Let me introduce you to the enigmatic Opinionated Man from Harsh Reality. We have a few things in common; one is that we both started our blogs in January of this year. The other is that he has had over 380,000 hits with 23,780 followers to date. Well, ok, maybe the similarity stopped with us starting our blogs at the same time, but a girl can dream, right?
I did try to ask OM once how he does it, you know, try get out of him the secret of his phenomenal blogging success, but to no avail, although I do see that he has now written a book! Many of us who follow his blog have come to the same conclusion that he probably never sleeps and come to think of it, I don’t think that he has ever actually denied this…
So then, the reason for this post is that I want to tell you about a little something called ‘Project O‘, which OM is running throughout the month of September. I say ‘little’ but actually this is massive, more like a global survey that he is conducting to try to find out how our opinions are formed and how much our nationality, culture, age-group etc. affects our opinions.
My first thought was, however, doesn’t everybody today have an opinion, clamouring to be heard above all others, desperate to get their point across, demanding respect…you know, I’ll respect you if you respect me, don’t diss me (is that the right term?) yeah, yeah, yeah, oh be quiet already…
To me, the problem isn’t so much as in being able to express an opinion (coming from this Western culture in which I live, naturally) but that above all this cacophony, I have to ask, “Is anybody actually listening, I mean, really listening?” How else shall we learn from one another, earn and show the respect of and to others, if we don’t listen to one another?
Because of this, I admit, I thought long and hard about this project and I wondered why would anyone be that interested in reading about my opinions here? My family and friends already know what they are and some of you, my lovely readers, already know a few things about me, so I certainly don’t want to go on about the same old same old.
If it’s all about ‘me, me, me’ isn’t that a bit like being invited over to someone’s house only to end up looking at endless photographs of relatives you have never met and being bored out of your mind?
Besides, when I started this blog I just wanted to tell stories, share life experiences, write from my heart. My Aspie Daughter warned me not to express personal opinions as it would invite ‘trouble’. Turns out she has 4 blogs, with anything from 700 to 300 followers on each (none on WordPress but I know one is on Tumblr) She says she gets quite a bit of abuse but then her subjects are very controversial. She says she can take it but she was looking out for me, it turned out, concerned about ‘trolls’ and such and the effect such abuse might have on me. Hmmmm….
I never wanted my blog to be a confessional. Somebody told me recently not to post anything on the internet that I wouldn’t shout across a bar to someone. Well, I’ve shouted quite a few things across a bar in my time, and I certainly wouldn’t shout what I’m about to share, but suddenly I feel compelled to be brutally honest and tell you a little more about the real me. Dangerous!
Here then, for what it’s worth, is my humble opinion:
(The questions are part of the Template provided by OM, his questions being the same of everyone, and my answers are in italics.)
Question 1: Please provide a window into who you are, some background information in a not too overwhelming profile here. I am allowing you as the writer to immediately connect with your audience so take advantage. Remember the point of ordering these questions is to arrange this project so it is easy for comparison and not to constrain you as the writer. Write as long as you need to for each question to get your point across just remember not to lose the reader.
How long have you got? I have felt rootless and restless all my life and I couldn’t tell you my hometown because I don’t feel that I have one. I was born in Surrey, England where I lived until my parents split up when I was 10 years old. We (my mum, brother and I) moved to Suffolk where we lived in a 14th century oak beamed farmhouse surrounded by fields and woods for the next 10 years.
My father became an alcoholic. He is now 81 and has spent the best part of 40 years in and out of prison for alcohol-related crimes. He remains in prison to this day.
My mum remarried. When I was 16 she sent him packing and this was one of the best days of my life. When I was 19 I met an American GI who took me home to meet his family in LA. We fell in love, made plans. Then he contracted Leukaemia. We got married in Las Vegas, lived in LA and had 11 months together until the day he died in 9th June 1981 at the age of 21. Watching someone I loved go through that when we were both so young profoundly affected me.
I returned to England, distraught and lost. I married the man who helped me through that dark time, also an American with Hispanic and Greek heritage. We had our first child, a son, 9 months to the day. My son’s birth saved me. He gave me back my life, a reason for living. Two years after he was born I was saved again, this time by Jesus. Yes, I was. This did not go down well with my then-husband’s Greek Orthodox faith.
When my little boy was 3 years old we moved back to California and settled on the Central Coast for the next 17 years. Another son and then our daughter arrived, our finest accomplishments. My years in California were some of my happiest, despite a very difficult marriage, so perhaps where we lived would be my ‘hometown’. After 22 years my difficult marriage ended and I, together with my children, returned to the UK in 2003 where I have lived ever since. My ex-husband and I have remained friends, and I remarried, again, in 2006. I am an optimist who just keeps trying. If you tell me I can’t do something that is guaranteed to make me try my very best to succeed.
Question 2: If you haven’t already done so please provide your country of origin, whether you are male or female, an age would be nice, and where you currently live if that differs from the country of origin. If you are in America this might be a nice time to explain what state you are from. Also try to give us a brief view of your current neighborhood and what it is like in as specific terms as you like. Why is this important? I believe our surroundings and where we come from have a strong impact on our development of opinions. It would also be highly likely that depending on the safety of the country might also determine how willing one is to express their opinions aloud. Does sex also have something to do with this, as well as age? These are all characteristics that can definitely affect a person’s outlook.
I am English with some Irish blood flowing through my veins thanks to my Irish paternal grandmother. I live in the West Country of England with my husband (we are both 53) and my 21 year old ‘Aspie’ daughter (she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when she was 18), along with various pets in a typical English brick house on a residential estate in a small town. Our neighbourhood is safe and quiet, filled with a cross-section of young families to retired couples and we have beautiful countryside nearby. Sometimes people walk down our street coming home from the pub and can be loud but that is no problem to us. Once upon a time in California, we lived next door to the ‘neighbour from hell’. He used to wear black military gear and shoot a high-powered rifle from his roof at the ‘wild pigs’ in the park across from our house. So a few people making some noise late at night is nothing. Bring it on.
Question 3: Recount the first time you remember having a differing opinion from someone significantly older than you. Do you remember what the topic was about? Did you voice your opinion or hold it to yourself?
My self-esteem and my innocence was destroyed by a man who was in authority over me. He was my step-father but he was no father. He once told me at the dinner table that since my manners were ‘like a pig’s’ I should be treated like a pig and he made me take my plate of food and eat it sitting on the toilet. One day, when I was 12 years old, we had a major difference of opinion. I told him that if he ever came near me again I would kill him. She rose up, that quiet, compliant skinny girl and she became stronger than she ever thought possible and from that day forward she knew that her opinion did in fact matter, more than she had ever dared believe.
Question 4: What levels of respect were practiced around you when you were a child? Was there bowing involved, handshakes, “yes Sirs and yes Ma’ams,” or some other equivalent respectfulness in your culture’s tongue? Is an honorific given to someone older than you and do you often respect and practice that? How might the culture you were brought up in have affected the growth of your own opinions?
When I was at school in the 60s and 70s we were taught to always stand up when the headmaster or headmistress entered the room. The only people I called ‘Sir’ or ‘Miss’ were teachers. We were scared of our teachers, or at least most of them. Apart from the ones who lost control of the classroom and so did not deserve our respect. I showed respect towards my mother, otherwise I would know about it if I didn’t. I never had a father’s discipline and so without my mum’s I would have been a real horror.
I think if we all went around saying, “I will only respect someone if they respect me” then nobody would respect anybody. If you don’t respect your children when they are young how can you expect them to respect you when they are older? If you scream and shout at your kids and swear at them why are you surprised when they do the same to you and their teachers, anyone in authority, when they are teenagers?
The only person I would bow to would be the Queen. I was taught to respect elders, yes. I also taught my children to have good manners, be polite and show respect for their elders. Is this old-fashioned? You bet. Does that make it wrong? No way.
Question 5: How traveled are you and to what degree do you keep up with international news? You might also provide an educational background if you wish and if that education was gained from somewhere other than your current location. How available is the news and what goes on in the outside world to you in your country?
I left school at 16 and worked for 3 years before going back to college full-time where I gained a diploma in Business Administration. I have traveled to several States, throughout Europe and to the Caribbean yet I have never been to Spain! I love meeting people from other countries. I instilled a love of history in each of my children by taking them to places of historical interest on both sides of the Atlantic. I wanted them to appreciate their roots and family’s backgrounds. I think it is very important to keep up with international news which I do by reading a daily newspaper and watching the BBC news, here in the UK it is accessible 24 hours. When I lived in the States I lived for news of Princess Diana as she was my link to home. I was devastated when she died.
Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.
I talked about the value of listening to one another in my blog post about this project. This spills over into my opinion about mothers and their young children. I see them all the time walking through town, in the parks, strolling along on the pavement. The children wondering about aimlessly lost in their quiet thoughts, not paying much attention to anything, their mothers staring blankly into the face of their mobile phones. When these mothers finally do look away from their phones, they end up screaming or shouting at their children who have wondered off.
It breaks my heart. For both mother and child. We all get frustrated with young children sometimes, we all need a break, but don’t they realise that their children will grow up quicker than they know and that they will soon enough be wishing that they were little again to spend more time with them? The only problem is that by then it will be too late. By that time it is the mothers who will be doing the chasing and it will be the children who will be far too busy to notice, staring blankly, as they will, into their mobile phones.
Question 7: What does the right to an opinion mean to you? Is it essential to freedom to have this right? How far would you go to protect that ability? The world is on fire with people of passion, how passionate are you about things you value?
The right to have an opinion means everything to me. I felt for a very long time when I was growing up that I didn’t have an opinion, that anything I said didn’t matter or have any significance. I was the compliant, good, quiet little girl who handled everything thrown at me so well, apparently. Inside I was a screaming, angry, desperate little girl. I had a voice, but it wasn’t heard for a very long time. I raised my children to be able to share their opinions knowing that they would be respected and listened to, even if it wasn’t necessarily something I, or others, would agree with. Even now, when we are all together as a family we love nothing better than to have great heated discussions, putting the world to rights. The rage I once held inside has now grown into a healthy passion for those things that matter to me, and I can now express that passion without fear of being subjugated and being told how stupid I am. This, surely, is what having freedom is all about? I would make sure, God willing and the creek don’t rise, to live in a country where these freedoms are protected.
Question 8: Is it ever right for you to be allowed an opinion while someone else is denied that same right on the same topic?
Absolutely not. How could that ever be right. That would be a total loss of freedom.
Question 9: The last question. upon completing this template and hopefully contemplating the issue what does this project mean to you? How can Project O potentially enlighten or help the world?
I have never done anything quite like this before and although I feel just a little uncomfortable about it, to be honest, I also do feel quite liberated. Part of me thinks I will regret taking part, for some of the things I’ve shared here. Is this safe? I don’t know. It is certainly risky. This is just what I write about on my blog anyway, the struggles we have in our daily lives as writers, as people. The risks we take. Perhaps this then, is how this project could help the world. By sharing our opinions and gaining a deeper understanding of one another, we can take this risk together, and share the outcome, one person at a time.
Thank you OM for Project O.