03 May 2013

30 Days - Day 3 - Mr Flexibility, Mrs Control and Why I Used a Tea Towel as a Shawl

It’s 7:25 am and I'm here in my dressing gown ready to go. It’s chillier this morning. Winter’s on the way, it seems.  

I’m about to go read yesterday’s post to get back into the flow of where I'm going today. It’s like jumping in and out of a flowing river, or jumping on and off a moving train. I’ve gotta get up to speed, so I can jump in or on.


Wow, wow, wow.

(Don’t worry, I’m just expelling and expressing some feelings about all this writing. I’m finding myself deep in the flowing river and I’m still trying to get my bearings)

Meanwhile it’s another beautiful day outside. A bit windy and I’ve just put a tea towel on my shoulders because I can feel the cold through my dressing gown.

Hey, you do what you need to when you need to, right?

That’s one thing I’ve learnt along this journey – you have to do what makes sense to you to get you through, even if it’s not the done thing.

I was cold, and instead of going to have a shower and get changed so I could put a jumper on (when I still have to walk the dog); I just threw a tea towel over my shoulders.

Sure, a tea towel isn't a jumper, but it’s doing the same job. I’m nice and warm back there now.

Of course the tea towel shawl wouldn't work in every situation here at home – think vacumming, cleaning the toilets, playing with the dog, doing craft, ironing, cooking, carrying the groceries up and down the stairs – like, how annoying, it’d probably fall off and in the loo, too. In fact, aside from actually sitting at my desk and doing a bit of craft, it really wouldn't be a practical solution in any other situation.

In this situation though, it’s perfect.

And that, my friends, is what I’ve just dubbed ‘Inspiration Based Problem Solving’.

With a sub-heading of…

Being open to the fact that the solutions to your problems might be weird.

With a further sub-heading of…

But that doesn't mean they’re wrong.

And you know who taught me that? Andrew, actually. Not literally, but by me observing his behaviour and living with him for 17 years.

I’ll explain that further in a minute, but I want to just stay here for a bit.

Okay, so the big infertility problem I cannot fix. Strike that off the to-do list.

The attitude I have about it, because it’s just unfair, I can fix. Not easily, I might add, but I can fix it if I’m willing.

How? How? How?

By putting a tea towel on my cold shoulders.

Look, I don’t know, but what I do know is that God has the answers to all this stuff and the answers are not always going to be the obvious thing.

I mean, who writes 3000 words a day on a blog while still in the valley of their problem in order to get an answer, see an answer, conceptualise an answer or a billion answers? Who does that?

Um, nobody that I know of.

Who suggested it?  
Um, not me.

One word.


What are His reasons? I don’t know, but I bet they’re good. I've gotta trust Him with everything I have right now and just do it. Do it, do it, do it.

It’s not easy, time-wise or emotionally (I feel like I’m on the verge of a vulnerability hangover), but I’m here. I’m shaking off the, “How-am-I-going-to-do-this?s” as they threaten to overwhelm me still, but I’m here. I’ve got my uniform on and I’m willing to play even know I really struggle with grammar and sentence construction.

So, His solution is a tea towel as a jumper. Go figure. If it gets the same result, okay then.

Back to the Andrew bit I going to explain before.   

Andrew, Andrew, Andrew – he’s so different to me, but that’s pretty normal for married couples, right? Someone said once that in a husband you need to have enough things in common to give you a sense of security and belonging, and enough differences to make it interesting. We have that, it was just that I saw all the commonalities before we were married and found out all of the differences after! Ha ha! Pretty normal again, right?

(PS. It’s supposed to happen that way though, right? Love is blind for a reason – you see their good points and commit to marry. You marry, reality sets in and then you see their not-so-great points. Because you married, and you vowed, you work it out.)

We’re different and God gave him to me for a reason. I always say that Andrew is my life lesson in flexibility. He’s one of those men that just thinks like a man.

~ He doesn't see things that need to be put away – that’s just normal.

I’ve learnt to be flexible about things sitting out. It’s just life and we live in this house, so no wonder it looks lived in.

~ He doesn't prioritise the way I do – I prioritise tasks (like household jobs) and then do them in some semblance of that order. Andrew just does what he feels like doing at the time.

“I think I’ll build a fence. I’ll mow first because it’s getting outta control, but then I’ll build the fence.”

I’ve learnt to just go with the flow more. He gets stuff done, just in a weird, but inspired, order. He follows inspiration when it comes to doing jobs. I had to smile when I realised that one day.

~ He’s just more random in general – he doesn't give a lot of specifics about times and dates and things like that (unless I press him); he just goes with generalities most of the time.

I’ve learned to be flexible and read into what he’s saying. He has an uncanny ability of pulling it altogether and on time most of the time, without really trying. It’s quite amazing. I’ve followed suit and it’s worked for me, too. It’s worked for us. I kinda like the whole wing-it/play-it-by-ear thing sometimes – it’s really refreshing and a lot less work.

So, my husband...my flexible man (who's just so flexible he’s rigid), has taught me to go with the flow, bake a basic plan and then wing it. You know, taught me to reeelllaaaxxx a bit.

By saying 'he’s so flexible he’s rigid', I mean he’s not going to change.

He is who he is and mind you, he’s stepped it up in the sequential/organised department, too, but he’s Mr Flexible and now I’m Mrs More-Flexible-Than-I-Was because of him.

And why do I need such a great lesson in flexibility?

So much so, that I live with Mr Flexible every day?

That I cannot boss around like I’d boss a child around because he’s my husband and not a child?

That I cannot direct and command the way I direct and command the dog because he’s my husband and not a dog?

That I cannot change because he’s not going to change and who said he has to anyway?

You know...why????

To keep me flexible…

…and supple…

…and open…

…and fluid…

…and willing to think differently…

…and willing to act differently…

…and willing to accept a different way of doing things…

…because for me, this whole baby journey has been about control.

Or, more specifically, about it being out of my control. 

Ah, control.

It makes me breathe in deeply, that does.

Control, it’s a core word for me.

Why did God take me out of the classroom? 


What did I have in spades in the classroom?


What don’t I have in our baby situation? 


What do I need to let go of? 


What is really hard for me to let go of? 


What do I like being in? 


What can I not be in with Andrew because he’s my husband (that I respect) and not a child or a dog? 


Living with Mr Flexibility has been about becoming more flexible, and the opposite of that is…wait for it….drum roll…yes, less controlling.

You see, I am a controlling person. I know this. It’s actually a good thing and I don’t apologise for it.

What do you need a lot of as a classroom teacher? Hello, control.

Not just in-charge-of-the-kids control either, but in-charge-of-my-own-behaviour control, too. I was a role model after all. I couldn't fly off the handle every time they did something wrong.

(I made them stand behind their chairs with their hands behind their backs and I would pace back and forth and lecture them and say, “This is how we’re going to do it from now on!” in a looooowww and controlled voice.)

I also had to be in charge of/on top of/in control of everything else that happened in the room – the actual teaching, of course, but who’s brought their excursion money in? Where’s Sam? Is he back yet? Mrs Clark, can Mr T borrow your set of dice? What time do we need to be in the auditorium for the special thingy we’re going to? Where are we going to hang these posters we just made? Why are there 49 banana skins out on the port racks? Everyone silent reading while I talk to the girls (and sort out another drama)… etc. x a billion.

I’m good with details and teaching had a billion details to deal with.

I’m good with bean counting and teaching had a billion beans to count.

I’m good with control and teaching had a billion things to control.

Think of infertility in the context of details, bean counting and control though, and you’ll suddenly see how all my skills were working against me.

My natural tendency to pay attention to the details of our journey were not helping me emotionally, but bogging me down (although I knew all along that I had to take note of things because I knew I’d be writing about them one day).

My natural tendency to count beans didn't help me when I found myself comparing us to others. How many kids do they have? How old were they when they had them? Who’s this? Who’s that? Who’s something else…

Andrew said to me once, “Deb, you’re a bean counter!”

I replied, “I know, and it’s not a bad thing! In the classroom you've gotta count beans all day, every day, it’s what you do.”

Of course he said, “Well, you’re not in the classroom now.”

“I know, I know.”

Oh baby, I knew.

How I missed the control. I still do. The power to make changes, set up systems, try things and just make it all work and flow together. I miss being in charge and being the boss.

Yeah, I didn't know how many boxes teaching ticked for me until I left and wasn't able to use those skills in the same way any more.

(I got to in some ways though later through punch art. That’s why God gave it to me as a gift. It was something that was mine that I could have fun with, enjoy and do with what I wanted. I could be the boss and boss that paper around all day. I could organise my work area and set up systems for stuff and try out new things to my heart’s content. He fulfilled those teachery needs specifically through it for a while. I still get to use them now in my general crafting and in the work I do for PC, so all’s good.)  

Back to teaching and leaving…

I remember feeling like I failed because I had to leave. I just couldn't do it any more – I’d lost the love and in the end it was so hard to get myself there every day and just do my job (I taught for eight years).

I was heartbroken, actually. I’d worked so hard to become a teacher and I always thought I’d be in it for the long haul, but all of a sudden I knew I wouldn't be, and couldn't.

As I was going to sleep one night feeling down about it all, God told me that I was a teacher by nature, not just profession. I’ll never forget that, it was just what I needed to hear.

You’re a teacher by nature, not just profession.

I am, I really am, and I love it. I love to teach. I love to teach people who want to be taught, which is why I loved teaching punch art. It was fun and colourful (still is), the ladies loved it; I loved it – what wasn't to love?

All the planning and preparation time, that’s what. In the beginning it was simple, but then the classes became more advanced and I had to put more and more time into them come up with new ideas etc.  It became prohibitive and in the end I had to let it go even though it was hard. I really would like to teach punch art classes again – it has to be in a new way, though. Not sure how, just leaving it on the shelf for now.

Anyway, I was leaving teaching. I was just going to be at home and see what happened.

I thought maybe we might start a family, but to be honest I wasn't really ready because I’d had enough of being around kids for a while. I was 28 at the time and Andrew was 34 – that was 12 years ago.

I know I was ready to have kids at about 30, but that’s when all the punch art stuff really took off. I was teaching classes and writing a book and I felt myself going down this whole new road that wasn't a baby producing road.

I remember thinking, “What’s going on here, God, aren't we supposed to be going this way?”

We weren't, we were going that-a-way.

I just went with it thinking we’d get to Baby Street at some point along the way, but we never did. We never even got to Let’s Try to Have a Baby Street. We found out we couldn't before we even got to plan anything as a couple.

Again, control gone. It’s hard to take, particularly for someone of my personality. 

Through it all, I’ve tried to use my skills where needed and then just let the rest go. That’s been a journey in itself.

When I feel the need to count beans about who’s who in the zoo and how many kids they've got or whatever, I just watch the numbers go by and move on. You know, I still naturally do it, and know the tally without even trying, but I throw the score paper away and go cross stitch something.

Does that make sense?

I can’t change my teachery, controlling, bean counting and detailed personality – I’m not supposed to.

I’ve just needed to shelve it for a while. At least I’ve tried to. And stamped on it when it’s popped back off the shelf trying to lash out, counting and controlling everything in sight in order to feel normal again.

Like myself again...    

(See why I’m not in the classroom? I’d be an overly controlling, horrible and harsh teacher. There’s no control in my life, so I’ll control you instead. Do it, and do it NOW)

Teaching was hard, but I felt like myself when I was a teacher.

In the last whatever years, I haven’t felt like anything, really.

For a few in the interim, I was Debra Clark, Punch Artist. I was writing books, teaching classes, going to shows, doing freelance work and then writing the blog. When that waned though, I had a bit of an identity crisis.

Most people identify themselves with their job.

“What do you do?”

I’m plumber, builder, bank teller, gardener, doctor, nurse and the conversation goes from there.

I dread the question.  

“What do you do?”

I wonder every day why I’m not a mother. I wonder what’s going on with it all. I wonder why. I try to make sense of things and be grateful for the blessings I have, but sometimes I wonder how I’m going to get through the next whatever amount of time in front of me. I wonder what I’m supposed to do with my life. I wonder how all the skills I know I have will come together where I can actually feel like, for the first time, I’m living within; instead of living without. I wonder if having just Andrew and Cody really is enough? I wonder why things are the way they are and then think, gosh, it’s not all that bad. I wonder if the pain will ever stop. Is it just me, and I need more time, or is it something I’m not doing? Is the power to get through this in my hands or not? Are you making a mountain out of a mole hill or is infertility really hard and it’s normal to be overwhelmed by it? I wonder who will look after us when we’re old. Or have Christmas dinner with us when we’re 70. I wonder about having no grandchildren and then I miss my own grandparents so much. I feel guilty all the time about all the time I have when all the mothers around me seem to have none. I wonder about a lot of things and my head hurts. My brain hurts. My heart aches and my arms are empty…

 “I teach craft,” I answer as she picks up her scissors and starts cutting my hair.

Meanwhile I hope desperately she doesn't ask me any more questions. I don’t want to talk about it for the sake of small talk. It’s not small talk to me.

I bought some slippers the other day – “Buying your own Mother’s Day present, are you?”

I donated a bit of money to someone collecting at the door – “Thanks for that and Happy Mother’s Day to you.”

Both times I just smiled, and then I sighed as I walked away. What else do you do?

Keep walking, that’s all. 

And breathe a prayer and say, “Lord, I know You know how I feel.”

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