Living Life Out Loud and Feeling a Bit Exposed…

I’ve made a very conscious choice to wear faults and failings, as I do my triumphs and adventures, on my sleeve.

Sharing thoughts, experiences and feelings with the world; online and often, is commonplace for me.

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At worst, it opens me up to judgment and scrutiny from strangers and haters. At best it opens up my heart and life (and message folder) to people who become great friends and allies in the altogether hectic, painful, beautiful, difficult and wonderful life.

Wow, I started in with the pithy pretty early in this blog.

Hang in there please, this should be good and useful stuff if you manage to shovel through the schmaltz and stick with me until I wrap this up.

So, why am I so open? Am I simply an insecure and needy exhibitionist type? Do I crave acceptance and absolution from strangers and friends and plead my case regularly and publicly in an attempt to win you all over? Am I so arrogant that I think an audience will benefit immeasurably from my experiences?

There’s almost certainly an element to all of these things.

Here’s the thing that I keep coming back to though:

Every person who lives and breaths is amazing, complex, beautiful and we all have some ugliness mixed in in varying degrees at various times.

I sincerely feel that the distance between each and every one of us decreases with candor and sharing. I also believe that the absolute shortest distance between people is shared laughter.

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I share stories and very actively toil to add an element of humour when I share thoughts and experiences. Sometimes it is in the form of self-deprecation, sometimes the stories I share are absurd enough that they require no finessing to be funny.

Here’s the thing though; You and everyone else has absolute power to twist anything I share. You can throw confessions or thoughts back in my face. You can alter and contort any of my experiences or stories with simple additions, exclusions, amplifications or exaggerations as you see fit.

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Once I share anything, it is no longer exclusively mine. By virtue of taking the time to read the words I write, you own a bit of real estate in my life, my heart and my head. I give it to you and anyone else who chooses to read my blog or anything I share freely.

Some people put a great deal of effort into building walls and feeding an identity that makes them feel safe or secure. Some people put their best face forward all the time and want to convince themselves and the world that they have their s*** together.

I have no hope of ever convincing anyone that I have my s*** together. I am a hot mess with a big heart and high-ideals. Being as deliciously different as I am means I am privy to hurts and helps far superior to anything I’d ever have imagined I’d feel or know.  I feel like I have the freedom to be myself openly and honestly, and I feel like that makes me a better friend, role model to my children, and generally a happier freer person because I don’t have to worry about people finding out about the real me, as the real me is the me I get to be most of the time.

It also means I see greatness, brokenness, faults and fabulousness in everyone else I see and meet. There’s not as much distance between you and me and everyone else on this planet as some people perceive. We’re all fighting battles, and we’re all learning in varying degrees and with varying speed and success.

I am an observer and a participant in this life, as we all are.

Even after years, or decades, of living life out loud, I am still absolutely devastated when people interpret my kindness for weakness, my vulnerability for feebleness, my quirkiness for foolishness, or my earnest for naivety.

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I share my learning with people, in the hopes that they will share theirs with me, and we’ll both be better off. My opinions and beliefs are changing all the time based on the stories and opinions people generously share with me.

The absolute best and worst part of my existence is people.

Being naked and vulnerable as I choose to be means there are people who don’t require much encouragement to decide that they are far superior to me in some or many ways.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, people hurt other people in cowardly, backhanded or childish way.  Sometimes our closest friends and staunchest allies break our hearts with words and actions, despite having the absolute best intentions.  Because I choose to let people into my thoughts, and life so actively, people can hurt me without too much effort.  I get that.  And for the most part, I can take the good with the bad.

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Because I openly and honestly share my struggles with ADD, depression, parenting, professional life, friendships, marriage, self-esteem, relationships, power struggles, pain, loss, Love, learning, travel, health, hope, happiness and sadness;  some people dismiss me, or attack me, with my own words. Other people engage with me on a level of trust and Love and friendship that makes this whole life more manageable for both of us I think.  It is a risk we all take when we share a bit or ourselves I suppose.

If you take the time to read or share any of this with me, you get to decide how you relate to me, and my journey. You get to decide if you find my choices and behaviours uplifting or abhorrent. You get to decide if you feel superior, equal, or comforted. You get to decide if you see some of yourself in my observations and experiences. You have total control over how you decide to pick up what I am throwing down as I share these (and any other) words with you.

So, thank you from the very bottom of my heart for sharing the journey with me occasionally, frequently, or closely. Please take it easy on me, and anyone else that has the courage to share a bit of themselves with you.  And you can be as open or as guarded as you want with your life and experiences, and I will go ahead and keep living my life out loud and feeling elated and vulnerable at differing times and to differing degrees.

Guess that’s it for today.

Thank you, especially because this was a long one, for tuning in and sharing the journey with me.

Attempting to Unravel the Truth about Beauty: Part One

Sometime ago I posted an article written by a self-professed “exceedingly attractive” woman who was having a good moan about women who were punching well above their weight and married or dating attractive, successful men.  Snopes said this was a possibly a hoax, but it highlighted some really cool and confronting stuff I want to talk about.

Here is the article in question..

Something strange happened after posting this. I got a lot of responses from single men and women, who agreed with the sentiments of the woman (real or fake though she may be) in the article. They also disclosed how fraught their own romantic struggles could be, but they were quite vehemently on board with her honesty regarding people needing to be attractive, and work on their external looks, as an absolute priority.

The happily married guys and gals chimed in saying lovely or amusing things about themselves or their partners. One quite cool guy stated he felt like he was punching well above his weight and his wife was amazing (she is by the way). Several mummy friends laughed and shrugged off the derogatory statements made about our comfortable clothes and ponytails.

I’d hazard a guess that the people who are jealous or incredulous towards the happily, comfortably married folks (male or female) and not-so-secretly noticing their faithful partners, probably wouldn’t have given them a second look before they were taken.  A simple case of grass is greener, or wanting what they don’t currently have. That’s fine, and it makes sense, so no harm no foul, provided the jealous parties don’t actively coerce the happily coupled types to jump ship.  And if they do, good riddance.

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Consistent and long-term coupling takes effort and evolution as an individual and as a team. So yeah, sometimes the lipgloss gets retired as it is not a priority when we need meet the rigorous challenges of family life.

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But standing on the outside looking in and thinking:  “Why doesn’t she just put in a touch of effort!  Look at her man all dapper and hot” actually makes a great deal of sense. It isn’t particularly helpful though, as I also think these women would bore quickly if they were subjected to the throws of domestic bliss of yoga pant, ponytail, and bare faced mummy types.

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In my genuine experience, a lot of these guys think their make-up free, slightly frumpy female companions ARE beautiful.  Grumpy proper thinks I am one of the most beautiful women in the world.  He’s an absolutely ineffective liar, so experience tells me that he’s genuine in his assertions that, to him, I am.  I don’t think I earned this, I’m just grateful for the fact it is.  And to me, he is equally perfect and gorgeous.  Lucky or by design?  Probably a bit of both.  And it doesn’t mean that both of us don’t occasionally meet other human beings that we find quite irresistible in one way or another.  Meet enough people in this life and you’re bound to bump into a few you’d not mind bumping uglies with.  Sorry if that’s crass… We’re animals.  Choosing not to act on this stuff and resisting temptation has its own rewards though.

Here’s the thing: We are the women that have bore their children, tended to them when they get the man-flu, have seen them cry (yes, men cry) and laugh and everything in between. That kind of intimacy and collateral that builds up over months and years comes at a cost that nobody can ever quantify.  That kind of connection evolves over time and through trials, and it is not for everyone. And, quite often, that intimacy has a life expectancy for some people as well.  Many a couple have gone their separate ways when the kids fly the coop, or if priorities or personalities go too far askew in their trajectory.  This is life.

So I’ve spent the last couple of weeks skimming articles on attraction, relationships, marriage, courtship, physical beauty, sexual desire, and a variety of other subjects that were touched upon in the article and its responses.

I feel no more enlightened, but what I have confirmed is that although there are varied personal and cultural criterion for what people consider attractive, there are also some fairly universal themes.

Here’s a short list of stuff that just about everyone is looking for in a partner and a brief explanation of why:

1)  Symmetry

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Absolute symmetry in the human form is quite simply impossible. But we have an innate ability to seek it out and be attracted to it on both a subconscious and conscious level. While our mammas are making us in their bellies, the cells are striving for health and symmetry as they are being made.  Outward physical appearance of symmetry can be a basic indicator that your parents gave you good genes and you had a nice safe and healthy place to gestate so you’ll have plenty of good genes to pass on yourself.  Not that this is always the case, of course, but it is a thing our brains do consistently in clinical test and daily life.

2)  Health

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Having nice clear whites of your eyes, bright smile, fresh breath, healthy proportional weight, rosy cheeks, red lips, great skin, good muscle tone, etc. These are all generally universally sought after traits.  We’ve even designed ways to “trick” people into thinking we are healthy.  Make-up colours and techniques tend to mimic the naturally occurring facial signs of health.  We also have gravity defying undergarments, platform shoes, fashion tricks like pin stripes to make men look taller and a variety of other tricks and hacks to put our best (and healthiest) face forward.

3)  Posture

Good posture makes you look taller.  Taller is frequently considered more attractive. Posture also exudes an air of confidence, and confidence is something the vast majority of people relate inextricably with attractiveness as well.

4)  Hygiene

Good personal hygiene is obviously attractive.  Different cultures have different definitions of what this actually is. Some cultures are quite keen not to mask their personal musk with such things as perfumes and deodorants, and a strong musky scent is considered just fine.  Other cultures primp and preen and mask personal odor with potions, lotions and scents.  Regardless, there is a conscious and subconscious reaction to the way people smell. Have you ever just been wantonly attracted to someone for no apparent reason, even, horror of horrors if you really thought they were a bit yuck?  You might just be falling prey to pheromones.

5)  Energy levels

People with a lot of energy, even quiet confidence, are generally universally considered more attractive.  Sluggish, slouchy Eeyore types are not going to be imagined as the monster in the sack that most of us are keen to take for a joyride. Neither are they going to be seen as good prospects for genetic material or long term coupling. Humans generally crave comfort, protection, joy and even excitement.  Confident people hold the promise of these things.

Research also states that women have an evolutionary lean towards “bad boys” or “alpha males” or even “beta males” for genetic purposes, as these douche bags tend to have healthy genes (at least, according to our reptilian brains!).  They are good for coitus and procreation and not much else. However, for long-term coupling, the nice guy wins. And I for one, am eternally grateful for this fact, after being mixed up with several lifetimes worth of undeniably beautiful, but absolutely abhorant and appalling bad boys.

Men also crave an excessively brazen hussy on some level.  What is that saying? Men want their wives to be a saint in public and a slut in the sack?  Well, apparently there’s similar biological and evolutionary reasoning for this as well. Highly sexed and fertile women were historically more likely to breed prolifically. That window of the luteal phase of our ovulation where our cheeks flush, our lips plump up, our pupils dilate, and our legs more readily open is our most fertile point, and men are quite receptive to it on both a conscious and reptilian level. Apparently.

Historically, there were other, perhaps less highly sexed women in the household, tribe or village that took on the nurturing roles.  Or in some cases, women who passed their breeding prime took on these roles. This job sharing stuff was quite common until relatively recently, even in Western civilisations.

Even today, in many cultures and tribes phenomena like wet nurses and matriarchs are not uncommon. Cultures and religions that allow the taking of many wives for one wealthy man tend to delegate child-rearing responsibilities.

Modern women in the Western world place upon themselves and have placed upon them lofty expectations of performance, beauty, maternal instinct, youthfulness, success, and even vulnerability.  In modern Western society we are often expected to be perfect and able to do it everything.

Kind of unfair if you ask me.  Women are meant to be hot, ageless, maternal, sexy, independent, dependent, vulnerable, attractive, well behaved, entertaining, tough, kind, nurturing and needy all at once. Pretty tiring, and a tall order even for Wonder Woman. Sadly, gone are the days when households and communities could job share this stuff.  (Not that I am in any hurry to run out and get a sister wife anytime soon!)

Back to the point:

  • Our ideas of what is attractive and important is constantly evolving and in flux.
  • Choosing to be with one partner is not for everyone, and the sacrifices and rewards for making these choice are also constantly in flux.
  • True beauty is a package deal has more to do with compatibility and shared priorities than it ever has to do with symmetry or universal physical attractiveness.
  • The most integral Love affair anyone is ever going to have is with oneself. If you don’t cherish and adore yourself, you’ll end up empty and dissatisfied with or without someone else.

I’ll elaborate if enough people are interested in a second instalment.

It would be fantastic to hear some feedback on this before the next installment.  I realize that it is a bit married mamma centric, but I write about what I know, and what I know is indeed being a married mamma.

Thanks for reading.

XXOO

Dee

 

Random Friday Insights on Friendship

I’d like to talk about friendship.

The best place to start, I think, would be to openly and publicly acknowledge how fortunate I feel daily, considering what a huge pain in the ass I can be, to have the friends I do.  We are surrounded by a multitude of absolutely amazing, supportive, honest, kind, interesting, entertaining, diverse, intelligent and loyal people.

It is a really big deal to be able to say that as an adult, because I was a desperately lonely and undeniably awkward child.  Outside of family, I have only one true friend I have known since childhood.  We were 5 years old when we met.  Neither of us has ever been accused of being normal or conventional.  We both march to the beat of our own drum, and neither of us would be considered mainstream or predictable.  It is an honour to know her.

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I hit my first social stride of having more than just one or two good friends at any given time in University.  I managed to find some like-minded individuals who have popped on and off the radar for nearly two decades now.  Another wave of socially secure relationships blossomed as I entered the workforce and met a gaggle of geeks that I absolutely adore to this day.  Another wave when I started dating my husband and met some of his friends.

The most obvious and seemingly secure influx of social bonds has happened since becoming a parent.  You join a club when you become a breeder.  You have something in common with people whose paths you may never have crossed otherwise.  As your children grow, you come across other parents, and have an amazing icebreaker and common bond that plants a seed of friendship in a way that I never would have thought possible before having children.  Some of the people we’ve met through school and kids activities have become an absolutely integral part of our lives. I am of the opinion that many of these people would have had cause to run away screaming from my rather larger than life personality, were it not for the impetus to get to know me because our kids were friends.

The flip side of the formula that has lead me to the social comfort of the friendships I relish (as there is always a flip side) is that I’ve also earned a few fairly harsh critics and even some genuine haters.  You know you’re doing something right when you have actually earned some haters I think.  In most cases this is worn as a badge of honour, as in most cases, it says a lot more about them than it does me.  Douche-bag and Dee do not mix.  Never have.  Never will.  People who have a nice shiny veneer and very little depth or substance, or those who go through life deeply cognitively dissonant are allergic to me as I am to them.  And that’s perfectly cool.

There are other occasions, when I really like, admire, and/or respect somebody, but we’re simply not compatible for one reason or another.  And that’s okay too.  Frequently when this happens, a relationship at arms length of each other is a very acceptable compromise.  This is also okay.  Other times, there is no compromise and the only reasonable option is avoidance.  I’m really very good at that too.  Perhaps a little too good.  Walking away is something I have grown quite a reputation for.  I’ll unpack that one another day in another post.

I digress.

One of the wonderful things about having little to no filter as both myself and my husband do, is the early and ongoing separation of people who are compatible, and those who are not.  I jump in with both feet and my whole heart when I find someone new and fantastic.  Most people admit to being quite terrified of that level of enthusiasm at first.

One dear friend, who I have seen or spoken to nearly every day for the past few months openly admits to being more than a little stunned (but not put off) when first made aware of my existence.

“I thought you were an absolute lunatic.  Smart, but a lunatic.” She recounted to me one afternoon as we chatted about the old days.

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Despite being a “complete lunatic” most of our friends openly and frequently convey a fondness for us.  Grumpy and I often get praised for our honesty, generosity, humour, acceptance and huge capacity to take people exactly as they are.  It seems strange being venerated for these qualities, as it is always by people who quite effectively mirror them back at us.

So what am I trying to say today?

I guess I can sum it up like this:

Life is short.  Time is precious.  We’re all very busy.  Healthy human relationships that last for moments or lifetimes are an absolute necessity for getting through this life.

Take the time to find people who fill you up and make you want to be a better, kinder, more effective person and openly appreciate them when you get the chance.  Opening yourself up makes you vulnerable of course, but the rewards are immeasurable.

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You will sometimes be surprised where you find them.

Be generous and genuine with your appreciation of people.  We all feel under-appreciated at times, and saying thank you to someone can be the difference between a disastrous and delightful day.

A series of bombshells and bad news has culminated this week.  Some of it has to do with me directly, some of it is more peripheral.  But I received a message – both through Facebook DM and text that completely buoyed me.  The woman that sent it is a pathological over-achiever, a gorgeous human being, an amazing and dedicated mother, a huge influence in mine and many other people’s lives, and is working her way to being a national and international expert on a very real and controversial social issue.  The message read:

“Hi Dee, just want you to know that you are an angel to so many people.  You are one of life’s shining lights xxxxxxxxxx”

Yeah, I cried a little when I read it.  Especially because we’ve had to make some really hard decisions and face some really tough realities after getting kicked quite squarely in the guts after trying tirelessly to do the right thing.

Now, the truth is, I get persecuted for openly and frequently sharing gratitude and compliments on social media and in life.  Some people will accuse you, as they have me, of being disingenuous, gushy.  Be assured, every time I offer a kind word or compliment it is absolutely in earnest.

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Opening yourself up to people is hard.  Trusting people totally leaves you vulnerable.  Knowing when to hang onto friendships and when to say enough is enough is a difficult an inexact art.  But the relationships we forge add substance to life, give us context, and, provided they are real and true friendships, help us to look at the bits of ourselves that are difficult to accept.  Healthy and supportive friendships make the good times better, and the dark times bearable.

So if you are reading this, and you are my friend IRL or more frequently online than in the real world, THANK YOU!

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Have a great weekend.

 

What Seems to be Working (So Far Anyway)

This is the first time I’ve had a moment to sit down and blog, so I’m a week late getting the second installment of the “Happy Hobbit Tenth Anniversary Special Edition” online.  I’ve also missed sharing a Birthday Blog for Daniel with you all on his actual birthday, however, I’ll get that out soon as well.

I need to take a few paragraphs to share with you how I see Grumpy, and to take liberties to describe how I believe he sees me, and then I’ll scratch the surface of some of the things that seem to keep us together after all these years.

Everyone who knows us likens Grumpy to this fictional character:

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(Note that he’s wearing a green t-shirt with the iconic “reduce-reuse-recycle” emblem?  Yeah, that’s kinda a big thing with us too…)

In my eyes, Steve is absolutely, astoundingly, and breathtakingly gorgeous.  After well over a decade together, he still makes me swoon, gives me beautiful stomach butterflies and weakens my hobbity knees with just a single word or gesture and I can end up a very happy puddle of wife wrapped safely in his waiting arms.  He is funny, handsome, sexy, cute, smart (oh my giddy AUNT is he smart!), vulnerable, complicated, kind, endlessly interesting, moral, good, genuine, tenacious, loyal, patient, a wonderful father, an amazing friend and an incurable romantic.

On the other hand, however… He can be teeth-itchingly lazy, thoughtless, cruel, callous, tactless, selfish, self absorbed, gross and utterly infuriating and impossible to deal with or get through to.

Here’s a collection of characters and people that remind me of Grumpy (you may or may not agree):

Mr. Darcy – Because everyone thinks he’s dark and grumpy and gruff, when in reality he is just the kindest, most forthright, upstanding, romantic dark eyed bucket of delicious EVER!

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Dr. House – We really enjoyed watching this together, and the brutal honesty and atheist sentiment demonstrated by House (who, lets face it, was messed up but a fairly phenomenally smart and decent guy) always reminded me of my Grumpy.  I’m religious, he finds that quite hilarious.

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There’s quite a few more, but I’ve already run out of time as I need to pack and we’re flying home today, and on top of that trying to get to Universal Studios first.

On the surface, we seem to be very different indeed.  I am loud, he is not.  I am rash, he is pedantic.  I am fickle, he is tenacious.  I am incessantly cheerful, he is notoriously grumpy.  I believe in just about anything, he is is systematically skeptical and requires evidence and sound logical reasoning.

To get REALLY cheesy – cause, in for a penny in for a pound – he is my sun and I am his moon.  He is constant and bright and sustaining, and I am changeable and mysterious responsible for wreaking havoc and creating calm in varying degrees and cycles.

So here is a brief list of the things that Grumpy and I have discussed over the past few days that we feel keep us together, and generally, pretty happy (most of the time).

PART ONE

1)  Laughter

2)  Honesty and trust

3)  A sizeable dose of insecurity

4)  Affection

5)  Tolerance and forgiveness

PART TWO (I’ll get this up after I land back home in NZ)

1) Generosity & being remarkably cheap

2) Core values

3) Kids

4) Adventures

5) Kindess

So let’s jump right in shall we.

Laughter:

It was fairly apparent very early on that Grumpy and I shared a somewhat strange and perhaps slightly dark sense of humour.  We are both foul-mouthed and notably lacking in our ability to filter or exercise decorum or restraint in many situations.

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In our home and our marriage, very little is sacred, and we use humour to soften the blows of some fairly heavy issues, both personally and in a wider more universal sense.

The things that we find funny would probably offend the sensibilities of many.  We are not dainty, or prim, or delicate.  Bodily functions are oft hilarious, swearing is standard, laughing at ourselves as well as each-other is compulsory, and “inside jokes” are rife within our family and inner sanctum of close friends.

Ours is a house where we laugh loud and often.  Our children learn the subtleties of sarcasm at a staggeringly young age.  Tantrums and bratty behavior (from grown ups as well as the children) are received with glib humour or met with merciless mocking.  The phrase “well, that’s just not FAIR!” is almost always responded to with such affirmative responses as: “You’re right, it isn’t fair, welcome to life kiddo, you’ve got a long way and a whole lot more injustice to shovel through yet.”

Not everyone understands or appreciates Hobbity humour, but the ones who do “get” us seem to appreciate our openness and appreciation of joy and use of laughter to defuse situations and make the journey through life a bit more bearable.

I will, however, say that we do not find cruelty or meanness funny.  While there is an element of finding schadenfreude a bit amusing (we laugh while crying after hitting a funny bone, or if there’s been a tumble and we’ve assessed that nothing is broken or maimed) we do not tolerate openly mean or subjugating humour or smugness.  Because, well, it just isn’t funny.  Mean sucks.  There is no place for callousness or cruelty in our home or hearts, and people who have a propensity towards it don’t last long in our world.

Honesty and Trust:

We do not mince words, we do not keep secrets, and neither of us is the jealous or insecure type.

Both of us are insatiable flirts.  We enjoy affection and attention, and seem to do better as a couple knowing that we are still able to turn the odd head.

Not sure how normal it is, but both of us find it quite a compliment to see other people appreciate our partner, and still be absolutely sure, that we’re going home together as we always do.

We have both thought or felt things that weren’t ideal from time to time.  Talking about these things and working through them together, either with or without a third person to counsel us when things are particularly dire, has kept us together after some events that would quite reasonably be expected to end most unions.

The most important aspect of trust between us seems to be the absolute and tacit truth that each of us holds the others heart, happiness and well-being as paramount.  I am genuinely happier to witness joy in my husband than I am to experience it first hand.  Steve puts my safety, comfort and happiness above his own without even realizing he does it.  Loving and trusting another human being with all of who you are, and potentially for eternity, means you are constantly vulnerable, so it is going to be a much more successful union when it is maintained by two people who are similarly matched in their Love and appreciation for the other.  Does that make sense?  I guess all I am attempting to say here, is that we are both “givers” not so much “takers” and we implicitly trust the other to respect and protect the other’s needs, desires and emotions.  I trust that his happiness is tied to mine, and he trusts that mine is to his, and it is all achieved and demonstrated on an almost subliminal level.  Too deep?  I’ll move on.

And it really ought to be said that there are times when one or both of us just acts like a total selfish jerk too… So it isn’t all smooth sailing I assure you.

Insecurity:

Neither of us had an idyllic past.  Perhaps nobody on earth really does, (unless they are imagining it as some sort of defence mechanism).  The result of both of us having our hearts ripped out or trod on, suffering blistering rejection, or surviving a number of failed relationships prior to finding each other, has left a lasting, but undeniably useful scars on both of us.

Neither of us think that we are the object of bona fide sexual desire of objectification from others.  Neither of us has a propensity toward narcissism or egocentric activity.  Both of us feel unspeakably blessed to have found another human being who accepts them completely, with all our flaws and all our foibles.

Being undeniably insecure, and more than a little bit needy, also means that we both crave attention and affection, from each other as well as other people.  Positive affirmation from strangers and friends alike is kind of like crack to us, which, fits in well with the honesty and trust part of the recipe that keeps us going after all these years.   We flirt.  A lot.  But both choose to remain monogamous and faithful because it is what works for us.  We have friends with open relationships, we have friends who are vehemently protective of their partners and get quite jealous over very little indeed.  Neither of these extremes suits us, and there’s a constant and evolving dialogue between us about what is acceptable and what is not.  Lines occasionally get crossed, but we always find our way back to each other and the safe place that we’ve built together over the years.  I am thankful every day to be adored and desired by Grumpy, and he, apparently, feels the same way about me.  I am not sure that we would feel that way about each other and our relationship after all this time if we hadn’t suffered a lot of heart break, sowed a lot of wild oats, had our hearts broken, or if we had actually found social and romantic relationships terribly easy in our past.

Quite apart from wanting to be seen in a positive light by others, we both seem to find a solace and perfection in each other, and ourselves, that I can’t imagine ever being matched.  After more than a decade of sleeping next to this man, and seeing him virtually every single day, I still stop in mid-sentence sometimes just to admire how absolutely gorgeous I truly think he is.   He still kisses me passionately and wraps his rather lovely strong arms around me several times a day…

Which brings us neatly to the next point:

Affection:

Seems to us, that the thing about affection, is comparable requirements and thresholds.

We are exceptionally affectionate physically and emotionally.  I am a hugger, and Grumpy is… well… he’s a bit “handsy” sometimes, and he has trouble not vocally appreciating a beautiful woman or a bountiful bosom.

Hundreds of hugs and kisses are exchanged in our household every week, and we are very cuddly with our friends and family as well.

In our marriage, we hold hands and are off the charts with PDA (Public Displays of Affection).  We fit in so well in South America, where kissing and touching each other is quite common and acceptable.  Neither of us enjoyed Dubai, as it was imperative that we not even hold hands in public there.  Than kind of restraint is simply not Hobbit compatible.

In a more conventional sense, over the years, we seem to have either developed, or become accustomed to, similar… um… appetites I suppose?  If more than a few days pass without some conjugal visiting, it is rare.  And if one of us is tired, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll “take one for the team” and be glad of it.  But every couple is different.  Again, it seems ideal to just find a balance that works and try and stick to that.  Again, it probably has more than a little bit to do with the fact that we both feel quite lucky to have someone to be absolutely attracted to that feels the same way back.  Well, most of the time.

Tolerance and forgiveness:

The thing about being completely and inextricably intertwined with another human being, is that sometimes, that person is absolutely your LEAST favourite thing in the whole wide world.

Every relationship has bugbears.  Every relationship has the list of things that are a constant source or conflict or frustration.

When we met, we had both been through the proverbial ringer and were more than a little averse to the prospect of any relationship, let alone the forever that ours would evolve into.

The upshot of that, was that there was no “putting our best face forward” during the early days of courting.  Steve got to see my crazy very early on in the piece, as I did his, and the fact neither of us were intimidated or too concerned with the particular brand of broken demonstrated by the other set the foundation for our own strange brand of happily ever after.

We are both still quite capable of doing terrible, thoughtless, stupid or destructive things (to ourselves and each other).  The ability to work through them, communicate, and keep moving forward after a particularly impressive blow to our heart or our relationship is imperative to our union.

I have an uncanny ability to hold a grudge, be very mean, stubborn and argumentative.  Steve has almost no desire (or maybe even ability) to be a rescuer or act as my knight in shining armour.  He loathes conflict, so he generally makes me fight my own battles, sometimes to the peril of our relationship. I need a good blow out from time to time, and he waits calmly for the storm to pass.  There’s an extensive list of his faults and mine, and they come to the forefront from time to time and we fight.  Oh my word, can we fight.  So far, when we do, the result tends to be a greater understanding and closeness. Even when one or both of us is absolutely fed up and over the other, it is quite clear that we are both better off together than apart.  So together we remain.

Neither of us is perfect, we are both capable of being terrible, thoughtless or even quite cruel from time to time.  We always find each other again after a particularly big shake up in our relationship.  It is never too difficult to dig a little and be reminded of what keeps us together, and how lucky we both feel to have someone who is genuinely on our side.  But it is a work in progress, and it requires a great deal of tolerance and forgiveness, of ourselves as well as each other.

Tune in at some later date – which could be days or weeks away when I manage to finish off this amazingly lengthy blog.

Thank you for taking the time to read this stuff.  I hope you find some value in doing so 🙂

XXOO

Dee

Ten Years Down the Road – Part ONE – The Hobbits Meet and Marry

So I had a number of options for this.  A teeth-itching and overly sweet homage to the many things I Love about Grumpy.  Erm.  Nah.

Then I thought I could do a nice cheesy “Secrets to a successful marriage” thing for you all to read.  Upon reflection, I realized that our marriage is not always a raging success, and what works for us could very well be just the thing that ruins a different couple’s union.  So no, I won’t do that either.

What I will do is tell you how we met, what it is like being a part of team Happy Hobbit, tell you what works for us and why, and then share with you some pictures of our first wedding.  Like these ones!

ImageImageImage

This is going to take two, possibly three instalments to get through, but if nobody reads the first part (How the Hobbits Met) then perhaps I won’t bore you with further insight into the intimate workings of Hobbity Happily Every After…  We shall see.

On with the story of how we met.

Way back in what our children refer to as “the olden days” or, sometimes also known as “the time before time” I had an amazing job as the sales and marketing manager for a small but mighty ISP.

About this same time, Grumpy was enjoying the momentum of releasing his first successful commercial product, and working on making some new fangled DJ stuff that would revolutionize the music industry (or so I’ve heard it said).

He and I lived and worked in the magical city of Auckland New Zealand.  We shared many of the same interests, even a handful of mutual friends; yet, until one fateful phonecall in 2002, our paths had never crossed (that we know of).

Steve’s good friend and flatmate Blair was interested in starting a web hosting company.  So, being the renowned persnickety geek that he is, he offered to do some research to help Blair source the best possible co-location and hosting solution he could get for his money.

Little did our grumpy protagonist know that this search would lead him not only to a fast, friendly, fully redundant, and exceedingly well priced network; it would also lead him right into the waiting arms of fate and the rest of his life.

I answered the phone, in my usual enthusiastic manner.  After several dozen months of intense training (drinking Guinness with the system administrators and learning about how the Internets work) I had gleaned enough information on “getting the packets through” to hold my own when conversing with potential clients of various technical knowledge and ability.

Steve Hoek was my most formidable challenge to date.  He wanted to know everything from SLA (Service Level Agreements) to uptimes, to latency, to costing, to contracts… Whew.  What a royal pain in the ass he was.  But he was nice, and openly impressed with my knowledge and the non-salesperson approach I took to dealing with him.  I was not pushy and I didn’t make things up, and if he asked a question to which I had no answer, I’d go and call Sneep (the network administrator) and get the answer before responding.

Hmmmm. I wonder if I should mention I kinda had a boyfriend at this point.  Nah, that just makes me sound like a bit of a jerk, and probably make this story extra long and confusing.  (Besides, I always kinda had a boyfriend.)

On with the story.

So the day came for a network tour.

No big deal.  I did these all the time.

Off to the NOC (Network Operation Centre) I went to await the arrival of a potential new co-location customer.

Steve was accompanied by his business partner AJ, and his good friend Blair.

He drove up in an RX7.  I was duly unimpressed, and assumed that this (VERY attractive man) was a total douche.  He had a goatee (yuck, I hate facial hair) and drove a red rocket sports car.  Not at all the stock standard aloof-kindhearted-train-wreck- of-a-man I tended to go for.

I didn’t think much of our meeting.

Steve, on the other hand, was deep in the throws of lust at first sight.

So, he asked me out, I did not disclose the fact I had a boyfriend (in my defense, because I knew that relationship was doomed anyway). And to be fair, he didn’t ask me out, so much as ask me to his flatwarming. And I stood him up, dealing with soon-to-be-ex boyfriend dramas.

Around this time both Steve and I had independently reached the conclusion that relationships weren’t for us. Too much drama, too much stress.

There was much to-ing and fro-ing between us, but long story short, we couldn’t stay away from each other.  I tried to fight the urge to fall into a relationship with this tiny but terrifically toned man.  At this point, I had already laid down the law and told him that no matter where we were heading, there was no point pursuing a relationship with me unless he could accept the fact I DEMANDED children one day.  That chat occurred on our second “official” date.

We’d been dating for a few weeks at this point, but he hadn’t “put out” as it were by then.  A new and strange concept to me entirely.  We spent a great deal of time together, and slept in the same bed frequently either at his place or mine where we would watch movies and chat until the wee small hours of the morning.

His father died on Boxing day 2002, and we had already planned a road trip together for New Years Eve to the mountain as I was going to teach him how to ski.  I was invited to the funeral.  And that, was the day that I fell absolutely, undeniable, irrefutably, completely and eternally in Love with him.  It had been coming on for a while, but seeing how he was with his ex-girlfriends, and his mother that day.  Well, that sealed the deal and both of our fates for eternity.

He read “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” for his father who had so loved the sea.

We spent our first road trip away together at The Hobbit motel in Ohakune.  We ate a nice dinner, and the next day I abandoned him completely to figure out on his own how to ski (“make wide turns!”) and headed off on my own to carve up some runs.

A few weeks later in January, he had to go off with his silly little company Serato to a trade-show in Anaheim California to demonstrate a new DJ product he’d been working on for some time.

He came home, got dropped off on my doorstep, and just never left.  He proposed in March, and we were married on January 24th 2004.

And that… is the story of how we met.

Tonight I will type out some details about how I figure it is we’ve weathered our storms and still rather like each other (most of the time) and you may or may not find it helpful.

Thank you so much for tuning in.

Looking forward to sharing more of our story with you soon.

Off to the Science and Technology Museum with our eldest son now.

XXOO

My Response to a Fantastic Article on Calling Women Crazy

I haven’t read an article quite so confronting since the article that prompted me to write a blog that included a picture of myself inebriated in Fiji wearing little more than a mini-skirt and leopard print bra.  That article was about the shocking self-hatred and body image issues that have perpetuated in women for generations.  This one was about calling women crazy.

What a can of worms has been opened.

I was so upset that I actually ventured out of the house to the regular Thursday night gathering at two of our best friends’ home and I sat in the living room, and I read the article aloud to a dear friend Polina who has just returned from Russia, and I cried.  I have gone there perhaps a dozen times in over four years.

My own unique brand of genuine mental illness involves a brilliant array of symptoms, including a strange, and difficult to explain social anxiety.  Despite being a loud, gregarious, and vivacious personality, I have a hard time leaving the safety of my home to engage in social activities.  I adore entertaining at our house, and I get out of my front door to do other things no problem.  I am certainly not agoraphobic.  I very much like attending business meetings and networking and schmoozing.  I have a travel addiction that would make your head spin. Every one of my children have been on an international flight within four weeks of their birth, and I could quite happily live out of a suitcase indefinitely and be in a new city or country every few days.  I miss the comfort and safety of home and friendships back in NZ when I travel, but this is eclipsed by the non-committal and brief relationships I get to engage in as I meet new people on buses, planes, in queues and elevators etc.  While I absolutely and genuinely adore and appreciate my (our) friends, the thin skin and extreme empathy that tortures this lady means any social interaction, while exhilarating, is also extremely depleting and draining as the thoughts and feelings of the people I spend time with actually “get in” and dwell in me and I am left with an overwhelming desire to help or comfort them because, well, I probably Love them more than I do myself I suppose.  So any social interaction involving someone I care about means I give not only a long warm hug, but I give a part of myself, and also feel compelled to fill up space with noise and laughter which is at times very draining as well.

Beating people to the punchline.  A gutsy defence mechanism or just self deprecating?  Probably both…

We’re all a bit nuts. Admitting it and dealing with it is okay.

That long-winded rant may not help the case I am attempting to make in this article.

I shall leave it in though.  As it’s important that this post be somewhat visceral and inarguably real, because if you’re taking the time to read this I want you to understand just how raw the nerve that was touched actually is.

Okay.

Deep-breath Dee.  You can do this.  You are the absolute queen of the over-share.

Mismanaging my own and other people’s mental illness

A defence mechanism that I’ve evolved is to very openly and publicly admit and share my struggles with genuine mental illness, as well as my many quirks and eccentricities.  I do this in the hopes that it may take away the sting of people calling me crazy.  I beat them to the punch every time by peppering conversations with mean or invalidating personal comments like: “But that’s only because I am bat-shit cray cray.” Or “It’s okay, I’m not offended, everyone knows I am proper crazy.” Or “But then again, what do I know, I’m not exactly the poster girl for mental health.”  I am going to try and curb this, and I’ll tell you why later.

Beating people to the punch.  A gutsy defence mechanism or just self deprecation?  Perhaps it is both.

Beating people to the punch. A gutsy defence mechanism or just self deprecation? Perhaps it is both.

I have to admit, I am also as guilty as most at dismissing some situations and interactions I don’t like by chucking in the “yeah, but that’s fine, because they’re just next level crazy” stamp.  You know what, sometimes people are impossible, and their own worst enemy.  I could tell you stories about bullies at work, mean girls, sexual harassment, terrible clients, and a handful of ex-boyfriends that would make your hair curl (most of whom were lovely and are now happily married to gorgeous, kind women and raising equally gorgeous kind children – but wow, I tried to save a few total jerks as well, before I met Grumpy) Even when dealing with the biggest basket of irrational or deluded you can imagine, I try desperately to be kind and appreciate their struggle. I put forth a huge effort never to marginalize them or their feelings.  If they have recognized their issues and or are trying to be a better person, they deserve a fair shake and some extra understanding as far as I am concerned.  A recent run-in with a very difficult character indeed meant that the other people involved with this person were keen to knock them down or attack the struggles that they were going through with mental illness and addiction issues.  Although completely taken aback and fed up with this person, I did not attack them personally – even in retaliation, as boy oh boy did they attack me. Because they are in the process of trying to sort themselves out, I made a conscious decision to drop it.  (My husband just reminded me that at the time I actually very much wanted to retaliate.) I won’t be inviting this person to our re-wedding, but I also wish them no ill.

Saying that, I have very little tolerance for people who use mental illness or make excuses for seriously amoral or damaging behaviour.  We are all working through stuff, and we all have to coexist, so appreciate other people’s struggles and sensitivities as much as you can and show some respect.  Just because you have been diagnosed with a social, mental or physical disorder, or are depressed, or going through a particularly tough time, does not give you the right to be a creep or a jerk.  It may mean that you have to work considerably harder at certain things and put in more effort to be gentle with those around you, but it does not give you a get-out-of-jail-free card to do despicable things.

Trying not to be a jerk is something we all have to put more effort into sometimes...

Trying not to be a jerk is something we all have to put more effort into sometimes…

Lets look at this a little deeper at this “crazy” label shall we?

How “crazy” is someone who:

–      Laughs loud and often

–      Is raising happy and healthy children

–      Enjoys a diverse range of meaningful, stable and fulfilling relationships

–      Owns and operates an increasingly strong and successful business (even after a very rocky start indeed)

–      Is happily married to a kind and brilliant man

–      Can keep several dozen projects in motion at any given time

–      Almost always has a kind word for strangers and friends

–      Openly admits to having a vast array of flaws and foibles and chooses to learn from them rather than lament them and stagnate

–      Have absolutely extraordinary bursts of productivity and achievement

–      Frequently faces fears head on

–      Rarely shies away from adventure or misses opportunities

–      Doesn’t just like, but LOVES the absolute crap out of things

Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm

No apologies please :-)

No apologies please 🙂

Yes, there are times when I completely lose the plot.  This can be tied to hormones, events, or stress.  It is true that there have been times I need to be swept up off the floor and given some serious recovery time before being able to get “back in the ring” and fight the next round in life.

However, I genuinely believe that I get better, and stronger, and smarter every year.  I am becoming the kind of person I would be absolutely honored to know and spend time with.  I achieve this with the help of some seriously amazing, deliciously diverse, painstakingly patient, and brutally honest friends and family.

So here’s what I think we should all aim to do when dealing with our own or other’s genuine mental illness:

1) Admit and acknowledge that we’re all broken.

We’re all dealing with stuff.  We all lose our shit from time to time and we all hit walls that we can’t easily get around.  Admit it, and do not use it as a weapon or a tool to nominalize people or their emotions.

2) Use humor- but be kind

It is a fine line between accepting and making light of a serious issue like mental health, but I think it is important that we try and find that fine balance.

laughing_0

It is a fine line sometimes between making someone feel like you are laughing with them, or at them. With them GOOD. At them… not.

The one person who is both the most supportive and at times the biggest jerk is my beloved husband.  He can say and do some remarkably hurtful and unnecessary things – and is notoriously bad at not being able to pick up cues short of being screamed at to shut it when he has crossed a line.  He drops a great deal of “BBC – Bitches Be Crazy!” and “Whoa baby, you’ve had an extra steaming hot cup of crazy today haven’t you?” Sometimes, I can absolutely handle this and find it quite freeing to share a laugh with him about this stuff, other times it is just the trigger to send me into quite a tailspin.

So this suggestion is a difficult one, as it can backfire terribly.

I do feel, that discussing difficult things in a lighter manner and couched in humor can take a lot of the sting away and make it easier to deal with.

3) NEVER stoop to gaslighting or emotional manipulation

Movie poster that coined the term gas lighting

Movie poster that coined the term gas lighting

If, when dealing with a person or situation that makes you uncomfortable or the outcome looks as though it may not swing you your favour, you hear/catch yourself pointing out a person’s mental illness, or insinuating that they are somehow broken or crazy, you are probably gaslighting.

Work very hard not to.

Sometimes the mentally ill can be irrational, difficult, even delusional or hysterical.  Sometimes you are just being an asshole.  Work really hard to be honest with yourself and them about which one is happening when you’re dealing with people please.

4) Know the difference between enabling and supporting people with mental illness

Back to the honesty thing.  Sometimes you’ll have to have some hard talks with your mentally ill friends and loved ones.  About their behavior, about your concern for them.

The razor thin line my nearest and dearest tread with me when I am having an episode is the line between confronting an issue or incident of concern in a way that makes me prepared to face it and learn from it, or simply lose my shit completely.

A less than useful (although, inarguably sometimes VERY useful) coping mechanism I employ in life is abruptly and completely ending relationships.

I cut people off completely and indefinitely and never EVER look back.  This won’t happen with the inner-most sanctum (husband, nuclear family, oldest and dearest friends) but it is a thing that I do that weighs heavily on people who Love me or so I have been told.

However, this is not an excuse to pussy foot around issues, and allowing me to get my way for fear I may toss my toys out of the cot and cut you off is not a valid excuse to let me be an asshole.

I think the same logic can be employed with anyone you deal with, diagnosed mental illness or not.

Be frank but fair, and know who they are and act with respect, Love and concern, and if the relationship is strong enough to weather the storms it will be rich and rewarding indeed.

5) Try not to trivialise or play the victim when dealing with mental health issues

Underplaying serious concerns or ignoring things because they are tough or uncomfortable is not going to help you or your loved ones.

Know when you are out of your depth, and seek intervention and support when you are.  This is relevant for those personally dealing with concerns, as well as their support networks.

6) Be gentle, but honest

Use kind words. Avoid blame. Don’t generalize.  Know the difference between the illness and the person.  Don’t bring up the past as a weapon.

Hang on, but also know when to walk away.

It is a delicate and difficult dance indeed.  And I look forward to hearing more about other people’s journey’s dealing with this stuff personally or supporting loved ones through them.

7) Know when to ask for help or intervention 

When a problem is getting to the point it consumes you, and you no longer feel control of it.  Get. Some. Help.

8) Be calm

My husband insisted I put this in.  And he is absolutely calm – to the point it drives me around the bend.  Sometimes I crave a reaction from him, but he’s gotten so good at weathering my storms and riding my rollercoaster.  Literally anything I have thrown at him so far in our lives together has hardly ruffled a feather.

Don’t think for a moment I married a saint.  He has faults a plenty, but when it comes to dealing with his wife, and the many other diagnosed mentally ill humans in our life,  he is always a beacon of strength and calm.

9) Stick to the facts

Self explanatory.  Don’t make things up, don’t embellish, don’t gaslight, don’t be a jerk basically.

10) Avoid attack and defence

As in any human interaction or any communication punctuated sequence of events, there is a risk of a small thing escalating to a very big thing.  Defensiveness and offensiveness is a sure fire way to turn a potentially useful and valuable event or interaction into a total clusterfuck where nobody wins and nothing is achieved.

11) Don’t try to “fix” people

Know who you are dealing with, and know the difference between them and their disease.

You can’t change people.  They have to do that for themselves.

Know when to walk away, and know when to stick around, but don’t ever wait for someone to become something you want them to be.

You will only be empty and disappointed.

Celebrate the great things, acknowledge and face those things you do not like, but don’t every expect someone to become the kind of person you want them to be.  They are who they are, and if that isn’t enough for you to stick around, then walk away.

12) Know the difference between the disease and the person, and remind yourself of this when things get tough

Again, self explanatory.

WHEW!

What a marathon.

Disclaimer:

This is just my own personal observations and meanderings.  I am not a qualified mental health professional, or a relationship expert.  I am just someone who is fascinated by human relationships and communication, and these are just words on a screen that I am sharing with you based on my own extensive experiences with successful and unsuccessful relationships.

I am absolutely a self proclaimed feminist, and therefore, stooping to “bitches be crazy” or peppering your brain, your language or your behaviour with offensive and inaccurate shit or eluding to all women being crazy is so counter productive on so many levels and you (and I) need to try and sort that shit out.

Watch how you talk.  It affects how you think.  And that affects how you behave.  And that affects who you are.

Hope it was worth the read.

Please feel free to get in touch and comment.

XXOO