Where’s E.T.?

Grandad almost always buys you fabulous gifts, partly because he loves you, and partly because he wants to OWN your happiness (for further details on his behaviour with gifts please see my previous post “How to Respond to Gifts“).

Despite all this, occasionally Grandad gets it very wrong.  This is usually because the bargain-hunter part of his brain has wrestled the controls from the mafia-boss.

Recently, knowing your love of Sci-Fi, Grandad bought a second-hand, multi-stained, homemade, E.T. toy for you from his local car-boot sale – I can only assume located somewhere in the ninth circle of hell. 

I know what you’re thinking; what child wouldn’t want a misshapen corduroy alien smeared with mysterious brown stains, smelling of mould?  

As Grandad attempted to hand you this sack of botulism, I physically stepped between you looking so horrified that even he realised the gift wasn’t entirely appropriate.

I didn’t actually say this last bit out loud (unless saying it with my face counts?)

Gratitude

You’re right, the above does sound a bit ungrateful as Grandad’s intentions were good (if you ignore the part where he wants to own your happiness anyway). 

When someone gives you a gift that’s not something you really need or want, you should thank the giver politely.  When someone gives you a gift from a car-boot sale that smells, drips, and is covered in miscellaneous stains, it’s ok not to look too impressed.

Please note, in both situations, ALWAYS wait until they leave to burn the gift.

Tell Them

“To communicate effectively, first you need to listen.”  Yeahhhh…   I mean, sure listening is important, but only if one of you is already speaking.  It seems to me that maybe listening should logically be the second thing; first SOMEONE needs to speak.

Of course I’m mostly being deliberately obtuse, I know the point being made, is you need to know how the other person feels, to know how best to communicate with them.  True, but my point still stands; someone has to start that off.

Forever Hold It

I know a couple who moan ABOUT each other constantly but never actually say a word TO the other.  

Whilst they are both silent, they are silent in very different ways. 

If you are mad at someone for something, you have to TELL THEM.  If you don’t tell them, then you have to accept that they might not know what you’re mad at them for.

I blame old films and television; they are full of role models for high-maintenance women, and stoic, taciturn men.

Psychic Powers

There is no good time to expect someone else to be psychic.  If we have learned nothing else from TV psychics, psychic powers can’t be utilised at will (also, that an 18-month waiting list to get on a show will improve them no end…)

But How Do I Know If I’ve Already Told Them?

  • Simply thinking about what makes you mad every day is not the same as having told them. 
  • Mentioning in passing that you don’t like the thing that annoys you, without specifying that they do it, isn’t telling them.
  • Telling everyone else you know except them, isn’t telling them.

Life can be busy and frantic, and memories are not always what they should be.  If you are not sure whether you have told someone why you’re mad at them, give them the benefit of the doubt, tell them again.

P.s.  If they’re under 18. You probably did tell them already.  Several times…

P.p.s.  If you’re thinking of telling someone that they drive you crazy in some way today, maybe also think about communicating all the reasons that you love them too – a spoonful of sugar and all that.

Just Say No

Enthusiastic volunteering is a wonderful force for good, but indiscriminate rampant volunteering is bad for your mental health.  One person can change the world, but no ONE person can solve ALL of the world’s problems.

People do appreciate a volunteer.  Your Dad for example is always jumping in to help someone else out (despite the long list of jobs I already have planned for him) and he is widely loved for this.

Grandma is also an avid volunteer.  She’s spent a lifetime sacrificing her own time to help others.  Sometimes against their will, but she’s from the olden days; a time when no-one let a little thing like consent stop them.

We’ve all done it in our younger, more enthusiastic, days.  Sat in a meeting at work, the Boss asks for a volunteer for some God-forsaken task that no-one in their right-mind wants to do, and as the tense silence becomes just too loud you hear your own voice thunder in slow-motion:-

I’ll do it

The three most regularly regretted words in the English language.  You regret those words before they are all the way out of your mouth, and even more when you’re sat in a room full of straw wondering how the hell you’re supposed to spin it all into gold.

The worst reason in the world to volunteer is because no-one else wanted to do it.  With volunteering, the clue is in the name, it should be voluntary, not obligatory. 

I’m not saying don’t help people, and I’m certainly not saying don’t try to change the world, but what I am saying is, not everything is within your remit.  YOU don’t have to do everything.

It can be hard not to volunteer against your will when no-one else is putting their hand up, especially if you care about things getting done.  A good way to achieve this is to make a conscious note of what is within your remit, and what is not.

My Remit

I bloody love spreadsheets and pivot tables.  Yes, I am slight odd, thanks for asking.  If anyone needs a spreadsheet sorting out, and I have time, I’ll happily give them a hand. 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I also love talking and interfering in other people’s lives so I’m always happy to provide bossy advice, even if often, it’s unsolicited and under-researched…

I don’t enjoy getting in the middle of fights, but I am actually a good mediator so even though I don’t enjoy it, if the opportunity arises to calm some waters I will step in.  Unless I don’t like the people involved, then I’ll probably pull up a chair and grab some popcorn.

We only get one life (unless you’re Buddhist or a cat).  Your life and your time are precious, and they belong to you.  If you want to give away your gold and platinum time, that is a fabulous gift to give, but don’t throw such an amazing commodity away on people and tasks that don’t deserve you.

You don’t have to do a thing because no-one else wants to, or is capable.  You are not John McLean in Die Hard, you are NOT THAT GUY.  Sometimes there is no guy.

Even if you feel you ARE that guy, by all means save an office building from hostile terrorists, but if your team leader Sheila needs someone (but not her) to thin out files on a Saturday, then frankly, Sheila can do it herself.  …or reinvent a little something called PAID overtime.    

Normal Human

I spend quite a lot of time joking that you need to behave like a normal human.  I say joking, I do of course mean screaming.  The reason I get so upset by your unruly behaviour is because you have inherited it almost exclusively from me.

Don’t get me wrong, your Dad is also a weirdo, but ultimately he’s a much more normal weirdo than me.  However, I’m kind of lying because, and here’s the thing, EVERYONE is a total weirdo.

Ultimately, there is no such thing as a normal human.  Social convention dictates that in public we should behave a certain way, and some of us (specifically us) are slower to learn or take notice of those social edicts than others.

But in truth, we are all different and all break social rules sometimes.  Those who break them less often and less obviously might be considered more “normal” but they’re not, they’re just better at hiding the weird.

In my life I have experienced a certain amount of difficulty through not immediately conforming to behaviour that is expected of me, and because of that I try to get you to moderate your behaviour so you can avoid that same difficulty.  For example, I would not recommend going to school dressed as the Australian flag, just because you already made the outfit and you felt like it.

That doesn’t mean I think you should always conform to social convention – see my Be Yourself post for more thoughts on that.  What I’m trying to say in this post is, don’t feel weird because you’re different, everyone is unique, but don’t expect a round of applause when you break with social convention.

Every single person out there is a bit odd.  Different, unique, special, crazy, whatever you want to call it, we are all that, because there is no such thing as a “normal human”.  It’s a big myth, more so than Bigfoot, because there haven’t even ever been any reported sightings of one.

At this point someone will usually say or think “I see people who seem normal all the time?”  To those people I say, search your gut-feelings, they aren’t normal are they?  Somewhere deep-down we all know that the people that seem most normal are the least normal of all. 

Anyone can pretend to be a normal human, that’s why I ask you to try to do it so often.  Never think you know everything about someone because you know something about them.  People do actually purposefully try to present a different façade to how they feel inside.

Grandad for example, in my lifetime at least 3 people have told me what an all-round regular guy he is!?!   I can only assume they’ve not yet spent the requisite length of time with him for him to lose it and call them the C-word for little or no reason.  Certainly I would venture that he’s never dangled THEM over a castle wall to cure their fear of heights.

A colleague of mine, who used to be a colleague of his, once told me that I’d probably got a very one-sided view of him because my parents were divorced.  She’d spent a couple of years working in the same building as him, whereas I’d only been his actual daughter for 44 years, so of course she had every right to think she knew him better.

Never berate yourself for being or feeling different, but that still doesn’t mean that you should clean your teeth whilst doing a headstand.  A great many social conventions exist for a reason, in this case to stop toothpaste dripping into your eyes.

Also, a super-market trip is far quicker and less eventful if you don’t launch into your full Nickelback repertoire whilst using the trolley as a scooter.

Have Fun

The word “fun” can be problematic because it is often used to unintentionally flag up a distinct lack of fun; for example fun-runs, fun-size, and any activity that begins with someone using the phrase “come on, it’ll be FUN” but fun is actually quite important. 

Used correctly, the word actually means enjoyment or light-hearted pleasure; not (as the above activities would indicate) disappointment, pain and / or boredom. 

Hypocrite

Yes, of course I’m a MASSIVE hypocrite.  I spend at least 50% of each day screaming at you both that you need to have less fun and be more bloody responsible.   

In my defence, adults spend their whole lives trying to fit in tonnes of necessary and important things each day, and this inadvertently trains us to live without the “fun”.  We even end up prioritising things we enjoy behind things we feel obliged to do.

Some of us need to re-learn how to have fun.  Once we’ve learned how to successfully be grown-ups, we need to re-learn how not to be.  I think C.S.Lewis said it best:-

Some adults can’t remember how much fun it is to sit and colour something in, or make a collage, or a working volcano.  They just lurch from box-set to box-set vicariously experiencing the same kinds of ups and downs they already have in real life (though some of us do also find this fun).

Now would be a good time to point out that no-one else gets to define “fun” for you, only you know what you find “fun”.  Otherwise we’re back in “come on it’ll be fun” territory. 

Personally, I like writing, sewing and watching lots of lovely telly.  Grandma likes walking, gardening and lying to small children (or “extolling the virtues of literature” as she likes to call it).  Daddy likes photography, horror films and writing lists of jobs for Mummy to do. 

You can’t count as fun anything you feel a responsibility to do.  If you enjoy going to the gym then that is fun.  If you “mostly have fun once I’m there and think it’s good for me anyway” it is NOT FUN.

“Fun” is different for everybody.  Find what you enjoy pottering about at, then potter away.

…Potter!  That’s the word I should have used to start with, not fun – see post on Family Memory for further details.