Accepting Compliments!

So you know when you are growing up, the tiniest words of encouragement or approval that may come your way could prove to be life altering. Naturally, the opposite applies as well, but unfortunately, as parents we only realise how fundamentally our words can impact our children when little swines are old enough to have the audacity to tell us!!

I remember only one teacher pointing out to me that I was a lot smarter than I thought. Possibly because I spent so much time trying to be invisible, that the others had no idea that I was even their student. I just assumed that, as he was Lebanese, and I was dating my future husband, who was also Lebanese, it was just his way of saying ‘’howzit cuzzie.’’ So that was of course totally lost on me, and did not make any impact whatsoever. Well, other than the fact that I was shocked that he even knew I was his student!!

I remember my father on a daily basis telling me how wonderful I was…. brilliant….. beautiful…awesome…..he once even heard my friend and I singing in the car, and mentioned I had such an amazing voice, perhaps I would grow up to be a famous singer. Now people….believe you me…no….…I don’t. So, that too was lost on me, as I just assumed that he overdid the compliments to compensate for all my short comings. I actually used to get annoyed by all his praise and adoration. For that I am so sorry, and this is one of my big regrets when it comes to my dad, as I know that he knew his praise and adoration was not appreciated by me.

So, essentially, anyone who did compliment me, was argued away in my mind, instead of me using it to boost my confidence and self-esteem.

Honestly, the first time I believed any kind of compliment, was when I was needing to get a letter of recommendation from my ex- headmaster, in order to be admitted to the bar as an Attorney. It was six years after I had matriculated, and after requesting the letter, I assumed, without a shred of doubt, that it was going to be some generic letter, and that the headmaster literally would have had no cooking clue who he was writing about.

But on reading the letter, I was so pleasantly surprised. Each and everything in that letter was so specific to me, and it was so uplifting, that I had wished that he had told me at the time. Although….probably would have explained that away too!

So now we come to my condiments, Salt and Pepper, or more specifically Pepper… yes….again!! He really does hold the gold medal in providing content for a Blog!!

I have had huge, gushy and proud moments when it comes to my children, where I want to shout out from the rooftops about how proud I am of them…how much they have achieved….how I could not have asked for better children. Sometimes I have done exactly that, and I sensed that they felt the same way as I did, when my dad used to shower me with compliments. So, over the last few years, I have totally backed off. However, during the Covid chapter, more time spent as a family and more poignant conversations taking place, I have realised that my children have not necessarily been able to read my mind (idiots), and were not totally aware of how proud of them I actually was. The fact that I am snarky, sarcastic and condescending as a rule, might have aided this doubt in their minds. But come now?? You guys have lived with me for long enough to know me…to understand me….to read my mind??????

Anyway, I have actually moved off the actual topic, which was going to be what this here Blog was going to be written about. So let me remind you…..Pepper. Yes, my Pepper was his mother at school. Dissolved into cracks so that no one would even know he existed, and EVENTUALLY towards the end of his school career, got up to mischief that sometimes got him called into the Head’s office. We will call said Head ”Mr Shame”, for the purposes of this Blog. Now, Mr Shame was feared by the students, and not totally loved by all the parents either…..the ones whose hunny bunnies were never the culprits. I on the other hand, was the parent whose hunny bunnies were ALWAYS the culprits, unless they could provide me with a solid alibi, 4 eye witnesses and photographic evidence, to prove to the contrary!! Having said that, honestly, Salt was never in trouble at school. He just never worked very hard…..…or at all. Pepper was getting up to mischief regularly from about Grade 11.

But Mr Shame understood each child, no matter how different they were. Perhaps because they lost their dad so young, he felt he needed to assume a nurturing role in their lives. They of course were not even aware of it the time. He was so quietly watching out for them, that neither was I initially. They of course were not fans of his, as he was ‘’Mr Shame’’…he was feared and revered.

I never got a call from Mr Shame regarding Salt until Pepper left school. Either Pepper kept him too busy, or he was just trying not to over burden me with complaints. But the Salt calls were calls of concern. He was very fond of my Salty, but felt that he wasn’t reaching his amazing potential…you don’t say???? So he would find tasks for him to shine in, and shine he did….until the task was over, then Mr Shame would find yet another one.

But Pepper………..those calls (always on my way to fetch them from school), went something like this….

“Ummmmm…..Mrs Mummy….it is Mr Shame here….it is about Pepper. Shame, nothing serious…nothing to worry about….but….shame, you know Pepper always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time….”, he would say in a fairly timid voice, which I suspect was not the voice that the students knew or feared!!

What endeared Pepper to Mr Shame though, was his accountability and most of all his integrity. He NEVER revealed the names of his accomplices, never denied responsibility, and took his punishment like a man. This, for Mr Shame, was admirable, and the things Pepper had done were always according to him, ‘’boys being boys’’. And they really were…no one ever got harmed in the process, and he created a whole lot of memories to discuss with his children and grandchildren!

But overall, Mr Shame knew exactly how to treat each of my spices, and managed to see them through some pre and post pubescent crap (a lot of which I am sure I did not even know about), and I feel he needs to take more than a little credit for both my spices’ self esteem and confidence being boosted.

After my children left school, Mr Shame has every so often sent me a message to ask how my boys are, and to tell me what a good job I did in raising them. Now, the new me embraces compliments….sometimes. But every time I receive a message, I am amazed at how he continues supporting from the side lines.

When Pepper started his Articles, he joined Linkedin. He then said that he had received an email from someone at the firm (who had also attended the same school as Pepper years prior), to say that Mr Shame had told her that Pepper would be an asset to the firm, and that he holds my Pepper in high esteem. She then said she wants to arrange a meeting with Pepper, just so that they could have an introductory chat.

“OMG Pepper….isn’t that amazing…..isn’t this man a gem???’’ I gushed

“Well I kind of feel huge pressure on me now mom,’’ Pepper irritatingly mentioned. Although I did detect a bit of pride under the snarky comment.

Anyway, cut to Pepper getting his results for his first of two Board exams he has to write to qualify as an auditor. Yes, he passed….….was dying to shout from the rooftops, but remained mum, as did not think my Pepper wanted me to behave in such an undignified manner. Next morning I woke up to the most special message from Mr Shame, congratulating Pepper on passing the Boards, and telling me how my boys have grown into amazing young men, who he is extremely proud of. Well…….with tears in my eyes, I immediately forwarded this beautiful message on to my spices. Crickets…..….that is what I got….….crickets!! I summonsed Pepper, and asked him if he read the message, which he had.

‘’How special is that Pepper? I love this man! He just continues to be amazing!!’’ I said, expecting at the very least, a grunt from Pepper.

Crickets….I got crickets….

‘’Pepper??? How amazing is this man?” I prodded for SOME type of reaction.

‘’I am just a bit confused….how does he know I passed?’’

Wow……Pepper….just wow!!!!

Although, again  I did detect a bit of pride under the snarky comment.

How To Comfort A Person Who Is Grieving

In case you thought this would be an informative blog, you know, one which would assist you should you find yourself being called upon to comfort a loved one……. nope……..sorry. There is no ‘’right’’ or ‘’wrong’’ thing to do, say or even be.

In one of my recent blogs, I mentioned how, after losing my husband, different people displayed such different behaviour. There were those who were very ‘’hands on’’, but many were just there for the ride. Sounds bizarre, I know, and when it was pointed out to me early on by a good friend, I was actually annoyed that she had implied that. But, to be honest, since then, I have seen how those very same people are the ones who rush off to find the next person going through the grieving process. For some, it makes them feel good about themselves, for others, it is so they can be seen to be doing the ‘’correct’’ thing, and for the rest, believe it or not, it is so that they can report back to everyone who might need to get the lowdown. Kind of ‘’hear it here first’’ vibe.

Then there were those who you had expected to be totally there, and from whom you craved comfort, but did not give you what you needed. In retrospect, perhaps it was just too painful or awkward for them.

Then there were those that would say something causing you to fantasize about handing out one swift slaps across the face, coupled with a facial expression of bewilderment as to the empty-headed, half-witted and mindless words they had just uttered.

Then there were those that did absolutely nothing, but were the most comforting. These are the people we all hope to be when supporting a person going through loss.

I hope that this is not coming across as me in any way being ungrateful for the love that was showered upon me during that time. No matter who does what, or how they do it, you just lap up any and every bit of love and comfort that you are blessed with. And once you look back, you are totally aware of the fact that they all meant well, and did the best they knew how.

So, having been the “griever” at one point, one would imagine that I would know exactly how to behave when I became a ”grievee”. One would assume that I would know exactly what words would be comforting, what words would be annoying or whether there should even be words!!

Why I had thought that is beyond me, as I have always believed that every person’s loss is different. In fact, every person’s different loss is different.

Since my husband passed away, I have also lost my mom and my dad. Each loss was totally different, and I had (and continue to have) totally different grieving processes. The grieving process never ends. It gets easier perhaps, it rears its head less over time, but once you have suffered a loss, it becomes part of your life.

So it would have been totally unrealistic for me to have assumed that, for me particularly (a person who does not even know when and what to say during the normal course of events), I would have had any idea how to comfort a ‘’griever’’.

However, if you feel you know the person well enough, one would imagine that you should have the upper hand, would you not? Would you not know what would help and what would infuriate (yes…some people say the most infuriating things) the person? It is always an awkward situation for the grievee, but some people are just really good at it, and know exactly what and when (and even if) to say something. They are naturals at it, and just slip into the role comfortably. They do no over thinking, they just do them. These people are probably in the minority though.

Even those that infuriate, mean well. One just becomes very selfish at certain points in the grieving process, and people can say the most inappropriate things, which on a normal day, might not have had you wanting to sucker punch them.

Just as an example, when someone innocently says “‘bye enjoy your weekend.”

Those simple and usually inoffensive words, have you thinking, enjoy my weekend??? What???? How do you expect me to ever enjoy my weekend again you blithering mongrel???????

I too have undoubtedly said some of those things too, in the last month or so.

The Blog I made reference to earlier, referred to a dear friend of mine who felt she needed to apologize for not being more supportive, after I had lost my husband. When I was explaining to her how there was no need for her to feel bad, as I had always felt that she was comforting me and continuously embracing me with warm hugs, I had no idea that she was about to suffer the loss of a loved one too.

When this happened, I was at a loss on how I was going to be able to comfort her. Firstly, she lives across the ocean, and secondly, she, like me, tends to internalize things a lot. So naturally, I stepped back, so as not to suffocate her. However, I then started to think about the fact that she felt guilty for having stepped back when I was grieving, so would that mean that she would expect and need more from me in her current situation? And then the over-thinking and feelings of guilt almost start to take over what is actually important. Just being there for your friend, even in your thoughts, as she was for me. Stop over thinking, stop feeling guilty, just send her love, light and strength….be it only in your thoughts and prayers, and she will be sure to receive it.

Shortly thereafter, a friend who I have reconnected with recently (thank you COVID), experienced a double and tragic loss of two direct family members (f*** you COVID). This friend also stood on the sidelines when I was grieving, but in her own way, was uber supportive. I think there are those that can be ”supportive”, to the extent that they catch you before you fall, and then there are those that can be ”comforting” once you fall. Then there are those that are both. Truly, either works, but some find it harder than others to be either.

This friend was the friend who stood by quietly waiting to catch me before I fell. Her and her special family (who did not know me at all before my loss), were so there for my children and I. She is very much like me too, as she just likes to be left alone to process things, before being bombarded with grievees. So, again, there I was, not knowing what to do, how to do it or when to do it. The over thinking and the guilt was even more intense, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, she is a neighbour who I see regularly, and secondly, the two people that she lost were so comforting to me years earlier.

It is just so difficult, as no matter whether you have suffered loss, or been fortunate enough not to have suffered a loss, one just never knows how to behave. Is it enough? Is it too much? Who knows?

At the end of the day, we do the best that we can, and whether there is a ”right” way or a ”wrong” way of helping a person through their grief, we will never really know. The extent to which we contributed to ease their grieving process, they themselves might only realise years later….if ever.

So of course, I made all the standard mistakes…. feeling helpless, useless and guilty …..being suffocating….being absent….saying the wrong things. But hopefully, for both my dear friends, somewhere in that equation, I have also been helpful and been useful….been there enough, but not too much and said some ‘’right’’ things.

Is Too Politically Correct INCORRECT??

Might well be……..

So growing up, I always remember my mom saying, ‘’when America sneezes, the whole world gets a sick.’’

This analogy was the perfect way to explain how the Americans were always the pioneers, particularly in those days, and how the whole world waited with baited breath to see what they would next revolutionize! To a certain extent much of the world has caught up in a lot of ways, but America is still very much the frontrunner in a multitude of ways. There are a lot of things that America should be commended for, but being TOO politically correct is absolutely not one of them!!

I did previously refer to this (what I perceive to be) problematic little glitch in the ”advanced” development of this Country. In one of my previous blogs, ‘’Is Political Correctness A Breeding Ground For Racism’’, I touched on the fact that in my mind, being so politically correct when it comes to the disease of racism, creates more segregation, hatred and anger.

In order not to be perceived as ‘’an American basher’’, I did not discuss in that blog, that the country latches on to anything where a degree of political correctness is required, and slaughters the issue to such an extent, that all those fanatics just become more fanatical! So by attempting to be ‘’too right’’, it backfires, and becomes wrong!

There was the excessively overstated ‘’Me Too’’ movement, which just gave chauvinists, predators and misogynists more food for locker room conversations. And, truly, if anyone thought that any of the guilty parties apologizing was anything more than a PR stunt…….….rise and shine!! The guilty parties are still chauvinists, predators and misogynists, and even more so, as they were named and shamed by their victims.

Another topic that America has sunk its teeth into, is anything related to same sex relationships. I have no issues with same sex relationships. I am quite unaffected by them, and believe that you should just do you. As long as you are happy, that TRULY is all that matters! But the one who sneezes and gives the rest of the world influenza, is starting to work on my nerves, as this issue is being so over embraced, it cannot even be taken seriously anymore!!

I am an adult with a brain (not yet medically confirmed), and I will either have a problem with something, or not. I will either be a prejudiced bigot, or I will not.  Will trying to homogenize certain groups of people by CONSTANTLY engulfing people in the topic, not just diversify these groups even more? I say absadamnlutely!!

I mean….can we not just accept everyone for how they behave, and how they make us feel? Are we so uneducated and unsophisticated, that we have to constantly be spoon-fed on the way we are required to feel about something? Do we really think that the bigots and radicals are going to suddenly become ‘’educated’’ about an issue, if it is constantly being included in every movie, TV show, advertising campaign and every other medium that can possibly be utilized, in order to get the point across by overstating it??

Well I think bloody not!!

Of course the same applies to mixed race relations, and hot on the heels of this, gender neutral, transgender, non-binary etc are starting to be Hollywood’s next ‘’too politically correct’’ projects. It is going to soon reach a point where we will feel like everything we see, hear and watch will be a ‘’Tolerance Workshop 101”!!

Now, the reason I mention this, is because the most blatant misuse of political correctness was highlighted in a Netflix series I am watching at the moment. Yes…….I looooooove me some Netflix binging at all hours of the night, when my manic brain refuses to quieten down. The Series in question shall remain nameless, as, I am kind of ashamed to admit that my guilty pleasures are ‘’reality’’ shows. I use the quotation marks, as for the most part, even the so called reality shows have become scripted, which then makes them just another piece of fictional viewing. But when I find a new series, it generally starts off fairly real, until the producers realize that the ratings will increase with a bit of manipulation of the scripts. That is when I tap out.

My partiality for such shows, is that I have always so enjoyed observing human behaviour and interaction, and that has been the way I have managed to do it, without sitting at a coffee shop, and appearing all weird and stalker like. So, back to my newly found still real reality show. Well, it already has twelve seasons, and I am only on season four, so I am sure ten years after the fact it is loaded with scripted actors and an abundance of politically correct relationships and plots. But for now, I was still seeing the authentic relationships between people, who were not aspiring actors or musicians or social media influencers. Until last night, that is.

So the premise of the show is getting a group of twenty somethings to work and live together for a season. As always, people fight, bicker, fall in and out of lust, and in and out of love. There have been tears, arguments and lots of drama to wet the taste buds. From the outset, reference has been made to these individuals’ home lives and relationships through the whole season, but we were never introduced to any of these people on the actual show. Clearly, this season was the one that was filmed at a time when all the politically correctness of the film industry had made it’s way to the surface. And so the start of the scripted and unreality season began to play out.

One of the female cast members, who had appeared in previous seasons, and who was hooking up with any male who was willing and able, was now in a same sex relationship with someone. We see her Skype calling her partner every five minutes, also nothing we had seen previously. Then lo and bloody behold, her partner is brought on to one of the episodes. Never happened before with any cast member’s heterosexual partner. Not only did this partner appear on the episode, but after each scene, there was a scene devoted to this couple swallowing each other’s faces. Not seen previously with any of the heterosexual couples. In fact, because I have always been a total prude, coupled with the fact that I am……..well…..…old, I have never enjoyed watching any type of nudity, sex or face swallowing on the big screen, small screen or any bloody screen!! So with all the hook ups that had previously taken place on this show, everything was always implied, and I enjoyed not having to endure the uncomfortable viewing of any graphically passionate behaviour……until now.

The thing for me, is that if anyone thinks that this is going to educate the already bigoted person, and that by some small miracle, they will suddenly be more mindful of their bigotry, and more tolerant towards certain people….or by some humungous miracle, actually change their mindset……uuuuum……..not gonna happen!!!!!

And, yes, before you rant and rave about inclusivity and representation, something the younger generation desperately needs to witness, I get that. Of course we need our youth to see that they are accepted and included in society irrespective of race, religion, size or sexual orientation. This is paramount! HOWEVER, what I am also saying, well pleading, is can the one who sneezes not have EVERY SINGLE thing revolve around all these issues to the point where the heterosexual, non-discriminatory and liberal peace and love to all who live on earth people start feeling like they are not bloody normal????

Catch you later, cheers, Namaste, bye-bye, see ya, mind how you go, ta ta, toodeloo, hasta la vista, later,  keep it real, peace, peace out, take it easy, cya, awe, talk soon….. …hope I covered it all!!

Virtual Comfort

So I woke up to a text message from a friend (one of my specials) recently. This friend, I have seen about 4 times in the last 20 plus years, and for those who read my blogs regularly, she was the ‘deserter’ that left me….just like that, plenty years ago, in order to move to another Continent. Before she left, we shared a special relationship, but one of those where we did not see each other that regularly. After she left, we did not keep in constant contact. In fact months, even years would go by without any contact. However, I always knew she was there, and always held a special place in my heart for her.
This past December, we had the opportunity to spend more time together and reconnect, more than we had since she had left. If COVID had a good side, that was one of them!
So this message took me straight back to an emotional place where I had not been for easily over 14 years. As mentioned previously, I have an amazing skill of locking emotions away if they hurt too much. Just to paint a picture….imagine if you will a whole lot of objects that need to be packed away in a closet. Imagine further, the closet reaching bursting point, but many objects still needing to fit in. Then imagine me (or any old grumpy mummy will do for the purposes of this exercise), cramming the rest of the items in the closet. Items falling and being put back, to the point where I then have to lean against the door, in order to prevent it from bursting at the seams, and slipping the remainder of the items through a little crack. Once everything is in, I then slowly turn, place my back on the door, and use my legs to push me back until the door slams shut. There….that is how it is done. Packed away, never to be unpacked. That door has to be closed for good! Fabulous!!
Of course everyone and their granny will totally disagree, and will go on for days about how one needs to ”deal with emotions” in order to ”move on”. Well everyone….and your granny…. some people can never deal with certain emotions, as they hurt way too much to deal with, and the way we ‘’move on’’  is to ‘’tap out’’. It has worked for 55 years. And I do not intend changing the formula now.
This is why I ignored the cries of ‘’you need to go for counselling’’ from day one and a half after my husband passed away. I mean it took me five years to stop feeling like I was reeling from shock, how on earth would a third party have helped me deal with emotions that I needed to go through anyway? We know what we can handle, and deal with it if and when we are ready!!
I totally understand that certain people need a third party to tell all their tales of woe to, but I have used my friends as ‘’soft therapy’’ over the years, and for the rest of it I have managed to store it away in that closet, which is apparently not healthy. But this morning I realized how perfectly healthy it can be for one such as me.
However, as I am one in a million who feel this way, I have often wondered if I would be in a different place emotionally….calmer…. less intense….more sunshine and less clouds if you will….. had I done what the other 999 000 people automatically assumed was what one does.
Yet, not on reading the text message, but on replying to it, I went straight back to feeling of shock, fear, sadness and trauma, that I felt for months following that dreaded life changing date of 25 November 2005. And when I say ‘’straight back’’, I mean literally ‘’straight back’’!!!! Perhaps it was on replying to the message that this happened, as I was deep in the throes of trying to explain to her, how I had felt during that time. I clearly let my guard down, and I proceeded to cry the ”death cry”. For anyone (counselled and un-counselled) who has lost someone near and dear to them, particularly when it was unexpected, they will know exactly what type of cry that is. It is not a hysterical or loud cry. There is no drama or even sobbing that accompanies it. Nope……it is as if someone has opened a tap, and tears just come streaming down your face……for..…well as long as it takes…and then that inconsiderate swine of a person just switches off the tap……just like that. And then you carry on with the rest of your day as normal. This happens at the strangest and most unexpected times, and for those fortunate enough not to have lost someone hugely important to them, you will just not be able to understand this strange and involuntary behaviour!!
If my chained, bolted and locked closet is not bad enough, I am also that person who feels uncomfortable with physical or verbal comfort. This is only because I feel extremely vulnerable and weak if any such emotions are displayed openly on my part. So bizarre, taking into account that here I am, sharing it for all and sundry to read about. But this is different. Firstly, it is after the fact, so I can just be my ever so self deprecating self about the incident. Also, I am kind of anonymous (other than my friends and family who know who I am. But the latter won’t judge me (too much) for my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. And if they do…that is also okay.

So I’m that person who literally will break down when I am at my stillest moment, and when I flub it occasionally, and do it publicly, I am well aware of the awkward position I am putting people in, and feel extremely guilty. I just feel uncomfortable for them…I mean the reality of it, is that it’s awkward for people….the whole messy encounter….the subconscious head tilting..…the sorrowful expression….we are all guilty of it….even me when the tables are turned. It is just a normal human reaction. This is not the death cry. This is the heart wrenching, loud sobbing worthy of an Oscar performance cry. After this session, you are emotionally drained and it takes a few bits to get back to business. This also comes at the strangest times, and this also, only a fellow sufferer will understand.

Now, because I have such issues with showing weakness and vulnerability, I prefer ‘’virtual hugs’’ and ‘’virtual comfort’’. So, basically, due to my insane intuitiveness, when you are sending me one of those….I receive it. This can be so much more powerful than what you receive from people whose lips are moving and saying comforting things, but you just know there is nothing behind that. For me….rather say nothing, it is better that way. Us grievers understand that not every person we encounter in our lives gives a damn about our grief. Why should they?
I do not want to discredit all the people whose lips moved, and who were being totally heartfelt, as they were incredibly comforting as well, it just made ME uncomfortable…if that makes sense? I just always feel the need to say, ’’I apologise for putting you in this position……no need to speak…….just send your wishes telepathically…….if it is genuine and heartfelt, I will receive it……promise!!!”
So having said all that, the reason for this blog is simple. My special friend messaged me a brave and raw message, which was meant as a heartfelt apology, but while explaining to her that she had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to apologize for, and that she was one of the people who virtually comforted and embraced me over the years, I inexplicably went straight back to that f**** awful place I was in way back then, had a few moments of a death cry, and realized that I am just dandy not revisiting emotions that are too painful. I also realized in that moment, that I have been so dramatically altered by losing my husband, and with or without therapy, I will never be that semi-happy, at times relaxed, slightly tolerant and tolerable person again. Instead here I am…grumpy, intense, intolerant, angry and bitter.

Coffee date anyone??