A open letter to Grandpa…

Dearest Grandpa,

There are so many things I wish I could tell you, if you were still here with us. I can’t believe sometimes that it’s been more than two years that you left us. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you; what you’d say to me; what corny joke you’d make that we’d pretend to find funny; what new fact you would share from something you read; what new recipe you’d find online and casually mention to me in the hope that I’d make it.

I accept that you can’t be here anymore but there are so many things I wish you could know, things I wish I could tell you, things I don’t know if you’d know where you are now.

I’d want you to know that the day I felt my heart break was that day in March 2013 when you fell for the first time and couldn’t get yourself up. To see you helpless, silent, and unable to explain to us what was happening, is a day I wish I could forget. You were always the one to get things done, and then, there you were, on the ground, not able to speak or move. You just watched us, helpless and hopeless, and we didn’t know what to do to help you. That was the day my heart broke, because I knew that it was truly the beginning of the end, and that we would have no control in all that was about to unfold.

I wish that you were more cognisant when I got my divorce in May 2013, so that you could tell me that you were proud of me for leaving and happy for all that would lie ahead. I knew it was what you wanted for me, and I am glad you were alive to see it happen. I wish I could tell you that I was sorry that you had to see me go through that and I wish I could thank you for being the haven I need to run to when I left him.

I wish I could have told you that Oz was born – your first, and from all indications, your only great grandchild. Just two days before you left us, he came to us. It feel as though you waited that little extra time just to make sure he journeyed safely to us. You stayed, I want to believe, to make sure he and his mummy were both ok. I always hoped that your two souls passed each other on the way in and on the way out, and that for that split second you could know all the joy that he is. I wish I could tell you that his mummy is a brilliant one, doing a bang-up job with him, because he is happy, bright, inquisitive and he makes us all smile…just like you did.

I wish I could tell you that I finally see what you meant when you said that religion was how we lived our lives. I understand now how important it is to help others whenever I can…with no hope of gaining anything in return. I understand now that going to church or temple or mosque, is less important than how we treat others…those in our lives and those who are not.

I wish I could tell you that I met the most amazing man. He loves me the way you did, unconditionally. He came to me to save me, I believe, whether from myself or others. I think you hand picked him and sent him to me because he came just at the right time, when I was ready to love again. He protects me, cares for me and loves me like only you did. He spoils me rotten…beyond rotten and allows me to get away with murder, just as you did. He can do any and everything, just like you did. He hates sports, just like you did. And he loves CNN, just like you did. I told him all about you and all that you taught me, and all of the ways you shaped me into who I am. I only wish I could tell you about him, and how he has changed my life forever. You’d be pleased with this one Grandpa.

I wish I could tell you that all the things you have taught me through your example, all finally came together for me. It took a while, and it wasn’t until close to turning 40, but I got the lessons. I wish I could tell you that I understand the value of silence and letting things be. You epitomised this and I never understood it until now. I wish I could tell you that I understand the value in treating people with respect, regardless of what they do me. I didn’t like that very much about you, until I finally understood it. I wish I could tell you that I now feel and see the value of family, while maintaining that family isn’t just your blood. I wish I could tell you that I understand the value of grace…the grace you taught me.

I wish more than anything that I could tell you thank you. Thank you for teaching me all that you did. Thank you for loving me the way you did, so that I could finally understand that accepting less than that, was no longer an option. Thank you for our family and all that you did for us without ever knowing it.

I miss you every single day….

Turning 40 – My Brutal Truth

If ten years ago…wait…if three years ago, someone told me about the changes I’d experience as I approached and turned 40, I would never have believed them, and I may have silently and mentally scoffed, assuming that I would escape any sign of…aging.

As I started noticing the changes, or evolution, as I prefer to call them, I was shocked, confused at times. However, that did not last very long, because what I was about to discover, was truly life-changing, life-embracing and completely satisfying.

I would have captioned this list, ‘If only someone told me this before I turned 40’. But the truth is that I never would have given them the time of day. So I would need to name my list something more real, simpler and more to the point.

 

Turning 40 – My Brutal Truth!

1. Is it early onset dementia?
More often than before, I’d walk into a room and forget why I went in. Worse than that, I’d go to the supermarket for a specific item, only to get home, unpack 8 shopping bags and realise I had forgotten the item. Vitamins on a daily basis is almost impossible, because they’d be staring at me and I’d still forget to take them. I literally started wondering, frightened, if this was early onset dementia. It was truly worrisome, at first. Now I realise that it’s because my brain most likely self-prioritises what it truly needs to remember, and the rest simply needs to be listed, on a daily basis. Needless to say, quick trips are only as easy as they used to be, if I prepare a written list, a week before packing.

 

2. Weight loss is a mother bitch
I used to be able to lose weight very easily…even the weight I didn’t have. A few weeks of some resistance training and my body was always back in order. At 40, cabbage soup diet, Atkins and daily yoga for 8 weeks, and I may lose a pound, not necessarily an inch, just the pound! Losing weight has become a task, something that needs an insurmountable amount of dedication, patience and time. Carbs are the enemy; bread is now the devil; carbonation and cocktails are made from the water of Styx. The way I figure it is that there is so much more wisdom and grace to love at 40, that fat doesn’t want to do anything but stick to me.

 

3. I don’t recognise my skin
This one was a bit much to accept since it happened, literally overnight! Furthermore, I think the night it happened was the night I went from 39 to 40, and I kid you not. Although I have no extremely visible wrinkles, age spots or saggy boobies, the skin on my face just no longer looks or feels the same. Make-up just does not go on as smoothly or flawlessly as before, no matter how expensive the product. And at 40, money is no object when it comes to beauty products! The cellulite appears out of absolutely nowhere and shorts suddenly seem safer if they are an inch or 2 longer. The most difficult to look at is the skin on my torso. The tightness loosened. And I never had a chance.

4. Walking up the stairs
I have heard many-a-40 year old complain about the pain and ache that accompanies simple tasks such as these. I have even heard my younger friends complain even more about the same. However, I have to admit that these are not tasks for me and turning 40 has NOT AS YET plagued me in this way. I found myself, just months before turning 41, running up the stairs at work when a colleague commented on it. She asked me how I could still do that so easily. It was only then that I even realised that there are many physical activities that I CAN do without pain and without thought. At that point, I felt that maybe it’s my constant attempt at healthy eating and an alkaline diet that has saved my joints, thus far. Dancing on a daily basis is my job and I could only hope that it has helped, as well. I am just assuming that age hasn’t caught up with that as yet, so I shall just await the inevitable.

 

5. Fashion, Fashionistas and Fuss
When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to be able to make all the fashion choices I wanted, without the input of my mother which was really the actual permission she did or did not grant. In my 20’s, when I started working, I started wearing very risqué clothes because I was of age and of physique. In my 30’s I became more aware of what brands I liked and did a lot of experimenting with trends. In my 40’s, I look at young, self-proclaimed fashionistas and I am grateful that I am beyond it all. Fashion is a pressure that society places on people who aren’t strong enough to know their own style. By this age, I wear what suits my perfectly imperfect body; I am unaffected by the opinions of the fashion world; I buy the brands that I like for very real reasons; I spend my money on as much clothes, shoes and handbags as I choose because they make me so incredibly happy. Most significantly, IDGAF about who has opinions about my style. It is incredibly liberating to dress for me, rather than for what society dictates. Dress codes are my pet peeve and I don’t do well with following them, for the simple reason that I am being asked to.

 

6. Resilience
After being through a terrible first marriage and its even more traumatic divorce, death, failed relationships, betrayal and lies, it takes a whole lot to phase me emotionally. The sad part, though, is that I wasn’t even put though all of these by men. I’ve been put through it by friends, as well. Tears come easier when I feel unwell, than from the hurt that another human being inflicts. The resilience doesn’t come from being strong or jaded. It doesn’t even come from being through so much. It comes from coming through it all, and being ok each time. As long as each journey may be, survival still occurs. So this knowledge that everything changes, nothing stays the same forever and this too shall pass, has resonated with me, and I know that whatever is thrown at me, I will take a deep breath, sip my prosecco and just handle it. Resilience comes from faith as much as it comes from knowledge and wisdom, that I will be ok, even if it’s eventually.

 

7. Make-up is my best friend
It has always irked me when people ask me why I wear make-up every day, or why I wear so much make-up, or when they inform me that I don’t need make-up for a barrage of their reasons. The one that seems the silliest to me is when a friend told me that she doesn’t wear make-up to work, so that she could look different when she goes out. It was a ‘crickets chirping’ moment for me, actually. My school of thought on make-up is somewhat different. I wear it, in the first place, because I DO NEED IT – even more so at 40. Why on God’s green earth would I WANT to look bare faced in public when I could look made-up instead!? There is a vast difference in how I look and feel. I love how I look in make-up and I feel like it is the most feminine thing I can do for myself. It makes me feel taken cared of. I take pride in how I leave my home and choose to look as though I am in public and not in my living room, with my face as dry as a biscuit. I go get my hair and nails and waxing done. Mani and pedi day has to be the best day of my month and I love spas. Life is short. I choose to look my best…or at least, look the way I want, every single day. I live what I love, especially at 40.

 

8. Public Opinion is as important to me as bale of hay
One of the most important things that I recently learnt was that my opinion about my life and my life choices was much more essential to my well-being than the opinion of anyone else. When you are younger, there is a standard to which you want to aim; an acceptable partner, job, home etc., of which your peers would approve. Social and familial pressures to get married, have babies and be promoted at work, seemed important, essential even, for a balanced, fulfilling life. At 40, all the dust settles and you see things so much clearer. Society and family no longer dictate my pace – I do. So I took the long vacations instead of saving for a baby’s university fund. I passed up professional offers. I didn’t care about what my friends thought about my life partner. I started living for me. I had to stand by the consequences of my actions and I had to face my choices. So my life finally started to become mine, even if it meant losing some friends along the way.

 

9. Alone vs. Lonely
Turning 40 made me enjoy my own company so much more than before. Especially since public opinion was as important to me as a bale of hay! Being alone never felt lonely and boredom is not something I feel. I’ve embraced who I am and what my life has become and I love time to myself. When I was just a few years younger, there seemed to be a void that always needed to be filled….with friends, going out, being out, and coming in at 4am, anything except just being home alone. Now, dinners-out end by 7 so that I can be on my couch by 8. And I love it!

 

10. Men
If at 40 you can’t see the red flags and the warning signs that HE is as important to you as a bale of hay, then you have had a rather sheltered, uneventful, safe and stable past decade. Good for you! Didn’t work out so well (or badly) for me. So at this age, I see the worthlessness of the ‘bad boys’; the bore of the man-whores; the dread of the boasters. I finally know my worth so well that I saw theirs for what it really was, rather than what I hoped they’d be. Realising my truth in this way, saved me some heartache and it is one thing that I wish had happened sooner. But it couldn’t, you see…because with age comes wisdom. So I learnt to choose well – who to get rid of, who to keep and why to marry.

 

11. Love and Marriage
They say that a heartache/problem/mistake repeats itself until the lesson is learnt and sadly, this summarises while epitomising my 30’s. I married at 31 for all of the wrong and usual reasons: we were together for 6 years so it was about time; he owed me that; I was getting older; suppose I wanted to have children; what would people say about us being together for so long; I didn’t want to start over at 31; I invested so much time already; and of course, nobody is perfect so, at this age, he will do. Well, wasn’t that the mother of all mistakes! If I thought that starting over at 31 was going to be a bitch, wait until I had to do it at 38! But it took this experience for me to understand love and even marriage. Getting re-married at 40 was a peaceful, heart-warming experience because I was finally making this life-changing decision for all of the right reasons, and I felt as though this was just the beginning of all things good.

 

12. Life is messy
I was raised to have a compartmentalised life; everything in its place. Public opinion should not be met with criticism so I should aim to create the perfect life, or at least the image of it should be projected. This was frustrating, and it was most likely one of the reasons why so much went awry in my 20’s and 30’s. Life is as messy as f#ck! There is no black and white – it is an entire rainbow of greys! There is no mould in which to fit me or my life and I stopped trying because it no longer mattered. I CAN go to bed with a dirty glass in the sink overnight. I didn’t need to cook every day when there was a restaurant just a drive away. I can sleep until 11 am or 6 am on a Sunday and still just spend the day watching TV. A Christmas tree meant nothing and did not need to be decorated if I hated packing away the decorations in January. I can drink a glass of scotch or prosecco every evening if I wanted since I didn’t have to cook. And so what! Life still went on just fine! I no longer cared to be a slave to the routine. Every day is now a new and different adventure and an opportunity for new shoes! So I stopped compartmentalising and I started living.

 

13. Ruffle my feathers, why don’t ya!
You ever notice how easily we curse out someone who gives us a bad drive on the highway…even if it’s from our closed windows; or how easily a co-worker can get under our skin for not doing what they were supposed to, whether it directly affected you or not; or how family judgement about our life, masked as concerned questions, enraged us to jump to our own defence? Well! Turning 40 was the most mellowing thing that ever happened to me. A sigh, chuckle or shrug is the sum total reaction that any of the above would get from me now. Why? Because the clouds have cleared and I see clearly now. Silliness and foolishness is more apparent now and have replaced things that used to be meaningful. I simply do not care about the trivialities around me that do not concern me. I understand when a woman is attacking me because she is jealous or unhappy, and I no longer need to react vengeful to that. I can simply look away and walk away and be back to my life in a matter of seconds. This truth of turning 40 has been quite de-stressing.

 

14. Health
40 – the age of mammograms, stress tests, blood pressure testing, insulin monitoring, and the list goes on…and on and on. [My disclaimer is that the health decisions I made at 40 are mine and are not in any way a testament to rightness. It’s a choice and a decision I made based on my circumstances. It’s a decision by which I will have to stand if it’s the wrong one, and I’m ok with that.] I vege juice on mornings. I eat my fruits and yogurt. I limit fried foods. I drink my lemon, ginger, cucumber, mint water all day, every day. I eat salads as often as I can. I exercise – weight lifting, yoga, dance of course. And that’s it. I decided, very deliberately, that I did not want to be prodded, squashed, poked, drained and tested for what MIGHT be wrong, JUST BECAUSE I am 40. The slightest feeling of pain, discomfort or anything of the sort, I consult my doctor. But the buck stops there for me. I decided to take the ‘irresponsible’ route of live and let live! I want to live free and happy until I can’t anymore. I have no children to depend on me; enough money to throw me into a hospice; and husband who is young enough to be able to find love again, should I die! So in the meantime, based on what society (drug companies, insurance salesmen, the media) has decided is the inevitable (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, old age), I will do my best to be and stay healthy, with some extra dietary and exercise precautions. I choose to just live happily in my ignorance for as long as I can!

 

15. Family
In my 30’s and especially after my divorce, my friends were my everything. I am an only child and while family was important, it was my friends, and selected cousins, who I turned to, in time of needing emotional support. I don’t regret this because without them, my journey would not have been the same and my divorce transition would have been so much more painful. But now I see the value in family. I can’t choose my family! But they are still mine, to keep and hold dear, for as long as I can. The drama that oftentimes accompany friendships, is no longer attractive or a viable way of life for me. I no longer need people who use me and are there for me when I’m down, because they prefer me unhappy, as it gives them company in their misery. I no longer want in my life, people that I cannot trust implicitly. My circle has become smaller, lighter and truer.

 

16. Social Media
This one is simple and to the point…points. At 40, I really don’t care what you think about my social media activity, and I proclaim this, vehemently!
• If I don’t know you, don’t add me
• If you don’t like my posts, don’t read them
• If you don’t like me, please unfriend
• If you think my every post is about you, the Internet is really not for you
• My forums weren’t meant to make you feel comfortable – they are mine
• No, I am not too old for social media
• And yes, I do have time for Facebook, Instagram and Blogging, because your life is not mine
• And yes, I like putting things on social media
• And yes, I feel the need to share a lot. Maybe if someone shared with me in my 20’s, I would have made less mistakes because I learnt from theirs
• Do not assume WHY I post things on social media – my reasons will surprise you. They aren’t as simpleton as you assume

 

17. Sex
Since my mother and mother-in-law will probably be reading this, I’ll keep it simple, with the rest left to intelligent interpretation (which I failingly hope they both lack). At 40, I finally know my body inside out. I know how things work, how they work well and how they work even better. Parts finally feel as though they fit. My proclivities are not up for judgement or justification and all that was rumoured about turning 40, was completely true! Ok, fine. My husband is 30, so that doesn’t make it worse. (Sorry mums, especially his)

I loved every minute of turning 40. It was a milestone for me because I feel like I have finally found myself and I have unleashed it to the world…even if it is just to my world. I have grown, I have stumbled, I have gotten up, and I have grown some more. Turning 40 was liberating because it freed me from the shackles that I allowed to entrap me for so many years.
When I was younger, I was afraid to change my perspective if it didn’t fit neatly into a box. Now I live outside the box and there is an entirely different world there. I walk peacefully, thoughtfully and happily on a different path. I have no point to prove to anyone and no points to gain from reaching someone else’s standard of acceptability and conformity. I blaze my own trail, for me, and all I can do is hope that others learn from my mistakes. I feel empowered to try anything or to choose to do nothing because choices are finally all mine. The tranquillity that comes from being who you were truly meant to be, cannot be adequately explained with words – it must simply be lived.

What I have accepted and how I feel are two different things:
I accept that I have most probably lived more than half of my life already and that I am tad bit closer to the end than to the beginning. But how I feel is that life, MY LIFE, has only just begun.
So my advice, whether asked for or not, is to go on the extravagant vacation, drink the wine, dance, buy the shoe, leave the dishes, kiss the boy and live!

 

DISCLAIMER:
Understanding and acknowledging that everyone can have a completely different experience in turning any milestone age, and also understanding and acknowledging that any age can be a milestone, the experiences outlined here are mine. This is a reflection of my journey and a sharing of my truth.

Women are controlling…but please don’t tell us that

This is one blog that will start with the declaration and disclaimer that I am not a Psychologist. I base nothing I say here on scientific facts that I have tested and proven. I am simply a woman who has had quite a bit of experience with women – all types of women. So this is just my exploration and exposition of what I have learnt, through observation of and experience with my gender, inclusive of myself, in the past forty years.

I have learnt that women are controlling…but don’t dare tell us that.
If it is one thing women will tell you that they hate and resent, it is to be called controlling. It truly eats away at our core and is a sure-fire way to unnerve us in one single blow. The back of our eyes are on fire, the veins in our necks feel as though they will burst and a thousand responses come to mind in a huge jumble, but little can actually come out. The anger at being called controlling is in a category by itself.

Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for our children, families, friends; or wanting to perform optimally at work. In fact, I believe that most people have OCD tendencies in certain areas. I do. I won’t eat my meal if my food touches. I am highly trypophobic. I prefer to eat every meal with a knife and fork. The list goes on. Being controlling of yourself is one matter – I believe that we are entitled to be who we are, regardless of its supposed absurdity. However, when we start to want to change and control the behaviour and tendencies of others, it will be deemed as controlling, no matter how prettily we justify it.

Being controlling can be just as damaging to a relationship as adultery. It erodes a relationship from within and promotes a feeling of condemnation, emasculation and defeminisation, loss of trust. Moreover, it encourages lying and hiding, for fear of an argument ensuing, if one person does something of which the other one would have disapproved. Sadly, being controlling seems an inherent part of our nature as women, and vary in intensity among us.

Controlling behaviour can often reach the point of telling your partner what he should wear; taking out his clothes and laying it out on the bed; demanding that certain outfits, jackets, jerseys etc. not be worn with you. This control way surpasses wanting what is best for your partner, your equal. It reaches the point of dictatorship. This genre of control can take the form of convincing you that you are helping him to be better, look better, and feel better. But what you are doing is sending the message to your partner, that he isn’t good enough, smart enough, and capable enough to dress himself. So, as a result, you need to dress a grown man.

Control also rears its ugly head in the families into which we marry. Many women believe that as they take on that spanking new last name, that it entitles them to a whole new barrage of opinions and dictations about their in-laws. When I say ‘in-laws’ I do not only mean their husband’s parents, but their siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, as well. I believe that we need to be very cognisant of our roles in our newly conjoined families. As an in-law, we do not automatically have rights and control that we think, or should think. A woman’s role in her husband’s family is to support her husband in his decisions and relations with them; not to dictate what those relations should be. Marrying into a family can put you in a very precious or precarious position – it’s all a matter of choice.

I know someone who has used her husband’s love for her, and his willingness not to displease her, against him. She was single-handedly able to turn him against a family member, because she didn’t approve of the person’s choices. She proceeded to involve herself in related matters in his family, speaking one-on-one to other family members, in an attempt to sway their opinions as well. Therefore, the role she took in that family is one of being divisive, destructive, dangerous. Regardless of our personal and sometimes self-righteous opinions, it is our duty to do all that we can to keep our husbands family intact, and as close, if not closer, than when we met them. Even if this means swallowing some pride (which, by the way, never choked anyone to death), turning a blind eye to what does not directly concern us or at least, ensure we are not the reason for any dissension. Ironically, in that same family, another in-law did the opposite. She used her influence on her husband to ensure that he understood that emotions make fly high for a while, but family is family. She encouraged relations that entailed no cutting of ties, drama or discord. She decided to take on a completely different role.

Control in a life-partner’s family can become dangerous, especially when it comes to a man’s relationship with his parents. Unfortunately, controlling women in such scenarios are unable to see a parallel, should the same occur in their families; or worse than that, they find a way to justify it quite differently. It is hard, very hard when your partner’s parents don’t like you or don’t approve of your union and to some degree, I believe everyone can relate to this. The hurt is raw and there is always a need to feel that your partner should defend you and stand up for you. That does not seem too unreasonable. What becomes unreasonable is when we dictate HOW he should stand up for us and when we tell him that he should have nothing to do with them until they respect his choices. Standing up for you is quite different from ending relations with one’s parents, temporariness and ‘all for the better good’, aside. If a man decides this on his own, that is his decision and not one that I would personally support in such a situation. But demanding it, threatening that it has to happen is also a dangerous level of control. It is just as ludicrous as telling him exactly what to say to his family in their family matters. Advising and suggesting should be just that. They should not be manipulative tools used in control. Manipulation is the most deceitful form of control.

Control then has a flip side. It can be the result of being controlled. I have noticed that when women have lost all semblance of control at home, with no voice in their marriages, that they need to exert control somewhere, somehow. Sometimes this ‘lashing out’ can occur in various forms in the workplace. Women who are controlled at home by a situation over which they have no control, tend to need a victim to bully. Someone who represents all that they are losing; or someone who represents all that they want and cannot achieve because of their current circumstance. Other times they are desperate for recognition and validation in the workplace and will do anything and trample over anyone to achieve a position or promotion, so that something in them is fulfilled and they feel in control of something. I usually stay far from these women. I know what it is like to go through a terrible divorce and feel as though your world is crumbling around you in a whirlwind and you have control over nothing but your bowels. So I try to empathise and remember how hard it is, and I let these women be. We have to heal ourselves. But first we have to recognise.

Controlling men with whom we are in relationships is my favourite topic of control. Its predictability and genericness make it quite entertaining to me. These are the women for which I pathologically cannot feel sympathy or empathy. From the beginning of time we have known and witnessed first and second hand that we cannot change men, yet we somehow think that our relationship is different and he can and will spontaneously combust and turn into all that we wanted him to be.

The control here is frightening. The worst form of control that a woman can exert on a man is getting herself pregnant in order to keep him. Ladies, if he isn’t stepping up to the plate and committing or giving you what you need from the relationship, the universe can assure you that trapping him into fatherhood, isn’t going to get you what you desire either. What it will do is trap yourself into a resentful relationship with someone who will and should never trust you. This control move is also an extremely selfish and desperate one. You have completely taken away his right to choose the path he wants HIS life to take. Should a man try to control us in an even lesser way, our girlfriends would not just be up in arms, but nag you to leave him, forthwith! Yet, if our friend traps her boyfriend or husband (and yes, you can trap a husband into unwanted fatherhood), into parenthood, we pacify her that he gave her no choice.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve been there. Making all the wrong decisions, unaware that one of the reasons my relationships weren’t working was because I was trying to control its path. Open communication is essential for a healthy relationship. But if you air your concerns once, twice, three times and he shows no interest in compromising, what do you think trying to control him, give him ultimatums would do? I learnt that answer the hard way. You cannot make a man love you, threaten him into taking you out, bargain with him to treat you better or beg him to give more. If love, respect and compromise don’t happen spontaneously or with as little prodding as possible, the problem is no longer him. It’s you. You need to make a decision – fish or cut bait. You need to stop vacillating, either decide to stay and accept it or leave.

What I have learnt in the past forty years is that control damages relationships, all relationships. It has no place in the same arena with love and respect. It is an opposing entity, one that is destructive and divisive. If we don’t want to be called ‘controlling’ then we need to stop trying to control everything and everyone around us. Some years ago, I let go. Mostly because I was going through so much at the time that I couldn’t keep all the balls in the air. For my mental health, I had to rearrange my life, my priorities, my purpose. I had to start from the beginning because I was at rock bottom and didn’t see a light to work towards. In finding myself, I re-defined as well. I realised, in the process, that many things that I thought were important for my sense of importance were actually fickle and insubstantial. I learnt that I had control over me, but it wasn’t a control that I was willing to relinquish to anyone. Therefore, in the same way, I could not try to take away someone else’s control. Who I am and who I have become has been a hard road travelled and now I treat important relationships carefully, with a little more and sometimes a lot more patience and understanding.

I always resent when relatives and friends ask me why I allow my husband to grow his beard so long. It’s his face, his beard, his appearance, his choice – none of which affects why I love him. I love his beard because I know he loves his beard – it is how he feels comfortable. And I am comfortable with the man that he is. Even with sillier matters, like when my brother-in-law would ask me to ask my husband to let him work the next day instead of them both being there, and he asks me to just use my influence. My answer is always the same: I tell him to work it out with his brother because it had nothing to do with me.

I am not an extremist and if I find my husband is being impatient or hard on my brother-in-law, or in any other family matter, I try to get him to calm down, relax. Think about it more clearly when he’s less upset. I remind him that this feeling is temporary but they’ll always be family and whatever you say and do today…there is always a tomorrow in which you feel differently. His final decisions are his because he is his own person, bad decisions and all. We all are. But controlling him is not an option. Maybe it is as a result of me being non-controlling and non-nagging, he encourages me to be all that I want to…blogger and all, even when it’s a topic he isn’t comfortable with. He encourages me to be me, accepts me for being me and I try to do the same. He’s a little bit nagging, always feeling the need to tell me the same thing at least three times, but I can’t control him. So since that’s my biggest problem in the world with him, I decided to fish rather than cut bait.

Vaneeta

No one says that they want to grow up to be a step-parent

Every step-parent’s experience is as different as apples and oranges. Approaches differ tremendously. Expectations are oftentimes unreasonable. It is often as thankless as the teaching profession. One thing is common to each step-parenting experience – when blame and resentment are to be delegated, it starts and stop with the non-biological parent.

 

I was a step-parent for 13 years, and not a very good one, at that. Ironically, during those years I felt that I was a pretty good step-mother: dedicated, caring, willing and selfless. Now that it’s all over, along with the marriage of which the children were a part, I realised that I failed at the role thrusted on to me; a role that I, all too willingly, accepted.

 

They were young children at the time and perfectly lovely: fun, excitable, willing to accept me for the sake of their father’s happiness. I was close to them, I thought. I loved them, spent almost all of my time with them. I thought and felt that they loved me. I looked after their school work and other education matters, being the teacher in the reconstituted family. For many years I felt that we were all happy together. We all knew it was not the most ideal situation, as children should really be with their biological parents. We made the best of it. Their mother and I got along better than she and their father did, which was ironically funny for us all.

 

It may have been happening much earlier than I had realised, but somewhere in the last five years of an extremely tumultuous marriage, all had started to go awry between me and the children. They witnessed every nasty argument, accusations of infidelity, physical abuse and generally unbecoming behaviour from the two adults who should have been setting the example. Even if their father did not know better, I should have. I should have stopped. I should have left sooner. I should have done something different.

 

In retrospect, I see the many mistakes I made:
– I should not have been so involved in their academia. Being an educator or not, it should not have been my primary role.
– I should not have participated in their discipline. If their parents were fine with certain things, then I should have been as well. If their parents were dissatisfied with certain things, I should have been neutral.
– I should not have involved myself in their babysitting when their parents could not be there. They were not my children. I was reminded of that many times.
– The gifts I bought them were because I never had siblings and I was thoroughly excited about special occasions like Birthdays and Christmases…it was how I was raised. So even when their father discouraged it, I should have listened to him, that they could do without.
– There should have been a separation between my life as an individual and my role as a step parent. I should have travelled more to visit my mum, rather than be solely financially responsible for the raising and maintaining of children who did not love me the way I loved them.
– More importantly, I should never have been responsible for paying off the debts of their mother, when their father couldn’t.
– When money and clothing was stolen from me, and clothing was damaged repeatedly, and their father said he couldn’t do anything about it, I should have let it go. The battle was not worth it between me and him and me and them. They were just material things.
– When I found out that they were complaining about me bitterly to their mum’s family for years, I should not have been devastated and depressed and hurt and betrayed. I should have shrugged it off. They weren’t my children, after all.
– When their mum’s family told people I treated them badly and that I instilled too many rules, I should have stopped. Wanting the best for them was not my responsibility.
– I should never have gotten into uncountable arguments with their father about him having a better and closer relationship with them; even after he complained that the girls remind him of their mothers and he just couldn’t. These were not my battles to fight.
– I am sorry I pushed a university education and exposed when lies occurred – that really was not my business. Only my money was.

 

This list goes on and on, full of mistakes I made. The general rule I broke as a step parent was that I became over invested in something that was never mine and was never going to be mine. You can’t be a good or successful step parent by yourself. You need parental support just as they do, from whom they do, as well.

 

Children learn so many things from us, adults. They learn how to give or withhold respect, honesty and integrity. If children see a parent disrespecting the step parent, they learn from example. If a parent doesn’t appreciate all that a step parent tries to do, then failure is destined. Being a step parent was very hard for me. I tried with everything within me, but failed every step of the way.

 

Loving children that are not yours is no easy task. Parents and children can judge all they want, but unless you actually are a step parent, you truly do not have a clue! You can easily make a thousand assumptions…but you are still a step parent dunce until you become one. Nothing you do is right. Nothing you do is enough. You are always deemed as having ulterior motives. You are blamed for every problem under the sun.

 

Yet, the hurt you feel, is the same as a parent; the worry when they go out is the same; the panic when they don’t answer the phone is the same; the nervousness during exam time is the same. Their feelings were always of the utmost importance. It was until after the divorce I even realised how much feelings I had. Hurt was the most overwhelming one when they decided after the divorce that I was the devil’s spawn.

 

Life is so funny…for thirteen years they were the reasons I never wanted children…because I was so happy to have them. Now the reality of parenting that they taught me, is also the reason I don’t want children. This blog entry is by no means a pity party…just my experience – apples or oranges.

 

If I had the chance to do it all over again, I’d pass on the experience. Being a step parent is emotionally overwhelming and complicated. It entailed way too much responsibility – emotional, psychological, and physical. I understand that reconstituted families work well for many – I’ve seen it in our first years together, and now in my profession. But being a step parent isn’t for me. I tried it. I loved it. I hated it. But I wouldn’t want to do it again.

 

Despite my influence, they turned out well…all credit to the real parents.

 

Vaneeta

The things I would have told my younger self…

Never waste your time on a man who doesn’t commit to you 100%. He’s not doing it because he doesn’t have to. You aren’t worth it to him. But you should be worth it to yourself to walk away.

Never be with a man who doesn’t compliment you every single day.

Never be with a man who doesn’t have eyes for you and only you.

There is a difference between a man who likes you and one who invests in you. Never think it’s the same thing.

Your friendships will never remain the same forever. People change. You will change.

It’s ok to outgrow people. Never allow them to think the problem is yours.

Never ever settle for less than the best possible treatment from everyone in your life.

Never be ashamed of who you are.

Never be around people who want to change you – moulds are for cakes.

Do what you love, the money will come.

Don’t let society dictate the course of your life – again, moulds are for cakes.

Never underestimate or undervalue chivalry, good manners and ambition.

Enjoy every stage and phase of your life, understanding that they are just that: phases.

It is very true that he doesn’t have to buy the cow if he’s getting the milk free. But the milk is NOT sex. It’s your self-respect and self-worth.

Make mistakes. Make many. But learn from each one of them.

Men aren’t all bad. But there is no need to repeatedly choose to be with losers.

Don’t try to change people – you just can’t…and shouldn’t.

Always wear nice shoes. (wait…I always knew that one)

Let people say all that they need to about you. That isn’t your concern. They tell themselves what they want to think about you, rather than the actual truth anyway.

Do as much as you can to help others – you may never get it back, but that doesn’t matter. Do it anyway.

Stay away from negative people. They really are like a wet and heavy blanket. A pain with no purpose.

Drink wine….lots of it. It’s great for celebrating and mourning. It’s just great.

Yes sure, learn to happy with yourself and by yourself. But don’t be fooled by pseudo-feminism and believe that we are creatures who are meant to be alone. People do complete you, they do bring you joy.

Who is meant to be in your life, will find their way in, they will stay, and they will make everything whole.

Quoted from Wayne Dyer….

I was preparing to speak at an I Can Do It conference and I decided to bring an orange on stage with me as a prop for my lecture. I opened a conversation with a bright young fellow of about twelve who was sitting in the front row.

“If I were to squeeze this orange as hard as I could, what would come out?” I asked him.
He looked at me like I was a little crazy and said, “Juice, of course.”
“Do you think apple juice could come out of it?”
“No!” he laughed.
“What about grapefruit juice?”
“No!”
“What would come out of it?”
“Orange juice, of course.”
“Why? Why when you squeeze an orange does orange juice come out?”
He may have been getting a little exasperated with me at this point.

“Well, it’s an orange and that’s what’s inside.”

I nodded. “Let’s assume that this orange isn’t an orange, but it’s you. And someone squeezes you, puts pressure on you, says something you don’t like, offends you. And out of you comes anger, hatred, bitterness, fear. Why? The answer, as our young friend has told us, is because that’s what’s inside.”

It’s one of the great lessons of life. What comes out when life squeezes you? When someone hurts or offends you? If anger, pain and fear come out of you, it’s because that’s what’s inside. It doesn’t matter who does the squeezing—your mother, your brother, your children, your boss, the government. If someone says something about you that you don’t like, what comes out of you is what’s inside. And what’s inside is up to you, it’s your choice.

When someone puts the pressure on you and out of you comes anything other than love, it’s because that’s what you’ve allowed to be inside. Once you take away all those negative things you don’t want in your life and replace them with love, you’ll find yourself living a highly functioning life.

Thanks, my young friend, and here’s an orange for you!

Don’t follow me…blaze your own trail

Oscar Wilde said that Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I have tried to use this as some consolation in the past year. However, as time has passed and the imitation has continued, relentlessly, I find no solace in being paid homage by mediocrity.

 

It may sound silly and superficial on my part that I am irritated by people following my actions to suit themselves, by buying the same shoes and clothes and brands and crap that I buy, and using it unapologetically around me. While I understand that I don’t have patented rights to any one brand or product, the reason behind the imitation is the real annoyance. There is absolutely nothing wrong with genuinely liking something and buying it etc. But to buy something just because it’s something I like is somewhat pathetic. Likewise, suddenly blogging and writing things that I write is a clear indication of an identity crisis.

 

I am who I am and I am where I am based on my journey. It is based on all the pain and heartache and tribulations I have endured. My life is a reflection of my experience. So when you adopt all that I am, you are simply a copycat. You have not lived through my experience; you don’t know how I have reached here.

 

Finding yourself is a journey, not a destination…it is never something that is finally reached. Imitation cannot be the method of self-discovery. Find who you are and why. Know what YOU like and why. Don’t be someone you think you should be. Be who you were meant to be.

 

Imitation is simply the flattery that the mediocre pay to those they consider better than them.

 

Vaneeta

Women are liars as well…

Men have always gotten a really bad name when it comes to lying. And truth be told….they DO lie…a whole lot, probably even more than women do. But women lie too. The hypocrisy lies in the justification. Women lie for the very same things that men lie for, yet when we do it, it somehow seems ‘justified’.

 

If a man lies to us to ‘spare our feelings’, he’s an ass. If we do it, we are compassionate.

 

If a man lies about the true nature of his current relationship status, he’s dishonest. If we do it, we are just trying to sort things out.

 

If a man lies to make himself look better, he’s a chauvinist. If we do it, we’re well-marketed.

 

The list goes on and on. But what I have realised is that we can’t want to be considered ‘better’ than men when we are doing the very things that make us condemn them. We are no better, in fact, it makes us worse, because we claim to know better.

 

A lie is destructive to any relationship or friendship and is no foundation upon which anything wholesome should be built. If lies are essential for a friendship or relationship to run smoothly then it’s definitely a friendship or relationship that needs to be re-evaluated.

 

Vaneeta

The Teacher. The Stereotype.

Sixteen years ago as I was about to enter the Teaching Service, I called my high school teacher, to whom I looked up for so many decades, even to this day. I asked her if she had any advice for me as I finally started the career I dreamt of. Her advice was simple and spontaneous. She said that everyday that I go to work, I should dress up and look good; never be dowdy and boring and don’t be afraid for the students to see who you are.

 

The image that teachers project is created by teachers within the service. There seems to be a horrid stereotype of what teachers should and shouldn’t look like. None of which I subscribe to, of course. For those who know me well, conformity is not my strong suit.

 

So many teachers decide to dress ultra conservative with a dowdy twist to it, as though trendy fashion would somehow render you incompetent. Needless to say, I took a massive bashing while teaching at an all-girls Catholic high school, because I stuck firm and hard to who I was and who I wanted the girls to know. I wore trendy clothes and anklets and nail polish and make up and designer shoes with matching handbags. This was a major problem there. The older ones especially felt that I didn’t fit the mold of what a teacher should be.

 

There is a particular teacher’s group on a social media site, to which I am a member, that often post pictures of teachers and ask if their outfits are appropriate. I’m always thoroughly appalled that colleagues could diminish our value as they do, thinking that their fashion commentary is somehow meaningful.

 

Why can’t teachers look good, trendy, fashionable….even sexy? My skirts are never too short and my 40 year old boobies always stay hidden. What else can the problem be??
I am already disgusted that we must make every effort to hide our ink, as though a student under 18 is going to get a tatt because her teacher has one. Ludicrous much?

 

No student has ever disrespected me because of my clothing, hairstyles, make-up, shoes or tattoos. In fact, these things are excellent launching pads for discussions with them about how choices made in youth, stay with you forever; about what self-image really is; about how attractive the profession is.

 

Teachers are so often our worst enemies. But I have to say that no male teacher ever jumped on this ridiculous band wagon. Go figure!

 

Vaneeta

Whatever men can do, we can do better

Needless to say, I disagree with this statement in so many ways. I am all for equal rights for men, women, alternate lifestyles, pro-choice activists etc., but I really never burnt any bra in the name of feminism. Equality doesn’t make me a woman – being a woman makes me a woman.

I understand and agree that we can do almost anything that men can do and vice versa. But do I really WANT to do all that they do? That would be a definite, no. I can change a tyre, I can change a cooking-gas tank, I can wash a car, I can fill my tank (well, kinda with that last one)…but really, I don’t like doing it. And if a kind gentleman, usually my indulging husband, does these things for me, I am always truly relieved and grateful.

I am quite capable of opening a door for myself, but any man that LETS me, is not a man I would waste a second glance on. I don’t have to do everything for myself to be independent or self-sufficient, and a real man wouldn’t allow me to.

I like make-up and dresses and dressing up and being treated like a princess, Princess Margaret according to my very facilitating husband. He says that I am high maintenance, spoilt and princess-like in my taste, behaviour and lifestyle. I deny none of these things and I am not ashamed either. But he also knows that I am high-maintenance because I am capable of treating myself that way, whether he is or isn’t part of that process.

I don’t feel less independent because he physically puts gas in my car whenever it needs. Rather, I totally appreciate that he does it because he knows I don’t like to do it. Of course the list goes on and on, of all the ways he indulges me by helping me with all the things I hate doing.

I am quite capable of doing everything for myself and I WILL do it if need be. But I do not need to be in constant competition with men in order to feel strong in body, mind and character.

I love that some men still understand the value of chivalry and I think more women should expect it and enjoy it. Whereas I don’t consider us to be the weaker sex, I like considering myself the softer gender. Soft doesn’t make me weak or dependent…it simply makes me a woman.

 

Vaneeta