When I Grow Up, I Want To Be…

If I’m honest, and I usually am, I’ve never actually known what I wanted to be when I grew up. Some kids have the yen right from the start of dearly wanting to be a train driver, or an astronaut, or a chef or a parent, or Grand High Poobah of Associated Incorporated, but not me. I never, ever saw myself being a mum when I grew up, I knew that right from the get go. I hated those crying baby doll things my classmates cooed over, and I never wanted to have a real baby of my own because they both horrified and confused me. My maternal instinct, if I have one, is mostly for my peers, my friends. There is a Tiger Mama in there, but it’s not for kids of my own. When people ask me if I have or want children, and they do because people seem to think it’s a thing that a woman should have to be complete, then I can say with total truthfulness that no, I have never, ever wanted them.

“Oh you might change your mind one day.” is the classic response of the momentarily stunned. I’m 47 mate, if I haven’t changed it by now, I’m hardly likely to.

My life is quite complete with my amazing mum, my lovely husband, my very floofy cat, my brilliant closest friends and my packed to the gills kitchen. You work out what order they come in.

A Gypsy once told my Nan once that I would be a singer, and I am, but not a famous one. I’m a cook, but not a great chef, I’m a writer but not a grand author. I’m a PA, but not a high-flying EA, or PA to the stars. I have a job, not a career, but I’m happy. I’m settled. I’m being the best me that I can be and will continue to do so.

I have a new job. One where the HR department, my line manager, and the people I work with, treat me like an adult so, therefore, I feel like an adult.  It’s subtle differences, but they make massive differences in the curls and whorls of my brain. I asked about working from home, and boss K said “I have no problem. You’re senior enough that I really don’t mind.” To him that was a brief statement but to me that meant a huge amount, given the hassles I’ve had over the years at Old Job.  Someone thinks I’m ‘senior’. Oh my heart! Maybe I hadn’t done a good enough dye job…

But if you treat someone as a responsible adult, then mostly they will feel, and behave, as one. This is my manner with children. I expect you to behave with respect, because you are a human being in this world the same as anyone else. If you disrespect me, or my surrounds, then I’m not sure I should respect you either, and I will tell you so.

I had, and have, huge respect for my mum, both as a parent and as a person. I never forget that she’s not just Mum, she’s Linda too, with the hopes and fears and feelings that entails. A lot of children either forget that or were never told it. Mum had a life before you, and she still has a right to that life now. She’s a PERSON. My mum always spoke to me as an equal, none of this baby talk nonsense. and for that I am infinitely grateful. I think it stood me in good stead. I learned a lot about how to behave. How to be adult, and to be practical about things even though I was still just a child was a grounding experience, and oh boy did I need those skills going in to my teens.

I never did the coming home later than I’d said thing, or staying out without telling her, because I knew there was a person at home, waiting and worrying. What right did I have to make her scared, just because I wanted an extra hour out? I had my nights out with my friends, I certainly never lacked for fun, but I always told her where I was going, who I was with, and I was home when I said I would be.

Oddly, though, it’s taken me until the age of 47 to feel like a grown up, albeit with the heart of a child, still finding wonder and magic in almost everything I can.

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The Grand Scheme

In the grand scheme of things, I am nothing, I have nothing, and I give nothing. But who can stand far enough back from the world and actually see this grand scheme that people speak of? There may be some Grand Plan, some huge Ineffable Plan but who can see that?

There is nowhere on this beautiful round earth that we can stand on, and see the whole. Even if we travel to the moon and the stars, we cannot see the whole.

So if, in the Grand Scheme, I am nothing, have nothing, and give nothing, what is the point of me, or anyone?

We are never truly nothing.

Each and every one of us, when you zoom in from that highest point you managed to find that still didn’t show you the Scheme, when you fly down the miles and you see the wide Earth come hurtling back up to you with its curved, beautiful, light rimmed arms out, waiting for you, each of us becomes something.

We are ourselves, we are powerful in our own right, and we can give all kinds of things. Intangible things. Things that you cannot catalogue or number but those things will count for something, even if we cannot see that effect.

Our smile can light up a day, an hour, or a moment. That smile can mean the difference between going on, or giving up. The withholding of your smile can be as effective and as damning as the bestowing.

Our laugh can make someone feel included or special, that we found what they had to say of worth and amusing or it can deride, exclude and banish.

The look we bend upon someone can profess love or kindness, anger or hate.

The arms we hold out can push away, or embrace, hold down, or hold up.

A mere gesture can beckon, or repel. The simple crook of the finger can express desire, or lust or mean there’s a recrimination in the offing.

We are never nothing, we will never have, or give, nothing.

We may not see it, but then if we spend too much time and care looking for the Grand Scheme, we miss our own small scheme. Our microcosm world in the huge, babbling globe that we inhabit such a small part of.

In effect, in that microcosm, you are Everything.

Earth

Hello, this is me.

Well, some of me, anyway.

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I see you…

People keep telling me that I haven’t changed, but oh I have.

The lines are deeper, the hair is definitely silver underneath the dye – because I’m not ready yet to let it grow out gracefully – but the ‘tache is becoming lighter as more of it goes white.

Those lines though. The crescent around the corners of my mouth, the lines running from nose to the edges of my lips, the deeper shadows surrounding the eye socket, none of those were there before and yet here they are, staring back at me in the mirror every day.

To me, they are not things to hide. Even though I might have a moment of “Oh ffs, concealer maybe?” once in a while, it’s not really that much of a bother because that’s my face. It’s not just a collection of lines and pores and sparse brows and random hairs, it’s the picture I present to the world.

That picture has a life lived imprinted on it. Those crescents are smile lines, and to see them get deeper means, to me, that I have smiled and laughed a lot in my life. They are just going to have to get deeper, then, as I want to continue to smile, continue to laugh, and hang the skin related consequences. There have been times when it’s been extremely difficult to smile, but then I remember that I can smile at a person, and though it’s a brief or fleeting moment for me, a kind look can mean the world to another.

I am aware that my genes are to blame for almost everything that happens to my body, inside and out. I have other marks and scars, all reminders of things that happened.

I am grateful that my genes have given me mostly good skin, and a fairly good bone structure that’s under there somewhere. I’ve never been so desperate to see my cheekbones that I’d stop eating cheese, good butter and olive oil because of it, I admit.

My lived experience canvas hangs on the outside of a framework that has withstood a fair amount of battering. For someone who’s had a life threatening illness as a child, been in 3 motorbike accidents, had various tumbles on ice, a slipped disc and jarred hips that won’t quit reminding me they are there,  and plus hauled the MonSter (Relapsing Remitting MS) around since 1996, I think I’m doing very well indeed.

That isn’t because I am, or have done, anything special, or because I’ve lived a good life – though I really have – or a Christian life – ha ha ha – it’s just the luck of the draw. That’s all it is for anyone. We are what we are.

I do joke when people say I don’t look my age (47) that it’s all the olive oil I eat. Maybe it is.

I will never deny myself the feeling of warm sun on my skin, or the blast of the wind in my hair for fear of lines. I can’t imagine hiding away from the sun’s rays, but I am lucky that I have an olive skinned heritage. I don’t overdo it, because who wants sunburn, but I do sit in it when I can to soak it up and boost that vitamin D.

An avocado. Now. That is for eating, not schmearing on your face. I don’t eat them often, but when I do, olive oil and sea salt is the way that I go. I’m always far too grateful to have found a ripe one to even think about splotting some onto my wrinkles. My wrinkles might even love it, but they aren’t going to get the chance to find out. My lines are there for myriad reasons. An avocado is for lunch, my face is for smiling and laughing.

So here I am. This is me. I’m not going to hide the marks that life has left on me just because ‘beauty’ magazines and ‘society’ thinks I should.

Here’s to growing old, to collecting more lines, more experiences, more smiles.

Here’s to living.

Here’s to LIFE.

Not that one woman can, but that every woman can.

My post about International Women’s Day stuck in my brain. And then I found this in a book I was reading. As ever, Kerry Greenwood nails it.

“Not that one woman can, but that every woman can”.’

‘Miss Grigg quoted it,’ said Phryne. ‘What does it mean?’

‘In every generation there have been remarkable women. Marie Curie, for instance. Dr Elizabeth Blackwell. Women who have sacrificed everything—marriage, motherhood, even their lives, like Nurse Cavell.’ Mrs Charlesworth pushed over a tin of gaspers and held a light for Phryne. ‘But they could be ignored, for the purpose of changing how women are seen by the world of men. They assume the same position as saints, like Joan of Arc. Her heroism and martyrdom did not change the general view of women one whit. The saints and martyrs and remarkable ones are freaks, sports, something so out of the common that no notice need be taken of them. Am I making myself clear?’

Do you mean that the ordinary man on the train will not look across at a shop girl and say, “She is of the same sex as Queen Elizabeth”?’

‘Yes! One can look at a plumber, a labourer, and say without a great sense of irony, “He is a man, capable of the same heroism as Admiral Nelson or Saint Francis of Assissi”. But no one looks at a woman and says, “She is a woman, she is capable of the same heroism as Lady Godiva or Anne Askew”.

Our heroines are separated from us. So instead of trying to make Man accept us as daughters of heroism, we must raise all women to the level of heroines. “Not that one woman can do it”—because a woman, like a man, can do anything provided she sacrifices everything, including her life, to that one idea—but that “Every woman can do it”.

Every woman can be educated, can have a career, can be the breadwinner for her family, can run a household and go into parliament or medicine or the law, and when there are enough of us as doctors and lawyers and parliamentarians, when there are many women in public life, then Man cannot ignore us. We will take our rightful place.’

‘At the side of Man?’ asked Phryne evenly.

‘At the head,’ said Mrs Charlesworth fervently. ‘Look at the world, Miss Fisher. Does it seem well run to you? Women and children are hungry and ill-used all over the world. Men who played with toy soldiers as children grow up to play soldiers with real lives and create nothing but waste and devastation. But that war, for us, was good. It removed thousands of young men, broke thousands of hearts, and made women find out that they were strong. We could do many things which men had kept as their especial preserve. Fight fires. Drive trains. Mine coal. I remember driving a delivery truck. I only had to work nine hours a day. I got meal breaks and smokos. I had been looking after three children under five on my own on a soldier’s wife’s pension in a cold-water second-floor room in Richmond. On my male wages I could afford to hire two women to look after my children and still have enough left over to buy luxuries like butter. After a year I could afford to move into a house. Of course, after the war my husband came home, and I returned to the house. Such wild fancies as paying women a living wage only happen in wartime. But it was a very important experience, Miss Fisher.

I don’t think one gender is better at leading than any other, that’s not for me, with my limited world experience, to decide but this puts into words what I was brooding on for quite some time.

IWD

It’s a funny old thing, International Women’s Day. For a start I can never remember where the apostrophe goes…

I see posts about ‘strong, beautiful’ women, and part of me thinks why does beauty even have to come into it? The idea of ‘beauty’ has damaged so many women through the decades, that I’ve almost come to dislike the word, but I do realise that beauty is far more than the fleeting physical appearance ‘Society’ wants us to keep preserved and flawless.

Mind you, though, if we do manage to do that, by sheer genetic luck, we get cat called for being plastic, or whispered about, questioned as to whether we’ve had work done. Or labelled as freaks, when work has been done, and it’s gone too far. I will admit that it makes me sad to see a face that would have aged so gorgeously into graceful later years, with all the lines and folds of a life lived, but then I think each women to her own ideals.

The Western idea of beauty is certainly not the only one, is never the be all and end all and nor should it be. It’s subjective, fluid, and endlessly manipulated by the media of the day. Nasty business, that, because we’ll never fit, never be able to catch up, as it changes so often.

Be skinny! “Ooh, I wonder if she’s got an eating disorder.”

Be bigger! “Ooh, she’s bigger than she should be, she needs to diet.”

Look Strong and Healthy! “Oh now I bet she is addicted to exercise, probably not very bright. “

Look like an average, every day woman! Natural make up! “Well she’s let herself go.”

See? Can’t win.

I’ve never conformed to anything, really. I was never the swotty school kid, or the truant, I was just at school. I was never the drawn and depressed art student, even though I was an art student. Nor was I the wafty, willowy Goth, even though I was/am a Goth. I’m definitely not the ‘average’ middle aged housewife, even though I am approaching middle age, and am a wife, with a house.

I suppose what I’m getting at in a roundabout and meandering way, is that quite a few of the IWD posts feature amazing women who have ‘made it’ in some way. Top of their chosen profession, outstanding in whatever field they are in, even famous across the world.

But for me, there are BILLIONS of women who will hardly ever get the wider recognition of a job oustandingly done, because it’s never seen.

A man came home from work and found his three children outside, still in their pyjamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard.

The door of his wife’s car was open, as was the front door to the house and there was no sign of the dog.

Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall.

In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing.

In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, the fridge door was open wide, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door.

He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or that something serious had happened.

He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way out the bathroom door.

As he peered inside he found wet towels, scummy soap, and more toys strewn over the floor. Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been smeared over the mirror and walls.

As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pyjamas, reading a novel.

She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked:

“What happened here today?’”

She again smiled and answered, “You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world I do all day?”

“Yes,” was his incredulous reply.

She answered, ‘”Well, today I didn’t do it.” ~ Author unknown

To all of us ‘every day’ women, tootling about, getting on with getting on, maybe with no particular goal apart from trying to live a good life, be a good person, hold a family together, hold a job down; we are just as strong and amazing and fabulous as anyone else. We don’t have to be ‘top of our game’, we just need to be true to ourselves, LOVE our own self or try to love our own selves and maybe get some others to love themselves along the way.

Forgive our own selves, because perfection is a construct, that blows away on the winds and gets buried in the sands of time.

The only person that notices our ‘imperfections’, and who matters, is us, and once we say “Fuck it.” the pressure drops away.

I have daft hair, sticky out teeth with a gap, a double chin and variable days of energy and ability. I’m tall but fat, and kind of fluffy about the face. I have rounded, soft edged arms that would hold a thousand people in them if they could, in the hope it might heal someone.

I love hard, and lose love fast and harder albeit after an eon of patience.

I give as much as I can, whenever I can, and I carry guilt that I cannot give to or save everyone, but I also carry around a sharp and practical brain that knows I can’t save everyone, and forgives me for it.

I try. And will continue to do so. It’s all that each of us can do.

Α—Lisa. She tried her best, always, And when she succeeded, it was GLORIOUS.—Ω

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If Food be the Language of Love…

Funny thing, food. There’s so much wrapped up with it, built around it, things that head towards it and run away from it. I’m a lucky kind of person who loves food, loves eating, and loves cooking, so much so that the cooking is a bit of an escape, to be honest. I will never be that person who doesn’t want to eat in front of a date. In fact most of my first dates have involved food. I remember the first date with J, a good few years ago now, and we headed straight to Cote Brasserie, filled ourselves full of cheese, bread and charcuterie with utter glee, and he said to me how sexy and how unusual it was, to see a woman really enjoying her food without worrying about it. I don’t think, until then, that I was properly fully aware of just how hard some women find it to enjoy eating in front of a potential partner, especially when they really want to impress. I was a bit taken aback, a little flattered and mainly just pleased to share a dinner with a fellow food liker.

Eating alone is, or was, a different matter for me. As a woman, especially a fat woman, eating solo makes you a target for any old idiot to pontificate on what you should or should not be eating. I’m more or less immune to it now, and much more ready with a quick sarcasm shot across the bows, but for a long while it was something that I did not do. Who wants to willingly make a target of themselves?

I’ve been listening to Dolly Alderton’s Love Stories, with Ruby Tandoh, an excellent discussion piece that covers a huge range of subjects, a lot of which spoke quite deeply to me, but does it in such a way that it’s not heavy, or overwhelming and definitely not preachy. I’m not a fan of preachiness at all.  The more I hear Ruby speak, the more I like her.

She spoke of food and over/undereating, love of it, hatred of it, fear of it, how it can be tied in with anything and everything that make us, us. She spoke about thin privilege – yes, it absolutely exists – and owns the fact that as a naturally slim person it is quite a different experience for her eating in public than it is for a perceived larger person.

I will admit that if I have to grab a quick something to eat on the train on the way home late at night, my brain first thinks of what people will think or say if I eat something ‘fattening’. Then I get the hell over it, and just buy something I like that is tasty, non messy and non stinky. Because I am a considerate commuter. Unless you are manspreading, then I am not.

Many years ago some friends and I thought we’d set up a web site called Fat Girls Eating. That’s all it would be, all us fat girls, eating good things. Not in a sexy way, not in a look at me [licks finger] way, but just in a “I like big buns and I cannot lie” way. Maybe we should have done it. Get the world used to fat women, eating, with no shame.

Shame is not something that should ever be attached to food. We all need it (breatharians I SEE YOU) and most of us like it. Many of us don’t have enough of it, and me feeling ashamed about eating a cake, or a choccy bar, won’t help anyone. There is no good or bad or sinful or naughty or indulgent or oh go on spoil yourself food. Yes, there are treats, which are the more expensive steak, or that pricey bottle of wine for a special occasion but none of them are inherently good, or bad.

The application of morals to food is just so weird. And who gets to decide what level of godliness or devilment is applied to a food anyway? Where did that nonsense come from? Philosophers, apparently.

I tell you now, no man, robed or not, or woman for that matter, is going to tell me how and what to eat. I’m a big, grown up woman, and I can decide for myself.

Now. Time for tea, and a bikkit.

Tea and biscuit