6am thoughts

I look at a mountain and I ask, ‘Am I a people pleaser?’

Only the mountain is not in real life but in my memory. I would never look at a mountain in real life and have such a thought. Can you even control your thoughts? I saw some real life mountains this week and my heart was sucked out of my chest. I could breathe fine, but something strange clouded my mind.

Reading Jane Eyre reminds me of warm sweet tea and hot buttery toast. It reminds me of a square pattern pink carpet, faded by the blistering heat of the desert. It reminds me of hot days, curtains billowing in dusty wind, burning air on my cheeks as a rattly van full of sweaty children speeds along shiny wide roads. Breaking necks, lives hanging on edge.

I saw some mountains this week, and waterfalls cascading down them. Not as impressive as Niagara Falls – small trickles falling over rocks and mossy branches into lakes. Fresh air, cold noses, babies with red cheeks.

I took my babies to the Lake District – well actually my husband took us. He booked everything when I was away with the kids staying with my mother, and when I saw him again he said he’d missed us and he wanted to take us somewhere. My son loved his first ever holiday. He kept telling me he was having so much fun. He slept so well, as did his baby sister. Better than they do at home.

Am I a people pleaser? I ask the mountain in my memory.

What a beautiful mountain it was. Snow-capped, green and brown, sitting in the biting storms for centuries. People coming and going. Fashions changing – what does it care for fashion? – ages and wars and the slow, sweeping turn of the millennial tide.

And it sits there, holding the earth together.

I asked my aunt if I could come visit her and her ‘text tone’ scared me so I called her sister – my mother – and said I was nervous about her answer and my mother rolled her eyes at me.

Well, I didn’t see her do it but I know she did.

‘Why are you nervous?’

‘She sounds so cross, I don’t know what will please her, I asked her if she could do Friday as Saturday would be too hard for me and she strongly hinted that although she was free both days, she’d rather I come on Saturday.’

‘Ok then stay with her Friday night!’

‘I can’t ask her that!!!’

‘Why not!? She is your aunt!’

‘I know but…’

‘If L (my daughter) called you about staying with E (my sister), what would you say?’

‘I’d say you’re crazy, E loves you to pieces, of course she would want you to stay with her!’

‘Your aunt has such a soft spot for you’

‘But she sounded so angry!’

‘Yes CALL her then, nobody sounds how they mean to via text’

‘Ok ok ok’

‘Silly girl’

Sometimes you just need to call people.

27.06.2021

I think early motherhood is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. Every single day is a battle I am fighting alone. It is a vastly lonely place. Time stretches endlessly yet snaps away in an instant. It’s exhausting, exhaustive, filled with guilt, self hatred and overwhelming love.

I feel like there is a huge lump in my throat and I need to cry and cry and cry but it is not high enough to spill out of me in tears.

I know I know I know this will pass and I will look back on it wistfully and sadly and nostalgically and perhaps… perhaps with heartbreak? I know this time will go and I will pine and yearn and ache for my precious babies as they are now. Thieves of my heart. Apples of both my eyes. Their names are scarred on my soul forever and my back breaks for them every single day. I ball up fury and resentment and frustration and it explodes in hugs and kisses and squeezes and promises and the occasional yell.

I am alone. I am lonely. I have no family nearby and barely any friends in the same boat as me.

We are all busy busy busy and people tell us to enjoy every single moment and we try we do we try we try try try but there is only so much you can give when you have nothing left inside.

I am a hollow shell of who I used to be. I laugh shrilly now. Anxiety lives in all my pores and breathes under my arms and heaves like a pit in the loose folds of the extra skin that has stretched and stretched and stretched over my stomach. Housing my two babies. Rent free but I paid dearly for it. A price I am not willing to accept has left my bank yet.

I think about everything all day. Everything everything everything. Things I have to do and haven’t done. I am not being a wife or a woman or a partner or a daughter or a sister. I have no time to be and no help to be but I am facing the consequences of not being those things.

I am lost lost lost lost dark drowned.

They all say every day, they all say over and over again. They say: This is hard. They say: You are not alone. They say: You’re a great mama. They say: This shall pass.

So I write a note to myself and put it on the fridge, because I am always opening that fridge. I write it with an old felt tip pen that is washing itself out.

I write:

When you are feeling overwhelmed and angry, remember this is just a moment out of many. Make it count.

So when they are old, older, oldest. When they are older and I have space to breathe and space to miss them and space for my heart to yearn for their small little faces. So when they are old I can have less things to regret and more to cherish.

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.

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.

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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Red Lips

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 fourth post.

My to-do list is huge. There are so many things on it that get pushed and pushed and pushed back until they are curled and blackened and covered in layers of wanting to be clean.

Other things take precedence.

Bottoms must be wiped. I know, such a charming topic. Clothes to be changed, cries to be soothed, cuddles to be given and soft chunky little bodies to be fed and bathed and rocked gently to sleep.

Lullabies to be sung.

Baby clothes to be washed.

The floors can wait, my hair needs care, nails are bitten down to stumps and polish dries in glass bottles as the dust settles on their lids.

Lips are cracked.

I wore a red dress at my wedding party. After the white one. An A-line princess neck dress, embroidered bodice, tulle under a skirt that flared out just enough to be elegant. Not too much. A red dress and red lipstick, sultry and deep and when I look at photos of myself I do not recognise that carefree girl.

I want a baby, I told my husband, I have so much love inside me and it wants to come out.

Give it to me, instead, he told me. And I did, of course. Red lips and high heels and night dates and spotlights and kisses in the moonlight, in the heat of the sun. Kisses before and after work. Sleepy ones and excited ones and ones that are routine, barely noticed and vaguely appreciated.

And red lips. Perpetually. The soft click of a good quality lid, the deft twist and the scarlet balm smeared on two lips in a matter of seconds, turned up hair and a pretty dress. So much love to give, galavanting from place to place. Work to home and travelling here and there in between.

Evenings enjoyed. Nights slept in full. Mornings together, just the two of us. So much love to give. So much given. Eyes meeting and smiles amid hours of companionable silence.

I don’t wear lipstick anymore. Ever. Barely. Silence is fleeting, moments together are snatched. Cuddles involve tiny arms and legs, and two large heads cooing over a small one.

I don’t have red lips. But I still do have so much love to give.

 

19.08.16

My mother doesn’t like to talk about things. I don’t know why, she is just like that. My mother is half blind because of an accident leading to a retina detachment. It hinders her greatly, because it would anybody – to go from being able to see just fine to being part blind.

She still carries on with life, though. And she never ever talks about it. And she gets very annoyed when I ask her about it, so I don’t.

I respect that she doesn’t want to talk about it. Maybe that is her way of dealing with it.

I don’t think I understand my mother very well. I think we are very different. She is more similar to my sister than she is me. They are both very stubborn, which is why they don’t get along most of the time. It isn’t pretty. It makes me very sad.

Today I accidentally found out that my mother might have cancer. She would never have told me. She doesn’t know yet. She is still waiting for results. But she has cysts in her uterus and a high number of white blood cells. But the specialist will be able to determine if she does or not.

She did not want to tell me because I worry too much. Which I understand and respect. But I wish she did tell me. I told her I was not worried and will only worry when the time is right to. I don’t want her to worry about me worrying. I want her to be relaxed and peaceful.

So I left my mother’s home and came to where I live and I have sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Which is so ridiculous because nothing is definite. But. I just. I just thought about all the suffering she goes through. And how rude and disrespectful my brother and sister are to her. And how upset that makes her. And how nasty I used to be back when I was a rebellious little witch.

And. How I can never forgive myself for putting her through hell.

And. How she sacrificed EVERYTHING for me. For us. Her health. Her happiness. Her stability in marriage. Her life. Her career.

And. If it is bad. And if she is sick. I want her to be happy. I just want her to be happy. I just want

her

to be

happy.

I am really upset. And I shouldn’t be because this is not about me, it is about her. So I am only going to show her happiness. I am never going to cry in front of her because that will hurt her. I am only going to be good and kind and make her laugh with my ridiculous stories and listen to her and take her out and treat her to a John Lewis facial because those are super luxurious – and I am going to make sure my siblings buck up and move their sorry asses and help her out.

If they don’t they will have a furious big sister to deal with.

And I just want my mother to be happy. Did I mention that?

My mother is everything to me. She is my whole world. She made me who I am today. I hear her voice in the background of everything that I do. I hear her encouragement and her soft support behind all these words that I write. My mother is one in a trillion humans. There is nobody like her on earth. I know she will love me when all my hair falls out and when I am a fat blob of misery. She will tell me to dry my tears and stop being so silly. She will stomp on my self doubts and tell me I am so beautiful and wise and interesting.

If I don’t have my mother, I don’t have the earth at my fingertips.

 

Woman

I went to my mother yesterday. She was making dinner while the rest of the family lazed about doing nothing.

‘I feel so stressed,’ I told her, ‘I don’t know why. All my exams are over.’

She carried on stirring the cheese sauce for macaroni cheese (i put chilli flakes in mine. I have an obsession with chilli flakes lately. My brother says I will get stomach ulcers. BUT THEY’RE SO GOOD?!!?!), but I knew she was listening.

‘I feel like everybody expects something from me and I am trying my best to meet everybody’s expectations but it is never enough, and I go to bed feeling guilty that I haven’t done enough, or been enough, and it’s giving me anxiety!”

My mother turned to me, and she was smiling slightly but her eyes were dead serious.

‘Well Lenora, that’s what it feels like to be a woman.’

Her voice was encouraging, supportive, sympathetic, sad.

For the first time in my adult life, I saw my mother as a woman, not just my mother, always getting on with things, always dependable, always listening to what I have to say. That’s way too much expectation for a singular human. But they do it. They all shoulder it up and carry it through life, and the bundle just gets larger and larger.

And that, I think, is simply amazing. The amount of strength one woman can garner. Woman are strong, folks. They are built to carry the weight of the generations on their shoulders.

 

 

Love Letters #7

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Dear Mama,

We don’t always get along. Sometimes I am very rude to you. Like yesterday, when I walked in from work, exhausted and thirsty, and you said ‘where have you been, missy!’ and I got irritated and said, ‘Where do you think I’ve been?! You know I go to work. See, you always ask me this because you never remember because you don’t care about me.’

That was cruel of me. I know you care about me. I know you are tired and overworked, and nobody helps you at home. Ellie stays in her room all the time, and moans about doing a pile of dishes. She never cleans anything, and you go to work and come home and cook and clean after four kids aged between 21 and 10. And not one of them lifts a finger for you, except maybe sometimes. Very rarely, though. And you call them until your voice is hoarse and that is so wrong. If i had the time, Mama, I would help you. I would clean up for you and cook dinners for you and make sure the boys behave.

I know I should make time, but it’s so hard. There is not a moment where I am not teaching or studying for the imminent exam. But when it is over, I will help you. I will take you places so you can relax.

I want you to know that I am sorry. I am sorry for all the pain I have ever caused you, and I know I have caused you a lot of it, and much of it you haven’t forgiven. I don’t want to bring it up again with you because you will make me relive it again and again. You have this habit, you see, of going into all the grainy details. Details which are painful for me. And it was all five years ago. And I am so sorry but I can’t say it without feeling so awful and painful and scared. So I just try to silently show you by doing the best I can for you.

I say, jokingly, that your mother was a mumsy mother, unlike you. But you don’t have to be ‘mumsy’ to be a good mother. It’s not the hugs and the cuddles we want. We see your love in the way you make our breakfasts before school, and the way you listen to all our woes, even though you have plenty of your own to worry about, and which you never speak of. We see it in the encouragement you give us, in the way you push us to be better people. In the way you have sacrificed everything, even your sight, for us. You were so unhappy for so many years and it was all for us.

Us ungrateful, wretched children, most of whom do nothing to help and don’t appreciate anything. But they will. Oh, they will, when you aren’t around them anymore. I hope they do and I hope they feel pain because you don’t deserve to be treated the way they treat you. You are their mother and you deserve to be respected highly, for all you have done and continue to do for those lazy, selfish louts.

I don’t always agree with the things you do, but you made me who I am today. You helped me become more confident in myself, and love myself for who I am. You told me I was beautiful when my bald patch shone bright like a star on top of my head. You made me read from the age of three, and if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have found my true calling.

You are not soppy at all, and saying these things to you would result in a ‘Ohh, shurrup’ in that no nonsense way of yours. We aren’t a touchy feely family at all. Mostly because you aren’t, but that is okay. It is just the way it is. I just want you to know you are appreciated, and you are a great mother, just like your mother before you, who you never stop remembering to us.

And I wish nothing but the best for you, Mama. I will take care of you, even if you bat me away and tell me to stop mothering you. Who will take care of you, if not your own children?

A Mother's Love