Advice and criticism - accept or resent?

14 Dec 2019
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A local woman, my kids' age, came in yesterday and almost accused me of living in too big a house. Odd, she lives in a big modern house with her husband, her mother lives alone in a big house, they have a big shop (shut) in the high street, with two flats above. They have other properties, let, they are rumoured to be 'grasping' landlords. I was pushed into this place by circumstance, it was empty for 7 years, I can't let it, share it or house refugees, for many reasons. There is loads of empty property in the town, because there is no work to draw people, and the infrastructure, what there was, is collapsing (station shut now). I'm still happy here, because many of the problems of old age will not affect me living in the middle of the town.

But the remark led me to wonder what it is about me that seems to draw criticism. My first garden (done when I was 20) was great, designed as 'fun for all'. We got more land, and put in a tennis court. I did a Wimbledon on it, then I made cakes, friends poured in over the weekend, had a great time, ate all the cakes, and thanked me nicely. I don't think I ever played on the damned thing. We did a school rota. One of the fathers had been dreadfully shot up in the war, but he was so critical and cynical that if neighbours saw him approaching on his bike they all hid. Even he could not criticise my garden, but never would he praise it. My last garden, 'open ' ever week, often bought almost aggressive remarks 'It's a lot of work', the tone of voice was pitying that I should undertake such a task.

My mother-in-law could criticise for England. I did not feed my husband properly, my kids were badly brought up, my housekeeping was dreadful, I wore 'tarty' clothes, and put on too much make-up. She did all she could, with a like-minded crony, to stop our marrying, but she was out-manoeuvred. Luckily father-in-law was a darling, one of nature's 'gentlemen'. He'd suffered in WWI, I always spoiled him on visits, probably did not add to my popularity.

My mother was pure Mrs Grundy. She was included in all family occasions; I was a nervous wreck at the end of her visits. As a family we went to town on entertaining – Mummy would sit and glower – 'What do you want to go to all that trouble for?' Cooking, food presentation, table laying, flowers everywhere, fireworks at weddings if I could get away with it. And, always, the disapproving force in the background.

I have been feeling guilty about having had super houses, much travelled, and having a big family. It was watching the Ken Loach film 'Sorry we missed you' (before that,' I, Daniel Blake') and hearing all the election promises for a Utopian world that's got to me. I expect I will recover.

The Gardener

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Comments

Lex

Dec. 14, 2019, 6:19 a.m.

Dear Gardener, reading about relationships, I am reminded of an acronym used by technical chaps: PICNIC. It stands for "Problem in chair, not in computer." By this I mean, THEIRS was the problem - the problem was in them, not in you. To have a heart to give, to celebrate, to create, to be generous... this is to have a good heart. I henceforth change your name in my mind from The Gardener to The Good Gardener. Sending you deep appreciation. Lovingly Lex!

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The Gardener

Dec. 14, 2019, 8:25 a.m.

Lex, you are an absolute darling! Love the PICNIC, think it applicable in my case. Thinking of you for Monday. I hope, like me, you can 'bask', as I did with Mr G, in the outpouring of love and respect. Go well xx

Lex

Dec. 14, 2019, 8:51 a.m.

Thank you, Dear Gardener. Had an outburst of grief last night like nothing I've ever heard - a real wail from deep within. I think it was a healing experience and I slept much better last night. I do hope this means I can be stronger for my sister on Monday. Much love xx

Lex

Dec. 14, 2019, 8:51 a.m.

Dear Good Gardener, that is...!!

The Gardener

Dec. 14, 2019, 9:23 a.m.

Lex, you'll be OK. I was petrified about the funeral (catholic) as people file past the coffin and greet the family - saw it as an ordeal. Then, nothing but love and thanks for a life (and, in my case, relief from suffering.) Courage mon ami

The Gardener

Dec. 14, 2019, 9:24 a.m.

Also, Lex, your grief - there was a lot to be said for the habit of wailing - emotions MUST be let out - to **** with the stiff upper lip!

Kate

Dec. 14, 2019, 9:36 a.m.

Hi Gardener,I’m new to this and not responded before - so hope this is ok: 1. Maybe they pick up on your need for approval, and 2. Because you go to so much effort in all you do (lovely), some people might feel bad that they don’t and therefore want to say something mean to make themselves feel better 3. It’s their problem - not yours. Says so much more about them than you, in fact all it says about you is you like making such an effort for others and care about people other than yourself 4. The fact that you worry about it shows you think of others (but if it goes too far could take its toll on you so maybe be try to be more confident in your own choices - I’m not great at this either, but I’m learning). 5. It’s possible because it seems you grew up with people who were critical, you notice these comments more than the positives, (deletion of positive, distortion of negatives -all happening subconsciously). The ‘disapproving force always in the background’ - shadows of childhood lingering Finally - sounds like you have a lot going for you and are not in any way complacent so keep on keeping on! Live your memories of holidays, parties, families, re-enact whenever you can and let others make their comments if it makes them feel better. You don’t need to accept them as being about you. So I would say “accept” but as being about them, not you. Hope these comments welcome, just an opinion of a random reader

Valerie

Dec. 14, 2019, 10:05 a.m.

I am glad to hear you have had some release in the form of pure animal grief,much better out than in.Thinking of you on Monday too Lex,and looking forward to you being back again.Big Hug,Val ***

Lex

Dec. 14, 2019, 11:58 a.m.

Thanks, Valerie! I'm taking a break from blogging for this specific Monday, but I'll be back!!! ***

Molly

Dec. 14, 2019, 7:39 p.m.

Great response Kate xx Lovely Lex, thinking of you xx

Mimine

Dec. 14, 2019, 7:57 a.m.

It sounds like people are/were just jealous of the results you achieved and the efforts you chose to put in. What a big heart you have to open your houses to people, share fun and life with them. Please let it fly over your head. People may think it comes easy to people like you but it takes effort to entertain, It may be that some people think it costs lots to achieve what you come up with and forget it is above all enthusiasm and imagination that are required. Your gardens sound beautiful and again how wonderful to open them to friends and family. Don’t let anyone put you down or criticise what you have achieved and shared. You sound like someone who loves to share life and fun. Big families also require a lot of time, effort and sacrifice and can make people who don’t have one very envious. Please don’t change. I would try to ignore the criticism and surround myself with positive, likeminded people. Don’t let it get you down.

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Valerie

Dec. 14, 2019, 10:08 a.m.

Here here Mimi,you have said everything I was going to say to TG.I hope she takes it on board,she is a person who puts a lot into life,and deserves to get some pleasure in return.x

The Gardener

Dec. 14, 2019, 8:32 a.m.

Mimine, I think you are absolutely right. I used to think I ought to 'tone down' my efforts - but when hundreds of people poured in, went 'Wow' (last daughter's 21st spectacular) then whooped the night away, I think, ****, that's my life, I can produce what others enjoy. First parties, house with no electricity, we would drive the tractors up and shine them through the hedge, cart all the beds out of the house and make an arab tent using an old tarpaulin. Kids loved the preparations and the party.Thanks.

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Mimine

Dec. 15, 2019, 11:08 a.m.

How resourceful of you and fun! I do admire you for your imagination.

Orangeblossom

Dec. 14, 2019, 8:42 a.m.

Thanks for the blog which entirely resonates for me today TG. I also like the acronym PICNIC which I have made a note of in my diary. I have a policy which I try to emulate as much as possible; “if you don’t have anything positive or constructive to say, keep your mouth shut. Words can be as damaging as sticks & stones. Our inner beings take longer to recover than our physical body does sometimes.

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Lex

Dec. 14, 2019, 8:52 a.m.

Dear Orangeblossom... I agree! Words have power. Let's use them to heal, to edify, to encourage... just as you so regularly do in your comments and posts.

Dido

Dec. 14, 2019, 10:49 a.m.

PICNIC added to my strategy list, I love the idea of a name change... The good gardener sounds very appropriate! Best wishes Lynne

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The Gardener

Dec. 14, 2019, 12:20 p.m.

Kate, how well you have summed up my 'dilemma'. Here, during the ten or more years that we flowered the facade of our historic house many people could not credit that we would do it for nothing. Cranky brits? Anyway, through the grape-vine we heard that some actually went to the Mayor and suggested that the town paid us! The Mayor, a friend, put the record straight. But we had a good laugh together, because he got the kudos for adding beauty to the only listed building in town. Odd, how many people cannot believe that giving pleasure to others a reward in itself. Very pi! xx

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Oli

Dec. 14, 2019, 12:38 p.m.

Hi Gardener. If I’m feeling charitable I think that criticism often comes from a lack of understanding. I think, “You wouldn’t judge me if you understood me better.” Goes both ways too. It can be difficult to understand another’s perspective. I think my basic outlook is that humans agree about just a couple of really important things but that everything else can cause arguments and criticism. I'm pretty sure this is why I live a solitary life!

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Molly

Dec. 14, 2019, 8:12 p.m.

Very true Oli, I like to remind myself of this xx

The Gardener

Dec. 14, 2019, 1:03 p.m.

Hello Oli, I am leading a solitary life! Christmas market here. My shop is bright, lots colourful stuff, candles, joss-sticks, notices on door and outside, even offer of a 'vin d'amitie' (welcome drink). Not a soul! Think I have the plague. Re-reading own books, and, no false pride, still read very well. Have laid out drinks and 'nibbles' including truffles - only iron will stop me eating the lot of the latter!

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Oli

Dec. 14, 2019, 3:45 p.m.

I hope I’ll have a book written by this time next year so I admire that you have achieved something I don’t quite believe I’ll manage. I saw something that made me smile this morning: it was a picture from my old mentor showing two glass jars. The jar on the left held a few coins and was labelled “Swear Jar”; the other, in contrast was nearly full and was labelled “Telling People About Science When I Wasn’t Asked.” That’s me that is. Last night at a gig a punter comes up in the break between sets and asks what I’m up to these days and the poor sod gets the full on book plan from me. Got to be a quid in the jar for that one. I should know better. The conversation is supposed to go: “Alright?” “Yeah, alright. And you?” “Alright too.” :-)

The Gardener

Dec. 14, 2019, 4:09 p.m.

Oli, silly chump should not have asked. I DO try, when I get on any of my many hobby horses to stop when peoples' eyes glaze over but they are too polite to move on.

Molly

Dec. 14, 2019, 8:19 p.m.

Knowing you on here Oli, your answer would have been very interesting. He asked what you had been up to, not how you were. I bet he appreciated you saying more than two words. That then ends the conversation and one then talks about the weather!!! I hate seeing you put yourself down, you have such insight into everything, sometimes deep (for me) but never boring xx

Oli

Dec. 14, 2019, 8:54 p.m.

Thank you Molly. I genuinely appreciate it. I know you are sincere. xx

Leah

Dec. 14, 2019, 9:27 p.m.

Oli, I think it is healthy to laugh at yourself as long you have a balanced insight that you appear to have. In my shop customers say how are you and I usually say good and how are you, but if I am having a slow morning the poor customer will get a lecture.

Bailey

Dec. 14, 2019, 3:35 p.m.

Dear Gardener; I always love your writing. How sad that negativity seems to prevail in life: on the news, in conversations. We must learn better to fight human nature on this matter and seek more to bless and encourage. In low german, to "heal," means to weep. Blessings, Bailey

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The Gardener

Dec. 14, 2019, 4:12 p.m.

Thanks Bailey, I agree. There are many photos existing of my mother enjoying family occasions, but always the gloom and doom beforehand. I don't think a photo exists of my m-in-law smiling, too busy keeping up standards. Really sad. Namaste

Liz

Dec. 14, 2019, 4:19 p.m.

Hi Gardener I really look forward to your posts with all the snippets. My first thought was *** how jealous some other people can be. They also don't see the struggles behind closed doors. I'm like an elephant - never forgot what people said to me and how it made me feel, especially my mother... "you can't compete" (her words about my comment how I wished I looked like my second cousin and that it wasn't fair - if I remember my comments rightly). The sting never went out that comment. Sad to think I tried to emulate her all these years until I thought... hey I'm not too bad. Glamour is great but vanity comes at a price. You can have a pretty wrapping but the contents can be **** inside! We used to have neighbours when we first came down to England. He was an editor of the local newspaper and his wife was gorgeous. They put on discos for the children in the village which we would love going to and are very happy memories for me in an otherwise complicated time - I'll always be grateful for those. I bet lots of people were nice to their face and ******** behind their back. I can only think it is jealousy. You sound pretty amazing to me - I'd love to meet you in person. x

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The Gardener

Dec. 14, 2019, 4:33 p.m.

Thanks Liz, too flattering! So frustrated today, not seen a soul. I went and checked my shop outside, and it looked pretty welcoming, and well worth a walk round (part museum as well). I DO try to put my Mum in perspective, but mean, confidence wrecking remarks return. One particular dress, elicited 'ooh, where DID you get that super dress' from others, would get 'what do you think you look like' from Mum. Why on earth did I take any notice? She would never admit that any woman looked nice. 'It's alright for her', never understood, slim? Money? Social thing?x

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Liz

Dec. 15, 2019, 4:37 a.m.

Hi Gardener... hah I know those comments too well.. my mum once said to my friends "you're not going out with her looking like that are you?" in front of me!! I was told I was anorexic looking all the time by her. My mum was incredibly overweight (due to the drinking but I didn't know that at the time) and five and a half inches shorter than me. I would love to have seen myself (go back in time) because I've been slim all my life but certainly never anorexic (only once when I was ill with TB could you have said I looked like that). I realise that my mum's mum was a disliker of woman so perhaps some of that rubbed off on mum. I wonder what she would think of me now. The rebel isn't far away, I'm still dying my hair after her telling me not to and have four tattoos and working on more. She'd hate that! x

Molly

Dec. 14, 2019, 7:21 p.m.

Dear Gardener Excluding your mother and mother in law, are you sure these were criticisms or just the way you perceived them because you were brought up with being criticised. Only you will know the tone but commenting on how big your house is and how much work goes into your garden, could well have been compliments that you have taken the wrong way. You should feel proud to still be so active. My mother has always been critical. It’s strange the small things we remember that had a big effect on us. One example is when I bought my first flat, I was so proud of myself, yet when she came to visit she didn’t like it. I don’t know what she was expecting, I was very young with a standard job, she could have lied!! We need approval from our parents somehow. If someone criticises my mother, her house, or anything in her house, or doesn’t comment on something new she has bought, she is horrified! She can’t believe it. I once told her it’s exactly what she does, and like a child, she got very defensive “no I don’t”. Perhaps we need constant approval to an extent, especially if we never got it ourselves as children, as I’m sure I didn’t and I’m sure my mother didn’t. Some good comments here Gardener. Molly xx

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The Gardener

Dec. 14, 2019, 9:28 p.m.

Sitting here in tears, such an emotional time. My eldest son and his wife will go down the drive of the farm in the removal van tomorrow, severing 73 years of ties, being where I met his father all that time ago. 29 years ago he drove the van with us for France, Mr G following in our car with the cat. My son was very emotional. A year ago he drove me down the same drive, in great misery, as I left for the last time. Fences have not been mended, I just feel all that CANNOT be thrown away. Sorry, oh dear. Thank you all. xx

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Molly

Dec. 14, 2019, 11:13 p.m.

I can’t tell precisely from this comment but everything has to move on Gardener. My husband is terrible for that. He loves the way it used to be and tries to hold onto it. It’s just not realistic. I look back and well, that was then, and this is now. The situation with your son has made things so much more difficult but those memories you have will never be taken away from you (or him) regardless xx

Liz

Dec. 15, 2019, 4:46 a.m.

Can't add much more to what Molly has said Gardener. Isn't it about acceptance and knowing you have done your best to try to mend the fence but others perhaps are not so willing. Something has to change but it doesn't always come from the people you most want and need it from. The memories as Molly says will always be there. Hugs from the Highlands x

Ach UK

Dec. 15, 2019, 7:49 a.m.

Echo Liz and Molly TG. Hugs TG. May you find some comfort crumbs in today. XX Ach.

Ach UK

Dec. 15, 2019, 8:29 a.m.

TG, My parents moved a fair few times in their lives, and the first day after they arrived my father would go out and walk every field, taking stock of trees and pasture and noting soil state and drainage . .. He was mindful of those who had managed the land before and always appreciative of good husbandry. I am sure the incomers will walk " your " farm and see each time more of the love and labour of those before them Hugs TG , time goes on and I must too. XX Ach.

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