Twilight World

I am walking home in the twilight.

And it’s the season where spring is kissing the summer, gentle touch, thick green foliage and the promise of waxy green leaves ever-growing.

And the light is waning, fading, pink tinged clouds in the distant sky, their edges grey at the top, the sky brighter here, darker there, and there is a silent darkness descending upon the earth. Plunged into the fringe of shadow, light deepening with every passing moment, but you don’t realise until the street lamps are suddenly making themselves known.

Anyway.

I am walking home, and others are walking home from work, driving home, headlamps thrusting my shadow before me, making it grow larger and larger and then shorter before vanishing.

Lights blink on in the houses I pass, and I cannot help but glance into windows of warm, golden cosiness.

Pictures on walls, fairy lights adorning a heavy oak bookshelf, pretty curtains, trailing plants, glint of gleam, bobbing head of a child dancing in a living room…

And always a TV screen. Flickering. Light flashing, then dimming, then flashing again. Colours and words and laughter waltzing across the screen, thoughts filtering into numb brains. Evening. Shut down. Unwind. Consume.

What did people do before the invention of television?

Sew by the fire maybe. Read a book, or the newspaper, and talk about it. Listen to the radio. Or ‘wireless’ as they called it in the War. Crochet, knit. Paint. I don’t think it’s wrong to watch a bit of telly of an evening. I am sure people talk to each other during it.

I just find it interesting. All houses seem to have a box that beams out ideas and colour and thoughts and content and light, and I wonder if we are senselessly consuming something designed to ensnare our brains?

The next day at work someone says ‘Oh did you see that interview last night?’

And everybody nods and Natasha begins to excitedly give her take on it, and others chime in, and Bob googles a YouTube video to debunk what the interview was about, and they all jump on him, and they end in laughter, each taking their tea back to their desk… but I cannot help but wonder, what if we are being distracted from something?

Living in a twilight world. Can’t see properly and yet… and yet it’s still so bright.

Efficient Body

I am trying to lose weight.

I gained about 30kg since both of my pregnancies. In my second pregnancy, rapid weight gain gave me lots of issues. I was mobile, for sure, but so big that it was hard to be active for long. Once I gave birth, the weight did not drop off like it did the first time round.

Sixteen months later, and my body is still clinging on.

Why, body? Why do you need this extra fat? Are you worried you may starve if it slips off?

I joked to my husband that my body is such that if we were in a famine, and everybody became bags of bones, I would probably put on weight.

My body clings to fat in a most efficient manner. If I go into a calorie deficit, I can lose weight consistently for 3 weeks. After that, my body adjusts to this and I plateau or even start going up in weight!

My research tells me that some bodies are more efficient than others, built to last through seasons of no food, built to carry boulders on low energy. I know this to be true. I ate so little for a month, and yet piled on the weights at the gym, leg pressing up to 150kgs, muscles growing stronger, bigger, more defined – and I could be satiated on so little.

But I want to shed these heavy 20kgs. They feel uncomfortable on me. They make my face look unrecognisable, and my legs feel bulky, and I feel like I am dragging my body around. I want to feel free of it, to run fast across a field like before and not worry too much about uncomfortable jiggles and things falling out of place.

I don’t want to lose weight for looks or because I feel insecure. I want to do it for comfort.

Yet when I mention this, the immediate response is wide eyed surprise, and exclamations that I don’t ‘need’ to lose anything and not to ‘buy into’ our appearance-obsessed culture.

I get it.

But since when does wanting to change how your body looks and feels equate to a bad thing?

Why rush to tell someone they don’t need to do something, when they really want to?

Why assume that one wants to change the shape of their body purely due to insecurity or appearance-obsession?

Is it unhealthy to want to lose weight?

If it is unhealthy for some, why make it so everybody feels weird about trying to lose weight, one way or another? Do we apologise for this desire, and assure the ‘Body-Positive’ community that we aren’t mentally ill, and aren’t harming their agenda, but just want to change something for us?

Thin Wrists

When I was about 13 years old, I used to ride the bus home from school everyday with this girl who lived in one of the apartment block buildings in our complex.

She was thin, so pale, with large brown eyes and the longest, curliest lashes you ever saw. Her mouth was a little wide, and she had dimples. I thought she was gorgeous – all the girls did, in fact. She was so pretty. Looking back as an adult, I can see she was painfully thin. Her bones jutted out at the collar, shoulder blades and wrists.

It was the wrists, though, that I used to feel inadequate about.

I would squeeze the skin around my own wrist tightly, so it wrapped around the bone, wishing my bone would point outwards like hers did.

I told myself if I skipped breakfast and lunch every day for a month, I would get to that stage.

So I did. I took one green apple to school with me everyday, and did not eat breakfast or lunch for a month. I lost so much weight that my uniform hung off me like a sack.

When I compared my wrist to hers in the bus, though, I did not see my bone. What a fat ugly wrist you have, I told myself, squeezing the skin back to see the shape of my bone.

I am 28 now, and I think of that story and feel very sad and angry.

What business does a child have to be worrying about the size of her wrist bone when there are mountains of books to read, tonnes of trees to climb, hundreds of puzzles to solve, heaps of games to play?! Why wasn’t I thinking about those things? Why was I so hyper focused on my wrists? I was clearly built heavier than that girl, both of us beautiful in our own child-like way.

I think and think and remember girls talking about diets and weight loss and spots and who was fatter than whom and how much everybody weighed. So much shame in a number. We also played games, we tore through corridors and played KINGS and netball and amazing games of hide and seek in the maze-like grounds of our school. Yet when we went back to the classroom and stood in front of the air conditioning, guzzling bottles of ice-cold water, our conversation went back to who was pretty and which hair salon her mother went to.

I see children being mislead, somehow, and I can see how that has clawed its way into adulthood and adult life.

This obsession with appearance.

This lack of adequacy.

I don’t need to say I am grateful we didn’t have phones or social media back then. We all know what children today are subjected to.

I hate the news.

I hate the news.

I hate the news so much that sometimes I mindlessly scroll through it while my chest tightens. I roll my eyes and tut and my breathing becomes shallower and the sun sets behind me and the breaths I hear from the chests of my children grow slower, deeper.

And it’s dark, pitch black, my screen an illuminated rectangle in the gloom around me, shadows of furniture rising up in silent protest.

What’s wrong with living in the present.

What’s wrong with asking the neighbour if they were the ones who chopped all that offensive ivy in your back garden while you were away for a week.

Like that is the biggest news of the week, and not the bombs dropping on all the countries around the globe, their children starving to death, their big devastated eyes beseeching from behind the screen.

And you like and share and rant away.

Charity groups accept payments and then screech into your email inbox several times a day, several different names, screaming until your ears pop that these children need you and that their tents are filled with snow and water and they’re all sick sick sick and have no homes and are starving to death so please help.

Heartless, you are, if you want to switch off and focus on your life for a bit.

Cold.

Cruel.

Selfish.

What do you do? Wither in pain for all the pain and suffering in the world?

Somebody said you have to take care of yourself and turn off the bad news because you won’t be able to live in the present, dead birds and dead children and soulless eyes and manic leaders. How can you live though, while they don’t?

And the thought always pushes its way through red raging chaos;

The thought that what if we say too much bad news is not good to avoid helping, to selfishly continue to live our peaceful lives in blissful gluttony.

What is the truth, really.

Now that you’re grown.

You have to be in a kind of mood for writing, and for working out, and for doing anything remotely productive and worthwhile.

That’s what I used to think.

Now I know you have to show up, even when you don’t feel like it.

Show up every single time your child cries in the night, and they will have a healthy attachment with you.

Show up every session at the gym, or move your body every day, even when you don’t feel like it, and your cardiovascular health will excel.

Show up everyday and write, if you want to be a writer.

Show up for yourself, and you will reap the benefits. Nobody else.

One of my favourite quotes is this:

Write a million words, the absolute best you can write – then throw it all away and bravely turn your back on what you have written. At that point, you’re ready to begin.

David Eddings

I have had to show up these past three years. I have had to show up for my kids, at the expense of myself. I have had to show up regardless of how I felt, how ill I was, whether I had brushed my teeth or not.

And because I have had to do that, I have had to take a good long look at any hours I had free, and fill them with things which made me a better person.

A stronger person.

A person I wanted to be.

I don’t know what this means except maybe that I am growing up.

move your body

I have started exercising again. Moving my body. I do it a lot, to be fair. But then life gets stressful and movement takes a back seat.

But moving your body brings life to your capillaries.

Life to your fingertips.

Your hips.

Your sadness.

You can be sad, but when you move, your sadness sort of dances. The wobbling self pity fountain stays away. Dry eyes, smile lips.

I cycle down the Great Shilling Way. Sounds grand, doesn’t it? I like to think it is. It’s the path old soldiers during the First World War took. On their way somewhere. There are metal figurines of these men in their oval helmets, carrying rifles. Iron-wrought poppies. Fields to the right (or left, depending which way you’re coming), and the main road on the right.

Or left.

The Great Shilling Way.

So I cycle. I also own some weights and I use those at home with a resistance band I bought years ago on Amazon.

I go to the gym. I lift heavy weights. I can squat 40kg now, and can leg press 100kg. I’ve always had super strong legs, probably why I enjoy cycling so much.

Red face. Red capillaries. Strong legs to squat down and pick things up whilst carrying my heavy 12kg baby.

Happy mood, movement, energy levels soaring. Tired muscles, but the kind of tired where you can feel the strength quietly building.

I hope this movement spree lasts longer than the last one.

Moving my body is fantastic for my mood.

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that evasive slumber

Do you ever overeat when you’re tired? I do. Both my children were up all night last night and as a consequence I have eaten my bodyweight’s worth in snacks today without even realising.

When I finally collapsed in bed at 2am last ‘night’, I shut my eyes and succumbed to slumber. It was the most glorious feeling. Then that familiar cry. Only at night it’s twenty thousand times more irritating and has that unique power to make you feel furious.

But you fight it. For that precious sweet face. You scoop the chubby bundle of baby up and bring them into your own bed.

Then the pattering feet, and the croaky child voice, ‘Mama, mama, I’m scared.’

So you haul the other one into your bed too.

And try to succumb again to that glorious sleep. It’s there alright. Tantalising. Close. You feel it.

But your kids have other ideas. One of them is attempting to crawl in the bed because it is her newly found skill and she loves to do it. She is laughing as she tries to get her chubby legs up, chaos in the covers, pitch black room. And then the almost-3-year old is awake. Banging his feet on the headboard. Asking me to open my eyes. Telling me stories. Chatting to his baby sister, who chats right back.

All through the night.

All through till morning.

And they do not tire. No siree. They hanker for breakfast and are little spitfires ready and gearing for their day of action. Playing, fighting, giggling, pulling things out of cupboards, sticking play dough in corners and smushing it into rugs, snotty noses from leftover colds.

I wish today I could say ‘Ahhhh it’s all so precious and worth it.’

Y’all.

I KNOW it is.

But I don’t feel it today.

I feel angry. Tired. Frustrated. Guilty. Bloated from all the sweet chilli thai rice crackers I have been eating to keep my bleary eyes awake. And the countless mugs of coffee I have downed today. That massive hot chocolate I had for lunch. My oh my. I fell asleep trying to put them to bed at 7:30pm BECAUSE HELLO, SHOULDN’T THEY BE TIRED AFTER THEIR NIGHT OF PARTYING?

No.

No they are not.

8:30pm came and went and it crept to 9… still wide and happily awake.

Bloody hell.

Some days parenting is a ride.

Today is that day.

Today I am bedraggled, a mess, and totally lost. I sit here writing this when I am supposed to be working but I am so tired from my sleepless night and my full-on day that I want to go to bed. But I am also terrified to go to bed because I know as soon as I give in to the glorious sleep that is beckoning to me.. I will be rudely yanked away again.

I know it.

News From Sebastapol. Charles West Cope (1811-1896). Oil On Canvas, 1875.

P.S. Look, I only write this to document. Not to complain. I love my babies with every fibre of my being. I would wrestle sleep to the ground if I thought their lives and health were in danger. I know one day I will sleep and sleep and sleep because they will be grown and off living their own lives and I will be sad and miss them. I KNOW this. However, I also know that in the moment, sometimes, it all gets a bit too much. You can feel frustrated and angry. You will also feel guilty for feeling frustrated and angry. Being a mother is so insane. It’s so mad. It’s so crazy. It’s so surreal and unbelievable and unfair and beautiful. You can’t hold it in your hands. You can’t catch the fleeting time, and yet you wish it all away. You can’t get enough, and you have way too much.

8 Years of Bloggery

I have been a WordPress blogger for 8 years.

My favourite thing about blogging here is the lovely community. This here is a space on the internet where people are more civil towards each other, and there is something to be said about writing from the heart.

I don’t know what is to be said about it though because I am an overwhelmed mother of two little children, with a full time job and a never ending to-do list. When I have time to think I may reflect on it properly. Maybe tonight. Maybe next week. Maybe in ten years.

For now, though, the sun is shining and even though Jack Frost has been to visit, I think I will utilise my morning and take my children to taste some vitamin D before the manic panic hours of work take over.

Eight years. Jeez.

Slow Down

I watched a Youtube video on 15 minute dinners. Ways to cook dinner quick. Mad rush in the evenings to fit an entire life in. A life put on hold because of working during the daylight hours. Quick, quick, make dinner. Eat it. Hurry. So you can put the kids to bed. Or relax. Or do anything but cook and eat.

Some folks like to take their sweet time whilst cooking. Slowly chop and onion. Feel the satisfaction of a sharp knife sliding through the crisp layers. The gentle sizzle of cut onions in a pan. The creaminess of sauce coating spaghetti.

Why is it always a mad rush?

Where is intentionality in living?

Why does life feels like a horrible race?

Even when not racing?

I bought a really lovely book called ‘Slow Down’. It’s full of little stories. The story of a snail making silvery trails across the garden. The story of a bee collecting nectar from dahlias, and pollinating an entire garden as it buzzes about drinking from it’s straw-like tongue.

Gorgeous little illustrations.

My son and I pored over the book today.

He is ‘scared of the big snail’.

You see, we were collecting snails in the garden yesterday. Well, no. I was weeding a border and I kept pulling snails out with the weeds so I lined them up for my toddler to collect. The snails were small and green, and fit nicely in the palm of his hand. I pulled out a larger brown snail, and he gazed at it in wonder. I watched his eyes flit from his line of little green snails, to the big brown one. Light up. Make to go put it at the front of his little snail army… but just then the snail decided to peek out and see what was going on. Two tentacles for eyes grew out of the shell and my son threw the snail in horror.

‘Don’t like that one, mama. Put it away.’

‘Okay lil chap. I’ll put it away’

So I tucked it away in the weeds again.

That night he kept waking up and saying he was scared of the big snail.

And the next morning as I was leafing through my ‘Slow Down’ book, he noticed the page on the snail and he was fascinated by it. We looked over every inch of that page. Every illustration. The snails looked exactly like the big scary snail we found in the garden, so we talked about that too. We talked about how it leaves a trail, and how it comes out when it rains and hides away when it’s sunny.

We ‘slowed down’.

And I just thought that was meaningful in some way, but don’t quite know how yet. I feel like I want to slow down more often.

Slow down in the kitchen.

Wash the dishes and enjoy it, maybe. Allow little hands to help me hang out laundry. Make a fifteen minute dinner, but observe my pasta. Relish in the gentle simmer of a tomato sauce. Ladle some soup into a bowl. Nice and clean ceramic, smooth hot liquid. Brush hair softly. Feel the locks in my fingers.

Why rush the kids to bed.

Go upstairs slowly. Listen to my boy telling me stories. Even ones where he says he wants to squish all the woodlice. Listen. Breathe.

Scribble Hair

Oppressively humid in the UK today.

My hair does this weird thing when it’s hot and humid. It gets all wiry, the curls separate into single strands of mess and stick up. It’s really weird. It’s like a cloud of scribbles over my head. It’s NOT pretty or aesthetically pleasing.

It’s actually pretty vomit inducing. It reminds me of being in Malaysia when I was 14 weeks pregnant with my first boy, and my hair did that thing and it was NOT CUTE. My legs were really weird and pale and skinny too as I had lost 8kg in three months due to morning sickness. My tummy was weird and floopy and I had a bump but it looked like I was just fat? And my God I felt so sick! The heat made me sick, the smell of mcdonalds and burger king (both places right under our hotel windows blargh!) was oppressively nasty. Coffee made me ill.

All I craved was Pho!

We had booked to go to Malaysia on these really cheap flights several months before I found out I was pregnant. So when I started feeling poorly in the mornings before work and needing to lie in rather than go to my gym class before work I began to get suspicious. Also my coffee tasted weird. Like old stale biscuits?

We were not PLANNING for a baby. We were ‘not planning but if it happens ok then’.

So anyway I drove to work and bought a pregnancy test from the pharmacy on my lunch break and took it home and waited till after dinner and then I went and peed on the stick and waited and then I checked it and began to cry.

‘What?! What’s wrong!?!?’ my husband rushed into the bathroom and saw me holding the test and his eyes widened and I held it out to him and he said, ‘Are you pregnant?’

And I said, ‘Ye-eess. But I REALLY wanted to go to Malaysia!’ and it came out as a wail.

How dumb of me to think a pregnant woman couldn’t go to Malaysia! Anyway I won’t tell my son that was my first thought when I found out I was pregnant with him.

I wanted to wear a bikini and look all nice and whatnot and of course you can do that when you’re pregnant but it’s different isn’t it. I didn’t have the confidence to deal with my body changes to be honest.

And my hair did that weird scribble thing and oh it was a pain in the bum. I ended up keeping it tied up and wearing baggy stuff because man oh man my body was bumming me out. I read ‘Nutshell’ by Ian McEwan and man oh man that was a weird book that was a slog to finish.

Anyway.

It’s hot and humid in the UK and I never want to be pregnant ever again.

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