Posts Tagged ‘reflections

Saving face

Posted on: 26/01/2011

There’s something in us – well, me at least – that harbours a strong, almost animal instinct to preserve our pride.  I read a book about it once; a Michael Crichton novel about Japanese corporate types who go to extreme lengths to save face.

In my teenage days, I was too scared to admit I was wrong to my peers.   I was too much of a coward to say sorry even when I knew I should.   One time, it was hours and hours before I could work up the courage to apologise.

For accidentally stepping on a tube of moisturiser.

Well, quite.  But, having not had the instinct to apologise in the first place, my pride prevented me from apologising – particularly when the other girls in the room started telling me to.  I eventually got out a muttered apology, but not before drowning in a heap of verbal abuse, and quite right too.

I suppose the adult equivalent, if there’s any real difference, is where you know you’ve made a mistake.  You feel backed into a corner, and you instinctively lash out rather than let your pride take a knock. Somehow we feel we have to be aggressive instead of passive, and defensive rather than embracing.    This can have very unpleasant consequences if we refuse to back down in this grown-up world. I was reminded of this today.

But that moisturiser incident stuck with me.  I realised I couldn’t go through life denying responsibility for my mistakes, and still like myself.

It took a long time to try and reverse the instinct, and I know I’m still not perfect, but these days I’m much better at apologising.

And you know what?  I sleep much better at night.

Amazing what a tube of moisturiser can do.


These days the moisturiser is smaller (and nicer)


That Plinky prompt that nudged me into writing my last blog got me thinking.

Good relationships stand the test of time, I said in reply to a comment.

Well, luckily for me that’s certainly the case.  You learn to grow and give with the relationship, and as long as the balance of give and take is mostly level, it makes for a very strong bond.  I’m doing better at the growing and giving.  Though I have my moments (usually around the same time each month) of growling and grumping, I’m vastly ahead of how I used to be.

And I have my wonderful husband to thank for that.  A rare quality in a man (well, certainly in the ones I’ve had relationships with), he has a way of helping you be a better person without making you feel bad that you weren’t better in the first place.

If that makes even the slightest bit of sense.

The most testing times of our relationship have been when life in general has been difficult.  I see other couples who seem happy together, in very different ways.  I sometimes wonder if they are this happy all the time, or, like me, they have the odd rough patch here and there.  You have to see a lot of a couple for them to drop the polite front.

Actually, one of the things I think that works in relationships is to try and maintain a certain level of civility.  I’d be interested to hear your opinions – let me know what you think.

And I shall leave you with my favourite quote about love, which I first heard in the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away.

Oh yes. And it’s better.


Image courtesy of lolololori on Flickr. Some rights reserved - click on image for details.

A fellow blogger, Olivia Tejeda, puts a thought-provoking picture up on her site once a week in the hope that it will inspire would-be writers to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard in most cases).  I hadn’t really thought of myself as a would-be writer, but I am really enjoying doing my blog, so I thought, why not?

Isn’t this the kind of photo that just makes you feel happy?  Isn’t it great to see such natural happiness…not forced laughter, or polite laughter, but something so funny has just been said the woman on the right has thrown her head right back and REALLY laughed.

I looked the picture up, and these women have known each other since childhood.  There are no barriers of politeness between them.  They are so comfortable in each other’s company, and they have no social insecurities. Nothing that inhibits them from laughing properly.

True joy is rare.  How often have you laughed so much that you cried?

It got me thinking.  Do we ever inhibit ourselves from true joy? Do we worry so much that someone will misconstrue a word or gesture?  Or even worse, occasionally we feel we cannot trust the company we keep to hold that moment of uninhibited joy precious, rather than turn it into something to make us feel bad, or vulnerable.  For example, perhaps we have a distinctive laugh that we are worried someone might tease us about.  They might not mean any harm from it, but our skins can be thin, and we can be hurt badly by this.

It has prompted me to think about how women in particular can behave negatively in such situations.  I recall one girl at boarding school who actively looked for opportunities to misconstrue something you said or did in order to entertain others with it later.  That was an extreme example (we all know how bitchy teenage girls can be) but I still see this kind of behaviour in other groups of women as a grown-up.  Sometimes I see it at a playgroup or in the school playground – though thankfully not recently – and the talker doesn’t realise the listener’s laughter is forced; the negative comment is not actually funny.

I did this once myself a year or so ago – made a negative comment about someone I didn’t particularly like because I thought it was funny – but afterwards I felt so mean and horrible I have tried not to do it again.   It made me recall how I spent so much of my school life not saying or doing anything for fear that someone would mock me for it, and I realised that I could be a better person than that.  Not just by conducting my conversation in a more positive way, but also by not worrying about what people might say about me.

And where should the line be drawn?  A little gentle joking is surely a way of extending the humour of the original moment, and should not be shied away from. But the moment you could describe a comment as ‘negative’ is probably when we need to start thinking more carefully about how we say things.

Everyone knows I’m not your average mum in the playground.  I’m overtly goofy, scatty and slightly mad – the sort of person who’s not afraid to join in with the silly kids games, dance with abandon at parties while everyone else watches from the side, and so on.  I’ve been like this since school, and as such perhaps I open myself to more ridicule than others.

But what I’ve really learned is that this means I actually love my life.  I’m living my life the way I’m supposed to.  I’m not standing on the sidelines.  I’m a fully-fledged participant.

So, sometimes I overhear comments from people.  And sometimes they hurt.

And then I remember that I would never want to be one of those people.  Because they are commenting on my life rather than living theirs.

Those women in that picture?  They are really living their life.

Let’s see if we can all shed our inhibitions and do the same.

unconditional love ~

What's love anyway?

I love my husband very much. I love my kids very much, but that's very different. I thought I loved my last boyfriend, but now I'm not so sure. I thought I loved the boyfriend before that, but I'm even less sure about that. I love my mum and dad, but they're really hard work and I find it hard to love them. I love my two cats, and my brother. I love my in-laws! I love my closest friends.

You see where I'm going with this?

Love, to me, is a strong, positive emotion that you feel about certain people/animals. It's unconditional, it makes you happy. Hard enough to define the boundary between 'like' and 'love', so why quantify it? Wonderful stuff. They should bottle it and sell it in the happy shop. Then everyone can get some.

Powered by Plinky