Monday, May 9, 2011

From the Dungeon to the Skydeck

School was a very distant memory and I was out in the world still trying to find my feet as an adult. Before I had the chance, I was swept clean off them by a mysterious man of European origin (sounds like a cliche, I know). I was a worldly 19 years old and he was, well let's just say a little older. He was romantic, giving and really got involved in life. He had lived enough of life to know where he was heading, what he wanted and he wouldn't settle for anything less. I was the little lost puppy melting in his eyes looking for a master to serve - and God knows I found one!! (Not to belittle him too much because there were some good parts too, but as i said in the beginning, this story is about my journey and what my experiences have taught me.)

I was wined, dined, spoiled rotten with fantastic holidays and new clothes and experienced a life of 'nothing but the best'. This lasted for a pleasant 3 years before things started to change.

Initially, as with most young girls, every waking minute revolved around this man sent from heaven. I would wait with baited breath for his call or for him to meet me. I wouldn't plan anything on weekends just in case he wanted to spend time with me - and to his credit, he did, all weekend every weekend. Friends started to give up on me and eventually the invitations got less, and then nothing. I had enveloped my whole being in this one person and it wasn't me! After a few years of isolating myself in the relationship, I began to notice that our relationship seemed to take on a whole new chapter when I was ready to spread my wings and spend time developing new relationships with friends.

We would fight. Not just ranting and raving, but really fight. Things got smashed, thrown into walls (along with a few fists), parts removed from cars etc. It was ugly, really ugly and yet it took quite some time for me to realise that this behaviour is not what a normal relationship is all about. It became too much trouble to have my own friends so I just gave up on the idea. I really loved this man so why was I being so selfish and creating situations that got him so angry? It wasn't like I didn't have friends - WE had friends and I could hang out with them without any issues, so I should just let it go, keep the peace.

Not for another few years, a wedding and a baby later, did I wake up. I have limited memory of those last few years because I was so empty and really just checked out of my life mentally. I still managed to go through the motions because I had a child who was relying on me.

It was the words of a total stranger that woke me from my dungeon. I didn't normally talk to strangers because if word got out...well let's say it wasn't worth the reprocussions! I was people watching in a casino (one of the few pasttimes I still maintain) when this stranger sat next to me and began to crack jokes about the sights we saw. For awhile, I just smiled politely and nodded inagreeance keeping to myself as much as I could without appearing rude. I have to say, the stranger was extremely funny and very observant too! It didn't take long before I let out a hardy belly laugh at the shinnanigans that I was witnessing, all with comic commentary. I realised how foreign this felt - I laughed so hard I thought I was going to lose control of my bladder and I hadn't done that in many years.

The stranger told me I was much better looking when I was happy, then commented on how deeply sad I had looked when they walked over. In their words "You looked like someone had broken your soul in two". I will never forget that comment and how deep it hit me.

For the next 3 or 4 days, I contemplated these comments and racked my brain trying to work out why I was so miserable. To my friends my life seemed a dream. I had a supportive, caring husband who was a great father and took us away on fantastic holidays, we never went without. So why was I so miserable? Then it hit me. My life, away from prying eyes, seemed to be that of a princess, but reality of it was quite the opposite. I was living in a prison without any walls. The more I tried to justify to myself that this marriage was worth saving, the more ridiculous it became. My parents were together, I was raised in house of strong ethics and morals and only a failure would walk away from seemingly a 'perfect marriage'. Well, apparently I was still growing up, still lost in life and still no idea who the hell I was and what life is really all about. My deciding factor was when I removed the focus from myself. What sort of a role model was I being to my child?

By continuing on this destructive path I had created for myself, I was teaching her it is ok to be treated poorly, isolated from family and friends, and to live a lie. That broke my heart. I thought about what it would be like to watch my own child endure the pain and suffering that I had experienced. I felt bullied, controlled and regularly ridiculed (especially in public) and had such little self esteem, I figured nobody else would want such a flawed women, hence I had stayed as long as I did. I couldn't bare the pain of watching my own child go through this yet by tolerating it I was teaching her that this is what a relationship is about, it didn't make sense. I packed our bags and with a lot of grief, ended that chapter of my life.

In the months to come, I began to discover who I was and started to see that the world was my oyster. I had never felt so free in my life now that the shackles were gone. Obviously, when you end a relationship as hostile as that one, there are substantial reprocussions but in the long run, they were worth it. It did open up to me some home truths about why "Justice is blind" not to mention the copious amounts of holes in the Legal system, specifically Family Law. Apparently a parent can take a child from wherever they like whenever they like if the primary carer wants to keep it out of the courts and doesn't formally file for access orders. So again, I learned the hard way (trying to keep the peace) that you need to get access orders sorted with courts regardless of how amicable you think the separation might be! If you are both mature parents with the welfare of the kids as your priority then consent orders do the trick and are a quick and painless operation! I know this will stir up emotions for some of you, but remember, I'm speaking from own experiences and those I have seen around me. If you are both mature parents then everything works well and best of all - the kids get 2 happy parents!!! After all, isn't that where the focus is meant to be?

Back to the story - Out on my own (but with support from my wonderful parents), opportunities started to open up for me everywhere I looked. For the first time in my adult life, I had choices!! I went where i wanted when I wanted and wasn't answerable to anybody.

I was free (yes, even with a child in tow!), I was happy from my core and I was being a great role model for my child! Afterall, isn't finding our inner happiness what we all strive for?

I was on top of the Skydeck screaming - "This life is my own!"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Welcome To Middle Earth

And so the lessons of high school began.

As much I was apprehensive, I was also extremely excited about entering a whole new world where I would be treated like a grown-up & trusted with responsibility and it would be FUN! How naive!

I remember feeling a sense of achievement at the end of primary school about no longer being the baby. Seven years of achievement - out the window, in my first day at high school. (It took me until after finishing school to realise that this is the natural flow of life - you start everything as the baby, newbie or rookie.)

We were all wide-eyed, innocent and ready to tackle this new world. That is, until such time that an older student decided to remind you that you are a nothing more than a little hobit existing amongst the Orks of Middle Earth.

There were many lessons to be learnt in this wonderous new world - girls and relationships, boys and relationships, girls and boys and their relationships...yeah I think that was the most of it!

From a young age, I developed a keen interest in "people watching". I would sit in the city and watch people for hours. How they walked, talked, facial expressions, hand gestures, interact with others. It was fascinating to gain an understanding of how a person's feelings and thoughts about someone manifest into a physical language that rarely lies.

I remember watching Alan Pease (Body Language expert) on TV many years ago and he explained the body language of sex and used teenage girls in his example. He stated that teenage girls who were sexually active or thinking about sex, talk to boys, they will generally stand with their pelvis forward in the direction of the boy they have interest in. Scary stuff - next time you see a group of teenagers, check this one out (possibly not a good idea to choose 'your' teenagers group of friends - I think there are some things better left alone). I found this topic interesting and very useful when it came to kids talking about their conquests and seeing whether the mouth and the body were saying the same thing!

Pity, however, that I wasn't so successful at this skill when it came to my own relationships. I was a bit of a 'late bloomer', which is not a bad thing except for the fact I think I hit a period of desperation, which all of us 'grown-ups' know can only mean trouble.

Always a good girl and respectful of my parents and their wishes for me to have a bright future, I watched my friends move in and out of relationships with boys. Bragging about what they got up to when their parents weren't around and how rosey life was with "Him" in their life, I started thinking I was being left behind. School dances and parties were great fun because I had a lot of male friends but never a 'boyfriend', but I stupidly thought I was missing out and went on a quest of my own to find myself one. It's amazing how intuitive even young boys are when it comes to sensing desperation. My male friends started to back away (most likely in fear) and it just became more and more difficult to find myself a suitor. Surely desperation generates it's own pheromone that warns the male species that he may be unsuspectingly backed into a corner and attacked by a crazed female. However, there are some specimens of both male and female who seek out this pheromone as they see it as an opportunity to satisfy their own desires. And guess what...?

I was a wounded lamb in a snake pit! My need to conform to the masses lead me head first into a world of trouble and rudderless rebellion.

My self esteem had taken a dive and I was ready to take whatever was offered by this point. A much older boy with a car (well I had to make up some lost ground so it needed to be impressive!) dangled the bait and not only did I take it, but he was lucky to get his fishing rod back! I liked him because he like me and that was enough. I could not stand hearing one more story about how much fun it was to have a boyfriend because I was sure my life would be over (at that age it doesn't take much). I wanted to have my own stories to share and join the competition!

Over the next couple of years, I defied anything that looked like rules, responsibility or caring concern, throwing caution to the wind only to put myself in the path of Category 4 cyclone! Why my parents didn't kick me out of home was beyond me. I was selfish, disrespectful and just downright obnoxious - lucky for me, they cared enough to keep me there, even if it was for their piece of mind. I intentionally broke curfew, even if only by five minutes, just to show my parents they couldn't control me. I climbed out of bedroom windows and disappeared into the early hours of the morning, which took a great deal of skill as my mother was an insomniac and her patterns of sleep were not conducive to sneaking out.

I was not only rebelling against the people who loved and cared about me, but was I doing it for a guy who resembelled the character of Gollum. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Gollum, he featured in the story of the Lord of the Rings and became the creature you see hear when he possessed the fateful 'Ring' that consumed his very soul.)
Ultimately, I was his 'precious' and this disturbed young man became a vehicle for my hormonal desire to break free of adult reign and stand on my own two feet! What a convoluted understanding of the world!
Fortunately, I actually 'grew up' (after leaving school) and realised the error in my judgement was part of the evolving process and although there better ways of doing this, the path I chose set up some very difficult, but valuable life lessons.
I think the high school years are comparable to that of a zoo after closing time. Although there are many species of animals and many characteristics that separate them, after dark, the mischief they get up to is what draws their similarities together. Even though people behave differently, overall, we're mostly aiming for the same thing - freedom to be ourselves.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Beat the Bully

Now, where was I? Oh yes, that's right...

  • Never allow those who taunted me to know they had succeeded.

Well this one is a doozey! I was teased alot at school and my parents tried to help by giving me this advice. They beleived that bullies would get bored if I didn't respond to their taunts and they would go about their business and leave me alone - yeah RIGHT! I felt like it presented as more of a 'challenge'.

"Let's see how much cruelty she will put up with and how long it will take for her to crack!" - Yeah, that's more like the thought processes of a bully.

I would put on the brave face when a retched girl in high school would spit in my hair, daily. I would go home and cry and wonder what I had ever done to deserve this treatment. This torment went on for near 3 years until we graduated. Regardless of my efforts to ignore, taunt back, confront or report this girl's behaviour, it was relentless. She kept pushing until I responded, and if it was going to take all year, she was going to persevere until she won.

For me, there has been a great lesson in all of this. I came to the realisation that it wasn't me that had something wrong with me, it is ALWAYS the bully.

Being exposed to bullying in the workplace recently, I began to uncover some similarities in those who bully others. Insecurity is the key. I started to notice those who taunt, do so to break down a person's self concept and esteem and eventually their confidence. Let's face it, if your opponent is stronger than you, the only way to remove them from the competition is to expose and exploit their weakness. After this stage is complete, the bully then has the 'threat' under control and assumes the role of Master Puppeteer.

"To succeed, you must always use the enemies weapons against them" - a great line by Gene Hackman in the film "Enemy of the State", and brilliant advice to boot!

Correct me if I'm wrong but I think it's fair to say that bullies are aggressive (passively or just in your face, nevertheless, aggressive). Aggressive personalities seek out their aggressee for two reasons;

  1. To justify their aggressiveness or

  2. To give their self concept a 'boost', by picking on those who are passive and less confident.

So as you can see, nobody is immune to bullies, not even the bullies themselves. There will always be someone 'stronger' than them too.

Assertiveness can act as a magnet for a bully. After years of soul searching, trying to work out what was wrong with me, I grew more confidence in who am I and what I stand for. When I was young, I attracted bullies because I just didn't want any trouble, a peacemaker, a lover not a fighter - and that was seen as a weakness to exploit. As a confident, assertive adult, I attract a different type of bully, one who seeks an outlet for their aggression and the challenge of an Assertive person is just too good to pass up.

My most recent encounter with not one, but three bullies, all with corporate, positional power was a real test for me. I endured threats, a lack of positional stability and constant unnecessary questioning of my work. All this because I stood up for what was in the company's best interest, and I was heard.

If they wanted a witch-hunt, I was going to be the 'one that got away'. As in all corporations, it is in an employee's best interest to put everything in writing - so that's what I did. I insisted all requests be in writing due to my extensive travel, I wanted to ensure I kept abreast of my workload and this was the most effective method. I also kept a diary of conversations and became a trusted source of information (always maitaining integrity, afterall, I'd never stoop to their level). I kept my colleague's close but my bullies so close I'm surprised they could breathe!

It became a game to me after I got the hang of the rules of play. I gradually learnt how to reel each bully in until they developed a distrust of the other (obviously they were in cohoots with each other). I know how incredibly calculating and cruel this may sound, but I never did anything that was immoral, and I never took revenge. I merely played their game and manipulated their rules to create their undoing. And sat back to enjoy the aftermath.

So if you are or have been subjected to bullying, please know, the problem is not you. It really is the insecurity and severe lack of self esteem of the bully. You are great just as you are, and if they can't have what you've got, they want to take it from you. Take back the control.

In conclusion - If you are or were a bully, I can tell you, this affects a persons entire life - often indefinitely. You're not tough, you're not funny - you are extraordinarily SAD! And one day, you WILL play ball with the WRONG person!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The "Wonder (what the hell was I thinking) Years"

My teenage years were somewhat turmultuous. Then again, whose weren't!

My parents had raised me to be considerate of others, treat them the way I want them to treat me, be accountable for my actions, always use manners and to not allow those who taunted me to know they had succeeded.

Great advice, wasn't it? I love my parents. I know they did the best job they possibly could, so please know that I respect the job they did. After all, they gave me the confidence, trust and encouragement to be my own person, and for that, they have been VERY successful!

Applying these principles has caused me considerable pain and confusion over the years. (I will interject in my own thought processes here to let you know that I am somewhat of an 'extreme' personality. I don't do things by halves and this is more than likely the reason I have got myself into certain predicaments in my life! I am a more balanced adult now, but it has taken some BIG butt kicks to get here.)

So let's start with the first point...
  • Be considerate of others.
I think my understanding of this as a teen was to bow down to every whim of every other person on the face of the planet! Or maybe it was to imagine every possible scenario that may arise from each simple action/comment I make!

Little did I realise, this was probably more a reference to the K.I.S.S. method. So, as long as it isn't done/said with the intention of malice, cause of physical harm to myself or others, it's all good! I, however, took this more to mean that before I open my mouth I must consider every possible reaction to what I'm about to say & pre-empt how to offset this. I'm surprised I'm still sane! Do you know how time consuming and confusing it is to worry yourself about every possible reaction a person could have to one simple comment? And then, try dealing with the one response you weren't prepared for!

  • Treat people the way I want them to treat me - yeah, well, interesting.

Tissues were my best friend for many years. Even to this day, I always have at least 3 boxes of tissues in my house at any one time.

Know this, I still beleive in this philosophy, I just have a very different understanding of what this truly means. The most difficult aspect of this philosophy is grasping the concept that this will not automatically mean that others will treat you 'right'. I experienced alot of disappointment in this area of my life. Even the people who really didn't deserve my attention, I would continue to treat with respect and consideration. Obviously, I was hoping this would show them a concept they may never have considered before. Now I can see that they more than likely would have been exposed to the concept of treating people well, but they chose that it was not for them!

  • Be accountable for my actions.
Why is it that a teenager's brain cannot comprehend the meaning of this simple statement? Sadly, I see alot of Gen Y missing out this vital step on the path to maturity. I also can't help to think their parents have a huge responsibility in trying to make up for their own childhood by trying to empower their young. Unfortunately, the "accountability" factor has been omitted. I think it's fantastic to empower children, nurture individual thinking and a go-getter attitude. But this needs to have a balanced approach, and that's where accountability comes in. My Dad gave me the best lecture on this one (because it was very brief!) - "You can have as much fun as you can be responsible for." To this day, everytime I drive into the city and see the road signs reminding drivers about the consequences of speeding, I have a giggle to myself and think of Dad's advice. Trust me, this is a discussion my kids are VERY familiar with.
  • Always use manners

I think this goes without saying. In my 9 years experience in the Early Childhood industry, I was always conscious of role modelling manners. My area of expertise was children 15 months to 2 1/2 years. Obviously I had to tailor this to be age appropriate, but my group always finished the year with beautiful manners. Something as simple as "ta" is teaching a young child the importance of manners.

Think about the last time someone in your work place or family thanked you for something. Makes you feel valued doesn't it? It amazes me how simple words such as these can make such a huge difference in ones life. Do you thank someone when they do something for you?

  • Never allow those who taunted me to know they had succeeded

This one I think I will leave until next time!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Living in a Fish Bowl

Where have our dreams gone? Media have a lot to answer for and we can't seem to help fall victim to their web. Like going to a doctor, we rely on media to tell us the reality of what's happening. Sadly, the propagander got the better of them all, because Bad News sells!

Everyday, we are surrounded by Bad news. I'm not talking about disasters around the world, I'm talking about the kind of information that lacks substance and is detrimental to our minds. But seriously, ask yourself this: Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?

As a general population, we have very low self esteem, self worth, self concept and pretty much any other 'self' you can think of! Buying into the propagander makes you part of the problem.

We need to reclaim our thinking and make our own choices. Would you consider your best friend to be making good choices if they took advice from a magazine article, telling them how unsatisfied their man is in the bedroom, and that these are the 'best' positions to make her a better lover? Or would you think more of her if she laughed it off, remarking how sad it is that people take advice on important personal issues from a columnist who is only interested in generating circulation of their article? Doesn't it make more sense to make your own decisions on what works and what doesn't and seek advice from a trained professional who knows what they're talking about!

Children are becoming more aware of this type of loose 'Advice' and are trusting less in their own abilities to think, decide and act. We live in a fast pace world and make decisions without much thought. Encourage your children to slow down, take a breath, then weigh up their options. They will soon see, very few decisions need to be made in under 10 minutes and that's all it takes to stop and think.

With five children, I do all I can to encourage their dreams of being a Rockstar and enjoying their fantasies whilst they are children. I know it won't be long before the media will get hold of their impressionable minds and they will start to question their hopes and dreams and start thinking they need to conform.

By reducing exposure to the 'Bad' News, I can only hope that I have given them the courage and strength within themselves to know - "It's ok to think for myself and trust in my intuititions. It's ok if I'm different, being an individual is a GOOD thing!"

Monday, March 1, 2010

In the beginning...

Let me take you on a journey you may relate to. A journey to find the freedom we all desire. We all have a lifestyle we desire, the only difference is in the packaging.

Did you ever have a dream of being a Rockstar? Jumping around your bedroom in your P.J.'s singing into your hairbrush with every breath you could muster. You were the star. The one they all came to hear sing. Teddy bears from all over, came to watch your crazy stage antics, your energy, your passion.
Mid performance, right as you are working up to your biggest moment in the whole show, it happens... BANG! BANG! BANG! "Will you keep it down in there!" comes your mother's voice. Or worse still, she quietly sneaks the door open to watch how 'cute' you are. You haven't heard anything over your tone-deaf performance, and just as you hit that really high note and you're in the climax of your air guitar solo, you spin around to see her staring and laughing at you! You are dying of embarrasment inside, but determined to share the humour of it all. You both start to laugh. She leaves the room and you lock the door this time, never to experience that level of embarassment again!
As children, we allow ourselves to marinate in our dreams. We use all our senses when we create our fantasies. We can hear, see, smell, feel and taste the atmosphere as if we are really there. No matter what we are told by 'crusty old adults', we make our dreams a reality.
So, as we age, what is it that happens to us to make us stop believing that we are in control of our own dreams?