Miscarriage

A friend of mine suffered a miscarriage. The following features the reactions of those around her. I admit I’m appalled, and dismayed, and just a little bit bewildered; not because I can’t begin to even know how something as sad as this feels, but more about the crappy behaviour of people who are meant to care.

So there’s the first judgement. I make no apology, I believe in calling shit out, and where behaviour has been unkind, thoughtless, or just plain insensitive I see no point in pretending it’s anything other than unacceptable.

Maybe it’s because we Brits are so buttoned-up emotionally, or completely hopeless when encountering the death of someone close, who knows, what I do know is how never to react to a woman who’s experienced this sad event.

Let me describe 

  • Never cross the street to avoid her
  • Never fake having seen her by keeping your eyes averted
  • Never ‘don’t mention it’ in case it upsets her
  • Never change the subject if she wants to talk about it
  • Never just ignore it ever happened
  • Never offer platitudes i.e. you’re young enough to start again, it’s God’s will, it’s not your time, it’s probably for the best, there was obviously something wrong with it …..
  • Never start your sentence with “at least”. Compassion rarely starts with the words ‘at least’
  • Never compare her loss with the death of your cat/dog/hamster/rabbit. It does not help
  • Never ask if the doctors have discovered something wrong with her ‘baby bits’

And so to end on what to do –

  • Send a card
  • Send flowers (or something more personal and thoughtful if you know them well)
  • Call her – reach out
  • Give her space to talk
  • Allow her tears
  • Sit with her pain. Do not seek to remove it, diminish it, or fix it
  • Be present
  • Be honest (if you don’t know what to say, tell them exactly that, it’s OK)
  • Be kind

 

 

The M-word – Menopause

Nothing could have prepared me for the profound impact of the menopause. The all-encompassing effect was certainly not something I’d anticipated.

I know I’m not the first, or indeed the only, female to have experienced this hormonal Armageddon; the surprise was due to my own ignorance (or, more accurately, arrogance). I’d assumed the menopause would be different for me. I naively assumed that as I’d coasted through the menstruation years (that’s a whole separate blog) I’d do likewise with the menopause.

This is just how my logic works, (or not as it turns out), I figured it would be a breeze and that I’d be immune to the ravishes and destruction of the menopause. BIG mistake

 

Having come out the other side of menopause I’ve found a sense of liberation in accepting I have absolutely no control over anything.

I recall a visit to my long-suffering GP where I sat and cried, nah wailed, proper snot and tears stuff, because my body had changed shape and there was naff all I could do about it. I was killing myself with combination of near starvation and brutal sessions with a personal trainer (sadistic bastard), all to no avail.

I didn’t like myself very much; I was a living manifestation of the 7 dwarfs of menopause – itchy, bitchy, sweaty, sleepy, bloated, forgetful, and bonkers – and there didn’t appear to be very much I could do about it.

Happily, I’m now feeling less out of control, I’m far more accepting of myself, and I no longer believe I’m going crazy. And do you know? I put this down in large part to my new philosophy of applying the EFF to situations, people, things and stuff; it will either be F*** it, F*** this, F*** you, F*** off – try it. Worked for me …..

The M-word – Men!

This all began with an exchange between my niece and I. Principally laughing at our respective menfolk. Well, I say laughing, more an hysterical-I’m-going-to-wedge-a-blunt-instrument-in-his-head kind of laughing.

Anyway, the question was then posed by my niece “should I admire women who’ve had the courage to say f*** this shit, I’m off! And are they any happier in the long run? And where do you draw the “f*** this shit I’m off line? Why is life so hard?” (technically this was four questions, but she was on a roll and who was I to stop her?)

And so I replied “it’s so pointless the things that really wind me up. Mostly, I’m left seething with resentment, raging against his apparent fuckwittedness, while said male is in his blissful little bubble of ‘man world’ happy and carefree, seemingly oblivious to the fact that I’ve developed pathological levels of anger towards him (which is also deeply annoying. He doesn’t even notice I’m mad as hell!!) I’m the one left feeling like crap. I’m the one having a sleepless night. I’m the one feeling sad and lonely. I’m the one wondering if this is all there is?

I have my own theory on ‘f*** this shit, I’m off to Narnia’ and that is we lurch from one unfulfilling and unhappy relationship to another, looking for the one male who isn’t pathologically irritating, only to discover it’s an urban myth. Like a unicorn, or none-fattening chocolate, and that we should have stuck with the first one and saved ourselves a heap of angst and money.

Why, oh why, is life so hard indeed? I keep being told ‘life’s not all Walt Disney” Well I disagree. In my world every day is Walt Disney, and anyone disagreeing can just f*** off to Warner Brothers!

The M-word Manipulation

Definition – 1 handle skilfully 2 control or influence in a clever or underhand way

Manipulation – it’s so loaded with negative associations, most of which is entirely justified. However, manipulation can also be employed for good as well as evil. Perhaps it’s quicker to start with the ‘good manipulation’, then we can really get our teeth into the evil ……

Effective leadership requires the ability to ‘handle skilfully’ to ‘influence others’ and to have a degree of ‘cleverness’ in order to achieve results and secure futures. I’ve been guilty of manipulation on several occasions during my career, something I feel entirely comfortable with. I felt a responsibility to those around me to encourage them to become the best they could be, and if this meant manipulating them into achieving their full potential (way before they could see it) then this surely has to be a good thing? Positive manipulation is where there is an equal balance of power, a constructive give-and-take as part of the relationship, and the central intent of the manipulator are the interests of the manipulated, with growth, fulfilment and triumph as the primary objective.

Time now for the negative aspect of manipulation, using my own experience of life with a negative manipulator….or, as I prefer to call them, evil, bull-shitting, guilt mongers.

Having survived this relationship, I’ve developed a pretty strong sense of how to spot them, and how to neutralise the insidious effects of these sad bastards. These people aren’t gender specific but they are awfully clever and highly practiced. They’ve possibly spent a lifetime refining their behaviour, and you will have been targeted because of the behaviours you have –

  • they’re great victims – often disclosing deeply personal information to establish intimacy early on. You (and others) often see them as sensitive, emotionally open, and slightly vulnerable. They’re not. In fact, they’re about as vulnerable as a mosquito on meth
  • they’re expert at saying one thing, denying it in the next breath, and explaining everything away while turning it around so you begin to doubt your own sanity – do not fall for their bullshit!
  • they’ll take your insecurities and use them to undermine your self-worth – seek and listen to the opinion of others. The mental distortion they set out to create means you’ll trust their judgement more than your own – resist, trust yourself, and give them a silent f*** you
  • their most potent weapon is guilt – they exploit your goodwill, generosity, conscience, sense of duty, obligation, or protective and nurturing instincts in order to extract unreasonable advantages or concessions – take back your power, be in control, and stop them from exploiting your kind nature
  • their constant focus is on what you’re doing wrong, and what your weaknesses are, concluding with how they can do things better – all part of the devious and abusive coercion they use to gain power over you. Trust your senses and see them for the inferior creature they are
  • they hold you responsible for their happiness, failures, weaknesses – which is deeply ironic when you consider they see themselves as superior to you. We have a responsibility to others, we are not responsible for others (or how they feel)
  • they sulk, or give you the silent treatment to leverage control. Ignore them
  • they play the martyr or victim to wield undue influence. Ignore them
  • they react with sarcasm or humour when their behaviour is called-out, (with the implicit suggestion that you’re a humorous dim-wit for not ‘getting it’). Ignore them

Shutting them down, starving them of attention, disregarding them, and denying them the power they crave, is the most potent and valuable deterrent to manipulative behaviour. Once you’re able to see them for the weak, inferior, and sad individuals they are, the stronger and more resilient you will become. Knowledge is power. You now have the power. Use it.…

The M-word – Mediocrity

I recently received photo of a certificate presented to my great-nephew. It left me totally exasperated by the need to applaud the unremarkable and the mediocre.

Please allow me to explain before sending me to Katie-Hopkins-hell.

My great-nephew is just 3 months old. The certificate was for a Sensory Class Sports Day (don’t ask, I haven’t the faintest idea). I was left asking who’s this for? What’s the point? How did I make it through to adulthood without a sensory class? And am I now officially a cheerless killjoy?

It also reminded me of a school awards ceremony I attended recently. It began well enough – rational awards paying tribute to children in recognition of achievement and improvement ……..

But then it disintegrated into something a little bit foolish. An award for being smiley. One for behaving nicely in class. Another for doing their best…… and so the madness went on. Had it not felt so totally depressing I’d have LOL.

Can no-one see how this need for inclusiveness totally diminishes the currency of receiving an award? Is it not inevitable that this will lead to a deterioration of striving for excellence – there’d be no point, they’re going to get an award either way.

But the saddest aspect of all was the sure knowledge that the children involved knew perfectly well they were being rewarded for bugger all. How demeaning.

Lavishing facile praise upon a child who’s produced something mediocre does little for their confidence ……the child knows you’re giving them a croc of shit, because they know they could have done a whole lot better. I’ve seen it so many times, and instead of building confidence it has the opposite affect …..they lose trust….. in themselves, in you, and in knowing when praise is truly deserved

…….Personally, I blame the Americans…… they give a standing ovation for taking a big breath!

The M-word – Moisturisers

There are an increasing number of modern day phenomenon’s that awaken the grumpy old woman in me. Moisturisers are one of them, or at least the marketing hype and total bullshit which accompanies the sales of them.

I often ask myself do women actually believe this absolute shite? Yet it appears yes, many do. Sane, apparently intelligent women I’ve spoken to are willing to part with huge sums of money in exchange for this elixir and the promise of youthful, glowing, repaired, age reversed, shrunken pores, wrinkle free skin.

Really??? I find it startling that women can be quite that gullible, or is it desperate, that we can be so easily seduced and duped by falsehoods and hyperbole? It’s a f***ing moisturiser for crying out loud! It will not replicate your DNA, shrink enlarged pores, reverse ageing, remove wrinkles, or any other BS claim. What it will do is temporarily plump skin, it will smell nice, it will leave your skin feeling peachy soft, and it has the capacity to leave you feeling a little bit lovelier.

For the record, and in case you’re wondering, I use a facial oil in the winter and a lovely smelling moisturiser on the bits that need it in the summer. I’m a stickler for using face products relieved of chemically derived substitutes, or perfume. This is a personal choice based on an extensive knowledge of skincare ingredients, our anatomy, nutrition, exercise, stress, and other shit that affects how healthy skin looks.

Instinct and experience tells me that there are brilliant, naturally occurring fragrances (personal favourites are neroli, rose, geranium, frankincense, and ginger), many of which have been used for millennia to produce glowing, healthy skin.

Some hints to stop you from losing the moisturiser plot –

  • Apply moisturiser where and when you need it – if it ain’t dry it doesn’t need moisturising
  • Remember to moisturise your neck and décolleté (the boney bit below your neck and before your breasts) – from an ‘age give away’ point of view these are the first to shrivel like a prune
  • Use one with an SPF ……..yes, even in winter and dull days. Check out those with natural UVB filters such as minerals zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or propolis, walnut derivatives, or alder buckthorn
  • Be smart – it is a moisturiser not a miracle in cream form, irrespective of the claims made or whichever beauty editor/celeb is raving about it
  • Drink more water
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid sugar

The M-word Manners

Manners is a subject that falls straight into grumpy old woman territory so it’s guaranteed to see me resort to deep sarcasm and occasional snarling. My theory (of course I’ve got a theory) on the demise of manners is due to a combination of new money, time pressures, different cultures, and shifting values. Please humour me for a minute and I’ll do my best to explain.

New money – we live in an increasingly affluent society, and with this affluence comes a degree of arrogance. The only way I can describe the effects of having money, money that perhaps our parents didn’t have, is that it warps how people see themselves. Money appears to give people a sense of superiority, but it’s a false supremacy. A veneer. And it makes them behave in a deeply unpleasant way, especially to those considered to be less affluent, (generally retail assistants, waitresses, nurses, and basically anyone ‘in service’).

Time pressures – it’s a hackneyed phrase, ‘time poor, cash rich’ yet being busy is used to excuse the need for manners. This habit for everything to be done at breakneck speed seems to have no restraint, and one of the casualties appears to be ending an instruction or request, whether by email or in person, with a please or thank you. It’s almost as though it’s seen as a sign of weakness

Different cultures – now, before I get accused of xenophobia I must explain this view is based solely on my experience, and of discussing this with individuals whose different culture I’m referring to. It’s best summed up in an exchange I recently had “you British. Always with the please and thank you, please and thank you. Why not cut it out and just get on with it like we do”……perhaps it’s a little like the British need to begin sentences with ‘sorry’ ?…….

Shifting values – I was brought up by parents who insisted on good manners. For them it was an imperative, an indicator of style, character, and elegance. Good manners said more about you than your car, your house, or your clothes. It was far more subtle than that. It is my belief that good manners demonstrate a respect for one another, a valuing of our fellow beings. Ultimately it shows kindness.

And like dropping litter, bad manners isn’t something I’m prepared to overlook. I will call people out on it. Currently I use sarcasm to make my point. It’s not big, it’s not clever, but it helps me feel better, and if it makes someone think for a minute then my work here is done ……

My list of the worst offenders on the manners scale are

  • Not saying please or thank you – I will say this out loud for you. And then I’ll glare
  • Not acknowledging when I’ve held open a door, let you out at a junction, or given way to you – I will say “you’re welcome….arsehole” (which is pointless in the car because they can’t hear me)
  • Not saying excuse me or sorry when you walk into me in public – karma will sort you out
  • Interrupting, me or others – DO NOT get me started!!
  • Not sending thank you notes, or an email, or even a text – you will get f*** all else from me

 

The M-word Mourning

 

Truly, I have little in the way of humour to offer you on the subject of mourning – it’s a shitty feeling, and doesn’t really have much going for it if I’m honest. I appreciate it sounds bizarre, but in so many ways I consider myself deeply fortunate to have reached my mid-50’s without experiencing the wretched feelings of loss, grief, and deep, overwhelming sadness. The sense of longing, of utter helplessness, and just desperate heartbreak is something I would happily avoid for the rest of my days.

However, the scars that remain are a testament to the love felt. And if the scar is deep, then so was the love. Eventually scars heal, and what remains is evidence that you were able to love, that you can heal, and that you can continue to live.

This is what I’ve discovered –

  • I’ve discovered how isolating the feelings of sorrow are
  • I’ve discovered the world doesn’t stop spinning just because your heart has been smashed and there’s a hole in your soul a mile wide
  • I’ve discovered feelings of absolute rage towards the injustice of lives that continue around you, while yours has crashed spectacularly and wiped you out
  • I’ve discovered the intense pain you experience through yearning for the impossible
  • I’ve discovered how differently we each experience grief
  • I’ve discovered it has to be got through, it CAN NOT be got around
  • I’ve discovered the snot-filled, tear-stained look is not one I can pull off with any great success
  • I’ve discovered how deeply insensitive people can be, particularly when they don’t know what to say
  • I’ve discovered the British are complete fuckwits when it comes to death
  • I’ve discovered many distant friends and colleagues have no idea of the difference between rest in peace and rest in piece
  • I’ve discovered I can laugh once more ……

The M-word Mistakes

Mistakes are something I’m particularly accomplished at. In fact, I could quite legitimately include ‘making mistakes’ on my CV as one of my accomplishments in life. World-class standard doesn’t even come close. Mistakes in school. Mistakes with fashion (I grew up in the 70’s what d’ya expect?!?) Mistakes with men. Mistakes with jobs. Mistakes with hairstyles (think 80’s perm). Mistakes with friendships. Mistakes with trust. You name it, if there was a way to learn something from making a mistake I would find it.

Throughout this time, I’d been equally accomplished at beating myself up about the mistake. In fact, it’s only with age that the wisdom of making mistakes has dawned upon me. They may not be the simplest way to learn something, they do however, make for a valuable and lifelong lesson. I tend not to repeat mistakes, largely because I have a pathological loathing of getting stuff wrong, but mostly because I hate how it left me feeling; the overwhelming sadness and shame was almost suffocating. All of which was self-imposed.

I was never afraid of saying I didn’t understand something, even at primary school, but I was genuinely frightened of getting ‘it’ wrong. However, I now embrace mistakes and being wrong as part of my thinking and originality (it’s all about perspective after all). I like to think of myself as a work in progress rather than a perfect (and frankly boring) individual.

Sadly, we now live in a culture where the majority of schools, companies, politics, media, and institutions view mistakes as a sign of weakness. As something to be pounced on. A blot on your copy book. A thing to be suspicious of. Which has led to the inevitable risk averse culture, or even more pernicious, the blame culture prevalent today. Many of the conversations I have with young people centre around their fear of making a mistake, to which I ask them the same question I began to ask myself – ‘what is the worst that can happen?’ – rarely are the consequences life threatening, or even life changing. Mostly they concern what people might think of us.

As a wise friend once said to me “what others think of you is none of your business”. Think about it. There is so much truth in this. Add to this the fact that others are going to think what they’re going to think and there is very little to be done about it. If I had one wish (apart from to have thin thighs), it would be to have had this wisdom in my 20’s. The energy and time I would have saved!!

I believe Helen Mirren said it best when asked what one piece of advice would she give to her younger self by replying “use the words fuck off far more frequently”. Bravo! So the next time you find yourself silently obsessing about a mistake you’ve made turn it around and ask yourself only 2 questions –

  • What have I learnt?
  • What will I do differently?

All else is madness.

The M-word Muppets ….on the road

No, I’m not talking about the delightful creations of Jim Henson, I’m talking about the incendiary behaviour of arseholes who appear not to give a shit about others, are just plain stupid, completely thoughtless, infuriatingly selfish, or so full of their own self-importance they leave you (read me, they leave me) foaming at the mouth and ranting like I’m possessed ………now, tell me again, why do I have high blood pressure???

As is my way, I’ve compiled my top 5 worst muppet behaviours –

  • Drivers who flout the ‘must not enter’ law of a box junction, in particular, when they do so knowing it blocks the road for other drivers. I’m convinced they see the highway code merely as a suggestion, as something they can choose to observe depending upon what sort of day they’ve had. The same applies to drivers who block exits on roundabouts, especially when they then don’t have the balls to look you in the eye as you’re screaming at them …….they’re the worse kind they are, fucking cowards
  • Drivers who hog the middle lane of the motorway, doing 60mph, all the while animatedly chatting away to their passenger, oblivious of other drivers. Same applies to drivers who overtake at the last second, believing that because they’ve indicated (at the last second) it makes it OK to drive like a complete knob-end
  • Drivers who park, blocking the road, thereby creating the highway equivalent of Russian roulette as you’re forced to pull around them. Same goes for those who park on the pavement, forcing pedestrians, wheelchairs users, pushchairs et al into the road
  • Drivers who speed through residential, built-up, or narrow country lanes. Clearly they drive at high speed believing they’re playing an Xbox game, or they’re on a scale sized Scalextric. Either way, I will them with all my heart to crash violently without involving any other person, creature, or tree
  • Drivers who don’t indicate. Drivers who fail to acknowledge when you’ve let them out out of a junction (they won’t ever let anyone out as they reckon it makes you weak and a complete loser). Drivers who overtake on bends. Drivers who overtake in the path of oncoming traffic. Drivers who are attempting to apply lipstick/mascara/eye drops/take clothing off/retrieving something from the passenger foot well/off the back seat. And finally, the total dickwads who use a mobile device

This list is by no means definitive, and it is subject to change depending upon what is currently pissing me off. Ultimately, this is about behaviour that directly endangers another person simply because the driver is a thoughtless wankstain. And, although there are laws against everything I’ve listed (or there ought to be) the law is pretty pointless unless it can be enforced.

If you believe in karma then we can only hope and pray with all our collective hearts that they will indeed get their comeuppance, that all of their teeth will fall out, except one, and in that one remaining tooth they have a deeply painful abscess (with no access to a dentist, just to make the curse worthwhile)  …….then my work here will be done.