Monday, 18 July 2011

Call it like you see it

I would say I fall into the peacemaker personality type. I hate conflict and the idea of hurting people's feelings. I also hate the idea that people are thinking bad things about me. But I am slowly accepting the fact that in spite of sounding like that makes me a nice person to be around, it is not so nice to be that person. And probably isn't very good for growing relationships with integrity.

Don't get me wrong. This doesn't mean that I don't mind a good heated debate about an issue. It is more about the stuff that is closer to my heart and the more intimate stuff of friendship such as unmet expectations or things that bother me. Or when I disagree with a friend about something that is important to them.

Through therapy I have been examining why I am so afraid to be different than other people. For me difference feels bad, like the relationship is broken. But trying to be the same or think the same just means I mould myself around what fits with the other person. When I come away from the situation I am often really frustrated because I don't feel like the other person really knows me and I feel in conflict with myself. At its worst, I feel like I have lied and pretended to be something I am not, sometimes even feeling like I lied. Even though I my have avoided 'conflict' I have not been myself. I don't think the friendship would be that satisfying for the other person either.

Because eventually there has to be a coming out. When the person you really are will reveal itself and someone gets a shock. Whether it is me realising that I have backed myself into a corner by trying to be the perfect fit for a friend and then find I just can't be that anymore. Or when I don't meet someone's expectations because I just am not what they had begun to expect.

I am certainly not advocating saying what you think about everything and anything without consideration for the feelings of others. More that when a situation occurs why can't I have the courage to respectfully disagree or at least, choose not to just go along with it in my head, convincing myself that I think that too? And sometimes I think I should say something. I mean, if I have a certain conviction then why isn't my opinion as valid as someone else? I certainly am on the end of some pretty frank and sometimes brutal words about my life and even though it is not always appreciated, I often learn something through it. Even if it would be better to just let it slide off me.

I have started trying to accept myself more and that includes accepting that I don't necessarily feel the same as my friends about all sorts of things. That doesn't mean it has to cause friction. Hopefully we are all mature enough to deal with difference (that is actually directed at me). I am also beginning to believe that if it does cause conflict then maybe that friendship isn't one that can last. Life is complex and we all have different perspectives and experiences which lead us to hold our beliefs. If those beliefs are so different that the tension is painful then maybe it is better to just accept it and let the friendship go. Better that than to deny the conflict and one or both people play a game or put on an act to make the apparent friendship work. And don't we all want friendships when we can be our true selves and experience love and acceptance anyway?

The people I tend to struggle around seem to have particular personality types or ways of relating. It seems to catapult me backwards into really unhealthy ways of relating. I hope in time I can be self aware enough not to be affected so much. But I also think you can't be friends with everyone and you aren't supposed to. So hopefully I can be wiser in who I choose to relate to in future. Friendship is such a blessing and can be wonderful, but it can also be a stage to repeatedly play out your worst self over and over again.

Okay that was pretty honest. And you are not one of those people who spin me out. Well I can't guarantee it but if you get what I am talking about then it is pretty unlikely :)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Accepting Me

It seems like the last couple of years I have been gradually having to face up to who I really am. I feel like I have always struggled to feel that I am acceptable, lovable and okay just as me. Because of this I have continually aspired to be a different version of myself, a version that I thought would be more palatable and would fit in when I should and stand out when I wanted to. In the past I have really struggled with some aspects of my personality, my strengths and weaknesses and wished I was different. As a result I don't think I truly know who I am cause I have never let myself just be and got comfortable with that. I have always been simultaneously annoyed by and in awe of people who say things like "I hate..." or "I would never..." or "if that happened to me I would feel/do/think". That sense of self and knowledge of self is so foreign to me because I have been so quick to try to be what I think others wanted that I haven't even acknowledged my own feelings and thoughts.

During my teenage years I was just a ball of self loathing and self consciousness. My twenties was the discovery of a whole new world of confidence and wonderful friends, meeting and marrying my hubby and realising life could be more than I had ever hoped. Now in my thirties I feel like I am having to face who I truly am, whether I like it or not. The rubber is hitting the road and the stresses and choices of daily life as a mother don't allow me to entertain many fantasies about myself because I am daily faced with the reality of me, whether I like it or not. I might wish I was different but I don't have the energy or the time to be able to pretend for long, if at all. And I care a lot less about what other people might think of me, mainly cause my mind is too busy just coping with each day. Navel gazing just doesn't squeeze into my life that well anymore, compared to the almost constant internal monologing I used to do.

So here are some things I am learning about me and am in the process of accepting:

  • I am not that organised. I like to plan and write lists but I have no memory any more and am not great with details. I do most things on the fly and off the cuff. This usually works for me but if something requires more then I am not your girl.
  • I can be opinionated about issues and ideas but ask me what I want and how I feel and I will need to let you know, maybe in a few days cause I am still trying to work myself out.
  • I used to think I coped well under pressure and was quite laid back. That is something I has wished I was. I just try not to be a problem to anyone else but in reality I find lots of things stressful and often am unaware of being anxious and tense until I experience pretty severe symptoms.
  • I used to think I could cope with being really busy. I can't. I need lots of sleep and good food. I like to have things to do but I can't deal with too many things on my plate and I am not able to do all the things I would like to do. I want to be the solution to all the problems around me but a lot of the time dealing with my own problems feels like a lot. I probably give people the impression that I am very together. I am not. Its a lie and is more that I am a bit disconnected from myself and my own feelings and needs. I am working on that.
  • I always pictured myself as a stay at home Mum. That doesn't actually suit me. I continually struggle with balancing the expectations I have of what I should be able to do as a mother and the reality of working and all the other things I am interested in. I also love being away from Ella while I work. I love the adult conversation, being productive in a more measurable way and having a break from full time mothering. I feel conflicted about this but am trying to accept it. I am also trying to see how this does not mean I couldn't cope with another child, it just means I need to do it in a way that works for me, and our family. The extremes of Martha Stewart SAHM or career driven mother who farms out her children are not helpful or real. I need to develop my own working understanding of my identity as it evolves and incorporates all of the aspects of me.
  • I can be very focussed on doing things "right" but should focus more on having fun and enjoying life.
  • I am pretty pragmatic. I like to get things done. I am task orientated rather than process.
  • I hate injustice and get really upset when I see people behaving unethically or mistreating those who are vulnerable.
  • I am suspicious of those in authority and can spot a dodgy or manipulative person a mile off.
  • I enjoy meetings cause I like talking about things. But there should always be food.
  • I really enjoy public speaking.
  • I love writing. I am not a crafty person but I love to cook. 
  • As long as the house is tidy I don't mind a bit of dirt. 
  • I love reading non-fiction and if I read fiction it has to be pretty true to life. I am not that into poetry or art. But love film and music. 
  • I can't be bothered trying to be cool but I like to look nice. Shopping is awesome.
  • I am impulsive and hate decisions being unmade. I would rather make a choice and it be wrong than wait till the right decision becomes apparent.
  • I am heaps more relaxed about my daughter's development and behaviour than I thought I would be. I also find her confidence and quirkiness quite confronting at times. But it inspires me to keep on learning to accept who I am because she is so herself!

Monday, 4 July 2011

loose ends and lost in transit

You have probably caught up with the news that we have bought a house! Well we are in the process and hope to go unconditional in the next week. It has been such a relief and definitely not as stressful as the other house we put an offer on but didn't get. This house ticks all our boxes and we are so excited about it.

But we have a couple of months before we move in and in the mean time we are returning to our life, which has been left to look after itself a bit with all the house hunting that has been going on. We don't need to pack immediately but there are quite a few things I have been putting off because things have been so busy and uncertain. So I want to sort out some loose ends over the next wee while. There are dentist and optometrist appointments to have, decluttering and getting rid of things and reorganising so we don't move stuff we don't want. But there are also some quite hefty things that I have been hoping would sort themselves out, but they haven't.

Ella has just turned 2, which she proudly tells anyone who will listen. Each birthday is such a celebration of her growth and development but I also see it as a celebration of me and the effort I put into being her Mum. And 2 was the vague goal I had for how long I would like to breastfeed. I have struggled with it on and off over the last 6 months. Christmas and the depression relapse led to moving her into her own bed and trying to get her to stay in her own room for most of the night. That has had limited success. She goes to bed in her own room most nights but by midnight is usually back in with us. At times this has suited me but I can't sleep when she is feeding anymore and when she is sick or just out of sorts she can wake multiple times in the night. She has never woken less than twice a night in her whole life and twice feels like a great night's sleep. During the day she is keen to have a "little mama" any time I am sitting or whenever she is feeling a bit out of sorts. This gets pretty jading. At times it is lovely to be able to sit still and cuddle but at other times I just want to actually have cuddles rather than feel like a drive thru with a customer who is never satisfied. As we have rounded the two year corner I have found myself starting to really resent it and to feel a little desperate as my efforts to put her off with distraction, food and just saying no don't seem to be working.

I also keep wanting to say to people that this is a destination we have found ourselves at. It is not a statement about what anyone else should do and though I am pleased she has breastfed this long in some ways, in other ways it means she really understands that mamas are really quite nice and not something she wants to give up. And it is really tough saying no to your child in the middle of the night when they beg you for "just a little mama", through tears.

So I have been feeling a bit lost in transit, thinking about how we ended up here and how to meet my own needs so I can be a good mother to Ella but also to take responsibility for the choices we have made in parenting Ella which means "mamas" are still an important part of her life. It feels like a dance where every so often I found myself too close to the edge or teetering on the brink of a boundary where I have to choose again whether to compromise or whether I need to keep that boundary firm and steer Ella back to where it feels right again. And it just keeps changing as her needs change and our relationship shifts. She is a little person now who loves to say "No!" and do things herself but still wants reassurance and security.

I can say with great certainty that I do not want to breastfeed a 3 year old but it is definitely not as simple as blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. Weaning is a process and as long it is heading in the right direction for me I think I can be patient with Ella's timing, which may not be totally mine.

I already chose

If you have been reading along recently you would have seen my tooing and froing about what I should be doing with my life right now. I have felt like my head is full of possibilities and possible versions of me and I have been confused about what I want and what I can actually manage. Lots of words like should and could have been flying around and deep down I have wanted to find some peace, some stillness and rest. I have wanted my mind to quiet and to no longer be wrestling with each day so much and each idea or interest.

In my life revelation seems to come upon me in glimpses of clarity, often in the car or in a random moment of unplanned reflection. I think in the car is the only time I am cornered and am still enough to really voice in my head and to God where I am at. When I was driving home from my weekly therapy appointment, having talked about how stretched in all directions I felt, I truly felt God speak to me.

I know, I know hold on a minute what am I saying there? Well I heard in my head or in my thoughts the clear sentence - "I have already chosen". I am not one to say God speaks to me. I don't really even hope for it so it is a big call to claim it has happened so don't just drop it into the "happy clappy Christian" box. At least I haven't.

Anyway the sentence was like a clear line of truth making a path through all my angst because it is so true. When I chose to become a Christian I made a choice that I would put following Jesus first. I fail over and over again, till it almost runs into itself, but I still make that choice. Then I chose to marry my husband so my commitment to him is a priority. Then we chose to have a child together so she is what I have already chosen as a priority in my life. And I have chosen to work. If we wanted to I could stop. It would be tight and we probably wouldn't be buying a house but that is a possible choice. So work is a choice and a priority. Once you add in the everyday things which have to happen in order to have a home that works for our family as well as time for family and friends, and they things I do to keep healthy, there really isn't much space for anything else. At the moment I help out with the Mum's group Space at church which aims to provide some space for God for Mums each week.

Each of these things have my heart. I mean that I feel a sense of purpose about them, even if sometimes they are hard. So even though I may have some great ideas of things I would like to do at some point, at the moment I am full up and if I take anything else on something I have already chosen to do will suffer. None of those things are things I want to give up at the moment and most are forever kind of commitments. Being a Mum to a preschooler is a pretty intense season too.

Since I had that moment of clarity I have found it so much easier to just let the ideas and possibilities go and to accept that in this season of my life I am doing all I can do at the moment and my focus should be on living well within those choices rather than squeezing in more or being continually dissatisfied with how things are.

This week I have had one of those nasty winter bugs and being really ill and dependent on others for help and support reminds me again that my faith is not in my own strength and my ability to get things done. Instead it is in the knowledge that I am not alone and that I am loved unconditionally just the way I am and the way life finds me at this moment.