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.


You are a Strong Woman

I have been a bit quiet in here for the last week or so. Twitter followers will know this is because I have been on a cruise to Papua New Guinea.

Or maybe they don’t.

Whatever the case I have been in the isolated bubble of a cruise boat. As a holiday option cruising is definitely different. I am not sure what it is like in other countries but cruising from Australia involves copious amounts of food and visits to mostly tropical or Pacific Island countries. I stress the mostly as there are cruise options leaving from Brisbane (my home town) and Sydney with Asian and New Zealand options.

For this voyage our destination is Papua New Guinea. An interesting country with political and military ties to Australia. A large number of people on this particular cruise have worked for varying amounts of time in New Guinea. Many Australian companies have branches or parts of their operations in New Guinea. Our cruise director is constantly stressing to the guests that this is a less developed part of the world. By this he means that the people are living that weird blend of traditional life with some modern ideas thrown in. A visit to a village hut will reveal a very small dwelling with maybe two or three rooms, no indoor plumbing, no defined bedrooms but power supplied by a generator through a single lead that will connect to a rice cooker and a mobile phone charger. Cooking is done outside (except for the rice cooker) and the people who live outside the main cities on isolated islands, for the most part, grow their own food or harvest it from the sea.

This is our second visit to this country. We came for the first time with one of the first cruise boats to visit the area. Five years on some things have changed. The standard of living is still the same but the number of villagers vying for the elusive tourist dollar is increasing. As is the amount of coercion on the part of children to try and elicit money from the tourists. It is distressing to not be able to help as many people as approach you.

One of the attractions for repeating the trip was the opportunity to experience an active volcano. Geology holds a certain fascination for me and the workings of tectonic plates are a very exciting part of that. Needless to say when I discovered a tour that promised a close up look into the crater of an active volcano that is situated near Rabaul. I jumped at the chance. Before we left the country most people we told about our proposed adventure couldn’t see the attraction. Despite my fascination other people just can’t get as excited about rocks and their workings as I do.

Two days into our cruise and news of the volcano disaster in New Zealand reached us. My thoughts are with the people who lost their lives, and their families as but for the grace of God Mr Jones and myself could have been on that party of cruise boat tourists chasing the experience of visiting an active volcano. After this news everyone we told of our proposed adventure made a joke about getting blown up like the people in New Zealand. We were more fortunate I guess. We made it to the top and lived to tell the tale.

It was not an easy journey. The path was not formed and took us almost straight up a slope made of tiny scoria interspersed with larger rocks that had been formed by lava bombs. When we reached the top we were rewarded with a view of rocks in the crater covered with solid sulphur and steaming vents releasing the foul smelling gas into the air. This volcano does not contain lava like some but usually releases large amounts of ash, small scoria, hydrogen sulphide gas and the occasional lava bomb.

The terrain reflects this and I could not have made it without the good humour and assistance of my guide Judas (I don’t know what twisted mission education prompted that name!). I think I impressed him with some unorthodox ways of navigating rocks and crevasses and the number of times I fell on my butt during the descent.

In New Guinea it is expected that women cover their legs and butts while exposing breasts is quite ok; breasts are for feeding babies, exposing butt cheeks is an invitation for sexual advances. So I could not show him the result of my many falls. You guys however are quite welcome to view some of the shots I took later that evening when dressing for dinner.

As we reached the bottom, despite my many falls and amusing Judas and his brother by sliding some of the way on my butt I was complimented that I was a strong woman! At that time my legs felt as if they wouldn’t hold me up any longer so I didn’t feel particularly strong but on reflection I guess I am. This year has been one of many challenges for me and perhaps this journey was to show me that if I keep getting up when I fall down I will succeed. Sometimes you have to travel a long way from home to realise some things that people all around you have been telling you all along.

Another Day in Paradise

Mr Jones has a slight obsession with sailing. At one time he nurtured a dream of sailing around the world, It is not a dream I have ever shared with him. I was not even a huge fan of sailing. Over the years we have owned various sailing craft which I have had varying feelings about. Several years ago we purchased a share in a 39 foot catamaran which has been one of the best sailing investments that we have ever made. In the time we have owned the boat we have spent many days bobbing about on azure coloured ocean enjoying the light breeze and sunshine.

I grew up a three hour drive from the nearest coastline. Holidays at the beach were very rare. I was never a huge fan of sitting on a beach amongst other holiday makers. I still don’t really like that. What I have discovered on sailing sojourns is the jewel that is Moreton Bay. Every trip I discover something new and different. Some new sea creature, a new way that plants and the land interact and an appreciation for the way nature seems to fit together so well. Seeing creatures with clever adaptations that perfectly suit their environment makes my biologist heart happy. It also restores my faith that life on Earth will survive the ticking time bomb that is the human race,

During the first evening of our current outing we spent time at “The Big Sandhills” watching the sunset from the top of the smaller dune. Our struggle up the steep mountain of sand was rewarded with some spectacular views.

I am convinced I live in the lucky country because I have access to such beauty and I am one of the luckies people because I take the time to visit places like this that are so close to my home.

The Little Engine That Could 

Every teacher in the world knows my pain when I say that reports were due at 9 am this morning. Needless to say my workplace this morning was filled with bleary eyed people mainlining coffee and comparing their bed times from the night before. There was also a limited amount of enthusiasm for my excitement when I met the 9am deadline because the vast majority of my collegues did not and we’re facing another day of trying to convince classes to work quietly while they attempted to plough through what remained of their marking and data uploading. While I am happy with my achievement this is not a post aimed at boosting my self esteem with boasting it is more of a sharing of my discovery this week of the deep well of positivity hidden deep inside of me.

Back in my pre-depression days (well at least before I was diagnosed) a friend commented to me that I was one of the most positive people he had ever met. Lately I have been wondering where that positivity has gone to. My friend the Black Dog has been a very regular visitor and his visits have been making it very difficult to see the upside of many situations.

My reason for writing this post though is that throughout the last month or so I seem to have found a way to begin to tap into this well of positivity again. I have discovered that it wasn’t lost, merely hiding. In the weeks leading up to my deadline I found a focus that I have not been able to tap into for quite a while. I formulated a plan and I stuck to it. Every day I set myself a small goal, knowing that if I achieved this I would make the big goal on time. 

It worked. But what stuck in my mind was how positive I was that I was going to make the deadline, I never felt in the days before that is wasn’t going to make it. In the words of Eminem “success was my only motherfucking option”. And so now I share my success with you because I am feeling very pleased with myself and my collegues are not really able to share my excitement.