The Infinite Depth Of Colour

Oh, readers.  Today’s post will set you alight.  Kate has written what, on the surface, is a Friend That Made Me Me post.  But she’s taken the concept and done things with it that you could never imagine.   The flip side of loving someone that much.  The darkness in the brightest friendship.  Colour and anger and love and happy Monday to you all:   

I was 12; a new school in a new town and I was a fish out of water. I hadn’t yet leaned the chameleon skills to warm up the colour of Acceptable (nonchalant, careless, shaven legs and underarms, not bothering with schoolwork)  and cool off the colour of Unacceptable (participating, eager, getting good marks, polished school shoes). Hurt and rejection are fast teachers though, and I quickly learned the survival skills of adaption and camouflage and spent a friendless year waiting for secondary school.

I met Kerry the first week of secondary school.  She had bright gold cropped hair, a huge gappy grin that took up half her face, and crinkly, Duch-blue eyes.  She was in perpetual motion. Energy bounced off her.  She talked fast, laughed loudly, ate fast, ate loads (once she at 12 pieces of toast – not the crusts -  in one sitting. I counted.) and stayed irritatingly skinny. We clicked instantly. With her I could be just ME – unrestrained, reciprocal, secure in myself, my polished shoes and good marks and big boobs and very clean shaven legs. What a gift that was to my lonely self.  I sucked in the all the joy and energy and pure friendship through those fierce and intense and banal and pale-washed days of school.  I’m sure we fought, bickered, disagreed and gossiped behind each-other’s backs, but nothing dulled the shine or excitement; we just got each-other.

Once we manhandled, sweating and laughing, a double mattresses up a wobbling long ladder onto to the garage roof to sleep under the stars and woke up at the edge of the roof having slid down the steep pitch in our sleep.  Getting the latest fashions out on her mum’s store card, and setting up our own “model shoot”, posing and taking photos of our overdressed and fashionably (garishly) made up selves while dancing madly around the room to the top 40. Our first and last (humiliating) foray into drama. Playing inter-school hockey and not realising until too late that the wing had to, well, run quite so much.  Drooling over movie stars and kissing boys in the back row in the cinema in between trips to buy chewing gum. Dying our hair red. Making up “synchronized routines” in the pool with Fern the Border collie barking madly over our disappearing heads.  Slumber parties with horror movies and enough junk food to keep us awake all night. Kerry caught malaria and shrank to toothpick skinny. Visiting her in white hospital, heart pounding with relief to see her sitting up in bed, energy pulsating – albeit weakly –  and choking down her medication stuffed in oranges.  A cold wintry day when the trees were spindly out the window and the sky was the colour of the underside of an iceberg, we “discovered” the aching beauty of the Beatles on vinyl. Endless, endless phone conversations the minute we got home from school about He Said, She Said, We’ll Do, Oh No, You Lie, Oh Isn’t He DIVINE.

Two years of electric, vibrant friendship before we had to move towns again. Leaving  - especially leaving Kerry –  was gut wrenching. It was before email or mobile phones, and long distance phoning was expensive. The gap between us became not only geographical. The fast paced teenage years meant we couldn’t quite close the distance when we talked. Instead we wrote rambling fat snail-mail letters to each other; Kerry’s littered with brilliant cartoon sketches.  She came to visit me for my 15th birthday, and we both listened in curious growing horror to my mum answering the call saying that her mum, our beloved Gorko, had committed suicide. We drove the 9 never-ending hours to Gorko and the car broke down on the way. Photos of Kerry trying to lighten the atmosphere by pretending to fix stuff under the bonnet while we waited for help.  It bonded us yet closer, life wasn’t all boys and music and travel plans.

Kerry was sharp, witty, fun, open, generous, and clever. She wasn’t able to get into her chosen university but undeterred, she decided to join me in my Uni town and got a part time job at the Uni whilst studying by correspondence.  We each had a room in a strange yet retrospectively awesome  B.E.  that housed a small band of Uni students, pensioners, and halfway house people from the local psychiatric hospital. It was brilliant. Hanging out together and living our free, adult lives was something we’d waited for and talked about for years.  We sweet talked the kitchen matron for extra bacon as we both disliked eggs, drank cheap wine in crowded bedrooms, went to gigs, got addicted to playing contract bridge, worked on our papers together, wrote bad poetry and had earnest conversations about literature, history and social injustice.

Yet, being so close to, but excluded from actually being part of lectures, papers, clubs, social activities and day to day Uni minutia was frustrating for her and she became more withdrawn from the group situations in the B.E., not-so-humorously mocking our  friends out of repressed jealousy. We spoke about it at length and I understood how difficult it was for her, but eventually it drove a wedge between us and I felt that I couldn’t talk about any of my studies or day to day happenings because it made her sad, mad, frustrated or depressed.

After her first set of exams, she dropped most of her courses and began to spend more time with non Uni friends including some musicians she’d met at a gig. She wanted to be called by her full name, Keryn, she was no longer “childish Kerry”.  I saw even less of her, but felt a guilty relief. I didn’t have to keep changing the topic when Uni stuff came up, didn’t have to justify or explain my choices to her and was able to spend the time I needed to on my papers and prep. I realised how far we’d grown apart when I saw her at midnight down the hallway after a night out. She was high, and shivering. It was winter and she had nothing on but jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt. No bra, no shoes, her feet filthy and scabbed, and her hands and face red from cold. I invited her to into my room for a coffee and to warm up, but she was on her way out again, and just looked at me scornfully when I asked where her shoes and coat were.

Kerry moved out of the B.E. but there were still letters between us, hers with even better cartoons depicting snapshots of her life. I think we both knew the increasing distance was because we were growing in different directions, neither agreeing with the others’ choices, neither allowed to be our unrestrained, unguarded selves and clinging on, both so afraid of the changes happening but unable to deal with them.  After our meet ups, frequently full of niggles and passive aggressive comments, I’d feel angry and sad and desperately anxious. Wondering what I would say, what she would say the next time we saw each other, could we build a bridge – we had before. Did I want to, did she want to?

I can’t remember what caused it, even now years after, but I clearly remember walking in to my room after lectures one Friday afternoon, and time stretched elastically.  Dust motes danced up and down in the warm winter sunshine to the thump of my heart and my lush fern turned lazily on its hook off the high book shelf. The mirror over my basin glared sharp sunlight and Dali-esque dripping red. I thought it was blood but it wasn’t. Scrawled in my own best red lipstick in Kerry’s handwriting: Go to Hell.

Friends crowed into my room to see the spectacle. No doubt there was much gossip.  I didn’t cry. I was mostly numb. Kerry wrote me a fat, rambling letter. No funny cartoons. I ripped it up before finishing it, the pages I read were a diatribe on my faults, my weaknesses, my looks, my choices, my clothes and how people were laughing at me; no apology for her lipstick message, no explanation of why she’d done it. Funny thing about lipstick on a mirror, it’s very hard to wipe off completely.  For weeks afterwards despite scrubbing, sunlight would light up the grease from the lipstick, rounding out those 3 short, yet world-shattering words. The message destroyed our friendship, but the letter destroyed me. So many secrets, spoken and unspoken vulnerabilities, 6 years of confidences had all been exposed and judged out loud on those blue pages.  I felt burnt raw with betrayal.

I pretended to be fine. Inside, in the place in my heart that Kerry used to live, grew a monster who breathed fiery conflicting emotions throughout my very pores. Deepest red hatred.  Blackest love. Anger.  Regret. Self-pity. Aching bruised loneliness. Brazen fuck you. Fear as sharp as mustard. Clouds of loss, in softest pearly grey.  It took me over a year before I could write anything. 2 years, 10 years, before I believed that I wasn’t all the things in the letter. I learned that people can be as cruel as they are kind, as weak as they strong, fearful as they are courageous, proud as they are vulnerable.   We were both all of these things.

I’m truly blessed that I have a handful of beautiful, delightful friends who have since (and still do) enriched my life immeasurably.  I could have written this post so differently about any of them. But Kerry made me me, because she carved me up and forced me to live through multi-colour emotions; which are both my weakness and my strength.  That fire breathing monster is now part of me and although I sometimes still reel from it’s breathing,  it’s what makes me consciously live, drives me forward, makes me aware of myself, my actions, my responsibility; my outrageous luck at all that I have. Without it, without her, I wouldn’t know the infinite depth of colour.

 

Categories: Uncategorized
6 interesting thoughts on this

Stop, Look and Listen

Well.  Happy Monday, readers.  I know  posting has been erratic lately.  Aisling and I are both pretty busy and as a result, we’re posting as and when posts come in, and writing when and if we can.  It’s working for us right now.  I’m sure we’ll be back to a better schedule soon, and we’re grateful to you for sticking around.

And oh do we have a post for you today.  You know when you get a post from Katie it’s going to be a belter.  This one is no exception.   It’s uncomfortable reading, because it forces you to realise you  are luckier, and probably more ignorant, than you think.  And it’s empowering too – understanding this and acting on it will make us better feminists, better people, more understanding of each other.

Sometimes, when I’m reading the news, I come across an article so unbearably sad, or so at odds with what I believe, or a point of view that makes me so uncomfortable, that I can’t read on.  What Katie is saying is  read on.  Read on.  Understand what makes you uncomfortable, and change it.

Over to you, KL: 

This post has been a long time coming out of my head, it’s taken almost as long to write as it took me to grow a human, although admittedly the latter process might have slowed down the writing bit. It’s been incredibly difficult to process my thoughts on this and getting my them down on screen is even harder.

For many months I’ve been following the arguments and debates on Twitter and on blogs and online forums about intersectionality in feminism. For ages I’ve been processing things I’ve read, from all different perspectives. This is my conclusion: I want no part of a feminism that isn’t for all women. That’s it, for me. I want all people to be equal, not just for women to be equal with men but true equality, for everyone. I’m going to settle for nothing less. To do this, I think I need to change how I think.

Through my reading, I became aware that a lot of the battles I see and fight are white-centric. This is at least partly because I am white, but also because mainstream feminism is very white-orientated. Now I can’t not be white, but to really work towards true equality I need to understand and accept that my whiteness skews my perception of things. I view the whole world through a white, straight, middle-class filter. And we live in a world where being white, straight and middle class makes me incredibly privileged. The world is geared towards me. Being a woman may limit me in many ways, but I am also enabled in many many more. I am lucky, indescribably so. It’s important that I recognise that privilege because not everyone is so lucky, and if I believe in true equality, I need to listen to the voices of others, and not focus only on my own injustices. This is hard, because my instinctive reaction is to think that the fact that I am held back or prejudiced against in any way at all is unfair and must end. And that is true. But my injustice isn’t the only injustice. It’s very challenging, when immersed in a feminist dialogue that paints me as the underprivileged group, to accept that not all lived experiences would place me in the same position.

The only answer I can think of is to listen and learn. There’s an excellent piece of writing on how white people should react to being told they’re being racist. Just as we would want someone to listen to us and not dismiss our concerns out of a sense of defensive injustice if we told them they were being sexist, so should we in our turn suck it up and listen if we’re told we’re being racist. Be humble. Consider what you said and did. Listen. And try to change.

And just as we might get tired of explaining why someone was being sexist, the same is true again. We must take time to educate ourselves. It isn’t enough to say that your racism was accidental, inadvertent, or unintended. Good intentions don’t stop you making mistakes and it’s not okay to use your good intentions as a defensive barrier that stop you listening: “I was trying not to be racist so give me a break” won’t cut it. Accept that you were trying but you failed this time. Take the hit. Learn for next time. Listen.
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Categories: Life Experience
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Dear AOW: Worrying Less and Trusting More

Dear Any Other Woman,

I’m sure there are so many girls like me who are confused. I’m supposed to be independent and confident in my decisions and chosen life. I never thought I was a girl who would sit at a wedding and wish it was me. The fever has got to me, I have to ride it out but sometimes the only way to calm the whizzing voices in your head is just to speak about them. I can’t talk to family and friends and they are all of the opinion that we should get married, some even are offended as they think we are anti-marriage and that we hate it. I can’t talk to my partner about it as he would then marry me to keep me happy (he is that wonderful) but I really don’t want to get married just to keep me happy – that isn’t a good reason for a pretty big life long commitment. So I’ve turned to Any Other Woman and just by sending this email I feel calmer, well until the next wedding invite arrives that is.
I am in the midst of the wedding season and the wedding years. One by one friends are enjoying beautiful days and celebrating. I enjoy all the weddings. I love seeing the dresses and kilts and dancing shoes. The speeches can be funny or sentimental and the food choices can be surprising. Lavender shortbread was a definite hit, smoked salmon starters will always not be for me. I know however that I will never get a day like this for myself or ourselves as my wonderful Boyo and I will not be walking down any aisle.

Our reasons are many but it boils down to 3 main reasons.
We are not religious so do not feel compelled for that reason.
I worry that marriage to me will make him feel like he is trapped, I know we are committed but I always want him to feel like he has a choice.
 And finally, he has been married before.
Categories: Ask Anna, Ant and AOW, Becoming A Wife
10 interesting thoughts on this

a note to my darling daughter.

Well.  Isn’t this just packed to the brim of wisdom and truth and honesty.  This may be advice for Meredith’s beautiful baby girl but, let’s face it, it’s advice for us all, however old we are.  

It’s beautiful.  Thank you Meredith: 

as i look upon the canvas of you and me and your daddy on the wall, i can’t help but remark on how much you have changed already. how much i have changed. how much you have grown. how much your being here means. how much we both have learned. how much we both still have to learn. how much we can still teach each other. i want you to know so much. this letter has been many months in the making. many thoughts are held within. many that i will forget to say. many which i do not know how to communicate. so much to say to one so small. something to look back on in many years. something that you may perhaps find helpful once you begin to navigate your own life. somewhere to begin.

you came into my world earlier than I expected. but at just the right time. you taught me in the first few days about a new love. one i had not known. one that is unparalleled. one that scares me. one that i will hold onto for dear life. one that is both challenging and easy. both heavy and carefree. both painful and healing. both weak and strong. one that is powerful.

much like you. so much power lies within you sweet one. in those big bright eyes. in those sweet little hands. within that curious little heart. power for good or for evil. power for love or for hate. power for both. power for choice.

choose wisely, sweet one. speak well and do good. work hard but play harder. take chances. be passionate. make music. travel. see as much as you can see. it opens your eyes to the world more than anything else. learn. crave knowledge.

know that you are clever and beautiful and talented. know also that there are some moreso than you. and know that that is okay. know that knowing that will make you driven. and content. know that absolutely nothing is more important than family. know also that your family extends beyond shared DNA. but also know that no one loves you like your mamma. know that no one loves you like your daddy. know that you won’t always dislike your brothers and sisters. know that people see you differently than you see yourself. know that perspective is everything.

remember that you deserve to be happy. but remember that happiness if also a choice. choose it. and remember that no amount of material ‘things’  will get you there. remember that no one is you-er than you. remember also that a mirror nor a number is the truest likeness of you. be you. remember that you make a mark on those you meet. first impressions are important. make it a good one. remember to be kind to others. remember to forgive but not always forget. remember that integrity is your greatest ally. patience is indeed a virtue. especially with yourself. remember that you are not perfect. and more importantly, remember that no one is. remember that judgement is usually misunderstanding in disguise. remember that you never know what someone else is going through. remember that a smile can help. and that laughter is indeed the best medicine. especially if induced by tickles.

so much is going on in the world, sweet innocent one. so much of the opposite of what i want for you. so much hate. so much hardship. so much suffering. so much loss. sometimes i wonder if bringing you into a world in such a state was right, the best thing for you, one who knows nothing but love and awe at this tender age. then again, i’m sure that that consideration is an affliction met by parents generations past as well. for me and many others, your being here makes the world brighter. and if it makes our little world brighter, that’s a start for the rest.

i want you to know that you are blessed beyond measure. you are loved. you are housed. you are clean. you are clothed. you are healthy. you are full. you are a citizen of not one but two countries, little girl. two countries that, compared to so very many today, are at relative peace. it is my greatest hope for you that this state shall continue and that you will feel safe in whichever is home to you at whatever time of your life. i want you to never forget those less fortunate than you. help in any way you can. but know that it isn’t just up to you. encourage others to do the same. always remember how blessed you are. and remember that with such blessing comes great responsibility. not only to yourself and those you love but, and perhaps even more importantly, to those you dislike or do not know. seek to sow nothing but peace and love and hope and acceptance. for all things good. for these are the things the world needs more of. and these are the things that reap true happiness.

be happy, my angel. grow tall. approach the world with open arms. and love hard, for you are loved fiercely. even if you forget all the rest, never ever forget that.

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Life Experience
8 interesting thoughts on this

Behind Closed Doors: I hope

At Any Other Woman, you can talk about anything. Anything you want at all. Any subject, any time. We are proud to be able to provide that platform for you, it makes our hearts sing. But we do understand that sometimes there are topics that are too sensitive, too divisive, simply too hard to write about and broadcast without a second thought. No-one wants to hurt their loved ones unnecessarily and yet sometimes a story needs to be told.

This is your place for those subjects. A place for you to tell those tales you’d not considered telling before. No names, no justifications, no apologies.

You can send your BCD submissions to behindcloseddoors@live.co.uk and we promise that you’ll remain anonymous throughout the entire process.

I don’t know how to change the time on the alarm clock, and so it woke me up and I switched it off again, and stared at the empty space. The little things are becoming the cruellest reminders.

I had suspicions you were unhappy. I thought that you were struggling with work, or life or something. I have been struggling with work and life and something. I knew that our relationship was changing, that pressures were adding up. I thought that they were the symptom and not the cause. They are for me. But overhearing you talking through things with your friend, her asking how the mortgage is arranged and suggesting you packed a bag first, hearing myself described as pragmatic and stoic… I wish I hadn’t gone to bed before you. I wish I had joined you for a nightcap. I wish I had sneaked back to bed and pretended I hadn’t heard, and held you so closely that you would change your mind.

Perhaps you are right. Perhaps we would have come to this soon anyway.

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Categories: Behind Closed Doors
10 interesting thoughts on this

Underestimating

Well.  Apparently, when you work and have a baby, the only spare time you do have is spent on the sofa, staring at a wall, after the baby has gone to bed.

Who knew?

Thank you, Aisling, for captaining the Good Ship AOW these past few weeks.

*****

In some ways, going back to work has been better than I ever could have expected.  I’ve talked before about the dangers of having too much time to think.  Maternity leave will do that to you.  Your world becomes so, so small (as it rightly should); your day is filled with addled decisions about exactly what time your baby last fed and what time should you go for that coffee, and whether you can sneak a nap in whilst your baby is down.  You go to baby groups and you meet other parents and  you have the glory of long days stretching before you with raising your child being your only priority.  It’s a wonderful, privileged situation to be in.

But oh, does it give you time to think.

And think I did.  I built my return to work up to be an impossible task.  I had no idea how I’d manage working a challenging job full time on limited sleep, expressing breastmilk through the day at work, getting Ellie fed and clothed and dressing myself in time to catch a train at 7.03am, how Ellie would cope at nursery when she was the youngest there by some way, how I’d manage crossing London in rush hour to pick her up, how I’d keep her milk cold and transport it safely, how she’d cope commuting into and out of London every day.  I worried and I fretted, and honestly, readers, you think I’d have learnt by now. 

Because it was fine.  All of it.  It was fine.  It’s still fine.

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Categories: Written By Anna
12 interesting thoughts on this

Behind Closed Doors: Friendship, Shifting

At Any Other Woman, you can talk about anything. Anything you want at all. Any subject, any time. We are proud to be able to provide that platform for you, it makes our hearts sing. But we do understand that sometimes there are topics that are too sensitive, too divisive, simply too hard to write about and broadcast without a second thought. No-one wants to hurt their loved ones unnecessarily and yet sometimes a story needs to be told.

This is your place for those subjects. A place for you to tell those tales you’d not considered telling before. No names, no justifications, no apologies.

You can send your BCD submissions to behindcloseddoors@live.co.uk and we promise that you’ll remain anonymous throughout the entire process.

There’s something about feeling uncertain or disappointed in a relationship with a friend that feels immature. Uncertainty about where you stand or insecurity about a friendship makes you feel like you’re back in the playground, whining to a teacher because your best friend of three days has gone off with someone else and they keep whispering to each other and pointing at you.  You’re worried that, amid all the other big concerns of adulthood, of jobs and unemployment, homes and homelessness, families and loss, that you’re being overdramatic, immature and unflatteringly needy.

 

That said, it can be a sudden shock to the system when something shifts in an established friendship, and you no longer have the firm footing and solid foundation that you had come to rely on and expect. Friendships change over time and proximity and circumstance, but it can be a huge blow to suddenly realise that the friendship you have treasured and prioritised has changed.

 

This weekend I have wept, berated myself for weeping over nothing at all, and reminded myself that it is no one else’s responsibility to help me spend time as I’d imagined; with shared plans unfolding over a couple of days, of long evenings of shared home cooked meals and talking. Assuming those circumstances, based on previous weekends spent over the past decade, was a mistake on my part. I have no one to blame but myself for that assumption and the sudden shock that it didn’t happen.  But it was that shock, and the l­oss of the memories I thought I was going to make, that made me weep. The ground has shifted and I’ve just found out.

 

I managed years ago to appreciate that romantic film descriptions of partners’ understanding each others’ every need without a word, was utter rubbish. I realised pretty early on the importance of actually talking through plans and expectations with my other half. Somehow this wisdom has bypassed my long friendships and I find myself having to learn it again.

 

Having been separated by circumstance and distance for long months, when two friends separately arrived close by for a weekend, I was excited and thrilled, looking forward to sharing plans and slipping back into familiar conversations and laughter. When those two friends, separately rejected repeated invitations, decided to remain at home, it was their proximity that really hurt. Moments from each others’ door, we sat separately. I was alone and felt it, sitting isolated, paralysed and more hurt than I had any right to be.

 

One lost Saturday night is not important. It is not anything as large or important as an end of a friendship, let alone a life-changing event. It’s just one of those small moments when you’re reminded of the separateness of people, and the difference between your understanding of how things work, and the reality.

Categories: Behind Closed Doors
5 interesting thoughts on this

Honest-to-goodness friends

I love love love this post by Kate. Having made sone of my best friends as an adult via ‘those bloggy things’ and social media, Kate’s thoughts ring very true for me. I especially adore the stonking example in the last paragraph…how brilliant?
A friend shared this video on facebook recently (somewhat ironically) and it got me thinking.  This idea that social media is inherently unsociable is a popular one.  As the video says, “this media we call social is anything but; when we open our computers it’s our doors we shut”.  This is a message I’ve seen and heard over and over again, on twitter, on blogs, on facebook, from family and friends.  I’ve been blogging since 2008 and over the years have been told that it’s fake, it’s self-centred, and that any friends I’ve made through blogging aren’t ‘real’ friends as they only see the edited version of me I present on my blog.  I have also been criticised for doing that editing.  Now, I will readily admit that my blog shows edited highlights of my life, partly because I started it as a ‘happy place’ when quite a lot of things in my life weren’t very happy, and partly because I can’t believe that anyone would want to read about me doing my laundry, or having pasta and pesto for dinner yet again, or moaning about my colleagues / bills / hair / the weather.  But I would also argue that we  present edited versions of ourselves in person as well; my boss doesn’t want to know what I had for dinner, and my friend doesn’t need to hear about my split ends.
Mainly I object to the assertion that online friends aren’t ‘real’ friends, and that social media makes us antisocial.  I think both of these things may be true for some people, depending how they use the internet and how they connect with people, but for me these things are not true at all.  If it wasn’t for blogging and other social media I wouldn’t have many friends.  Instead I have a selection of lovely people in my life, from those who I regularly tweet with or occasionally meet for a drink, to those I have invited to my home, to some of my nearest and dearest (and even my land lady!).  I would count all of them as real friends, and friends with whom I am sociable both online and offline.
The popularity of blook club, an Edinburgh book club for bloggers, which saw people coming from far and wide even for the first few meetings, says something about the sociable nature of this supposedly unsociable world.  I’ve invited people I’ve only ever met on twitter to parties and they’ve come, and brought their partners too.  Recently a few of us discussed Friday night drinks on twitter and other people joined in and came along.  We crave social contact, and social media enables that.  Anyone who has moved jobs, or cities, or relationships, knows how hard it can be to make friends as an adult, but it is so much easier with social media.  And not just a list of friends or contacts or followers, but real, honest-to-goodness, drink and laugh and cry with them friends.
So the next time someone tells me that social media isn’t social, that blog land is disingenuous and self-absorbed, that by choosing to spend time online I am choosing isolation and loneliness, I’ll give them my flat as an example:  my land lady is a blogger, I met the friends who helped me move in online, and half of the people at my flat warming were twitter friends.
Categories: Friend That Made Me Me, Life
15 interesting thoughts on this

The house that she built

Today’s post by Meredith is one of those where you’ll want to stand up and cheer after reading it. Whether you have your own post-partum body niggles, or a different set of worries about your appearance, I think you’ll relate to what Meredith is saying – we need  to recognise the huge achievements of our bodies and celebrate them, every day.

Like many women, I’m often insecure about my looks. Post-pregnancy, that is even moreso the case as I adjust to a new shape that may or may not continue to shift and change. I’m still hoping it will! Looking in the mirror, I feel like a mess. I feel like I’m missing the mark. And you know what? There’s really something wrong with that. I’ve made a human. That takes it’s toll. I’m tired of hearing from various media sources about how I canprevent stretch marks (or correct them, in my case). I’m tired of being bombarded with postpartum fitness articles, telling me I’d better use any ‘down time’ (ha!) I can to exercise and to start before I get too ‘comfortable’. I mean can I just enjoy my baby for a second? Can I just use any ‘down time’ I actually get to take a nap or take a shower or do some laundry? My daughter doesn’t seem to mind my ‘comfortable’ body…though, to be fair, she pretty much just looks at my face and my blouses at the moment. BUT, she does fall asleep quite easily against me in all my cushiness.

During pregnancy, my husband and I got into a habit. As my tummy got increasingly babified it got itchy! So every night he would rub cocoa butter on it. It helped the itchiness and felt good. It was also supposed to help with stretch marks. Well, I still got stretch marks, even though I gained exactly the right amount of weight and applied this lotion every night. Apparently it’s mostly down to genetics. I must have a lot of genetics! Haha! Anyway…It sounds weird, but our ’tummy time’ became a special habit all about the three of us. Me and him and bump. After our daughter arrived, we stopped. Then a few weeks ago, we decided that we missed that time. We reinstated it, this time with Bio Oil, because, as you will soon see, she stretched me to the limits! I’m glad it’s back. Although, since there’s no baby inside anymore, I find myself especially conscious of my bump/pooch/roll/whateveryoucallit. I mean I’m now 15 weeks postpartum. Shouldn’t that be gone? Kate Middleton’s was. Victoria Beckham’s was. XYZ’s was. Why isn’t mine? Then this conversation happened one night, during our ’tummy time’:

Wife (guiltily): I’m sorry I still have a bump.
Husband (sweetly): I like your bump.
Wife (incredulously): Why?!
Husband (sincerely): It’s part of you. And it made her.
Wife (tearily): But it’s different than before.
Husband (matter-of-factly): Yes. A new curve. And one I like.

Perspective is everything.

I took this photo when I was three months pregnant, in order to share the news with family and friends.

Our daughter actually arrived April 15 via emergency cesarean. We had a hell of a first month, but that’s another (longer) story for another day. A story that, honestly, I don’t think I’m quite ready to ponder over and share. But suffice it to say that we are all doing well now.

I took this photo three months postpartum, in order to remind myself of what my body has been through, what my body has accomplished and what beauty can (and often does) look like. It’s now become a favorite.

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves as women? Mothers or not, we ALL do it. I think it’s about time that we stopped! It’s one thing to lead a healthy lifestyle. It’s entirely another to constantly pick apart every flaw, line, bump, curve, or mark. I will choose to see this stretched and puffy body as a blessing. To see every mark for the kick that it was, this ‘pooch’ as an empty nest! It served a purpose. A wonderful purpose. It housed her. It was her first home. She built it, bit by bit. It’s her first work of art. Should it not then be celebrated?

My current, and likely abiding, challenge is to see myself the way my partner and child see me. I hope that you can do that as well! For we are ALL beautiful. And I think when we all start to realize that, the world will indeed be a better place.

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Body Image
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#bookswap – the reviews

Thank you to Kate for her beautiful #bookswap reviews – I’ve read both books yet want to dive straight back into them. If you’ve been pondering writing your review/s, please do – we can’t wait to hear more about what everyone got and what you thought.
I was lucky enough to receive 2 breath-taking books (thank you again Anna!) and I took a while to read and savor them. Then I took a while to let them sink in, as they demanded a bit of sinking-in time.
[Anna, remember I said that I actually had read After You’d Gone  before, but couldn't remember the details? I didn't understand why or how I’d forgotten it, but knew I loved it,  until I was a good way in, and even then it wasn't the plot I remembered.  It was heartbreak.  I was barely coping after an ended relationship when I read it the first time, and I think I must have read it on a purely sensory and emotional level.  The watery themes were instantly familiar and the loss and grief portrayed is so stark, so raw that I could actually taste my own old loss. I think when those emotions in me healed up the book went away with them, it was linked to something too painful to be an easily accessible memory.  Mystery solved.
I was so pleased to come away from it this time with a more rounded experience of the whole beautiful book, but my god what writing. ] Anyway,  here are my reviews:
After You’d Gone  – Maggie O Farrell
This book is achingly beautiful; both the story-line and the writing.  Simply put, it’s a bittersweet love story with themes of family, love and moral choices.  It deals with Alice, her family, the love story of Alice and John, and how Alice comes to be in a coma.  It’s written as a series of vignettes which are not in chronological order, allowing the reader to experience snapshots of intimately observed and detailed scenarios of Alice’s life in London, Alice and her sisters growing up in Scotland in her grandmother’s house, her mum’s married life, and her love affair with John.  These snapshots of Alice’s memories build suspense, yet flow and meld together eventually forming a clearing picture of how and why Alice is in acoma – accident or suicide attempt?  The inconsistent chronology is handled with finesse, echoing the way our memories work and enhancing and adding realism to Alice’s condition. The author’s writing is pared down to create a haunting, deeply emotional and above all, luminous book.
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
 
I was delighted to receive this as The Goldfinch has become one of my favorite books but I’d never read this.  It begins by revealing that Richard and his student friends have been involved in a murder.  The plot then takes second place to the development of these strong central characters and the creation of a romantic, vividly picturesque university campus setting.  Eventually the pace quickens and plot thickens, and with it comes the reasons the characters were involved in the murder, the looming of an inexorable climax and a clinging hope that perhaps, things may not end as intimated. There are murky and complex themes throughout which make this book dense yet enlightening reading: – tragedy; Greek history and philosophy; friendship and the yearning to belong; beauty, decay and destruction.  The author gains powerful control over the reader with her beautiful prose and deliberate structure and pace, then creates tension by pitting the fundamentally unlikable characters against the compulsion to follow their actions.  This book is very clever, thought-provoking, and utterly, darkly compelling.
Categories: Books
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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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image by Lucy Stendall Photography

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