Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Will The Real Nicola Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up...

When I first started writing this blog just over a year ago, I didn't really have any clear objective or focus.  I wasn't intending to create a specific impression of who I really am and bare my soul.  In fact I didn't really spend much time considering how my words and actions would be interpreted or how I would come across to a bunch of complete strangers.  It was just good to employ my brain in putting a bunch of words together, rather than just a bunch of building blocks or a Thomas track (at which I had become scarily adept).

My first posts all had a specific story to tell and I tried to make them as funny as possible, because the posts I had loved to read, in the year or so that I had loitered on the fringes of the blogging world, had a humorous edge.  There were also posts which resonated a lot more deeply and which prompted me to write about some of my deepest heartbreaks, fears and failures - as a parent as well as a person.

I didn't initially think about having an audience.  I told my closest friends in the UK about the blog because I wanted to entertain them and update them on what was happening in my life in Chicago after the separation, without repeating myself in umpteen emails that I never made the time to write.  It was also a convenient opportunity to share with them some of the thoughts and feelings that I had never really articulated before.  It was gratifying to attract followers though, I must admit.  And now it is hard to say whether or not having an audience started to affect my writing - both the content and the style.  Did I intentionally create mythical comedy or chaos when the reality was far more humdrum?  Over-emphasis the drama to evoke more sympathy?  Start to write purely for maximum impact and entertainment?  Turn up the anger, the sadness, the helplessness, the mockery?

Maybe.  Sometimes.  A little.

I guess I am not the type of blogger who writes daily, attempting to capture every conversation, every action, every possible nuance of my thoughts and feelings.  I write soundbites from my life right now because I am too damned lazy to capture it all and it would no doubt bore people bothering to read it to tears.  I have also spent a lot of time focusing on my insecurities and doubts recently because I am going through a period of intense change and it feels good to record some of my initial reactions to the changing circumstances around me.  I never intended my blog to become an online journal of sorts but right now it is helping me to share some of shifts that are happening in my life.  And the great advantage of blogging about snippets of these events is that, by reviewing the written word, I am sometimes able to make sense of it all.  Adjust my thoughts.  Change my behaviour.   Stop focusing on MY version of reality and start to see it from other people's point of view.  As I've said before - cheapest therapy I've ever had.

I never anticipated that it would provoke such a personal attack and prompt someone to write an anonymous post dedicated to slamming my character and my parenting.  That someone would read a post and not appreciate that it is only half the picture, if that.  And it reminded me how powerful words are and how open they are to misinterpretation - and that the absence of 100% of the details can create a totally different impression of a person or a situation.  After reviewing my previous post, I conceded I wasn't sure I liked the tone on reflection either.  There were so many things I could have expanded on, but chose not to simply because it was more impactful as a piece of writing to exaggerate the heart tugging drama of one particular 20 minute segment of my day.

So am I going to think more carefully about what I write, and how I write about it, to avoid another internet bitch slap?

Erm...nope.  Probably not.  Because that would make blogging too damn stressful and I don't want to over think it to that degree.  I have a tendency to over think too many areas of my life as it is.

However, maybe I will start to share 'the other side of the coin'.  Instead of just the reactive angst and posts full of self-doubt and recrimination...maybe a little more of what I feel pretty much most of the time.  Like a love of life for example, with all its complexities.  And happiness.  And certainty.  And all that self-help malarky like trying to live in the moment and not divert my attention worrying about stuff that might never happen.  You know.  The sort of stuff that might cause you to retch into the nearest Orla Keily handbag if I'm not careful.

One of the areas of my life that I have never really shared in the blog, for example, is how my life has been dramatically impacted by studying Kabbalah.  I have mentioned it in passing here and there (when trying to create the illusion of moving in celebrity circles: Ooh, I was at Shabbat with Madonna!  Made a fool of myself at an event with Balthazeer Getty today!  Ha! Ha!)  But in reality becoming a student of this spiritual philosophy 2 years ago has changed my life in such a profound and meaningful way that I am not sure I can ever do it justice by attempting to capture it in words.  When I first mentioned Kabbalah to some of my friends in the UK, the news was predominantly greeted with a big eye roll and the good-natured dismissive "God, you need to get home...first therapy and now Kabbalah.  You're too American for words".

I would never describe myself as a religious person - in my 20s I was an absolute atheist and in my 30s, if push came to shove, I would have said I was agnostic.  I would also never really have described myself as spiritual.  I studied yoga for a while, but mainly for workout purposes, and could never make myself sit still long enough to meditate, although I quite liked the idea of it and believed in its benefits.  But at my lowest ebb, when things had been on a downward turn in my life for a couple of years and I still couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel, when antidepressants hadn't helped and therapy gave me an emotional outlet and rational explanation but no real solution to the problems I was facing, I found an unexpected avenue that has turned my life around.

It all started with a conversation with my sister.  Read this book, she said.  The book in question was Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsh.  "But I don't believe in God", I responded and refused.  For several months.  Finally, after many conversations about my situation most of them typically ending with "Just read the Goddam book will you!" I read the book.  And my perspective on my life shifted almost overnight.  Suddenly things began to make sense.  Inexplicably my life just didn't seem as bleak any more.  I read and reread the book and started to expand my reading to include Wayne Dyer and Eckhart Tolle.  I changed the way I was thinking about my life, which changed the way I was feeling about my life and ultimately changed the way I was acting in my life.

Then I found Kabbalah (which, by the way, is not a religion or a mystical cult - despite how the media portrays it) and I am using the things I am learning to continue to change.

Turns out I'm actually quite spiritual after all.  Who'd have thunk it?  Not me a few years ago, that's for sure.

Now this isn't about to become a lecture on Kabbalah, because there are plenty of books out there which can explain this 'spiritual technology' and on the web you can always go here:  www.kabbalah.com to find out more.  I also find it difficult to explain what my spiritual beliefs mean to me without, at best,  using terminology that could sound a little trite and, at worst, sounding a little more cuckoo than I usually do.

But I will say this.  I am happier.  Even joyful...despite all the drama I relay on this blog.  I have a deep appreciation of my life and all the people in it.  Even the ones that push my buttons on a regular basis and may provoke a rant or two.  In fact, especially those people, because they are the ones that are giving me the chance to react differently - to keep quiet where I may have once exploded with rage, to be open where I may have once shut down, to be loving where I may have once been dismissive, to be patient where I may have once been rash, to be generous and open-minded where I may have once been judgmental.

And I have also learned that the voice that used to dominate my head pretty much all of the time is not working in my best interest.  In fact it is my biggest opponent to leading a happy and fulfilled life.  It is the voice of judgement and jealousy, envy and self-doubt, hate and bitterness, expectation and denial, laziness and blame.  I still have this voice - and some of the stuff I articulate on this blog stems directly from this negative, angry source of self-pity.  But it doesn't exert its influence over me for very long.  And I certainly don't give it credit any more for being me.

And neither is this blog.


  1. Well said. Judging someone by something they write, a small snippet of their emotions, is just plain silly, it is not and never will be the whole person.

    So pleased you have found a happiness and deep appreciation for life.

  2. I hope the horrible troll on your previous post isn't going to affect your writing too much honey, you have the right to write (!) exactly what you want, and if people don't like it they don't have to read it. xx

  3. Write what you want, when you want. Don't feed the trolls ...

    Mad x

  4. I always say to friends and family; there's my blog. And THEN there's real life. The former may be a distorted reflection of the latter, but it's never the whole story - and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. So write what you want, when you want, and pay no atention to trolls. Their issues are clearly far greater than yours. PM X

  5. You know what these people that comment on blogs only to hack down the writer as so small and insignificant. They have nothing interesting in their own lifes and do this to get a response and for the rise!

    Anyway on to spirituality. I dont know about organised religion anymore, I find it all really stiffling, but I am teaching the boys christianity in my own speical way and I am spiritual!

  6. There's a fine line to walk, isn't there? You know what I've done because of that issue...

    Remember, though, that while you may select what you put here, it should always be true to you. And so far that seems to be what you've done. So keep it up. Regardless of what some cowardly anonymous idiot says, I love you and your blog! So there! (((hugs)))

  7. I know how hurtful it is to get nasty anonymous comments - I've had a couple - and how it can really knock your confidence about blogging. But you really should NOT have to censor yourself and your writing because of what some mean-spirited troll thinks. Your blog is brilliant, whether you're writing about intense personal issues or being humorous about your boys. You can be proud of it.

  8. I thought you handled teh anonymous twit brilliantly and you've been extremely erudite her too on this post. It's easy to say but be true to yourself and you'll not go far wrong. I enjoy your blog very much.

  9. Yeah, please don't let that anonymous idiot influence you. I think people who regularly read your blog would not ever have jumped to such ridiculous conclusions. And when can a short chapter ever be the full truth?

  10. Heather - thanks ;-))

    MTJAM - you're right. I was actually quite amused by all the activity that went on for 48 hours on Crazy on Tap about one little post. The effort that people put into pulling me to shreds...and also the people who attempted to defend me. As if they had all the info they needed to make a decision one way or the other - and is if their opinion about my opinions count anyway! All quite bizarre. So no - normal service will continue. And thanks SO much for the support. Can't wait to meet you in person when I AM BACK HOME...HURRAY!!!!

    Mad - Thanks, I will (and won't...feed the trolls that is)

    PM - Perfect words. I couldn't have put it better myself. Hope you're having a better day honey! xx

    The Madhouse - Yes, I am having a lot of fun putting 'spirituality' into hands on lessons for the boys. Just simple things about your outlook on life, respecting others, taking responsibility for your own actions and reactions, cause and effect. The thing is - kids really get it. They are intrinsically kind and full of love and living in the moment. It is me typically that learns most from them.

    Teacher Mummy - Love you and your blog too babes! x

    NVG - Thanks for the compliments, they mean a lot. I love having this outlet but more than that I love the connections I have made with other like-minded individuals. Trolls aside of course. xx

    Tattie - You're so generous. Thank you! I really enjoy your blog too and always read even if I don't find the time to comment.

    MWA - oh very wise words. Cheers m'dear x

  11. I'm sorry someone did that. I love all your posts but for some reason keep missing them...damn it!
    I'm really interested in anything and everything that can help enhance etc...as you may be aware so will definitely look at those books...to add to my ever increasing pile of books that I never seem to have the time to read for some reason..;0) x

  12. Wise words from a wise woman.
    Keep on doing/being both.

  13. So glad you have decided to write this. Well written!

    Have been waiting to see what you would write!

  14. I haven't been able to stop thinking about how weird people are since I read your last post yesterday. Quite why they think they are able to make judgements based on a quick skim of a post is bizarre. But I'm echoing the others. Don't change your blog, don't change your writing. If the nasty anon comes back then enjoy watching everyone else leap to your defence. Big hugs. xxx

  15. I love your honesty and your wonderful ability to laugh at yourself. You don't have to defend yourself - your writing is enough. Great fun. I really wouldn't bother with trivial people.

    Warmest good wishes

  16. Can't quite get over how very mean that attack was. I'm so glad they haven't stopped you from writing because, as you know, you have a lot of supporters who enjoy your blog.

    Keep writing!

    Best wishes

  17. I still say we should have all ignored it. That would surely have driven the little sod mad!

  18. In a way, it did you a bit of a favour, as this post is one of your very best, and reveals a side of you we haven't quite met before.

  19. Chic Mama - Thank you love. So sorry you are having such a rough time. I am thinking of you. x

    Lulu - You are too kind, good friend x

    Susie - Thank you!!!

    Fraught mummy - It is shocking just how caustic and vicious people can be - but I'm over it now! Thanks for the reassuring words xx

    Sue Rosly - hello! And thank you for your lovely words. I am really glad you enjoy the blog.

    Lorna - Thank you!!!!

    Expat mum - I think the thing that was most crazy was the separate blog post that the guy wrote on Crazy on Tap tearing my post apart. I found it quite incredulous to read all the comments. Mind you, I think this is a team of professional trolls whose mission is to simply rip other people apart. Most constructive behaviour.

    Iota - Thanks Iota. xxxx