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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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.

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…

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.