Unmet expectations.

I was 20 years old when my mum turned 50. We lived in different countries and saw each other twice a year. But I still clearly remember the email she sent me on her birthday.

In her email, she spoke of not being who she thought she would be by 50 – it’s not my story to tell, but it was a lament to not having become all she expected to be. And her words have swirled around my mind each time I reach a milestone, or hit a wall in which I wonder when I will be ______ enough.

I think we expect to start feeling like a grown-up by a certain point; to reach an age or milestone that is it. But as I get older, and achieve (or fail to achieve) more, I am increasingly conscious that there is no it. There is no end goal – I won’t ever be everything that I want to be, or finish developping.

But I’m starting to believe that’s good news. Life without potential of more sounds like no life at all.

So I guess I have to accept the imperfect me that I am, and understand that despite the many manifestations of me that have been, there are many more to come.

Brew anyone?

When I was in university, my roommate/best friend and I started a tradition. Once a day, usually shortly after our evening meal, we would have a cup of tea together.

Now I live in a culture in which a cup of tea is a standard seemingly every few minutes, but our tea break was different. Our tea tradition had ground rules – the cups had to be lovely (hand made pottery, obviously); the tea itself was whatever weird or wonderful herbal tea we were currently obsessed with; and we were not allowed to talk about uni work, no matter the deadline.

Instead we spoke of our roses & thorns – best and worst moment of the past 24 hours. And then whatever conversation resulted.

Our roses ranged from cute boys to exciting, life changing news and everything in between. Our thorns included broken hearts and empty tubes of toothpaste.

As superficial or deep each one had the potential to be, what it was was sacred.

Even still, more than a decade later, I struggle to take a cup of tea lightly. I struggle to allow what was once a breath of fresh air in my day to become a mundane, forgettable repeated occurrence.

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But then, I struggle to allow anything to be a mundane, forgettable repeated occurance…

The time for hesitation is through…

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I’ve spent a lot of time blaming society for the way it portrays and objectifies women; the magazines with their unrealistic images; and the culture of weight loss fad diets that seem to run rampant. However, I have recently come to a point at which I have been forced to reconsider my views. The truth is, I am a 31 year old well educated, happily married mother of two, and I know better. I know better than to believe that anyone in real life looks as good as the girl on the cover of that magazine. I know better than to believe that there is a magic cure to make me lose that troublesome 10lbs that doesn’t involve moving more and eating less. I know better than to believe that my worth is based upon how many times I am told that I am beautiful.

 

The trouble is, knowing better does not change anything. Herein lies my forced view change: yes all of these societal factors contribute to the problem, but it is about time I stand up and take some responsibility. The truth is that I perpetuate the issue. Recently I sat down and wrote out as many of the negative messages I routinely tell myself on a piece of paper that I recall. Messages about how I look, how I am and what I cannot do, and none of which were difficult to think of. The resulting page was filled with things I would never say out loud; things too mean to ever say about another person; things so familiar I barely know where to start to teach myself to un-think them.

 

But even if tomorrow every glossy magazine stops photoshopping their models, and every fad diet stops promising happiness, perfection and love as a result of a magic cure, I’ll still have a problem. I still won’t think I could ever “get away” with wearing a bikini, or that I am worth any more. And that tragic reality, which I don’t think is unique to me, is entirely my fault. It is my choice to believe these things and it is my choice to daily perpetuate them. It is my choice to base my worth on my interpretation of how I am perceived by others and it is my choice to allow myself to be limited by that. Most dauntingly, it is my choice how I teach my young children what they will believe about themselves.

 

That’s a lot of power and a lot of responsibility. I would love to see the portrayal and objectification of women come to an end; magazines to stop promoting unrealistic body types and images; and the end to diets that wheel and deal in unhealthy endeavours. But more so I would love to see a revolution of men and women choosing to both love and respect themselves. That’s when the tides will turn, because who is society if its not made up of the people living in it?

These days, it doesn’t take much to make me swear under my breath and sigh with exasperation.

It’s easy to see why: I’m trying to do too much in too little time. That, however, was my conscious decision. Short term pain for long term gain and all of that.

Regardless of all of my griping and groaning – I did choose this. I want to work. I wanted to have children. I want to finish my MA this year. I chose to live a life of quality instead of quantity. I think it’s about time the griping and groaning ceased, or at least was quietened to a dull roar.

Everywhere you look you can find platitudes saying things such as “The happy person is the grateful person” and “Be grateful for 3 things a day and you’ll be happy for xx amount of time.” This was the least cheesy image I could find, but if you don’t mind a bit of cheese, there are countless reminders that being grateful can change everything – even if nothing changes.

ImageSo I’m here, and I am grateful.
I am grateful that myself, my husband and my children are all healthy. I am grateful that at the tender age of 22 I chose a man I still think, at 30, is a pretty great guy. I’m grateful that my 5 year old is in a school that can challenge him and identify his strengths. I’m grateful that my in laws are so incredibly supportive, even when they disagree, and they help us out so very much with our childcare. I’m grateful that my boss is understanding. I’m grateful that I am privileged enough to be able to undertake a Master’s Degree. I am grateful that I can go running in the countryside with only a few minutes notice. I am grateful for good friends, even when they are too far away.My list could, should and does go on much longer.

And you know what? I feel a lot better for acknowledging it.

And then there were words.

Within 4 weeks, four people I knew lost their battle with cancer. One of these people was my dad.

So I guess you can understand me when I say that 2014 has not gone so well for me thus far. I guess you can understand me when i say that I find myself in need of restarts, freshness and positive space.

My life, at present, is entirely chaotic. I’m midway through an MA, work part time and have 2 small terrorists delightful children living with me. At times the chaos threatens to envelop me.

But I will get through this. Why? Because there is no other option.
It is all going to be worth it someday, right?
I have to believe it. I have to believe that today is not all there is. That this isn’t as good as it gets because frankly, at present, it isn’t very great.
Instead I look forward. A finished degree. Grief subsiding. The terrorists terrorising in new and inventive ways. New opportunities. Lots and lots of laughter.

The good thing about tomorrow is that it offers everything.

Being this or that.

We all make snap judgments on the people we encounter. It is human nature. For instance, if you were to meet me, you would more than likely assume that I am now (or at least have been) a vegetarian. This is an assumption people have been making about me for as long as I can remember. I am not now, but I was – long after people assumed it. Vegetarianism and I didn’t work out due to my discomfort of putting people out and my then boyfriend (now husband’s) distaste for vegetables. He eats them now, but it was complicated for awhile.

This weekend has brought me to face another set of assumptions. Although my husband, Phil would not describe me as an animal lover, given the choice, I am a dog person. I like dogs, grew up around them, and am comfortable with them. My mother is highly allergic to cats so despite my childhood years of cat obsessions, I’ve developed a distaste for them. I have, I will admit, judged people based on their appreciation of cats. cat person has never been a compliment coming from my lips. It has always kind of been on par with likes pink or listens to boy bands

Except, this weekend we welcomed Ironcat and Spidercat, two black and white kittens into our house. To stay. I’m not in love, yet, but they are funny. I’m digging their appreciation of my children’s car garage.

But what does this mean? Am I to be stripped of my status as a dog person? Do I need to reevaluate my cat person snobbery?

Or can I accept that yes, I’d prefer to be a vegetarian but I currently eat meat. I like dogs better, but cats are ok.

And maybe feline and canine preferences don’t distinguish you as much as I thought.

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A princess is a woman too.

I am a 29 year old woman. I am mother. I have a career that I enjoy. And yesterday I voted.

But today I came across some information that made me wonder how I even have those freedoms. Today I saw an article informing that Disney has decided that their character, Merida, of Brave fame, is not ‘princessy’ enough. So they have changed her from looking this: Image

to this:

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Now I know that in the grand scheme of things this seems like a petty thing to whinge about, but I find it offensive. As a woman. As a mother. But I do not want my boys to grow up in a world that expects even its cartoon drawings of women to appear airbrushed. I do not want my boys to grow up with even their childhood films being filled with sexualized representations of women. I do not think this is ok.

And no, this sexualisation of Disney princesses is not new. I can’t say I have actually noticed before the re-representation of the various characters – I didn’t realize that Cinderella has been remodeled, and that it is a requirement for Disney princesses to have bare shoulders – but I have noticed now and I cannot believe it has gotten this far. So many people I know sighed a breath of relief when Brave came out, because for once we were being provided with a strong, positive female role model to show our children. For once it was not a love story. For once it was not about pretty dresses and perfection. But now Disney are taking away her bow and arrow, taking away her childlike face and pushing this chiseled, thinner, more sparkly option.

You know what Disney? I object. And I have decided I am going to make sure you know it.

You can sign a petition against this if you feel strongly about it: Don’t do it Disney!

Let’s have a chat, you and I.

I think that I am back. But before I settle back in to blogosphere, there are a few things I feel the need to explain.

If you started following this blog when I started writing it, you may not want to carry on reading it. And that is ok. When I last was maintaining this blog I was in a very dark place. I suffered post natal depression following the birth of my 2nd (adorable) child and it took a long time to claw my way back – a long time to find myself again. Part of the journey back involved losing 3 stone (so far) and I am proud of that. It also involved my return to university, to study my MA in Strategic Communications. It is all a lot more complicated than that, obviously, which I may or may not discuss at some point. The point is, however, that there are parts of me now that are unrecognisable to me then and I want to talk about different things.

So I probably won’t be on here posting on recipes, because I rarely cook more than the basic “crap we need to eat something in half an hour” kind of meals anymore.

I probably won’t talk about my kids very much. They do, however, play a large role in my life so that may be discussed from time to time.

Etcetera etcetera.

What I probably will talk about will be a mash of things that I am going through or thinking about. So expect some talk about cancer, because right now my family is going through that. And on occasion there will be discussion about charity, because I work for one and it is important to me. As well as communications, social media, marketing.

But also I will talk about fitness & health, because that is important to me. I began to exercise daily as an effort to lose weight and I continue for my mental well being. I am very interested in nutrition and how it all works. And I have a deep understanding of the issues that “fat” people face, you never lose that despite losing the weight.

And so on.

So if you want to carry on reading, welcome aboard. If you are more interested in craft projects, children and recipes, I can recommend some fantastic blogs that I too enjoy reading.

Until next time (or not)
….

The Ethnicity of a Nomad.

(Be warned, this is a very self indulgent post)

i was a teenager before I met someone else like me, and discovered there was a term for it: 3rd Culture Kid. (I assume we become 3rd culture adults when we grow up?) We are the people who do not belong to the culture of our parents, nor the culture in which we reside. When, as a teenager, I met another 3CK, I suddenly felt at home for the first time in my life – suddenly so many pieces of me began to make sense as I saw them echoed in someone else.

I don’t think this is something you grow out of, regardless of your lifestyle choices as an adult, because it defines you so significantly in your early years.

It defined me; it does define me. When I meet others with a similar background, I still see echoes of myself, regardless of how different our life choices have now become.

I am not Canadian, nor am I British. When people ask me where I am from, I hesitate because it is not a question easily answered. Can you choose where you are from, or only choose a place for your children to be rooted? Can a so-called 3rd culture kid find roots as an adult?

Will I ever stop feeling the need to justify why I still live in the same place, 9 years later?

Fighting back

I used to be fiercely principled about where I would and would not shop, among other things.

Once, a good friend mentioned that it must be exhausting to have so many principles. It took me awhile to realise what was exhausting was to have to deal with mine.

And then I had kids, and had other things to think about with far less (any?) disposable income to spend. So other than my refusal to spend money in Primark, I’ve kind of stepped down from my soapbox.

But the other day I was looking at one of those photos that has gone viral on Facebook about a bookshop supporting charity and Amazon not even paying taxes… And since working in town again, I’ve noticed so many boarded up shops…

And I don’t like it.

I don’t like the fact that T*sco are completely irresponsible and are welknown for underselling farmers and having questionable trading standards.

I don’t like the fact that Primark sells clothes at such a cost that they are disposable, and yet at what cost to those making them?

I don’t like the fact that towns are filled with boarded up shops.

I don’t like the fact that hens and ducks are kept in barns where there is no sunlight or room to move.

But these are first world concerns, despite effecting the whole world. And they are middle class battles.

Sometimes it is exhausting just considering it all.
So where do we start?