended to space hogging,  too.  They kindly sprawled their arms over the mutual arm rest,  and never budged. Touching the flesh of a stranger is pretty tough going for a HSP,  and I was left with no alternative but to twist my body into contortions a Russian gymnast would be proud of,  just to avoid physical contact.  On my return journey,  I got brave (scratch that,  I got so pissed off that he was so seemingly unaware of how cramped I was)  that at one point,  when he moved his arm to itch his chin,  I flung my arm on the arm rest,  thinking that he would get the hint,  and relinquish the spot to me for a while.  Sadly,  he was quite oblivious,  and pushed his arm back into the coveted spot.  I scrunched up my eyes,  took a deep breath,  and began to battle it out. I lasted all of 30 seconds before bailing.  Just couldn’t take it any longer.  Strange, inconsiderate man:  1,  odd,  frustrated HSP lady:  0.

On my bus journey home,  the woman beside me suddenly leant right across me.  I wouldn’t have been any more startled or bristly if she’d jabbed me with a pitchfork.   She wanted to take a picture of the view.   Yes,  it was pretty, and yes,  I get her eagerness and excitement.   But rule number one for a HSP:  never get closer than you have to.  If you do have to (or would like to take a picture),  always politely ask first.  It’s not hard.  It’s respectful.

2. You are forced to listen to people:  People with Misophonia are very sensitive to noise, sometimes any kind of noise,  although it is often specific to the sufferer.  My worst trigger is people eating loud food,  such as crisps or apples.   However, I am also very sensitive to people’s voices.  I am from the north of England,  and we have some lovely,  melodious accents; but we also have some ear-splitting dialects that leave me begging for mercy.  The cabin crew on my flight yesterday loved the sound of their own voices,  but one had a  Blackburn accent that was enough to make your eyes water (if you have no idea what it sounds like, Google it). I was sitting at the back of the aircraft like I always do (I am scared of flying, and feel safer right at the back – despite my 9 year old gleefully told me that I am more likely to die if sit there),  and on what was obviously a quiet day,  I was forced to endure a voice that was like nails down a chalkboard.  I am now lucky enough to know more of her life history than her mum does.  Like how she has three kids,  her eldest is just about to start secondary school and needs to catch a bus there.  She’s a bit concerned about that,  but you know,  she’ll soon settle in.  Her husband is a great help,  but well,  if he doesn’t go to work he doesn’t get paid,  and she once spent a whole day ironing clothes (she now hires someone to do it, and it costs £30).  She’s been to the Maldives:  lovely place – she could walk around her island in 20 minutes,  but it wasn’t too quiet,   just perfect. And on, and on,  she went.  Thankfully,  the flight was only and hour and thirty minutes,  otherwise I might have been flinging myself out of the emergency exit.  On the outbound journey we were serenaded by a member of the cabin crew that sang the same line of a song,  over and over again. Badly. Very badly indeed.

3. Checking:  No, I don’t mean “check-in”,  I mean checking.  As in checking everything five million times. This is another highly sensitive trait,  but I also think I have certain OCD tendencies.  I had a bus journey that spanned only ten minutes,  and in that duration,   I jumped three times in fright wondering where my suitcase was.  It was in the hold,  where I’d handed it to the driver.  All three times.  I checked for the whereabouts of my passport every two minutes, with military precision,  just in case it had fallen out of my tightly zipped bag.  Could have done. You never know.  The writing on my boarding card became almost illegible,  due to how many times I had taken it out of my bag to scrutinise it;  just in case I had missed something the first hundred occasions I’d looked at it.  During my time in the UK,  I went a bit overboard with the shopping,  and now have the arms of a navvy,  due to the fact that I repeatedly picked up my suitcase trying to judge how heavy it was (panicking that I might be charged excess baggage).

4. The increased possibility of looking foolish: A highly sensitive person does everything they can to avoid being the centre of attention in public,  especially if that attention is perceived as negative.  I live in fear of falling over (which almost never happens,  probably because I am so careful to ensure it stays that way),  or doing something that makes me look like an idiot.  Being in unfamiliar territory,  and experiencing situations that are not every day,  dramatically increases the likelihood.  Before doing something,  I weigh up the odds like a bookmaker, watching carefully to see someone else do it first.   For example, taking a luggage trolley.  Now, you might be wondering how hard that could be,  but at the airport they had a new-fangled system where you put a coin in a machine,  and it releases a trolley.   Normally, I would stand and assess the situation,  and watch someone else take one.  But I was obviously feeling confident and blazed in.  Now,   there were two lanes, and for some reason,  I thought the red light signified it was the lane I should use.  Because, of course red signals GO,  doesn’t it?  After tugging,  and pulling, and increasingly aware that I was becoming the centre of attention,  I looked frantically around for someone who could help me.  Thankfully,  a man did come to my painful rescue (albeit somewhat reluctantly,  and with ill-disguised smugness as he pointed out the green light in the other lane).  It made me cringe.  It made me want to curl up in a ball.  It made me feel like clod-hopping,  idiotic buffoon.  A slight over-reaction, wouldn’t you say?  After all,  it could happen to anyone.  And I would absolutely agree.  Welcome to the world of a HSP.

5. You worry. All the time:  I planned every inch of my trip with mathematical precision,  even down to studying the menus of restaurants I would be visiting.  I was particularly anxious about finding space for my luggage during my two hour train journey (it is notoriously limited).  So much so,  that I’d reserved seats nearby luggage holds.  However,  this didn’t ease my panic. In fact, it probably heightened it, because I was worried that someone else would be sitting in my reserved seat, and I would have a fight to get them to move.  Oh,  my imagination knows no bounds.  I was forced to put my large suitcase on a shelf where it was over-hanging slightly.  Utterly convinced it would fall off in transit,  I badgered two innocent young Americans into putting their smaller bag on top of mine.  I didn’t ask them;  I ordered them.  I developed a case of repetitive strain injury due to the amount of times I turned my head to see if the case had fallen off (it never moved an inch),  and the woman behind me must have thought I was spying on her,  because every time I looked back,  she caught my eye.

I’d managed to jump on an earlier train,  but this meant that I didn’t have time to weigh up everything,  and doubted that it was the right train. I’d accosted an elderly couple:   “Is this train going to York?  Are you sure?  Definitely going to York?  Where are you getting off?  Oh,  it must definitely be going to York then”.  Yes,  it was going to York,  which is what they’d said when I first asked.

6. You have to conform:  As a HSP I live a quite controlled life,  and I guess by default,  this can mean that I have the ability to be controlling,  and a need to be in control.  This,  I have realised,  is just a way for me to stay on an even keel;  if I know what is going to happen,  it doesn’t jerk so much.  I am also very set in my ways,  and although I enjoy the company of family and friends, this can only be for limited periods,  dependant on the person.  So, when you travel and stay with people,  you are often dragged kicking and screaming from your comfort zone.  You have to do what others want to do.  I don’t like it.  I spent a lot of time during my week away almost apologising for who I am,  despite the fact that I promised myself I wouldn’t.  This year has been a huge awakening for me,  with hard-hitting realisations,  and dawning truths about who I am, and why I do the things I do.  It’s brought relief and acceptance that it is okay for me to be just me, odd little foibles and all.  But I have never been more conscious of being in the minority (only 20% of people are HSP) during my travels this time.  It made me sad, scared and happy,  all rolled up together.  As a HSP,  I am always second guessing myself,  and why make a quick decision when you can spend hours analysing every little detail, eh?  You can’t do that when you are out for a meal (even if the choice of menu is overwhelming, even to a “normal” person),  so,  being forced to stray away from what makes me comfortable is never easy.

Phew! It’s a wonder I go anywhere!

 

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / Free DigitalPhotos.net

 

The Whale in the Mirror

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I’ve lost 12kg (around 24lbs) since the new year started.

It’s not been easy.  I have pushed my body to its limit:  running,  speed walking,  cardio,  weights, aerobics.  I’ve sweated tears.  I hate working out;  hate it with a passion.  Can’t for the life of me see how someone could push themselves like that every day,  and enjoy it.  Who,  seriously,  likes crunches?  I love food;  I don’t eat to sustain my body,  I eat because it is a passion of mine.  Yet,  I have cut out all of the foods I find irresistibly divine.  I haven’t cheated.  I haven’t taken the easy route and purchased a year’s supply of WW food;  I have simply started to cook everything from scratch.  I no longer eat white flour products,  I bake my own whole-wheat bread,  and use bananas in muffins rather than fat.

It is no exaggeration,  then,  to say that I have felt every one of those ounces leave my body.

So,  you’d imagine I’d feel pretty proud of myself;  that I am flaunting my new svelte body at every opportunity?  Well,  that’s what a normal,  rational woman would do.  Not me.  No, instead,  when I look in the mirror,  I see the biggest whale you can imagine.  A gargantuan,  big-boobed,  jelly-bellied,  thunder-armed woman.  That’s what I see.  I am only a couple of pounds overweight (if you go by the BMI),  but I truly believe that even if I lost 100 more pounds,  I would still see myself in this way.  I hate this part of me – not the body (although we ain’t best friends),  but the self-loathing,  self-critical me.  The one that scrutinises every inch,  and finds nothing of worth.

Rational thought does kick in.  I know that there is a big difference between how I was before I started,  and now.  Sheer biology tells me that I can’t possibly look the same after losing 24lbs.  But, I just don’t see it.  As a young girl I was slim,  but even then found it hard to appreciate my appearance.  I look back at photos now and literally cry at how slim and beautiful I was;  not because I wish I still was that girl,  but for sadness at how my 20-something self was SO unable to see it,  or accept it.  I wonder how different my life might have been,  if I had been able to?  I envy people who effortless glide through life blissfully aware of who they are,  what they look like;  and are happy with it.

When I see myself (especially in photos) now,   part of me just wants to crawl under a stone; even today,  after I have shed all of those pounds.  I am not sure why.  I really don’t know.  I have done a lot of soul-searching in the last few years,  and have been able to fit a lot of random jigsaw pieces together.  But this inability to see me as others do?  I just don’t know.  I have low self-esteem,  bucket loads of insecurity,  that I do know.  Perhaps it is linked?  All I know is that it is horrible.

When I was younger,  this low self-esteem about my appearance was often misunderstood by the people around me.  I can’t really blame them.   When you see a good looking, slim girl stand in front of you,  telling you how ugly and fat she is,  it is hard to not take that as vanity.  I’ve done it myself with friends:  we’ve all got those gorgeous people in our lives who tell us how horrible they look,  and it is hard not to smash them in the face;  pummelling them until they admit that they know they are beautiful,  really.  But,  perhaps,  they are just like me,  they aren’t saying it just so that we stroke their ego,  but that they genuinely believe it?  There’s food for thought.

Even if you told me I looked good,  I wouldn’t believe you.  I’ve been admonished in the past for not being able to take a compliment.  I can’t stand them.  They make me feel squirmy,   and uncomfortable. I appreciate the sentiment,  just don’t believe it.  Ironic, eh?  Here’s me craving confirmation that I am attractive,  and therefore accepted (because acceptance is really the crux of all this),  yet when it is offered,  it is rejected quicker than you can say “low self-esteem sucks”.

This is probably the only part about  me (and my life) that I would change.  Although I have personality flaws (who doesn’t),  I know on the whole that my heart is in the right place,  and I am one of the good guys.  I am a positive person,  one who is genuinely so happy with her life,  and I would not change a second of it.  I am appreciative of everything.  So,  why this one part of me,  a part that I just can’t ease up on,  can’t stop for just a minute and thank myself lucky that I am alive;  to be grateful that I have two arms and legs,  and say bugger to everything else that lies in between?

I am rapidly heading towards 50,  so I’ve kind of missed my chance at being Miss World.  So does it really matter what I look like?  Surprisingly,  I am going to say not to me.  Not even to my partner of 15 years.  If I lived on a desert island,  with just my immediate family for company, I wouldn’t care if I was the size of a house.  No,  I want to look good because it matters what other people think of me.  I want them to gasp at how gorgeous I am,  not snicker at how fat I have become.  I want,  no,  NEED,  to be admired.

Despite what I’ve said,  I am sure this reads as vanity.  Sure of it.  But believe me when I say it isn’t.  Not really.

I might sound like a lost cause,  but I do fight it.  I fight it for the sake of my children.  I don’t put myself down in front of them;  I tell them how gorgeous I think I am,  and how well I am doing to lose some weight (for fitness, and to be healthy, not because I feel fat).   I don’t want them going through life disbelieving what they see in the mirror (or more importantly, to help them understand that it doesn’t matter what they do see in the mirror).  And who knows – if I keep going at convincing my children,  a little might rub off,  and I may be able to convince myself.

Here’s hoping.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

None of us are perfect

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Being a mum. Tough, eh?

It’s a multi-faceted role that is littered with mistakes, worry, regret, irritation, and pretty much every other emotion under the sun.

It’s a job I never feel accomplished at, rarely feel satisfied by my efforts (and if I do, it is always very short-lived), and I always have a pervading sense of not quite getting it right, however hard I try.

Let’s give an example of what I mean: I live in absolute dread of forgetting something important to do with my kids and school. Like not remembering they are going swimming, not packing school books or forgetting homework needs doing, having the wrong food in a packed lunch for a school trip, or a whole host of other things I could get wrong. This is a lot about me. I do worry that by forgetting something, my kids are going to get into trouble, or teased, or miss out. But I have to be honest and say that a lot of it is about how it reflects on my parental abilities. If you forget their PE kit, you are a crap mum. Right?

A prime example of this happened last week. My big boy told me that his class would start having PE outside, and he needed outdoor  trainers. So, I got them ready for him. I panicked for a fair bit beforehand, mind you, because he can’t tie his laces, and all he has for outdoor trainers are a pair with laces. So, I spent ages fixing them just right, so that he could put them on without undoing them, yet they would stay tight enough that they didn’t fall off when he ran. I put more thought into it than scientists did researching the atom. But what I forgot to give any attention to was packing tracksuit bottoms or a hoodie (he went with his usual shorts and tee shirt), and as a result, he was so cold he had to put his clothes back on, and then wasn’t allowed to participate; instead, he had to walk around the football pitch. He cried, he told me; he said it felt horrible to be secluded like that. And yes, my heart just about broke; I’d let him down and I was a crap mum. Self-flagellation a-plenty that night, I can tell you.

I know, I know. I know that he will survive, may even have taught him some lesson (pack your own things for school, perhaps?), but I felt like the worse mum in the world. He’s a sensitive boy, and whereas most kids would be able to shrug it off, I think he feels embarrassment and humiliation more keenly, and it lingers for longer. And what would his teachers think? Would they talk privately about the mum that sent her child to school with shorts and a tee shirt? Didn’t she realise it was cold? Didn’t she care? Would they scoff, discussing how some parents were just rubbish? Maybe. But they couldn’t say any worse than I felt myself.

So, imagine my absolute delight, when I discovered that another mum – one I don’t know very well, but have always regarded as clued-up, and with it – sent her six year old to school with rain trousers that were too small for him. My youngest came home and told me that his friend had been crying because they were too short. I asked how short. He said they were half way up his leg. And my reaction? I laughed. I laughed a secret little chortle, riddled with glee, but also relief: I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only mum that got it wrong sometimes. I didn’t waste one moment imagining how she (and her child) felt. This is kind of odd behaviour for the highly sensitive, empathic women I usually am. But, nope.  I was too busy smiling to myself, revelling in the relief that it wasn’t me that went to bed that night with thoughts of failing my kids reverberating around my head.

I think a lesson can be learned from that. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. No mum, especially one that has a busy life, is going to get it right 100% of the time. And if they did, really, what does that teach children? I would imagine that it would set them up for a fall; that’s what. A less-than-perfect mum makes them realise that the world is less-than-perfect; it allows them to face disappointment, and to deal with it. Not a lesson I would ever deliberately place on my children’s shoulders; yet, surely, an invaluable one, none-the-less?

 

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

I suck at being a mum..

Excuse the pity party,  but sometimes,  I do.

I have way more good parenting days than bad,  but when the bad ones come,  they seem to overshadow everything.  When I say bad,  I mean relative to me.  I know my bad days won’t ever match up to what some people have to deal with.  I know that.  But I have only one life,  and can only report on how it feels to be me.

My bad days don’t last long.  Tomorrow,  I will wake up a new person.  I am lucky that way. Nothing lingers for long. This morning didn’t start off particularly bad,  but my eldest son was having a pretty rough day,  and my reasonably good mood dissipated as his angry attitude seeped into my consciousness.  My son,  like me,  is highly sensitive.  I feel what he feels;  and I am sure it is vice versa. He is the most beautiful and difficult child all rolled up in one unique, challenging package.  I love him more than life itself;  yet his being almost over-powers me at times.

He provokes and annoys everyone in the house;  then he gets hurt when we are cross with him. He calls us mean names;  then cries if we ever dare to say something he takes personally (which is pretty much everything). This morning, he told me to “shut my big fat mouth”,   which is just appalling. I know that.  Yet, strict punishments don’t work.  What is so much more effective is talking to him,  and explaining gently where he as gone wrong.  But, you don’t need me to tell you that being spoken to like that is not exactly conducive to having a calm conversation. Especially when you,  yourself, are sensitive.

Most of the time I am able to be the adult.  I step away from an escalating situation before it worsens. But, there have been times during the last couple of days where I have caught myself talking to him in the same hysterical voice he is using towards me. It’s hard being a person with such powerful emotions, who is also a mum. There is a constant tug of war between who I am, and who I want my children to see.  I sometimes feel like an overstuffed cushion,   with all of my emotions and feelings too big for the space they are held in. A couple of hard punches, and that cushion just bursts all over the place;  leaving the skin saggy and deflated,  and the contents scattered.

I know that something has to give sometimes. I do want them to realise that we are all human; all falling foul to life,  feelings,   and moods at times. But, they need a calm mum more than anything. And when I fail at that,  even just for a second,  it scrapes at my soul,  leaving it full of tiny wounds.

It’s days like this when I want to give up.  To run far,  far away.  When I feel I am doing more damage to my kids being around them,  than if I wasn’t here.  When I feel that I am just not cut out for this;  this is not what I signed up for.  This is not where I want to be.

Mummy guilt prickles at my skin.  Why can’t I be the perfect mum?  Why can’t I stay calm? These are questions I ask myself over and over.  On days like this, I see only the black;  I am negative, useless,  worthless.  My eldest is highly sensitive;  so am I.  This makes me understand him more than he understands himself,  but it also causes him more pain when I am unable to stay 100% in control of the situation.

For the first time ever,  last week,  I found myself telling my partner that I wished we had two children like my youngest. The love I have for my kids is equal;  it is cut down the middle with immaculate precision. Yet, it is different. The love I have for each one is different.  It’s also changeable;  one day big boy is my favourite,  while little boy does my head in.  But we can’t escape the fact that our youngest is easier.  So much easier.  He brings with him a feeling of calmness,  which soothes my frazzled highly sensitive self.  My eldest invariably brings conflict and irritation, which scours my highly sensitive self until it is red raw.  Nothing is fun when it is hard work;  and being around my eldest is damn hard work at times.

Ah.  A deep sigh.

The one thing I like best about being me,  is my resilience.  I mentioned on another post once that I thought this was a mum thing;  it makes us able to continue along our motherhood journey.  I know that tomorrow everything bad about today will be forgotten;  that my son’s smile will melt away any negative feelings.  I am fond of telling my kids that “tomorrow is a new day”, so much so,  that they quote it back to me.

I know that I am feeling down now;  but I also know it won’t last.

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The HSP Top Six

This post was inspired by several bloggers,  including  Dreamerrambling  who has written something similar,  and  Sensitive New World  who echoes a lot of my own sentiments with regards to being a highly sensitive person,  especially those that consider sensitivity a gift,  rather than a curse.

It’s actually not as easy as it sounds.  After over three decades of ignorance,  denial and conditioning,  I had often looked upon who I was  (pre-HSP discovery) as flawed.  I now realise this is so,  so wrong.  I am not flawed;  there is nothing wrong with me.  I am merely different.  Being different is so much easier to handle than perceiving that you are inadequate,  invalid,  defective.

Living as a sensitive person is not a bowl of cherries,  by any stretch of the imagination.  However,  neither is it all doom and gloom.  So,  I wanted to lift a glass in celebration of who I am,  and explain the top six reasons why being a HSP makes me a lucky,  rather than unfortunate,  person.

1. I feel.   Deeply.  This means that I laugh loud and cry hard.  It means that when my nine year old struggles with low confidence and self doubt,  I get him.  Really  get him.  It means that I suffer horrific mummy guilt,  but that it enables me to learn from my mistakes,  and much less reluctant to repeat them.  It makes me the person all my friends (and sometimes,  strangers),  talk to about their deepest feelings; they trust me.

2.  I talk.  I believe that the ability to talk about your feelings helps make you happier.  I think that men are more likely to commit suicide because they are not only unable to deal with their feelings,  but to  express them,  too.  Of course,  this is just the tip of the iceberg;  being highly sensitive is not a magic wand that can ward off all mental health conditions.  No,  I am not saying that.  What I am saying is that I believe there is a correlation between being unable to express yourself (for whatever reason),  and depression.  I believe that my ability to talk about my feelings makes me a happier,  healthier human being.  It’s undeniable:   I wear my heart on my sleeve;  but better on my sleeve than tucked under my jumper.

3 I care.  I care enormously about other people.  How they feel;  what they are thinking.  I am incredibly loyal,  understanding and compassionate.  I am so very aware of others:  you won’t ever catch me hogging the supermarket aisle with my trolley.  I believe that makes me a good friend;  someone you want on your side,  especially when things get tough.

4.  I’m careful.  Everything I do is thought out.  I consider every aspect and eventuality,  and then some,  before deciding on something.  It prevents rash purchases;  it helps me decide the right choices for my children;  it makes me feel in control.

5.  I love my own company.  Oh,  that I do.   I absolutely love it.  It means that I am self-sufficient and don’t need others to survive.  I sometimes think that if I never spoke to another human being (children aside,  of course) for the rest of my life,  that I would die with a smile on my face.

6.  I can spot a liar a mile off.  Whether it is my kids fibbing,  friends being economical with the truth,  or boyfriends being unfaithful,  I’ve always known.   I know when people don’t like me.  In the past,  I had often denied this;  tried to find some logical explanation,  such as me being paranoid.  I now know this is not true.  I now know that the logical explanation is the truth;  that they just don’t like me.

And there you have it.  This is me in a nutshell.  These are traits that make me glad,  truly  glad,  to be sensitive.  Next,  I may just write about the not so pleasant aspects.  But then again,  maybe I won’t.  Why spoil a good thing?

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Image courtesy of samuiblue /  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s my birthday, and I’ll dress young if I want to

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So,  I had a little,  teensy-weensy birthday last week.  I have now reached the grand old age of 47.  Cue trumpet fanfare.  Thankfully,  it doesn’t concern me that another year has crept up and taken me in a strangle-hold;   I am not the kind of person who worries about growing old.  No!  I don’t care.  Because,  although my bones may creak,  my youth  (in spirit,  anyway)  continues to soar.

No, the problem is not getting older.  My problem is not  realising  that I am getting older.

To start off with,  I have recently started jogging.  Okay, that’s not too bad,  I hear you say.  In fact,  at my age,  it is probably even admired.   The problem is that when I catch a glimpse of older women out running,  I never associate myself with them.  No.  In my mind,  I look like the young 20-something  who runs along effortlessly,  with the agile limbs of an impala,  raising not one drop of sweat for her troubles.

Positive thinking?  Or,  downright delusional?

Well,  considering that  in reality,  I know that I resemble a puffing,  tired,  crimson-faced elephant more than I do an impala,  I think we can say that it veers more towards the delusional.

I don’t want to be the wizened old crow standing at the bar in her leopard-skin mini-dress, imagining  that she could give Rihanna a run for her money.  Or holding onto a bottle of tequila while her peers are holding on to their Zimmer-frames.   Yet, at the same time,  I am not quite ready for granny-jeans and comfy shoes.

Don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t about vanity.  This isn’t me thinking that I am still super-fabulous. This isn’t about me wanting to be super-fabulous,  at all.  This is about me being seemingly unable to picture myself as a 47 year old.  That is,  until I catch an unsuspecting glimpse in the mirror and see my mum’s face staring back.  Then,  boy,  it’s undeniable.

Another thing that is undeniable are photos.  Ever looked at yourself in a picture and thought “that’s not me”?  I do it all the time.  So does a friend of a similar age.  When going out for a night on the town,  we both look in the mirror and think we look great.  Then,  when we see photos of the night,  the reality is harsh;  we realise that we didn’t look quite as amazing as we’d thought.  It’s kind of like a reverse body dysmorphia.

So, no. I am not worried about getting old. I just worry that I am starting to look ridiculous.

I want to buy a pair of Converse.  I want a girly pink or light yellow.  But, the more I think about it,  the more ridiculous I feel.  I have seen a cheap pair of Levis,  and I want them.  But,  when is it no longer acceptable for a woman to wear Levis and Converse?  If I was a celebrity,  I am sure these are not questions I would ever consider.  Sadly, I am not.  I am Mrs Suburbia,  from Every-day-town,  who is rocketing towards 50 like there’s no tomorrow.

I have long hair.  Another conundrum keeping me awake at night.  At what age should a woman snip it all off?  We’ve all seen older ladies with long hair;  and come on,  it ain’t pretty.   Long hair just looks wrong beyond a certain age;  but,  I don’t want a grey bob.  Please,  not a grey bob.

So,  what do you do?  How do you dress age appropriately,  if “appropriate” clothes feel wrong for you?  Is it okay to dress how you feel,  regardless of how old you are?  Or,  should you get a grip,  face facts,  and stop deluding yourself?

Ah.  No doubt these are age-old questions,  deliberated throughout the generations.  I guess that I will continue in my jeans until someone throws a pair of elasticated nylon trousers at me.  Then, and only then,  will I reconsider.

 

 

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Words. Don’t come easy, to me….

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I’ve got writer’s block.

 

For four consecutive days, I have written posts that, had they been written on paper, would have been screwed up and thrown with vicious force across the room. Some were a few lines long; others were just about ready for publishing, but all went down the plug-hole with a quick tap on the delete button.

 

I have tried to write about my kids, my feelings, Miley Cyrus; you know, all the important things. But nothing is happening. It doesn’t flow. Everything I write is boring. And, let’s face it, if it is boring me to the point where gouging my eyes out would be a better alternative than having to read one more word; then, hey, it ain’t doing a lot for my readers (all two of them).

 

It doesn’t help that old blog envy is resurfacing again (again? When did it ever leave?). Everyone, everywhere, is producing ingeniously hilarious work, or words so full of emotion that they literally leave a gaping hole where your heart used to be. All this, completely in their stride; not so much as a hint of heavy breathing, nor a drop of sweat on their totally unfurrowed brow. Why is it so easy for them, and so hard for me? What did they ever do that was so great? Apart from write blogs that I wish were mine, that is.

 

Goodness, and here’s me wondering why my motivation has run screaming towards the nearest exit.

 

In my head, my words sound so amazingly descriptive, bursting with humour or emotion; they still sound pretty good as I am typing them. So, what the hell happens between then, and when I read them? Because, I tell you, the words in my head do not correspond to the ones I read. Does a word-troll jump in and re-arrange them just to piss me off? What is that all about? Is it a recognised phenomenon? If not, perhaps we should invent one. Write up a Wikipedia page. Oh, hang on. Is there any way we can get around the writing bit? Not going down too well in these parts just now. What should we call this phenomenon? How about: “I think I am shit hot, when really I am just shit”. Yeah. That’ll work.

 

Perhaps I am getting it all wrong. Perhaps I need to stop reading my work back. Yes, maybe I am on to something. I could just bash out a post, and publish. Ta-da! Okay, I need to stop this now. I am just about to give myself a heart attack here. Not read back? No editing? Not going to happen. Most of the time I spend writing my blog posts is in the editing; over, and over, and over again. If I posted my first draft, people would stop reading after the first three words; or report me to the I’m-a-crap-writer police. I’d serve heavy time for my crime, for sure.

 

I know you can’t force the issue. I know.

 

And actually, writing about not being able to write, is oddly motivating. Like, if you are writing about not writing about something, you are not really writing at all, so therefore it doesn’t count. I will have to remember that one in the future.

 

 

Who lifts you up?

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I saw the above quote flutter through my FB feed, and I thought: yes, how true.

 

Then I thought: actually, do I have people in my life that lift me up? Not literally, obviously, or else the hospital would be littered with broken backs. But seriously, is there anyone who makes me feel worthwhile, needed, appreciated, or loved? And the sad answer is: no, not really.

 

There are moments in my life where things happen and I feel appreciated, but these are few and far between. The kids will tell me that they love my cookies or muffins. My partner will tell me that the meal was tasty. However, when I think about it, often their words are rarely offered spontaneously. Instead, they are generally muttered in polite response to my prompt asking them if they are nice.

 

Nobody tells me I am beautiful, that I look pretty today. In fact, my kids think it is hilarious to call me fat-bum (and they are being honest, not mean). Nobody nourishes my spirit. Nobody feels it necessary to check to see if I am okay; if I need anything.

 

It must be nice having someone who lifts you up. Someone who waters and tends to your very being, cultivating it as though it were a precious flower, allowing it to grow strong and beautiful and tall. It must feel special to know that someone wants to embrace everything that makes you, you, without wanting something in return for themselves.

 

So, what happens to those of us that don’t have someone to lift them up? What happens to our self-esteem, self-worth and self-belief? Well, it can flounder; that’s what. I have always struggled with low self-esteem, am hyper-critical, have doubt in who I am, and my abilities. It’s people like me who need an up-lifter more than others.

 

You see; I do it. I do it for others. I know they need encouragement, praise, comfort and compliments. I do it instinctively, because I know what they need, because that’s what I need. So, why don’t others do the same? This is a question I struggled with for most of my life, and the answer always used to be the same: because they didn’t care about me. Their failure to see what I craved to the core of my existence was just that: their failure.

 

However, I know now that this is wrong. This is not true. This is not about them not liking me, not wanting to make me happy. Most people behave in a way that feels complementary to who they are; it would be absurd and arrogant to expect them to behave in any other way.

 

So, the change in perspective; the reason for the about turn? Well, partly due to maturity. As you grow older, you well, grow. You become more comfortable in your own body (which I find so hilariously ironic: I hated my skinny, toned 20-something body with a passion, yet love the saggy, wrung-out mass of skin I am left with today!). This is partly it. But the biggest self-revelation has come through realising that I am a highly sensitive person. That knowledge has cleared my mind of so many uncertainties, issues and self-doubt; produced a light-bulb moment with enough wattage to supply Times Square.

 

Now, I no longer feel the odd-one out; actually, scratch that. I do still feel that way, but now it makes sense: there is a biological reason for my oddity, my insecurities, my social cravings. There is a reason why my needs were so blindly missed by others; why I never felt nurtured, or needed. I realised that the way I think and feel is not the same as them, and in doing so, has offered me a huge amount of clarity, and relief. A relief that flows through me, allowing me to believe that perhaps they do care, just don’t feel the need to show it in a way that makes sense to me. In fact, it isn’t that at all: they don’t know how to show it in a way that makes sense to me.

 

That’s definitely a-weight-off-shoulders moment, if ever there was one. I am accepting of who I am, and accepting of who they are. We are meeting at the middle; not always squarely, but meeting none the less.

 

And that makes me feel good about myself. I don’t need someone to lift me up; I can do that all on my lonesome!