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the birthday letter

I read this in The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday and wanted desperately to share it with you. It is a letter written from a mum to her 3 children on her 40th birthday. There’s some good advice here for all of us!

Hello my very beloved offspring,

Someday when you read this, I will be even more ancient than I am right now. Someday I hope very much to be a crotchety old lady who says wildly inappropriate things and embarrasses you by grabbing your father’s backside in the retirement community where we live. But for now, I’m only 40.

Everyone says turning 40 is a really big deal but I have not found that to be so. But upon this occasion (and just in case I drop dead tomorrow), I thought I’d tell you what my perspective on life is at this particular moment. Then when you turn 40 and start wondering “Why don’t I feel like a real grown-up yet?” you can read this and feel better. Because at least you will realise that your immaturity is in part hereditary. Sorry about that.

Relax, we’re all faking it.
This is kind of a big deal, you guys. Because your whole life — there will always be someone. Someone who you look at and think, did I miss something? How come that person gets to be like that and I have to be like this? Sometimes it’s not just a person; sometimes it’s a whole group of people. I wasted a lot of time thinking that at any moment, those folks would figure out that I was a big fraud and then they would shun me. It’s actually a thing. It’s called Impostor Syndrome and lots of people experience it at different points in their lives. So guess what? Turns out it’s totally normal to feel like you’re faking it. Just do it with good manners and you’ll be fine.

Know what makes you happy.
Here’s what makes me happy: the three of you. What the tops of your heads smell like. What it sounds like when you laugh so hard you might pee yourself. What you’re like right now, what you were, and all the things you’re going to be. Your father — all parts. The rest of our family. Friends who are kind and who don’t get mad at me if I forget to call them back right away. Having a big, silly dog. Also Korean barbecue, aged Gouda, and pretty much any kind of dumpling. I know what makes me happy and as a result, I know what’s important to me. It’s called having priorities and thanks to you, I finally have some.

Don’t invite poison into your life.
Did you ever read something and you were like “holy crap — THAT IS A MOTHERFUNKING TRUTH BOMB”? Terry Pratchett is my favorite writer and he wrote that: “poison goes where poison’s welcome.” You know that’s right. And guess what else? Drama goes where drama’s welcome. Pain goes where pain’s welcome. Betrayal goes where betrayal’s welcome. All these things are going to find you anyway, so for the love of GOD, don’t make them welcome. But you know what else? This thought has a bossy older sister and that sister says “light and love go where they’re welcome, too. SO MAKE THEM WELCOME.” Even when you feel like you don’t deserve them, you really do. And so does everyone else.

Simmer the hell down.
I know that you probably think I’m an unrepentant shrieker. But here’s a little nugget for your bucket: I have never regretted a single time that I kept my mouth shut, got my crazy under control, and didn’t lose my schmidt. But I regret every single time I ever yelled at someone (including you guys). I regret every time I ever unloaded on someone because “they need to hear how I REALLY feel.” I regret saying things that made me feel better for about five seconds until I realised they could never be unsaid. I find myself at stop lights, cringing at things I said 20 years ago. The words that haunt me are not the angry ones people have said to me, you guys. Let’s just leave it at that.

The universe doesn’t give you something without taking something away.
There are a million different ways to say this. Isaac Newton said, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Bridget Jones said, “When one part of your life starts going OK, another falls spectacularly to pieces.” And everyone’s grandfather ever said, “Nothing comes for free.” It’s all true. You get married and have kids? You will get so much, but don’t kid yourself — you will have given stuff up along the way. You want a promotion more than anything and you get it. Then suddenly your whole life is about your job. You will do anything to be with that one person or get that one thing or achieve that next gold star… But getting what you want comes with a price (and you usually won’t know what it is till long after the fact), so just be prepared for that.

Everything that sucks in your life is there to teach you a lesson.
Take your time, but make sure you try and figure out what that lesson is, because it’s always good for you. So when you’re lying prone on the floor, surrounded by dirty underpants and Pringles crumbs, maybe stop sobbing “Why is this happening to me?” long enough to ask yourself “Why is this happening to me?”

Value resiliency and not just brokenness.
There was a time when I was young where I felt damaged and I pretty much only identified with people I thought were as messed up as I was. Because they would understand and not judge me. But at some point, I decided to focus on people who are trying to deal with the junk in their trunk and are trying to make things better. Sometimes it takes a really long to time to do that, I think. And notice, I didn’t say succeed — I said try. That’s the thing about going through shit in your life. You have to try and wade through it because the alternative is just to stand there, neck-deep in feces. There was a time when I could stand by the people who wouldn’t even try to fight their way out, but I can’t now. Because I don’t want to get sucked in. Now I have priorities. Besides, it’s really not your job to fix people. It’s your job to love them while they fix themselves.

Understand the power of an honest apology.
Oh my sweet baby condor, I have screwed up so many times. But I try to admit when I’m wrong and I try to make amends for my mistakes. The thing is, though — you have to really mean it. A disingenuous apology is a very bad thing. It’s a lie, wrapped in bacon. But not the good bacon. The kind of bacon they serve in England, that never gets crispy. It’s a lie wrapped in flaccid, probably contagious bacon. It’s bad.

Gratitude is actually about respect.
I’m not just talking about saying thank you (though saying please and thank you is incredibly important). What I’m talking about is the more Oprah-esque kind of gratitude for the big picture stuff. If you have a family who loves you, if you’re healthy, if you have food in the fridge, a job, health insurance, clean water to drink — be genuinely grateful for that stuff. Be grateful because you are no more entitled to those things than any other human on the planet. And there are millions of good, hard-working people in this world who are desperate for all those things. And it’s profoundly disrespectful TO THEM to take what you have for granted and throw it around like it doesn’t mean anything.

When you’re feeling your worst, when things seem hopeless, there is one thing that will make it better.
Here’s the deal: there will always be people who really need help and there will always be something you can do. So pull your head out of your haunches, get your hands dirty and do some good for someone else. This will remind you of who you are and will help repair some of the worm-holes in your soul that come from seeing and feeling stuff.

You can always start over tomorrow.
You’re going to make mistakes. You may find there are stretches of your life when you don’t like who you’ve become. You may find yourself listening to the Talking Heads and wondering, “HOW DID I GET HERE?” You may forget to go to the gym for about three years. But if you wake up tomorrow and try hard enough to wade through it, you will eventually come out on the other side.

And, God willing, I’ll be there waiting for you on the verandah at the retirement community. With one hand holding a refreshing cocktail and with the other, squeezing your father.

Love,
Your mum

This post originally appeared on Rants from Mommyland by Julianna W. Miner

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realisations of a people pleaser

I’ve been asked to take on some additional responsibilities at work. It’s a chance for me to really shine and show the boss what I’m capable of but I find myself reluctant to take it on. There are a few reasons, the main one being that I have taken on additional work in the past for no reward and ended up sick with stress for my troubles.

Image courtesy of Google

Image courtesy of Google

In the end it won’t be my choice, I will be forced to do the extra yards regardless, at a time in my personal life when I am trying to focus on my health and not get drawn in to work stresses. I suppose I could kick up a fuss, bring up the amount of sick leave I had to take last year because I was worn out and overwhelmed, and I’d probably be able to get out of it. But I know I won’t do that, it’s not in my nature to say no when asked for help.

Once again I am going through the internal struggle of wanting to be the reliable one that everyone can depend on and wanting to run away and hide in a ditch somewhere and be left alone. It makes me wonder, why is it so easy for most of us to say yes to helping others but when it comes to our own needs and desires we are reluctant to make the effort. Why is the hardest person to say yes to ourselves?

I’ve often wondered what makes me such a people pleaser. I think a big part of it stems from growing up with less than my peers and having to make myself worthy of their friendship in other ways. My value has always been in helping others.

I read a great article by Kevin Rush last week about the dangers of people pleasing. Kevin says, “People pleasing behaviours are often rooted in emotional issues that are symptoms of deep insecurities. These people have an obsessive need to please others. They fear loss of personal identity, friends, popularity or approval. They obsess with letting family or friends down and often feel inferior to others. People pleasers fear not doing their best. They feel disappointed when they let another person down and they are in denial about their insecurity”.  Article Source

It’s like a light bulb just went on in my head. I have been in denial for years. I always thought it was about everyone else but really it’s about me. It’s about my own self worth being found in being agreeable to those around me and not wanting to upset anyone. It all goes back to that little girl in the playground at pre-school who was ignored and left out by her peers, the girl in high school who was ostracised for going against the popular group and the young woman who was unceremoniously dumped through a friend at a nightclub because her boyfriend just couldn’t be bothered anymore. It’s all about her and what she can do to make sure she is never rejected again.

It will never be easy for me to say no to the people I care about. The fact is, I want to help, I like to help and I’m OK with my worth in this life being tied to helping the people I love. Perhaps though, I could be a little more selective in the things I choose to get involved in. Maybe it’s time for me to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks about the sort of person I am and to realise that you don’t have to save the world to save yourself.

So now I’ve got my people pleasing figured out, what to do about my obsessive compulsive disorder and control freak tendencies…?

selling the drama

alabama-boy-bunker-hostage-bkng-news-leadLast week in a sleepy rural Alabama town, a young boy was freed from 7 days captivity in an underground bunker. The week earlier 65 year old, Jim Dykes, had boarded a school bus, shot the driver and taken 6 year old Ethan hostage. Dykes then locked Ethan in an underground shelter he had constructed on his property. After 7 days US army troopers stormed the property, shot Dykes and rescued Ethan. Ethan witnessed 2 fatal shootings in one week. Next week on US television Ethan’s mother, Jennifer Kirkland, will appear on the “Dr Phil Show” to recount in detail her son’s harrowing 7 day kidnapping. Not only is Jennifer appearing, but Ethan will also be spoken to by Dr Phil on the program. This little boy who has just been through unimaginable terror will now be put on show for the whole world to scrutinise.

Things are different in Australia but in the US and Europe people go on talk shows to air their dirty laundry every day. We have shows like Dr Phil, Judge Judy, Geordie Shore, The Real Housewives, Keeping up the Kardashians, Jermey Kyle, Shahs of Sunset… and the list goes on. The majority of high rating shows on television today are reality based programs shipped in from overseas. You can’t flick the channel without being invited in to someone else’s personal life.

For some of us it’s a guilty pleasure and I don’t mind admitting that I am obsessed with these kinds of shows (much to my husband’s dismay) and they are pretty much the only thing I watch on TV. But shouldn’t we be drawing the line somewhere? When does telling your story cross the line in to exploiting it?

Image courtesy of NBC

Image courtesy of NBC

I have nothing against Jennifer Kirkland appearing on Dr Phil. I have nothing against her telling her story and explaining what she went through over those 7 days, I’m sure it will make for compelling and terrifying  viewing for any parent. My issue is that she is allowing her son to be part of it. How could you not want to do everything in your power to shelter and protect this child from any more harm? How could a parent think for one moment that allowing their 6 year old child to appear on national television to a global audience is a good idea when they haven’t even had time process what they’ve been through?

I’ve wondered what I would do if it was my child, and I’ve imagined what my mother would do if it was me. There would  be no TV cameras, no media interviews, no Dr Phil McGraw. A simple statement to let the wondering world know that Ethan is safe and doing well is all that should have been considered. What this family needs now is privacy and healing.

I’m sure for now the Kirkland family are being taken care of by their community and receiving worldwide support and messages of love, but how long will that last? The camera crews have already packed up and moved on and next week there will be another headline on the 6 o’clock news and another family ordeal playing out on the Dr Phil Show.

As for the tragic reality TV I love so much, I know that one day the world will tire of watching the Real Housewives get drunk at parties and yell at each other and will change the channel, the Kardashians will eventually reach the end of their very long 15 minutes of fame and be cancelled and the Shahs will ride off in to that sunset in their luxury cars. Eventually they will all end up as tacky TV shows we all used to watch and B grade celebrities no one wants to know.

For these families who sell themselves for television ratings, what will be left when the film cameras stop rolling?

girl brain

We’ve all been there girls. You meet a nice guy, have a few dates, the texts are going back and forth and it’s all exciting and fun but then suddenly, your girl brain gets involved!

Image courtesy of LOVESCENE Magazine

Image courtesy of LOVESCENE Magazine

One of my girlfriends has recently met a new guy and they’ve had a few really great dates. But all of a sudden his text messages aren’t as warm as before, they’re to the point and factual, like when she asked how are you feeling (because he’s been sick) and he simply said, much better thanks (shock horror!). The most frustrating thing for my friend is that he hasn’t asked her to meet up. “I’m always the one who suggests we meet”, she says, “I’m going to wait until he asks me this time”.

Let the games begin!

You would think we would have learnt by now, women I mean, that most men don’t really play games. If they want to see you, they’ll ask to see you, but just because they haven’t asked doesn’t mean they wouldn’t love for you to suggest meeting up. My advice to my friend, if you want to see him, ask him! Why do we this to ourselves? We could all save so much time and heartbreak if we just put ourselves out there in the beginning, were up front and did the asking. The worst thing he can do is say no, I don’t want to see you. If that’s what he’s thinking anyway, playing games and waiting for his text is just going to prolong the inevitable, wouldn’t you rather know either way? You know you’re just going to give in and text him after a few days of not hearing anything anyway.

“But I don’t want to scare him away, I told him I didn’t want anything serious”. Really? If you met a funny, smart, attractive guy who asked for your number and then he text the very next day without waiting the prescribed 3 day rule, would you mind? There is no such thing as coming on too strong when you really like each other (apart from marriage proposals and suggesting babies names on the second date, pace yourselves ladies).

How long before we realise that in these relationship games, we’re only up against ourselves and we’re losing?

To the men out there, please give us a guy’s opinion!! Play games or go for it?

the dread

Image courtesy of howmanyarethere.net

Image courtesy of howmanyarethere.net

It’s that time of the month for me and I am struggling not to let every little thing in the world offend, upset, infuriate or totally shatter me. My poor husband bears the brunt of it, and my colleagues at work take a beating aswell. I’ve tried everything; St John’s Wort, Rescue Remedy, vitamin supplements, Evening Primrose Oil… but nothing seems to keep the monster at bay and once every 28 days or so, she arrives.

It’s usually only 1 really bad day a month, maybe 2, and 2 out of 30 ain’t bad right? For me, it’s not about being angry or sad, confused or miserable, it’s about the lack of control over it all. For 28 days of the month I am calm, collected, polite and helpful and then BAM! the dread arrives and you won’t recognise the haggard, exhausted, puffy eyed, irrational monster crying over the overcooked chicken at the stove at home, or the red faced demon trying to clear the paper jam in the photocopier at work. If you happen to run in to this woman, although she vaguely resembles the Ebby you know, she is not me… BACK AWAY.

I’ve gone through many stages in how I feel about this once a month me, I’ve tried embracing her, denying her, dieting her, yoga’ing her… Of course, in a day or 2 it will all be over and I won’t worry about it for another month but the days will tick by and before I know it, I’ll be crying at the sink again because I’ve washed the pots before the glasses and now the water is too dirty, idiot!

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders about five per cent of women have a severe form of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This can be associated with extreme aggression, anxiety and blood sugar disturbances. It can lead to psychosis, suicide and even murder. So men, next time you want to make a joke about “that time of the month”, remember who you might be dealing with!

Face it fellas, you don’t, can’t and never will understand. Heck, we women don’t even understand it! Just know that we love you, and rest assured that the sister, wife, girlfriend or workmate you know and love will be back in a few days.

 “Women complain about premenstrual syndrome, but I think of it as the only time of the month that I can be myself”.  Roseanne BarrPMS

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