The Christmas Not So Jollies

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‘Twas the eve(ish) before Christmas and I spied on my Facebook feed a post that said simply “I am feeling so down”.
I immediately thought to offer some words of encouragement and as I looked at the comments on the post, I noticed a particularly ill thought out response that read; “Don’t be, it’s Christmas!”

Let me first say that this time of year means little to me. It is at best a time to spend with those close to me and share a meal. Though I am Christian, I do not celebrate this particular holiday. I did as a child but as I have grown and delved deeper into my faith, the reasons and machinations of what Christmas is became less of a production and more of a farce. I am however not here to discuss that—or any person’s choice to celebrate the holiday but it means more to some than it does to others and offering that as a suggestion to fix what may in fact be causing the problem in the first place is largely callous.

There is what feels to me to be a deluge of forced joy and displays of ‘look at how fabulous I am’ that you can only wonder if any of it is genuine or if people are merely trying to keep up with (or out do) everyone else, which is not a little farcical, and don’t even get me started on the metaphor that is the gaudy bauble and tinsel draped trees that are hacked down, dressed and lit up and left to die a slow death as some sort of symbol.

This time of year is loaded with so much expectation by way of bombastic and for-the-sake-of-others’ show, social media plugging about what a wonderful time I’m having on my island holiday or on my destination ski trip, that it creates a very skewed yard stick against which we measure ourselves.

With so many high expectations and people running around behaving like pseudo jetsetters and hotel chain heirs, there are equal, if not greater, amounts of people who succumb to the pressure that this time of year is known to bring.

However, getting back to the “Don’t be, it’s Christmas” statement on my friend’s page, it struck me first as glib and then as a little insensitive. I’m certain that was not the intention but Oscar didn’t intend to kill Reeva, and well, she’s dead… but I digress.

I believe it is paramount that we feel free to acknowledge and express our feelings in order for us to deal with and move past them. Unless we do so, we have little hope of ever overcoming them and growing as individuals.
Furthermore, there still exists an inordinate amount of stigma where mental illness is concerned.
Speaking up is one of the scariest things a person can do because saying the words “I need help” can lead to feelings of incredible shame and failure.

So what am I trying to say with all of this? Well I guess it is that we need to encourage people to talk about the things that are bothering them without fear of recrimination and judgement. That we need to foster an attitude of acceptance regarding how we feel, especially when those feelings appear to be the opposite to what’s going on around us and/or despite what is going on around us.
It can be murder to constantly force a smile because we are expected to be happy and fulfilled.
It takes a super human effort to pretend that everything is okay when you feel like you are breaking to pieces inside. We can often feel a great sense of isolation and loneliness as a result.
The good news is, if we do not feel able to talk to a friend or relative, you can seek the help of a professional. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, everyone—including myself—has at some point had feelings of extreme sadness and/or depression and the important thing to realise is that there is always a way out!

My personal philosophy is “Throw the closet door wide open, monsters hate the light and the more you shine the light on them, the smaller and less scary they become.”
To some this will come relatively easily but for others this can be very intimidating and even frightening. If this is the case for you, reach out to someone, which you can do anonymously but make the effort to reach out.

If you need help or if you need someone to talk to, here is a list of places you can find help:

The South African Anxiety and Depression Group http://www.sadag.org
Depressed Anonymous http://www.depressedanon.com
Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/disorders/depression/

Alternatively, contact a support group in your area.

In closing, I hope that everyone reading this does find some joy this holiday season. Be safe and may the next year be a better year than this one.

Thank you for reading!

It Is Always The Woman Who Is Left Holding The Baby

It is always the woman left holding the baby

 

Recently the results came back for Mr M’s sperm count. He scored zero. He has successfully been “neutered”. Good thing because there was no way in hell I was going to get him to go back under the knife for a second go at the vasectomy! Apparently, it’s like taking a swift kick to the balls. Truthfully I could not, in good conscience, make him endure that again.

This vasectomy thing has been on Mr M’s mind for a very long time, so while my unwillingness to spawn did not affect his decision, it did perhaps encourage him to go through with it. He is very squeamish and I can’t say I blame any man who hesitates. You can’t go boldly into an operating theatre when there is a chance the scalpel may slip. However, I digress.

I would have gone this route myself (a tubal ligation not a vasectomy, just so we’re clear) but thus far, each and every discussion regarding my own “spaying” with various doctors has resulted in the very same response; “You have not had children, you are too young and there are no health concerns to justify sterilisation at this time.”

From female doctors, no less. You’d expect there to be a fair amount of empathy, or sympathy at the least, from a woman who has seen enough babies born to very young, unprepared and unwilling mothers to at least entertain the thought of sterilising a woman who has made the choice to remain childless.
Though by the same token, they would also have seen many women who’ve struggled to have children. Still, I suspect they are the same breed of women who insist I will one day “Meet Mr Right” and “change my mind”.

In any event, the deed is done, the vas deferens has been severed and the stitches have dissolved.

There is a lightness about both our steps and we are a lot more carefree in our affections. Crack the champagne and bring on the oysters!
More importantly, I am no longer pumping my body full of hormones.

I could whinge on about the patriarchal nonsense that prevents women from making decisions that affect their own bodies, but I shall spare you. While the rhetoric seems spoken and written of to death, little seems to have changed for the every woman.

And now here’s the seeming contradiction: I am a pro lifer. I do not advocate abortion but I cannot in good conscience mandate how or what a woman may or may not do with her body. There are situations where, were I myself in the position, I would want the choice and I would want access to licensed medical doctors, clean hospitals and after care. Those instances are rape, incest and endangerment to the mother’s life. I am in complete disagreement with abortion as a method of family planning or convenience. I support the right to life of the innocent, not the guilty.

I am a proponent of sexual education aimed at girls and access to birth control. I firmly believe every woman should be able to make this choice for herself, free from the dogma of society, pressure from her partner (and/or her family) and religious institutions–be they Christian, Islamic or other.

I believe woman should take the bulk of the responsibility for birth control. Before you organise the lynch mob, allow me to quantify that statement.
We need parents to talk more openly with their children about sex, the responsibility that intimate relationships involve and the life long consequences thereof, especially for girls.
We need to instil in girls from a young age that her body is hers and hers alone, that she is the captain of her future.

Because the glaring reality is that it is always the woman who is left holding the baby.

There will always be mistakes and bad choices. We all make them. This is how we learn. I am advocating arming our girls with the facts, unbiased and unashamed, as well as access to contraception to minimise the fallout of impulsive decisions.
The argument that this is like handing your children the license to have sex is moot, especially if you look at where we are today.

Because of the double standard that exists in society between male and female sexuality and what we consider acceptable, or not, in terms of sexual activity, I am in favour of providing as many tools to girls as possible. Because in the end, she is the one who will suffer the lion’s share of the consequences, not her partner ‘in crime’. It may not be fair but it is reality.

So having said all of that, I do not believe this is where the responsibility ends, on the contrary this is where it begins.

Sexual education for boys requires a vastly more honest, responsible and frank approach with regards to the female perspective. The more we teach boys how precious and valuable women are in society, the vastly better off we will be. The less we malign, denigrate and subjugate women, the healthier our society will be.

It is NOT a woman’s responsibility to ensure she dress a certain way to avoid being raped, it is not her responsibility to behave in a certain way to avoid being groped in a night club or leered at on the street. What a man does with his penis is NOT her responsibility nor should she bear the weight of consequence.

So what do we do about the scourge of violence and oppression?

Start with your own children.

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The Narcissist Question

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“You sound like a bit of a narcissist.”

This was directed at me by someone who read my blog recently, someone who took offence to a past post. That this person turned out to be someone I knew is neither here nor there. I’ve never believed I was a narcissist but it’s been rolling around in my head enough to prompt me to explore it.

This is an autobiographical blog. I would hazard a guess that the vast amount of blogs on WordPress are of an autobiographical nature.
I use this blog as a tool to work through my experiences and considering that all other comments on this blog have been positive, I take that to mean that someone else out there is able to take what I have been through and perhaps use it.

If we look at the word itself, Wikipedia will tell you that ‘narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, that derive from arrogant pride.’
I would say that hardly describes me but I’m honest enough to say that perception is subjective.

In any event, if my blog is to help me unpack things that have happened in the past, to analyse them and use what I’ve learned to be better, do better and keep from repeating the same mistakes, could I not just as easily have used a diary?
Diaries are private. No one else reads them and no one else takes offence because no one else is privy to what is contained in its pages.

A blog on the other hand is used to talk to an audience, and those who may believe they are the ones being spoken of don’t get to have their say to justify their position in your experience.

“I would not be concerned with the secrets, the lies, the mysteries, the facts. I would be concerned with what makes them necessary. What fear.”
— Anais Nin 

Using this quote from Nin is three-fold;

Firstly, it is far easier to lie to oneself than it is to lie to another.

Secondly, Anais Nin and her autobiographical diaries fell into complete disrepute and are now referred to as ‘the liaries’ which go to illustrate the fact that more often than not, we choose to remember things because of how we perceived them without doing enough to try to see the wood for the trees.

Thirdly, the reason I changed the names of all people involved is because it was never about those people. I was after the ‘why’, the ‘what’ that made the secrets, lies and ultimatums necessary. I don’t believe I have glorified myself or demonised others, again perception is subjective and I would welcome constructive feedback if this is not the case.

Further to this, I had accumulated a lot of baggage through from my pre-teen years right up to my late twenties and I was starting to self destruct. I took a lot of what happened in my earlier years, internalised it and concluded that it must have happened to me the way it did because I was not smart enough, not pretty enough, not genial enough, not funny enough or not caring enough.

It was during the short time I spent with my therapist that started the journey of self exploration and something ignited when I got an unbiased opinion from someone who could understand and translate the behaviours that my ex-husband and I were exhibiting, having met us both of course. I was no longer to blame for all of it.

I got to see things from an entirely different perspective and my journey thus far has been one of continued self exploration and the healing that comes along with that has been immense. Piece by piece I have been able to put myself back together without throwing up walls  – something entirely new for me.

~~~~~

Switching gears slightly at this point but this topic goes to the behaviour exhibited by the person who called me a narcissist.

If we look at the way men and women are taught to communicate you will see that women have historically not been encouraged to be honest by society. We are taught to use makeup, clothing and behaviour which forces us to walk a tight rope between two extremes. In the case of clothing; if we dress too conservatively we are prudes and if we dress too provocatively we are whores.

With regards to self-expression, we are to maintain a blank emotional canvas upon which men, (primarily and/or traditionally) can unload their own emotions, thoughts and desires.
Any deviation from this garners comments like ‘crazy’, ‘irrational’ and ‘hysterical’ and teaches young girls that their feelings are not valid or that we should be wary of them, lest they prove too much for a man to deal with which in turn makes us less desirable.

So women who write and who explore are pushing back against this accepted norm to the ire of both men and women. I include women here because they see those of us going against the grain as ‘tree-shakers’ forcing people out of their comfort zones and into introspection.
Some would go so far as to say that woman who explore are breaking new ground and to label someone as a narcissist simply because they choose to write of their own experiences is at best, banal and at worst, gas-lighting.
(This really is another topic all together and is something I am researching and will write on sometime in the future having had experience with this phenomenon).

If you don’t know it, gas-lighting refers to a form of abuse whereby the abuser attempts to make the victim doubt their own experiences, thoughts and emotions. This is most commonly used in relationships where, for instance, a husband will label his emotional wife “crazy” when she is upset over his behaviour, either real or perceived. Instead of addressing the issue together and working through it, the husband has forced his wife to go on the defensive, where he can negate anything she says that does not suit him by virtue of her being ‘irrational’ and/or ‘crazy’.
This also sets up a false reality that emotion and logic cannot co-exist and places the burden on the wife to prove that she is not crazy and that her emotions are valid.

This behaviour develops not because the husband actually believes his wife is crazy, but rather because she is upset which is undesirable. He  likely cannot deal with the fallout of his actions or that he is being made to feel like he has to answer to someone, either real or perceived.

I will, in time write about my own experiences with gas-lighting, how I dealt with it then, how I have learnt from those experiences and how I deal with it now.

In conclusion, I would assert that in the context of the word, who said it and their attempt at gas-lighting that no, I am not a narcissist.
Also I completed a few internet questionnaires and my results were astonishingly average and so based on that scientific assessment *tongue in cheek*, I can put this question to bed and move on.

Thank you for reading.

 

Do I Dare to ‘I Do’ Over?

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I have always believed in marriage. Perhaps for all the obvious reasons; the pinnacle of commitment, of love and a declaration to the world and to God of your promise to love, honour and cherish your partner. The cleaving of husband to wife, the creation of a family, forsaking all others, committing to love this one person, for as long as you live–or until things break down so irretrievably that you end up in the divorce courts.

It’s been a year since Mr M and I started dating and the inevitable mid to long-term future discussions have started to come up with more regularity. It is clear as day to me that I have met my lobster. The one person who is so well matched to me in so many ways, who is able to engage on emotional, intellectual and physical levels I have never before experienced. Having spent years in an emotional wasteland of a marriage with a partner who was unable to engage on an emotional level, Mr M has truly been a revelation. I will never be able to adequately put into words how deeply satisfying and rewarding this relationship is. All of the friends who knew me then and now have said that it’s been great to see me find someone who is ‘able to keep up’ with me, who is emotionally available, genial, funny and intelligent. Which is not to say that my ex was none of those things, just that Mr M is the epitome of those things.

I credit Mr M in large part with how quickly I have been able to truly move past some of my previous hangups and put down the baggage. I am living the adage: It is not time but love that heals.

I have been afforded the opportunity to bask in the warmth of a love that is honest, respectful and nurturing; indeed it is only when we trust and are trusted, that we feel secure enough to love with abandon. To let go of all desire to control, secure in the knowledge that by relinquishing control we afford love the opportunity to effloresce.

We have all seen those who try to tame, control, cage and trap. In some ways, we have all been that person at one point or another. Unsure of ourselves, insecure in our abilities, we tried to exert control in small or large ways in our own lives and in the lives of others. Oft times not borne out of a desire to subdue so much as a misguided attempt at showing how much we care and that we wanted the best for our partner.

For me, it took a divorce to grow my emotional intelligence. I did not get married to control but I believe I went about some things in the wrong way during my marriage, in my ignorance of what love truly is. However, as painful as it was I would not trade any of it because of who I have become as a result of that loss, the people and love I have gained as a result of the journey I undertook and the relationship I now delight in would not have been possible had I relented and had a baby. Indeed if I am honest with myself, my marriage would have ended regardless of having had a baby. I cannot, nor do I, speak for Gerald but I am sure that given space and time, he would look back and agree. The ultimatum to have a baby or get divorced was his way of trying to exert control. He is now involved with someone else and they have a baby. It seems he has everything he ever wanted, and I am truly happy for him. It is because of the love I had for him that I can admit that. I always wanted him to be happy, it just turns out he is happier without me and that is not the end of the world for me.

It is with all of this in mind that I consider what it is that I want out of a marriage and why it is so seemingly important and I believe that it’s the opportunity to do it over again and do it right with a partner who is as invested in the journey as I am.
I still believe in everything that marriage stands for, that hasn’t changed, but Mr M’s view on marriage is not the same as mine. He too is a product of divorced parents and views marriage more as an archaic institution that makes people lazy in their love. I can’t say I entirely disagree. I also have friends who see marriage as ownership. I’d go as far as to say that they don’t understand marriage in the same way I do but perhaps the converse it true of me, certainly it would be so from their perspective.

And so, it is with my desire to relinquish all control in mind, that I free myself from the need to be married, because it’s not a need at all. I do see myself married one day but if it doesn’t happen I ‘m not going to try and force that situation because it suits me more than it suits Mr M. I am certainly not going to sell the house because the light bulbs are not working.

As Mr M once said to me; A woman cannot change a man because she loves him, he changes himself because he loves her. And our love has changed us both, in many ways, for the better and for us, this is enough.

Thank you for reading!

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

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This week we lost a great woman. A woman who despite all circumstance rose to become an icon, a nobel laureate, writer, human rights activist, Christian and poet. An astonishingly great woman who despite all odds, became a beacon for healing, forgiveness and tolerance. A woman I very much looked up to and a woman who inspired me, in large part, to start writing. The great benefit of writers is that we live on, in the hearts and minds of people who were not even part of our lives during our lifetime.
Now, I am in no way saying I am anything remotely like Ms Angelou, but we all need heroes to look up to and to inspire us, to keep us searching for the greatness within, to inspire us to leave some sort of mark in the world. If I have helped even one person, in whatever small way with my writing, then I would have accomplished more than I set out to.

My most recent blog post was about me, as this entire blog is and for that I was labelled a narcissist. Ben Trovato (one of my ALL time favourite writers who writes a vast amount about himself) will tell you in his new book, that writers are indeed glory mongers who yearn for recognition and this is true in varying degrees. I write to understand myself, not anyone else. If this makes me narcissist, then so be it.

I am attempting to learn from my past mistakes and free myself from the bondage of my past. I have attempted to be unendingly honest and have achieved this in greater degrees than I ever thought I could. This is partly because I write under a pseudonym. There are some people that know who I am and it has backfired somewhat. I recently had some unwanted attention from people I have previously said goodbye to.

This particular person viewed my blog 75 times in one day and then took the time to create 2 email addresses and pen some hate mail from both.
I think we can all agree I made the right decision. Another decision, that of leaving my ex-husband (and certain members of his family) was also the right choice–not that it needed verification but it helps. I have discovered that the ex-family have been reading my blog and one particular member of the family has taken it upon herself to send diatribes about how I should stop writing, change my name back to my maiden name and ‘move on with some dignity’.

Why, if you care so little about me, are you in the least bit concerned with what I have to say especially in light of the fact that no real names were mentioned? More than three years after the fact, you are still harbouring resentment and bitterness that I kept my married surname? It honestly, never bothered me enough to change it back.

While trying to make sense of my past and myself I have tried to focus on what I am able to learn and how I can grow from my mistakes. When you have someone try to contact you through fake email addresses on your blog and level insults at you, you can react in one of two ways; you can get upset or you can deal with it properly. My process is writing about it and so this is how I deal with it. In times gone past I was borderline cruel when I felt hurt (it was a self defence mechanism) and have come to realise on this journey how utterly unnecessary that treatment of other people is. You cannot hurt someone back and expect to come out clean because when you sling mud, you always get some on yourself.

I need to make room for the proverbial light and the healing, something Ms Angelou showed us time and again. Such great capacity for love and healing comes from one place – Christ and this is where I choose to take my example from. I have not reacted in typical ‘me’ fashion. I have remained silent, choosing to analyse how it makes me feel and yes, writing about it and sorting through it. I can tell you that for a moment, it made me feel like the little girl at school all those years ago who was being called names but unlike her, I did not feel helpless.

In years gone past I would have risen to the bait and unleashed a vitriolic diatribe of my own, letting that person know exactly what I thought of their ill-concluded judgements. People who know me will not understand my silence and that in itself is empowering.
Not giving them what they so desperately crave: a reaction.

Today I choose to put aside those feelings of shame, embarrassment and anger and move forward, leaving them behind. I choose, like Ms Angelou to rise above it and finally realise that my self-worth and value is not founded in their approval in the least. I do not need to be vindicated in their eyes and this has been the most liberating and freeing part of this journey. I have spent too much time carrying hurt and bitterness with me and it stops here.

I am free. I am free from the resentment, the anger and the bitterness and I am walking away with vastly more dignity and self respect than I have been credited with.

To anyone reading this who has been bullied, I refer you to some more Maya Angelou wisdom: “One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, is forgiveness”

Forgive and move on, because living well is the greatest revenge there is.

Thank you for reading.