I'm fortunate to have a busy life and there is plenty to do, but this week has been one of the more varied weeks in my life. It started me thinking about the different roles we play in life and also, how important it is to keep in touch with our true selves at times. Not easy, when there so many other demands on one's time.
An ordinary Sunday at home. Gardening. Cooking. Reading. Neighbour pops in for coffee and chat.
A morning of household admin and admin for a group I belong to, Soroptimist International.
An afternoon of book writing.
Travel to another town to attend a workshop on ‘Anger’. Part of CPD (Continuing Professional Development). Meet some colleagues. Have a couple of conversations, where I can feel that I go into therapist mode.
Travel to London to my son’s house, whereupon I’m mum. Treated lovingly, but as slightly scatty, older person.
A day with my grandson, who is on half-term, so full-on grannie role. A day that, from experience, usually turns out to be a 'what granny did next' day. This is confirmed when I manage to tip a full glass of red wine all over him at lunch. He takes this in good spirit.
We meet up to have lunch with an old college friend and her brother, young nieces and nephew. She is on half-term auntie duty nearby and has concerns about her young charges, whose mother died two years ago.
Return to son's house, to be slightly scatty, but endearing mum for the evening. Not much room for 'me' today.
Thursday: Me. Spouse. Aunt. Acquaintance.
Meet husband at station. Travel to the south-coast for sister-in-law’s funeral. A slightly surreal occasion, as many of the family and friends were all together four weeks ago, for a niece's wedding. Not an easy day for anyone, as sister-in-law had experienced a lifetime of problems, which led to problems for other family members. I don't have any 'blood' nieces or nephews, but by the end of a difficult day, feel more of a 'real' aunt than I have ever done. That's a new feeling.
Same county, but go inland to visit my mother. My mother is in a nursing home and has dementia. Fortunately she knows who I am. But I share the same name as her older sister and for the first time, there were moments when she talked to me as if I was her sister. The dynamics switch through the afternoon, as I swing in her mind from caring older daughter to problem young child.
Go out for dinner with husband.
I'm beginning to feel a little frustrated, as I haven't been able to write for four days. Not much 'me time' on my travels, except on trains, where I read.
A surprise 60th party for brother-in-law. A group of sixteen people. A couple I had met before and most I heard about over the years.
We had breakfast together in the hotel before starting the long journey home. Lots of time for me.
I think the matter of being aware as to what role I was playing, came to the fore after the funeral. I know my other roles quite well, some very well, but I felt something different on Thursday evening. Perhaps it was the wine?
It also came home to me this week, that while we may like to be totally ourselves, it's not what we generally do. We 'tweak' ourselves to fit the environment we find ourselves in. Of course, not everyone does and there are people who either won't or don't alter their behaviour to fit the situation. They are not always the easiest of people to get along with.
It's about a balance. Too much 'me' isn't healthy and nor is too little 'me' time, though the latter is what most of us are often only able to achieve. That is, until the age of retirement and/or ill health, which can bring its own problems of isolation.
Employers often talk about 'transferable skills'. Some people have difficulty with the idea. But it's not so difficult, if we think about the roles we play and what skills we use in those roles.
There are also other roles we can play, which could help us.
My nine-year old grandson suggested to me that if he was going to do something naughty, then it might be a good idea to think "what would mummy and daddy say?" I was quite taken by such mature thinking, though I have no idea whether it came from him or from somewhere else.
I replied that I did think it was a good idea, but remembering my own, less than gloriously behaved childhood, suggested that sometimes children don't care what mummy or daddy say or don't even have a mummy or daddy to care about them.
Then we thought of other people in his life that he could think of when tempted to do something 'naughty'. His Italian grandfather seemed to lead the way in people he wouldn't want to upset.
This reminded me of something I wrote several years ago about self-discipline. As adults, this is something we should have learnt, but too often we behave as children, waiting to be shown the way by an adult.
As adults, we have knowledge and experience to be able to help ourselves.
A financial problem - what would our accountant or financial adviser self suggest?
A health problem - what would doctor or nurse self advise?
A motivation problem - what inspiration could we acquire from our teacher or coach selves?
A legal problem - what could the law enforcer self tell us of the consequenses of the action we're thinking of taking?
A best friend - what wisdom from life's experiences could our friend self share?
As a therapist, there is one section of people who come into our lives, who I recommend we turn a deaf ear to. Despite being an adult, these people, sometimes quite influential, came into our lives when we were younger. What they said a long time ago, can still rattle around our heads as adults. We can recognise them, by how we feel when we 'hear those words'. If we feel like a 'not good enough' child, then they are the people we need to shut of our brain.
Those people who didn't have our true interests at heart, but were led by their own inadequacies. Those who have humiliated us. Belittled us. Never understood us. Those who can make us feel like a child.
It's when we listen to those voices in our heads, that an idea of 'transferable skills', is squashed by feelings of "I'm a failure and no good at anything." That's rubbish thinking and should be disposed of as rubbish.
We can have real role models too. I admire Eleanor Roosevelt, A UN Diplomat, Humanitarian and First Lady. (1884-1962) She said some wise words. Here are some:
" No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent"