Life | Work

I’ve Been Away … But Now I’m Back!

By on April 30, 2018
I'm Back

I’m Back after a small hiatus – and a few folks have asked me why I haven’t been musing as much as normal.

So, where have I been!?

The answer is nowhere at all, but life has been happening and it has been happening in spades.  I’ve had so much going on I just haven’t had the headspace to deal with it all so blogging has taken a bit of a back seat.

Today was the last day in a job that I have had for the past 8-9 years. For me, the last year has been a difficult one for a multitude of reasons but for the majority of the time I have spent there, it has been wonderful.  It’s one of those mixed feeling things because my colleagues are actually second to none and I am going to miss seeing them as often as I do now, although they will undoubtedly be getting invites to parties at mine.

So what next?

Well, I am now officially self-employed.  (You can check out my website here although it is not completely finished as yet) and I am also open to offers.   That said the next couple of months will be spent traveling around and generally being a kept woman.  This has never happened before and I’m not sure how I feel about it but I am grateful for the fact that I have a wonderful man in my life who will give me the back up I need while I try to consolidate my business.  I honestly could not have even considered resigning without the support of my husband.   He is my lover, my best friend, my cheerleader, my facilitator and an absolute rock.

So I am going to have to knuckle down to all of that business building stuff and keep plodding on with the studies for my BSc.  The next few weeks, however, are going to be spent trying to regroup psychologically after what has been, for me, a bit of a stressful time.

So, I’m back, and will soon be as opinionated and sarky as ever…..

 

 

 

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Life | Relationships

Life – It’s Short

By on February 24, 2018
life is short

Life is short, fragile and is balanced on a knife-edge.

Life is short, it is fragile and fleeting.  Nothing brought this home to me more than the death of a friend last week.  She was not an old woman.  I had seen her 2 weeks prior to her death where a group of us enjoyed a slap up meal in the local Indian Restaurant and had a really good time, then suddenly she just…stopped.

We all say it constantly, ‘life is short’, but never seem to do anything about it.  Sometimes you really do need a kick up the proverbial to really ram home the truth of the matter: On average our lifespans may be on the rise but that is no guarantee that you personally are going to live to a ripe old age.  You need to live right now.

How often do we go through one of these awful situations and then go back into our ruts and the drudge of day to day life?  Stay stuck in a job that doesn’t value you, where you are treated badly?  Or in a relationship about which you could easily say the same?  We stay on our rails and follow the same old sequence of events because, why?  Maybe fear of change but also because it is easy.  You might be bored rigid but hey, it is easier to just stay in a job you can do with your eyes shut than it is to make the effort to find and learn a new role.  You might feel undervalued or even abused by a partner on multiple levels, but change is scary, and it is often so hard to get the help you need, you stay put, the years drift by and so it goes on.

How many of us try and try for a partner who shows us no appreciation or value?  How many of us knock ourselves out for a job where you know full well your employer would replace you within 24 hours if you dropped dead tomorrow?  Is it really worth it?  We all need money to live and we need to work to get the money – but we need to start working to live instead of the other way around and focus on our personal relationships with others – the ones that make us happy!

At the beginning of this year, I promised myself that 2018 would be the year when I would work less, travel more and spend really high-quality time with those closest to me and who I care about deeply.  I planned to remove as many negatives as I can…so far I have pretty much failed.  My friend passing really has given me a kick up the arse – and I am going to make changes.

People who know me ‘in real life’ will be aware that I never sugar-coat the dead; we are all just people, good and bad, and this doesn’t change when we pass, but this woman really was exceptional and when I say she was one of the nicest and most genuine people I have been fortunate enough to meet, I actually mean that.  We knew each other I guess for just over a decade, we were never exceptionally close but she is going to leave a huge gap in our little group, in my life and the world will be poorer without her in it.

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Life

I’ve Lost The Ability to Say “F*CK IT”!

By on January 27, 2018
gutless

Or, When did I get so gutless?

Now I know that last year, 2017, I was completely spoiled by the epic amount of world travelling I was fortunate enough to do.  I know am blessed in so many ways right down to the geographical location of my birth and my race (if not my gender!).  This alone opened many doors that would otherwise have been closed to me.  I have too many blessing to even list.  I am the first to admit that this particular blog post is pretty much a white, middle-aged, middle-class moan about “first world problems”. Frankly, most of the population of the planet has more pressing matters to attend to.

To my husband and friends who read this – no this is not about you!  Essentially it is about wondering why I’ve become totally gutless in my approach to life.

I suppose this is partly the menopause which – it is said – encourages one to sift through all your mental garbage bags.  As part of that process, I suddenly realised that most of my adult life, if not all of it, I have always done what needed to be done.  I have always taken on responsibility for meeting the needs of daily life for myself and others around me.  Oftentimes this means not being able to follow my own dreams but on the plus side, it means others can follow theirs by default.

I think that facilitating others is a laudable and generally very good thing.  If you are currently doing this, well done.  If you are currently being facilitated by someone else, well done.  Be sure to show your appreciation.  I am all for people following dreams, picking and choosing what they want to do.  I’d just like to have a fair crack of the whip myself.

I know that part of this is watching people walk away from various hideous aspects of their lives – be that a relationship or a dead end job –  and then looking and feeling so much better for it.  I can’t help thinking that I can only get out of this stagnant rut by leaping, creating a vacuum and letting that get filled.  Maybe I need a kick up the arse, some real motivation to change my daily existence.

Maybe my desire to just say, ‘fuck it’, hop in my van and only come back when others have sorted out the fall out would actually pan out OK.

 

 

 

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2018 Stole My Mojo

By on January 20, 2018
mojo

2018 stole my Mojo and I really need it back!

I had all sorts of plans at the end of 2017.   I was going to hit the ground running.  Sadly, mother nature arrived with a virus so the tail end of 2017/early part of 2018 began with a case of the lethargies and the sniffles.  My mojo well and truly left the building but that said, I anticipated its return and made my 2018 plans.

I don’t really do resolutions because I rarely keep them and why set myself up to fail?  Instead, I highlight a few mores and lesses I want to focus on.  This year I decided that if I actually focused on the ‘mores’ I was more likely to stick to the plan, plus the ‘mores’ would probably bring about the ‘lesses’ by default.  I am hoping this makes sense.  It makes sense to me.

Anyway, I decided, I needed more things that would make me feel less stressed and happier:

  • More travel, at home and abroad.  This is a must.  That old bucket list is not going to tick itself off.
  •  I certainly want to maintain more personal connections this year and re-establish old ones in real life that I am connected with on Facebook.
  •  I am hoping more travelling will lead to more opportunities for photography which I really enjoy.
  • More focus on healthy living – better diet, more regular habits, time management, more exercise and better sleep.  I enjoy and benefit from these things but for some reason, they are always the first to go.
  • I also get mentally bored really fast so I want to get down and do some studying this year.

 

The saying is ‘less is more’, in this case, I am hoping that ‘more is going to be less’ and the less that I really do need is less stress!

  • More focus on a healthy lifestyle = less stress.
  • More travelling, photography, connections with folks I like and value = less stress

 

And my major LESS was work.  I work 24 hours a week in employment, but I regularly have to pull 12 hour days for freelancing and my aim at the end of 2017 was that this really does need to stop.  I can’t afford to give up the freelance work, especially if I want to travel, but I can organise myself better and start saying no.  This should lead to a lot less stress.

So, what has gone wrong?  I am stressed.  My mojo is still somewhere else, hopefully on a sun-drenched beach sipping a cocktail.

Essentially, the work thing has not panned out as I had hoped.  I have been pulling 12 hour days at least twice a week since the off.  I am now also studying for a degree in Psychology which is requiring a certain amount of time and I really want to do this, it has been on hold since 2012!   Rightly or wrongly, I mostly feel like my life has continued to be a series of incessant demands with no time to take a breath.

2018 is only 20 days old and I am still minus one mojo and mostly just as exhausted as I was before.  I am coming down with stuff like sore throats, mouth ulcers and a few days ago I had the first IBS flare up I have had in months.  I am grumpy.    My (almost) overwhelming desire at the moment is to pack my stuff, get in my van and drive off, camping up for a week and spending time in nature and sleeping.

It has to change and has to stop.  I have no idea how.

 

 

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Can I put procrastination as a skill on my CV?

By on November 27, 2017
Procrastination

I am not sure when I became so good at procrastination but I really believe that I have it down as a fine art.  Should it be on my CV?  I mean, how do you decide what to do first?

I currently have about 8 projects on the go – either in reality or in my head.  Two I have actually started on and the others are in note form and I have purchased various bits of research material.  I have so many things I want to do yet finite time in which to do them in.

On the one hand, I think I should perhaps finish the ones I have already started.  The rationale behind this is that the completion of these projects will be a boost.  It will spur me onwards to bigger and better things.    I can visualise how amazing I will feel once these are finally completed.

On the other hand, my brain is a veritable whirlpool of ideas all of which I feel super-enthusiastic about starting.  Only I don’t because I feel bad about the old incomplete projects and don’t want to end up with yet more unfinished projects.  I know this will achieve nothing apart from making me feel demoralised.  Then I feel demoralised because I have neither started the new tasks nor completed the old one.  Around and around I go..

So here I sit flipping from pole to pole and I am so busy procrastinating, constantly deliberating what to do next, that I am not even get started let alone finished.

Maybe I should just do something?

 

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Life | Memoir | Relationships

On Being “Crazy” – Gaslighting 101

By on November 15, 2017
Gaslight

I was having a look at some old writings of mine and I found this from 2013 on the subject of Gaslighting and I thought it was worth re-blogging here.

Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity. Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

 

Ingrid Bergman Gaslighting
Ingrid Bergman from the film ‘Gaslight’ (1944)

Gaslighting as an experience is devastating to your sense of sanity and self-esteem. It can creep into a relationship early on in such a mild form it is imperceptible. By the time it becomes entrenched as a way of interacting the victim already believes the abuser is probably right. It is hard to explain to others because the more you try to explain it the “crazier” you start to sound, even to yourself. Eventually, you believe that maybe you are mad, so mad in fact, you need this other person around to help you keep your tenuous grip on reality.

Gaslighting is essentially a form of manipulation and control, and it is not exclusively perpetrated by men against women despite what the media may have you believe. It is a form of domestic abuse, but one that has only relatively recently been taken seriously by medical professionals. social services, and law enforcement authorities. Despite this, in my opinion, it is often still perceived as a poor relation of “real” abuse such as physical and sexual violence.

Before everyone starts picking over the last row they had with their significant other and wondering if his/her shouting “you’re a fucking crazy bitch/dickhead” counts as serious domestic abuse; it probably doesn’t. Sometimes a row is just a row. It’s not nice, but real gaslighting is much more subtle and is not something that exclusively happens when one person is angry at another. Although this can be the case, in my personal experience it tended to be a more normal part of the daily communications.

Many years ago I started to write a book on recognising when you were being gaslighted. I may resurrect it but in the meantime a few of my own experiences of gaslighting in a very small nutshell were:

    • Minimising my personal concerns: Always on the basis of a “caring” discussion, this would start with “What’s up?” and end in “You’ve got a bloody screw loose”, or “It’s all in your head”, and also for good measure “Well, with the history of mental illness in your family, and your depression, it’s not surprising you are so irrational, there really is no hope!”.

 

    • Ensuring compliance: If I ever objected to anything within the relationship eg, where the money was spent; sexual issues I was left in no doubt that these were my issues either with my parents (?!) during childhood, my own personal repression/hang-ups and so on. Not legitimate concerns. Really I should have been in the loony bin. Eventually, you just do what they want you to do because what happens if you are really mad? They will come and take you away….

 

    • Giving Instruction: On every little thing. Nothing you do is ever right or good enough, in fact, you are so stupid you even need to be taught the “right way” to cut vegetables or load a dishwasher. The subtext: If you can’t even do that right, you obviously can’t function in the real world without me can you?

 

You can often start to do ‘crazy’ stuff to try to prove you’re not crazy: In one particularly toxic relationship, the man was being unfaithful. He swore blind that the affair had stopped. I could see all the evidence that it had not, but of course I did not trust myself to be able to process information accurately by this time: Obviously, I was imagining it all. In fact, I was constantly being told it was all in my head. On one occasion I was literally acting crazy and got myself driven round by a friend (so he wouldn’t recognise the car!) to check where his work vehicle was parked. Lo and Behold! There it was where he said it would be, so obviously I was completely mad after all. Except I wasn’t. I just couldn’t see it, and then I felt guilty for doubting his word, and that maybe I was just mad after all. Even reading this makes me think “OMG bunny boiler!” and that is completely not me at all. I was literally being driven mad by someone who wanted to have their cake and eat it and had no concept of anyone else’s needs but their own.  I found out later that he was doing this to the ‘other woman’ and to his ex-wife.  And apparently, I was the crazy one!

Often the manipulation and control are accompanied by standard “passive aggressive” communication techniques to make the victim feel bad, that they are in the wrong, and that they are actually the one who is abusing their partner. This is easy to recognise once you know what you are looking for, sadly during the worst of the gaslighting style of abuse you tend not to see what is in front of you; instead you supply them with the required platitudes to soothe their “hurt” feelings and end up feeling really bad that you “made” them feel so unhappy.

It really is only after you are not in the relationship anymore you start to look back and realise the extent of what was going on and how the warning signs were there early on. For example, in one relationship at the very beginning, I said I had no interest in a subject which the other person did. I was subjected to hours of sulking – the result being I caved in because I felt bad and then ended up being bored shitless by these endless ramblings for over a decade.  At the time I didn’t realise, being young and incredibly naive, that if my needs were not important right at the start this did not bode well for the future.

I ended another relationship after 3 months because passive aggression seemed to be his standard form of communication. Sadly for him, I had learnt to say “no” by this point and mean it, so it was pretty much doomed from the start!

My experiences (and this is a very brief overview) were unpleasant and I would not wish it on anyone but it has served me well and I am pretty much impervious to passive-aggressive forms of manipulation. Having lived with masters of the technique, everyone else seems pretty amateurish after that. I am not saying that they were “crazy” but I do think they had some pretty serious issues they need to deal with in terms of their attitude towards other people in general, and women in particular. Sadly, they are so wrapped up in their own sense of self-importance I doubt they would ever feel the need to examine their own psyche to the extent to which they would realise this.

For my part, I just learnt to make better decisions concerning who I do and do not allow into my life. My gain.

 

Reproduced from the original here
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The Day of the Denture is Almost Upon Us!

By on November 11, 2017
denture - dog

We are at T-13 and counting!

T – day – the day my tooth is finally gone is approaching. I’ve sat around feeling old and depressed about having to have a denture so now I have challenged myself to come up with 5 good things about having my tooth out – I came up with 10!

  1. No more pain! 6 months of gradually worsening pain will finally end.
  2. No more painkillers! No more having to take painkillers on at least a daily basis. This is even better now since even the codeine has stopped working.
  3. No more antibiotics! I have had 3 lots of antibiotics so far. Talk about developing resistant strains. Plus us girlies get lots of extra side effects from these. Enough is enough!
  4. I can finally sleep! No more waking up 2 or 3 times a night.
  5. I will not be grumpy! I’ve been such a snappy mardy cow the last week or so. Being in constant pain has reduced my tolerance threshold for just about everything other than the sh*t I have to get done to practically zero.
  6. I can go back to the gym! I’ve really tried to maintain my regular workouts but the constant pain means that a) I am knackered most of the time, and b) It’s just more discomfort I have to try to deal with. I am looking forward to getting back into a routine with this.
  7. No more dentistry!  At least for a while.  My new dentist is lovely but I have spent far too much time in his company already and he’s only been there a few weeks.
  8. Party Tricks!  If I practice I can probably flip my denture down with my tongue at random moments (probably when drunk) for the entertainment of my peers.
  9. The Fear Factor!  I can terrify small children at Hallowe’en.  (See Party Tricks)
  10. I get to tell loads of jokes about teeth.

Every cloud and all that.

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Life | Writing/Creativity

Creativity – It Makes Me Happy!

By on November 10, 2017
creativity, image of train tracks

Creativity has always been a bit elusive and yet I had a bit of a proud moment a few days ago – I made my first sale on Red Bubble – the first time anyone has actually purchased an item of my photography or in fact, rated anything artistic I have ever done let alone like it enough to shell out some cold hard cash.

This was not something that made me lots of money which is fine because that is not the thing that is most important to me at this stage.  As someone who has become convinced that they are the most uncreative individual ever it has been a real boost to my confidence and given me the courage to continue to explore and develop different aspects of my own creativity.

Most of my birth family were creative in some way:  My father could make shoes, including difficult orthopaedic splints etc., my mother could knit amazing things, my brother was a consummate artist, author, musician,  linguist and all-around renaissance man.  My children are all creative, but I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that the creativity gene has passed me by.

Essentially this belief was encouraged and increased by people who, for some reason, had a vested interest in suppressing aspects of my nature they found challenging to their own ego:  They were the creative one, I was not.  This has stayed with me throughout my adult life even when my husband constantly nagged encouraged me to give it a go. I was resistant.

My husband would repeatedly point out that I designed websites for a while.  Again, I did not consider that creative.  Now I am not sure why.  I edited other peoples written work, I even published it, but until about 12 months ago had never considered writing and publishing my own. For some reason when I did finally publish something I didn’t really consider it to be an act of creativity. Why? Because how could it be? I’m not creative, remember?

Up until about 6 months ago, I would never even have considered sharing my efforts any wider than the usual posts to friends on social media.  It was only when I stopped comparing myself to other people (invariably coming off worse) that I thought, ‘oh sod it!  Let’s see what happens’.  So, encouraged by my husband and a couple of friends,  I started this blog and a short while later I started to publish some of my images.  People have seemed to enjoy both and it has made me happier than I have been for a while.

My husband is ridiculously pleased that I seem to have developed a passion for both writing and photography, and remarks about how happy I look whenever I am let loose with a camera or write a blog.  I have to say that my camera has been probably one of the best gifts I have ever received.

Now I know I am nowhere near the best photographer there is, I have a long way to go.   I’d like to get to the point where I get more than 10 decent pics and maybe 1 good one out of a 100+ image click-fest.

The support I have had from people thus far has encouraged me to keep writing and also keep clicking away.  I am now at the point where I might venture forth and take some formal photography courses in the new year.  This is a big deal for me, I don’t have a history of great experiences with teachers of anything remotely involving creativity.  However, I do need to learn certain skills and I need to learn it from a firm foundation and build from there. I’d love to work on and improve the areas I am really interested in – the nature, urban and landscape photography, and also be able to present a decent portrait shot.  If I am going to do this I need to bite the bullet and get out there.

 

 

 

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It Has Got To Go – And That’s The Tooth Of It

By on October 29, 2017
false teeth

 

My tooth has got to go.  This makes me sad, scared and annoyed in equal measure.

I’ve come to terms with my glasses, my grey hair, the fact that I am no longer 25 or even 35….I’d take 45 even at this stage but whilst I know that at some point we are all going to go ‘over the hill’, I had no idea that I would end up hurtling down the other side at such high speed.

The tooth has got to go.  I have come to hate it with a passion.  It could actually have done a pact with the devil or at the very least one of his minor demons.  How else could it torture me for 6 months straight and not have the common decency to drop out of my skull!?

I have tried so hard to ignore the constant nagging pain.  But my fuse is becoming shorter by the minute and that tooth has run out of time.

Of course, the bastard thing is right at the front of my face so it will mean…..dentures.

I am not keen on the idea of dentures.  I am, however, less keen on looking like some kind of redneck, hillbilly gene pool failure so there isn’t much choice unless I can rustle up a spare £3K for an implant.

So I am going to have to put on my big girl pants and go and see my dentist.  (He is handsome and has nice eyes. )  He will then wrench the tooth out of my head. I will go home and cry, bewail my ageing and decrepit body, decide I am a unloveable toothless hag and smash the tooth into a million pieces with a hammer. Then I shall probably get over it, have a glass of red, and start telling jokes about teeth.

 

How I laughed at my Mother’s false teeth,
As they foamed in the waters beneath,
But now comes the reckonin’
It’s me they are beckonin’
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

(Pam Ayres – Oh I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth)

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Manners Maketh Man (or Woman, for that matter)

By on October 26, 2017
manners

Do we really need political correctness or just plain good manners?

This is a tough one because let’s face it even as much as asking the question is almost enough to see you dangling by your thumbs from a nearby lamppost.

There is most certainly a small but very vocal and (sometimes) aggressive minority who spend a vast quantity of their time being ‘speshul’ and getting offended by every little thing. However, to me, that is a symptom of a wider issue rather than ‘political correctness’ per se, rather it is the strange belief that people have some kind of human right to say and do whatever they please, whenever they please.

I am not talking about issues of abuse, physical assault, rape or domestic violence or anything that clearly should be and is legislated for. I am talking about the day to day interpersonal behaviour that seems to be the subject of more and more attention from the ‘thought/speech police’.

My belief is that the benchmark should be – is it polite, appropriate or fair to act in a certain way? If it isn’t, then don’t do it.  Or as my mum would say, ‘remember your manners’.

We have come a long way – much of what was considered fine in the 1950’s, the 60s, and 70s is no longer considered acceptable by mainstream society. However, I would put forward that is has been a result of education alongside legislation rather than the possibility of recourse to law alone. The laws we have in place are a good thing, however, they still prove inadequate to deal with this on a day to day basis and many people face all sorts of bullying as part of their daily experience.

There are laws surrounding discrimination on the grounds of biological sex. These were extended to include sexual orientation and so on later. However, sexism does still exist within society.

For example, I’m a member of a Facebook group which is all about VW T25 Camper Vans. A few days ago someone posted an image similar to the one on the left and asked, ‘would you take the van or the girl’. Of course, people complained about the post and instead of a reasoned discussion the result was, predictably, an argument.  The men missed the point. They felt under siege. They focused on defending themselves against the ‘unreasonable’ feminists and responded by putting a comedic image of a man in a similar pose.

Now I am not actually condoning the post or what it portrayed but what I am saying is this: A few decades ago men would routinely put pics of scantily clad girls on the walls at work. These are now removed in non-male only workplaces, I have still seen them in male-only spaces, however. This was not a male-only space; it is not a male only group.  So to me at least, the main issue here was not the image itself but a lack of consideration or respect for the female members of the group.  The fact is no matter how much we may like to say it isn’t the case, the fact remains that socially we as a species still feel deep down that certain types of behaviour are simply not appropriate in mixed company.  However, this comes into direct conflict with another attitude within society right now that people have the right to say, do and behave in any way they see fit.

Do we need more laws? I would say not. What we do need is an expectation that people will conduct themselves in a better way than they are.  Just because one can do something does not mean that one should.

For example, one can decide to shame fat people and they are often shamed in public for their appearance, their body size and so on. This is deemed to be okay some who claim that ‘its for their own good’. Now I’ve heard this before and I can categorically say that being cruel to be kind is not being kind, it’s just being cruel. It’s abuse. It is bullying. If you don’t like how someone looks that’s fine; berating them about it, especially in a public place, is not. It’s bad mannered, rude and offensive and it is damaging to other people.

The same goes with gender or sexuality. If you don’t like seeing gay people that’s fine, keep it to yourself. Yes, you have to right to not like something, you do not have the right to make horrid comments,  beat them up or anything else. Be polite and conduct yourself like an adult. If you can’t handle a gay couple holding hands, hugging or whatever, don’t look.

Similarly, if you feel uncomfortable or threatened by people who don’t necessarily follow traditional gender roles then that’s fine, you are perfectly within your rights to feel that way but frankly, it is your problem, not theirs.  You need to deal with yourself and you don’t get to make their life a misery. What difference is it making to you quite honestly? Unless you are wanting to have sex with someone their gender is pretty much irrelevant. And actually if you are that attracted to someone it will remain irrelevant even if you don’t believe it right now, I can almost guarantee that it will be the case. No one is forcing you to be anything other than the gender you are. Just conduct yourself in a proper manner and treat others how you wish to be treated.

Good manners cost nothing.

None of this is rocket science; it is about social interaction between grown ups. I’m not sure when we started being so ill-mannered but it really does need to stop.  It would make life so much more pleasant all around.  This isn’t about shouting people down, there are other ways society can show its disapproval when people behave in socially impoverished ways and it really needs to start early on in life.    It’s a tough one, but unless we make a positive change in the way people abuse others as an assumed right,  you can shout, scream about being offended, triggered or whatever as much as you like. It won’t change.

Them’s me thoughts.

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