Marriage and the Midlife Crisis

Last week it was my husband’s and my wedding anniversary. We celebrated with hugs and kind words and time spent pottering about with our kids, getting on with the usual chores. In the evening we had a takeaway and dessert. In quiet moments I reflected on our almost 20 years together (13 of them as a married couple).

 

Teika Marija Smits, photo by Andy Rhymer

Teika Marija Smits, photo by Andy Rhymer

 

On the day of our wedding, it would have been good if, along with the marriage certificate, we were given a guide to negotiating the ups and downs of marriage, but as no one presented us with such a guide, like many other couples we bumbled along and came up with our own. Although it took a while to craft, it is, thankfully, short. It goes something like this:

  1. Love and respect each other.
  2. Communicate well.

And voila! That is it!

In the early days of marriage, when we were in our late 20s, it seemed so simple. We had it all figured out. Go us!

But you know what… we got older. We had kids. We were constantly tired. Number 2 sometimes seemed impossible. Simply because there was no time to communicate, let alone communicate well. Time seemed to have sped up and slowed down all at once. There was no time to just be. No time to be alone with each other. But equally, sometimes time stretched on forever… particularly when one of the children was ill or teething or going through a particularly challenging phase of development. You name it… it seemed to go on and on and on…. When we were childless, the importance of time spent together hadn’t even crossed my mind.

So in the glorious muddle of early motherhood I made a note to myself:

  1. Spend time together (with or without the kids, depending on their age & needs).

As the children became more independent and the hazy days of early motherhood began to clear I thought, Aha! We have more time now! We’re back on track. But you know what? We were now middle-aged. And you know what happens at middle age, don’t you? Yep. The midlife crisis.

 

The Uninvited Guest, painting by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale

The Uninvited Guest, painting by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale

 

But this wasn’t something that I’d ever considered in my 20s. The midlife crisis was only for men who had a penchant for motorbikes, wasn’t it? Turns out I was wrong.

Suddenly at the midpoint of our lives, it dawns on us that time is beginning to run out. We still haven’t been to Australia, won the Nobel Prize or travelled in outer space. This is the time of the midlife crisis, which Jung says is frequently marked in men by a period of depression around the age of 40, and at a slightly younger age in women.

Some women seem to hit the midlife crisis when their children have all started school and they suddenly have a bit more freedom. Others, especially those who are working full-time, seem to have a later one when the children leave home.

Jung, The Key Ideas, by Ruth Snowden

Whoa! This was serious stuff! And we both seemed to be going through it.

Not only are us middle-aged folk ‘psychologically vulnerable’ at this time, biology seems to be against us too. Our bodies are changing. Growing older. Hair falls out. Or turns grey. Hormones are in flux. Ovaries are on the downturn… For many women it is a last chance to consider having children. Men don’t experience quite the same fertility anxieties. Yet the possibility of other partners – younger spouses – often adds to the mix of the midlife crisis. As does realising that the ‘career-for-life’ (often chosen in one’s 20s) doesn’t quite turn out to be the right career. Where do you go from there – particularly when the weight of financial responsibility is on your shoulders? Job stuck. Heart stuck. Mind stuck. It all sucks.

I hope (I trust) we are through the worst of it, but you know what, it was sometimes rough. Sometimes more down than up. But what really helped was this:

  1. Communicating well.

Although there was the whole ‘figuring out how to communicate’ thing! In our 20s, talking to each other had always come easily, but real proper communication… well, first we both had to figure out how to do that. Turns out it’s dead simple. But hard. It consists of a) LISTENING to the other person WITHOUT JUDGEMENT (that’s a challenge!) and b) LISTENING to oneself and one’s own needs WITHOUT JUDGEMENT (again, harder said than done). After that, comes honest discussion, with solutions put forward for ways to work through the particular challenge. It’s about remembering that if you do still:

  1. Love and respect each other

in essence you’re on the other person’s side. So make time to talk. To listen. To find a way through a challenging time.

Also, in the midst of the midlife crisis muddles I remember thinking that self-reflection was (again) a real saviour. Figuring out that I was a highly-sensitive person as well as a limerent helped. So I added the following to add to the guide:

  1. Know thyself. (Though I think some Greek philosophers got there before me!)

Finally…

Midlife crisis, then, marks the return of the opposite, an attempt on the part of the psyche to re-balance. Jung says that this stage is actually very important, because otherwise we risk developing the kind of personality that attempts always to recreate the psychic disposition of youth.

Jung, The Key Ideas, by Ruth Snowden

So the last point I’d add to the guide is this:

  1. Be mindful of life’s rhythms, and how these rhythms and shifts in circumstances can affect a relationship. Wild beings (Wild Man and Wild Woman too) instinctively understand the importance of taking note of natural rhythms. There will be ups and downs; as long as number 1. (love and respect) is still there, one of the most worthwhile things to do is to hold on to each other and find a way through.

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Limerence, and Are You Addicted to Love?

Limerence is defined as:

(psychology) An involuntary romantic infatuation with another person, especially combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated.

First coined by Dorothy Tennov (from Wiktionary)

 

As an ex-scientist I love a good definition, and the above is so concise and deliciously objective, that it absolutely delights me, but of course it can’t possibly convey what it’s like to be a limerent. Perhaps poetry can help.

 

BC eyes by Marija Smits

Eyes 1, by Marija Smits

 

Love Blurt

 

You’ve just met the most amazing/gorgeous/incredible man ever,

and believe it or not, as luck would have it, he totally likes you too.

There’s this connection between you, like electricity,

and a something about his eyes and voice and smile that makes you go weak at the knees.

And life is suddenly totally absolutely perfect; you can’t think about anything else

apart from this one man, and you just know that THIS IS IT!

This is totally it, and you’re going to be together forever.

 

And then…

 

you meet one of his friends, and he is so totally amazing/gorgeous/incredible

and there’s this real connection between you, like electricity,

a something about his eyes and voice and smile, the way he seems to really know you,

although you’ve only just met,

and you think Oh shit, I am so totally absolutely screwed,

I am in really big trouble this time…

 

MARIJA SMITS

 

James-Mcavoy-eyes-by-Marija-Smits

Eyes 2, by Marija Smits

 

I actually wrote this poem a few years ago, couldn’t find an immediate publishing home for it, and then forgot all about it. My husband (who’s not a big fan of poetry) said positive things about it (if my memory serves me right). Or maybe he said that it wasn’t like my ‘usual’ poetry – perhaps less contemporary poetry-like – and so that’s why he thought it okay!

 

02-2017-love-and-limerence-by-dorothy-tennov

 

Anyway, a while later I got hold of the excellent book Love and Limerence by Dorothy Tennov, and suddenly realized: this poem is about limerence. And of course I know what limerence is, because I am a limerent. Oh shit, I thought. But also, thank goodness! It explained so much about my life (in rather the same way that finding out that I am a highly-sensitive person did).

Love (and limerence, if you’ve heard of it and know what it is) isn’t something that many people reflect on. Okay, well, many people experience love, but thinking about it, in a dispassionate and analytical way? Nope, there’s not a lot of that going on.

Tennov’s book takes a critical look at the nature of love and this thing called limerence; within the book are many people’s experiences of limerence, and reading some of the limerents’ stories, I couldn’t help but see myself in them. Thank goodness, I wasn’t the only one, I thought. But still: Oh crap.

First, I feel it necessary to say that being a limerent DOES NOT EQUAL being unable to love someone deeply and to stay faithful to them for years, for decades or for a lifetime… (Here is an older, yet relevant, post about long-term love, becoming parents and clear communication.) But sometimes, yes, being a limerent does equal the inability to ‘love commit’ to someone on a long-term basis (I’m sure many of us know couples who have broken up after a short or long while, perhaps because of falling in love/limerence with someone else. It could be argued that serial monogamy is a symptom/outcome of limerence).

But taking personal experiences (and love) out of this, shouldn’t we be more analytical about our emotions and question the whys and whats and hows of love? Some might argue: No, it’s pointless, it has little use. Or no, it destroys the “magic”. Or that emotions can’t be analysed. But my, this limerence thing is powerful stuff, and a peek into its workings can surely only better equip us to understand ourselves and each other better? Sapere aude – dare to know!

So with this in mind, I thought it worthwhile to go through the major categories/stages of relationships (as outlined in Tennov’s book):

 

Readiness for Limerence and Longing

This is the part where a limerent person has not, quite, found the right someone to become limerent for. But oh, the idea of that person! And the longing and the loneliness… and oh how crushing each Valentine’s Day is when that other person still isn’t in our lives. Music helps. Poetry helps. Books help. The pre-teen and teenage years seem to particularly be about this stage.

 

Hope

Tennov defines the person a limerent falls in love with as the “limerent object” (she’s quite right, because often limerence is more about the limerent than the person they are in love with). My poem ‘Love Blurt’ describes transference – when the limerence one feels for one limerent object transfers to another. Transference (to my mind) is evidence that limerence is more about the limerent’s mind/imagination than the actual limerent object.

Our society may label the “the limerent object” as “the one” (a tricksy label, indeed, implying that there is only one right person for each person on earth. Really? In a world full of billions of humans, surely this can’t be right?). Still, the period of hope is when a limerent person finds the other – the limerent object – and every waking thought is given to that person. It is an obsession like no other, and it presents itself as an actual physical pain in the chest. And very often (like in my poem) the voice and eyes and smile of the limerent object communicate volumes, tomes even. And

The objective that you as a limerent pursue, as is clear in the fantasy that occupies virtually your every waking moment, is a “return of feelings”.

Love and Limerence, by Dorothy Tennov p. 57

 

Mutual Limerence

This is the stage in a relationship which is pure and utter bliss. It is the stage in which two people, who are limerent for each other have overcome the barriers to being together and finally are together, completely and wholly, in a romantic, spiritual and sexual sense. It is the part where Romeo and Juliet finally spend a night together. Utter, utter bliss.

But does it last? Like forever and forever? A lifetime? Hell, no! As blissful as the prolonging of this stage would be, one has to be realistic: it would be exhausting to perpetually be in limerence with someone. It fades. It simply has to. But it can transform into:

 

Affectional Bonding

Often this is felt by couples who have passed through the mutual limerence stage and discovered beyond the superficial limerence a deep respect, liking and love for each other. It is a very real and deep meeting of human souls; for to know someone, to really know someone and to see them “spiritually naked” – as it were – to see their pain, their vulnerability, their fears, their desires, and for them to see you spiritually naked too, has got to be one of the most worthwhile and connecting things we humans can do. And many in our society still look at those who have been happily married for decades and decades and decades with wonder and delight and respect.

 

zentangle-heart-by-marija-smits

Zentangle Heart by Marija Smits

 

Non-limerence

Perhaps some of you who are reading this may think I am speaking another language. All this stuff about chest pain and longing and intrusive, obsessive thinking and fantasizing and emotional dependence is utterly… bizarre. So of course I have to point out that there are some who don’t experience limerence. Tennov actually had a “theoretical breakthrough” in her research on romantic love when she had a long and involved discussion with a non-limerent. The idea of the absence of all the stuff that limerents feel led her to understand just what limerence is.

And of course, can you imagine all the awful misunderstandings, muddles, tragedies even when a limerent falls in love with a non-limerent…?

 

***

 

I have a complicated relationship with limerence (!), and I am still thinking and learning and writing about limerence and its consequences. To me, it is a fascinating psychological topic. And if, like me, you are curious/intrigued by love and limerence I can definitely recommend Tennov’s book. In the meantime I hope I have given a good-enough description of what limerence is. It is up to you, though, to sapere aude (dare to know) the answers to these questions: Are you a limerent? and: Are you addicted to love?

 

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Prose for Thought

 

An Intention and Meet Starry-You

 

To date I’ve not been one to declare an intention publicly (I’m more the quiet person in the background puttering on with their work – vague intentions in my head, but never ‘out there’) so it feels a bit strange to do this, but I can see one big positive of declaring an intention of mine: that it’ll (hopefully) keep me accountable and on track to actually doing the thing that I want to do.

So here goes. I have a little dream of putting together a book – a collection of short stories in the SFF genre – and (whisper it) getting it published and ‘out there’. At the moment the whole publishing thing is not something I’m thinking about too much – it’s the whole good quality short story stuff that’s keeping me occupied!

But you see, something absolutely wonderful happened to me a short while ago. First, my story ‘His Birth’ was shortlisted in a competition. (The Wellcome Trust sponsored ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities’ Creative Writing Competition.) And then second, it got awarded 2nd place by the judge Adam Roberts, who is like some kind of god when it comes to science fiction writing. And believe me, it gave me such a boost (and actually, some much-needed validation) that I started to think, Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can allow myself to consider putting together a short story collection. Maybe.

So… it’s going to take me a good long while (my writing happens at around midnight once or twice a week, or on the weekend) but I’m in no rush. The main thing is to get around 12 good short stories written that I want to include. Now, I’ve got a couple already that I want to include, but there’s still a whole lot more to write. And, there’s also the fact that only about 1 in 5 of the short stories I write are actually good enough to put in a collection. This I know because I only consider a story ‘good enough’ if my husband (aka my editor extraordinaire) really likes the story (and that only ever happens in approximately that ratio!).

So I’m going to aim to increase my publication history when it comes to short stories (no doubt there will be plenty of rejections ahead – perhaps some acceptances too!) but the main thing is that I persevere.

Inspired by Maddy’s image of her ‘Self-Doubt Demon’ I decided to draw a character that represents the opposite: the ‘Supportive Star’ (aka Starry-You in reference to the Pokemon, Staryu). Or does Sammy Star work better? Who knows? Basically, this little guy (or is she a gal?) is there to say: Well done! and You can do it! You got this! Because sometimes we all need a little encouragement when things get tough and the self-doubt demon appears…

 

Yay! You can do it! Starry-You by Marija Smits

Yay! You can do it! Starry-You by Marija Smits

 

Anyway… wish me luck, and if you ever have a spare moment please do ask me about how things are going. It will be good incentive for me to keep going!

Lastly… my blog turned 4 last month (although sadly, I was too busy to do anything about it then) but I’m creating a little something for a giveaway I’m going to run, so please do pop back in the next week or two if you’re interested in seeing what I’ll be giving away in celebration of my 4th blogiversary.

 

Some zentangle-art-to-be, photo by Marija Smits

Some zentangle-art-to-be, photo by Marija Smits

 

So, ta ta for now, and I hope to see you soon!

 

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The Art of Faerie


Welcome to ‘The Forgotten and the Fantastical’ Carnival

This post was written especially for inclusion in ‘The Forgotten and the Fantastical’ carnival, hosted by Mother’s Milk Books, to celebrate the launch of their latest collection of fairy tales for an adult audience: The Forgotten and the Fantastical. Today our participants share their thoughts on the theme ‘Fairy tales’.

Please read to the end of the post for a full list of carnival participants.
***

When Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales was published I remember reading snippets of arguments/discussions online as to whether there should have been illustrations within it.

In an interview, Philip Pullman stated:

“I don’t think illustrations tell the right kind of story or add the right kind of atmosphere.

Illustrators typically turn them (the characters) into people – I don’t think they are people, I think they’re masks.

There’s no psychology in a fairytale. You don’t need to go into people’s back stories and talk about motives. Looking at other people’s adaptations, I realised what I’d like is a very swift telling that doesn’t clutter it up with description.”

Well… being a big fan of Women Who Run With The Wolves I think there’s a strong case for there being a huge amount of psychology in a fairy tale – but I guess that what Philip Pullman means is that, in general, the characters of fairy tales are stereotypes. They need to be pretty ‘flat’ so that the pacing of the story isn’t hindered by time spent exploring the character’s history or thoughts or feelings. They merely act so that the story can rattle along and impart its truths to us. Important things like:

Forests can be dangerous places if you’re in them all alone.

Never trust a stranger who is that little bit too interested in you.

Trust in your own gut instinct.

Another reason, I think, that the characters have little depth to them is so that we, as a reader, can add our own personalities to them. We give the characters our own feelings and thoughts and histories… and if we’re lucky, and not constantly immersed in the saccharine sweet reinterpretations of some of the tales, we can take away powerful emotional truths and find comfort therein.

But, but, but…

I have to (in part) disagree with Philip Pullman! Because, for me, the illustrations of some of these tales have absolutely bedded themselves deep in my memory, and I think that the best artists, the best illustrators absolutely DO “tell the right kind of story” and “add the right kind of atmosphere.” (Arthur Rackham surely being one of the best fairy tale illustrators ever.)

Grimms' Tales, illustration by Arthur Rackham

Grimms’ Tales, illustration by Arthur Rackham

Many of the Grimms’ tales are so very well-known and well-loved, and yet who can actually reliably remember and quote from the Grimms’ tales word for word? My point is that the actual words don’t matter so much, (these tales aren’t considered to be great literary works), they are simply ABOUT THE STORY. Stories take root in our minds… as do images.

I still have very fond memories of reading these books as a child. Now, I read them to my children and I’ve noticed that my daughter, in particular, loves the pictures, just as I did.

My old fairy tale books

My old fairy tale books

The pictures within these books really are somehow magical. I particularly love the quirky style of the Russian version of Cinderella. I was clearly so impressed by it as a little girl that I drew my own version of the Russian Cinderella (I found it only the other day still tucked into the book!).

Russian Cinderella

Russian Cinderella

I have always loved art, and I believe that these fairy tale images imparted in me a love of art and fine illustration. They inspired me to draw, to paint… and then of course I became all grown up and started putting up hurdles to creating (although, admittedly I wasn’t particularly encouraged by teachers). I remember walking around Tate Britain with my future husband years ago and being deeply moved by the amazing paintings of faeries and knights and other fantastical beings on show in their special pre-Raphaelite exhibition. I understood that I could never, ever, do anything as good as them. It just wasn’t a possibility.

The Dead Knight, by Robert Bateman

The Dead Knight, by Robert Bateman

Spirit of the Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw

Spirit of the Night, by John Atkinson Grimshaw

Many, many years later though, my children helped me to reawaken my passion for creating with paint and pencil. Being that bit older (and surely, wiser) I realized that I had to put in the time to make my art better. And so I began to put in the time.

One of the best things about learning to draw and paint nowadays is that students of art have the amazing resource that is YouTube. A while ago I was searching for a tutorial on how to paint a face in watercolour and I found something I was blown away by…

The music, by the way, is by the amazing Green Children. I watched this video so often that I asked for their CD ‘Strange Encounter’ for Christmas. It’s now a firm family favourite.

We were all intrigued by the name of the band and my husband discovered that it was from an old English folk tale ‘The Green Children of Woolpit’. It does have a rather sad ending, but it’s maybe something that I may put my own spin on one day…

As I practised my art I realized that some of my paintings had become successful enough to be put “out there” and my ‘Lady Seaweed’ on the front cover of The Forgotten and the Fantastical was one of those more “successful” pictures. As I wrote in the book about my story ‘Lady Seaweed’ or ‘Tristesse’:

“I painted the woman who graces the front cover of this book in one of those subconsciously-driven moments of creativity.”

Basically, I was doodling and having fun while listening to music and there was no pressure to create something perfect. Surely that’s where all art has to start from — the idea of creating as a joyful process.

So nowadays, one of my favourite family activities is listening to The Green Children’s ‘Strange Encounter’ while we either paint or doodle or draw. (I simply ignore the fact that the dishwasher needs unloading!)

A while ago I became a fan of The Green Children on Facebook, and I discovered that they’re working on another album (their third I think) and they posted that they were keeping themselves inspired in the studio by surrounding themselves with beautiful works of art. This was one of those pieces:

Arthur Rackham illustration of 'The Old Woman of the Forest' from the original book of Grimms' fairy tales

Arthur Rackham illustration of ‘The Old Woman of the Forest’ from the Grimms’ fairy tales

And so we have come full circle to the Brothers Grimm and Arthur Rackham, and the power of images (as well as story) to capture our imaginations.


***

The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2015 book cover

The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2015 book cover

The Forgotten and the Fantastical is now available to buy from The Mother’s Milk Bookshop (as a paperback and PDF) and as a paperback from Amazon.

It can also be ordered via your local bookshop.

Any comments on the following fab posts would be much appreciated:

In ‘Imagination is quantum ergo fairies are real’, Ana, at Colouring Outside the Lines, explains why we should all believe in fairies and encourage our children to do the same.

‘Wings’ — Rebecca at Growing a Girl Against the Grain shares a poem about her daughter and explains the fairy tale-esque way in which her name was chosen.

In ‘Red Riding Hood Reimagined’ author Rebecca Ann Smith shares her poem ‘Grandma’.

Writer Clare Cooper explores the messages the hit movie Frozen offers to our daughters about women’s experiences of love and power in her Beautiful Beginnings blog post ‘Frozen: Princesses, power and exploring the sacred feminine.’

‘Changing Fairy Tales’ — Helen at Young Middle Age explains how having young children has given her a new caution about fairy tales.

In ‘The Art of Faerie’ Marija Smits waxes lyrical about fairy tale illustrations.

‘The Origins of The Forgotten and the Fantastical — Teika Bellamy shares her introduction from the latest collection of fairy tales for an adult audience published by Mother’s Milk Books.

Sensitivity


Welcome to the ‘Look At All The Women’ Carnival: Week 3 – ‘The Eclectic Others’

This post was written especially for inclusion in the three-week-long ‘Look At All The Women’ carnival, hosted by Mother’s Milk Books, to celebrate the launch of Cathy Bryant’s new book ‘Look At All The Women’. In this final week of the carnival our participants share their thoughts on the theme ‘The Eclectic Others’ (the third, and final, chapter in Cathy’s new poetry collection).

Please read to the end of the post for a full list of carnival participants.

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Sensitivity by Marija Smits

Sensitivity by Marija Smits

 

Sensitivity

(a tanka)

 

Noise, movement, people,

chaos; my jangled senses

fret – rebel. I long

for quiet solitude, but

finding none I turn within.

 

MARIJA SMITS

 

When I used to teach biology at secondary school one of the first things I had to explain was ‘The 7 Signs of Life’. We used a helpful acronym – Mrs Nerg – to remind us of these 7 characteristics of all living things:

Movement

Reproduction

Sensitivity

Nutrition

Excretion

Respiration

Growth

I immediately picked up on the word ‘sensitivity’ – what a beautiful sounding word! But what exactly did it mean? Well, in essence, it means that all living things display sensitivity, which is the ability to detect changes in their environment. At the time I didn’t think much about how sensitivity applied to me (I was too busy explaining how bacteria and plants display sensitivity) but now sensitivity is something that I think about a huge amount.

After reading Quiet by Susan Cain, my amorphous thoughts on sensitivity became much more concrete. I wrote about my take on Quiet here, and how I found it to be a powerful read. In Quiet, the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron was referenced to quite a bit, and, thirsty for more information about sensitivity I bought it and am currently relishing every page. This is from the preface:

“Cry baby!”

“Scaredy-cat!”

“Don’t be a spoilsport!”

Echoes from the past? And how about this well-meaning warning: “You’re just too sensitive for your own good.”

Although the first three ‘echoes from the past’ weren’t a strong trigger for me – the last one was. After hearing this from trusted people on several occasions (and hearing it from myself too!) I was pretty sure that I was somehow ‘broken’. After all, the world is a tough place, and you just gotta toughen up. But Elaine Aron goes on to explain:

Having a sensitive nervous system is normal, a basically neutral trait. You probably inherited it. It occurs in about 15-20 percent of the population. It means you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sight and sounds until you are exhausted in a nervous-system sort of way. Thus, being sensitive has both advantages and disadvantages.

So when I realized that it really is okay to be sensitive – that’s it merely about physiology I felt so much better. Understood. On a more even keel. It doesn’t take away the stress I feel when I do the school run or walk through a busy shopping centre or go to an event – all those people! all that noise! all that movement! – but it makes me appreciate the advantages – the fact that I am moved by the sun filtering through a canopy of leaves, a musical phrase, a line of poetry, a book, or even a bunch of coloured pencils (this really is incredible exciting to me at the moment!). It means that I can spot typos, concentrate for long periods of time and pick up on subtle nuances in the emotional state of my loved ones. So there are some benefits, right?

I think it’s important to point out that it’s not only women who are highly sensitive. BOTH men and women can be highly sensitive. Our western society seems to allow for sensitivity in women (to a certain extent) but in men it’s not so desirable. After all – the world is a tough place, and you just gotta toughen up.  

But here is my answer: NO. I cannot toughen up; I cannot make myself less sensitive, and I will not put on a constant persona to become the gregarious, social extrovert that society wants me to be all the time. Remember my wild woman post? Being wild is about being true to oneself, and this is me – often brought to tears over something sad, beautiful, or funny: often stroking my children’s hair – because, really, it’s just so beautiful with its fine texture, gorgeous smell and myriad subtle colours: and often in a dream world too, turning inwards to find the much needed soul-reflection which provides me with refreshment…

Of course I have strategies for managing my sensitivity and I admit that I’m constantly working on keeping my boundaries in place so that I give myself sufficient quiet time and room and space to be me, while ensuring that I put myself ‘out there’ enough to keep me stimulated, my ideas fresh and motivation high. I often have to remind myself that it’s okay to assert myself and fight for my own rights. But we all have our challenges, we all have to find balance in our lives. Just knowing that others (eclectic others!) are like me and experience similar sensations helps a lot.

If any of this makes sense to you in any way, please do let me know. But quietly. [Although you probably figured that out ;-)]


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Look At All The Women, by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women, by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women is now available to buy from:

The Mother’s Milk Book online store (as a paperback and PDF) – we can ship books around the world!

and as a paperback from Amazon.co.uk.

It can also be ordered via your local bookshop.

If you’d like to know more about Mother’s Milk Books — our submission guidelines, who we are and what we do — please find more details here:

http://www.mothersmilkbooks.com/

Please take the time to read and comment on the following fab posts submitted by some wonderful women:

‘Heroines and Inspirations— Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares two of her own powerful, inspiring poems, and the stories behind them.

‘Sensitivity’Marija Smits shares a poem, with an accompanying image, that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of a highly sensitive person.

Georgie St Clair shares her creative female heroines in her post ‘Creative Others: Mothers Who Have It All’

‘The Eclectic Others – Or What Would I Have Been Without You?’ — Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word a thank you to the women of literature and history who have been in her life, shaped her life, saved her life and gave her a future.

‘Barbie speaks out’ — Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines shares a platform with feminist icon, Barbie.

‘Her Village’ — An older (much older than most) first time mother, Ellie Stoneley from Mush Brained Ramblings firmly believes in the old African adage that it takes a village to raise a child. To that end she has surrounded her daughter with the love, mischief and inspiration of an extremely eclectic bunch of villagers.

Survivor writes about the inspiring life of La Malinche and her place in Mexican history at Surviving Mexico: Adventures and Disasters.

Sophelia writes about the importance of her community as a family at Sophelia’s Adventures in Japan.

My art ‘out there’!

So Facebook sent me an email the other day saying that my Facebook fans missed me.

(!)

I hadn’t posted anything on my Facebook page for a while so I guess Facebook got all twitchy and decided to send this message – devoid of all finesse – which was in fact just a simple, direct plea to my ego.

My fans! I thought. My fans!

But you know what, it worked 😉

My ego got all puffed up for about 2 seconds, and then I remembered that it’s just me who likes to have a look at my Facebook page. Oh yeah.

Anyway, I decided that this message could still be useful to me – as long as I did have something to share, and if I did get around to sharing it…

And I do have things to share, but you see, I find the creative bit (the writing and the drawing and the painting) so much more enjoyable than the nitty-gritty stuff of actually sharing it, and I really do have lots of other things to do… (like wiping grubby faces, making food, publishing books and helping out with maths homework!).

So here is what I want to share – my art is finally ‘out there’ in the wide world. A picture that I drew of Alison Moore, the author, is now hanging on the wall of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio. (That’s me, the bespectacled one, by the way.)

The fab Alison Moore alongside my art at The Nottingham Writers' Studio, photo courtesy Andrew Kells.

The fab Alison Moore alongside my art at The Nottingham Writers’ Studio, photo courtesy Andrew Kells.

It kind of feels strange to have some of my art properly ‘out there’ (although some of my images have already appeared in a couple of online magazines) but really, it’s no different to having my writing ‘out there’. I’ve sometimes heard writers and artists say that the reason they create is because of the desire to connect with other people – for their ideas and creations to touch others’ lives. Undoubtedly I feel a need for this too, but with the world (and online world) being so immensely vast I can’t really comprehend how far my work will travel, or whether it will, indeed, make an impression on someone. And this topic – of connection, of ‘making an impression’ – is just a bit too interesting to my ego who thinks that the idea of ‘connection’ is a good excuse to keep a beady eye on site stats and other things like that 😉

But it’s a time sink – all this ego rumination. How much more interesting (and worthwhile) it is to create. Perhaps my work will connect with others, perhaps it won’t. I will potter on and continue, instead, to ruminate on the rather wonderful magic of creating a 3D image on a 2D surface with only a few layers of graphite. I probably know much more about the structure of graphite than I know about the complexities of portraying hair, fur, or skin (tricky stuff, skin!) in graphite. So I need to learn, I need to practise. So if I’m silent for a bit I’m sure ‘my Facebook fans’ will understand 😉

Alison Moore by Marija Smits (based on a photo by Al Brydon)

Alison Moore by Marija Smits (based on a photo by Al Brydon)

Thanks to Andrew Kells for taking the photo at the launch night of The Nottingham Writer’s Studio new premises, and thanks to Alison Moore, of course, for being such an inspiration!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currently Reading: Quiet

Various fairy tales, the Brambly Hedge stories by Jill Barklem, The Three Musketeers by Dumas, Core Maths by Bostock and Chandler, Organic Chemistry by MacMurray, The Professor by Charlotte Bronte, Possession by AS Byatt, The Birth Book by Sears, The Baby Book by Sears, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International, the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, What Mothers Do by Naomi Stadlen, The Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer, People Skills by Robert Bolton, The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola-Estes… and now Quiet by Susan Cain.

 

All the above are books (or stories) that have strongly impressed me, moved me in some powerful way; made me understand more about the world and more about myself.

Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet by Susan Cain

As soon as I saw this book in my mother-in-law’s Christmas gift pile I was intrigued… I asked to borrow it (after she’d read it of course!) and soon began to read it. I came to the book with some skepticism. The subtitle of Quiet is ‘The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’. I wondered about the supposed power introverts wield; I wondered if this book would speak to me – after all, would I really consider myself an introvert? I’m not painfully shy, don’t really fear public speaking or find social events stressful. I just like my books, my writing, my drawing, my painting, my thoughts, my reflections… I like to learn, I like to practice my literary and artistic skills, I like to muse on the beauty there is in this world… you get the picture.

 

So… it turns out I am more of an introvert than I thought I was. This kind of niggles though, because I know what society thinks of introverts (and let’s just say it’s not all kind ;-)). I delve further into the book and realize again that this niggle has been embedded into my consciousness because of the way the world is set up (and yes, the western world is geared towards extroverts). Women, in particular, are expected to be ever-friendly, bright, happy (oh, ever so happy!) and sociable. I am starting to really relate to the author and her well-communicated ideas.

 

So by part two of the book I’m thinking that it’s okay to be an introvert. Then I think perhaps it’s even great to be an introvert (her descriptions of high-reactive or sensitive introverts hits a psychological funny-bone). I can’t wait to finish the book, to see what more she says about introverted children, effective communications and a whole load more.

 

I am empowered and elated. I’ve pieced together an awful lot about my psychological history and life in the past ten years, but this book has helped me to find yet another soul-mirror to view the landscape within…

 

I will leave you with some of my favourite sentences so far:

 

“Personal opinions are often a simple reflection of cultural bias.” (I’ve used this quote extensively this week!)

 

“The other thing Aron found about sensitive people is that they are highly empathic. It’s as if they have thinner boundaries separating them from other people’s emotions and from the tragedies and cruelties of the world. They tend to have strong consciences. They avoid violent movies and TV shows; they’re acutely aware of the consequences of a lapse in their own behavior…”

 

“High-reactive children may be more likely to develop into artists and writers and scientists and thinkers because their aversion to novelty causes them to spend time inside the familiar – and intellectually fertile – environment of their own heads.”

 

“The parents of high-reactive children are exceedingly lucky… ‘The time and effort they invest will actually make a difference. Instead of seeing these kids as vulnerable to adversity, parents should see them as malleable – for worse, but also for better.’”

 

“We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so much.”

 

“Even though we can reach for the outer limits of our temperaments, it can often be better to situate ourselves squarely within our comfort zones.”

 

Finally

 

“If there is only one insight you take away from this book, though, I hope it’s a newfound sense of entitlement to be yourself.”

 

So I will now retreat to the quiet house to get ready for bed and ready for my much-needed Quiet.

 

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Many thanks again to Amanda at writealm for the daily writing prompts (although I only seem to be able to do one a month!).  They are much appreciated :-)