Thursday, 29 December 2011

Blogging and Friendship

I haven't blogged recently and I'm sad about that. I started the blog with all good intentions and then I've allowed life to get in the way. I'm not happy about that but if I'm philosophical it's probably what happens for most of us. I love writing down my thoughts and I'm so pleased that someone or anyone wants to read them. To my surprise I've had lots of great feedback and the problem page seems to be popular which is fabulous. I am delighted that I am trusted in this way and I am also humbled. It is not an easy thing to share a trouble but I'm hoping that by reading what others have had to say it will encourage more of you to participate.

I have chatted and made contact with or made friends with some talented people of various nationalities while I've been blogging. However, unfortunately, I have lost contact with someone I thought could be a friend, and a friend of  more than twenty years ended our relationship quite recently. I am sorry about both but trust to the universe that it is appropriate and I wish both of them well. But the sadness around that loss is overridden by the wonderfully talented people I've come into contact with like author Lizzie Speller who was one of the first tweeps I became really interested in. She is a very talented and a generous hearted woman and continues to inspire me. Then there's Rick Belden who is a lovely man. I was introduced to him  by another tweep who I've now lost contact with but luckily I have managed to maintain my friendship with Rick. He's a brilliant poet and a campaigner for men. One of his books is on my recommended page. It's strong stuff but I'm sure you'll be impressed. Also there's Diane an admirable woman who is a newly published author of a very good first novel. She's just delightful and I have Jane Alexander who is an award winning blogger and much published writer to thank for introducing us. Another favourite is Lynn Shepherd she initially caught my interest because of her reworking of an Austen novel and when we started tweeting I found out she was not only kind but also very interesting. 

Someone else who caught my interest is super blogger, writer and detective Suzie Ivy she has so much commonsense combined with a sense of humour and pzazz. In my opinion every time line should have a Suzie. She always has something good to say and she takes time out from the hard sell to share who she is. There's Pat who like me is retired but she finds time to write some pretty good short stories and Sheila who writes a mean blog or Jenny a gentle woman who makes jewellery and would do anything to support her family and friends or Brygida who is full of fun and a LGBT activist. There's Cindy my pal from across the pond or Nikki from down south who unfailingly checks up on me and who has been so supportive through my recent trauma and Dave and Bob the Geordie lads who keep me smiling even on the darkest days. Finally there's Ceri Wheeldon who writes a magazine for the over fifties. I've described her before as the consummate business woman but she'll take time out to help if you need it. I have to stop now because the list really is endless but I hope you're feeling the love because that's what I feel for these fabulous people.

I bless the day I signed up for twitter and I'm so pleased I decided to blog. I promise that now I've started again I will not stop. By the way as a footnote I now have a facebook page do come and join me anytime.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christine's Christmas Complaint

Dear Babs

I know this has been said before but I have thought long and hard before writing to you. However, I am at the end of my tether so my feeling is even if you can't help I'll have got it off my chest. The thing is I don't get on with my daughter in law. My husband thinks she's ok but that appears to be based upon the fact that she keeps the house clean and looks after their two children. I on the other hand think they are unsuited and sooner or later there will be trouble. My son is very quiet but my daughter in law is very vocal. My son had several girl friends before he met his wife but they seemed to start off strong and fizzle out. With his wife he met her and they were married within a year. I have tried to make her one of the family but just she seems to think I'm interfering and once or twice she has been quite irritable and I think rude! I've tried to talk to my son about my feelings but he changes the subject and my husband keeps telling me to back off and things will work out. I really wanted to see them on Christmas Day but my son said they wanted to spend the day on there own but said we welcome on Boxing Day. This is just not how I envisaged things would be. I expected that we would all be together. I am heartbroken at the thought of not seeing my grandsons on Christmas morning. Do you think I should accept things as they are or should I speak out? 

Dear Christine

My immediate thought was whether you feel as if you've tried to make your daughter in law part of the family or not, it sounds as if you've unwittingly gone to war and you're on the losing side? I am sorry you're unhappy but it sounds as if you could get a lot unhappier. My advice would be to listen to your husband and back off. Your son's relationship is his and not yours and the life they live is their choice. It's OK to be concerned but if you get over involved I fear matters will get worse. If you are to play a bigger part in their lives then you need to make friends with your daughter in law and not antagonise her. 

I do empathise with you. I think one of the most difficult things women have to deal with is letting go of their offspring and ceasing to know best. However, I feel you must let go if you wish to retain or improve your relationship with the couple. I don't doubt that you have acted with the best intentions but clearly something has gone awry. I'm not sure now is the best time to speak out. Perhaps if you visit on Boxing Day and do your best to be a good guest and show your enjoyment and appreciation then that would start to pave the way to a better relationship and more invitations? Perhaps in the New Year you could suggest to your daughter in law that you and she could spend some time together. Perhaps by letting go of your son a little and attaching more to her you could become friends. After all you have something in common - you both love the same man.

I do realise that this is a complex situation. There are four of you all with different responses and I'm sure you're all trying to do your best. What is one person's helping is another's interfering. the only way to find out is by asking? I think sometimes it's politic to sacrifice being right for the greater good. In my opinion this is one of those occasions.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Danny's Dilemma - Cohabitation vs Marriage

Hi Babs

I am a 32 year old mechanic and I have been with my girlfriend for two years. We bought a flat which we moved into 6 months ago. We share the mortgage and the bills and it seems to work. I'm happy and she seemed to be happy and then she brought up the subject of marriage. 

When we met I made it clear I didn't want to get married. I am an atheist and to be honest I can't see what's to be gained from being married. We have a comfortable carry on. We go on holiday a couple of times a year. We both have our own interests and we socialise together. We have a contract which covers our finances in the event of separation or death. I know lots of people who have lived together and then married only to divorce. I can't honestly see the point and I now feel as if I'm having my arm twisted. She says if I loved her I'd marry her but equally I feel if she loved me she'd respect my convictions and the agreement we made.

Do you feel we can save our relationship because it feels as if it's going downhill rapidly! 

Hi Danny

When I read your message my initial reaction was wow this is a win lose situation. Then I started to wonder why you've both chosen this as a battle? I understand why you don't want to get married but you've not told me why your girlfriend does. Did she just agree to what you said at the outset, or did she say she would want to get married in the future? I know you feel everything was OK until she mentioned marriage but I'm wondering if it really was the case? I wonder has something happened to create this shift? I know sometimes women who have cohabited quite happily start to feel they want to get married when they want children? I know that some feel marriage gives more security or shows more commitment. My own view of cohabiting vs marriage is that they are both commitments and given affection and compromise both work equally well. It really is up to the individual and or couple.

If there are no other issues other than your girlfriend wants to get married and you don't. the only suggestion I can make is that you both make a list of the pros and cons of cohabitation vs marriage and then to explore them together. You mention people getting married and then divorced. I wonder whether this has happened to you or someone close to you and as a consequence you are fearful? Does your girlfriend feel it's easier for you to walk out if you're not married? It could be that some relationship counselling may help if the strategy I've suggested doesn't work. However, if you both remain intransigent that's highly unlikely to be the case.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christmas Pain, Pleasure, Pressure

After a mixed weekend I'm thinking about what happens next. The first thing that crossed my mind is that whether it's me or you today is the beginning of the rest of our lives. I know it's a cliche and to be honest it did make me cringe a little writing it but nevertheless it is true. If you're unhappy or something isn't working for you give it some thought and find ways of dealing with it. That's what I try to do. I don't always succeed and sometimes find myself in a reactive situation but I guess that's another example of human fallibility. 

Today I have had numerous things to do but in between the chores I had a visit from my niece-in-law which was lovely. Christmas is approaching but so is my retirement. I met a woman I really liked recently and she told me that when she retired she didn't plan anything for a year. She felt so tired and exhausted she just parked the car so to speak and relaxed. I know others who have retired and plan extensively. I'm thinking that after years of working with a diary the last thing I want to do is to make enjoyment a rigid routine so I think my approach will be to chill a lot and plan a little. 

The first thing for me is to get through Christmas relatively unscathed. It may shock some of you when I say I'm not really a fan of the festive season. It seems to me that it's a lot of stressful activity and as a reward we get to spend lots of money on presents that no one really wants? I won't do the boring when I was a kid routine but I am convinced it used to be more enjoyable and I don't think that's just nostalgia. But whether you're like me and will be glad when it's over or a big fan there's no doubt that this is a busy period. It's also a period when the frustrations of daily life can be magnified and spill out sometimes in a destructive way.

Michelle on my problem page recently spoke about Christmas getting in the way of leaving her husband and that happens quite a bit in my experience. People find their everyday life intolerable but tell themselves that after Christmas or when they've been on holiday they'll sort it and or leave. Another myth is that when they've had a baby or bought a house or have got married then all will be well. It never or rarely is it's simply displacement activity. My point is that often people try to stuff down their problems and try to get on with making it a good holiday for the kids or their elderly relatives whilst fighting a sense of despair. Now I'm not advocating that people shouldn't try to put their problems aside. I'm just saying see it as a transaction. It's something you are doing as a gift but you are not the sacrifice. In other words making a contract with yourself that I will do this but the contract expires on said date and then I take action in support of me. If you fail to do that you are more likely to build up the tension and then you are likely to indulge in some boxing day fallout!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Reflections on Old Age and Keeping Fit

On our walk today we were talking about old age and keeping fit. We walk our Westie for at least an hour every day. That's our commitment to him and to us. As I said we were talking about old age and keeping fit. In fact, if I'm honest, it's a bit of  an ongoing conversation at the moment because for one reason we're getting old and for another my sister in law who is in her 80's is suffering from dementia. Joyce unfortunately can no longer tell the time but she can still remember how to dance and she does. 

I know many of you who will read this will be on the go types but I'm not and really never have been from being a child. Of course I played out and played the games children did at the time but when I look back my games were usually something organised and organising. I would play shop and mostly I was the shopkeeper selling mud pies. I would be the librarian, or the post mistress stamping books and postal orders. I would organise concerts and sell tickets at a 1d a go! If I was on my own I would read or go to the cinema. The point I'm making is I wasn't really running about being athletic. As the youngest child in a grown up family I was groomed to fit in. So I was always 'grown up' for my age and I was expected to be on my own and fill my own time. 

But even if I wasn't sporty I did walk to school there and back which was approximately four miles in total. There was no school run because working class people generally didn't have cars. In fact one of my childhood treats was to get on the number nine bus and go the round trip. Yes that's right, I'd just sit on the bus with Mum and she'd point out places of interest. I thought it was brilliant! If I offered to go on a bus with any of my grandchildren just for a ride they'd think I'd lost the plot! 

Anyway suffice it to say I am not an athletic type and I can sit for England. When we were younger we used to regularly walk in Derbyshire, The Dales and The Lake District but problems with health have meant we've stopped doing that on a regular basis. We of course do chores and all the normal stuff entailed in running the home but if push comes to shove pastimes mean sitting! Would I like to be more active?  Theoretically yes, but then let's be honest if I really wanted to I'd have done it! 

These days there are all these exhortations for the elderly to keep busy, keep active, look good, work longer. My Mother would think the world had gone mad. She was busy doing her cleaning job, up to the age of sixty, and she kept the home running which was active and it also kept her fit. She looked good with the aid of soap and water and Pond's Cold Cream and kept her mind active reading books from the library. Her me time, which wasn't really me time, because she had me in tow was a bus ride, a walk round the local cemetery reading the headstones or a trip to the local museum. At night she'd go to the pub with Dad.

She lived to be eighty four with no real illness. She had a mini stroke around seventy but made a full recovery. She had another stroke prior to her death. She was getting ready to go to the pub to meet her old cronies when she felt unwell. She was transported to hospital and the following morning she was in a vegetative state. She died the following day. She had kept fit living her normal everyday life. She didn't want or expect experts to tell her what to do. She just was. Whilst my life is more complex and I have more options I don't know whether I could really say I enjoy my life more? 

Friday, 9 December 2011

Michelle - How Can I Leave My Relationship

Dear Babs

I have not been happy in my relationship for twenty years. I keep thinking I'll end it and then something gets in the way and currently it's Christmas. I have no idea why this is except that of course I'm scared of being on my own. I've tried on numerous occasions to talk to my husband. I've tried to get him to change and I've tried to change but in the end we seem to come back to the same old same old. When I look back I perhaps  shouldn't have married him but I wanted to escape home and he seemed like somebody who would let me be me. Well he does let me be me but incorporated within that is a level of disinterest that is mind boggling. His idea of getting on is going to work, coming home to a meal on the table and then watching television. I can assure you I am dying of boredom. It's the same with sex it's once a week on a Saturday with little deviation unless we're on holiday. My best friend says I should settle for the financial security and make the most of it but it's getting to the stage that when I look at him I could scream. I know the right thing to do is to leave but her responses make question myself. We have an eighteen year old daughter who has just started at University but she knows I'm not happy and she's told me to put myself first. I know you can't tell me what to do but I would be really interested in what you think.

Dear Michelle

Your question is what do I think about your perceived inability to end what for you is an unsatisfactory  relationship. If I'm honest I feel sad that your fear is holding you back. I understand it it's not easy going it alone especially if you are financially secure in the relationship but it seems that's what you want? To be honest your daughter sounds as if she's the one with the right instincts i.e. do what will make you happy. I stress though that isn't necessarily leaving the relationship.

You have in my parlance been lumping it but that isn't necessarily a bad decision if you see it as a choice? That is accept what you have with your husband but look for fulfilment in other areas of your life. If it feels as if you don't want to do that and if you have both talked but feel unable to change and accommodate each other then leaving could be the best option.

You are right I do not see it as appropriate to tell others what decisions to make or how to live their lives it really is up to you. I'm not being disrespectful to your friend but her responses are probably more about her than you.  On the other hand there would be some who would see your husband's version of a relationship as OK or the norm?

In my opinion there isn't a perfect relationship just one that feels good to you but it seems to me the only way to achieve that is through compromise or it really is best in my opinion to be on your own. I wish you well and hope that I have been of some help but at the end of the day you really do have  your own answers.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Friendship Dilemma - What Do You Do When You Feel Hurt?

Today my thoughts turned towards family and friendship. My family is small my friends are few. By that I mean my immediate family and the friends I'm talking about are personal friends. In other words friends who I share the inner me with. The ones who can accept me as I am and do not want to remake me. As I've said before I am not a great socialiser and I don't call people friend easily.

I sometimes wonder about friendship and how other people see it. I guess I believe in a hierarchy of friends and for me this is 'normal' but I acknowledge that you may not see it in the same way. I have had conversations with others who consider themselves to have innumerable friends and if they mean friendship as I do I wonder at their emotional energy? if on the other hand they mean people they have good times with then I wonder at their physical energy. As a point of interest The Concise English Dictionary definition of a friend is 'a person you know well and regard with affection and trust' which concurs with my interpretation but then continues that in the wider sense it can mean a follower or supporters of a team? 

I don't know about you but I have felt friendless at certain times in my life especially when I was young. What do I mean by that? I think it's been when my feelings have been unacknowledged or disregarded in some way. I have in the past found myself feeling as if I'm on one side and the rest of the world is on the other? If I'm honest I can on occasion feel like that now. I want to stress that this is how it has felt or feels I am not saying that was or is the reality of the situation. This is why as a general rule I am keen on checking out my thoughts and cognitions because in doing that it's possible to save a lot of emotional pain for me and for others because don't forget I don't live in a bubble. My feelings and behaviours impact on others. 

My strategy in times of stress is to accept my own feelings. It hurts but this is how I feel and I don't want anyone telling me I shouldn't feel it. I want my friends to acknowledge my feelings and perhaps commiserate. I don't want them to act the devil's advocate because that feels as if they are excusing someone else and blaming me. 
When I have acknowledged my own feelings and perhaps been heard, even if it is only by me I will move onto the next step. The next step is very important because I need to work out whether my feelings are about a particular incident or are they an accumulation. At this point I try to think about the other people in the drama and think about how they may feel. Have they seen it in the same way or are they perhaps thinking and or feeling something else? At that point I can decide whether I want to speak to them about it or just deal with the feelings myself. Now all of this sounds very ordered and neat and eminently workable and it is. But of course it relies on others being either in an emotionally good place themselves or having the ability to listen.

What happens if I raise a discomfort with a friend and they don't want to listen? What if their default position is to feel criticised and then they take a gladiatorial stance. What can I do? Funnily enough I asked myself that question quite recently after that exact scenario occurred. Friend A emailed friend B and me inviting us out.  Then friends A and B reached a mutually acceptable time which was a time I couldn't make ergo I was uninvited. I emailed them both acknowledging their mutual agreement and saying I hoped they enjoyed themselves. I also shared my disappointment and bemusement as to why the other date had been offered if it was inconvenient to friend A. I felt that was that. They were going out and I'd said enjoy it. I'd said I was disappointed. As far as I was concerned that was it. However, I'd not considered that friend A would come out fighting. Without boring you with the details she acknowledged she'd made a mistake but attacked me for not being more proactive when making arrangements. The emails batted to and fro and what she was after was to feel exonerated. She wanted to feel I was being difficult. The relationship rule is I am supposed to accept the situation and to keep quiet. I broke the rule.

It will come as no surprise to you that I often break the rules. However, I was faced with the dilemma of what to do when her final email was of one of admonishment telling me I 'needed' to accept a certain point. In other words her view of the situation. I felt furious but I asked myself should I then start waving a metaphorical machete myself or was there another way of dealing with it. I decided to remain quiet because I acknowledged the futility of carrying on. If I continued I would just be doing what she was doing which was trying to win. But what would I be winning? 

Did I make a mistake. I think I did. I think it would have been more useful to have not expressed my disappointment by email and let it pass and perhaps if my default position wasn't to feel left out I probably would. What's my reasoning for telling you this? Because it's important for you to know that no one including me gets it right all the time! 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Men Will Be Boys

Today seems full of possibility. The sun is shining in between sharp showers.  I'm not doing anything earth shattering. I'm just flitting between Facebook and Twitter chatting to various interesting people. OH is reading yet another Raymond Chandler. The dog is snoozing and the silence is punctuated by the occasional snore from him or a snort from OH as he reads some witticism! 

I'm just reflecting on how my loved one is very like a little boy even though he is in fact 75 years old. He wants me to approve his cooking. He wants me listen to him read out. He wants me to get involved with whatever project he's thinking about. It usually starts with 'we need to'. What he really means is I've had a thought and I think it would be a good idea if you did it. Today's was 'we must write those Christmas cards'. I remind him what he's doing and we laugh but we both know it won't be long before he does it again!

Does this worry me? Not in the least. I'm sometimes irritated by it but that's usually down to how I'm feeling. Today I'm feeling fab because I now know I'm reasonably fit and well. What stops him from changing? He doesn't want to and to be honest I don't want him to either. He's evolved and accommodated my changes over the years. Sometimes we just need to accept each other's foibles!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Cancer - What's In A Word?

I consider myself to be a very lucky woman in many respects. Up until May of this year the only stay I'd had in hospital was when I gave birth to my son 48 years ago. I have always considered myself to be fit as the proverbial butcher's dog. I ran 10 miles on my 40th birthday and walked The Cleveland Way for my 50th.

Then in May of this year I decided to have a hysterectomy for a longstanding problem. My reasoning was I was fit and it was time to deal with it while the possibility of complications was low. The operation was straightforward as expected but the aftercare whilst in hospital resulted in my being very ill. My recovery was very slow. I felt exhausted and unable to concentrate. In fact it felt as if I'd somehow lost myself. I'd expected to be ok in a few weeks and three months elapsed and I still felt tired and lacking in energy. I also had the complication of developing stress incontinence and I was told I need yet another operation to fix that. I have been busily doing Kegels hoping to obviate the necessity but unfortunately it hasn't worked and I am scheduled for the operation in January.

Then at a routine visit to my dentist in September she detected a white patch on my inner cheek and suggested it may be leukoplakia a precancerous condition and she referred me to the 
local Dental Hospital. I had to wait three anxious months for an appointment. At the appointment the consultant said she didn't think it was anything sinister but she suggested a biopsy and some blood tests. The blood tests were done straightaway and several weeks later I had the biopsy. This Tuesday I was given the news that in fact the thickening was due to me biting the cheek. I heaved a sigh of relief.

All should have been well in my world, but unfortunately, I was waiting to have a gastroscopy! I had been having some chest and back pain for some months coupled with the fact that the PPI (acid inhibitor) I take for acid reflux seemed to have lost its effectiveness. I discussed it with my OH and I reluctantly decided I needed to see my GP. This is, despite all I have said, a very rare occurrence. When I attended the appointment this very young doctor asked me what I thought the problem was? A little surprised I suggested that the symptoms could be a sign depression. I had been very down due to problems with my health, other ageing issues and the fact I was due to retire. He was very impressed with what he called my insightfulness but he didn't think I looked depressed? He did think, however, due to my symptoms and age it could be cancer! He said he was sorry but there was no easy way to say it! He did arrange the gastroscopy quickly and that brings me to today.

I don't know whether you've had this procedure but it's not pleasant. I'm a fairly stoic individual and usually go for eccentric bonhomie rather than show my fear so I swallowed down the camera whilst fighting the urge to panic. However, the doctor and staff were brilliant and the procedure was soon over. At the end of it I was told there was no sign of cancer but I did have a hiatus hernia and I make excess acid. She did a biopsy for a bacteria in my stomach called Helicobacter Pylori and I will have the results within ten days. As you can imagine I am delighted by the results. I did offer to kiss her but she politely declined!

So here I am chilling the wine and breaking out the cake and feeling very happy and positive and that could be that. However I would like to point out that perhaps my two weeks of worry could have been avoided if that young doctor had phrased his response differently. If he had said something like, I'll send you for an exploratory gastroscopy to see if we can find out what's happening. I may have still asked what he was looking for and he may have said we need to rule out cancer but it would have been less like a slap in the face.

As a final word I would like to say thank you for all my friends on twitter who have given me support some knowingly (they know who they are) and some unwittingly by making me laugh out loud at the times I was feeling very down. I've said it before and I'll say it again I love Twitter!