Category Archives: Personal growth

Say What?!

I’m getting frustrated at the reaction of many of the people I know when I tell them I can’t have the vaccine. Note the word CAN’T. I am absolutely not saying I DON’T WANT the vaccine. I’d sell a kidney to be able to have the vaccine, despite the fact that recent research has shown it is only between 4% and 30% effective at reducing infection from Covid, so theoretically you could still catch Covid and although it won’t kill you it could have a devastating impact on pre-existing conditions like M.E. or MCAS (but that’s a conversation for another day!).

The response I’m getting is that there must be a way around the issue. “Have I spoken to my Consultant and what do they say?” (er, and what consultant would that be? I haven’t seen a consultant in nearly a decade). “What exactly would happen if I had the vaccine?” (I don’t know do I, because I don’t have a crystal fucking ball). They are not LISTENING to me when I say that the last vaccine I had gave me meningitis, nearly killed me and put me in bed for a decade. I am not risking that again, pandemic or no pandemic. I have anaphylaxis to Camomile tea and have spent 9 months in bed after catching a cold – my reaction to a jab which stimulates my immune system beyond all reason is anyone’s guess.

I know lots of people with my triad of conditions have had the vaccine without repercussion. But did these people have a catastrophic reaction to a previous vaccine? Because if they didn’t we are not in the same boat. The same storm, but NOT the same boat.

When did we lose the ability to listen to each other? To just accept what the other person is saying without questioning it or trying to fix it? If my situation could be fixed I would have fucking done it by now. I have not been sick and largely housebound for 27 years for the fun of it. I don’t have allergic reactions to virtually every drug I put in my mouth just to be awkward. I don’t know what’s so hard about accepting that my immune system does not function in the same way as most other people’s.

We seem to have a huge problem accepting that everyone has a different experience of the world. There is almost an inference that I am deliberately making my life harder than it needs to be. I’d love some of my friends and relatives to actually spend 24 hours in my shoes and then they’d know just how difficult my life is, how every single day is spent in fear of having a mast cell reaction and just how little I speak/moan about it!

I just want to be heard without being interrogated. Without someone trying to ‘fix’ me, because if my health problems were fixable I am not stupid and I would have FUCKING FIXED THEM MYSELF. It is beyond arrogant to assume that after a 2 minute conversation with someone that you know more about their life and their issues than they do!

We just need to listen more. Properly listen.

Gratitude

Last night the phone rang. It was my Dad, and being as though we’d been together most of the day and I’d only left him 2 hours before I wondered why he was calling. Then I realized his voice was shaking and I instinctively knew it was bad news. His best friend’s wife had just been on the line to tell him that Dennis had died suddenly that afternoon of a heart attack.
“I just can’t take it in” my Dad told me tearfully “he was so fit and well!” and it’s true. Although Dennis was in his seventies he walked miles up the fells every week, didn’t smoke, wasn’t a big drinker and actively took care of his health. He was also deeply happy, having met his wife 6 years ago after being a widower for some time.
“It just goes to show” I say to my Dad “that you never know the day”.

While we all think we’ll live to a ripe old age, life has no guarantees. Both my cousin and my sister-in-law have had cancer recently and are only in their 50s. I lost a close friend to a vehicle accident at the age of 21 and another to a brain aneurysm in his sleep at the ripe old age of 30. I know several of my blog followers have lost loved ones this year and know all too well how easily our lives can be taken from us. And now we have the Russian roulette of Covid to contend with and none of us know how our bodies will react if we contract the virus. It’s a stark reminder, if one is needed, that we should seize every day and live it to the full.

I’m amazed that so many of us sleep walk through our lives. We get up, we go through the motions, we go to bed and repeat it all over again the next day. The next week. The next month. The next year. It’s not living, it’s existing.

We make excuses about why our days can’t be any different. We have jobs, kids, mortgages to pay, caring duties, health issues and while obviously those things are important they can’t define our existence. We have to find a way to also live our dreams, live our passions and live our best and fullest life – otherwise, what’s the point?

Life is not a dress rehearsal. We will never get this day back and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

I take my dog out for a walk every day of my life. When I set off my brain is always chock full of thoughts, many of which are negative, worry some or stress inducing. I’m tired, my head is fuzzy, every part of my body hurts, there’s a pile of laundry waiting for me on my return and my day is full of responsibilities which feel overwhelming. But as I trundle along I remind myself to breathe. To take in the cleansing air. To relax my tense muscles and clear my mind. To look around and appreciate the beauty I see. And as I continue on my journey I start my gratitude list, begrudgingly at times I’ll admit, but I start it any way! It goes something like this:

  • I am thankful for this day
  • I am thankful for the beautiful place in which I live
  • I am thankful for the peace and quiet which surrounds me
  • I am thankful for the clean air I breathe
  • I am thankful for my dog – he makes me laugh every day of my life
  • I am thankful for my strong body
  • I am thankful for my wonderful mind
  • I am thankful for the medicines which help me
  • I am thankful for the sleep I got last night
  • I am thankful for my warm, snuggly bed
  • I am thankful for my beautiful home
  • I am thankful for the safety I enjoy
  • I am thankful for my parents
  • I am thankful for my friends
  • I am thankful for the love which surrounds me
  • I am thankful for my creativity
  • I am thankful for my financial security
  • I am thankful for my abundance
  • I am thankful for nature
  • I am thankful for bird song
  • I am thankful for the internet!
  • I am thankful for the food I enjoy
  • I am thankful for my strong spirit
  • I am thankful for my riches
  • I am thankful for my life

By the time I get home I’m in a totally different head space and ready to begin my day with joy and passion.

I remember being 23 like it was yesterday and suddenly I am 53 and the intervening three decades have gone by in the blink of an eye. Time is beyond precious and I have made a very solemn vow not to waste it. Do I face difficult challenges? Yes. Can I find a way round them? I’ll give it my best shot. Is my life how I’d planned it when I was 23? No. Am I sad about that? Of course. Can I find a different way to express all of who I am and to live with joy and passion? Try and stop me!

Here’s what I think

As most of my regular readers know, I have had phenomenal success with my photography in the last couple of years. It really took off when I started doing fine art composite work, ie two or more photos stitched together to create a made-up scene, where I was able to express my view and experience of the world rather than taking straight forward record shots.

When I first started in fine art photography I made pretty pictures, usually of girls with long flowing hair in long flowing dresses. I love to celebrate women’s femininity, not least because in order to make it in the world women have to become more masculine and if we don’t we’re simply not taken seriously. For example, we have to wear power suits and little makeup in the work place………. but high heels (what is it with the high heels other than most men love them and we still feel the need to keep men happy?!).

Then I developed into making pretty pictures with stories attached and they did superbly well. But in the last year or so I’ve moved on again and am now producing work which has meaning attached. The pictures make a statement rather than just being something pretty to look at. And they aren’t doing anywhere near as well, despite still being ‘pretty’ and in exactly the same feminine style as my ‘story’ pictures.

This pretty, feminine, but opinion-less image has done really well.
This very similar image, depicting the shackles of a child bride, has done spectacularly badly.

I’ve been at a loss to understand why they weren’t being well received and I think I’ve found the answer. They contain an opinion and to add insult to injury it’s a female opinion. And the public doesn’t like female opinions, particularly when they challenge the status quo.

I have always had strong opinions on all manner of subjects and have often been labelled as ‘opinionated’. I think being invested, excited and involved in the world in which I live is a great thing. But the ‘opinionated’ label with which I’ve been tarnished is not a complimentary one. Men, it seems, can have all the opinions they like but if you’re a women it’s a very different kettle of fish.

Women with opinions are seen as aggressive and ‘not nice’ and God forbid women shouldn’t be ‘nice’. God forbid they should challenge the status quo of a millennia-old patriarchy. The world suits most men (but thankfully not all!) very nicely thank you. They don’t want it to change and they certainly don’t want it to change to suit women. That would be way too scary.

But many women don’t like my pictures either. My art is challenging and often invites change. For example, some of my recent images contain comment on the way we treat our pets (caging dogs is appalling to me), the way women treat other women (female genital mutilation is performed by women on women) and killing animals for food (how can my nation call itself ‘animal loving’ then rear animals with the sole intent of murdering them?). I bet I lose followers after that opinion!

The gallery I joined recently to sell my pictures is curated by women. Brilliant I thought, my images will do really well here! But in nearly 5 months I have not sold a single picture and none of my work has been promoted by the curators. So I studied the work the curators were promoting and it is armchair art. Uncontroversial and lacking in any kind of opinion 😥. For me, the whole point of art is to ‘speak’ to the viewer. It’s not just something to hang on the wall which contains the same shade of blue as my curtains and will look nice above my sofa.

So should I go back to creating pretty photographs which don’t rock the boat or create any kind of negative reaction, but sell well? Hell-to-the-no. I’d rather be skint. I know we like our women placid, polite, nice and opinion-less but tough shit – the universe got me instead 😆.

Boundaries

As a child from a dysfunctional family I have always struggled to erect and enforce boundaries. There weren’t any boundaries when I was growing up. The way any issues were resolved was for one or other parent to go ballistic and start chucking stuff, so I mirrored that in my relationships as a young adult. It doesn’t help that by nature I am feisty. I’m never going to be a calm plodder – I’m way too passionate for that. Finding a way to express my personality, stand up for the issues about which I feel strongly and yet fit in to a society which frowns on emotional outbursts, particularly from women, without guidance of any kind has been a lifelong challenge.

As I’ve aged and grown more comfortable in my own skin, however, it’s definitely become easier. This setting of boundaries is the main reason I refused to stay at my last Camera Club where I was being bullied, and also the reason I refused to keep quiet about the reasons why I’d left. Most people at the club turned the situation around on me, gaslighted me and victim blamed me mercilessly, but I still don’t regret my decision for a second. I would do the same again because this is a boundary I will not allow to be crossed. I was bullied for years at secondary school and will not tolerate that in my adult life or protect the perpetrators which allows them to go on and bully someone else.

Another boundary I refuse to allow is being dominated by men. I had a lot of that in my early adult life and it is not acceptable to me. There is a man at my current Camera Club who added me on Facebook. He’s a Conservative voting, middle aged, middle class, white guy who thinks that his view of the world is the only view and that everyone else is wrong. He’s commented on posts about the welfare state, of which he has zero experience or knowledge, and my posts about women’s issues, again something he has zero experience of living. I’ve also been posting a fair bit on my FB page about the pandemic and the USA election, both of which are important issues of the day, and he has challenged my views on every single post. Within seconds of writing anything he has commented and it’s always to tell me that I am wrong (and therefore he is right) or to post a laughing smiley, basically deriding my viewpoint. Enough was enough when he told my American friend she was missing the point about Trump (she lives in the States and he……..well, doesn’t!) and basically called me an extremist for saying that Trump’s policies on immigration and the rousing of hatred for Mexican citizens scared me to death. I’m not saying that illegal immigration isn’t an issue, as it also is here in the UK, but demonizing an entire population, inciting fear, hatred and ‘other-ness’ is never the way forward.

Twenty years ago I would have flown off the handle and we would have had a blazing row, but I’m older and wiser now. I could have just ignored him, but that wouldn’t have a set a boundary. So I told him “my view is clearly different to your view, but it is a view to which I’m entitled. I suggest your air your views on your own Facebook page, because I don’t have the energy to keep responding to your challenges of my own views on my page”. He immediately replied (of course he did!) but I haven’t read it because you can guarantee it’s not an apology and is instead a comment designed to upset or infuriate me, and he’s now excluded from seeing anything I post on Facebook (I don’t want to unfriend him as I have to see him every week at my Club).

Here’s the thing about setting boundaries that many women in particular struggle with: people often aren’t going to like it. It may cause upset, like with the bullying at my last club, and it might not make you popular. And that’s OK. Your job is to love and respect yourself not to please everyone. The sooner women realize that, the better. I would rather have no friends and tons of self respect, than lots of acquaintances and zero self respect.

It is possible to be kind and loving, as I am towards my alcoholic Mum, but to also have boundaries. There are behaviours that I will tolerate from her and behaviours that I absolutely will not. If she’s acting in a way which isn’t acceptable to me I tell her “you’re drunk, so I’ll speak to you again when you’ve sobered up”. She hates me at the time but it’s that or I just stop visiting.

It’s been difficult to find a way of setting boundaries calmly but firmly, especially when you’re pissed and simply want to tell the person to fuck off, or you want to be sarcastic or derisory. However that simply perpetuates the behaviour of narcissistic people, who feed off conflict. The one thing most people with narcissistic tendencies hate, I’ve discovered, is polite but firm boundaries which leave them with no outlet for their behaviour.

Due to my early conditioning I do still struggle with setting boundaries, but it’s gets easier and more comfortable the more I do it. Have I lost acquaintances as a result? Yes. Do I give a flying fuck? No 😁. It’s very liberating.

The Feels

During the summer, I won the biggest photography competition of my life. I have no clue why I entered. It was an organization I don’t usually have any dealings with and I can’t even remember now how I heard about it, but once I knew it seemed to constantly be on my mind.

It was a global competition with potentially millions of entries. “There’s no way on god’s earth I’d stand a chance of winning” I thought to myself, yet I entered anyway. And the reason I entered was because I had The Feels. Something in my gut told me it was important for me to enter. I knew I’d be amongst the winners, even while dismissing my own intuition as wishful thinking.

I get The Feels about places, events and people. A new couple have moved in to a house next door to me. They are perfectly pleasant and haven’t really put a foot wrong, yet I don’t like the woman. I’ve tried to like her because there’s no tangible reason not to, but I know that there is something about her I should be wary of. I’m not sure what yet, but it’s there. Her husband, OTOH, is absolutely lovely.

We all have intuition, we just don’t accept, tune in, or acknowledge it. But as I’ve aged I’ve learned to trust my gut more and more. It never lets me down, even if I don’t understand situations when they happen as with the bungalow-which-fell-through sitch, which felt absolutely like it was meant to be in my soul.

An old school friend of mine used to say this “what is meant for you, won’t go by you”. I thought when I was younger that this was absolute bollocks, but now I totally get what it means. There’s all sorts of stuff I’d like in life which I don’t get yet which I think I deserve, and all sorts of scenarios which I think should have panned out but didn’t, but the truly important things have always come easily. Chance encounters, unasked for help from unlikely sources, money from nowhere landing in my lap. I haven’t worked for, or looked for, or asked for any of it yet it’s appeared anyway.

My partial recovery is a case in point. For 6 years I spent tens of thousands of pounds trying to get better from very severe M.E. I tried every ‘cure’ known to man, yet none of it helped. Then one day, skint and exhausted from the fight, I decided to simply accept my lot. I was going to be bedridden forever and I just needed to get the fuck over it and live my life as best I could despite it. And that’s honestly when my recovery began – when I stopped trying. Which doesn’t mean to say I just lay there like a blob all day! I still paced, and tried to eat well, and took medication for my sleep and pain and all manner of other stuff but I wasn’t trying to get better, I was merely trying to live my best life within my given set of circumstances. And having done that, the Universe helped me along.

I don’t get The Feels very often. We don’t encounter life altering situations every week, so when I do have intuition about something I listen. The more something feels wrong, or the more it’s on my mind, or the more it feels right……the more I listen. My gut instinct is the Universe’s way of speaking to my soul.

Happiness

My bestie is coming for a visit today. We live about 30 miles from each other and are both sick, so we only get to physically meet every 3 weeks or so, which makes our get-togethers that much more precious. On our last meet up, she remarked that she saw a big shift in my mental health from recent months and asked what had happened. I told her I’d decided I’d been miserable, stressed and negative long enough and had decided to be grateful and happy instead. Simples!

But in order to be happy you have to know what makes you happy. It’s a harder question to answer than most people realize and will be different for everyone. It’s easy to say “if I had more money I’d be happy”, but there are lot of miserable rich people. “If I were married I’d be happy” but there are a lot of very unhappy married people. “If I were well I’d be happy” but there are a lot of unfulfilled healthy people. You get my drift.

So I actually sat down with pen and paper and wrote down what made me happy. Truly happy. I thought about the situations in which I felt totally at peace, fulfilled, passionate, joyful and absorbed, and analysed what it was about those situations which really resonated with my soul.

This is what I learned makes me happy:

  • Being creative
  • Being in nature
  • Getting enough quality rest
  • Sharing knowledge (ie through my blog and teaching photography)
  • Having people in my life I trust and value
  • Eating well
  • Accepting and loving myself (a work in progress every day, especially as my life has been filled with people who have been critical)
  • Living with integrity (I have this word on my bedroom wall so that I see it every single day)

It’s not a big list is it? And there’s nothing complicated about any of it. If I have just one day which contains all these things I feel truly, truly blessed. My health could be really shit on that day, but I can still be happy, joyful and fulfilled. In fact, I am on day 5 of a continuous thumping migraine and was awake half the night with back and arm pain so am tired, but I’m still excited to see my bestie and looking forward with joy to my day 😊.

So instead of focusing on all the things which were wrong, which was why I have felt so miserable in recent months, I am focusing on all the things which bring me joy. And the law of physics states that what you focus on you will manifest.

In ordinary day-to-day life happiness is a choice. My circumstances haven’t changed this month from what they were last month. I don’t have a new home. I don’t have any more money. I’m still caring for my parents. I still don’t have help in the house due to the pandemic. I’m still sick. I’m still single. But I am genuinely so much happier.

Happiness is something you need to work on because it’s so easy to fall into familiar patterns of negativity. I’m not a person who can do meditation, in fact it actually stresses me out, so I use my daily 30 minute dog walk/scooter ride to think. Regroup. Open my heart. Focus on joy. Let go of the bad shit and welcome in the good shit. Change my thought patterns. I’ll also sometimes play inspiring YouTube clips on my laptop while I’m getting dressed each morning, or listen to inspiring podcasts on my iPod while driving the car. They help me bring my focus back to what makes me joyful.

This is the only life we have. Each day is unique and precious. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t want to be happy, but when you ask people what truly makes them happy they find it difficult to answer. And unless you know what fulfils you and brings you joy, how can you focus on achieving it?

The Pep Talk

When everything seems to be going wrong it’s easy to become despondent.  Defeated.  Overwhelmed.  The pandemic hasn’t helped anything and when the very air we breathe has felt hostile and threatening it’s no wonder many of us are struggling.

To add insult to injury, having poddled along in my menopause journey for a good 7 years now and prided myself on doing OK emotionally for the most part, the past 2 months everything has turned to crap and I have become a blubbering wreck.  Nearly all-of-the-time.  And the times I’m not crying I want to wreak vengeance on anyone who crosses my path, preferably by causing them intense bodily harm.  Neither is good for my mental health.

beating shit

So, having allowed myself to wallow for several weeks which we all need to do now and again I realize it’s time now to get up off the floor because it’s not good for my soul to feel this miserable.  I can’t do much about my hormones, so I have to let the guilt of being a raving loonatic go and just be forgiving and understanding of myself even if others aren’t, but I can do something about the rest.  And this is how I do it.  It might not be your way, but it works for me.

1. Happiness is a choice

Twenty years ago, if someone had said that me I swear I would have punched them in the face.  There are times in life where it is impossible to be happy and if you are currently in that place I send you love and hugs.  You can’t be happy in grief, poverty, turmoil, fear, intense suffering or huge loss and no-one would expect it.  If that’s where you are now, simply be kind to yourself.

For me, however, I thankfully live in a space where happiness is a choice.  The question is……………what makes me happy?  Which is a post for another day.

2. Count your blessings

I’ve been struggling to keep up with housework and meals recently, due to feeling ridiculously tired, and it’s got on top of me.  However, 15 years ago I couldn’t even clean my teeth and would have sold a kidney to be able to cook anything.  The fact I can scrub my toilet, hoover my lounge carpet, or change my own bed is nothing short of a miracle and I need to focus more on how lucky I am that I am able to self care at all.  The majority of my M.E. friends from 25 years ago are still severely affected and I should never, ever forget my privilege at being able to function.

3.  Remember the law of physics

I am not religious, but I am spiritual and do believe that this existence is not all there is.  Too many “coincidences” have happened in my life for me to not believe in miracles (for want of a less biblical term) and I truly believe our souls are made of energy which never dies.

I have gone round this year grumpy, whiny, angry, confrontational, judgemental………….and the universe has responded in kind.  I have been on the receiving end of anger, judgement, resentment and negativity and it’s no wonder.  The law of physics states:

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object.” 

In other words, what you give you receive and I need to switch the energy back to abundant, loving, kindness.  It’s not easy when you’re a raging hormonal psychopath but I’m trying and I can’t ask more of myself than that.

4. The Universe has my back (to steal a phrase 😉)

The Universe knows my soul’s purpose and the Universe knows what my soul needs.  Things happen as and when they are supposed to, and in the meantime I just have to keep the faith.

When the bungalow fell through in February it felt like the end of the world.  But it turned out to be a HUGE blessing in disguise, because 3 weeks later we were in lockdown and living in a one room annexe with no kitchen or proper bathroom, on my own in a village where I knew no-one for months on end, would have been a total nightmare.  That the house didn’t go ahead after lockdown ended just proves it wasn’t meant to be for me and the person whose home it has become obviously needed it more than I did.

I do believe we receive signs which give us guidance and point us in the right direction.  Whether we choose to believe them, or just brush them off as ‘coincidence’, is up to us.  This week I’ve asked the Universe to give me a sign on the house situation and will let you know if I receive it.  If I don’t, that too is a sign – that I’m not moving this year and will have to be patient a bit longer.

Update: Less than 30 minutes after writing this I received the sign I’d asked for on my walk with Bertie yesterday afternoon.  I now excitedly wait to see which house is going to become my next home 😊.

5. Offer it up

Sometimes, despite my best efforts, life gets on top of me.  I can’t raise myself up no matter how hard I try and life seems utterly overwhelming.  It’s then I admit that I can’t do this on my own, and offer up my burdens to the Universe.  It’s amazing how freeing that is and I invariably feel lighter.

6. Live with intention

IF YOU WERE GIVEN A WEEK TO LIVE, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

I ask myself this question a lot.  And while we can’t go through life ignoring the dirty dishes, questioning what we truly want and what truly makes us happy and then striving for that every day can only lead to a joyful life.

7. Live with integrity

Which is my guiding principle and a must for my soul to be at peace.

However, I forgot that this weekend.  All my neighbours have been torturing me with their various noise for months and showing me no consideration whatsoever.  So to get back at them I hoovered my car at 9am on Sunday morning with the radio blaring at full volume.  But it didn’t make me feel good.  Quite the opposite.  It’s not who I am.  I’m not vindictive in any way and am always very considerate of other people’s feelings and spaces.  I need to stay true to myself, regardless of the provocations which come my way.

Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” – Oprah Winfrey

Having said that, this doesn’t mean I lie down like a doormat and let other people walk all over me.  Living with integrity also means setting boundaries and expectations for others’ treatment of you, which is why it was important for me to let my ‘friends’ go last week, as neither of them had my best interests at heart.

integrity

8. Know your purpose

I am by nature an open book.  I share my life easily, even the bad bits that most people want to keep hidden.  I believe that part of the reason for the many negative experiences I’ve encountered is so that I can share these with others so they feel less alone and can take strength from the fact that I have not only survived but thrived.

I am also a bit bolshy.  I remember a friend saying to me once “for someone who hates confrontation you seem to encounter it a LOT” and that’s because I will not allow behaviour which negatively affects me or others to go unchallenged.  I will stand up for my rights and for what is fair.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but I can always sleep at night knowing I tried my best.

I do strive every day to be authentically me.  I am by no means perfect, and am always a work in progress, but to quote Maya Angelou:

maya angelou

9. Miracles happen every day

My chances of any kind of recovery from M.E. were 7% and my chances of spontaneous recovery from severe M.E. were zero.   Yet here I am.

In 2008 I had a car crash.  My car flipped twice at speed and was so badly damaged it was written off.  I walked away without a scratch.

In 2011 I went to small, local, rural kennels to choose a rescue dog for adoption.  What are the chances I would find a dog with the same name as my Dad and who was born on my Nanna’s birthday?  The signs couldn’t have been clearer if they’d been written in 6ft neon letters.  And if it weren’t for adopting Bertie I would never have become a photographer.  Speaking of which…..

I live in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  I am chronically ill and spend a minimum of 17 hours each day in bed, alone and invisible.  At the age of 45 I didn’t even own a camera let alone know anything about photography.  Yet in the past year I have won my 10th international gold medal, was exhibited in London, been on the cover of a leading American photography magazine and won a global competition beating photographers from 90 countries across 5 continents without barely leaving my house.  Photography feeds my soul and the Universe has my soul’s back.  Enough said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judge not lest ye be judged

I woke up this morning to the news that Love Island presenter Caroline Flack committed suicide yesterday.  I’m a huge Love Island fan.  Caroline was young, stunningly beautiful and good at her job.  Should she have assaulted her boyfriend?  No, of course not.  But the judicial system was dealing with it.  Despite that, the internet was awash with the Court of Public Opinion.  The likes of you and me voicing our judgement on a situation we knew fuck all about because we weren’t there and don’t know either of them.  Forgetting that, at the end of the keyboard, was a young woman who’d admitted to depression in the past and who was obviously emotionally out of control or she wouldn’t have hit her boyfriend.  And now she’s dead.

The internet is relentless in its judgement on all manner of topics.  From criticizing our politicians, who are also just people, to scrutinizing Prince Harry & Megan’s every move (did we learn nothing from Princess Diana’s life and how miserable we made her?!), to the endless judgements on women’s appearance.  What is the intention of the judgement, I wonder?  What are we hoping to achieve?  And how would we live up to that level of scrutiny?  Have we never made a mistake?  I walloped a boyfriend when I was in my twenties on more than one occasion – did that make me a terrible person?  Or did it make me a young woman suffering from depression whose upbringing had included witnessing physical violence and hadn’t given her the tools to deal with conflict or her own emotions very well?  Would I ever hit someone now?  Not in a million years, because when you know better you do better – I’ve grown and matured as a human being.  Isn’t that what life is all about?

There is a sickening lack of empathy, kindness and compassion in cyberspace.  I find it frightening how vicious most people are and how relentless the criticism and judgement, on everything from poor grammar to a total stranger’s private life, like it’s any of our business.  We use others’ misfortune as entertainment.  As a way of feeling good about ourselves because we would never make that mistake.  I’m not saying we should never hold our politicians to account, or that we should condone violence, but unless we have a specific end goal like righting injustice, or a legitimate purpose for our actions such as outing an abuser, I’m not sure what all the criticism on social media achieves, other than to make us feel superior with no thought to how it affects the person being judged.  I’ll end with something Caroline posted on her Instagram recently – if we’d all been more kind maybe she’d still be alive.

be kind meme

Silence is golden

The older I get, the more people irritate me.  I can no longer deal with fuckwits who think their opinion is the only one allowed, and cyberspace is full of them.  They are right and I am clearly an idiot who needs to be educated like a clueless child.  Just typing that gets my blood pressure up.

I’m having some stressful, worrying issues with the house I’m buying (more on that on my renovation blog) and am on the verge of checking myself into the nearest sanitorium.  One of the problems relates to sewage because new, and confusing, regulations came in on 1st January which affect everyone in the country buying or selling a rural, off-grid property.  Wanting to connect with others going through the same thing, I went on the building forums and found loads of posts about the issue, but virtually all the posters seemed clueless as to what was actually going on.  Trying to be helpful, I wrote about my experience and what I’d learned.

Instead of anyone saying “thanks for that, it’s really helpful” within 30 seconds someone had challenged the post, picking every word I’d used apart.  They don’t know, of course, that I have a brain injury, am dyslexic and struggle to write just about anything, but even so how fucking rude.   I was interrogated about my situation like I was on trial when all I’d tried to do was be helpful.  For all they knew I could be 20 years old and this could be my first, scary house purchase.

It happens a lot online.  You write something and immediately someone disagrees.  You aren’t allowed to have an experience which differs to theirs, or an opinion which differs to theirs without them jolly well letting you know about it.  What is their intention I wonder?  To publically make you look like a dick?  Or to make themselves appear superior?  To try to make you change your outlook to meet theirs?  To change your personality, culture or beliefs so you are more like them?  What’s it all about?  Why can’t we let people have a voice which differs to ours?

I’ve been accused here on my blog of not liking people who disagree with me, which isn’t the case at all.  You can disagree all you like……………..just do it in your own space.  This blog is my space, for my experiences and opinions.  If, every time I post something online someone immediately tells me my views aren’t shared by them, it feels like a continual battleground.  A place where I’m constantly defending my viewpoint or having to explain my experience.  It’s absolutely exhausting and I’m tired enough already.

The Brexit situation springs to mind.  Although I didn’t vote to leave, I increasingly found myself defending the Brexiteers because the Remainers were really, really bloody annoying.  They harped on relentlessly, shoving their viewpoint down other people’s throats at every single available opportunity.  They just couldn’t accept that other people didn’t want what they wanted.  They knew better y’see.  Their take on the Brexit situation was the right one.  The fucking arrogance of that!  In the end,  I stopped sharing my opinion online about Brexit because I couldn’t face being pounced on by the Remainers .  They stifled my voice.  They made me withdraw from the debate.  From society.  They basically bullied anyone who didn’t share their view into silence.  How dare they?!

There are lots of people’s views online that I don’t share.  But unless they are hurtful (racism, sexism, threats etc.), or unless I’ve been specifically asked what I think, I just keep my mouth shut.  We’re all entitled to our own opinions and I’m not sure what my intention would be in telling someone “I disagree with you”.  What am I hoping to achieve, exactly?  At worst it ends in an entrenched row and results in animosity, and at best you both agree to disagree, in which case what was the point?

 

 

Watching for the signs

When I adopted Bertie in 2008 I felt like it was meant to be.  I looked at loads of dogs online in local rescue centres but the signs that he was The One shouted at me loud and clear.  For a start he has the same name as my Dad – I know, freaky!  And for seconds he has the same birthday as my Nanna.  The Universe couldn’t have been clearer if he’d had He’s Yours tattooed on his cute, furry forehead.

I moved into my current house in 2004.  I’d been looking for the right property for 5 lonnnng years, but due to my health problems I had strict criteria.  It had to be within a 7 mile radius of my parents – tick.  Outdoor space but no lawn to mow as I couldn’t cope – tick.  Two bedrooms – tick.  A good sized bathroom with a separate shower – tick.  And I longed for a separate utility room – tick.  But there were things I was uneasy about.  I absolutely didn’t want to live by a road due to my brain issues and need to rest, and this house was literally 4 feet away from the curbside. I’d also desperately wanted a view and this house really didn’t have one.  I would have ummmed and ahhhhhd over buying it, if it weren’t for 2 things: when I’d lain in bed dreaming about my next house, for some reason I simply knew it would contain a sink in the bedroom and tongue & groove panelling in the bathroom rather than tiles.  Don’t ask me how I knew this, I just did.  And sure enough my current house has both.   It’s weird when you think about it, because what house these days has a sink in the bedroom?  An en suite maybe, but just a sink?!  And to add icing to the cake, the postcode for the property is my parents’ initials 😮

Having said all that, I didn’t get the warm and fuzzies over my current house.  It felt like a compromise being next to the road and having no view and even when I bought it I felt a bit flat.  My intuition knew it was the right house for me at the time, but not for all time.   And although on the whole I’ve been really happy living in my little cottage for the past 15 years, here I am moving on.

Like last time I’ve been looking for a bungalow now for 5 lonnnnng years and had said internally to myself that if something hadn’t come up by Xmas I was going to stop searching and try and be happy where I am.  And, blow-me-over-with-a-feather, I had my offer accepted on the house I’m buying 4 days before Christmas – sign number 1.

The house I’m moving to is in a tiny hamlet that I’d never been to in my life before, yet when I drove through it to view the property I genuinely got the warm and fuzzies and a word kept jumping into my mind in capital letters: HOME.  Even now when I approach the village I suddenly feel happy for no reason.  Sign number 2.

I desperately wanted a large room to use as a photography studio and it never crossed my mind I’d find a bungalow with a separate annexe.  Sign number 3.

I have a gorgeous view – tick.  The house is on a slight hill and set well back from the road – tick.  In fact, all those years ago when I was living in town and dreaming of living in the country what I ideally wanted was a detached house with a private, south facing garden, a view and to have space but not be totally isolated from neighbours and as it turns out my Dad knows the neighbour opposite, who came over to introduce himself and seems lovely.  Tick, tick, tick and tick!

We have “gut feelings” about things and voices whisper to us that we simply don’t listen to.  We push thoughts away because our reason tells us we’re being ridiculous, when we really should be trusting our intuition more.  We should take heed of the signs and not poo pooh them as wishful thinking.  As I get older, and more confident in who I am as a person, I listen to other people less and my inner self more.  Which isn’t to say this move will be easy or stress free.  In fact, at 3.30am this morning I woke having a panic attack at what I’m about to take on and what could go wrong and I remember lying in bed on the first night in my little cottage and wondering what the fuck I’d done!  Following our dreams takes courage and a leap of faith but when the signs are there we know everything will turn out OK in the end.