Thursday, 27 September 2018

Transgender myths.

I am a parent of a transgender women, who came out to us at the age of 17. This catapulted my husband and I into a whole new world that I had previously given very little thought to. For 18 months now, we have read articles, talked to others whose lives have been touched by trans issues.

I have never heard any transgender person or family member say they are so happy to discover they or those they love are transgender.  I have heard relief expressed and I think we had some of that.  We knew for years that there was something simmering inside her but until she was ready she didn't feel she could say anything.

This week I have seen two news articles that have really moved me.  The first one is about a young lady who could not cope with the reality of being gay.  She was brought up in a Christian family and felt that her sexual orientation was not accepted.  It so happens that I have a friend whose children were at this girls school and the sadness has been reverberating for them.  The most heart warming part of this article is this:

"Since then her church, St James in Didsbury, Manchester, and its sister church Emmanuel, has formally become an inclusive church - embracing everyone, regardless of gender, race, disability or sexuality.

Lizzie's parents believe embracing inclusion could help save the lives of other teenagers."

It is just so sad that it took a tragedy for those in this young girls church to choose to inform themselves with the reality of how it feels to have issues with your gender and/or sexuality.  There are so many people who have written or talked about their  LGBTQ+ issues.  There is so much information out there for those that might be in influential relationships with young people that there really isn't a good excuse for anyone to be ill-informed. 

This week there has been a news article about a new girl guiding policy which two members (who were leaders) could not accept and therefore they have been excluded from the organisation.  I had originally read that the two had left of their own accord but I cannot find that source.  Which ever it was I am so proud of the Girl Guiding Organisation for the new policy of inclusivity that they have endorsed.

One of the biggest myths that I keep hearing from peoples mouths and in articles like the girl guiding one is that of the safety of women with regards to using toilets.  This myth is so prevalent it is the epitome of so called "fake news".  There have been no recordings of any abuse being dealt by a transgender woman (one who is transitioning from assigned birth gender male to female) in a bathroom environment.

So think about this for a moment.  You are taking hormones, breast are beginning to show, your dressed as a female and are absolutely terrified that you are not passable as female. Now imagine yourself having to walk into male toilets.  What sort of emotions and feelings do you think you might have?

Unisex toilets are one great option, a disabled toilet is also an option (though you will have those with issues that are visible, looking at you as if you are stealing 'their toilet' and I know this having a disability that isn't always obvious).

However the two suggestions above are not always available.  Sometimes those with disabilities have their needs met in binary gendered toilets (male/female) which means you are stuck.

There are some good transgender myth busting in this article here.

I'm sorry this sounds a bit ranty but my experience of watching the pain and angst that my dear daughter has had to endure with both the issues that I have mentioned are making me so passionate.  Even if you have no desire to learn anything about the experience of transgender people please try not to form opinions based on myths or fake news.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Essential Pain

A friend who is travelling along her own grief journey posted this video about Grief on facebook.  Its an animation by an amazing lady called Megan Devine, you can find much more about her and her story over on her website Refuge in Grief. 

I am sure I have shared before about the complexities of grief.  My journey into trying to understand and feel grief started after the death of my 36 year old sister in 2008.  In fact this blog was started just a few weeks after at the beginning of 2009 when I realised that something inside me was just 'not right'!

I grew up in an atmosphere where I was not encouraged (in fact actually discouraged) to feel emotions.  My mum's life had been a struggle for survival in a world where she felt (and was regularly told in actions and words) she did not belong and her 'feelings' were not valid.  No real surprise then that in her parenting of me there was something missing!!

The grief experiences that I was having were so alien it took a long time and eventually some specialist help to try and understand why I reacted to situations as I did (and still do occassionaly).  Discovering that I had real emotions that affected my behaviour and relationships also made me realise that I was in dire risk of passing on my emotional numbness to my children.

As a society I'm hoping we are moving on from having 'the British Stiff Upper Lip'.  However I can see that we still have far to go in acknowledging our emotions, accepting them in order that we can then continue on our journeys of self-discovery and maturity.  That is what this video made me think about this morning.  How many times have I tried to cheer someone up when all they needed me to do was be along side them.  How many times have I tried to encourage others to 'look on the bright side'? For those that know me well, I think you would agree that I am generally a 'sunny side up' person, my glass is usually half full not half empty.  This is a part of my nature and I really would not like to have to give it up.  It always has and I would like to think that it always will be a saving Grace on more than the odd occassion, helping me to keep my sanity.  What I do need to remember though is that when others are experiencing deep sadness, it is not my job to try and pull them out of it.  They have just as much right to feel their own emotions, just as I have mine.

After my mum died by suicide in 2013, I remember crying out in those raw messy moments following her last breath "I tried so hard to make her life worth living" to the deaf ears of my now estranged brother. The cold flat truth is, we can not make people feel the emotions we want them to feel.  I am now learning that in fact by allowing those we love to express, wrangle and own their feelings and emotions is the most precious (and helpful) gift we can be a part of. 

This video talks about acknowledgement, if you try and acknowledge how someone is feeling you may discover that you are not understanding them at all. That's also okay and might lead to a conversation, moment of better understanding, or even helping someone identify how they are feeling.

So  how can we practically help those who are grieving? I would like to add just a few suggestions of my own that I have felt to be helpful, it's okay to say:

  • "I'm so sorry you feel so bad right now".  
  • "Is there anything I can do to help you right this moment, a hug, a distraction, a walk, etc" - make sure you only offer what you can give!
  • "Would you like to talk?"
  • "Would you like some company?"
  • "Can I bring a meal over for you?" - as long as you make it clear that you are not going to come over and sit and watch them eat it, reassure them it can be put in the fridge or freezer to eat when they are ready.
Of course, these things can be so hard to put into practise when we cannot predict how a person may react to us. This is the risk we have to take if we really want to show how much they mean to us.

Another story I found some years ago was a middle eastern tale -

A man was out with friends when he entered a river and started to panic, his friends kept reaching out to him shouting "give me your hand".  The troubled friend could not do this and the situation got even more dangerous.  A wise man saw a commotion and went to see what was going on.  He heard these friends shouting at their friend and told them to be quiet.  He reached out his hand and said to the troubled man "Take my hand". The troubled man took the hand offered to him and he was safe.  The moral of the story is, don't ask a drowning/troubled man to GIVE you anything, instead offer them something to TAKE.

Thanks for reading my ramblings, have you had any experiences that have helped you through emotionally tough times?

Jane x

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Keeping It Real

Oh how I would love to tell you that I've had another week full of blessings!  Actually it did start rather well.  I realised last Sunday that I was going to be on jury service the week my eldest daughter goes off to university for the first time.  I was so cross that it had me up half the night moaning and whinging to God that it wasn't fair.  I was still sad in the morning but knew I could do nothing about it.  However that God who can do immeasurably more than we can imagine intervened by sorting it all out with the jury service system Himself.  I had a phone call mid morning as I was up to my eyeballs in ironing, it was a very nice man from the courts asking me if I could postpone my jury service until November.  It was so funny, I actually ended up explaining what an answer to prayer his call was! The smile on my face was broad and I felt quite excited to discover what else God was going to do with me this week.

Then Tuesday happened.  Chronic health problems really do suck, they are very rarely simple and it can feel like you are being run ragged trying to find solutions to a very complex situation.  So Tuesday was full of Why questions (and maybe just a little raging):
  • Why isn't my youngest daughter's physical health getting better?  
  • Why hasn't God intervened already?
  • Why is God answering some prayers so amazingly and then seemingly forgetting the other prayers that I have been praying for so long?
  • Why do I feel like all the fight in me has got up and gone away?
  • Why do I need to spend so much time sleeping to still wake up and not feel refreshed? 
I'm sure there were more but I'm too tired to think about them.

The last two days have involved medical appointments for both my girls. One far more positive than the other.  So does that mean God is blessing one of them more than the other?  It sure can feel that way. I know that at times like this I have to hold on tight to the hand of God.  I need to remember that He never lets go of my hand but my grumbling, moaning and self pity certainly make me lose my grip on Him.

Choosing joy and counting blessings are sometimes just harder to do than other times.  Life is often messy.  Maybe this week I have to just accept that the stumbling I have felt this week, is part of a much bigger picture being painted by a God who does care and who is able to do immeasurably more than I can possibly imagine.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

All Tyred Out

Well hello out there, yes it's little old me! Finally opening up my laptop rather than than just playing away with another game of solitaire (and Candy Crush) on my little tablet.  I am actually quite amazed that this laptop has agreed to be turned on, let alone patiently wait while it updated just about everything which took all afternoon.  So I have decided that I can't just switch it back off again but will thank it's trust in me by writing a little about where we are at.

My last post was at a very bad time, my mental health was taking an absolute battering. My youngest daughter was an in patient at a (thankfully local) mental health unit being treated for anorexia, anxiety and depression.  The good news is she was able to leave after 6 months and though we still have a way to go, progress is gently being made towards recovery.  The not so good news is that her physical health has taken a battering and we are now in the throes of trying to get that sorted out.  Little did I know that the following month from that last post I would be told that my eldest child had been keeping something under wraps unable to talk about it with us for going on 7 years.  Thank fully since opening up I can now embrace my new daughter and we can share the burden that was burying her.  I may write more on our journey through the transgender highway another time.

So did the picture give you a clue about what has been on my mind?  It is actually a real picture, taken by my youngest daughter last bank holiday Monday.  My faith as you can imagine has been taking a real battering through our many trials.  However many years ago when I started blogging I used to love reading blogs by Ann Voskamp about counting your blessings.  I ended up with quite a lot of bed bound time after getting home from an unforgettable journey and blessings began to pour out in my prayers for just how 'blessed' my daughter and I had been.

The picture shows my poor little car stranded between the first lane and the grass verge on the southbound carriage way of the A34.  Moments before I had been doing 70mph on the M40, after coming off and onto the A34 it felt like I was loosing a little power with the accelerator but that seemed to pass and I was soon cruising through at about 60mph, then in a blink there was an odd noise, followed by a clunk and suddenly my steering wheel was desperately trying to shake me off.
I had to hold the steering wheel so hard that I was suddenly slowing down and aware that I needed to let the drivers around me know that I was in trouble.  "Emergency lights" was all I was able to shout to my daughter, the correct term of putting on your hazard lights completely failing to come out.  My passenger side front tyre had blown.  For anyone that knows the A34 it is a horrible road,  prone to some of the most serious accidents as there is no hard shoulder but it feels like a motorway in this particular stretch.  I quickly was able to tell my daughter to get out and behind the crash barrier that was on her side.  Realising that there was far to much traffic for me to try and get out the drivers door I got my very stiff and ailing body to clamber over to the passenger seat grabbing my phone and also getting behind the barrier.  Now here comes the first of my blessings:
  • The day before I had met up with friends and left my car lights on while we went in a tea shop and for a little walk at a favourite beauty spot.  When I returned to the car my battery was as dead as it could be.  It took me 30 minutes to find out which emergency breakdown service we now belonged to - but got sorted and thanks to amazing friends were able to carry on our family visiting and get back to our next hotel stop with hardly any delay.  So where's the blessing you might add - if all this hadn't happened.  I would have been standing in the cold (not wet as it had been the day before - another blessing!!) on the side of a very busy road trying to find out which emergency service we belonged to.  As it was I could go onto my phones log and ring the right one straight away.
Now my youngest daughter is learning to drive at the moment.  She has only had a few lessons but likes to talk about it and mention what the speed limit is quite regularly! Now her beloved saxophone was in the car along with my mobility scooter (okay so she trumps me, her saxophone is worth more) she was getting more and more anxious about it as we watched many HGV's hurtling pass my tiny little car.  She was desperate to get it out but I had to be STRICT mommy, she was not to pass over the safety barrier for anything other than living persons.  Everything else all though terribly important  was covered by insurance!  So along came another blessing:

  • The police contacted me to check we were keeping safe.  They got to us before the breakdown recovery van.  They stopped the whole southband traffic so that we could safely come over the barrier, completely validating my insistence that we did NOT cross over the barrier for anything in the car.  Yes we were cold but we were safe.
My daughter got to ride in the police car with blue lights flashing, keeping the traffic behind him while I sat in the passenger seat of my car and the lovely policelady drove my injured vehicle to the next parking layby, there was my next blessing:

  • The layby was out of sight but really not that far so my inner wheel was not damaged by being driven on with a completely flat falling off tyre.
 Just as we were pulling into the layby the next blessing was rushing to get in:
  • The breakdown recovery man phoned to say he was very close.  This meant two blessings really, the police could go and continue their great work on our streets and roads AND we didn't have to wait long to be recovered .
So you would think that was the end of the story ....... however it was not.  The lovely recovery man asked me if I had a spare tyre and I was certain I did not, remembering seeing a can of the gunk that is supposed to make do for a spare as most cars have these days.  He did some ringing round to find a tyre place open on bank holiday Monday then proceeded to go take my wheel off to take it away to get it fixed.  He needed a key, I had no idea what he was talking about, just that he needed something to get my tyre off.  So along came the next blessing:
  •  I could not think where I would have such a thing stored other than under the floor of my boot where I kept an emergency blanket, etc.  He opened the back up, we had to take some of my scooter bits out which thankfully my husband had put in, in pieces so that I could get it out (another blessing!) under the floor was a tray which made the recovery man do a 'hang on a minute' noise.  He lifted the tray and there snuggled like a babe in a rocker was my spare tyre. This of course meant no trip to get a very expensive bank holiday tyre replaced, instead we were back on the road with 30 minutes.
The life lessons for us both were obvious the rest of the journey home.  My daughter learnt lots about road safety, she was very sobered to see that if we had broken down just a few miles further on there was no safety barrier and we would have had to try and climb (with my poor old body) up an embankment to be safe.  I now have the peace of mind, knowing that she will know exactly what she needs to do if every caught in a similar situation.

Now you would think that one tyre related incident would be quite enough for one family.  However just a few weeks earlier my husband and I had a near miss with a lorry losing a pair of tyres which we watched bounce across the motorway to hit the central reservation so hard that they then bounced back in front of us and UP a slip road.  Despite feeling quite jet lagged having just come off a night flight my hero of a husband kept his cool and we got home in one piece.

So that's all I am going to say about TYRES, except to reiterate that enough is enough, could all tyres just stay on their vehicles for the foreseeable future please!!