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I’ve been fed up with the way the word has been used and mis-used and last night, in one ony my interweb meanderings, I found an article in the Guardian that encapsulates my thoughts exactly!

Have a read here.

This sentence from the first paragraph gives you a flavour of things to come:

” I have come to the measured conclusion that it is, as we say in the linguistics world, bollocks.”

And this, yes this extract below!

“I have been wearying of “empowerment” for some time, and the times when I’m especially weary of it are when I discuss how weird it is that so many A-list female celebrities feel compelled to take their clothes off on the covers of magazines only for someone to retort that, actually, these women are “empowering themselves”. Quite when the word “empowerment” became a euphemism for “offering oneself up as a w*nk object” is not recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary.”

Yes, exactly.

I’m a cyberflaneur. I’ve just discovered the word on one of my aherm… cyberflaneries. Sadly, we are a species under threat. The idea of frictionless sharing is appalling to me: I want to choose when, how and with whom I share my interests! My life as an open book? No thanks.

Anyway, as I laid awake a few nights ago, the hours ticking by, until I saw the first lights shining through the curtains, heard the first bird song, and realised that I was greeting the day ahead weary and longing for rest, I decided to document one of these cyberflaneries. Easier said than done, since recording these somehow takes away from their semi-aimless nature, so I am doing it from memory instead. A memory that is a little blurry.

I started off, as Little Miss fell asleep and started to gently snore in my ear, on the blog of a Californian potter and artist, Whitney Smith. She is going through a paper cutting phase and since I love paper art, this suits me just fine. If you are into that sort of things, she shared links to  Elsa Mora and Peter Callesen that are worth perusing. Peter Callesen’s works is so full of energy, it’s hard to believe it’s made of such an unassuming medium as white paper.

Whitney struggles with perfectionism. I do too.

Her link to the talk by Jill Bolte Taylor was interesting. JBT is a scientist who documented her own stroke and somehow transcended it into a work of poetry and enlightement. Something in the talk bothered me though. As descriptions became repetitive, I started to wonder what the point of it actually was. The conclusion – that if we all used the right side of our brain more, we would reach peace both inner and global – seemed weak. And a quick search also confirmed my suspiscion that this right brain-left brain myth has been debunked a good few years ago. A quick search on the talk revealed I wasn’t the only one with misgivings, plenty of links to choose from.

She uses scientific terms to coat what is effectively a vague and unconstructed path to happiness and peace (I haven’t read her book, perhaps she has more constructive advice there. Or perhaps such paths can all only be vague, undefinable and highly individual, but that wouldn’t make for a lucrative industry). Nothing wrong with showing us her own journey and the amazing feelings of connectiveness and positivity she gained from such a dreadful event; so many of us crave something more meaningfull in our daily lives. But please don’t posit it as scientific facts.

Yet during her talk, I felt inspired at first as I let  suspension of disbelief carry me through. This led me to search the term, since I couldn’t remember who had coined it: Coleridge it turns out. I also found out about Tolkien’s  secondary belief, a concept I think I prefer.

Bizarrely, as I googled JBT, one of the first automatic entries after TED is ‘married’, along with ‘Oprah and ‘criticism’. Puzzling. What has her marital status got to do with anything? I was intrigued enough to click and as I scrolled through the links, I spotted Idealawg. After reading their take on JBT’s talk – inspiring but not from a good scientist – I perused the site and found myself back to perfectionism. I had heard the story of the two groups before, but as I am re-starting on my own crafting and artistic journey, it took a sense of urgency. Make, create, do, enjoy, it told me. Unlike Whitney, I always knew that the perfectionist in me didn’t come from my creative side, but from a frightened place, where I was afraid to let my guard down, afraid to be anything other than praise worthy, afraid to create and be vulnerable. Exposed. Unlike Whitney, who is an artist and a creator, I didn’t do anything about it for years. The frustrations of these lost years would be unbearable if I wasn’t too busy making up for them now!

One of the links  debunking the creative right brain also mentioned Betty Edwards’ book: ‘Drawing on the right side of the brain’.  It seemed perfect timing (yes yes I know the title and the above, but the method can be sound, even if the rationale for it isn’t!). I long to be able to draw and not just for Little Miss, although that’s part of the story. So I will be immersing myself – drawing upside down and all. Everything to drown out that pesky little voice that says ‘you can never be good enough’.  I found a video of it and since I want to remember where it is, I’m going to post the link here too (video).

I then read through the titles that captured my attention on the BBC news, Guardian and Independent websites (I know, I’m reading the news! Let’s face it, that’s likely contributing to my sleepless nights…). That’s where my memory completely fails me so I will give you a couple of links from last night instead. Reading an article in the Guardian (no I can’t remember which one, it was a few links down from the first I clicked…), I discovered the Smurfette Principle (‘ a group of male buddies will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined’). I already knew about the Bechdel Test for female presence in fictional media, but this was new to me.  Not new to the world, of course, since it was coined in 1991, though not much has changed since then. I love the sound of the “The Paperbag Princess” (she rescues the prince from a dragon, but he’s so ungrateful that she decides not to marry him, after all), though sadly it is not available at my local library. One for the suggestion box.

I found the article about the Pope somewhat chilling. s”Being gay is not the problem,” the pope continued, “lobbying is the problem and this goes for any type of lobby… political lobbies, masonic lobbies, all lobbies.” (“Lobby dei politici, lobby dei massoni, tante lobby.”). That sentence would have slid over my consciousness, had it not been for this article, showing me the meaning burrowed deep into those little words. A masonic conspiracy, so insane and yet so entrenched. A whole world I can only guess at in this one tiny glimpse.

And finally the BBC and its Mona Lisa article , which made me see the woman behind the painting (assuming they have now confirmed it!): flesh and blood, 5 children and one stepchild, married young to an older husband who wrote in his will of his love for her. Ok so the woman defined by her relations to others, but nevertheless, a young woman staring back.

Here is to another sleepless night!

Arrival at Paddington

Arrival at Paddington

My first commute back coincided with the death of Old Maggie T. The weather was cold, grey, miserable. So was I. I felt the pull of home so strongly. I reached the train station and settled on my reserved seat. I had decided not to take the 630am train and leave my sleeping loves behind. I wanted to take care of my soul. So we all woke up at 7am and cuddled in the big family bed, Mr B and I with a cup of tea, Little Miss with a cup of milk, a few minutes of bliss before the rush began.

View from a London Bus

View from a London Bus

As I sat in the train, I looked around. A dishevelled man was talking on his mobile, tie askew, shirt rumpled: “Yes yes but did he have a poo? Oh that’s good. Yes of course. But you know having 4 or 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep is pretty amazing really, I mean it’s almost a full night!”. The life of a new father. Next to him, an immaculate younger man focused on his laptop. The contrast was striking. The focus so intent, so willfull, perhaps slightly desperate in its attempt to block out the view of a possible future self, too horrifying to contemplate.

 
You can see in the pictures I took that week a reflection of my heart. Bleak eh? Behind the barbed wires above are the grounds of Buckingham Palace by the way…

Thankfully, my next commute was easier somehow. Well, the sun shone for one. I’ll tell you about that later. It’ll be a happy post (maybe!).

As I walk to work

As I walk to work

No poo. No poo. There I said it.

No I’m not constipated.

Actually this has nothing to do with the p word.

I’ll go back a few steps.

Being off work for a couple of months gave me time to think. It’s a luxury I seldom have in the whirlwind of my life with work, a toddler and a house that needs a LOT of work.

Here’s a snapshot.

Skirting board

This is my skirting board with a great big gap where it should touch the wall. I’m in the process of caulking it (decorator’s caulk is my friend) before painting both the wall and the skirting.

I digress.

I had plenty to ponder, from the deep and meaningful to the pretty frivolous. One of the latter is the way we use toiletries. No I’m not kidding. Ok maybe a little.

I don’t like the dependence we’ve developed on some of these, the cost, and some of the more scary sounding ingredients; yet I enjoy the results. You know cleanliness and all that.

After a bit of googling, I found out I missed a big trend on the blogosphere last year: people switching to washing their hair with just water or more often with baking soda, followed by a vinegar rinse. They call it the ‘No shampoo method’ or ‘No poo’ in short because apparently they get tired of saying no shampoo and no poo is kind of amusing. Yes, really. That should have been my first warning.

Undeterred, I decided to try it.

What a disaster! You’d think I could foresee that but I got sucked in by all the glowing reviews of how fabulous the method is… Although one did mention that though their hair looked clean, it also felt a little sticky. That should have been my second warning.

Oh the grease, the GREASE!

My hair was so greasy it felt permanently wet. Until I realised it wasn’t moisture, it was grease; sticky, oily grease. That was bad enough. Then I tried the vinegar rinse. Somehow, I missed that you should dilute the vinegar. Apparently when diluted it stops smelling when the hair is dry but the smell comes back if the hair gets wet. I live in Britain. The likelihood of my hair getting wet is HIGH. That should have been my third warning.

Oh the STINK!

Two days with a plume of acetic acid around my head.

That’s when I decided to wash it out. With shampoo. Twice. It still stunk. And somehow, my hair got greasier and greasier. It’s supposed to equilibrate after a few days/weeks, but I think my hair just balances itself out at ‘super greasy’ and stays there in all its matted, oily glory. On the plus side, the vinegar did detangle it beautifully.

I like having clean hair; I LOVE having clean hair, squeaky-clean hair in fact. As soon as it gets a little greasy, it drives me nuts. I go all self-conscious. So this ‘no shampoo’ experiment is outside of my comfort zone. Some people jump out of aeroplanes to get that thrill. I stop washing my hair. Each to their own, people, each to their own.

Halfway through this experiment, I decided to cut my hair short –I just fancied a change. I never thought I’d have to explain to my hairdresser why my hair smelled like I had poured vinaigrette on it as he started to wash it. I had gotten rid of the grease but man, that vinegary stuff is strong. The poor man looked so shocked! Baffled! I did all I could to keep a straight face!

On the plus side, the stench of vinegar might distract people from the whiff emanating from my armpits when I start the next step – making my own deodorant. So there is a silver lining.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I’m brave enough.

Lately I’ve been rediscovering the joy of giving. Nothing grand, just giving gifts to family and friends. And no, nothing to do with Christmas. Well, ok, maybe a little.

On a selfish level, it has been a way to not think about myself  but it has also helped me realise a few things.

  1. I really really hate receiving those bloody heartless cards, whether for Christmas or other occasions that just highlight how little the sender has invested in the giving. Yes I regard cards as a gift if the sender has spent some time and poured some feelings into writing it.
  2. I’ve been rubbish at giving presents and this has got to change

Let’s start with 1, shall we?

Even though we haven’t celebrated Christmas in the past, I have always sent cards to wish people all sorts of good things for the new year. I include some news and personal messages for each recipient (yes it does take a while to do and recipients may expect their card sometime in January, occasionally February!). A lot of the time, we receive the same from friends and family with a few exceptions. These exceptions bug me. They didn’t use to, I just brushed them aside and responded with more thoughts that perhaps was warranted. Now, they just bug me.

You know what I mean: the generic card bought as a bundle (especially for Christmas), which says:

Dear X,

‘Generic message already printed on the card’

Sender’s name

That’s it.

You know what that card tells me? You know what I read in all that space left blank? Here is what I read:

Dear x

You are part of my long list of self-inflicted obligations. You might be an acquaintance, an apparently not-so-close friend or even family but really I don’t know nor care to know much about you. Yet I am dutiful if nothing else so I will fulfil that duty, go through my little list, pick a card at random, and write the bare minimum I can get away with. Then I can go back to whatever it is in my life that I actually care about.

Sender’s name

I have to fight the temptation to send one in return saying: seriously, save yourself the price of a card and stamp, and don’t bother. So I send a card too, individualised, with some text, sometimes even a photo. Why?

Well, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to stop responding to these altogether – or to make the point above in a more diplomatic way maybe. Would it really matter? Maybe not, but I still want to be ‘nice’ to people because I don’t think they see anything wrong in what they do. Perhaps nice’ is the wrong word. Polite?

We all have limited time to do the things we love and/or care about (precisely why these cards are sent I guess, we’ve come full circle), so that courtesy might just have to fly out of the window. And hey, they’ll strike us off their list too! Win-win, surely?

Anyway, on to 2.

I’ve been pretty rubbish at giving presents.

Part of it due to indecision.  Is this gift good enough? What if I find something else? I can’t possibly choose now, I will come back to it later/never.

Part of it was making it too much about me. Will they like it? If they don’t like it, what will they think of me?

Part of it laziness, a lack of paying attention, a lack of wanting to spend the time thinking about, researching, planning, finding.

Part of it not wanting to just ask, because a gift must be a surprise, right? You have to somehow know their heart’s desire and transmute that into THE gift that they will love.

Many times, I simply didn’t buy the presents, didn’t write the cards. Sometimes because I didn’t care enough about the people in question to make an effort (and I don’t see the point of doing it half-arsed, I find it offensive – see 1. above). And sometimes because I was in my self-centred bubble and took family and friends for granted, thinking they would forgive the lapses, that I would make up for it in a vague and unformed future. A future that would feature a ‘better’ version of my self. Sadly, the future is now and my improved self has not materialised in lightning and a puff of magical dust… Most disappointing. It would seem I’m going to have to work to achieve it.

I’ve made a start.

Recently I was given the gift of time. Time off work to recover from ‘things’, emotionally more than anything. A pretty unwanted gift, that came with a heavy price tag and a heartwrenching loss, but a blessing in some ways too.

I had opportunities: a friend’s little one breaking his leg, wanting to send presents to my cousin’s kids, because we’re re-connecting and it feels good, a friend’s forthcoming 40th birthday.

I found a willingness to ask. What might that little boy want? I don’t know him so well and he is not a generic 9 year old boy, he is his own little self. Let’s just, you know,  ask.

And a willingness to make the leap, to give a surprise present and just hope. Sometimes it goes well and that feels great. Sometimes, it’s obvious I got it a bit wrong. Yet the act of giving –  not just the actual gift but the spontaneous gesture of thinking of someone and giving them a gift, just because – still makes the recipient feel good and that’s what matters. I can just dust myself off and learn so I can do better on the actual gift next time.

It has felt good. I’ve traipsed around local shops, I’ve explored options-  on the internet, handmade – I thought and thought, and I chose, and gave, with courage. It takes a little courage to give a gift, I find. You put a little bit of yourself in it, you open your heart a little. It can be scary. I wrote cards too. Not too long –  though I’m still now sending ‘Christmas cards’ which have turned into ‘New year, I’m thinking of you cards’ instead. Cards that say, here is this from me to you (a gift, some news, a photo), because I care about you, because I am glad that I am getting to share a little of this life’s journey with you and I hope this card/gift will make your heart sing with the joy of knowing that you matter to me in your own unique wonderful way (of course I don’t write that although admittedly I have been close on occasion!).

I’ll finish off with a couple of pictures. These are bitter sweet for me. I took them in the days after the miscarriage, but what I remember the most when I look at them is not the pain, the emotional and physical pain.

LittleMiss_Reading

What I remember the most is the warmth of being enveloped in my family’s love. The warmth of spending special moments with Little Miss.

She didn’t questioned why I was spending so much time in bed. She simply, sweetly, kept me company.She ‘helped’ me knit. We spent time reading, cuddling, and bouncing (well, only one of us on these occasions).

LittleMiss_Knitting1

Warm memories, that I will cherish forever.

Recovery

Things have been kind of gloomy around here lately! I’m slowly slowly recovering. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and realised that many (or likely most of those) that show a ‘perfect’ cosy life do go through tough events, but they don’t dwell on it in their blog. Perhaps they mention it briefly but then they go back to focusing on the cheery stuff. Whilst I perhaps won’t edit quite so much, this is what I will try to do here (though I suspect you will still find a rant or two!).

Focus on the positive, the happy, the things that will carry me through this tough time.

Starting now.

After years of not celebrating Christmas, we are getting in the spirit this year (well, maybe me more than Mr B so far, we’ll work on that!). And to cheer me up, I got a Christmas tree yesterday.

A real one, with soil, and scent and spiky needles (ouch!). Too early? I don’t care. This is not so much about Christmas as it is about adding some sparkle and light into the gloom.

Decorating it was a joy. Tinged with nostalgia – so long since I had last done it, a reminder of family Christmases as a child.

I got the wood ornaments at our local craft shop. Our town is all chains – bland generic shopping – so I am doing all I can to support our lonely independent shop!

When I used to tell people we didn’t celebrate Christmas, the first question was ‘why? is it for religious reasons?’. A ‘yes’ would have satisfied, but since the answer was ‘no’, I usually received a shocked, disbelieving and sometimes slightly pitying look. Yet I don’t feel I was missing out. I find the commercialism, the enforced jollyness a little sickening. Somehow, it seemed like opting out was an odd choice, as though Christmas was mandatory, no longer a religious holiday, more a ritual in worshipping the gods of retails. Of course, Christmas is not a particularly Christian tradition either, more a ‘borrowing’ of pagan rituals to absorb the local customs and makes the new religion of the time more appealing and acceptable. I won’t dwell on that – being an agnostic and all!

So here we are. Going back into the fold. Celebrating Christmas. I want to try and be mindful though.

No deluge of gifts, only a few thoughtful ones. And only to the closest of family and friends (if fact more likely only to Little Miss and Mr B, with cards for everyone else!). Some handmade, some not.

No gargantuan feasts, but perhaps a few treats.

And definitely some home decorations – the tree, perhaps a few garlands – some sparkly joy in the gloom of winter. Some also handmade, some not. Hopefully we will accumulate these over years to come; I dream of crafty winter evenings with Little Miss, creating the next pretty thing for our home.

Now enough dreaming. Time to live in the here and now. Time in fact ….. for a cuppa!

I was 10 weeks pregnant. When I found out a few weeks ago I was expecting a child, I was over the moon. We would like to have 2 children, but with the ‘unexplained infertility’ issue and the IVF, we could only hope we might be able to conceive naturally (I don’t want to go through IVF again). So when it happened, my heart just about burst out of my chest with happiness. I was so worried as soon as I found out that something might go wrong.

Monday morning: I saw the first signs. A few brownish spots, hardly more than a few drops. I told myself not to worry, that it would pass.

Tuesday morning: the light bleeding continued, now with mild period pain. The doc was sympathetic but not hopeful. Beyond 6 weeks, bleeding is generally bad news (though not always; I clung to a sliver of hope).

Tuesday evening: sharp pains. A rupture. Blood. Fresh and red. Clotty.

The experience was eerily similar to my labour, only this time with no happy ending. When I was about to have Little Miss, I went to bed early, feeling odd. I woke up a few hours later with a start, to feel something rupture. I jumped out of bed to see my waters cascading down my legs, soaking the floor.

This time, I hadn’t yet fallen asleep. I could feel my uterus contracting, painfully, in cramps that came in waves. Suddendly, a tiny rupture. I felt something tearing, my mind almost hearing the rip. I rushed to the loo, sat down and …woosh. Only no waters to signal the arrival of a new life, only the red certainty of blood, ending one, and taking with it the dreams and hopes it carried. My body had been busy contracting, not to push out a brand new child, ready to take its first breath, but to expulse unwanted tissues, by what felt almost like an effort of will. The pain so much less than childbirth yet so much harder to bear.

I had already started to imagine holding my newborn in my arms, giving Little Miss the companionship of a brother or sister, our life as a foursome, our family complete.

Wednesday: the bleeding and cramping continues, in waves.

My heart is ripped apart. Mr B took the day off. Little Miss and I spent most of it in bed (she has a bug and needed to rest). Her soft breathing, her warm body, cuddling up to me, helped me. It brought me some peace and a calm I wouldn’t have felt otherwise. It eased the loneliness a little.

They are now gone for a walk to get fish and chips for supper. Their happy chatter as they were getting ready made me smile.

The bleeding will continue for a while. So will the grieving. I have a scan tomorrow to confirm what I already know. The thought of lying in that bed and seeing the empty screen, no heart beating, no first glance of my little shrimp safe and warm, brings back the tears. Where the sobs were loud, heart-wrenching, child-like yesterday, they are quieter today.

I’m unsure who to tell. Most didn’t know of my pregnancy; will they ever know of the loss? I must give myself the time and space to grieve, decisions will come later.