Words

I am thinking about words. Not the fifty thousand or so satisfying words that I poured into my NaNoWriMo file, now floating in the Google cloud awaiting rewrite. Not the thousand or so words that I fill each post on this blog with. I am thinking about the words we speak and, more significantly, the words we cannot speak because they are so hard to find.

On a typical day I do not say very much. Many of the words that I speak could be pre-recorded and played on remote. ‘You need to get yourself ready’; ‘Have you packed your lunch?’; ‘What time will you be home?’; ‘Have a good day’; ‘How was your day?’.

I suspect that the daily repetition is irritating to those around me. The alternative is to say nothing, to stay out of the way, which I sometimes choose to do.

Over dinner in the evening I find that my children now drive the conversation around the table with their happy chat about friends and teachers, television shows and funny happenings. When I try to join in with an anecdote of my own it often falls flat. It is best if I remain largely silent.

My husband rarely makes conversation. We pass each other essential information or significant news. Sometimes we find a topic of mutual interest, an update from someone we have met, a topic from current affairs, but this is a rare treat.

Perhaps this is why I have found my writing to be so therapeutic. All of those words in my head that want to come out, all of those thoughts and events that I want to share but have nobody wishing to listen. I throw them out into the ether and feel pathetically grateful when someone, anyone, responds. It feels like interaction, sometimes even understanding.

Television shows depict friendships where people can share anything and everything with their close friends. In order to draw the viewer in to the plot there is necessary dialogue. Do friendships like this exist in real life? Do people ever share the plot lines of their lives so openly?

I was brought up to adhere to a strict set of rules. There were some things that we should not do, but if we did then it should never be mentioned. There were some things that we should never discuss. If nobody talked of the shameful thing then we could all pretend that it hadn’t happened. It would remain hidden, secret, unspoken, unacknowledged. Eventually it would go away.

Words spoken do not go away. A careless, cruel or unkind word will bury itself deep in the hearer’s psyche where it will fester and grow in proportion, beyond anything intended. It will shape perception of the speaker, creating waves that spread out as a pebble dropped in a pool of still water. Little wonder that many words are better left unsaid.

What to do then with the emotions that are so hard to express but which affect not just the bearer but those around because they cannot be fully contained, they affect the way we live and act? I have tried to explain so much to my nearest and dearest, yet have been unable to find the right words. I encounter blankness, irritation, misunderstanding. Do I keep those words inside and cope as best I can? Do I try to share in the hope that some sense can be made of the way my life is being blighted by these feelings of despair?

Words are powerful and dangerous. A lack of words can be equally hard to bear.

Am I looking for understanding only so that things may go my way? If I cannot make myself understood, the repercussions may cause a reaction that is worse than holding it all inside. How do I find a language deep enough to express such intense emotion in the short time that I can hold a listener’s attention?

My silence is painful but words, once shared, cannot be contained or controlled.

I cannot explain, even to myself, why these emotions exist and affect me so negatively. How am I to find the language that will allow someone else to understand? If I bottle it all up inside, will it explode and cause more damage because the cause was never adequately communicated?

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Sex

This week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop has the theme Sex Education

Remember the Time Blog Hop

Sex Education classes? You have got to be joking. I attended an all girls grammar school in Belfast, Northern Ireland last century. We did not have Sex Education classes. Sex was wicked and good girls shouldn’t be thinking about that sort of thing. We were told to stay away from boys as much as possible; they would try to get us to do things that would bring shame on us and our families. What exactly they would try to do to us was never explained.

We did have Biology lessons though. One of the text books had pictures of the reproductive organs of male and female homo sapiens in cross section. We were not allowed to look at these until third year, when I was around fourteen years of age. I studied them carefully but could not work out how they could make a baby. That bit was never explained.

So where did I find out about sex? I do have a few recollections of lessons I learned in my formative years.

While I was still at primary school, at around Christmas time when we were singing all those lovely carols in church, I asked my mother what a virgin was. I knew immediately that this was not a question that I should have asked. I don’t remember what she told me but I do remember her embarrassment. I learned that some topics of conversation are best avoided.

My older sister was a potential source of knowledge. When I was around ten years old she told me that sex was like putting a needle in an orange. This made no sense at all; I’m still not quite sure what she was trying to tell me. Perhaps she didn’t actually know as much about the topic as she wanted me to think.

In my first year at grammar school I found a tampon on the floor in a toilet cubicle. I had never seen such a thing; at this stage I had not even been told that I would one day bleed each month. Anyway, it looked interesting so I picked it up and took it to show my sister who was sitting with a group of friends. She was mortified. Once again I realised that I had asked a question that should have been avoided, although I had no idea why. She confiscated the little white cylinder giving no explanation. Being an honest child, I would probably have taken it to lost property and handed it in.

Throughout my teens I was trying to work out what sex was and how babies were made. There were so many words associated with this mysterious act that I did not understand. I read a letter from a worried mother in the Problem Page of one of my mother’s magazines and subsequently looked up masturbation in several dictionaries (remember kids, no internet in those days). I was none the wiser. Explanations are no good if they contain more words that are not understood. The dictionary definition of orgasm made it sound like an act of violence, certainly not something that one may wish to attain.

The attitudes of the adults around me to sex was that I would find out what it was all about when I got married. Before that there was no need for me to know and I should not be sullying my mind with such dirty thoughts. All around me jokes were made, nudges and winks shared, but nobody talked about what exactly went on.

Looking back I don’t know if I was hopelessly naive or if we were all as ignorant or innocent as each other. Now, of course, I understand about the stork who brings the little baby when a mommy-to-be gets fat enough. My kids will have a much better understanding than I had.

Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women'...

Read the other posts in the Blog Hop by clicking on the link below.

Discovery and recovery

I learned a few things about myself this weekend. None were surprising, except perhaps the extent to which they impact my subsequent behaviour. I will endeavour to remember the lessons though. Being aware and acting to alleviate issues is important if I am to manage my life. I am responsible for my own well-being.

The first lesson was that I am not as physically capable as I once was. Having spent several days in a row carrying and shifting heavy items of furniture and their contents, cleaning up as I went along, the extra efforts put in over the weekend to complete the jobs that I had undertaken took me close to the limit of my capabilities. I had to make a concious effort not to take out my extreme tiredness on my family, who had been willingly helping me as best they could. It is not their fault that I am ageing yet am still demanding so much of myself.

When I eventually sat down to rest, late on Sunday evening, it took quite some time before the myriad of aching joints and muscles began to relax. A couple of glasses of wine helped, but I needed to consciously stretch out and think about relaxing each part of my body. I felt exhausted.

Perhaps it was because I was so very tired and achy but, when I eventually dragged myself upstairs to bed, I slept badly. The next day I made myself go through the normal tasks that are required of me before walking to my local swimming pool. I had hoped that a little gentle exercise would help, but I believe what I really needed was complete rest. Having slept better last night, that is what I am going to allow myself today. My body has given what it can and I need to allow it to recover.

As a stay at home mum I am sometimes asked what I do all day by those who hold down jobs or pursue active hobbies and social lives. It is hard not to consider and be influenced by other’s comments, often not unkindly meant, and I find that I am keenly aware of how I spend my time. For now my body is telling me that rest is needed and it is forcing me to listen. In my state of exhaustion over the weekend I was finding it hard to engage with my family. If I cannot muster the energy to involve myself in as much of their lives as they allow, to offer them my interest and support, then I must act. For now, that action is to indulge myself in a period of inaction.

The second lesson that I learned over the weekend is that my children are likely to be more accomplished than me academically. I have suspected this for some time but, as most mothers think that their children are amazing, have been reluctant to elucidate this thought, even in my own head. For me, the significance of this is that I am at risk of being considered an imbecile by my family unless I demonstrate my other capabilities. I am not so naive as to think that I will be able to impress my teenage children and sarcastic husband, but neither do I wish them to write my opinions off as unworthy of consideration just because I cannot display the in-depth knowledge of topics that interest them.

Unlike the rest of my family, I do not possess a detailed understanding of science, maths and IT. I have a grounding and an interest in these subjects but, when topics come up for discussion, I am rarely able to offer any useful contribution. More often than not, if I try I simply exhibit my ignorance. My elder son can be quite intense when he wishes to further his understanding on a topic. He can become impatient if I interject with some attempted witticism or contribution that is irrelevant to the point he is trying to debate.

I know that I have other skills. For the first time this weekend I found myself thinking that to myself and finding it a comfort. It is probably also true that the skills that I have are not those that my son will admire, but I do not require his admiration in order to gain self fulfilment. This was a light bulb moment for me; to realise that, however much I love my family, I can be satisfied that I am succeeding in something without their support. They are all so hard to impress, but I discovered that I do not need my family to admire my achievements in order to validate their worth. It feels as though a rope tethering my balloon to the ground has been cut and I have been set free to fly.

The final lesson that I learned over the weekend is how important my writing has become to my contentment. This is still a fairly new endeavour for me. Although I have been writing on and off since I was a teenager, it is only this year that I have started to give the thought and time needed to experiment with form, style and ideas. Apart from this blog, most of what I write is experimental and therefore private. However, just because I do not publish what I write does not mean that it is not worth the effort. I do not write for public acclamation but for my own satisfaction.

Over the weekend I was just too busy to sit down quietly and pour my thoughts into my electronic pensieve. It felt as though all the words that were building up in my head were fighting to get out, leaving me feeling tense and frustrated with no opportunity for release. I craved a little quiet time, yet the only moments of solitude that I could fit in were late in the day when I was too exhausted to consider coherent thought. I need energy and a clear head when I write as well as a peaceful and quiet environment.

Lessons learned are worthless if we do not then adopt better practice. After yesterday’s attempts to ease my aching body with light exercise, I have granted myself this morning to totally rest; and to write. Much of this weekend’s activity was required to complete the work that I have been doing around the house. My daughter’s bedroom is finished, new curtains have been hung in my bedroom, and our home library is stocked and in use. As I had hoped, this is a fabulous room for my favourite indulgences.

We have yet to turn the heating on in the house, despite the cooling days. Thus I am currently sitting at my desk, thick socks and slippers on my feet, wrapped in a duvet. I will write until all the words have been poured out of my head and I feel the now familiar, pleasurable release. My body and my spirit will recover, but only if I grant them the treatment needed to do so.

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The

Self improvement

I very much enjoy receiving feedback on my posts and welcome all of  the comments that readers have kindly taken the time to submit. Some of these come from people who do not know me and have found this site by chance. If they are also bloggers then I will try to visit their sites; I now follow several of them and enjoy considering their posts immensely. There is only so much that I can manage to read in a day but I welcome the chance to gain a perspective on their lives and on the thoughts and issues that they discuss.

Other comments come from people who know me outside of the internet. Often these are posted on my Facebook page, where I always include links to the posts that I publish. As these people know me personally, and have often done so for many years, their comments can be more of a challenge to deal with. They are not just basing their reactions on the words that I write but on the person that they know. It takes more courage to share thoughts and feelings with friends than with strangers. If things go badly then I have more to lose.

If I were not happy to receive such feedback then I should not write about personal or controversial topics. That, however, is one of the aspects of blog writing that I enjoy. I like to put down what I am thinking; I find that it helps to clarify in my own mind what are sometimes fairly woolly thoughts. It also helps me to see where I have done my own thinking and where I have simply believed what others have told me. Much of our knowledge is obtained in this way but, when I choose to disseminate an argument, I am taking it as my own. I am well aware that I have valued friends who will strongly disagree with many of my views.

What has been particularly interesting for me has been the general feedback that I have received on the methods that I appear to employ when considering a subject. I have been told that, whilst I claim to encourage reasoned debate, I do not always come across as accepting of others point of view when they disagree with me. I state that I respect the right of others to think differently to me yet display an exasperated manner and speak impatiently of their choices. It would seem that others do not see me in the way that I see myself. When I think about this honestly, I believe that they are right.

I find it easier to clarify my thoughts in writing rather than face to face as I need time to consider what I wish to say. I am not good at debates; my mind is not quick enough and I cannot recall the detail of enough factual knowledge to make it sound as if I know my subject; I do not have a good memory for detail. At school I was better at the subjects which required problems to be worked through rather than a regurgitation of memorized information. I failed miserably at languages as I just could not recall enough words. When faced with a friend who possesses a memory to rival Google I feel bumbling and foolish; I need time to consider new information and to work through my thoughts on this new information as I would a mathematical puzzle.

When I am considering a subject I will try to read around it, but even this can be fraught with difficulty. I cannot help but have preconceptions and it is so easy to read opinion pieces that agree with how I already think. When a writer, well qualified in his subject, creates a cognizant argument with well researched facts, figures and references to back up my point of view it feels so satisfying; it is as if I am being proved right despite others not agreeing with me. Much harder is to read a similar document that is equally well put together but carefully argues that I am wrong in my thinking. This makes uncomfortable reading. I am working hard to make myself seek out these difficult pieces and grant them proper consideration.

In my head I find myself thinking that those who disagree with me cannot be reading and considering the information that has encouraged me to think the way I do, but that is disingenuous and beside the point. This is not about me changing others – I have no right to attempt to do that – it is about improving myself. Effecting change in the way I think is a challenge.

If I wish to become the person that I have claimed to be then it will require effort but I truly do not wish to be closed to new thinking, neither do I wish to be accepting of flawed arguments. Living with ourselves can be difficult enough at times; by promoting myself as this open and reasonable, accepting and respectful individual I have been outed as a hypocrite. Now I need to do something about it.

Please continue to comment on the subjects that I write on. I am going to try to read more of those disagreeable but well argued opinion pieces and to give more consideration to why I have accepted a certain point of view. It will be interesting to see how my own thinking changes, if at all. I doubt that I will be able to debate any more effectively, but I hope that I will grow closer to being the person that I have claimed to be.

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One step at a time