Ambition

It’s interesting – the word ‘ambition’.  The definition in most dictionaries for this word is, ‘a strong desire to do or achieve something’.  The word conjures up an energetic go-getter.  Hardworking.  Determined.  Lets nothing get in their way.  Ruthless at times.  Focussed.  People to be admired!

Ambitious people don’t understand people who don’t put their careers first.  Ambitious people don’t understand when people have other priorities in their lives and therefore are not motivated by money or promotion.  Ambitious people find those people very difficult to understand – because they do not know what motivates them.

Family, you tell them.  Yes, but everyone has a family, I have a family – what makes yours so important?

And therein lies the difference in perspective.  A career driven person is deemed to be ambitious because they are chasing a desire to be financially successful and achieve status and respect because of their talent – what they do.

A family driven person is also ambitious.  They have an overwhelming desire to have a family life where they can look after their partner, be there for their children, be present and mindful and make their house a happy home.

Sadly – this is looked down upon as a lack of ambition.  But if we go back to the definition of what ambition actually is – then what is the difference?  Following one path will make you financially rich and secure – but it may come at a cost.  What cost?  Not being able to be there for the ones that you love because of the demands of your job.  Not noticing that anything may be wrong with the ones you love because of the demands of your job.  Having to neglect the ones that you love – because of the demands of your job.

Following the other path may mean that you are seen as lacking commitment by your employers because you put your family first.  You may miss out on opportunities for promotion or not even be considered for certain roles because you don’t give your ‘all’ to work.  This may mean that financially you are not as well off as you might have been, if only your thought processes or approach was different.

In each case – neither person is wrong.  It is not wrong to want to be successful in your job, to be talented in an area and want to strive to reach new heights and be good at what you do.  However, it is also not wrong to want to look after your family.  To have the time to tuck your children in bed so that they sleep peacefully.  It is not wrong to refuse to take on additional responsibilities at work, because you know that takes time away from how much you will be able to be there for the ones that you love.  The latter choice is not a lack of ambition – it is a different ambition though  – to have a successful family life.

If we could – we would marry the two up.  Be extremely successful in our careers and have plenty of time to spend with loved ones.  Some people to manage it – at least from afar, it appears that they do…

But the point of my blog today is, let’s not dismiss the homemakers – the people who make a choice to stay at home and look after their families; or the ones that decide that they only want to go ‘so far’ in their careers.  Let’s not think that they are lacking in ambition, are lazy, or just don’t have what it takes!   Let’s dig a bit deeper and realise that their ambition – to create happiness and stability in their family homes is one to be admired as well.  These people that are there to comfort their loved ones, who have the time to ensure that their family is healthy (mentally, as well as physically), and happy  – these people are just as important and necessary and are just as deserving of respect as those who are financially successful and receive promotion upon promotion.

It is important to remember – and this is where I will end really…a job is just a job.  If you love it – that’s brilliant.  I have a job that I am fortunate enough to love.  But it’s the people in my life that drive me.  Not money.  Not finance.  Nothing else.  It is the people around me who look after me when I am feeling sick, or tired, or need cheering up.  It is the people in my life who I share my happiness and successes with, who make me laugh and bring me joy.  Jobs will come.  Jobs will go.  Family and loved ones – we should do our best to keep them forever, and make as much time as we can to be with them.  Money, you can earn again.  Promotions, you can achieve those later.  But once a person that you love has gone, or once your child’s childhood has changed into adulthood – no matter how much you try to turn back the tides of time – you can never get those people, those moments or those missed opportunities back ever again.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Lessons we can learn from bears!

 

This morning, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and saw the most heart warming and inspirational video that I have ever seen.  When I was a little girl, I remember my father telling me the story of Robert the Bruce.  Robert was a Scotsman who had been fighting the English.  He had fought many, many battles and kept losing.  The story says that Robert was on the brink of giving up, and sat down in deep contemplation, thinking about what he would do next.  Whilst he was sat down, his eyes rested upon a spider who was trying to spin a web.  The spider kept trying, kept falling, but each time undeterred, the spider got back up and carried on with its endeavour. Legend says that on its 7th attempt, the spider was finally successful.  This tiny spider inspired Robert to continue in his battle of independence and was subsequently successful.  The video below, illustrates another beautiful example of another animal refusing to give up.

What is interesting for me in this video, is the adult bear.  I showed my daughters this video, and my eldest exclaimed with horror, ‘Why isn’t the big bear helping the little bear?’  Good question, I thought. Why not?  Is it because the big bear was frightened for its own safety and was thinking about self preservation?  Is it because the big bear wanted the little bear to make the climb on its own and that was the lesson it wanted to teach?  Or was it because the big bear had complete faith that the little bear would find its own way – regardless?  I don’t know…

It made me think though.  Animals know that the world is brutal and in a lot of instances, they teach their child the skills of how to survive – and then, when it’s time they let them go.  My youngest’s favourite story of all time is ‘The Three Little Pigs’.  What does it teach you?  You have to be strong to survive.  If you’re mollycoddled you won’t last a minute.  Either you won’t be able to find food and shelter, or you will be hunted down and ripped apart by a predator.  Animal parents know this.  And I think that is what the big bear is thinking, whilst she watches her cub making that climb.  Climb or die baby, climb or die trying.  Whilst watching that, I was questioning my own parenting skills – I wouldn’t have been able to help myself – I would have intervened.  Thinking as a human, I would have slid down that mountain and pulled the cub up – but it made me question – what would I have taught my cub?  Would that have been the right approach?  My instinct is, I don’t want my child to get hurt. Fine.  However, should I be thinking – it’s ok if you hurt yourself – what lessons will you learn from that?

The thing is, as a parent, you can’t always be there to protect your children and fend off predators.  The lessons that a lot of children learn in life, are when their parents are not there to intervene.  I’ve spoken and written about this before, but one of the things that we teach our children, is to be polite.  Use good manners.  Say please and thank you.  Talk to people, don’t ignore them.  Be polite.  I was brought up in this way, and so have my own children.  I worry though.  I worry because I know what they will have to encounter when they get older.  How do I know?  Because I faced some troubling situations myself.

I was polite.  Even when I was with people – ok men – that I didn’t particularly like, I was polite.  Treat people how you want to be treated yourself – that’s what we teach children isn’t it?  So, that’s how I would behave with others.  Talk, be polite, be interested in what people say – don’t be rude.  What’s wrong with that, you may wonder?  Well, nothing.  Until – men – some men – mistook that politeness – pure politeness – for interest.  Suddenly, you find yourself in quicksand.  You try – politely – to let the other person know that you are not interested – they don’t take the hint.  Suddenly, it’s a game.  Of course you were interested, you were so polite, you both got so well – now, your polite refusals are just an indication that you’re playing ‘hard to get’.  Just a bit more persistence and pressure and you’ll change your mind and ‘give in’.

That is what worries me as my children grow older.  Balancing politeness with being absolutely assertive and clear cut when they need to be.  Be polite.  Be kind.  It is good to be those things, I firmly believe in that.  But, always be totally clear and fearless when speaking to people.  If someone does or says something that you don’t like – you don’t need to be polite in that instance.  You need to be clear and know that when you are assertive, you aren’t being a bad person.  Self preservation is self preservation – whether that be in the animal kingdom, or in the concrete jungle.

I won’t be able to be there all the time for my daughters.  My parents were not able to be there all the time for me.  But I trust, that like the big bear in the footage above, I have given my children the life skills that they need to survive.  And know that even when things feel at their lowest – they should never give up.

My single friends…

For the first time yesterday, I felt the temperature drop. Properly. Outside was cold with some sleet and I gleefully put on my scarf and coat. Finally, it feels as though we’re on the cusp of winter.

Normally, I wouldn’t have ventured out on a day like this. I would’ve snuggled up in my house, wiling the day away, doing my best to stay cosy. But I had arranged to meet my friend, we were going to travel into Birmingham by train for a spot of lunch and then window shopping.

I arrived at the station- which was a second home during my university days. Back then, I had a train pass, I didn’t need to check the electronic boards for the train times. I just knew when the trains were coming, which platforms they were leaving from, and efficiently I’d make my way to where I needed to go. Sighing impatiently at the novice travellers who with bewilderment, would be standing in the middle of nowhere, constantly checking where they need to go, checking the boards, moving slowly and holding everyone up.

So, imagine my feeling of chagrin, when I’m not sure where to buy my ticket from, which ticket to buy, which line to stand in. Suddenly, I felt old – standing in a world that I used to feel so comfortable in, that I used to have dominion over. And then of course the station was packed. Packed with university aged students, all in flimsy Halloween costumes, standing around chatting excitedly in large groups- waiting – going nowhere – just taking up space, dressed up as skeletons and vampires and zombies- wearing clothes that definitely would not protect them from the chilling cold.

Once my friend and I had purchased our tickets, we waited barely a minute before the train arrived at the platform. As expected, the train was crowded with passengers which meant that my friend and I had to stand all the way to Birmingham. But we didn’t mind. We hadn’t seen each other for 2 years and although that time had passed so quickly, we had a lot to catch up on, and within a blink of an eye we arrived at our destination. The platforms were crowded with shoppers, eagerly pushing forward to shop, and families on half term, travelling with their various coloured suitcases, escaping.

Walking to Selfridges took about ten minutes, but it was comforting being in the excited, purposeful hustle and bustle of the shopping centre. Bright lights, clean pathways, beautiful shops – I’d missed it. It reminded me of London and just being back in that atmosphere again made my heart soar.

My stomach often dictates my actions, so we had lunch first. In the end, style trumped substance. I am a fan of Indian street food, and there was a stylish street food restaurant within Selfridges, that we opted for. Luckily, if the company is good, it doesn’t matter if the food isn’t.

So, now we have almost arrived at the point of my blog.

My friend and I, came back in contact with each other 11 years ago, through Facebook. We used to go to the same primary school, but at secondary we went to different places and life took us in different directions. There were many similarities in what we had been through when we were children, and 11 years ago we met up again and have been firm friends ever since then. At the time that we came back in contact again, we were both at the stage of our lives when we were looking for that person that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with. 11 years on, we are both in stable, happy relationships, both with the knowledge of hindsight – why were we worrying all those years ago, things worked out the way they were meant to.

Let me illustrate this point in a different way. One of the biggest things that my mother drilled into me, from a tiny age – look after your skin. Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise. It still shocks me when people I meet, don’t do that. But skincare is really important to me and my skin feels dry and tight if I don’t look after it. So, as we were in Selfridges, the holy grail of make up, skincare, perfumes and all things gorgeous, it would have been remiss of me not to look for a winter serum to add an extra layer of protection for my skin.

It was simple really – I knew I wanted a serum, I knew what I wanted it for, I knew where I wanted to go to look for them. I approached the counters that I was interested in, one was incredibly warm and helpful, made me try the product, I was pleased with it – the assistant went to get it – but it was out of stock! I didn’t worry, I went to the other counter that I trusted, they also, had none of their serum in stock.

Honestly, I was beginning to get downhearted. This was supposed to have been a very simple task – buy a serum, go home, moisturise. I know it sounds incredibly dramatic and nonsensical to be worried about not getting a product, but it was how I felt. Immediately my friend carried out a google search for respected serums, and as she read out the list of recommendations, my ears pricked up and we headed towards Debenhams to make our purchases. When we arrived, the assistant was extremely helpful, knew just what I needed, gave me some helpful advice and a few free samples to help. I left feeling looked after and satisfied.

So what was the moment of enlightenment that I had? The serum shopping experience got me thinking about life on a larger scale. More specifically, when you’re looking for someone to be in that special relationship with.

When you’re single, you look around and so many people appear to be in such happy, wonderful relationships, people ask you why you’re not in one too – you have no answer. It should be easy for you to find someone, you have everything going for you, you’re doing the right things and are in the right place at the right time, so why not?

The reason why – it’s simple. The reason you haven’t met that person is because the universe is looking after you. Either, the person you are going to be with forever isn’t ready yet and has a few life lessons to learn – or equally – you’re not. Nonetheless- you will find that person. It might take a bit longer to find them. And when you do, you’ll look back in hindsight with relief and be grateful that all the relationships that you thought were ‘the one’, didn’t work out.

The reason for me writing this, is because those of you who might be feeling despondent that you haven’t met that person that you want to be with forever – don’t lose hope. Don’t lose hope. It is always better to be alone, than to be with someone who doesn’t make you feel that you have arrived home. Don’t compare your life with anyone else’s. Don’t be brought down by somebody else’s timeline – you should have been married by this age, children by this age, house and car by that age. Forget all that. It’s archaic, it’s ridiculous, it’s obsolete.

It’s your life. Your very special, unique life – and even though I do believe in reincarnation- this particular life, you will only live once. So live it. Whilst you are single, do all those things that you won’t be able to do when you have a partner, a mortgage, babies and nursery fees.

Go on holiday. Travel as much as you can. Swim in the sea. Climb mountains. Meet new and interesting people.

Smile. Smile as much as you can. Don’t waste life thinking about what you don’t have YET. Appreciate and be grateful for what you do have. And when the universe knows it’s the right time for you – that person will just be around the corner…

The Tale of the Donkey

Once upon a time, a long time ago – I don’t know when, in a far away land – I don’t know where,  lived a man – I don’t his name, who had a donkey – I know nothing more about the donkey than you do.  Anyway, the man had to go on a journey with his ailing parents and so he set off.  Along the way, this quartet met a number of people who had strong opinions about the way this young man was travelling.

At first, the young man had asked his parents to sit on the donkey, as they would find the journey difficult to complete.  People tutted at the parents – ‘look how cruel they are – their son has to suffer, whilst they travel in luxury’; feeling embarrassed, the parents begged their son to travel on the donkey, whilst they walked.  As you can imagine – lots of other people had a lot to say about this!  ‘Look at that shameless man, letting his elderly parents walk, whilst he travels in luxury’.  Needless to say, the son dismounted, and they all continued their journey on foot.  A few hours later, they met a new group  of people who sneered, ‘Look at these foolish people, they have a perfectly good donkey and yet nobody is riding it’.  Hearing this, the son and his parents all clamboured onto the donkey and continued.  As they continued, they were then met with a new group of outraged people, with yet more opinions!  ‘Look at these cruel people!  All three of them on the donkey?  Donkeys have rights too, they should be carrying the donkey!  So, that’s what they did.  The son and his parents, continued the rest of their journey, by carrying their donkey – to the amusements, jeers and sneers of the rest of the world.

This is the story of 90% of the people in this world.  No, truthfully – we are all that young man embarking on our journey.  We have family and friends with us, travelling on our journeys.  And of course, we have the rest of the world – telling us how to conduct ourselves, and giving us their ‘twopence’ worth of unsolicited advice about how we should live our lives, and how we should be treating our metaphorical donkeys.

This is how the story should have gone…

A long time ago, in a far away land, a young man and his parents had to go on a journey.  As his parents found it difficult to travel, the young man made them sit upon their donkey.  The journey was tricky – but they got there.  The End.

There are two lessons to be learnt from this story.  First of all – stop caring about what people think, and what will people say.  Only you know what is right for you, and as long as you make decisions with integrity, and knowing that you are doing the best for you and your family – who cares what everyone else thinks?  People only see things from their perspective anyway.  They don’t care what you’ve been through.  They don’t care where you need to go.  They just want to comment, and make you modify your behaviour, so that it makes them happy.  They don’t care about you.

Secondly, we all are guilty, at some level, of commenting on other people.  But let’s think about this, if we all have our own journeys, with our own bespoke donkeys to complete, why the heck do we even worry about what someone else is doing with their donkey?

I like talking to people who mind their own donkeys and are very certain about how they will complete their own journeys.  These people are goal-focussed and interesting.  Their journeys in life are interesting.  They don’t care about what people are doing -their whole perspective of life is different.  They aren’t people’s business orientated – there is a glow that emits from them, as they are busy creating their own lives.  They visit interesting places.  They read interesting books.  They meet interesting people.  They are spontaneous.  And they live a rich life.  These are my type of people.

I’m not holding myself up as a paragon of virtue by any means.  However, as I become older, the less I care about what other people think.  If they don’t pay my bills, feed me and clothe me – they haven’t got a right to comment upon how I choose to live my life.  And if they do choose to give me some commentary about my life, that I didn’t even ask for, I merrily ignore them because I am perfectly happy about the way I live my life, and have taken great pains to ensure that I am living the life that I want.

People always judge others by their own value system – everything is skewered by this.  No one is truly objective because everyone has pre-conceived ideas in this first place.  All I will say is this – life is a wonderful, challenging, bittersweet, exciting journey for everyone.  Live yours according to what feels right for you.  Make decisions informed by what you know is right for you – not according to the gospel of everyone else.  Follow your instincts.  Live with integrity.  And most importantly, ignore those people who would happily judge you and look forward to seeing you fail.  Don’t listen to them, don’t react to them, because without your reaction they are powerless.

But the most important message I will say is – leave others alone.  You have your own life to live.  Your own goals to achieve.  Your own happiness to focus on.  Don’t comment upon others and how they choose to live their lives, just because it isn’t what you would do.  Who cares?  We will only live this life once.  So make sure you focus on yourself.  Not anybody else.  Focus on being happy and spreading happiness around you.

 

Kranti!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been despairing at how little women have progressed in the world despite humanity having been in existence for at least 10,000 years. In the west, we are fighting for equal pay. However, if you’ve been following a certain high profile investigation in the US, you will have realised that equal pay is still the least of our worries. The very fact that if you dare to reveal that you were sexually assaulted, you – the survivor – will be viewed with eyes of suspicion and people will refuse to believe you.

This hasn’t just happened with Ford and Kavanaugh, it’s recently happened with Ronaldo. There is evidence that he initially said that he knew the lady in question, was saying ‘No’ – but he continued with what he was doing anyway. There is the case of Johnny Depp, his ex partner emerged with photos of bruises all over her face. But people refuse to believe the woman. Again and again and again. The woman MUST be lying. She must be a gold digger. She must have an angle. Because these men are not capable of violence. These men are not capable of committing what they have been accused of.

And it’s not just men who don’t believe women. Women don’t believe women either!!! I’ve come across so many cases where women have divulged some of their experiences- and the minute their back has turned other women have said, ‘I don’t believe he did that to her, he’s never done anything like that to me!’

Well, there you go. In order for someone to be proved to be lecherous and violent and rapey – does that mean that they behave like a Bollywood villain caricature and behave like that with every female that they come across? Of course bloody not. Rape and violence isn’t about attraction – it’s about power and anger. How many times does that have to be reiterated for both men and women to get this?

Recently, there was a heartbreaking hashtag trending on Twitter. The words were ‘why I didn’t report’. The hashtag was in response to Trump’s assertion that if the allegations against Kavanaugh were true, why hadn’t Ford come forward years ago, when the alleged incident had occurred?

And then an outpouring of heart-rending stories began – men, women, children – abused, assaulted, preyed upon – but never reported their experiences. Why? Because they knew they would not be believed. Because the abuser was often an upstanding member of the family, or the community, or had been accused before and the previous victim had not been believed. Sometimes, the survivors didn’t say anything because of the possible consequences – my dad would have killed him, then he would have gone to prison. Some survivors thought it was their fault. Some survivors were too young. 4 years old at the time of their attacks – preyed upon by family members. Family are supposed to love you aren’t they? Sometimes, the attacker was the most desirable, best looking guy around – they don’t rape do they? Good looking people don’t ‘NEED’ to rape. The number of times that I’ve read that! Unbelievable.

A thread that ran through everyone’s account? The sense of shame. As if they were also partly to blame. I couldn’t hold my tears back as I read each person’s account.

The Nobel Peace Prize went to two deserving winners- both fighting against sexual violence in different parts of the world against women.

I am angry though. Sexual violence against any one doesn’t seem to be taken seriously. Men in power are only interested in protecting their own – and ensuring that the corrupt ‘boys will be boys’ club remains in power. And we stand by helplessly. Even women have voted for this to happen.

There isn’t a country in the world, there hasn’t been a period of time in the world, where it has been safe for women. However, the voice of women needs to be heard and taken seriously. It is a time for change. It is time for a revolution. And I pray for my fellow women, and men who are oppressed, not taken seriously, dismissed because they are not a part of the relevant big boys club – our time will come. Darkness will not last forever – even though this one seems to have been upon us for the last 10 millennia. We have to keep fighting, keep supporting one another and start believing survivors.

PS: The title of my blog – Kranti – means revolution in Hindi.

Good enough!

I don’t think there is a profession in the world, where the ‘must do better’ culture does not exist.  Every person I speak to, regardless of position, profession, part time, full time – the factor that is in common between us all is – striving to be better all the time.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask?  Absolutely nothing at all.  Nothing! How does anything ever improve if people are always doing what they have always done, in the same way, never questioning, never analysing, never reflecting on how things are.   And it’s certainly the culture that I was brought up with, both at home and in the workplace – have goals, strive to do better, achieve more, smash targets etc.

The one area – that I feel, the ‘must do better’ culture isn’t helpful – is parenting.  In fact, I was fortunate to sit in on some training at school, about ‘Attachment Theory’, and the impact this has on children in the very first few months of their lives.  How babies are treated by their parents, at the very beginnings of their tiny lives, goes onto shape their behaviour and how they form relationships with others as they grow bigger.  It comes as no surprise, that the children who display a lot of ‘unlovable’ behaviour, need the most love, and the psychologist who was training us, explained that if you remember nothing else – ‘connection first, then correction’.  Which meant create a connection, a relationship with those children who present challenging behaviour first – then correct their behaviour.  For those of us who have been teaching for a long time, or have worked predominantly with children who can present quite challenging behaviour, this came as no surprise, although it was nice to have that soundbite to take away; ‘connection, then correction.’

What was particularly refreshing, and actually blew my mind a little, was when we were learning about attachment theory, and the significance of the first few months of a baby’s life, the psychologist called effective parenting, ‘good enough parenting’.  I was stunned when I heard it.  I repeated those words again and again in my mind.  Good enough parenting.  Good enough parenting.  Not good parenting.  Not great parenting.  Good enough.

This meant that as a parent, you were doing what you could to respond to the baby’s needs – be that milk or nappy change or sleep or comfort – you were trying to solve the problem.  You might not get it right every time, but at least you were trying.  You are being good enough.  You’re trying your best.  You are good enough.

In many professions – it’s not ok to be ‘good enough’.  You have to be the best!  That’s all I’ve heard since I was tiny – aim high, reach for the stars, be the best.  But the hardest job of all – parenting – it was so incredibly refreshing and calming to hear – if you’re doing your best to meet your child’s needs, even if you don’t get it right each time – you are good enough.  And you know what?  I’ll flipping well take that!  I’m happy to be good enough as a parent.

One of the things that causes me the most amount of concern, is am I giving my own children enough opportunities to do things out of school?  Do they go to enough clubs?  Are they getting enough exercise?  Are they learning enough instruments?  Do I need to teach them some languages?  Should they be going on more playdates?

After that training – I’m now thinking to myself – are they fed?  Do they have clothes to wear?  Are they getting to bed on time?  Are they reading and doing their school homework?  But most importantly – are they loved?  Are they loved? Are they loved?  I can categorically say, yes to all of those questions.

And I am happy to say, that I pronounce myself bloody well good enough!  All the other stuff – it doesn’t even matter.  If I want my children to remember two things about their children, it’s that they felt happy and extremely loved.

What more could anyone ask for?

I’m fine!

Recently, there’s been a wedding in the family and it truly was a joyous occasion. I love weddings.  I love the optimism they bring.  The happiness in everyone’s eyes.  The good wishes that everyone automatically feels.   Two people – out of all the billions of humans on planet Earth – find each other – and decide that they don’t want to be with anyone else in the world – they have found the person that has inspired them to feel, ‘I don’t want to be with anyone else – I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’

For lots of women and some men, the most exciting part of the wedding is the glitz and the glamour, ‘What’s the bride going to wear?’ ‘What’s the venue like?’  ‘What are the wedding favours going to be?’ ‘Is the food any good?’

I’m not bothered by any of that.

My favourite part of every single wedding, that I’ve ever attended – are the speeches.  I remember the day that I got married, my brother’s best friend’s father came up to me and said, ‘Normally, I don’t enjoy weddings, but I loved the speeches that I’ve just heard.  They really helped me to get to know you better.’

I suppose it was after hearing that, I paid attention to speeches more at other people’s weddings.

One of the recurring themes that men often talk about, is how marriage is hard!  Oh cautionary tales of experienced men, talking about their wives, and explaining to the groom that they’ve got all this to look forward to!  Marriage isn’t easy.  Several times now I’ve heard men advise the poor, unsuspecting groom, that if a woman says she’s fine – she really isn’t and all hell is about to break loose.  This gets the same response each time, the knowing laughs from both sexes – everyone knowing that this is absolutely true.

Those of you who know me, know what I’m like – sometimes I hear things – and I start thinking.  I don’t find that advice funny anymore.  I actually don’t think it’s fair on men.  I used to do that a lot, at the beginning of my own marriage.  I’d be seething about something – my husband would ask me, ‘What’s the matter?’ and I would freeze him out, with a steely response of, ‘Nothing! I’m fine!’  And he wouldn’t know what had actually happened, why I was boiling up like an angry volcano…..but most importantly – he didn’t know how to fix things for me.  He didn’t know how to make the situation better.

Now, I’m making my husband sound like a saint, aren’t I?  I was the angry, ice-maiden wife, and he was the poor, innocent husband, just trying to make me feel better.  Well, neither of those caricatures are accurate.  If I was angry or hurt – there was a reason for it.  What would happen was, both he and I would have to wait until I could talk about things, and then the fallout would happen.  By this point, both of us were angry, both of us felt hurt, both of us felt like the other person didn’t understand us – and it would be really sad and unpleasant.

The thing to bear in mind though – is something that I referred to earlier, when you choose to marry someone, you have decided that you want to be with this person for the rest of your life – and the next – and the next – and the next….

So, even when we were furious with each other – that didn’t mean that we didn’t want things to work out.  We did.  These were teething issues.  Neither of us had ever lived with anyone before.  It’s actually a really big deal!  To go from having your own space, doing things in your own time, only having to think about yourself – to having to think about the other person and having to create a new routine, a new rhythm to which you both need to dance to.  Compromises have to be made.  Both of you – not just one.  Sometimes you don’t want to have to make those compromises – and then what happens?  Resentment builds.  Resentment turns to anger.  Anger makes you vicious.  Then?

We always remembered that we never ever wanted to be with anyone else.  We always remembered that we loved each other more than words could ever explain.  We always remembered that despite everything – we’d never met anyone else that made us feel as happy.

One day, I felt a bubble of anxiety about something brewing up in my chest.  I recognised it instantly.  I knew what was going to happen.  This bubble inside me, was going to grow larger and larger.  It was going to transform from a bubble and change into a rock.  This rock was going to grow heavy on my heart, and the more I thought about it, I would be feeding and it would grow and grow – my husband would ask me, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I would say, ‘Nothing!’ and the rock would become a boulder and increase in size until I couldn’t breathe or function anymore – and I would explode…

I recognised it.  And I did something revolutionary.

Before that bubble could grow and try to engulf me, I spoke to my husband about what was bothering me.  I was calm.  I was able to explain rationally what was wrong, how I was feeling and could he help?

I think that was the day that I became a true adult.  In fact, both of us did.

It was incredible to be able to talk about something that was bothering me, without that build up of resentment or anxiety or anger.  I just needed to talk through it when it was small.  Not allowing it to consume me.  And not having to pretend that nothing was wrong.  And my husband?  Well, he was able to help me feel better, or fix whatever was worrying me at the time…and you know what is so brilliant?  I don’t even remember what I was upset about!  I don’t even remember – because it wasn’t allowed to grow.

I was blessed.  My husband had asked me to do that so many times before.  He had asked me to speak to him as soon as I was feeling, whatever I was feeling, and then he could make things better.  I was fortunate that he meant what he said and kept his side of the bargain.

He was also blessed.  I stopped being that wife from everybody’s speeches.   I spoke to him when problems were small.  That way, nothing had to escalate, nothing had to become a drama, and now, whenever he asks me, ‘What’s the matter?’  I absolutely take the time to tell him.  Without anger directed at anyone.  So we have a peaceful life.

My message to brides – and women of all ages – you are allowed to not be fine!  When your husband or boyfriend or partner asks you, ‘What’s wrong?’ Do the guy a favour and tell him.  Tell him!  Learn to recognise triggers in your own body, when something is bothering you, how do you feel?  Speak to him before it grows bigger.  Speak to him without anger…And if he doesn’t listen, or tells you you’re irrational, or tells you that you’re just imagining things! Or responds to you with rolling eyes and sighs of, ‘Here we go again?’  You have to start thinking – is this person good for you?  Is he really the one for you?

And men – be patient with the one you love.  Women are trained to tell you that everything is fine, when you know and they know that nothing is ‘fine’.  Explain that you can take honesty – and you will listen and help when you can – and expect the same standard of behaviour in return!

Hopefully, if men and women work together – then we won’t need words of cautionary advice during wedding speeches, warning men of the complicated, double speaking beings that women are.  Instead – people can advise each other that marriage and relationships are not easy – but life is a lot easier if you tackle all your problems through talking about things when they are small.

And everyone?  Start teaching your children that they don’t need to bottle their feelings up.  They don’t need to ‘Keep calm and carry on!’ It is ok to be sad or angry or anxious or worried – let those emotions out of your body by talking about them and getting help.  It’s perfectly fine, to not be fine!