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Archive for June, 2011

When I saw Nigel Latta on TV talking about teenagers I was at first amused until I realized what a load of crock he was talking. Not only was he talking rubbish, but his theories about teenagers are not funny, they are dangerous. Calling teenagers another species or aliens is marginalizing and isolating them. Categorizing people, giving them labels, mocking them, dehumanising them has been done before. The nazis did it. Bullies do it in the classroom and in the workplace.

Comedians do it, but usually it’s done to make us look at ourselves, and to highlight an issue that’s wrong. Perhaps Latta thinks he’s a stand up comedian or an entertainer. The thing is, he’s an educator, and I think that what he says about teenagers, and the way to treat them is wrong. An element of truth there may be, but this is what makes what he says so dangerous, so insidious. He can hook you with a half-truth, make fun of it, and, wham, he can reel you in.

You can group people according to age: toddlers, pre-teens, teenagers, young adults, the middle aged, the elderly. And you can find something to endlessly mock in each group. The self centred, tantrum throwing toddler; the rude obnoxious teenager; the lost middle-aged person in crisis; the senile, forgetful oldie. Or you can show respect for people regardless of age, race, religion … We can choose to be inclusive, embracing the wonderful human-ness of others, celebrating our differences and seek to understand and learn from others.

It’s not funny to marginalise the teenager. At a time when someone is seeking independence, security, self-awareness, an emerging sense of empathy, questioning of identity … Hell, that could be me now … The difference is that I’ve reached a point in my life when I realize that I don’t know who I am, and that it doesn’t matter because change is good, complacency is not.

I like teenagers. Their minds are developing at an extraordinary rate, and their perceptions of the world can provide us with an opportunity to take a fresh new look at our own world that may have become stale, fixed or cynical. We can choose to be threatened by their questioning of mores and values, or we can choose to honestly re-evaluate ours. We can choose to outright reject their ideas, or we can choose to defend and rationally argue our own positions. Teenagers are learning to control and co-ordinate their thoughts. We can assist or resist.

Teenage angst, can be positively redirected to creative or sporting activities. Some of the most insightful poetry I have read has come from the troubled minds of teenagers. Same with stories and music. Teenagers have shown me that expressing creativity is a path to personal fulfillment and a sense of self. The discipline, team work, and focus that come from physical activities are captured by teenagers who discover the joy of successfully implementing strategies and tactics and the comfort and excitement of being part of something larger than themselves.

Realising that we are tiny specks in the universe can be terrifying or it can be empowering. Following a teenager’s journey to find a place where she feels comfortable is an opportunity to make that journey myself. To be part of that journey is a privilege, and the rewards are infinite.

Sure, teenagers can be smelly, hostile, hurtful, inarticulate and incomprehensible, but they need us (adults, parents) more than ever to love them despite this, perhaps because of this. They’re pushing boundaries, pushing parents, seeing what they can get away with. They need boundaries, but these boundaries can often be negotiated and mutually agreed upon. Where there’s room to compromise we should, but some things are so important we must only say no. That’s going to test our ability to explain our reasons. Teenagers force us to develop communication skills, to become negotiators, and enforcers. Being around teenagers sets us off on a journey too.

We may not enjoy dealing with aggression from toddlers and young children, but we accept that we need to learn strategies to constructively deal with it. We may not like the behaviour but we don’t resent the child throwing a tantrum, nor should we resent teenagers. We don’t isolate and marginalise the toddler, nor should we isolate and marginalise teenagers.

I delight in seeing the world through the eyes if a toddler – stopping to marvel at the butterfly or the snail trail. I delight in seeing the world through the eyes of a teenager – discussions about social injustice, corrupt political and financial structures; learning to negotiate through minefields of personal responsibility.

I love the certainty with which teenagers hold their convictions. I love their wisdom and their insight. I don’t think I’m any wiser now than I was as a teenager, I’ve just learnt a few more skills. I love being reminded that we are all on a journey, no matter our age, and that we choose our destinies. Oh, the angst …

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I have just taken delivery of the most marvellous domestic invention. I am not usually impressed by kitchen implements – or any home gadget – but this is a wonder to behold.

I have acquired a rubbish bin that, when you wave your hand over it, it opens! Is it magic? Is it science fiction? Whatever it is, I can now put my rubbish in a bin without falling over; and I can put it in the bin, not near it, or not so near it.

And if anyone tells me that they’ve seen this technology before – shame on them for not telling me sooner. Trying to open a rubbish bin while balancing on crutches, holding on to a piece of rubbish, then flinging it in the vicinity of the bin is just plain dangerous … and messy.

Oh, and it closes itself too!

Self opening rubbish bin saves cripple.

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I came across this today, and thought it particularly relevent to my previous post “Je ne regrette rien”

I like it because it expresses an essential sentiment I omitted: a sense of responsibility

“Although you should not erase your responsibility for the past, when you make the past your jailer, you destroy your future. It is such a great moment of liberation when you learn to forgive yourself, let the burden go, and walk out into a new path of promise and possibility.” 

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Edith Piaf sang “Non, je ne regrette rien” (No, I regret nothing at all, or No, I’m not sorry for anything) with passion, as a personal statement of courage and faith in her future. She sang it, not in desperation, but as an affirmation of hope, of courage and life. The final line she sang is: “Je repars à zero” (I’m starting again from zero).

I have always loved this song, stirred by the conviction and strength with which Piaf sings.  Circumstances, of our own making or out of our control, too easily allow us to  become mired in guilt, regret, and self pity.  Yet Piaf rose above her tragedies. At the time when Piaf performed this song her health was rapidly failing.  She had gained enormous fame, even infamy, and had many detractors who were highly critical of her lifestyle. Piaf had had a tragic childhood, and after a serious injury had became addicted to alcohol and morphine.  She had been divorced, had lovers, remarried. If you listen to the song in the context of Piaf’s life, the words come to acquire a new dimension of meaning. They become her affirmation of the way in which she lived her life, embracing her choices, mistakes, and whatever life threw at her, good and bad.

No, No Regrets

No! No regrets

No! I will have no regrets

All the things

That went wrong

For at last I have learned to be strong

No! No regrets

No! I will have no regrets

For the grief doesn’t last

It is gone

I’ve forgotten the past

And the memories I had

I no longer desire

Both the good and the bad

I have flung in a fire

All of us make mistakes. Some of us dwell on those events, allowing the regret and the remorse to taint our lives forever. Guilt is destructive, but it takes courage to move on. Someone said “Owning your story is hard, but not as hard as spending your life running from it.”

As a mother I know I have made mistakes nurturing my children. Been impatient, shouted instead of listening, said the wrong thing that has hurt rather than healed, been overwhelmed by tiredness and made poor decisions. As a wife I have put my interests before those of my husband. As a friend I have carelessly let time pass and overlooked opportunities to support. But every day is a new opportunity to start again.

When I injured my spinal cord I spent months in hospital. I was unable to celebrate my sons’ birthday. I was unable to hug my sons and daughter when they were sad or needed a mother’s love. And when I returned home I used all my energy to look after myself, leaving my family to muddle on as best they could. I chose to go skiing that day when I broke my back. It was my choice that impacted on everyone around me. Yet if I had let that guilt consume me, I would have taken even more from them. Sure, I wish  sometimes that things had been different. I’m sure my family wishes that things had been different too. I hope they don’t resent my choices too much. Because that resentment will eat them up.

I don’t resent the decisions made by others that day – the ski instructor who was with me, the manager of the ski field who opened the field in atrocious conditions. I accept the choices I made then, and every day I make new choices … to exercise or not, to talk to friends or not, to write or not, to do something special for someone or not.

Every day is a new day, an opportunity for a new beginning, faith in the future.  Be strong; move forward; have no regrets.

“Je ne regrette rien”

Edith Piaf

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