Wednesday, 4 July 2018

I Dream of Japan...

   I woke up after having another dream that involved a man I used to know. He was lovely. We met briefly in 2001 in Tokyo. He was from there but lived and worked in the US. I was from Europe but lived and worked there. I was convinced that I could not date a Japanese man. Ever. They were too strange, too intense, too different. They weren't my type. They were too short. Well, this one was tall. In my twenties, I was convinced that I had a type. I also wasn't ready to settle down, even theoretically, in my head. Most of all, I was way too involved with someone very bad and very wrong for me at that very time. I was convinced that he was the one and made any excuses for him, waited for us to be happily ever after. So some nice blokes weren't considered because I thought I have met the one. I forgot them and I forgot the bad boy. But somehow, I never forgot the Japanese one.

   The truth is, he didn't stay in Tokyo for long. We kept in touch over mails and phone. He did go back to Tokyo but I wasn't there when he was. Then, few years later, he got sent back to Japan by his company. He was a little disappointed, he did hope to stay in the US for longer, but Japanese work ethic is very strong, so he went back and carried on working. And as he settled again in his home land my time in Tokyo was up and I moved back to Europe. He was optimistic. He hoped that I would use his bonus miles and fly to holiday with him. But I was working and travelling in Europe and our schedules never allowed it. He did have some business trips to Europe, but again, nothing close enough to me. Plus, with his strict work ethic, he just wouldn't prolong his trip and take few days off for himself. I assumed that he just lived in a dream, he had an idea of what he wanted from me and believed I was it, but never really learnt who I really was. For me, I liked to be liked, and I did enjoy talking to him, but I didn't believe we had any future.

   Then I met my husband. I moved to the UK. He told me he does travel to the UK sometimes. But he also politely wished me happiness and good luck and stopped writing, because I told him I was engaged now. And as a true gentleman, he wouldn't flirt with a woman who was to marry someone else. It was a strange little story, only possible at the time and age of easy travel and internet.

   The funny thing is, I struggle to remember much about men I was with, I don't care about most of them, but I have never forgotten him. I would love to know what had happened to him, how his life went, how he is now. Not for romantic reasons, I would love to have him as a friend. And now, when husband and I went through a rough time with some arguments and fights, I keep thinking if I have made a mistake. If I should have taken the big step, give him a chance, and see what would happen. Of course, if true attraction was there, I am sure I would have go for it back then. It would be so romantic. And if we did stay together, we would have our own rough patches and difficult time and fights and I would feel lonely and isolated in Japan, a country so different and so far from what feels familiar and comfortable... It is a mind game.

   The thing is, when it comes to men and relationships, I am done. I sometimes say to dear husband that he cured me of men forever. I would rather become a crazy cat lady, if we were to part ways, than look for someone else. I don't believe that the grass is greener elsewhere, I don't believe that a perfect man exists. So, when the mood is nostalgic and I feel sad, I rather look at the past and live of my memories then to search for Mr right. And the only person that can provide any sense of illusion and wonder is surely the one that got away. I never saw his flaws, never knew his bad side, never argued with him. Who knows, he may be a truly horrible person. But when I am angry or frustrated, it is nice to mutter: oh, if only I did leave for Tokyo with a one way ticket, it would have show you! You would never have met me!!

   But, interestingly, I do dream about this Japanese man every now and then. Sometimes he is older, sometimes he is the same he was all the time ago. Usually he is quite cross with me for leaving him for other. It is all as innocent as it was back then. I enjoy my dreams about us. I also enjoy being back in Tokyo in the dreams. Does it mean something more than what it really is - my mind tiding up, which is what happens when we sleep?? Who knows. I wouldn't mention it to husband, he doesn't know about him anyway, so it is my sweet little secret. When I wake up after my Japanese dreams, I am happy, as if I have met with a very good friend. It feels like I can pack my bag and travel across the world without any worry about childcare or who will pay for it. It puts smile on my face...

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Ageing, Body Image and Me

   In my early thirties I realised I no longer cared whether I was the prettiest/slimmest/tallest/best looking girl in the room. I didn't care whether I was more popular then others, more noticed, whether I was generally more popular or better at things. I would walk into a gym and not scan the room for potential rivals. I was happy in my own skin, happy with my life. And I felt relief when I realised that I don't care what other think or see because I am fine with myself as I am.

   OK, being in the modelling industry earlier didn't help to automatically scrutinise and care way too much about how I looked. Looking at the generation living mostly through their online avatars, it was way easier in the years before internet, really, and I am quietly grateful for that.

   I was lucky enough to enter the thirties in great shape and condition. Motherhood and life in general changed that a little. I changed. Not drastically, but I do look different. So that confidence I had is gone. I assumed that I will be top fit after having my baby as being a mum means having time to do some work out and look after myself, right? All I can say to my pre-baby self is: HA HA. No, not going out to work does not mean MORE time, it means no time for yourself. But I also don't fuss as much as I would years ago. Just yesterday my dentist started talking about how much progress was done in teeth straightening and how he could still help my slightly crooked tooth. What was a major interest in my twenties (when that crooked tooth lost jobs in the glory days of modelling) seemed like a very extravagant expense and, frankly, waste of time. Will it help in any other way than cosmetic? No? Than it is not needed. I would rather save three grands. I am healthy and that is all that matters.

   But as I am settling in the forties now, I feel weird. There are things that seem like betrayal from body that served me so well until now. Chin hair. Two lines between my eyebrows. A sense that the skin on my face and decollete isn't as firm as it used to be. The general feeling that nothing is as firm as it used to be. Few grey hair. It is nothing, really. I am in a good shape, I can not complain and when my GP suddenly insisted on checking my health post 40 I felt offended. There is no change to me now and last year and it seemed like a scheme to get me on the statins so the pharmaceutical industry can finally get some profit of me. I refused, I know I am not overweight, blood pressure is fine etc.

   In my twenties and thirties I always worked with what I had and assumed it will only get better. In my forties I continue to work with what I have but now I am not sure that it will get any better and it makes me feel worried. Not because of vanity but because I have to face the fact that my body will slowly age and eventually it will die and decay. We assume that it won't happen to us, don't we? We are surrounded by ageing people, by sickness and death and we know that we are mortal but there is a little corner in our head that believes we will live forever, stay young forever, keep going forever. Funny how the mind works.

   I was very arrogant when I was young. I would look at women and assume that they don't care, let themselves go, don't have good taste. It is not true. Being perfect doesn't mean perfect life. There are more important things. Once you are settled with a partner that loves you for who you are you don't think that looking great will help you, other things take priority. There is nothing wrong with our body showing what it has been through - scars, stretch marks, cellulite... Shaving off your body hair is not necessary. Seeing the real colour of your hair is interesting and it actually suits you even with few grey strands in it. Stomach without defined muscles and legs without thigh gap are beautiful. Having a healthy child and happy home, doing something you enjoy, having good friends, experience things is more important now. There is so much more to life. I wish I could have enjoyed the young stage more without constantly trying to fit some ideal. I am not even sure where the ideal came from.

   Again, starting up with modelling around sixteen didn't help. Most of us were told that we are fat, too fat the moment our booker would measure us, while our mothers and aunties and GPs were telling us to eat more. There was also a feeling that looking a certain way would bring me more attention from men and help me to find the right one. How stupid. A little Cinderella syndrome I think. In all fairy tales the beautiful princess is the centre of attention and gets her prince. Now I wonder how easy it is to exploit women, create insecurities that live in their heads, profit of them and use them. Men exploit it, women support it instead of finding sisterhood and quitting competing. I have so much to learn my daughter. I just hope that I will find the right way to show her and right words to tell her...

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The Perfection For Me

   It took me a long time to accept that reaching the perfect amount of family members - mainly the  number of kids- is something out of my power. There are people who have children more or less by accident, maybe with different partners, and just go along blending their ever changing family. There are also people who methodically plan each offspring together with house moves, holidays, and career progress. And those kids appear as planned.

   Then there are people like me. People who aren't sure they will ever marry, almost hope they won't, and then they do. People, who don't know if they will manage to have a child. People who struggle to conceive but also think that if it never happens, that's fine, life will go on. The pressure comes mainly from want to be grandparents and friends from group number two, who demand others to have their plans coordinated with theirs as it makes socializing so much easier (plus they can see for themselves that their parenting method is really the best).

    And then, one day, child number one arrives. The pregnancy finally works out, all goes well and the baby is here. Everybody is happy for you. They give you few months of peace before they start questioning when is the next baby coming. I was different after my child was born. Before parenthood, I did want a baby but I also thought that if it isn't meant to happen naturally, I will accept it as a fact and move on. But once we were aproaching first birthday something shifted, probably the dreaded clock started ticking, or the hormones took over, I really really wanted another child or two (preferably two as my mother and most 'perfect parents' friends had two and kept reminding me how super simple my life is, so three would give me the winning strike back). Even knowing how hard labour was, and terribly sleep deprived, I just wanted more... I also assumed that after difficulties before our first baby it would now go smoothly, because we were so lucky...

   I had one miscarriage before my child was born and it took me long time to get pregnant again. After my child was born I did manage to get pregnant faster. But it led to three miscarriages in less than a year. With the first I thought: well, it happend before and then it worked out. It happened while we were travelling and I felt bad for not being able to be more careful, disciplined etc. Of course it would have happened anyway if it wasn't meant to be. The second time I thought: maybe second time means one more before it gets better? To be honest, it was a strange episode of prolonged bleeding and repeated visits to a very unhelpfull GP who kept offering me contraception to 'sort the cycle issue' without listening to my story or bothering to make sure there isn't some serious issue. When she repeated blood test for pregnancy hormones and saw that levels are falling week on week, she wished me good luck over my phone as if it was nothing. Being pregnant the third time gave me such pleasure! We just moved house. My first baby was conceived shortly after moving, too. The due date of my first one was near my birthday. The due date of this one was close to my husband's birthday. It is meant to happen this time, I thought. But it didn't happen. It ended shortly before the first scan. And this time, it took a long time to get over. Looking back, I believe I was depressed for most of 2016. I was low. My husband was devastated. And we both felt that we can't keep going like that. Charting, trying, hoping. Most of all, even though we wanted another child, we both couldn't face another loss like that.

   So much was written about the lack of support for early miscarriages. I could write and talk without end. People who didn't experience it will never understand, people who did will never believe it was as bad as it was for them.... But to justify a family of three as a thing that is simply what it is is also hard. People are meant to marry and have children. Children, not a child. Even people close to us who knew about our struggles with conceiving our first baby would casually ask about next babies, even say that we didn't struggle more than average. Easy to see it that way if you never experienced it. We decided not to share our later issues widely. And with time, when the clouds in my mind cleared and I realized that being sad and unwell isn't great for my child, I thought it is time to accept and make a closure. If an accident happens and miracle occures, fine, but no more trying, no more pressure, no more pain. We are a family, all three of us. And once I got myself used to the idea I felt a strong sense of relief. I don't have to worry about many things. As my child grows I have more time to do things I like and enjoy and my energy can go into projects that are like babies to me, too.

    By the end of last year, when child started reception, I was ready for our next step and filled our home with animals. I brought two budgies first, which my husband didn't want but now enjoys. They were supposed to sustain us while we search for our ideal dog. But as luck would have it we found our ideal dog only two months later. And having a puppy is so much like having another baby, it is not even funny. Sleepless nights, poo issues, health and safety.... But there we are. There is room for more but if it doesn't happen, it is fine. Life is good, we are a family of six if you count all souls under our roof (and accept that all being have souls).

   When we travel I feel lucky, as big families mean lots of luaggage, full hands, stress, and at least one grumpy and/or screaming child. One of us has always a free hand and we can split and one can read a book for a while. Same goes for every day life. Being a parent of 'only' one child isn't selfish, it isn't a failure, it is great. It has its pluses and minuses, as does any other way your life works out. If we were still only the two of us, we would have a very different life, but it would be great in its own way, too. If more of my pregnancies worked out, it too would be very great. But to find a balance and acceptance and the good in the lot we were given in the lottery of life is truly very much the greatest.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

About Our Stories

Media exploded with stories about Harvey Weinstein and the affair continues to flow with added topics like hashtag Me Too. It may feel like there was enough said and written. But I am compelled to talk.

When Harvey Weinstein's story came out not many people were surprised. He was probably unlucky that it was him who was named and dragged through press. I believe there are many others. Powerful men who used their position to their advantage and quite possibly considered it absolutely fine. He is probably feeling like the world is unfair. He may be genuinely surprised that the fact that he helped so many women isn't recognised. Women, huh? All about mixed signals, ambitions, flirting... how is a man supposed to read them? Why aren't they grateful for what they have? If it was so bad for them, why were they quiet for so long?

I grew up in mens' world. I took it for granted that men held power, had authority and behaved in a certain way. Men ruled our world for centuries. White men ran the world to be specific. For a long time women and minorities seemed to know their place. The world is changing and it is hard for them to grasp it. I do hope that Weinstein's story will make a mark in our history, that the attitudes will change and we will move closer towards equality.

I didn't consider it wrong to learn early in life to be careful. My point of view was that it is easier for me to take control of my safety than it would be for some random bloke or a very sick individual to take control over his hormones or ideas. When young women recently came out with statements about victim shaming and our right to wear whatever and go out and get drunk; I shrugged and thought about snowflakes. But after last week I can see that there is nothing wrong with demanding our voice to be heard, with ending the shame game and moving towards solutions instead.

I was led by men, I was used by men. I made mistakes. I saw it as my own failure. I thought it was my fault. I was never abused or raped so I considered myself lucky. But I was made uncomfortable and sometimes went further than I wanted. Last week reminded me about my past dark experiences. And I do understand a lot more now. I was young and eager to go ahead. I also wanted to be valued. And of course I wanted a great relationship.
Men are good at leading us on, manipulating, playing power game. Where we are eager to please they see a right to have whatever they want and only the best. It may have to do with our upbringing, the way boys are strong leaders and girls are polite and 'nice'.
Men build strong friendships and they are loyal. If someone like Harvey boasted to his friend about his latest adventure, chances are he would get a high five and be told that he is 'the man'. Either his friend would honestly think that or he would feel like he should. Even if he had doubts he would think that he better man up and strive for being the top dog. And so the culture could thrive.
The woman involved would most likely feel ashamed. Chances are she wouldn't tell her mum because her mum would quite likely consider it to be her fault - she led him on, she was asking for it. Her friends may not be very supportive, too. They may pass the story on and start a bad gossip. They may make her feel more at fault. Women are competitive, even as friends. Some may go through similar ordeal and would never dream about sharing the story. They may put the negativity into other woman's experience and make her feel bad for both of them. So silence seemed to be the easy option for long.

It isn't easy to come to term with experience like that. Boundaries are blurry. But we are talking and it is good. Women need to man up and stand up for themselves, men need to 'woman up' and think about other peoples' feelings. That is of course simplifying it, but it is my take on what we can learn from scandals and hashtags. I am glad that we are moving forward. And I wish all the best to the incredible people who got themselves through tough times.

Monday, 14 August 2017

The World I Want to Live In

Coming home after holiday with a voluntary withdrawal from news and twitter is a little bit like a slap on the face. Once you unpack and get over the glorious deliciousness of your own bed, you switch on the TV, computer, twitter feed... and you wish you could stay in the world of holiday - a world where you wonder around places, pose for photos, allow your child more ice cream than usually, meet new or old people and simply enjoy yourself.

Now you wonder whether there will be world war  3 any time soon, why do politicians not get useful, feel guilty about that holiday air miles and the bottles of water you consumed while sightseeing....

I found myself lying down in bed imagining a world I would love to live in and leave behind for my child and her children... It would be much simpler world. People would think differently. Money wouldn't be the main motivator and success would not be measured by how much you have and what you own. Therefore we would desire less. And less consumption would give us a chance to do much more useful things with our time. We would naturally want to protect the world we live in. Plastic or any material that can not be reused or efficiently recycled wouldn't be considered for use, no matter how cheap it is to produce (money isn't the king, remember?). There would be no islands of plastic swimming in the sea, no bags scattered across the countryside. Wild life would be respected.
In my perfect world, we would appreciate natural resources and share them equally. Water, soil, energy, animals, forests, they would be respected, not used for profit and destroyed without guilt. We would share this world with respect to each other and all living things.

Wealth would be shared, people would live their lives without borders, respect one another. Your colour or religion would be your business, perfect world would be a tolerant one. Important issues such as health and education would be considered first, people would work together, politicians would care and so would the people in charge. There would be no need to bow to big businesses, greed would be limited as money and profit would be much less important. What a world we could have....

We all have dreams, don't we?

Monday, 6 February 2017

0 weeks to go

Last year, I counted 40 weeks to my 40th birthday. I just wanted to know. Deep inside, I assumed that I will take these 40 weeks and transform myself: sort my unfinished things to prove that I am grown up enough for the next decade and put my body into a shape reminding me of my late 20s (ha ha on that one) or at least back before daughter was born.

I didn't realise that I will still be sleep deprived, that starting nursery will take its toll, that I will be depressed and undecided whether I should grab my life and transform it or carry on with trying for another baby, miscarrying, worrying, crying..... I still don't know. And as yet, 40 weeks past, I am not a new better version of myself. I am myself. I am working on my novel day by day. I get my house in order every morning and going to nursery is fun, not an issue anymore. I meditate and exercise, I can go to swim once a week which is an unbelievable luxury for a full time mother (as is anything you can do for and by yourself - 15 hours childcare a week is a blessing).

I am not panicking about time running out. I don't think I worry about getting old, although I do see a wrinkle or a grey hair every now and then and my weight doesn't seem to be moving in any way. It is just sitting high, too high. I put it on after full time breastfeeding, while still sleep deprived, eating too much basically. The food substitutes bad sleep and there is too much bad or no sleep. That is it.

I will be 40. I never had list of goals, I was lucky, life was good, things were happening. I am a different person. Life seems more stationary, settled. It is a good thing. I don't like people who insist staying in their twenties mode, who don't want to grow up and change. I reflect more now. Reaching 20, I was looking forward. The only backward glance was towards the realisation that I didn't make it as far in the modelling industry as I once hoped and I knew that 20 was more or less the threshold. Once my booker said I would be great to play the mums in TV ads, I knew I can pack it. Only years later was I happy about the fact I never made it to the desired measurements which wouldn't be possible in any way for a woman of my height - to have as narrow hips as imagined by designers I would somehow have to change the structure of my hips as I was not fat (although I was called fat many a times). It was nice not to have to dream about loosing 10 kilos I never needed to loose, to give it all a finger. It hurt at the time, it is so not important now.

 I remember how happy I felt after 30. I finally had stable relationship, I could make plans for my future. I was very happy in my skin. All of my late teens and twenties, any other female around was a competition, even a friend. By 30, I lost the need to be the prettiest girl in the room, the slimmest and tallest and best and most popular one... I was happy to pass the baton and watch the new girls to steal the limelight and I didn't care. I wished them well but I could finally see how little it all matters. Being first in anything is nice but it doesn't mean that it makes one happy, there is much more to that. Only in my thirties did meditation, reflection and silence make sense to me and I started needing it.

So what will 40 bring? Everything changed in the last decade and I can afford a little bit of nostalgia now, but looking to the future is tricky. Around 30, there was a map - finding love and moving in together would logically lead to things like setting up home, building a career in a new country and hopefully starting a family. Now this is all done. So what can I look forward to? How will our relationship continue? Most aspirations and worries are for my daughter, not for me, I know I will manage. I just want to be healthy and find a way to fulfil myself. As for looks, I want to be strong and happy in my body, I don't want to go back to my 20s thank you very much. I am still learning to live in my post baby body, realising what I can  and what I can not do for real, not because of lazy excuse... But what will I be really managing in the next decade remains to be seen...

Monday, 16 January 2017

My TV Moments 2

   It is already a year since BBC started showing War And Peace. It was very well made. I know I am pretty late writing about it, but here I go.

   There is a scene where Natasha, a young but poor aristocrat, goes to a ball with her family. It is important as young girls were introduced to society, met their suitors, marriages were arranged, lots depends on the way how Natasha will be accepted. Yet they stand there and they are being avoided. Even old friends, now young men who know what it means to be seen with someone, avoid eye contact. There is no money for them in that match. And Natasha's face goes from happy and excited to very anxious. And her parents' faces tense more and more even though they knew on arrival it may not go well. But they hope that their family's fortune will turn.

   It reminded me about my own youth, the anxiety around boys, the unending popularity contest, the hope to fall in love and experience romance....

   But then Andrei Bolkonsky shows up. And he is handsome. And rich. And from a great family. He is the best possible suitor for many girls there. He looks like most girls in any century would love their first love to look.
   He sees her and doesn't pretend she isn't there. He goes straight to her. He asks her to dance. He takes her hand. And very slowly, they get into position and start to dance. They dance and everyone can see them but they can only see one another.

   As this scene was unravelling, I was getting more and more emotional. Because the scene had the perfection of a love scene, the atmosphere of first love, it had everything I remember from the times when a boy's look could give me butterflies. It had so much romance and so much hope in it. And I realized in that moment that I will never feel like this again, that this time of my life is long time over and I didn't realize it. Only then, watching Natasha and Andrei dancing did I realize all of that. It didn't make me sad, of course that I moved on, but it made me super nostalgic and aware of all the years that passed and how different I am from the girl I once was.
   There are no more illusions, no more great hopes. There is stability and a relationship I don't have to fret about, a partnership and a family, so I do have my happy end, I am not writing about this because of sadness. It was only made so that it stirred these emotions in me and made me think how much I actually lived. As well as caring for the characters, of course, and waiting for their story to continue (and it didn't go well for them, sadly).

   So that is it, my big TV moment from year ago, which stayed with me for so long and I which I won't forget. For a while after that I went through a bit of 90s nostalgia, listening to old music and watching old videos, remembering old shows and the fashion, how much more normal everyone looked back then (no botoxed up fake hair orange looks and every character in every story perfected to abnormality, no reality tv, less political correctness...). I thought the world would change a lot for the better, yet all through last year I thought people are still the same, nothing is changing, same mistakes keep happening, issues are more or less the same and we are not better or wiser... Oh well. At least now I know that and can carry on with my life and hope that my daughter's ideals will end up better one day.....