Thursday, 20 April 2017

Dear BBC, It's Not Me, It's Who.

TV has annoyed me twice in the last 24 hours.  

Last night, having binge-watched the whole nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother in just 7 months, I sat down to watch the finale.  That finale, much like the finale of Friends, gave me feelings (such strong feelings).  Except, the finale of Friends made me feel warm, fuzzy, sad and ultimately satisfied, whereas the finale of How I Met Your Mother made me feel cheated, upset, angry and so unsatisfied, that despite the fact that I watched it years after it first aired and the moment has very much passed, I am certain that before this week is over, I will have written a furious blog about it.

So, I wasn't in the jolliest of moods, this morning, when I clicked on a link someone had shared on Facebook.  That link led to an article, explaining that a father had sent an official complaint to the BBC, insisting that there should not be a woman cast as the titular character in Doctor Who, because it would "confuse" his children.  His complaint was met with a response from the BBC, calming his fears (oops, sorry, his children's fears), by insisting that they had no intention of casting a female Doctor.

Okay, let's start with the obvious bit: this guy was not worried that a female Doctor would confuse his children.  How can I be so sure?  Well, firstly, there's the fact that if your kids are already on board with an alien who can change his entire body and persona in order to cheat death, whilst travelling through time and space in a wooden box that's bigger on the inside, fighting a variety of baddies, some of whom look distinctly like pepper pots with sink plungers stuck to their heads, I'm pretty sure that the Doctor suddenly gaining boobs isn't going to boggle their brains, too much.

But that's not the only way to tell that it's not the children who don't want a female Doctor.  The response the BBC made to the guy's official complaint, features the words:

"We appreciate that you're a big Doctor Who fan and you have concerns that the programme would change should there be a female Doctor. Be assured there are currently no plans to have a female Doctor Who." 

We appreciate that YOU are a big Doctor Who fan and YOU have concerns that the programme would CHANGE should there be a female Doctor.  Because goodness knows, if the Doctor was a woman, she'd probably be late for saving the world, because she couldn't get her hair just right, and she'd struggle to parallel park the TARDIS due to the fact that it's her period and there's no chocolate to calm herself down with, or something.  Tsk, women.

Let's be real here, guys.  This dude's kids probably couldn't care less whether the Doctor is a man, a woman, or a bear in a hat.  They just want the show to be good.  They want explosions, aliens, time travel and excitement.  They want a hero they can believe in and stories that have them hooked.

Newsflash:  That's what any Whovian wants.

The ironic thing about this idiot blaming his children for his own fervent need to have a MANLY MAN in the TARDIS, is that on the whole, kids don't care that much.  I've worked with children my entire adult life, and for several months, I was a TA to a class of 8-9 year olds.  Those kids noticed that I had Doctor Who badges on my coat.  Chatting about the show became a regular occurrence.  Many of those children would mess about in the playground, pretending to be the Doctor, his friends and his foes.  One day, when we were talking about what we wanted to be when we were older, I said "ooh, I'd like to be the Doctor."  

One boy replied: "You can't; he's a man."  

I responded: "Ah, but he regenerates, doesn't he?  He turns into a completely new person when he does that.  So, maybe one day, he could regenerate into me!"

And every single one of those kids nodded in agreement.  Because children aren't born with prejudice.  They learn it.

They learn it when their fathers are so disgusted by the mere idea of high heels in the TARDIS, that they send an official complaint to the BBC, demanding that it never happens.

But really, why should it never happen?!

We can discount the "because it would confuse the children" argument, because we've established that that's a load of tosh.  If anything, given the enormous number of young, female fans I've met over the years, the children would relish a female Doctor.  For the girls, it would be a way of showing them that they can take the lead, rather than playing the companion.  For the boys, it would show them that women can be brave, strong heroes, too.  All of which are important life lessons.

Another common argument is that "he's always been a man," so it would be weird to change it.  Seriously?  He might have always been male, but he's changed drastically in terms of height, age, eye colour and hairstyle.  His temperament has changed between each incarnation, too.  So, given that the Doctor changes pretty drastically every few years, what's the problem with his genitals changing, too?!  A female Doctor would be different, yes, but at its heart, the character of the Doctor is always the same: a slightly lost soul, an adventurous traveller, someone who wants to help people and fight monsters.  None of those attributes has to be inherently male.

Fans also like to wheel out the classic-era argument that Timelords can regenerate their bodies, but they can't change their gender.  This, as proved by Missy, is simply not true in the nu-Whoniverse.  Unless we're about to get a big twist this season, we've already seen a Timelord (The Master) regenerate from male to female (Missy).  If it can be done with another Timelord, why not the Doctor?

But by far and away the biggest argument I see from fans who are infuriated by the idea of a woman taking over the TARDIS, is that it would somehow be "political correctness gone mad."

Yes, some people feel the need to rush to the most thoughtless, stupid response possible.  Today, when I voiced my opinion that it's wrong to entirely rule out the idea of ever having a female Doctor, a man quickly responded: "aaaw, poor little snowflake."  Because, I can't possibly have a reasoned argument for my views.  I simply must be one of the PC brigade, trying to ruin his fun with my irritating belief in equality and my habit of taking offence with anything that differs from my over-sensitive views.

Here's the thing, guys:  I'm not a "snowflake."  I actually detest the use of the word snowflake in situations like this, because essentially, it's a way for some knuckle-dragger (of either sex) to bark about toughening up, whilst often shutting down a valid argument.  You see the same response when someone suggests that a piece of media might need a trigger warning:  "Oh, here come the snowflakes..."  Actually, no.  Here comes someone who might have a lived experience that gives them a different perspective on something to the one you have, and who might, therefore, understand that certain things can cause negative flashbacks to people dealing with past trauma and feels that it's right to give those people a heads up as to what's coming.

But I digress...

It's not about being politically correct.  It's not about saying "the Doctor has to be a woman, in order to even things out."  I'm not going to sit here and laughably suggest a female James Bond.  That character is male and he's also human.  He can't regenerate, so the only way he could become a woman would be through transitioning.  And, given what we know of the character, that is massively unlikely.

So, no, it's not a case of "political correctness gone mad."  It's not true that I (or any reasonable fan) is sitting here, thinking: "I don't care who plays the next Doctor, as long as it's a woman."

Whoever gets the keys to the TARDIS, my biggest concern - and that of any real fan of the show - is that it's the right person.  The show is carried by the actor playing the Doctor and that's a heck of a lot of responsibility.  Whoever takes over has to have the right persona for the job.  They have to keep the Doctor seeming real, despite the crazy adventures that might take place.  They have to be someone that younger viewers can look up to, because the Doctor is, for many kids watching, a hero figure.

The only thing people like me are asking, is that a woman could be considered for the role.  Not because we've gone PC mad.  Just because there's no real, solid reason why a woman can't be considered.  It's established canon now, that the Timelords can switch gender during regenerations, so there's nothing stopping the BBC from hiring a woman, should they choose to.  Frankly, if we want the best person for the job, we shouldn't rule out half the population, just because a woman hasn't undertaken this particular job, before.  

Nor should we worry that giving a woman a role that was always previously a male one, undoes feminism in some weird way, as one girl suggested to me, earlier.  She claimed that if there was a female Doctor, it would just be a case of women having to piggyback men to get the top job, once plenty of guys have done it, first.  She said there needed to be more strong, female roles in the show besides the Doctor, to prove that women don't need the top job.

I kind of saw her point (if I squinted), but it doesn't entirely make sense.  You don't say "hey, this bank has always been managed by a guy, so we can't give the top job to a woman, or she'll feel like she's only gotten success off the back of all the guys who did it, first."

Besides, the Doctor isn't the only strong male character in the show, so why are we going down the weird road of suggesting that if the Doctor was a woman, there would somehow not be as many strong female characters on the show?!  You can have a woman in the top job and still have other strong female roles in there, too.

Of course, the real reason that the BBC have cowardly sucked up to the "worried fathers" of the world, is fear.

Should a large chunk of viewers dig in their heels and point blank refuse to so much as give a female Doctor a chance, their ratings will decline.  Never mind the fact that a female Doctor could actually bring in a whole new raft of fans in time and never mind the probably high number of people who will tune in out of curiosity (and potentially become regular viewers); the BBC will always cower behind what they know works.  So, the Doctor will remain a man.  

He'll remain a man, despite the fact that Timelords can change gender during regenerations.  Despite the fact that with good writing and the right person in the title role, a female Doctor could be a breath of fresh air for the show.  Despite the fact that literally nothing about the character, beyond genitalia, needs to change.  Despite the fact that a female Doctor needn't change the premise of the show at all.

The Doctor simply has to stay a man.

For the sake of the "children."

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

You Can Be Right And Still Be Wrong

It's not easy for a stubborn person to admit when they're wrong.  I know this, because I know many stubborn folk, for whom the idea of holding their hands up and saying "okay, I was wrong and I'm sorry" is the kind of thing that causes them to wake up in the dead of night, in a cold sweat.

I also know this, because to a much lesser extent, I am a stubborn person.

I know that when I have a bee in my bonnet about something, I become rather unshakable in my views.  I know that I tend to react strongly to perceived slights, because I'm ludicrously sensitive and then afterwards, I struggle to let go of the hurt I've felt, in order to see the person who hurt me the way I saw them before.  I know that there have been times when I've decided that I'd rather be silent and say nothing to someone, than have it out with them and fix a problem, because doing so feels too difficult.  So, yeah, I guess I can be stubborn...

I like big BUTs and I cannot lie.

The thing is, I am not one of those people who holds onto that stubbornness forever, refusing to talk about a problem, being against the principle of "forgive and forget," or just generally maintaining negativity in spite of the fact that doing so is actually worsening my own life.

That's because I'm ridiculously self-analytical.  To the point of actual craziness.  I've been known to lie awake at night, wondering why I said a certain thing, or why I felt a certain way.  And I don't just mean on the day a particular event or scenario happened.  I mean weeks later.  Months later.  Years later (I talk about that a bit in this YouTube video).

I find myself wondering what I could have said instead.  What I should have done differently.  I start thinking about any other people involved in a situation and what their feelings on it all might be.  And, if I think that they might be hurting because of something I've said or done, my gut instinct is to apologise and try to make it better.  Not because I suddenly think I was in the wrong all along (although, sometimes I am, obviously), but because I know that the right thing to do, is to consider the feelings of others and to try to behave in a way that causes the least hurt.

Because, you see, you can be right and yet still be wrong.

I know, just... Hear me out.

When you fall out with someone who has hurt you in some way, you might foster some kind of belief that you're the one in the right.  Sometimes, people around you who know what's going on, may also share that view.  And of course, there are situations in which you are ultimately in the right and you need to let a toxic person go from your life, by way of protecting yourself from harm.  In that instance, walking away is entirely the right thing to do.

But sometimes, arguments get unnecessarily heated.  Other people get involved.  Events escalate into something they never started out as.  A petty dispute turns into World War Three.

That happened to me, six months ago.

I believe I had every right to be upset about something.  But now, I also believe that I was very wrong to let it get as bad as it did.  Someone in the situation should have said "hey, hang on, this is getting needlessly nasty.  Let's cool off and meet up to talk about this properly in a couple of weeks."  And in the absence of anyone saying that for those of us involved in the argument, perhaps I should have been the one to suggest it.

But I was stubborn.  I was hurting.  I was mad.  So, I made no such suggestion.  And things worsened.  Soon, instead of anyone talking anything through, or making any effort to fix anything, I was unceremoniously told by someone who had zero place to be getting involved, that it was too late.  Nobody wanted me around, anymore.


At that point, who was right or wrong in the situation was barely important, anymore.  The fact is, a dumb, stupid argument that should have been talked through face to face, had destroyed several friendships.  All because nobody thought to say "this is getting silly, now.  Let's meet up to talk properly."  Nobody, including me.  So, whatever the right or wrong of the original argument, I was wrong, there.  We were all wrong, there.  And I hold my hands up and take responsibility for my lack of any action to save things.  Because, regardless of whether or not I believe I was right to be hurt with various things, I was wrong to let those things - and the subsequent argument about them - destroy a really precious friendship.  In fact, two really precious friendships.

The thing is, I think you can be right and still be wrong, if you go about things in a way that causes hurt, or if you allow a situation that could be fixed, to simply break down altogether.

And the more I thought about this whole "you can be right and still be wrong" thing, the more I realised it applies to a whole lot of different situations.

You see, sometimes, doing the right thing for other people, means doing the wrong thing for ourselves.  And I bet that's something we're all guilty of.

Ever had someone ask something of you and felt duty-bound to do it, because you love that person and maybe they're in a position of need, so you go along with it, despite the fact that perhaps you could use a little help, yourself?  You're doing the right thing for them, whilst perhaps doing the wrong thing for yourself.

We've all done it.  Whether it's staying up late to talk to a friend with a problem, despite having an early shift at work the next day, or simply putting our own feelings second, because someone else needs to be priority, right now.  We've all done the "right" thing for someone else, despite it actually being the "wrong" thing for us.

It's when you think of it like that, that you begin to realise that terms such as "right" and "wrong" are actually rather black and white.  Reality has a far wider colour spectrum than that.

I suppose the most important things to remember are firstly that sometimes, we need to do right by ourselves.  Putting your own feelings to one side is never a permanent solution, after all.  And secondly, once we start analysing the way we really feel about things, we can see how our feelings have coloured our actions (or lack thereof) and - hopefully - confess to ourselves when we've contributed, whether knowingly or not, to a "wrong" situation.

You can be right and still be wrong.

You can do wrong for yourself, in order to do right for someone else.

Life is rarely ever black and white.

Bedtime Story (19/4/2017)

Sometimes, I can control my dreams.  Sadly, not as often as I used to be able to, but still... Dreams fascinate me.  So, I decided to write this bedtime story all about them.

Looking for the podcast to listen to?  Just click here!

What Do You Want To Dream?

Are you tucked up in bed, nice and tight?  
Are you almost ready to turn out the light?
Is it nearly time to say goodnight?
Then, what do you want to dream?

You could think about going to outer space,
And staring an alien, right in the face!
In fact, you could travel to any place.
So, what do you want to dream?

Think about your favourite thing.
It could be a food you eat, or a song you sing.
Think about the happiness it brings,
As you settle down to dream.

You might think about what happened during the day.
You might remember all the games you played.
Those memories aren't so far away,
When you see them in your dreams.

Think of colours; purple, blue or red,
As you snuggle deep down in your bed.
Picture them swirling in your head,
Colouring your dreams.

Imagine all the things that you could be,
Or all the places you'd like to see.
You can see them all for free,
When you travel in your dreams.

Building a castle on a marshmallow cloud.
Your favourite song, played extra loud.
Dancing in front of an enormous crowd.
What will you do in your dream?

It's almost time to go to sleep.
So, snuggle down; don't make a peep!
The only thought you need to keep,
Is: What do you want to dream?

Make a wish on a shining star,
For the stars will watch over where you are.
No matter how near or how far
You travel in your dreams.

What you see might be a big surprise,
When you finally close those sleepy eyes.
So, I hope you think of something nice...

Now it's time to dream.


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Bedtime Story (12/4/2017)

I've been thinking a lot about friendship, lately.  So, I decided to write a story about what friendship means to me.  The picture above is of my best friend Lydia and me.  What better way to illustrate a story about friendship, than with a picture of the closest friendship I have in my life?!

You can listen to this story as a podcast here.

"Because You're My Friend."

Catherine and Emily sat on the hill,
Licking ice creams in the sun.
They gazed down at the town below them,
Counting houses, one by one.

Everything was quiet and still on the hill,
Until a bumble bee came buzzing past.
It gave Emily such a fright,
That she dropped her ice cream on the grass.

"Oh no!"  She complained, watching it melt.
"I was enjoying that," she said.
Then Catherine handed her her ice cream cone,
With a gentle nod of her head.

"Share mine," she offered, with a smile.
"We'll have half each; I really don't mind."
Emily opened her big, blue eyes wide.
Catherine was being so kind!

"You'd really do that for me?" She asked.
"You could have eaten it right up to the end."
But Catherine just shook her head and grinned:

"I don't mind, because you're my friend."

Emily beamed back at Catherine,
And gratefully told her "thank you.
I know that sharing with friends is right,
But it's also a kind thing to do."

Catherine grinned: "I'd do more than that.
I would do anything for you!
Because you're my friend I promise you,
There are all sorts of things I would do."

Emily sat up and glanced at her friend,
As the birds began to sing.
She had just one question on her mind:
"Will you tell me about all of those things?"

Catherine took a very deep breath,
As though she had lots to say.
"I promise to always be there for you,
And to never go away.

If you are ever poorly,
I will try to make you better.
Even if it's just by leaving you to rest,
Though I miss you when we're not together.

And when you're back on your feet again,
I'd welcome you back to school.
And I'd help you catch up on what you'd missed,
So you'd never feel like a fool.

If you're ever feeling sad,
I'd be there to listen to you.
I would offer you hugs and a shoulder to cry on,
Until you've talked it all through.

If we ever disagree on something,
I would listen to how you feel.
And I know you'd listen to my side as well,
And we'd come to some sort of deal.

If you were being bullied,
I would stand up and defend you.
I wouldn't be scared of the nasty person,
I would be ready to protect you.

When you're feeling tired,
I'll make you a cosy bed.
And I'll tell you lovely stories,
Until good dreams fill your head.

I'll keep all of your secrets,
And I know that you'll keep mine.
If you ever need to talk to me,
Just call me, any time.

I'll be here for you forever,
Even if I'm far away.
I know we'll always keep in touch,
Until we meet again, someday.

I always want what's best for you,
And in you I'll always believe.
I'll be proud to celebrate with you,
All the great things you'll achieve.

I'll cheer you on when you do well,
And cheer you up when things go wrong.
I'll always be here to make you happy,
With a smile, a laugh or a song.

We'll go on adventures, together
And we'll play games in the sun.
It doesn't matter what we do;
When we're together, it's always fun.

These are just the ways I show you,
That I'll be here until the end.
And I'll happily do these things for you,
Because you are my friend."

Emily hugged Catherine close.
"You're my friend, too," she said.
"And I'd do all those things for you,
On that you can bet."

So, the sun shone down that day,
And the breeze slowed to a still.
And two friends shared an ice cream,
As they sat upon the hill.


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Forgivable vs Unforgivable

I'm a very forgiving person.  Some might even say too forgiving.  There have been times when someone has hurt me pretty terribly and I've been able to forgive and move past it, in order to retain the relationship I have with that person.  My view on forgiveness has always been that if I want to be forgiven for the mistakes I make, then I should show that same level of forgiveness to others.

Regular readers will know that the exception to this rule has always been my abusive ex.

He showed absolutely no remorse for what he did to me.  In fact, the last time I saw him - when I finally snapped and told him I was sick of the way he treated me - he laughed in my face and told me I'd "allowed" him to abuse me, so he didn't need to be remotely sorry.  That was - and is - unforgivable, in my eyes.

But lately, I've been thinking a lot about what I am prepared to forgive and what I'm not prepared to.  

Typically, my rule - and I'm saying this as a non-religious person, so any preconceived notions you may have of the need to be forgiving to all, need to be left at the door at this point - has always been that if a person can recognise their behaviour as having had a negative impact, and if they are able to apologise for it, then I am usually prepared to forgive them (depending on what they've done, obviously, but we've established that I'm pretty forgiving...).

That rule has rarely wavered, over the years.  Unless a person has done something utterly, indescribably awful, then as long as they say sorry and recognise their behaviour, I rarely have too much of a problem forgiving them.  And, on the other hand, if a person point-blank refuses to acknowledge their behaviour or apologise, I find myself unable to forgive.

I'm pretty black and white about it.

But recently, I've realised that forgiveness is not a black and white issue.

Except here.  Shh.  The point stands.

When everything kicked off last year (continuing into early 2017) and I lost three of my closest friends, I had a very clear view of who I could and couldn't forgive.

The friend who took sides based on family, I never even needed to forgive, because I never blamed her for anything.  There was never any question of me having even the slightest ill-will towards her.  Although she didn't ask for my side of things (which broke my heart, because I thought she knew me well enough not to believe the lies being told about me), I reasoned that blood would always be thicker than water.  She was always going to side with her family over me and I understood that.  No forgiveness required.

The friend I initially fell out with, I wasn't sure I could ever forgive.  After all, my "crime" was to be openly upset and angry with something she'd done, and to speak up about it.  She never apologised or recognised what she'd done wrong.  And that's before we even factor in everything that happened after the argument was over.

Sticking to my black and white rules, that should have counted as unforgivable.

And yet...

None of us can truly say, hand on heart, that we act at our best when we feel hurt, angry or cornered.  And none of us can expect others to behave the same way that we would, when confronted with an accusation.

When someone says to me "I'm hurt/angry about X/Y/Z," my response is (usually) to say "I'm sorry" and try to resolve the problem, calmly.  That said, I'm not Little Miss Perfect.  I have moments where someone tells me I've annoyed them and I just think "oh, for goodness sake, you're overreacting to nothing."  I still say I'm sorry, but my willingness to calmly resolve the situation is nowhere near as strong.  Because I'm human and none of us like being told we're in the wrong if we think otherwise.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm about to contact that former friend and tell her that we should quickly book a mini break to celebrate our return to being buddies.

What I am saying, is that I would be open to talking things though with her.  I would be willing to listen to her explanation as to why it all happened.  Why she was willing to throw an incredibly close, wonderful friendship away, rather than say "sorry I've upset you, that wasn't my intention.  Can we move on from this?"

And if we had that conversation and she was able to say sorry and recognise how hurt I was and what her part in causing that was, I would forgive her.  Gladly.  Because she is only human, too.  I was hurt and angry, but for her to respond in the way she did, she must have been, as well.  And although I have already said it, I would also apologise in return.  Because whilst I believe I didn't do anything wrong, she does.  And I am sorry that we are no longer in one another's lives, regardless of what has happened.

Now, you may be wondering why this is blog-worthy news.  I'm having counselling; acceptance is all part of the grieving process, isn't this just me reaching some kind of peace with situation?

Well, maybe.  But there were three friends I lost as a result of all of this, and only two of them have been mentioned.

The third?  Is unforgivable.

See, the third person didn't have to get involved.  There was no family tie between her and the friend I fell out with.  There was no real need to pick a side.  In fact, my belief throughout all of this, has been that as a supposedly close group of friends, one of those not directly involved (ie not me or the friend I fell out with) could have opted to be the peacekeeper.  Someone could have said "let's meet up on mutual ground and thrash this silly argument out.  You're both hurting.  We can resolve this."  

That didn't happen.  I want to believe that, had the argument happened between two other members of the group, I would have been that peacekeeper.  Because the group meant so much to me.  I cared for every single person in it.  I would have hated seeing two of them falling out and I would have almost certainly texted both of the individuals involved and suggested we get together and I'd arbitrate their argument until it was resolved.  I know I would have wanted to do that, because I've done it for other friends in the past.

I'm not mad at anyone for not deciding to try to play peacekeeper, though.  People don't always want to get involved in another person's drama and with good reason.  There is always the fear that you'll be accused of meddling, or that your good intentions will actually make things a hundred times worse.

What I am mad at, is that this third person decided to pick a side and start mud-slinging.  Because it was the third person who sent me the hate mail.  The letter that told me I was "selfish, thoughtless and bitchy."  The letter that revealed that the supposed "friend" sending it had "had reservations about (me) for a year."  The letter that regurgitated the lie that I had never apologised, or acknowledged my role in the argument.  The letter that rejoiced in telling me "we've all had enough of you."  The letter that not only reduced me to tears, but my mother, too.

I don't forgive the person who sent it.  I will never forgive the person who sent it.

It genuinely intrigues me that I would be willing to forgive one person for causing me enormous pain, but not another.  I can rationalise that the feelings of hurt and anger my friend felt when I told her I was annoyed/upset with her, may have caused her to behave in a way that was extremely painful to be on the receiving end of, but I can't rationalise the third person's decision to add to that pain.

It's made me curious as to what my limits of forgiveness actually are.  I always believed that I could only forgive a person who was apologetic and acknowledged the negative effect that their behaviour had had.  But the friend I fell out with hasn't ever apologised and she sees me as the one in the wrong, so she probably doesn't acknowledge any negative effect her behaviour has had.  So, why am I fostering feelings of forgiveness?  Is it because we were such good friends once upon a time, and I simply miss her?  Have I analysed her behaviour so much that I almost feel I understand her psyche at the time?  Or, is it merely that enough time has passed that I now feel we'd be able to sit and talk it through and maybe I would get the apology I never had?

And regardless of the reason that my feelings of forgiveness are growing, why is it that they're directed only towards that friend, not the third person?  Why was sending me a cruel, harshly worded letter, so much worse than not listening to me when I said I was upset; instead accusing me of "being mean" and writing statuses aimed at me on social media?!

The sad fact is that not only is it highly possible that I might never work out the answers to these questions, but it's also unlikely to ever matter in the grand scheme of things.  Whether I forgive or not, there are other people involved in this situation and they don't.

To them, I was the one in the wrong.  The one who deserved to have posts aimed at her online.  The one who deserved hate mail.  Regardless of whether or not I still have fondness towards two out of three of those people, it is no longer reciprocated.

Turns out that you can heal and forgive and still be the loser.

In the last week, I've had to stop myself several times from texting the friend I fell out with, or from Facebook messaging her sister.  And I haven't stopped myself because I don't want to speak to them, or because I don't miss them both every single day.  I've stopped myself because I know my messages are almost certainly unwanted.  

And yet, in this same past week, I've had several nightmares about ever having to come face to face with that third person, again.  The thought genuinely horrifies me.  I can't imagine ever reaching a place where I could be in the same room as her.

I find it really interesting that this whole situation has caused me to reassess what the limits of my forgiveness might be.  I guess my black and white definition of what is forgivable and what is unforgivable has been tested by what I've been through.

Truthfully, nothing in life is black and white.  It feels like every experience we have, causes us to see new shades of colours we never knew existed.  We just have to learn from those experiences and take those new colours forward with us on our journey.

I have a feeling I still have many more colours to discover.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Things I Can't Say...

One of my favourite Manic Street Preachers lyrics is "do not listen to a word I say; just listen to what I can keep silent."  I've written before about keeping things in and not being able to speak out when we want to, but it's really playing on my mind, lately.

Regular readers will know that six months ago, I fell out with a friend.  And that in turn, led to two other friends taking sides, so that I basically lost all but one member of my closest friendship group and, with it, I lost my support network.

What kick-started that fallout, was me speaking my mind about something someone else had done that had upset me.  I've read and reread the entire text conversation over and over and I can say, with my hand on my heart, that whilst I did sound frustrated and upset (because I was), I never sounded nasty or cruel (two things I was accused of being).  I also apologised, if I'd made the friend feel bad.  But there was no malice to anything I said.  I was just being honest and trying to say "hey, this has upset me.  I'm a bit cross about X and Y, and I want to talk about it."

Being open and honest has always been massively important to me.  But then again, so has tactfulness and diplomacy.  So, I've always tried, when I've spoken my mind, to do so in the nicest way possible.  And, there have been times when I've kept things bottled up, just so that I don't run the risk of upsetting anyone.  Why create nastiness, where none needs to exist, after all?

I was even so aware of my habit of keeping things inside in case I upset anyone, that last October, I made a promise to myself that I was going to be more honest about my feelings.  And I really, genuinely believed that it was going to be a positive turning point in my life.

But, in the last six months, something has changed.  I don't feel able to say how I feel, anymore.  Not to any real degree.

See, the upshot of me speaking my mind six months ago, was that I lost... Well, almost everything.  Some of my best friends.  My regular trips away.  My gig buddy.  My girly days out.  My support network.  

Instead of it being a case of me saying "I'm upset because *reason*" and the person on the other side saying "it wasn't meant to upset you, sorry, let's sort this out," it descended into an argument.  An argument which was taken onto social media to the point that I still detest Facebook all this time later.  

The whole thing had a profound effect on me.

My whole life, I've cherished honesty.  I would rather someone told me an upsetting truth, than allowed me to believe a pretty lie.  I've always felt that if a relationship in my life was important to me, then I owed that person the respect of being honest with them.  I've always worn my heart on my sleeve; it's never been difficult to tell how I feel about things, but I believed passionately in honesty and I was determined to fight my own habit of keeping things bottled up.  Obviously, I knew there would be exceptions to this new rule - people who I wouldn't feel able to be so open with, or times when I'd doubt my own feelings and would inevitably end up keeping them to myself - but on the whole, I reasoned that the times when I had spoken up about how I felt about things had always led to situations getting better; arguments being resolved rather than created and relationships being strengthened. 

Not anymore.

Nowadays, I am literally terrified of the mere thought of telling someone how I feel, especially if I feel hurt or angry about something.

I live in fear of someone I care about upsetting me, even if it's not intentional.  Because I know that I can't tell them how I feel.  And that means that they might do it again.  And again.  Then, resentment might creep in and I'll feel angry as well as hurt, all because I don't have it within me to say "I'm actually a bit upset about *this*."

I would rather swallow my feelings for the rest of time, than ever have to go through a discussion about them.  I'd prefer to talk to someone else about a problem, or try DIY methods to relieve any stress I feel because of a situation, than actually say to the person involved: "I'm angry/hurt/frustrated."

And the worst thing is, I know it's stupid.  Because the reason I am terrified of telling anyone how I feel, is because of what happened six months ago.

Rationally, I know that I had every right to be annoyed with what happened.  Deep down, I know I was right to say something, because it was an issue that had crept into our friendship before and I wanted to sort it out so it never happened again.  In my heart of hearts, I know that the reaction to me being open about how I felt was not rational, nor was it the reaction of a friend who cared for me.

But it's changed everything.

Now, I live in terror of saying "I'm a bit upset," in case the person I'm saying it to, responds by calling me a bully, refusing to acknowledge any responsibility and going on a passive-aggressive social media status spree.  I'm horrified by the mere idea of admitting that someone's behaviour has annoyed me, because they might decide they hate me and turn several other friends against me, as well.

Hilariously, I'm even terrified of clicking "publish" on this post, in case anyone reading it decides it's some kind of attack on them, for some reason.

And the fact is: if it's an attack on anyone, it's an attack on myself.  I have to understand that if something happens and I feel pain because of it, I'm allowed to say so.  At the age of 34, I ought to be aware enough to know that it shouldn't be the case that being open about my feelings leads to the entirely needless death of not just one, but several relationships in my life.

But, this is where I find myself.  Sitting here, genuinely terrified of anything ever happening that makes me feel hurt or angry, because I know I will be too frightened of going through the same horrific experience ever again, to say anything.

I really hope I get past this.  Because honesty is such an important aspect not just of my life, but of life in general.  And I would like to get back on track with my whole "say how I feel" thing.

It's just right now, I feel like my lips are zipped.  And I'm not sure if, or when, they'll ever open again.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Bedtime Story (5/4/2017)

I've been thinking a lot about my own imperfections, lately.  Those of you who read my regular blog as well as my Bedtime Stories section will know that I tend to be rather self-analytical!  And it was thinking about the ways in which we aren't perfect, that led to this week's story.

You can also listen to me reading this story as a podcast!

Perfect Polly

The trouble started when Polly went to her best friend Sam's house for tea.  Sam had his cousin staying for the weekend and Polly was excited to meet her.  

"This is Isobel," Sam said, gesturing to a tall girl will long, blonde hair.  She was obviously a few years older than Polly and she smiled a big, warm smile as Polly waved at her.

"How lovely to meet you," Isobel grinned.  

Polly watched, as Isobel disappeared into the kitchen, to help Sam's mum with the tea.  She seemed to glide, like a graceful swan.  Polly blinked and turned to Sam.  "How old is she?"

"Ten," Sam replied.  

Polly was still not quite five and she thought ten sounded like a very grown up age.  But before she could say anything, Sam asked: "Shall we go and play in the garden?"

Polly nodded and followed her friend.  Before long, the pair of them had grubby stains on their knees, from crawling around in the grass.  Polly's wavy hair was all messed up, from hanging upside down from Sam's climbing frame.  

"Hey, can you do a handstand?"  Sam asked, propelling himself forwards and desperately trying to keep his legs in the air.  Polly was about to try it, when the back door opened and Isobel came out to join them.

"Want me to help you, Sam?"  She asked.  "If you put your hands on the ground, I can lift your legs up, if you like?"

Sam frowned.  "I want to try by myself," he huffed.  

"Okay," Isobel smiled.  "Just remember, you can try it against a wall at first, until you get the hang of it.  The wall gives you something for your feet to rest against."

Polly stared.  She had never been able to do a handstand.  "Can you do them?" 

Isobel chuckled.  "Only after a lot of practise."  She rolled her sleeves up and before Polly could say another word, Isobel had performed the perfect handstand, right there in the middle of the garden.  She didn't even need a wall to balance against!

"That was amazing!"  Polly gasped.  Isobel's hair fell back neatly down to her shoulders and her hands weren't even dirty from touching the floor!

"It was good," Sam admitted.  "Anyway, dinner's probably almost ready.  We should go inside."

At dinner, Polly watched in awe, as Isobel drank delicately from her glass, without spilling a drop of drink.  She watched her eat her dinner, without making the slightest bit of mess.

By the time Polly began getting ready to go home, she had made up her mind:  Isobel was perfect and Polly wanted nothing more than to be exactly like her.

The following morning, Polly woke up feeling excited.  It was her first day of being perfect!  

She quickly got dressed and hurried downstairs.  She found her parents sitting at the breakfast table.  "Good morning," Polly said, in the sweetest voice she could muster.  "Can I help you with breakfast?"

Her dad raised an eyebrow.  "We're just having cereal," he said.  "But you can pour your own, if you want to?"

'That would be lovely," Polly replied, trying to sound as grown up as Isobel.  She picked up the box and poured some cereal into a bowl.  The box felt heavy in her hands and some of the cereal missed the bowl, falling onto the table instead.  Polly tutted and quickly picked up the pieces, hoping nobody had noticed.  Then, she took the bottle of milk and very slowly tipped it over her bowl.   But the milk bottle was even heavier than the cereal box had been, and pretty soon, there was milk all over the table and all over Polly.

"Don't worry," her mum said, rushing to get a cloth.  Polly apologised, but her heart sank a little in her chest and she didn't say a word as the family ate.

After breakfast was eaten, Polly decided to go upstairs to brush her hair.  She wanted it to look long and straight, just like Isobel's.  But Polly's hair was wavy and no matter how much she brushed it, it just wouldn't go straight.  In fact, the more Polly brushed it, the more frizzy it became, sticking out at strange angles.  Polly sighed and shook her head.

"Polly!"  Dad called up the stairs.  "We're taking Baxter to the park.  Come and get your coat on!"

Polly rushed downstairs and grinned at the family dog.  She suddenly had another idea - Isobel had been really helpful, giving Sam's mum a hand with dinner and offering to show Sam how to do a handstand.  Now, Polly could show how helpful she could be, by walking Baxter!  He was only a little cocker spaniel.  How hard could it be?!

"I can hold Baxter's lead for you," Polly insisted, taking the lead from her dad's hand.

"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Dad replied.  "He's only young; he's quite excitable.  If you want to help, why don't you carry your mum's bag for her?"  Polly's mum was having a baby soon and she rubbed her swollen belly and nodded.

Polly thought about it, but her mind was made up.  "Dad can carry your bag," she said.  "I'm going to show you that I'm all grown up and I can walk Baxter."

But, as soon as the front door was open, Baxter went darting out into the street, dragging Polly behind him.  It had been raining and Polly went lurching through puddles, as she struggled to keep up with the dog.  Before long, she had muddy splashes all up her legs.

Dad came rushing over to take the lead from Polly.  "You're a bit little to be walking Baxter by yourself, just yet," he insisted.

Polly sighed, heavily.  She looked down into one of the puddles and saw her reflection staring back at her.  Her legs were muddy, her hair was sticking out and she still had milk on her top from breakfast.  She didn't look clean and when she walked, she didn't seem to glide like a swan.  She couldn't even be helpful without something going wrong.  She wasn't perfect.

Polly didn't say another word all the way to the park.  When they arrived, her mum gave her shoulders a squeeze and asked what was wrong, but Polly didn't want to say.

"Hey, I know what'll cheer you up," Mum said, pointing.  "Look, there's Sam with his mum and dad!  And isn't that his cousin with him?  I can't for the life of me remember her name..."

"Isobel," Polly mumbled.  She didn't really want Isobel to see her looking like such a mess.  But it was too late; Sam had spotted them and was heading over, with Isobel in tow.

"Hi Polly," Sam said.  "Isobel and I were just playing football.  Want to join us?"

Polly shook her head.  "No, I'm not good at that," she said.

Isobel chuckled.  "Neither am I," she insisted.  "But we're having fun, anyway!"

Polly frowned.  "Of course you're good at it," she said.  "You must be; you're good at everything!"

Isobel pulled a face.  "I'm honestly not," she laughed.  "There are loads of things I'm not good at."  She pressed her lips into a line and cocked her head to one side as she looked at Polly.  "Are you alright?"

Polly sighed.  "I'm not perfect."

"Nobody is!"  Isobel grinned.  

Polly frowned again.  "You are!"  She pressed.  "You can eat and drink without spilling anything and you walk really nicely and you're helpful and your hair always looks nice and you can do a handstand without even needing a wall!  I'm just messy and clumsy and I can't help without everything going wrong."  She stared down at her shoes.

Isobel took Polly's hand and walked her a few steps away from everyone else.  She sat down in the grass and motioned for Polly to do the same.  "Do you know what I did last night, after you went home?"  She asked, in a quiet voice.  Polly shook her head and Isobel continued: "I made everyone a mug of hot chocolate and a big bowl of popcorn, so we could watch a film, together.  And as I carried the popcorn in, I forgot that I'd put the mugs down already and I put the bowl on the table and Auntie Shelly's mug of hot chocolate went all over the place.  Honestly, you should have seen the carpet - we had to scrub it for ages.  And it still smells of chocolate, this morning!"

Polly stared at her.  "But... You didn't mean it!  And you don't make a mess all the time, do you?!"

"Of course I didn't mean it," Isobel agreed.  "And no, I don't make a mess all the time, but neither do you.  You just notice it more at the moment, because you're trying your hardest not to be messy."

Polly sighed.  "I really am trying," she said.  "But it's not working."

"You're only little," Isobel told her.  "I used to spill my drink every single night at dinner time.  And you should have seen the state of me when I came in from playing in the garden!  I was always getting in a mess.  But I got older and I learned to be a bit more careful.  And you will, too!  I still make mistakes, but I say I'm sorry and I try to learn from them.  That's what growing up is about, Polly.  It's not about being perfect.  It's about admitting that you're not."

Polly smiled.  "So... It doesn't matter if I drop things, or that I can't do a handstand?"

"Not one bit," Isobel said.  "You're fine as you are."  She stood up.  "Anyway, I can help you do a handstand.  Want to try?!"

Polly beamed.  "Yes, please!"

She bent down put her hands on the ground.  Slowly, Isobel helped her to lift her legs all the way up.  "I'm actually doing it!"  Polly shrieked.  "Thank you!"

She dropped back down to the floor and Isobel smiled.  "See, you just need a bit of practise, that's all.  And never be too shy to admit you need help."

Polly nodded.  "Was it a good handstand?"

Isobel wrapped an arm around Polly's shoulders.  "Perfect," she said.