And the women say...

posted on: Saturday, 23 May 2015

Every now and then I get a jolt of feminism. Here's the background: I grew up the second child to a single mother. She was a bastion of strength and dignity. She worked full time and I saw her balance a BIG job (the intelligent, competitive kind of job in a very male dominated industry) with our home life. She did it with grace and tenacity and frankly, her toil then set her up for a very good retirement now. The things that I recognised - sometimes she was late to collect me from school events. I was the only one with divorced parents. Sometimes she spent her money on power suits (it was the 1980's). Sometimes she was so tired we had the same meal for dinner three nights running. Sometimes, looking back, I wondered how she did it all. I had a normal, happy, secure upbringing interspersed by visits to Copenhagen to see our extended family. I lacked nothing. My Mum is Danish, so she was and is liberal, forgiving, calm, empowered. People should so emulate the Danes. They are the coolest society. But I digress...

I suppose what I see now is that I was, one way or another, raised as a feminist by a feminist. But not the rant-y kind. The assertive kind. Anything a man could do I could do. And I lost count of the times she advised me not to be financially dependant on a man. Get educated, make your own money.

So it's interesting as we fast forward twenty years and here I am; a housewife. It's an endless source of conflict for me.

I am raising a daughter, I ask her if is she is a feminist. She thinks I am nut; I am not sure many mothers ask that question? Or at least not of her peers. Not much of her current situation requires that she understands feminism. I guess it's one of those things that doesn't become a requirement until you realise it's a requirement. But yes - she says in reply; she is a feminist. She says I have brought her up to understand that she can do anything she likes, regardless of her gender. She doesn't see her brother being afforded different privileges because he is a boy. We raise them the same way.

I think this issue is no less important when raising a son. Can I just say that when his time comes and he is getting to know his future girlfriends, I be will labouring the point about how to treat women. I am facing the thorny topics now; saying what needs to be said. It really matters to me. Raising a good man is a feat in itself.

But here we go again - overzealous parenting? Why can't I just let it be?!

One thing my lovely Mum infers now...as she observes me parent my kids...is that she never worried about all this sh*t. She just got on with it as best she could. Worry was for the people who had time to worry. I do sense there is a self-conscious degree of anxiety about parenting that is so overdone in my generation. Awareness can be a thing that works against you. Did she escape the worry because she wasn't aware that there was so much to worry about?! Or was it enviable Danish sensibility - ever balanced and easy-going? A bit of both.

How do you find the happy medium?

Lovely things...

posted on: Thursday, 21 May 2015

Things that are lovely:

Comments from strangers that say: thank you for writing what you write and the inherent comfort of the words: 'me too'.

English prettiness at its best. My friend Alison's Cowparsley at Home range that is just heart-swimmingly lovely. The bees are my favourite. Until my house is finished I have to console myself with the accessories range; I choose a keepsake box which arrived this week to brighten my day.

Wearing yoga clothes all day. Comfort is all.

Conversations with my ten year old son about how long goldfish live for. Apparently 45 years, it has been known! I see that come half term next week we will be visiting the fish (pet) shop. When my daughter was ten we got the much loved puppy. My son will have to make do with a goldfish! But getting a new pet is something rather special, isn't it?

Knowing that even when I am wracked with self-doubt, somewhere deep in me gumption arrives and saves the day. 'I think I can'.

Penning the book plot in my mind...all the time...like...all the time. It's in my thoughts as a constant companion and I like that.

Listening to 'Women's Hour' as a podcast; as I rarely catch the live transmission on the radio. I absolutely adore Women's Hour. I learn something new every time I listen. It really is an institution.

Evening walks with old friends. English hedgerows and dog walkers who say 'good evening' as if we live in Hardy's time and we tip our cap to each other.

Coffee with old colleagues; talking about the good days. I went back to IBM today and was among the people who work. Get up each morning, put on a suit, go to work. I did this for so many years, it's strange but fitting to be a visitor in that land of the corporate. I am no longer one of them.

Palm trees.

In my efforts to get offline, I have seen an immediate positive affect. It takes discipline but honestly, a lot of what I was spending my time looking at was not a need-to-know. Instagram; you'll have to do without me for a bit. Pinterest; you're harder to quit but reading this article (suggested here) did make me smile! How silly we have become.

I am getting ready for the house build phase two...it will be lovely when it's done...when it's done!

If ever there were a glass half empty, it's mine. This is something I rue daily and as you'll know, certainly forms the ebb and flow of what I write about here. I sometimes look back on posts and think: my goodness I say the same thing in lots of different ways! I should think I will look back on these couple of years of my life as ones of discovery. But it's been a slow burn and often the level of self-discovery becomes hard to take. Introspection run amok. It comes from taking the choice to stop. I stopped doing what I used to do and now I do different stuff. I look at friends and see that a tactic amongst women my age is to keep so busy, pushing and pulling from all sides. The home, the husband, the children, the parents, the siblings, the career, the ageing, the making sense of it all. There's a whole lot going on there and sometimes I think back wistfully to my 20's when frankly, inexperience deemed life a whole lot easier! You have to roll with it...

images on this page from crush cul de sac

Do what you do...

posted on: Tuesday, 19 May 2015

It the most authentic sense, I am true to form. There are elements of me that my husband, who let's not forget is 22 years into this endeavour, describes as 'Completely Lou'. He knows me. I say I won't shop, and then I do. I say I get it, then I don't. I defend a point to the end of the earth and then change my mind the next day. I say I can do it, then I get a crisis of confidence. I am, if nothing else, predictable.

I have a habit where I am utterly and completely affected by my surroundings. I feel the clutter. I hate the clutter. It produces a fog in me. Yet my ability to actually deal with the clutter is somehow compromised. Today, I spent about six hours doing admin. The worst kind of the admin; piles of paper and that necessary exercise where you have to look at and understand every morsel. My back aching with sitting cross-legged on the floor, surrounded. File it. I file away the kid's school reports and think: when will I next need these? When Boo gets married and we need a witty historical reference about her personality. But on the most part with paper...I make a decision about it. Relegate it to the recycling. I am pathological about recycling. Where does it end up? In a conversation last week I lamented my worry that thrown away clothes end up as landfill. The person I was talking to rolled their eyes. Live more. Worry less.

I decided on Sunday that I should get offline. I haven't really entertained this prospect before, despite it being the mainstay of much commentary about modern times. I always felt that whatever lives on line, I could handle. Well I am not so sure. I think we must recognise this and certainly others share the sentiment. I can get consumed with the phone swipe.

My photographic memory tested every time I swipe my phone. Those go-to apps that keep the day rolling; the wait in the traffic bearable. Yes, I confess I have swiped my phone in traffic. Is this the big modern taboo? How many lines of traffic have you sat in to find that fellow car drivers are face-down. Illuminated. It's shameful. I realised that I was on line too much. And this is particularly relevant when it comes to having a teenage child. (Is the term 'teenage child' an oxymoron?) One way to navigate the chasm of parenting is to inhabit the on line world. Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook. So I think I overdid it and now I am going cold turkey. I can't be in that world, no matter how tempting, as frankly the only time I belonged in a teenage place was circa 1988 when I was my daughter's age. I am a grown up now. Didn't you notice?

Meanwhile, whilst we are sharing, the other thing I do is buy food that isn't eaten. There, I said it. Confessional: it seems like such a good idea to plan an elaborate meal midweek and purchase the ingredients, as if I am in fact Nigella the Domestic Goddess. Then the time comes and the inclination fades and frankly, we would all rather have pasta. I have a love/hate relationship with pasta. Oh so simple. Oh so same-y. I am now using different pasta shapes to shake things up; oricchiette anyone?

We are facing the imminent start of building work, which in short means we have ship out of the main part of our house. This is what is prompting the admin purge. I consider the need to clear out of drinks cabinet. Who has a drinks cabinet??! And frankly, am I deluding myself that we live on the set of 'Madmen' and need to pour a swift whiskey at the end of the day? I am wine girl. Spirits rarely feature and honestly, when they do, it's not pretty. I am now facing the prospect of pouring away the obscure contents of out-of-date Tia Maria bottles. And can I just say...Amaretto is never a good idea.

And so it goes. You do what you do, don't you?

Be the good...

posted on: Tuesday, 12 May 2015

I am wondering why there is this flawed human trait; the one where you forget to be good. Why must I always forget to appreciate things and forget to see the good in things?! Why must I be the one who sees the bad? I do well for a while, but then I slip back. In the past I have written about being an introvert and being a pessimist and now on top of these things I note that I am also an atheist. Do we want to get into this on a Tuesday afternoon? I guess so...

I feel like talking religion here is a bit like talking politics. I feel like I shouldn't reveal too much, as if I have inadvertently shown you my underwear. I voted last week in the General Election and found it a bizarrely moving and thought-provoking exercise. The polling station where I live was awash with little old ladies who'd put on their best suit to come and vote. There is something profound about it as an action, as a thing one must do. The school run that week was peppered with observations about the suffragettes and why we must vote, no matter what.

And then to religion; here I will say it: I lack faith. I suspect this is why my pessimism can become a little too much to bear at times; there is no alternative story. No outcome on which I can pin my beliefs. I look with envy at those who have religious faith, who have a place to turn to, who believe that they will be looked after. Who make that deal with themselves (or with God) that if they follow x, y, z doctrine, then they will go to heaven. The absence of heaven troubles me enormously. One of my mum's best friends lost her husband this week. He was in his eighties and had had 'a good innings', but still it feels wrong. She kept saying ' he was such a gentleman; such a good man' and I thought back to times as a child, where I was aware of his presence as a sincere and kind man, to whom I paid little real attention.

I find that the older I get, these things are more on my mind and frankly, that's a shame. I would rather be as oblivious as I was in my 20's! With age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes responsibility. I would rather like to have less of that. And so I spend my days keeping appointments and browsing the web and tidying up and trying to notice how beautiful it is here in this corner of the world. I try not to look at my phone too much. I try not to worry about all manner of things, from health to logistics to food to the future. And whether I need my roots done (yes). Most of all though I mentally tell myself to 'man up'. Strength and resilience is all!

This, I realise now, is why women my age take up yoga or triathlons. It's about distraction.

Meanwhile I long for some rhythm of life that is not dictated by their school term. How ironic that I should be looking forward to September where my life will take on an academic pace again and I will be tied by my own termly schedule. And ironic that whilst I ponder the meaning of life most days, I also fritter away time searching for the perfect pair of new kicks. And ironic that little old me, the one who thinks all the time, is married to someone who barely thinks about anything weighty at all. As in never. I have never known anyone so carefree. It's all about positive attitude! Hah!

A few months ago I downloaded a gratitude app - and I kept it for about a month - until I realised that the things I was grateful for were the same day in, day out. It started to loose its clout. I now go back and remind myself; health, love, family, comfort, security, beauty.

Ahh yes, that was it. Remember the good. Be the good. Good.

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