Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

Identity #2.5 – Benches

Before anyone gets confused by my convoluted numbering system, I should clarify Identity #3 is part written and on its way.

This is guest blog of sorts – except that although I didn’t write it, and the person who did doesn’t have a blog. She has a notebook, and a pencil, and a creative brain, that she sometimes honours me by sharing. Her name is Natalya, although some of you will know her as Beauty ICE (go and read about The Cast if that makes no sense to you!), and this is what she wrote:

The Bench

It’s enough to be what you were created to be.
Whether lovingly hand crafted,
Or one of millions formed by machine.
A bench is a bench.

Whether a meeting place for lovers
Or a place for the elderly to sit and take stock.
A bench is a bench.

Covered in raindrops,
Glistening frost,
In deep snow,
Or searing in a heat wave.
A bench is a bench.

It’s purpose is unchanging,
Not dependent on circumstance around it.
A bench is a bench.

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Identity #2 – Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

happy birthday facebook!

This week sees eleven years since Facebook graced our screens (happy birthday Facebook!). I’ve found myself wondering how we portray ourselves on Facebook, and what it means when we call people our ‘friends’. I have 383 friends on Facebook. I couldn’t tell you much about most of them, and what I can tell you is only the good stuff. Facebook gives us a chance to show the best of ourselves and hide the worst of ourselves, putting out a completely false impression of who we really are.

Now, I don’t mind this. I don’t think it’s healthy to share every little struggle with 383 people. But it begs an answer to the question: Who are we really? And is it ok to edit what we share with people about who we really are? Do the selves we portray on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, or whatever the in thing is, actually help us build good relationships?

In our small Bible study group last night we were talking about relationships and struggles. One of the quotes interested me; it encouraged us to “create a safe place where others feel valued enough to remove their own masks …truly seeing each other and loving each other anyway.”

Now I’m not claiming that we should air every private thing we deal with on Facebook, but I’m aware that there are many people who are much younger than me, who don’t remember life without Facebook and online relationships. I worry that if this is the example we are setting, we risk having a whole generation of people who don’t know how to relate on a real level, have no place they feel valued enough to remove their masks, and therefore don’t learn to love and be loved, warts and all.

I am blessed to have people with whom I share my deep struggles, and trusted enough have relationships where others share their struggles with me. Some of these are the same people, some aren’t, but all these relationships are based on honesty and valuing the other. And none of these relationships are Facebook based.

So, through Facebook, are we just creating an atmosphere where people feel the need to be fake? And am I exacerbating that by never sharing any of the things I find hard in life? More importantly, does that online habit seep into my real life, taking from my friendships the authenticity of being who we are?

It worries me that we might be encouraging a cycle of only sharing the good stuff, thus making the other people on our news feeds feel they need to do the same. Our real identity becomes our secret identity as we pretend to be something other than we are.

So my question is, how real am I being in different places and with different people? And to what extent am I claiming that the information I choose to share with others is all there is to me?

Which is my secret identity?

Know any of the answers? Please share below. Click here to read Identity #1.

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Identity #1: No One Like Me

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity recently. The question ‘who am I?’ has come up repeatedly over the years, and every time it comes round again I find something I’ve not known before. So, in the spirit of honest blogging, I decided to write down the things I’ve been discovering about who I am and what that means. The first leg of the journey looks at opposites: reminding myself who I’m not.

People have always said to me ‘you’re so like your dad’. I’ve been hearing it for years, from the people who know my family well to those who have only seen the outer picture we present. I find this hard because Dad is an alcoholic, and has behaved very badly towards a lot of people, many many times.

I have now learnt to see that when people compared us, they probably meant ‘like’ him in a good way – my gifts have always been similar to his, even when I’ve been really poorly and unable to use them. In other people’s minds they were probably saying I was good at performing like him, or my sense of humour meant I was funny like him. I probably get my ability to speak in public from him, and I certainly can’t deny that I look like him.

But, in my screwed up little brain, I took it to mean that I was like him on a deeper level, in that secret place we all have and never let anyone see. My hidden dread was that there was some flaw in me, just like the one I saw in him, and that some day I’d lose control and all the things I hated would spew out. Somewhere, there’s a crack in my soul, just like my father, and one of these days, no matter how fast I run, it’ll catch up with me.

Listen closely now, because here’s the lesson it’s taken me fifteen odd years to learn: no one is like anyone else. None of us! When the Bible says God knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs, it’s not suggesting he used a pattern. It shows intricacy, care, a pride in His work. I have finally learnt that just because half of my DNA comes from my father, I don’t have to inherit the damage done to him. I don’t have to fear being broken just because that’s what I see in him.

And you know what? Now I’ve given up the fear of what might leak out, it turns out that I am a bit like my dad. I can see in myself some of the positive things I get from him – my passion and drive and creativity come from God, but are passed down through a generation that I’ve tried to ignore.

Here’s the other thing I’ve learnt: as much as there is no one like me, there is also no-one like him. There is no one in the world with his set of gifts and shortcomings, flair and foibles.

So here’s the message. Comparing ourselves to someone – anyone – in our lives, whether it’s someone close by or someone we admire purely by reputation, not only doesn’t get us anywhere, but also stops us becoming who we were designed to be. If God has a plan and a purpose for my life that is different from anyone else’s, it makes sense that I am uniquely the person who can fulfil that plan.

And, as much as I sometimes berate myself for who I am, and nurse disdain for my fallen ways, I can’t escape the fact that I am who I am supposed to be. I am Me.

Who are you?

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Resolutions

Now we are out of the chaos of Christmas and the humdrum of the holidays, I’m sitting down to consider my resolutions.

I think resolving to change for the better is an important part of growing up, so I’m a big fan of it. But I personally think that New Years Day is the worst possible day to start new things.

I don’t know about you, but by New Year I’m exhausted. We’ve normally travelled as a family to both sets of grandparents, plus a visit down to London to take part in a day of traditional English morris dancing at a pub (that’s a whole other blog post…!). This year was worse than most, because Cable Guy’s parents have moved to the very end of Cornwall, about ten minutes from Land’s End, which entails spending about six hours in the car each way.

By the time the kids go back to school I’m frazzled. The thought of adding in extra things to do at that point is crazy. I did it for years, and never managed to hang on to my new, shinier life. And these days, by January first I can’t even remember what normal life looks like (and our family life is fairly chaotic at the best of times…). New Year just isn’t clear. Everyday life goes out of the window. And whilst having a week long detox of all things unhealthy feels great whilst I’m doing it, if I really want to make changes that last, they have to fit in with everything else I do. A resolution has to be incorporated into the lives we live every day, not just easy to say on the day after what, for most of us, has been an overindulgent night. The idea that the best time to start better behaviours straight after a week of celebrating (or handling) hoildays is ludicrous.

So here’s what I do. I send the husband off to work and the small people back to school, spend a few days getting on top of the jobs that got left undone whilst away, drink some coffee and do some knitting, and generally give myself a rest. Then, once I feel more at peace and back into the routine of everyday life – that’s when I start changing things in that life. Because unless I figure out a way to fit them all year long, there’s no point in trying to do them at all.

My job this week is to take stock of my life. What was great about last year? How can I keep it great this year? What was pants about last year? Is there anything I can do to improve it this year? What did I achieve last year? What do I want to achieve this year? It’s only when I’ve answered these questions that I can decide exactly what it is I want to change.

I’ll keep you posted….

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Journey from ‘do-it’ to ‘be-it’

New Year’s Resolutions.

We all make them.

Most of us break them.

Only the most dedicated among us last longer than a few weeks before the diet wavers, the gym routine falters, or the odd glass of wine or cigarette creeps in. It’s not long before we are back in our same old ways, doing the same old things, feeling worse than we did before. By February we’re as miserable as the weather.

What’s the problem with resolutions? Why do so many of us struggle to keep them?

I think I’ve finally figured out my basic problem. I forget that resolutions to change are all about behaviour, about what I do. Instead, I set myself targets in the frame of mind that changing what I do will automatically change who I am.

Here’s what I mean.

It starts with a confession: I’m Abbie, and I’m a deadline junkie (all together, “Hi Abbie…”). I always think that I like goals and deadlines. I’ve recently been exploring why this is, because deadlines tend to stress me out and send me right back to the Valium bottle (or the sneaky glass of wine, or the odd cigarette…shhh, don’t tell!). So far this year I’ve had two deadlines to meet, so I’ve tried to use each one to take note of why I thrive on them.

I’m finally figuring out that I set myself goals because when I meet them, I feel good about myself. It’s not that that’s a bad thing in and of itself, but when I rely on it, it doesn’t help me. I manage to stop smoking, lose weight, not shout at the kids, and I get to feel like a better Abbie. I don’t mean like an inherently good person, who has managed to achieve something. I mean a better person because I’ve met goals.

Setting goals makes me feel safe, because I know that my next fix can be just around the corner. Finished a blog post? Quick! Find an article to write for someone! Finished a book? Quick! Time for another proposal – by March at the latest! Finally finished cleaning the oven? Quick! Clear the loft by summer!*

The problem is that even the most complicated tasks don’t last that long in the grand scheme of things, and I soon need another task, another thing, another project to finish in order to get the buzz that comes with being ‘a person who completes things’. Maybe it’s because I’ve started two graduate programmes that I’ve never finished, and have countless books, or articles, or blogposts, or knitting projects, or housework tasks that will probably never be completed. I see myself with a yellow post-it on my forehead: ‘can’t see things through’. It’s not a post-it I like, so my main goal is to find a load of pink and orange and green post-its to cover it up. ‘Author’, ‘mother’, ‘speaker’, ‘knitter’ – whatever my completion target happens to be this week.

So, here’s my resolution. I will aim to not be a goal junkie. I have no idea how this looks yet, but I hope that by New Year’s Eve this year I can look back and see myself not relying on goal completion to feel good about myself. I’m going to chuck out all those post-its and change them for one that says ‘doing alright’. I’m going to try and change my perspective from ‘must do’ to ‘just be’.

* I should probably confess that the oven thing never happens. And things fall out of the loft when I open it, so I tend to leave it. This is a post about goals, not miracles.

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