Thursday, September 29, 2011

How To Deal With Difficult People Without Getting Upset

This is a CD by Rachel Green, an award-winning communication specialist and emotional intelligence coach.  With a title like that, it's no wonder it grabbed my attention at the local library earlier this year.

I met Rachel in 2007 when she came to Curtin to help the library staff revamp our lesson plans and sharpen our teaching skills.  If you ever want to be torn down in a nice way and then built up again, Rachel is the woman to do it.  She is an incredibly dynamic presenter, humorous, frank and very warm and genuine.

How To Deal With Difficult People Without Getting Upset was recorded at a seminar Rachel did with a group of school administration staff.  It is incredibly helpful for those (like me) who are the first port of call for customers and clients and deal with difficult people outside your workplace on a regular basis.  Even if you don't work in customer service, it is very helpful stuff as many of us are prone to taking others' aggressive behaviour personally.

My question before listening to this CD was how are you NOT meant to take someone abusing you personally?  How are you not meant to take snide put-downs personally?  Even if you know that person is in a bad mood about something else, it is hard not to come away from conflict situations feeling like crap.

Here are some of the things I learnt from that CD:

Some remarks may have been intended to be personal, but we have a choice how we take them.  If someone says something like, "The trouble with you is you're too sensitive," we often react by being the very thing they accused us of.  Instead of letting that person push your buttons, you could respond by saying something like, "Yes, I am sensitive, and that's what makes me good at my job."

Here are some other examples of not taking things personally:

"What are you, some kind of career woman?"

"Yes and loving it."
"Thanks for the recognition."
"Yes, your job is next."

"I have to tiptoe carefully around you."

"Thanks, I feel so safe when you're around."
"Thank you for noticing and caring."

"Well, you're only the admin officer."

"Yes, I'm the one who makes things run smoothly."
"I run the school.  Don't tell the principal, he thinks he does."
"Thank you for noticing."
"Yes, but I'm all you've got for the moment."
"No, I'm the boss."
"Yes, and I can help you."
"Yes, and I pay your salary."
"I'm glad I was available otherwise you'd be talking to the desk."

These responses were brainstormed by the attendees at the session.  The trick is to respond in a polite and friendly manner - not by trading insult for insult.  Some of the responses are sarcastic, but they can be communicated with a warm tone.

Rachel explores the reasons why we get hurt by some of these statements.  It has to do with our personal history, lack of confidence, stress, feeling inadequate, misunderstanding or guilt.  Often someone will make a statement and we take it a certain way because of a similar incident in the past.  We often automatically believe other people's negative opinions of us.  We forget the 99 positive comments and hang onto the one negative one (definitely an issue for me).  We need to respond to what's happening right now, not to what happened in our history, and ask ourselves why we are reacting this way.

One thing she did touch on a fair bit was the communication issue between men and women using a scenario where a woman buys a new dress and asks her partner what he thinks of it.  He responds with, "It's ok."  So many women would have been hurt by that statement because they want their partner to tell them they look amazing.  It's ok tends to be interpreted by many women as not good enough.  Instead of responding negatively and causing an argument, these were other possible responses that were provided by the participants:

"I'm glad you didn't think I went overboard.  I thought $850 was more than enough for a one-off event."
"I thought you'd like it.  Thank you."
"I love it and I think the colour really suits me."
"Good because it cost you a lot of money."

Apparently when a man says, "It's ok," he means it as a compliment.  And if you think you look gorgeous anyway, why do you need anyone else to tell you?  Sometimes what sound like put-downs to women, are actually meant as compliments between men (is that true blokes?).  Women may need to clarify if it was meant as a put-down or a compliment as apparently some men like to insult women when they really like and respect them.  If someone calls you 'bossy', ask, "Bossy? In what way?" (in a warm and friendly, not an accusing tone).  For some people, 'stubborn' is a compliment because it means they're determined and successful.  To others, it means bossy, selfish and arrogant.  If it really is an insult, respond calmly with something like, "I hadn't realised that.  Thanks for pointing it out."   Thanking an angry person often diffuses their anger.  If it doesn't work, clearly state your boundaries such as, "I'm not able to listen to you when you use language like that."

We need to watch for 'emotional hooks' where we can allow ourselves to be hurt.  Don't depend on another person's reaction for your sense of worth.  Do your best to help a customer within the organisation's policy, but don't judge your own success on someone else's happiness.  There is a difference between listening to valid feedback and relying on others' approval.

If someone makes a nasty remark, slow down your reaction to give yourself thinking time to formulate a nice response.  Ask them, "Could you please repeat that for me?"  Most people will not repeat what they have just said.  Delay your reaction by having a fill-in or set statement to say i.e. "That's an interesting comment," (which generally means that it's not), or, "That's certainly one opinion."  Here are some other possible responses:

"I'm sorry you're not happy.  Is there anything more I can do to help?"
"I'm sure your opinion is important to you."
"I'm a little hard of hearing.  Could you please say that again."
"May God bless you."

Tell yourself, "This is going to wash over me like water off a duck's back."

Charm the aggressive person's socks off and don't give them the privilege of getting to you.

What I really liked about this CD is that it doesn't deny that some comments ARE meant to be hurtful...but not all are.  Too many people will tell you that you're imagining it.  That's not always the case.  People ARE mean.

It also differentiates between feelings and reactions.  We cannot always stop feeling angry or hurt, but we can take a moment to choose how we respond.  As a Christian, I want to respond in a godly way and not fight fire with fire (even though it is oh so tempting and I have done it plenty of times in the past).  Do not sin in your anger.

There is so much more that this CD covered which I haven't mentioned, but do listen to it if you're someone (like me) who struggles in this area.  And if you ever get a chance to go to one of Rachel's seminars, do it :)
Image is from

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

5 Most Improved Eagles in 2011

I think the Eagles' meteoric rise from 16th last year to 4th this year can be attributed to the improvement of the younger and middle range players.

1.  Luke Shuey
He went from an injury-riddled unknown who had only played a handful of games to being unlucky not to win the NAB Rising Star Award.  At the West Coast v Western Bulldogs game I went to, Shuey was an absolute star and kicked five goals from the midfield.  Watch this guy!

2.  Mark Nicoski
His move into the forward line really breathed life into his career, and he had, in my opinion, his best ever season.  I used to have my heart in my mouth a few years ago watching him try to dodge and weave his way out of defence, but in the forward line he's just plain exciting.  I thought the Eagles would really struggle with Le Cras moving to the midfield, but Nicoski filled the gap.

3.  Matt Rosa
Another one who was having his best season before injury struck just before the finals.

4.  Will Schofield
Improving as a tall, mobile defender and I think being thrown into the deep end last year when Glass was out injured did him the world of good.

5.  Brad Ebert
This guy is much maligned and incurs Duncan's wrath for his often poor disposal, but when he moved forward, he was much more effective.  A good mark for his size, he seemed to catch a lot of opposition unaware and formed an effective small forward team with Nicoski.

All images are from

Monday, September 26, 2011

I'm Offended....No Offence

I'm a sensitive person.  There, I've admitted it.

But I've come to realise in recent years (along the journey of being a blogger and a Facebooker), that it is ridiculous to take some things personally.  There is a world of difference between a personal insult which you're 100% sure was directed at you, and someone voicing their opinion on a topic online or in a group situation.  I've discovered that I can waste a lot of time being angry about things that were never directed at me in the first place.  To be honest, I'm not sure why I've felt offended at someone merely having a different opinion to myself, or randomly blogging about something that I happened to be going through at that exact moment.

So why do people do it when they know it's not about them?
  • A guilty conscience?  Someone writes or speaks about something that they know deep down they shouldn't be doing.  They know it's a general statement, but they still lash out, using phrases such as, "You shouldn't judge.  You're guilty of..."
  • They're already in a bad mood before they read or hear what's been said?  Maybe some people log into Facebook to take out their daily frustrations on their fellow users.  Honestly the reactions I've read to some statuses (including my own) has been mind-boggling.  I felt like saying, "Dude, I don't know what you're talking about and why you're so angry, but it's got NOTHING to do with that person's status." 
I'll use a few real life examples.

A few months back I read the post File Under: Confessions by Daja from In Other Words.  She was recalling an incident on Facebook where she wrote something along the lines of, I just love homeschooling, on her status only to incur the wrath of public teacher acquaintances.  It's not like she was criticising public schools by declaring that she loves homeschooling.  Being for something doesn't necessarily mean you're against something else.  Here is part of the response I wrote to Daja:

I have some Facebook friends who have very strong opinions on all sorts of things from child-rearing to politics.  They often put their opinions on their status not very eloquently, but I don't take offence because (a) it's not a personal's not like they're writing 'Sarah is an idiot', and (b) Facebook is their place to air their opinions and I know they don't intend to hurt's just what they believe.

I've since realised that some people actually WANT and CHOOSE to be offended so they have an excuse to have a go at you.  Others are already in a bad mood about something else when they log in and are just itching for a fight (sometimes they don't REALLY disagree, they just want an argument or to make you look silly).

What do you think?  Am I right?  Is being offended sometimes a choice?

I really am a bit confused and alarmed at where society is heading with the whole being offended thing.  We should definitely watch our words and Take 5 before we speak to others.  But I think there is a world of difference between personal conversations and expressing your point of view on Facebook or a blog.  I would hate to think that everyone will soon become too scared to say or write anything for fear of backlash.  I thought we were a country that valued freedom of speech?  Sure, you may think someone is a knob because of what they say online, but at least online you have the right not to listen.  That's the great thing about blogs and Facebook - you can tune out if you want to.  This is especially true for blogs where generally the blogger has little clue exactly who is reading, so how can you take a post on the evils of jaywalking personally?  If what they write offends you so much, why do you keep reading?  On Facebook, it is a little more personal because once you set your profile to private, you know exactly who your audience is.  But still, like I said to Daja, I know people with very strong opinions (like I do on some things) and they should be able to have a platform to say what they want, just as I would like to.  If I find myself getting annoyed at something someone has written, I've got to tell myself to calm down and ask why this has stirred me up when it's more than likely I didn't even enter their thoughts when they wrote that status or post.  If they wrote something mean and tagged me in their status, fair enough.  There is a page on Facebook called No My Status Wasn't Aimed At You - But If The Shoe Fits Feel Free To Wear It.

I would hate to think that we need to put disclaimers on all of our posts just in case someone somewhere may be offended.  Bek from Longfur made a good point in the disclaimer she put on her post Give it a Rest.  She wrote There is no one individual in particular that this is aimed at.  If there are any similarities to stories, that is purely coincidental.  However, if you identify yourself in one of the comments/stories...maybe it's something to think about?

Yes, why do people identify themselves in posts that have nothing to do with them?  And why do the ones that some posts have really been aimed at think you don't mean them?
While we are on the topic of offence, can someone please explain this to me?

Why do people say something that is UNMISTAKABLY rude and then hastily add, "No offence," after it?

Ok so misunderstandings happen where no offence was intended but the comment was taken as offensive.  But how can someone possibly mean 'no offence' by saying, "You're offence."?

The Urban Dictionary puts the definition of 'no offence' very bluntly:

An excuse to insult someone.  Anyone who uses this word is a tool.

I don't get it.  Please explain...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Funny

Hahaha I love it!  A friend 'liked' the website on Facebook and I clicked through and found this pic.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spring Cleaning at the Sedshed

Spring is here.  Time for a cleanout.

Last year I did some blog cleaning and have made it my mission to do it regularly.  The blog clean involves:
  • Removing links to blogs that have been abandoned or deleted.  If they have just been abandoned, I will keep them in Google Reader in case the blogger decides to revive their blog later.
  • Removing links to websites that are no longer current or no longer interest me.
  • Adding new blogs I read to my blogroll.
I've also added a new widget called Popular Posts which I first saw at No Reading at the Breakfast Table.  If you're viewing this post via a reader, click through the see the list of popular posts (according to the number of hits) down the right side of my blog.

Some of you may also have noticed that I've turned the comment moderator back on.  I did it last year, but then felt it would be ok to turn it off.  Well, after a few problems with spam and anonymous comments, I've decided it will now stay on permanently.  To be honest, I'm not really a fan of moderating - it kind of feels like when I was at school and the whole class would be punished because one naughty kid wouldn't own up.  I like to give non-bloggers the option to comment so that's why I chose moderating.

I feel that I've given my opinion on anonymous commenting enough times, particularly in Blog Policy? and Blogging Etiquette so I don't really need to go into it again in great detail.  Just to be clear, I'm referring to comments of an argumentative or aggressive nature where the writer chooses to cowardly hide behind their anonymity.  The post So...Why Can't You Tell Me Who You Are? at Backyard Missionary says it far better than I ever could, and the comment, I am only really concerned about anon comments where I don’t know who it is and they are being a knob pretty much sums it up.  Trying to respond to an anonymous commenter is like having a conversation in the dark.  Knowing who they are and where they're coming from with their statements makes all the difference to how you respond.  Blogging is a bit like coming over to someone else's house.  As a blogger, I wish to welcome lots of different people who choose to come and read what I have to say.  But when you come you are on someone else's turf and under their rules.

Fellow bloggers, can I ask a few favours of you?

If you read this blog regularly and have a blogroll, could you please add my blog to it?

Could you please click the following widget on my blog so I have some idea of who my readers are?


If you want to get into spring cleaning, blogs are a great place to start.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Small Groups: What Shall We Study?

One of the most common dilemmas new Bible study groups face is what material to study....

Bible or Christian book or DVD series?

If the Bible is chosen, then should it be a book of the Bible or a topical study?

Should we use existing study guides or encourage the leaders to write their own?

Which book is relevant to the group members?  One might be relevant for some, but may disinterest others.

I'm not convinced there are any real rights and wrongs here.  These are just some of the my personal thoughts and preferences.

One thing I do think is that the Bible should be studied.  Why are some groups called Bible study groups when they don't study the Bible?  When we joined our current group, Duncan and I were a bit dismayed that all they did was watch DVDs of sermons.  We'd watch the sermon, but there would be no discussion afterwards over what we'd been learning.  Everyone would talk about farming and shooting and then go home.  I found it quite discouraging, and Duncan and I have been trying to gently suggest that we do Bible study of some kind.  It helps to have questions which enable people to engage with the text rather than just passively watching.  Now we're looking at The Truth Project which comes with some very thought-provoking questions, leading to more meaningful discussion and fellowship.

Christian books can be very helpful in understanding the Bible...but they're not the Bible.  Books offer the author's point of view, but God's Word is powerful and cuts straight to the heart.  Yes, we come to the Word with our own biases, but God is mighty to change us despite our cherished views.  It may be helpful to study a book that is on the same topic as what you're studying in the Bible, but I think this should be done concurrently and not instead of the Scriptures.

Personally I think it doesn't matter whether you study the Bible systematically or topically - what matters is whether the study is done well.  The temptation of topical studies is to exclude some verses of the Bible to make it say what you want it to say.  Take some time browsing a Christian bookstore or the internet to select a well thought out study with questions that really make you grapple with the passage.  When I was at uni, I was encouraged by the Christian Union to have a go at writing my own studies.  This was a great experience and is a valuable skill to have, but I don't think this should be enforced within a group.  People are already under the pump with their weekly schedules and don't need more guilt piled on top of them.

Relevance is more of an issue if the group is only studying books.  God's Word, however, is relevant to all, no matter what you're studying.  If you're selecting a book to read within the group, try to pick something more general.  I find it discouraging in women's groups when some group members want to study books on marriage or motherhood at the expense of the single women in the group.

If you're leading a Bible study or thinking about it, then I highly recommend you read Leading Better Bible Studies by Karen Morris and Rod Morris.

The authors are adamant in their view that groups should be studying the Bible and they focus a lot on different learning styles for adults.  It goes beyond the mechanics of running a group and explores the purpose for Bible study groups - so that people may love and trust Jesus more.

That is why I posted yesterday's verse.  Although the context is food sacrificed to idols, the principle is the same for our groups.  We don't want to study the Bible for head knowledge so we can lord it over those who know less.  It's not just about knowing the Bible, it's about living it.  And as we learn more from God's Word, we should be growing in our love for God and each other.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bible Verse of the Day

....Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
1 Corinthians 8:1

Friday, September 16, 2011

5 Favourite Sports Movies

I can't say I'm a fan of horse racing, soccer or ice hockey, so I know it's a great movie when I get swept up into the plot regardless.  Here are my top 5 sports movies.

1. National Velvet

2.  Bend It Like Beckham

3.  D1: The Mighty Ducks

4.  Teen Wolf

5.  Bring It On

Name your 5 favourite sports movies.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Last week, Duncan and I went to his boss's house for Bible study.  While we were waiting for the other group members to arrive, we sat down with Duncan's boss and his wife who were watching At Home With Julia.

For the benefit of international readers and those who have not heard of the show (though it's hard not to if you live in Australia), At Home With Julia is a spoof of the life of current Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and her partner, Tim Mathieson.  The show also features a number of well known Australian political figures.

I thoroughly enjoyed the five minutes I did get to watch.  While Julia Gillard's mannerisms are exaggerated, it was still quite funny.  Not laugh out loud funny, but amusing all the same.  I made plans to watch the next episode.

But when Bible study finished that night, I felt somewhat differently.  Our Bible study group has been using a series called The Truth Project which explores foundational Christian beliefs, but in a really unique way.  Last week we looked at God's relation to governments - that while they have the potential to do much evil, they have been instituted as God's representatives and we are to honour them.  The presenter quoted Romans 13:1-7 and it was then I felt convicted that I shouldn't watch At Home With Julia anymore.  When Duncan and I got home that night, I told him that I felt convicted and challenged based on what we had been learning, and he said, "Yeah I was thinking the same."

You see, that while Julia Gillard may have some amusing quirks and she is not the leader that I voted for, I still need to honour her.  She makes many decisions that I don't agree with, but she has been placed in her role by God.  She may find the show about herself to be absolutely hilarious, I don't know, but I think for me to watch it would be disrespectful.  We Aussies live in a culture that loves to poke fun at anyone important.  We kind of expect it, but that doesn't always make it right.  If I was an important leader, I'm not sure I would want a show like that made about me.  The ladies at tennis were talking about it yesterday and one said she was surprised the ABC even let it go to air.

I think Aussies can learn a lot from our overseas friends.  When I lived in Perth I met many international students who were shocked that we mock our leaders and refer to them by their first names.  I think we can still have a sense of humour, but learn from our overseas friends about showing respect - NOT like those countries who have a big picture of their dictator in the middle of the city or make it a crime to criticise the government at all.  Despite what we may think, Julia Gillard is not on the same level as us.  She is our leader whether we like it or not.

But the whole point is not about honouring Julia Gillard - it's about honouring God.

Some people may be able to watch this show in good conscience.  I cannot.

Picture is from

Monday, September 12, 2011

From Head to Hand: The X Factor

I've known I want to be a writer since I was seven years old.  I studied Creative Writing as my major for my Bachelor of Arts.  I've written my first novel and I'm about to start yet another edit.

But a nagging fear remains...

What if I don't have what it takes?  What if I'm deluding myself by thinking I can write?  What if I'm just regurgitating stuff every other author has written?  What if a publishing company says to me what Marty McFly feared a record company would say to him in Back to the Future - "I mean, what if they say I'm no good?  What if they say, "Get out of here, kid.  You got no future."?

Duncan and I have been watching The X Factor a bit lately.  When a contestant with a truly awful voice takes the stage, Duncan often comments, "Do they seriously think they're any good?  Don't they have anyone in their lives who can tell them the truth?"

I think I might be as deluded as some of The X Factor contestants because, despite some uncertainties, I don't have a great fear of rejection (probably because I haven't experienced it on a large scale yet).  I feel very strongly that God wants me to succeed as a writer.  I have a great passion for reaching those who don't know Christ through fiction.  Sometimes I'm more scared of my own determination than anything else.  Everyone keeps saying how hard it is to break into the industry.  I must be a fruitloop for thinking I can make it.  I've asked four people to look over my manuscript and give me their honest reflections.  So far, all of the feedback I've received has been very helpful.  I was especially chuffed that a bloke in my target age range (20-50) really likes it; he has just mostly been helping with sentence structure etc, but he loves the plot.  My editors are truthful people; they wouldn't say that they like it just to please me.  They are honest, but tactfully so.

Yet, despite some people thinking I will make it, I'm trying to dose myself up on reality.  Apparently JK Rowling was rejected by one publisher because they thought the Harry Potter storyline would be too difficult for children to understand.  Sarah O'Hare (now Murdoch) was apparently turned away by a modelling agency because she had short hair.  Yep, I bet those agencies are now kicking themselves!

Those examples give me hope because they show that one rejection (or even a few) doesn't mean the end of the road.  The 'experts' can be wrong.  My question is: how wrong can they be?  They ARE the 'experts' after all - they must have some idea of what constitutes talent.  How many rejections should you experience before you give up?

I really have no idea what I'd do if my book gets rejected by publisher after publisher.  I guess I'd keep trying because I've worked my butt off on this book and I'm not going to lie down without a fight.  But rejection can be demoralising.  I'm trying to prepare myself as best as I can in my head.

Maybe I should take my own advice and advice others have given me:
  • Don't stress about originality - your work is still unique.
  • Invite others to critique your work. 
  • Edit, edit, edit.  It's painstaking, but worth it.  Don't be satisfied until it's the best it can be.
  • Take a writing course like I did at uni.  Even if you don't want to do a full degree, it might be worth doing a few units.
  • Explore self-publishing options.  I don't want to go there with my book, but it might be worth considering.
If you really, honestly think you've got what it takes to be a writer - don't quit!  I read somewhere about an old guy who sat his bar exam to be a lawyer quite a few times before he passed.  Be realistic, but never say never.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Heart of the Artist

Being an 'arty Christian' can be hard sometimes.  When people refer to 'those artsy fartsy types' it often has negative connotations.

But take heart arty types.  This is the book for you.

The Heart of the Artist by Rory Noland explores what it means to be a Christian who is gifted in the arts and keen to serve God in that area.  He encourages Christian artists to accept and nurture the talent God gave them and the unique place they have in the body of Christ.

Some of the issues he explores are:
  • Servanthood vs Stardom - people gifted in the arts are often worshipped by society and this can prove to be a temptation for Christians who are artistically gifted.
  • Spiritual Disciplines
  • Character - It's not just about having talent.
  • Handling Criticism
  • Jealousy and Envy - don't wish for another artists' gift.
  • Managing Your Emotions - many artists are more in touch with their emotions and while this can be good in loving others, letting go of your emotions is not good either.
  • The Artist and Sin
One thing he emphasises is that there are plenty of opportunities for artists to serve INSIDE the church.  Too often artists think the only opportunity to serve God is in the Christian music industry or by selling your paintings etc.  I can see his point, although he is from Willow Creek Community Church - a mega church in the US with stacks of opportunities for arts ministries within the church.  I've only ever been a part of smaller churches where there isn't the manpower or desire to have arts ministries besides music.  My old church in Perth meets in a lecture theatre at a university and there's a great big lecturn slap bang in the middle of the space down the front which is not very practical if you want to do drama.  I guess I could start new ministries, but in a small church you don't want to add MORE things to people's already crowded weekly schedules.  This has proved to be one of my dilemmas since becoming a Christian - do I just serve in a small church in the ways that are needed (and do arty things outside), or do I go to a bigger church with more opportunities to serve in the arts?  I much prefer smaller churches rather than being lost in a crowd, and since we're in the country, a large church is no longer really an option.

Overall, if you're gifted or keen on writing, acting, painting, drawing, music, dance or other arty disciplines, then read this book!  If you've ever felt like a freak or been told to 'toughen up' for having a caring, sensitive nature, then read this book!

As Noland says in the book, God is interested in your art AND your heart.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Quote of the Day

Everyone with an artistic temperament has been told at some point in his or her life to develop a thicker skin.  That’s nonsense!  The world doesn’t need more thick-skinned people.  It needs more people who are sensitive and tender.  Have you ever been moved to tears by a powerful piece of music or held spellbound by a beautiful work of art?  Have you ever been moved by a scene from a film?  It’s because an artist felt deeply about something and communicated in such a powerful way that your heart and soul were touched.
– Rory Noland in his book, The Heart of the Artist.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Do You See What I See?

I’m sorry if this is a lot of undiluted rambling and doesn’t make much sense.

Perception is a funny thing. We want so much to be seen a certain way yet the way other people perceive us is often nothing quite like we thought.

I’ve begun to realise there is very little I can do change people’s perceptions of me….besides write a blog post about it. It doesn’t matter how much you try and create an ‘image’. You can try and be yourself, but the reality is that you are many different ‘selves’ depending on who you’re with. I’m always interested and amused to hear other people’s perceptions of themselves:
They say, “I’m a laidback person.” I think they come across as very stressed.
They say, “I’m a bubbly, friendly person. I think not to me.
They say, “I’m not very good at anything.” I think they’re amazingly talented.
They say, “I’m sorry for being self-absorbed and not ringing you lately.” I think they’ve always been a fantastically caring friend.

If I’d gone on first impressions alone, I would never have made some of the fabulous friends I have. I’ve misinterpreted shyness as aloofness or snobbery. I’ve been thought a snob by others. While we should all make an effort to create a good impression with strangers, sometimes we can be misinterpreted. Although there are times when I’ve gotten a definite ‘bad vibe’ from someone and if they haven’t warmed to me in subsequent meetings (but are nice to others), I assume they’ve got a problem with me other than simply having a ‘bad day’.

Personally I think it’s good to keep first impressions to yourself. While sometimes it’s amusing hearing people share their first impressions of you, it can also be hurtful. I don’t want to hear that they thought I was an ugly nerd, the same as I don’t tend to share my first impressions of others (particularly if they were negative). At a job interview a few years ago, the boss asked me what I did with the rest of my time (since I was going for a part-time position). When I explained that I was a writer, she asked what my book was about and looked shocked when I answered “Football.” She said, “Oh, I thought you’d write romance novels or children’s books.” Huh?!? Why would someone think that? I look like someone who would write Mills and Boon?

The football and writing thing has actually come up a few times. People I’d only just met have exclaimed that I don’t look like someone who would follow football let alone write about it. Someone said that I don’t actually look like a writer at all. I’m wondering if they thought I was really boring and was surprised to hear I had personality and an imagination.

Someone else told me they thought I looked 'well travelled', and they assumed I'd travelled a lot overseas (not sure how anyone could assume this based on my appearance, but anyway...).  They were surprised to learn that I've never been overseas and didn't even go interstate until I was 23.  There are babies that have travelled more than me!

Maybe it’s due to being The New Kid on the Block, but it’s come to my attention that many people think I’m a shy, quiet mouse who will lie down and willingly be walked over. That I’ll pick up their slack when they’re disorganised. That I’ll rearrange my plans for them at great inconvenience to myself. That I’ll just sit there and listen to their unwanted opinions about myself. I’ve been horrified at some of things mere strangers or acquaintances have said to me. Things like, “Sarah, you don’t look good in that,”…stuff I would never say to someone I barely know, and would only say to a friend if they really wanted an honest opinion on something. I am definitely more shy in situations where I don’t know people, but I’ve realised that this sort of thing has been happening my WHOLE life. It must be my appearance. I must look sweet and demure or something so people think I’m a pushover. Recently I’ve wondered if getting some tattoos or piercings would be the only way to get some respect.

But when I said to Duncan jokingly, “I’m a delicate flower,” he scoffed and said, “You? A flower?” To him, I’m probably more like a cactus.

It’s not just appearances unfortunately. I’ve also come to the realisation that I will never be taken seriously by some people. Even when I’m upset about something, some people will always presume I’m joking and have a little giggle at my expense. I’m tired of trying to get people to understand that although I’m a humorous person who likes to have a good laugh, there is a time and a place for everything. I’m a person not a clown! I have feelings the same as everyone else. I have good days and I have bad days. That’s normal. That’s HUMAN.

Those of you who have followed my blog for years now will remember the series I did leading up to my wedding day called Diary of a Wedding Planning Machine. That series recorded one of the lowest periods of my life in February 2008. After struggling with wedding stress (caused by guests mostly) and insomnia (during which I turned to sleeping pills), I felt like I was on the verge of some kind of breakdown. I went to church one evening and someone I did not know that well asked, in casual conversation, how I was and how I was going with the wedding plans. Now I know that when someone asks, “How are you?” it doesn’t mean they really want to know how you are. It has become more of a greeting than a question and any answer other than , “Ok,” or “Fine, thanks,” tends to attract weird looks like they’re thinking, I don’t REALLY care how you are, you dimwit! I was aware that this person was probably expecting an answer saying that I was fine and that the wedding plans were going well, but I don’t believe in lying. However, I knew that this person was just a casual acquaintance and I didn’t want to give them a detailed rundown of my woes like I would to a close friend. So I said something like this:
“Well, I’m finding it a bit busy and stressful at the moment since I’m not sleeping very well.”
Now I didn’t have a mirror in front of me, but I’m pretty sure that I was straightfaced so this person’s reaction really astounded me.
They giggled!
Yes, it was like they thought I was trying to be funny. That I was joking. That I was suddenly going to break out into a huge grin and say, “Just kidding.”

That has not been a lone incident.

Why? Why do people react like this? I do not understand it. Even humorous people get down. We should not be surprised that they are not untouched by the harsh realities of life. They suffer too. They need support. And when they are down, they need to be taken seriously.

It really irritates and saddens me because I feel like I have poured myself out in love for some people yet they cannot return the favour. I’ve sat with new mums who have cried because they are so overwhelmed with sleep deprivation. I’ve sent sympathy cards and messages to those who have lost loved ones. I’ve tried to show love in practical ways. That’s not to say I’m some kind of saint who has all the answers and comforts people perfectly. I get so overwhelmed by situations that sometimes I don’t know what to say. But because I know what it’s like to sit alone in a dark place and have some kind soul attempt to say or do something to help, I try with others – even if makes me look like a doofus. Their comfort is more important than my embarrassment over my faltering words.

So when I let people know that things are hard, it is SO hurtful that instead of comforting or walking with me through the trial, they crack stupid jokes they hope will cheer me up, or they avoid me until they think I’m over it and then come crawling out of the woodwork to enjoy some laughs with me again. It annoys me that someone else can write, I need a hug on Facebook and have everyone offer a virtual hug, but if I wrote something like that, I’d either be ignored, mocked or told to get over it.

Having said all this, I don’t want my truly wonderful friends to think that I don’t appreciate them. I do….so much. This is aimed at those who expect me to be their personal clown all the time…and don’t know how to handle it when I’m not feeling so cheerful.

I appreciate the care from people who know I’ve had a tough year and have expressed concern that I may develop depression. I thank God for those people because I know they’re asking (a) because they truly care and their motive is my wellbeing and (b) not because they just want me to snap out of it and ‘entertain’ them. I do get annoyed at people who say stuff like, “You’re not as cheerful as you used to be,” because they’re not around me all the time so how can they say stuff like that (they have just caught me at a bad time), and people have bad days and weeks and that’s just LIFE. Just because someone posts on Facebook that they’ve had a stinker of a day is no reason to sound the alarm bells. I would tell them I hope they’re ok, but I wouldn’t think they have depression unless it’s a constant occurrence.

Why am I posting all of this? Well, it was what I was getting at in Friday Focus: Mourning with the Mourning. I just want to be taken seriously as a person. I want to be allowed to grieve when people die without having people avoid me or expecting me to snap out of it in two seconds. I don’t want silly jokes when something seriously bad has happened. When I tell people, who have asked how I am and want honest answers, that things aren’t great, I don’t want to be laughed at. Why would ANYONE joke around like that?

I read somewhere that Rowan Atkinson is actually nothing like Mr Bean. Apparently he’s not that funny in real life; he saves his humour for television. I’m the same. Humour is appropriate only in some settings.

I have thought a lot about whether I should post this stuff for fear of copping more crap from smart-asses. But I’m saying, “WHO CARES!” Who cares what other people think. Who knows, I might actually help someone.  Someone out there might read this and say, "Thank goodness.  I thought I was the only one."

And then I hit ‘Publish Post'.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Funny


This is a public toilet in Houston:

Now that you've seen the outside view, take a look at the inside view...

It's made entirely of one-way glass! No one can see you from the outside, but when you are inside it's like sitting in a clear glass box!

Now would you... COULD YOU... use it?!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Eleanor is 1

How quick has that year gone!  We were so glad we got to celebrate with Emma and Peter and the Little Miss recently.

She's crawling and pulling herself up on things, but not walking yet.

Happy Birthday Eleanor!

A cute cake for a cute girl.

Look Eleanor!  Cake!
For me?

If you insist...


Have I told you how much I love cake?

Look Eleanor!  Presents!

They have been a family of three for one year now.

Myself, Emma, Eleanor and Rhianon