Stories

One thing my husband likes to say to me about my family is that ‘they always like repeating stories! I’ve heard the same story fifty thousand times and yet they still repeat it! They LOVE repeating stories!’

He says it like it’s a negative thing, and I used to see his point of view and started to think it was negative too. But then I stopped short.

HOLD UP.

I remember I ENJOYED those repetitive stories.

Mum, tell us about that time Uncle Nigel flooded a hotel party!’, or ‘Mum, tell us again that story about you and Kitty riding your tricycles to the police station when you were three’, or ‘Let’s hear that tale of when Dad broke his back when I was born.’

My mum would tell us all the family stories instead of bedtime stories before we fell asleep. She would tell us of the scrapes she and her cousins got up to when they were younger and turn them into episodes and we would listen avidly, despite knowing what came next. It was her voice and inflections and the way she built the suspense. Her voice rose and fell and lulled us to a space of serene security. If I close my eyes I can still hear how she would tell her stories.

Now we are too old for bedtime stories, she tells us of things her mother used to do and say, and what she saw and did when she was younger. She tells us things she experiences now, turning them into little stories and ‘morals’ and ‘lessons’.  And yes, I may have heard those stories hundreds of times, but before somebody who doesn’t appreciate them pointed out that the repetition is annoying, I never noticed or cared that she was repeating herself.

And I love them! My husband’s family don’t like to tell and re-tell stories like that. They just allude to things but don’t elaborate on them and make them events in and of themselves like my family do. They are more reserved, you see, whereas my family is a little more ‘out there’, letting emotions out as and when they arrive.

Our families are different and that is ok. But I have realised a very important fact. And that is that stories are very important to me. I myself repeat stories often, I catch myself doing it, and my husband rolling his eyes at me, but I can’t help it. I like doing it. I think I am doing it more for myself than for those listening to me. Also there are those who like my stories too!

I elaborate on them and add flourishes and, like my parents, I do the voices and gestures and act it out.

Maybe my son will appreciate my stories and will be a storyteller too, but he may also find the stories annoying and resort to retelling experiences with a wry smile and not do the accents. Either way. It is ok. We are who we are and we are born of the stories that shaped us.

Also, whether you tell stories with a flourish or not, you will still tell stories. Stories are just the narratives of our lives, and we choose how to tell them, be it with flamboyancy or reserved calm.

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Wisdom (teeth and lemons)

One of my biggest pet peeves is when young people write ‘wisdom’.

It annoys me on so many levels.

Level 1: They are way too young to have accumulated such an insane amount of wisdom (see: ’25 things I have learned in 25 years on this planet). Level 2: Wisdom is more impactful in smaller doses. Level 3: It’s irritating and assumes people will want to hear what a green, relatively inexperienced young person has got to say about life. Level 4: If you overlook all the previous levels and actually delve into what they have to say, you will more often than not discover that they have listed the most mundane, common sense things ever.

So it might appear ironic that I am here today to list some things that I have learnt from other people.

I don’t pretend to think that my things are of any value to anybody but myself. But I like that I have learned them, and wonder at what others might think of them.

Are they mundane?

Are they common sense?

Do they mean anything to anybody?

Who knows.

Thing One: My mother taught me through words and actions that people will like you much more if you don’t take yourself too seriously. You see, growing up, my sister and I were lemons. Oh, such lemons. It shames me to remember it. If we were at a gathering, even if the party was full of people we knew, we would just stand there and wait for people to socialise with us. We never thought to join a group and attend the party properly. My mother, a social butterfly, would become so impatient with us. She would flit from group to group leaving laughter in her wake. We felt awkward and shy and socially inept. Complaining to my mother about my inability to make friends or be happy socially, she told me it was because I took myself too seriously. Let loose. Laugh at yourself a little.

I am still trying to learn how to do that.

Thing Two: My father taught me about faith. Real, sincere faith. This thing is perhaps an incredulous thing to believe, if ye are of little faith. Or not religious at all. I am religious. Not fanatically, but respectably so.

My dad has such strong, unwavering faith. He always says to me in Arabic, ‘you will see wonders’ (If you have faith), and I always see goosebump wonders happening to him. Once his car got stolen. Somebody broke into our home, stole all the keys and phones, and took the car from the garage. We reported it to the police, nothing. It was a Chevrolet Suburban, and our first big car since the seven of us used to cram into my dad’s ’89 caprice. We loved it. I was in tears. My father, however, was stoic. You will see, he told us, it will come back. I have strong faith. It’s in God’s hands. God has never let me down. Two days later, my father received a phone call from an old man who said, Your car is outside my house. It was the strangest story. The old man had noticed this strange new car outside his house for two days, and on the second day went out to investigate. He said he found the car keys under the car, and when he got inside it he found some of my father’s work papers with his work number on and gave that a call. The car had cigarette butt stains on it and the seats were a little torn, but was otherwise in perfect condition. This is not the only story I have about my father’s faith, there are many more, but this one has stuck in my head for 12 years. You could call it luck, you could call it coincidence, but I have never seen anybody as sure as my father that he would get his car back. And he did.

Thing Three: My sister in law taught me to wash the dinner dishes, clean the counter and broom the floor in 15 minutes. Look at the clock, she would say, porcelain arms slipping into rubber gloves, in 15 minutes, I shall have finished everything and will be sipping my tea. Then she would daintily, yet efficiently wash everything up, wipe the counter with a furious deftness that was fascinating to watch, and then neatly broom the floor and empty the dirt into the bin with a little flourish. Gloves off, neatly and quickly draped over the tap, feet sliding out of slippers, cup of tea in hand, little tidy dance, arms out, hands elegantly swaying. It all looked so neat and tidy and efficient and deft and, dare I say, exciting. A challenge. So that is what I do now. And seeing a tidy kitchen in the morning makes me more likely to have a productive day. Also my sister in law is a little sparrow and makes me laugh, so it’s nice to remember her as I deftly and neatly scrub away at my kitchen counter.

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Image Credit: Elizabeth Floyd. Check out her beautiful website!

On Reading and Narrating

I am reading a book now called Mrs Bridge.

It is written quite simply, with simple events and simple people. So far. Chapters are 3/4 of a page long, and deal with the simple people doing simple things. Except there appears to be an underlying shift under all the simplicity. A coiled snake, waiting to spring. It is a far cry from the previous book I was reading, in the manner of its writing. Less of the explosion, more mature. No feelings. Well, barely any. And always concealed under decorum.

You may be wondering how I am now managing to read whilst also navigating busy days with an ever-moving, ever-learning 6 month old (7 months on Sunday).

Well, I now read arduously during his ridiculously short naps. 40 minutes is all he has. I no longer rush about doing chores or beautifying myself. I am done with that. Chores accumulate the minute I have finished choring them, and I am just fat now. So until I lose this baby fat I really am not going to bother shoving myself uncomfortably into nice clothes and feeling depressed that they don’t fit me like they did pre-baby. I am just going to wear my leggings and my hoodies and feel comfortable, and lie on my sofa reading until the baby wakes up, when the cycle of shallow breaths (from me. Need to learn how to breathe deep more often) and nonstop exhaustion starts again.

How do people with more than one kid do it? Am I just so selfish?

I also strap baby in his pram, stick my headphones on and walk for two or three hours, listening to audiobooks. The weather is lovely for that now. It is September, and the August wasps are waning. There are so many Painted Ladies adorning flowers and fluttering here and there, landing on the top of the pram more than once. Blackberries drop lusciously from pregnant wild bushes, and their juice is just so sweet on the tongue. It is a lovely season, this season of late summer. Things are lush, there is no heavy sticky haze of heat, and the wind is fresh.

So I get my reading in, and the baby stares out at nature, smiles and gurgles at me, attempts to grab things, and eventually falls asleep, tired out by all the colour and stimulation.

And for me?

Well, it is a break from chores and baby entertainment.

We read so many books together everyday, sing songs, play games, and I try to talk to him as much as I can, narrating EVERYTHING. Right, i am putting your sock on. Oh stop wriggling your feet, naughty boy. That’s it. There. Both socks on. They had better stay on else you’ll get cold toes! Oh look it is raining outside. Shall we try to touch it. That’s it. No, don’t touch the muddy windowsill that Mummy hasn’t cleaned since before you were born (true story). Ok. Shall we read this book? No? You want to put it in your mouth. Alright. Can Mummy drink a cup of tea now? Look at this toy. How it rattles.

I am sick of my own damn voice I tell you. And sometimes I just want to be silent.

And I am quite isolated and know that lately, in society, a lot of new mums are, whereas they weren’t before. It is just how we live now. And I just can’t help thinking how bad that is for mental health, and how it might negatively impact the good I am trying to impart to my son.

 

Mother

The background music to my shower is that of a crying baby, and yet when I turn the faucet off, and stand dripping in the sudden ensuing silence, I hear no baby crying.

I tiptoe out and drip on the carpet, peering into the bedroom.. baby sound asleep on my bed, ne’er a stir.

Back to the shower it is. Rubbing shampoo through my sparse postpartum hair, trying my utmost to ignore the anguished imaginary cries of my baby.

I towel myself dry and watch that peaceful little face, large soft peachy cheeks, eyelashes gentle on the roundness below, small deep breaths under the covers, a contented little sigh.

My eyeballs are burning. I am beyond needing a nap. My body screams for a good weightlifting session at the gym. I flutter about the house on my toes, doing only chores that are silent. Brooming, mopping, dusting. No hoover. No dishes. Never boil a kettle. And set the washing machine to start when nap time is over.

If I am too tired to do that, I sit on the sofa and eat ice cream. Noodles. Doritos. And I watch reruns of Gilmore Girls. Not focusing on the story, really, just mindlessly staring into an abyss.

Daily things are done as and when I can manage them. I want to kiss my boy inside and out, but don’t know how to. I live for the little gurgling laughs and the huge shy smile and that soft little double chin. I knew I would love him but never realised how much it would hurt and what sort of worry it would cause.

I miss my mother. My mother in law doesn’t like it when I visit her. She gives me the silent treatment and yet acts normal when my husband is around. She complains to my husband that I am disrespectful and always act like I am itching to leave. She doesn’t let me leave. And when I try to she asks ‘why’. Even though I spent the entire weekend at her house, and only a few snatched hours with my mother. I am not allowed to stay the night with my mother else she gets very upset and her husband shouts at my husband and calls him names and stresses him out until he fights me to the death so I give in and stay in their horrid, horrid depressing house. My father in law wouldn’t have cared if his wife hadn’t pushed him to. He told my husband that she comes first before anything and he must never upset her.

I am shocked. I didn’t think she had it in her.

What about me and my sanity and my mental wellbeing?

I miss my mother so sorely and yet when I am with her I am stressed because I know I will be ‘in trouble’ when I go back to my husband.

This time is meant to be special, and I am making it so, I really am. I am treasuring my child so very much. I just wish family was easy also. I feel trapped, because I don’t actually have a choice. I feel anxious all the time and on the verge of tears.

My husband makes it very hard for me to see my family as he prioritises his mother, and causes trouble when she causes trouble. So I have to pick my battles, and that means much less time with my parents.

I miss them so much.

Having a baby makes you need and value your mother in a way you never did before.

When I am a mother in law, I honestly will ensure that I am not so selfish and insensitive to my daughter in law. People need their mothers, while they have them.

I NEED my mother.

11.06.2019

Well I flopped hard at writing a post every day in May. We went to stay with family for a week and a half and I just got so depressed there to be honest. There is a particular member of my in laws who is excessively controlling and I just felt so anxious and upset in her presence the entire time. I had a stomach ache every day and every single thing I did was wrong.

When I visited my own mother I was told off when I got back to my in laws’. I am appalled and disgusted and am feeling hatred and disappointment and entrapment and at this point I don’t care who knows.

Which is a shame really because family is supposed to be fun and supportive.

Makes me hate visiting that side of the family to be honest.

So I gave up writing every day in May and there. That is all to say to be honest. I think said person is affecting my mental health now. Some mothers are just obsessive about their sons and some sons listen to their mothers and put their wives through hell and expect their wives to be ok with it because one must never upset a mother.

Well I am a mother now too and this is MY son and not hers and I am sick of being a doormat.

There.

I hope you had a good weekend.

Myself

Hello. Yes it is me. Peering into the internet. I am sitting in bed with a baby snoozing in my arms as I type this. It has been some kind of day. He won’t seem to settle tonight unless he is being held but I don’t mind I don’t I don’t I never will mind because he will never be this little again and he is my big big blessing.

We did nothing today but are exhausted. But that is the reality of parenthood.

It’s been three months to the day since our lives changed completely, and as I was getting into the shower at 10:47pm I thought to myself – you know, self, your life is never going to go back to being like it was before. So stop thinking of that. Embrace this change and make the most of it.

So that is what I have decided to do. Babies are not a pause in life – rather an enrichment of it. See it’s taking me a while to get there but I am working on it.

See what I have to do is throw myself all the way in. Go all out. Dedicate my brain and time to learning and teaching and loving and nurturing. Not wishing for a holiday.

I love this boy more and more every single day it’s insane.

Like at the beginning I don’t think I bonded very well with him because of how traumatic the birth was – and because I was under general anaesthetic when they pulled him out of me via emergency c section – I didn’t witness his entrance into this world. They literally put him on me while I was woozy and drowsy from the operation and I tried to connect but all I wanted to do was sleep. So weird right?

But now I am in my right mind again – I think… i don’t know yet because back then I thought I was in my right mind but I very obviously was not…

anyway. Myself. That was the prompt for today. I must work on myself and not hang about the fringes of things if I want to give my boy a valuable childhood.

I want to give him the best in terms of mind enrichment and education. So that means I have to make sure I am educated and informed.

If you have had kids, how did you navigate being ‘yourself’ in order to nourish the brain of your child? Any tips would be so very welcome!

Sparkle

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my seventeenth post.

 

Hundreds and thousands,

Atop white icing,

Atop a cake,

On a plate,

Covered in foil.

Wrapped in a plastic bag,

Shoved

Mercilessly

At the bottom of my schoolbag.

For I was ashamed

Of the cake

My mother toiled all night to make,

for the school fair.

Don’t ask me why.

It was perfectly lovely,

Soft, yellow vanilla sponge

Simple, perfect flavours,

And the sparkly fun of hundreds and thousands decorating the top.

I just didn’t want to be

That GIRL.

WHAT girl, pray tell?

The one who carries a cake onto a bus where the boy she secretly crushes on sits coolly at the front, NOT carrying a cake.

Don’t ask me what nonsense goes on in the minds of twelve year olds.

When I got on the bus..

That boy was carrying a cake.

And most of the other kids

Had some kind of home-made concoction in their laps too.

I felt stupid

And sad.

For my cake,

On it’s plate

With white icing

And hundreds and thousands

Was a flattened, crushed mess.

And my heart, now, today, at 25

Wrings in sadness

At the thought of the love and care

That went into that cake,

As my mother,

toiled through the night

To see a sparkle

in her daughter’s eyes.

I love you mama.

 

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Little

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my thirteenth post.

Little toes

Little nose

Little mouth

Little frown

Little thighs

Little sighs

Little fingers

Little dimples

He’ll be little for quite a while

But boy, what a big smile!

Poor attempt today – my little has sapped my energy!

Storms

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my twelfth post.

Sometimes

You gotta

Be the calm

While the storm rages.

Because

It’s only after the rain falls

That the storm

Settles.

Sunflowers

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my eleventh post.

We had a painting in our living room when we were kids, and it was of a field of sunflowers, tall and fierce. The background was some hedges and a stunning sunrise.

At the front of the field there was a small opening in the fringe of tall flowers, a black hole leading to the undergrowth, a tunnel winding through the strong stalks that were taller than a man.

The painter had just painted the opening of the tunnel, and some stalks at the opening had been trampled and the heads of the flowers ripped off and scattered about. But the painter had left no clue as to who the culprit was or what they were doing with the tunnel. It was all a mystery.

We had that painting on the wall for a good seventeen years. When we had white paint, we moved it to paint the walls ‘apple green’ (something my mother seemed to hanker after), and there was a small yellow rectangle on the white paint where the frame had been. Then we replaced it over the apple green walls and that stayed how it was for a good two years before my mother got sick of apple green and decided to go with magnolia.

That painting was on the wall from when I was about 7. And now I am 25, my father finally took it down, wrapped it in bubble wrap, put it in his suitcase and flew all the way to England with it to put it on the wall of our house here. This happened last week.

And when I saw it on the wall I didn’t even question it. It was like it had always been there. I looked at it and wondered at the tunnel in the sunflower field again, as I had always done before, but didn’t think anything of it, even though I hadn’t seen that painting in 4 years… until I walked into the room again and it hit me! What is that painting doing here, in another country?!

Isn’t it strange? How a memory or a thought makes a home in your mind? How it is not a stranger to you when you revisit it, because you’ve looked at it so often and thought about it so much over the years? It’s just a painting, but it’s been there for almost my entire life barring seven years, that it’s almost as if it were part of my life.

Are there any objects in your life that are seemingly mundane but have inexplicably taken residence in your mind?

Olha Darchuk