‘MOTHERLY’ LOVE / ‘MAJČINSKA’ LJUBAV

Best of motherly love – The kids just want to hide from the cold, only the mother can help give them warmth and love.
Source: https://amazinglytimedphotos.com/best-of-motherly-love/

It’s Mother’s Day here in the UK today (11/03/2018). A dear friend suggested to find as many words as I can from the letters in those two words. Mother is the first and obvious one. Smother came next for me. And then mors, (mortis, f. = death in Latin, and also Mors). I wasn’t aware of the last one. So then I thought to myself: well, that’s very telling! And decided to republish my long ago post on my own blog. Not just because it’s Mother’s Day today, but also because I wanted to get it out and maybe help other children or survivors out there. And I want something good to come out it all. And for it all not to be in vain. So thank you, dear K, for your loving encouragement!

Abusive mothers rarely get the credit they deserve. The subject is hard to think about, as I still feel so infuriated and tremendously sad that most people didn’t believe me, or tried to dismiss or diminish (odbaciti ili umanjiti) what I was going through at the time. It was incredibly hard for me to write this post the very first time I wrote it a 4 years ago and release it into ether via another blog. But it’s not at all hard today. Four years alter I am a different person.

Why should I write anything? It’s not as if it’s going to help me now. Or my loved ones to whom it matters; or the dead ones who were powerless to stop it at the time it was happening. But I hope my words will make a difference to maybe just one single person out there. I’m writing in memory of my father and as a thank you to those who helped me to come out of it alive and sane – not just existing.

‘LOVING’ MOTHERS: “TKO SE TUČE, TAJ SE VOLI”

My MOTHER was my abuser. There, I said it. Just as I said it so many times in the past in so many different ways to so many people. Only to have my heart broken every time and my hope die a little. “There is nothing we can do.”  Or: “You shouldn’t say these things about your mother. She’s a single mother and doing the best she can.” (Pedagogue woman at school told me this!) If that was the best, I’d hate to see the worst! In other words, I was labelled as a very ungrateful and unhelpful daughter at least.

She was a single mother because Dad left to save his sanity, his future and himself, when his red fog cleared and he realised what she’d reduced him to. One of my earliest memories is of my Dad trying to defend himself (I wasn’t more than two years old at the time). He left so he wouldn’t kill her. He tried to get me out of it, too: he had a boxful of papers to prove it to me 20 years later, because he knew I would ask him: “Why!!! didn’t you get me out of that hell!??!?” It still wasn’t enough to get me out of there. Because the state and laws protected and preferred mothers as custodians of children. And because of unbelievably un-educated professionals and the unhealthy attitude of ordinary people who wouldn’t or couldn’t believe that mothers would be capable of beating and verbally abusing their child. Personally, I found the Balkans of my youth to be a place where it was “normal” to slap a bit. Shout a bit. Call your loved ones names and tell them they are stupid imbeciles. Because, maybe some of our parents were raised in such situations. And they don’t know anything else. Or any better. They learnt it from their parents. That is my opinion, based on my experience and the mentality of the people around me when I was growing up. You don’t have to share it.

Jer Božja zapovijed kaže: Poštuj oca i majku da dugo živiš i dobro ti bude na Zemlji /Because the Lord said: Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee

I’ve heard those words very often from my mother. Mother is supposed to love you no matter what. She’s supposed to be your safe haven. Your comfort and your support. A lot of mothers are, but mine wasn’t. And weirdly, sometimes she was ok. But her behaviour was very inconsistent – something incredibly damaging for a child. Or anyone, for that matter, but especially a child whose personality is forming, as they learn how to socialise and how to think. There should be safe routines, definite rules and loving: some consistency. But they aren’t always there.

Here are some of the things that may sound very familiar. From: http://www.understanding-child-abuse.com/abusive-mother.html

“…The Characteristics of Abusive Mothers

  • Constant criticism
  • Labeling (name calling and insults)
  • Always dominating the conversation
  • The need to have the last word
  • Threats of physical violence
  • Using force as an act of degrading
  • Threats of rejection
  • Threats of abandonment
  • Placing guilt on to the child (emotional blackmail)
  • Incapable of feeling guilt
  • Blaming the child (it’s your fault, if it weren’t for you…)
  • Using rewards and punishment as a tool of manipulation
  • Use gifts as a tool of manipulation
  • Invading privacy
  • Refusing to give privacy appropriate for the child’s age and development
  • Silent treatment (ignoring)
  • Underestimating their child’s talents skills and abilities
  • Refusing to acknowledge any accomplishment such as sport or academic achievements
  • Refusing to apologize
  • ‘You owe me’ mentality….I feed you, clothe you, put a roof over your head
  • Say negative things to relatives and friends about the child
  • Embarrass their children
  • Demand unconditional love
  • Demand respect
  • “I’m always right” (and never wrong) mentally
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Treat other siblings or other children kindly to reinforce that you don’t deserve to be loved, treated kindly or respected …”

I could give you so many examples of every single point here. But, I won’t. Use your imagination instead.

Signs of abuse to watch out for :(From: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/child-abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20370864 )

  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities;
  • Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance;
  • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears or a sudden loss of self-confidence;
  • An apparent lack of supervision;
  • Frequent absences from school or reluctance to ride the school bus;
  • Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn’t want to go home;
  • Attempts at running away;
  • Rebellious or defiant behavior;
  • Attempts at suicide.

I’ll add a few more:

  • stuttering = mucanje;
  • twitching = (grčevito) trzanje;
  • body posture: bent shoulders and lowered head (polozaj tijela: pognuta ramena i spustena glava);
  • irregular breathing extreme cases (nepravilno disanje);
  • aggressiveness towards other people (maybe) weaker than themselves;
  • inability to make decisions and always questioning themselves because of a lack of self-confidence.

Look for combinations of all those signs, too. And listen, for crying out loud, listen and help those kids in any small way you can! You just might save their life.

THE PENNY FINALLY DROPS / REALIZACIJA

So how did I persevere and survive after the police told me and my father that they couldn’t do anything because there were no witnesses when my mother beat me? My half-dressed body full of bruises, my hugely distressed state of mind, my lack of glasses and wristwatch were not enough evidence. I had ran out of the flat in desperation, at around 10.30pm, to save my life, because I could see in her eyes that she was going to beat me to death if I didn’t. My uncontrollable shaking, teeth-chattering and soul-wrenching sobs were not enough. NONE OF IT WAS ENOUGH. I was 18 then. I’m 41 now. It happened about 23 years ago. It was the night before my Biology test. Wednesday night.

The lady doctor wrote a little note of what she’d seen and what she’d treated me for that god-awful Wednesday night. Dad kept the note and tried to use it as leverage to stop my mother beating me again. I don’t know or remember what he told her. I wasn’t there when he talked to her.

MY GUIDE TO SURVIVAL – THINGS I COULD!!! DO

I knew then that I was entirely on my own. That ‘nobody cared’. That NO HELP will EVER come. That I had to help MYSELF, because nobody else will do it for me or with me. I knew then that it was entirely up to me to fight for myself and survive each day.

I realised that I had to pick my battles carefully, to win my war for survival. That I had to keep my mouth shut, if there was no benefit for me in talking back to her. Keep secrets from my mother and lie to protect myself. To try to keep close to the truth, because she’d beat me for lying, of course, and it was easier to keep track of fewer lies (I had undiagnosed thyroid problems then, so had bad short-term memory).

I tried not reveal too much, so as not to give her weapons to use against me.

I was switching off and ‘travelling’, making plans inside my head to escape the depressing life I was trapped in. Daydreaming about the future and a better life. One day it would happen. I took comfort from kind people and small positive things wherever I could. I spent a lot of the time at the local library reading anything useful (popular and proper science and psychology stuff) – plus any half-decent romance story in books or magazines. That’s how I learned how, ideally, people are supposed to treat each other. Mother taught me how they shouldn’t J.

My humour is darker than a Black Hole. I listened to the music to stop crying and keep myself going. Queen was always brilliant, just the sheer energy of Freddie’s voice was incredibly uplifting. And of course The Animals: We gotta get out of this place. I didn’t care about the other words: I just had to get out of that place!

And I eventually started fighting back. I would hit her back if she hit me. I would try to prevent her from hitting me by grabbing her arms or hands with all the strength/adrenaline I could muster. (If you do that, mind your legs, especially if your mother wears clogs [klompe]!) I stayed away from home as much as I could, by being at university or the library. The local vicar had a room where I could study in peace and sleep off the stress because I was incredibly exhausted emotionally, mentally and physically. She wouldn’t let me sleep and have a rest, like the rest of the normal teenage population.

I listened to my instincts, my common sense and logic (thank you, Dad!) and tried to rationalise what and why and how I should do things, or what to say. I tried to predict her words and behaviour and adjust mine accordingly ahead of time, to ‘reduce the impact’. And I trusted nobody but myself. Sad, but true. I knew I could only rely on myself.

THE BEST THING MY MOTHER GAVE ME

In 2000 she came home one day and said I was going to meet a woman from an au-pair agency that she spoke to and some weeks later I was put on a plane from Zagreb with around £250 in my shoe, a suitcase I didn’t like (very awkward to carry, but chosen by my mother despite my instructions, because she KNOWS BEST what I need). She said to go and make something of myself and not to come back because there’s nothing for me ‘here’ to come back to. I had addresses and phone numbers from some of my mother’s friends and my father’s friends from high school days. They had been very close as a class. So they must’ve heard things. They were wonderful to me. I suppose they were my new role models (on top of my mentor with whom I share birthdays, my lovely dentist and my godmother who I did not yet know well).

I landed at Heathrow on a cold February morning in 2000. I CAME HOME to England, UK. I knew better than to go back to Croatia any time soon. I fought tooth and nail to stay away from her. I still only go back if I really need to. And when I do go back, I don’t necessarily tell what’s left of the family. My husband insists that I always have him there with me for support (which I am more than happy with J). I have learnt to say NO. And FUCK NO! It took quite a few years and a lot of hard work. But it feels great. I still keep in touch with the people who have helped me survive, such as two lovely friends, one of whose letter from long ago helped me not to end it all and leave this world at the tender age of 18. I haven’t spoken Croatian much, or followed the news from ‘home’. I moved on and healed myself with the loving help of new and old friends and some family members old and new (in-laws). I live in the UK. I speak English. And I have just started thinking that there are some nice things about the country and the system that I was born in, but that failed to protect me, that let me down. I paid my dues dearly. Most of my battles are OVER. And I am OUT of it.

Or am I…?

To be cont’d….

Thank you to both Martina – Dear skin and Martina- AlterEgo Style and my lost friend Milena S-W for bringing some Croatian beauty back into my life. I shall treasure it always.

Thank you to my old friends who helped me survive and to my new ones who give me hope, Zubin blog, Bitchy Dust, my family members from the Balkans who are scattered around the world, some of whom I’ve reacquainted myself with in recent years. Thank you to my Happy A:runners and Timmy’s and Charley’s campers, Yarna and my Arts and Minds friends for their teachings, incredible Energy, motivation, warmth, love, kindness and laughter. And above all, a massive thanks my husband. You all make it a life worth living. I love you. Thank you.

What next?

I started learning some new ‘things’ while finishing my postgrad studies. It’s a very strange feeling when you’re finished with something that has been taking up all of your time and energy: like there’s something missing from my life and I’m forgetting something, but can’t quite remember what it is. It’s strange finally having more free time, and not having the same thing on your mind for years. It’s like I came out of the dark and I forgot what the outside world looks and feel like. There is future to look forward to. Only I am not the same person any more. Years went by, good and bad things happened.

Yet again I find myself between two stages in life: after the studies and before a new career path. Last time I rushed into something and not listened to my instincts. This time I wanted to take time and research my options more thoroughly and carefully and also take other skills, talents and personal preferences into consideration. I’ll share my experience with you in this post. I hope you find it helpful.

There are a lot of questions to ask and answer when considering a new career path. This is called self-assessment. It enables you to gather information about yourself and put the puzzle pieces together. It is essential that you are completely honest and opened with yourself when answering these questions, so you get the maximum out of self-assessment exercise and can be well informed to find the career path most appropriate for you. I highly recommend getting help and advice from a careers adviser/ counsellor if that’s at all possible. In the UK, universities and colleges offer this service during your education and for a limited time period after graduation or completion of your course, or you can inquire at your county council – local library. I don’t know if things have changed on the Balkans.

Below are some of the questions you need to answer. Some of them are more general, and some more individual.

How do you decide where to go and what to do next (career wise)?

How much do you know about yourself and what more do you need to find out? (Who you were ‘then’ vs who you are now? When I say ‘then’, I mean before you wanted to change career paths, when you were starting your previous job, studies, etc. What made you want to change your career path?

Did you choose your current career path because your first choice seemed impossible at the time? How do you remember and remind yourself what you liked, what were your talents long ago and what are they now? Do they differ and if they do, how/ in what? Have you changed fundamentally, or have you remained the same at the core?

Which values and beliefs are important to you (value inventory)? What do you want out of life and career/ job? What are your priorities? Are you a people’s person or not? Do you like collaboration? What keeps you interested/ ‘out of mischief’/ challenged? Do you like a challenge?  If you are the type who gets bored quickly/ within 3-6 months, you might like a job/career employing different sets of your skills and abilities.

What motivates and drives you, what are your needs and attitudes (personality inventory)? What makes you happy? What do you enjoy? What’s important to you?

Which activities do you like and dislike and why (interest inventory)? What are your hobbies, what do you like to do in your free time?

Where do your talents lie (aptitude inventory)? What do you find easy to do? But, importantly, do you also enjoy using your talents? For example: if you are very talented at learning languages, but you don’t enjoy doing it, then you should take that into consideration. What are your skills? How do you join/ combine the two satisfactorily? It is important to distinguish between enjoying research and enjoying learning!

Think of your dream job and does such a job/career exist? If there isn’t, is there a gap in the market for it? Or do you want/need a longer career break?

Where are you willing to compromise, if you are willing to compromise? How much do you need to earn/ how little can you afford to earn?

Do you need to move for any reason (lack of funds, contract running out, studies finished, going back to live with your parents for a while)? It is easier to move to another city / country/ continent if you are by yourself (single and don’t have any dependents – children) if necessary. This move also depends on the knowledge of other foreign language(s).

Changing careers is not an easy thing to do. Support from your friends and family is priceless if you have it. But even if you don’t, stay true to yourself, talk to other people in a similar position and research potential career paths. It’s your life, do what makes you happy.

Have you ever changed careers or know someone who is trying? Do you have any questions or comments about your or friend’s experience? Feel free to share them here.

Food for Thought

Like many people, I have a few extra kilos. Between 2010 and 2012, I ‘collected’ some more and reached about 70kg. And I’m a fairly small person (163 cm). So I could really feel gravity at work, pulling my stomach, bottom and lower back towards the ground. Of course the extra kilos don’t ever go where I would want them to – on my boobs. I had a bit of a backache (lower back) and my shoulders were slouching. I looked pregnant and definitely wasn’t.

In fact, in 2011, while on holiday, I met a lovely and friendly hotel maid – a Serbian lady working far from home to provide for her family. We chatted nicely on a few occasions. She once congratulated me and asked when I was due. As in: when do I expect my baby to be born… So I smiled widely from ear to ear, waved my hand and just said: “Oh, I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat!” She was embarrassed, but I really wasn’t offended and thought it was really hilarious. We had a good laugh together at my expense. You mustn’t take yourself too seriously. Trust us Balkans to think something and come right out and say it! *laughs loudly and snorts by accident* They do it in a more subtle way in the UK, but that was one priceless moment I will treasure forever. I was giggling for the rest of the day. (This really DID happen.)

But, all jokes aside / šalu na stranu. My wardrobe was half full of clothes I couldn’t fit into (not past my thighs, anyway), and the other half was filled with clothes I was nearly bursting out of (my intestines and stomach felt awkwardly displaced). So, you can imagine the hubby’s reply to I need some more clothes: “But you have sooooooo much to wear!!!” And I was looking only at my face in the mirror.

I still kept thinking about my Dad (died in 2010). And my uncle, his non-identical twin died (2005). And pancreatic cancers that killed them before time. And how excessive weight around my vital organs isn’t helping my prospects….

1961 Michelin Guide to France

1961 Michelin Guide to France

Walking up the stairs, felt like climbing the north face of the Eiger. I had to stop halfway up and have a rest. I was out of breath. I was tired and sluggish for various reasons, but my extra Michelin tyres didn’t help. I kept saying that I really want to lose some weight and get fit and healthy. And no fad dieting. I had to do it right. I knew I had to be in it for the long haul. Not like very familiar words of somebody I know well: “Od sutra sam na dijeti (I’m on a diet from tomorrow)!” I used to hear that often in my childhood.

All of you know that diet is serious stuff. And I don’t mean the fad (a few weeks/months) diets that don’t really solve anything and can even make things worse. Food we put into our mouths affects so many things, starting from our digestion, immunity, mood changes (friendly, with unpredictable doses of ‘THE BITCH has arrived!!!!’), hair, skin and nails, concentration, body odour… I could go on forever…. It’s about my life and my lifestyle, not a fashion trend of size zero and heroin chic.

And it all starts in the head. With your brain and thought processes. Because, if you want a change to be permanent and transform your life, you have to come up with a really god strategy that works for you. You have to know yourself, your faults and your strengths, your habits, emotions, reasoning and above all you have to be honest with yourself. You have to love yourself and forgive yourself, because you’re only human.Why we eat

Over the years I’ve watched a lot of health programmes on telly, something that probably help me gain my tyres in the first place! But it’s not as simple as that, as I was reminded of a few years ago in a lecture from the ‘obesity clinic people’ in Cambridge <a href="http://www.cuh.org.uk/addenbrookes/services/clinical/ims/obesity/obesity_index.html" onclick="__gaTracker('send', 'event', 'outbound-article', 'http://www find out this here.cuh.org.uk/addenbrookes/services/clinical/ims/obesity/obesity_index.html’, ‘http://www.cuh.org.uk/addenbrookes/services/clinical/ims/obesity/obesity_index.html’);”>http://www.cuh.org.uk/addenbrookes/services/clinical/ims/obesity/obesity_index.html

I talked to somebody from where I used to work who went on a diet and lost a lot of weight and looked fantastic. I also talked to another lady who had a surgery done (a gastric bypass, I think). And then I talked to my stepmother-in-law. About all this. And more.

So I took a lot of thoughts from these programmes, and people I knew and started going way back with my food issues. Memories. Feelings. Habits. Adopted and inherited, consciously or subconsciously. I wanted to get to the bottom of my problem and work out a strategy for myself, to change things effectively and change my lifestyle permanently. To be healthier and happier, and hopefully live longer.

 

How and where we eatI asked myself:

  • When and why do I eat? When I’m hungry, thirsty, sad and depressed or bored? Sometimes I feel like I’m hungry, but I’m actually thirsty, so when I have a drink, the hunger feeling goes away.
  • What do I eat on these occasions? Good and healthy stuff or any shit I can get my hands on, like: crisps, chocolates, biscuits and such ‘delicacies’?
  • How do I feel before and while I’m eating? Am I stressed, angry or doing something I shouldn’t be focusing on (like eating at my desk while working on the computer)? How did I feel after I ate? Satisfied for a second and then wanting to binge of my favourite junk? Or do I feel happily full and my appetite sated? What was the benefit of that meal? Comfort, ‘inside hug’ or acquiring nutrients? How long does the ‘happy feeling’ inside me last?
  • How do I eat? Chew slowly and enjoy every mouthful or gobble it up because I’m in a hurry or I do I just eat fast for no reason? Are all my senses employed and enjoying the eating experience?
  • Do I snack and when? Am I keeping it a secret?
  • How varied or boring is my menu? Eating the same stuff during each season?
  • Where do I shop? Supermarkets, markets, health food shops or a bit of everything? (Of course this depends on budget and the availability of shops and foods.)
  • Am I hungry or not when I’m food shopping? I tend to choose a lot of meaty and fishy things if I’m shopping hungry!
  • What are my eating patterns? Do I eat regularly or do I not eat (because I don’t feel like it, for whatever psychological reason) and then binge on something (usually some sugar/salt/ butter loaded junk mentioned above)?
  • What is my food history?
    • And my role models – good and bad? For cooking and eating.
    • What are my memories and earliest experiences? Of certain foods and meals and the atmosphere while eating? Is an unpleasant feeling or memory causing me to avoid some foods or eat only certain types of food and nothing else?
    • What are my traumatic food experiences? Yes, I have those, too.
  • And let’s not forget the all important bowel movement! How often, how much, shape, colour and consistency. I’m not joking. *shrugs shoulders / slegne ramenima and smiles apologetically*
  • And since I mentioned the bowel movement, I shouldn’t leave out the kidneys, either. Am I hydrating myself = drinking enough? Or is my urine concentrated, because the water needs to reabsorb back into the body? (Kidneys are your filters, so make it easy on them and drink enough!)
  • What do I drink and how much? Water, juices (home-made or bought), coca-cola, tea (with or without sugar/honey), fizzy drinks?
  • And how much alcohol you drink and how? Binging some days? (I rarely drink alcohol, so I nearly forgot about that one).
  • What do I buy to eat? Ready meals, tinned food or raw and fresh or frozen ingredients? Or a combination of those?
  • How do I prepare my food? Steam, fry, deep-fry or overcook it until it’s all dead? How much time do I have to prepare it, if any?
  • When and where do I eat breakfast – the most important meal of the day?

What and when we snackWhat we buy and how we prepare it

Answers to the above questions provided me with a wealth of information. I knew what I was dealing with, how I needed to tackle it and approach my lifestyle change and what I needed to change.

If you remember at the start of the post, I said 2012. It’s now 2014 and I’m still at it. I was in a really bad place and shape when I started my lifestyle change. But I didn’t expect miracles. It’s been a long road to recovery. I had my moments of frustration and impatience, but I persisted. I hope your journey and your changes go well. And remember to take small steps. Know your goals. Don’t start your journey with a run and stop halfway through. Be patient. Take your time, making GRADUAL changes, allowing you body to adjust. You will get there eventually. Love your body, the temple of your soul and it will reward you.

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