Saturday, 23 June 2012

21st June 2012 - the day I lost my virginity .......

...... and it didn't hurt anywhere near as much as I had been anticipating! I'm assured too, that the more I do it - the more pleasurable it is. Now I appreciate that from a rather mature woman, this may seem slightly bemusing, but the fact is I've never had the right combination of self confidence, opportunity and material until now. The First Conference on Applied Qualitative Research in Psychology at the University of Derby proved an ideal occasion for me to pop my conference presentation cherry as it were.
The weeks leading up to the event found me riddled with doubts and nerves, and more worryingly - plagued by images of a recent Rocky Horror Picture Show event where Rocky Horror "virgins" were ceremoniously debased and humiliated! I lost count of the number of times I considered withdrawing ..... and this still seemed a good option for me even on the morning of the conference. Somehow, from somewhere not often previously encountered, I managed to find the resolve required.

I bucked my trend - and on arrival did, in fact, actually manage to make eye contact with someone and initiate a conversation. For those who know me, they will appreciate the enormity of this achievement. Thank you Kirsty - you did not appear to be aware of the hurdle that I had overcome, and I enjoyed hearing about your proposed PhD. My enjoyment continued throughout the morning, quelling the nerves and settling the butterflies a little, as I absorbed myself in the presentations. Some interesting and thought provoking research - the sort that you want to rush home and share with colleagues, well, with anyone who will listen really. And from my perspective, great application of methodology which has firmly re-fuelled my enthusiasm and sparked the grey matter to generate further research ideas.

As for my presentation - "Mad, Bad and Not My Problem: A Q Methodology Exploration of Teachers’ Negative Attitudes Towards Students with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties" (here)? It was "ok" - better than I had anticipated, with plenty of room for improvement - a "satisfactory" first attempt. For me, a relieved sense of "I did it!" - one to be ticked off the list.

A special thanks to Donna and Helen, who distracted me from my nervous physiological symptoms by engaging me in interesting dialogue about their research and experiences. It was great to meet you - and I hope our paths cross again.

My advice to friends and collegues who keep putting it off - go for it! It's never too late - and life is about new experiences. Grab an opportunity, take on a challenge - grow.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Happy Fathers' Day?

For quite a while now I've been contemplating blogging. On Saturday 16 June 2012, the eve of Fathers' Day, the impetus I needed to start writing happened upon me.  It was a poignant, tear-pricking, chord-striking moment.

I was on a pre-planned visit to London with a dear friend, unaware that it was Trooping of the Colour in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year.  I was aware, however, of the Fathers4Justice march from the Olympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Square to Downing Street.  I cannot put hand on heart and say I support everything that Fathers4Justice do, but I can state that  I follow news of their campaigns closely.  I may not agree with all of their statements and all of their actions - but I firmly believe in a child's right to a close, loving, appropriate relationship with both parents and their wider families - irrespective of the relationship between those parents.

I count myself as fortunate and lucky: I have an amicable separation with my former partner - and my children enjoy a "normal" relationship with us both.  Neither of us would contemplate frustrating any contact with the other.  Our children can be with each of us, as and when they wish - they can talk to us, telephone us, email and text us whenever they choose.  We both share daily routines and special occasions with our children.  We both share their excitement, their disappointments, their normalities and their out-of-the-ordinaries.  It wasn't until I met my dear friend and his daughter that I realised this isn't always so.

I witnessed at first-hand a young girl who enjoyed her dad, who openly showed her affection and love towards him, who laughed and cried with him, who hugged him.  A young girl who was manipulated, taught to hate, to denigrate, to deny - to ultimately reject her loving father and become estranged.  A young girl, I can only presume, who could no longer manage the emotional stress involved in trying to maintain both relationships in the face of such hostility. 

When my friend expressed his wish to witness the F4J march - I was happy to accompany him.  When he decided to join the march, I walked the route and waited for him.  To be truthful - few people I passed along the way showed any interest in the rally.  Few seemed to question the purpose, the cause, the issues at play.  Most people just went about their day, enjoying their visit to Whitehall on this day of celebration.

As I walked ahead of the march, returning from Downing Street to Trafalgar Square, there was one man however, who was in clear distress.  His distress had nothing whatsoever to do with the F4J march.  This poor man was rapidly scurrying along a crowded Whitehall, clearly anxious and concerned, fretfully shouting "Harry! Harry!"  and again "Harry! Harry!" - again and again.  Much the same as the march, most people ignored him, showed no interest.  Whatever his problem, his issue, it was nothing to do with them.  Just one woman pushed forward and asked - "Are you looking for a little boy?" I could not keep back my tears.

In that one brief moment I was acutely aware of this dad's distress at losing his young son for just a few minutes - and profoundly aware of how magnified the distress, the loss, the grief of all those people taking part in that march.  All of them who had lost their child not just for a few moments - but for months, for years, for some - forever. Unlike that fretful dad so quickly re-united with his son - so many dads, including many on this march, faced yet another Fathers' Day full of sorrow, not joy.