Sometimes I hate Pollyanna. Bouncy haired, smiling, super positive little git. I think she can sometimes be a weapon. A bit like honesty. You know when someone says to you, “I have to tell you this, I am sorry, but I am a really honest person…..” then they proceed to tell you that your jeans are too tight, your hair style is old-fashioned or that the work presentation you did the week before really sucked. When someone tells you that they have to tell you something, because they are a really honest person, it is generally just their way of saying that they are an arsehole. Honesty should never be an excuse for rudeness or for cruelty. It has nothing to do with honesty. Pollyanna can sometimes be like that. I think sometimes that exercising a Pollyanna attitude is just a way of showing that you are incapable of listening. When someone tells you something such as they are having a bad day, there is nothing worse than someone who says in response, “Cheer up, it could be worse, tomorrow is another day, it will get better, well at least the sun is shining!” That is the one time I don’t like Pollyanna. When she is used as a way of shutting someone up and invariably shutting someone down. You can’t be listening if you are doing that to someone.
Listening is such an important skill and it is something that I generally don’t think we are very good at. I know that I am constantly trying to teach myself to listen more and to say less. How the hell can we listen if we are constantly sharing our opinions? I will never forget when I caught up with a lovely girlfriend who had been going through hell and back with breast cancer. We did not see each other often and I know that I was anxious about the appropriate way of responding to what she had been through because I obviously had absolutely no idea. So what did I do? I employed Pollyanna and a complete inability to listen, literally as soon as she opened her mouth. She obviously wanted to vent, to weep, to howl at the moon which she had every right to do, but as soon as she shed her first tear, I shut her down. Told her that we should not get upset, let’s talk about something else, everything would be alright etc etc. I still remember that day. I was employing Pollyanna but it was not my finest hour and for some reason it has stuck in my head as a moment I really regret.
Having kids has taught me how important it is to listen. The greatest gift we can give our kids I think is to hear them. To hear them and to shut up as often as we can. That can be a challenge. A real challenge because a lot of the time kids can be as boring as bat-shit. The kids talk to me a lot during our morning walk and it is probably the time I most crave peace and quiet. It is so tempting to shut them up by telling them as soon as they tell you that really bad knock-knock joke that you have heard it 17 times before that month alone. It is so easy to say to them when they tell you that they are having a tough time with someone in their class that it could be worse, they could be in a classroom in Syria so please shut up their whingeing for 30 seconds. It would be so easy to tell Archie as he tells me for the fourteenth time how upset he is that he never gets to zone athletics to suck it up Princess you will never be a runner so just deal with it. It would be so easy to do all that. So it has been an incredible learning experience for me to learn how many times I want to ‘Pollyanna’ moments, which in reality is just a way of shutting someone down. As soon as you create a ‘Pollyanna’ moment for someone else you stop listening to what they are actually trying to tell you.
I have learnt so much since being diagnosed with MS. It would be so lovely to be able to actually talk to someone. But I find that very few people are capable of listening. One of my least favourite sayings is now, “Cheer up, it could be worse!” I particularly love it when it comes within 10 seconds of you opening your mouth. Of course it could be worse, I could have my left leg stuck in a combine harvester and my right hand stuck in a thresher. I am not really that familiar with farm machinery, so forgive me if being stuck in a combine harvester and a thresher at the same time is not possible. I was just trying to imagine something that would be super painful. Of course it could be fucking worse. You could also be buried neck deep in sandy dirt with flesh eating ants eating your face and head (I just watched a really scary episode of Sons of Anarchy last night – that show is an ideal example of how it could always be worse.) I know it could be worse. But as soon as someone says that to you, you know they are either not capable of, or not interested in listening to you. So as a result it is impossible for them to understand what you are trying to say, impossible for them to empathise with you and absolutely impossible for them to know what needs to be said or done for you to feel better. 9 times out of 10 I truly believe that the only thing that many people need is to be listened to. That is all; they just want to be heard.
But unfortunately I don’t think many of us are very good at genuinely listening. That is shutting up, sitting back and actually taking time to listen to what people have to say. I know that at times I have been crap at it and there will be always room for improvement. Tomorrow is another day as Polly might say. I have been practicing hard now for almost 8 years to hone my skills and I suspect I have a few decades ahead of me before I get it right. But one thing I have learnt is that Polly needs to rack of when I am listening to people. “It could be worse” is the one time when I suspect she is a nasty little bitch and if I have the urge to utter that phrase I shall hit myself over the head with a large mullet.
I love soup. It is so easy to make a big batch and then have leftovers in the fridge for the week for lunch and dinner. Also it is usually a great way of tricking your fussy eaters and getting in a whole lot of extra vegetables into a meal that they don’t even know about. I made the mistake of doing a rustic chunky style soup with a potato masher and it did not get Archie and Rissie approval. Rissie in particular looked at me very suspiciously at what looked like to her a very obvious bowl of vegetables. Can’t get much past that kid. So if you want kid friendly I would definitely recommend using a handheld blender and making it smooth and that will bring out the sweetness of the corn even more.
Pumpkin, Sweet Potato & Corn Soup
1 whole Kent pumpkin – peeled, seeds removed and diced
1 large Sweet Potato – peeled and diced
3 cobs corn – kernels removed whilst raw
3 large white onions – peeled and roughly chopped
Vegetable stock powder
Head the onion in some water in a saucepan and generously sprinkle some vegetable stock in with it. Heat until onion becomes translucent. Add vegetables, cover with water and add more stock powder. If you would prefer to use vegetable stock use that instead of the water and stock powder.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Let cool a little and if you would like to keep the kernels whole use an old-fashioned potato masher to have a really rustic chunky soup of if you want a smooth soup blitz with a handheld blender.
Serve as is.