Jane Hutcheon


13 Nov

Dear Jane: This is What It's Like to Feel Belittled Personal Event deliberate life

Jane Hutcheon

Event Start: 16 hours ago

Dear Jane,

Far too many people have attempted to belittle me. I emphasise the term ‘attempted’ because in those situations I work very hard to ensure they don’t succeed - at least where my sense of self-worth and dignity are concerned.

Sometimes this can be immensely tiring.

Belittling actions occur on a spectrum - from a simple smirk to laughter and pointing. Then there are demeaning comments (often presented as statements or polite) to overt insults.

They hurt - they all hurt. 

How does it feel? Like a slight tightening in the chest, a bristle at the back of the neck, a quickening of the heart and breath.  In other words, the body prepares for a flight-or-fight response.  Meanwhile, I gauge the situation and consider whether to ignore or react.

Which option I choose depends on the event and the strength of my resolve. I haven’t cried in public because I am fiercely determined that my personhood is always carried through and communicated. However, I have shed countless tears in private and cried myself to sleep too many times. All too often I feel like I am in a battle, and it’s a matter of survival that a chink in the armour isn’t revealed and exploited.

At other times, belittling behaviours can occur through ignorance.   If that’s the case (and it’s not always possible to ascertain), then I will engage with the person or people because I consider that to be my job.  It’s my job as a parent, to inform and correct stereotypes or misinformation so that my child is less likely to be belittled.

I do get battle-weary. On those occasions I nurture myself through art, my family and a good dose of mindless TV comedy (Frasier, Big Bang Theory, Michael MacIntyre).

Jane, I hope this gives you a sense of what it’s like to feel belittled.

All the very best,

Debra Keenahan

(image used with the kind permisson of Robert Brindley:

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06 Nov

My Answer - the Regret You've Learned to Live With Personal Life FAQ deliberate life

Jane Hutcheon

Dear Ellen,

Thank-you for your response to my question: what’s the regret you’ve learned to live with? 

You stopped me in my tracks when you said that your greatest regret was having children.

At 63 I look back and saw what an awful mother I was sometimes.  I never actually wanted to have children, but I did. I was too young and I didn’t even know who I was myself, let alone know how to raise a child.

I wonder whether you were ever able to have a discussion about parenthood back then with your husband?  Many of us just think having children is something we are supposed to do.

I remember what it was like becoming a mother, which I never thought would happen.  I was so late coming to motherhood that my husband and I thought about it deeply, knowing it was something that would profoundly change us, but that we both wanted that transformation. 

Motherhood suddenly dumps a load on your shoulders, or at least, that’s how it felt to me.  Then there are the expectations.  A new mother is always expected to have the answers and to know instinctively what to do.  It’s the one area where ‘fake it till you make it’ doesn’t work.

Ellen, I sense that you have thought long and hard about this regret.

I didn’t know how to love them unconditionally and allow them to be children.  My mother once told  my sister that she had to teach me how to love my baby.  When my sister told me, I was hurt and angry and my first thought was, if that’s true then what does it say about MY mother?

You have shot an arrow through the key question of life Ellen.  What is love?

I see love as very much a verb.  It’s persistence and showing up when you don’t feel like it.  It’s trying to soothe and explain when you are tired.  It’s holding and comforting when you feel angry or hurt.  It’s discomfort.  It’s trying, failing and trying again. And it’s saying you are sorry many times over. 

Love is nothing like the adrenaline-fuelled passion that I used to think it was.

Ellen, though you regret what you went through you don’t regret the individuals you brought into the world:

I took the responsibility of parenthood seriously and I aways put them (the children) first, always had food on the table and I sent them to a church school as it was all I could afford.

Looking around at our society I can see many - including me - who struggle with parenthood.  It’s one of the hardest roles in the world.  And yet your boys, now adults, are making their own way in the world. 

They have turned into lovely men and I am happy for them both.

It sounds like you have accepted those difficult, earlier years and realised that though a tough lesson, your regret helped you to grow as a human.  

Thank-you so much Ellen, for helping us and sharing your thoughts.

Love, Jane


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30 Oct

My Answer - the Little Known Thing You'd Like to Be Remembered For Personal FAQ deliberate life

Jane Hutcheon

Nelson Mandela looking blissful

Dear Friends,

Thank-you for your colourful and heartfelt responses to the question I posed: what little-known thing would you like to be remembered for?

What is fascinating to me is that most of us singled out ordinary things that matter to us; what we are passionate about and our deep desire to learn and to love.

Sarah writes,

I realise the things I’m most proud of are often completely unpaid and not on my CV.  I don’t talk about them either.  

MaryAnne speaks of being remembered for unselfishness and generosity when she was in need of these things herself.

And Joseph speaks of the people whose lives he helped put back together after they had life-changing injuries.  That is enough, he says.

Joseph is right. That is enough.  It is more than enough.

We should just get on purposefully with our lives or as the notebook cover says ‘Do Good Everyday’, because for many people, life itself can be a struggle.  I know it is for me.  Writing this series gives me the opportunity to imagine how I’d like Jane to be.  But Jane isn’t like this all of the time.  She can be petty and mean and small and demeaning.    

As for my answer to the question about the little-known thing I’d like to be remembered for, I haven’t yet achieved it.  What I would like to say is that I was good at saying sorry.

The younger Jane, regarded apologising as a weakness.  I saw it as giving in.  My apologies were shallow and full of excuses.  

Even now, it takes time to arrive at a point where I can make a wholehearted apology, which is one where I accept full responsibility.  I am a work in progress.

Most of us will never reach the heights of David Suchet with a glittering career forged by wonderful acting skills.  But I’m with him on remembering the smaller roles we play in our lives.  By searching deeply we might find something richer and possibly more exciting than our familiar, favourite Belgian detective.

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