How Much is Too Much?

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These days I see increasing pressure to be a fantastic all round person and it is killing my friends. People are trying to do too much, and it’s not healthy.

[I would like to note that this is written from a female perspective, concentrating on women, simply because this is my own personal experience as a woman. However, this happens to men too, so I welcome comments and experiences from men.]

The 1950’s gave us the modern model of perfect family. A man had a good job and provided well for his family, expected to uphold certain social requirements and maintain networks and look smart. The women were expected to be women who not only looked impeccable, but were also accomplished in many things. They were expected to follow the latest fashions and trends, spending time ensuring their aesthetic portrayed the perfect housewife, they were expected to be good cooks, good at crafts, good at being a mother, good at sports, good at dancing and singing, good at being a wife, good at entertaining, good at being entertaining, good at socialising, good at being a friend, good at maintaining a home. Trying to do it all and be perfect.

We may be in 2017, but this attitude hasn’t left us. Women still strive to do all of these things, but on top of that they are now expected to go out and get a career on top of all of that. I see countless friends who have full time jobs trying to portray an image of themselves on social media of someone who eats healthily, who manages to go for a run or to the gym, who tries and succeeds at many crafts, who is a wonderful mother, who has a social life, and who cares about social justice and politics.

Gym, crafts, food, design, social life, film, pop culture, beauty, work, education, growing veg, meditating, career, friendships, current affairs, global affairs, local affairs, all these things flood my news feed but not because I have amassed a collection of friends with massively varied interests, they are all coming from the same people. People are exhausting themselves to try and be a polished “someone” and no facet can be left unturned. Then away from the spotlight of the news feed I receive personal messages, texts from friends saying “I’m exhausted, I’m so stressed, any chance we can chat, do you have time for a coffee sometime? I can squeeze you in between 11:13 and 11:49 on 28th July this year.”

So I find myself surrounded by friends that I never see, unless we actively arrange to meet up and do an awesome thing that can be tagged on Facebook. I don’t mean to imply that all my friends are social media obsessed, but it is becoming an increasingly important factor in people’s lives and in the way they express themselves or define themselves.

I am guilty of trying to do too much. I was dissatisfied in my job so tried to build an empire of self-employed avenues to enable me to leave the job I was currently in. I also decided to do a degree at the same time, and lose weight and maintain my meditation practices and groups on top of all the other things.  It wasn’t possible and something had to give. Fortunately, just before I was the thing that broke, I decided to cut down on my list of “current activities”. The only thing I achieved in doing all of these things was not looking after myself.

Self care is so important. It is not selfish, it is necessary, and something that everyone should do every day. One thing a day for you that has no purpose other than to make you happy. It doesn’t matter whether that one thing is awesome or not. It is not to be judged, just enjoyed.

Here are some of the “self-care” things I have done for myself over the last week.

Mon 8th May – had a pint by myself in a nice pub.

Sun 7th May – had a good cry after sorting through memories

Sat 6th May – Got a tattoo

Fri 5th May – indulged in some of my favourite foods

Thurs 4th May – dyed my hair and watched drag queens

Weds 3rd May – went to yoga

Tues 2nd May – wrote a letter to my penpal and drew him a stupid picture

These aren’t massive things. They are things I enjoyed and did purposefully. Everyone’s self care is different. Sometimes it is just saying “No” to something you don’t really want to do, or saying “Yes” to something you would ordinarily turn down, but want to do. Sometimes it is just embracing your flaws and spending time with them rather than trying to hide them.

So many people are chasing the image of a perfect person, believing that being this person will make them happy. For me happiness is not the goal. Happiness is another thing we chase that is killing us. We are not meant to be perfect, and we never will be.

https://amiagrownupyet.com/2017/05/09/the-constant-quest-for-happiness/

 

The Constant Quest for Happiness

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The Quest for Happiness

(originally posted by the author in July 2016 on another blog)

It is increasingly common these days for people, (especially those under the age of 40) to be on an eternal quest for happiness. Now I could easily write 10,000 words on the subject and have still only scratched the surface, but for now I will tell you about my “quest”.

The quest can be categorised as the search for the object or situation that will finally bring you lasting happiness. It could be a job, a romantic partner, an ideal weight or any other “event” that will trigger the eternal happiness, and then that person thinks that a switch will be flicked on and they will wake up every morning feeling happy. But, the thing is, the Quest itself is the main thing stopping you from achieving that happy, contented feeling. I, myself, have pursued the discovery of the one thing that will “flick that switch” for me and it took years to realise that what I was looking for, I had all along.

Whilst on my quest for happiness I believed that it was my career that would unlock the key to happiness for me. I was stuck in dead end jobs and believed that once I got an office job, I would be happy. But I wasn’t. I got the office job and I still wasn’t happy. Then I thought I needed more money, so I got a better office job. But that didn’t work either. Then I thought I needed recognition of position. Yep, did it and that didn’t work either. So I thought the answer was obvious. I had always wanted to have my own business and work for myself. Surely that freedom would unlock the key to my eternal happiness. Luckily before I drove myself insane, I managed to realise that what I was chasing didn’t exist.

Mindfulness. It is a word that is very popular at the minute, although not many know the true concept. I interviewed over 30 people who expressed an interest in mindfulness and only 4 truly knew what it meant. Mindfulness is being touted as the new cure-all for depression, obesity, stress, heart disease and more. And don’t get me wrong, it is incredibly good for you, if you are practising it properly, but there are so many people out there teaching their own interpretations of mindfulness that, unfortunately, it just sets people off on new quest for happiness. They will finally be happy once they “master” mindfulness. This is a contradiction of enormous proportions. It is impossible to be happy all of the time. But it is possible to be at peace with your situation and existence. Read “The Guide to Happiness”, written through interviews with the Dalai Llama. Read “What’s in the Way, is the Way” by Mary O’Malley. These books tip the western thinking of “pursuing” or “achieving” happiness on it’s head.

Now happiness is different for all individuals, what may make you happy may terrify me and vice versa, and the many self-help books that tell you the “magic recipe” to happiness, to confidence etc don’t work. Some of them have great ideas, but unfortunately the results are seldom long term. There is no magic cure, no step by step guide that will change your life into a happily ever after. It is not something that can be taught like history. It is not a permanent state that can be accessed and inhabited. Happiness is a fleeting or lingering emotion. It will come and it will go. We cannot be happy all of the time. We cannot control happiness. It is unique to the individual, but there are certain premises and techniques that help most people maintain a peace within themselves that eradicates this incessant need to seek happiness.

 

  1. Let things go
  2. Realise that upsetting things will happen to you in life
  3. Realise that you are going to die
  4. Prioritise your life
  5. Enjoy life
  6. Be mindful
  7. Do not expect anything
  8. Learn to accept others
  9. Learn to understand others

 

And that was it. Instead of chasing the items, situations and objects I needed to be happy, I realised I could just accept life in that moment and choose to be happy. Now you may think it is easy for someone, who’s life is pretty good in the first place, to say that. Well here’s the thing. My life isn’t pretty good. It is rife with struggle, grief, and trauma. But I am ok. When something awful happens, I can choose to be ok. But I can also choose to really feel all the bad bits as well. Because that is what life is. It is the good and the bad. And there is no point in pretending otherwise. Accept that there will be bad times. Accept that there will be good times. Accept that there will be boring times. Most importantly accept that eternally chasing a fairytale is the most sure route to misery.

Now do nothing. Stop and appreciate the world around you. Appreciate the wonder of you being alive right this moment. It is tiring, trying to keep up with everything society thinks we should be doing, a career, a great family life, a successful relationship, constant personal growth. Chasing a perpetual dream will leave you exhausted, especially if it is one that doesn’t really exist. Don’t judge anyone, don’t judge yourself, don’t compare yourself to others. Do nothing. You are a human being. You don’t need to meditate to a point of ultimate Zen, or run away from your true feelings, just embrace your true nature. Don’t try to change yourself, just change the way you approach life. It is not a race. It is a wonderful, amazing, impossible thing happening to you right now! Stop waiting for the thing that will trigger eternal happiness and enjoy being alive.

Growing Old Reluctantly – It’s my birthday and I’m terrified.

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It is my birthday on 5th May. I shall be 29 years old, and that is possibly the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me (or is about to happen).

Why does this feel so terrifying?

Perhaps in my head I associate being in your 20’s as the time to grow as a person, achieve, make connections, set your life out and get your shit together. It is the time to blossom, to have the magical moment where you become a person.

I do not feel yet like I am quite a person. Still a piece of plaster-cine in need of molding.

My peers look at me expectantly, as though they too expect me to be a fully assembled person, and I am afraid I just am not. They live wonderful lives of conformity, doing all the things society deems we should at this age, marriage, kids, mortgages, things that I  have no interest in.

I want to go to a city centre and take black and white photographs of pidgeons and weird buildings.

I want to discover a weird bar and drink there all day talking to weird and fascinating people.

I want to meet random people and invent a new sport.

I want to listen to music loud and let it fill and nourish my soul.

I want to buy some super soakers from a pound shop and chase my friends around a town centre. But my friends don’t want to do that.

 

They want to go home in their finance cars, to a home that they have bought, where a spouse awaits with a meal and an evening in front of the telly where they tell each other about their days and then go try to make a baby.

Trying to make a baby sounds like the worst thing you can do to sex. How to make it go from sexy to a regimented boring outcome orientated activity.

But these are just my opinions. I support all choices, and I am happy for people who want to live that life, any life, but it is not a life for me. I feel increasingly isolated in my beliefs and outlook.

Increasingly I see people who are accomplished, grown up looking, fully functioning people, who I assume are older than me, only to find out that they are actually some years younger than me. I don’t know if I look old, I see my face everyday so can’t judge, but I probably do.

I can no longer use the excuse “because I’m only young”.

Mortality starts to become a little more real when you find yourself doing something without thinking of the consequences, and then hurting yourself.

My body has changed (largely because of the implant) but I am sure were I younger I would find it easier to shift the excess weight.

Yet inside I feel unchanged. Wiser, better, stronger, but not a grown up yet.

On the plus side I thought about turning 30 next year and started hyperventilating, so 29 isn’t that bad….

 

 

Lessons from old friends

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This week some old friends have given me pause for thought.

I’ve never been good at explaining things.

I am a naturally very quiet person, but my brain is very noisy. I have what feels like a thousand thoughts a minute, all jumbling and fighting for room, a constant hum of white noise rattling around, and I think that on the rare occasions where I do open my mouth, or try to convey a thought or idea, so many of these thoughts come tumbling out, shouting over each other, too quick for me to keep up, that key points are lost, and all I succeed in doing is confusing those around me and frustrating myself. This is the main reason why I have so many blogs. An avenue for chaos and a way to siphon ideas out of my head, much like Dumbledore and his Pensieve. It is hard to keep track, sometimes, of what you are thinking, where you are going, and what you are doing.

But, this week, a few friends have been invaluable in helping to organise and declutter my thoughts.

As most of you know from my various blogs and ramblings, I have struggled for a few years now with being “unsatisfied”. Chasing something but not knowing what it is, feeling unfulfilled and bored and not quite sure what the fuck I am doing with my life. I have tried many different things over the past 4 years in an attempt to quieten this feeling, to fill the hole, but none of them have worked. They have had the wonderful temporary effects of novelty and excitement, but I have always quickly returned to feeling a bit empty.

I have blamed my job a lot over the last couple of years, believing that I needed to change and be self-employed, and starting lots of crazy schemes (and some not so crazy that have actually worked really well), but have ended up with no time for myself or others, as I am busy running around trying to build and run an empire, in the vain hope that this will calm my unease and discomfort at life. Recently, I took on another venture – The Hippy Shop – and whilst this really did make me feel happy, and that it could be something that filled the hole, I quickly became burnt out. It was just too much, and I would moan to anyone within earshot that if I could just quit my job, things would be fine.

Eventually there came a make or break moment with the shop, and I chose to decline and walk away. I was too scared to quit said well-paying stable job, and jump into the unknown. It was the right and sensible decision in the end and as sad as it was to do this, I actually felt a huge sense of relief, and I realised that it was all too much. I am not infallible and capable of running three businesses, a full time job, a degree, an allotment and trying to have a semblance of a life. This may seem rather obvious, but the intensity of the void inside that I try to fill, has only grown over the years, until it has become all-consuming and apparently I was willing to go to incredible lengths to fill it.

That said, the shop had succeeded in plugging the vortex for a few months, and now the emptiness seemed more vast than ever, and everything just a little bit more pointless. As most of you will know, I have been depressed, not tidying my house, looking after myself, not going out much and allowing myself to be consumed by this.

Anyway, I booked a week off work and agreed to meet with a couple of old friends last week, and in doing so have come to some realisations that may help this overwhelming pit of fuckery.

Like any good narrative, there are three parts – three friends – a fitting beginning, middle and end.

First friend. Affectionately called fuck-face normally, but will be referred to as JB. Haven’t seen JB since Halloween, and met up on Tuesday for drinks and musings. Our meetings are usually very philosophical and deeply personal, no catching up to be done, just straight to the nasty bits. Due to train station confusion, and complete lack of communication, we ended up in Cambridge, meeting much later than we planned. We plunged straight in to heavy topics as we downed expensive beers at The Eagle, and whilst I won’t bore you with the details, as it always gets a bit brainstorm-y and mad, but we had some interesting conversations on self-restriction and time management, more specifically the lies we tell ourselves concerning these two things.

We discussed our shared opinion that we “did not have time” for so many important things, and discussed how true this statement was and began examining the meta elements (not to be confused with meta tags!) and how we both participate in small self-sabotaging behaviours. I will not discuss JB’s issues obviously, but one of my own is the fact that due to a reaction to a contraceptive implant I have gained 2 stone over the last year. I hate it and I am not going to get into that particular subject, but I have been known to be frustrated and moan at how slowly the weight is coming off, as I “don’t have time” to go hit the gym crazy hard, or take classes, go for walks etc. In reality, I could have done more. I could be doing more. This “lack of time” that I describe is in my head.

I left at the end of the night with feelings of greater responsibility for my actions, rather than blaming external variables as is so easy to do. I always find this a great grounding feeling, accepting responsibility to the extent to which you truly are is a humbling feeling, and clears all bullshit, leaving just you and your actions, behaviours, interactions, motives etc. It is also a great frame of mind for organising and examining. So it put me in a contemplative mood for the week. I have been trying to find something to pull me out of this depressive funk that I have been in, so when presented with an opportunity to hash things out with JB, I grabbed it, and it helped as I knew it would.

Second friend. This was a friend that I had not seen in over 10 years, and who I was, if I am honest, quite nervous about seeing again, especially as I was a depressed mess, although I didn’t tell him that. I felt quite tempted to call it off until I was in a more awesome place and state of mind. On my way to meet him from the train station my palms started sweating, something that hasn’t really happened to me before, and in my head I thought how grateful I was that I didn’t have mom’s spaghetti down my sweater. Then I chuckled out loud on the bus and got strange looks which didn’t make me feel any better about the situation.

The friend in question is one of only a few people on the planet that has the ability to knock me off kilter. Increasingly these days I find myself feeling socially awkward, so I expected this to be the ultimate in awkward. Surprisingly I felt perfectly comfortable. He spoke at one point of drunken adventures and meeting new people, and it dawned on me that I haven’t gone out and met new people in ages. Sure, you do meet new people, but my feelings of awkwardness intervene and I actively shut people down. I am “too busy” to make new friends. Yet here should/could have been a most awkward situation (we were never very good at communicating as teenagers in the first place) and yet I was perfectly comfortable. Through hanging out with him I came to realise a few other things.

  1. He did some magic with my laptop and phone and fixed a whole bunch of shit , for which my laptop was probably eternally grateful and was probably in heaven, being touched by someone who actually had an idea of what they were doing. Watching him was fascinating, he didn’t do anything massively impressive, but I have always loved watching people do things that they are good at. I love watching people enter a zone of inner confidence, where they know their shit, it’s beautiful. I love to hear people talk about things they are passionate about, things that they geek over, even if I don’t fully understand, it gives me the same feeling, it’s beautiful. And I realised that I do not do this. For some years now I have not had mastery over anything, not geeked out over anything, I have not pushed myself, and I have nothing that makes me feel like that. I need to.

2. He had a cool little electronic gadget (god I sound like a fucking pensioner) I don’t know what you would call it, but it was like the world’s smallest keyboard and was capable of recording music and looping it all together. I was fascinated by it, and wished he had shown me more, or that I had asked what the fuck it was. Again I watched as he fiddled with buttons, and set up a couple of basic loops, and it was great to watch him. I commented that I own a keyboard but haven’t touched it for a couple of years and missed dicking around on it. Watching him reminded me of my childhood keyboard, and how I would sit for hours recording and looping drum beats, melodies, bass lines, and how fucking entertained I would be. I loved it. I realised that even the simplest creative things are so fulfilling, they don’t have to be for work or for a purpose, they can just be because it’s fun, and I how I used to know that but have recently forgotten it.

3. It made me feel a little bit vulnerable, letting him into this depressive world I have been inhabiting, and part of me felt ashamed. I used to be an awesome person, always doing crazy things, new things, weird things, living life. I had come to believe that perhaps I had stopped being that person. He, on the other hand, has always had a spark in him, something creative, yearning for the learning, wanting to experience, crazy spark. He still has that, yet he had changed so dramatically since I last saw him. He told me things he had done and I couldn’t imagine the 14/15 year old boy I met doing those things. I mean at all. Sure we are twice as old now, but the confidence and sureness in himself that he exhibited (I cannot speak for his personal feelings) was amazing, I felt so happy for him that he was an awesome person.

But it made me wonder how two people can part ways and in 10 years go in such different directions. One of the reasons I liked him when we were teenagers is because he was so like me, and understood me and one of the things we had in common was that spark. Somewhere along the way I lost it, and I’ve known that for a while. Believing that it had been beaten out of me by life and circumstances, whatever excuses I had convinced myself of, now stood in unrest. He is going through a very difficult time at the moment, and yet here, the spark stood, untouched. It made me realise that all the “reasons” I had come up with for why I couldn’t get my fucking arse in gear were invalid. We are not all the same, this I know, but he and I were similar and I realised that I had been lying to myself.

This thought began to unravel and I began putting things together and taking things apart and questioning what exactly had I been doing with myself. All of a sudden an image of myself, stagnant, giving up and being an un-awesome person floated to the surface, as a true self portrait. I realised that I had given up on something, that I had become old before my time, throwing myself into work and into crazy things to stem the flow of “void-induced” pain.

There were some other things that made me question whether the things I told myself I was happy with, were actually simply comforting untruths, and by the time he left I was feeling quite bemused and emotional. Whilst it had been great to see him, it had left me with an awful lot to think about.

Friend number 3. She is almost twice my age and has lived an amazing life. She sailed the Atlantic, set up home in the BVI and lived there like a native for years. She has memory issues, and as such does not lie. As she says, she’d never remember them so there’s no point. Her honesty and bluntness is one of the reasons why I love her, and one of the reasons why she makes such a good friend. She also has a brilliant outlook on life.

She came round Friday lunchtime, and could tell that I was unsettled. We discussed things and her blunt dressing down of me was welcome. She said a lot of things that made a lot of sense, as she always does, and her gentle support and belief in me gave me a positive spin. She encouraged me to address the things that were on my mind, change them, be true to myself, and to get my head out of my own arse and stop worrying and procrastinating. The more she talked the more I realised that she was completely right. I had been placing self-limiting beliefs on myself and my circumstances, and I had allowed myself to wallow in the fiction of these beliefs.

I ended Friday feeling happy and inspired. I then tried to explain this drunkenly on Saturday and it all came out wrong and made me sound mental, so I then spent Sunday consumed with a regret that only alcohol can bring. I could have bowed my head and given in, that nothing had changed and carried on with my melancholy. And nothing has changed. But I can change it. I can find something in life that makes me feel creative. I can find something in life that brings that spark back. I don’t know what and it may take me a wee while to figure that out. I do still think I need a new job, but I need to think long and hard about it. I also need to stop beating myself up, and stop saying no to things, experiences. “I can’t” is something I say so fucking much and I hadn’t even realised. I want to have an awesome life, and be an awesome person again.

Who Am I?

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Who Am I? What Am I?

I have always struggled with these kinds of questions. I literally have no clue how other people perceive me. My usual answer to these questions is “quiet, a bit weird” or “laid-back, friendly?”.

I recently did an art piece using words to describe me, words that I had come up with and words I had asked other about. When it was finished I was pleased that I had come up with so many words, and I started going through them, but I realised that whilst the words written in front of me did in fact describe me, they could also describe billions of other people on the planet. Yes I was looking at an accurate description of myself, but not one that anyone would look at and guess immediately, “That’s got to be “L”!”.

So what would make someone say that? What could I put onto paper, that wasn’t a picture of myself, that would make someone say, “That’s you, definitely you.”

Is that what makes us, us? The bits in the middle, the bits that don’t seem important but that are unique to you.

I sat staring at it, feeling deflated, and wondering what I was missing. What was I?!

I am a girl woman who refers to herself as a girl when she really isn’t one anymore.

I am a woman who traces facial features, clothing hems and outlines, signs, traffic, and subtitled punctuation with her thumb obsessively, constantly and unconsciously.

I am a woman who drinks weak black decaf coffee and strong green tea. I drink weak gin and tonics and strong commercial beer.

I am full of regret and sadness.

I am full of hope and ideas.

I am a disillusioned Disney Princess who likes a drink.

I am a childless mother.

I am a walking existential crisis.

I am a health conscious smoker.

I am a workshy workaholic.

I am a depressed therapist.

I am the socially awkward life of the party.

I am a walking fucking contradiction, and I still don’t know if any of this is something people would read and say, that’s “L” right there.

What do you think constitutes as making someone “Who they are”?

Feeling Vulnerable

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I am wearing a nice dress today (discussed earlier in my post “stop touching my tattoos”), and I look pretty. I felt pretty and I was in a good mood.

Today an older man at work, who is in a very senior position compared to me, coincidentally ended up in the kitchen with me twice and made small talk. I’ve been here three months and today is the first time it’s happened. His office overlooks who enters the kitchen, and, therefore, this is a creepy enough coincidence, but what he did shocked me. He looked at me, blantantly, in the chest, eyes skimmed down to my legs, which were in thick black leggings, and back up to my chest. It was so surreal, in the fact that he wasn’t even trying to hide it. I was stunned and didn’t know quite what to do. I have been checked out plenty of times, catcalled, grabbed, hollered at, but never in such a creepy way. I felt so vulnerable. I just wanted coffee, and yet here I was, feeling nauseous and trying to pull my cardigan over my chest, wishing that he would go away. (Note to self, going to grab a coffee at work is becoming a hazardous and infuriating ordeal – see my mansplaining post).

 I pulled my cardigan over my chest awkwardly and felt so ashamed of myself for not doing something, saying something, but I already feel like an outcast, and I need my job. If I was to say something, I knew that it would become a massive issue, and that I would be frowned upon for “making a massive deal out of nothing” when I can just put up with it and ignore him. But that’s not how it should be. That is never how it should be. And in that moment I felt completely stripped of all power. I wanted to snap at him, call him out on his behaviour, but I didn’t. And isn’t that just all shades of wrong there, summed up in a nice nutshell.

Don’t touch my tattoos!

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This is a real bug bear of mine. My tattoos are not for touching. I have tattoos on my back, and today the dress that I am wearing shows some of them. It is not a low cut dress, it simply shows a little more of the back of my shoulders than a cardboard box might. Someone at work approached me and touched one of my tattoos with their finger and said “Ooh what’s that?”.

The fact that my dress may reveal what is below is not an invitation to touch me, nor is the very ink I choose to put on my skin. People have said to me in the past, “Well you put them there, you obviously want them to be looked at.”

I do want them to be looked at…. by me!!

Incredibly, despite me being a woman, I am not put on this earth to appeal to others. My physical attributes, appearance and general being is not for others. I do not choose to dress for others to look at. I do not choose to tattoo my body for others to look at. I don’t want to be touched by random people, who think that because there is something pretty on my skin, it must be ok for them to touch it. It is an incredibly disconcerting feeling to be touched suddenly, on your bare skin, and especially in a place not many people touch, like the centre of your back.

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The “touchable” tattoo and dress

Don’t get me started on people who ask me “What does it mean? What does that one mean? Does it mean something to you?” The meaning is for me, not for you.  I get people “informing” me, “You are inviting people to touch and ask by putting them on your body.”

No, I am not. No woman is ever inviting you to touch, discuss, or enquire about their body unless they specifically tell you they are doing so, or tell you it is ok. If you receive from me a sparkly envelope with a beautiful invitation inside, proclaiming that I feel comfortable enough being intimate with you to have you touch me, then you may do so. If you do not receive this in the post, you may not.

It still amazes me everyday, the trouble that people have with consent and women’s bodies. I could go on for hours, but I don’t have time, I am sneakily writing this at work whilst my blood boils.

Perhaps tomorrow I will wear something that shows as many tattoos as possible, and every time someone approaches me about them I will bark like a rabid terrier until they leave me alone. Somehow, I still don’t think they would understand….

Mansplained to death

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We all know mansplaining is a thing. Chances are everyone has been mansplained at some point in their lives (yes even men get mansplained, I watch it happen to my O.H.), but the facts are women get mansplained at a lot more often, and with more ferocity.

Well, yesterday I got mansplained at, and I acted shamefully. I smiled and agreed with him. I was so angry at myself afterwards. I thought I was angry with him (I was!), but I realised that I was more angry with myself than anything, for not setting him straight. But my genuine reaction in the moment was…..”I can’t be arsed, it’s not worth it”.

“It’s not worth having this conversation. It’s not worth arguing with this guy who is so clearly cock-sure in his limited (and wrong) knowledge. I just want to finish making my coffee, I don’t want a weird tense thing happening at work with this large intimidating, socially angry man.”

What happened was this: Somehow in an awkward, small talk situation around the kettle, the subject of my being a vegetarian came up. I said to him that I had been a vegetarian since I was a baby, as my family were vegetarians, (read, this is not a passing phase).

He mentioned that that was ok, because at least I could eat fish. I said that no, I could not and did not eat fish. He said “Ah, so you’re actually more a vegan than vegetarian.”

In my life, I have encountered this a lot. I always get asked if I eat fish. No I do not. I am a vegetarian. I do not eat fish. “Some vegetarians do.” No they don’t. Pescatarians eat fish. Vegetarians do not. If a vegetarian eats a fish, they are no longer a vegetarian are they? It is quite a simple, black and white matter. You do not get vegetarians that “sometimes” eat bacon. You do not get vegans that “sometimes” eat cheese.  You do not get vegetarians that “sometimes” eat fish.

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I smiled at him in the end and said “Yeah, I guess so” because his insistence that he knew more about the issue than me was frankly quite intimidating. He is a least a foot taller than me and largely built, and has a tendency to undermine women at any given opportunity, so I acquiesced.

But I felt angry, angry that I had backed down, angry that I had allowed myself to be intimidated and angry that I felt powerless to do anything in the situation.

It was a trivial matter, but to have someone insisting that you are something you are not, to the point where they want to hear you say it back to them, to validate the fact that they are right and you are wrong, is a weird and unsettling experience.

 

 

Be Unapologetic!

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Be Unapologetic!

I haven’t written for so long, and I recently came across some articles I had written years ago that floored me. I couldn’t believe how eloquent I sounded. They were professional sounding articles, and I could scarcely believe that I had written them. One of them, a scientific report, was gibberish to me! I had a vague idea of what I was talking about, and I remembered doing the article, but a lot of it went over my head. I remember that it didn’t take long to write, and as I sat there reading, I was filled with a sense of longing. I enjoy writing so much, there is something wonderful to me about the keys tapping away, keeping in time with my thoughts, or the pages of a  notebook getting filled, marked and wrinkled.

So I decided to create this blog. This blog is not a professional space, I have a (neglected) blog for professional work, this is just for me. To write about what I want, to write nonsense sometimes, but to let the fingers roam free as the thoughts come pouring out.

So I have mentioned to a few people that I have started a new blog, and that I am looking forward to getting back into writing again. I sent the link to a few people and asked for input on colours, layout etc.

What came back to me was all very positive and nice, but one thing kept reoccurring – “Don’t get too personal will you?” “Make it sound a bit more professional”.

Whilst I get where my loved ones are coming from, I don’t want this to be a professional blog. In fact, quite the opposite. I WANT this blog to display my flaws, dodgy grammar, typos, undesirables, emotions and imperfections.

I have a professional blog, where I double check my work, make sure it sounds right and perhaps go through two or three drafts before it gets posted.

This I want to be an out-pouring of words. A stream of consciousness. I have ideas that I would like to implement, I quite fancy interviewing some people, I quite fancy doing a few weekly fun things, but these things are 1) For me, and 2) For everyone else.

I am bound and constricted by society, to be something I am not. In my work I have to talk a certain way, behave a certain way, that does not come naturally to me. I have to remove my piercings, cover up all of my tattoos, and hide the shaved part of my head, by wearing my hair over it. I cannot dress how I want, but instead have trawled through charity shops looking for boring work clothes that won’t make me happy, but that I have to spend money on anyway. I cannot be myself around these people, there is a constant message of “Your natural appearance and being is offensive to us, please disguise it”. Now it might not sound like much to some of you, but I assure you it is exhausting.

I have found myself, in so many roles, not just work related, being bound by limitations that I have not imposed, and I find I rarely have a chance to just be me. Having a mental health issue, I spend a lot of the time trying to downplay, or cover this, which is exhausting.

So this blog is just for me. And hopefully for other people to read and enjoy too. All the flaws, mess, beauty, complication, complexity and wondrousness that makes me, me.