23 Cool Things To Do. Or Not.

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1. Use your head and listen to your heart.

2.  Aim for being imperfect. You’ll probably succeed. And success is good for you.

3. Make rules and then use your head, listen to your heart and if your rules don’t apply any more, toss them. When you’re making new ones, use your head, listen to your heart.

4. If you’re going to speculate on the future, make sure your speculations make you happy and optimistic about life and you and everything. If they don’t, find something else to do other than speculating. (Hint, see 7, 11, 12…)

5. Avoid smugly spiritual people. In fact, avoid smugly anything people.

6. People who believe they’re better than you usually have a tremendous skill you don’t have – bullshitting themselves.

7. Snuggle up as often as you can to a furry animal that loves you and wants to be snuggled up to.

8. The word anal sounds horrible because it is horrible. When you see it disguising itself as a human, run as fast and as far as you can.

9. Do something new for God’s sake. And yours.

10. Bored is angry.

11. Let yourself fall in love once in a while. And have sex. Sex is good for you. At least I think that’s what somebody said to me once.

12. Eat dark chocolate more than once in a while. Especially if the sex thing isn’t happening. Mind you, if that’s the case, there’s always the other option… Have the chocolate afterwards. Or before. Or during.

13. If you want a face lift, to hell with all the smugs who say you should learn to love yourself for who you are.

14. If you want something you can’t afford, find a way. Try to stop short of robbing a bank but if you must, then be Hollywood about it and don’t get caught. Hey, you can even write the book or the screenplay and sell it to George Clooney. If you don’t know how to write, here’s my number…

15. Get the heck out of whatever one horse town you inhabit in some part of you. Jump on that one horse before somebody else does and ride on out of town.

16. This whole business of worshipping at the altar of balance is getting out of hand. Go on, take a risk; get unbalanced now and then.

17. Which would you rather have on your tombstone: “she was always soooo nice to everybody” or “damn bitch drove me crazy sometimes”.

18. If there’s something you don’t like about yourself find a way to change it. If you don’t want to be bothered… Oh. I got nothing for you then.

19. If somebody bullies you, clock them.

20. Too much insurance = not enough living. It’s a proven mathematical formula discovered in the tombful depths of some Egyptian queen or other. Or was it Euclid? Darwin? Well, whether they said it or not, I just did.

21. If you’re feeling blue be kind to yourself. Whatever you do, lecturing yourself into a false state of blissful happiness is neither listening to your heart nor using your head. Blue is blue. Better to cry and have somebody hold you or snuggle up to a furry animal that likes it and loves you. Pretty soon you won’t be feeling blue any more.

22. Take up the hula hoop.

23. It’s much more fun to be sassy than overly well-mannered. On the note of fun, have some. Have a lot. Throw balance right out of the window on this one.

It’s Winter. How Come Spring Is In The Air?

I went for a walk today, on a hillside road that looks down on the ocean and villages by the sea.  The air was warm, the sky went on forever, and something about it felt exciting.  Maybe it was in me.  I felt a renewed sense of my right to follow my own path and not be taken down by my past or by what anybody thinks of me.

I’ve spent my life being such a pleaser, desperately wanting people to like me.  It’s enough to make a person gag.  The other day I was thinking about how awful it is to be judged, and getting all knotted up inside.  Suddenly some part of me said “wait a moment.”  I could feel myself pulling out of that inner kind of groveling state.  And I heard the words come out of my mouth.  “You want to judge me?  Knock yourself out.”

I laughed out loud.  It felt good.  Spring can happen at any time of the year.

Bullies, Boundaries and Being Nice or Being Strong

I’ve had a sobering experience that’s reminded me how much work I still have to do on not rescuing other people at my expense.  I started riding lessons before Easter.  I loved my first lesson, loved the school, loved my horse, my teacher.  But in my second lesson the teacher yanked my foot out of the stirrup and pushed my leg up at a horrible angle to adjust the stirrup.  It hurt like hell, but then it seemed fine.

Until later.  Obviously I’d pulled something.  She’d pulled something.  It went from sore to agony.  I had to stop riding.  5 weeks and R1500 later, with more costs to come, I’m finally just beginning to mend.  Still lots of pain, still feeling like death from the anti-inflammatories which I’ve had to cut down on anyway because they’ve been giving me seizures.  so I’ve just got to suck it up and take the pain.  Can’t stand, can’t sit.  It’s been bloody scary.  Nightmare city.

You’d think my teacher and the admin would have done everything in their power to apologize, and try to help me feel better.  Well, they tried to make me feel guilty.  I paid for 14 lessons upfront and have had 2.  But when I first asked – nicely – for credit, I was reminded I signed an indemnity form saying that if I injured myself I absolved them of responsibility.  Don’t remember a clause saying if the teacher injures me it’s my fault.

When I explained that the teacher’s actions had injured me, I still tried to be nice about it.  Big mistake.  I got more of “it’s not our fault”.   Okaay.  Here’s the sobering part.  I doubted myself, and upped the “be nice” mode.  Why do I do that?   It’s old stuff.  I’m afraid to say to somebody you hurt me.  Every time I’ve tried it significantly in my life I’ve been as significantly nailed, or criticized for being aggressive.  Something in me sees that as a fate worse than death.

There’s still a part of me that so wants people to love me and like me and is so scared of being punished that I want to let it ride when I’m hurt.  I just couldn’t say this is bullshit. The teacher hurt me so please take responsibility.  Instead I made a trillion excuses for them.  It didn’t make them be nicer to me, of course.  In fact the teacher said the injury wasn’t her fault because I came to the lesson with a sore back anyway.  Which I didn’t.  But I got confused.  Were the drugs in my system messing with my head?  Was I trying to make them pay for something that was really my responsibility?

But how long can you be nice to somebody who doesn’t give a damn that they’ve hurt you?  Fortunately, sanity returned.  So I called up and said, the teacher is responsible and I’d like credit for 12 lessons.  End of story.   I got the credit, but begrudgingly, almost spitefully, and only when I got aggressive.  It was godawful.  The prophecy fulfilled.  Stand up for yourself and you get punished.  It’s hard to explain why it was so painful.  A really vulnerable part of me got exposed there.

But all is not lost.  My muscles will recover and my life will get back on track.  And I’ve learned a good lesson.  The people who don’t like me to stand up for myself when they hurt me – I don’t need them to like me.  I don’t like them, and I don’t want them in my world.  So if I start standing up for myself all the time, in big things and small things, I’ll whittle those people right out of my life.   As for being nice?  Gag.  It’s enough now.  Time to step out of this piece of history.

Unrest in the Middle East; Middle Class Revolution; Dictators of the West

I reckon this is the year when people living under despotic regimes round the world wake up and stand up for themselves, say the magic word.  NO.   Egypt is still on my mind, the way they went about it, how much they accomplished just by connecting with each other.  And what I love is that it was young people, who are alive and alert, and know how to use a cell phone and Twitter and Facebook.  Dominated for too long by arrogant sods twice their age, who aren’t particularly alive and alert and who obviously don’t know how to use technology to their advantage.

Mubarak, Mugabe, Berlusconi, Gaddafi,  Ahmadinejad, Ben Ali, Jacob Zuma, Julius Malema et al – bullies, the lot of them, and if they think they can get away with holding people back and down they’re deluding themselves.  Well, despots and dictators and bullies do that, don’t they?  They get so out of touch with reality, and they think they’re untouchable.  Eventually reality bites them in the ankle.  You’d think they’d read their history books.

They’ve often got these hideous faces, haven’t they?  I don’t mean bad looking, just so tight with anger and corrupted power gone sour.   Ghoulish.   I was half fascinated, half repulsed at Mubarak.  I can’t bear to watch Mugabe.  Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema just drive me crazy.  Gaddafi is like a circus clown.  Berlusconi is just disgusting.  The thought of him with a beautiful 17 year old is enough to send me bolting for the toilet bowl.

It’s always seemed so strange to me, how these bullying individuals get to have so much power over so many millions of people.  I’ve always wondered how they did it.  I suppose by a form of hypnotic osmosis.  The people haven’t really wanted to know the truth, haven’t wanted to take the power into their own hands.  They haven’t communicated with each other, haven’t complained enough.  Until now.  Now they’re waking up, and realizing it’s easier than they thought.

Dictators and despots don’t only come in the form of political leaders though.  It’s really easy for us in the west to point fingers at Africa or the Middle East or wherever and shout the odds about corrupt leaders.  But what about our own dictators?  They aren’t the political leaders.  But they exist.   The despots of commercialism.  When are the middle classes going to wake up to how they’re controlled and exploited by these nebulous dictators?  I wonder.

We don’t have as much freedom as we think we have in the west.   It’s ironic.   Unless we can acknowledge that our tyrants are killing our spirits, robbing us of independence of mind, of real freedom, we’ll never have a revolution against them.   So in the end who’s going to have the most freedom?  The West or the Middle East?

It’s going to be the latter.  The people who have acknowledged their dictators and had the courage to stand up to them.  Whilst we in the West, priding ourselves on our democracies and freedoms, live in abject bondage.

Conversations with my Child

For the past 5 weeks my blog traffic has doubled, trebled, quadrupled.  It’s been very exciting and at times vistas of possibilities have opened up in my mind, tension has eased, life has seemed sweet.  I’ve felt light-hearted more often than not.  I’ve been believing that the heartache of these last six years is drawing to a close, that I’m the phoenix arising out of my own ashes.  Even finished the 2nd draft of my 2nd film script.  Yes!!!

Then for the last 2 days the traffic has dropped right down again.  The first day wasn’t too scary, because it’s just a day, right?  But when it begins to look like a trend then suddenly it’s not so easy to believe in the brightness of my future.  All the old messages come flooding back in.  The image rises in me of being a small child in a playground surrounded by mocking bullies.

Messages like “what makes you think things can change for you?”, “who do you do think you are?”  “You? Successful???? You’re kidding, right?”  And so on.  They still have too much authority in my head.  Even now, as I’m typing I wrestle with them.

And it’s very easy to believe I’m doing something wrong, that I’m a complete fuck-up through and through.  I keep finding myself thinking that thought.  Keep having to say to myself as if I was talking to a child – which in essence I am, really.  It’s the child in me who still doesn’t totally know I’m okay.  I say to my child “you’re not doing anything wrong baby.  You don’t have to change anything. We can’t judge from this, it’s too small of a snapshot.  And there’s definitely nothing wrong with you! ”

Conversations with my child.

I tell her “everybody starts like this, honey, it’s not a sign that anything’s wrong.  Remember somebody saying ‘when traffic dips, go to a film, go to the beach.  The thing you absolutely have to NOT DO is change your blog’?  Remember that?  They were talking from experience, they’d made it through this stage.  You haven’t been forgotten, nothing’s gone wrong.   And those bullies?  You hang on here, baby, while I go and deal with them.  How dare they do this to you!”

In my image of the playground, I the mother stride over to the bullies, outrage personified.  The bullies’ laughing turns to nervous giggling.  They back off.  “You, you leave my child alone”, I say.  “Look at you!  You should be ashamed of yourselves!” my voice dripping with disdain.   They slink back, embarrassed.

I march back to my child.  I get down on my haunches, put my arms around her.  “I love you Jennifer” I say. I look into her eyes, wipe her tear-streaked face.

“I don’t want to come back here, Mommy”, she says.

I nod, seriously.  “I promise.  It’s my fault, baby, I should have checked it out.”

Her face clears, she holds onto me tightly.  This precious child of mine.  This child with so much life and energy and joy, so bright, so beautiful.  I embrace her until I feel her settle down.  I look in her face.   It’s clear.  I see her joy bubbling up, iridescent.  I smile, stand up.

“Come, baby” I say, “let’s go find another playground”.

“Mommy”, she says.  All serious again.  Thinking.

“What, baby?”

“Why were they mean to me?”

I stop and get down on my haunches again, look into her face.  This beautiful child of mine who doesn’t have a frame of reference for cruelty.

“Bullies pick people who are kind and won’t hurt them back.”

She digests that.  I know there will be more questions later on.

If I had a child, that’s what I would do for her.  And if you didn’t get that sort of protection when you were a kid, the real bullies in your life turn into messages in your head when you’re older.  They can be really difficult to eradicate.  Some people call it hard-wiring.  Good news is, you can fix it when you’re an adult.  Just don’t do it in public, people will think you’re a lunatic…

Well, lunatic or not, that part of me that was worried that I’ve been forgotten – by life, by god, by people – has settled down.  I haven’t forgotten me.  I’ve learnt how to hear my inner child, and I’ve also learned how to be the mother that my own mother couldn’t be to me.  I guess when we get disconnected from our ability to believe that life is for our good, our benefit, that everything is moving us towards prosperity on all levels – when that natural belief slips away it isn’t because people have forgotten us.

It’s because we’ve forgotten ourselves.

I feel remarkably comforted and safe in the knowledge that whatever else happens in my life, nobody and nothing can strip me of that primal choice.  To remember that nothing’s wrong with me, that I don’t have to give in to the bully beliefs that I’m useless and going nowhere, that I’ll never become financially independent, never be able to eat properly again, have warm clothes for winter, never have a safe home, never play a grand piano, drive a safe car.  Never have the kind of exciting fulfillment I crave with every cell in my body.

The only truth around those things is that they aren’t happening at the moment.  There is nothing, nothing, nothing in reality, that I can conclude about my future from this fact.

My present does not dictate my future.  I never have to give up my desire for prosperity.  I often have to remind myself of that.  As many times as I have to I will.   Whatever it takes.

Conversations with my child is a good way of reminding myself.   Works for me.

Being successful

The question of the balance between writing what you want and reaching people has been rocketing around in my brain for many days.

I’ve recently heard some people say that writers have to listen to the authorities who say you have to write what people want, or you won’t be successful.  Others say do what moves you but don’t expect success.  Others say find the middle road.

I’m not sure I can wholeheartedly say any of the above works for me!

As to the first, well, I still don’t buy it.  I believe that when people are playing “dictator dictator” the things they say tell you more about them and their narrow beliefs and concepts than about any ultimate truth about how to achieve success. Because success isn’t a mathematical equation, and no person’s achievements can be squeezed into a formula. When a person says to me “you can’t be successful unless you follow my rules” they are playing God.  It’s what bullies and control freaks do – to compensate for low self-esteem, usually!

I think we don’t realize often enough that we listen to anybody who speaks with authority, and we believe them, even when what they’re saying is utterly counter- intuitive.  Why don’t we want to think for ourselves?

It takes two to tango.  Granted the bullies are a problem, but they’re only half the equation, alas.  The other half is our reluctance to go with our heart and gut, to risk stepping out of line.  To let ourselves be the authority.  To decide on our own how we’re going to go about our success.  To know that it’s okay, we’ll be safe, life will support us.  People will support us.

It’s hard to take the risk, don’t I know it, hard to believe I’ll be supported when I can’t see any evidence of it in my life.  I’m not always able to do it with ease and confidence, but in the end what other choice do I have?  To live my life according to somebody else’s rules – but then it isn’t my life is it?  It’s an offshoot of somebody else’s.  No matter what “success” results from that I can’t see that it brings any ultimate, sustainable and really meaningful reward.

It’s my life, my very own precious life.  I can’t bear to give it away – especially not to a bully!

As far as authorities go, the people who have experienced success that’s meaningful to them are the ones who don’t criticize, don’t judge, don’t tell you what to do.  Because they understand the value of autonomy, independence of mind, soul and heart.  They’re usually pretty humble.

They remained true to themselves, and they can’t have accepted that doing so prohibited them from achieving!  As to the middle road, maybe some took it  and maybe some didn’t.

I don’t think there’s a formula.  I think it’s possible that what you believe has a lot to do with whether you’re ever successful or not.

A lot.  And I don’t think it’s got much to do with pleasing people, either.  I think it’s got a lot to do with putting yourself out there so people know about you.  How can they choose you or like you if they’ve never heard of you?

I’ve spent a lot of hours in my life torturing myself with believing I wasn’t talented enough or clever enough.  Maybe it’s not that complicated.  Maybe I just haven’t been noisy enough!

The horror of ignorance

Walking home along the beach from the café yesterday I passed a group of young men – probably in their late twenties and early thirties, with two small children, still toddlers.  The men were having a great time taking photos, laughing and full of infectious energy.  I didn’t register at first what they were doing.

 Then I did.  One of them was dragging one of the toddlers down to the water’s edge.  The child was screaming in terror.  The man would then run back up the beach, and they’d all laugh at the child’s terror as it tried to run away from the waves.  Laughing at the tops of their voices, taking photos.  As soon as the kid got up towards to them, the man would force it to go back down.

 I watched in horror.  I’m still shaking inside from it.  I didn’t know what to do.  Sometimes it’s not a good thing to interfere.  I walked past them, then I just couldn’t do it.  I turned back and asked them if they knew how terrified the child was.  I begged them please not to do what they were doing any more.  I wasn’t actually angry with them, I was just pleading.  I said can you imagine if a man who was three times your size was forcing you to into the thing you’re most terrified of, and a group of giants was mocking and laughing at your terror – photographing it, humiliating you. 

 They carried on laughing at first, but I carried on saying please, this isn’t funny for the child.  Who moved up quite close to me.  I touched his head, I said “look, he’s such a tiny child”.  Then the man with the camera stopped laughing, and said “you’re right, this isn’t good”.  And they all stopped laughing.  They actually hadn’t realized what they were doing.  I can’t get my head around it.   

They weren’t bad men, they were just totally unaware of the child’s experience.  How is that possible?  The child was screaming.  Usually I perceive abuse as being about a bad person.  But this wasn’t about bad.  It was about ignorance.

I walked on, and looked back.  The man who’d been forcing the child down the beach into the water was walking, holding the child’s hand.  Very lovingly.  

 I know that just from a selfish place, it was a huge relief to see the (albeit unconscious) abuse stop.  It was an amazing feeling to be the one who got it to stop.  I usually don’t get involved, but I had to yesterday.  I just couldn’t walk away.  Now I hope they don’t punish the child because of it.

 Adults can be so unaware of children’s sensitivity and needs.  It makes all the molecules in my body fizz around wildly.  I wasn’t angry yesterday, and I’m glad I wasn’t, I’m glad I was able to be gentle and understanding. 

 But today I’m angry.  I want to be big enough and strong enough to be able to  physically bully and terrorise those men until they cry and scream and beg for me to stop.  I want to see in their faces and panicked bodies the same terror they caused in the child.  What did they think the screaming was about?  Or are children so unimportant to them?  Why was it funny to terrify a child? What kind of monsters are they?

I want to pick that child up and hold it, and show it that there’s nothing wrong with its fear, I want to see it feel safe, be able to trust, smile and be happy in its world.  I want to take violation of its vulnerability out of the equation of its life.  I want to protect it from the savage emotional abuse caused by ignorance.  I want to take it far away to a safe place where it never gets hurt ever again.

 I do.

 I can’t do anything about that child.  Did I make it worse for him or did I at least give him an experience of what it is to be protected by a woman from bullies?  What if he has nightmares about the ocean, will somebody come to him and hold him and ask him what’s the matter?  Will somebody show him how not to be scared of the ocean?  Will someone take him seriously?

 The man shoving him towards the water was his father.  Will he be more sensitive in the future or will he be worse?  Was there anything I could have done to make it better?  I walked away clear that I’d been kind to the men; I didn’t laugh at them, or humiliate them, I didn’t abuse anybody, but maybe I pressed the father’s button.

 I don’t feel angry any more.  I feel sad.

 Sad about whatever happened to him when he was a kid that turned him into such an ignorant bully who could get off on his child’s terror.  The sins of the father…