The vows I never said at our wedding

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The vows I never said

Muzz,

When we got married, you were quite in favour of the idea of us both writing our own vows. I said no. Not because I don’t have a million things to say (you know me better than that), or because I didn’t want to share these thoughts with you or others, but because I knew I couldn’t tell you this without wailing like a baby all the way through. Our wedding was a sob fest enough as it was! (Still not letting go the fact you hid behind your shades by the way). So here are my vows. Please do not write any in return, I know that’s not your style. But it is mine, and to tell the world (or my few friends who might take an interest). This being one of the many things you have learnt to accept about me.

As you know I had a somewhat unconventional upbringing. This made me yearn one thing. A solid family unit.

My little family had already begun when we met and I was sceptical about letting you in.

You were pushy.

I pretended I didn’t like that, but I did. It was not only very flattering, it was romantic.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but I’m a bit of a fan of romance…

I didn’t know how or when to introduce you to my two year old son who was undergoing a diagnosis of epilepsy, autism and adhd.

I told you that it would happen when I felt ready.

But being you, you showed up at my door uninvited when you knew I was with him.

My instinct was to be upset and turn you away but I was curious to see how the two of you would react to one and other.

You brought a pack of cards with you and in no time at all you were helping him line them up.

This was the first time I realised you really wanted something with me. And, that you were a foolish romantic, ready to give your heart to anyone. (As was I).

Your life had always been fairly simple until I was introduced to it.

Oscar had his challenges and tested us immensely. In our third year together we almost turned our backs on each other.

That was the worst time of my whole life.

We needed that small time apart though to realise that even at our most miserable, nothing was as unbearably devastating as not being together.

So we worked it out and moved forward.

Since then you have constantly surprised me, enlightened me, excited me, made me laugh, irritated the fuck out of me (in the kind of way that would be hugely missed if you were gone…), you’ve believed in me, confided in me, comforted me and taken the time to truly understand me.

And of course given me three more beautiful children.

I am hard work.

My family are hard work. (Many of us any way, sorry guys if you are reading this but look at us? Love you!)

You have always understood that our home is open to anyone who needs to stay.

You have always encouraged and accepted my wild side. (One of the many things we have in common.)

You have forgiven me for the most outrageous and impulsive decision making possible. (cough, horse for a week, never even rode it, gave it back cause it was a demon, and never got the money back…cough).

You support me when I publically open my mouth in ways that often makes you uncomfortable.

You never judge me.

You nurture my need to learn, and to understand people.

You stayed strong when I nearly gave up.

You work like a crazy person because you want our children to have the best.

You are the greatest father and friend a person could be.

You are my everything.

I am fucking crying now.

But I am alone thank god.

See why I couldn’t tell you this stuff out loud?

Because our life isn’t average.

We have been tested more in our seven years together than most are in an entire lifetime. Hell we were in the first two.

It’s exhausting and relentless sometimes.

But you are consistent.

You give me that stability I always wanted.

You give our children stability.

Not to mention non–stop laughter and kindness.

I don’t need anything more.

It’s only human to dream bigger, but we have it all right now. I really believe that.

Thank you.

Also…

…I don’t get it, but thank you, for picking me.

Vikki x

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Homeschool follow up

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So it seems I have caused a bit of a stirring with my controversial views and I wanted to set some things straight…

Firstly, I am not meaning to cause offence to anyone who has chosen (or is intending to) to send their children to school. I have friends who are far better parents than I could ever hope to be who have children in mainstream schools and they are doing just fine. I also know there are brilliant teachers out there, the best. We all long for these teachers and if our children were lucky enough to have one for each subject, along with more one-on-one time and a intellectual and emotional connection with each one too, then they would sail through each subject. But how likely is that?
Like any choice that is different from the ‘norm’ my thoughts are bound to raise some eyebrows. I do believe that the school system is outdated and is no longer designed with the best interest of the pupils’ individual needs. I think things were bad when I was at school (twenty odd years ago), and that it has got worse, and will continue to do so. I am generally talking about high schools. There are many amazing primary schools in my area. However I have a lot of friends with children in secondary school and not one of them has a happy story to tell. One just the other day was telling me about how her daughter got stabbed with a pen (quite severely) and the school denied any responsibility for this as ‘no-one saw what happened’. I have another who’s child is being hugely bullied; she has met with the teachers, head teacher and parents of the children causing problems. The school say that the bulling isn’t ‘severe enough for them to take action’. They have more serious issues to deal with like weapons, rape and drugs. I could go on, I have tons of examples. The thing is, if my children have a super time in primary school and the hit these kinds of troubles in secondary school, how can I tear them out of the system then? How I can I justify pulling them away from any friendships made and dividing them so consciously and brutally? This will cause so much difficulty for all of us. I genuinely believe these problems will arise at some point and there will be nothing I can do to stop them. So I feel that homeschooling from the very beginning is the only fair way it can be done. It will be ordinary to them and I will work hard to meet others where that is also their normality so that they don’t feel like they are missing out.
My experiences of school have affected my views of course but they have not tainted them. I experienced many school settings as I moved a lot as a child. My main two examples of teenage educational settings (both of which failed me as a student) are interesting. One was a large comprehensive (2500 kids) split over two buildings. And the other was a small, country private school.
The first was intense. I was bullied from the start. Many people were. It’s fair to say I’ve always been fairly eccentric and people at that age don’t like it my experince. The girls would all buy the exact same pairs of shoes and hair bands and wear make up and smoke. I was ridiculed for not doing any of those things. Really, hugely ridiculed. So much so that I needed a distraction. I soon discovered that if I was ‘naughty’ and acted out to the teachers, people would laugh at me instead of picking on me. I then had people saying ‘Vikki, dare you to do this’ and I would! I was now likeable. I also would make fun of people less popular than myself (only in front of the mean kids which is worse than all the time really) so I looked tough. I learned many life lessons, none of them good as I was shaping to be a not very nice person. I learnt hardly anything when it came to school academia.
So concerned at my behaviour and bad reports etc my family decided to place me in a private setting. As far as my image went, this was fantastic for me. I was now able to become whoever I wanted. I made meaningful friendships. However, the school had no hope for me from the moment I began. A school like that is very precious about ‘success’ and ‘results’. They were worried about me lowering their averages. Not many people pay for a school that don’t offer excellent averages. So with every given opportunity I was suspended and at one point they tried to expel me over very little. Fortunately my family prevented that from happening. So I made it out with to quote one of my teachers, ‘surprisingly good results’. They were so convinced that I was going to fail that they didn’t want to teach me. In some classes, all I would have to do was walk through the door before being asked to leave. Sure I had a cheeky attitude but I was not a bad kid. I did leave school believing that I was though. In fact I thought I was pretty worthless. And that did not give me the courage to really try anything else educationally.
I know that not everyone’s experiences mirror mine but I can’t help but think my children are bound to have (already do) possess some of my (and our family’s) eccentricities. I want to embrace them rather than make them feel ashamed of who they are. I don’t want them to conform to the standards that someone, somewhere has decided is correct. I want them to grow into well rounded, helpful and kind people with an open mind and a passion for learning. Give me a school that can guarantee they will try their hardest to achieve this which each and every student?
Secondly (back to my last blog), I definitely allowed my anger at the growth and horror caused by capitalism to take over my main points. My fears of schools changing for the worse are caused by this, but I do realise it is a separate issue. I also suffer from anxiety so it’s safe to say that these thoughts may overwhelm me and keep me up at night on a regular basis so I know I have to evaluate them frequently. It does not make them all completely irrational though.
Thirdly, I am not intending to shelter my children from anything; quite the opposite. My eldest daughter is only three so I am only just starting my research and plans for our educational journey. I am reading heaps of books by fascinating and inspirational authors such as Alfie Kohn, John Holt, Maria Motessori and Rudolf Steiner to name a few. There are many home ed groups in my surrounding areas and I am planning to meet as many like minded people as I can and help develop the community. I feel there is a higher chance of building something wonderful for education locally outside the grip of school than in it when there are so many people to go through. I am planning to offer free music and cooking classes to children in the same situation as mine once a week with the hope to inspire others into sharing their talents with our children. I plan to bring accomplished friends in for days here and there to teach my children skills such as knitting, sewing, shooting, fishing, climbing, sailing, horse riding, building, carpentry and what ever else might be on offer. I also intend to en-roll my girls in any groups they wish to join. Susannah is starting a dance class next week. There are also drama groups, gym classes, sports teams and all sorts that we can look into depending on their interests. There are also local forest schools that we can attend every now and then to develop their nature skills. That’s the social side of things explained.
As far as the life lessons school gives: let me be clear, I am not at all wanting to raise my children wearing blinkers. But what kind of lessons of enormous value will they be missing out on exactly? The only one I see is how to survive (if they do) under huge amounts of unnecessary pressure. As far as knowing about the troubles in the world, to start with, we already have a lot of stories in our direct life that proves how different  one life experience can be from the next. We are also going to do community work once a month to meet all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds with the intention to teach my girls that anyone can end up anywhere and to never to judge. We are going to keep a daily journal for ‘random acts of kindness’. They will have to take it in turns to think of something kind we can do each day for another person. This will hopefully show how easy it is to be there for others when one puts their mind to it. A valuable life lesson that schools most certainly do not focus on.  I want compassion to be their main attribute to anything they do. I feel it’s the most important trait any person can possess. Without compassion there is no room for growth or change. Without compassion, everything else one does is inconsequential. Without compassion, the world and everything in it has no worth.
A last huge pro to home-schooling is being able to chose how we learn. We can take trips, meet people from around the world, any time, any where. I will be there to help with every struggle educationally and emotionally. Not only will that make my understanding of my children a deeper one but I will be able to be actively involved when we hit any walls (which of course we will).
I have no doubt that my gorgeous, intelligent and funny girls would survive with Muzz and me as parents through the manic school system. (Which compared to many countries I accept that we are extremely lucky to have). We could guide them the best way we know how.
But to me, survival is not enough. I want my children to reach their full potentials, intellectually and as human beings. I am not saying I can absolutely do that, that is a massive assumption. But I am willing to sacrifice everything to try. Because I think I have a better chance of achieving that than anywhere or anyone else as far as my kids are concerned. Maybe I am crazy, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Why I intend to homeschool my younger children

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It’s probably easiest to start this post with a list of what I think it is most important that my children learn:

1) Compassion
2) kindness
3) The ability to reflect and grow
4) The acceptance of others
5) The skills to forward think (anticipate political, educational and environmental changes etc and have an opinion on these things)
5) The art of debate
6) Respect for other living things, and for the planet we live on
8) To listen and be open minded
9) How to live off the land
10) How to care for animals
11) To be inquisitive
12) To forgive others and themselves for wrong doings and learn from regrets.
13) To look after their body, mind and soul (by soul I mean the desires inside that are often ignored i.e the individual’s personal path to happiness.)
14) To be patient.
15) To appreciate the input of others and not compete at life.
16) To be able to express and understand their emotions.
17) To appreciate the beauty of art, drama, dance, music and literature.
18) To be confident.
19) To be spontaneous but not reckless.
20) To appreciate the beliefs of others.
21) To make clothes.
22) To nurture the born desire to learn in their own way and in their own time. There should be no race to knowledge but one should understand what they have learnt and find a way to make it interesting for themselves what ever the topic.
23) To confide in others.
24) To be approachable
25) To always help others in need.
26) To be brave enough to stand up for what they believe in.
27) To laugh and have fun and enjoy every moment they can.
I’m sure there are a million other things that I will think of after posting this. But you get my point- I believe that teaching our children to be compassionate, helpful, and respectful of the planet and everything on it should prioritise any other kind of learning. Knowledge of other subjects is of course valuable, but it is not helpful alone especially if not taught well. If all children enter this world with a passion to learn, it seems to me that the factory setting of a school annihilates that yearn almost immediately. The pressure ‘to do well’ by the teachers coincided with the demand ‘to fit in’ by their peers is a recipe for disaster for most sensitive human beings. And most human beings are sensitive in my experience. I don’t ever want that to burden my kids with those unrealistic and meaningless expectations. That’s why I will never force, only gently encourage them to learn in fun ways, and I will learn with them. I will embrace their individual flair, aptitudes and talents. Or I will try my damn best to anyway.
We will tackle each subject like a game and make sure that everyone is enjoying the work and absorbing the knowledge. I know this is easier said than done but I will of course take on the challenge. I will not be authoritative, that is part of the respect. If they are having trouble with a subject, I will cross that bridge when we get to it. Even if it means hiring a tutor for certain parts. I am not saying I am capable of teaching all topics but I do want to work with my children’s personal strengths and weaknesses, and make decisions with them as they go along; as they start to process more about themselves, and what they are most keen to excel in.
To learn is a beautiful gift that makes us human and I want my children to realise this. I will urge them to discover that there is no limit to knowledge. I want them to be hungry for it and feed that hunger for self satisfaction and not because they are told to.
There should be no such thing as failure. Failure is a word I will not tolerate. It is a destructive word that offers no advice. It is a label. If something is not understood, we will find a new way to approach the learning of that field. One that suits their wavelength and pace of learning without making them feel stupid. Schools have many ways of making a child feel useless without even saying the words. Putting a child in ‘sets’ for example: anyone put in a ‘bottom set’ may as well be told not to bother because they are too stupid. Anyone put in the ‘top set’ may as well be told “go on kid, prove yourself or you are going to fail like the people below you.” Worst of all, the childrens’ abilities are so often misjudged because of a lack of confidence, or different approaches to learning that don’t fit in with their standards, or simply because they did not gel with their teacher. That in my eyes is unacceptable. And potentially mis-shapes our childrens’ future.
I don’t believe in grades however I also know that I would never want to limit the options for my children as they grow up. I also want them to be able to communicate with other kids they meet in clubs or at the park without seeming like they are from a different world. That is my only reason for deciding to follow the national curriculum and enter exams (only the big ones though I suppose some how we will have to practice for those but definitely not until they are in their teens.)
All though, deep down, I have no idea where our country will be at that time and whether I will want us to stay in it.
Possibly the main reason I am in anguish for my children is because of their undeveloped mental health. My family has a long list of victims of pretty much everything you can think of when it comes to mental health issues and addiction problems. Also, It seems to me that as time goes on, more children generally are suffering with anxiety and depression, self loathing, body issues, addictions, crime, even psychotic episodes. I do not think that the children or the parents are to blame. Our culture is. We have created something too big for most people to live in peacefully and right mindedly. Half the people I know are on medication just so they can survive this insufferable rat race that is every day life.
People regard ‘sucess’ as being wealthy and in a high-flying job. It sounds crazy but I feel sick every day by how much people seem to ‘need’ material things. The business, the noise, the smells, the anger, the bullying, the expectations, the poverty, the sickness, the ignorance, the loneliness and suffering. Money, things, money, things. I can’t bare the reality that we are living in. I don’t want my children to be a part of something that I consider the opposite of natural.
I read a couple of weeks ago that the 85 richest people globally possess more than it would take to wipe out world poverty. I honestly lost sleep mulling over this for a while. How can anyone be ok with having so much money when there are people dying every day from hunger and ill health because of being so poor. I know it sounds cliche, but it is happening and people ignore it. I hate that people justify this. The guilt and sadness this truth fills me with makes me unstable. I’m sure I’m not the only one. It will never be ok to me. Why it is to anyone else is beyond me. I just don’t understand it.
People are so strange. We all have the same fears, but the way I see it is that we focus on the wrong precautions that ironically contribute to the problems. We are terrified our children will succumb to bullying, drugs and crime so we ram exams down their throats and judge their ‘intelligence’ on a daily basis and most of the time tell them they need to do better. We fear war so turn to the government for support with weapons and armies instead of preparing for a life after mass destruction. We are already destroying our planet and each other every single day but we condone every moment of it. And we pretend it won’t affect us even though it already is. We tell ourselves that there is nothing we can do about it.
Imagine if we lived in a world where everyone literally looked after their neighbour.
Imagine if we all followed our basic instincts and turned away from the monstrosity we have created around us.
I don’t want to be a part of it but sadly, I am. We all are.
I can’t control my children but I can give them all the tools I think they will need to survive as healthily as possible in this hell we are all part of. That to me is success. Everything else is a bonus.

Let us feel!

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This morning, my three year old daughter susannah had a cry. It was over a strawberry. It was my fault entirely, I wasn’t thinking. I know perfectly well that she receives huge pleasure from biting into the biggest strawberry in the punnet. Yet I cut it in two. She is very expressional, (I try to encourage that, being an very sensitive human being myself, I am well aware that my children might be the same way), so when her large brown eyes fill up with tears and she looks at me I say: “Oh Susannah, are you sad because I cut the big strawberry?” She nods frantically and the tears race down her cheeks. I give her a cuddle and add: “I am so sorry! I know you like the big ones and I cut it up! How silly I am to forget.” Susannah replies: (as her eyes start welling up again) “Yes because now it isn’t big or massive anymore it’s small and there are no more big ones left.” Her feelings have been acknowledged, she is now on the mend- I know what I have to do to uplift things completely. I pick up the strawberry halves and put them in my eyes and say “Ahhh but with two pieces I can be mrs strawberry eyes! (I put on a funny voice) “Hello- pleased to meet you, I’m mrs Strawberry eyes!” Susannah’s tears subside and her face is now filled with glee and she jumps off her chair and asks me to hand her the strawberry pieces. She imitates me and laughs so much even the twins join in with the giggles. What could have been a huge meltdown has been turned around into fun and silliness.

 

This technique works most of the time and it is rare that Susannah has any kind of giant meltdown. If it does happen it is usually because I am irritable so not thinking properly about how she’s feeling. This is the key really. I hear myself saying on some days (for example) “Susannah, it’s just a strawberry and you are going to eat it anyway so who cares. Just eat it and be quiet.” This will upset her enormously and quite rightly really; by saying that, I have basically told her that what she is feeling is irrelevant and she should feel what I tell her to.

 

But who am I to devalue a person’s emotions like that?

 

The thing I think is so important, and that is so easy for any of us to forget is how small our children’s worlds are compared to ours. Susannah knows nothing about hunger or war or financial stress. Susannah is usually thinking about drawing or clothes or riding her bike. That strawberry and the complete excitement of biting into it’s giant, juicy shape was a big part of her morning. It probably is equal to the excitement I feel when the weather is warm for the first time all year. Cutting it up was like a wind and hail storm arriving just as I make plans and pack a picnic to enjoy the lovely weather. Horribly disappointing and ultimately changes my plans ahead.

 

I remember when Jim (the eldest of my three younger brothers) and I were about four and three years old and we were driving home from somewhere. Our mum promised us that we could stop at Little Chef on the way for some dinner. We were ecstatic! Not only did this prospect contain the adventure of eating out, but we were also given a lollipop after we had finished by that particular chain of restaurant. That was probably going to be the best thing that was to occur on that day, or possibly for all of that week. Sadly, we fell asleep in the car and mum didn’t want to wake us. I will never forget the overwhelming sensations of sadness, regret, disappointment and anger this (what felt to me was a tragedy) sparked for me. The devastation I experienced in that moment from missing out felt as painful as a break up. That’s how big it was to me. Because my world was so much smaller that it is now. But that shouldn’t mean my emotions were any less valid. It’s just different things that triggered them. As my world grew, so did my ability to control my responsiveness as have the things that make me respond.   That’s what I try to remember when I think my children are over-reacting.

 

How often do you hear parents say “It’s not a big deal”, “Get over it,” “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill,” “There are far bigger things in life to worry about” and that kind of thing? But if we think about it, children react to things just like we do, except they have not yet learnt to understand these intense feelings or how to manage them. So how do these phrases help a child determine these things?! I think reacting to a child this way teaches a child that to feel is incorrect and to be ignored. How incredibly lonely we would all be if we were all treated this way?

 

Even as adults, we expect a certain emotional etiquette from each other in everyday life. We belittle the way others feel just because we don’t accept that it’s reasonable to feel a particular way over a particular thing. If we don’t share the reaction, we discount it. Surely that is the gateway to depression? Feeling isolated with our emotions.

 

You know that other expression “life is hard”. Couldn’t we, instead of using it to shut others up and expect them to deal with their challenging emotions in silence,  use that as a reminder of how we all find things difficult at times? As a way to unite us as human beings and normalise any negative reactions to the everyday struggle we call life? Why is being sad, angry, lonely, disappointed is nothing to be ashamed of. We all feel this way from time to time and we all have our own reasons. Let’s stop expecting everyone to respond the way we think they should. Let’s accept their responses as theirs and be there for them.

 

Muzz and I have been together 7 years so we have had long time to grow together and understand how the other deals with certain things. Muzz’s family are some of the most wonderful people I have ever known and I am so thrilled to have them as family now. But they are not emotional. That is of course acceptable! Everyone deals with things in their own ways. But Muzz did not understand how sensitive and over emotional I am as a person because he had never really seen it before. It does not take a lot to make me burst into tears and at first Muzz would often resort to telling me to ‘dry up’. I am very over the top so you could hardly blame him. Sometimes I just get sad about how beautiful things are and how people let the exquisiteness pass them by. Did you ever read ‘the secret life of bees’? There was a character in that story called May Boatright- she would feel such heartache that she would write about it in little notes and hide them in a wall at the end of the garden. I am like a (slightly less dramatic) version of her. I feel so deeply and care so much it is a stirring. It keeps me awake. It is a pumping through my body that could quite frankly tip me over the edge if I didn’t monitor it frequently. Not everyone experiences emotions this intense on a daily basis, many people simply react to particular circumstances. And that’s what we like to expect from people, a bloody good reason to feel something. But why? To feel something is not a choice, it just is. So with time, Muzz learned to tolerate and relate to that side of me. And I have figured out many distractions to keep me from spending an unhealthy amount of time on one particular emotion. Tit for tat. And perhaps we could all think about limiting how much we compare ourselves to each other. Muzz has accepted that I am very extreme emotionally and I have accepted that he isn’t all the time. Both are common and respectable.

 

I spoke to a doctor recently that gave a good analogy for how people deal with their feelings. He said that not everyone in concentration camps experienced depression, but most people did. Meaning of course that in one of the most extremely bleak scenarios imaginable, still some people cope mentally, and others don’t even need to be in a severe situation to fall apart. We all have our breaking points and we don’t choose where they are. Conclusively, there is no right or wrong to these feelings, they just are and we should all try to respect what another person might be going through emotionally, even if we don’t understand it.


And when it comes to our children, I think we should do this will bells on. Surely it will help them develop a healthy understanding of their own emotions and a compassionate approach to others. If we can normalise their emotions by acknowledging how they are feeling and allowing them to talk about it  then it will be easier for them to work out how to anticipate these feelings and cope with them. Often, that is all any of us need to feel instantly uplifted. Time, respect and compassion from the people around us.

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.

Coming to terms with anxiety

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I like to be busy. Well I say that, I’ve only ever known… manic I suppose. I had about of year of utter laziness in my teens and that was great! But apart from that, yep pretty bloody mental.   You may have read my other blog- the autistic diaries which was about my son Oscar. Oscar is now nine and living in the residential part of his school full time. We have had quite the journey. He is flourishing and I couldn’t be prouder. Even if I do live with a permanent rain cloud of guilt, showering over my thoughts; knowing that he is not with me, the way a child should be. Sometimes one has to put pride aside I guess, and do what they believe is best for everyone in their family. That is what I’ve done, I hope.   I have three other children.   Susannah is three on valentines day. Being born into a household that (at that time) was hugely dominated by her brother’s needs, has given her a naturally helpful manner and heart full of compassion. Her understanding of other’s emotions and needs surprise me every day. Don’t be fooled though, the girl has confidence. She is wholly observant, yet also manages somehow, to keep all eyes fixed on her. A winning combination.   Then there are my twin daughters- Rosie and Berry. They are just over a year old. They are identical and fascinate me constantly. Within their first weeks on this Earth, their differences in character were evident. Yet somehow, they are completely and perfectly the same. They are perceptive, dainty and careful. With a cheeky glint of something extra.   I truly am the happiest I have ever been. There is so much love in my life it overwhelms me.   I live in a strange panic about my daily contentment. My children are all so fantastic. I have the most supportive, kind and idiotic (in a good way) partner who I share this glorious life with. My friends and family are so very beautiful, talented, interesting and giving. We have a modest and messy home that is warm and is ours. Yet I can’t shake the reality that it is all temporary. I feel like all the birds of paradise have chosen to live on my roof and sing me the worlds best music everyday, with plans to one day move on forever without looking back- leaving me utterly alone in my silence.   Most new parents will relate to these feelings. When you watch your tiny, innocent and thoroughly vulnerable newborn sleeping, it hits you- nothing else matters now, without this person, life is no longer worth living. And then you check every 30 seconds to make sure they are still breathing. No parent can prepare for this kind of love. It consumes you and alters you in ways that are absolutely out of your control. I think it is the most wonderful thing that can happen to a person. But the underlying angst that comes with it is hard to bear and in my case, impossible to cast aside.   I’ve have been ‘anxious’ since my teens. When I was eighteen it was really bad. I was obsessed with the world ending. I used to imagine Milton Keynes glass shards soaring for miles and chopping everyone in half. My breathing and heart would accelerate so much that I then thought I was going to have a heart attack. Then there was the addition of how odd I was being. I would have to count my footsteps all the way home to deter my thoughts from obsessing on death but when I arrived home to safety, I would then be tormented with the concerns that what I kept doing was abnormal and that maybe I was going mad. This was (and still is) an easy conclusion to jump to as my family has a history of mental health problems of many kinds. That for me is the most terrifying thing that could ever happen. Losing my mind. Losing everything because I’ve lost my mind. Then I discovered alcohol. This took the edge off. I could quite easily have let that deplete me.   I didn’t know about panic attacks at this point. It was thanks to a good friend that I learnt about these. Tessa was staying at my house when she was  awoken by me making a phone call. I was in a hysterical mess on the bathroom floor telling NHS direct that I thought I was dying. I am still always in awe of Tessa’s knowledge and experience. At this young age, she knew exactly what was going on and what to do. After calmly taking the phone from my hand and hanging up, she held my hands, looked into my eyes and told me I was having a panic attack and that everything was going to be OK. Everything was OK after that.   I mostly learnt to anticipate and curb the attacks from thereon.   As an adult I have mastered how to avoid the majority of the scenarios that trigger my anxiety (without out the use of alcohol). Though one cannot control everything. Every few years, something will happen that will set it off to a point where I don’t want to interact with the outside world. During these times, my skin will hurt, my heart will feel offbeat and jumpy, sometimes I shake, I will cry in strange unpredictable outbursts, something large will manifest in my throat and won’t go away and indigestion takes over my insides so I find it hard to eat. I even break out in spots. Then there are the thoughts, the maddening voices that haunt every minute of those times: “You are going to lose everything.” “You are crazy already and soon everyone will leave you.”   I have however trained myself to make music and/or exercise when I’m cemented in this dark place. After a few weeks, it usually subsides. I have not yet needed medication as my life balance has not been too affected at this point. If I thought it was necessary though, I would not say no to giving it a go . Especially if I knew I was making my loved ones miserable.   Strangely, I believe existing with anxiety has many positive attributes to offer to life as well. It fills me with a constant need to  ‘live for today’. People think I’m nuts because I express so much love all the time, because I need them to know, right now how I feel about them. It’s an urge so strong and passionate, I can’t shake it. This love is overpowering and exquisite and I feel so lucky to have it there reminding me how beautiful people are all the time. And without the intention of sounding cheesy, it’s the hideousness in the world that highlights this beauty. Which somehow makes even the most unseemly situations appear alluring. Like the people that make sandwiches for their neighbours after an earthquake. That’s human nature, or part of it. That sort of kindness is hidden in our usual everyday hustle and bustle. It’s the horror of the earthquake that brought these simple but tender actions to the surface. Living with anxiety, makes me feel like an earthquake is always about to occur, so I guess that makes me aspire to be the type of person that would indeed display that sort of kindness regardless of whether the earthquake actually takes place. As well as take pride in the graciousness of anyone I spot doing something extraordinary. These things make me uncontrollably happy! This must be a good thing?   I also think dread should make us give people the benefit of the doubt each and every single time someone screws up. (I am not talking about evil here- that is another topic altogether. I am speaking about unfavourable actions that people take, or even characteristics that they maintain and why it should not define their entirety.) When you know the world is ultimately going to end, it is of course terrifying but at the same time it could help us refrain from seeing only ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ in most daily situations. Fear is a powerful motivator. It can help us put things into perspective. If we viewed everything as a stretch of  very limited time we might be able to evaluate multiple options of outcomes for certain scenarios. When some of the options are positive, we could place all our energy into realising as long as there is hope, it’s not the end for anyone. If we as a majority held on to that, fewer people would give up on themselves I think. We all need people to believe in us. So if someone lies, steals, hurts or falls so low it’s hard to imagine them in a good place, perhaps believing in forgiveness, fresh starts and practising compassion will give the people around us a chance to redeem themselves. The opportunity to reflect, learn and grow, and most importantly, to want to do those things. I certainly would like those chances from people when I fuck up. I don’t want there to be a limit to them. I truly believe we can love anything better. I also believe, within certain circumstances, we are all capable of most wrongdoings. Therefore, no-one is better than anyone else. I conclude from my experiences so far that most people are good and everyone is shit sometimes, sometimes more often than not. But that is not all they are. I think we could all use a constant reminder that loss of any kind trumps (pretty much) anything else when it comes to hardship. Then we might all learn to value the love we share. We could all live a ‘Richard Curtis’ kind of life. That would be the best.   So (in perhaps a rather accidentally self-righteous kind of way- Let me assure you, these are just random thoughts that occurred to me recently and I do not think myself any kind of guru, far from it), I’m just trying to say, with every bad there has to be a good. Every time I think about loss, I am reminded of how much I love. Anxiety fills me with the constant fear of loss, therefore I feel this hugely emphasised and unbelievable pang of love all the time. And love is better than anything. It’s what connects us with others and makes life beautiful. So I am actually grateful for this strange condition.