Misguided vanity

As a teenager in the UK, I had a few part time jobs. The first was serving takeaway fish and chips in a timber framed shop with higgledy-piggledy floors, ceilings, windows and doors. It was located in a high street where the buildings appeared to have collided into each other.

The income paid for uniforms, chef’s knives, and books, required for study. Following the start of a two-year sandwich course*, I was informed I needed to get experience working in a more superior hospitality business. I was fortunate in securing the role of banqueting waiter at a half timbered C16th hotel.

The business was purchased by a local hotel group, leading to my first redundancy and redeployment. The new hall porter position was located at a grand C19th mansion, turned hotel and function centre. The group also ran the lido in the town. Each Summer staff had the opportunity of working in the lido kiosk.

As my heritage is more Northern European than Mediterranean, my pasty white limbs would sear to a deep vermilion when flaunted in the sun. In order to protect my fragile ego I opted to succumb to packaged promises of golden to bronzed litheness.

Quelle horreur and indignity I endured exposing the resulting patchy brown reality!

*a training course with alternate periods of formal instruction and practical experience.

Afterwards

Afterwards, the Regional Director talked as he walked me out of the room, ‘about the hobbies, I recommend taking up rugby, builds character’, he said.

Earlier that day in 1988, while nervously picking at a bowl of All Bran, sliced banana, and skimmed milk, I decided to be authentic. It was time to be me, find my voice, and use it!

Being meek and mild, keeping secrets, and hiding in plain sight had carried me through the first 25 years of my life. Speaking up and out challenged every fibre of my being, even with improved self-confidence from spending four years in post college employment.

I am forever grateful for the jobs that freed me from the toxic family home. Escape from my stepfather’s episodes of psychotic rage, child abuse, and domestic violence directed at Mom. My only regret was leaving my youngest brother, by nine years, behind with his father.

The last time I saw my stepfather we had an altercation upstairs. I can’t remember the cause of the fight. What sticks in my mind is a split second decision that could have negatively impacted my life forever. Being slow to anger, my judgement is often compromised, when I’m enraged. In that moment, clarity of thought prevailed. I was faced with a choice, walk down the stairs and out of the house forever or punch my stepfather causing him to fall backwards down the stairs.

Images of him hitting my mother’s stair lift as he tumbled, followed by his mutilated form lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs, flashed through my mind. Choosing the former, I got on with my life.

Work roles provided purpose, financial independence, and an identity; a facade of societal compliance. Space, secrecy, safety, and nurturing friends facilitated the exploration of my likes and dislikes.

The appointments at this time, were largely humdrum. I sought out ways to release my creativity. The main barriers to self-expression were self-doubt and a perceived need to keep up appearances, shielding my true self.

Butterfly-like my ideas for a career in the arts were many and fleeting including, a teenage dream of becoming a dancer. In my twenties my friend and I attended ballet and tap, evening classes. Hence the questionable hobbies of a young man seen through the eyes of a conservative authoritarian.

My upbringing had instilled in me to respect and not to question authority. I am sure he thought the advice he was giving was intended to guide me. How was he to know about the inner turmoil raging in my mind.

This brief pep talk pushed me further into hiding.

Halloween thoughts

I was going to write that I’d been thinking for a while it feels like we’re in a holding pattern. Being in limbo, on the way to something, somewhere.

Today I realised, pondering on an unknown future takes me away from enjoying the present. Where we are now, so much to celebrate.

It’s not the first time this has happened. Previously, shortly after turning fifty, I was checking out retirement living.

Another thought occurred to me while showering: Is it foolish to accept a nagging want to not grow old, opening a world of risk?

Conscious over indulgence leading to an early death.

Avoiding enjoyment in the present, in case, prematurely, the reaper calls. Disappointment in the extreme to embrace life when death comes knocking!

Sixth year anniversary

While away for a few day in Mount Coolum, this week, I snapped a couple of photos of these clusters of perky blooms.

Grown as houseplants in the UK, I was fascinated by the strength and beauty of these Winter flowers. The climate in south east Queensland, Australia suits outdoor Springtime flowering.

A brief Internet search revealed the following words to describe amaryllis’ symbolism: Strength, determination, beauty, success after a struggle, and love.

I have chosen the amaryllis to commemorate our wedding day, happy sixth anniversary my beloved xxx

Contrast

Expectations, unheard, unwritten, not agreed, lead to disappointment.

Frustration from despondency could result in an outpouring or inner turmoil.

Assumptions can conflict create or do secrets forge, limiting authenticity.

Living as a liar may rebellion incite or self-loathing and self-destruction result.

Saturday night shenanigans

I just entered my first ever Furious Fiction writing competition!

Garth arrived with, ‘how are you darlings?’ While lifting the wrong arm to release the overnight sleeping bag. ‘Smash’, white wine spread across the living room floor.

The elaborate soiree commenced without further incident, the remaining four guests were settled in the lounge, lit with white candles.

My husband busied himself with small talk and cocktails as I prepared the pork fillet with apples, calvados and a dash of cream. I was met with a cheer as an orange flash illuminated the adjoining rooms. Flames were sucked up through the cooker hood to lick the ceiling. This was by no means an intended flambé experience.

Cozily seated at the table, featuring blue candles, the ensemble savoured three courses plus cheese. Alcohol flowed freely, loosening tongues, spreading ruddy complexions. Afterwards, coffee and petit fours were served in the cool of the lounge.

The sharing of stories, jokes, and limericks was hushed by, ‘crash’, ‘bump’, ‘thud’, followed by loud voices, coming from upstairs.

A fresh-faced dark haired man of medium stature thumped down the stairs, closely followed by a petite pretty tousled blonde young woman. Unceasing in their endeavour, they charged through the gathering, opened the vestibule door followed by the front door, and rushed out into the midnight air.

An icy blast and the sight of the sparkling frost covered earth outside sent a collective shudder through the band of revellers.

‘Bang’, ‘bang’, taking two steps at a time, our semi-clad lodger, Lance hurtled downstairs. This hirsute alabaster skinned god stole the gaze of the room as he left in pursuit of the first two. The unsettling disturbance wound up the gaiety of the evening, guests departed and Garth bedded down on the sofa.

In the morning, Garth complained of meagre sleep due to the answering machine’s bleeping and a diatribe of messages. Lance appeared sporting a flesh wound on his forehead, dressed head to toe, in his customary black.

The shenanigans of the previous evening were revealed. Lance was asleep on his bed, he awoke to find the object of his affections canoodling with his brother on the floor. In a rage, Lance had punched the brother and pushed the fiancée across the room.

Upon exiting our humble abode, the fiancée had returned home. The brother had driven for two hours, to find his wife in bed with another man. The calls in the early hours were from the brother to Lance.

Lance asked if we had sunglasses he could borrow. He was going to the local church to discuss the wedding with his fiancée and the vicar. Lance was furnished with a discarded black pair from a petrol station. Upon reviewing his countenance in the dining room mirror, bearing in mind his life was in tatters, he said, ‘do these make my nose look big?’

The mark on his forehead? Lance had become entangled in a hawthorn bush while running through the fields.

Talk about baying at the moon!

Drain anew

Davy‘s grey clouds threaten
Gloom inducing doom chills
Darkening the soulful

Deluge then droplets drip
Dismal dampness pervades
Downcast delusions dwell

Monochrome maudlin
Doldrums drain energy
Sunshine invigorates

Living one’s purpose

Five learnings from my journey of service to others

Beware the drama triangle
Take a moment to step back, assess the situation. Are characters from the drama triangle* about to draw me in? I aim to be objective and assist participants to find a way out.

I learned the hard way, taking on the part of Rescuer often led to situations that compromised one of my core values, integrity.

Self limiting practises suck
I have often found myself tied up in my own self limiting practises due to making assumptions, skewed perception, self doubt, and misguided self reliance. This led to missed opportunities for me to assist others to develop, poorer quality outcomes and my own burnout.

Fear of failure; bunny in the headlights
I cannot overstate the sheer horror and inner trauma of being faced with the threat of not achieving a goal, in my service to another.

The worst was realised by the refusal of a stakeholder to cooperate. This brought forth significant flight or fight responses.

Having clear measures of success, being prepared for resistance and exploring collaboration rather than drawing battle have helped me since.

Being ‘helpful’ or taking over
When I first started coaching, I observed myself wanting to jump in to help by taking over. An urge, almost too hard to resist.

What a relief it was to understand the benefits of others’ active participation in decision making, problem solving and learning processes. The person being coached is imbued with freedom during the journey and has ownership of the outcome.

Resilience
Resilience to deal with this time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. For an emotional soul such as I, it’s important for me to to not take things personally; stick my head in the sand, or become a victim.

Acceptance of the way things are grants permission to move forward.

*Dr Stephen Karpman developed a dynamic model of social interaction and conflict, calling it the ‘drama triangle’. Three participants take the roles of ‘rescuer’, ‘persecutor’, ‘victim’. I recommend reading How to opt out of the drama triangle.