‘No one can hurt me without my permission’ is a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. It’s an insight that can help to shift perspective; to stop feeling hurt when working round problems, difficulties and conflicts.
Now keeping this quote of Gandhi’s in mind, sit back and relax. Imagine a room in a house, set up like an office, and see a desk with a computer. Don’t look too closely, but there are balls of dust gathering under the desk, trapped between the mass of dangling cables and leads! Do though take a cursory glance round and try not to cast too poor a judgement when you see, beside the monitor, two half-filled mugs of cold coffee and this mornings used breakfast bowl. You will notice that the desk has the usual untidy piles of papers and on the nearby shelf are displayed a number of primary school photos; pictures that capture a time when brother and sister liked being seen together. Cute pictures, fresh faces that glow with happy childhood; their age determined by the number of missing teeth and their lack of self consciousness reflected in the bedraggled state of the uniform and skew-whiff-erdly-ness of the hair styles… pictures of those who have now become teenagers and who would rather like you to take them down… There are two chairs. The larger one, positioned as the driver’s seat, is taken up by one of those children; now most definitely affirming her role as a teenager. The other, a smaller chair, is occupied by a humbled, middle-aged, techno-challenged, vulnerable-feeling mother.
The purpose of this meeting of the ages was to bring the mother up to date with the intricacies of Facebook. Having now got the book ‘Alice Wakes Up’ on sale (click for more info) it seemed like a natural progression. It was an idea I seeded a couple of weeks ago and today, with exams over, seemed like as good a time as any. The teenager was, or so it appeared to the adult, after all doing nothing other than killing time moving music files around on the screen while waiting for, and immediately responding to, incoming texts on her phone. We had started off with an unspoken promise of co-operation and seemingly on congenial terms. However, as anyone with teenagers will know, it is a situation that cannot be guaranteed to last. Today has proved to be no exception. Teenage patience is notoriously fragile and not found in abundance… unless it is focused on the game presently happening, which goes by the name of Candy Crush. Also, what seemed like the modicum of tolerance on offer today is noticeably slipping away with each emotive, but at the request of the parent, ignored vibration of the phone against the table. Then BANG… an explosion occurs. I’m not sure whether it was the pressure of knowing there were at least five unanswered texts waiting for a response, or my inane questions, my body language, or the tone of my voice, but something triggers a reaction and ignites the blue touch paper.
say’s the teenager who is at that moment facing the computer screen. Adult, now on high alert as the thought occurs that her training session is under threat of being cancelled, notices teenage fingers letting go of mouse control and grabbing edge of desk. Her swan-like neck straightens, the head twists round and the fringe deliberately and dramatically flips back.
Her right hand lets go of desk edge, drops, while leaning onto the padded arm of the chair. Her torso twists to follow the direction her eyes are moving in.
The chair swivels round completely, the movement executed by a set of painted toes pushing against the floor. She takes a closer look at the bewildered adult, as if to confirm her suspicions.
…”get it, do you?”…
The stare is held, whilst silent and invisible thoughts flash through her mind. The eyes drop in dismissal, having seen what they wanted to see. Her shoulders follow suit. The tension in her toes eases off and the chair coasts back round to face the screen. Grabbing her phone as if it were a security blanket. she seems to need reassurance in the more in-tune and understanding world that she finds as she scrolls down through her messages. I watch her lovely shiny hair gracefully falling down in front of her eyes as she taps who-knows-what into a text. The sigh, which parts her hair, is audible; released in unison with the touch of the ‘send’ button. I interpret the body language to mean: ‘what did I do to deserve this?’ I’d lost the thread on how Facebook pages relate to and differ from the account holder. I hadn’t grasped the importance of how comments and posts work and how they can be used. I just couldn’t visualize who sees what, what appears where and who on what sorts decides the type of information that occurs on timelines and walls. It was all very confusing to this adult who keeps a traditional address book, still sends cards through the post and if and when they feel they have something worth saying will pick up a landline phone to speak to the person who they think will want to know. Facebook-speak, if you’re not familiar with it, is Double Dutch to the disassociated and untrained ear.
As a side issue, did you know that Double Dutch is a phrase that sprang out from a translation of one of Moliere’s plays? Out of curiosity I’d looked it up, but much worse I think, I must confess to not knowing who Molière was either, so I had to look him up too. A weak retention of what I see as General Knowledge is something that I have attributed to being dyslexic. But thanks to the internet (which comes to my rescue all the time) I read that he was a French actor and playwright of the late 1800’s. Wikipedia is great! I learnt that he had an unconventional and individual style and used his wit for brilliant effect. Interestingly, I also picked out from the blurb that he often ‘had faulty grammar, relied on too many words to fill out his lines, and reportedly mixed up his metaphors’. Sounds familiar. I wonder if he was dyslexic like me? 🙂 The plays he wrote upset the Church but, luckily for Molière, were liked by Royalty who, because of the association, enhanced his career. One further interesting fact I picked up was that ‘Moliere’ was not his real name; instead born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. He is said to have changed it to spare his father the shame of having an actor as a son. Interestingly in those times actors were regarded as lowly beings; so low that even in death the label stuck, forfeiting their entitlement to be buried in sacred ground, although this didn’t entirely happen to Molière. Compare this to how Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger for instance were/are regarded and how they might have expected to be treated. It’s amazing how values and beliefs can change when people decide to adopt a different attitude.
So what are the key insights of this week’s little interlude while quietly reflecting on Gandhi’s quote?
- Teenagers are and will be what they are. I have the choice on how I think, feel and react to them.
- If Molière had dyslexic tendencies it evidently wasn’t something that he would have worried about, because the condition hadn’t been defined then. I might now be labelled as having dyslexia but that doesn’t mean that I have to distort my self-belief or let it dampen my outlook. People with dyslexia can do well; some really well and others exceptionally well.
- All projects will have their fair share of supporters and critics. It would be wonderful if royalty backed me, as they did in Molière’s case. But hey… anyone or any event unbeknown to me could be the catalyst. To be kind on myself I need to stay focused, keep making forward steps and eventually, if it’s meant to be, something interesting will happen.
- Remind myself, and take comfort in it in the short term, that attitudes can change. For now I know that I just have to learn to let go more of what I think I want and grin and bear these teenage years of self-expression and development; hanging on to the hope that my children’s current belief in me as ‘just’ a lowly and embarrassing parent could change in the long term. Getting hung up on it now is not in my own best interest or being kind to myself.
- Finally, I can take a bit of satisfaction in the knowledge that even if my girl did carry out her desire to disown me by changing her name in a vain attempt to cover up the shame of being associated with such an inept parent as I appear to have become… it won’t make a scrap of difference. I will always love her and will strive, whatever she may do, like Molière to locate my own space of sacred ground in which I will endeavour to rest in peace.
And the good news is that we did manage to create a “Jayne Franks : Dyslexic Writer” Facebook Page. Please take a look and, trying to prove that I’m getting my head around the lingo but probably not sounding too cool here, please press the ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ buttons, while not forgetting to leave a comment. I promise to respond.