To nurture a King

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It seems it my job of late to solely concentrate on the the men in my life. I thank the school holidays for this pleasure. Twenty-four hours a day we are together, and it’s getting a bit thin. In a houseful of mainly boys, tensions are climbing higher than the temperature outside.

Man is different from woman, fundamentally destined to be the commander of his life, his education, his career, his passions, his wife, his home, his offspring. From the time a boy is born he is encouraged to be strong, take aim, control himself, decide what he wants. Like the male equivalent of a Disney princess he must be forthright and true, fight for his rights and also know how to keep his hair in check.

Too much of anything is not good for a growing boy. Be it love, discipline or cake, it is a very fine balance that makes a pillar of society. As a mother of three such pillars-to-be, the burden is by no means small. You must nurture these beings with a hand that is just right. Too much pressure and they burst. Not enough and they run wild. And that is just my husband.

I often think of chess when it comes to men. The King, the most important piece (debatable) can only move one place at a time, in any one direction. If he falls, all is lost. You must not look him in the eye or it is checkmate. Force him to a corner and you will have stalemate. As Queen it is your main job to be in front of him at any cost to avoid such situations. This is not a responsibility to take lightly.

Manly behaviour is cultured by most as essential for a boy. Automatic suppression of crying begins early. “Shush my love, don’t cry, be a big boy,” many will mutter under their breath as they hush their little prince to sleep at three in the morning. “Rub it better, it doesn’t hurt that much, you’ll be fine!” after he falls and grazes his knees, the first of many times. They are encouraged to be boisterous creatures, naughty and wicked, allowed to freely talk back to their elders, argumentative and sulky. They learn how to be fundamentally tough almost automatically. Turkish men seem to be especially proud of their ego, re-enforcing their presence as a man at every opportunity. Whether or not they sow their oats as a young man is completely ignored. The good ones following the right path go to University and do something useful like Law, or Medicine. Or Economics. Or Tourism. All very respectable. In fact, as long as they go to university it doesn’t really matter, even if they are miserable at the subject. After this they get married to someone suitable and have a family. Any man that isn’t married by forty is a conundrum. They smoke, they like football. Or they don’t. They develop a big belly, try on a beard, read the newspaper and socialise with the other men and while they wait for grandchildren they get looked after by their wives and daughters. They are King.

On the flip side, the newborn female of the species here are treated like princesses, coddled in between fifty million pink blankets and adored by Daddy to the point where life becomes a bowl of strawberries. They are feminine, giggly and girly, encouraged to sit nicely. If they come from a well-off family, they will be dressed in good clothes and sent to ballet. Those in less fortunate families will do the cleaning with mummy and indulge themselves in the daily duties of a household. They will not, generally have dreams, and if they do, they wont know what to do about them.

Such stereotypes are typical, but as witnessed by me as a foreigner, more extreme here in general. One thing all girls seem to partake in is the subliminal training on how to be submissive. Nationally, from an early age girls are all encouraged to learn how to prepare the börek and make the ‘ikram’ ready for when visitors arrive. This training is given whatever the kind of education they are likely to receive. If growing up in the kind of family that expects their girls to go to University, it is done with the finest china and the best slippers that they can muster. If not, the skills come in handy when the best china is served to welcome the prospective in-laws that wish to marry their sons to the girl in question.

Those University girls graduate from home to begin their education. Few are encouraged to take a non PC route, such as an outspoken journalist or a fame-seeking musician. The favoured ‘safe’ careers are applauded such as Teaching or Medicine. Those that do break the mould with something out of the ordinary are endured until they give up their ‘hobby’ and do something more suitable. After some time and perhaps a little matchmaking the family eagerly await the day that their girl will be ready to ‘settle down’ and get married. Any boyfriends that occurred previously will be erased from memory and the girl gets engaged, as fresh as a daisy. Marriage often occurs within or during the precious education they are receiving, sometimes rendering it completely useless. After some time the girl then has a child, by Caesarean of course,because they are told by all to be afraid of pain. They then spend the next few years adoring said child until it goes to crèche or school by which time any university education has become a bit stale. The household duties are her responsibility, the cooking is mainly done by her. The washing and cleaning may be taken care of depending on her wealth. Outings include weekly appointments at the coiffure, shopping and socialising over Starbucks coffee with friends before she has to pick up the little prince/princess.

The roles seems very set in stone. Girls do the girl stuff, and boys do the boy stuff. Even in the ‘modern’ families. Of course, this is all part of the culture and good manners, but you don’t see many males serving you tea and getting your slippers when you visit a Turkish family, regardless of social class. The makeup of families will always change slightly but the theme will remain; there are girls, and there are boys.

“This is normal for anywhere,” says my husband upon hearing my generalisation. “Girls in your country get married and have kids all the time.” Yes but not quite in the same way. Be it right or wrong, the lines are a lot more blurred outside of the borders of Turkey. It is not uncommon for a girl to have a baby outside of marriage, or by herself entirely. There are similarities between here and the rest of Europe for example, but there are more irregularities. Girls outside of Turkey can have babies and go back to education. Some decide to change career in the middle of their lives. Stigma is reduced greatly. There is less shame in non-tradition as there would be here. Turkey keeps its stereotype traditions very much alive. Women have a role and Men know it.

But not in my house.

I am notoriously different. Firstly as a foreigner this is to be expected somewhat. During the last seven years of my personal chess game I have battled with many; nannies, nosy neighbours, well meaning passers-by, teachers, doctors. The list is endless. My motto is simple; everyone is equal therefore accountable. And by that I mean as human beings, as people, as male or female. If you take the time to educate yourself and read often, two things happen; your eyes open wider and your mind becomes more focused on what you think, what you feel and what you want in your life. I’m not saying my upbringing was exactly the same, more so that I listened to my elders, deciphered what would work best for me and refused to settle for anything else. I have respect where it is due but I have no time for sexism or over-inflated hierarchy.

From the beginning the differences became glaringly obvious. One of mine and my husbands’ first real marital arguments was about putting out the rubbish bin. Basically it was full and he didn’t want to empty it. Why? Several reasons, he never usually did it, it wasn’t a priority for him and foremost, he didn’t like to do it. I politely informed him that the bin was full of our rubbish, that bins are only really a priority for bin collectors and then came the biggest newsflash, which was I DON’T LIKE DOING IT EITHER.

This came as a bit of a shock to him. He had to have a sit down and think about it, as if the whole universe had suddenly turned on its head and this was some kind of scientific revelation. Upon contemplation of life with a woman that doesn’t like cleaning, I am sure he wanted to reconsider but as we were engaged and I was pregnant that wasn’t really an option. He took out the bin and apologised. Advantage, me.

Sometimes I wonder if men think that we are born with some kind of integrated enjoyment of cleaning which switches itself on the minute we get our first whiff of Domestos. I think I was away the day they gave that out. Unfortunately ‘bingate’ was the first of many blips in the matrix. I like doing things in the house, yes, but it is usually weird non-girly stuff like wallpapering or tiling or putting flat-pack furniture together. This probably comes from growing up with boys and a very tough father who treated me just like one of them. Also my overstretched working mother, who used to give me chores to do like cleaning the bathroom and mopping the floors when all my friends wanted to play out, probably put me off housework for life. I only do what I need to do to survive, and when I do it, I am like superwoman on speed. Once the house is clean I forget about it as quickly as I can. Nothing bores me more.

I continue to be uncharacteristic when it comes to confrontations with people in general. Whilst not rude, I refuse to accept being short changed in any situation and am determined to get what I want, whether that be an explanation for why my sons’ teacher has had the week off and not informed anyone meanwhile he is sitting in class everyday with no substitute, or why the gynaecologist can’t give me a normal birth after a caesarean if I want one (and I got one, as well). Outspoken women prepared to go into battle with men are not so common in Turkey – add to that the fact that I am blonde and foreign and the result is sometimes very uncomfortable. My husband would gladly like the ground to open up and swallow him on many an occasion.

My dominant ways are clear for all to see. The next door neighbours are often shocked to see my twelve year old son putting out the washing or taking the rubbish bags to the bin. “Sizi kutluyorum,” comes to my ears when disciplining my boisterous younger sons in the shopping centres, expecting them to holding my hand and wait as I tell them where to go, and what not to do. No, they can not bounce all over the sofas in the showroom. No, they can not pick everything up that they see. Yes, they must listen to their mummy. No, I will not just ‘sakin ol’, and give them a lollipop. As far as I am concerned, these boys came out of my body, and I own them until they are old enough to move out (of my house, not my body). And in the meantime, they better just have respect for women, people who are older than them and carpets that have just been cleaned. I am Queen in this game of chess. And until further notice, they are the pawns.

I teach my sons to be good people, not strong boys. They are encouraged to be part of the machine, not rage against it. I don’t like cleaning up after them and they know it. They make a mess, I teach them how to clean it up. I make household duties part of their day. They cannot speak back to me or they go to their room. They are on a three-strike notice. One is acceptable, two is a warning. Three and you are out. But I still love them. And they know that, as well.

My husband is in constant fear that I may be biting off more than I can chew. Here in Turkey, going against the grain isn’t easy, especially when you encounter boys and men who are encouraged to be bold, headstrong and consistently correct in every situation, even when they are wrong.

One example: I once witnessed a full-on tantrum from a four year old boy, who when confronted with his mother who had come to collect him from crèche decided that he did not want to comply. In protest he promptly smacked his mother full in the face. Shocked and rightly so, she reeled, and I watched in excited horror expecting some kind of explosion. Instead there was nothing. Daddy came and cuddled the little ****, yes cuddled him and consoled his outburst with a promise to go and get ice cream. With that, he turned on his heel with his son in his arms and not a moment of energy was spent on the mother, who obviously disturbed stepped to one side, silently packing her emotions away in an invisible box, which was probably already overflowing. I feared that no one would ever understand the look in her eyes that I saw flash through them as her baby, her love, her everything, turned on her.

In my opinion to avoid this kind of thing from happening a woman should know one thing about the vicious circle she is placing herself in, the moment she leaves her family home to make one of her own. If indeed she has had the luck of a solid upbringing by an educated, modern and well balanced father, she should find herself off to a head start. Therefore her selection of husband/partner if all goes well should reflect this upbringing. In time if she is blessed with having a son, the road to creating the perfect circle should begin. This road should begin with making sure that as that child grows, as a woman she will ensure that even in today’s ever changing Turkey, her little king in training understands that the biggest diamond of all is his mother. (Not that we would wish to create some kind of monstrous ‘Kaynana’; a woman should always know when to let go). With this training, hopefully this will then complete the circle and one more man will grow up having learned to respect women and how to take care of himself, and his home.

This of course sounds fabulous in principle but it is extremely difficult to implement; and may be the reason for the woman who received the short end of her son’s temper. Disciplining a child is hard, it never ends from the moment you make the first move towards more control. You simply can not give in, however much you want to. A constant battle of wits exists under my roof, a fine balance between wanting order and having the patience to wait for the little princes around me (and of course the King) to create the order. Sometimes after a particularly disgusting day of crying, screaming and tantrums I do wonder if it is worth it. Don’t do that, put that down, sit there, eat your food, listen to me. Tidy this up, wash your face, pick up those. And that is just five minutes worth. The temptation to let boys be boys is great, but there is just one thing I want that makes me carry on: respect. If I don’t get it from them as their mother, how will anyone else even have a chance of it?

A big motivation to instil respect in these boys of mine is to think about my future daughters-in law, and the power struggle they will face in the future as I have done trying to have it all. Wanting to be smart, patient and calm, not harassed and put down, drowning in a washing pile and fighting with a husband that won’t lift a finger to help whilst she tries to maintain a modicum of femininity. I can’t do that to her. It is harder than ever to be a female and we need all the help we can get, so I like to imagine that I am preparing them for this . I am assisting the teachers who will want my boys to sit and learn. When people meet them my boys will be courteous and humble. They will be prepared for life. When their wife is exhausted in the middle of the night feeding their child they will set aside their own feelings and be emotionally understanding. I am teaching them to put their ego away and learn to be a human.

If all the mothers taught their sons to respect women and understand them as individuals then think of the effect it would have on the next generation. I am hopeful of this when I discipline my sons. But for now, the game continues. Although I have never played a game of chess that had quite so many egos fighting for role of King, I am grateful that my husband has had the sense to abdicate and has stuck to being my Knight in shining armour.

What a Beach

This morning I read an article written by Belgin Akaltan for Hurriyet Daily News. It was in English and I found it whilst browsing through Antalya Central (www.antalyacentral.com) where it was reposted from the main newspaper so that more people could digest it in all its literary glory.

It was the title, ‘Seaside manners of Turks’ that attracted me enough to click through. Following reading I felt so full of disgust at the banality of the writing it compelled me to search the Internet for Belgin Akaltan, whom I found under the Hurriyet Umbrella.

For it was here that I would have the ability to comment on the article in question and give my opinion, upon which I found not only would I have to sign up to the online newspaper to be allowed to comment, I would be restricted to only 500 characters when I did so. And quite frankly Belgin, I had to get through much more than 500 characters of your drivel, so therein lies the motivation for my offering. To serve as a reply to your ‘findings’.

Our dear Belgin starts her article by first verbally assaulting Turkish people, accusing them of having no ‘seaside manners’. Then she decides that some of us (presumably that includes her, otherwise she would have to be included as a target in her own mud flinging) have acquired certain manners, but they are mostly bad manners, not only at the beach but everywhere.

ImageTurkish people have manners or don’t have manners? They have some bad manners at the beach? Or some of them have bad manners all the time? Say what?

Lets just presume that this is all about Belgin herself, existing in the right side of the elitist divide that prevails on the beaches she deems good enough for her posterior to press upon. I bet her beach has dark brown wooden sun beds with white soft cushions and matching umbrellas and waiters in uniform. I can’t picture her sitting on just any old riff-raff beach.

Why do I presume this? I quote Akaltan;

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My kind of beach.

“When you approach the seashore from the sea or from the land, you can figure out immediately whether or not there are Turks on the beach through the peculiar “blee blee blee blee” sound only Turks can make while they are swimming, half-filling their mouths with sea water and squirting it. If the beach is filled with litter, here in Turkey or in any other international beach, just call out “Merhaba,” and be sure to get an answer. Exactly as the sound effect above, this nonstop littering of any collectively used venue that is not their home is an unsolved mystery of Turkish people. Why they do it is a good issue to research. Lack of a civilized approach? Selfishness? The result of living under the Sultan for centuries and not being able to take responsibility? How hard can it be to comprehend that the fish do not particularly like your coke can?”

Note she accuses Turkish people of being uncivilised, irresponsible and unable to comprehend logic. Oh, and they are selfish too. All this to go with bad or no manners. To escape this kind of behaviour I am positive she searches for a better beach to sit where they have bins, away from the seawater gurglers who are probably trying to wash the turkishness out of their mouths.

Doing well so far Belgin, don’t forget you are one of ‘us’.

Following her completely biased opening she continues to delight her reader with her take on ‘CHARACTERS ON THE BEACH’.

“Anatolian girl: She comes from a smaller town but fits in perfectly. She looks gorgeous; she has the most fashionable swim suit; she knows all the jet set gossip. She also knows how to chat, joke and flirt with guys. She is adorable. It is better to avoid them or you have the risk of ending up marrying her (and be unhappy for the rest of your life.) Don’t ask me why. It’s a package deal; no girl who looks that perfect on the beach will make you happy forever. Especially if you are the kind of guy who falls in love and marries a girl you have met at the beach.”

Does the Anatolian girl wear heels?

Does the Anatolian girl wear heels?

Jealous much? The Anatolian girl, who whilst being adorable, well dressed, attractive, funny and intelligent enough to hold conversation IS A TRAP. According to the writer you can’t have all this and be happy with it at the end, ergo her opinion is attractive woman = unhappy marriage. Well, that escalated quickly. So Miss B, only ugly women who can’t be social can make men happy after the nuptials? Better put a bag over my head then, and pretend I can’t read, otherwise my marriage might prove you wrong. I didn’t fall in love with my husband at the beach, but it’s not the worst place you could meet someone. Possibly the worst place you could meet someone is the office where you work, Belgin. It seems that it might be crawling with semi-feminists who slag off their own nationality. Take note, readers.

Ah, and now to one of my favourite parts of the article; its the ‘insult the people with children’ paragraph.

“They have one or two children. Sorry, prime minister, I have not seen anybody with three children this year. (People are not listening to you? There must be a foreign conspiracy in this. Or an Israeli one.) As a matter of fact, the number of children does not seem to matter. One is just about enough to ruin any beach activity. These people arrive on the beach. They feed the baby, they play with the child, they change its t-shirt, they put sun cream on it. They change the t-shirt again. And again. If they have time, they build castles, they play ball… These poor grownups think they have come to the beach but they have actually extended their child care services from

Hmmmm, I am having a really bad time.

Hmmmm, I am having a really bad time.

their living room at home to the beach. The only change is the addition of the sun, sea and sand. They come and stay at the beach but have absolutely no fun and go back with a feeling of, well, like any other day spent with children. They of course ruin the beach for all the others within a 100 meter radius.”

Ah, you make it so easy. First of all for reference, I have four kids, three of which are under five. The ‘poor grownups’ that bring their children to the beach do so to get them outside in the fresh air. To help them socialise, learn to swim, feel the heat on their skin, giggle at the water running through their hands, squeal excitedly at the waves chasing them and to tire them out. T-shirt changing and sun cream are just part of the deal. As a mother of four it is not a big deal to do this for the children I have carried, birthed, cradled, fed, grown and loved. I presume you have a mother? Didn’t she ever take you to the beach? Part of the fun for them is the freedom, and this includes interactions with other people on the beach. For social development. To build good manners. (The things you claim Turkish people do not have). After the day is done we take them home, they collapse into bed and we have all the time in the world to sit together to live, love, laugh and reminisce about how rubbish it was to be single without purpose, with nobody to talk to, to love you. Then we might have a chat about that horrible girl that was scowling 100 metres away from us who made faces at the children like an old witch, shouting ‘Merhaba’ at people who had any rubbish and throwing stones at that nice Anatolian girl who was minding her own business.

Some of the monsters you have to share the beach with

Some of the monsters you have to share the beach with

Anyway, there’s more. Apparently we should also avoid “People with a lot of newly earned money: You wouldn’t want to be around them.” May I inquire as to exactly how you decide that they have newly earned the money? Do you go round them checking for new bank notes? Is there a test? Do they give off a certain aroma?

The next gem;

“People who arrive on a boat: They are absolutely different. They are sea people. They appreciate the sea and life seems to have appreciated them a lot.”

This boat made him immediately more attractive and intelligent.

This boat made him immediately more attractive and intelligent.

So all you have to do to escape criticism is buy a boat? And that makes you different? It makes you a sea person?! What happens if you buy your boat with new money, jump off it into the sea and spit out water making a ‘blee blee blee blee’ sound, whilst your Anatolian girlfriend throws coke cans into the sea? Its ok, life is appreciating you. Miss B, stop please, you’re killing me.

Now, seeing as this article is in English it is for the enjoyment of international readers, otherwise the English would be a waste of time. In fact the whole article in its gratuitous nature is somewhat confusing, but that is another point entirely. I am guessing that the next paragraph refers not to Turks, but to dirty, drinking foreigners.

“Drinkers: How much alcohol can a human body consume under the sun, I am always surprised. They drink and drink and drink. And they don’t seem to be affected. It is always fun to watch them. And listen to them. They have the most fun.”

I am surprised you can hear anything they are saying over the ‘blee blee blee blee’ and the sound of boats. You should try a drink by the beach sometime. It might

Cocktail in the sun? Don't mind if I do.

Cocktail in the sun? Don’t mind if I do.

loosen you up. Or there is always the national drink, but that might get lumpy in the heat. I myself enjoy a beer next to the sea, it is wonderful. Two at most, i don’t want to get dehydrated of course and plus I need to keep a control on my children. Also like to be alert, because there are always those stalker types that lie close by, watching and listening in on our fun conversation.

“Turks with Islamic suits at the beach: Wait for some 50 years; they will grow into becoming any one of the other categories you see in this article.”

She's got a boat. Does that count?

She’s got a boat. Does that count?

What on earth does that actually mean? Are they going to grow into midday drinkers??

“Foreigners who happen to be among Turks at the beach: They are totally lost; they are in a huge shock. They genuinely want to fit in but their nature prevents them from making so much noise on a beach, to litter the environment so much and their respect for others gives them away as non-Turkish.”

My my, we do like to stereotype people, don’t we Miss B. I think you must be talking about the foreigners on holiday, but to be honest they don’t try to fit in, they are here for such a short time that they really don’t care. The only foreigners who try to fit in live here permanently, like myself do fit in as much as they can, however I have never

He tried to fit in with the locals as best as he could.

He tried to fit in with the locals as best as he could.

been in shock on the beach. Or in general, until I read your shockingly bad writing/thoughts you must have scribbled down on loo paper whilst passing the time. Foreigners that don’t make noise? Have you been to Marmaris lately? Apparently they are all noisy. Apparently.

“Turks at Bodrum beaches: Bodrum is not Turkey; so it does not count.”

Ok, this I will accept. The next one, not so much.

“People without enough money: They are in the same category as people with children.”

Really? You’re going with that one? What do they have in common? Are you saying that all people with children have no money? What a horrible person you must be. The few pleasures left to a)people without enough money and b)people with children who may be short of money includes the beach, a bonus when living in a country with sun, sea and sand as you pointed out. Activities, summer schools, art, dance or sport might be something that is out of reach for many people, for themselves or for their children, thanks to the economy in Turkey and the state of the education system. Both these classes should be applauded for keeping positive, not succumbing to depression and getting their backsides out in the fresh air to keep life worth living. With the disgusting prices of crèches and the lack of any kind of free playgroups in this country the beach is a solution many parents enjoy. People without money are not necessarily poor. Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying, “Who being loved, is poor?”

Is it over yet? Not quite. Not content with berating the rich, the poor, the families, the religious types, lest we not forget the beautiful people.

“People with perfect bodies: They have a parallel universe. They walk and act as if they are in another world. They should have their own beaches. People playing beach volleyball: They should also be banned from regular beaches.”

One of the beautiful people about to play volleyball on a beach - run!

One of the beautiful people about to play volleyball on a beach – run!

Ahh. I would like to have disappointed you so that you could believe that I am just a married old hag with four kids who has stretch marks everywhere and an ugly boring husband but alas, it is not to be. My body is not perfect but I can appreciate those people that take care of themselves, as I do too.

It seems you dislike people who have their lives together on the whole. If you yourself had a perfect body then you would not feel the need for beach segregation so therefore you must find yourself wanting. People who have perfect bodies do act like they are in another world, because they are. They are in the place that most of us want to be, where physical issues don’t take a moment of their time, mainly thanks to all the volleyball I expect. Be careful, nobody likes a jealous old maid.

And finally, the only thing deemed worthy enough to be on The same beach as Miss B; Lifeguards. They have nice bodies. They have nice colours. When she says colour, she means skin tan plus the colour of their shorts and t-shirts.

The question she has is, “Do they wear t-shirts?” (Yes people, this is the question most of us lose sleep over, I can tell you. Why, just the other day the Prime Minister himself couldn’t sleep for such a conundrum).

The perfect gift.

The perfect gift.

“Plus they have very nice helping, caring attitudes. I think we can kick everybody else out of the beach and only allow lifeguards. How about 50 lifeguards for every 20 meters? That would be perfect.”

(By this point my suspicions have been confirmed that you must not be married and do not have children, Miss B.)

As you have pointed out, they have nice, helping, caring attitudes. Something you don’t seem to possess. Next time we bump into you on our day out at the beach I think we should kick you off and use the 50 lifeguards to make sure you don’t come back. Well, not without a rubbish bag at least. You could start by putting your article into it!

“Je ne regrette rien”

Perception. A word whose meaning can change the course of your day, your week or even your life. Whether you are in the moment or looking back at a part of your history, the ability to look deeper than just the surface can shed all kinds of different light onto things and alter the way you feel about them.

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Snaggle tooth me at around eight. It took me a long time to get over myself.

One of my oldest friends recently read my blog (thank you Kim) and after trawling through them she wrote to me. Amongst the general chit chat she asked me, ‘Were you really that unhappy in high school?’

Some of my previous thoughts and reservations about connecting with old friends on Facebook is that people’s perceptions of who you used to be would affect who they thought you were now. When my friend asked me that question, I thought long and hard about the answer. Was I really that unhappy then? Why?

In the past I have written about my awkwardness as a teenager, my lack of ability to fit in, and the differences that I perceived there to be between me and my peers back then. At that time I had felt like an outcast at school, constantly making inappropriate jokes to gain attention, doing stupid things to make people laugh and hopefully, result in them liking me, and generally keeping any hurt or angry feelings to myself to avoid confrontation. I felt people didn’t like me; I was subject to tougher rules from my father than the other girls seemed to be and that made me stand out in my eyes. My home life wasn’t smooth and my relationship with my father extremely difficult. It certainly didn’t help me when it came to running with the crowd.

I wasn’t allowed to hang around the school gates, or linger on the way home on the high street. I couldn’t go to the discos or shopping centres with the girls. Customising my school uniform was out. As for for looking in on myself and analysing all this, perception wasn’t a word that I was aware of at time of my life. I just knew I wasn’t cool. And that made me feel left out.

While the other girls went round to each others houses and talked about boys and discos and fluffy bunnies, I was going to work with my dad and learning how to put an electric plug together and how to avoid being an emotional whingey girl (that got on his nerves). I tried to be tough like my brothers, proving I could ride my bike as fast, walk as far, and be in goal pitted against giant leather footballs. I missed out trips to cinema and shopping. I never had a close best friend or sisters, or even an auntie.

Basically, I forgot how to girl.

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Every year on march 1st I would wear this. Other kids loved to make fun. It made me feel stupid and different, but kids don’t really understand that.

As music was such a big part of my life, I was singled out a lot at school; the youngest member of the orchestra, the one with the really long hair, the one with the funny snaggle tooth. Playing piano to the rest of the school in assembly whilst wishing the floor would open up and swallow me whole, including the piano. Clog dancing in funny outfits. Being part of the folk singing group (oh, ok, I see now after those last three sentences that I was perhaps, a nerd).

These things sound wonderful to a parent but they basically mean social exclusion for anyone who isn’t cool, with the exception of those kids with horses, a rich family or a French mother. They could do anything and still be accepted.

Despite this social nerdyness’ I can look back on it all and understand that what I perceived to be true at the time about myself could well have been far from how other people perceived me to have been. My old friend obviously didn’t see things through my eyes; why would she? And it made me understand more than ever that much of the anxiety I felt as a kid was probably all going on in my head. Maybe people didn’t dislike me for being musical and annoying as much I thought they did. Maybe they just didn’t care. My memories were based only on my perception of the situation. I had a thought. Recognising that this might have been all in my own head gave me the ability to alter the view of myself for the better, whilst having a break from regret.

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Don’t let your past define who you are now, even if you were a cross dresser as a child.

As kids grow up into adults, if all goes well they are supposed to turn into well balanced individuals who are able to put the problems of their youth behind them. But for some people it can take years for that to sink in properly. Basically, you need to realise that whatever you went through at school or in your past job or relationship, you don’t have be that person anymore, you are older and wiser and have learned from that experience. That person who you were was just continuing to learn how to negotiate their way through life.

Altering your perception both physically and emotionally can have a great effect on things. Today in the news I read of a woman who recorded her life over the last decade in pictures to fully understand how obese she had become. Photographs of her in ordinary daily situations showed her body size and she commented that after taking them that she now fully understood how out of control she had become. Couldn’t she have just looked in the mirror?, I hear you say. Sometimes when we look in the mirror all we see is what we want to see. That can be negative or positive as well. Maybe you want a fat bum, for example. You might be Jennifer Lopez.

Next time you are in front of a full length mirror try this; really look at yourself. I don’t mean look at parts of yourself, look at all of you and imagine you are an outsider looking in at a stranger, passing in the hallway or in a train station. Don’t just look at your favourite part of yourself. Don’t focus on the areas that make you unhappy. Look at your self as a whole, from head to toe. Change your perception.

Careful which mirror you pick, it can misrepresent worse than Max Clifford

Careful which mirror you pick, it can mislead you. Avoid the circus at all costs.

Admittedly you might still not like what you see but sometimes it can help you to understand what really needs to change. The woman in the article went on to have gastric surgery and lost ten stone as a result. She looks much happier in herself and says that she is now living life instead of taking pictures of life happening around her. Her perception of herself is now altered; she sees herself how she really is inside and is able to let go of her regret at not living her life to the full.

Of course there is the emotional aspect as well. The parts of your personality that make you who you are are always going to be received differently by everyone. Horses for courses, as they say.

The great thing about this is the are two ways to look at it, negatively and positively. A few examples:

  1. I don’t look bad really today, my crappy mood is simply altering my perception of my good self.
  2. My body is acceptable, and what ever happens, there is always someone that loves me for who I am.
  3. Whatever I perceive myself to be, that does not necessarily mean that it is true for other people.
  4. There is room for different stages in my life; I can move on from the past and improve for the future.
  5. When I came out of the toilet with my dress tucked into my underwear, the people behind me were far too busy to notice, especially that I was wearing thongs and had used toilet paper trailing behind me. (Ok, this is stretching perception to the max. It is possibly deception.)

Regrets we may have about things that we ‘shoulda coulda woulda’ done are a waste of energy. If I had been able to change my experiences, or alter my past in some way to ease my regret, would I be a better/different person now? Probably. Who knows. who cares? You can’t change it, anyway.

Letting go of past regrets is extremely hard but very satisfying. I spent too much time and energy during my younger years thinking about things I had said and done, or not said and done for that matter, and wishing I could have changed them. What a waste of time. I needed to live in the moment, something which I only truly learned after having my kids. Having them made me realise that there is no time like the present and if you don’t agree then you are going to miss out on things that you really don’t want to.

The only time that you can make a difference about anything is when you are actually present consciously during life moments; that is when you can be effective about your actions, and the good thing about this is that you can start doing so right this minute.

But it’s not that easy!, I hear you say. Ok, so accept that there will be times when you zone out, due to many factors including stress, age, finances, self-esteem issues and blah blah blah that appear invisible to anyone else around you. You are only human.

During stage performances I am constantly aware of being watched by several hundred people at a time. SometimesI can hear a pin drop and the feeling of all eyes on me makes me want to get under the piano and put sunglasses on whilst vomiting into my handbag. But I have to rise to the challenge. The cause of my anxiety can vary. Maybe I had a bad day. It could be I have a horrible headache. Perhaps one of the children pooed on me during that afternoon during a spot of toilet training. But the news is: NOBODY CARES. The people watching are here to be entertained and don’t give a rats crap as long as I look like I am enjoying myself and give it some welly during the chorus. They want to perceive me having fun so that they can too, and so not regret coming there that evening.

Confidence is a state of mind. This looks successful when in fact two thirds of the group was drunk and the drummer was replaced ten minutes before the performance. Nobody knew. I did, though.

Confidence is a state of mind. This looks successful when in fact two thirds of the group was drunk and the drummer was replaced ten minutes before the performance. Nobody knew. I did, though.

The point of altering your perception and learning to let go of regrets is to remind yourself when you are in the next situation where you can make a difference, seize opportunity round the neck and don’t let go (do not do this when referring to your significant other however, it can cause breathing problems and lead to arrest and possibly divorce.)

All my problems growing up were personal to me; they were not emblazoned on my forehead for the world. School friends didn’t know my fears about fitting in, those fears were inside me. I can silence any regrets knowing that the person that I was then is truly not the person I am now. Mistakes made are in the past, opportunities missed are gone forever. Choices made are non refundable. I was an awkward nerd at school and nobody knew. Its not who I am now, but it made me who I am now. So as they say, ‘Je ne regrette rien’ – I regret nothing.

Balancing your time between kids partner and work

Mum. Wife. Lover. Cleaner. Friend. Musician. Dishwasher. Therapist. I have many titles, and it is my life’s mission to make sure they are all fulfilled. I am analysing the balance between these functional areas of my existence, and I am realising that there is no balance. I would even say some of the jobs have fallen completely by the wayside. Plate spinning would be easier, but I don’t have time for a new hobby. So how can I fit it all in? image

Last December. That was the last time I went out with my husband for what the therapists would call ‘quality time’. It is now August. Some would call that an emergency. Between the school runs, the nursery timetable, the nappy changing and our work schedule, we have forgotten we are married and in love. Whoops.

My husband’s family are visiting for the weekend. In an effort to fix our social situation, me and the Mr decide to pop out for an hour together while we have the chance. At ten past eleven that night we are just about ready to go. Ten past eleven.

Now, ordinarily, if I was in my twenties (pre- children) that time of night would have been the start of a great evening out. Drinking, chatting, enjoying the music, talking about your plans, dreaming about where your summer holiday would be spent. Unfortunately when we are not working, ten past eleven usually means it is time to put the cat out and wash my face masque off.

Where did it all go wrong? When did I get so old? Shouldn’t I be bouncing off the sofa rearing to go? Get up!, my inner conscience shouts at me. Motivated by fear of old-age, I put my best foot forward and step out the front door with my equally confused husband.

We arrive at a local beach cafe, where the sound of Shakira is blasting out of an ancient broken speaker, making her sound like a small dog barking for dinner. I stare belligerently at the waiter, willing him to turn it down as we play musical chairs, trying to find the quietest place to sit. It is only after three table changes that it becomes clear that the quietest place is in the car. Determined, we seat ourselves by the door, midway between Shakira and the sight of sea and its crashing waves, the only element of romance we may be able to manage. It is freezing. I realise I didn’t put on my coat. More evidence of my un-preparedness.

I look around at the guy with his friends, the table of girls enjoying a glass of wine, the odd couple on a date. These people don’t have children. They look too awake.

We are approached by the waiter, who looks slightly scared of us. We probably look like we are having a fight, me strapping my cardigan to myself tightly, body language giving off ‘don’t talk to me’ signals. Husband asks for the menu. It’s been so long since we were out we don’t even know what to order. Look at the price of a beer!, he says. We are on a diet, I reply. We flick straight to the tea and coffee. How rock and roll.

Ah! I will have a brandy, I announce. That will warm me up. My mother drinks brandy. I am turning into my mother. And a coke. Diet. And a plate of potato wedges. What? No brandy. No potato wedges. Only normal chips. Ok. Husband agrees on everything I just said. So we sit, a short time later, with two diet cokes and a plate of chips. We finish the chips in 0.2 seconds. If it is possible, my coke from a can seems flat. A bit like this evening. After what seems like forever, I ask what time it is. Husband looks at his watch. It is ten to twelve. We have been out for forty minutes. We slink home, defeated, full of soggy fries.

The following morning I wake, utterly refreshed. How is this possible?! My wonderful husband has left me in bed. It is one o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. I can actually open my eyes with out un-sticking them first. He looks exhausted. Thank you thank you thank you, I say. I jump out of bed, and the minute my foot hits the floor, the invisible gate keeping the children out evaporates. Mum! Wahhhh. Mummy! Miaaaaowwww. Big one, little one in walker, followed by middle one with cat. I am half tempted to crawl back into bed.

Husband looks at me earnestly. Tiredness shines out of him like a moonbeam, and a still warm bed is calling, but breakfast time looms. We file like a carnival procession into the kitchen. Both of us eat boiled eggs and stare into the abyss. The children squawk at each other using their forks in a game of table sword fighting. Little one throws his cheese on the floor. Middle one drops his toast face down on the rug. Big one gives report on basketball earlier that morning, and announces he has lost his trousers. Fabulous.

That afternoon I manage to complete many of my tasks, including the ironing. Like a warrior, I brave on until the end of the day, armed with a new energy from the extra sleep I was awarded. Another weekend is over, the uniforms are ready, shirts ironed, and children bathed, all sleeping soundly. The clock strikes twelve. Here we go again.

When did weekends become like this? Aren’t we supposed to go out for the day, smiling, holding hands, eating some lunch? Exploring some forest somewhere and

picnicking by a river. Playing some game on the carpet in the evening while the music plays. Maybe some interesting chat after dinner with the big one while the little ones play happily, singing to themselves. You have got to be kidding. Our days run quite differently. Screaming, yelling, followed by crying, crash bang wallop, breakfast, playing, tidying up, lunch, more tidying up. And that takes us to about two in the afternoon. Imagine we are planning to go out after that fiasco is over. Coats, bags, nappies, bottles of milk, trapped fingers, missing shoes. Don’t get me started on how long it takes to get them all in the car. Anywhere we want to day trip to better be open till late.

During all of this, Husband and I barely have time to use the bathroom, never mind have a conversation. Every attempt to talk comes with a soundtrack attached to it. Minus a volume button. Later, we will see exhausted grumpy little faces, yearning for bedtime, even though they don’t want to agree that they are ready. All in all, a day out seems like slightly less fun than pulling my own tooth out.

Whatever you do , if you have even just one child, raging against the machine of life is futile. You just have to go with it. You are happy, you just won’t know that you were until you see the photographs years later. You want to get married, be happy, have kids, love your job, yet you just don’t seem to be able to do it all. So what is my recommendation for a solution to truly balancing time between your kids, your partner and work? Time travel.

The social network….A closed book?

Look into my eyes. Closely. Can you see me? Can you see who I am? You know me, don’t you? Here is my close up. Nothing to hide. Everything on show, for whomever I choose to add to my friends list. Or, if I like I can create a special list for people that I imagedon’t want to see my photos, or my private postings. For those I wish to keep at arms length. If I so wish, I can even block or report someone, maybe that ex boyfriend or that girl I didn’t really like in my teens, when I was so worldly with knowledge of who she really was. 

For the last seven years, I have had an active Facebook account. Living abroad from most of my family and friends, in the beginning it seemed like a cool easy way to keep in touch with people, without the fuss of licking a stamp or running up a large phone bill, neither of which were popular methods of mine. I would get friend requests regularly, and every time, I would feel a little bit of excitement upon acceptance, ready to take a peek into the world of another long lost friend or acquaintance, their life on display for my perusal.

As the time wore on, over the years the friend requests dried up, after all, you can only add or accept so many people. Even if you are the most popular person, eventually the list will reach an end, and you will be down to adding or accepting those you have recently met. Your voyeurism will be sated, having filtered through all of the pages, showing birthdays and family events irrelevant to your life, weddings and get-togethers that you never attended, personal pictures of those additions that you never dreamed you would be party to.

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Too much social media can be bad for you

So you are done adding people and accepting requests. You’ve caught up on everyone and their lives and what they are up to. And then what? In order for Facebook to work for you, other people you know and are actively involved with in your life have to be using it too on a regular basis. Which is fine if they are. Maybe your job involves posting status updates, or your company actively uses it. Maybe you advertise with them for business. But in my case, those people close to me just weren’t using it for anything other than day to day stuff. So my activity level went right down to looking at the news feed which seemed sometimes amusing but mostly irrelevant to my daily life, and then writing something semi useful slash amusing on my status to be read by a handful of people, who by now, thanks to the like button, didn’t even have to make the effort to write anything back. They probably didn’t have the time either.

Facebook takes all the effort out of everything. It is no wonder the male of the species is not romantic anymore. Not only have they probably seen a picture of you in your bikini before a first date, they don’t even have to call you to let you know they are breaking up with you after it! They can just alter their status to let you know. How many Facebook crimes have there been? How many tragedies have unfolded so far? I read not so long ago about a young boy who killed himself, and his final statement was on his Facebook account. Instead of stopping him, people commented. One person even pressed like. How many parents are worried about what their children are doing online? How many of them just allow it so their child does not feel left out? How many really sit down and actively check what is on their children’s page? The age limit was 13 plus up to a short while ago. How many children broke that rule? How man parents allowed them to break it?

The shallowness of it all began to get to me. With every new day checking my home page, I began to feel like I did at high school. Unpopular and useless. What? I hear you say. Isn’t that a bit childish? Yes, I suppose it is if you look at it that way. But my high school days were a nightmare. The same ‘friends’ that ignored me then were now ignoring me on a daily basis during my adult life. They were having more exciting lives than me. They were going to events and parties that I would never go to. I sat, a spectator to others’ lives. And I was not happy. I used to feel the same way at school, always trying to keep up, but never quite managing. If I felt that way, how was a young person supposed to cope with their feelings about it?

So as the world watched over the last weeks at the Facebook shares nose-dived, I persevered as my interest in continuing with my account did the same. Could I survive without it? Was it necessary to my life? Would I miss out on anything life threatening? What did I do before Facebook?! My head was hurting. The only way forward was to activate myself. Or deactivate, as the case may be.

It has been a week now since I closed my account. And how is it going, you ask? I am spending less time staring into space. I am thinking more about what I can do with my time. And I feel more elusive. I no longer feel the urge to post up every single picture in my camera. I do not write status updates, detailing my day. If someone wants to know how I am, then they can just go ahead and pick up the phone. Then I will really know how long my friends list is. Less Facebook, more phone book, address book or, shock horror, maybe even a handwritten letter. Did you know this week in the news there was an article that stated that thanks to technology, most adults don’t handwrite anything for as much as up to six weeks at a time. Now that can’t be good.

I would like to point out however, that I do believe there are also amazing things happening on the social network. Things that we would never have known existed are brought to our attention, shared by millions. Cruelty to animals, crimes against minorities, reports of abuse, family tragedy, even death. For the information it provides, it should be applauded. But then what?

Let me examine the choices. You receive a link, or a recommendation via a friend, or maybe a friend of neighbours’ auntie’s husband’s dog walker’s cleaners’ mother in law’s nephew whom you met three summers ago on a holiday night out when you were drunk at that bar you can’t remember the name of. Oh, yes, of course, you remember now. What to do, what to do. The link is to some heart rendering tale of woe. It urges you to support a great cause, but you have to go out in five minutes to the hairdresser/bank/dentist and you don’t really have the time to read it fully, let alone do anything useful. So what do you do? You click like. Oh, how tremendous. Really? What have you really done to save the children? Or support the dying animals? Even if you were great enough to make a comment or share it with your umpteen friends, then what will happen next?

Let’s face it, if you are the kind of person that makes a difference, a real difference to important causes, then you would do something real about it. I am afraid that Facebook is making people falsely believe that they are doing something about these problems. Simply sharing something is not enough to change the problem. Remember Joseph Kony? The African warlord that Angelina Jolie, the famous American actress decided to splatter information about all over the internet and social networking sites in order to create greater awareness of his atrocities. Millions of people watched in horror at his appalling story of hate. Yes, they watched. And they commented. And shared. But despite the famous names involved, despite millions of bleeding hearts, he is still out there, murdering innocent people and creating havoc in his country.

But here is what I think. Imagine if all those millions of people stood up at exactly the same time. The world would move. Great things might happen. But unfortunately, no matter how much we want it to, sharing and watching is not the same as doing something. What use are sites like Facebook if it accelerates only passive activity?

No doubt in a couple of weeks I will revert back to using my facebook page. But hopefully when I do I will have gained some space, and a little perspective. Real issues and relationships are touchable. Life is three dimensional, not 72 dots per inch. So if you are really worried about what your child is doing on Facebook, turn off their account. If you really want to connect with an old friend, go and see them. Call them. Have a real conversation. If you want to share your life with people do it in a deep way, not just on the surface. Go and climb a mountain for charity. Motivate the people around you to do something real for the communities around them. Put the face in Facebook. And if you have one, tell your child to put their face in a real book. Education is power. Power to the people. And that is something I can like.

24/7 – how much time is too much time together?

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The glue is strong with these two

Someone once asked my husband when we first got together how he managed to be with me twenty four hours a day. At the time we were living together, working together, I was pregnant and we were stuck together day in and day out. His reply was he wished there were twenty five hours in the day. The someone looked back at him in disbelief, thinking to himself no doubt that it must be a lie of the kindest proportion, seeing as I was standing right next to them at the time.

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Here comes the bride, seven and a half months wide

Whenever you read an article in a magazine like cosmopolitan, or glamour, or even vogue these days, the whole issue seems to be packed full of articles such as how to live without a man, how to be alone, how to get over him, how to know if he is cheating. These are just some of the titles you can enjoy whilst eating lemons as a single woman these days. Not only have we surpassed feminism, we have now entered full on man is unnecessary stage. These days you don’t even need a man to get pregnant (well not in the same room as you anyhow, he has a small job there somewhere). Don’t misunderstand, single is fantastic, if it is your choice. Trying to make yourself feel like you don’t want to be with someone, if that is truly what you want inside; not so great.

When a couple decide to spend their life together, that’s what it means. These days, it seems however that we must have prescribed girls nights in, or lads night out, pre-wedding it is no longer enough to have a hen and stag do. Now you are expected to ship out to some well known holiday destination, same sex only, to indulge in your last few moments of ‘freedom’. Like marriage is some kind of prison sentence. For some maybe, but if you have chosen right, it shouldn’t terrify you when you think of being with your other half for more than a day at a time.

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Oi, Mum! Dad says he wants a divorce and he wants it snappy.

My parents were married for thirty one years, and divorced there after. Weekdays in our house were usually fairly uneventful, however the weekends were always the same. My dad worked all the time except for Sundays. And Sunday was not the day of rest. It was the day of give it a rest. Follwing a full day with the family (mum, me, my two brothers and the dog) without fail Sunday would end with my dad walking out around six and slamming the door, finally having enough of all of us. He just didn’t want to be around. Us or my mum. Even though they were married for a long time, it was apparent to me (and them, obviously) that my parents were unhappy together for a long time. The business of day to day life was merely presented an excuse to not be together other than when it was necessary. Every family excursion or holiday was ruined (I may add we were rudely interrupting my father’s habit of being extra maritally busy with other ‘ladies’, a fact that came to light after the separation). He would pick a fight, at random, have a rollicking argument practically with himself, blame everyone around him and scare us all half to death slamming doors and packing suitcases, announcing we would be leaving in the morning. This was all because he didn’t want to spend time with us. He wanted to get like Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel. He wanted to be Alone.

Following my awkward childhood of knowing my father didnt have two words to say to me, I outdid myself in my teenage years and I yearned for the Romeo and Juliet love story to come into my life. I couldn’t wait to be the antithesis of my parents. I wanted obsession, adoration, submersion. As you can imagine, to any prospective suitor that would be terrifying. But I pursued my dream. I wanted to be under someone’s skin. When the going got tough, I wanted romance to be enough to tough it out, so I could finally reach the conclusion that love conquers all.

This conclusion is only possible however, if you are totally yourself. Of course, someone can only fall in love with you if you are brutally honest. This took time. In friendships and love matches, we try to meld to our target, seeming like we are one and the same, two peas from a pod. Being yourself only comes after you have tried being a few other people. Most youngsters try on a few different stereotypes before they meet themselves in the mirror. Some people get it right quickly. They are those ridiculously self assured successful people, who become rich/popular/famous/dead by accident aged 27. I am not one of them. Some of us are still looking for who we are. I am not one of them either, thank goodness.

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Finding the right fit is important

After much soul searching and many mistakes, I arrived at myself around the age of 28. When I knew what I liked and didn’t like. When I realised what I really wanted, and was able to admit when I was/had been an idiot. I decide to be forever honest. Which I am, much to the occasional disgust of my Husband. If I am bored, I tell him. If I don’t like what he says, I tell him. If I disagree, I tell him. I think you get my point. Some may call that mouthy. But I tell you, if i didn’t behave exactly like my real self, life as I see it would never work. I couldn’t bear to be anything but myself. Otherwise, who am I?

And I think that is what people are afraid of doing. Speaking the truth and being themselves. I used to be a yes person. If someone asked me something, my answer would always be yes. I didn’t want to look unhelpful, or unkind. I wanted to be liked, loved by everyone. And all that got me was used. Or tired and miserable. Both in personal and love relationships, even with family members, I spent years being somebody I wasn’t, just to please. And that was basically what I had seen those I loved doing around me. So I just thought it was ok to be like that.

It wasn’t until I met my Husband that I stopped being like that and started being myself. After unsuccessful relationships, in both my love life and work life, I was at the end of my rope. I wanted to be true to myself. And because I was, he knew exactly what he was getting into. And he liked me for who I am. We married under no illusions. When there is something wrong we shout at each other. Sometimes I throw things. It is very cathartic. He smokes. We brood. But we do it together. When I feel like I hate him, I tell him. Because I love him enough to tell him. And he loves me enough to hear it. When I drive him crazy he lets me know. And I agree that I am crazy. Even the most furious arguments we have are usually ended because one of us can’t help laughing. Because being angry is tiring. Life is tiring. The best that we can promise ourselves, is to be ourselves. Don’t settle for what the other person wants because of fear of getting hurt.

Because if you do, you’re already hurting yourself. That isn’t healthy and you know it. If you can’t be with the person you have chosen to be your life partner every minute of every hour of every day, the you don’t have enough in common. The love isn’t enough. And if you need any proof of that, imagine yourself at eighty with that person. Retired. Arthritis. Alzheimer’s. Cancer. Or even perfectly bloody healthy. What ever the circumstances, both of you will more than likely have a quiet life. And that will be after spending a lifetime together.

These are the only disguises in our relationship

These are the only disguises in our relationship

If that scares you in the slightest, you are not being honest with yourself about who you are and what you want, and you are spending too much time with the wrong person. Till death do us part is not part-time, ladies and gentlemen. And with that, I’m off to do a crossword while my husband falls asleep in front of the TV. And I’m very happy with that, thank you.

The Green-Eyed Monster – How to work through Jealousy in relationships

I suppose when we think of jealously, we think about love relationships first. But there are many other forms of jealousy in our lives, and some of them less obvious than others.
According to the famous English dictionary, the word jealous is classified as unhappy because someone has something or someone you want, or because you think they might take something or someone that you love away from you.  

ImageVery closely married to jealous is envious, which is wishing you had what another person has. Honestly, I think we can all say that we are guilty of that one, myself included. How many times I have wished that it was me that had won the lottery, or that I had the perfect skin like that model in the magazine. Its natural to feel envious of others in life. But how we respond to those feelings is the most important thing. To feel genuinely happy for another fortunate person is not an easy thing to do.

Sometimes people ask me what I think of other musicians and singers. I always try to keep my answers as neutral as possible, so as not to appear jealous or envious. After all, people thrive on the fact. Giving an honest opinion is one thing, but being believed is another. The classics could be, “does my bum look big in this?”, or “do you think my husband is handsome?”. We almost covet a jealous answer, so as to make us feel higher in the stakes of life, knowing that our lot has other people watering at the mouth. And even after we get an answer, do we truly believe it? Do you really believe your neighbour likes your hair? Do you really think your friend is pleased that you got promoted higher than her? Is your husband really happy about the attention your give to your newborn baby? Jealous feelings can pop up everywhere, when you least expect it. And learning to feel happy for people’s fortune is difficult.Image

Bette Midler, the famous American actress and singer once said, “The worst part of success is to try to find someone who is happy for you”. Never a truer word was spoken in my opinion. The more music I make, the less friends I seems to have. The less hands that are extended to help. Now, maybe it is me, but I think I’m the same person, just more successful than before. And when you are more successful, it gets on some people’s nerves. And there lies the jealousy. How sad that people can not be happy for each other as they progress. Wouldn’t it be a nicer world to live in if we were? Hang on, now I sound like I want world peace. That would be great, by the way.

You can’t build good healthy relationships in your life with this kind of jealously lurking beneath the surfaces. People need solid answers, full of honesty, in order to progress forwards.

A few weeks ago, I was in the hairdressers. Chatting pleasantly with a not to be named manicurist, I happened to mention that my music was on Facebook, if she wanted to have a listen.

“Oh no,” said she. “I don’t have a Facebook account. My fiancé won’t let me. He’s very jealous!”

After checking if it was actually 2012 and not the dark ages, I found my reply difficult to pull together into a sentence that didn’t include “dump him, and do it immediately”. I struggle to understand why a person would want to be with another person that feels the need to control what they do to that extent? Surely if a person needs that much controlling then the relationship is not based on the right foundations in the first place, and doomed to fail.
After all, you should be able to live your life freely, doing the things that you love and desire to do, whilst at the same time enjoying your time with the person who appreciates you for who you really are. Choosing a person to be in your life who is jealous of other people being around you, jealous if someone talks to you or jealous of how you look is a sure fire recipe for a challenging life.

When I expressed my concern to the aforementioned manicurist that was deemed acceptable whilst not being intrusive, she replied,”its not just him, I am very jealous too, I don’t like him going out without me. I don’t like other girls talking to him. He is very handsome.” I presume she thought this justified everything. On the contrary, I began to think she was a bit mad. I had got it completely wrong, imagining the fiancé to be to blame; but no, this was a match made in heaven! All they needed for the rest of their lives were matching bags to go over their heads whenever they left the house, and they could stay together forever in perfect jealous harmony, neither of them looking any other direction other than north, lest they should cast eyes on another human being. What a way to live your life. How difficult day to day activities would become. A trip to the supermarket would result in a question and answer session, a genera convention style discussion, a soothing of feelings. What a palaver. Desensitise my darlings, before life gets you.

In my humble opinion that is not love. That is control. Maybe some people are happy to give control over to their partners, but for me, this is next to Hell. I love and respect my husband but I am also a person with moral values and beliefs. And the word respect is extremely important to my point. If you respect someone, and they in turn respect you, then there should be no need for control to be an issue. Fear and ignorance, and lack of understanding, they are the things that contribute to jealous behaviour, and none of those things are very pretty. After all, can you imagine, if you are the jealous kind and you are asked to write an advert for yourself. It would go something like this,

‘Single woman seeks eligible man with view to marriage. Must not look at any other woman, ever. Must not have Facebook account, or mobile phone with security lock. Must be where he says he will be at all times, and must have no female friends. Must like walking in the dark, shopping with his eyes closed and watching tv with the sound down. Must be handsome, but not too handsome, in case anyone else is looking. Bag on head preferred.’

As the dictionary definition pointed out, jealousy is unhappiness because someone has something or someone you want, or because you think they might take something or someone that you love away from you. But if you notice, all these feelings come from inside yourself. They do not relate to the other person. They relate to your own fears, fear of rejection, of not achieving, of getting hurt, of being alone, of not being special. It is most important to understand that before you can be happy in any kind of relationship, you must be happy with yourself. Otherwise you will never quite believe you are enough, and jealous and envious will become your only close friends.Image

Confidence. That is what we need to combat jealousy in our lives. The confidence to believe in ourselves, to know that we deserve the best from the ones that love us and share our time, to know that we are supported in our choices. After all, if someone truly loves you then they can only be happy for you, not jealous. There is a big difference between those two things. And in that way we can truly focus on what we have to offer, filling our lives, rather than being empty, and having time to focus on the negative. Jealousy isn’t one of the seven deadly sins for nothing.