Crying for strangers

It pains me to type these words-it actually hurts me: BEN AFFLECK and JENNIFER GARNER are divorcing! What The Beep?! Now, admittedly, I don’t know these people and yet I nonetheless have opinions and attachments and expectations- and now disappointment and sadness.

I cried. I tried not to, rationalising that they’re strangers and hey, ‘it’s Hollywood so why am I surprised?’… But still, I gave in and cried. Because they seem so lovely, and happy, and chilled, and like they’re really good friends-in sum, a beacon of light in the Hollywood relationship darkness. And they have three children whose lives are now shaken – and not in the fun cocktail-making way.

So I am SAD. I am sad that they are sad and that they, and their children, have lost what was once good and bright and life-giving. I am sad that what was full of hope is now deflated; what was beautiful is now charred.  And added to this, I am sad that people don’t seem that ‘bovvered’; it’s just another divorce, another disappointment, another ‘Hollywood romance bites the dust’. There’s no weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth.

but, whatever the private pains and reasons, love, hope and security have died/dissolved/ended – a fight for love and hope has been lost, a bloody, tear-stained towel thrown in. I am sure divorcing is right for them and their family, and only they know what is best and right for them.. but, when the fight is lost, for whatever reasons, that loss is worth a little of our grief.

I Cut My Hair

So, I wrote this after imagining being widowed – at least my morbid imagination is fuel for creativity…

‘I cut my hair. You’d hate it.

But “you’re” not “you” and you’re not here,

so why should I care-

now, it’s only hair.

A week ago, it was a *symbol* of devotion-an outward sign of my inward love;

running down my back- eagerly seeking the stroke of husband’s hands.

Now, it’s just wire, thread, wool, shorn, cut-off and dead on the hairdresser’s floor-

the *sign* switched off,

the Love spilled out with

no hands to catch it.

How suddenly death devalues everything-
it steals meaning from that which one didn’t even consider to get valued in the ‘before’.

And now is only the grey ‘after’-

Filled to bursting with the heaviness of nothingness,

and deafened by the clanging sound of memories and things raped of value:

Scraping shells which previously where hands Husband caressed;

No Man’s Land where previously lay Husband’s head.

And now, a bare neck,

previously draped with a wife’s thick locks to please her Love.

But you cannot please the dead.

So what was, in the ‘before’ an offering,

is now only hair-

And without your smile, your gaze your stroke.

I do not care.’
NLB

(Written 1.1.15)

I, the author, retain all rights-this cannot be published or performed without my express permission, nor shared or copied, etc without express recognition of my authorship.

Just say NO (to yourself)

I went shopping yesterday. It was equally enjoyable, challenging, and interesting.

I’m generally a frugal person and am not that bothered by stuff but I do have an eye and heart for beauty so unsurprisingly…I saw several things I lovedddddd.

BUT I didn’t buy them…

‘Why not?’ you ask. Well…

I’m not working this year so I have to be more careful with money and transform my buying habits as a professional women to a now dependent-on-my-kind-husband’s-money-woman. But, to be honest, that’s not even the main reason. The main reason was that I don’t *need* these things. Oh yes, I wanted them, and would have looked/smelled/felt wonderful in them: a practical yet stunning bag, a beautifully refreshing body spray and a gorgeous, striking necklace( which was on sale!). Oh, and a chic top which I loved but actually had forgotten about by the time of writing this.  I came home from shopping with my head full of the beautiful things I’d denied myself-and I felt GOOD.  I really wanted the spray but hey, I have 9 perfumes including 2 summery ones bought 2 years ago which are only half-used and still bless my olfactory sense with each spray…so a new spray wasn’t needed; the necklace was *stunning* (and suited me so well) but did I mention that I’m not working this year? So where exactly, apart from the odd birthday or date eve, would I wear it to?! So a new necklace, when I already have several, wasn’t needed either. Oh and the top, the forgettable but oh so pretty chiffon top to which I could have applied my student discount…again, I haaaavvvve pretty clothes already, so another item to clog up my already stuffed drawers was unnecessary.

Instead, I lay in bed reflecting on my day and thinking about writing this, and…I felt *proud*. I felt the GLOW of self-denial: I overcame my impulse. I denied my material whim and used my brain instead. And it was, admittedly, hard! But I felt so gooooooood: like when I make myself exercise when I really don’t wanna (it happened once and willlll happen again!). Or when I only had half the tub of ice cream instead of finishing it. Or when I wanted to text an ex during a break up and didn’t.

So now I happily gave thanks for the few things I did buy: a nice face cream & wash I had wanted for 3 months having made myself wait til mine had absolutely finished, a MAC face powder (oohh) for a friend’s wedding for which I’m a Bridesmaid, a £10 bag I *love* & will use in diff ways …oh and good ol 2 for £6 posh hair conditioner!

These treats make me smile because I have saved, waited, looked forward to them and now realllly appreciate each on 🙂

I hope you’ll join me in practising the JOY of saying NO (to ourselves) a little bit more often: trust me, it feels fabulous dahhhling!

I Don’t Wanna

Just say NO picture

JUST SAY NO is drilled into kids but when does that change to:

‘Never ever say no in case of…causing offence!’? Instead say ‘I can’t’!

I am intrigued by the transformation of invitations into impositions- why can’t I say ‘No thanks’ when invited to do something I don’t wannnnnaaaa do?!  An invitation is a request so why is ‘No thanks’ not a valid response? Hmm.

Is it really more respectful to say ‘Sorry, I can’t come’ when the truth is that I don’t want to? I think not; I think instead our ever-increasing fear of ‘causing offence’ (gasp!) means we worry so much about what others think of us that we often forgo honesty and integrity in the ‘name’ of decorum and politeness.

I remember humorously conversations with a  friend trying to ‘get out of’ going to a party she didn’t want to go to – because, of course, she couldn’t say ‘No’ and instead had to be ‘unable’ to go.

Why is lying more respectful and socially acceptable than politely declining? I don’t think it is.

How about…

‘Sorry hun, it’s not my thing but thanks for the invite’? or

‘Sorry, I really fancy a chilled eve but thanks for the invite’? or

‘Sorry, I don’t feel comfortable coming by myself but thanks for the invite’ etc etc etc?

Yes, there are times when you don’t wanna but *should* go anyway – to show love, or because it’s important, duty, or because it’s good for you. But the second Greatest Commandment isn’t ‘Never cause one’s neighbour offence’; it’s Love Neighbour as You Love Self. And saying ‘No Thanks’ sometimes – openly, honestly and politely – seems to me a good way of doing just that.

So, I’m going to try to give replies like these instead of the ignoring of whatsapps, the standard ‘I’ll try to make it’ or, worse still, the ‘I don’t know what I’m doing yet’ line (liar liar, thong on fire!).  And if ever I invite you to an event you just really don’t fancy – obviously unlikely because my parties are awesome but hypothetically speaking… you have my permission to politely ‘just say no’ : honest! 😉

People should cry more…

I cried the other day.  As in *really* cried. Ok, I wept. Then I wept again a few days later.

Why? You wonder. Well yes, I have a ‘good’ reason (whatever that means): my husband’s Grandad died. And I hardly knew him – it’s not ‘my loss’ – but he was ace, and now my husband’s family’s lives have all been shaken and there is a painful Grandad-shaped hole in my beloved’s heart. I cried because my Grandad is dead and it made me miss him… I cried for loss.  I cried because death is ugly, and rude, and inconsiderate, and reckless. It disgusts me, and offends me, and angers me – and saddens me deeply.

So I wept. But I didn’t weep alone; I cried on the phone with a girlfriend. And she…listened.  In near silence (apart from occasional comments to remind me she was there and wasn’t speaking to let cry and not because she’d gone!); she just listened.  As I gut-cried: snot, tears, stomach-holding, breath-shortening cried. And she listened.

Do you have the patience to be that generously uncomfortable and listen to pain uninterrupted?  No advice, no urging to talk (for whose benefit I wonder), no words of comfort or encouragement – but just to listen?  To give in silent companionship a craved shoulder (well a telephonic one in this case!) with no unnecessary words?

And do you cry? I hope so!

Because I hope you *feel*.

I hope you empathise by really connecting, not hypothesising.

And I hope you don’t ‘allow’ and ‘disallow’ yourself to cry.

And I hope that like me, you have a loving friend to listen in your pain.

And that like me you find comfort remembering, as I did in my sobbing, that ‘Jesus wept’ (Luke 11:35) … that’s not ‘Jesus let a solitary tear slide down His face in a manly fashion when His friend died – no: that is snot, tears, stomach-holding, breath-shortening weeping. He understands.

(Please) Shut up and eat

“No, I can’t, I ate loadddds yesterday”, or “I’ll go to the gym tomorrow to make up for it”, or “I can’t have dessert, I’ve put on loads of weight” etc etc etc… how depressingly frequently and unconsciously these unnecessary words come from our (almost entirely female!) mouths.

‘WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?’ I ask have we been conditioned to view any food which tastes delicious and isn’t a vegetable as ‘bad’?  It’s not ‘bad’ – it may well not be nutritious but my taste buds accept them and declare, like God in Genesis, ‘Very Good!’ Why then have we anthropomorphised food and attached these ridiculous judgemental measurements to it? Who declared that food’s sole purpose was to nourish? Again, my taste buds, eyes and nose all disagree…eating is an experience, were it not we would all be subsisting off of gruel a la The Matrix.   Now let me plainly say food should nourish; it is not an emotional crutch and addictive foods or dependant relationships with food should be avoided and treated.  But that’s not to say that food can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Food is so very much more than the vitamins it contains (or those it doesn’t!); food is creative, artistic, adventurous, comforting, nostalgia-inducing, communal, enjoyable, memory-making and often exciting.  I fondly remember the succulent steak I had with my husband last week for our anniversary meal with friends; I also remember the disappointment of the too-creamy tiramisu which fell short of my last memories of perfectly balanced cream, sponge and coffee liqueur.  I remember the pleasing crunch of the onions in the Quarter Pounder with Cheese I ordered late one night with friends, harkening back to our College days! As do I recall the flavour of the broccoli sprinkled with garlic-butter we had with sausage and sweet-potato mash yesterday; yum! And I do not feel guilty for any of these ‘indulgences’. I have not committed a ‘crime’ nor a sin so why ever should I?  Unless, I’d argue, I am wilfully ignoring Dr’s advice to eat more healthily and am instead taking money from the taxpayer’s purse to pay for my own gluttony, or risking leaving children orphans by sending myself into an early diabetes-induced grave (etccccc), I have no reason to ever feel something as inappropriate and serious as ‘guilt’ about something as beautiful, exciting and inoffensive as food!

Ok, let’s just say for a moment that foods really are, ahem, ‘good vs bad’ (side-note, I am now imagining a hilarious scene of a vegetable and a chocolate bar re-enacting the epic Star-Wars scene where Darth Vader faces Obi Wan Kenobi!)…  I wonder why, if this is true, it is we women who have been coerced into internalising this and taken the judgement of our foods personally, making us the ‘bad’ ones for having the nerve to assert our free-will to spend the money we’ve earned on food we like to please our taste buds- shock horror! Could it be anything to do with the food industry’s money-making need to sell us ‘diet’ foods…yep, whereby they have convinced too many intelligent, hard-working, food-enjoying women to pay for more, get less; yep, WE ASK them to cut a big hole out of the delicious pizza we’ve been looking forward to all day, and instead to fill the offensive space with a few leaves of rocket- then we are charged extra for their consideration to our (usually perfect fine) waistlines! Really? Is this common sense? NO, it’s not- it’s insecurity covered in advertising. And why are these half-pizza, half-rocket eating women choosing insecure? Because they’ve been told to be…I’ve never seen a guy friend order the ‘low-cal’ pizza version, or any low-cal anything actually and in honesty, a few of my guy friends could do with changing the pizza/ rocket ratio in their lives!   For confirmation we need only look at the parade of diet foods available-all claiming to be as creamy (etc) as the actual cream alternatives, and all advertised by (strangely thin) women… of course, not a man in sight!

So, what am I actually ‘saying’?

I’m saying, let’s stop and re-THINK how we think about food…here’s two questions we could consider:

  1. Is the food we’re about to eat actually ‘bad’ for us?

(NB: I mean ‘bad’ as opposed to just ‘not very nutritious’ and I mean ‘in moderation’ obviously… I am not advocating a student style entirely carb and fat based diet – I need vegetables to feel like I’ve had a real meal-I just also want to enjoy my dessert!).  What I am advocating, however, is that we free ourselves to *enjoy our choices*; that we stop falling for Magnum’s lies and berating ourselves as ‘sinful’ for consuming an ice cream- the only sinful thing about which is the extortionate price!)

  1. Are we eating it not to satiate our appetite or please our taste buds, but to salve our emotions or because we think we *should* eat that option?

IF the answer to these is a double NO (ok, and if we can afford it without having to forgo electricity or biting our nails with guilt!), then let’s just shut up and eat, and hopefully… enjoy!

NLB

Oh you look fabulous dahhhling (but I look crap)

I think…many things, but as far as compliments are concerned I think that women have been taught to think that receiving a compliment, or praising ourselves for our talents, is arrogant or vain. Which is n.o.n.s.e.n.s.e. (unless you are being arrogant or vain, otherwise it’s just honesty!)

We are in a culture where giving compliments is a sign of affirmation and respect for our friends’ choices be it their hairstyle or how well-behaved their offspring are at lunch, yet we suck (yes, I am prone to using technical terminology) at receiving them for ourselves.

The paradox, however, is that while we’re so inept at, receiving compliments and instead bat them away before they can hit us, we are as quick to give them as we are to reject them. We feel so often that we *must* compliment a friend’s new haircut, or her outfit that day, or how well her kids sit and eat (ok, that one is an achievement given the fondness all kids under 5 seem to have for treating food as experiential art!). Blah blah blah. Sometimes we are LYING- I’m not going to lecture on why this bad (inauthenticity, lacking integrity, being untrustworthy, being insecure & dishonouring her/him, God, and yourself is the abridged version!), instead I’m just going to ask you to please think about WHY you compliment the way you do?

I am not ‘anti-complementing’: au contraire, I’m extremely generous with my praise and celebrate my friends’ talents and accomplishments of all sizes, often when they do not. What I am anti, is completing for the *sake of* complimenting. I’m saddened by what I see as complimenting without authenticity but from a place of insecurity or fear instead of love. Fear sounds like a strong word but it is not, I believe, an emotion reserved for horror movies but is instead, sadly, a driving force behind so many of our acts and words. Fear that our friend will ‘think’ we are rude if we don’t comment; fear that I we don’t compliment them they won’t compliment us.

So, realising this I now strive to only give authentic, accurate and helpful compliments which are honest: e.g. when I didn’t like my friends new hair colour I didn’t comment but when it came up (because she asked me – as we so often and uncomfortably do in our Facebook ‘LIKE’ this pic tendency) I said they’re not my colours but that I was so pleased she was getting with the colour scene. However, she’s confident enough in her stylistic choices not to cry about my politely and lovingly expressing a different opinion instead of saturating her in vanity-indulging lies! More often though, if I don’t like a friend’s outfit and compliments are being thrown around, I’ll instead compliment something I do like… complimenting a handbag or shoes or even eye-liner application is a) more meaningful and thoughtful b) honest.

I am still working at this-with another, less confident, friend I was too stumped when she asked if I thought she looked pretty (she looked like a street worker!) and I reflexively said a rather surprised and weak ‘yes’-oops! IF we stopped *asking* for compliments, or asked wanting a genuine answer then the compliments we’re given would be *true* and of more value-they’d be freely given not exacted by request and given by laws of politeness!

Well that’s enough about giving praise-as with meaningful sex, compliments are about giving and receiving…

With very few exceptions, the correct way to respond to a compliment is to accept it, as with any other gift, by saying: “Thank You”.

Because…

  1. It’s polite!
  1. It shows the person sharing their opinion that you respect their view (rather than saying ‘oh no I’m not’ or ‘oh no it’s rubbish’ etc. etc. etc.!!).
  1. It also encourages them to respect you and see you well (VERY important when dating! If s/he sees your hair as shiny and beautiful- for example- why oh why would you profess that it’s ‘just greasy’?! Duh!)
  1. Finally, it also encourages our own self-image to grow positively; as we start to RECEIVE the positive things people say of us, we allow them to be absorbed into ourselves and transform us from within so that we see what they see 🙂

And for your viewing pleasure-a hilariously truthful parody on compliments (strong language phobes beware!)… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzlvDV3mpZw&list=FLoVj_9fbkKcWliBbHYnPy_g&index=6

NLB