Linchpins.

I’ve been lectured today on how those who have been victims of domestic abuse are unfit to advise other people on the subject, and particularly unfit to becoming support workers, because they are obviously idiots. Only idiots would get themselves in a situation where their chosen partner is someone who wants to harm them. Only idiots squared would remain in said situation after the very first instance of even mildly unpleasant behaviour. Only idiots cubed would allow such situations to escalate to abusive levels.

It may not come as a complete shock to my faithful readers to find out that I disagreed with this position a teeny tiny bit.

I have personally known* a fair few women and two guys** who became embroiled in abusive situations. Each and every one of them was groomed into the situation very carefully and skilfully over a period of time. Their abusers did not manifest their intentions early on in the relationship. They did not show any signs of being less than ok, in fact, until they could do so without fear of repercussions, until my friends’ resources were eroded to the point that they could not easily fight back.

“But how does one erode someone’s resources without them realising?”, I hear you ask. And I wonder if the reason we fail to see it is that it’s so obvious and so unpleasant. A clever would-be abuser can take up control over time by acting like a perfectly normal, caring, committed partner. They do what most of us do, but with completely different intentions.

For instance, would you consider it a warning sign if your lovely and long-term partner asked you to move in? Would you see it as a noose tightening around your neck, or as a natural development in your relationship? Even if a move caused us to lose part of our resources (proximity to family or friends, employment, welfare support, etc.) we may still see it as a step forward for the relationship. To an abuser, that’s a deliberate step towards your dependency on them. Anything that makes it harder for you to leave than to stay is to their advantage – even things we consider sacrosanct, such as pregnancies, marriage, illnesses, or disabilities.

Abusers want you vulnerable and codependent. Relationships tend to require openness and interdependence. Unless your would-be abuser is a klutz, in the early stages of a relationship it can be difficult to tell where you’re headed. The problem at that stage isn’t what the abusers do, but with why they do it. And most of us can’t read minds.

The only commonality in my friends’ experiences was that their partners behaved perfectly nicely until the day they gained the upper hand. Their behaviour started degenerating when defying them or leaving them became too costly or risky. And yes, my friends always had the choice to go, but they were kept at the point where the fear of going was greater than the fear or staying – until something upset that balance, and they got away.

I’m not saying that’s always how it goes. There are plenty of people who purposefully select bad boys and girls, and also plenty of people who just don’t know what “bad” looks like. However, it’s how it can go. Some predators are actually good at what they do. That’s how they stay in business.

*Huge selection bias here – I do pick my people.

**I’m a woman. Women talk to me more about their private problems. The gender split is a reflection of my social group, not something from which to extrapolate statistics on abuse.

Power & Leadership 3 – If You’re Beta And You Know It, Clap Your Hands.

So, due to the inherent level of power disparity between teachers and students in a MA/SD setting, abusive or cult-like situations can arise. I’m not saying they always DO, just that they CAN – and if you don’t believe me, check this book out.

I think (entering Hypothesis Land, buyers beware ) that the problem is compounded by the students being either willfully or unwittingly unaware of the nature of the relationship they are building with their instructors. If you don’t know that you’re entering a relationship with an inherent uneven power distribution, you may not be on the lookout for the potential problems that may arise from that. If you don’t know you’re getting a leader, you may not be evaluating your instructor on their leadership qualities. If you refuse to admit to yourself what’s happening because it clashes with your stated intentions, your self-image, your beliefs, or anything else likely to give you a bad case of cognitive dissonance, not only you won’t be on your guard to avoid problems as they arise, but you may also try to dissemble them when they do come up.

What you don’t know and don’t want to know can really mess you up.

Much of the problem could tie back to our love-hate relationship with power:

  • “Power is bad.” You shouldn’t want it because it corrupts.
  • “Not having power is badder.” You have to be in control, or other people will naturally exploit you.
  • “Giving up power is baddest.” It means that there’s something absolutely wrong with you, because you’re not an alpha.

…so this thing you shouldn’t want to get or keep, you also shouldn’t want to give away. That makes sense, doesn’t it.

“Oh, but we’re talking about power over ourselves and our situation, not power over others.”

…and if you live in a completely isolated situation, that makes perfect sense. In all other settings, affecting YOUR situation will affect others, directly or indirectly. We’re all inextricably interlinked. The closer we live, the more interlinked we get. That’s why we’ve ended up with so many bloody rules.

At the very bottom of this thought-pretzel is the idea that if you are not a dominant person, you will not be able to control who has power over you – that unless you are in control, everyfuckingbody else is. This always struck me as a huge crock of shit. I am not a dominant person. I prefer not to be in charge. This doesn’t mean that I am willing to accept anyone as leader. I will only concede authority to those I deem worthy of it. In fact, the more authority you request, the worthier you have to be. I might let a toddler ride a trike, but I sure as hell won’t let them drive the car, or commandeer a train.

Being willing to take a non-leading role doesn’t mean I will stop judging potential leaders on their leadership qualities. Blindly following someone who has not proven both their competence and their good intentions would both dangerous and stupid. However, the whole thing only works if I am willing to admit to myself that in this particular situation I am a follower.

Power & Leadership 2 – The Quest.

Our society tried to circumvent the pitfalls of bad leadership by putting limits on the power our leaders can wield, and we have largely succeeded. There are situations, however, where those limitations do not and/or cannot apply. There are still positions in life where people gain a higher-than-normal level of control over other people; where they can put others through severe physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual stresses, potentially pushing them to breaking point. In those situations, healthy leadership is absolutely critical. The lacks of poor leadership cannot be counterbalanced by limits on the control the leaders wield, because the very nature of the situation is that the leader has much or all of the control.

The main situations I can think of where this kind of condition applies are:

  • Life-or-death situations, particularly those taking place in circumstances where everyday laws are ignored or temporarily put aside. This applies to the military, but also to gangs and organised crime.
  • Spiritual or religious situations where the leaders control not only the spiritual/psychological/emotional aspects of participants’ lives, but also often the physical (sex, food, sleep, etc). This applies to many religions though it is particularly obvious in cults.
  • Any situation where people are pushed beyond the common limits of physical/psychological endurance, such as extreme sports training, or torture.

And here’s the rub: all of those three conditions can apply to horrible situations such as domestic abuse; but they also apply to (at least ideally) positive growth environments, such as martial arts and self-defence training. I am not talking about someone doing a bit of X art once or twice a week, because the dojo is just down the road, or they need to let off some steam, or it’s more fun than jogging, or the Zumba class was full. I am talking about those people who willingly and deliberately embark in a journey of self-transformation through martial arts or self-defence; people who are ultimately willing to significantly change not only their lives, but also themselves.

Many people who take up martial arts/self-defence (henceforth abbreviated as MA/SD, because I’m getting bored of this) are on a quest. They often have a problem that they think/hope the MA/SD training will make go away. The problem may not be directly related to their ability to dismantle other humans. This is reflected in the advertising of MA/SD schools, who don’t shy away from presenting any number of personal attributes that can be allegedly gained by training: fitness, weight loss, muscle gain, confidence, discipline, awareness, focus, and so on and so forth. You can also exorcise any number of negatives: “abolish anxiety, stress and mediocrity!” (and I quote). The bottom line is that MA/SD is seen and sold as a “transformative experience”, which isn’t a false promise.

Fortunately or unfortunately, or perhaps just inevitably, transformative experiences require that you keep an open mind. And ‘the problem with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and putting things in it’ (Long Live Terry Pratchett). The journey ultimately requires a degree of faith/trust in the system or art in question, and/or in the instructors. That faith is too often handed out very early on in the joining process, when students simply do not have the critical skills to evaluate what is being taught. If you are completely new to a field of study, how can you tell if you’re being taught well? Furthermore, many schools include their own failsafes against loss of faith, largely based on convincing you that if you can’t make that technique work it’s because you are not good enough yet. The very fact that you are questioning the technique shows that you are not fully committed to it, after all.

I’m not saying that all MA/SD is brainwashing, or that all instructors are wannabe gurus. I am saying that MA/SD training can have a profound impact on a person’s emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual state. For that reason, good leadership in this field is particularly critical.

Power & Leadership 1.

When was the last time you were part of a group whose hierarchy was internally created and maintained, rather than imposed upon its members?

I wager that for most of us that kind of experience ended when we left the playground. Most of us operate be under the “leadership” of people we have not directly selected and we may not in fact approve of. Our hierarchies are given to us, and have been given to us for countless generations. This has caused us to largely lose sight of what a good leader should be like; or what “leadership” actually means.

Enforced hierarchies can and do raise unsuitable individuals to leadership positions. This happens in static, non-democratic structures; the son of the King becomes the King, regardless of his personal qualities. (He might lose the kinship later, mind you, but that process is generally neither easy nor victimless.) This also happens, though, in fluid, merit-based structures. If I am exceptionally good at making widgets, I may rise to be put in charge of the widget-making. This is no guarantee of competent leadership, though. The problem is that neither your genes nor your competence at any given task mean that you will inherently be good at leading people. Leadership is its own skill or talent, requiring a particular set of personal qualities.

Unfortunately, our society has taken the concept of “leadership qualities”, set it on fire, pissed on it, then buried it in a deep hole in an isolated area. Although we can and do sell “leadership solutions”, we shy away from the core of leadership, which is power. And we don’t like power, because “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

I grew up with that as one of my given dogmas. The statement has so many holes in it that it deserves its own rant (to follow). Hell, the whole concept of what people think “power” means deserves a whole book. That one-liner has, however, been completely enshrined in our culture, and it will take a great deal to make it go away. I don’t know whether our love-hate relationship with power (we abhor it but crave it, as if it was a drug, or a sin) is the consequence or the result of our fucked-up approach to leadership. The result is the same: we can’t untangle the riddle of “leadership” because we’re phobic of the “power” it would yield.

What we do instead is create checks and balances for those who end up holding and wielding power. We have our Magna Carta, our constitutions, our codes of conduct, our disciplinary procedures. Instead of searching for the right person for the role, we try and make the role idiot- or psycho-proof. Instead of handing out raw power, we’re restricting ourselves to playing with the round-tip version. To a large extent we have succeeded. Most of us do not live in situations where their managers (teachers, preachers, whatever) are in a position to legally cause them serious harm. This means that, for most of us, having to suffer under a poor leader will be, although severely unpleasant, ultimately not deadly.

We’re managing the symptoms, though, not addressing the problem. Furthermore, there are situations where those limitations do not and/or cannot apply, where the dangers of poor leadership are compounded by our inability to identify it.

#notanalpha

I’m not a natural alpha. I don’t like to be in charge. Although I can do it if the need arises – if there’s nobody around better suited than me, in an emergency, whatever –  I find being in charge stressful, unpleasant, and ultimately unrewarding. Once I’ve done whatever needed doing, I’m not buzzing with my newly-found power, or seeking a way to maintain it; I can’t wait for someone else to take up the reins, so I can get back to what I’m good at.

My sweet spot, my happy place, is being second-in-command / executive officer / sidekick to a competent, confident leader. I’m a bloody good personal assistant, if I say so myself. I get stuff done. I am both happy and successful at project management. I quite simply don’t want to manage the whole tribe / group / team. I’ve discovered this through working in a variety of positions in a number of groups. I tried it, and as I neither enjoy being pack leader nor am good at it, I avoid it. This doesn’t make me feel frustrated or repressed.

I’m happy being a beta. The amount of stupid that gets thrown my way every time I state that is staggering.

“But you’re an independent person!”

Yes, I am. Not being alpha doesn’t mean you’re a drooling halfwit, incapable of making decisions for yourself or managing your own life. It just means that in a group situation you don’t naturally gravitate towards the leading position.

“So you like to be bossed around?”

No. I enjoy supporting “a competent and confident leader”. Someone who resorts to bossing people around is, to me, neither.

“But you’re a good manager!”

Yes, I am, but I am shit at leading – and if don’t know the difference between the two, you probably are, too.

“What if they are shit leaders? What if they insist that you to do the wrong things?”

Then they’re not leaders at all. At the most/worst, they are managers; bureaucracies and artificial hierarchies will do that to you.

“So you like a man in charge, hey? I’ve got something for you, har har har.”

No. I like to be under the leadership of a confident, competent leader. That implies qualities like “respect” and “maturity”. So, you’re obviously excluded. Move along.

“It’s not natural for anyone not to aspire to being an alpha!”

Now, aside from the fact that we’re already being goosey loosey with factoids (we’ve stolen the whole “alpha” thing from captive wolves; much of that research has been found not to apply to wolves in the wild; and we’re not even canids), think about the inherent stupidity of that statement. If it was unnatural for some individuals of a pack to be non-alphas, there wouldn’t be functional packs. There’d just be a lot of alphas, doing it for themselves, or a constant dog-fight for dominance.

“A truly functional group shouldn’t have a leader, anyway. You’re enabling a dysfunction.”

Have you ever actually done project management by committee? You generally achieve half as much in twice the time, and often grow an ulcer in the process. Now, if your goal is to go through the process, go for it. I generally only work with people when I have a need to achieve a practical result, and I want to get there with maximum efficiency and minimum effort.

“Anyone who aspires to be in charge is inherently evil and controlling!”

Possibly. Those who seek power are often not very nice, which is why they have to seek it. Nobody’s bloody giving it to them, because people often sense that they would make poor leaders. Their motivations just aren’t what they ought to be. There are also plenty of not-good-enough people, lacking competence or confidence, who constantly power-play to get in charge, for similar reasons. I don’t want to be one of them.

Natural leaders don’t have to force or manipulate people in order to gain power; they just have to be who they are and do what they do, and people tend to naturally defer to them. And this does not describe me.

“Is it just because you’re small / a woman / foreign / improperly brought up / whatever?”

I don’t know. I have no means of knowing; nature vs nurture studies on an individual are inherently impossible. Given that no part of this is a problem for me, however, I don’t feel I need to find an explanation or solution.

This seems to be a problem for you, though, so maybe you’re the one who ought to do some soul-searching.

“If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes!”

Have you tried backing the fuck up and looking around, instead of trying to crawl up your leader’s asshole?

“I wasn’t speaking literally!”

Neither was I.

“You want a return to the patriarchy! You’re internalising misogyny!”

Eh? Which part of anything I have said, ever, suggests that the leader must be male?

“Well, it goes without saying that you’re looking to submit to a dominant male.”

…and I am the one internalising misogyny?

“The Sisterhood fought and bled to give you the opportunity to take charge, and you’re pissing all over it!”

I believe the Sisterhood fought for equal opportunities, to enable women to achieve what they wanted to achieve, to self-actualise, not to be limited by artificial gender constructs. The person I want to be right here and now is a beta. If that changes, I’ll do something else, and god help those who try and stop me.

“You’re giving a terrible example to the Women of Today!”

  1. I don’t remember signing any contract stating that I’d “be a good example”. Was it in the small print somewhere?

  2. I love corrupting the young:

Women of Today! Aspire to gain that position in life that fills you with joy, purpose, and contentment, whatever that position may be! Aim to be happy and satisfied! If someone tries to stereotype you or restrict you because of your gender, tell them to fuck right off!

…that ought to do it.

“That’s not the point! A liberated woman should aspire to be…”

So you’re telling me that in order to be liberated, women should aspire to meet fixed criteria, whether they suit them or not? That unless they embrace those criteria, they are doing “liberation” wrong? And that’s infinitely better than being under the heel of the Patriarchy, because…?

Have you in fact checked the definition of “liberated”?

“This is all about sex!”

It very well might be, if I worked in the sex industry or only interacted with other humans in order to fuck them. Do you?

“You just need to learn to be assertive!”

Please re-read any of the above statements, ideally on your way out.

Goethe’s Meat Grinder Part 1.

Poor Goethe gets made into lovely-sounding memes that people treat as Gospel, so I’m going to pick on him.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”

I find the sentiment absolutely beautiful, but it makes me think that Goethe must have never shared a house with an addict, worked for a socialised psychopath, or had a pedophile in their social circle.

There are certain people with whom we can only have stable and/or safe relationships if we take into account that they operate in manners very different from ours, with different priorities, attitudes, and behaviours. Discounting that is like feeding ourselves into a meat grinder.

Addicts cannot be relied upon to respect your property (or even your person) when they are desperate for the next fix. Under those circumstances, the addiction takes over. Treating them as if that was not an issue won’t help either of you.

Socialised psychopaths will make your life hell if you give them power over you. You can have very stable and rewarding “relationships” with them, provided that you ensure that they need you more than you need them. You have to remember that, regardless of their behaviour towards you, they don’t and won’t ever care about you as a person. You’ll never be anything to them more than a tool that performs a function. To allow them power over you is to allow them to drop all pretenses of caring. The results can be deeply unpleasant.

Pedophiles… Do I really need to spell it out? Allowing known pedophiles unsupervised access to children “to help them become what they’re capable of being” is like throwing deer into lions’ enclosures to help them become vegetarians.

I know these situations are extreme, but they do come up. I’ve picked them partly because they’re relevant to my past experiences, and partly because they are good example of why this attitude can backfire unless a host of other circumstances are in place.

The quote presupposes not only that people want to change for the better, but also that their version of “better” aligns with ours. It discounts the fact that different people have different ethics, morals, wishes, aspirations, etc. Some people may, to our eyes, be not as they “ought” to be, yet be perfectly happy with themselves.

It also presupposes that change is just a matter of having the opportunity. While an opportunity is indeed required, it often takes a combination of sticks and carrots to encourage people to give up damaging behaviours and attitudes. If those behaviours and attitudes are a manifestation of a personality disorder, the best we can expect is to contain them, not to eradicate them.

Ultimately, the quote presupposes that each of us knows what people “ought to be” and have the right to expect people to conform to that; I don’t know about you, but I am pretty damn sure that I don’t.

Not-good-enough

I had to pick up a dog for grooming. The last time we saw him – over 10 months earlier – I was called out by social services. I struggled to make my way through his owner’s house as I didn’t know where to step – the carpeted floor was a Pollock of canine excreta. The dog was covered in dreadlocks and crawling with fleas. I had to give him a surgical-length haircut to get the mats off him.

So, I wasn’t expecting great things this time. Still, I didn’t expect to touch his face and end up holding a pile of pus and a fallen tooth. The dog has abscesses all over his gums. His teeth are rotting out of his mouth. The smell is incredible. I have no idea of how much pain he might be in, and I hope I never find out.

I immediately rang the owner to inform her. She didn’t seem particularly struck by the news. I will inform the authorities, which is all I can legally do. She says she’s going to take him to the vets. I hope she’s not lying.

I have seen her with the dog and I know she deeply cares about him. She’s in a pretty bad state herself, though I’ve not checked her teeth. She is probably giving the dog no more and no less care than she gives herself. There is no malice in her behaviour. She’s doing the best she can. I just don’t think that’s good enough.

We see this horribly often, dogs with all manners of ailments whose owners are failing to manage. I’m not talking little boo-boos, either. I’m talking ulcerated corneas, prolapsed uteri, cancerous growths, massive infections… pus, pus, so much pus, coming out of every conceivable place.

The thing is, none of these owners don’t care, otherwise they wouldn’t hire us. They just can’t manage the situation. Some don’t understand, some can’t handle the practicalities or the emotional fallout, and some can’t afford veterinary care. The result is the same: suffering. And this doesn’t just happen to dogs.

I’m reminded of a dear ex-friend, a lovely lady who desperately wanted to be a mother. She geared up her entire life towards that goal. Unfortunately, she was too unwell to bear a child. Undeterred, she adopted.

What she discovered, to her dismay, was that she could manage a baby – just – but just couldn’t manage a toddler. As her child grew and became more active and capable, she became less and less able to keep up. Instead of seeking practical help, she sought medical help. She managed to get her child a diagnosis of ADHD. Now, before anyone starts shouting, I’m not saying that the condition is not real; I’m saying that I’ve been babysitting kids since I was old enough to say “stop that”, and if he’s got ADHD I’m a giraffe.

She got him drugged up, and we had the inevitable falling out. The last time I bumped into them, he’d gone from being a bright, engaging and engaged little human to a barely-present hollow shape. I didn’t know whether to be sad, sick, or angry.

What do you do with not-good-enough people? People who care, but just can’t manage? People whose very best just doesn’t cut it, and whose shortcomings, although lacking malice, don’t lack consequences?

My Living Will.

I’ve recently felt compelled to write a Living Will – a document stating what to do if my body is still going but my mind has left the building. It was a rather morbid process, not only due to the nature of the document, but because of why I felt I needed it. Its main purpose is to prevent my only living relative from being able to make any decisions on my behalf.

There is a reason for this, beyond my customary orneriness. I have known the lady in question all my life. In any situation when what she wants or likes conflicts with other people’s opinion, her default position is that they are obviously wrong, and she is obviously right. The fact that they disagree with her proves that they are stupid, ignorant, or not of a sound mind. If they were thinking clearly, they would agree with her. To ignore their expressed wishes is therefore the only responsible and caring course of action. In time, they will hopefully come to see the light and thank her. If they don’t, well, the only way to help some people is to save them from themselves.

The very nature of this attitude makes it completely self-supporting. It cannot be argued against: any remonstration, however valid in the eye of the affected party, only serves to prove how wrong they are. In fact, the more you remonstrate, the more confused you must be and the less valid your opinion is. It’s like wrestling with treacle.

Having finally come to terms with this, I drafted the Living Will to protect myself. I know that our views on palliative care are wildly different. I know that she considers my views to be dead wrong. I know that I can’t rely on her to respect my wishes – if she consistently ignores them when I am in a position to express them, it seems pretty unreasonable to expect her to respect them if I’m in a ruddy coma. I also know that if the contents of the document ever came to light, I would be considered a complete asshole by most people. The woman cares for me, and I repay her by putting my “lack of trust” in writing for all to see.

It’s funny how our culture has come to treat trust. It’s often sold as something we ought to give to others “just because”. Not trusting somebody is seen as iniquitous. Are you prejudiced? Are you judgemental? Ok, so maybe they’ve fucked up in the past, but it’s unfair to judge them based on that. And if you don’t trust someone and they let you down, well, that’s all on you: your lack of trust made them misbehave.

I disagree with this view of trust. In a way, I absolutely trust my relative: I trust her to behave in a way consistent with the way she has always behaved. To expect her to suddenly change her behaviour would seem less like “trust”, and more like “wishful thinking” or “feeding myself through a meat grinder”. And, sorry, but I don’t want to do that.

Pinched.

Shit got real last Sunday: I had my wallet pinched.

I still don’t know how it was done. I was at the builders’ merchants, trying to handle too many items including 4x my weight in concrete, and when I got to the checkout I found my wallet missing. Looked around the shop, searched in and around the car, turned the house upside down, then admitted defeat and cancelled my cards. Got a phone call 8 hrs later from the store to say that it had been found – in gardening section (not covered by CCTV), stashed in a planter, and utterly devoid of cash.

The event per se is pretty much a non-event. I am, thankfully and at long last, in a position where the expression “minor financial loss” is not an oxymoron. I was a prime target – harassed person rushing through a busy shop, trying to juggle 6739487 things. The event is only significant because of what it revealed: I’m a complete asshole. In fact, I’m an asshole squared, because I know the “right” thing to do, then do the opposite.

What would I do if a friend got something pinched? I’d be sympathetic; go “there there” for a bit; swear loudly at the thieving bastards; remind her that, although beyond vexing, it isn’t the end of the world; try to cheer her up with something nice and jolly – icecream, chocolate, a movie; generally, I’d do my utmost to put the experience out of her mind, and make the rest of the day not about the fucking wallet. The wallet is gone; long live the wallet. We did what needed to be done and life goes on: how about focusing on getting the fuck over this?

For myself, however, I do the polar opposite. My go-to reaction if I break or lose or fail at something is to kick myself as hard as I can for as long as I can. That’s the way I was taught to react: it’s the way my mother and grandmother reacted. It probably goes back further – a long line of highly-strung women making people’s lives a misery for countless generations. It was sold to me as a teaching method: children must learn from their mistakes. If you give them the impression that it’s ok if they occasionally mess up, they may grow up to be, dunno, happy, resilient, and well-adjusted. We wouldn’t want that. They must carry the weight of their failures forever.

This time, luckily, I caught myself starting down that road, so I stopped kicking myself about the wallet. I started kicking myself about kicking myself, instead. I wrote a book about how to cope with trauma, for crying out loud. Ok, so losing a bit of cash isn’t on a par with getting raped, but shouldn’t that mean that it should be easier to put the right self-care plan into action?

I’ve spent years absorbing resilience skills from people who were damn good at it, because they’d needed to be. I trust my skills in times of emergency, yet I completely fail to use them for everyday events. This is all kinds of stupid. Practicing skills makes you better at them. Everyday events happen a lot more often than major emergencies. Not wasting your life crying over spilled milk is important. Having realised how stupid I’ve been, I’m determined to change.