Grateful for friends, and particularly strong female ones. #100DaysofGratefulnessday3

I have always been a girl’s girl, a woman’s woman.  I enjoy the company of my female friends and I have a lot of them.

I never really understood boys.  When I was very young I was too quiet, I am an extrovert on the Myers Briggs enneagram but this does not always mean what people understand an “extrovert” to be.  Certainly when I was younger I was very timid in the presence of boys or children I didn’t know, and I would get quite anxious in social situations involving peers.  In complete contrast I was always totally at home with adults or by myself.  I enjoyed solitary activities like reading and playing imaginary games, quite often on my own or with one or two friends; I didn’t like loud, boisterous group activities.  I have always been decidedly un-competitive so I never enjoyed team sports (I also wasn’t very good at them).

I got on quite well with some of the boys in my class but would never have had boys over for a playdate or been invited to boys’ houses.  This is in complete contrast to both of my sisters who both had more male friends than female friends when they were growing up and are both quite sporty and competitive.

Aged 11 I went to an all girls’ school.  I know a lot of people have a lot of feelings about single sex education, for me it was the right choice.  I would never have had the confidence to put my hand up and speak up and give answers in a classroom full of boys.  Being surrounded by a lot of women and not having any brothers it meant that I just wasn’t the best prepared for male friendships at University.  I developed a couple of real friendships with boys in my last year at university through my then boyfriend, but as that relationship ended four years later those friendships slowly died a death.

It doesn’t bother me now, I am perfectly happy to be surrounded by women.  I love my girlfriends and I am so lucky to have a lot of them.

I listened to the Sorta Awesome podcast recently when they were discussing the “ten friends every woman needs” (This podcast is good – listen!).  This was their conclusion:

  1. A friend who has made more mistakes than you;
  2. A friend who knows what’s in your freezer;
  3. A friend with whom no words are necessary;
  4. A friend with better style than you;
  5. A “Yes Man” meaning someone who supports you wholeheartedly and who adores you;
  6. A friend who majored in your history;
  7. A friend who speaks your language (they are into the same things);
  8. A friend who challenges you;
  9. A friend who knows all your passwords;
  10. A friend who is the Queen of the call you out.

What I realised from listening to this is that I might be one or two or none of these at the same time for different friends, and that’s okay.  I also realised that I have friends who fall into each and every category.

I have had discussions recently with various friends about how as you reach thirty you know who your real friends are.  You might have (like I do) an “inner” and an “outer” circle this is a fluid arrangement, some friends you can be particularly close to for a season in your life, then you might drift apart slightly for a while as life takes over and later you’ll drift back into each other’s inner circle again.  Some friends are always in one or the other, and that’s okay too, it doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate and love and need those friends in your outer circle.

Here are my friends every woman needs (there might be a bit of overlap with the above list):

  1. A friend whose advice and help you will accept because you trust their good judgment.

I have a particular friend who does this.  I always respect her opinions and I feel better about scary things if I check them through with her.  She is a more grown up version of me, slightly more together financially and slightly ahead of the game in every aspect, always has been.  We lived together when we both had our first proper jobs after university and when I got my handbag stolen she could lend me money from her savings (!) to pay for the lock change, as obviously, I was maxing out my overdraft every month.  Recently, as I was stressing about shopping for my wedding dress (I hate shopping and pretentious places in equal measure) I texted her for info on where she went, because I knew it would be good.  She responded with the info, but more than that, followed up with (because she knows I hate shopping and pretentious places in equal measure) “They served us warm white wine in plastic glasses and the woman who did my alterations had no teeth and a fantastic smoker’s cough”.  I booked my appointment immediately.

  1. A Questioner.

I am interested in people; I ask them a lot of questions, I prefer “interested” to “nosey”. I always thought I would never meet anyone who asked as close to the wire questions as me, and then I met Madge.  I love it.  She is interested in everything and she makes me think about my decisions and my actions.  She makes me examine myself and that is no bad thing.  It’s a great sounding board because she’ll often make you think about something slightly differently.  P.S. Read her blog, she’s incredibly funny and regularly has me snorting into my Tupperware at lunch (work, I only get 15 mins so I eat in front of a screen out of plastic, it’s depressing).

  1. A friend who tells it straight.

I appreciate this quality, the most likely candidates here – my sisters.  They will be (brutally) honest.  It’s refreshing and important.  It’s needed, you know where you stand.  Plus, they can also show you a different way of thinking.

  1. A friend who is able to have what my school girls and I affectionately refer to as “D&Ms” or “Deep and Meaningfuls”.

We used to have a lot of these when we were at school, navigating the perils of the Union Bar, Apple Sours and exactly what black top to wear with our jeans and velvet jackets on a Friday night.  Undoubtedly, some of these conversations were fuelled by alcohol, as they often have been in later life with other friends, but these are conversations which enrich you and make you grow emotionally.  You are vulnerable, you share, you talk, you laugh, you are close.  I have had these with all of my friends at some points and still do.  I have talked about a couple of my friends who helped me through a particularly hard time before.

  1. A friend who is at the same stage as you.

As I mentioned in another blog post it’s important to have friends who empathise with a situation, not just sympathise.  So for example, I love it when my new mummy friends have other new mummy friends that they can talk about baby and kid stuff with.  It’s not that I am not interested in this, or that they can’t talk to me about it – I want them to share (I am learning for the future!) but I recognise that I have no point of reference, so I might not be particularly helpful on every occasion.  Equally, when those friends are busy with things like that you need other friends who can meet you on a whim after work and discuss your broken heart at length.   If you are the only single person in your group, you need other single friends.  Everything in its season.

  1. This is totally overlapping above but – a person whom shares your passions.

I have a few friends I talk to about faith.  One of them I used to work with, we are very similar in a lot of ways.  She’s catholic and I am C of E but we do enjoy a God discussion.  Also, I have friends who are fellow avid blog readers, friends who I can talk books with, friends who you can discuss TV shows with, or sports you like, or anything really.  Friends who like the same stuff as you are important – you need someone to geek out with.  I am very proud of the fact that I have introduced a lot of my friends to Grey’s Anatomy (and anything by Shonda). This means that we can catch up and be suitably outraged/overjoyed at the latest plot twists.

  1. A friend who makes you feel young and mischievous.

This will always fall to one of my oldest friends Chick.  She can make me laugh like no other, and definitely brings out my usually hidden goofball.  I am more relaxed and make a lot more jokes when I am around her.  She makes me less serious and I love her for it.

 

Of course I go to all of my friends for fun, for advice, for emotional support.  They are a group of strong, worldly, educated women.  They work hard, raise families and do interesting things.

These women inspire me, they push me, and they love me.  For that I am extremely grateful, and I love them fiercely.  I hope they know it!

 

 

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Stubbonly turning my face toward the light

I love Jesus.  As Evangelical and American and annoying as that statement makes me sound, I don’t care.  I get emotional every time I say it. There it is. I believe that God is love and that we are put on this earth in order to love each other through words and thoughts and actions. ‘Til Kingdom come.

This is sometimes very hard. Especially when people do things that aren’t very easy to love.  Being a Christian is not for the faint of heart.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a post which can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FGilbertLiz%2Fposts%2F1033035980111850%3A0&width=500” target=”_blank”>

about being kind on the internet and staying away from the comments as they will make you lose your faith in humanity. An extract is below:

“It’s always devastating to witness ignorance and heartlessness, Julia. But you are clearly a sensitive and kind-hearted person, and, as such, I beg you to stop reading the comments section of contemporary newspapers, and I beg you (and everyone) to disengage from participating in, or even reading, Internet arguments. There, you will encounter some of the darkest and most wasteful behavoir in the world. (I mean, wasteful of our stupendous human energy and potential.) Don’t linger where the bottom-feeders lurk, Julia: You can’t change them, and hanging out around them will only put your own compassionate spirit in jeopardy. (As we say in my family: STEP AWAY FROM THE BURNING VEHICLE.) It takes discipline not to tumble into black holes of online aggression and savagery — but such tumbles are voluntary, and thus staying away from the darkness is a discipline you can cultivate. In my own life, I consider it a public service for me for to avoid such shadowy places, because it only darkens my own spirit and then I can’t serve anyone. I would no more hang out around those “chats” than I would attend a public execution. Turn your face stubbornly to the light, and keep it there. Look for love, act from a place of love, work for love, consider yourself a servant to love and a student of love, and you will soon see love everywhere. This is how we begin to serve. Bless you for your kind heart, darling, and please keep your energies safe and bright and strong. We need more people like you, so stay with us.”

I have been trying to practice that particular spiritual discipline in recent weeks.  I’ve picked some tough weeks to do it in.

The internet has annoyed me to unprecedented levels recently, so much so that I contemplated deleting my social media accounts.

First it was the tragic incident of the little boy in the gorilla cage when the internet erupted in outrage at the boys’ mother and her “bad parenting” (the father was rarely mentioned, because y’know, Dads just “babysit” they don’t really parent, so all the righteous indignation could be squarely thrown at the mother, a nice bit of media sexism to boot).  I don’t even have kids and I know how tricksy they can be, your back only has to be turned for a nano second and they’re gone.

Then there has been Brexit.  I am going to preface this one by saying that I am firmly of the opinion that everyone has a right to express their political opinion and vote in the way in which they see fit, so long as they have armed themselves with the facts.

I have been so disappointed by the tone of the conversation around this important political debate.  It has been fuelled by fear.  The absolute worst was that AWFUL, 1930s Germany evoking, racist poster unveiled by Nigel Farage.  Using some of the worlds most vulnerable people to deliberately mis-inform and stir up hatred and fear is just plain wrong and cruel.

Then there was the murder of Jo Cox MP.  She sounds like a wonderful woman, a humanitarian, she was an advocate for some of the voiceless in our world, she did some wonderful work on women’s rights, something which is very close to my heart, and now her husband doesn’t have a wife and her children don’t have a mum.

I have thought long and hard about what I have posted, shared and “liked” on the internet recently and have tried to only do so to positive posts that promote love, equality, understanding.  I have tried not to read the comments, I haven’t engaged in debates with people whose political opinions are so different from mine and who won’t be swayed by my engaging in that with them, I didn’t say anything (until now) about the treatment of the mother of the boy in the gorilla enclosure.

I have been trying to stubbornly turn my face to the light.

When Jo Cox was murdered I shared this quote from her husband:

“”Jo believed in a better world and she fought every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.

She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion it is poisonous.

Jo would have no regrets about her life. She lived every day of it to the full.”

The only way to beat hate is through love.

I will continue to do my best to speak out with love, with my actions, the sharing of others’ words who are more erudite and wise than I will ever be, and sometimes with my own words, although I’ll be sure to consider whether in doing so it is necessary and whether I am being kind.  I don’t want to be silent in the face of hatred and discrimination otherwise my silence indicates complicity and we all know how that ends up.

I went to yoga last week and it always helps me to clear my head and commune with God.  I shared this picture afterwards (photo credit: mercimerci.etsy.com):

Namaste

I honour your soul and your light today and always.  Let’s try to keep seeing that in each other, even when it seems so dark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grateful for Dad #100daysofgratefulnessday27

 

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“#grateful for a brilliant Dad who is also a feminist and raised his three daughters to also be feminists.  We were always told we could do anything we wanted and were raised to hear every sort of sexist put down so when we heard it from someone who meant it we would know how to “treat it with the disdain it deserves”.  My Dad holds my Mum in the highest esteem and they raised us to be independent, thinking and fierce women and for that I am truly grateful”.

My Dad is a bit of a legend.  Everyone knows Big Tel.  My Dad is from a little known place called Whitechapel in the East End of London.  Whitechapel is famous for Jack the Ripper, The Krays and a wonderfully close knit community of Cockneys who are a “salt of the earth” kind of people.  His upbringing was “old school” and tough.  His family were not wealthy, by any stretch of the imagination, but they made do.  He was the first to go to university and to have a profession.  He is widely travelled and he believes in the good in people.

Tel is a big character, an extrovert, he’s tall and has a voice that carries when he wants it to.  He can seem scary, especially to boyfriends, and he was incredibly strict with us when we were younger.  He is also incredibly generous with his time and he has a heart as big as his personality.

My Dad is a champion of people who are a little bit lost, a little bit down, who lack self-belief.  He is a giver of confidence and I love him for it.  My Dad doesn’t believe in a “God” in the traditional sense of the word and wouldn’t describe himself as a Christian, but he does a better impression of being a Christian than a lot of self-proclaimed Christians I have come across.

My Dad is a talker; you can’t keep secrets from him about how you feel.  A lot of girls can’t talk to their Dad once they get to a certain age.  My Dad may have struggled to relate to us at points but he never let that show.  He has always been present in our lives, he has always taken an interest in us, in our friends and in what we were up to.

My Dad taught us about social justice, that it’s not “how people say it, it’s what they say and do that counts”.  He taught us to be compassionate and caring, to have empathy and kindness for those who are vulnerable and to understand how a disadvantaged background can impact upon a child and then an adult.  He often says that things that seem small insignificant things to you are big kindnesses to others, and you often don’t know the impact that you have.  I always try to bear this in mind and I think it’s better to give people the benefit of the doubt and I try to always be gentle with others, everyone after all is generally doing the best they can.

Despite this, my Dad was keen that we should not to suffer fools and not to be taken for granted.  My Dad taught me to stand on my own two feet and to demand better from those I form relationships with including friends, lovers and employers.

Father’s Day is hard for a lot of people.  A lot of people have complicated relationships with their Dad, or they don’t have one at all; sometimes through choice.  I appreciate that some people find today particularly hard, a painful reminder of what they are missing.

I also appreciate that I am very lucky.  My Dad loves us girls fiercely and is our greatest champion.  He raised three girls so it’s a jolly good job that he is a feminist: he believes that women are equal to men and deserve to be treated as such; he raised us to believe that too.  The older I’ve gotten the rarer I’ve realised that is.  A lot of women are not so lucky to have such a champion in their Dad.

I have also come to realise just how important the role of a father is.  That’s not to say that if someone doesn’t have one they will be messed up or incredibly disadvantaged, I know a few single Mums who manage both roles admirably.  However, if you’ve got a good one, you’ll know about it forever.

If I ever need my Dad he will be there; if I ever need someone to stand my corner for me he’ll be there; if I ever need to discuss that state of the world and put it to rights, he’s my go to.  My Dad is a constant.  A constant support, a constant source of love, a constant source of open honest opinion and encouragement, as is my Mum I might add, but she already had her own post here.

I love him dearly.  He gets me in a way few other people do outside of my own immediate family.  He makes me laugh heartily and I have my Dad to thank for my sense of self-worth, my confidence and my love of Rod Stewart.  None of those are small things.

Happy Father’s Day Big Tel!  Love you.