OCD and a Christmas Tree

OCD and a Christmas Treevia Daily Prompt: Rearrange

We all have our little “ways” of doing things and I believe that this is just great.  Life would be so boring if we all behaved the same, had the same routines, thought the same thoughts.  I’ll let you in on a little secret, my family have long since believed that I suffer from OCD – in my defence, I prefer to think of it as my “quirkiness”, the thing that makes me different from everyone else.

I see myself as a calm, patient and easy going person (honestly!) but for a while now I can appreciate – and to some extent, agree with- the thought processes of my family.  Life is hectic – three children, one house, one husband, four dogs and a full time career makes for excellent time keeping skills.  Roll into that mix the fact that we used to own a beautiful horse too – a dream come true, but a living nightmare to organise.  Feeding twice a day, exercising, cleaning stable, filling hay nets and poo picking fields – all with three children under the age of 14 and me being a full time teacher.  Oh, did I also mention, my husband works away each week and generally is only home Friday-Sunday?  Calm, well, I think so but reflecting back on it all now, I think I had controlled the situation and had reached a level of “calm” that meant I didn’t explode all the time.  It seems I control many aspects of our life – hence my “name” – Easy Going Control Freak.  Sometimes I wonder if I am aware that I am doing it, or if it is just second nature to have a planned way of doing things.  I like to be organised.  Plain and simple.  I am a list person.  I like things to be accomplished well and to the best of our abilities.

Herein lies the problem, I think.  The abilities of everyone are not the same!  Nor should they be, I hear you say… well, I agree with you.  As an educator I am well versed in accepting (and enjoying) the many different talents of my students and I am the first person to tell child A that YOUR best might not be the same level of  best as child B but that doesn’t matter because it is still your best and that’s all we can give.  Sounds cliched but it is something I wholeheartedly believe.

So, where does the Christmas tree come into it?  Well, remember I said that I believe that everyone’s best effort is the epitome of success?  That doesn’t apply when decorating the Christmas Tree!

In our home, we usually have two trees at Christmas.  One, always a freshly cut tree between 7 and 8 foot, that takes pride of place in our hall and the other, an artificial one that sits in one of our front rooms.  For me, decorating the tree is an absolute joy.  I love the idea of playing carols, singing along with the family, a glass of something sparkly to give some festive cheer and everyone laughing together as we all dress the tree together.  The IDEA and the truth of it are so far apart that it’s become a family “inside joke”.  When our children were smaller, we all used to do exactly what I thought would be ideal.  Little faces filled with delight as they put their favourite baubles on the branches, giggles as they adorned themselves with tinsel before wrapping it around the branches and sheer excitement as they helped put the fairy on top and switch on the lights.  Sounds idyllic doesn’t it.  It was.  The children would go to bed happily and before my own bed time, I would rearrange everything so it looked “better”.  The children began to wise up to this by the time our eldest was about 9, however, I managed to “deny” any such skulduggery and got away with it for a few more years.

Then came the, “if we decorate this tree are you going to change it when we go to bed?”  Of course, what self respecting mother would dream of telling fibs to their children?  Yep, I changed it around, just a little!  It came as no surprise when they stopped helping altogether, to be honest, I think they persevered well considering.  These days, the children (all grown up now, youngest is 21) still get excited about the trees going up but they all steer well clear when it comes to the decorating.  There are perks of the job though. The children keep the sparkles coming and reload the music playlist so I can just get on with the job!

Gotta love a bit of control, but OCD, not me!

How conkers made the connection

href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/banned/”>Banned

So here I sit, in my kitchen, overlooking the garden in all of it’s autumnal beauty.  The leaves a symphony of colours and shades, the air crisp and still and sounds of the local avian population busy in their communications.  A perfect opportunity to create new thoughts. I was pondering on what I could write about for the daily prompt, when conkers clambered for my attention and started the ball rolling.

The spiky outer cases that open to reveal the treasure hidden inside were something of a staple in my childhood.  Perhaps I am showing my age, but the excitement and determination to find the largest or strongest conker amongst friends was a normal activity.  This is when my brain sparked a connection.  Children of today aren’t savvy to the delights of conker battles, because, like so many other “rites of passage” they have been banned from our society.

Perhaps a little over dramatic, but when you consider the amount of childhood past times that are no longer available to our younger generations, I think I can be excused.  Health and Safety has it’s place (my better half makes a living in this field so I can appreciate the need) but it should be measured against the risks involved and in no place more important than in our schools.  I am saddened to see the ability of children to navigate their way through some of life’s challenges being slowly stripped away because we deny them the opportunity to measure their own risk assessment.

Accidents happen, I couldn’t agree more.  Childhood, in its whole essence, is about exploration (of themselves and the world around them) and discovery, and this, almost inevitably, will lead to a “scrape” or two along the way.  Guess what though… those scrapes are the foundation of building a confident, well-rounded and informed person of the future.  Instead, at the rate that “blanket rules” are being enforced for all children, we will end up with a generation of individuals who have no voice, no tools for dealing with disappointment and no accountability for their own decisions/actions. Rather than trying to avoid accidents, we are creating a disaster waiting to happen.

You might be wondering about these blanket rules… what sinister things are lying in wait to capture our children’s individuality?  Well, I might have exaggerated their existence a little – or have I?  The rules that I am referring to are the ones that are systematically banning any activities that may cause accidents/upsets to our young charges.

Think about conkers, the game TAG, British Bulldog, Clackers, Handstands, Cartwheels, Dodge-ball and even snowball fights.  How many of you enjoyed such past times as a youngster?  How many of you suffered terribly from such participation?  How many of you are scarred (mentally or physically) after these interactions?   How many of you grew up to be sensible and competent members of society?  I don’t think it’s an over-exaggeration when I say that our future will be taking such a different form to the one we are used to.  All because we are refusing our children the right to manage their own risk taking.

In all honesty, can society expect a generation that has had all kinds of risks eliminated, in the guise of protection, be able to flourish as independent, confident and cooperative people of the future?  The banning of such games may seem trivial but the benefits of encouraging them outweigh the negative.  Tag, you’re it!  There can’t be many people around who haven’t played this game, however, in their infinite wisdom, education leaders across the land have decreed that this game be banned as it encourages slapping, pushing and hitting rather than ‘touching’ their intended target. Alarmingly, I have read that children wanting to participate in the game must NOT run, but walk!  Seriously, where’s the fun in that?  Competition is a normal part of our society.  After all, if we don’t encourage competition who is going to take responsibility for the country?  For the workplace?  To go for that promotion? Or simply, just to further your own boundaries.  In the education system, competition is frowned upon.  Sports days are often celebrated with the “I participated” badges – few of the “1st” “2nd” and “3rd” are encouraged because we don’t want to hurt the less skillful children’s feelings!

So it is with playground games!  Don’t play Tag because in your excitement you might hurt (either physically or emotionally) another’s feelings – I don’t know about you, but I’m the same with the rather sedentary game of snap…give me an opportunity and I’ll   be found slapping that pile with such ferocity that if your hand happens to be underneath, it will likely be  smarting for a while!  In the guise of protecting the safety of individuals in the likes of Dodge-ball (a contact sport??) we are missing out on exploiting opportunities for team building, determination and dare I say it… having some fun.  It seems that we spend far too much time worrying about risks and hazards that we forget who we are dealing with – children need to experience fun and frivolity and not be wrapped in a cotton wool bubble.

I am able to express these views on two fronts.  My first, as a parent to three children that grew up with tears before bed, dirty hands, scraped knees and elbows (war trophies to be proud of) but also as an educator for over 15 years.  Do I enforce these ridiculous rules? Of course I do.  Do I agree with them?  Hell no!  The moment schools allowed “anxious” parents the assumption that they had a right to veto any activity/policy that did not suit “their” child was the moment that schools gave away any positive chance that our future generation ever had of finding their own, individual, way of navigating the real world.  In my opinion (as humble as it may be) I think it would serve society better to equip our children with the tools to avoid and measure any risks rather than eliminate them all and hope for the best!

All change… again!

via Daily Prompt: Transformation

You know that feeling, when you are just settling into something and starting to understand it and then something happens to pull the rug out from under you?  Yea, it kind of sucks but you move onward.  You do, don’t you, because there really isn’t another choice.  I’m not against change, as the old saying goes, it’s as good as a rest, but sometimes I would like things to just stay the way they were.  I suppose change is one of those ‘certainties’ in life (alongside death and taxes) and whether we choose to accept that or not is irrelevant.  It’ll happen anyway.

Take the seasons for example.  As much as we might like to hold on to a favourite time of the year, reality is, it’s moving away every second.  Scenery changes, weather changes, lifestyles change.  It’s all change.  This made me think about how finite our lives are and just how many changes we go through in our existence.  Some of these changes are wonderful – changing from being dependant to independent, from inexperienced to wise, from being a parent to a grandparent, from insecurity to confident.  Of course, there are changes that are more difficult to cope with, most obvious one to me is the change from a loved one living to a loved one dying.  As I said, it’s inevitable.

Every woman changes so much throughout her lifetime.  Changes from childhood to adolescence (and all the fun that brings) – moving on to adulthood.  There might be changes to their status – from single to married, or vice-versa.  Changes in their bodies – the time a girl becomes a woman.  This can be a trying time. Hormonal changes, mood swings, bodily aches, and of course, the cyclical change that happens every month.  For some, the next change is cherished.  Change from ‘me’ to ‘Mum’.  I have totally enjoyed this change – it has given me great pleasure to nurture my children into adulthood.  I learnt many things about myself.  I began to like myself.  I learned how to appreciate the power of a woman isn’t in her looks, it’s in her strength, her passion, her empathy and the smile behind her eyes.  This change has been slowly evolving but I feel that I want to hold on to it, after all, I’m only just beginning to understand what makes ‘me’ me!

Mother Nature, on the other hand, has a different plan.  She’s thrown another change at me and it’s one I’m not sure of.  I wonder about how things will change, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally too.  The menopause is one of those subjects that people try to steer clear of – there are questions that need asking but do we really want to know the answers?  Will it change a woman’s personality?  Will she still be able to show off her nurturing skills or will she face an attitudinal change and decide to reinvent herself?  Will it increase confidence or push us back to uncertainty?  One thing is for sure, change is happening again.  It is within us all to decide whether to embrace our new self or not.  I read a lovely metaphor for the transformation gained from menopause – linking it to the creation of a butterfly…

I’m ready for my new wings.

A cocoon is, in a way, a place of rest, almost a place of death, for it is a place where some creatures go in order to die out of their previous form. Thus it is also a place of rebirth, a place from which the new form, in its own time will emerge.”

How do you know if you’re on the right path?

Seems like an odd question to be asking, or does it? I have to admit, I’m in no way, shape or form, equipped to answer it. I should be. Having my fifth decade alive looming in the no so distant future, surely I should know.

What does this say of my ability to help guide and shape our future generations? I consider myself as down to earth, patient, nurturing and fairly knowledgeable. I have been successful in raising three fabulous children with my better half. I keep a lovely home, drive a decent car, enjoy the company of four crazy dogs, have a caring family and some wonderful friends. So why the hell don’t I know what’s right about the path I’m on.

Take a step back. I met my soul mate when I was three weeks shy of 16. He was everything a girl could hope for – funny, thoughtful, kind, handsome, smart and, apparently, head over heels in love with me. That was back in 1983. We were married in 1988. We had three children; one in 1990, one in 1992 and the last one in 1995. We’re still joined in loving matrimony and neither of us would have it any other way. Our children are happy, healthy and successful in their own rights. My husband’s career has taken off and he is well known in his field of work for his passion and professionalism. I, myself, held a career that I served with passion and dedication. We have holidays, nice meals out, weekends away, treat ourselves to new clothes etc when the whim takes us, we drive a 2014 Sportage, have four fabulous dogs. Life should be good. I’m still missing out on something though. To make matters worse, I don’t even have the faintest idea what it is I’m after.

It seems I’ve lost my way. I’ve lost my voice. Almost lost my mind.

I walked out on my career in July 2016. I loved it – it was my passion. I was a natural at it. I motivated people with my enthusiasm and guided others who were struggling with the pressure. All along, I knew what my role was. I was an educator – first, foremost and definitely in for the long haul. Many of my colleagues would mention how well I connected with the children, especially those who “carried too much baggage” for one so small, but I always had my “Jimini Cricket” voice in my head that said, I’m doing nothing special, I just do what it takes to make things better for the children so they can be free enough to enjoy learning. I honestly believed that. Eleven years later, and a deeply flawed education system finally snuffed out my passion. It was no longer for me. I had put up with too much bullshit already and didn’t have the patience for anymore.

I didn’t just walk out on my career, I walked out on financial security. On my dreams and hopes for a better life for the children in my care. On the ability to make a difference to their lives. On the children themselves. On my husband’s peace of mind as we are now down to a single wage. Just get another job. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, it should be, I need the money to help my husband support us.

But, it isn’t! There are so many jobs out there but it’s a minefield. I’m too qualified for some. Have the correct skill-set for others but not the experience. Some jobs either don’t interest me so I scan over them or I am so interested in them that I spend to much time procrastinating background information on said “new” path that by the time it comes to fill out the form, I have already talked myself out of applying. I can’t help it. I feel vulnerable and insecure. Why would anyone want to hire someone who walked out on a decent career? Who’s interested that my reasons for leaving have nothing to do with my workplace, but that they are connected to the fact that I could no longer do a job where the children were not seen as a priority. Where I had to put practices into place that went against every fibre of my personal and professional ideals. Where learning has become more about rote to pass a test and reach a benchmark and nowhere near enough about the joys of independent learning for the love of wanting to expand a mind. I had just had enough. I couldn’t carry on in a job where my heart had already left, but that too leaves me feeling guilty. I walked out on the children – walked out or ran away?

I have ideas of what I would like my life to look like, however, they won’t pay the bills – at least not yet. It is my fear that I will embark upon a path out of necessity and have no thoughts or feelings for my job, merely go through the motions. Where does that leave me? With more security than I enjoy at the moment, obviously but at what actual cost?  I would love to become a writer – I have no experience, no training, no contacts but I DO HAVE the desire and the motivation.  I would also like to have my own florist business, but again, no contacts (I do have a small amount of training and some experience) means a long hard slog to get to a point where I could pay the bills.

So, I guess it’s back to the question… how do you know if you’re on the right path?  I suppose the only way to find out is to actually get on one and see.  Time for me to stop wishing for things out of my reach.  Time to stop the fears over not being successful.  Time to get on with life, after all, I have my health, my sanity and my family.  It’s only money after all!

 

I say Honey…you say G!

Tiny

Haven’t watched that ridiculously over-rated “talent” show in years and quite frankly, think it needs to end and pdq.  What is the message it sends to our younger (impressionable) generation?  Sod the hard work, sod the talent, just concentrate on becoming a court jester, because, in my opinion, this type of novelty act is only promoted to entertain those with TINY minds.  

You say Honey… I say, enough already.

Daily Prompt: Volunteer

via Daily Prompt: Volunteer

The first thing that entered my head when I read this word was Oh no, sit on your hands and keep your lips firmly shut.  Don’t get me wrong, being the person I am, I love to volunteer because I love to help people.  I just don’t help ME when I volunteer.

I remember sitting in a large room with many other people all listening to a discussion on a topic that was relevant to my family and many others around the country.  It was a charity run by a hospital nurse.  At the end of the meeting, said nurse hung up her “chairperson” role and asked for someone else to take part.  It was our first meeting.  We had only been involved for about 6 months.  We were still learning about the topic.

Silence in the room.  A lot of shifting about, heads down.  It felt awkward.  Don’t even know what possessed me, but I put up my hand and offered my services!  Offered my services to a charity that was the other end of the country from me.  Offered my services to be a spokesperson and liaison to families and practitioners from all over the UK.   Offered my services to something I had no idea about.

I thrived at the challenge though, kept at it for two years before finally hanging up my chair.

Don’t regret a minute.  Just don’t want to fall prey to this word so hard next time.

..and so it begins..

Don’t you find it strange how quickly “blogs” have taken off?  There are blogs on just about anything you can think of..even blogs on blogging.  What is the attraction?  Who reads them?  Why?  Who writes them?  Why?

Enough of the questions already.  I’m inclined to think that there isn’t one single, hard fast rule to why people either read or write blogs.  For me, reading them is interesting.  It’s a line into someone’s mind that you might not necessarily have access to otherwise.  What I find fascinating is the level of intimacy some bloggers go to – they explore their deepest thoughts, desires, fears and share their findings with complete strangers, but I totally “get” that.  I’m not without close friends nor a loving family but one thing I do lack is the outlet to explore my own thoughts without prejudice, sympathy, judgement or understanding.

Life is complicated – doesn’t have to be I suppose, but it just is!  Everyone is different and behaves in a different way.  Some like to talk about anything and everything to anyone; others prefer not to share a single thought, keeping so private that people have no idea who they are interacting with.  There are braggers, bullsh***rs, drama queens, exaggerators, con artists, cynics, hypochondriacs, wannabes, doubters, snobs, sheeple, complainers, know-it-alls, pessimists, pretentious gits, the “in” crowd, the doers, optimists, time-wasters, leaders, helpful, hopeful and many, many more different types of people in our society.  That’s not even including what “class” you are in.  So, it’s not difficult to see why life is complicated – too many differing points of view, personality clashes, misunderstandings.

So where does that leave the majority of people? If you’re anything like me, you’ll be a little lost.  I am a survivor, of that I am positive.  Life has thrown some challenges at me along the way and despite falling at some hurdles, I have always been able to get myself back up and dust myself off.  Why do I do this?  Because it is expected of me!  Insanely, if you ask any of my family or friends they don’t expect me to be anything other than what I already am, but deep down, I know they expect me to be the strong one, the capable one, the survivor.  This leads me to think that it is just me that expects this of me – but why?  Why would I put myself through so many trying situations.  Hence, my feeling of being lost.  I just have absolutely no idea why I behave in this way, when I feel the exact opposite.

Take this blog for example.  I decided to write about my own thoughts because I wanted to “find” myself, to work out “who” I am.  I can hear you asking, why don’t you converse with others you trust to help you to understand?  Why indeed!  Simple answer, I don’t know.  Am I afraid of rejection, or of ridicule?  Do I shy away from sympathy or empathy?  In my head, thoughts are running riot, scrambling to stay in one place long enough for me to make sense of them, and I have no tools to help me sort them out.  So, running riot is what they do!  For now anyways.  The thing I “get” about blogs is that it makes ‘saying things’ seem easier.  Bizarre outlook I know, the potential to have many strangers reading your innermost thoughts versus discussing them in private with people you love and trust.  However, I see the appeal.   I welcome it.  You don’t know me, you have no preconceived ideas about who I am or what I am like.  I don’t know you either.  For all I know, this will never, ever be read by another single soul, but, for now, for me, it’s an appealing outlet.  It’s a place where I can be ‘me’ and talk about the thoughts in my head without feeling the need to curb my words.  Don’t take this personally, but I am not afraid of hurting your feelings if you don’t agree with something I say or believe in.  This is empowering.  This is the way forward.