So What Is The Difference Between Inconvenience And Opportunity?

The cat peed under the bed and rendered the room uninhabitable. Inconvenience or opportunity? Well, the room is better decorated, more well-used now and both cats are getting more individual attention (albeit in different accommodations).

The friends told me that I had to change who I was. Inconvenience or opportunity? Well, my self-esteem is much better now than it was then, but that’s a story for another time. But still. I could have changed for their sakes. But choosing not to change, changed me for the better.

Met a guy online. Who lived a plane ride away. Inconvenience or opportunity? Well, I married him, so the jury’s still out on that one.

Epilepsy. Inconvenience or opportunity? Well, I discovered I am much stronger than I thought I was.

Life. Inconvenience or opportunity?

Often, it is just in the attitude.

Writing Wednesday: The Aftermath of A Blogging Mistake

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was very good at writing. Better at writing than speaking, in fact. Able to reduce people to tears in forty words or less. (I’m not sure I  would boast about such a talent, but there you go.) She decided to write a blog. Not to make a giant argument, or lobby for a point of view, but to use her skills and passion to try to make the world a better place. She’d had plenty of unusual life experiences, and had crafted through the years an extraordinary ability to find the positives, to understand life from other people’s perspectives, to learn more than was just obvious. Basically, she was somewhat over-analytical and had made a deal with herself to only put it to the good, knowing that any other option would lead to the bottomless pit of depression.

And then one day she wrote a post that she shouldn’t have. Not because what she said what was wrong, but because she referenced, in a way that nobody but those present would know, a gathering of friends that was supposed to be confidential. Somebody 1 complained to Somebody 2 (the writer presumes). Somebody 2 texted the writer. The writer was perplexed, mainly because she had forgotten about the nature of the particular gathering (think of it as when you have a friend that you go with to AA meetings. You can talk about your dinner party on Friday night, but not what happened at the AA meeting on Saturday morning. Now imagine both the AA meeting and the dinner party happened in your living room, and it’s easy to get confused.) But eventually (as in, hours later), the writer was able to figure out her mistake, and rewrite the post so that she was making the same point without referencing the particular confidential gathering. Problem sorted, according to the writer.

Thing was, Somebody 2 kept texting to make sure the writer would make the change, and telling the writer to make it right with Somebody 1. The writer watched with some amusement as the stats on her blog were the highest she’d ever recorded up to that point. The writer was torn between the need to be true to her creative soul, the whole point of her blogging adventure, and keeping the people happy. She thought that she had muddled through and done both.

Nobody ever actually in real life ever said anything to her about the blog post (not even to thank her for “correcting” it). Not Somebody 1. Not Somebody 2 (although the latter, apparently, did mention to the writer’s partner that she had made a very good point, apart from using off-limits material to do so). The experience lit a bit of a fire under the writer, because she was forced to question her blogging motives. She updated the permanent pages on her blog to include references to why she blogged. She wrote about blogging ethics. She very nearly gave up the entire experience, but realised that actually, if her story helped one person make sense of a difficult time in their life, then it was worth it.

Because mistakes do that sometimes. Make you realise how important, or unimportant, things are. Help you see things with greater clarity, if you take the opportunity to look. Help you to do things better. Because the writer never made that particular mistake again. (Anybody who disagrees – put it in the comments. As long as you’re polite, your views will be aired.)

But that’s not the end of the story. In fact, that’s not the point of the story. Because that wasn’t the end of the consequences of the mistake.

Because months later, the writer discovered, quite by accident, that the offices of the church that she attended had been quite abuzz over that blog that weekend. On Monday morning, everybody was talking about it. (Somehow, the writer managed to keep her mouth firmly closed when she heard this.) That explained the sudden hike in views – everybody checking to see whether or not she had “fixed” her mistake. Nobody commented. Nobody ever said anything to her. The person who told her the story had not actually read the blog, and had only asked because of all the fuss that had been made. This was the church leadership talking amongst themselves about something that somebody (i.e., the writer) had done without ever mentioning the church in any way. In fact the writer had written it without even thinking about the church (although the “corrected” blog may have referenced a conversation that occurred in church, but that wasn’t a confidential one.) They were talking about it enough that somebody who hadn’t known the writer particularly well was able to remember the incident months later.

The writer lost much of her respect for that church leadership at that time. (Why? Because it struck her that leaders talking to other leaders but never actually talking to her about what had gone on seemed an awful lot like gossip. But like I said, over-analytical.)

So while I wouldn’t recommend writing the “wrong” thing, people’s responses when you make a genuine mistake can be extremely enlightening. Some people expect you to forgive their mistakes, but won’t forgive yours. Some people will talk about you behind your back. Some people will take the time and trouble to ask you what happened, months later.

People tell me that I’m supposed to be kind, that I’m supposed to do everything in love. I do try. But when people throw me in the shit, they have got to expect that some is going to land on them.

Little Person drew this on my phone. Somehow, it fels appropriate.

How To Survive The Start Of The Summer Holidays

The summer holidays are finally here. Six weeks of no school run, no homework, no bits of paper to remember to hand in or school functions to attend. Six weeks of suddenly having to feed the child all the time, no space to myself and wondering how I am going to keep her away from the screens all that time. Today was the first Official Summer Holiday Day – just me and the Little Person.

We managed to go to the shops and everything.

I spent a good part of the morning revising in my head the lessons I have learnt over previous half terms and summer holidays, so it seemed a good idea to share with you how so far (one day in!), we’ve got off to a (relatively) good start. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I appreciate any tips you might want to add in the comments section. (Comments do require approval so will take a little while to appear if you’re not a regular contributor.)

  1. Avoid The Hungritude – Get Pre-Emptive Snacks

You know what I mean by hungritude, right? It’s the general grumpiness and belligerence arising from being hungry.

I must admit to stealing this idea from Slimming World™, where they talk about being prepared when it comes to food. But it’s especially true when dealing with children. Have snacks for them, but also snacks for yourself. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon, stop, have a cup of tea and a drink of juice and a little something. Before you get properly hungry. Sometimes this is enough to stop the grumpy right in its tracks.

I worked out this morning that during the school day, Little Person has breakfast, then fruit, then a hot school dinner, then a snack at the end of the school day, and sometimes another snack before her evening meal, and then her evening meal (which, depending on how South African I’m feeling I call tea, dinner or supper).

  1. Know Your Trigger Points, and Have a Plan

One of my major tip-me-over-the-edge things, is the cat. When I’m stressed, and Little Person is having half a meltdown downstairs, and I’m dashing around to try and solve an imagined problem, the cat will decide she needs immediate attention, right now, and will follow me around upstairs meowing until I see to her. Solution? Make sure she is fed on a morning before I go downstairs. Also, if she’s around when I come up the stairs I always give her a scratch around the ears. The insisted meows have become less frequent. (Except when the roof people are banging about).

There are others – an overfill dustbin (planning and communication sorts this), noise in the morning (cup of tea and some deep breathing), piles of stuff (only when I’m stressed does this bother me, which is also when I don’t have resources to do anything about it).

If you know your trigger points, you can think ahead of time how you can deal with them when they arise. You can makes changes to your lifestyle to reduce the likelihood of a problem. Just sit and have a think. It’s not like it’s the holidays and you’re surrounded by noise and chaos or anything.

  1. Children are People Too (Or, Take The Long View)

Your Little Person/s has their own trigger points. They are not just some problem to be dealt with, a something to be got out of the way so you can have a tidy house again. They have a whole life full of tomorrows yet to be lived, and you get the joy and responsibility to teach them the skills they need to achieve that. Cooking? Cleaning up after themselves? Patience? Perseverance? Sharing? (Yeah, that one’s a bit of a swearword, I guess.) This time with them is a precious resource – use it to build your relationship with them, teach them to be who they are, strengthen their self-esteem and their lifeskills. Don’t just do what they want – do what they need.

  1. Have (Realistic) Goals, not Expectations

Truthfully, I would love to have all of the upstairs re-organised and tidied by the time Little Person goes back to school. Realistically, my goal is to get her room sorted. And that’s just a goal – I may or may not achieve it, depending in large part on our social engagements and energy levels.

But on a day to day level, it’s so easy to try to cram so much stuff in, rushing from this thing to that, because we have to do all this stuff. We don’t have to do the stuff. We have to eat, sleep, wear clothes, be ready for school in September, and make sure the house is still livable. That’s pretty much it.

  1. Ditch the Schedule, But Keep The Routine

By this I mean, there are certain things that we do need to have in our days – routines that are comfortable and useful and helpful. Breakfast. Bedtime. But we don’t have to be tied to the clock. It’s really helpful to have few days when you’re not running your life by the clock, but by your senses – if you’re peckish at 11, start preparing lunch. You can always have a sandwich mid-afternoon if you get hungry again. It’s amazing how you will learn to understand your children better when you are relying on observation to know when to feed them rather than just the clock.

  1. It’s okay if it doesn’t work. There’s always tomorrow.

This observation has a corollary: Don’t get cocky if it goes brilliantly, there’s always tomorrow.

And besides, who said it didn’t work anyway? You’re reading this, right? So that means you still have the willingness to try. And some days, that’s all the success you need.

  1. Stop. Laugh. Remember.

If you give yourself the opportunity, you can find happy moments in the most mundane places. Today, Little Person chose to assist me with washing the dishes that don’t go in the dishwasher. Which turned into a bit of a science observation lesson about floating, sinking, and the clinging properties of bubbles. We laughed – her in wonder at what she was learning, and me for the joy of sharing in the moment. They may not always be moments of laughter, but if you are attentive, you will find moments worth remembering. Always.

  1. Learn to Love What Must Be Done – Goethe

We don’t have a choice about feeding hungry mouths, or piles of laundry, or endless cooking, but we can find ways to learn to love what must be done. By simplifying, sharing, and keeping our eyes on the purpose of all this activity, we can do as Goethe suggests. We can learn to love what must be done. (With thanks to @gracelaced who first started me thinking about this.)

There are a host of more practical things – batch cook, eat leftovers, turn chores into games, that can be done to make the summer holidays a more enjoyable experience for all (because I firmly believe that children are happier when their carers are happier), but addressing attitude is fundamental to the endeavour. The holidays are not to be endured, but enjoyed. We just need to find ways to “make it so”, as the captain would say.

And now, I must dash. There are strange noises coming from downstairs.

I’m hoping this will be the start of a “How To Survive …” series, and as such would be open to suggested topics (or, in fact, entire guest posts). Inbox me your ideas at roxicalthinking@gmail.com

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Light, Space, Zest

Light to see, and to perceive, by;

Space to choose, and act (or not), in;

Zest to feel, or season, with.

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These are not the easiest of times. The Dude has had a rather bad cold that has turned into a very nasty cough that doesn’t combine with his hayfever very well. Little Person has been to another one of those assessments, which has left me feeling like I was dragged under a steamroller and then thrown into a compost heap full of thorns and squishy earthworms. And the roof. Ah, the roof. While not literally falling in over our heads, we have workmen fixing a problem they discovered when trying to replace the gutters. Trying is a very apt word.

And yet light, space, zest.

For all the difficulty of Little Person’s assessment, it was enlightening. My qualifications mean I could really appreciate the way the assessment was put together, and understand what they were highlighting. Very well designed test. A chance to see that for all my self-doubt, I was right to seek advice and help. Not just to see Little Person – for we see her every day, but perceive the extent of her differences. Not just to see the roof (again, it looked a little run down, but new gutters would fix that), but perceive the issues underneath.

For all the inconvenience of the roof troubles, we have space to act. Or not act. Choose to deal with the issue, uncover the problem, fix it with much banging and expense, but fix it once and for all. Or not, and hope the whole roof doesn’t cave in on us. Or at least, not soon. When we can see, we can decide how to act. We can choose what to do. And the choice makes all the difference. Sometimes, its just the ability to make the small choices, the knowledge that I can do this one thing, or not do it, that can make a difference.

And zest. The stopping to smell the roses. The little bit of something that you put with a meal that makes it taste beautiful. We can have all the knowledge (the perception), and all the action (the space) in the world, but if we don’t have the emotion, the feeling to go with it … well, what’s the point really? (That’s why, depression sucks, just by the way – it’s not the feeling “down” per se, but the not feeling at all that sucks your lifeblood away.) So for all that it’s been a trying time, I have the greatest zest of all filling my life. As I do my best to feed The Dude nutritious foods, and make space in Little Person’s world for her to be herself, I feel that greatest zest of all.

Only, we don’t call it zest in our home. We call it love.

This post was inspired by the beginning of Psalm 27 in The Message, which says “ Light, space, zest – that’s God! So with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing.”

(Sort of) Writing Wednesday Holding up the Mirror To My Soul (Or, Why I Write)

It’s Sunday as I write this. (The joy of scheduled posts and all that.) The Dude is at work, and I have abandoned Little Person downstairs to the Disney Junior channel. And I am still wearing my pyjamas. Because Sunday. And hayfever.

Sunday is, according to my faith, supposed to be a day of rest and reflection. Time together with family to refill your heart, to remember why you do what you do the rest of the week. Reconnect with who you are, and maybe dream about who you were meant to be. In our family, we don’t always get that right, but today, I think I may be doing alright. Even with the hayfever.

My daydreams for today have been about writing. About what I want to write, about what I do write. About how much the two match up. Sometimes I think I’m doing okay, because the word count goes up on my novel, and the little graph on my blog stats page goes in the “right” direction. But then I think, is that it? Is that all? Just because the numbers say it’s right, does that mean it is? Or are the numbers just a distraction? I didn’t start writing so that I could get lots of people reading what I said.

I don’t write for lots of people. I think I may just write for one.

I write for the invisible one, who feels no one can see your pain, or your hard work, or your struggle with depression, anxiety or any number of unseen issues. I have been invisible too. You are not invisible to me.

I have been invisible, stamped down and ignored because I dare to be different. I have held up a mirror to my soul and thought that there was nothing there worth looking at. Writing has helped me tilt the angle and realise that what I may have thought as nothing was merely depth of feeling. Passion rendered meaningless by a trick of the light, the way sunlight makes a fast and deep river look tranquil.

I held up a mirror to my soul and saw nothing, at first. Now I see the invisible, their silent voices screaming for a way to be more than this. Tethered down by the crying baby, the special needs child, the insurmountable debt, the crushed dreams, the abusive relationships, the rejection, neglect, addiction. The every day invisible walking among us.

For now, I write to you, echoing my experiences and lessons to say that there is hope. Hang on. You’re not alone. You’re not invisible. I can see you.

I want to write for you. I want to say “Look at these people, these ones that you overlook. Look at the bravery, the way that they rise again each morning and try again. The way they stand up knowing that it means only they will be knocked down again. Look, and don’t see the label. Look, see the person and know that they are worth the looking at.”

I want to know your story, so I can tell it back to you, and you can see your own strength. I want to be that tilt in the angle so that you can see how deep and strong you really are. Like a river in the sunlight.

I write to be a mirror to my soul.

I should write to be a mirror to yours.

How To Be Friends with Someone from a Different Culture

I grew up in a multicultural society that tried to pretend it wasn’t (South Africa, in the time preceding and during the transition to a democracy). Heck, I grew up in a multicultural family (my dad was born in Yorkshire and my mum … wasn’t). I moved to London and was pleasantly surprised that the culture shock was not as severe as I had feared it would be. Then I moved to the North East of England and married a man from Northern Ireland. I have learned some hard lessons about what it means to be the foreigner looking for friends. This article examines how you might be able to maintain your friendship with somebody who is not from the same culture as you, especially if you are from the majority culture and they are not.

How hard can it be, being friends with somebody different to you? I mean, none of us are really the same, are we. Deep down, we’re all unique and it’s the beauty of our combined uniquenesses (unique-complex?) that makes the magic of friendship what it is. Except, when the person who is your friend comes from a different culture, there are frequently assumptions and perspective differences that can make maintaining the friendship challenging. But keeping a few things in mind can help keep the relationship strong, and make it easier to negotiate those pesky trouble spots.

  1. Remember that you are from two different cultures.

This sounds pretty obvious, but sometimes it can be easy to forget, especially if your friend has a similar appearance to you. Culture isn’t just in the way we dress, or the language we speak, but in our way of relating to our peers, our elders, those in authority, our animals. It’s as much in the way we select food at a buffet as it is in the stories that we tell, and the ones that we don’t. Your friend might be timid or aggressive or talk with their hands because that’s just the way they are, or because that’s the way their culture has taught them to be. It’s not why they are that way that matters, but who they are.

  1. Sometimes, the same word can have a different meaning, or worse, a different connotation.

I grew up speaking English. I moved to London and spoke English (well, I changed a few words and rapidly developed a super posh accent so the kids I took care of understood me). Last week, I discovered that some people might be offended by one of the nicknames that I use for Little Person – a nickname that is not only acceptable, but common in my country of origin. Needless to say, I’m working very hard on not using that anymore.

But these things happen. I still end up asking The Dude whether it’s okay to say this or that. If your friend says something inappropriate or that you don’t understand, I refer you to 1 above. They don’t know any different. And they won’t know any different until you tell them. Get over it, laugh about it, talk about it. Being your friend’s cultural translator should be a source of amusement for you both, and should help make your friendship stronger. But you need to be wise enough to look beyond any perceived offence. Remember: the same words from a different culture are not really the same words.

  1. What’s rude to you can be acceptable to them. And vice versa.

Sometime your friend might shake their head or burst out laughing because they can’t believe you dared to such a thing. Sometime you might find yourself tugging at your friend’s arm begging them to leave it and stop what they are doing while you wish for the ground to swallow the two of you up. The subtleties of cultural differences come to the fore in situations where there is a conflict to be resolved, or a need to be met, or a favour to be asked. If you take the time to really understand your friend, and educate them on the norms in your society, you might be able to use their relative timidity or brashness to your mutual advantage. Plus, your friend can honestly say “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. I’m not from around here.” If they’ve been around your new (to them) culture for a while, they might have plenty of practice at apologising. It’s a useful skill.

  1. Chances are, it’s not deliberate.

I’m referring to that text that was a bit blunt, or that hesitation in the conversation that was a bit too long. The turn of phrase that made you think “what does that mean?” or even “how dare she! I thought she was my friend!”. Those encounters that are just between the two of you that leave you scratching your head, or maybe even hurt. Especially since your friend said or did that hurtful thing with complete nonchalance.

I can almost guarantee it was not deliberate. If they knew how you were feeling, they would be rushing over to apologise. Again, if they don’t know, the only way they will find out is if you tell them. But wait until you’re not so mad or upset or hurt. Because you don’t want to denigrate them or their culture, because that would just be disrespectful. And there’s one thing worse than been disrespected accidentally, and that is being disrespected intentionally. You’ll probably find that you have said some unintentionally hurtful things in your time together too.

  1. How come this person from a different culture is in your life anyway?

A person doesn’t end up in a culture different from the one that they were raised in by accident. Are they a refugee? A student? Looking to build themselves a better life? Any way you look at it, living a life immersed in a different culture, either temporarily or permanently, takes a great deal of bravery and perseverance. You don’t know what your friend has been through to get here, and they may make light of it (often brave people really don’t want to be pitied). But that same strength of character, and bravery, can make it difficult for them to ask for help.

  1. What makes a friendship a friendship?

I haven’t been talking about making friends with someone from a different culture, but maintaining the friendship. Sometimes making friends is the easy bit – the sparkle of new acquaintance, the novelty of this person with a story so different from your own. It can be a bit like young love.

But here’s the thing, friendships require work. Fun work, most of the time, but work nonetheless. Friendship across the cultural divide require their own sorts of work, but also present their own rewards. You may find yourselves rubbing off on each other a bit – your quiet friend may teach you to hold your tongue, or your more confrontational friend may teach you to stand up for yourself. Cross-cultural friendships are more likely to run into misunderstandings, which means they have more opportunities for real and honest communication, which means they should be deeper and more meaningful. As I always tell The Dude, “I’m hard work, but I’m worth it.”

I hope these pointers help you to develop stronger and more meaningful relationships with your friends cross the cultural divide.

Raising a boy in a world of gender stereotypes

Roxical Thinking:

This is not a topic I tend to write about but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it. Since I am female and so is Little Person I have no real experience of gender equality issues from the male perspective. (Apart from what The Dude explains to me. But again that is his experience not mine.)

Originally posted on crazy grad mama:

During a recent conversation with my parents, the subject of college-branded baby clothes arose.  (My parents live near my alma mater and are fond of purchasing such themed items.)

“Little Boy’s going to need a new college onesie,” I said.  “He’s already nearly outgrown the one you gave us for Christmas.”

“We’ll keep an eye out,” they promised.  “Mostly what we’ve seen in stores lately is baby cheerleading outfits, and those aren’t for him.”

They’re not for him.

Why not?

For this particular question, the answer is personal taste.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to dress my hypothetical baby daughter in a cheerleading costume, either — it’s just not my style.  And lest you get the wrong idea about my parents, they raised a boy who played with dolls and a girl who won science competitions.  They would be appalled to think that I was using them…

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Sorry My Creativity Offended You

Once I was part of a social organisation that was heavily involved in community projects, including outreach programmes and hosting regular entertainment events. I thought I might have something to contribute. I spoke to one of the leaders of the social club – the lady in charge of the creativity team as well as community outreach.

The conversation went like this:

Me: I’m creative. I write. But I can’t sing, I can’t dance. I don’t do drama. {I can do drama, but not that sort!}

Her: Creative? Can you draw?

M: No

H: Paint?

M: No.

H: But what do you write, apart from your blog, I mean?

M: (I told her about the projects I’m working on. I would tell you but that’s not how it works.)

H: Huh. So you more think creatively rather than do creative things.

So basically, because my creativity is not performance-based, because you can’t stick it on the wall and call it pretty, it doesn’t count. Leastways, not to her and her social club. I am sorry that my creativity wasn’t good enough for her. I’m sorry that she thought my creativity didn’t warrant inclusion into her little club of all-singing all-dancing-ness. I am sorry that my creativity offended.

But not for the reasons you think.

When you get offended, when you decide that such-a-such is not good enough, or not worth it, when you dismiss somebody’s effort or talent as trivial or unimportant, you rob yourself. Sure, sometimes you rob the other person, but they still have the talent, and the capacity within. You’ve lost out. You’ve let the talent get away. You will never know what you and that person could have achieved together.

And worse yet, by denying my offer of my talents, such as they are, that leader narrowed her definition of creativity even further. The next time a writer turns up, she’ll say no to them too. And more than that, she’ll be teaching her followers that creativity consists predominantly (if not solely) of the performing arts and painting. The great irony? She’s a (song)writer. She sings. She should know the power of words.

Still, she was right about one thing. I am a creative thinker, and writing is just one of the ways that I express that creative thinking. The conversation ended too soon, because she was dismissive of “creative thinking”. (A leader that is dismissive of creative thinking is less a leader and more a manager in my opinion, but that is a topic for another post.) My “brand” of creativity didn’t mesh with her “brand”. I was the cheap knock-off, while she had the real thing. I was the pretender, but she was the one getting on the stage and singing her heart out and showing what real creativity was all about. My creativity offended.

I’m sorry, because I was looking to express my creativity in a meaningful way that would contribute to the greater good not just of that social club, but the community at large. I wanted to help people tell their stories, to write encouraging notes, maybe even write scripts or songs or come up with random ways to interact with the community. I wanted to apply my creativity to their systems and help them do better, help more people with less effort. I wanted to network with people to enable others to grow their own creative voices.

But I was asked “how does your creativity fit in with the way we do creativity here?” instead of “how can we use your creativity to do what we are trying to do?”

She denied my creativity, and stifled an avenue where it could have been expressed. How many people are now living a poorer life because I was unable (not unwilling, but unable) to share some consequence of my creative thinking with them? That is why I am sorry my creativity offended. Not because of the cruel lesson I have learned, but because of the lost opportunity.

Let’s not be quick to judge because somebody is different. Let’s look at people who don’t fit into our definitions as an opportunity to expand our horizons, instead of an identity to be denied.

Writing Wednesday: That Which I Never Knew I Knew

“Write what you know.” “Write what you have to write.” “Write every day. The Muse will accept the discipline, with time.” “Write fast. Edit slow.”

Writing advice. You have to love it. I mean, it’s good to give you a starting place, something to try.

But if I followed the writing advice as I had intended to, I would be writing a fuzzy-wuzzy faith-and-love tale of victory and joy. Because, you know, I wanted to write something that included my faith, and that’s how all those books go.

My manuscript doesn’t go like that. I’m temporarily paused because I don’t want to write about the darkness, and the sadness and the despair and the stupidity. But I’m persuading myself that this may be the most important part of the story, and if I shrink back from that, the whole point of it is lost.

It’s something I never knew I knew. It’s something that it feels like I have always known.

Just because the darkness is real, just because people are stupid, just because we face horrible things like depression and fear and guilt and hopelessness, that doesn’t need to make the story dark. The darkness doesn’t define the story, anymore than my struggles define my life.

People are stupid. All of us. We make stupid decisions, and sometimes it takes a terrible thing to make us realise our mistakes. We throw away the invaluable, we walk away from the most worthwhile, we hoard the poison.

But that’s alright. Because that’s not all we do. We also learn. We apologise. We rescue. We try again.

That’s why there may be darkness in my story, but my story isn’t dark. Hope wins. Always.

Sure, we can write what we know. Or we can do something just a little bit crazy – go out on a limb, do the dangerous thing.

We can write what we never knew we knew.

A Time To Lament

The cat was grumpy. I was standing at the counter waiting to pay for the consultation and to get an appointment for the booster shot (Not-So-Little Cat’s jabs had lapsed). The receptionist was stood talking past me to the slightly older lady with two terrier type dogs.

“I’m like a radiator, honestly. In a way that my family doesn’t understand. Not an actual radiator, but it just feels like it.”

“Oh I know, I’m in my 50s and I still get flutters of it.”

Two late middle-aged women talking about getting hot? Not a conversation I wanted to hear.

“Okay, no, stop it right there. I don’t want to hear about it.” Not-So-Little Cat meowed her agreement.

“I don’t know what you’re on about,” said the receptionist oh so primly. The cat offered her opinion. The receptionist gave me an appointment time. The cat disagreed.

“Someone’s a little grumpy,” the receptionist observed. I decided to assume she was referring to the cat.

And when I got home I gave myself a think-over.

Because apart from the fact that I was obviously not supposed to act on my suspicions that they were discussing menopause symptoms (it was a public space, I’m not stupid, I really don’t want to know about women doing radiator impressions!), my response had definitely been more aggressive than I would like.

Feelings on the inside wanting to come out, and leaking through in a moment of impatience.

And not happy feelings either.

I know, because they have been dancing their way merrily up the stairs from my sub-conscious for at least a week (and probably longer. Some had been hiding a while.)

Loss. Grief. Sadness. Doubt. Fear. Brokenness. Missed opportunities and lost potential. Anger. Despair. Anxiety. Regret. Sorrow.

All those things we are not supposed to admit to feeling. All those things that, when bad things happen, we try to sweep under the carpet or stuff in a box in the cupboard and say that we’ve “dealt with it”. We are pushed to “move on” and “get over it”, and then we wonder why, months and years down the line we break down – except we never admit how broken we really are. Not to others, and more importantly, not to ourselves.

We go from feeling like a radiator – everything exploding with heat on the inside – to “I don’t know what you’re on about” as fast as we possibly can. Or faster, even.

But the title of this post is “A Time To Lament”, and lamenting, as a rule, is a vocal, expressive thing. In South Africa, the black population has a tradition of ululating at times of great emotion, including as a display of grief at funerals. Of course, it is sometimes excessive, and it’s definitely loud, but it’s also expressive. It’s a sound beyond words. It’s grief in loud moans, and it gets the feelings that are inside out. It’s the start of a process whereby you can acknowledge the feelings, and find a way to live with them.

*This is just an example I found. I’m not endorsing the website or anything. 

Acknowledging feelings. Talking about them. Being honest. Bringing uncomfortable realities out into the light of day so that we don’t have to deal with them on our own. Owning the sadness. So that is won’t own me.

Those are all skills I learned as a South African. I sure wish I could pass them on.

Perhaps that is my real lament.

But it’s alright, I understand. I know that you don’t know what I’m talking about.