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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All cheer for the NORMAL day….

If there is one marvel of motherhood, it is its pure resilience. It’s that maternal ability to shake off whatever has come before, regardless of how turbulent and upsetting, and face a brand-new day with a renewed vigour.

I guess it needs to be this way. You wouldn’t last long if you had the previous day’s woes hanging over your head, only to have a ton more added. You would soon be bowing down with the weight of it all, unable to function. I guess it is like labour in that respect. I know it is a cliché when people say that time is a healer, but with labour, it is; it is nature’s way of ensuring that we continue to reproduce. And I guess our ability to forget, to move past our previous failings, is nature’s way of making sure we carry on fighting to do the best we can as mums.

I have always been very good at gently packing away discarded emotions and events. Sometimes I slowly unwrap and examine them, but more often than not, I just leave them where they are. The guilt and pain I felt from my actions yesterday have not gone. They are still there. But they have been packaged carefully; neatly put away. I don’t need to kill myself with guilt; I don’t need to relive every second of what happened. I did that yesterday; and today is a new day. Today has to be a new day.

So, today has been good. I wouldn’t normally write about a good day (where’s the entertainment in that?), but I wanted to give my blog some balance; let you know that I am not really a knife-brandishing, crazy-eyed momma! Well, not every day, anyway.

Today has been normal. And in our over-stretched, stressful lives, who doesn’t occasionally welcome normal? My kids have bickered, but it was minimal. The sun shone, which was enjoyed.  We went for a walk and then ate a burger, which balanced healthy, with not so healthy. It was just a nice, normal day. My kids went to bed with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts. Well, okay, not really; we’re not the Waltons. But there were no temper tantrums (us or them), and there was a definite “ahh, look at him” moment, as we gazed wistfully through the door at our six year old, who’d fallen asleep as soon as his head had hit the pillow. That doesn’t happen every day. There’s usually an apprehensive look towards the door, and a furtive sneak down the stairs, all the while praying he is not going to shout “mummmmeeeeeee…..”

And better than all of that, there is no guilt. None. I have not experienced one nasty whiff of the pesky thing. Today is a rarity. It is an unusual evening when I don’t sit here and reflect, wondering if I could have done something differently. But not tonight! The joy! The relief! The freedom! So exhilarating that I am overdosing on exclamation marks! I know I am being silly, but there is so much truth in how much relief I feel, that it is, well, untrue.

Yesterday’s post was sombre. I know it cast me in a bad light; but it was real. This is me, warts and all. If being a HSP has given me one thing, it is the ability to be honest. An open-book, in all aspects of my life. Very contradictory, given that HSPs do not handle criticism well (or at all), and bearing my soul leaves me open to that. However, although I have a strong desire to be seen in a good light, I much prefer being viewed as who I really am.

And the bad days make the good days feel so much better. They make your triumphant moments (however small), feel so much more deserved. One day, I know I will look back on all this, and that every single sad, mad or just plain bad moment will be forgotten. I know that the only things I will remember are the smell of their hair, their tiny faces, and their special mummy hugs; just as it should be. So, in some really kind of perverse way, I find myself almost enjoying the bad times; wearing the rough days like a badge of honour. Proclaiming to the world that I’ve survived to love another day.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Mummy Guilt….

Like most mums (I am presuming), I suffer with a horrible affliction referred to as “mummy guilt”. When it comes, it settles like a heavy weight on my chest, causing my heart to ache. It makes me sit for hours contemplating where I could have done things differently; bludgeoning myself with my faults. If only I’d been a little less shouty, a little more reasonable. If only I could be a better mum. 

Today, I reacted in a way that caused my nine-year-old to be terrified of me. And yes, I mean terrified. My two boys are going through a phase where they are constantly fighting, often physical. They would argue black was white until the cows came home if we let them. The eldest tries to get the better of his six-year-old brother (which older sibling doesn’t?), and this morning, during an argument, he’d gone to get a knife and brandished it. Now, let me please stop and say that he doesn’t have any behavioural issues, is a relatively normal boy, but he is highly sensitive and sometimes finds it difficult to express irritation or anger appropriately. I know hand on heart that he would never use it, would never hurt his brother (or anyone else)and have a feeling that it involves one-up-man-ship more than anything. 

So, the day progresses with very little let-up in the bickering, and while upstairs, I hear them starting to fight physically. My youngest runs up screaming, saying his brother has a knife, that’s scared. I kind of lost it. I flew down the stairs and got hold of him so he couldn’t run away, took a knife from the shelf, and told him (okay….shouted) in no uncertain terms that YOU…DO…NOT….MESS….WITH….KNIVES…EVER! He started to cry, and I have never seen him look so scared. And it’s the look in his eyes that, nearly ten hours later, I can’t shake from my mind. 

Now, don’t get me wrong; I did not brandish the knife. I did not stick it near his face, and neither did I make any hint that I would use it on him (of course I didn’t). I just held it, and him (so he couldn’t escape). I am not justifying my actions, just explaining. I wanted him to know how scary it is when someone pulls a knife. I wanted him to know how much he was frightening his brother. And it worked.

During the first five minutes after, I felt almost victorious; thoughts of “he won’t do that again in a hurry” reverberated around my head. Then the pain that is mummy guilt kicked in. I think my problem is that I believe as parents, we should do everything in our power to protect our children. I feel very little guilt when they are punished fairly for any inappropriate actions. But when it goes as far as to literally terrify them, what then? Where do we draw the line at teaching our children a lesson? Is it okay to scare the life out of them so that they won’t repeat it? Or, as parents, should we behave like adults and calmly explain why it is not okay to get a knife? Well, a bit of both, I guess. And I suppose we can’t also discount the fact that I was trying to protect one of my children.

As I write this, I contemplate whether it will ever get a public viewing. This is really close to home for me, and very private. Telling the world of my failings (especially as a sensitive person), is hard. I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want people to think I am a horrible mum. Because, I tell you, you couldn’t say any worse than what I am already feeling.  I am sorry for getting cross (because had I stayed calm; I would have been able to deal with it more effectively, and consequently, wouldn’t feel like this), and I am sorry that I frightened my little boy. And although I don’t know you, I worry that you will think badly of me. But I find writing a release, and if one person can read this and identify, then hopefully, they won’t feel so alone (because that’s just how I am feeling right now).

In more lucid moments, I am able to acknowledge that I am a good mum; although, only in my own brain. Never out loud, or in public. Ever. I comfort my kids when they are sad or hurt; I stand up for them, and fight their corner; I don’t smack them or use any physical punishment; I try to guide them through life’s difficulties; and I would fall under a bus for them. I love them more than life itself. They ARE my life. But sometimes; I wonder if that is enough.

Since it happened, I have sat with him and talked it through calmly, explaining why I reacted the way I did. He gets it. I think. I told him that I was so sorry for scaring him, but that I was frightened he was going to do something silly; that I wanted him to realise how dangerous it was to hold a knife. I get how hypocritical my actions might seem, that I did the wrong thing, for the right reasons. He told me that he thought I was going to kill him. I can’t tell you how that makes me feel. I am not sure if he really did think that, but whatever, the pain is indescribable, and it torments me. I abhor violence. I try to teach my kids that it is not acceptable to hurt anyone else; yet he thought I was going to hurt him. Oh, man.

As mums, are we supposed to feel this bad? I am pretty sure my mum never felt any guilt. Or maybe she did, but just hid it well. It seems a fairly new phenomenon. Is it because we are more aware of how we can influence our children with our own behaviour? I don’t know. Are we supposed to second guess every decision or action we make? Are we supposed to become suffocated by the weight of guilt, crushed by insecurity over our actions? Sometimes I can’t breathe with the heaviness of all this. I worry about how my kids will turn out: will they be angry and bitter, or will they be happy and content? And more selfishly: will they still love me as much as they do now? I am so, so aware of the power we have over our children. How we can mould and manipulate them without even realising; how our actions can have deep-reaching, devastating consequences for them. Motherhood is a very hard burden to bear at times.

When I’ve got my rational head on, I am able to see that all of this is part and parcel of being a parent. It comes with the territory, and is to be expected. I once read an article that said that parents who second-guess themselves were usually doing much better than those that were  blasé, or confident in their abilities. Who knows? I do know that even women who have raised great kids had doubts when their children were small. My partner’s mum told me once that she never knew if she was doing the right thing, she just tried to do the best she could. She did very well with her two. Another mum once told me that she used to cry most nights when her kids had gone to bed, feeling guilty and wondering if she had been too harsh. Her adult son tells a completely different version of his childhood: he says he always felt loved and protected. He shares a deep, powerful love for his mum, and this is obvious to anyone who knows them. This is what gives me a glimmer of hope. This is what gives me inspiration when I am feeling demoralised and useless. You can feel like you are messing it up, but in reality, you are actually doing a fairly reasonable job. 

I just wish I could take that moment back; the moment that has replayed in my mind over, and over, and over again today. That moment when I utterly terrified my own child. If only I could do that.

But, I can’t. So, I need to do the next-best thing, and drag myself out of this guilt stupor; moving forward in the best way I can. Tomorrow is another day…..