Dear Daughter

 

I’m sorry you’re not ok

I hate that you feel this way

My heart wrenches and wrings

When I see you scrunch up your wings

Those wispy ethereal things

That carry your fears away

 

I see your face fall with a frown

Your little body in fear hunching down

As the kids run around in delight

Saturday frolics and fights

Tumbling, tussling, laughing and light

But you are terrified now

 

What did I do so wrong

Your anxiety a melancholy song

My heart fills with tears

No hugs banish the fears

My kisses are leers

That laugh at me all the day long

 

Your screams and panic and horror

Mickey Mouse was a serious error

I don’t know what to do

I just love you

My heart is breaking, its cruel

To watch you drown in psychological terror

 

You’ve passed a mere forty months

Mostly you giggle and romp

Your wingspan so wide

No need to hide

Your mind is safe from the tide

Of the dreadful phantom swamp

 

Dear Daughter I promise you this

You are safe in my arms I insist

There’s no menace greater than me

To crush those anxieties you’ll see

I’ll fashion you wings with my love’s filigree

And you’ll rise and soar and be free

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is Your Wallet Bursting With Pride?

Bursting open that is.

Picture the scene: Hubsy and I  sauntering nonchalantly through town sipping on our almond milk lattes from the most hip on-trend barista bar in town, basking in two hours alone from our little monsters darlings. Pretending to be young fashionable things.

We weave through the evening shopping hordes, stopping at this window and that; I’d like that handbag –  the ‘PR’ girl in the elevator at the office had something similar. I couldn’t pry my eyes-under-downcast-lashes off until the sixty-sixth floor. It doesn’t do to show someone you like their stuff, next thing you know they’ve taken ‘Kind Regards’ off their email signature and it’s just a short and superior ‘Madalina’. Meanwhile Hubsy is eyeing up an SUV in steel grey that’s driving past – the leather looks soft enough to wrap a newborn in, the engine roar is gorgeous…and it would definitely make the neighbors’ eyes pop.

Ok, so this scene is not true. Or at least not all of it. We were basking in a couple of child free hours.

I was recently telling my friend how I would like to get a new-to-me used car as we could really use a second car. Our current workhorse of a machine is unpretentious and twelve years old. I just don’t see the point of upgrading while we’re in the years when the floor contains every substance known to toddler mushed up on the floor despite valet after valet. It brings us from A to B. The trunk is big enough for the stroller. What more do you want?

This is how the conversation went with said friend:

Yeah we could really use a new car, I need to be able to take the kids out in the summer while Hubsy is at work.

Oh great! What do you think you might get?

Just something small, then I can take the family car for days out with the kids, and Hubsy can use the small car for the commute. I’m caught between spending a lot on something newer or keeping my savings and getting something older. 

Yeah but at least something newer will have less repair costs. 

True but by newer I mean like a 2003 or 2004 model anyway

(Friend’s voice faltering to condescending and a critical crooked smile on her face):

Wouldn’t you want something newer than that? Like they’re pretty rough looking those old cars. Even your current car is very old, I mean, do you really want to be driving round in a 2005 model much longer (she knows we bought that car six months ago).

Her voice is dripping  slow gloopy transparent ooze from her cracked egg mouth.

Instantly, I know what this is all about. She’s getting married soon into a moderately wealthy family. I’m her best friend. She doesn’t want me embarrassing her by rocking up on her lavish day in my crusty old car.

 

Well as much as my vanity is a little dented by her comments, I realized one thing. Sometimes we fall into the trap of subconsciously or consciously believing that the respect or lack thereof shown to us comes from others’ judgement of our financial status. Our financial status is most commonly judged from our outwardly appearance including our possessions and our address. If I were weaker than I am, I might be tempted to shell out for that steel grey SUV and join the yummy-mummy, cashmere wearing, trendy jeans crowd. I was a sucker for peer pressure in my youth.

So herein lies the crux of the matter: Our sense of pride costs us money. 

It’s so bloody obvious and yet it’s not something we ever account for in our household budgets. A ‘Keeping Up With The Jones’s’ cost is not something on my Excel sheet. No, it sneaks its way in at the point of sale undermining your self esteem, walloping your rational mind with the doubt of pubescent teen. You just won’t seem as cool with the cheaper one.

Cheaper does not necessarily mean cheap. It means less than the one we know we don’t really need or can’t really afford to buy. We all like a splurge now and then. A treat. If feels good because it boosts our pride. It may be beautiful, rare, unique etc. But ultimately we are spending to boost our pride, and by proxy our perceived social standing.

As the old adage goes – we spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like.

If we are regularly spending more than we can really afford to (and by afford I mean with cash not credit) then we have to sit back and ask ourselves: How much money is my pride going to cost me? How many soul crushing hours do I have to work for my pride to be satisfied? Is it really worth it? Who am I trying to impress? And more importantly – why am I trying to impress?!?

 

 

 

Color – By – Numbers

Remember those color-by-numbers books we used to play with as children? I used to spend a lot of time with those and the dot-to-dot picture books.  I’ve always been a ‘love clear instructions’ kind of person. Receiving  and especially giving. Just ask my hubsy 😉

The thing with the color-by-numbers is that the picture is already formed and visible. You don’t actually need to color it in to see the picture. Sure you have to focus a little longer to separate the important bits from the background but it’s so easy a child can do it. And yet it’s only when its colored that we class it as complete. We happily follow a set of provided instructions on what color to add into each pre-made section based on a number/color combination.

This is exactly what I see people doing to each other every day. It’s what I myself do every day. But it’s wrong.

How old is your child?

How much does he weigh?

How long does he sleep?

What size does he wear?

How old are you?

How much do you(or your husband) earn?

How long have you been married?

How long are you in your job?

What did you pay for your house?

How much weight have you lost?

How much did those jeans cost?

You think you know me because of my set of numbers? You think you know my child? We slot those answers into an overall pre-made picture, based on our initial impression.

How about  – what hobbies do you like? Does your child like art or music? What are your dreams? What keeps you awake at night? What are your beliefs?

We don’t need the numbers to get the picture, we just need to focus a bit harder on what’s staring us straight in the face.

That’s what makes color-by-numbers different and more enjoyable than a standard coloring book. There’s a set of instructions, and how we love to follow them. Conversations are the social color-by-numbers.

The art of conversation seems to have gone out the window. Conversations have become shallow trading of number-based-facts like those kids’ card trading games where each character’s number represents a power.

Sometimes I see a lonely looking stranger and I want to ask ‘what is your story?’. People find it cathartic to get things off their chest. These days we’re all afraid to ask the right questions as it’s uncomfortable. There’s no map for that conversation.  So we leave the person be, we leave them in their loneliness. It’s too uncomfortable because it strays from the narrative we’re used to telling and reading.  Social media has trained us against sharing anything deeply meaningful as we try to limit ourselves to 140 characters. Brevity is, depth is self-indulgent; make the long story short will you?

There have been times in my life when I was young where I felt like the loneliest person in the world despite living in a capital city. I suffered a lot from depression.

If anyone had asked me ‘Are you ok?’ while sitting on a park bench I would have answered ‘Yeah thanks, fine’ as I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to feel burdened. I would have thought – and still do react this way today – that it’s too uncomfortable for the other person if I say ‘No I’m not ok’. It’s not shame; it’s simply not wanting to push someone else into that uncomfortable tangent off the standard narrative we are all so used to.

But if someone had followed up with ‘it’s ok to share if you want to, I’m happy to listen if you want to talk’ then maybe I would have swallowed hard and taken a few courageous steps to talk.

It’s my belief that mental health problems are so huge around the world today because we are all unused to sharing more than we should. Which is a paradox since social media has us sharing more than ever. Let’s stop yapping on social media and start talking to the person on your street that looks sad. Or just have an actual meaningful conversation with your neighbor.

What’s the worst that can happen?

If you misjudged the situation and I’m fine, I’m going to respect you for asking. Maybe that’s just me.

 

 

 

Strong or Cowardly ?

In my religion is a strong tenet, that “the strong man is the one who holds his temper”. This is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad himself.

When I was in my early twenties (and before I had converted to Islam), I had a partner who was eleven years older than me. He used to say (in explanation of why we had a rocky relationship) ‘Your blood boils from youth, it will be calmer when you’re older‘. We finished not long after. I’m now the age he was then. Sometimes I ask myself if his prediction has indeed come true.

Converting to Islam caused me to reassess my own ego. I began to see that while I as an individual, as a daughter, sister, friend, office colleague and later as a wife and mother have an importance, it would be an over-inflated ego and pride that would cause me to take offence to the point of anger at a throwaway comment, a condescending tone, or a patronizing look. People decide to get angry. Anger is a decision made in a billionth of a second. It’s a reaction that has been refined and improved over our lifetimes so that we no longer need to think about it, hence why it feels instinctual when someone is pressing your buttons.

I spent a lot of my youth being angry. I ruined  opportunities, relationships and wasted a lot of time that could have been spent happily if only I had chosen to NOT be angry. (I’ll admit  that sometimes  I got angry because I judged the other person’s feelings for me by how they reacted when I got angry. It made me feel good to see that they didn’t want to lose me. I still feel a lot of shame over that.) I’m not talking about hiding my anger – that is different – but to actually choose not to be offended, not to raise my voice, not to verbally attack others, not to react. You think I’m an idiot? Well that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. Good luck to you.

Some people might call me cowardly. They might say I’ve let myself become a doormat. They might be angry at me for refusing to get into a confrontation.

The truth is that I can still seethe. And I am quite capable of letting the animal out of the cage if I feel hurt badly enough. But anger is such a trivial waste of energy and time. Even when I feel that familiar hot burn rising in my stomach I remind myself that I only feel this way because I’m letting it happen and I can resolve this without the anger. So someone patronized me? So what?? In my mind I play through the scenario that would ensue if I got angry – I might say something angry back, we would inflame each other with smart ass remarks, before regretting it all and apologizing. It would hardly change their opinion of me or my action, most likely it would validate it. So why bother? I will only regret the words I spoke and can not take back. I don’t need the burden of that.

Paradoxically, when you start to do this, your self esteem starts to solidify and the comments, perceived disrespect or triggers  that previously nudged your self esteem to react in such a negative way, now no longer impact this solid core of yourself. Very little that others do can upset you. You get strong. You get happy as you realize that the influence of others over your emotional stability is totally diminished. Having a stronger but more humble self esteem has enabled me to talk issues out with people before they become sensitivities.Being able to  admit I did something wrong goes hand in hand here.

The anger I feel nowadays is related to social justice. I try not to waste time on anger in my personal relationship (I’m not always successful). Hypocrisy is unavoidable in life; at times we all espouse one thing and then do another. I get angry when people die in wars, famine, disease etc as a result of social hypocrisy and a lack of social justice. And this is a healthy anger. I control where it starts and ends. I don’t let the weight of my own pride-based anger burden me anymore. I feel a whole lot better for it.

So am I calmer now I’m older?  Yes, I suppose he was right. But he couldn’t have known the process of growth and transformation I went through to get here.

 

 

Our SMART TV is making me stupid

I fall into these bad habits from time to time. One of them is watching too much TV. I have to cut it out. It was my hubsy’s birthday recently and I struggled to decide what to get him since after nearly a decade together he has all the clothes, cologne, watches etc etc a man could want. I remembered him giving out about our old-fashioned (but perfectly good) LCD TV so a Sony Bravia Smart TV came to live with us after I handed over a shed load of money. We downloaded Kodi through the Google Play store so now we have literally everything at our fingertips for free – no NetFlix required.

The problem is this – TV in general is just such a waste of time. For every one educational programme, there are a thousand brainless ones. I love brainless TV;  I’m an Alibi channel addict – any and all detective/mystery shows are what I want to be watching. Sometimes when I’m watching a bit of telly, I pick an actor and wonder what he or she is doing now. Probably they are laughing at how their pockets are lined by people like me watching them pretend to be a detective, drug dealer or serial rapist. Yes, they are out there actually having a life while I waste my time watching them in their pretend life. Ughhh 

Here’s the real kicker though: after a couple of hours watching TV I start to feel depressed. I’m not sure why this is. I think it’s because my subconscious knows that I’ve just wasted a few precious hours of life on total trash. Even if I’ve enjoyed the programmes themselves, they haven’t enhanced my life, I haven’t refined any talent (other than how to dip a biscuit in a cup of tea just enough so it doesn’t fall into a soggy mess)  or engaged my reasoning abilities. I haven’t had an ‘experience’. I realise that this sounds weird but let me try to explain a bit.

IMG_5672

I bought this box a while back, you can get them in lots of stores. The idea is to put little pieces of paper into it recording happy times, kindnesses done and received and at the end of the year empty them all out and enjoy the flurry of good memories. When myself and hubsy are having coffee on a winter afternoon we love to trawl through our mental log of good times, not chat about what TV programmes were enjoyable. I suppose I could go off on a big tangent here about what constitutes happiness but I’ll resist. This is about our stupid SMART TV.

To be fair I suppose the problem would exist no matter whether it was a SMART TV or not. I love telly, I give in to it too much, but I always regret it. That’s why it’s making me stupid. I’m well educated, I had a career in IT up until recently, I’m a spiritual person. Instead of spending time in some productive, creative, reflective, educational  or happiness-inducing activity – I give in, and the SMART TV makes a fool of me. 

Maintaining your sense of Self

I’m full of anticipation at the moment. I feel like I’ve walked into an open soft meadow, the promise of a lush fertile space where the mind is free to wander and create, a new beginning.

This is for two reasons: firstly, I’ve been made redundant from my job this week and secondly, I’ve started this blog. I was recruited straight after university, and stayed with a global telecommunications company for more than 11 years. Before that I worked part-time throughout uni and also in the last few years of school. I never quit for exams or finals.

So it’s a little bit scary in so far as I’m not used to seeing no money coming in every month as it has been for the last 18 years. Wow.. I had a little shudder there when I wrote ’18 years’…it’s been so long! I started work in my mid teens. I went from waitress to sales assistant to call centre staff to project co-ordinator to business analyst to solution and technical IT architect with a bit of project management along the way.That’s the sum total of my working life. Sounds ridiculously simple when totalled in one sentence but I spent many hard years working my way up, with long hours and sleepless nights from stress.

And now my job is going to be full time stay at home Mammy. Scary! I’m a bit afraid my brain will shrivel up like a prune. So to keep me mentally challenged and to keep a sense of myself I decided to open a blog and write my thoughts and ideas  here. At the same time it’s very liberating to be “out-of- work”. (Motherhood doesn’t seem to qualify to a lot of people!) My family was crumbling at the edges under the stress of both parents working before my maternity leave. We were up at 6 am, to go to the child minder by 7 to be in work by 9am (my job was 70 kilometres and two major motorways away). Not returning until 6 in the evening for me and 7 for hubsy. Coming home to a cold untidy house, cooking awful food that was just quick and convenient, getting my daughter to bed by 8 latest (she needed to be there by 7.30 but we wanted a little more time with her) and spending weekends doing the never ending cycle of cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and having very little time or energy for anything else was just sucking the soul out of us.

I’m finishing up my second maternity leave now after the birth of my son and I was dreading re-entering that cycle. Babies are exhausting but bring a lot of inner joy and this is a welcome exhaustion –  ‘this too shall pass’ is constantly repeated in whispers in the depth of night when it feels criminal to be awake. It is the driftwood we are clinging to as we drown in a sea of nappies, teething, toddler tantrums and colicky baby cries. But honestly I love parenthood! 🙂

Anyway, here I am, newly redundant, and I love that we can now afford for me to be a stay-at-home mother for a while longer at least. I want to make use of this time as best I can, expand my horizons a little. And those of my children. Writing a blog makes you very self-conscious of every word you write, every thought you have so I hope that doesn’t become overwhelming. I hope I don’t lose my ‘self’ in the blog by adjusting everything out of worry how I’ll be perceived. That would make the whole exercise pointless. This blog is going to be my own little studio since I don’t have much time to go to the gym or go to classes. It’s so easy to get lost in the cycle of life around the children. I’d love to hear any comments from other stay at home Mams or Dads on how you keep your sense of ‘self’ ?