Success vs. Happiness

I have been an educator for over 16 years, and even though I made the decision to not have children, I was a very involved step parent for 13 years, before the divorce. I have always maintained a close relationship with many of my former students and even some of their parents. I love being an involved teacher, going way off and beyond the curriculum to get to know my students…who they are, what their families are like, their interests and goals, how their parents think.

What I have learnt over the past decades is that almost all parents that I have encountered, truly want the very best education and opportunities for their children; they want them to be successful in life and in their careers; they want better for them than they had. I have to assume that if I was a parent, I’d feel the same way. But I am not a parent. So, I have the advantage of seeing it all from the outside. And sometimes what I see isn’t always pretty.

Our education system forces students to choose school subjects at the age of 14. These subjects determine what subjects they can then do at a higher level of secondary education. These choices, of course, affect what they would have the pre-requisites for at university level. Therefore, the choices they make at 14 years old, in essence, dictate their future careers. This entire process is disturbing to me on so many different levels, but seems so normal and to so many other educators and parents. The fact that they find nothing senseless about a teenager making major life choices at that age and stage of development seems almost cruel to me.

To compound this already dire situation, I meet parents and teachers all the time who decide for their children and charges, what career they will pursue. It’s almost always the same answers I get – she wants to do medicine, law, architecture, engineering, actuarial science, leaving me amazed that they all believe that a 14 year old actually knows what these fields entail and actually have a passion for any of them!

In many cases, the subjects that a child loves, aren’t the ones they are encouraged to pursue. In fact, many parents discourage any thought of following a path any less than the careers previously mentioned. In all my years as an educator, I have never had a parent tell me that their child wants to be a business owner, accountant, fashion designer, dancer, athlete, physiotherapist, HR manager…or God forbid, a teacher.

There are the students who hate the science subjects and are not very good at them, if we base it on the marks achieved. Yet their parents insist that they must do the sciences in order to enter a good, high paying profession. I would ask if the children had a say in what they wanted to do, knowing how much they loved and how good they were at art, literature and the social sciences. Parents tell me all the time that it didn’t matter. She is to get a degree in the sciences and change careers later on if she wants. So a particular student that always stood out to me, did as she was told and succeeded at all her science subjects, hating every minute of it. And her parents continued to be oblivious to her self-harming, unhappiness and resentment. But at least she is on her way to an excellent career, if not a happy, healthy life.

These stories are endless over the years of me teaching and they differ in subject areas, families and careers. The constant is always that she must get a good job in order to be successful. In speaking with and more so, in listening to my students overs the years, I have come to understand that their parents have taught them that success has been equated with wealth, and that happiness comes from that genre of success.

What we are doing, essentially, is raising generations of children and students who see success in terms of prestigious jobs and wealth. While not wanting be a hypocrite and undervalue the importance of a good education, a substantial standard of living and a successful life, I wonder why we are not teaching our charges about what happiness should really be. I have not met a parent in many years who has said to me that I want my child to follow whatever path will make him/her happy. Job satisfaction no longer seems to be that feeling of fulfillment you get on an afternoon when you get home, or that excitement you feel on a morning to go to work. Job happiness seems to be determined by the pay cheque received at the end of the month.

So many of these very parents are in jobs that they hate, in which they are underpaid and miserable. Yet, they are seeing no value in preventing THIS outcome for their child. To hear parents of toddlers saying that he is going to become a lawyer seems only psychic to me, rather than ambitious.

I had a conversation with some students recently, and was of course very careful not to present views that were opposing to the ones in which their parents raised them. I explained to them, that I teach Dance and French, my two passions, and there is no greater feeling than to be paid for what I love to do most in this world. Because I am academically qualified in both areas, I am paid the same salary as the teachers who teach the ‘important’ subjects. I told them the truth – I don’t feel Monday blues; I don’t dread the end of a vacation; I love what I do. This is all that I want for them as well.

Now I am not saying that becoming a lawyer or doctor cannot be someone’s passion. I know a doctor who is young and vibrant, thorough and caring. I have never met a doctor who loves what he does more than him. He has transformed his practice into s very dependable, high tech machine that is still surrounded by love and care. His parents should be enormously proud of him, but not for BEING a doctor, but for BEING so happy at his job. That is his true success, whether he realises it or not.

Parents are admirable for wanting what is best for their children. But what is the best for them? Why are we proliferating a life full of success is success is wealth? Why aren’t we encouraging them to be happy in what they do? The money will always come. But to become a professional who loves your job is the true success and will bring true happiness. We were not all made equal or alike and not all of us fit the moulds of the same professions. My former dance teacher always told us that, ‘God is not a Communist, we aren’t all the same.’ This has always resonated with me, regardless of how funny she made it sound.

Parents and educators are no longer tapping into the real strengths and passions of students in order to really help them choose a career path. We are helping them to make loads of money when they are adults. So essentially, we are helping to mould generations of rich, miserable professionals who resent what they do and who made them do it. But at least they can buy nice things.

Why we stay with the wrong men

If you ask someone what it is they love in their partners, most often there is a hesitation before the generic answers start to flow: because I just do; because I love him; because he loves me; you wouldn’t understand; because he’s so nice; because he treats me good. I have given some of these answers in the past. While nothing is wrong with any of them, their lack of depth reflects a lack of knowledge of the real answer. The answer is so often that we do not know why we love someone. In some cases, when forced to dig even deeper, and believe me when I say I’ve been there, you realise you really don’t love them at all.

Women are especially guilty of reflecting on to men, the qualities that they are looking for in a partner. I have even witnessed women making their partners sound like other people’s husbands. We do this for so many reasons and we often end up with the most wrong people in our lives, as a result of it. I am by no means a psychologist, but I’ve been a woman all my life, unlike Caitlin, and I have and had lots of friends and cousins and acquaintances who have been put through the wringer because of being with or staying with the wrong man.

So before writing this blog entry, I started asking myself if it is that we dated, married, loved and hated the wrong men, or if we just chose to stay in a wrong relationship. I realised some years ago that women love to blame men for not providing us with a good relationship, one in which they are supposed to make us happy. We tend to forget that men are entitled to have their own personalities, traits and tendencies that do not need to be fixed, changed or compromised to suit our immediate needs. If this role was reversed we would not find that we are selfish, demanding or unreasonable. However, when men can’t ‘provide’ exactly the perfect image that we created n our minds of how and what she should be at all times, it is his fault.

We love to stay in relationships that make us unhappy and feel unfulfilled and we love to, in turn, complain about it…to our friends, our family, our co-workers, anyone really, who was willing to agree with us that the problem is the man. I was as guilty of this as anyone else. So, after my divorce, and couple mistakes, I started to reflect on why we stay in the wrong relationships.

Insecurity
This is one of the most real and least admitted reason why we stay with someone who does not add value to our lives and who does not contribute to our well-being. We always believe that we can’t do better, that he already ‘loves’ me with all of MY faults and we must let that count for something, everything even. Women have been programmed by society, our parents, and our peers to believe that we are not whole unless we are in a relationship. Single women are not revered for their independence, discerning choices or their happiness. We have all looked at our single friends and felt sorry for them and wished that they found someone who would just love them. That same foolish pity with which we are so content to see in our single sisters, is the very source of the insecurity that makes us stay in a bad relationship. After all, it’s better to be with someone who treats me okay, than to be alone.

Age
This one is a killer as well. God forbid, we approach 30 and either be single, in a relationship that is not on the road to marriage or engagement, childless. So when at 32 you find yourself dating the same fool for a year, and he isn’t fulfilling all your needs, you make the decision – Men aren’t perfect, and at my age what else is there out there for me; it is best I stay and try to make this work, rather than starting all over again in a year; maybe he will change his mind; maybe I’ll get pregnant for him. The biological clock ticks at ear-shattering volumes in our thirties and deafens and blinds us into staying in the wrong relationship. Insecurity then slips in, as well, and together with age, we suddenly convince ourselves that no one else will want us as we get older.

Investment
This is more of a double-edged sword. On one hand we say that we have stayed for so long, and although he hasn’t committed to marriage or even cohabitation, so much time has already been invested. We love to see things through. We use this as the excuse not to leave an unhappy union that we know, deep down inside, is going nowhere, slowly and painfully. But we stay, because we have invested. On the other hand, we stay because of investment because we can’t stand the thought of someone else coming along and benefitting from all the work we have done on him. How dare another woman reap the rewards of what we were working so hard to achieve and so easily just take our investment? So this dangerous sword really does cut both ways and once it is even a reason for staying in a poor quality relationship, it will hurt either way.

Change
By nature, women are nurturers. We always believe that we can nurture the wrong man into the right one. So we stay and try to instil change. We do it through our love, our care, our encouragement and support. When that doesn’t work, we have to get serious about what we want, so we prod a bit harder. It even reaches the point of nagging and giving ultimatums, threatening and entrapment. We prefer to run ourselves ragged, lose all semblance of dignity and of course, throw our pride aside, all in the name of love. So we stay and try to instil change. We refuse to understand that people change when and if they want to. It is not something that can ever be forced. But we are still willing to stay and try to instil change, because who would want us at this age, and he already loves me as I am, and I’ve invested so much time in him. The least he can do is change.

 

Making the decision to end a relationship is an enormous one, for all the reason list and so many more. Starting over at any age is daunting, even more so as we get older. Staying in an unhealthy, unfulfilled relationship in which the good that exists is the good that we created in our minds, is even more detrimental to our well-being.

If he hasn’t committed after a certain amount of years, he probably won’t. What even worse than that is him committing because he succumb to the pressure and ultimatums and entrapment. If that happens, resentment down the road is not just inevitable, but assured.

Marriage is not and should no longer be the end goal for women. We have too much more of ourselves to offer than to indulge in the undignified behaviour of expecting or forcing marriage. We don’t even consider that the success of a relationship lies in its healthiness, not in its legality. If our relationships are healthy, fulfilling, supportive and we couldn’t ask for more, then we shouldn’t. Marriage isn’t for everyone and that is perfectly fine. Marriage is no longer a legal bind. Marriage is a decision two people make together, to commit, to build a life, to raise a family and to be happy. A legal document can never provide any of those things, if they didn’t exist before. If you are hypo-religious and believe with all your spiritual soul that marriage is essential to a serious relationship, you should also ensure that fornication was not part of your journey, because then you are just a big ole hypocrite.

The bottom line is that women do not want to see the warning signs. We deliberately ignore all that they telling us by their words and actions. If you met him saying he just wants to keep it light and have fun, understand and accept what you are getting into. If he doesn’t have time for you, it’s because he doesn’t want to make time for you. If he doesn’t take you out regularly, it’s because you are NOT his girlfriend and he doesn’t really care for you to be.

The longer you stay in the wrong relationship with the person who is wrong for you, is the longer it takes to regain your dignity and open the pathway for the right people to enter your life. The right choices are hardly ever the easy choices.

WTF moments are not AHA moments

Oprah calls them ‘Aha’ moments – those moments when you experience sudden insight or discovery. Psychologists describe them as ‘sudden comprehension that solves a problem, reinterprets a situation, explains a joke, or resolves an ambiguous perception’. It is also known as ‘The Eureka Effect’ which refers to the ‘common human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept’.

We have all had them. Our ‘Aha’ moments all differ based on our lives, acquaintances, experiences, personalities. Recently, however, the moments that I have been experiencing, were much less sugar-coated and much more along the lines of, ‘WTF’ moments – moments that made me question myself on so many levels; moments that made me wonder if I was in the twilight zone; moments that made me wonder if the people involved were of the same planet as me.

 

1. I have a WTF moment every time a parent says to me with a straight and serious face, that their child is still very sheltered, innocent and shy. They even go on to explain that they are lacking in self-esteem but are so happy to be working on those problems. I slip into a WTF moment when I get déjà vu visions of the same children practically attached by the lips to their boyfriends/girlfriends in public, away from the same parents. I realised just how deluded some parents are about their children and how very much they are NOT amenable to an insight into the truth. Parents, please have a relatively realistic knowledge of your offspring. While you all hope for perfection and even assume that your children are, being created in the eyes of God and love and your spouse and all that good stuff, the reality is that you gave them life, but you do not control who they become. Be very careful how you boast about them. They tend to bring you embarrassment, not because anything is wrong with them, but because your perception of them is warped into a false sense of the actual truth. Children are NOT perfect. They were never meant to be. They were meant to human.

 

2. I had a huge WTF moment when I realised just how very dangerous power can be. If not filtered properly, one’s professional position begins to make them believe with all that is inside them, that they are better than others; that they are more powerful than others. It can blind the weak in mind from their actual reality and these delusions of grandeur make them forget time and place and behave petty over the most trivial of matters. Supervisors, Middle management, Managers, Directors should really try not lose their sense of self, their send of humanity, empathy and compassion. It should at least not be replaced with arrogance or haughtiness, because by doing so, they create a work environment that breeds power struggles, dishonesty and unhappiness. My WTF moment blew me away. I realised, in a sudden jolt, exactly how much some people need to feel important over others, without actually being able to understand the phenomenon. My WTF moment of being reprimanded over the triviality of where I park, made me wonder about people’s home lives. I truly believe that when people are happy at home and live in equality and harmony with their partners, they feel no need to exert aggression and control over those with whom they work. In fact, when one’s home life is fulfilled, they see the workplace as somewhere that people all work together as one team on one level, working towards one goal. Like they say, Power in the hands of stupid people, can be dangerous – Hitler proved it.

 

3. I still believe that ‘time’ changes us, whether we accept it or not, whether we realise it or not, or whether we want it or not. However, I recently realised that some people need a whole lot more time to change into someone better, stronger, softer and kinder. Until then, they remain the same old bitter souls that they always were. I feel that if someone approaches you kindly about a matter, there is no need to gloat, or laugh, or be mean. Reproach is a way of trying to instill indignity into others, by use of your own over-indulged pride. While being reproachful may bring someone that pleasure of ‘sticking it’ to someone else, all it really does is remind others of who you really are – someone who is vengeful and unforgiving, tactless and lacking in grace. So when I had the WTF moment of being reproached recently, I felt hurt for an instant, confused about its necessity, in disbelief about its lack of value. Then I realised that the problem wasn’t mine.

 

4. I realise that many people do not like to see others happy or successful and will find every single ridiculous reason that they can, to dirty their waters. It comes from a place of dire insecurity, whether personal or professional or both, and it skews their vision of all that is true and fair. This is something that happens regularly in the workplace, as well as in families. This has caused to me to have many WTF moments. These moments occur every time someone says that I married younger than me because of desperation, or when they ask a question about my life and I answer them honestly, then they say I boast. Or if I succeed at some silly, trivial thing, and people them criticise me before I even start the task. These things evoke a very loud WTF in my mind, but then I remind myself that happy people don’t condemn and confident women do not hate.

 

5. I have always known that family isn’t always about blood. It’s about the amazing people we meet and who enter our lives, bringing joy, and generosity and love with them into it. Sometimes your blood can be the some of the most discriminating people, your hardest critics and the most callous gossipers that exist. Blood family can find it so easy to turn their backs on you for reasons that often escape my capabilities of understanding, while other family members are so giving of their love, care, support, inclusion, encouragement. My WTF moment happened some years ago when I realised the extent to which I did not fit the mold of what was expected of me, but instead of communicating with me, I was banished from the kingdom of the obviously more-righteous than me. Another WTF moment occurred recently when I realised that not only was I not needed, but I was not wanted. These moments hurt like hell. But at the end of the day, people show you how they feel about you by the way in which they treat you, the ways in which they include or exclude you from their lives and their loved ones and by the ways in which they speak about you behind your back, especially when they believe you never found out what was said. But that’s okay, everyone has their own journey to follow, and I will never get in the way of anyone following theirs.

 

 

6. The best WTF moment I have ever had, was when I looked at my husband the day we got married. It was a whirlwind moment, of seeing where we came from and from what we came through, to where we were at that moment. All I could have thought was WTF did I ever do in my life to deserve you.

Social Graces at their worst

According to the gospel of the internet, Wikipedia, social graces is defined as ‘’skills used to interact politely in social situations. They include manners, etiquette (the specific accepted rules within a culture for the application of universal manners), deportment, fashion and refinement (also known as sophistication)’’.

Social graces are an extreme pet-peeve for me. I think it is because society has become so self-centered and individual-driven, that people no longer feel the need to think about anyone or anything beyond themselves. Social graces are glaringly lacking in today’s adults, leaving little hope for what can be taught to the upcoming generations.

All that follow are my experiences with a lack of certain social graces in various circumstances, with my socially ungraceful take on those found guilty.

 

1. The Cell-Phone Lovers

These people feel the need to be on a call at all times, I suspect, in order to feel a sense of importance. Their lives, jobs and circumstances are always more important than anyone around them and they cannot, for the love of God above, get off their phones to conduct the matter at hand; whether they are at a bank, doctor’s office, cashier, or in front of me at Parents’ Day. A parent was on his call from the time he sat in front of me and rudely gestured to me to start the conference with his wife and daughter while he was doing something that was obviously more important. Needless to say, I greeted the mother and told her that we would wait until he was finished his important call before we discuss his child’s academic performance in my class. Cell-Phone lovers do not care about you. They are rude and disrespectful, ill-bred and devoid of class.

 

2. ‘Good Morning’ haters

While we are not and cannot all be morning people, once we brush our teeth, shower, dress and leave our houses, it’s time to shake it off! Nothing irks me more than when adults walk into an office, bank etc., and sit there without a general greeting to all there. Equally disgusting to me, is when I walk into an establishment and greet everyone generally, and no-one responds. At that point, I usually continue with, ‘’or not’’. When adults are so ill-mannered, whatever are we to expect from their children? Too many times our staff room door would be knocked on and as we answer, a students is there, eager to ask for who she needs to see. No greeting. No apology for disturbance. Nothing. My solution is always the same and quite simple. I tell them that since they left their manners at home, they should probably return and get them, and when that’s done they can come back and ask for whom they need to see. These types of children are raised to feel entitled; entitled to no manners. They are usually raised by entitled adults who feel themselves better than other in the first place.

 

3. Men who hate to open doors…for anyone!

This breed of jackass is so prevalent everywhere. They don’t just lack chivalry towards women; they lack basic manner towards humanity. Dude, opening the door for me does NOT mean I want you, or that I will want you…ever. It means that you weren’t raised by a hooligan mother. I have seen men NOT open the door for me, as they glance across at their significant other, knowing it’ll be hell to pay if he did open it. Ladies, if you are one of these women, please ask yourself why you would want to be with a man who won’t open the door for someone else. Does it means he loves you less? If your answer is yes, then seek some help…psychological and social. If my man didn’t open the door for a woman, I swear, he would never hear the end of it. I’d hate to be with a man like that, as much as I hate men like that. I was walking into a pharmacy some years ago and a coupe walked in before me. He held the door open for his…whoever she was, and was about to keep it open for me. I was a few strides behind. Just enough time for her to look at him with daggers. He let the door go. I opened the damn door myself (not that there was a choice at that point), walked in behind them and said, ‘’Thanks! You are such a gentleman!’’
Now this door-hater can also be women. I think women believe that they do not need to be chivalrous because they have vaginal immunity. Ladies, really. When you let the door go behind you in someone’s face, you are simply lacking in poise, grace and class. You are a hog in mud!

 

4. They see you fall…literally

Boy, have I had some experience with these twits. They transcend all gender and age. They are a special breed of crass. They would see you trip, drop something, get your clothes caught in a door, or fall down and would glance at you and continue along their path of righteousness. You are in public people! Interacting with other human beings, not wild animals that if were in a mall, should actually be avoided at all costs! Were you seriously raised by wolves? Or in a barn? Or fed pellets as a child? Shopping in the mall one day, I had many packages in my hands and for those who know me well, that is not uncommon or difficult for me to accomplish. However, that day ne bag was slipping out of my grip and as I tried to regain bag-control, they all slid to the ground. This imbecile walking behind me, watched me struggle to get all the bags back in my grip…from the ground, and watched me as he walked around me to get on his way! I got up the same time and said to him, ‘’don’t mind me! I’m fine, thanks for helping…ass!’’
Then there was the less amusing time that I was trying to get into my car when I slipped off the pavement and was dangling in the drain outside my house, while holding on for dear life, or at least dear shame, while my neighbour opposite simply looked at me. Apparently, I was the daily soap opera! I ungracefully, and with extreme difficulty from the pain caused by the skin scraping off my leg, climbed back on to the pavement. He didn’t even ask me if I was ok! You are 90 years old (or look like it), with daughters and granddaughters! Have you no upbringing whatsoever?? Death stare to you, forever.

 

5. Get your a$$ off the seat!

You are in a bank, office, bus, agency…doesn’t really matter. You are in a public place with provided seating. The men and even the women who sit their asses down with no signs of mobility, even when an elderly person, pregnant woman, woman walks in! Oh sweet baby Jesus, the patience that I am forced to muster when I witness such social disgrace! Selfish people who are self-centered behind closed doors, is no concern of mine. But to be so lacking in etiquette and basic courtesy is as unbecoming as a human being can get. While I have no examples of this happening to me, I have witnessed it too many times to count. I don’t know if it is culturally rooted or just rooted in the grossly ill-bred among us.

 

6. You put on weight?

Help me, oh Father, for I will sin, the next time someone tells me that! I cannot understand the pleasure that one gets from saying that to another person. Furthermore, is there a particular point you are trying to make, that you feel they will remain ignorantly unaware of, if you don’t ask that question? And exactly what answer would please you? Yes? And then what? Or no? And then what? Women, and the more oestrogen-friendly men, are particularly guilty of this social blunder. Maybe women FEEL skinnier when they point out weight gain to others. Then there are those who haven’t seen you in 20+ years and ask it. Yes, I have put on weight since you saw me last….at 21…20 years ago….fool. I believe that lacking this particular social grace is quite hurtful to others. You don’t know what their struggles and insecurities are and why it’s so. For me, it is quite difficult to hear. First of all, I have had chemically induced weight gain, from medication and resultant hormonal imbalances; weight gain from steroids that I NEEDED for asthma. In addition, for anyone under 40 years of age, you should really consider shutting the front door! You have no clue how hard it is to lose weight after a certain age. I don’t eat white flour at three meals a day or gorge myself on pasta, fried foods or desserts. I train hard, almost everyday, but it’s hard after 40. And it’s depressing. In addition, I have and always had inherently broad shoulders, which is not common in women, so I am automatically considered, big…or strong…or fat. I don’t have a big ole belly! But who cares! All we see is shoulders! I have never in my life told anyone that I found that they had put on weight…never. It adds no value to my life, their life, our relationship or our conversation. It would simply shine my lack of grace everywhere. And grace is essential to us dancers.

 

7. I’m not hungry right now, can you pack it?

I was married to this breed of poor carriage so my experience in cringing is endless. If you are invited to someone’s home for a meal, then you go and you eat. It is a very simple concept to understand and execute. You knew in advance what the evening’s plan was, so there is no reason to go to eat somewhere, with a full stomach. To compound the lack of social sophistication, you tell the host to pack it for you because you are not hungry and prefer to take it away. Is this Mc Donald’s? The lack of culture makes my blood crawl. By all means, if the host asks you to please take some home, that’s a different story altogether! But at least allow them to insist before saying yes. It is simply inelegant to go to someone’s home for a meal with a pre-conceived plan to pack and carry!

 

8. The children of the socially ungraceful

Parents please! I understand that it must be hard for you to raise children with decorum if you have none of your own, but please, do some reading, take a class, do something. But don’t send or bring your children in public if they lack a certain level of behaviour! Supermarkets and restaurants see the worst of this. The child who cries incessantly, shouts at the top of their voices, bags the cutlery, wants everything in sight. I have so often been reminded that I am not a parent, because clearly I didn’t get the memo that I am without child, but I still accept that children will be children to a certain point. Anything beyond that point becomes parents being irresponsible, inconsiderate and impolite. Teach your children to cover their mouths when they sneeze and cough in public because we don’t want their germs. It is quite straightforward. Teach them to greet people in a becoming manner, whether at home or in public. Not doing so reflects your haughtiness, not just theirs. Show them the value of thanking people for gifts, rather than raising entitled brats, that you the have the audacity to send off into the world. Please have them stfu when adults are speaking and understand that adult conversations do not invite their input. While I understand that children will take time to learn social graces, it doesn’t mean that it must be short changed. Do the work, do it consistently. Raise well-bred young men and young ladies who will be able to shine and share their social etiquette wherever they go. After all, a child’s manners, or lack thereof, is a reflection of their parents.

 

9. The Doctors

This is a special one that unnerves me. Your momma didn’t name you ‘Dr.’ so don’t be introducing yourself as ‘Dr anything’ in a social setting! You are at a party, house warming, club, dinner….news flash! Nobody cares if you are a Doctor! You are just you…if you even know who that is! By all means be proud of your title…when you are at work or a professional function. My granny, at my grandfather’s one year memorial, introduced me to someone as ‘Dr. Whateverhisnamewas’. So I asked him his name. Granny repeated herself and his title. So I asked him if his mummy named him ‘Dr.’. Granny said I was being rude so I re-introduced myself to him. I said, ‘Hello, my name is Teacher MyLastName.’ Doctors and their God complexes are as unattractive to me as crying babies. I think it irritates me even more since, years ago, my friend, who is a Doctor, was coming over to my home. As he walked in and I was about to introduce him to everyone, he whispered to me, ‘Please don’t say Doctor, Barry is fine, please V.’ That’s when I realised that being a socially ungraceful Doctor was a choice of arrogance and feeling of being better than your social acquaintances, not a phenomenon inherent to the profession. Furthermore, being a Doctor in a social setting, only impresses the unaccomplished and ailing among us.

 

10. When are you getting married/having a baby.

The sheer unfairness of this question to single women of any age is just heart wrenching. This is another hurtful display of social misgivings. You simple do not emphasise someone’s ‘singleness’ if they don’t do it themselves. You don’t know how they feel about it or if it a result of choice of circumstance! It can make people feel inadequate when it is really you lack of upbringing that is. Similarly, the baby questions is just as horrific. Do you know their medical history of possible infertility or miscarriage? If not them please invite yourself to silence. Not everyone wants or needs to get married or have children. Those social expectations are becoming increasingly archaic with the onset of the educated in today’s world. Neither one leads to the path of happiness for everyone, and frankly it is really absolutely none of your business. Know your place in life – in need of some social training.

Do unto others…

Almost every religion teaches that we should treat others the way we would like to be treated, with slight nuances in the wording. We all know the difference between right and wrong, and for the most part, we all understand feelings of compassion, empathy, sympathy and regret.

‘Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you’ is a lesson that I have been guilty of not following on more than one occasion, and for many justified reasons – reasons that I have chosen to justify.
It is always so easy to post on social media about our accomplishments, good deeds and intentions. It is far harder to post about all the ways we went wrong, did wrong and, made situations worse and all the ways we were hurtful to others.

When we feel that we have been trespassed against, reactionary hate seems acceptable at the time. Sometimes that hate takes various forms – calls, texts, gossip, lies, social media rants, and really the list goes on. But is it really ok? We all understand and accept that two wrongs don’t make a right, until we feel the pain of betrayal, wrongdoing, accusations, and malicious rumours. Then somehow, that rule no longer applies to us.
There are some transgressions that are harder to move pass than others.

For example, where I have tried to forgive my ex-husband for all that I felt he had done, understanding that it takes two to make a marriage work, I will still have no desire for a friendship with him, or a conversation for that matter. His transgressions were consistently repeated, deliberate and well calculated for over a decade, and sadly continues years after our precious divorce.

But there are other types of hurt that are less intentional because the truth is…life is messy. Nothing is perfect. None of us are perfect. We make mistakes. And most of all, in retrospect, we could ALWAYS have handled things better than we did. Whether we actually care to admit it or not, it’s still true. Sometimes people hurt you, and don’t intend to. Sometimes they know that their actions might, but they proceed and hope for the best.

Forgiveness, however, does not mean amnesia. We do not and should not forget what was done to us, especially when it was repetitious and deliberate. Likewise, talking about it, writing about it and sharing it, does not mean that we are not over it or that we have not forgiven. People share, or don’t, for different reasons. My reasons for sharing have been expressed in another post.

Sharing our experiences is one of the only ways that we can help others, so that they understand and believe that they are not alone in their trials. It give them hope that this too shall pass. Sharing our experiences, good and bad ones, isn’t brave but it is a choice; a choice that should not be made lightly. Sharing ourselves is a big step in teaching and in learning and in reflecting. Sharing also holds you accountable to all that you say and do, thereafter.

Bad things happen to good people and to bad people. Bad things can also happen for good reasons. Things may never be the same afterwards, and that’s ok. But at least, we are finally mature enough to do what needs to be done…accept, understand, forgive.

There is a freedom in forgiveness and a peace in leaving anger behind that cannot be compared to any other form of happiness….except maybe in shopping.

In-laws and Out-laws

Today I was sitting at my desk in work having lunch that I had packed from home. It was leftovers from Sunday lunch that my mother-in-law had cooked, and delicious, to say the least. My husband and I often go there on Sundays and she always cooks a lovely lunch for us, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law. They eat a lot of pepper in their food, whereas I am allergic to it and eat none at all. So my mum-in-law stopped cooking with pepper when she knows I’m coming, or she would cook the food separately for me. In addition, she always cooks enough so that I would have enough to take to work the next day. If all of this wasn’t incredible enough, she would prepare a half cooked casserole and freeze it for me to take home so that I can cook it during the week. She even bakes bread for us just because we love it. These things are just the tip of the food-iceberg that she shares with me. So as I was having my wonderful lunch today, it had me thinking about in-laws.

My husband and I had a lot of external factors working against us when we started dating. As a result, his parents were always conservative and cautious not knowing me very well, at the time. I suppose their greatest concern was that their 30 year old son wanted to marry a 40 year old divorcée. On any level, no matter how liberal parents may be, this would have been a hard pill to swallow. Yet, not one day did they ever make me feel that this was a concern for them. I know of so many other families with lesser issues, where parents refused to be a part of their union. I often asked myself, why his parents were so accepting of me and of our marriage, even after knowing they would be getting no grandchildren from us!

The relationship between parents and their children-in-law is not exactly a straightforward one and there seems to be no formula for ensuring a healthy one, much like parenting itself, I suppose. I see and hear so many horror stories between my friends and their in-laws. Yet, there are so many beautiful relationships that have developed in other families. It is always extremely saddening to hear people I know speak ill of their in-laws, especially when nothing malicious was done to them. I have heard complaints of how annoying and foolish they find their husband’s mothers to be; and others complain about their hygiene and how poorly they babysit the grandchildren. I have even heard that they can’t relate to their in-laws because of the self-proclaimed disparity between them, in class, education, culture and upbringing. I understand that there are genuine circumstances of bad relations and bad habits and even ill intentions between younger and older in-laws.

What resonates the most with me is the consequence of our choices in how we treat our in-laws and the effects they have on our marriages. As I have said numerous times in various articles before this one, I cannot speak for anyone else. I can only share my experiences and my humble opinions…and sometimes I share my not-so-humble ones, as well. Completely understanding and accepting on no level, that I am anywhere close to perfect, it goes without saying that neither would my or anyone else’s in-laws be. They are a completely different family from the one in which I was raised, with similar or sometimes different values and customs and certainly with their own unique personality, just like my family.

It would be unrealistic of me to think that I was marrying into a family that was exactly like mine or that my role in my husband’s family should ever be the same as the role I play in my own. One of the most important lessons I learnt in being a daughter-in-law, is my place and role in his family. It isn’t a role that was bestowed unto me, or told to me, or taught to me. It is a role I adopted after much reflection on possible consequences. I haven’t been married for long, this second time around, but I’ve learnt a thing or two along the way:

– My role isn’t to control the route his family takes or to dictate their pace. At the end of the day, it’s their family that I met that way. My addition should be an asset rather than a liability and I should be there as an accessory rather than an entire gown. It isn’t for me to tell them how they should do things or to disapprove of how they run their family.

– If my husband chooses to share information with me about his family, it’s his choice, just as it is his choice not to. As I said, it is his family, and he is not mandated to make me a part of decisions that they need to make. If he shares occurrences, problems or opinions about his family, it is for me to listen and support him. I do not feel it is for me to swagger myself on to a high horse and tell him how his family is wrong and how they should do things, because I say so. My role is his support, not their dictators.

– They are my elders, my new surrogate parents, and people who have a whole lot more experience than I do. So I listen when they speak. If I agree or disagree, I am respectful of how I express either to them. They do know more than I do and they know better than I do with most things. I may not agree with their generational customs and advice, but neither will my nieces and nephews agree with mine in twenty years. So I listen as attentively as I can, and try to understand who they truly are and why and hope that I can learn something along the way.

– I am not and will never be better than them. We are different…everyone is, but these are people who have feelings and problems and similar experiences just like me. They have been educated, raised and succeeded in their own right, whether differently from me or not. But I am not better than them and if I ever treated them like that, it would be sending a very bold message to them that they aren’t very good, and therefore, neither is their son.

– When I do feel the need to stand my ground…and that’s really only when the ‘baby’ talk starts; I try to do so as humorously and as respectfully as I can. It is funny really, how parents-in-law find very clever ways of slipping in the topic, adding a dash of guilt and a pinch of sadness. It is the one thing I had to decide that I can’t give to them, and I love how they are coming to respect that.

– I will never insult my husband in their presence. In fact, it’s not a habit that I want to develop in the privacy of our home either. But then again, with a husband like mine, if you don’t have a very broad and varied sense of humour, suicide or divorce are viable options at times. His and my parents need to see how I love and respect him, rather than just assume that I do, and vice versa. As my father-in-law said at our wedding, respect and tolerance are the keys to a healthy marriage. For me, it wasn’t just him saying that. It was seeing him and his wife live like that all the time. They embody what they advise, and in doing so, set the bar at a beautiful level to which we can aspire to reach.

– I love being able to go there any day and at any time and be offered home cooked food. My dad passed away fourteen years ago and my mum and step-dad live abroad. My in-laws’ home is like going to my parents’ home, with people there who are always willing to provide, please and protect. They became my parents in this country while my husband and I have parents in another one as well. It doesn’t get much better than that. They love if we spend the night, wake up and have coffee with them, or just come home for a meal and some drinks…usually a lot of drinks (another reason they are awesome sauce).

– They help me to understand my husband, which on my own, often feel like a self-taught PhD. I see him in them. I see my brother-in-law in them. I see how they work as a unit. I see how they think. I see how they see things. I see my husband through their eyes, and he starts to make more sense to me. They are like a magnifying glass through which I can see not just who he is, but how he is made up, how he thinks and see things, and of course how he feels.

– Joining a family through marriage is like immersing yourself into an entirely new culture. It can be overwhelming, a bit irritating to get accustomed to, entertaining, enlightening and dazing. However, immersion into any new culture means you learn things you never thought existed. More so, the entertainment value is extremely high, especially at special occasions. I was a little but traumatised for the first birthday celebration I attended there. Of course, my husband NEVER prepared me for it in advance, because it was so utterly normal and natural for him. With no notice or previous knowledge, after then meeting them for the sum total of the second time in life, I realised that they all went around in turn and said something about the birthday celebrant. So I had to do it as well, in front of everyone, after meeting them only once before. It’s funny now, not so much then, and my husband and I did have a very long chat about it on the way home. But I am now a part of this new culture, and I love it.

Marriage isn’t always easy and it isn’t made any easier when relationships with in-laws are strained. At the end of the day, parents, especially the smart, more evolved ones, would choose to love their children more than they will ever allow themselves to hate their children-in-law. This helps them to tolerate and accept us easier and respect the choices of their children. It is only parents who are willing to chance losing their children, by hating their children’s mates, decide to not be a part of the union. This is a real lesson to me. I understand that loving my husband is much more important to me that disapproving of his family, even members who may not adore me. The door swings both ways.

 

The most important thing that my husband and I try to remember, and it really isn’t very hard to, is that these parents gave to us the person we love most in this world. His parents raised a most amazing man who would not have the kindness, generosity of self, honesty and ability to forgive, if it wasn’t for them. They created and helped to shape a man that amazes me and astounds me almost every day that we are together. They did that. I cannot possibly love and respect him as much as I do, without understanding the extreme ramification the love that he gives to me would have been impossible without them. So if for no other reason, other than the fact that they gave me this most precious gift, THEIR most precious gift, I will always try to make them happy by making him happy.

Why Do I Blog?

Long before <VaneetaTellsAll.com> was even a thought, I always spoke relatively openly on other social networks and forums. For that, I always took a hard hit from many people for varying reasons, some of which I have been told directly.

A former acquaintance, whose opinion of me is as important to me as a stack of hay, used to repeatedly complain, observe and share with our mutual friends that he found that I ‘lived my life publicly on Facebook’. My counter question was always, ‘Why does his profile have so little activity, yet he is so in tuned to everything I write? Is it that the purpose of his profile was to judge the affairs of others?’ I never got the question answered but he continually judged for being so ‘public’.

Some former high school classmates unfriended me on Facebook because of my posts about wanting to remain child-free, somehow believing that my choice to not be a parent, equated that they were wrong to reproduce. Others do not speak to me because I am so vocal about education and parenting related issues, even after given the fact that I am an educator dealing with teenagers every day for sixteen years. I have had people respond to my posts complaining that I didn’t know what I am talking about when I spoke about my life, my choices and my opinions, always quick to explain to me how different their lives were, therefore, I must wrong in all that I felt, thought and shared.

The worst I believe is when people I thought were my friends told me that maybe I should write less on social sights as others would not like that I am so public about so many things, especially when the ‘others’ of whom they speak, seem to affect their lives much more than they affected mine. I have even had relatives, colleagues and friends saying behind my back that I obviously feel that I know everything and that’s why I do it…that it is simply an opportunity to boast or showcase myself.

So to be very clear, my explanation for blogging in its various forms, isn’t to prove a point to the judges, disbelievers and assumers. It is simply to explain to those interested in knowing why I do what I do. My life has not been a conventional one but I, by no means, consider myself a victim. I simply believe that the things that I have been through are not as uncommon to others as one may think. While I am also not trying to pull the ’40 year old card’ either, there is a certain knowledge and wisdom and transcendence that comes to you when you reach certain milestones in your life. Milestones can be age by numbers, experiences or simply occurrences of maturity. Likewise, even though I may have met certain milestones, I, by no means, know everything, and at times, just like everyone else, I often feel like I know very little.

I also know that people are not always willing or comfortable, understandably so, to share their experiences, especially their negative relationship experiences, which we all have. I have come to realise that life is a learning process that really never ends so some failed relationships do not necessarily reflect personal failure. We make mistakes. Life is messy. Some days, life is downright disastrous. However, when friends sit to have a meal or some drinks or just spend time together, and they start sharing their experiences and talking about the hardships they are trying to endure, a solace is brought to the table. Hearing that your peers are going through similar tribulations and can even offer advice, serve to be comforting on many levels.

As simplistic as this sounds, it is the premise for my blogs. Some people are private, others are lonely, and many are simply alone. Not everyone has a network or support system to help them through the tough times. What I have also found, is that there are some topics that people do not feel comfortable sharing with others, even though they would like some guidance on it. I like to write and I think that I get my point across clearly, making it easy for my peers to relate to me and to what I have to share.

Another reason I decided to do this, is a very personal one to me: to heal as part of my journey. We go through hurt and sweep it away, in an attempt to never see it or deal with it again. Then, out of nowhere, it resurfaces years, even decades after, to haunt you, hurt you, embarrass you and destroy your peace. I decided that I needed to find my way to heal. I need to heal from the hurt, betrayal, regrets, disappointment and personal shortcomings I endured in my adult life. The necessity for me to find a healthy outlet to help in my journey to healing was based on my desperation to not allow my experiences to make me bitter, jaded, ungenerous of myself and unhappy.

So, one day, March 7th to be exact, on my husband’s birthday, and with his encouragement and utmost support, I decided to create a website on which I can share some experiences and lessons. All I ever hoped to do was to help people to understand that we all feel similar things and share many experiences of which we are so unaware. My aim is never to hurt and embarrass anyone, as I was forced to explain to my ex-husband who called me to complain to me about any mention of him in my blogs. It is simply to help myself let go, let be and hopefully be able to forgive naturally wen the time was right for me.

In addition, I find it important that we understand that people seem find, dress nicely, smile, wear designer handbags, shoes and lovely make-up, but their lives are not perfect. We have all been there, and our perfect IG and FB pictures do not always tell the true story. No one loves to dress up and go out more than I do, yet for an entire decade, people I worked with, people I was related to and people who were my friends, had no idea what my life was really like. They only saw the shell, the perfect pictures and perfect stories. When I was younger, more superficial, less mature, the perfect image was of the utmost importance to me to project. However, that just led to me living a very unfulfilling and false double life that lacked realness, honesty, substance.

Embracing my reality and accepting that I was not perfect, mu life was not perfect, my choices were far from perfect, freed me. It freed me to start to find my true self. I no longer needed or wanted to project something I wasn’t. I no longer wanted to make unhealthy decisions. I wanted to understand happiness rather than just projecting what I thought happiness was.

If I could help younger women to understand that the path I took is avoidable if better decisions are made in their youth, then very little else would make me happier from this process and from my journey. I have been blessed with the honesty and support of many people who message me daily to share with me something that they were able to relate to, in what I wrote. The most touching was a message I received today from a long standing acquaintance from our rollicking university days, and even though he and I were not close, I was touched when he said that one of my articles helped him to change his perspective in his marriage. This must have been difficult for him to share, especially with me and I cannot even express how humbled I am by his words.

Sadly, women still aspire to be our worst enemies, when we can just learn so much from each other, respect each other’s experiences and let go of out insecurities that bring out the worst in us. Women especially share so many common experiences and because we have all reached a different place in our individual journeys, there is so much that we can learn from each other, while protecting ourselves, our children, our friends, our nieces, from unnecessary hurt.

My blog will continue, without the blessings of those who do not matter, but in the hope that it will help someone or guide a younger woman to a less painful path than mine. For those who feel that I gain something more from this, let it be known that I do this free of charge. However, if anyone would like to pay me, that would also be fine. But until then, I am happy, unafraid, heartened and unashamed to share my journey with you all. For those who are unimpressed by all that I have to say, that is quite ok with me. God is not a communist and he did not make us all equal (quote from a former dance teacher of mine), and we can’t all love each other the same. At the end of the day, if we feel offended by something we see, hear or read, then all we need to do is ignore it and continue along with our lives…

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