Friday, 28 April 2017

I Need A Little Time...

I'm not very good at taking time for myself.  It's funny, because I really thought I was.  I'm good at binge-watching TV shows on Netflix, with a scented candle lit and a big bowl of popcorn on my lap.  It's just, I've recently discovered that that's not entirely the same thing.

Because often, whilst I'm watching TV, I'm also checking my phone, to see if anyone has texted.  If someone has, I feel the need to reply right away, because I know how much I hate it when you message someone and they either never respond at all, or they take days to do so.  I feel that need to reply even more if the person texting has some kind of problem they need to talk through, or if they might be feeling lonely, angry or just fed up.  

And, whilst I'm half-watching TV and checking my phone to see if there are texts I need to reply to, I'm also checking Twitter, to ensure that the abuse-awareness account I run isn't being forgotten about.  

Before I know it, my "Me Time" has turned into "Me, You, Them And Whoever Else Time."

Normally, that's actually pretty fine.  I'm a people-person.  I like to have other people around me.  I like being in touch with people.  But my problem is, I have a habit of putting other people first.

Yes, I know.  That sounds like a humblebrag.  "Oooh, I'm just soooo selfless.  I put myself second aaaaall the tiiiiime."

But, I promise you, I'm not trying to sound like that.

I just mean that if someone's need seems to be greater than mine, I will put my own needs second, in order to accommodate theirs.  I tell myself that it's a nice, compassionate and mature way to be.  But, in reality, it's not always helpful.

Because, in deciding that my feelings are less important than everyone else's, I end up doing a disservice to myself.  I end up feeling guilty if I tell someone that they've made me feel hurt or angry (and, sadly, recent experience in that area has made me feel like I should never voice those feelings again).  Indeed, sometimes I end up swallowing those feelings entirely, rather than risk a negative response to them.

I end up pushing myself to be there for everyone else, whilst ignoring my own feelings.  My gut reaction to seeing someone I barely know on Twitter saying that they feel sad or lonely, for example, is to offer them my inbox as a place to rant.  To offer my metaphorical shoulders to cry on.  But too often, what I really need, is someone to talk to, myself.

What happens when you bury your own needs and feelings?  They start coming out, elsewhere.  You get short-tempered with people who have done nothing wrong.  You feel absolutely furious with people who have (anger just starts gnawing at you like a dog with a bone).  You start feeling the physical symptoms of stress.  For me, in the last 4 weeks, that's meant a worsening of my asthma, a return of the griping stomach pains I'm on medication to prevent, lack of decent sleep leading to exhaustion and a desperate wish to escape.  To literally anywhere.

Thankfully - and it seems bizarre to use that word in this context, but go with it - I'm having counselling, as a result of the grief I'm still going through because of losing two of my closest friends in the world.   So, I was able to talk these feelings through with my therapist, this week.  Her advice?

Go off the radar, a little.  Stop trying to be there for absolutely everyone but yourself.  Put Emma first, for a while.

It's alien and weird.  All week long, I haven't sent a single text to anyone, asking "how are you?"  Not because I don't care about any of the people I usually get in touch with to ask that question.  But, because I recognise how thinly I was spreading myself.  How much I was ignoring my feelings in order to try to put everyone else first.  

Because if anyone had texted me that question, had I been brave enough to answer it honestly, I would have had to say: "I'm not okay."

The fact of the matter is, you can't be all things to all people.  And you can't be anything to anyone, if you're not looking after yourself.

It's not selfish to say "I can't do X," or "I don't want to do Y."  It's perfectly reasonable to feel a negative response to something and to express it.  And it's not a character flaw to step back from the world and concentrate on fixing yourself, first and foremost.  Because nobody else can: you have to recognise what your needs are, what your problems are and what you can do to sort them out.  Nobody else can do it for you.  And, in realising that, I finally realised that I can't fix everyone else's problems, either.  Offering a stranger the chance to "DM me, if you ever need to talk" is kind and thoughtful, but there is no pressure on me to cure anyone's woes, because I can't.  

I'll always be someone who likes to please people.  I'll still be someone who offers her shoulder for strangers and friends alike to cry on and who tries to go along with what others want to do, because I don't like letting anyone down, or making people feel like I don't care.  

But I can't do it, right now.  I need to fix my own stress.  I need to concentrate on what I want and what I need.  I need to fall off the radar, just a little, and fill my life with things that make me feel happy.

I need a little time to put me first.  

And that's okay.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Bedtime Story (26/4/2017)

I won't lie, this story is basically being written just so I can use this gif!

As always, this story is also available to listen to as a podcast.

Timmy's To-Do List

The sun was streaming in through Timmy's bedroom window.  But he didn't want to go outside and play.  The only thing Timmy wanted was Super Dragon Race 2, the brand new computer game that all of his friends were raving about.  Timmy already had the first Super Dragon Race game and he was the king of it - he'd played all of his friends and won every time.  But now, the sequel was finally out and Timmy was absolutely desperate to get his hands on it.  The trouble was, his birthday was months away and Christmas was even further.  And it would take him ages to save up his pocket money to buy it himself...

"Can I please have Super Dragon Race 2," Timmy begged his parents over breakfast.  "I promise, every night I'll do my homework before I play it."

His parents looked at one another.  "How about this," Dad began.  "What if we give you a list of jobs to do?  We'll pay you for all the jobs you do, say a pound each, then when you've finished them all, we can go to the shops and buy this game you want.  Deal?"

"Deal!"  Timmy exclaimed.  "What do I have to do?"

"Well, it'll take quite a few jobs to save up that much money," Mum said.  "But you can start off by washing the dishes."

"And then you'll need to tidy your room," Dad added.

Timmy nodded to himself.  "Wash the dishes, then tidy my room.  I can do that."

Dad gestured outside.  Timmy's grandad lived a couple of doors down from them.  "Grandad will probably have some jobs for you, too," he suggested.  "Ask him what he needs doing and remember, we'll pay you a pound for each job."

Timmy went rushing to ask.  He darted down Grandad's garden path and knocked on the door.  "Grandad," he said, almost breathless from running.  "Mum and Dad are paying me to do some jobs for people, so I can buy Super Dragon Race 2.  Do you have any jobs that need doing?!"

Grandad scratched his chin.  "Well, my boots need polishing," he said.  "Oh, and the garden needs weeding, too.  You can do those jobs for me, if you like?"

Timmy nodded and smiled.  "Okay," he said.  "So, I have to wash the dishes, tidy my room, polish your boots and weed the garden.  I can do all of that!"

Grandad grinned and pointed at the house next door.  "My friend Margaret has just moved in there," he explained.  "I bet she has lots of jobs you could do!"

And so, Timmy hurried off to the house next door and rang the bell.  A kind-faced old lady answered.  "Ooh, I recognise you," she smiled.  "You're Jim's grandson, Timmy!  What can I do for you?"

Timmy told her his story and Margaret nodded her head.  "Well, I could definitely use some help," she said.  "The fence in the garden needs painting, the boxes I used when I moved in need flattening and the dog will need a walk.  Can you do all of those things?"

Timmy nodded.  His to-do list was getting pretty long, now, but he recited to himself: "I need to wash the dishes, tidy my room, polish Grandad's boots, weed his garden, paint your fence, flatten your boxes and walk your dog."  He promised Margaret he'd be back later and rushed back home.

On his way, he bumped into Mrs Henning from Number 65.  She was friends with Timmy's mum, so Timmy decided to tell her his story and ask if she had any jobs for him to do.

Mrs Henning took a deep breath.  "Hmmm," she pondered.  "My lawn needs mowing, if you'd like to try that?"  She paused, wrinkling her nose.  "Oh, and my car could do with a wash?"

"I can do those things!"  Timmy promised.  And, after assuring Mrs Henning that he'd be back later, Timmy hurried back home.

"How's your to-do list coming along," Dad asked, when Timmy came in.

Timmy cleared his throat.  "I have to wash the dishes, tidy my room, polish Grandad's boots, weed his garden, paint Margaret's fence, flatten her boxes, walk her dog, mow Mrs Henning's lawn and wash her car."  He pulled a face.  "That's all going to take a very long time, so I'd better get started!"

Timmy collected all the breakfast things and put them in the sink.  As he washed up, he kept reciting his to-do list to himself, to ensure he didn't forget anything.  The trouble was, the more he tried to remember it, the more confused he got.

"I have to wash the dishes, tidy my room, weed Grandad's boots, polish his garden, paint Margaret's dog, flatten her fence, walk her boxes, mow Mrs Henning's car and wash her lawn."  

Timmy pulled a face.  "That's not right..."

He tried again.

"I have to wash the dishes, tidy my boots, paint Grandad's room, polish his weeds, flatten Margaret's dog, mow her fence, walk Mrs Henning's car and box her lawn."

Timmy blinked and rubbed his eyes.  "No, that's still not right..."

Mum came into the kitchen.  "Are you okay?"  She asked.

Timmy stared at her.  "I've forgotten what's on my to-do list," he confessed.  "It's all mixed up!"

Mum smiled.  "Okay, tell me what you think you have to do..."

Timmy took a deep breath.  "I have to tidy the dishes, wash my room, flatten Grandad's boots, paint his garden, weed Margaret's dog, paint her boxes, mow her fence, walk Mrs Henning's Grandad and drive her lawn."

Dad came into the kitchen.  "I think someone's a bit confused," he smiled.  "Here's an idea.  Why don't your mum and I help you with all your jobs?  We'll get them done quicker, that way."

And so, Timmy, his mum and his dad finished the washing up.  Then, Timmy tidied his room and, when he had finished, they all headed over to Grandad's, where Timmy polished Grandad's boots, whilst Mum and Dad weeded the garden.  Afterwards, they went to Margaret's house, where Timmy flattened all of her moving boxes and helped paint the fence.  Then, they all went for a walk with Margaret's dog, before they popped to Mrs Henning's place, where Dad helped Timmy mow the lawn.  Then they all had fun washing Mrs Henning's car.

By the time all of the jobs were done, Timmy was exhausted.  It was also pretty late!  Timmy glanced at his watch.  "Dad," he panicked.  "The shops shut soon!"

"Don't worry," Dad replied, gesturing to his car.  "We'll be there in no time.  Come on!"

Timmy and his parents jumped into the car and headed straight to the shops with minutes to spare.  There, Timmy finally grabbed his game and Dad handed him the money Timmy had earned from his jobs.  As they walked back to the car, Timmy was tired, but delighted.

Dad climbed into his seat and turned the key in the ignition.  "I bet you can't wait to play on that game when we get home?"  He asked.  There was no reply.

Mum frowned.  "Timmy," she called, softly.  "I bet you're really excited to have a go on that game, now you've finally got it?"  Again, there was no reply.

Timmy's parents turned slowly towards the back seat.

Timmy was fast asleep, with Super Dragon Race 2 cradled in his arms.

It had been a very busy day.


Thursday, 20 April 2017

Dear BBC, It's Not Me, It's Who.

TV has annoyed me twice in the last 24 hours.  

Last night, having binge-watched the whole nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother in just 7 months, I sat down to watch the finale.  That finale, much like the finale of Friends, gave me feelings (such strong feelings).  Except, the finale of Friends made me feel warm, fuzzy, sad and ultimately satisfied, whereas the finale of How I Met Your Mother made me feel cheated, upset, angry and so unsatisfied, that despite the fact that I watched it years after it first aired and the moment has very much passed, I am certain that before this week is over, I will have written a furious blog about it.

So, I wasn't in the jolliest of moods, this morning, when I clicked on a link someone had shared on Facebook.  That link led to an article, explaining that a father had sent an official complaint to the BBC, insisting that there should not be a woman cast as the titular character in Doctor Who, because it would "confuse" his children.  His complaint was met with a response from the BBC, calming his fears (oops, sorry, his children's fears), by insisting that they had no intention of casting a female Doctor.

Okay, let's start with the obvious bit: this guy was not worried that a female Doctor would confuse his children.  How can I be so sure?  Well, firstly, there's the fact that if your kids are already on board with an alien who can change his entire body and persona in order to cheat death, whilst travelling through time and space in a wooden box that's bigger on the inside, fighting a variety of baddies, some of whom look distinctly like pepper pots with sink plungers stuck to their heads, I'm pretty sure that the Doctor suddenly gaining boobs isn't going to boggle their brains, too much.

But that's not the only way to tell that it's not the children who don't want a female Doctor.  The response the BBC made to the guy's official complaint, features the words:

"We appreciate that you're a big Doctor Who fan and you have concerns that the programme would change should there be a female Doctor. Be assured there are currently no plans to have a female Doctor Who." 

We appreciate that YOU are a big Doctor Who fan and YOU have concerns that the programme would CHANGE should there be a female Doctor.  Because goodness knows, if the Doctor was a woman, she'd probably be late for saving the world, because she couldn't get her hair just right, and she'd struggle to parallel park the TARDIS due to the fact that it's her period and there's no chocolate to calm herself down with, or something.  Tsk, women.

Let's be real here, guys.  This dude's kids probably couldn't care less whether the Doctor is a man, a woman, or a bear in a hat.  They just want the show to be good.  They want explosions, aliens, time travel and excitement.  They want a hero they can believe in and stories that have them hooked.

Newsflash:  That's what any Whovian wants.

The ironic thing about this idiot blaming his children for his own fervent need to have a MANLY MAN in the TARDIS, is that on the whole, kids don't care that much.  I've worked with children my entire adult life, and for several months, I was a TA to a class of 8-9 year olds.  Those kids noticed that I had Doctor Who badges on my coat.  Chatting about the show became a regular occurrence.  Many of those children would mess about in the playground, pretending to be the Doctor, his friends and his foes.  One day, when we were talking about what we wanted to be when we were older, I said "ooh, I'd like to be the Doctor."  

One boy replied: "You can't; he's a man."  

I responded: "Ah, but he regenerates, doesn't he?  He turns into a completely new person when he does that.  So, maybe one day, he could regenerate into me!"

And every single one of those kids nodded in agreement.  Because children aren't born with prejudice.  They learn it.

They learn it when their fathers are so disgusted by the mere idea of high heels in the TARDIS, that they send an official complaint to the BBC, demanding that it never happens.

But really, why should it never happen?!

We can discount the "because it would confuse the children" argument, because we've established that that's a load of tosh.  If anything, given the enormous number of young, female fans I've met over the years, the children would relish a female Doctor.  For the girls, it would be a way of showing them that they can take the lead, rather than playing the companion.  For the boys, it would show them that women can be brave, strong heroes, too.  All of which are important life lessons.

Another common argument is that "he's always been a man," so it would be weird to change it.  Seriously?  He might have always been male, but he's changed drastically in terms of height, age, eye colour and hairstyle.  His temperament has changed between each incarnation, too.  So, given that the Doctor changes pretty drastically every few years, what's the problem with his genitals changing, too?!  A female Doctor would be different, yes, but at its heart, the character of the Doctor is always the same: a slightly lost soul, an adventurous traveller, someone who wants to help people and fight monsters.  None of those attributes has to be inherently male.

Fans also like to wheel out the classic-era argument that Timelords can regenerate their bodies, but they can't change their gender.  This, as proved by Missy, is simply not true in the nu-Whoniverse.  Unless we're about to get a big twist this season, we've already seen a Timelord (The Master) regenerate from male to female (Missy).  If it can be done with another Timelord, why not the Doctor?

But by far and away the biggest argument I see from fans who are infuriated by the idea of a woman taking over the TARDIS, is that it would somehow be "political correctness gone mad."

Yes, some people feel the need to rush to the most thoughtless, stupid response possible.  Today, when I voiced my opinion that it's wrong to entirely rule out the idea of ever having a female Doctor, a man quickly responded: "aaaw, poor little snowflake."  Because, I can't possibly have a reasoned argument for my views.  I simply must be one of the PC brigade, trying to ruin his fun with my irritating belief in equality and my habit of taking offence with anything that differs from my over-sensitive views.

Here's the thing, guys:  I'm not a "snowflake."  I actually detest the use of the word snowflake in situations like this, because essentially, it's a way for some knuckle-dragger (of either sex) to bark about toughening up, whilst often shutting down a valid argument.  You see the same response when someone suggests that a piece of media might need a trigger warning:  "Oh, here come the snowflakes..."  Actually, no.  Here comes someone who might have a lived experience that gives them a different perspective on something to the one you have, and who might, therefore, understand that certain things can cause negative flashbacks to people dealing with past trauma and feels that it's right to give those people a heads up as to what's coming.

But I digress...

It's not about being politically correct.  It's not about saying "the Doctor has to be a woman, in order to even things out."  I'm not going to sit here and laughably suggest a female James Bond.  That character is male and he's also human.  He can't regenerate, so the only way he could become a woman would be through transitioning.  And, given what we know of the character, that is massively unlikely.

So, no, it's not a case of "political correctness gone mad."  It's not true that I (or any reasonable fan) is sitting here, thinking: "I don't care who plays the next Doctor, as long as it's a woman."

Whoever gets the keys to the TARDIS, my biggest concern - and that of any real fan of the show - is that it's the right person.  The show is carried by the actor playing the Doctor and that's a heck of a lot of responsibility.  Whoever takes over has to have the right persona for the job.  They have to keep the Doctor seeming real, despite the crazy adventures that might take place.  They have to be someone that younger viewers can look up to, because the Doctor is, for many kids watching, a hero figure.

The only thing people like me are asking, is that a woman could be considered for the role.  Not because we've gone PC mad.  Just because there's no real, solid reason why a woman can't be considered.  It's established canon now, that the Timelords can switch gender during regenerations, so there's nothing stopping the BBC from hiring a woman, should they choose to.  Frankly, if we want the best person for the job, we shouldn't rule out half the population, just because a woman hasn't undertaken this particular job, before.  

Nor should we worry that giving a woman a role that was always previously a male one, undoes feminism in some weird way, as one girl suggested to me, earlier.  She claimed that if there was a female Doctor, it would just be a case of women having to piggyback men to get the top job, once plenty of guys have done it, first.  She said there needed to be more strong, female roles in the show besides the Doctor, to prove that women don't need the top job.

I kind of saw her point (if I squinted), but it doesn't entirely make sense.  You don't say "hey, this bank has always been managed by a guy, so we can't give the top job to a woman, or she'll feel like she's only gotten success off the back of all the guys who did it, first."

Besides, the Doctor isn't the only strong male character in the show, so why are we going down the weird road of suggesting that if the Doctor was a woman, there would somehow not be as many strong female characters on the show?!  You can have a woman in the top job and still have other strong female roles in there, too.

Of course, the real reason that the BBC have cowardly sucked up to the "worried fathers" of the world, is fear.

Should a large chunk of viewers dig in their heels and point blank refuse to so much as give a female Doctor a chance, their ratings will decline.  Never mind the fact that a female Doctor could actually bring in a whole new raft of fans in time and never mind the probably high number of people who will tune in out of curiosity (and potentially become regular viewers); the BBC will always cower behind what they know works.  So, the Doctor will remain a man.  

He'll remain a man, despite the fact that Timelords can change gender during regenerations.  Despite the fact that with good writing and the right person in the title role, a female Doctor could be a breath of fresh air for the show.  Despite the fact that literally nothing about the character, beyond genitalia, needs to change.  Despite the fact that a female Doctor needn't change the premise of the show at all.

The Doctor simply has to stay a man.

For the sake of the "children."

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

You Can Be Right And Still Be Wrong

It's not easy for a stubborn person to admit when they're wrong.  I know this, because I know many stubborn folk, for whom the idea of holding their hands up and saying "okay, I was wrong and I'm sorry" is the kind of thing that causes them to wake up in the dead of night, in a cold sweat.

I also know this, because to a much lesser extent, I am a stubborn person.

I know that when I have a bee in my bonnet about something, I become rather unshakable in my views.  I know that I tend to react strongly to perceived slights, because I'm ludicrously sensitive and then afterwards, I struggle to let go of the hurt I've felt, in order to see the person who hurt me the way I saw them before.  I know that there have been times when I've decided that I'd rather be silent and say nothing to someone, than have it out with them and fix a problem, because doing so feels too difficult.  So, yeah, I guess I can be stubborn...

I like big BUTs and I cannot lie.

The thing is, I am not one of those people who holds onto that stubbornness forever, refusing to talk about a problem, being against the principle of "forgive and forget," or just generally maintaining negativity in spite of the fact that doing so is actually worsening my own life.

That's because I'm ridiculously self-analytical.  To the point of actual craziness.  I've been known to lie awake at night, wondering why I said a certain thing, or why I felt a certain way.  And I don't just mean on the day a particular event or scenario happened.  I mean weeks later.  Months later.  Years later (I talk about that a bit in this YouTube video).

I find myself wondering what I could have said instead.  What I should have done differently.  I start thinking about any other people involved in a situation and what their feelings on it all might be.  And, if I think that they might be hurting because of something I've said or done, my gut instinct is to apologise and try to make it better.  Not because I suddenly think I was in the wrong all along (although, sometimes I am, obviously), but because I know that the right thing to do, is to consider the feelings of others and to try to behave in a way that causes the least hurt.

Because, you see, you can be right and yet still be wrong.

I know, just... Hear me out.

When you fall out with someone who has hurt you in some way, you might foster some kind of belief that you're the one in the right.  Sometimes, people around you who know what's going on, may also share that view.  And of course, there are situations in which you are ultimately in the right and you need to let a toxic person go from your life, by way of protecting yourself from harm.  In that instance, walking away is entirely the right thing to do.

But sometimes, arguments get unnecessarily heated.  Other people get involved.  Events escalate into something they never started out as.  A petty dispute turns into World War Three.

That happened to me, six months ago.

I believe I had every right to be upset about something.  But now, I also believe that I was very wrong to let it get as bad as it did.  Someone in the situation should have said "hey, hang on, this is getting needlessly nasty.  Let's cool off and meet up to talk about this properly in a couple of weeks."  And in the absence of anyone saying that for those of us involved in the argument, perhaps I should have been the one to suggest it.

But I was stubborn.  I was hurting.  I was mad.  So, I made no such suggestion.  And things worsened.  Soon, instead of anyone talking anything through, or making any effort to fix anything, I was unceremoniously told by someone who had zero place to be getting involved, that it was too late.  Nobody wanted me around, anymore.


At that point, who was right or wrong in the situation was barely important, anymore.  The fact is, a dumb, stupid argument that should have been talked through face to face, had destroyed several friendships.  All because nobody thought to say "this is getting silly, now.  Let's meet up to talk properly."  Nobody, including me.  So, whatever the right or wrong of the original argument, I was wrong, there.  We were all wrong, there.  And I hold my hands up and take responsibility for my lack of any action to save things.  Because, regardless of whether or not I believe I was right to be hurt with various things, I was wrong to let those things - and the subsequent argument about them - destroy a really precious friendship.  In fact, two really precious friendships.

The thing is, I think you can be right and still be wrong, if you go about things in a way that causes hurt, or if you allow a situation that could be fixed, to simply break down altogether.

And the more I thought about this whole "you can be right and still be wrong" thing, the more I realised it applies to a whole lot of different situations.

You see, sometimes, doing the right thing for other people, means doing the wrong thing for ourselves.  And I bet that's something we're all guilty of.

Ever had someone ask something of you and felt duty-bound to do it, because you love that person and maybe they're in a position of need, so you go along with it, despite the fact that perhaps you could use a little help, yourself?  You're doing the right thing for them, whilst perhaps doing the wrong thing for yourself.

We've all done it.  Whether it's staying up late to talk to a friend with a problem, despite having an early shift at work the next day, or simply putting our own feelings second, because someone else needs to be priority, right now.  We've all done the "right" thing for someone else, despite it actually being the "wrong" thing for us.

It's when you think of it like that, that you begin to realise that terms such as "right" and "wrong" are actually rather black and white.  Reality has a far wider colour spectrum than that.

I suppose the most important things to remember are firstly that sometimes, we need to do right by ourselves.  Putting your own feelings to one side is never a permanent solution, after all.  And secondly, once we start analysing the way we really feel about things, we can see how our feelings have coloured our actions (or lack thereof) and - hopefully - confess to ourselves when we've contributed, whether knowingly or not, to a "wrong" situation.

You can be right and still be wrong.

You can do wrong for yourself, in order to do right for someone else.

Life is rarely ever black and white.

Bedtime Story (19/4/2017)

Sometimes, I can control my dreams.  Sadly, not as often as I used to be able to, but still... Dreams fascinate me.  So, I decided to write this bedtime story all about them.

Looking for the podcast to listen to?  Just click here!

What Do You Want To Dream?

Are you tucked up in bed, nice and tight?  
Are you almost ready to turn out the light?
Is it nearly time to say goodnight?
Then, what do you want to dream?

You could think about going to outer space,
And staring an alien, right in the face!
In fact, you could travel to any place.
So, what do you want to dream?

Think about your favourite thing.
It could be a food you eat, or a song you sing.
Think about the happiness it brings,
As you settle down to dream.

You might think about what happened during the day.
You might remember all the games you played.
Those memories aren't so far away,
When you see them in your dreams.

Think of colours; purple, blue or red,
As you snuggle deep down in your bed.
Picture them swirling in your head,
Colouring your dreams.

Imagine all the things that you could be,
Or all the places you'd like to see.
You can see them all for free,
When you travel in your dreams.

Building a castle on a marshmallow cloud.
Your favourite song, played extra loud.
Dancing in front of an enormous crowd.
What will you do in your dream?

It's almost time to go to sleep.
So, snuggle down; don't make a peep!
The only thought you need to keep,
Is: What do you want to dream?

Make a wish on a shining star,
For the stars will watch over where you are.
No matter how near or how far
You travel in your dreams.

What you see might be a big surprise,
When you finally close those sleepy eyes.
So, I hope you think of something nice...

Now it's time to dream.


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Bedtime Story (12/4/2017)

I've been thinking a lot about friendship, lately.  So, I decided to write a story about what friendship means to me.  The picture above is of my best friend Lydia and me.  What better way to illustrate a story about friendship, than with a picture of the closest friendship I have in my life?!

You can listen to this story as a podcast here.

"Because You're My Friend."

Catherine and Emily sat on the hill,
Licking ice creams in the sun.
They gazed down at the town below them,
Counting houses, one by one.

Everything was quiet and still on the hill,
Until a bumble bee came buzzing past.
It gave Emily such a fright,
That she dropped her ice cream on the grass.

"Oh no!"  She complained, watching it melt.
"I was enjoying that," she said.
Then Catherine handed her her ice cream cone,
With a gentle nod of her head.

"Share mine," she offered, with a smile.
"We'll have half each; I really don't mind."
Emily opened her big, blue eyes wide.
Catherine was being so kind!

"You'd really do that for me?" She asked.
"You could have eaten it right up to the end."
But Catherine just shook her head and grinned:

"I don't mind, because you're my friend."

Emily beamed back at Catherine,
And gratefully told her "thank you.
I know that sharing with friends is right,
But it's also a kind thing to do."

Catherine grinned: "I'd do more than that.
I would do anything for you!
Because you're my friend I promise you,
There are all sorts of things I would do."

Emily sat up and glanced at her friend,
As the birds began to sing.
She had just one question on her mind:
"Will you tell me about all of those things?"

Catherine took a very deep breath,
As though she had lots to say.
"I promise to always be there for you,
And to never go away.

If you are ever poorly,
I will try to make you better.
Even if it's just by leaving you to rest,
Though I miss you when we're not together.

And when you're back on your feet again,
I'd welcome you back to school.
And I'd help you catch up on what you'd missed,
So you'd never feel like a fool.

If you're ever feeling sad,
I'd be there to listen to you.
I would offer you hugs and a shoulder to cry on,
Until you've talked it all through.

If we ever disagree on something,
I would listen to how you feel.
And I know you'd listen to my side as well,
And we'd come to some sort of deal.

If you were being bullied,
I would stand up and defend you.
I wouldn't be scared of the nasty person,
I would be ready to protect you.

When you're feeling tired,
I'll make you a cosy bed.
And I'll tell you lovely stories,
Until good dreams fill your head.

I'll keep all of your secrets,
And I know that you'll keep mine.
If you ever need to talk to me,
Just call me, any time.

I'll be here for you forever,
Even if I'm far away.
I know we'll always keep in touch,
Until we meet again, someday.

I always want what's best for you,
And in you I'll always believe.
I'll be proud to celebrate with you,
All the great things you'll achieve.

I'll cheer you on when you do well,
And cheer you up when things go wrong.
I'll always be here to make you happy,
With a smile, a laugh or a song.

We'll go on adventures, together
And we'll play games in the sun.
It doesn't matter what we do;
When we're together, it's always fun.

These are just the ways I show you,
That I'll be here until the end.
And I'll happily do these things for you,
Because you are my friend."

Emily hugged Catherine close.
"You're my friend, too," she said.
"And I'd do all those things for you,
On that you can bet."

So, the sun shone down that day,
And the breeze slowed to a still.
And two friends shared an ice cream,
As they sat upon the hill.


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Forgivable vs Unforgivable

I'm a very forgiving person.  Some might even say too forgiving.  There have been times when someone has hurt me pretty terribly and I've been able to forgive and move past it, in order to retain the relationship I have with that person.  My view on forgiveness has always been that if I want to be forgiven for the mistakes I make, then I should show that same level of forgiveness to others.

Regular readers will know that the exception to this rule has always been my abusive ex.

He showed absolutely no remorse for what he did to me.  In fact, the last time I saw him - when I finally snapped and told him I was sick of the way he treated me - he laughed in my face and told me I'd "allowed" him to abuse me, so he didn't need to be remotely sorry.  That was - and is - unforgivable, in my eyes.

But lately, I've been thinking a lot about what I am prepared to forgive and what I'm not prepared to.  

Typically, my rule - and I'm saying this as a non-religious person, so any preconceived notions you may have of the need to be forgiving to all, need to be left at the door at this point - has always been that if a person can recognise their behaviour as having had a negative impact, and if they are able to apologise for it, then I am usually prepared to forgive them (depending on what they've done, obviously, but we've established that I'm pretty forgiving...).

That rule has rarely wavered, over the years.  Unless a person has done something utterly, indescribably awful, then as long as they say sorry and recognise their behaviour, I rarely have too much of a problem forgiving them.  And, on the other hand, if a person point-blank refuses to acknowledge their behaviour or apologise, I find myself unable to forgive.

I'm pretty black and white about it.

But recently, I've realised that forgiveness is not a black and white issue.

Except here.  Shh.  The point stands.

When everything kicked off last year (continuing into early 2017) and I lost three of my closest friends, I had a very clear view of who I could and couldn't forgive.

The friend who took sides based on family, I never even needed to forgive, because I never blamed her for anything.  There was never any question of me having even the slightest ill-will towards her.  Although she didn't ask for my side of things (which broke my heart, because I thought she knew me well enough not to believe the lies being told about me), I reasoned that blood would always be thicker than water.  She was always going to side with her family over me and I understood that.  No forgiveness required.

The friend I initially fell out with, I wasn't sure I could ever forgive.  After all, my "crime" was to be openly upset and angry with something she'd done, and to speak up about it.  She never apologised or recognised what she'd done wrong.  And that's before we even factor in everything that happened after the argument was over.

Sticking to my black and white rules, that should have counted as unforgivable.

And yet...

None of us can truly say, hand on heart, that we act at our best when we feel hurt, angry or cornered.  And none of us can expect others to behave the same way that we would, when confronted with an accusation.

When someone says to me "I'm hurt/angry about X/Y/Z," my response is (usually) to say "I'm sorry" and try to resolve the problem, calmly.  That said, I'm not Little Miss Perfect.  I have moments where someone tells me I've annoyed them and I just think "oh, for goodness sake, you're overreacting to nothing."  I still say I'm sorry, but my willingness to calmly resolve the situation is nowhere near as strong.  Because I'm human and none of us like being told we're in the wrong if we think otherwise.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm about to contact that former friend and tell her that we should quickly book a mini break to celebrate our return to being buddies.

What I am saying, is that I would be open to talking things though with her.  I would be willing to listen to her explanation as to why it all happened.  Why she was willing to throw an incredibly close, wonderful friendship away, rather than say "sorry I've upset you, that wasn't my intention.  Can we move on from this?"

And if we had that conversation and she was able to say sorry and recognise how hurt I was and what her part in causing that was, I would forgive her.  Gladly.  Because she is only human, too.  I was hurt and angry, but for her to respond in the way she did, she must have been, as well.  And although I have already said it, I would also apologise in return.  Because whilst I believe I didn't do anything wrong, she does.  And I am sorry that we are no longer in one another's lives, regardless of what has happened.

Now, you may be wondering why this is blog-worthy news.  I'm having counselling; acceptance is all part of the grieving process, isn't this just me reaching some kind of peace with situation?

Well, maybe.  But there were three friends I lost as a result of all of this, and only two of them have been mentioned.

The third?  Is unforgivable.

See, the third person didn't have to get involved.  There was no family tie between her and the friend I fell out with.  There was no real need to pick a side.  In fact, my belief throughout all of this, has been that as a supposedly close group of friends, one of those not directly involved (ie not me or the friend I fell out with) could have opted to be the peacekeeper.  Someone could have said "let's meet up on mutual ground and thrash this silly argument out.  You're both hurting.  We can resolve this."  

That didn't happen.  I want to believe that, had the argument happened between two other members of the group, I would have been that peacekeeper.  Because the group meant so much to me.  I cared for every single person in it.  I would have hated seeing two of them falling out and I would have almost certainly texted both of the individuals involved and suggested we get together and I'd arbitrate their argument until it was resolved.  I know I would have wanted to do that, because I've done it for other friends in the past.

I'm not mad at anyone for not deciding to try to play peacekeeper, though.  People don't always want to get involved in another person's drama and with good reason.  There is always the fear that you'll be accused of meddling, or that your good intentions will actually make things a hundred times worse.

What I am mad at, is that this third person decided to pick a side and start mud-slinging.  Because it was the third person who sent me the hate mail.  The letter that told me I was "selfish, thoughtless and bitchy."  The letter that revealed that the supposed "friend" sending it had "had reservations about (me) for a year."  The letter that regurgitated the lie that I had never apologised, or acknowledged my role in the argument.  The letter that rejoiced in telling me "we've all had enough of you."  The letter that not only reduced me to tears, but my mother, too.

I don't forgive the person who sent it.  I will never forgive the person who sent it.

It genuinely intrigues me that I would be willing to forgive one person for causing me enormous pain, but not another.  I can rationalise that the feelings of hurt and anger my friend felt when I told her I was annoyed/upset with her, may have caused her to behave in a way that was extremely painful to be on the receiving end of, but I can't rationalise the third person's decision to add to that pain.

It's made me curious as to what my limits of forgiveness actually are.  I always believed that I could only forgive a person who was apologetic and acknowledged the negative effect that their behaviour had had.  But the friend I fell out with hasn't ever apologised and she sees me as the one in the wrong, so she probably doesn't acknowledge any negative effect her behaviour has had.  So, why am I fostering feelings of forgiveness?  Is it because we were such good friends once upon a time, and I simply miss her?  Have I analysed her behaviour so much that I almost feel I understand her psyche at the time?  Or, is it merely that enough time has passed that I now feel we'd be able to sit and talk it through and maybe I would get the apology I never had?

And regardless of the reason that my feelings of forgiveness are growing, why is it that they're directed only towards that friend, not the third person?  Why was sending me a cruel, harshly worded letter, so much worse than not listening to me when I said I was upset; instead accusing me of "being mean" and writing statuses aimed at me on social media?!

The sad fact is that not only is it highly possible that I might never work out the answers to these questions, but it's also unlikely to ever matter in the grand scheme of things.  Whether I forgive or not, there are other people involved in this situation and they don't.

To them, I was the one in the wrong.  The one who deserved to have posts aimed at her online.  The one who deserved hate mail.  Regardless of whether or not I still have fondness towards two out of three of those people, it is no longer reciprocated.

Turns out that you can heal and forgive and still be the loser.

In the last week, I've had to stop myself several times from texting the friend I fell out with, or from Facebook messaging her sister.  And I haven't stopped myself because I don't want to speak to them, or because I don't miss them both every single day.  I've stopped myself because I know my messages are almost certainly unwanted.  

And yet, in this same past week, I've had several nightmares about ever having to come face to face with that third person, again.  The thought genuinely horrifies me.  I can't imagine ever reaching a place where I could be in the same room as her.

I find it really interesting that this whole situation has caused me to reassess what the limits of my forgiveness might be.  I guess my black and white definition of what is forgivable and what is unforgivable has been tested by what I've been through.

Truthfully, nothing in life is black and white.  It feels like every experience we have, causes us to see new shades of colours we never knew existed.  We just have to learn from those experiences and take those new colours forward with us on our journey.

I have a feeling I still have many more colours to discover.