Why I Run.

It was 1966 and my family and I were living in Cornwall. My dad had been stationed there with the Navy. My little sister was born there. Yes, she decided to arrive right in the middle of the May Day Festival so it was touch and go for my mum and dad to get through the festivity traffic to the hospital. No dancing around the May Pole for my mum on that day!

I remember sitting on a swivel stool in the middle of this large sterile room. There were lots of grey looking cabinets in the room, some being used as dividers to make pockets of workspace.

The nurse was an older lady in her late fifties. Clothed in a nurse’s blue and white striped dress and a white starched apron, her short gray curly hair graced a small white cap under which sat a cross face. Her voice was sharp.

“Take one of your arms out of your cardigan”, she trilled.

“Take your cardigan off”, my mum said. I took my cardigan off and gave it to my mum. She folded it up and held it on her lap where my little sister sat. “It won’t hurt,”, my mum said.

I wondered what wasn’t going to hurt. I sat back on the stool. I looked around. There was a stainless steel sink in the room, cotton wool, lots of different types of grey canisters. Despite so many objects in the room, the grayness left it barren and cold.

“Keep still” the nurse said in her loud shrill voice. Startled out of my reveries, I turned towards the harsh voice and saw the syringe and needle flying through the air like a dart. As it pierced my arm on landing, I howled in pain.

The nurse tutted and sighed. Impatiently, she stuck a plaster on my arm. The tears poured down my face.

The nurse walked briskly and emotionlessly across the room. My mum cuddled my sister as her screams joined mine. Then we were ushered quickly out of the room.

A few months later after our small pox injection, we flew out to Singapore where my Dad had been reassigned. Every six months we had to have a booster. Filled with that memory and terror, I took full advantage of my mother looking after my little sister and ran away as we queued up for the jab. My mum would have to leave my little sister with someone in the queue and chase after me. She was not happy with me. But jabs frightened me more than my mother’s disapproval.

Today, when I go in for my flu jab or to have my blood drawn, I wish I was five again and that I could run away. I remind myself that I volunteered for this; that is a beneficial thing. I breath deeply and try to focus on something else – anything else – but my brain is not disciplined enough and my body tenses up in anticipation. My head starts to spin and my breathing becomes shallow and fast. My legs are unable to run but my heart is racing faster than my legs ever could.

Then as fast as this anticipated event came concurrent, it is over. I am able to breathe more deeply, my muscles relax, and relief washes over me. It didn’t hurt that much and I wonder why I worried about it so much. But then I remember the nurse with the scowled face and it all makes sense.

School Dinners! By Luke Martin-Jones

Mrs Brooks class was a hive of activity; each table had their own projects to complete. Paints, Crayola crayons and multicoloured pencils were laying haphazardly across the desks; all of us chatting with each other. I was in a mischievous mood, flicking paint at the girl sat next to me. By the end of the lesson, we were both covered in an assortment of acrylic, not even the plastic aprons would save us. Mrs Brooks walked over, she looked angry, the frown on her face revealing. Taking us both to one side, she gave us a good telling off and a smack on the back of the legs. I’d been spanked before, standing outside the headmistresses office for the rest of the day; I was an old pro, so hardly reacted; the young lass shed a few tears and we were both ordered to the toilets to clean up before lunch. By the time I had finished, I was in a worse state than before, soaking wet, dripping all over the floor. Cautiously I walked back into class, hoping to avoid catching Mrs Brooks eye. Sheepishly, I sat down at my desk, looking away from her gaze. My friend sat next to me facing the other way, so I did the same; friends no more!

It was dinner time, the bell sounded in the hall. Everyone started to tidy their desks. ‘Quietly, do it quietly!’ shouted Mrs Brooks, trying to make herself heard over the commotion in class. ‘I said quietly!’ she repeated once again. Suitably calm and composed, sitting in our seats, we always said a little prayer before dinner. ‘Close your eyes, hands together,’ shouted Mrs B:

‘Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat.
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.’

Everyone queued in two neat lines, boys one side, girls the other, holding hands as we made our way to the hall. We were on the last sitting today, the canteen was running a little later than usual; the queue unusually ending outside the door. Children jostled for pole position, pushing in front of their peers, wanting to get their food first. I was leant up against the wall, patiently waiting my turn. Mum had always taught me how to behave and never to bulldoze my way to the front; it wasn’t the right thing to do.

My new Clark’s sandals were rubbing the heals of my feet; lifting each one up in turn, I tried to ease the pain. Someone kicked me in the back of the legs. The procession of school children was so long, I didn’t see who it was. Turning, I faced the front, standing up straight, arms folded in protest. Scuffing my shoes, backwards and forwards (The mark of a petulant child, Mrs Brooks always said.) Trying to pass the time, I eventually reached the front of the calvalcade; picking up my mint green coloured plate. Today, soggy roast potatoes, lots and lots of cabbage, boiled to within an inch of its life and minced meat in gravy. Funny enough, I still cook this today; comfort food if you like. For desert, chocolate pudding with thick, lumpy pink blancmange; another dish I look back on with fondness.

The noise in the hall was deafening as I hesitantly walked to the table at the back of the hall, where my friends were already sat. I took the chair at the end, leant back and waited for the Dinner Lady to appear. I can’t remember her name now, but she always came over and helped me cut up my food into bite sized pieces and filled the large metal water jugs on the table, that needed two hands to lift. I precariously charged my glass, most of it spilling over, quickly wiped away by another monitor; dressed in a pink and white tabard, wearing a small white hat and hairnet, that really did nothing to stop hair falling into the food. Part of the course when you ate school meals.

Dinner over it was time to return to class, each of us waiting in turn, to be escorted back for an afternoon of ‘Drama and Dance,’ my favourite lesson. ‘Time to work off all that extra energy after lunch,’ said Mrs B! ‘Time to get big and strong!’

I always have fond memories of school lunches; plain, basic filling food, typical of the time; in contrast the lunches of today. As a product of the 70s, we appreciated the simpler things in life; as children we had very little, none of us any more than anyone else. School Dinners are a reminder of the happy times, spent with friends, enjoying those first steps into childhood; a period when peoples values were different; a time of innocence in a changing World!

(First Published in Roaming Brit on 28th March, 2018)

I Am the Daughter of a Narcissistic Mother by Olivia Hayward

Olive Hayward MonogramI am of the opinion that in therapy, one should go from the point one is at and move forwards. I don’t think that dwelling on the past moves one forwards. It has its place, but ruminating on former times can be destructive.

So it was in this frame of mind that I sat across from my therapist and asked her what value talking about the past had. She responded that it can help to find out what the source of our issues are and agreed with me that it can be useful to move a person forwards, but it isn’t a good place to stay.

So feeling satisfied about this, I said ‘Let us go there briefly to say that we have done it.’ I had long felt that I had processed the past and had wrapped it up in a nice little parcel. I didn’t want to waste time or money going through that again when I felt comfortable with my past.

From the time that I was a teenage until I was in my early twenties, I had had a chip on my shoulder about my parents, their behaviours and their treatment of me. I am sure that most children get to an age when they suddenly realize that their parents aren’t the perfect people that we think they are as small children. It came as a great disappointment to me when I got to that age and my parents fell off their pedestal. Moreover, I was dealing with parents that drank two litres of wine or a bottle of Scotch at the weekends; shouted at each other a lot of the time; and were highly critical of us kids and unavailable to us.

As I started into my twenties and I was able to separate myself from them both figuratively and physically, I came to the conclusion that I could still love my parents in spite of their behaviours. I could love them and not what they did. This helped me so much in being able to interact with them more positively. I realized that they were where they were at. We are all on a journey to grow and develop and all of us are at a different point along that spectrum. Understanding my parents within this paradigm helped me to forgive them and to accept them for who they were and to love them genuinely.

I did not want to have to revisit all those painful times in therapy when I had worked through them and felt good with my current perspective. However, I did want to know why I felt so empty and so depressed; so at a loss to make sense of the chaos in the world; why it was so difficult for me to stand up for myself; why I isolated myself from relationships; and why I regularly shut down in conflictual situations.

So the therapist and I started to review the events of my childhood. I spoke in almost a blasé way. As I wound down from my disclosure, my therapist posed the question to me, “Have you ever considered that your parents may be narcissistic? When people drink it can change their brains in a way that they can become narcissistic. Why don’t you check out this website WillIeverbegoodenough.com. “

I didn’t really know much about narcissism. I hadn’t considered it a mental illness. I thought it was when people thought too much about themselves. I never even considered that my parents could be narcissistic. I left the therapist’s office with the intent to look up the website and pushed the idea of my parents having narcissistic tendencies to the back of my head.

About four or five days later, I went onto the website. I found it rather hard to navigate. I read a few articles and then stumbled on one that hit me right between the eyes.

How Does Narcissistic Parenting Affect Children

I readily identified with the child described in this article. (As I plan to look at these traits in more detail in future articles, I won’t go into them at this point in time).

Suddenly the paradigm that I had framed for myself to function within my family started to crumble. I felt like I had had the rug pulled out from underneath my feet. I felt all the emotion that I had kept at bay by throwing myself into busyness descend on me like a ton of bricks.

Although I was pleased that I had finally found the key to my behaviours and the emptiness that I felt inside regarding my life, I was also dismayed at the chaos of emotions that cascaded down upon me. I also felt great guilt in pointing the finger at my mother as the cause of my dysfunctional self. I knew that it was my mother that was the narcissist in my life and my father probably drank as a way of coping. How hard is it to have to talk about one’s own mother in this way? How hard is it to know that the one person in your life who is supposed to support you and love you unconditionally was emotionally and psychologically abusing you?

Karyl McBride said “Being raised by a narcissistic parent is emotionally and psychologically abusive and causes debilitating, long-lasting effects to children. It is often missed by professionals, because narcissists can be charming in their presentation, displaying an image of how they wish to be seen. Behind closed doors, the children feel the suffocation of self and struggle with loneliness and pain. The narcissist is not accountable for their own mistakes or behavior, so the child believes they are to blame and that they flunked childhood.”

It took about three weeks for me start to figure out how I was going to interact with my mother again. I came to the conclusion that as this was a mental disorder, that I should treat my mother with kindness and respect. I was able to draw upon my prior paradigm again. I could still love my mother in spite of her behaviours. I love her – not what she does. She is where she is at.

This is what I shall use as I learn to find alternative ways of interacting with my mother. It is what I shall use when her behaviours provide the stimulus to my anger and to the feelings of not being good enough. Now I can learn to understand with new eyes, what behaviours are destructive, perhaps why my mother uses these behaviours and how I can heal from them even while being continuously subjected to them.

The journey of healing may be long and arduous. At this point in time, I don’t know what this journey looks like. But I am willing to share what I learn even though I feel vulnerable and overshadowed by the feelings of ‘Not being good enough’.

Olivia Hayward Signature

Olivia Hayward

My good friend, Olivia Hayward, has agreed to write a few blog posts for us. I have known Olivia for a number of years. I mentioned to her that I was working on learning some tools in therapy to conquer the issues that I face in the work place. She shared with me that she too was recently in therapy and had just learned that her issues were derivative of being a daughter of a narcissistic mother. She was willing to share with us her journey as she starts to understand this phenomena and how to move forwards.

I am so excited to hear from Olivia and am grateful to her for her willingness to share her thoughts and feelings! Welcome to Once Upon A Wren, Olivia!

Olive Hayward Monogram

A Poor Management Decision or What?

When this happened, I felt great shame and humiliation.

I took a step way outside the box when I applied for another position at work. Gladys had decided to leave the company. She did the job of two people so there were two positions open. I didn’t have the qualifications to review contracts, but I did have the ability to make sure all the documentation was in place and set up projects and new customers. I got the job and they employed a part-time lawyer to review the contracts.

My boss told me that this job was my baby. As time progressed, my job evolved into more than just setting up projects and customers and I became a glorified coordinator. All contracts were sent to me. If they were outside of our written contract format, I sent them out for review to the lawyer. Otherwise I sent them for signature from both the client and from the signer in our company; found out who was going to run the project; made sure that the credit check had been done on new customers; ensured that we had all the legal documents in place including the purchase orders and continued to follow up on these things until we had them all in hand.

I closed projects out in a timely manner; followed the ‘exception to the rule’ protocol; identified situations where work had started without the proper paperwork; helped set up a way to track the amount used on a blanket purchase order as well as identify situations where work started without a purchase order or where the purchase order had been exceeded. I started to develop a way where we could track our bid estimate on a project against the actual results so that the engineers could see how accurate their bids were and make the required adjustments in future bids.

I made all this visible to management and operations via a Sharepoint list. Management liked it. I worked closely with Sales, Operations, and the Finance Department. I received bonuses and a lot of praise for my work.

Then a year and a half later, my boss called me up. “I wanted to tell you, before someone else told you, Gladys is coming back. They are firing the lawyer and she will be reviewing the contracts. The CFO didn’t want her to come as she had left the company twice, but our boss wanted her to come back because the lawyer isn’t able to look at the operational impact of the contract and so she has to do it and the turn around time is too slow”.

My heart instantly lurched into my stomach. Gladys and I are very different. I am very detailed orientated; Gladys liked to cut corners to get things done on time and hated to have to do anything extra. She also didn’t make the sales people accountable and would move ahead without the proper paperwork in place. I knew this because I had often found myself in a position where a work order had to be invoiced without any pricing in place. Gladys also hated SharePoint.

When I took on the job, I was given instructions to create different processes and to gatepost certain things. This I did. In developing the new processes, I found out from all the departments what their needs were. To do this, I set up meetings to discuss their requirements and develop processes that would worked for everyone and with which my managers approved of. Everyone seemed really happy or so I thought.

My boss said that he would have no trouble saying something to Gladys if she didn’t follow the processes and would keep her in check even though she was going to work directly with his boss and not him. I was really nervous about the situation but thought that if my boss would keep Gladys in line, then it would be manageable.

Gladys was going to start just after Christmas. I tried to forget about the changes that were going to happen over the Christmas period. I was on vacation over Christmas and tried to keep busy so that I didn’t have time to think.

All too soon, I had to return to work and face this new dynamic.

It did not start off well.

Gladys didn’t want to know about the new processes. She started doing the work that I did and I had no paper trail to know what was going on. By the end of the week, I was told that she was going to be my boss. Her boss said that we would make a good team.

It had taken me a long time to get the confidence of my colleagues. Gladys had been well liked. I didn’t do things the same way as Gladys did. I was firm in keeping the processes as I had been requested to do. The processes kept people accountable.

Gladys started to run me down in emails to colleagues saying that I didn’t know what I was doing. She wouldn’t follow the processes. She told me that Sharepoint sucked.

She and I were duplicating the work and it was annoying the departments. I lost my authority as everyone paid more attention to what she said than following the processes.

She called me up and asked me to talk to her about the friction that I was feeling. As I started to explain the processes, she talked over me and yelled at me to shut up. ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ She yelled.

I realized that this was not going to work. She was now in charge of my baby. I was being put back into a position of being ‘just a processor’; to take orders. I rang her boss up and said that this was not going to work. She said that she was aware that there was a problem going on and had an idea about another position for me. She just had to get permission from the CFO and HR before offering it to me.

She received permission and I was offered a job as the Sales Tax Accountant. She asked me to attack the job with my usual enthusiasm. I can’t say that I was very motivated. I was humiliated by the whole situation. I was embarrassed. I was grieving a job that I had enjoyed so much and had put so much effort into. I wondered what I had done wrong. I knew of no other way to handle the situation. I had felt powerless.

I was now in a corner. I was being trained to do sales tax by a bully who was very controlling, wouldn’t answer my questions, wanted me to do things by rote rather than by understanding, put me down all the time, criticized me, talked down to me and demoralized me. I was now on a team that was reactive rather than proactive and didn’t want new ideas or any contribution to improve processes. I was also in a situation where I was micro managed.

I totally understood why the company needed Gladys’ expertise. However, bringing Gladys back totally ruined my career. I was surprised that they created a new position for me. The whole situation left me very confused for over a year.

I am finally over my grief. I keep my head down. Do my job. Don’t interact much with anyone. My writing now provides the creative outlet that I had in my previous jobs.

However, I still wonder, as I did throughout the grieving process, whether the whole idea to bring Gladys back again and the way it was handled, was a poor decision by management or what?

What are your thoughts?

(First Published in Roaming Brit on 23rd May, 2018)

‘Making Waves’ by Luke Martin-Jones

There was a distinct chill in the air, lots of glum faces; a rumbling of discontent throughout the school, as pupils digested the latest attempt to reshape our place of learning, conforming to more traditional ideals. It was a few days earlier that each of us were given a letter to hand to our parents announcing the introduction of a new school uniform in keeping with the schools new name and status within the community in which it served. In was 1983, I was in my second year of senior school, at a time when Britain was suffering the spectre of recession. Money was in short supply, unemployment was high and the cost of living out of control. The last thing families needed was another bill to contend with; the price of our new identity would not come cheap. Understandably disaffection was bubbling to the surface, as pupils decided to take matters into their own hands.

It was late afternoon, double Science, probably one of my least liked subjects. Looking around the room, there seemed to be a lot of absences, the class was rather sparse and lackluster; the few of us who were there had thoughts elsewhere. As I glanced out of the window onto the playground below, I could see a group of students milling about, talking, shaking their heads, arms raised in consternation. Even I felt anxious and I didn’t know why. There was an atmosphere of revolution and insurrection; rebellion was in the air.

I could hear whispers behind my back, two classmates talking about joining the growing throng outside. One tapped me on the shoulder, ‘are you coming?’ they said. Confused I asked what they meant; I was oblivious to events unraveling around me. ‘We are going on strike; there’s a protest on the all weather pitch, everyone will be there!’ they exclaimed, encouraging me to join them and make our voices heard. I understood that there could have been a demonstration about the new rules being introduced at the school, but really brushed them aside as ‘just talk.’ I was surprised that my friends were taking matters into their own hands and a little apprehensive about what would happen to those of us who took part!

Briefly I thought about what I should do; looking out the window, I could see more and more classmates joining ‘pupil power’ in action. I turned back to face my peers, nodding my head in agreement. As our Science Teacher continued his lesson on photosynthesis, I duly packed my brown adidas bag and abruptly left the room, all three of us heading downstairs. ‘What do you think you are doing? Come back here now!’ I heard Mr Roche shout as we left the room; running quickly down the stairs and outside into the busy thoroughfare below, we joined everyone else in our campaign for justice!

I don’t remember the exact number who took part that day, though it was quite a few. Chanting and cursing we made our way through the school and onto the playground beyond, refusing to move until the powers that be, retracted the requirement for compulsory school uniforms. A sit down protest on the edge of school created waves, as teachers tried to encourage us to return to class. Of course as time went on and stomachs began to groan, pupils started to leave anyway. In truth when I look back to this time, I was carried along with the sea of emotion surrounding this stance. I really didn’t care if I had to wear a shirt and tie or not, in fact it was the best thing for the school, but when you become part of a crowd you tend to follow the course, losing all sense of reality, forgetting just what the initial action was about in the first place. As children, fickle to the core, a few hours off last thing in the afternoon, became our overriding ambition.

The school uniform remained, those of us who took part were given detention and we had our day in the local rag but the reasons for our discontent didn’t go away. Changing the identity of anything, whether school, person or brand, can only be done with the support and influence of all of those impacted. In future pupils and parents were consulted every step of the way. New rules were implemented without the frustration and anger that surfaced that day.

(First Published in Roaming Brit on 16th May, 2018)

The Bread and all its Terror

This is a little more painful to write about. Fast forward one more year. I am now a third year senior at Fareham Park Comprehensive School which now has some newer buildings. The dance and drama studio is built. The music rooms are ready to go. The gym is built. We have an all weather pitch, a track, tennis courts and many more facilities for physical education. We have a building for art, woodwork, metal work, sewing and home economics. A far cry from the one building and a couple of modular classrooms that we had two years earlier.

Now that we have a home economics room, we have cooking on the schedule. This is definitely not fun for me.

The time that stands out most is the day that we made bread. I have little recall of anything else so I assume this is the one time that we cooked and the rest was book work, but I could be very wrong there.

A prelude to the bread story are the images of crowded hallways and stairwells where all the students of the school were changing classrooms, using the toilets, getting stuff out of their lockers. The stairs in particular were a source of consternation. Those girls would wait for me at the top of the stairs, As soon as I started on my way down, they would home in behind me and start to push me down, all the time laughing their heads off. It was hard to keep upright and not slip. I hated it. I had no idea what to do to help myself and to get out of the situation. It may only seem like a little thing, but I felt helpless. There were no teachers around.

These girls were in my tutor group and they were also in my cooking class. Cooking became a big nightmare. There the girls would use wooden spoons to hit me when the teacher wasn’t around. They would laugh in a mocking way. Any type of reaction exasperated the issue. I felt stymied. Powerless.

So it was in this atmosphere that we had to make bread.

There are just a few things that I remember about this bread-making activity. I remember the mixing bowl. I remember the yeast. This wasn’t dry yeast. This was fresh yeast. I remember that it looked dark and grey and pretty gross. We had to add it to our flour and use our hands to mix the dough mixture together. Then we had to knead it until the yeast was all absorbed.

As I write this with an adult’s perspective, something feels off about that yeast. So I read around and now understand that fresh yeast should look firm and moist, cream-colored and cool to the touch. If it is crumbly, dryish and dark in places it is stale. Apparently to use it, it must be added to liquid and mixed into the dough straight away. Here is what I also found on the internet concerning fresh yeast and the processes to activate it:

https://m.wikihow.com/Activate-Fresh-Yeast

In this article it demonstrated that yeast needs to be broken up into smaller parts. I was told to put my yeast and water straight into the bowl. I don’t remember it frothing up. The teacher was hurrying us along. I was taking longer than the others – not a natural cook, I’m afraid. I was kneading away. The yeast was not becoming absorbed into the dough.

I think the teacher was pretty frustrated with me. She didn’t listen to my explanation that the yeast was not amalgamating with the dough but she did come and help knead the dough and got it in the pan.

At last the lesson was over. What a relief. My bread looked really pretty. Despite the events of the day and the ongoing bullying, I was pretty chuffed with my success at cooking this bread.

At home, I was so excited as we were going to eat my bread as an accompaniment to our dinner that evening. I eagerly watched as my mum cut into the loaf.

“Eww! Yuck!” My Mum exclaimed as she cut the loaf in half.

My heart sank. “What’s wrong?” I mumbled.

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“Look!” She said. She turned around from the kitchen cabinet where she was cutting, holding the two halves of the bread in her hands. I looked. Inside each half of the loaf there sat a dark gray piece of yeast. My mum started to laugh. I let her know how I had trouble mixing that yeast into the dough and how the teacher had helped me. I then laughed with my mum although my insides were empty.

When I could, I left the room and went upstairs to my bedroom where I closed the door and cried.

My daughter is a master bread maker. She makes the most gorgeous and succulent bread. Her favourite receipe is found at https://weareeating.blogspot.com/2008/01/whole-wheat-bread.html?m=0

Here is the receipe that my friend gave me a few years back. I usually use this one when I make bread now:

Bread

Ingredients:

10 cups whole white wheat flour;
2/3 cup honey;
6 cups of water;
2 tbsp yeast (dried!);
2 tbsp salt:
3/4 cup oil;
2-3 tsp gluten;
2 tsp lecithin.

Optional: 1/2 to 1 cup ground flax seed substituted for 1 cup whole wheat flour.

Method:

I usually use a bread maker these days. I adapt the quantities of the ingredients accordingly (I do like to add the ground flax also) and follow the instructions of my bread maker.

(First published in Roaming Brit on 15th May, 2018)