Sunday, 17 September 2017

We call them shoulders. We can shrug them.

Not everybody loves you. Not everybody thinks you are the dogs bollocks. Universal popularity is an unattainable goal. You probably need to make peace with that. I venture this because I am sick and tired of this creeping culture of offence we find ourselves drifting into. You can't say this, mustn't utter that. Someone's feelings will be hurt, some minority group will feel marginalised and perturbed. I'm actually of the opinion now that there really is such a thing as the professional victim, lurking in the shadows ready to leap out and throw up collective hands because somebody said something mean. Dear professional victim, I am cordially inviting you to fuck right off. To crawl back down the toilet from which you and your brittle ego emerged from. We live in a world where 8 billion brains are firing off at any given time, and they ain't all gonna' be singing from the same hymn sheet. This is reality, and it's untidy and filthy and oftentimes not to our taste. But it is what it is. And it's mostly OK. We have laws for the most egregious transgressions, and they largely work. But kiddo', just because uncle Rex remarks that he prefers traditional marriage, or Arsenal, or Chinese food over Indian doesn't mean you have to ejaculate your toys from the pram. You see, we have these things called shoulders. We can shrug them. We can listen to what a person says, and think to ourselves, "Well that's a pile of horseshit" and then get on with pruning the roses, or whatever it is you happened to be doing. The vast majority of the time people's opinions are just that; opinions. They carry no particular weight and in the greater scheme probably won't alter the course of world history. So how's about we just thicken our skin a little? A negative comment on Facebook or Twitter is not a weapon of mass destruction. Uncle Rex isn't Satan incognito. He's probably just a washed out old knob who probably had one sherbet too many before leaving the pub. Long story short, just calm down, precious. Just wind it in. Accept that your ego is rather unimportant in the greater scheme. Not everybody likes you. Not everybody needs to.Learning that is going to make your dealings with the universe a whole lot easier.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Two Things

The next week or so is going to contain a couple of significant landmarks. On the 27th August it will be 10 years since I lost my father, Bligh Barnes. Out of curiosity I did a google search on him and could find only one link, his name mentioned amongst a raft of others, all of them the inhabitants of Furze lane burial grounds in Winslow. The second landmark will be on the 3rd September, which will mark my 10 year anniversary of joining Thames Valley Police. Looking back, these two disparate events converged in a really odd way. I recall spending my lunch break during the very first week of basic training writing the eulogy for his funeral, trying to sum up the life of a whole person between learning about definitions for robbery, criminal damage, rape and the like. All a bit surreal, but then since when does life owe us normal? Either way, I survived both the training and then the delivery of the actual eulogy itself, the latter undertaken at the packed St Lawrence Church in Winslow. I recall one line above the other’s that came near the end of the speech, when I essentially encouraged everybody in the Church to live as if it means something. Yet have I? Have I even come close? I know I’ve tried, and I know also that I stand by the plea. I wonder: how many of us are guilty of doing the opposite? And do we even apprehend what it means to live fully? I suppose when I try to break that down it just mean trying to be authentic, to be real. Not to try being something I’m not. That just causes more hassle than its worth. Besides, we’re all on the conveyor belt otherwise known as mortality, and let’s face it we all know the destination. Which leaves the following choice; namely how to spend that time beforehand? Well for me I want to be the version of myself that is the most real, the most genuine, the most bullshit free. I’m not interested in conforming, or even not conforming. I just want to enjoy the journey and not be bound by some unwritten code of conduct. In actual fact, I find my mind lurching back to another of my old mantras, and I can even remember when I first verbalised it. I was in the office of my former Managing Director (And best boss I have ever and will ever work for). He asked me what I wanted from life, or something along those lines. I probably reflected for about a second before replying, “I just want to live my life without doing so at the expense of other people”. And to this day nothing has changed. Not overly detailed as master plans go, but in the absence of other options. . .

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Avoiding The Echo Chamber

Throughout the latter part of my life, I have found that I have learned an awful lot from people with whom I might disagree. By way of example, when I was an evangelical Christian I made a special effort to engage with atheists, with their most prominent voices, with a view to not only just fine tuning my own arguments, but in order to better understand theirs. You see, I was living in an echo chamber, surrounding myself with voices that agreed with me. This is no way to live. No fast track to growth. The outcome was that I rejected Christianity and set upon a path which resulted in me becoming a passionate critic of all religious ideas. Please note that i specifically use the word “ideas” rather than “people”. And this matters. Yet over the past decade I’ve noticed this really odd thing happening, a kind of entrenchment and protectionism from ideas that might hurt the feelings of others. This to me seems deranged. It seems a near perfect way to insulate one’s self from anything that might disrupt what a person already thinks. How does that equal growth? Another thing I’ve seen is a concerted effort on the part of some on the regressive left to actively seek to silence voices of dissent. Preventing certain persons from speaking at universities and college campuses. Aren’t these places meant to be seats of learning? Isn’t a university the perfect environment in which we can refine our views and test them against alternatives? Why would any fair minded person not want this, or actively seek to curtail certain voices of dissent? This phenomenon is particularly bad in the United States, but we see it here, too. And it worries me. The notion that we want to protect ourselves from having to think another way, to revise our knowledge, to change. God forbid. How does this happen?
Irrespective, we should pull the plug on this nonsense. Just a few short centuries back the great enlightenment thinkers, whom risked their very lives to open up new avenues of discourse, paved the way for great social change, and began what was a great movement in which new thinkers could safely revolutionise whole nations. And our freedoms are built upon their immense sacrifice. It worries me that we seem to be going in a different direction, and I doubt anything good can come from the balkanisation of our thoughts. Dear friends, colleagues, and strangers. Get out there and engage with those whom think a different way. Challenge what you think you know. See how it holds up to hostile voices. And if the evidence requires you to change then change you must. To do otherwise is a bit feeble minded, a bit cowardly. Growth can be painful, and disquieting, and traumatic. But stagnation to me seems worse. Nothing good comes from inertia.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

An Open Letter To My Daughter

I woke up at 0530 this morning. I went downstairs and looked out of the window. It had been raining but the sky was blue, the same kind of blue that I recall from this same time and day 16 years ago. I was stood somewhere different then. Outside the maternity wing of my local hospital. I was ashen faced, perhaps a little bewildered. And more than that, I was a freshly minted Dad. As I stood staring upwards into an azure blue sky, I knew with ever fibre of my being that henceforth, no matter what I achieved in life nothing would best this achievement. I mean, with a little help from my wife we'd made a new person. A little person. Actually an odd Phil Collins/Winston Churchill/Gollum lookalike. Those first moments after the birth are moving in a way I find hard to describe. Holly was placed on Joy's tummy, and you get to see millions of years of evolution played out real time as she rooted her way towards the breast. It's an incredible moment, an instance where new life and deep time seem to merge.
And now here I am 16 years later. Holly is finishing her GCSE's, and is an accomplished and creative and acutely self aware young lady. It's no small irony that later today we are going to see Wonder Woman at the cinema. She will always be a wonder to me, as will Lowenna, my gorgeously creative 12 year old. I could talk in cliche from this point on, wax lyrical about how I have made life, but isn't it the case that once you become a parent your kids actually begin to make you? They provide us with a daily choice as to the kind of people we want to be. Am I going to be a role model or a pressure point? A place of safety or something to fear? Well I'm on the liberal side of parenthood, and tend to give my girls room to breath and to discover who they are. I never want to crush them with expectation or scaremonger them. Whilst the world can be scary place it also remains a place of deep wonder. What a canvas they have in which to decide the kind of people they want to be. I encourage them to be brave, to be bold, to expect respect and good treatment from others. Working as I do in law and order I see destructive and corrosive relationships on a daily basis, and I try very hard to instil in both Holly and Lowenna a sense of self worth. And I hope I've taught them the value of laughter and of seeing the humour in life. Of course I cannot mention parenthood without doffing my cap to the other lady in my life, to one whom I affectionately refer to as "The Lady Of The House". She is an astonishing mother, passionate about giving our girls roots and wings, as the saying goes. She is the engine room, the one around which we orbit, and no words I venture could give sufficient credit. But as always I digress. Today is about Holly. 16 year old Holly. To her I say only this; you have been a wonder to me. I have seen you grow and change and fight all the battles that young adolescents have to. And your are winning. You are finding yourself. You have a quiet intellect that hints at a deep mind. You think about the world and your place in it. Be brave, young lady. Not quite fearless, because sometimes a little fear is productive. But never allow yourself to become discouraged by life's injustices and often unkindness. Forge a higher path; go high when others go low; look outward when the world looks in. Be inspired and inspire others. And know in your heart that you are loved and treasured and valued by your silly old Dad.

Friday, 2 June 2017

My Kind Of Britain

Over the last few weeks I have listened. I have pondered. I have struggled. Like many, I've tried to look beyond the rhetoric and the spin and the grandiose claims. There's statistics everywhere, claims and justifications and probably outright lies in some cases. So I'm doing a simple thing; I'm stripping it all back to the marrow and I will be voting based on the only principle I can get my head around. And that is simply to ask myself what kind of Britain do I want to inhabit?
A kind Britain. An outward looking Britain. A Britain that is not afraid to engage with itself and with others. More than than that, I want a country that has a heart, a soul, and a compassion for those needing it most. So this means I cannot vote for Theresa May. I just can't. I cannot support a party that seems unable to get that kindness must sit at the heart of the decision making process. One that sits aloof as so many feel the weight of oppression on their backs. Nor can I vote for Tim Fallon, whom seems to lack a certain something, be it core strength, or perhaps just the kind of personality that sweeps people forward. I just do not see leadership when I look at him, despite sensing that his basic values are good. All of which leaves Jeremy, whom I think is probably incorrect on a great many things. Foreign policy appears to ignore basic facts, and his accountancy skills strike me as more than a little awry. Yet what I do see is kindness, an essential respect for human decency, and a desire to improve the lives of, dare I say it, the many not the few. I think he is going to get a lot of things wrong, and in some cases make some decisions that I would not wish to endorse. But I see humanity. Flawed humanity. And at the end of the day that is a quality I can subscribe to. I have been terribly harsh on him, and I still have plenty left in the tank on this front. But he is a fighter, he is persistent, and he does appear to have the demeanour of a servant rather than a master. And in a world of Trump and Putin and so many other power crazed leaders I think we need this. So I am, and this will come as a surprise to many, going the vote Labour. And probably not for reasons that are intellectual or that are based on hard numbers. This world needs kindness and compassion and a bigger heart. These are human values. And we are human beings. And for once I am keeping it simple. Perhaps I am naive. Or ill informed. Or idealistic in foolish ways. I'm just tired of the cruelty, and of the chest beating, and of the fear. Make of this what you will. . .

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Ground On Which I Stand

My father was blue collar through and through. He was born into a very poor family that lived in the Oving / North Marston area of Buckinghamshire. His toes were badly deformed due to having to wear hand me down shoes. Nothing came easy for him or his brothers, one of whom served time at her Majesty’s pleasure, whilst the other succumbed to the bottle and found his life brought to an abrupt halt further to wandering drunk into the path of an oncoming train. My father was good with numbers, and had wanted to be an accountant. Yet his father would not let him, instead forcing him to continue to work as a painter and decorator, a career from which he never managed to escape. He had his faults, but he had an admirable work ethic. He worked long, hard, and over the course of many years lifted his family out of what could easily have become poverty. I say all the above because I want you to understand the ground on which I stand. Put simply, I’m from a world where nothing is taken for granted. I have no sense of entitlement. The universe owes me neither happiness or wealth or long life. If I want anything to happen I take the view that I have to make it so. If I fail I own the failure. If I succeed, likewise. I’m Buckinghamshire born and bred; the classic country boy in any meaningful sense. Thanks to my hard working Father I had a stable and well fed childhood; we never missed a meal and never went to school in rags. I owe him much. Now taking all the above into account you might think my political views err towards the traditional working class. I’ve got Labour stamped all over me. Yet truth be told I’m more blue than red, although I would not say I align with any fixed political ideal. I know only that I have to take responsibility for my life; I recognise that having had children it is my responsibility to raise them and care for them and instill into them a sense of self worth. I don’t want benefits, a hand out, and I do not assume the powers that be owe me a thing. For good or ill I shall take care of all that. Or at least as much as it is within my power. Next month the nation once again goes to the polls as we elect a new government. None of the major parties speak for me. I find myself happily alienated from the whole carnival. For the first time ever I’m seriously considering not voting. I have no desire to support Labour, with their inability to balance budgets and culture of entitlement. And the Conservatives just seem plain mean, subsidizing the wealthy on the back of the working class. There’s just no sensible centrist voice that I can subscribe to. Everybody wants to shout the other down. So I think I might just sit this one out, and just do my best to stand or fall by my own hands. I’m just a working class lad who wants to pay his taxes, raise his kids, love his wife and do a little bit to make my own sphere of influence positive. That’s it. That’s the master plan. So I’m going to sit back and watch social media, suddenly awash with political commentary, reduce to all heat and light. Abuse, ridicule, sound bites. I want none of it. I’m simply not playing this game. I’m bored with it.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Own it. Change it.

Retiring Judge Lindsey Kushner issued a carefully worded piece of advice towards women recently. She stated simply that women whom get drunk are putting themselves in danger of being targeted by rapists. She acknowledges that women are “Entitled to drink themselves into the ground”, but that their behaviour could put them in danger. She goes to great lengths to acknowledge that they remain victims, and that they would not be responsible for any subsequent attack. This to me is simple common sense, but of course a certain sub section of the regressive left will scream that she is victim shaming for having the temerity to suggest that they might want to consider mitigating risk.

Scenario; if I go out and get completely drunk, and end up passing out and incoherent, I have made a personal choice to do so. If, when I awaken I discover I have been the victim of a predatory sexual assault then I am of course the victim and in no way to blame. But could I really suggest that I couldn’t have done more to stay safe? Have I not made a choice to surrender my faculties? Would I have been targeted had I been just a bit more self controlled? I think not. And I think I would have to own that choice. This to me is simple common sense. Simple personal self responsibility. I have to own that. Which brings me to a wider concern. We seem to live in a society where we are very quick to project our failings onto others. I fear that sometimes we make excuses when we should perhaps take ownership. And I think that a person whom projects actually cripples themselves and abdicates control of their own destiny. There are many things in life over which I have no control, but there is much I can and should do to increase my chances of flourishing and learning from experience. Even if something isn’t my fault, I can still choose to learn from it. I can own the consequences even if I cannot change the elements which bought them about. As such, I choose to do so. I choose to own my life, to accept that I have a responsibility to turn every experience into a learning exercise. Why would I not want to do that? Why would I not want to take control of my own destiny? What do I gain if I choose not to do so? People who project are, in my view, people whom are less likely to change themselves for the better when faced with life’s slings and arrows. I can empathise with your difficulties, but I cannot endorse the choice not to take personal self control. Even when it is hard. Even when it hurts.
None of what I suggest here is victim shaming. In fact quite the opposite. It is a call to arms, a call to rise above that which would take the wind from our sails. I can see no obvious reason not to do so.

Monday, 27 February 2017

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues

1st March tomorrow. It’s been a long time coming. Perhaps it’s just me, but as winter drags on I find the going harder and harder. I don’t know whether I get seasonal adjustment disorder, but I do know I love the feel of the sun on my face, the warmth, and being able to stand outside and stare into clear blue skies. I don’t expect I am alone in this, so today is a shout out to those who also struggle with the long dark evenings, the cold weather, the damp underfoot. Give me sunrise at 0440, and sunset at 2200. Give me spring growth, new life, the buds unfurling. I want the feel of the grass beneath my feet, scrunching and opening my toes. I want to feel that sense of new beginning. Unlike some I don’t think I have ever been clinically depressed, but come January and February I do really find myself struggling. I want to have the windows and the doors open, to sleep with a light duvet with my arms and legs hanging out. I want to walk downstairs stark naked at 0400 in the morning and get a funny look from the dog. No need to have the heating on, no need to go out with a coat. Is it me or is it just that bit easier to be spontaneous when you don’t have to think about layers and hats and gloves? I’m a person who needs to breathe, who needs to look up and see a sky arcing outward for miles. I feel alive, alert, less inclined to moan. I’m just a summer kind of guy.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

An Expectation Free Zone

I've come to accept that I am 100 percent responsible for my own happiness. I've come to accept, after a fairly long process, that to expect too much from others is unrealistic. Perhaps unfair, even. I've kind of even taken a zero expectation approach, because this at least removes the pressure from everyone else. You are not responsible for my happiness, my hopes, my psychological wellbeing. You are not responsible for my dreams, my ideals, my crazy tangents. You're off the hook. You're free. You owe me nothing. I wonder whether we sometimes lay excessive expectation at the feet of others, placing them in an impossible position? Perhaps we just expect too much from others in general? And when they "Let us down", we expose them to feelings of guilt and low self esteem? I wonder whether the kinder thing, the more realistic thing is simply to free others from all that? Its an open and unresolved question for me. The obvious risk is that we insulate ourselves from meaningful connections, perhaps shutting ourselves off from potential experiences that could make our lives richer? I can't honestly work out whether my perspective is born of cynicism or just the plain acceptance of the way the world is? I know that I do not want to guilt anybody into anything, or demand that they become something they are not. Perhaps there is no one answer? Could it be that much depends on the other person/person's within the equation?
Ultimately, I get to own my own experiences. I don't get to project my feelings. I'm responsible for dealing with my own issues. I'd be really interested in getting the thoughts of others on this. The waters muddy with me right now. I can't see so clearly.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Pissing On Bonfires - A How To Guide

Want to damage a relationship? Want to erode someone's confidence and make yourself unapproachable? It's as easy as 1 2 3. Just refuse to listen when they want to discuss something, or respond with immediate negativity when they confide in you over something they might like to explore. Go on, it works!. I guarantee that within no time at all your partner will find it almost impossible to initiate a discussion because they'll know the script in advance. They'll assume a negative response and begin to feel less and less heard, less able to share those deep and difficult parts of themselves. It's perfect. For added flourish, be sure to demand they aspire to standards you've never reached yourself. Complain as your life depended on it. Congratulations! You've achieved a near perfect lack of self awareness. Feels great doesn't it!
Ok, so I jest. If any of the above resonates to you, if you feel challenged or affronted in any way may I suggest a little experiment? Ask yourself when was the last time you approached your partner and asked them if there was anything they wanted to explore? Any goals, any dreams, any intimate desires they would like to pursue. Tell them they have a safe space, that they won't be judged. Show a genuine interest. And then listen. And remember. Write things down afterwards if you have to. It doesn't mean you've committed to anything, but it does demonstrate a willingness to step into their world and play some part in helping them to be the truest version of themselves. To be heard, to be listened to, and for what you say to be taken onboard is such a positive thing. Above all, if you're the listener, be damn sure that if you do say you want to play a part in making another person's dreams take shape you do what you say you're going to. This is crucial. Words and promises that aren't seen through erode trust. Without betraying confidences this last part is hugely important to me. If you make a promise then keep that promise. Or if you genuinely cannot have the decency and self awareness and plain courage to articulate why. I suspect many a good relationship has floundered on sins of ommission. Making a promise and then breaking that promise is the gold standard for pissing on another person's bonfire. As a write this, I'm aware that I couldn't have written it any earlier in my life. I've had to live out many of the experiences I refer to. I've been there, on both sides of the divide. And the thing is, those who cause the pain often don't have a clue that they do so. They can be,and frequently are good people. Just people who don't quite listen out for the signs, who find it hard to have those difficult discussions. I wonder how many good people have been the cause of mortal wounds in the hearts of those they claim to, and probably do in fact love?
Readers, friends, let's be better listener's. Let us be a little braver when are comes to stepping beyond our own experiences. Listen, remember, and above all do whatever ever it is you promised to do. And be open to ideas that may not, at first glance, appeal. It is entirely possible to take joy in the pleasure of seeing someone else blossom. Its your ultimate gift to them. Be brave. Make sure your comfort zone isn't merely a comfort blanket. And above all, intentionally engage.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

"Tremendous"

So there’s a petition to deny Donald Trump from being received by the Queen as part of State visit to the United Kingdom. It reads “Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government, but he should not be invited to make an official State visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty The Queen.” One has to be somewhat naive to miss the several levels of irony associated with this. Aside from the fact that Prince Phillip has been doing pretty much just this throughout the course of the royal marriage, what precisely would it say about us should we choose to take such a course? Trump is probably mentally ill, and clearly he is unfit to hold high office. Any office, for that matter. He is dangerous not by virtue of the fact that he is evil, but rather because he is so chronically inept on so many levels. You do not have to be evil to do a great deal of harm. Cue my obligatory dig at religious belief; a mostly sincere and well intentioned endeavour that has caused huge tribulation and entirely avoidable suffering through the centuries. And no, I am not comparing Trump to the average Christian. I’m just merely highlighting where a casual disregard for truth and brute facts gets you. But I digress. Concerning his ill conceived vetting policy, which appears to be a classic example of taking a gun to a knife fight. Of course we need to be vigilant; of course borders need to be protected. But a carte blanch approach to an entire demographic isn’t going to solve this problem. It will however increase it exponentially, creating additional ill feeling and possibly an increase in tensions. I happen to think that should we refuse Trump his State visit to the United Kingdom we do ourselves an immense disservice. We just tacitly mimic a thing we loathe, even though I expect many would offer some kind of rationale as to why we could justify this. I’m for treating him in accordance to the values that differentiate us from his inane and consistent non thinking. Whilst I don’t think for a second that he has the capacity to see very far beyond his own glass ego, we can still disagree, we can still voice dissent. But let’s not stoop to the same level as this giant orange skinned ignoramus. I think we can do better than that. And I think we owe it ourselves to do so.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Weaponised Ignorance

It started as a joke. A little comic relief. And nobody took him seriously. Mocked by his own party, to whom he appeared only vaguely affiliated. Ridiculed by everyone else. "The Donald" he was jokingly referred to. And the disdain continued, even as the wheels of his campaign gained traction. It couldn't happen. It was unthinkable.
In a few hours time Donald John Trump will become 45th President of the United States and the leader of the free world. What was once absurd will now be the establishment. Has a stranger thing ever come to pass? I will watch the news, listen as others seek to make sense of it, but hasn't that ship sailed now? We're all in the same boat now, and he's the Captain. A Captain whom has never sailed before. Whilst I have felt a very real, and perhaps sometimes unfair anger towards the silent majority that enabled this absurdity, I'm beyond that now. We're all in this together, each of us on the oddest journey, a magical mystery cruise where none of us, and probably not even the Captain himself knows the destination. Strange times lay ahead, and I find myself wanting, more than ever, to stay true to the values that matter to me. Honesty, humour, creativity, a commitment to following the truth irrespective of whether I like the view. Amidst a world that has forsaken reason I will choose reason. In a post truth world I will seek it with renewed passion. Its the only way I know. And I invite you to join me, to resist despondency and seek growth and new horizons. Walk your path, pursue your vision, and have an open heart and an open mind. There will always be the likes of Donald Trump in the world; craven power seekers and ignorant buffoons. I cannot change that, but I can work on little old me. In a world that has weaponised ignorance I do not see any other way.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

And The Wheels Keep Turning

So the clock ticks over and another year begins. I am at work. My apathy is tangible. No new year’s resolutions for me, no grandiose promises to keep. I’m just going to keep doing more of the same and try to be less of the things I dislike about myself. You see, I feel no need for reinvention, there isn’t much I want to change. Sure I want to be a better husband, a better Dad, a better colleague, but surely I should want those things anyway. Perhaps a day will come when I need to make such bold declarations, but today is not this day. I take my existence in little bite sized chunks, taking nothing for granted and trying to take enjoyment in the small things. I’m passionate about continuing to deepen my relationship with Joy, and the journey we are on has been amazing. After all this time, all these years we are still looking to make our level of connection better. She has been such a positive force in my life, helping me to better understand myself, to accept myself, and her ability to bring out the better angels of my nature speaks volumes for her. She understands me, and does so in a way that connects us in ways that continue to amaze me. It’s rare in life to be so fortunate, but then this is not about luck. It’s about being intentional, about wanting to see another person flourish and to find full acceptance. It always saddens me when I hear couples who have been together for years speaking negatively about each other, sniping and bemoaning. Why do that? Why pour acid over something that plays such a pivotal role in your existence. God it sounds such a cliché, but if we could all just be a little braver when it comes to our relationships, a bit more willing to understand, to engage, to dissolve those barriers of fear that I’m convinced have hamstrung so many couples down the years. Be honest, be brave. With yourself firstly, but also with those whom share the same space. I can honestly say that I want Joy to experience full happiness and contentment. I never want to put barriers in her way that compromise this. Why would I? If she has passions I want her to pursue them. If she has interests and hobbies I want her to indulge them. She gives a lot to other people, and even more to our girls, so when it comes to us I take the view that it should be a safe space to be who she wants to be. I’m no relationship guru, and I’m perhaps the least perfect person that I know, but I figure that so long as I bring good intentions to the table then that at least gives a baseline starting point for something good.