Saturday, January 23, 2010

A question about rape

What would you do if you knew your estranged sister who had always been mean to you, was marrying a man who had raped you 13 years previously?

I'm busy doing some research for my next book, having finally completed the final proof edit of The Case of Billy B. If you feel you can answer this question, please do so. What would you do? Would you tell her? Would you tell your family? Would you tell your friends? Your sister wants you to forgive her for all the mean things she did to you while growing up. Will you forgive her and then tell her? Would you just keep it a secret? All input much appreciated.
 The Rape Recovery Handbook: Step-By-Step Help for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I blame you

How often in life do we hear those words and accept the blame for something we never did?  This morning, after taking my son to the airport, and feeling sad as I'd only see him again in 5 months' time, my 14 year old daughter turned to me and said, "I think I'm getting a cold.  Do you think I should swim today during PE?"  
"Yes," I replied, still thinking about my son I had just said goodbye to.
"Well," she replied in a very mean tone, "If I get very sick because I'm swimmimng today, then I blame you.  If I drown because I can't breathe through my nose while swimming, then I blame you."
My first reaction was to tell her that if she drowned she wouldn't be blaming anybody.  My second thought was, if you breathe through your nose while swimming, you will drown.  I can't accept the blame for that.  breathing through your nose while swimming would just be your own stupidity.  But I refrained from giving an answer.  I decided to use the 'ignore' treatment.  It usually works with her.  About 5 minutes later she tried to engage in conversation.  I ignored her.  Eventually, in a timid voice, she asked if I was mad with her.
"Yes," short weet, very abrupt.
I should have communicated more.  Explained that it is not okay to blame somebody like that.  But, my heart was sad after saying goodbye to my son, who never blames me for anything.  I drove the rest of the way home in silence, seething with resentment.  I should have spoken up.  But, should of and could have mean nothing.  I didn't say anything.
Tonight, my goal is to speak to my daughter and explain that it is not on to always blame others.  She never accepts the blame.  It is always someone else's fault.  If someone is always blaming you and trying to load you with guilt.  say no.  Do not accept the blame for things you haven't done.
Have a great 'blame-free' weekend!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Choosing the right friends is not always easy

Many of us struggle to make really good friends.  We have many associates, people we socialise with, but not many really good friends.  I have had many friends over the years, but there are only about four people who are my 'for life' friends.  These are people who have been close friends for years.  I might not see them or have contact with them for years, but the minute we see each other, we can pick straight up from where we left off.  These are genuine friends, who don't leave you when something better comes up.  However, those kinds of friends are a rare treasure.  We need to nurture those friendships like you would a baby.  I've copied an article I wrote for, about how to be a friend.

To have a friend you must first be a friend

My mother once bought my daughter a large poster to put above her bed that said, "To have a friend, you must first be a friend." How apt is that? That little saying has stayed with me all these years. What you put out into the universe is what you get back. If you gossip about others, they'll gossip about you. Okay, they'll probably gossip about you regardless, that might not have been a good example. But if you show all the qualities of being a good friend, then people will show the same back to you. Seriously, it does work. If you are a mean old cussedly bitch, criticise everybody and everything, people are going to stay away from you. Who wants to be friends with a moaning whingebag? If you are sociable, people generally tend to gravitate towards you. So, I'd have to say that for me the top quality required, is to be a good friend first. Show the other mugs how it's done. Let them reflect your goodness.

A genuine friend is someone who doesn't lie to you. If something's bugging them, and you say, "What's cooking Dude?" and they reply, "Nothing my little petal," and you can see something is bothering them. Then they're not being honest. Friends should feel comfortable enough with each other to share their feelings, unhappiness, thoughts, ideas, and all that kind of mumbo jumbo stuff. If another so-called friend is bad-mouthing you behind your back, a genuine friend will come and tell you and help you to work out a plan of revenge. If your revenge plan is a little out of whack, a good friend should be honest enough to tell you that your plan sucks big time. And if your friend is honest with you and you don't like what they say, don't pick up the cast iron frying pan and hit them over the head, because that is just not nice.
A true friend remains loyal during times of stress and strife. They don't take a knife and go for the jugular and jump on the bandwagon with all the other simple-minded weak-willed friends. A good friend will stand by you whatever the circumstances. Of course, you need to practise showing loyalty yourself. When your friend finds themselves in a spot of bother, stay loyal and true to them. Don't lift up your skirt, remove your stilettos and sprint off into the sunset never to return. Otherwise, they'll do the same to you.
Make sacrifices
A simply awesome amazing super duper friend, will even make sacrifices for you. When you're a bit skint and payday is only a week away, they might advance you some much-needed money to pay your electricity bill. Always make sure you pay them back before leaving town, as they'll think twice about sacrificing their beer money for you again. Making sacrifices for each other is what compromising and being flexible is all about. If you want to go to see Harry Twatter and your friend wants to see Goldilocks and the Three Bare Boys, one of you has to sacrifice what you want to be able to reach a compromise. Just a little tip. Don't always make your friend be the one to make the sacrifices. Sometimes it's quite spiritual to make sacrifices yourself. You feel good about yourself then. Okay, if they need one of your kidneys, that might be taking it a bit far. But it would be great if they gave you one of their kidneys when you needed it. Or their liver, lungs or heart.
A good friend is always kind and shares. Generosity is very important. If they sit at the movies and don't share their popcorn or box of Maltezers, then they are not showing the quality of kindness. If they accidentally start to goosestep and kick your mangy little maltese poodle mutt with each step, then they are not showing kindness to animals. If they can't be kind to your dog, chances are, they can't be kind to you. People can show kindness in many ways. Not necessarily giving money to the legless cross-eyed lesbian in a wheelchair begging at the traffic lights. Being kind can be something simple like not joining in when a group of friends are analysing and dissecting an absent friend. If both you and your friend need to pee urgently and there's only one available toilet, then an act of kindness would be to let the other person go first while you just bravely clamp your legs and your teeth shut tightly. Someone who is mean to others, might not show kindness to you should you find yourself in a situation when you really need an act of kindness.
A good friend is not one who tells you that the meal you slaved over for hours tasted good and then they leave or sit and watch TV while you slave over the dishes. A good friend is one who helps with the washing up. A good friend won't sit with a smirk or smug expression while you struggle alone. They'll leave their comfort zone and help out. Basically, a good friend knows when it's time to help and time to support.
If you think of yourself as a double D boob, without support of a bra, that boob will droop down to your belly button, and even your knees, so that you kick them while you walk. Now, while that might help a soccer player practising ball control, that is of no use to you. You need that bra to support those pendulous sagging boobs. Just like your boobs need a bra, you need a supportive friend who'll be there when the going gets tough, through thick and thin. You don't want a friend, that when the going gets tough, they leave. A supportive friend counsels you, sets you up with a hot date, and lends you their car if you don't have one to go on the date. A supportive friend will meet you at the airport when you get back from an amazing holiday in Zanzibar while they've been working 9 to 5 in a dreary office with coffee rings on the desks.
Share interests
A great friend is someone who shares the same interests as you. It would be pointless going on and on about how exciting a game of golf is, when your friend can't see the point of smacking the shit out of a little dimpled white ball that did nothing to you, and then walking bloody miles to find it. The same as if you are crazy about spending a Saturday afternoon shopping with friends and having a cappuccino and cheesecake at Starbucks with all your shopping bags, and your friend gets the jitters when someone says the word shopping, breaks out in a rash and starts gnashing their teeth, they wouldn't share your shopping interest with you and would be no fun at all. Fun is very important. However, it is not recommended to have too much fun sharing the same sexual partner. Sharing a love interest will only end in tears.
A friend who treats you and speaks to you like you are the piece of dog doo stuck under their shoe is not worth having as a friend at all. They need to respect your views and opinions, respect your space, just generally respecting who you are. A friend is not showing respect when they try to change you into something you're not. A friend who does not allow you alone time and is constantly invading your space is being disrespectful. Remember, you need to show respect first, to gain respect.
Trust is mega-important as a quality. If you can't trust your friend with your confidences and secrets, then they aren't a very good friend at all. If you are scared to leave your handbag lying around as you believe that your friend might swipe some of your hard-earned cash from your Prada wallet, then they are not trustworthy and no point in having around as a friend. You have to be able to trust that your friend has your best interests at heart all the time, and won't step on you to achieve their own ends. You have to be able to trust that your friend will build you up when you are down. If there is no trust, and you are constantly on guard and suspicious, looking for signs that you are being used and abused, then trust is definitely lacking.

Remember, you yourself need to show all these qualities first and be a good friend yourself, before you can expect people to show these qualities back to you in return.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What is cocooning and why do we do it?

Cocooning is a home furnishing trend?

Chatting to my eldest daughter at lunch one day, just before I broke her finger in the car door, I asked her about her hectic social life. Looking at her Facebook pics, as you do from time to time because you're her mother, tells me that her life is just one big party. "Actually," she replied with a mouth full of artichoke pizza, "I'm cocooning at present. I decided not to go to a big party last night and elected to rather stay home by myself and watch dvds."
"Cocooning?" I asked with a confuddled expression on my face. "What on earth is cocooning?" Immediately, images of silkworm cocoons in an aquarium tank came to mind. I thought that maybe she had taken up a new hobby and was busy spinning and weaving silk threads from cocoons.
My daughter gave me her exasperated, 'can't believe my mom is so dumb' look. "I've been a bit wild and partied a lot, now all I want is some quiet time with myself. I have no desire to go out and be with people. That's what I call cocooning, when I shut myself off from everybody for a while. I go into my cocoon."
"Oh," I said nodding my head with understanding as I took a sip from my diet coke, "Cocooning." I thought back to a time when I was supposed to go to a big 'leaving Nanjing' party around the corner from where I live, and how my bed and the live rugby game on my macbook seemed more of a drawcard, so I stayed home and didn't go. "Actually, I think I'm cocooning at the moment as well."
On my return home, and to take my mind off my daughter's bloodied finger which was in the way when I slammed the car door shut, I immediately researched 'cocooning' to find out if it was a common practice or a new phenomena. I realised, that it was something I'd been doing for years and my daughter probably learnt it from me.

The word 'cocooning' was first identified as a trend in the late 80's early 90's by an author called Faith Popcorn, in her book 'The Popcorn Report: The Future of Your Company, Your World, Your Life.' She basically looked at society and saw that people were going out less as they were cocooning in their homes because work was busy, hectic, and the news in the papers and on TV told them that it’s dangerous to be anywhere but safely ensconced in their castle. This started a whole new trend in the manufacturing of home appliances, home furnishings and electronics. Home theatres, the internet, bars, coffee filter machines, dining room tables that convert into pool tables - all of these made staying at home and entertaining friends far easier (and less expensive) than going out on the town.

Faith Popcorn suggested that cocooning could be broken down into three different types: the socialized cocoon - that's where you stay home and entertain there; the armoured cocoon - that's where you surround yourself with guard dogs or top notch security systems; and the wandering cocoon - where you go outside but shut yourself off from the world around you by covering your ears with a headphone listening to a walkman, now it would be an ipod or mp3. However, I'm not sure that that's what my daughter meant by 'cocooning.' Because, although with the socialized cocoon you are staying home, you are still entertaining and interacting with other people.

I want to be alone

Many years ago, the old actress Greta Garbo's famous tagline was, "I want to be alone." Nowdays, it's the band Green Day who sing, "I want to be alone." Let's face it, Faith Popcorn's views on cocooning aside, we cocoon when we want to be alone. We want quality 'Me-Time.' We can choose to contact people via sms or the internet during our alone time, if that is our desire. But, we choose not to socialize with people in real time, face to face. Virtual interaction is okay, but even then, many times we ignore emails, sms and don't turn on our chat. It's not because we have an antisocial personality. It's not because we are having panic attacks and are in danger of becoming agoraphobic. It's because at that particular time in our life, on that particular day, we need our own space. We want to be alone. There is nothing wrong with anybody for needing that alone time. There is no need to call the men in white jackets to come and carry you away in a straight jacket. In fact, being alone is actually good for your soul.

Why do we sometimes have the desire to be alone?

Humans are social creatures, that is true. But, when you are under stress, when you have a lot on your mind, when you've had a hard day at work, when you are mentally tired, when you have financial hardships, when you have disappointments, when you have hard decisions to make, when your job involves you interacting with people day in and day out, 40 hours a week - then the last thing on your mind is a night out with friends where you are required to be entertaining and make sparkling conversation. At that time in your life, you just can't be bothered. Being nice to people is hard work, especially if you have had to be nice to idiots all day. At times like that, the peace and quiet of your own room or house is Utopia.
Going out somewhere means having to shower, get all dressed up, maybe put on make-up, wash and dry your hair, all of which isn't exactly fun if you're not in the mood and feeling a little irritable or tired. Going out for dinner which is often overpriced and not as good as what you can cook at home, drinking copious amounts of alcohol which adds up, ends up costing you a fortune at the end of the night and causes you to wake up feeling like a train wreck the next morning, makes you wonder if going out is worth it. I'm not too keen on going out during the work week, as I have to wake up at 6am every morning, and waking up with a throbbing head and a thick rubbery tongue and breath that smells like a cross between a brewery and a skunk that crawled in there and died, is no longer an option for me. Maybe I'm just getting old.

Sometimes, your friends might not understand that you are cocooning. They'll bombard you with texts, phonecalls and emails encouraging you to get out and overcome your depression. What they don't realise, is that you are not depressed. You just want time alone to do the things you enjoy and love, without boundaries, restrictions or their input. Be honest and tell your friends, you need to go into your cocoon for a few days and you'll be missing in action for a while. You'll call them when you are ready to leave your cocoon.
We cocoon when we want to reflect on our lives and think about the path we need to take for our future. During this period of introspection, we can grow and develop as we learn to like ourselves and accept who we are. In fact, cocooning should be made compulsory for everyone in a relationship and everyone who has finished school. Teenagers use their ipods and mp3's to cocoon as they shut out the rest of the world and are alone with their thoughts and their music.

A cocoon is quite comfortable and you might relish being unmotivated to do anything. It's almost a case of 'sometimes I just sits and sometimes I sits and thinks.'  Cocooning makes me feel quite free and independent as I'll dictate when I'm ready to leave my cocoon and be part of the social whirl and twirl again. Cocooning is great. You should try it sometime. Just give yourself space to be....well, be yourself..

Friday, January 1, 2010

Thanking my lucky stars

January the 1st is always a day when you can look back and reflect. Reflect on life in general and relationships. Today, as I saw off my friends at the airport as they return to China, I thanked my lucky stars that I have good friends, people whose company I enjoy, and people whom I don't mind camping in my house for three weeks. It was sad saying goodbye. Keeping friendships going via email is not the same as seeing people in person. I had to wonder whether or not I'll ever see them again.
This got me thinking about the different types of people we have relationships with. By this I mean friendship relationships, not sexual ones. Sometimes you meet someone whom you just gel with. You live in each other's pockets, you are inseparable, and then, for no specific reason you just move apart. You develop friendships with other people. You move on, and this is okay.
Then you have friends who fall more into the acquaintance category. People you know to chat to, sometimes socialze with, but not people you'll lose sleep over if you never see them again.
Some friends can be a positive influence on you, and others a negative influence. I have this one acquaintance at work who is very negative about everything - where we work, live, people we work with. Every morning I hear her gripes, caustic comments and it rubs off. I start to have negative thoughts about my job and where I work. But then, when I'm with someone who sees things in a positive light, I immediately feel more positive.
I guess, the point I'm trying to make, is try and surround yourself with positive people as it does rub off on you. If you are already in this great position, then thank your lucky stars.
Wishing all of you a prosperous and positive 2010!