Normal.

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Do I wish I was ‘normal’? No.  Do I wish that I belonged? Of course, who doesn’t want that?  But I don’t and I’ve pretty much come to accept that.  However, the power of normal should never be underestimated.  To some, normal may be synonymous with boring, but in terms of childhood, normal is good perfection.

I have spoken before of my admiration of the incredible woman who is Drew Barrymore.  I have found her fascinating for much of my life.  I see in her aspects of myself – the damaged child, desperately trying to make it in the big, bad world by maintaining a positive and almost innocent outlook.

Much like my own, her childhood was far from normal.  But the thing is when you experience that kind of dysfunction during the formative years, as a mother, it becomes increasingly important to shelter and protect your own child/ren from the same experiences.  Because, hindsight is a powerful thing – I have been told by numerous professionals that many of my ‘issues’ are a result of a lack of stability, dysfunction and multiple rejections during my childhood.

I recently read an article regarding Drew’s approach to parenting and I could definitely relate.  Click here to take a look.  The zero consistency approach that she experienced herself really struck a chord with me.  My childhood had no consistency whatsoever.  My mum’s approach to parenting was to be my best friend.  Period pain? “Here have a beer!” My mum has no filter whatsoever.  Zero.  There are things that you just don’t want or need to know about your parents.  Sadly, I don’t have that luxury. I know the lot. With minute detail.

As a result, I know exactly the sort of mum that I don’t want to be.  My daughter is not my friend.  It is my responsibility to protect and care for her.  Therefore, I am strict with her, I am consistent in my approach.  I provide her with routine and structure so that she always knows what to expect.  I bake with her.  We do arts and crafts together.  We go for walks in the wood.  She knows that I love her with all of my heart and that my main priority in life is to protect her.  I did not become a parent to become a best friend – that role is available to someone else.  I am, and will always be her parent.  She will never feel responsible for me.  She will never have to sacrifice her childhood because of me.  Am I a perfect parent? Of course not, there’s no such thing. But I am determined that my daughter is going to be unaffected by my illness as she grows up.

After being a teacher for 13 years, I left the profession to work in child protection.  As much as I love this job, it breaks my heart.  On a daily basis I deal with kids who are all too familiar with life that involves gangs, drugs, prostitution, domestic violence and self-harm to name just a few.  To them, this is normality.

Part of the reason that I do this job is that when I was growing up there was literally no-one there looking out for me.  There was no-one whose job who was to notice the signs.  I hope that through intervention and support I can at least help to soften the blow of these tragic childhoods that are occurring before my eyes.

However, some of these children are so critically damaged.  I can see no way out for them.  Sadly, more often that not, a child will remain in the ‘family’ home, even when it is obvious that they shouldn’t.  I don’t know the ins and outs of the circumstances as I don’t work in social services but I can only assume that it comes down to lack of funding and lack of emergency foster care places.

I think of the impact that my childhood has had on me and the experiences that so many others that I have spoken with who have significant mental health issues and I have to wonder, are these children’s life stories already written?  Can the damage be undone?  Are they destined to a life of mental health problems, anxiety and mistrust of others and the inability to get close to others, or on the other hand, trust too much in an attempt to finally feel safe and as if they belong?

When you consider the above, it becomes apparent that normal is all any child needs.  Kids don’t need what they think they need.  What children need is time, love and boundaries.  Without that, you can’t go too far wrong.

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Hello (part II)

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I am struggling to say what I wanted to say, so I will try again.  Yes I was feeling what I wrote in my previous post, ‘Hello’ but it goes deeper than that.

I am an all-or-nothing kinda person. I’ve tried to be middle of the road but it doesn’t work for me; it’s just who I am.  Perhaps I appear intense, perhaps I appear aloof.  Maybe that’s because I am.  Either you’re important in my life, or you’re not.  I can’t be doing with fucking about and lukewarm relationships and interactions.  Either experience them to their full, or move on.

Take for example the couple sat in the booth next to me (yeah, I’m back at ‘My Blogspot’ praise the lord!).  They are young, attractive, unmarried and childless, judging by the lack of offspring and wedding bands.  They have been sat in booth next to me for approximately 10 minutes.  They have said exactly nothing to each other.  Nothing!  The only words uttered have been to the waiter who has taken their order (to share)  Seriously, what the fuck is the point?  What a waste of life just tick-tocking away as we grow another minute, hour, year, decade older.

Life is so precious and we start out so vibrant that it devastates me to see how so many lose their shine as life, year by year, dulls the perfect portrait of who they once were.

This is why the song, ‘Hello’ by Adele devastates me so much. I miss the intimacy that I shared with so many people as my life shaped who I now am.  I miss them.  I miss them so much that it literally hurts.  But here’s the thing, they don’t exist any more.  I would love to be able to call them up at any time and talk like we used to talk.  To turn up on their doorstep just because I was passing and sit down to drink coffee and shoot the breeze.  However, these people who I loved so much just don’t exist anymore.  I could still express these spontaneous desires to connect but they could not.  Life has changed them.  Many have forgotten who they truly are.  That doesn’t mean that responsibilities have to be shirked.  Being who you truly are does not have to be sacrificed for the sake of responsibilities.

One of my closest friends who I spent the majority of a decade with, is now a virtual stranger to me.  We go through the motions of being ‘close friends’ but it’s bullshit.  I have no idea of who she even is any more.  She has no children and a job that has no responsibilities outside of her 40-hour working week.  She has no hobbies that I know of and a very limited social circle.  Her life now revolves around her husband.  Meeting with her requires approximately 6 weeks warning and even then she generally cancels our plans last-minute.  This is someone who I knew everything about.  I knew her hopes for the future, her dreams, her fears and what made her tick.  These days she is ‘Colin’s wife’.  What the fuck?

This is not a one-off.  So many of the people who I adore have let their ‘adult’ life consume their essence.  Maybe that’s ‘normal’ but I’m not normal. I’m not buying it.  I can’t be doing with the bullshit small talk that occurs once or twice a year when you meet to ‘catch up’ and talk about your partner, work, holiday plans that will draw you further into debt, blah blah blah.  Erase those bullshit sorts of things and you’re left with the kinds of conversations that really shape who we are.

It’s been 40 minutes and the couple next to me are still not conversing – they’re not amidst an argument either, I can tell by his body language.  He’s looked at his phone a few times though.  What happened to there not being enough hours in the day to fit in everything you want to say?  Not wanting to sleep because every hour asleep is an hour not spent feeling the most alive you’ve ever felt.  That is when you know you belong.  That is when you know you’ve arrived.

If you haven’t arrived and you can’t see the destination in your sight, maybe you’ve taken the wrong route…

Hello.

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Mainstream music is not my thing.  Give me rock, country, jazz, classical any day of the week.  However, Adele’s new song which was released yesterday had such an impact on me that it has prompted me to write.  The lyrics which are so raw, ripped memories back into my mind and caused me to well up.

You may or may not be familiar with the song, it is called ‘Hello.’  It struck a chord with me.  I heard an interview with her saying that her new album ’25’ is about when life gets in the way of relationships and friendships so that the intimacy once shared is lost.  I could relate, more than you could ever imagine.  It’s funny how a beautiful vocal tone and a melancholy ballad can devastate you isn’t it?  The impact on the senses can have such a profound effect on our emotional state.

I miss the intimacy that I shared in my younger years.  I resent that these days there are only a handful (that’s being generous) of people who I can truly be myself with.  How does that happen?  “You grow up and life gets in the way!” seems to be the default option that most use.  I call bullshit. Why does ‘becoming an adult’ mean that you have to lose the intimacy that you once shared with people who helped shaped who you have become?  I do not buy into the idea that once you get married, you have no need for other relationships.  “You have a family now” people say.  And?  Of course my family is my priority – I would move mountains for my daughter but why does having a family seem to mean to so many, that all other forms of intimacy need to be cast aside?  It’s bullshit.

But I digress. My point is, why do so many people equate growing up with having to lose the intimacy and friendships that they have shared with people who are so dear to them?  It is not a given. Yes, I have a full-time job, yes I have an evening job too, yes I have a family.  Does that mean that I don’t need the connections that I once shared with people? No. If anything I need them more.  Life is so demanding of us at times all the time, that our connections that we have to others can be the one thing that keeps us going.  The spark that starts the fire that reminds us of who we are and where we have come from.  That is what keeps us truly alive.  Without that spark, we are merely robots, going through the motions of life.  I’m sorry but that’s not okay with me – surely life is supposed to make us feel alive?

To hear ‘Hello’ by Adele click here

Have a beautiful day.  Perhaps reach out to someone you are missing who thinks you have moved on.  Maybe they’re thinking about you too…

All the World’s a stage…

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We all do it, I’m sure.  Layer on a veneer that we present to the rest of the world.  Those who care enough or those that seek the truth can detect its’ transparency.  Some days I am fully confident to be me.  100% truth, take it or fucking leave it.  Other days it is a struggle to show the world who I really am.

Today I had a big event.  I was co-presenting at one of my biggest fitness events yet (yes the Z word!)  I have spent months promoting and planning and I am certain that most have no idea what a ball-ache commitment it is.   I have been so excited this week in the lead up.  These events are like my babies.  If you are in a band, I am sure that you would appreciate support from those close to you.  If you are an artist, a trip to your exhibition would mean the world.  With Z events it is the same thing.  This is my craft.  As a dancer for almost 20 years, I love the opportunity to perform in front of those close to me.  It gives me a kick for them to see that other side of me.

One day I will learn that people saying they are going to come does not equate to them actually bothering to turn up.  I’m pretty sure I’ve heard all the excuses in the book.  Whatever.  But as I received a barrage of lame-ass excuses cancellation messages over the last 24 hours, my mood began to sink.

Why is it that I always think that this time will be different?  I need to learn that friendship doesn’t mean what it used to mean.  The vast majority of people are only out for themselves these days and the sooner I can accept that, the better.  I could feel the negativity beginning to seep through every pore and permeate throughout my entire being.  Was I pissed off with the countless ‘let-downs’? No.  I was just disappointed.  As always.  I am the person that people can be relied upon to let down.  Maybe it’s because I don’t cause a fuss, more likely I just don’t register on their priorities/friendship scale.  Whatever.  The point being, just hours before I was due on stage, I was in a bad fucking mood and feeling pretty deflated.

In short, the thought of being on stage on my own in front of a hall packed with people with all eyes on me looking for direction, was quite literally the last thing I wanted to do.  I was in a ‘sunglasses kinda mood.’  I did not want to communicate with others and I certainly didn’t want others looking at me – I was feeling massively insecure and anxious.  Cancelling was clearly not an option.  I had a whole bunch of people relying on me to create a fun, energetic and inspiring Saturday night, not to mention a shit-load of money riding on it.  Basically, there was no way out.

And so I had to adopt an extreme form of ‘Fake it, ’til you make it.’  I quite literally donned the war paint, applying hot pink and lime neon stripes to my face and took to the stage.

As the music started, I lost myself.  Everything I felt just melted away.  As I looked out into the crowd, and felt the tangible buzz of energy in the room, nothing else mattered.  Dance has always allowed me to feel this way.  It has been a vent to channel out the negativity in my life and performing gives me an incredible buzz.

I often wonder how I stayed a happy child throughout my tumultuous and dysfunctional childhood.  I attribute my relentless ability to smile and stay positive when all kinds of shit was hitting my life from all angles, to dance.  It may sound corny or like bullshit but dance is my therapy.  Everyone needs something that they feel successful at that they can channel all of their negativity into.  To use the angry or nervous energy and create something beautiful and spiritual.  It does not have to be dance; merely an outlet.  Any outlet: poetry, art, blogging, baking, writing, the list is never-ending.

In all honestly, I think that I performed the best I ever have tonight.  Was I spurred on by the local instructor who turned up to participate, and looked me up and down like I was some piece of shit?  Damn right I was! I smiled as I asked her to sign the register but inside I was screaming, “Fuck you and your judgement – who the fuck do you think you are to look at me like that and cast assumptions?”  She came over to me at the end of the event and thanked me for such an incredible evening  – I’d made my point.

So what if a bunch of people didn’t turn up to support me?  The event was still packed and now so are my pockets.  I cannot rely on other people to validate me.  I don’t need other people’s approval and I certainly don’t want ‘pity’ support.  Sure it would be amazing to have friends who wanted to support me but clearly I don’t have those sort of people in my life.  Should that lessen my sense of achievement? Fuck no! I know that I did a great job tonight.  I am proud of myself.  That should be enough.

Have a wonderful day.  Remember that happiness comes from within.

Control.

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The mind is a beautiful yet mysterious wonder.  It can sense unease and react in ways that attempt to protect us.  My mind is in disarray.  My thoughts muddled, as if saturated in treacle.  Everything it intense, yet muted.  How does that even make sense?  This illness is such a contradiction.  People talk at me, their voices muffled like blurred out extras on a film set, yet other noises pierce through my mind like nails on a chalkboard.

I wander about in a dream-like state, making little sense to those few that I come into contact with.  ‘The Grammar Queen’ who cannot even contemplate using ‘text talk’ is sending messages that make little sense.  My mind is fogged with the depths of blankness.

As I feel myself slip deeper and detach further from those around me, survival mode kicks in and an all-consuming need to control my environment overwhelms me.  It is so true about what they say, “Tidy home = Tidy mind.”  My chaotic thoughts of late have been further encouraged by the disarray in my surroundings.  And so sub-consciously I have taken control.

My home which usually has a lived-in but cosy look is now under my constant scrutiny. Everything must live in its place.  No it cannot be returned in an hour or so.  It must be returned, right now.

I am not this kind of person.  I am not a controlling person.  I am not a neat freak. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in a pit but there is more to life than neatness and order.  Generally.  Just not right now.

I realise that my behaviours are compensating for the lack of connection and control that I feel with my environment and social interactions, yet I still cannot help myself.

I want to be me again.  I want to feel.  Really feel.

Have a beautiful and carefree day!

The Beauty Boost…

Saturday was not a good day.  In a word (or two), it sucked.

When I hit these kinds of lows, I have two choices, wallow in the pit of gloom that fogs my mind and threatens to turn everything black or tell myself, “Fuck this!” and get my butt outside and surrounded by nature.  I eventually chose the latter.

You cannot remain in a blank mindset of nothingness when you are faced with this…

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It literally took my breath away.  Now you may be thinking, “Is this girl on crack or something?” but I had to turn around, stop my car and jump out in order to capture its beauty.

Colour has the most profound impact on me.  Colour alone has the ability to lift my mood. One of my favourite films when I was younger was ‘Interview with the Vampire’ – not because of the two-hour opportunity to perv on Brad Pitt but because of the incredible contrasting colours which are shot beautifully in the scene where Claudia meets her demise.  I only have to close my eyes and I can picture the exact shade of those two dresses perfectly.  If you have not watched the film, or do not recall the scene that I am referring to click here!

The impact that nature can have on my mind-set is staggering.  I often wonder if I have the strength to return to the place that calms my mind like no other.  It would require me to address some very painful memories but would it still have the hold and power over me, that it always did? I think so.

I once more decided to immerse myself in my favourite season and took ‘The kid’ conker-ing once more.  I live just moments from a psychiatric hospital and within those grounds are the most magnificent horse-chestnut trees.  Thankfully, due to their location, the trees were plentiful, ripe and ready for our well-aimed ‘conker stick’ throws.  Funnily enough, not too many parents take their children to the local psych unit for their ‘Conker Fix.’

As we filled our bucket, I marvelled at just how much beauty is all around us.  We just have to open our eyes to it.  We do not need to live in the most magnificent of places to be surrounded by beauty, we just have to remember to look.

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I work in one of the roughest area for miles. Crack dens are common and the police have pretty much set up camp there.  To say it is an undesirable area is a bit like saying Hitler was a bit of a shit.  Understatement.  But even amidst the abandoned sofas, fridges, mattresses and hypodermic needles, I can still see the beauty.  If there is green, or in this incredible  season, oranges, reds and yellows, then there is beauty.  And if there is not, you need only to look up…

Look for the beauty.  It’s nearer than you think…

Have a wonderful day 🙂

Me, Myself & I…

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I am a self-confessed bibliophile.  However, when my mood sinks, my relationships with books can go one of two ways.  Either, I am unable to focus for more than a couple of paragraphs leading me to fall asleep with my book on my face or I use books as a safety net where I can retreat into a bubble of fiction in order to feel calm and secure.

At present, I am most definitely firmly in the latter camp.  This morning I managed to get up for approximately 30 minutes before needing to retreat back to my bed in order to hide with my novel.

Almost immediately, as I pulled the covers back over me, smelt the ink on the pages as I leafed through to find my page, I was filled with a sense of calm.  I still find it incredible just how effective certain coping strategies can be.

Through sheer coincidence, the last few books that I have read have focused heavily on the relationship between siblings and I have to admit, it’s really got me thinking.

I was recently speaking with someone very close to me and he told me that his brother has been the greatest constant in his life which forms the basis of their strong relationship, despite being very different characters.

As I reflected on his comment, I got to realising that I have never had a constant.  Sure, my Mum has been present for my entire life but if you’ve read previous posts from me, you would know that she is also the reason that I am the way I am.

My entire life, I was envious of all of my friends who had siblings and I would inwardly seethe when they would moan about how much they hated having siblings and what a pain in the arse they were.

I have to ask myself, if I had a sibling would I be the person I am now?  Would I have the issues that I have now?  Would I have the deep-rooted lack of trust and simultaneous urge/fear of becoming close with people?

I’m not naive enough to believe that if I did have a sibling, we would automatically have an incredible relationship and as a result I would be well-rounded and not at all ‘crazy.’  However, I do have to ask myself, “What if there had been someone else present to share the fucking nightmare that was my childhood burden?”

What if I hadn’t been the only child sitting holding Dad’s hand as I watched him take his last breath.  What if I hadn’t been the only kid who would discover the alcohol bottles hidden in the washing machine?  What if I’d had someone else to talk about the guy I knew my mum was sleeping with behind Dad’s back?  Would it have been easier to cope with mum’s breakdown and suicide threats if there had been a sibling to create a ‘coping strategy plan’ with?  Would knowing about the prostitutes have been a little easier to process in my child brain? Would my Mum’s heart attack have been easier to cope with when I returned home from school and was promptly whisked off to another county to live with my Grandparents until Mum was well enough to return home?

Would I have got engaged at 17 and go on to marry someone who I now realise I was viewing as a father figure? I doubt it.

Having never had a constant in my life means that there has never been someone there who has been there with me through it all.  There has been no-one who has seen my past, present and aspirations for the future.  I don’t mean this in a self-pitying way, I am merely thinking on the page.

Would having a sibling have meant that there would have been someone who really knew me who would be able to give me guidance and reflect on why I was making the choices that I was making?

So often I find myself ‘censoring’ the real me because I feel that the majority of people “can’t handle the truth!”  Would having a sibling have allowed me to have confidence in being who I am, instead of constantly trying to reinvent myself in order to make myself ‘fit.’

Obviously, I will never know the answer to these questions but it is certainly food for thought…

If you have a sibling, please take a moment to consider the effect they may have had on shaping your life choices and experiences!

Have a wonderful day 🙂