I Will Not Become You

Image by Daniel Kirsch from Pixabay

As I travelled home from Christmas at my mother’s house I was bruised emotionally. There are many things about my mother that would take pages and pages to write about. I could literally spend thousands of dollars unpacking my thoughts and feelings about this woman to a professional. For the record I haven’t. I probably should, but I haven’t.

When I started writing this post I Googled “I hate my mother”. The search yielded things I didn’t expect. They ranged from accounts of physical and emotional abuse to women who are tired of a parent who is too self-obsessed to care. With a good smattering of self-help articles thrown in. Reading a couple of them was truly terrifying. Terrifying because they challenged me to consider where I sat on this spectrum of mother hate.

All my life I have been determined to not become my mother. I read some writing by an Australian author, Steve Biddulph, many years ago. In it he explained that as we grow up our parent’s methods of raising children are imprinted on our subconscious. As a result, when we become parents ourselves, our go-to method of parenting is that of OUR parents. Unless we make a conscious effort to change things.

Of course, we can’t change everything. And so, we work on the things that stick out the most. As a parent I like to think that I was successful. I have crafted two amazing humans who are confident to be themselves. The Unicorn is everything I was afraid to be, opinionated, creative, self-aware and able to express herself. My son is less out there, but himself nonetheless. Despite this success I still have moments of hearing her voice come out of my mouth and it scares the living hell out of me. Genetics has dictated that I look somewhat like her and my voice sometimes, to my ears, is hers. I hate it.

Recently I have become conscious of how much negative self-talk I give myself. What I didn’t realise until this Christmas just gone is exactly where this habit came from. I was aware that as a child and a teenager my mother rarely had anything to say to me that is positive. Any praise or recognition was always tempered with a criticisim. A classic example is when I received the results for my first semester of university. As a country child living away from her family and any support from high school days, I passed five out of six subjects. My mother’s friend was congratulating me when my mother interjected “but she failed maths”. It was never enough to just rest in my success.

This is one source of a very negative self-image. An ingrained habit to look for the flaws that has been instilled and re-enforced since birth. Recently I realised another. Every time something goes wrong my mother vigorously berates herself. She calls herself things like “stupid” and “brainless”. These are not things other people call her. Everyone has other adjectives when they are referring to her. These are words she gives herself. The challenging part for me is that I do that too.

Once in the staff room I referred to myself as an idiot. A collegue, who I respect as quite intelligent, said,

“I hardly think that is an accurate way to describe yourself,” I explained that I had neglected to book an experiment and now had a double lesson to deliver based on science theory to which he replied,

“Well, I can see why you berate yourself about that, but I think you took it a little far.”

And this is the crux of it. I do things that are not smart, we all do, but it does not make me stupid / a bimbo / an idiot or any of the words I use to describe myself. And so, I find myself consciously working on another habit imprinted on me by my mother as a young child. The things I do might be ill-advised or a little left of centre but recognising my error means I am definitely not stupid. As I consistently tell my students,

“It isn’t YOU I don’t like; it is the choices you are making and the actions you are doing.”

This post is part of 4 Thoughts or Fiction prompt #165 “Bad Habits” Click on the badge below to see who else is sharing.

4Thoughts

The Not Goal

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

Towards the end of December I started thinking about what I am doing with this blog. 2021 is going to be a very different year for me, Corona related differences aside. I am planning to have a separate blog for my sailing adventure, one that my family, friends and school colleagues (and no doubt some enterprising students!) will be able to follow. I started blogging as a way to share my creative writing and later, my journey through the world of swinging. As my career changed so did my focus a little and my blogging took a bit of a back seat.

At the end of 2019 I re-energised my blogging and made a consistent effort to keep posting throughout 2020. I am pleased to say that the unspoken resolution of growing this page during 2020 has been achieved! Success was in not thinking of the whole resolution but in chipping away bit by bit.

I recently read an article written by my blogging hero, Marie Rebelle, at her new site Blogable. In this article she discussed ways to organise your blog to make it easier to navigate for readers. It got me thinking about my rambling pages and then exactly what I was trying to achieve. I don’t have a specific answer yet but something that has bugged me for a while is my tendency to start series and then kind of peter out. Howard and Lily being my most recent example.

This is NOT a resolution but I may need some accountability here. 2020 was the year of actually putting words on the screen. 2021 will be the year of making the words into a story that is longer than 1000 – 1500 words. I have looked at NoNoWriMo several times but, for southern hemisphere me, the month of November is the end of the school year. Only a teacher with suicidal tendencies and no need for sleep would commit to writing 50, 000 words in the same month as finalising assessment and reports for approximately 120 students!!

And so 2021 will be the year of making longer stories, maybe in fits and starts, but longer stories none the less. My plan is to do this in the same way as I did 2020. By not thinking about the whole goal but just chipping away quietly bit by bit. I have several thousand words in draft form sitting in various places including some new ones that have not seen the light of day. Maybe they will happen along sometime.

This post is part of Steeled Snake J is for January. To see who else is making New beginnings click here.

TMI Tuesday – Holiday Washup

1.What was the best part of your holiday season?

I feel like I say this wayyy too many times and I am sure but reconnecting with sailing and the ocean. Just in case you are not tired of images here is a selection from our holiday outings.

2. Did you have the opportunity to get down and dirty over the holidays? Please share?

The yacht has been ‘christened’ but in a very restrained way. All of our outings have included our daughter, The Unicorn, and so nude sunbaking and sex on the deck in the moonlight have not happened yet. We spent New Year’s at a vanilla party where there was some talk of sex but the participants openly admitted actually HAVING sex is not their thing. So yeh I am thinking I need to rectify this situation.

3.You receive a gift from a family member that is exactly what you DID NOT want. Do you:

a) Smile politely and bin it at the first opportunity?

b) Say thank you and re-gift it next year?

c) Do some detective work and return it at the first opportunity?

d) Try and tactfully suggest something more appropriate for next time?

Over time I have had some gifts given to me that were clangers to say the least. The usual go to for my in-laws is some kind of toiletry product of the cheap shop variety. I hate wasting things and so my bathroom cupboard has filled with tubes of cheap hand cream that smells disgusting. Recently I have been using some of the better products on my body and giving it to Mr Jones to use on his hands etc. I have even steeled myself and thrown the worst stuff in the bin!!

Famously my SIL gave The Unicorn a pantsuit that was awful. I tried to return it to the store she bought it from only to be told by the retail worker there that she had bought it from the bargain bin for $2. I was not happy but I didn’t go as far as saying anything to her about it.

4.Sex toys as gifts yay or nay? Was there a time when you unexpectedly opened something R-Rated in front of your family? Tell us about it.

Sex toys as gifts are good. If the giver has a good understanding of what you like. Mr Jones has bought a few things over the years that have been awesome. In particular a glass dildo that I quite like and use often. The most amusing sex toy anecdote is the time that he gave me a vibrator for Christmas. I opened it, along with all my other presents on Christmas morning in the company of my whole family, including my parents. I only opened the box a little way before he stopped me.

He wasn’t quick enough though. My mother then nagged me to find out what it was for pretty much the rest of the day. Even my own children knew better than to pursue it. I didn’t tell her even though it would have been a good lesson for her about putting your nose in other people’s business.

5. What is the best present your significant other has given you?

Mr Jones has exceeded himself over the years. By far the best present I got was for the second Christmas after we were married. I was heavily pregnant and expecting our son on 24 December (he didn’t arrive until 7 Jan) and he purchased the most comfortable recliner I have ever sat in for me to have in the nursery. It was the gift that kept giving for many many years and much better than any wooden rocking chair.

Bonus: Share your New Year’s resolution(s) or reasons why you do not make them.

I tend to avoid making resolutions. It seems every time I vocalise a resolution I sabotage myself by not following through. The best way for me to make improvements is quietly and privately without too much obvious effort. Over time I have learned that you have more success by making small changes every day and being kind to yourself along the way.

Dramatic changes made with much trumpeting tend to fall by the wayside. Besides. January 1 is not the only time of the year that changes need to be made in your life.

This post is part of this week’s TMI Tuesday. To see who else is sharing click here, or on the image below:

2021 Not Stating the Obvious

When my son was in high school, he was given an assignment to write an autobiographical excerpt about a time in his life that was formative. It so happened that we had travelled as a family in a caravan for three months when he was about 10 years old. This experience seemed to be custom made for his assignment.

Both he and his teacher were cautious about this approach for different reasons. His teacher because he felt that writing about visiting a whole bunch of places would not really scratch the surface of who my son was. My son because how do you choose a single experience from such a rich tapestry of stuff? Is canyoning in Karijini national park more life changing than petting a crocodile in Darwin? Or sitting next to rock art in Kakadu that pre-dates any cave painting in Europe? (OK that was probably a stretch. A ten-year-old boy doesn’t care about that kind of thing)

In the end he did write about his trip but not about a particular location that he visited. He wrote about a rather peculiar solution that he invented as a means of having to cope with being in very close proximity to his sister twenty – four hours a day. (Think back of a car, in a caravan or campsite.) His narrative focused on learning to find a way to maintain personal space when being crammed up against blood relatives. In a way it got to the crux of such situations. What we learn when we go on adventures is not just the geography or culture of the place we are visiting. We learn a whole lot of side stuff, how to relate as a family, how to meet foreigners, respect for customs different from ours, respect for the environment. The list is endless.

Fast forward to 2021. I find myself planning another adventure. This one does not involve an eight- and a ten-year-old. Rather it involves a forty-eight-year-old and a fifty-five-year-old that have been married for 22 years. I have posted about our new yacht. I am not entirely sure if I have explicitly stated it on these pages, but our plan is to spend six months of 2021 sailing the Queensland Coast. The details of how we got to this decision are a bit convoluted, but it does involve a compromise, postponing of a long-held pact between Mr Jones and myself, Covid-19 related border issues and ageing relatives.

And so, we will set off somewhere between 10 and 14 April 2021. When I looked at this week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt, “Looking Forward to 2021”, this voyage was an obvious choice to write about. Who doesn’t want to hear about freedom, sun kissed beaches, hidden tropical islands and coral reefs? But that is not what I wanted to write about.

At the inception Mr Jones was very worried about this voyage. He almost DIDN’T sign the bill of sale even though owning a boat like this and sailing to far away places has been his dream for many years. HIS dream, not mine. Herein lies the snag. In the beginning I was a reluctant sailor. I tolerated his fantasy and went along to keep the peace. Over time, as I documented in this post, I was worn down. I learned a little about the mechanics of sailing. I learned a little about navigation. I fell in love with the marine environment.

I was the one that pushed for the purchase of this yacht. My friend and I discussed my change of heart and she said that sometimes wives go into “make it work” mode. We recognise that something is necessary for the happiness of our husbands and families and we make it happen. I think that has happened here. I wasn’t terribly excited about the caravan odyssey that we took our children on when my husband proposed it. In fact, I flat out stated “I am not driving to Western Australia with two kids in the car.”

And then we went. The whole time we wished we could stay longer, see more, do more. It was a life changing experience for everyone. There are times in your life when you are faced with a choice to take a road that most people don’t follow. This is one of the times I am choosing to take the least trodden path. Experience has told me that this choice is not easy but it is the most rewarding.

A forty-foot catamaran seems big, but after a while of not being able to get off and anything can become very small. Land based travel is different. You can go for a walk, get away from the caravan / car and breathe. On a boat it is harder. Mr Jones worries that we will struggle as a couple. It is not an unreasonable thing to worry about. I would be lying if I said that I don’t have some concerns. But I am in “make it work” mode and so I am not letting the concerns stop me. I know that we will work out a way to relate to each other. Both of us are going to do some growing in ways we don’t expect.

So, what am I looking forward to in 2021? I am looking forward to following the path less travelled and seeing what is over the horizon.

And not stabbing my husband to death and dumping him overboard.

Dead Calm - Nicole Kidman as Rae Ingram holding a spear gun by Jim Sheldon  - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Source: Australian Broadcasting CorporationT

This post is part of Wicked Wednesday prompt #449 Looking forward to 2021. To see who else is being wicked click here, or on the image below