What's happened over the past couple of years?

What's happened over the past couple of years?
Come and find out about our life-changing work!
Update April 2018: It's been a while my friends - and such a lot has happened since I was last active here!

When it finally dawned on me that I had been systematically abused - and not just by one person - my whole world collapsed around me.

You see, I had always believed myself to be a strong person. Capable. Successful and somewhat sassy to boot. A fighter. Someone who could overcome any challenge, as I'd proven to myself since early childhood, time and time again. So the knockout thud of recognition that I had been a 'victim' hit me with the full force of a steam train, tsunami and earthquake rolled into one.

"How could that have happened to me? How did I let it happen? Why didn't I notice it? Why didn't I stop it, or at least speak out?"
...and then came an all engulfing darkness of shame. And then the deafening silence.

It took me years to come out of that place. Years of hard work, self reflection and excruciating pain.

Which was how, ultimately, Light Up was finally born.

Now this work is being experienced and shared by many - and is growing in numbers and momentum. And I am grateful.

Grateful not only for my own experiences, also for the fact that Light Up gives people the tools to escape from their shame and pain in far less time than it took me!

We are already working with trafficked women, abused children and traumatised adults, successfully guiding them back to completeness (without having to relive their horrors) in as little as two sessions.

People are waking up and finding their voices. I am a firm supporter of the #metoo movement, and every other group that sheds light on and offers a platform for people to speak out and seek a complete way of living.

Yes, there is darkness in this world. Yes, there is much that has been hidden away. And yes, now people are speaking out. Thank goodness for those voices! The quiet ones. The angry ones. The sad ones. The loud ones. All have their place. All have their unique message to share. All are warriors.

I am honoured to be in service, and to play my part in reigniting this beautiful world of ours. We are coming together now. We are gathering force. And I am glad.

Fellow warriors, I salute you. I commit to continuing to stand in this arena alongside all my brothers and sisters who know there is a better way and a brighter future.

Come and find out more www.dnalightup.net

In continued love, recognition and gratitude

Mel xxx

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Law Is An Ass - Or Perhaps We've Just Forgotten What It's There For

Jack-Ass (song)
It's been one of those days. For perfectly obvious reasons, I won't go in to specific details here (yes, Cam, I know you're still reading) but suffice it to say that I've spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy today arguing the toss about something that apparently needs my estranged husband's signature before it can be processed.

Why? Essentially because we are still legally married. Because, according to their records, he still exists. And because he exists and there's proof of our joint involvement, then he has rights, so should be informed - even though, technically, it has absolutely nothing to do with him, on any level. Great. Brilliant. How very just and correct of the law to be considering his rights.

What about my rights? What about the law fighting for me? Standing up for the person who's been wronged in this case? The innocent wife who's been duped; well and truly stitched up, beaten down, and messed around? What about the person who's been left in personal debt to the tune of tens of thousands by an unscrupulous husband who makes a habit out of running up enormous bills and refusing to pay? And who, by the way, is still continuing with that habit and showing no signs of slowing down. What about the fact that the very minute I understood the truth of the situation, I did everything within my power to stop matters getting worse?

Despite my personal heartbreak I immediately got on with things, did what I had to do and closed the business - making sure that the substantial amount of money in the account was ring-fenced to pay off as many business debts as possible. Note that I did NOT make any attempts to withdraw that money for my own personal benefit. Even with hindsight, I still would not have done it (although I'm told I would have been perfectly within my rights) because I simply don't work that way. I have a conscience, you see, and I know the difference between right and wrong. And on the odd occasion when I've strayed, I've known jolly well that it was wrong - and have not repeated my mistake.

But some people don't possess a conscience. They don't know the meaning of guilt. And they certainly don't give a monkeys about the law. Which is how they get to bend it so regularly - without being caught. Because they know that they'll find a get-out clause, or be able to pass it on over to somebody else who'll simply have to accept responsibility in their place.

Let's take mortgages, for example. I've just been told the story about a lady who had divorced her husband many years ago. In the settlement, the husband got to keep the marital home, and she went on to create a new life for herself. More than 7 years later, however, the mortgage company are now calling on her to repay the thousands of pounds that the mortage account is now in arrears. A debt that has been created by her ex-husband since their separation! Remember that he has been living in the property - not her. Remember that he has been refusing to pay the mortgage - not her. Remember that she has a new life and keeps her finances in check - not him. And yet the mortgage company have the right to chase her for the money because her husband has failed to pay! Even after all this time! So chase her they have, and pay up she must - while her ex-husband continues to plead poverty and gets away with it.

Now, you tell me - is that justice? Yes, anyone can spout about that being "the law" and ignore the reality of what is actually happening - but is it really what you and I would define as real justice? Have we really become such a nation of pen-pushers that we're no longer willing to stop and think about the consequences? That we're no longer willing to make a stand? To act on our instincts for once? To try and help the people who have clearly been wronged?

My feeling is that too many people these days are willing to hide behind laws and precedents that help them "win" at any cost, with no consideration of the facts, the real-life story, and the people involved. I really hope this is not the case. But I have a nagging feeling that much of our legal and moral back-bone has disappeared... at least from the evidence I've encountered over these past 12 months.

And I won't stand for it. I won't be told that I now have to honour his rights when he has made a total mockery of the trust that countless innocent people (including myself) have given him. The law may not be chasing him for his wrong-doings - but at the same time I'm sure as hell I won't let it weigh me down with it's archaic rules. I for one am certainly prepared to put my neck on the line - for this particular situation and for the many others I'm bound to encounter.

Whatever happened to protecting the innocent, preserving morality and doing the right thing..? It seems to me that instead of fighting for what's right, the law and financial institutions in particular opt instead to go for what they see as the easy target just to hit their quota. Catch the weak ones and tie them up in legal knots. They'll never fight back, and we've ticked all our boxes - job done, pat on the back, and off we go to the pub. Who's round is it?

Well - this "weakling" is stronger than you think. So watch out, because now I'm REALLY pissed off.
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Monday, 17 May 2010

Is There Ever A Right Way?

York sign post
Hmmm... I've been pondering this one. I had a minor epiphany on Friday night around the subject of "doing the right thing" or doing things "in the right way". And you know what? I realised that for the vast majority of my life - certainly all of my adult life - everything I've said or done has been driven by the need to be correct. To receive that ever elusive reassurance - the approval that I'm on the right track. To pass for "OK"

And the utterly ridiculous thing has been that I must have actually believed that other people knew what that was!

You see I thought that other people were in on this secret. That they knew instinctively what was cool. What was good. What was acceptable - the "done thing". I thought that everyone else knew except for me. That everyone knew what "it" was, while I was forever chasing my tail to discover "it" for myself. And it's been a mighty confusing quest!

Constantly checking in, always on the look-out for some kind of clue - some kind of feedback from the outside. The unconscious questions were endless - Did it..? Were they..? Did I..? Should he..? Have I..? AM I ENOUGH?

I'm sure that's why I have a deep line running vertically between my eyebrows. It has nothing to do with age (well OK, maybe just a little...!) it is more to do with a regular look of puzzlement or bewilderment when trying to ascertain whether this time I had done something in the right and proper way. Is this the way you're supposed to behave when meeting your boyfriend's parents? Was that the proper way to present a roast dinner? How many times is it acceptable to ask someone to repeat what they are saying until you understand? Is there a right way to start or end a relationship?

I didn't know then. I STILL don't know now. But you know what? Now that I've realised that was what I was doing, I no longer care. And you know what else? I'm now pretty certain that nobody else knows for sure either!

I'm as sure as I can be that most of us are forever asking questions, seeking ways to fit in, to run with the in-crowd, to be accepted - to be loved. Because that's what it all boils down to, isn't it? A basic human need to feel loved.

It is said that a human baby, if denied love or human interaction, will face medical and developmental problems - they will wither, and in extreme cases they will perish. So how about as an adult? What happens to us when we are cut off from love and affection, whether through deliberate neglect, abusive relationships, self-denial or any other number of reasons? Is this what is meant by the term "Failure To Thrive" - a medical term used to measure health in both small children and the elderly? When the will to live, the desire to thrive, has gone... been sucked out or simply dissolved away over time.

I don't know all the answers - in fact I hardly know any of them at all - but I DO know it's a subject that is fascinating me more and more. And this is why.

Over recent weeks and months, people have expressed their surprise that I am not eaten up by bitterness and anger. I've lost track of the times I've heard the words "I really don't know how you've carried on" - which is a wonderful assurance that I'm on the right track. Strange, don't you think, that while all the time I was searching for that kind of encouragement I couldn't find it? And that now, after I've thrown myself body and soul in to getting through the worst time of my life, I forgot about seeking reassurances and yet I'm finally receiving all the confirmation I could ever have asked for - and more?

Hmmm... OK... so now that I'm learning to recognise all the good stuff that I do instinctively, perhaps there is indeed something that I can share with others?

For me, you see, my natural instinct is to fight. To stay positive. To find a way. I've said before that I regularly re-run a particular scene from the film Papillon in my head. The scene where Steve McQueen has made yet another escape from Devils Island on a raft made of coconuts. Weak from prison yet determined to break free, he has to overcome a huge drop on to rocks and crashing waves in his latest bid for freedom. Defiant and bold, he makes his escape. And once through the ferocious currents he turns back to wave his fists at the island "I'm still here, you bastards! I'm still here!"

He refused to be beaten. And so do I. It's a natural fall-back position for me. It's not something for which I have ever sought reassurance or acceptance. It's something that I just do. And I do it well. I've had to survive more times than many people, but less times than others. Death, abuse, abandonment and betrayal were all things I had to deal with before I even reached adulthood. And there has been plenty more since then. So I've had good practice for overcoming the excruciating horrors I've faced over the past twelve months.

This time, though, I've really and truly dug deep - and am still continuing to do so. This time I'm searching for what I could have done differently. Doing my best to understand my own part in all the tough times I've had to overcome. Where I've done well, where I could have done better, and how I can learn as I move on through.

A number of years ago I came up with a phrase, which today rings truer for me than ever before. My saying was this "There's no escape. You have total freedom!" And I absolutely believe it to be true. I have the freedom to choose, freedom to think, freedom to create - I always have had. And it's been my own thoughts and behaviours that have created my experiences, and my battles.

And this time the battle feels final. This time it feels that at last I'm learning - that there's a larger purpose here. For it also feels that I can share my experiences in the hope I may be able to help somebody else facing their own challenges. Goodness knows I don't get everything right - far from it! And, in fact, I'm no longer convinced that there IS a "right way" or indeed a "wrong way" - it's not about judgment or passing any kind of test. It's just about being and therefore finding my own way through. With confidence and conviction - with authenticity. Doing my best to stay true to myself.

So perhaps.... perhaps.... this is finally the last time I will have to fight? Perhaps at last I have escaped from the recurring nightmares that seem to have been larger than life? I certainly hope so.

Forget the right way - I'm just living the right now - and if I fall down along the way, I know for certain that I can pick myself up, dust myself down, and carry along on my way. And what's more, I now know that I have an army of friends around me who will tend to my bruises and carry me on their shoulders until I'm ready to carry on by myself. And even then they'll stay close by me - watching over me, reassuring me, and making sure I stay away from danger.

It's a wonderful life, ain't it?

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Sunday, 16 May 2010

Bank Managers And Royalty

Barnstar of Royalty and Nobility
Well well well... I thought I'd heard it all. But no. And even though you'd be forgiven for thinking I should be used to the extraordinary by now, I was still taken aback by yet another enchanting moment that happened last week.

These past few days have been absolutely astonishing in so many ways. Magic and surprises are becoming almost an every-day occurrence. Friendships are thriving. Prospects are flourishing. Solutions are showing themselves at every opportunity. Some expected, but many more as wonderful surprises.

Take Sunday, for example. I arrived in Edinburgh to see my friend Mary Turner Thomson, and as soon as we reached her house she presented me with a mock-up of the front cover for my first book! To actually hold it in my hands suddenly made it all so very real. One step closer to the dream taking form and catapulting my life one stage further on. Totally unexpected and quite a motivator, I can tell you!

We had a wonderful time together with the children - and we all made the most of the sunshine rolling down the grassy banks in the nearby park. I haven't done that since I was a child myself! And yes, whilst staying mindful of my less than whole knee, I threw myself into the game with gay abandon - joining in with the races, and holding hands with her small son so we could roll down together like a huge articulated sausage, shouting and screaming all the way... and it felt absolutely marvelous! Exhilarating, liberating, energising - and that "devil-may-care" sort of a feeling that seems to keep presenting itself these days. Mind you, I don't remember feeling quite so dizzy, queasy or breathless after similar escapades when I was a child... hmmm...

In the evening Mary and I spent ages just chatting - sharing secrets, making plans and finding even more and more things in common. We may only have met at the end of last year, but as we agreed, we simply can't imagine a time when we didn't know each other. Soulmate Sisters - that's what it feels like. And we now have a lifetime ahead of us.

Monday found me heading down to Darlington to see Audrey and stay with her for the next couple of days. I had never been to Audrey's house and had never met Ewan, her husband. But over the past few weeks I have come to know Audrey as a true friend - and a real-life Angel. Someone who enriches my life in so many wonderful and surprising ways. For example, on the night before the Top Banana Team Day, she had thought to pack some food and snacks in case I was hungry after my journey - even though she had faced a 5 hour drive herself to get there! On arrival, she presented me with the most beautiful card (which made me cry and now sits on my desk) and showed such wonderful thoughtfulness and kindness, and continued to "look out for me" throughout the entire time we were together.

When I arrived at her (beautiful and welcoming) home last week, I found another gift for me sitting on my bed in the guest bedroom. This time a beautiful Pandora bracelet with an angel charm on it. And that was just the start of it. Chocolate cake baked specially for me. A delicious evening meal. Visits booked to meet new people. And trust, laughter, and authenticity at every turn - truly enriching and energising, and also humbling at the same time.

It seems to me that I am collecting the most amazingly inspiring bunch of friends around me - proper Top Bananas - together with a growing number of "holiday homes" up and down the country! Flippin heck, just how lucky can a girl get?

And this brings me back to my original point. You see, I thought life just couldn't get better. I thought that now I was on a steady stream of "goodness" heading my way. But no. The Bank Manager was just something else.

I had accompanied Audrey while she opened a new account and had her first meeting with this lady. The previous chap had looked after Audrey's account very well indeed. In fact it seems he'd been so brilliant that he'd been promoted elsewhere - much to Audrey's disappointment - and today she had a meeting to find out who was going to replace him. This slightly nervous lady, it transpired, had been with the bank for many years with personal banking, and had just been moved over to business to fill the gap left by this aforementioned super-star. Our expectations were not very high.

It started off as just a normal meeting, nothing extraordinary, but as it progressed we realised that this lady had more to her that first appearances would suggest. One of the questions on the endless pages of forms Audrey had to fill in was "How would you like to be addressed?" A slightly bizarre question, certainly, but no less bizarre than Audrey's answer - "Princess Audrey, please!" she retorted, winking at me and with her head cocked to one side, a cheeky grin spreading across her face. The Bank Manager didn't flinch, and I wondered whether she'd heard.

Until, at the end of the meeting, when she showed us out of her office, she shook hands and with a twinkle in her eye she gave a mock curtsey and said "Thank you, Princess Audrey, I shall be in touch with you as soon as I have your new account details!" Well, that shut us up and at the same time shot the Bank Manager straight to the top of the leader board in customer service! Who would have thought it? Mouths open, and full of admiration, we left the bank discussing the little surprises in life that make us feel good.

The next afternoon I walked in to Audrey's kitchen to find her giggling uncontrollably "Listen to this! You've GOT to hear this!" she squeaked, smiling from ear to ear. The Bank Manager had left her a message on her mobile. It went something like this:

"Good afternoon, Princess Audrey. I'm just calling you to let you know your account is now set up and everything has been agreed as requested. It was a pleasure meeting you, m'am, and I look forward to working with you Princess Audrey"

Brilliant! It really doesn't take much to brighten someone's day, and this lady had gone out of her way to do just that, and in the process has likely secured a customer for life. What a star! She's also the first person I shall approach when I need a new account - so two for the price of one.

Now, she's a real Top Banana we agreed, nodding and smiling together, and again I noticed that growing feeling of warmth and happiness that is now as natural to me as breathing.

Life IS good, and ALL is well.
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Friday, 7 May 2010

Take A Look At Yourself In The Lake And You'll See...

Does anyone remember Danny Kaye's rendition of The Ugly Duckling? Well, it's been running around my head for the past couple of days - specifically the line where the other swans encourage the duckling to look at his reflection and see for himself. For I think that's what I'm being invited to do on so many different levels these days. It's a steep and fast learning process. I said some time ago that I was ready to buckle up and enjoy the ride? Well, forget clunk-click every trip,  I'm hoping that the designers of my particular roller-coaster opted for the added safety of a set of blummin big airbags as well! 

Life is happening at such a fast rate that sometimes I can hardly catch my breath. Anyone who's seen or spoken with me over the past couple of weeks or so will certainly have been muttering to themselves. I've heard it myself "hmmm... do you think she's alright? She seems very happy, which is great - but she's... well.... a bit hyper. Odd. Ditsy. Somewhat all over the place don't you think?" Well, at least I think I've heard people whispering these things... but perhaps it's just been inside my own head. Which, perhaps, is even more worrying.

You see, so much has been happening, and it all seems to be so fast. The business is alive and kicking and bringing in the most amazing bunch of clients - fantastic brands, inspiring people, and fascinating projects. All supported by the most outstanding team of Top Bananas I could ever hope to have on board - and with more wanting to join all the time! I finally have a clear route for dealing with all the financial and matrimonial difficulties that only a few short months ago were threatening to overwhelm me. I am happy. Yes... I am HAPPY! Every morning I now wake up with a smile on my face, feeling safe, secure, loved, supported and excited about the days months and years ahead of me.

It's a seismic shift. And the process, as you know, has been awe-inspiring, suffocating, crushing, explosive, exhausting, exhilarating, humbling, life-threatening... and so many other things as well (hmm... I feel a book coming on here...) and it now feels as though I'm finally getting used to living as a much 'bigger' version of myself. The same as I was before, but more as well if that makes any sense. Sometimes it's like rattling around inside a huge new body - instant images of Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man just popped in to my head but that's not quite right because that movie scared the living daylights out of me! Other times it's the opposite. It's like I'm squashed inside a smaller membrane - I can move and twist and turn, but still something's got to snap to let me out. And yet still other times it's like I'm floating - and grounded at the same time. I'm connected and alive. I can see hear and feel everything more vividly than I can ever remember before. I'm living in the moment, and also aware of a bond with everything and everyone else that is and that has been.

I acknowledge that I've perhaps always been a bit 'odd' in the way I think (my mother's friend Carol would refer to me as "Flick-brain" when I was a very small child because I'd dart from one subject to another and still keep the flow of conversation tied together) it's just that now it's no longer 'wrong'. Now it seems absolutely 'right' and perfectly normal. Because it's helped me to get where I am today. I've survived. And now I'm thriving - but goodness me it takes a bit of getting used to!

I keep receiving compliments at the moment. And thanks as well. From people I've known for ever, as well as people I've recently met. And I continue to be surprised and flustered. Because I didn't know that I was 'like that' or 'capable of this' or 'worthy of the other'. And I'm also aware that I'm becoming a bit of a scratched record on the subject - which could now begin to irritate some people. Let me give you an example.

A few days ago, my friend Mary Turner Thomson (best-selling author of The Bigamist) gave me her honest opinion about my writing - and I was absolutely blown away. With disbelief in my head, tears in my eyes, and my heart bursting with excitement and gratitude, I burbled on to a couple of very close friends about what she'd said. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but one (Matt - of course!) simply commented "Well I don't know why you're so surprised. We've all been saying the same thing for ages!"


So is this how we learn our lessons - both good and bad? We may hear, see and feel the lessons from people around us, but it's not until a huge 'thwack' of proof smacks us between the eyes that we finally take it on board. The lessons, the evidence, the TRUTH has been there all along, but either we're blind or we just choose to ignore it? That's how, I'm sure, I can now totally accept responsibility for (and find peace with) what has happened to me over the past year or so - in fact, for ever. Because the truth was there to be found. I just didn't look in the right places, or didn't react when my inner voices cried out for help. Either because I couldn't, or because I wouldn't - no matter. I can't change what has happened so there's no point in regrets. But I now know that I can shape my future.

And at the moment I'm in the delightful position of learning about all the good stuff! All the freedom, peace and joy about life that I hadn't experienced before. Now I know that all I have to do is ALLOW myself to be happy. To BE authentic in everything that I do. To be OPEN to changes, possibilities, and miracles. Because you know what? I can't control how everything happens - I never could - but I CAN control how I choose to feel about them. Things past, present, and future. And by constantly choosing my feelings, then the outcomes happen for themselves - they unfold in front of my very eyes, exactly as is happening for me at the moment.

A close friend of my mother's used to tell me from a very young age that life's natural way of being is perfect whole and complete. And that if we let go and let be then we can live the life of our dreams. She asked me to imagine life as a tennis ball. Perfectly formed, perfectly round - until someone squashes it. She told me that it's our thoughts and behaviours that squash, restrict and distort our own acceptance of all the good that is natural in life. I did my best to understand, but I don't think I quite "got it". In fact, now I'm pretty sure that despite my best intentions I've actually lived a huge part of my life as a squashed, faded, moth-eaten tennis ball that's been chewed up, spat out and left in the undergrowth. And I now realise that in the process I had been feeling like the bird in Danny Kaye's song. The one with feathers all stubby and brown. Like him I was ashamed to show my face. Ashamed of what others might say.

But you know what? I'm not an ugly duckling any more. And more to the point, you know what else? I CAN hold my head noble and proud as I walk - yes, even though I still might walk in to the odd lamp-post or trip-up over the odd paving slab along the way, landing belly up and giggling in a heap on the floor. But hey, life's just like that sometimes ain't it?

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Sunday, 2 May 2010

Taxi Anyone?

It would appear that I have a new job. One for which, at last, I am actually receiving a modicum of recognition from my increasingly demanding "client" - never too much of course and certainly nothing too showy, but certainly the odd grunt and occasionally an accompanying nod. Very rarely I am graced with a smile - although it often comes out as more of a grimace. The hours are unpredictable, the pay is non-existent, and heaven forbid that I should dare to expect a life of my own outside of my duties! But at least for a short while I feel appreciated - sometimes - and that in itself something to be treasured.

Over the past few months you see, my "client" has morphed in to someone quite unrecognisable. He seems to have lost most of his power of speech,  usurped by a series of grunts and shrugs. His easy smile has all but disappeared, his face instead serious and studied as he taps out endless streams of texts on the mobile that seems now to be stuck to him. He avoids eye-contact wherever possible (most certainly in public places) and regularly huffs or shrugs his shoulders. I'm concerned about his mood swings, but he turns away, brushes me off and sighs loudly when I try to cheer him up or engage in conversation. There was a time not so long ago when he was be thrilled with all the jobs I would do for him! We got on like a house on fire and it seemed he loved spending time with me as much as I did with him. In fact in those days he always came to me with questions, jokes, gossip, and general chit chat - and always with a smile. But all that has changed, although I'm certain I'm not actually doing anything different. So it's a bit confusing to say the least.

Most of the time when I now come in to contact with him, I am dismissed as an annoyance, an embarrassment, too old and so very irritating! He doesn't use those words, of course, but the body language (loud tutting and theatrical rolling of eyes) say it all. The things I do that used to be funny - even "cool" on some occasions - are now nothing more than deliberately engineered acts of insolence designed to torment. Apparently I simply "don't get it", and he tells me regularly that I "just wouldn't understand" - to the point where it's perfectly clear that he thinks I'm actually an exceptionally stupid human being. I'm pretty sure that I will continue my progress up this particular career ladder, and in the not too distant future I will be able to add "hateful" to my growing collection of accolades.

But for right now, when I'm being his Taxi driver, at least the eyes don't roll and the eyebrows don't furrow... well, not while I'm being useful anyway! This morning it was a 7.30am lift to the brocante in the next town, where he was setting up a stand to sell some of his stuff to make money. That was fine, but he refused to give me a pick-up time. When I conferred with my friend Vera (another 'taxi driver' who was also there) she told me that 6pm would probably be good. So I told this to my "client" who by this time was with another of his business colleagues - so the behaviours had naturally increased. He immediately rolled his eyes and snorted "Well, can't you come any later than that?"(incidentally, when I eventually DID turn up at 6pm to collect him, and his stand and the items he hadn't sold, he'd already left and gone to a friend's house...)

Yes, I'm talking of course about my 14 year old son, who over recent months has embraced his role as teenager with open arms - well, no that's not true. More with a slouch and a show of CK boxers because his jeans are pulled down so low that I'm surprised he can even keep them on. And you know what? I honestly thought this would never happen. Yes, I knew of course that he'd grow up... and I was actually looking forward to it. What I hadn't expected, though, was the sudden surly behaviour and accompanying disdainful looks that tell me he no longer values the things I say or do. You see, we've always got on so very well, and we have always had a close and open relationship.

They say that pride comes before a fall, so perhaps it now makes sense how I would feel nothing but slight amusement and a degree of smugness on hearing or reading other peoples' stories about their troublesome teenagers. I would picture my own gorgeous boy, imagine ruffling his hair and holding him close to me, and brimming with misty-eyed pride as he says "I love you most in the whole wide world Mummy!" his smile beaming across his little face as he squeezes me as hard as he can. I'd listen to the stories of door slamming, angst and fall-outs and think to myself, in a self-satisfied sort of a way: "Nomy Dylan will NEVER behave like that - it's impossible!"

But, unfortunately, as I've discovered, it's not impossible. Far from it. I don't know how it happened, I can't even pinpoint when it really started. But happen it has. And how! Don't get me wrong, it's certainly not that I love him any less - if anything I love him more (much to his obvious annoyance) as I can totally empathise with his struggles to find his place and fit in, since he's now neither a child nor an adult. But it seems that I am unable to do many things right anymore - and you know what? Although I'm an adult, and I know what is happening here, I still often find myself smarting from his latest put-down or obvious contempt for whatever it is I've just said or done.

His aloof coolness and sudden set of opinions and knowledge about all things (bikes, computers, phones, fashion and, of course, the opposite sex) suddenly makes my experiences totally irrelevant"Yeah, I knew that already mum!" or completely wrong "No, mum, you're wrong, this is how it works!" And so, stupidly, I do my best to keep the situation light and to convince him that actually I DO sometimes know what I'm talking about - and there you are, in that very instant I've fallen for it and am trapped! I'm trying to justify myself to a superior being who clearly already has all of the answers... thank you very much!

My friends, it appears, are allowed to keep their coolness in his eyes - well, sometimes at least - but I have certainly lost any hope whatsoever of being remotely current... for now. I'm completely past it. In fact last night while we were having dinner with Brian and Julie, he happily announced that by the time I reach official retirement age he'll already have had me put in to a home! To which I retorted, giggling, that he'd jolly well better have made his fortune by then if that's what he's intending, since I'll only go to the most luxurious of places.

The thing is, it's all so serious. And, so many times, inside I want to laugh out loud - but that's simply not allowed. So instead I keep my serious face and nod along with him... most of the time. I confess there are occasions when I simply can't resist, and I do or say something he doesn't want me to. The worst, I think, is after I've dropped him off at the lycee. Around the corner, of course, so that nobody can see me. As I drive around the one-way system to get back home, I'll often pass him just going in through the front gates, and so I'll give him a subtle wave, or sometimes just a smile (a toot on the horn is absolutely out of the question) - but even that is now met with a black look and a rolling of the eyes. 

But I won't give up. He's my son, and I love him, and I think it's a good sign that he's able to express all these emotional changes. To me, it means that he's content and secure. And that's everything I could possibly ask for. When I was a teenager myself, I was certainly not allowed to show any such behaviours. My little sister and I were at our guardians' house, and we had to both be good girls and not cause a fuss. It's been the root of many of my subsequent battles with self-esteem, so I choose in the main to rejoice in Dylan's regular show of grumpiness. Knowing that, actually, it's because he feels secure and loved. So I now look for things to be grateful for when he's playing his teenage role so well.

Late last night, for example, I was going to make myself a hot chocolate so I went up and asked him if he'd like one too. Without averting his eyes from his computer screen he said "No thank you" (three things to be thankful for there - I was allowed in his room, he'd actually spoken rather than grunted, and he'd also said thank you). So I came back down and made one for myself.

Just a few minutes later, I heard him in the kitchen, opening the fridge and stirring something in to a cup. So I called in to ask him what he was doing. "Making a chocolate drink" he replied (again, the "uh.... DER!" was just lurking beneath the surface of that particular communication). 

"Oh, but I just asked you if you'd like one and you said no?" I replied, scratching my head as I was clearly missing something of importance here.

Something solid (the cup?) was put down rather heavily on the work surface, and I could imagine the hands going on the hips "No, you offered me a hot chocolate. This is a chocolate drink"

Right. OK. Good. All makes perfect sense now sir.... so I smirked, kept quiet and reverted back to writing my blog.

As I said at the beginning... Taxi, anyone?
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