Tuesday, 6 December 2016

199-1/365 To be a better person

 I have just been catching up on posts (about two weeks late) over at Just for Today here and the truly lovely lovely Annete always seems to make my heart expand, my eyes to see with more compassion and my brain to think "Jeez, you really need to be a nicer person!" - that would be me not Annette that brain is speaking about.

Maybe this last 2 months has been the space I have needed to step back and reassess what is going on in my life, who I am, how I am, what I want to be when I grow up do with the rest of my life. This combination of chest infection, exhaustion, depression, peri menopause, fuzzy headed, shaky legs etc is a massive HALT sign designed to stop the chatter, lose the obligations, stop the worry and just BE. Maybe there is nothing really wrong with me except overwhelm with it all. I do feel like I have been a hamster on a wheel or running on a treadmill knowing that I was stressed, unhappy, tired, juggling, worried, stressed, bored, [insert your own word here] and at times I almost felt as though I was watching myself and realising that I needed to stop but also being so deep in it I didn't know what to do or how to stop. Apologies if that reads like gobbledegook, I know what I mean. My body has two responses to overwhelm usually, a migraine or lately a chest infection. I have been fighting, resisting and trying to prove I can be strong and dependable but it didn't seem to be working and so my system threw a spanner in the works.

So back to being a nicer person. As I have had time on my hands and time to ponder the bigger questions in life I have noticed that I am not quite the likeable , kind, happy soul I used to be. I commented on my last post that I was now making a bigger effort to say hi to people and try and make someone's day better but this really only came sharply into focus when my friend was over from Chicago. It reminded me of how I was when I lived there and I wondered in fact if my friend would think I was a bitter shrivelled old shrew compared to the person she knew. BRIT BASHING ALERT - we are not always the most welcoming people, especially in London where it is more about being purposeful and hurried than rude but compared to friendly talkative mid-westerners it can appear unfriendly. I clearly remember when I came back to London after 10 years in Chicago, someone sneezed on the 07:23 to Victoria and I said "Bless you" and just about everyone in the carriage looked startled and stared at me. Now I am not saying America is all sparkles, sunshine and rainbows (especially now) but people are friendlier and more talkative, they are interested in you and very polite. I am not an Ameriphile but I did really enjoy my time there and felt happier and more ME than ever before.  We Brits have a reputation for being reserved and polite but is it just me that thinks we have gone too far the other way? I watched and remembered times in Chicago with my friend as she negotiated her way around London and Cornwall, where she would pass a pleasent little aside about the weather or how beautiful it was here and how excited she was to be here in England only to be met with stony silence, a job required smile or just transaction minimalism "here's your change" - no one asked where she was from, was she enjoying it here, how long was she staying etc. Same in Cornwall except for one guide at St Michaels Mount who appeared really interested and happy to talk.  In hindsight, maybe I enjoyed living in America because I could guarantee everyday I would be spoken to, engaged with, questioned on my reasons for being in America etc. I loved it 99.9% of the time as occasionally when you are in a big hurry you would rather skip the history of how you made it stateside to get on the train departing in 3 minutes.

But I am not Brit-bashing exactly, I am ME-bashing. The fact that I stopped trying, stopped engaging, stopped being friendly when I came back. I had a series of bad luck my first 6 months back including my mum dying 4 months after I came back and moving in with a woman whom after about 4 weeks it appeared she was either selling drugs or sex from the apartment shared with myself and my 7 year old. Quick exit, no returned deposit! Rather than bounce back from all these events I shoved them down inside along with my friendliness and give a damn and so entered a newer harder more bitter and resentful Ginger. Fast forward and all life's arrows had hardened me further, increased the bitterness and resentment and added a very unhealthy wine habit into the mix. All of a sudden I realised I hated my life, my attitude, my house, my job, this country, the way I had raised my daughter these last 9 years, how much life I had wasted, my financial disaster, how much I was drinking, everything. I hated everything.

So here I am six months into my alcohol free journey and I have had this complete breakdown breakthrough (that belongs to Brene Brown, not me) where I am surveying the landscape looking for bits I recognise. I can blame returning to England or I can blame a run of less than ideal choices, I can even blame drinking but I have realised all this blame doesn't move me forward it just keeps me stuck in all the old bitterness, regret and resentment. I need to let all that go and look with new eyes free from the negative filter I have been employing for the past 10 years. I can try to engage with people more and be friendly and open and I am pretty well sure I will get some positive feedback, maybe not from everyone but from some. That negative filter became very fine tuned this trip to London after my friend commented that people weren't very friendly here, so basically I went around looking for evidence to prove her right. I don't think she was paying too much attention herself, she carried on being friendly and open whereas I was by her side with my own agenda counting up each slight and tallying up how rude WE Brits were. If you look for bad don't you always find it.? Well now I am going to be looking for the good more and was it Gandhi that said "Be the change you want to see"

I also need to mend fences with my daughter who is not blameless, she has been a real bitch to be honest recently but I am the mom and the grown up and I need to stop acting like a teenager myself when I deal with her as that is not a healthy dynamic. In the the words of  the AA verse Just for Today (and the name of Annette's blog) ' I will not show anyone that my feelings are hurt; they may be hurt, but today I will not show it' because that is my go to reaction, hurt feelings and pouty face, always hoping that will be enough to change the other persons attitude 'Look at me, you have hurt my feelings. Feel bad and comfort me'  We have been at war for weeks now and just when I think we are back on level ground, she blasts me with another litany of things I have done wrong and how horrible I am etc
So I have decided that I am going to try and be the change I want to see here and deal with her in a different way. Not sure how this will work out and not sure how accepted it will be but i cant just give up on this or it will just get worse. I mention Annette over at Just For Today because I find her very inspiring as a mother and someone I would like to model more in how I deal with my daughter. Also she is just a very kind and generous soul with how she supports and helps people.

I will apologise to anyone who has been offended by what I have written here today about Brits, American Mid-westerners, Londoners and the Cornish and disagrees with my views but untimately it is more myself I am judging so please don't get too mad.

Goal for today is to reach a detente cordial with my daughter so we can try to at least sit down together and talk. The rest of it can wait for another day.

Ginger Groundhog

25 comments:

  1. GG you are being hard on yourself. It seems to be a phase we all go through and I guess it is part of the healing process. Be sure to kind to yourself first and then the kindness can flow through to others. :)

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    1. Thank you for that and yes since writing this I have been beating myself up for alienating half my readers. Arrgghh I get so mad when I second guess myself and then worry obsessively after the fact. Will try to let it go now.

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  2. Hey Ginger
    In my quest for answers and leading a happy life, I found this advice helps. We all see life through our own lense and point of view and come into situations looking for affirmation that what we think is correct. This is all done a little subconsciously. For example if you think Brits are not friendly, you are looking for signs to prove you right. To affirm what you think. I posted awhile back about a manager that I could not stand and whenever he sent an email to me of any sort, I had an attitude about it before I even read it. I would already dismiss it as being a waste of time. Now I am trying to come into situations or interactions with people without emotions good or bad, just neutral and trying to be open and present to see what is really going on, not let past events or the stories I tell myself of how things are to influence my interactions. I have found this to be really helpful when dealing with my own kids. I am not sure I explained it quite correctly but if you are already assuming " Brits are not friendly" You are entering every encounter with that thought and therefore looking for proof that you are right. If you came into it without any prejudgment or opinion you may find that you see things more clearly.
    Stop telling yourself that you are all these negatives things, you are not. I am sure all your blog readers would say that you are inspirational, positive, supportive, helpful, open and strong!!
    xoxooxox
    TWTIK

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    1. Thanks TWTIK, i agree with everything you say and I agree that we look for evidence to support our beliefs. I need to change the original thought first which is where I want to be on a daily basis. We are all works in progress aren't we.

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  3. It's not just putting down the bottle, is it? Supportive vibes from me, as you navigate your way through this. xx (And as a Brit living in Canada, and having spent lots of time in the USA - I too noticed how "reserved" us Brits are, on our home turf)

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    1. Ha ha no it's not just putting down the bottle at all. Still I reckon every thought I have now is one that was drowned out in the past so I am racing through one existential crisis after another. Onwards to the next one whatever that may be. I always felt more 'me' in other countries, here I feel like an imposter for some reason. I'm getting better at it and realise this is where I need to be but still every now and then I rail against the norm.

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  4. I was born in South Africa and when we came to London it was very odd to me how people are so closed off. I live in a village now just out of London and in the suburbs people are very friendly and welcoming. The Brits do take a while to warm up to a person so loads of small talk needs to happen before you can become part of the inner circles.
    I’m assuming you have a teenage daughter? This is one of my worst fears, I know its coming …my daughter is only 7 now but I’m just in absolute terror and fear about her becoming a teenager.
    My mother put a (for lack of a better word) curse on me when I was a teenager. She said: One day, you will have a daughter and then you will know what THIS HELL feels like. (Imagine a woman with a crooked finger wagging a hand holding a cigarette) My mum’s lovely by the way, fingers aren’t crooked but she does smoke like a chimney.
    I’m with you on the being nicer thing. I’ve started smiling at people more and low and behold almost all of them smile back. xxx

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    1. Yes teenage girls hold up a mirror of what it was like for all mothers having to cope with this. Last year Channel 4 did a show called The Tribe which was about the Hamar people in Ethiopia, it was excellent. Big surprise to me was how similar the teenage daughter was to mine, different issues of course but attitude, fashion experimentation, boys, waking up late, rudeness to mother -all the same. Good luck is all I can say.
      I too am continuing with my be nice to all people attitude change, some days are harder than others but in the end I want it to be natural.

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    2. I agree it shouldn't be forced. I'm not being so nice these day turning into a real Grinch. Bah Humbugging all the way. Not because I'm sober, just bacause I'm soooooo tired and overworked and christmas has come too early. See ya laters. xx

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  5. I agree - it's not just putting down the bottle. I come from New Zealand and if you think the UK has a conservative attitude try living here! All the NZer's reading this will up in arms as there is nothing as loyal as an homegrown NZer. I have lived in New York, London, Switzerland, Penang, Singapore and Australia and many other countries for long periods of time and coming back here was sooooo hard. Everyone goes to bed at 8 pm and there is no vibrant night activities (healthy ones like eating and late shopping etc) and we have been voted the most boring country in the world for non-retirees. Secondly, my blog has been read by over 1,000 NZ readers and all my support comes from US, Canada & UK (thanks so much guys xx I couldn't do this without you). It's just the conservative nature of everyone here and I too find that hard.
    That said, I MUST change my attitude and my self-loathing and the things you say above ring true as I honestly believe that putting down the bottle is the first step in taking your life by the horns and steering it to where you want it to go. We can't do that soaked in ethanol, it clouds our mind and makes us depressed - we then are negative and turn into how we feel.
    You have made the step and now you are conscious and brave enough to leave the negativity behind (like I HAVE to do)
    It's the only way forward GO YOU!! xxxxx I'm right behind ya!
    M xx
    PS I apologise to any offence I may have caused to NZ - beautiful yet boring is only my feeling and am working to change this.

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    2. PS I find it easy to look at other's lives and imagine a picture so much better than my own - but it isn't always real. We can too achieve what we want - we have to steer ourselves there, even if it's a slow road
      Loads of encouragement to you x M xxx

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    3. Ah my kindred spirit, it is the travelling to all these foreign countries that opens our eyes wider to the faults we initially perceived in our home land. Like you I have travelled quite a bit, living and working in different countries which gives you the best overview. Part of my general criticism about England is that I probably want to take the best bits from everywhere else and make some kind of personalised utopia ha ha. I have probably offended 90% of Brits reading but it was not meant as an attack.
      I never made it to N.Z. although I was due to spend six weeks touring but broke my leg in Austalia very badly and was in a cast for 3 months. I did get to spend a very long 12 hours in Aukland airport in a wheelchair waiting for my connecting flight.
      You are right, it is attitude, all about attitude and I can only start with my own. Thanks for your supportive and understanding comment

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    4. Ha! you too have "been around". Sometimes I think that maybe that makes me greedy, and love you remark about wanting to take the best bits of everywhere. I think that is where clever people end up, in the place that encompasses a bit of everywhere. My dad flew jets and travelled a lot - he and mum found the best place on earth is in the middle of nowhere on a vineyard in Central Otago. i would rather eat broken glass.
      My attitude better get a whole lot better and now that I'm not drinking and hiding behind all that crap, I will improve my life. Find a way to be grateful, create good boundaries, better relationships yada yada yada is all I can say today :)
      But it is in there I know it, just waiting to come out, and is in you too 20-fold xx M xx

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  6. Hi Ginger!
    We mid-westerners have problems too; that is we are friendly, but if you want to be their friend, they never have time because they do everything with their family.
    I know because I tried for years to have friends here, and people are nice, but they never had time.
    But this is what I learned...I looked for people who were alone here, and they were so happy I asked them to coffee or lunch.
    You are very nice to all of us here, so I bet you are nicer than you think!!
    Much Love,
    Wendy

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    1. Thanks Wendy. I think It's all in how we perceive things and then deal with them, you looked for people who were alone and I looked for OTT gregarious people always wanting another body to add to the fun.
      I want to be nicer, not so I can have more friends, just so I can know I am acknowledging the people I interact with daily and nit adding to their problems.

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  7. I can take one worry completely out of your mind. You and your daughter will have the best relationship in the world one day. All of these silly arguments will go away, and she will admire you despite your "obvious" flaws and incompetencies. (hee hee). I would never have believed this had it not been pointed out to me by my father, who helped raise four girls. After witnessing a terrible row between my daughter and me, in a buttoned up household where people don't get over-emotional, he said, "She has to divorce you in order to come back." And it was true. Once your daughter goes to college (I pray pray pray she will because she needs to leave home to appreciate you), then things begin to slowly slowly turn in your favor. My daughter is 27 today and she has actually acknowledged the teen bitch years, as I have acknowledged my part in them. And I was no example of patience in these years. Instead I was either drinking or trying to stop, and I was often more teenagery than she was.
    I just spent a week at the beach with her and her husband. She jokes about wanting to move in to our basement. She chooses to be here for another week at Christmas. See what I mean?

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    1. This helps no end as I am all to aware that I am in the eye of the teen storm now and occasionally lose touch with the fact that this WILL pass. She is a great girl but is more similar to me than she would like to acknowledge and your comment about being teenagery yourself about sums it up really.
      I think this highlights where I didn't grow up properly as I resent, yes truly resent having to be the grown up in this all.
      I long for the day she genuinely wants to spend time with me. Thanks for the glimmer of hope ha ha.

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  8. As a London Brit I take no offence. You're right, we're not all the friendliest people on Earth and people think you're strange if you smile or speak to them. This might be because although we live in one of the most exciting cities I know, most residents are far to exhausted and stressed to enjoy it. So be kind to them. Most of them are probably hungover, looking forward to when they can have their first drink of the day, or hopefully deep in contemplation about how giving up alcohol would let them appreciate this great place. Obviously there are many who do't fit into these categories and this is not meant to offend them, but the only ones reading this will be the ones in the field of bunnies. I hope to join them and become a more friendly and welcoming Brit!

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    1. This helps MNW as you are probably right about everyone having lots going on and being exhausted. I am due another trip up to London in Jan/Feb on my own thankfully and I am going to really pay more attention this time and see how big a role I play in this. Although my friend is very friendly so some of it was definitely people not responding to her.
      Yes please do come to the field of bunnies, it is better here, really it is!

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  9. I went to London once and I never noticed anyone being rude, mind you I thought the weather was lovely too, but everyone assured me it was unusual. Maybe the good weather had everyone in a good mood. I think you come across very nice on your blog :)

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    1. Ha ha yes Brits are always in a better mood when the weather is nice, although if it lasts too long we start complaining about how hot it is and how we need a good storm to break it up.
      I am happy you had a good experience here, my friend loved her visit overall and I think it is more my worry that she was upset by the interactions.
      Thanks for your kind comment PDTG.

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  10. Drinking me was self absorbed and sharp. Honestly, I absolutely hated myself, so I also hated pretty much everything else in life. It was bleak.

    Quitting drinking allowed me to question so many of my beliefs about myself. It turns out I am actually a good person, worthy of love and willing to share my heart with the world.

    I could never have realized that when I was numb to life.

    I try to talk to everyone when I'm out. Canadians are generally chatty. But so many of us are on our phones.

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    1. It seems almost impossible to imagine you that way Anne as I can only base it on how you are now. Having said that though, it is good to know how possible it is to turn things around and be a so much better version of ourself.
      I gave been to Toronto 4 times and always felt very welcome there (plus the feel by the lake is very similar to Chicago) EVERYONE EVERYWHERE is always on their phones. Last night I had a friend over and when my phone beeped with a message in the kitchen she was shocked and couldn't understand why I didn't have my phone close to me "well I am entertaining you, everyone else can wait" she didn't get it and seemed worried I would miss something ha ha.

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    2. I met this lovely young teacher on my walk yesterday (23) the whole conversation about dogs and stuff lasted ages. They were on their phone txting the whole time & he was so lovely and polite. Could have a full conversation no trouble. Hell I am old!
      Mxx
      PS - I just have to copy and paste that answer from Anne. I need to keep this as a reminder because it was as BAD as that. so easy to forget when getting the shits with recovery :)

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