My Mum

Last night I felt sort of sad, kind of reflective (if I watched television, I possibly wouldn’t have time to think about so many things. Maybe..) and I thought about my Mum and what it must have been like for her to watch me grow up, just as I see my own daughter’s life emerging. And I thought that for my Mum, it must have been hard.

She must have seen a quiet sort of child, always reading, always making things. Often my Mum now comments on how many things my daughter makes and I love the similarity between us. She must also have seen a child who was woeful at tidying up, and I recall often being told to go up to the bathroom and sort out my messy face. This is another similarity that I share with my young one!

As I started secondary school, she must have seen a girl who was becoming increasingly lost in her world of books, a child who struggled to remember to do her homework, a child who was starting to have panic attacks. I remember my Mum often asking me if anything was wrong, anything she could do to help. And no, there really wasn’t, because I didn’t really understand enough of anything at that stage to have the words to explain.

She saw a daughter who was put on anti-depressants around age fourteen, and that same child was requesting counselling, although she still didn’t know what it was she really wanted to talk about. I think that this must have been sad for her. I guess it is incredibly easy to see a life in terms of its bleakness. But at the same time, I know there is also a very different story running parallel.

She saw a daughter who played classical guitar and worked hard to achieve her gradings. A daughter who developed a lifelong passion for photography. A daughter who loved board games and talked about music and politics. A daughter that loved to dance. She saw her child achieve academically and go on to university (thank you, Mum, for ironing my labcoat xx).

She also saw that child turn into a woman. A woman who has done so many different things, not necessarily things that she would have done, but things that I know she feels a sense of pride in. I think that sometimes it is good to reflect on the amazing people who have supported me, loved me unconditionally and had gargantuan patience with some of my endeavours! As a daughter looking at my Mum, looking at her as my parent, I see love.

Map Point. Where do I see love?

A Seed Bar and some Ice-cream

This morning I went to a vegan food festival. I anticipated this would be a day of much feasting and revelling in all things non-meat and dairy. However the reality was I was overwhelmed, in the last ten or so years, I have never been to a place before where all food was available to me. No menus to appraise for the one or two (if I am lucky) possibilities, no ingredient lists to look through for likely suspects. This was a place where I could have eaten cakes, biscuits, multiple hot dishes, pastries, salads and so much more. But I didn’t, I had one seed bar and an ice-cream. And this felt indulgent.

I have simply come to expect that my choices will be limited with food. I know that in many places I will order chips and salad and that the salad will quite likely be iceberg lettuce, sliced cucumber and some quartered tomato. And this will be served without dressing. I accept this. The way that I eat is not the way that most of the people I know eat. And this is okay too. Everyone makes their own choices with food. However, after the overwhelmingness of the festival, I realised just how much my diet limits my expectations of food when I go out. I guess I already knew this, but today, completely confirmed.

I then started to think if there was anywhere else in my life that my limitations have lowered my expectations? I thought back to what I wrote yesterday, and how I have lowered my expectations in some areas of my life, and it is time to make some beneficial changes. And then I thought about massive changes that I have already experienced and rationalised that it isn’t that I don’t make big changes because I do. It’s that the more changes I make to my life, the more possibility for change I see. The path gets ever wider.

I remember when I was in school about to sit my A Level exams. I could not foresee a time that they would be over, such was their enormity at that point in my life. When I was learning to drive, actually passing my test seemed like such a big thing. Same for my degree, different jobs I have had, and countless other things that I have done extraordinarily well with. So for me, it isn’t actually about me feeling limited, it’s about controlling my anxiety about all the incredible options that are open to me and not being too scared to try. Because if I really want to do something, based on past performance, I know that I can.

Having this knowledge that I can, is definitely a good thing, applying this knowledge? Something much more complex! Knowing that I have done, is past stuff, knowing that I could possibly do? That is the future, full of unknown variables. Learning to trust myself, to have faith in my decisions, that is where I can make progress, that is what will empower me to grow.

When I go to the vegan food festival next year, I will go prepared!

Map Point. What have I done really well?

Map Points

Map Points. I like the idea of thinking about life as a journey, never staying in one place for too long. This doesn’t necessarily relate to physical places, it could do, but I was thinking more about the spiritual and emotional paths that we follow. People often joke about how life doesn’t come with a map, but I think that it does if you can learn to look for the waypoints.

Every situation that we find ourselves in, we can learn from. Even the really harsh ones. Sad things happen to everyone, but having a questioning outlook, and having growth as the prominent mindset can make the difference between moving on and being stuck in the past.

A few sad things happened to me during my teenage years, the predominant one was being bullied. This never took a physical form, but instead took on a verbal one, of teasing, sarcasm and social exclusion. I felt isolated and wanted to be anywhere but school. The stress levels that this produced I guess contributed to the amount of respiratory infections and poorly stomachs that I experienced. I remember vividly one morning of getting ready for school, uniform on, lunch made, bag packed, all was well and then suddenly it wasn’t. I had got to my hallway, shoes were on, and I found myself uncontrollably sobbing, clinging onto the bannister, unable to let go. Even after my mum, who clearly must have been distressed at the sight of her daughter so distraught said I didn’t have to go to school, I still cried and couldn’t let go. It was all that was connecting me to the rest of the world.

I always enjoyed the learning bit of school, and as an adult, I relish learning new things, but my experience of school was quite terrible in many ways. I was always a quiet child, but that didn’t bother me as I was always happy in my own company. I had good friends, but being bullied was a mass invasion into my head space. It was unprovoked, unkind and deeply unfair.

However whilst recognising that it was a horrible thing, I am deeply grateful for these experiences, and for the knowledge that they gave me. Much of my time as an adult has been spent working with children in varying circumstances of hardship. I connect easily and readily to young people, I am not dismissive nor judgemental. I also help to increase their aspirations through my love of education. My passion facilitates others.

I think it would be easy to think about all the negatives only, but unless I can take the positives too, it will always be a resentment, always a burden. For me, understanding this has been critical to my growth. There is so much possibility ahead. And that is exciting.

Map Point. What events from the past do I still think about?