Twelve Things Your Mum Was Right About

Twelve Things Your Mum Was Right About

There’ll come a point in your life when you’ll suddenly have a flashback to your childhood. And it will be your mother’s voice. And you will concede – graciously or otherwise – that all those irritating things she used to say to you when you were a kid were actually deep philosophical lessons you’ve only just understood. Here are some of the things she was right about:

1.‘Because I said so…’
Whether it was lights out, finish what’s on your plate, no you can’t, our lives were ruled by that subjective decree. There is however an upside to maternal megalomania. As adults, whenever we’ve been dealt a blow that’s left us unloved, rejected and lost, it’s worth remembering that once upon a time when we were nothing but a blob of gurgles, our mothers thought we were perfect. Even as we were sporting Pull-Ups and spewing half-digested food down our fronts, our mums loved us. Which means we’re lovable. For no reason, except because she said so.

2.Don’t talk back
She really didn’t want to know why we put the goldfish in the glass of coke or shaved the cat. Even though we may have had really good reasons. If caught out by someone in charge of our allowance, social arrangements and dinner, shutting up is the best strategy. Talking back is a privilege reserved for relationships of equality. And despite Children’s Charters of Rights and various UN declarations to the contrary, mothers were definitely the boss of us. Trying to talk our way out of a mistake or shirking the blame was a form of personal suicide. It never worked then.
So when a cop pulls us over for speeding, or we’re caught in a compromising situation with a person of authority standing over us, it’s time to remember our mother’s advice on this one.

3.No, you have to finish what’s on your plate first
Mums controlled the broccoli. It got put on our plates and there was no dessert until we finished it. Life was unfair when there was plate full of broccoli and a chocolate mousse in the fridge. Mums are big on delayed gratification so we could learn patience for the good things to come. Though McDonald tries to get us to believe otherwise, everything worth doing, takes time.
Nobody ever got a PHD with a 5 minute attention span.
Ask any pregnant woman – you can’t gestate between ad-breaks.
You can’t convert to a new religion by registering online.
You don’t learn how to be a doctor by watching ER.
We won’t always be able to bail out of situations as soon as we ‘don’t like it’ or ‘it’s too hard.’ Our mums were preparing us for this lesson: finish everything properly. Say goodbye. Make peace.
If we practiced on the broccoli, we’ll manage the really hard stuff later on.

4. Stop whining – you can’t always get what you want
Life gives us many chances to fail – either through divorce, retrenchment, depression or losing the contract. We won’t always win the prize, get the guy or make the team. And when we don’t there’s no point in whining.
Nothing gets better if you whinge about it.
Failure goes best with dignity and grace. Learning to roll with the punches makes us resilient, wise and leathery so others can lean on us.
Though whining won’t make our mothers stop loving us, people who have not breastfed us have no reason to carry on loving us when we do.

5. Pick up after yourself
Our mums probably meant our smelly socks. But her advice applies to garbage, emotional expectations, pollutants and promises we make. If we wait around for others to save us, clean up after us or make our lives better, we’ll end up with a lot of dirty laundry. Collectively, if we all picked up after ourselves, and took responsibility, we’d have a better chance at fixing the mess we’ve all made of the earth which has unfortunately suffered from too many of us not listening to our mums on this one.

6. If someone calls you stupid and ugly, it doesn’t make you either
Our mums knew ‘sticks and stones’ was a lie. Words can hurt.
But they also knew that being called something doesn’t make you that thing. Though her naming you Angus or Angie made you an Angus or an Angie, the same isn’t true for words that refer to you as invertebrates, bodily excretions, and various forms of sub-human life.
Look at the person who’s done the name-calling. Only sad and lonely people whose mothers didn’t love them need to insult others.
No-one ever became fat or ugly because they were called those names. But if those names really hurt, it could be we need to take a deeper look. Maybe we are overweight and could do with a make-over. In that case, we should stop whining and get a haircut or go to the gym.

 

The 7 Day Writing Challenge

WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit

7. Get over it
Mums brought this one out when we were in a funk and couldn’t see the point of carrying on. Mums tolerated sulking up to a point. But then they’d, ‘Enough! Pick yourself up and get over it.’
If we need drugs or alcohol to get through the day, if we stalk our ex, or blame others for how our lives suck, we are not over it.
If we need to talk to a professional, cry for forty days and forty nights, forgive, let go, make peace or join a group to get over it, then that’s what we’ve got to do. Do the mourning and grieving and be finished with it. Unless we’d prefer to get stuck in self-pity and thus become a loser. In that case, we won’t be able to refer to no 6 when someone calls us one.

8. What’s the magic word?
We all know Abracadabra doesn’t turn pumpkins into coaches. The real magic words aren’t nearly as difficult to spell. Whatever we ask for goes down so much better with a ‘please.’ And no matter what we’re given, even if we’ve paid for it, we can finish it off with, ‘thank you.’
Too many decent people do their jobs without ever being thanked – school teachers, bus drivers, bank tellers, garbage collectors, mothers…
One word of appreciation can change someone’s day. Small acts of decency are the low GI of human interaction. The effects are felt long after the act.

9. You probably don’t want them as your friends, anyway
Being unpopular is hell.
But our mums reminded us that people who didn’t ask us to their parties, didn’t return our calls, didn’t reach out to us when we were having a hard time, secretly enjoyed it when things went wrong for us, stole our boyfriends, talked behind our backs and needed to always be better than us, were not our friends.
Our mums told us that the boys that didn’t ask us out were not worthy of us and the girls who teased us would end up on The Biggest Loser. They knew popularity was no measure of worth. J K Rowling was turned down by nine publishers before London’s Bloomsbury agreed to publish her book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. What makes us unpopular may be what makes us famous and fabulous one day.

10. Tell the truth
There was never any point in trying to pull one over our mums.
Even though the truth probably got us into trouble, our mums taught us the hard way that not telling the truth was a stuff-up squared – once it was out, we’d be hammered not only for the original stuff-up but for lying about it in the first place.
She wanted us to make truth-telling a lifelong habit. So when someone asks ‘do you love me?’ or ‘what is that lipstick mark on your collar?’ we can come clean. Truth is the basis of integrity, trust and honesty. And all relationships worth keeping with people you probably do want as your friends, depend on them.

11. If your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump too?
In groups people do stupid things that can land them in bad habits, dangerous cars, and even jail. Our mums taught us that the road of popularity is paved with beer bottles, cigarette butts and syringes – hardly a decent return on an investment of hours of labour and years of anxiety and financial stress. Our mums reminded us were smart enough to make our own decisions and to think for ourselves. It’s those who choose the road less traveled (ie not the cliff-jump) who make an impact on the world.

12. Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about
Mums had ways of making molehills out of mountains. They’d done childbirth, you see. A pimple the day before the formal just wasn’t going to get their attention.
No matter the emergency or tragedy inducing panic and hyperventilation, your mum reminded you that if you didn’t get a grip, she could make things a lot worse for you. A pimple with a sore butt was always going to be worse than just a pimple. Mother’s logic.

Someday you too will find yourself repeating these same words to your own kids. Don’t be put off by the rolling eyes and the inevitable sighs. Knowing your mum was right only happens when experience catches up with memory.

Published in Prevention Magazine

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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Who Are You to Write? (On Stroke Correction and Conviction)

These are excerpts from my diary in 2001, four years before my first novel The Dreamcloth was published.

Who are you to write 1 | Joanne FedlerWho are you to write 2 | Joanne Fedler

Some years ago, I decided it was time to learn how to swim properly. I mean, I’d had swimming lessons as a kid, but stopped as soon as there was no danger I’d drown if someone threw me into a swimming pool. So I signed up through a community college and over the course of a summer, had some lessons with a lovely swimming coach who taught me ‘stroke correction.’ He showed me how to position my elbows, keep my fingers slightly apart and helpfully suggested I try breathing whenever I feel like it and not every third stroke. After a few lessons with him, the water became a much friendlier place. But one day, he told me that he can only take his students so far.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked (I had paid for a full ten lessons and wanted to be taken all the way).

‘It’s one thing to show a person the correct posture and movement, but I cannot teach the most important thing, which is how your body feels in the water,’ he said. ‘That’s something each person has to find out for herself. It’s a very personal relationship – no-one can teach you how to feel at home in the water.’

 

The 7 Day Writing Challenge

WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit

 

Likewise, when people come on my writing retreats, I can teach them the craft of writing fascinating characters, and how to use setting to expand the theme, and how to think about emotional pace and point of view. But I cannot teach them to claim the magic – the magic of ‘I can.’ It doesn’t matter how many writing courses you take, how many workshops or retreats you attend – no-one can give this to you. It’s yours to own. I cannot show anyone how to believe that what they have to say matters. That, I’m afraid is an inside job.

As writers, we learn to trust the process. And in the process we learn to trust ourselves. When those two places of trust finally meet, a writer is born and the universe opens to meet her.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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Unrequited Love

Unrequited Love

The first time my heart was broken, my mother, who’d never read a single self-help book in her life, passed me a tissue, and informed me that no man in the universe was worth one of my tears. I was going to wallow, write tormented poetry and spend six months in my pyjamas. After two days, she parted my curtains, flung open the windows to let in some fresh air and declared, ‘It’s enough now,’ adding various assurances about there being many fish in the sea.

With the equanimity and grace of what is really inescapably now my middle-age, I understand it was love – not cold-heartedness – that drove her insistence on steel reinforcements for the sandcastles of my heart. Being a romantic by nature, I’d probably still be mooching over a lost love were it not for my practical mother who wears sensible shoes and has superlative time management skills.

To love and be loved are the greatest human needs, as deep as hunger, as primary as thirst, as necessary as oxygen. Romantic love is of course the queen of love with delicious promises of gropes beneath the sheets and tingles down under. But there’s also good old platonic love, love-at-first sight, arranged love, the ‘love-that-dares-not-speak-its-name,’ long-distance love, maternal love, and the biggest bitch of them all, unrequited love.

Some of the greatest literature, including the Roman poet Catullus’s poetry lamenting his passion for Lesbia, Goethe’s The Sorrow of Young Werther and Rostand’s French play Cyrano de Bergerac has been inspired by love-unreturned. While it certainly plumbs the darkest depths of emotion, and therefore appeals to artists seeking out extreme experiences, there are few better ways to torture ourselves (other than perhaps with an eating disorder or a relationship with a married man) than engaging in the masochistic torments of unrequited love.

Nothing drains our reservoirs of self-worth and snuffs out the hope that we are, despite the occasional bad hair and acne, worth loving, quite as effectively as falling in love with someone who doesn’t return the favour. Only those with unchecked hubris or Jewish parents can remain steadfast in the conviction that they are lovable in the face of indifference or rejection.

The first time it happened to me, I was nine. No-one warned me you could suffocate from heartache, which I very nearly did when the last episode of Chips was screened. And that was it for me and Erik Estrada. Over at the final credits. I then went through a series of similar unrequited affairs with Christopher Reeve, John Travolta, even Tom Selleck (look, moustaches were in back in the eighties). I was mad about Rod Stewart and planted soppy kisses on a poster of Peter Gallagher from the Idolmaker, all of which got me nowhere.

Then in high school, I was crazy about a boy with a lisp and shaggy hair, convinced he was my soul mate. He in turn had no interest in me whatsoever. I confided in a friend who offered to ‘put a good word in’ for me. I got back from school holidays only to find out that what she ‘put in’ was probably her tongue in his mouth because she and he were going out.

For years, I watched in torment from the sidelines, waiting, certain that someday he would realize that in Taylor Swift’s words, he belonged with me. I remained friendly, cheerful and fun to be around, but it tore me up inside whenever he held her hand. I once saw him kiss her. It felt like a fist to my belly. He never did fall in love with me. The bruise his indifference left on my heart still aches dully, more than twenty-five years later. I realized, back then, with agonizing self-awareness that I just wasn’t pretty enough for him. That was indubitably a low point in my life, and I might have gotten stuck there were it not for a huge spunk of a rugby coach who fell in love with me shortly thereafter, teaching me the important lesson that there are no feelings of inadequacy that cannot be cured with a six-pack and enormous biceps.

I’ve been there. So I’m sympathetic to those suffering the agonies of unrequited love, which induces, as a website on how to cope with it states, ‘low self-esteem, anxiety and mood swings between depression and euphoria,’ making it sound more like a mental disorder than a state of the heart.

James Fenton’s poem ‘Nothing’ spells it out:

…I know that I’ve embarrassed you too long
And I’m ashamed to linger at your door.
Whatever I embark on will be wrong.
Nothing I do will make you love me more.

I cannot work. I cannot read or write.
How can I frame a letter to implore….

…Nothing I give, nothing I do or say,
Nothing I am will make you love me more.

Unrequited love robs us of all the joys of real love – sharing, intimacy, communicating, giving, receiving and forging trust, not to mention the screaming fights and the make-up sex. It is a private obsessive affair, much like an ablution though experience has taught me that it’s probably easier to exact pleasure out of a visit to the ladies room.

So why do people go there in the first place? I suspect that this is a much more interesting question about ourselves, rather than about love, and the answers, I’m convinced, are to be found by looking inwards, not outwards at the object of our affection.

Perhaps it’s precisely the unconsummated nature of unrequited love that makes it so attractive, especially for perfectionists or those terrified by the exposure real intimacy demands. A man I know believes unrequited love is love at its most uncontaminated and pure, remaining forever elusive and tantalizing. Real relationships, he claims, lead to domestic arrangements, hair in the sink, complaints about toilet-seats and uncapped toothpaste tubes. This man is 76 years old and still lives with his mother, so obviously that philosophy is working a treat for him.

 

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But for those who want to move from fantasy into an apartment together, the agony far outweighs the ecstasy. Being secretly in love with a friend who doesn’t feel the same way we do or being in love with someone who is emotionally, sexually or physically unavailable is like being stuck at an airport terminal, without ever getting a seat on a plane.

There are, it seems, only two options: wait it out or confess.

Personally, I’m not very good at waiting, and have been known to curse the winter despite the Ecclesiastic assurance that to ‘every thing there is a season.’ Women are socialized into waiting, which is nothing but meekness dressed up in bras and frills. We’re all so terrified to make the first move, as if we were an arachnid and the fella, Miss Muffet. Apparently stating what you want is unladylike, even slutty. I’ve seen too many women wait. For Valentine’s Day cards. For dates. For marriage proposals. I’m all for exercising patience in the right context, but at a certain point waiting becomes less like the seasons and more like concrete. It sets and we find we can’t move. There is ‘a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.’ Waiting is no way to live. We grow pale waiting. Ovaries dry up. Lust becomes moldy. There’s an expiry date on sitting on an egg waiting for it to hatch.

Fear of rejection is paralyzing, only slightly less terrifying than actual rejection itself. But this I know: you can get over rejection. It is easier to move on from a clear NO. The heart has a plasticity. We can fall in love again. Unrequited love keeps us stuck in a place of incomplete regret. We become hooked, sentient, like a fly in a spider’s web, endlessly trapped and only alive enough to feel the pain.

I once told a man I thought he was lovely and sexy hoping he’d say I was lovely and sexy too. He blushed and ran away. A few years later he came back. He’d never stopped thinking about my confession, while I barely remembered it.

Equally, I’ve endured some brave confessions. A friend once shared his sexual fantasies about me in a poem in way too much detail and I really had to decline. The other two were from women. I couldn’t have been more alarmed discovering I’d been the subject of one woman’s obsession for years. YEARS?? I couldn’t believe she’d wasted so much time on me and I assured her I wasn’t worth it, not to mention that I have a heterosexual habit I am rather attached to. She ended up hating me, which is okay. At least she’s moved on.

While we can force people to pay taxes and follow the speed limit, we haven’t yet worked out how to force people to love us, which is probably just as well. Bribery and manipulation are passion-killers. Pity isn’t the emotion we want to induce in a lover. Threatening suicide isn’t a turn-on. Being a creep, as Jack Jordan, Uma Thurman’s ‘stalker’ found out, won’t get you the girl. He sent her a card stating, ‘My hands should be on your body at all times,’ and she called the police.

Stalkers and bunny boilers believe they’re ‘in love’ with the person they’ve objectified and put on a pedestal, creating an impossible distance of emotional geography real intimacy cannot negotiate. Unrequited love may be many things – projection, obsession, lust, addiction, but is it love? Perhaps it is an apparition of love, but its teaching is one about self-love.

It is no crime for someone not to love us back. Love cannot be cajoled, commanded or kept. If someone doesn’t get the message that we’re in love with them, there’s a message in it for us.

If love could be expressed in dollars, we might expend our devotion more judiciously. For example, whenever I’m in my local newsagent, I’m tempted to buy a lotto ticket. Twenty million dollars would substantially ease my day to day existence. For starters, I’d hire a cleaner. Over the years, I’ve probably spent the equivalent of an airfare to Europe on lotto tickets. I’ve never won the lotto, not even when the prize is a trifling one million dollars. At some point, I must acknowledge that by saving ten dollars a week in a jar under my bed, I’ll probably get to Paris sooner.

Similarly, if we spent a fraction of the time loving ourselves as we do on someone who doesn’t love us back, we’d be a lot closer to the kind of love that gives back and doesn’t only ache.

A patient once told a doctor, ‘Doctor, when I press my toe, it hurts.’ The doctor replied, ‘Don’t press your toe.’ Which is just what Eleanor Roosevelt meant when she said: ‘No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’

Unrequited love has a lot to teach us about how to love ourselves. Self-love, you’ll notice, is never unreciprocated.

Published in Vogue, Australia under the title ‘Return to Sender’

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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Why Writing about Your Experience Is Not Narcissistic

Why Writing about Your Experience Is Not Narcissistic

As writers, we sometimes shirk away from writing about our own particularities because we don’t want to be ‘narcissistic,’ or ‘self-involved.’ It’s a good point. Our internal musings about our childhood, illness, divorce or particular form of heartache may bore and annoy readers unless we learn how to shape our writing for connection with a reader.

How do we do this?

We connect with readers by what I call, the ‘exquisitely personal universal statement.’

What is it?

It’s a deeply personal moment perfectly captured, offered to the reader with a hard-won sense of the meaning we have made of it. The more personal and particular the insight, paradoxically, the more deeply readers connect with it. Humans are suggestible – story evokes emotion in us, which hooks into our own cache of (very different) memories.

When an insight is richly conceived and the work of deep internal labour, as we read it, there’s a kind of recognition, as something deep in our own psyches arches towards it with a ‘yes.’ It’s as if a writer who has gone in deep and stayed down there for long, has returned with an insight we, as readers can hold as our own. It lights up our own dark places.

The 7 Day Writing Challenge

WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit

As writers, it’s our job to go as deep as we can. We can only ever take our readers as far as we have gone. The harder we work to get to our own emotional truth, the more that shows up in our writing. Our writing cannot hide our experience – it reveals who we are. Which is why it’s easy to spot cliché and trite platitudes. They’re recycled thoughts, regurgitated ideas. They are limp and loose because they are borrowed. They are not bespoke. They’re one-size-fits-all. Our words should never have that quality. When we write, it is our chance to offer something that is truly our own.

As readers, when we stumble across an exquisitely personal universal statement, we get a gush of oxygen. Poetry is full of them. Poets are in the business of devising these sorts of offerings. For the reader, it’s like sipping nectar and we get a boost in our own sense of what is possible when we come across them – they help us sharpen our own insights and look afresh at our own truths.

This connection is almost energetic, auric. It’s as if the truth in me responds to the truth in you. As writers we should strive to find moments like this – not only because it creates a connection to our readers, but because our work is worthy of such effort:

 

I Want to Write Something so Simply by Mary Oliver

I want to write something
So simply
About love
Or about pain
That even
As you are reading
You feel it
And as you read
You keep feeling it
And though it be my story
It will be common,
Though it be singular
It will be known to you
So that by the end
You will think –
No, you will realise –
That it was all the while
Yourself arranging the words,
That it was all the time
Words that you yourself ,
Out of your own heart
Had been saying.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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One of the first rules of public speaking is to make eye contact with the audience. That’s how we connect and earn trust. In writing, our challenge is to make ‘I’ contact. We have to be connected in with our own story in order to connect people in to our story. Who we...

‘I Want to Write… Bbbut Where Should I Start?’

Ah, of course, where should you start? Not knowing where to begin is another reason many of us don't start writing, combined with ‘it’s too overwhelming’ and 'I don't have the time.' So say you want to write your lifestory. A memoir. Something about who you have...

9 Spiritual Principles to Boost Your Creativity

So many people tell me, 'I'd love to write, but I'm just not creative.' They speak as if creativity is an innate IQ or EQ or an extra nipple some people are born with which precludes the possibility of acquiring it. I think of creativity as a way of seeing, a...

The Long View of Creativity

How long is my vision? Does it have a depth that can rival oceans? Has it curiosity akin to a child’s? Will its manifestation mean something even if I never get to see those results? These are questions I ask as I embark on a new writing project. Queries exploring the...

The Mystery of Inspiration in Writing

When he delivered his Nobel Lecture in 2005, entitled Art, Truth and Politics, the playwright Harold Pinter said the following: ‘I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened....

Girlfriends

Girlfriends

Men are good for a great number of jobs, I’m thinking specifically of killing spiders and changing tyres, but they are useless when it comes to a second opinion when shopping for a new outfit and repeating the conversation they just had on the phone which you know contained important gossip. Which is where girlfriends come in. What women are looking for in friendship, seem to be the very things men are doing their best to avoid: conversation, intimacy and emotion. Most men want out of their friendships what women want from their pets: quiet loyal company.

I cannot imagine life without the sisterhood, having grown up with sisters and worked in women’s issues all my life. I am a Thelma and Louise and Fried Green Tomatoes gal, a woman who runs with the wolves. While I repeatedly need convincing of why marriage is a good idea, along with monogamy and heterosexuality, the value of female friendships (connections with no social or economic value in our society) is absurdly obvious.

Girlfriends offer a love immune to the perils of romance, which is over-valued, hyped-up and fickle as fashion. When we gather, we giggle, eat each other’s home-made cooking and explore emotional truths. We share our stories, adoring the minutiae of each others lives, liberated from the fear of sharing ‘too much’ information: What did you wear? What exactly did he say when you confronted him? How much cumin did you use? In these spaces I’ve learned I’m not the only mother who has flunked motherhood and that my husband is getting a lot more sex than he appreciates.

 

The 7 Day Writing Challenge

WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit

On my daughter’s twelfth birthday, I organized a girls-only ritual, and asked everyone to bring a gift which cost no money. One friend who loves to bake, made her a rose out of icing, which broke that morning. She had thought to remake it, but then realised that broken, it more truly spoke of the nature of life and love – of their imperfection and fragility. Some gave plants from their gardens, others hand-wrote their wisdom and passed on recipes handed down in their families. More than one offered my daughter this: the greatest gift of being a woman is that you get to have girlfriends.

Girlfriends accompany you when you’re scared because men just make things worse. I’ve been with friends when they’ve gone for Brazilians, had girlfriends come with me to get the results of a bad pap smear, have a pelvic ultrasound and a mammogram (my friend was late and kept knocking on the door saying, ‘Let me in, I’m here, I’m here,’ even though the doctor refused). I have sat with friends waiting for children to come out of operating theatres and had girlfriends come over (always with food, usually chocolate) to sit on my bed or give me a foot rub when I’ve put my back out or had pneumonia. I stood beside a girlfriend during her Jewish divorce and silently blessed her and her ex-husband as they severed their bond and then took her out for sushi and to shop for a gift for her to give herself. I have counted down days with friends waiting for medical results, received flowers after operations, and made more lasagnes than I can remember when friends have moved house or lost a parent.

My girlfriends keep me silly, keep me places in line and take from my loneliness. They sing me alive beyond my role of wife and mother. They are the helium in the balloon of life. They laugh at my jokes, celebrate my triumphs and nod when I ask, ‘Tell me the truth, do I look fat in this?’

Published by O Magazine

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

Are You Sharing or Over-Sharing?

I am by nature a sharer, and am delighted, for example, when people help themselves to food on my plate. As far as I’m concerned, few things are more enjoyable alone than in a group. I am happy to be shared with too. Tell me your secrets, your deepest desires and...

Dropping Judgment, Embracing Compassion

If every time I guzzle a bar of chocolate I think, ‘You weak, pathetic, greedy pig,’ my judgment and criticism cuts me off from understanding myself. If instead, I look at my behaviour and I think, ‘that’s curious – why do I do this? what is motivating this...

Why Talent is Overrated in Writing

What stops many people from writing is the belief that they have no talent. This is what I think about talent: Talent isn’t enough: talent guarantees zilch. It's not a ticket to a publishing deal let alone a bestseller. It’s not even a boarding pass. It may get you to...

A Room of One’s Own

When I was five years old, during a routine game of hide-n’-seek, I hid in the cupboard in the spare room, amongst the hanging fur coats and long sequined dresses my mother would never wear again. I was there a long time. Even when my seeker had ‘given up’ and rallied the adults to help find me, though I heard people calling my name, I kept silent, not wanting to betray the sanctuary of my hiding place.

In Search of Words about Writing

What is it like to write? When I first discovered Dylan Thomas in my early teens, it unbolted a mayhem of yearning inside me. I knew only that I wanted to do that with language, to cause a rousing inside another, simply by the laying down of words in a particular...

Writing about Ourselves So That Others Will Read It

  When we write about ourselves, it’s not dissimilar to writing about a fictional or imaginary character. In Hemingway’s iceberg, we see that what we need to know about a character is vast compared to what we show. This depth of knowledge helps us to...