A new years resolution that did wonders

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A new years resolution that did wonders

 

So a few years ago my friend Tessa (who seems to be coming up a lot in my posts, probably because she is one of my most thought provoking friends) introduced me to the idea of living without competition. To the possibility of raising our children without teaching them to think in a competitive way. Intriguing…

 

Naturally I got defensive to begin with and said in response:

 

“Well I don’t think there is any harm in gentle competition”

 

But as soon as I uttered the words, I began to doubt that they were true. What I love about Tessa is that she never pushes these things. She plants the seed and leaves it with you. Being a naturally obsessive person I spent a few sleepless nights mulling this concept over. When I thought about it that much, I could not find a single example where being competitive did me any favours. In fact, it brought out my ugliest traits.

 

I suppose my first introduction to the antagonistic drive of needing to win was introduced through good old sibling rivalry. My brother Jim and I were always compared and spent many of our childhood years, fighting for the spotlight when it came to school and home. I remember the intense emotions so clearly. A mixture of pure awe at a person and unshakable jealousy. I don’t think this is a healthy way for anyone to begin their life. Yet so many siblings start off the same way.

 

This feeling whatever it was; this melancholy fervor that made me need to be better than others, remained with me. It never made a ‘fun’ evening of board games end well. I was often compared to Monica from friends. Sticking it to the loser if I did well and raging if I didn’t. Embarassing.

 

There are two sides to being competitive: One where you behave obnoxiously and are desperate to beat everyone (and have that be noticed) to feel good about yourself. The other where you know you have no chance of winning so you give up before you’ve even started. I have definitely experienced both, most of my life so far. And neither bring out the best in me.

 

I honestly think this is why so many kids loathe sport at school. Rather than teaching children the art of the pastime fairly and indeed the true, noble path to competing, schools generally search for kids with ‘potential’. Because they want their cabinets filled with trophies. All the average children are ignored and below average in my experience tend to irritate the teachers.

 

I was never picked for any team, ever. So I hated P.E. It made me feel bad about myself. So naturally I rebelled. Imagine a scenario though where teams were not the important part of school sports though? Where children are all being taught fairly and filled with the spirit of friendly competition. Where they are given the opportunity to take part and develop a passion for a sport even though they aren’t the best. Imagine all children being at ease with losing sometimes. And more importantly being used to that without it being and kind of tragedy or personal failure. Surely that’s a valuable lesson for us all to learn? And where better than the sports field?

 

I’m not going to bang on about educational settings here but i do want to give one more example where they often (I think) encourage children to perceive each other as rivals rather than peers:

 

Placing children in ‘sets’ for classes.

 

In my opinion, most children don’t actually know what they are ‘good’ at. They are told. By their parents and by their teachers. Placing a child in a ‘bottom’ set for anything is code for saying “You are shit at this”. I remember the feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing that came with being placed in one of those lower settings well. Most teenagers are familiar with these emotions. I think this is one of the factors. Again, for me, it made me give up without even trying- my philosophy being “why bother if I’m crap? I’ll just mess around until I enter a class that I’m good at.”

 

I also realise that my reasons for misbehaving in these classes was down to feeling incompetent. Making people laugh made me feel better about myself. So rather than sitting there sadly hating myself for being ‘stupid’ (which is what I thought I was thanks to the set placings), I was ‘naughty’. The looks of hatred and yells of impatience from the teacher confirmed these two things- 1) I was indeed a bad kid 2) And a stupid one. A vicious cycle that did me no favours in those classes, or for my well being as I developed as a person. If people view you as ‘bad’ you start to see yourself that way. Same with intelligence. So I think this idea helps create the kids with low self-esteem and attitude problems and often, it doesn’t change for them.

 

This was the environment that first made me resent learning. And all kids are born with the desire to learn, are they not?

 

In the higher sets I liked the work. But this is where the atmosphere was most competitive. We were all secretly thinking, “We are all great at this cause we are in here, but who is the best?”

 

Who could get the best grades?

 

Who could answer questions first?

 

Who could answer questions the best?

 

Etc etc.

 

The amount of straight A friends I have that suffer with huge anxiety is very interesting. They can’t sleep during exam time. They shake, cry, sweat with panic and work, work, work. And if they don’t get that A, they hate themselves. Completely. They are ashamed! What kind of world are we living in?! Shouldn’t learning go back to being that drive and passion we were all born with? Not a constant strive to do better than last time? Or better than everyone else? It’s not healthy.

 

So after tossing and turning for nights on end. I decided that being competitive for me (and probably most) is a horrible trait engrained by nurture, not nature. Therefore, I could eliminate it from my personality. I could retrain my brain to no longer think that way.

 

You know what? It worked.

 

Obviously the people around me have a lifetime’s worth of evidence to contradict me here, but with any change, it takes time. It’s been three years. In another ten, people will no longer see me as a maniac that needs to win. I am confident of that.

 

The way I did it was by focusing on the feeling after winning when ever I started to feel the gut stab and horrendous desire to ‘outdo’ others. I concentrated on the fact that no-one actually cares. The axiom that I can’t scroll back in my mind and work out who won which game and when? Because ultimately it doesn’t matter, it has never mattered. I realised the people I am drawn to are not people that need to beat others at things but people who want to learn throughout their lives regardless of what others think of them. That is the kind of person I long to be. Someone who is at ease with my intelligence and feeds my intellect at my own pace and relishes it. I strive to grow into someone who admires others without envy. Someone who can laugh at myself if I do a bad job at something. I want my children to possess this qualities too. And I am a main influence to them!

Since this revelation, I am actually growing more secure in my own abilities. I now embrace this strange, relaxed freedom that comes with not needing to be the best, or funniest, or skinniest, or smartest etc etc. I am definitely less judgemental of others which makes me more compelled by people. I genuinely want everyone to succeed! It feels so warm and wonderful. I even have a better body image and expectation for myself and others. All in all, I am a happier, healthier person without competition.

 

Also (I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant) my eldest daughter, she is glowing from these changes already. Susannah is three, so she came just at the right time. If she loses at a game she still enjoys it and wants to play again! I hope I can keep this going for her. I feel so proud when she sings “wah wah wah wah’ with a big smile on her face as she slides her playing counter down a snake rather than up a ladder.

 

Another thought that occured to me is that most things are subjective anyway. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and all that. If we apply this logic to most situations, no-one is bad or great at anything. We are all different and interesting. So next time a friend shows us a painting that we think is terrible, maybe we should try and see it for what it is, a little piece of them, instead of trying to rate whether it is any good. If it makes the person doing it happy then who bloody cares?

 

Anyway, there is a reason that people often die before anyone appreciates their work. Because people are stuck in their ways. So I reckon, what ever we enjoy we should do it with bells on even if the people around us, the critics, our parents or teachers tell us we are terrible at it. They can all go jump. Because we are all entitled to revel in things regardless of other people’s standards.

 

If we could all learn to love what we do and cherish doing it, and feel the same to the people around us, maybe we would all be more confident, laugh more and take bigger leaps. Because honestly, who are we to judge anyway? We might not be right about everything…

If I were gay…

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IF I WERE GAY… A friend  of mine came out as ‘bi sexual’ last year.   Did it change anything between us?   Of course not.   Did I see it coming?   I hadn’t thought about it but it didn’t surprise me.   Did it change anything for me?   Yes. Naturally being a self indulged human being, it made me analyse my own sexual existence.   I‘m not going to talk about labels. I don’t care about any of that. I believe anyone should be able to be, do, wear, make love to and call themselves anything they want (obviously as long as no-one is getting hurt). I believe in kindness, compassion and respect for other living creatures and the planet we share. Anyway, now i‘ve made myself sound like a complete self righteous hippy, I will get back to my point. I want to talk about two things:   1) Why it doesn’t matter whether we are attracted to men, or women, or both   2) I’m hoping to clear up any phobias that some people might hold over people being ‘gay’.   I am in a committed, straight relationship. Engaged actually. So obviously I am not looking for a mate. I occasionally meet people where for about five seconds I’m like “ding-dong hello there!” but it never goes further than that for me. As a couple we are happy and secure and we are both stubbornly loyal by nature. That for us means sharing a life together openly and honestly and (of course) monogamous sex. This is a concurrence we made from the beginning- we both chose to live like this which is why we work as a couple. Other people have different standards and in my opinion that is none of our business and should be approved by everyone (as long as both partners are happy and in agreement).   So about my friend. Her name is Lola (she’s not a showgirl). It was a big deal for her to ‘come out’. It is of course for most people. Admitting to your loved ones that you aren’t conventional, and are (or dream of) having sex differently to how society expects is extremely difficult. I think the biggest qualm someone in Lola’s position suffers with is the fear of rejection. No-one wants to be rejected, especially by the people that they are closest to.   Back to me. Like many others, my family contains members that are valuable to me but we clash on most opinions. They are intelligent people but often use the ‘generational’ excuse to be ignorant about things. If everyone did this, there would be no moving forward with anything. At what age exactly do we decide that we are too old to ‘move with the times’? No-one is too old to do that. We should all strive to think openly and be more accepting shouldn’t we? Surely the more we age, the more we have learnt therefore the more understanding we should be?   When I was about 12, I remember saying to a relative, “What if I’m gay?”   Their response was hilarious. She said: “Don’t be silly, of course you’re not, you’re far too feminine.”   OK…   Well what she didn’t actually know was that my first love/crush (whatever you want to call it) was in fact a girl. We were good friends going through puberty together. We were young and sexual and things between us often got heated. It never felt wrong. But it was also never spoken about really. It was entirely animalistic and teenage. However, things did end badly. Rather than parting ways gradually like many friends, we literally had a ‘break-up’. One day she told me that she didn’t want to hang around with me anymore and that was it, we never associated with each other again. I never really got over that.   Whether that experience makes me ‘lesbian’ or not is debatable. But actually, I don’t think it matters. It was what it was.   Since then I have only been in relationships with boys. I have occasionally been attracted to girls but I was never confident enough to explore this. I remember seeing a few girls in my late teens/early 20s that I liked. Once I was really drunk I would sometimes buy them a drink, bring it to them and walk/run away pretending it was just because I was weird. I just wanted them to notice me I suppose. I never thought about this as an ‘attraction to members of the same sex’ but looking back at it, that’s exactly what it was. One of these girls even invited me back to hers and we kissed a bit. We were teenagers and all my friends were experimenting, snogging eachother, drinking, drugs. Some even cutting themselves. So I never thought about my actions as ‘lesbian’, they were just adolescent.   So when Lola spoke to me about her situation, it made me reflect on this.   I think the main reason I wouldn’t have dared venture in a relationship with a woman, at that young age, was because I was very vulnerable anyway. I feared rejection so hugely that I couldn’t face ever being perceived differently by my family. The way I heard some of them speak of people who were homosexual was not kind. So I have decided to try and clear up any confusions or worries that may have occurred to them if I had indeed attempted being in a same sex relationship. Not because I want to run off with a woman or anything, but because I don’t think parents’ should influence their children in that way, or fill them with  judgements or fears of being (or being around) something quite ordinary and harmless. Being homosexual is something I just don’t believe that in this country, at this time should be viewed negatively. So really this isn’t about my family, it’s about all families that would have trouble accepting a fellow family member or friend as being ‘gay’. So, let’s pretend when I met Muzz (my fiance) he was a woman. Let’s call her Muzzina. All the same things… we met, we were hugely attracted to one and other, we soon realised we liked each other for other reasons too, we had the same visions for the future and the same morals. If this happens (which is of course quite rare) it is usually the recipe for falling in love. Once that transpired, it was normal for us to want to start introducing eachother to the other people we love in our life. But if I had said to these people, “I have met someone, I think it’s serious: would you like to meet HER?” Some of them would have freaked out.   I am going to try and guess the things that might run through their heads in this hypothetical scenario that could spur such disapproval.  Here is a list of these thoughts followed by my responses to them.  

  • “No kids for you guys then.”

  Obviously, being in a same-sex relationship complicates the art of having a child. It does not however terminate the dream. All couples that hope to become parents can experience challenges. If the couple are happy, in love and want children, it is perfectly acceptable for them to want to be parents. And of course explore all the options available to them to do so.  

  • “It’s not natural”

  Ok, who decided that? Most wild animals fornicate with members of the same sex. What’s strange about that? If there is a mutual sexual attraction, why not act on it (in most circumstances)? I am not religious, but if I was, I might be asking, why did God design a man to have a g-spot up his arse? Maybe it was to give him a choice. If that’s not natural, I don’t know what is. All consensual sex is natural (that I can think of). Let’s get used to that?  

  • “It’s perverted’”

  Well maybe stop picturing other peoples’ intimacy then. Perhaps that’s the thing that’s perverted.  

  • “Is this my fault?”

  Being in a gay relationship should be as everyday as being in a straight one. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Therefore there is no-one to blame for anything. Also, it’s not something that is decided for a person. It’s an instinctual drive on an imaginary continuous line. One end is gay, the other straight. Everyone is somewhere on that line. No end is right or wrong. One friend said to me recently: “I’d probably go gay in prison, you’d have to wouldn’t you?” I suppose I see the logic in this as the majority of people you would be surrounded by would be of the same sex- so it’s slimmer pickings. However it is not the limited selection that makes you ‘gay’. It’s being attracted to members of the same sex. If you can see this happening to yourself in an extreme situation, why rule out the possibility that it could happen anywhere?  

  • “I thought I knew you”

  My sexuality is not the be all and end all of who I am. I still love the same food, the same tv programmes, the same clothes. I still have the same talents, ideas and preferences. Nothing has changed except your vision of me. This is your problem, not mine.  

  • “Is a phase.”

  Maybe. Who cares? Just invite Muzzina over for dinner and get to know her like you would with anyone else! If we break up, be there for me. Give us a chance as a couple because you want to see me happy. That should be what matters.  

  • “What will our friends think?”

  The good ones will admire your acceptance, modern open-mindedness and unconditional love for your family. Anyone who thinks badly of the situation, or you, is probably not worth a friendship.   And a couple of extra clear-ups for other outsiders looking in:   If you do have children, will they grow up unbalanced? Don’t you worry that they might get picked on?   The only thing dysfunctional about members of the same sex raising a child together, is the harsh and bigoted judgements they may have to receive from people around them. But don’t we all live with those? I have a son with autism and he is judged all the time for his behaviours as am I for my parenting. There is never going to be a set up that everyone approves of. All I can say is if a child is being raised with love and kindness then that is a good start in life. A start that sadly many children aren’t lucky enough to receive. As far as the child being unbalanced, again, that’s nothing to do with their parents being gay. It’s about the child having needs that perhaps the parent’s know nothing about. Look at Billy Elliot! He just needed support and acceptance. His dad did not need to become a ballet expert to make the story have a happy ending. All any of us can do as parents is our best. If there is something that our children feel the need to visit another member of family or a friend to be open about, then so be it. It is better than them bottling everything up and becoming unhappy. Obviously just because people chose to be in a gay relationship, it doesn’t mean they don’t associate with people of the opposite sex. We all grow up aspiring to everyone in our lives, not just our parents. So there will always be people of both sexes for our children to turn to for advice. Also when it comes to bullying, there are continually reasons to make fun of another person. I was bullied for the size of my teeth. I got over it and so did the bullies. If we can teach our children to accept and be proud of who they are and where they come from, and not to judge others, then the bullying will lessen as time goes on. If it doesn’t and it’s time to do something about it, that’s a separate issue. My point being, (once again) it’s not parent’s being gay that causes bullying- kids do it anyway.   Does that mean you fancy everyone? Are all your friends potential lovers now?   All of us can assess our friendships and think, am I attracted to this person? In my opinion, the truth is, if you have to ask then you probably aren’t. If you are and the feeling is mutual, it would be obvious. That’s a connection that most people can observe. If you once were but the feeling wasn’t reciprocated then the chances are you have moved on. But what ever sex we are attracted to, nobody wants to go to bed with everyone. It’s a relation that happens and is bilateral. Just like straight people. So if your friend has ‘come out’ no they probably don’t fancy you, and if they did, they are so over you because you didn’t fancy them. Unless you do, then who knows, maybe there is a romance to come? And what’s wrong with that?!   I can’t think of any more concerns that I have heard cross the minds of people who would rather their associates and relatives be straight. As you can see (I hope), what I am trying to get at is: if everyone accepted that we have the right to shack up with either sex then we would all have a lot less to complain and worry about wouldn’t we? I am lucky enough to live in a country that has a pretty good understanding of homosexuality. I recognise this is not the case everywhere. If we can start the acceptance at home though, in our own circles, no matter where we are from, then that is a wonderful step in the right direction. Let’s all get along and love people for who they are not who they are shagging.

The pride that makes us human

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The pride that makes us human   The pride that stops him from claiming benefits, even though he regularly borrows from his family and never pays them back.   The pride that makes her hurt her child because she can’t admit she has a problem.   The pride that allows him to continue ordering in the troops even though he realises there is no hope for survival.   The pride that fuels her lying even though she causes more pain every time she does it.   The pride that denies him love because he is attracted to people of the same sex.   The pride that blocks her from being promoted even though she is better than the rest at the job.   The pride that forbids him from following his dream because his religion won’t allow it.   The pride that restricts her from following her religion because her society won’t allow it.   The pride that stops him from leaving even though she cheats every day.   The pride that prevents her from reaching out even though she has long gotten over their fight.   The pride that limits him from believing in himself because everyone else has given up on him.   The pride that hinders her ability to admit she has a problem even though she uses every day.   The pride that stops him from becoming a woman even though he is one inside.   The pride that prohibits her from acting because the rest of her family are doctors.   The pride that permits him to continue doing his job even though it’s hurting the future of our planet.   The pride that refrains her from agreeing to flick the switch even though he will never wake up.   The pride that abstains his ability to love because it would mean tearing down a wall that he has spent his life building.   The pride that denies her the right to make her own choices because they think she is too young.   The pride that prevents him from redemption because no-one sees him as anything more than the mistakes that he once made.   The pride that prohibits her from listening even though she can see the pain her loved one is in.   The pride that barricades him from accepting her because no-one in his day would have done.   The pride that restricts her from leaving the house because she doesn’t like the way that people stare.   The pride that delays him from getting better because his family don’t believe in medication.   The pride that prevents her from dying peacefully because his loved ones aren’t ready to let go.   The pride that forestalls his need to share his pain because he has to decide without their judgement.   The pride that pushes her hurt people because she has only ever been hurt.   The pride that keeps him from enjoying his food because people respect him more now he’s slim.   The pride that limits her from saying yes because she’s scared of what other’s will think of him.   The pride that halts his ability to let her go even though she can never be happy with him.   The pride that stops her from her from telling because she thinks it’s her fault.   The pride that obstructs him from respecting her because she sells herself, even though he went looking for her.   The pride that makes her feel at risk in her own home because she wasn’t born there.   The pride that ceases an animal’s existence because his wants and needs are more important.   The pride that keeps her from altering the way she views things, even if it were to help her become a better person, even if it would mean that she at last could be content, because she doesn’t want to change.   The pride that makes us control, judge, hate and kill.   The pride that ultimately will end our existence. The pride that makes us love someone even though they aren’t the best at anything.   The pride that gives us the want to assist each other.   The pride that makes us to put our own lives at risk to help eachother.   The pride that braves the risk of ridicule because they want to see a change.   The pride that means living on less to support someone else more.   The pride that makes us drop everything to be there for someone.   The pride that gives us happiness when we see our own reflection, no matter how much our bodies and minds have been through.   The pride that helps us listen and absorb and want to understand.   The pride that makes us sorry and want to do better.   The pride that makes us forgive.   The pride that inspires us to talk of someone with tears in our eyes.   The pride that encourages us to unite and spread awareness.   The pride that causes us to want to get up for work every day.   The pride that makes us want to share a life with someone.   The pride that we dedicate to helping others move on from their pain.   The pride that spurs us to work to understand mental and physical health problems, disabilities and gender issues.   The pride that pushes us to save lives.   The pride that emboldens us to look for love.   The pride that helps us find it.   The pride that gives us freedom of speech.   The pride that motivates us to fight for our rights.   The pride that creates charity.   The pride that urges us to stand up for our planet and nurture it.   The pride that sparks us to feel compassion.   The pride that goads us to hug another person.   The pride that energizes us to give another chance.   The pride that inspires us find a way.   The pride that makes us give away.   The pride that makes us keep things.   The pride that creates art and music.   The pride that builds communities and culture.   The pride that triggers us to want to educate.   The pride that sparks us to learn and grow continually.   The pride that helps us make the best out of a bad situation.   The pride that makes us appreciate.   The pride that aids us to respect a life.   The pride that encourages us to respect ourselves.   The pride that provokes us to say goodbye.   The pride that causes us to find a cure.   The pride that makes us realise that some things never needed a cure.   The pride that keeps us determined.   The pride that makes us go to bed with a smile on our face.