Thursday, December 20, 2012

This is *my* agenda: I AM a mother.

I'm not a person who takes my life for granted. At least once every day I count my numerous blessings: my kids, my hubs, my home, and I thank my good fortune for being born healthy, in a free country, in a free era, to good and free people.

When you add all that up that's a LOT of luck.

Not many of us are so lucky.

After I studied, I traveled. First with work and then with just my backpack. Right up until then I still didn't know I was born. And I'm thankful for that relative degree of innocence I had left.

I hadn't been sheltered from the News or from True Crime documentaries and books. I knew there were far off places in the world where slavery and war and poverty existed.

I even knew that our own world (England) was polluted with crime and cruelty. But I also knew it was ridiculous to live in fear of it. (I can be somewhat ridiculous.)

Our Monthly TV installment of Crimewatch always ended with the famous catchphrase 'Don't have Nightmares, do sleep well.' (Co-presenter, Jill Dando was murdered in 1999)

Even with all that, I still didn't know I was born.

After a week of backpacking (a week before my 23rd birthday), I was robbed at gunpoint on a beach in Ecuador. That could easily have been 'it' for me. I've often wondered if parallel universes existed. In how many did I manage to survive, or is this the only one?

I shudder at the thought...

I'd never seen a real gun before up close. It was a chilling experience, and the power that gun wielding beach bandit held over me for that small space of time was infinite. He held MY life in the palm of his hands. Total and absolute power over me. Who had given him that power?

I had made it easier for him by being distracted. I had provided the target simply by being there - and I had provided a motive (or should I say, cash incentive). But I didn't provide him with the gun.

I blame myself for my naivety and stupidity. How could I have been so reckless with my own life? Easy. I didn't know just how incredibly lucky I was to have this life. I didn't know that so many souls would have killed for the life I was living. I truly didn't know I was born.

I owed it to my parents (my own Momma) and myself to take more care over one they'd looked after so lovingly and painstakingly for 18 years. Right then and there, I stopped taking what I had for granted. I got scared.

My first boyfriend had told me he never wanted children. He was 21 at the time, and I was 18. I knew I could change his mind so it wasn't a relationship show-stopper.

His reasons were that the world was a brutal and unsafe place to bring children into. I thought that was a ridiculous defeatist attitude.

(We didn't last - but that's another story.)

I've thought about his theory a lot since. I've tortured myself over thoughts of slave mothers not having any ownership over their own children, trying to raise children under civil war conditions in Uganda, being a Jewish mother during the Holocaust - and being a mother to one of those twenty children gunned down at Sandy Hook elementary school..

I can't stand the suffering and helplessness all these real mothers have had to bear.

I went on to have my own children; three beautiful lucky children, born free, and healthy, and into a family that cherish them beyond belief. But I know I can't protect them from all that is evil, and that terrifies me. I knew it before last Friday. I've hugged them tight everyday since they came into this world.

I've worried that so much luck for one person can't be fair. How have I earned this life? Are the Gods waiting for their moment to right the balance? I don't live like a terrified person. I'm not really so cray-cray. I don't wrap my kids up in cotton wool - and they don't see my fears.

But I live each day like a grateful person. I won't go to bed on an argument, or let anyone leave the house without a loving farewell. It always occurs to me that this could be the last day, the last year, the last moment, the last memory.

I'm not morbid with it. It really helps me to feel happy with my lot. Sometimes I think that the least I can do is appreciate my good fortune. Be happy. I owe it to the world (or God?) to enjoy my life. Otherwise what was the point of me drawing this one? Let someone else have it if they're going to appreciate it more.....

I now know I'm born and that I have an awful lot to be truly grateful for - but my children don't. They don't know or understand much of anything beyond toys, hugs and Santa Clause. They don't know how the other side live. And (selfishly?) I'd like it to stay that way for them for as long as possible.

It's a sad fact that evil and pain exist in the world, and I can't keep them blissfully ignorant forever. Eventually they'll be exposed to all the bad this world has to offer. And one day I'll want them to realize their good fortune, so they can appreciate the value in freedom, democracy, and kindness and love.

But while ever they're children, please let them BE children. Let them keep their innocence.

Many mothers have brought (and are still bringing) their children into a more terrifying and violent world, same as many mothers birth their children into disease and poverty.

My heart clenches when I think of kids the same age as my boys walking the city streets in Ecuador begging with a rose and their tear stained cheeks. I know as sure as I'm sitting here, that one of those babies is suffering at this very second - be it hunger or abuse.   

How can I know this to be true and go on with my 'safe' and happy life. What kind of a human being does that make me?

I often lie awake at night guilty that I never did anything to help. I haven't made a difference. Should I have come back from South America a reformed activist fighting third world poverty? How, instead, did I return convinced that joining a capitalistic corporation was doing my 'bit'?

Why can I still see those Ecuadorian kids' faces when I close my eyes at night? 

Helping is not the same as charity. And for a long time I've struggled with the idea that charity prevents us from getting to the root of the problems in our world. Charity enables the suffering to continue - a bit like a mommy tying her kid's shoelace instead of teaching him how to do it, or doing his homework for him, or letting the kid win without trying.

In the long run we're not helping our kids by enabling them; however, we still need to help and support them. They need to know they're not alone, and to retain their faith in other human beings (that's what family and friends and community is all about), even though they have to be able to stand on their own two feet eventually. It's a balance. Nobody should have to learn the lesson; If I don't look after me, no one else will. 

I've told myself for the longest time now that real 'charity' begins in the home. Part of me truly believes this, and part of me is afraid of my motives (and ashamed of myself) for copping-out on the bigger picture. The problems of our world are far too big for one individual to take on in their entirety. I'm not Mother Teresa or Gandhi. Thank God for them, but we don't need 7 billion of them.

However, if everyone followed their peaceful examples, and treat his family and neighbors and friends and co-workers and townsmen and librarians, and shopkeepers, and policemen, and teachers and students and telesales-men (and so on) with loving kindness and respect wouldn't all the problems in the world disappear?

(Stupid, idealistic, unrealistic. Maybe. But I stand by this theory as best as my patience allows.) 

Even such a blissful world couldn't cure the Mental Health cases... could it?

Since Friday's shooting I've been carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. Why didn't I do anything to ensure this world would be a safer place for those children.. for my children?

I've been thinking it's obviously not enough to just be 'nice' to each other.   

Everywhere I look people are preaching with a different agenda. "It's NOT guns it's the media! It's NOT the media it's the Health Service! It's NOT the Health Service it's family values! It's NOT family values, it's the guns!!!"

Is it so ridiculous to suggest that ALL of the above may hold partial blame? If we were sitting inside a big corporation conducting a root cause analysis exercise, wouldn't guns, health services, media, parenting (and a whole lot more) all come out at the bottom of our flip-chart paper?

I can see the facilitator circling all the offending factions of society with a big red marker pen.  Shouldn't we all be holding our hands up and sharing a smidgen of the guilt? Maybe we could all have been doing something a little different....

It wouldn't be a BLAME game. And each employee wouldn't be personally offended by these solutions. There may be some ruffled feathers and difference of opinion in getting there, but ultimately any intelligent and pragmatic individual would see reason. Why can't we as a race do that?

We can't because we don't all want the same thing. Our analysis of the situation is skewed behind personal agenda. The one major underlining factor which differs within a company boardroom - to our society as a whole - with regards finding 'the solution', is common ground.

In a company it's clear, profit is the goal. That's the common ground everyone can agree upon and work together to achieve. Sure, some hidden agendas will still get in the way, (like personal ambition, and department budgets) but generally speaking, everyone wants to keep the company alive and subsequently keep their jobs. To do that a profit is required. 'Safety First' is hogwash. It's top priority (for sure) but only because a clean record and good PR gets shareholders... and they bring in the moolah!

I used to work in a root analysis team within an oil company. The very first order of business before ANYTHING else was said, was determining the common ground. What did we all want to come out of the session? Once we'd bonded in our shared vision it was easier to 'put down our guns' as it were.

Sadly, I see no common ground in our world.

Shouldn't the ultimate 'shared' goal be a safe and happy world, where everyone has enough to eat, and nobody has to live in fear?

If we can all agree on just that, then we can all ask each other: 'How do we get there?'

I know this model is far too simplistic. Politics and religion and human rights and so many other distractive elements are in our minds when we try and answer this question. I'm not saying these 'systems' can't help. They do help. These societal systems try and put some order to the 'mess' we've created by our ambition and progression and our need to save others.


It's a convoluted and multifaceted complex problem (how to heal the world). We can't just slap a band-aid on it.

Who am I to speak?

I am not technically an American although my children are. I don't own a gun but I regularly eat venison. I'm not atheist but I don't think I believe in God. I am not a capitalist but neither do I support socialism. I am not a pacifist but I long for peace. I am not a feminist but I believe in equal rights for all. I am many things and I this is my agenda: I AM a mother.

I don't have ANY of the answers. I make mistakes. I get it wrong.

But sometimes I think; if only I ruled the world......

I don't have decidedly left wing or right wing ideas. I like to look at life from every axes of the spectrum. I like it up here on my fence. Some would call me a coward.

But I do have my opinions.

I'm of the opinion that we should all treat each other with kindness and respect and acceptance and an open mind. Just think if everybody did just that.....

We can analyze Friday's tragedy and generate ideas of how to stop it from ever happening again until the cows come home, but logic tells me that even if we find our common ground, and we all work diligently together to make our world a safer place, all we can hope to do is to lessen the impacts and consequences and chances of a future occurrence.

It will happen again eventually. Nobody (and no kid) is safe.

In spite of all our countless blessings we're all sitting ducks to hate crimes. We don't have total control over what happens to us in our lives, and no matter how hard we try, we can't keep our children totally safe. 

So why do we do it?

Why do we put ourselves through all the stress and fear and torture and risk of heartache that come hand in hand with parenthood? 

Because we can't just give up. Because we can't let the bad guys win. Because no matter the pain, the suffering, and the hardship life is still worth living. Because in spite of all, it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.


  1. it had to feel good to get that out!

    i think we are all conflicted when a tragedy strikes, especially at a time of year that is suppose to be joyful and filled with hope for the new year.

    we share very similar sensibilities about life. i remember being called "scatter brained" because i often had a difficult time choosing, weighing each side carefully, afraid i'd make a mistake. but i love the grey area where black & white meet . . . the common ground. it is a tight rope to walk when others all around are shouting from their side of the grey scale.

    and i too have been incredibly lucky. in everything we do, there's good & bad. with every step we take, there's a risk. i believe with all my being that my optimism creates my good luck. that doesn't mean i can't go to the dark side or that nothing bad ever happens to me, but eventually i find the opportunity that can rise from it.

    then i can hope, love, and pay it forward.

  2. Jo, I know you well and I know that you have been constructing these words in your head since last Friday's awful events. You are a superb writer and I'm so glad you have found an outlet for your writing. This is a masterpiece. You should be very am I. xxx

  3. I loved every word of this Josie. Words are powerful and you used yours for good. I often think of parallel universes and wonder how I got out of certain situations. I also wonder when the other shoe will drop out of this "lucky life". Keep being the great mother that you are, keep spreading those words and the world WILL be a better place; even if it's just inside your walls. XOX

  4. Beautiful, amazing post. I was completely riveted, and your thoughts really resonated with me.

  5. Thank you guys for the incredibly kind comments - I'm only sorry I haven't found the time to respond to each of you individually! I hope you'll forgive the bulk response. I'll get much better at responding to comments next year. x