My own worst enemy

This afternoon I rushed up the stairs towards my desk on the second floor. As I neared the top the burn in my legs was too much, and I got all sooky. I commented to a friend coming up the stairs behind me that I was sure they got higher every day. As he drew level with me he said “you’re going up them a lot faster than you were a couple of months ago, though!”

I was struck by the truth of that comment. Two and a half months ago I had major surgery and was weak as a kitten, and here I am berating myself for being somewhat unfit and a little overweight. I ride to work most days, and I also take the kids to school in the Christiania bike. A couple of days ago I started a strict diet and I overdid it, leaving me without enough energy to ride today – for which I was furious with myself. In my head I was counting the kilos I could have lost if I’d been more careful, the kilometers I could have ridden, and the energy I could have had.

I never counted on this
guess that’s the way that it goes yeah
you used to be someone I knew
somebody I could understand but
now I don’t know what to do
and I don’t know who you are no

Lately I’ve been really stressed, and I can tell that I’m right out on the edge, because I’m starting to berate myself for the way I’m feeling. I’ve been feeling as though I don’t have the right to feel this way – that my circumstances don’t justify it, and that I am not coping. I’ve been kicking myself for not being stronger, more in control, more rational about things.

Beating yourself up for the way you feel is a famous losing strategy, and it’s a demon I have fought before. I suspect that it’s a clear indication of how out of control I am, when I start to do it again.

This evening I was chatting with a colleague at work. We’re both trying to lose weight and feeling frustrated about it, and we realised that neither of us have been focusing on the gains that we have made. The positive lifestyle changes, and the achievements that aren’t quite as visible in the mirror as we’d like them to be. She commented that we really need to be kinder to ourselves.

all those things I hear you say
you talk that way you’re a stranger and I
I don’t know where to begin
don’t want to hear it again
I don’t believe anymore

That’s when it suddenly struck me. I’ve been bullying myself. I hate bullies, and actively oppose them whenever I can, and yet I have been bullying myself in a most thorough and callous fashion. I have been my own worst enemy. Rather than celebrating my health gains post surgery, I have been kicking myself for not achieving more. Rather than being kind to myself under stress, and seeking as much support as I can, I have been curling up into a ball and shouting at myself for not coping better on my own. It is bullying of a most vicious and unpleasant sort – all the worse because like the most effective bullies, I know my victim’s weaknesses intimately, and can go straight for the jugular every time.

If someone makes a negative comment or belittles my concerns, I inwardly agree and kick myself a little harder. If someone makes a positive comment I dismiss it out of hand. The friends I trust and should most listen to are accorded little weight in this aggressive campaign, and I wind up paying attention to exactly the wrong people, because their comments are closer to my own self image.

and this is all I know
I know I’ve heard it before
I don’t believe anymore
Icehouse – Don’t Believe Anymore

My daughters go to a school that uses restorative practice. This is a positive, constructive approach where the emphasis is on recognising what happened and its impact on all concerned, and then focusing on how it can be fixed. What can we do to make it better? Rather than punishing the bully, restorative practice seeks to understand how and why the situation arose, and how everybody felt, in order to make sure that it doesn’t have to happen again.

I am a big believer in restorative practice. My bully and I are going to work together to develop an anti-bullying strategy in this head of mine. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t. But when I forget and accidentally bully myself, I’m going to try really hard not to beat myself up over it.

Are you bullying yourself?

Being Green

I started to get interested in politics when I discovered that the failure of nerve, vision and integrity in Australian politics was not universal. I always admired the Australian Democrats, but Meg Lees and the GST finished off that fledgling alliance for me. In 2007, when my despair over the state of our political system had reached a new low, I started to read the Greens’ policies on their website and got hooked.

Finally here was a party that put integrity firmly in the forefront of both actions and words. Party leader and founder Bob Brown is universally acknowledged as a man of integrity, even by his most vicious opponents. I used to think that politics and integrity were mutually exclusive, but Bob has proven over and over again that it doesn’t have to be like that.

I am passionately concerned about the environment, but it’s the social justice emphasis of the Greens that resonates with me the most. That most basic ethic of caring for the vulnerable and speaking up for the voiceless is so often absent in politics today. Over and over again we see policies falling to the slickest marketing campaign, and votes up for grabs to the highest bidder. Bob Brown doesn’t conduct opinion polls to decide what to do (“there go my people, I must find out where they are going so I can lead them”), he does what he believes is right. That is the essence, for me, of Green politics, and the reason I joined the party 5 years ago.

A thread of compassion and integrity in politics is Bob Brown’s lasting legacy, and something that I believe the Greens will continue to bring to Australian politics in the years ahead.

I want to live in a Greener world. One that values health, education and justice over companies, profits and power. Bob Brown brought those qualities into politics. It’s up to us to keep them there.

Today is the 18th anniversary of my wedding. My marriage has come of age. It is old enough to vote, and do you know what it votes for? Marriage equality. I can’t understand why the gender of my partner dictates whether or not we can marry. I can’t stand that loving gay couples are repeatedly told by our political and legal systems that their relationships are not worth as much as mine. Not as valid as mine. Not worth recognizing.

We can bring compassion back to politics by speaking out on issues like these. Our politicians care about what will get them elected, so let’s tell them that we care about this.

We get the politicians that we deserve. As long as we accept the lowest political denominator, that’s what we’ll get. The more we speak up, the more we stand up for what’s right and what’s important, the more we’ll make it happen. It’s that easy, being Green.

PS you can vote for your favorite Australian blog here. Feel free to vote for mine! :)