To Document

I am just writing this here because I have had a Very Bad Day.

A

not

very

present

day.

A

Lost.In.My.Head.

DAY.

With lots of fog and tiredness and mounting worry and frustration.

Probably boils down to the fact that I am Very Exhausted and Really Struggling.

I spent the day alone with my son today as my husband had to work outside the home – usually he can work from home. See I think I take this man for granted, because today was horrific. I had no energy at all. I was trying so hard to get work done, and I did all the things I usually do to exhaust my boy, like going for a walk, painting, building things, making muffins, having a long bath with lots of pouring and splashing. Video calling Nana. In bed by 8pm.

He did not sleep until 11pm, folks.

He rolled around, pinched my arms, gave me cuddles and kisses, cried a little when I got frustrated and told him to GO TO SLEEP PLEASE. Eventually he fell asleep in my arms and I slowly heaved myself up and out into the light of the hallway and my goodness did I cry.

I felt really out of my depth and out of control. And I did not get any work done at all. With a deadline tomorrow this means no sleep for me tonight.

I also have other issues – health issues – that do NOT help the situation. For example I am

seven months pregnant.

So my fuse is short.

And my patience is thin.

My hips are locked, my pelvis is turned the wrong way and it’s bloody uncomfortable to sleep so sleep is not sufficient for rest. It’s actually funny if you really think about it. I have for sure laughed about it when I have had better days.

I am so done, folks.

And I frankly just want my mother around but she is a Very Busy Woman. You see she still has my other siblings at home and while two of them are adults and have jobs/lives of their own, the other two are still boys. Teenage boys. She also works full time and is currently undergoing lots of household changes.

It’s very difficult to acquire help in these times. And I know I am probably being pig headed about this but I refuse to travel two hours to stay with my in laws just so I can get ‘help’. To me it’s not help. To me it’s having my son babysat while I struggle with heart palpitations and walking on eggshells and crippling anxiety. I lived with them before and being pregnant, working full time and having a toddler will make it worse than it was. I would probably end up in deep depression like I did last time. They can stay over all they like although when they do it’s actually more work for me, but nobody sees it that way.

See if my mum stayed over I wouldn’t feel the need to get out of bed early and make her breakfast or cook full meals for everybody or appear in control. I would let her see me in my glorious half naked frizzed out state. I would feel comfortable. Not so with anybody else, and I suppose that’s mostly natural, people’s personalities differ. Their expectations differ.

Anyway.

I do not write to complain.

I write to release and document.

It’s a hard phase of life and one day I will look back and say, ‘Man, that was rather a hard time wasn’t it.’

Or maybe I will say, ‘Man, I wish I had it as easy as I did then!’

Lol. Who knows, eh?! And if you can’t laugh about it then you’ll jolly well cry and I am going to laugh about it.

Tomorrow. With my husband. Who I DO take for granted. And I will tell him so. He makes my life easier. So much easier. When he is gone it’s totally miserable.

On Feeling Burnt Out

I am very tired lately. I sneak naps by accident, like when I am putting my son to bed. I will fall asleep for an hour then wake up groggy, panicky and shaky because my blood sugar is low and I also have lots of work to do.

Work is stressing me THE FUDGE out. Which is so selfish to say because I work from home and am very lucky to have this remote working job. The whole company works from home, as they are an app and it’s a start-up.

I just sometimes feel out of my depth because I need hours of uninterrupted thinking time to do this job, and you can’t have that when you have a one year old with you full time. So I get this work done when he is asleep, often staying up until the small hours, and getting up in the later-small hours to work until he wakes up, and work through his afternoon nap, and while he eats his meals, and sometimes pop The Gruffalo on for him (it lasts 28 minutes) so I have half an hour’s time to work.

But even so I think it’s not enough. It’s 8 hours per day but I need more than that.

And I am falling behind and sometimes appearing stupid in meetings. And am worried they will think I am not doing enough or thinking enough and will fire me. So I am pushing and pushing and pushing harder and harder. And I am so goddamn tired. Bloody hell. And lonely. But too goddamn tired to connect with anybody, even my parents. And when I cook and clean I feel half hearted, and when I read to my son my eyes start to close. I take him to the park 3-4 times a week and try to run around with him and play with him, and that’s tiring too.

How do people do it? How do they work full time and mother full time and get 8 hours of sleep and work-out and eat healthy and be in a good mood?

Because I can’t do all of that. So something has to give. And that’s my sleep. I probably get 3 hours of sleep a night. And when I crawl into bed at 3am my son wakes up and asks for my ‘mam’ – which means ‘arm’, which means he wants to sleep in my arms.

And I lie there in the dead of the night, my arms numb from the weight of his head, and my fingers stroke his soft round cheeks and I listen to his even breathing, and smell the softness of the top of his head, which has lost the ‘baby’ smell but still has this sweet toddler smell, and sometimes he mumbles ‘mama’ in his sleep, and he nestles into me, and moves my arm tighter over his little baby body, and I relax.

Because yes I am stressed and sleep deprived and often think I cannot do this, but I realise that with each day, my son grows a little bit more. Maybe taller, maybe something in his brain grows, maybe he learns a new word, or conquers a new skill. And life is never the same again. And soon I won’t be as stressed or worried or tired, and I will feel glad I pushed through this period of time.

Often I think back to my pregnancy and how bloody hard and painful it was, and I remember the mantra I would recite as I hobbled around on a stiff hip, I would say only way out is through.

And that is true. Only way out is through. Just keep pushing. It will be over. Or get easier. Enjoy the time, as much as you can.

So I can smell the top of my baby’s head, and I can’t let the negativity get to me. Because it will change and shift again. Life always does.

Halloween Grinch

Folks it was Halloween yesterday and some people celebrated more than others. Here in the UK it is a pretty low-key event and you are even allowed the luxury of complaining about trick or treaters.

Maybe in some areas houses are insanely done up and it’s a party outside but I have never seen it. Only seen footage of that street party horror vibe in places like America and Canada where it actually is a big event.

My husband and I never did Halloween and to be honest I didn’t even do it as a child. I lived in the middle east and my British-grown parents who grew up in the 70s and 80s did not know anything of the holiday, because it is not a very British holiday.

So usually, on Halloween, we turn off our lights and put a polite sign on the door saying ‘Sorry, we aren’t trick or treating this year :)’ (with a smiley face to appear less obnoxious!). We spend the evening upstairs with a movie and a pizza or something similar, like a cup of tea and a packet of digestives and pleasantly ignore all the persistent knocks downstairs.

I know.

Mean and cruel.

We had a child last year and in October the child was 7 months and didn’t know any better. He was also quite poorly so we spent Halloween upstairs, in the bedroom, with the news on, a cup of tea and lots of toys to entertain a grizzly baby. We looked like zombies so I expect if someone had seen us they would have supposed we were in costume. Wouldn’t have blamed them at all.

This year nobody knocked on our door.

Well I lie.

Someone did. At 12:14pm. My husband peeped through the peephole and said, ‘Oh no, the trick or treaters have started already! There is a boy in a crocodile costume outside holding a bag!’

‘Don’t open it!’ I said frantically, scanning my cupboards, ‘we have nothing to give him! What about an apple?!’

Too late, my husband opened the door. The little boy came tentatively forward and handed us a paper bag before leaping back. On it was written: ‘Happy Halloween, love from O, S and L’.

“It’s for your baby!” he said, eyes bright, little dimples dancing.

Oh my goodness my mellowed mother heart.

“Awwwwwwwww” was the only thing I could say, “Thank you darling, that’s so sweet!”

He was the neighbour’s little boy, and he was dancing with glee. And my ‘baby’ was peeping around the door at him in curiosity.

‘Look, E, look what the little boy got you!’ and I took the bag and I kid you not there were tears in my eyes. How weird. The bag was filled with handmade Halloween crafts and little bags of sweets.

We waved as the little boy pranced back up the path and along the road to his own house.

And I felt so despicably awful for some reason, like I was such a grinch in the face of such innocent and sweet kindness.

It made me realise that these celebrations and events are for children, to make them happy and connect each other in a genuine way. It’s completely changed my outlook on why people celebrate Halloween like that and lie to their kids about Santa. It’s about creating magic and joy for kids which I think is so important. Seeing my baby boy’s eyes light up at this goody bag JUST FOR HIM made my heart melt.

And that is my Halloween story for this year.

What was your Halloween like? Do you celebrate it in true fashion or do you lock yourself away and grumble at the frivolity?

Image Credit

Sad

The clocks went back on Sunday morning at 2am. I feel so down about it to be honest with you.

Usually I welcome this change excitedly. I think about warm coats and hats and scarves and soft streetlamps, cosy bedrooms and dim lighting and warm mugs of sweet deliciousness. Candles. Baths. Hugs. Soup. Mother’s curries. My sister’s apple crumble. My husband’s cold cheeks, his warm hands in which my always cold ones nestle neatly.

This year it feels rather desolate if I am honest. It feels hazy and cloudy and tired and achey. It feels lonely, so lonely. A deep aching loneliness. Family so far away. Life so uncertain. Death knocking at the door. I see him and he is so close this year and I don’t know why.

Anyway I googled ‘why do I feel sad when the clocks go back‘ and it’s a very common ailment that people in the Northern hemisphere suffer from. It’s called SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I don’t think I have SAD but the dark season has made me feel sad this year. I think it’s worse too because I can’t see anybody really, and that is really hurting my heart.

So I decided not to wallow in self pity and do something about it. I have decided to light some candles every evening and tidy up properly once the sun has set, so we have a cosy space to relax in. I have decided to have a hot drink with my son before he goes to bed, just me and him (and maybe his dad if he has finished working on time), have a natter about our day and what books he would like to read before bed. I have decided to keep lamps on in the evening, to wind down. I have decided to take a brisk walk in the morning and a short one in the afternoon while it’s still light out. Get some of that Vitamin D aka happy hormone. Exercise and vitamin D apparently does wonders for the mood. We shall see how these changes help. If they do at all.

Have I missed anything out?

What do you do when you’re feeling low? Has anything you’ve tried helped you get out of a funk?

Rules

Are you following coronavirus rules where you are? What ARE the rules where you live? Is your government/local government making this clear?

Are you TIRED of coronavirus?

I am tired of it but since my son is asthmatic (hopefully it’s only childhood asthma but you can never be too careful) I am wary. So wary. But I have been doing things in this second wave that I would never have dared to do in the first wave.

Like taking my son to the supermarket. Out of necessity more than anything really, but this is something I would never have contemplated in the first wave. I feel guilty about it and like I am doing something VERY WRONG. He is 20 months old this Saturday (I know right, wow?!?!) and the supermarket is a strange and expansive place for him. He is in awe of it. Now if that isn’t a side effect of a pandemic then I don’t know what is.

I make sure to stay far away from people, and thankfully EVERYBODY I see wears a mask, because it’s the law now to wear masks in indoor spaces. And when something is the law in the UK, social etiquette demands that people adhere to it, no matter how much they grumble about it in their own homes. If one doesn’t adhere to it, they will definitely be discussed about contemptuously around dinner tables. (Tea tables if you’re ‘up North’). I live up North and so far, indoors, most people wear masks.

Who knows what really goes on, eh?

If you’re interested in some good thorough coronavirus news from the UK, check out this blog post. Ellen Hawley writes concisely and in a very entertaining way about the various things the UK is managing to do (and not to do) during this pandemic.

Shovelling Snow

Folks, I can’t keep up. There is so much to do. I feel like I am constantly shovelling a snowy pathway, only to have the snow carrying on falling around me, so no sooner do I complete one patch, then it needs doing again.

I feel like I have to keep moving because if I dare to stop for one second, I will drown.

I had a socially distanced evening last night with some other ladies. We met up in one of their gardens, the night was starry and dark and still. She had a wood fire burning, and we wrapped up warm and sipped spiced hot drinks. We talked until midnight. I have not done something like this in… years.

Anyway, it was really good. But I noticed throughout that I kept thinking of the chores I had to do and the work deadlines I had to adhere to, and even though the evening was meant to be relaxing, and I felt great after it, I felt my neck was so sore and my back muscles so tight from being hunched up in worry.

I saw a quote years ago before I had my son, which said ‘Cleaning the house while kids are growing is like shovelling snow while it’s still snowing’. It was on a fridge magnet and I got it for my mum because she appreciates humour. She also always complains about ‘us kids’ and the mess we make everywhere.

Anyway. I feel the quote is apt now, but it doesn’t just relate to kids, it relates to everything.

Someone recently said that the only reason why we feel stressed in our lives is because we want too much. I think we want what we want and we do what we think is the right thing to get there.

For example, I think to myself, why do I work? Well I work to buy my son his winter coat and shoes, to pay off bills, to put food on the table. If I decided not to work, then we would struggle to be comfortable and my son would be cold in the winter. I think sometimes people don’t have choices in these matters.

Choice, I have come to realise, is a luxury.

Bits and Bobs

I often think about politicians and how quickly they age when they arrive in ‘office’. Barack Obama became president with relatively little grey in his hair, and eight years later left looking grizzled, more wizened, but still dapper. Boris Johnson looked like a lopsided clown for most of his time as mayor of London, but you can distinctly see a hollowing around his eyes that was not there previously. A strange look. Age? Narrow escape from the clutches of Covid? New baby? Or just a side-effect of being the face of a nation? Something I think about. Can’t imagine why someone would want that job, but it’s a good job they do, else nobody would be in charge. Not sure how well they run the country but that’s another discussion entirely.

I have been spending too much time on social media again recently. It’s very bad for my brain. It also makes me irritated with humans in general. Like the people who message you demanding you follow so-and-so. No, Margaret. I will not follow ‘Fally’s Fashions’, a small boutique based in South Korea. I don’t live there, I will never visit the boutique, and it does not benefit me in any way. I don’t care if they’re ‘amazing’ and that they’re ‘really good friends’ of yours. It’s not like you’re asking me politely either. Gosh. Why were we friends in secondary school, again? Why are we friends on social media if we have drifted apart and never talk to each other? Back in the day when people drifted apart they did not have constant daily reminders of each others’ lives. I would never know Michelle had twins and is living it up in Australia, for example. Not sure why knowing this benefits me or her in any way. But I can’t unfollow because we used to go to school together and it’s … impolite.

See? What is online etiquette? She would never even notice if I unfollowed her. Or if she did, she would not care.. we NEVER talk! So weird.

I watched David Attenborough’s ‘Witness Statement’ that was recently released. It’s called ‘A Life on Our Planet’ and it basically shows how drastically the planet has changed in the 90 years that Sir Attenborough has been alive. Bloody hell. The timeframes they gave for the inevitable destruction of the earth based on the current trajectory (if we don’t do anything to stop and reverse climate change) is shocking. I found myself measuring it in my son’s lifetime instead of mine. It will be my child and his child who will feel the heaviest impacts of this. It’s so worrying. We can do so many things, but ultimately the hugest changes lie in the hands of the most powerful. And a lot of these powerful policy makers are big fat cheetoes who have lived over 70 years on earth and so won’t be around to see these horrific implications, and who also don’t believe in climate change. Bloody travesty is what it is.

This post is not what it seems.

Is anybody else feeling ‘Covid fatigue’?

Is anybody else sick and tired of staying indoors all the time and panting through a mask whenever they’re out around people?

Is anybody else craving a social life, when previously they were proud introverts?

Does anybody else not want to see their inlaws only all the time, because they’re low-level bullies, and it’s exhausting to brush off being undermined all the time?

Does anybody else want to see a real friend face to face, without lying to one’s inlaws about it, because apparently we cannot see anybody except for them, even if it is socially distanced?

Is anybody else emotionally controlled by somebody?

Don’t you just hate it?

Is anybody else sick to death of living life and making every single decision with the background thought of someone’s mother in law’s feelings and emotions about it?

Does anybody else’s husband act like they don’t love their wife, and tease her mercilessly when his mother is around, because he knows his mother would be jealous and hurt if he dared to show his wife affection?

When my maternal grandmother passed away in 2011, I remember my mum saying something very poignant to someone who came to see her at the funeral.

She said, “Losing your mother is losing your entire world, the one person who truly cares for you, asking nothing in return.”

I was sixteen, I did not understand it at the time, truth be told.

But recently, my mother and my mother in law were in the same room, and my husband and I were facetiming with them. They live five minute’s walk from each other.

My mother in law made one of her usual digs at me, and I laughed and brushed it off with a joke, which made everybody in the room laugh. My mother called me the next day, and asked if I was alone.

“Yes,” I said.

She told me she felt angry and upset at the low-level bullying I was experiencing, and she felt sick and tired of not being able to speak up to defend me, as I always tell her not to say anything ever.

I pacified her, and tried to explain that was the relationship, and not to worry as I don’t let anybody control me. It was kind of a lie, but I can’t tell my mother the truth, she would be furious. My mother is a strong fighter of a woman and I am ashamed to say such things to her, she would never accept it. I don’t know why I do.

At the end of the phone call, I broke down in tears.

Because my husband, who I think loves and supports me in everything, but is sadly also controlled by his mother and doesn’t realise it, would never defend me against any comments made by his mother at me. He would not dare. Hell would rip apart if he did.

Nobody would defend me, I realised. Nobody would even notice. I would fight it off myself, and deal with it, but nobody would care for my mental health and well-being, except for my mother.

She would notice and she would hurt on my behalf but she would respect my wishes and not say anything, but she would seethe inside and she would always be on the lookout for me. No matter how busy she is, no matter how many of her own troubles she has.

And that is what she meant, when she said what she said after her own mother passed away. I understand it now. So so much.

I Miss Summer

I miss summer, with its sudden thunderstorms and endless light.

Hot, silent, still.

The grass crackles and folds and pales under the glare of a ferocious sun.

And then the rain gushes down in a torrent akin to a waterfall. As quickly as it started, an invisible tap turns off, clouds scudding away to reveal the bluest skies.

Endless deep contemplation in the vast azure.

Stretching over the world and into the distance.

Paling even as it speeds away, until it dissolves into ethereal nothingness.

Hours seem endless, meditation and reflection come with ease. Welcoming atmosphere. Gentle breeze.

I suppose there is a beauty to autumn too. Summer has to burn itself out, and bow to the change in season. Accept the rain, accept age. Accept that life must stand still after months of ravenous growth.

There is a beauty to lashings of endless rain, droplets light enough to dust eyelashes like the smallest jewels. Smooth conkers, waterlogged grass, windfalls aplenty. Trees become sparse, pale, and then explode in a plethora of colour.

Amber and saffron and gold.

The earth sighs and releases her deep essence. The aroma of life. Mud and grass and dying vegetation, rich even in their demise. Generous in their sacrifice. Nutrients seeping into the soil, waiting to sit through icy months, feeding the dormant seedlings that will once again spring to life when the earth turns her face achingly towards the sun.

I miss summer, I do. But I know that in order for us to have a summer, we must also have an autumn and a winter and a beautiful spring.

Image Credit

Parathas

When I was little and my grandmother used to visit, she would get her mixing bowl out, a bag of atta (which is chappatti flour), and begin mixing the sticky dough she would need to make parathas.

She wore gold bracelets on her hands, and a couple of valuable and sentimental rings on her arthritic fingers, not marriage rings because she was divorced. As she rolled out balls of dough ready to make into patties, her bracelets would jingle. It’s a sound I can still hear today when I make my own parathas. I would stand next to her and watch her, my head just reaching above the kitchen counter, and she would tell me of her childhood in Pakistan, where her father worked as a lawyer and they lived in a large house with sprawling grounds and mango trees. She was born in India in an area of Punjab called Jalandhar, but escaped during the night in a tarpaulin-covered cart to what was now Pakistan, to a city called Multan. This was during the extremely disruptive time post-colonialism which is now known as the Partition.

She said the maids used to make the parathas and she would watch them, just like I am now, and when she asked them if she could help, they said to wait until it was the last one and then she could do it.

‘So now you must watch me carefully and wait till it’s the last one, and I’ll let you make it’

She took a blob of dough, and began to roll it into a ball, bringing the outsides into the middle in an expert way, until it was a fine smooth ball. This is an important step, she told me. She then began flattening the ball out into a patty with her fingers, from the inside out. Her bracelets jangled comfortingly as she took her rolling pin and dusted it with atta, and rolled it out on the counter. Nice and thin and round. And then a small piece of butter on her fingers, spreading it around the flat roti so it melted into the dough. Then she slapped the roti from her right hand to her left to flatten it further before placing it neatly into her cast-iron flat pan that already had a drizzle of oil heating on it.

The parathas are large, round flat shallow-fried breads. They are not dry like roties or heavy like puris. Sometimes they are stuffed with spiced potato and onion, or minced meat made with spices and coriander, or any other vegetable like cauliflower. They can also just be eaten plain. My favourite kind of paratha was the plain shallow fried kind with lots of butter, and a side of scrambled eggs made with milk and whipped so they’re as pale as can be, sprinkled liberally with ground black pepper.

Coming from such a mixed heritage as I have, you often feel as though you don’t belong. I experienced this very real aspect of Pakistani culture at the hands of my grandmother, but equally, when my paternal grandmother used to visit, I would be immersed in a rich Moroccan culture. The pronunciation is very different. The food is a great contrast. But both have an incredibly strong affinity for patriotism and pride in their heritage.

My maternal grandmother did her masters in Pakistan before coming to the UK in the ’50s, to continue her studies. She met and married my grandfather, who was an abusive man, and she divorced him after five miscarriages and three children, the oldest of whom was my mother, who was 13 at the time. My mother remained estranged from her father until my grandmother died in 2011, upon which she located him in a town not far from where we lived at the time. in 1993 my mother met my father, a Moroccan student who was in London at the time studying for a masters degree, and married him. Nine months later I was born in a small London flat above Streatham High Road.

I grew up hearing, “You’re a beautiful curly haired Moroccan girl”

I grew up hearing, “You’re a true Pakistani. Be proud of your Pakistani heritage”

I grew up hearing, “You’re a very British person, you don’t fit in with us.”

I grew up hearing, “You’re intrinsically Arab, aren’t you.”

I grew up hearing, “You speak English very well for a Pakistani.”

I grew up hearing, “Your Arabic is excellent for a British girl.”

I grew up hearing, “You’re too white to be a Pakistani.”

I grew up hearing, “Your Arabic is not Moroccan enough.”

Last week I made parathas with my son. Just the way my grandmother taught me. I know how to make them just like any Pakistani would. I have been making them for years and years. My friend, who is originally Pakistani, popped by and saw them, and she marvelled at them.

“Wow,” she said, “Well done! I can’t believe you made our food!”, and her attitude was full of surprise. The ‘our’ in her words did not include me. It was more like, wow a foreigner can make my cultural food, I am impressed.

It’s so petty I know but I felt so irritated.

It annoyed me when Mona said well done about my parathas. It felt patronising. Like I had no business knowing how to make them well, and that by making them I had achieved something extraordinary.

I don’t think she meant to be patronising, but I took it that way. Instead of saying ‘well done’ she could have said ‘that looks good’. But she doesnt think that. In her head I am an amateur and I just achieved something great. Nevermind my Nani spent hours with me teaching me how to roll the paratha balls just so, how to get nice round rotis, how to fry, how many I helped make with her over the years. No. This experience is saved only for ‘experts’. Part-Pakistanis like me have no business knowing how to make something so desi as parathas.

It’s the same when I made something Moroccan, my own Moroccan cousins explaining foods to me that I grew up eating. Explaining cultural habits to me that I grew up with and which are intrinsically part of my lifestyle.

It’s the same when I am in England, and my family explain British things to me as though I never grew up knowing them. Or act surprised when I understand references and customs.

It’s nobody’s fault.

It’s just part and parcel of having a mixed heritage. You don’t belong anywhere and nobody accepts you as part of them, not truly. They say it but their actions say something entirely different.

I shouldn’t be annoyed about it, but sometimes I am. People often don’t like to listen to you or who you are, they believe their prejudices and what they ‘see’ over what a person tells them. I can scream about my Nani and parathas till I am hoarse but all Mona will hear is, ‘this foreigner learnt how to make parathas like us Pakistanis and wow let me show off more of my culture to her so she can learn.’