Twerking the message home

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus (Photo credit: rwoan)

I wasn’t particularly keen to write on this subject, but each time I try to put it aside, I get another little nudge telling me to get on with it.

So here we go:  the ‘Thank you Miley Cyrus‘ post.

Back in the day, my sex education lessons to classes full of anxiously giggling eleven-year-olds usually began with something like this:

Did you know that when a caterpillar develops a chrysalis and begins changing into a butterfly, every part of its body goes into a complete meltdown, and from the resulting goo an entirely new creature is formed?  Adolescence is a bit like that.   You start off as children and emerge as young adults, but the process in between can be pretty messy and radical.

Nothing I could say, though, would prepare the kids for the massive and traumatic changes that hormones would be wreaking on their bodies over the next few years, or the social and emotional fallout this would create.

The thing is, no one – not even the most sorted, mature and contented adult – can take self-esteem as a given.  Each of us is still racked, from time to time, with self-doubt, insecurities and a wavering self-image.  Yes?  And I’m pretty certain that everyone reading this can look back to their own adolescence and recall how exaggerated and extreme those doubts and horrors were, when sudden and dramatic changes were affecting their entire beings on a daily basis.  You’d wake up in the morning to find your voice, your skin, your smell, your height and weight, your emotions and mood and, of course, intimate parts of your body had suddenly transformed you into something quite new and unfamiliar.  How on earth were you supposed to go about developing self-esteem, when you didn’t know, from day to day, who you were?

Chrysalis to Butterfly (#1 of 5)

The caterpillar/butterfly is able to make these changes within the privacy of the chrysalis.  Our society doesn’t provide so much as a curtain for our developing young people to hide behind.  All these changes take place as they are going about their daily lives, interacting constantly on social media and – for an unfortunate few – in the full glare of publicity.

This is where Miley Cyrus comes in, of course.  How unimaginably ghastly for a talented and beautiful young girl to have to play out a fantasy life in front of millions on TV for years as she grows up and then to attempt to redraw herself as an adult in the same, unrelenting media glare.  It would seem that caring and helpful mentors have been sadly missing from her life, replaced instead by greedy and self-serving individuals encouraging her to boost their profits by – well – doing what she’s been doing.

I think we needed to see this hideously exaggerated adolescent transition played out on our screens, in order to recognise how much help and support the rest of our young people need.

A week or two back, the British media were reporting a story that many young people are being blackmailed into sending pornographic images of themselves to paedophiles.  They are, apparently, approached via social media by someone pretending to be an ideal potential friend of the required sex and age.  They are then asked by the new ‘friend’ to send compromising photos or videos of themselves.  

This they willingly do.

After that, of course, they are trapped.  The blackmailer threatens to send the pictures to their family and friends unless they provide more.  The suffering this causes to the kids in that already fragile, insecure and confused adolescent state can easily be imagined.

The point I want to pick up on is that so many of our young people will readily send such images of themselves to total strangers – because, I suppose, their lack of familiarity with their new, sexually aware selves, together with the blatant soft porn images surrounding them in the media, trick them into believing that only this will make them sufficiently attractive and desirable to a potential boyfriend or girlfriend.

Why did it take young Ms Cyrus’ public gyrations and disrobing to alert us to the warped message being fed to her generation?  Surely it’s vital for all of us who live with, work with or otherwise care for young people, to help them to recognise and respect the fragile and incredible beauty of their bodies, and to lovingly guide them through the hazards and fears of puberty so that they can emerge from the process as adults with a relatively secure self-image and the confidence to  seek out and attract partners who will recognise and admire their intrinsic uniqueness and value.

We should not be leaving them prey to those who would destroy and devour them greedily before they can emerge from the chrysalis transformation.

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The Iron Gate

I don’t know where this story came from. 

I know I’m the one who wrote it, many years ago, but what dream-maker or muse placed the images and ideas in my head I can’t fully understand or explain.

I wrote it for a friend, but now I see I also wrote it for myself.

Just maybe, since coincidence doesn’t exist but synchronicity does, you have come to the story because it was also written for you.  Please open to that possibility and enjoy, because it is sent to you with love.

jap_garden_maple_tree

Once a man was walking along the street, when he noticed a beautiful garden behind a high iron fence.  The man was overcome with a great desire to go into the garden.  It looked irresistible.

He could smell the slightest hint of perfume from the flowers, but he knew that if he was in there, the scent would be overwhelming and he’d be able to drink it in for as long as he wished.  The grass was soft and waved gently in the breeze.  He ached to be there, laying in it and staring up into the trees.  There were secret corners and paths he could not see from the street, and he longed to be able to follow and explore them.

No one else seemed to be in the garden, or even to notice it.  He felt strangely certain that this garden was there especially for him – if only he could find a way into it.

shut the gateHe followed the fence for a long way, but it was far too high to climb.  Eventually, after turning several corners, he came to a gate.  This too was very high and made of iron, but the man was filled with hope.  Perhaps the hinges were weak; perhaps the catch was rusty.  He stepped back and took a run at the gate, throwing his full force against it.  It barely moved, and the pain was excruciating.  His shoulder was bruised and his wrist was sprained.  He had jarred his leg badly and his whole body felt battered.  Despite this, though, he smiled.

“That must have weakened the gate,” he told himself.  “Next time I’ll manage it.”

A few days later, when the swelling and bruising had died down, he returned to the gate and, once again, threw himself at it with all his might.  As before, it stayed firm and he was battered and injured by the experience.  He refused to be put off, however, always returning and enduring the same pain, just for the chance of entering the garden.

“After all,” he reasoned, “Such a beautiful, enchanted place is worth all the suffering.  I should have to go through pain if I’m to reach that perfect garden.”

As time went by, he began to think about the necessity for the pain more than about the garden.  It had become a ritual he had to endure.  He felt proud if he made himself suffer more frequently, or if the bruising was worse than usual.

“That’s got to be good,” he said.  “That takes me closer to my goal.”

 

Finally, the inevitable happened – he ran at the gate so hard that he banged his head against the metal bars and knocked himself out.  He lay, motionless, on the pavement.

White feather on rust

White feather on rust (Photo credit: Marius Waldal)

Slowly, a perfect white feather floated from high above down through the sunlight and landed beside him.  He could not have heard any sound and yet the motion made him stir.  He tried to sit up, but felt dizzy and disorientated.  Someone seemed to be beside him, but perhaps he was not yet fully conscious.  The figure appeared to be very tall.

The man felt the softest of touches to his shoulder.  His pain seemed to subside.  He was not sure whether the figure had spoken.  He didn’t remember hearing any sound, yet there was a question in his head, as if someone had just asked it.

The question was so obvious; he couldn’t see how he had not thought about it before.

“Why not?” he asked himself, and reached up to turn the handle of the gate.  It swung open easily.

He stood, wondering at the lack of pain, and walked through into the garden.  It was as beautiful as he had imagined – more so, in places.  He felt peace and warmth and happiness flowing through him.  He’d had no idea that life could feel this good.

 

When you reach your gate, why not simply open it and go through?

 

What’s the point of life?

Turned on the TV when I got downstairs this morning.  There was this beautiful young woman being interviewed about why she self harms.  She spoke about how she hates herself – how she’d love to like herself…  They went on to say that a report by Young Minds has found that huge numbers of young people are self harming.

I’ve worked with so many kids who have no self-esteem, who harm themselves (in that way and others) and who think they’re rubbish.  This book I’ve written is really aimed at them.  It starts with the question ‘What’s the point?’ and goes on to honour that question and answer it.

Anyone who knows a young adult who feels that way, please tell them about Life: A Player’s Guide.  It just might help.