Progress

Did I mention that I had a busy week coming up? Having reached the half way mark I feel that I am on top of things, but only just. I have worked my way through the mind storm that blew up over the weekend, which I wrote about on Monday, and moved on. My husband is treading carefully around me. He recognises that I was hurt; I feel loved.

Yesterday was his birthday so we had a family celebration. It would seem that age is inversely proportional to the volume of presents received, but a cake was baked, champagne drunk and we had an enjoyable evening out at a local pub restaurant. It is becoming increasingly rare for my whole family to choose to spend time together which made this special.

Since the weekend I have been thinking about how just a few words can be misinterpreted causing unintentional pain. My daughter put on a new dress for our evening out and looked fabulous. It skimmed her figure perfectly, defining her waist. I commented that it made her look slim, which she immediately took to mean that she normally looks the opposite. It seems that I made a mistake mentioning size.

Are we particularly sensitive about the things that matter to us, or about the things that society values? I was hurt by the suggestion that I was wasting my time writing, despite the activity being of benefit to me and thereby also to my family (a happy momma is an aid to all). My daughter, despite being slim, healthy and beautiful, frets over her size, probably because it is discussed by her peers who see it as important.

However much we recognise what matters and what is superficial, it can be hard to live within a society that is critical of our choices. I wonder if this is one of the reasons why I find it so hard to cope with social gatherings; my way of thinking goes against the conditioning of so many.

My mother worries about my weight because, to her, how a woman looks will determine her standing in society. If I question her views then she takes this as a personal slight, a criticism of how she is. I know that she loves me whatever I look like, but the superficial is important to her and she will never be able to comprehend how little it matters to me. I say little because even I cannot dismiss it entirely. I can tell myself that it does not matter, but struggle to shrug off the influences I have lived with throughout my life.

Yesterday I attended a Parent / Teacher evening at my children’s school. My youngest is choosing the subjects that he will study for his GCSEs so it was important that I attend. I thought long and hard about what I should wear, how I should present myself. I did not wish to embarrass my son when so many of his classmates would be present, and I wished to appear competent and interested in front of his teachers. On this occasion, how I looked mattered.

I sometimes think that I would like to live in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by beautiful countryside but no other people. I could indulge in long walks, write to my heart’s content, and not worry about how I was perceived by anyone else.

Real life is, of course, not so straightforward. I wish to be with my husband and children, and they gain pleasure from the company of others. When I do get together with my friends for walks I benefit from their company. I am not an island.

I have progressed enough to understand my need to cultivate a greater acceptance of how others think and feel. I rail against what I see as attempts to change me. What I need to be working on is accepting that others choose to grant importance to how they are perceived; these differences need not be seen as criticism of my choices. Just as my mother cannot comprehend how looks matter so little to me, so I must not judge others harshly for caring about such things. What difference does it make to my life if they value how they are coiffed and costumed?

Today there is a cold, thick fog oppressing the countryside around my home. Tempting though it is to stay snug and warm inside, I will venture out to the gym. I will feel better for a little exercise, especially after last night’s delicious but indulgent meal. Improving my health will take time and work. At least this week I feel that I have taken a few small steps towards improving my mental well being.

superficial woman

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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