A Mother’s Day Letter

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I should start by wishing you a happy Mother’s Day, but I suppose that’s unnecessary as you won’t be receiving this anyway. And anyway, although those are the words you expect, those are not the words you want to hear.

It took me a long time to figure out what you wanted me to say. I used to think it was ‘Sorry,’ ever since you told me that when you were pregnant with me, you hadn’t wanted a girl. That your mother had told you girl children were more trouble than they were worth by virtue of being female (this taught me so much about the dysfunction of my extended family, by the way). Not that I’ve turned out as traditionally feminine as either you or my father expected. But it’s not that. It’s not as simple as you having misgivings at the birth of your first daughter, because after the next three followed I think we can both agree there’s nothing wrong with girls. (Except the hour it takes your fifteen year old one to leave the bathroom.)

The second thing I thought you wanted me to say, was about my sexuality. Yes, I’m gay. And for when I eventually tell you, on one eventual date, I will be sorry for hurting you. Part of me is sorry now. It kills me not to say, even when you occasionally raise your eyebrows at my choice of books, when you tease me about marriage or when you flat-out ask. It really does. But that’s not what you want me to say, perhaps because you know by the so-called mother’s intuition that it’s not the time yet.

But I know what you want me to say. And I don’t hate you.

Such an arbitrary, odd thing to say. Especially on Mother’s Day.

But that’s what you’re looking for. Something I’ve realised, talking to my father, is that all parents have this natural fear of their children growing to loathe them. It’s one of the most painful types of rejection possible. And I know you worry. Because I’m not six anymore, I’m sixteen and we don’t talk like we used to. Sometimes we don’t talk at all. Our conversations sometimes become quickly argumentative, because we’re just such different people. We have different values, different friends. Different ideas. Different directions. There are things we don’t like about each other; familiarity truly does breed contempt. But. I don’t hate you. I never did. Sure, it’s cool to be distant and standoffish with your parents nowadays, sure I should get in touch with my Dad more. But I don’t hate you, and I never did. And it isn’t just because you’re my mother and I’m your first daughter.

You gave me my first book.

You encouraged me to read and expand my mind.

You fed my appetite as a reader, and when you saw the notebooks I’d filled in my clumsy attempts at writing you brought me my first laptop so I could grow into a writer.

You opened my mind. If it wasn’t for you, I truly would not be the individual I am today.

My favourite memory: I wasn’t in school for whatever reason; you weren’t at work. Down to the station, the rushing of air as the train comes in, the way everyone quietly moves with the train when we’re on. You hold my hand all the way. We go nowhere in particular. I don’t remember if we said anything. Probably. Probably not. It doesn’t matter. I was five, and it was one of the happiest moments in my life.

Happy Mother’s Day. Happy every ordinary day. And maybe, on one of these ordinary days, I’ll send you this letter. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it doesn’t even matter, and nothing needs to be said, because of course you already know.

Reflections on Change and the Church

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St Paul’s Cathedral is one of those masterpieces of old architecture you come across in certain parts of England and the world, the sort of place you need know nothing about to be in awe of. I was one of two Christians on my school’s Philosophy trip to visit it; the two teachers were strong atheists and the rest of the students were either of the ‘Everyone knows God isn’t real’ hipster-atheist type or agnostics who had not given the idea much thought (until our God and the World module). Yet no matter our personal ideologies, everyone who entered that building went silent.

I’ve often wondered what it was that fell upon people in such places. Is it the idea that millions of others have walked where we walked, or that so much time had been devoted to religious art? Is it God? As a Christian, I don’t know. I do know that the Church is changing. I know that I, personally, have never been very fond of the Church anyway. Perhaps it is my history with African or ethnic churches, but I’ve always been inclined to seek God elsewhere. Today, many do. Apart from school students (my group and some primary school children), the vast majority of the worshippers I observed at the Cathedral’s Eucharist were at least over 50. The other Christian in our group, a girl, didn’t go up for Communion. In her own words, it was ‘embarrassing’ in front of the other students. Times are changing.

No matter your religion/irreligion, what do you think of the Church as a whole?

A few weeks ago, here in England, a same-sex marriage bill passed through the preliminary stages of Government approval. There was uproar from the Church, who felt their position would be weakened by it (I’m not entirely sure how, but that was one of their major complaints). A few days ago, yet another Catholic priest (Scotland, this time) stepped down from his position due to sexual misconduct. Around the same time, the Pope resigned from the Papacy (though obviously for different reasons).

I know some of you are religious, and I know that some of you are not. And that some of you are not sure. But we live in fast-changing times, and even if current change became minimal change would still happen. The world and its culture is constantly evolving, and like it or not the Church has continuously changed along with that evolution. Not that anyone would admit it, but it has. It’s members have changed too. Amongst other things, few people really believe the Bible word for word anymore and in the face of hypocrisies and controversies which have rattled the church, many have or have at least contemplated turning away.

Does this mean the death of God? Of course not. Perhaps it is the slow death of religion (well, decline, as I don’t believe religion will ever ‘die’) though, as people come to the realisation that faith in God or a god or gods is an entirely separate thing from religion. Because of this, religious institutions and believers are changing. Changing their attitudes and their behaviours and their lifestyles. They are not, though, really changing their faiths. Humans are naturally irrational creatures, and regardless of whether or not God exists we will always still believe in something ‘more’ out there. Maybe it’s God, maybe it’s nothing; maybe it’s aliens.

The Great Joy of Criticism

…rock. Sometimes.

One of the hardest aspects of creating something, whether that is a novel or a blog post, is being criticised about your own creation. Because when you make it, it might seem the most perfect thing in the world to you, or something at least acceptable. Criticism, if not well-handled, acts as a swift, demotivating kick in the teeth. It’s why so many new writers, new bloggers, new artists, new <insert creative individual here> give up so quickly. They don’t yet know the secret of the successful people: criticism is the true chisel to your block of marble, not your own fanciful ideas and original ventures. That kick knocks you down, but to get anywhere, the frustration of it better make you get the hell up again.

Everyone’s been there. On WordPress, it’s the beginning of blogging and the stage where the novelty wears off, where you’re waiting for a like or comment. And one comes along, but it’s one of disagreement. Or you’ve settled on one topic for your blog, and someone comes along who says that they dislike the way you do things, that the way you write seems forced or unnatural.

And you get mad. Don’t deny it, you get mad.

Maybe you’re sure that you’re blogging about what you’re passionate about, and you think this guy’s obviously come to the wrong blog. And maybe you’re right, he has. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use his criticism. You can use it strengthen what you write, maybe to give readers notice about your blog’s focus, or to examine other opinions whilst maintaining your own. Because there is you, the blogger, and there is also your audience. Blogging is an exchange between blogger and audience, and wider opinion only means more is learnt and shared.

Many of you likely realise that I’m still working on my NaNoWrimo novel, which currently sits at around 59000 words. That may sound like a lot, but its still about 13000 words off my target goal. Recently I ventured back to an old writing support website I used to hang around, and posted a chapter excerpt to be reviewed. And I did get that kick in the teeth. And it was painful. Painful because I’ve kept the majority of my manuscript to myself, not shown it around to anyone, and somewhere in the process of writing I’d forgotten that creativity needs an audience. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, I’m determined to correct my mistakes and keep on working. The same thing happens in my college essays, but each time I get up again to try again. Eventually, I’ll get it. Eventually, you’ll get it. And if even one new creative mind elsewhere could get it, then that’s one more artistic and individual mind we have in our society. One more person who did not give in.

And yeah, sometimes criticism is just not constructive. Sometimes its just a load of crap, and you’re justified in ‘accidentally’ deleting that comment. While there’s a great joy to be had in criticism, the joy of improvement, sometimes it’s easier to ignore something non-constructive than to get in a mutually-degrading shouting match with what is more often that not a childish troll.

On the Hardness of Life

Sometimes, the hardest things to think about are the things which truly matter.

So, to get right into it, I now know a grand sum of four people who have attempted to take their own life. One was a friend in high school. Twice. In her own words, it was a cry for help, help that she eventually, thankfully, received. She’s doing better now. I see her around college, she shouts my name (all my friends do this, actually) and we chat for a while. Another is a current friend in college. She has family problems, she’s alcoholic and she gets high every now and then. She’s 17. She has scars on her arms from cutting, a problem I’m literally forcing her to get help for, and she told me a few weeks ago that she’s tried to hang herself before, in her bedroom. Another time, she downed a bottle of pills. She said that sometimes it felt like her life was falling through her hands. It’s odd, it’s incredibly sad and somehow it is life that across the world people who have not yet seen it no longer want to.

I’m not suicidal myself. In our college’s debating society, the motion was put forward recently that suicide was an inherently selfish act. In my Psychology class, we’ve recently discussed both the biological and environmental causes of depression. Only a few days ago, Mindy McCready, a fairly popular American country singer, committed suicide after a long bout of depression in her life. So where am I going with this?

What do we do to help people who are suicidal or depressed? Should we do anything?

In a number of religions, suicide is a major sin against God. In societies across the world, people who have attempted it or families with a suicide amongst them are stigmatised. I’m not sure why. I’m not entirely sure if it’s right. Is it part of human nature to shun those who remind us of the ever-present presence of death?

I’m almost sure that a few of my readers will know someone who has or has tried to commit suicide. As one of my teachers said: ‘I’m 31 and it’s a sad fact that at my age, you probably know someone who has died that way.’ How have you reacted to it, or tried to help that person?

Personally, I don’t care for the supposed right or wrong of suicide. I care, though, about losing the people I’ve grown close to. It’s one of those areas in my life which I often feel I have no control over, because sometimes no amount of positivity can bring people back from the edge they’ve reached. Right, wrong; that’s a very sad truth.

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I almost feel I should apologise for such a heavy post after such a long absence. Unfortunately, though, while work has consumed much of my time, worry is a greater consumer. As I said above, sometimes we have to think about the hard things.

Growing Into Those Shoes

Do you still remember being six or seven and being taken to get new shoes with your parents? Or those hand-me-downs which used to belong to your brother until he didn’t want the grotty old things anymore? It was always that same phrase your mother would say when you raised your leg and your feet slipped out: “Well, you’ll grow into them.”

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2012 in review

So this is my ‘End of 2012’ post. Four months on this blog and I like to think that I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve managed to rack up 10000 views, a small but loyal following and even more importantly several friends. It’s been so freeing to post and express myself on this little blog, and I just have to thank God and my lucky stars that I took the leap and started it. WordPress is a great site, and I really have to thank the WordPress team for finding my one post all the way back in August and helping me meet other great bloggers like yourself (yep, I’m talking to you. 😉 ) Thank you people. Here’s to a great 2013, no more Mayan prophecies and success in our never-to-be-completed New Years’ Resolutions. Happy New Year or Xin Nian Kuai Le!

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 10,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 17 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Well, that was disappointing…but Happy Holidays!

Well, over here it’s around twelve in the morning on the 24th of December, and most of us are still here. Which means we still have to deal with money shortages after Christmas spending, having distant relatives over for holiday festivities and (for me, anyway) exams in the New Year. The world goes on.

The youthful face of worldwide disappointment.

ANYWAY. What with Nanowrimo last month and a few tests/exam preparation shenanigans this month, I find I now have a backlog of awards!

Very Inspiring Blogger Awardgiven by NicoLite

Sunshine Awardgiven by lespetitspasdejuls

Liebster Awardgiven by shelconners (I’m aware that this award comes with several questions to be answered, and I intend to address that in a second post.)

I’m immensely grateful to all three bloggers who’ve nominated me for these rewards, and every other reader who makes them possible by reading and/or promoting my blog. My journey in the blogosphere/Jonesville (TM’d by Emily) really just gets better and better each month. From ranting and rambling to writing, I’m really grateful to the response I get (even if I don’t always reply to comments speedily; definitely one of my New Year’s resolutions.)

Without further ado, the requirements of both the Sunshine Award and the Very Inspiring Blogger Award are to nominate other bloggers . To cut down on post size (sorry!) I’ll be passing on just the Very Inspiring Blogger Award to four bloggers whose blogs I find incredibly inspiring; they are in turn meant to link back to this post and nominate 15 (or any other reasonable number) other bloggers. It is entirely possible that I’ve nominated these people for awards before, but they most certainly deserve them. If you haven’t already, give these blogs a read.

Thomas at The Quiet Voice: Willing and unafraid to discuss tough or controversial topics, and discusses his life and opinions with a brutal and refreshing honesty. Blogs like this really make you think, or at least open you to the idea of discussion when it comes to the ideas you hold without really considering.

Lisa at A Gripping Life: You know how on television sitcoms, there are those characters who the writers try to show are ultra-professional at their job, even though a sitcom writer does not know enough about X profession to accurately portray it? Lisa is not that character. This woman is a professional at psychology, and you can see her experience in almost every post. And in every other post you can see the normal, human person behind the analytical psychologist. And all these posts are indubitably amazing (yes, that is a weird word and yes, I threw it in especially to confound you because my brain is full of Philosophy revision.) Read this blog.

RR at RegisteredRunaways: A blog from a happily gay Christian with inspiration and encouragement in every last word. I don’t think I’ve yet found a blog with more consistently positive posts than this one, and every one refreshes me and makes me reconsider my ideas on a variety of issues, whether pertaining to the LGBT community or not. Sexuality really doesn’t matter here, people.

Emily at The Waiting: Well, I’ll be mighty surprised if you haven’t heard of this blogger. And I’m fully aware that I’ve sent an award her way before. But if you’ve read her blog before, than you understand. And if you haven’t, than welcome to a mommy/mummy blog like no other. Upon clicking the link above, you will depart to a land of babies, Festivus and musings about life which more often than not shoot off in fantastically odd directions. Good luck. 😉

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Being well aware of other commitments outside Jonesville and the busyness of this holiday season, there’s obviously no need for nominated bloggers to respond to this in a rush. It may be a few hours too late over here, but Happy Festivus anyway my fellow bloggers, and tomorrow have a very Merry Christmas!