I’ve just renewed my annual blog subscription so decided I’d better get round to writing something to justify it. I’m also currently stuck in my house because I’ve put my back out (again), so I really had no excuse.
It’s not surprising to me that I’ve had a flare up. I’ve felt it coming for a while. The change in sleep patterns, exercise and activities that have come with the summer holidays, plus being generally run down and unfit at the end of the school year, then having the fun of packing up houses and classrooms, gardening, loft trips, skip runs, house maintenance, book stacking, fridge shifting, suitcase lugging and long drives have taken their toll. My body has screamed STOP.
This is fair enough and I tried to listen to it, but in the end it was too little too late and one quick twist of the head to look at the sea yesterday was the straw that broke this camel’s back. It’s not as bad as it has been, and I know what to do to recover as quickly as possible but – aside from the pain and the general frustration of having plans ruined – I’ll tell you what’s annoying; the well meant phrase of being told to ‘take it easy’.
I would love to, but unfortunately that’s not really an option when you live in a flat with two animals, an empty fridge and a teenager and your support network is scattered around the globe. Luckily the boy is old enough to delegate chores to and order his own take out, but that also just means he doesn’t get up till midday and is out with his mates after that until bed time. When he is here every request for help is granted grudgingly, executed poorly and followed by an immediate return to his Lynx-ridden teen den and the lure of Tik-Tok, Snap-chat and God knows what else that lurks in there. As for a spontaneous offer of help, or evidence of the ability to apply the concept of foresight, there is none.
It’s not on purpose, it’s hormonal and he’s actually a very lovely, sweet boy who frequently has to step up and do more than should be expected of him. That is one of the many downsides of interrupted family life, but I’m also hoping it is teaching him about responsibility and doing your fair share, preferably without having to be asked in the first place.
That is what is truly wearying. The constant delegation of responsibility being dismissed as ‘nagging’ has been wearing women down for years and causing us to utter the fatal, martyred words of ‘It’s easier if I just do it myself’ for centuries. And it is. But it shouldn’t be and I’m trying to learn that lesson. In fact, one of the positives that my family situation and my current physical restrictions have taught me, is that I have no choice. Yes, I can do it all, but the consequences of that are that I am left physically and mentally broken. I have to keep asking for help, even when that help is shit and frequently means that the washing up needs done twice and many doors will be slammed in the process. To give in is to contribute to a much bigger problem.
I recently listened to a Glennon Doyle podcast where a lovely guy had called in and asked what he could be doing to help women more (and with all that is going on in the States he bloody well should be). Her response was made with love and delivered with a world-weariness that spoke for all women. She basically told him, ‘I should not have to tell you that.’
Asking women to explain what the right thing to do is, is just giving us another job to do when our house is already on fire. Instead she asked him to think for himself about what he would do if it was his house on fire and go do that, instead of asking her to stop putting out the flames and explain why he should call the fire brigade, where the phone is and how to push the buttons. Ok, Im précising what she actually said, but you get the idea.
Women are tired of being incapacitated and having to explain what to do to help get them back on their feet, but at the same time we have learnt again and again and again that if we don’t ask we don’t get and if we do ask we are likely to be dismissed as either rude and aggressive or moody and hormonal. We are probably being all of these things, and here’s the news flash: we probably have good reason to be. Being ‘hormonal’ does not negate the validity of either the request or the strength of feeling. Indeed, by the time a woman has reached the age where she is facing peri menopause she has seen and heard enough in the world to have earned the right to be a little pissed off about it and to have her views recognised and listened to.
As a teacher I have been trained to recognise that ‘all behaviour is communication’ and I think the world would be a better place if we all took this on as a mantra in our interactions with others. As I have travelled this summer and witnessed the terrifying amount of misogyny, lack of empathy and social disengagement that the pandemic and the example set by our current set of world ‘leaders’ seems to have engendered I have frequently been brought to tears of disbelief, fear and frustration. The feelings that my behaviour is communicating are not being recognised as valid, and what I’m seeing communicated in the behaviour that is coming back to me is one of frustration, selfishness, disengagement and indifference. It is a truly worrying state of affairs.
So I will keep on going even though I am incapacitated and really would quite like to ‘take it easy’ and I will keep asking for help even if I can do it myself, because I don’t really have a choice, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be told off for being angry and frustrated about it. That particular muscle has snapped for good.