Funny how I am coping/reacting in the circumstances of change after Mum died this week. Unexpected outcomes and doors opening psychologically for me. Will they stay open or will I go back to how I was before? Some reflections follow...
Firstly, if you are reading this and knew Mum, I am going to reveal how some tougher times I faced in my relationship with her have framed my life. I seek not to harm her memory, I seek not to belittle any of the fabulous stuff she achieved. I was a rebel and a problem child, I left her as a coach in the full glare of the skating spotlight and hurt her deeply. I had been an ongoing frustration for my lack of accomplishment.
And, I guess I seek to have an outlet for grief and am in the enquiry of how I am reacting. I guess I hope that for someone out there - this could provide insight and more freedom for their life. I am a seeker after freedom. That's my heart.
The synopsis is: Mum was so busy doing everything for everyone else and running a lovely home that I was left with nannies - and - I made life choices based on that experience. There you go - you need read no further...
But actually there is another factor hidden. My father's input on my life. I focus on my mother's but today (as I revisit this after and on the day of Mum's funeral) I get another view.
THE FATHER FILES...
My father wanted to be a businessman but did not have the background, acumen, courage - I am not sure - to step. So that's it - Now back to mum.
This modelling, input and how I now act is significant. But I haven't addressed it and broken free of it. Until today... Hmmm.
I am a thinker, a master of procrastination, a searcher for understanding through getting all the details. So it takes forever, I try to master every area and (so many times - up to now) I don't finish. I am a communicator and a writer and I stopped sharing, as you will read.
I am also a Rebel and rebel against folk telling me what to do and myself telling me what to do! I know I can be 'a very polite' intransigent, steadfast, nightmare! My son shows this character at times and it can drive me crazy.
A while back I read a saying - 'Don't put off till tomorrow what you could do today.' But you see it might not be quite right, quite good enough. And...running in the background is 'and I might get told off.' So...FEAR runs the show. A spirit of fear underlying the stop to action. And so it has been for much of my life. I've been hiding out, scared of the reaction I cause - because I often caused reaction. Thousands of files locked in the computer waiting for me to die and end up on a rubbish tip or computer trash can at some point.
OPEN TO FEEDBACK
Stephen Covey wrote the Seven Habits of Effective People. I once helped train Rocket Scientists for a three day course in it. Yes really. One of his tenants for 'Deposits' into peoples lives is 'Open to Feedback.' You can see the broken card I have before me every day in my studio. So I am in the enquiry around this. Seems to me it's about me getting past the fear of rejection and into the place of seeking to understand and connect with the other person. Even if they are not like me or like what I like. Seek first to understand then to be understood - Habit 5 from Stephen's seven.
MY MUM CAN'T TELL ME OFF NOW...
I'm wondering if I feel that Mum can no longer tell me off?
Often I've thought that, ridiculous I know, that I would wait until she died before I launched what I've been developing and hiding out to incubate all these years.
Sounds awful in some ways I know. And wimpy and a shame. 'Man up Slater, stop your messing about.' I get that but what I had running was a real deal for me.
AFRAID OF BEING TOLD OFF?
Now this may sound crackers to many of you. But I think I've carried a real issue here. It has got to the stage where I've had no phone for the last twelve months. People can call me through Christiane's phone. Why?
Well what I have been betting the house on for so long is re-inventing myself with music being at the core of this endeavour. And I couldn't play, I sang out of tune and I have a crazy idea of making a living from this. Everything from "please don't do this." to "do it as a hobby," and "my mum would like that," are reactions I have taken on board. And yet I sense something. It's been twenty years since I started on this path with more focus and it has earned me around $60 to date and cost a little more than that!
"Just get stuff out," friends have pleaded. But... not quite ready. And more than that, scared of the rejection, not able to stand and be in a place of - this is it - whether you like it or not that's fine. Trying to do everything to enable 'Artist me' by being 'Producer me' doing thirty jobs myself - it takes time.
And a dream never shared lives on. Also, perhaps I have been protecting my babies (songs) from being exposed to a harsh world and more so perhaps protecting the boy inside the man from hurt.
And - pertinently more and more I realise I was 'not good enough.' Which is important. Because I wanted encouragement, help, a kind word. But...well just get good enough and show me.
Mum was so fabulous to so many and it is truly heart warming to read what people are saying. We had - at times - a good relationship, or was it a truce? God knows she tried everything to give me something that would enable a living and so I was never allowed to give up the skating.
I have successfully rebelled and never taught ice skating as a result. I've also rebelled against the fact I would have had to 'qualify' to teach and keep on re-qualifying by doing courses. My maverick heart saying - I was fifth in the World, and I have to qualify to pass on that knowledge? David Seaman, who was England and Arsenal Goalkeeper had the same rebellion and I spoke with commentator colleagues at Eurosport who hated the Administrators seemingly running the show.
Mum had to keep on doing courses to stay qualified to teach. She had trained more champions than anyone I can think of - perhaps ever - in British Skating. You would have thought you could have given her a break from taking time out of work to go and pay to stay qualified. Harumph, harumph. There you go, there's my rebel talking. It's about righteousness - rebels are very good for standing for righteousness but / and it makes people uncomfortable because they do not conform. Unfortunately you lose some of that maverick spirit and expertise if you are not careful as people who lead organisations of any kind.
So with Mum we enjoyed some good times and some laughter. But we also had 'torrid times.' And, for some reason they were louder and more impactful to me than the gentler moments. I am a sensitive soul and many times her words, like acid, burned deep and left scars that have lasted. Keep it to yourself you may say. I know. I'm just telling it how it's been for me and to internalise has been a deal.
A STAY AT HOME MUM
Mum ran a fabulous house, great chocolate cake, cooking and helped provide for us to go on holiday. But she had never seen 'being at home and being a mum' modelled. So that was missing for myself and my brother. She was an achiever and this was not on the list of things to achieve. So I was left with nannies. As my father taught skating too, he was away as well.
Teaching Ice Skating requires you to be there when people aren't working, so naturally you are not at home as a 'normal' person would be. It's not a deliberate hurting of someone. But that was my reaction. Mum wanted to be a top ice dance coach and run a well maintained household. She succeeded.
My life sentences of - 'everybody leaves me' and 'I survive alone' were born from being left.
I spoke to Christiane about it the other night. She said, "It's been very hard at times to cope with those sentences that run for you." You see I will force you to leave to fulfill my prophecy that is running my show. Madness.
'Slowly slow' I see this being broken. My wife will not leave me, my son won't leave me, my friends won't leave me. It is a lie I have carried as protection for when the pain of being left occurs. Because I expect it, I am never hurt by it. A coping mechanism. Lie down on my couch here Mr Slater - tell me more. Exactly! I've done that a lot and need more to get clear but I am getting freedom through processing and prayer. Thank you God.
HONOUR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER
The Bible teaches me honour your father and mother. My brother, his wife Mo and Auntie Pauline and Colin have been stars caring for all the details of Mum. I have been distant, protecting my heart I suppose. In no way did I want to not honour her and now I see the outpouring of love for her it really helps me appreciate the amazing amount of good she did. Which I knew, but for me the picture was oftentimes different. Sometimes, when it was not and I received messages of love I was confused and still protective to a degree in case the barbs came. I mean she gave me a car she was finished with as a gift. How great was that?
I guess I was a frustration. I guess I was/am an immovable enigma. How annoying for a parent. Our son Benjamin is gifted in many areas yet he doesn't want to be in theatre productions at school. He would be brilliant. 'No thank you' his reaction, as with other things. Exponentially multiply that and that is what I must have been like for my mother.
Yet I have tried to have loyalty to the absent and to speak honourably of folk because my upbringing across the kitchen table had me hear otherwise. I continue in that vein here.
BREAKING THE CYCLE
Because I was left I have purposefully enabled my wife Christiane to be home and available for Benjamin, our twelve year old son. I purposefully see him for breakfast and dinner every day. I see him during the day too as I work from home. This is a direct reaction to what I experienced. We are much poorer financially as a result. We are richer in our family as a result. And I hear many guys here in Canada who 'went up North' to work and provide for their families, and reflect their sadness of not seeing their children grow up. You have to do what you have to do.
For me - if we can get Benjamin through his education, have been there for him and then money has run out then so be it. My retirement plan is 'keep working.' And I'm reminded I didn't go to Vancouver to watch him play football on occasions this last summer. I was 'too busy!' There you go Slater. Change that. And I can be 'too focused' in trying to make this project work and forget to give my family time and go play football with Benjamin. So I'm far from perfect.
However, I am determined that my son see a model he may choose to replicate. A model that is perhaps less glamourous, less high profile, less rewarding but is wonderful in its own way.
My Mum would sometimes speak in pronouncements. " You will make money and loose money. Your brother will make money over time." A kind of gypsy at the door giving a blessing or curse whether you bought her flowers or not.
Mum - you did say to me - "You know too much," as one of those pronouncements. I disagree, I did not know enough. I did not know enough of 'normal life' to live it. I am learning more on that. You also said "You have had a rich life." That life today fuels lyrics and songs I write and my overall persepective. I have 'a rich life' and it is starting a new chapter. I am blessed with family, friends, faith, health and a passion to bring light and laughter to those around me. And I'm trying to get over my fear of being told off by bringing it into the light! Come on Slater.
So this, if you have read thus far, is me mulling over my reaction to my mother's death on the Friday after she left us on Tuesday...
Would Mum have been pleased with what I do this morning and now afternoon writing away? Processing... "How much did you make?" would probably have been the question. "Well nothing mother," my response. "So what are you doing it for then?" A good question...
Why do I need to answer? You see I am not accountable to you now. Let go.
Maybe the answer could be because it's part of my battle with overcoming those demons and fears that have held me for so long. Maybe it might encourage others who haven't had the perfect upbringing. Maybe...because I love to write and I'm connecting with you (the reader) now?
And so often if I started to explain my plan I would get: solutions from the listener. "Do this do that or, that won't work and..." So many times I stopped because of the negatives. I know what I aim for is tough. I aim to make a plumber's wage from what I create. When I accomplish this it will be akin to a gold medal for me at the Worlds. The potential is higher, the risk of not making it huge. And it is a worthy challenge that lights me up.
I have written much like this over the years. Then I wonder if it would upset people and file it. Another hour or three gone of my life. Or, what I've written is not quite perfect. I have books written that Christiane (who amongst other things is an expert in grammar and proof reading) says "Ooo, needs some work." So they sit unfinished - no one comes to my rescue - I move on to the next creation that will (if the model is repeated) be three quarters finished and likewise filed. It can be criticised if that is the case of course... See the pattern here?
SO IF THIS STIRS YOU - UPSETS YOU - PLEASE BE IN TOUCH
So if this upsets you, please be in touch. I do not mean to upset you and I need to get used to getting feedback that might appear hostile but is maybe simply searching for understanding or a reaction based from another perspective.
I am free. I am free to publish words I write. I seek to not libel nor harm anyone. Yet it takes courage to publish anything for me and remain open to feedback...
My sister-in-law Mo is trained a top consultant in Conflict Management. I need to get much much better at being able to stand to a loud yeah or nay and be constant and loving in either. So I'd love to hear from you on this subject. Communication is often a delicate subject and I'm better at it face to face. I can phone you and we can discuss.
SAVE US FROM THIS
Around thirteen years ago I sat in my studio in Ipswich and posted - the start of the journey. A tentative me laid out the vision and played a little piano improvising. "Save us from this Nicky," the first response to my post. I turned off comments from that day to this.
Well God loves me anyway, my dog loves me anyway, my wife and son love me anyway, my friends love me anyway. Whether I fly or fall. If I provide things of value the world will respond. I just need to be stepping now.
And this is a difficult one to get, but it's dawning on me slowly. I am 'born again.' I asked Jesus into my life. So I died. So I can't die again - cause - I'm going to heaven anyway which will be great. So what am I afraid of then? The unseen. Well yes, it's the demon on the shoulder against the angel on the other one and - up to now the one with horns has been ahead - but that's changing.
Perhaps therapy this is? Perhaps more I need. Music therapy to come then - I've had some which was brilliant - thank you Ray and EACH in Ipswich.
You know I start writing and go off on one. And I hope something of what is here inspires you to step into whatever challenge you have. Learning to cope with the fear of rejection, learning to be brave to share, learning to be enough with who we are when we've done our very best. You get that's a big part of my journey.
So well done Mum for all you achieved and gave. Thank you for what you gave to me. And rest peacefully now - you no longer have to worry about your maverick son.
Enough - get on - thanks for reading. God Bless you.
What a journey life is.