Project O – In My Humble Opinion

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.

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
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36 Responses to Project O – In My Humble Opinion

  1. Did you already submit this in? 🙂

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  2. Sherri, I knew I liked you. After reading this, I absolutely love, love, love you. Once you see my Project O post, you’ll know why. You are a blessed sister in Christ, a wonderful writer, and woman of grace and transparency who lets light and love shine through you.

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh dear Susan, I am staggered, truly. Everything conspired against me yesterday when all I wanted to do was to get this post finished and published here and then sent to OM. It took me until 2.30 this morning, when my hand hovered over the ‘publish’ button, hesitated momentarilly, and then I hit it.
      When I woke up this morning the first thought that went through my head was ‘oh no, what have I done?’. This is because I have never publicly written about some of the things in this post. So when I read your response here I broke down and wept. This post took something out of me and I am raw, yet this the real me. Now, at last and after all these long years, I can hold my head up high and say,”This is it, the rooster has come home to roost”. This is my validation.
      Bless you, you will never know what your encouragement and support means to me at this hour, what healing your words have brought to my soul. I don’t take any of this lightly, as I know from reading your blog that you are a truly courageous, beautiful woman who has been lifted out of the mire and put back on her feet, there by the grace of God. Thank you dear sister and I eagerly await reading your post.

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  3. Nevermind, I got it. 🙂

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  4. xbox2121 says:

    Sherri, This is awesome post. I ave always tried to be very open and honest in all of my post and a lot of this information I have posted on my site before. This is unique because it is all in one post. I think if everyone were this open about their lives it would give you a better idea who that person really is.I plan to book mark this post for two reasons.One is to refresh my lacking memory about you and the other is to borrow your template for a future post I will do on myself. I am not big into groups so I have no plans on joining this Project O but I do find the template very useful. Thanks so much for sharing a big part of your life.

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  5. Sherri says:

    I love your blog because you are so open and honest and oh how I do respect that! Yes, this post is unusual, and long (not the norm!) and it took a lot out of me. I didn’t expect that, or think that it would, thinking that it was just about some simple opinions. Oh but I think that OM knows just what he is doing, and the profound effect his ‘little’ project is having on all of us!!
    I know just what you mean about not being big into groups, I, by nature am not either, but as I shared in my pre-amble to this survey, I somehow felt compelled to take part in this despite my initial hesitancy. Now, I am very glad that I did.
    Thank you xb (my nickname for you, hope that’s ok?) so much for your kind and supportive words here, this means a great deal to me. I look forward very much to reading your future post when you complete the template, as I’m sure you have a very interesting story to tell and some profound opinions to share with your readers 🙂

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  6. mumblypeg says:

    You are brave to take part in the survey. Maybe if I was a blogger I would do so too. We are very fortunate to have so-called freedom of speech, however I do think that political correctness has eroded some of that freedom. You are so right about how bad so many of us are at really listening.In my opinion there are few really good listeners around these days.xxx

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    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so much! This certainly took me by surprise. Project O has been quite a revelation with the issues it has raised. To think that it will be running for the entire month of September…watch this space 🙂 xxx

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  7. Heyjude says:

    As you know my blog(s) is about travel (and flowers and photos and urban bits and pieces) so this is not something I would blog about. A lot of what you have written I already knew either from your previous posts or our conversations. A lot of what you say resonates with me; we have similar experiences though through different circumstances. Like you I am rootless and restless, I can’t call anywhere ‘home’ and like you I have opinions on many issues and the freedom to express them, should I wish to. I’m glad that some people take the time to comment on blogs (yours, mine, others) as that IMO tells me that people ARE listening and not just blindly ‘liking’. I have liked this post and I have listened to your words. Thanks for sharing, Sherri.
    Jude xx

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh Jude, one of the reasons that I woke up this morning with this dread thought of ‘oh no what have I done’ is precisely that this is not what I would normally post and I didn’t want to lose my lovely regular readers who I know wouldn’t normally read something or follow something like this. So I am so very relieved to see you here! As I said in my ‘caveat’ above the template, I knew that a lot of what I was going to share was already known by my regular readers and on reflection, perhaps I should have just posted my introduction and waited for OM to post my template on his blog. It is scheduled but I don’t know when. But I have second-guessed myself so many times and then regretted it so I decided to go ahead anyway.
      All that to say, thank you so much for letting me know your thoughts and for listening! It is very interesting that we both have that same rootlessness…the fact that your lovely blogs are so far removed from this kind of post (and in a strange way I burst out laughing as it is so ironic isn’t it, your lovely travel, flower and photography blogs against the ‘harsh reality’ of this post) and yet you still dropped by and read this really does mean a lot to me. Trust me, my next post will be very different to this one, I am spent 🙂 xx

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      • Heyjude says:

        I like your blog BECAUSE it is rather eclectic – you mix up ‘normal’ stuff like bugs in the garden with personal stuff, like this and your daughter. I never know what to expect when I read it 🙂

        A large glass of wine, box of chocolates, feet up and a good romantic novel – my advice for this evening 😉

        and get your lovely girl to cook dinner…

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        • Sherri says:

          Ha! Thanks so much Jude, yes, I do like to mix things up and keep you guessing, this is very true!!
          What a wonderful idea…except in my case it would probably be a nice, dark crime novel!! And funny you should say bugs… 😉
          You have a lovely evening too xx

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  8. jennypellett says:

    This is a fascinating insight into you, Sherri and I can see it would have taken a lot to put it all down in type but I do wonder about OM’s agenda. Is he fishing for material for his unfinished novel, I wonder, or maybe he is training to be a counsellor. (How cynical am I? – sorry!)
    He ‘followed’ my blog a while ago but has never liked or commented on a post – my understanding of blogging is that it is a reciprocal thing so because of that, I don’t follow his. His questions are clever and detailed – I’ve had another look at Harsh Reality (so l have inflated his ‘hits’), but I’m still not sure what he hopes the end product of this will be.
    However, I admire you for being so honest. Carry on writing your own delightful blog posts – I so look forward to them in my reader!

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    • Sherri says:

      Jenny, you are not cynical, just very wise and extremey insightful. You voiced exactly what I initially thought and I was very hesitant about doing it at first and to be honest, I do wonder too what OM’s agenda really is. Perhaps he will tell us at the end of the ‘experiment’! I totally agree, OM’s questions are very clever indeed and he knows exactly what he is doing!
      Reading some of the responses already posted on Harsh Reality, I see that my answers are really quite plain and simple…maybe I’m not getting it!! But I wrote what I wanted to write and I am glad that I did, even though at 2.30 this morning (am I nuts or what??) I almost didn’t…
      Well, now that it’s done it’s done, I’ve shouted it across the bar and I’ve voiced my humble opinion. But boy, as with Jude, am I so glad to see you here!!
      I love what you said at the end, thanks Jenny, I really do appreciate that and don’t worry, I will get back to normal now – phew! – and trust me, my next post will be very, very different to this one 🙂 xx

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    • I wouldn’t attempt a book out of this study, at least not directly. Part of the reason I choose this format is because I realized the data would be daunting. I do feel the need to clarify something on blogging. I use the “follow” button as an open invite. I do not spam people with “likes” so every follower of mine read something they liked. So in answer to your comment on following, I would say the button’s function is what you make of it. Respond as you see fit, as with anything. All the best, -OM

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  9. Pingback: Why I don’t want 30,000 followers | listenwatchreadshare

  10. Denise says:

    Hi, Sherri. Your blog is you. That’s the sort of thing I’m looking for, I’m not so into the large scale blogs. I like to have blog relationships where people listen to each other. I like people to make me think and connect with, and your post really did that for me today. It must have taken a lot for you to put all that down. But in doing so, you got me thinking so much that the blog I was going to do today got forgotten!

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    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Denise, I really appreciate this. I honestly didn’t think that my post would generate so much to think about! I write about what I feel in my heart, that is all, I really can’t do more than that. As you will see, I’ve left a comment on your blog post today 😉

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  11. Denise says:

    Also (sorry was interrupted earlier) you have come through so much. The things we go through damage us, but they also make us, if we let them. Thinking about the death of your husband and the two awful role models for fathers. And how sensitive and understanding you are now and also wise.

    Thank you for sharing.

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    • Sherri says:

      Carrying on from above, just to say, at some point in my life I told myself, “The buck stops here” and I resolved that I was not going to be beaten. Have I been broken? You bet. My faith has carried me through but even then, at times, I have had many ‘wilderness’ experiences. If I know that something in my writing no matter how small, can reach someone, anyone, then I know that I have not been beaten. Again, thank you Denise for all you have shared here.

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  12. mvschulze says:

    I entered the blogging world early this year and quickly needed to resist addiction to a community of remarkable diversity, insight, depth, talent, knowledge, humanity, humility, honesty, opinions, observations, sharing…the list could go on. But mostly it’s about people, like you and me, the readers, followers, and likers, and the vague but unseen others who register the hits; and the participants; the interested, interesting. It’s not really the numbers, but the connections – the human threads in a kaleidoscope of backgrounds, complexity, opinions and the wonderful stories. The venue brings comparison, learning, enlightenment – and from a more technical standpoint, a spectrum of writing, photographic, and intellectual ability – all created and open to almost anybody: us, them, from anywhere.
    The most difficult aspect – is time allocation.
    This comment may not be perfectly constructed, but….participant perfection is not mandatory.
    It’s just a great club.
    Thanks, Sherri for your part, (which incidentally is awesome!) M

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    • Sherri says:

      Hi M, and thank you very much for your great commentary! I agree, blogging could easily become an addiction and it is very time consuming! I want to make sure that every comment I make here and on other people’s blogs is a ‘proper’ comment and not just something trite, every single person here matters to me. This takes time. Often I take so much time with the comments that I can’t get to my actual post, which is what has happened today, but I have a suspicion I am going to change my post anyway in light of the responses I’ve had here…
      You have been a great follower here and I have really enjoyed reading your blog too, especially your recent road trip posts! There is so much we can all learn from one another, so much we can gain, as you say, in each other’s knowledge, experiences and observations. I love my blogging community and the friends I have made here. No perfection necessary, just genuine community.
      See you ‘on the road’ 😉

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  13. thirdhandart says:

    I admire you, Sherri, for expressing your opinions… and for expressing them so well! Kudos! 🙂

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  14. Sherri says:

    Thanks Theresa, I really appreciate this 🙂

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  15. A woman of heart and soul and grit.

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