Diary

I think writing is incredibly important. I have been writing since I was about 11 years old.

It started with a story I wrote based on a literacy assignment my father set for me. The story was about a little girl who got stuck in a lift (elevator), and how she managed to escape by finding a hatch and sliding down the ropes, and exiting onto some crisp white snow through a hatch at the bottom of the shaft. I can’t remember the details – there were many – but I remember the catharsis of writing that story. You see, I had a crippling fear of lifts. I was so afraid we would get stuck and that thought was a roadblock in my mind. As an adult I am still scared… and as an adult with two young children who has to use lifts often because of having a pram… whooooooosh. Every lift journey I think about all the possible things that could go wrong and how I would deal with it… all while smiling jovially at my kids like my heart isn’t about to thrust itself right out of my chest.

After that lift story, I began to write. I found scraps of paper at first and wrote my thoughts. Then at school as an end-of-semester gift, my teacher gave me a notebook. A flimsy little affair with shiny blue flowers on the covers and paper thin enough to look (and feel!!) like tracing paper… but I treasured it and wrote in it religiously for a month… until the paper ran out. The entries are so childish now, when I read them back sixteen years later, but to me they held a glorious feeling on their pages. I had just discovered Lord of the Rings, you see, and we had got out hands on the video tapes of the movies. My mum’s friend had recorded the movies that played on the TV that afternoon while we were all at school. My pages were filled with that stomach-churning eleven year old excitement .. that excitement that you rarely feel as an adult. Why is life so exciting to an eleven year old?

Anyway. Since then I always kept a diary. Sometimes I would have breaks from journalling… if life got too exciting or I was doing something nefarious… but for the most part, I recorded my thoughts and ideas and feelings most days.

Fast forward to today, and I now have a yearly diary. A page per day entry. Mainly to record important events or feelings or experiences… but as a mother of two young children, my entries have lapsed. I haven’t recorded anything in the entire month of November. This is certainly not because I don’t want to. I desperately want to. I think of things I want to write down and tell myself I will, later, later, soon.. but when later comes my brain doesn’t have any capacity to do it. It’s like treacle in there. It’s mind-bogglingly hard to take care of two small children every single day. Nothing much to look forward to and just the daily guilt of feeling you aren’t doing enough or being enough for them. And are they learning enough and adequately? And do they have good opportunities? And am I giving them those good opportunities? And why can’t they do things other kids their age can? And and and and… and so journalling takes a backseat.

But it’s good to journal. It’s good to write. It’s catharsis. Like crying. Reliving the day, the thought, the emotion, and really feeling it before letting it go.

Do you journal?

My Brother… Cooking

My brother takes the flour out. Bits of flour dust sail behind the paper bag as he brings it the counter.

He shakes the saucepan on the hob. It’s filled with caramelised onions. Sliced peppers. Sliced beef. He throws in some stock. It splashes over the edge and creates a symphony in the pot. Swirling, whirling. Drops of sauce on the sleek and shiny stainless steel cooker. A bit of half cooked meat on the counter, where it has lain there after flying out the pot during some aggressive stirring.

He slaps the dough on the counter. Kneads away. Somehow a glob of dough lands on the edge of the sink behind him. On the cupboard handle. On the edge of his shoe.

Wraps the dough in clingfilm. Pushes it into the fridge. The egg tray falls out, and the only egg in it cracks on the floor.

‘ugh’

Old rag, smearing egg yolk on the floor. Kick the mop over. Pour a glass of water over the egg. Mop it up. Leave the mop leaning against the door.

‘You done with the mop?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Ok…’

I know that’ll stay there for a few days. Until some unwitting person wants to mop and will smell the unholy stench of raw egg rotting.

The dough is ready. He slams it on the counter. Takes the rolling pin out.

Rolls. Expertly.

Sheet of dough. In the greased baking dish. Blind baked, fork holes peeping up at the searing heat of the oven curling the air over it.

Pours the filling into the pie shell. Drapes the other dough sheet over the top. Fork pricks.

Milk wash…. he had broken the last egg, remember?

I sit on the sofa in the next room with a good view into the kitchen. The beef pie is in the oven. It smells incredible. He can’t see me. He sees flour all over his hoodie. So he shakes the edge of it, and a cloud of flour dust flies into the air. He claps his hands on his trousers. Rolls down his sleeves.

‘Food’s nearly ready,’ he tells us, gruffly, as he heads upstairs.

‘Thank you darling,’ my mother tells him. She coos at my baby, who is sitting happily on her lap.

And I think, that boy hasn’t changed a single bit since he was a chubby little boy messing up the kitchen in a well-meaning attempt to scramble eggs.

Is it annoying? Yes, so much so. Does his food taste good? Delicious. Do I clean up after him? Yup. Does he think he has cleaned up after himself? Yes. Does my telling him he hasn’t done it well enough work? Nope. Hasn’t worked for over twenty years. What makes you think it will work now?

Also. I am at my mum’s house. Somebody else is holding my baby and somebody else is cooking dinner. Am I about to regurgitate an old sibling fight about messy cooking?

Hell to the no!

Adobe stock image – as you can tell.

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.

Parallel

I spent a lot of my teenage years being insanely depressed. It was desolate. A desperation. A yearning for something but a lack of confidence to get it. Or trying to obtain it in the worst ways possible.

Dark streets and lamp-lit winter, leaves falling from trees onto shiny wet pavements. The crunch underfoot of all sorts of nature, lying limp on pathways. Outside frames my memories. Not inside the home. It was escape, really. I tried to escape, and I don’t know what from. Away from home? From heavy, pregnant expectations. Aspirations turning to dust. There was a lot of pressure and blame I think. Pressure to do well and be something because a big sacrifice was being made for me… ten years on and the sacrifice is still ongoing. Makes me wonder if it really was for me at all. Or can a judgement just be a bad one?

My sister goes camping and volunteers at a farm. She cleans out henhouses and mucks out stables. She pulls potatoes and onions, relishes in the dirt between her fingernails. Those fingernails that used to scratch me in childhood fights. Her weapon of choice, with her being so small and skinny in those days. Now she towers above me. Three years younger, and I look up at her. Notice I did not say ‘to’ her. When we were children living in the desert we yearned for the fresh green of the UK. The heavy foliage, the thick weeds. We yearned to ride horses and wade through marshes and walk through fields. Every summer when we came back to visit grandparents and family, our parents took us here there and everywhere, sfilling our bottomless cups before we had to go back to the torrid heat of Arabia and my father at work work work and my mother…. sad but trying her best.

My sister adores the farm. She says she is the happiest she has ever been in her life. She doesn’t want to leave. In the evenings she has a chat with a few straggling volunteers. Sometimes they make homemade pizza. At night she retires to a caravan by herself. The hob doesn’t work so she can’t cook anything and the bathroom is not in use, so she has to walk in the pitch black to the compostable toilets several feet away. I asked if she felt lonely or scared, and she said no way. Such vehemence in her voice. When I saw videos of where she sleeps, I could see the old familiar things that make my sister. The way her duvet is thrown back. The little things she uses everyday, and has always used. She sends me clips of her long fingers practising using a piano for the first time ever. We have an argument over Snapchat, but on WhatsApp our conversation flows freely and cheerfully. Parallel conversations, very different tones.

When I think of my sister on her farm, and me here with my two kids, I can’t help but think of me back then. I was happier away from home too. I was desperate for friends, good friends, any friends. Moving across the globe at that age made it hard to find people ‘like’ me. I was socially awkward and painfully shy. So when predators made their moves on me, I gave them the time of day. I fancied myself ‘in love’ and let them trample all over me. Heightening my depression, pushing me further into loneliness and isolation. When I did make friends… I put a predator before them. I yearned to live on a farm, to travel places, to explore and learn and have adventures.. like my sister is now. But in searching for that I fell into the wrong crowd. They laughed like hammers on a rotten fence and their teeth were brown from smoking. The put me on a drug high and laughed at my terror and confusion. They told me they loved me but used me to within an inch of my life. They hurt me and forced me to do things I still shudder about.

My parents are ‘disappointed’ in my sister, but were ‘happy’ with me. My sister who is being so wholesome and finding her joy and fulfilling her childhood dreams in the right way. They didn’t know what I was doing, they didn’t know my authentic self. My sister is vocal and stubborn. She doesn’t always respond in a way that pleases them. She has her own opinions and isn’t afraid to voice them, even if they are wrong in my parents’ eyes. Wrong in my eyes sometimes too, but then I step back and I think.. she is an adult and she is making choices, who is anybody to stop her or dictate to her or make her feel bad for it. We can make choices the other doesn’t agree with and still be a harmonious family. It doesn’t quite work that way in my family though. There is often a ‘villain’.

We are so loved, but there has to be a villain.

Cracks

I am feeling so ridiculously overwhelmed.

I don’t know but that I may just be defeated, this time.

Life is full of small things which add up to big things and these leak through the cracks and drop into a chasm of what is something huge. I can see glimpses of it when I peer through the cracks. Much like my two year old peeping through the gaps in the bridge, at the water rushing beneath. It’s dangerous, but I feel safe on my solid perch.

Except… it’s not so solid. The cracks are beginning to widen.

Image Credit

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.

Image Credit

In Time

I am very fat these days but like to think I am a soft cushion for my babies. None of those waist training things. I am also in the stage of life where I have no time for what my generation like to call ‘self care’.

Now if I were from another era, I would be going to the salon weekly to do my hair. I would have a manicure and a pedicure, and leave my children with the nanny. Maybe. Or family. If they lived closer. I would spend time on my wardrobe and have a select number of outfits which complement my hair and handbags. And shoes.

I would have all the time in the world to figure out how to wash the clothes properly in the machine so they don’t lose their softness and don’t develop nasty little balls on them. Or feel stiff when they should be slinky.

I would figure out how to utilise vinegar and soda crystals to ensure my oven was sparking, my sink smelled fresh and my washing machine was a happy little Larry.

As it stands, I find myself in a constant state of disrepair. I look like I have been dragged through a bush by my toes. My hair is a mess, my feet are so embarrassingly rough, my hands look dry and rough and …. not feminine and soft. My fingertips are all peeling. My nails are jagged and weird. My laundry gets done but always comes out wrong, even though I research the right way to do things. Sometimes they get left in the machine overnight because I am too exhausted to remember to hang them out and my husband is…. a forgetful annoying person.

No sooner do I clean than things get messy again.

And daily

Daily..

DAILY…

I find myself musing on the precious thing we call time.

Time and hours.

If I spend time working out I have to then spend time showering. If I want to look good I have to spend time doing things to my hair and skin and selecting a nice outfit and making sure my eyebrows are trimmed and my feet aren’t rough. All that takes time. Hours.

I also have to have my babies in clean nappies, clean outfits, and have them have a good sense of hygiene. That means hair and teeth brushed, nails clipped, feet clean, socks on, and all that shabang.

iI have to educate them and talk to them and read to them and teach them good life hacks and how to be healthy members of society. I have to take them out and expose them to things and give them experiences.

They must also be fed and not packet food. Broths and vegetables and wholesome grains. THAT TAKES TIME. I can no longer shove any old thing in the oven. I do that sometimes but I do feel guilty because I KNOW what is good for their growth.

So what is a priority?

I also have work to do and research for a literature review. I have to put in hours after the kids are asleep, and the house also needs cleaning? Mopping? Dusting? Fridge cleaned? Oven cleaned?

You see what i mean?

You can’t have a spick and span house, a well-groomed good looking persona, healthy, happy, clean kids and a steady job and good education all in one go.

Lord knows I try every single goddamn day.

THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY.

So I end up wearing the same uniform daily. T shirt, shorts, slippers. Hair back in a bun. Time for perfume? Maybe. Always a sports bra. I end up prioritising dressing my kids over myself. Feeding them healthy foods over myself. Educating them and taking them to places. Drinking coffee and coffee and coffee. Strong and black and in a huge mug. Only hygiene is brushing teeth and MAYBE hair. Washing face. Quick shower after they sleep. No creams anymore. No makeup anymore. No nice shoes and cute dresses.

I wish I could look like those mums. YOU know those mums? With the nice outfits and matchy matchy with their little girls. But I really don’t know how they do it? I wake up groggy and feeling like I haven’t slept enough (spoiler alert: I have not). I have to sort the babies out and feed them asap because if I don’t… they suffer and show me. Can’t put mascara on while they wail at me for their porridge.

I don’t know why I write this.

It’s just a reflection I guess.

Just some thoughts I am having about time and what to do with it.

Like right now I could be at the gym right? It’s 8:45pm and my babies have gone to sleep.

But here I sit writing this.

Priorities, ey?

You’re Horrible

‘You’re horrible,’ he said to me, leaning back on the sofa. I sat hunched on the table, angrily tapping on my laptop keys, fury racing towards him like daggers from my side eyeing.

‘No, you are.’

‘I haven’t seen you all day and all you do is be mean to me.’

‘Well I have been taking care of two babies all day and was so looking forward to going to the gym for an hour, MY TIME, but you choose to come home half an hour before it closes!’

‘So?’

‘SO, I am left rushing there, banging out a poor workout, and rushing back.’

‘Ok, at least you worked out?’

‘NO.’

‘Mean.’

‘Not mean. I wanted to take my time, walk there all psyched to go. I wanted to lift my weights slowly and with focus. I wanted to do some stair stepping and sweat to some tunes. But all I got to do was race there, dash in, quickly rush through my weight lifting routine, and rush out.’

‘Hmmph.’

‘And the music had stopped, the gym guy was waiting by the door, tapping on his phone, keys jangling.’

‘…’

‘And I rushed out, raced across the car park in the pitch black, jumped in, locked the doors sharpish and looked into my backseat.’

‘Why the backseat?’

‘Well you know in one of the X-Files episodes where that creepy guy with honey eyes – the one who eats people’s livers every thirty years – anyway, that guy was in the backseat when Mulder gets in his car.’

‘O…. kay?’

‘And I watched that as a child and it so terrified me that every time I get into a car, I have to look into the backseat to make sure nobody is waiting there to pounce on me.’

‘Alright, weirdo.’

‘Anyway and then I rush home. And there is mess everywhere. I was with the kids all day, bathed them alone, put them to bed alone, and I was hoping you would at least clear up the dinner things and tidy up, but it’s a pigsty. Literally. There’s dried baby food on the table.’

‘I’ve been at work all day.’

‘So have I?’

‘What, you were at home!’

And folks, I took my laptop upstairs, and here I sit, steam shooting out my ears.

Is this for real?

Wonders

I’ve said this before, but I am addicted to Instagram.

I’ve gone on instagram ‘cleanses’ before.

Once for a month. Once for a week. Once for three months.

I always end up going back, though. There’s something about it. Mindless scrolling. Satisfaction… for what? I don’t post anything and I don’t get high off ‘likes’ (because there are no ‘likes’ because I am not posting anything!). I like to see the pages I follow for ‘inspiration’.

Homeschooling ideas, activities for my kids, cleaning inspiration, workout inspiration.

The thing is, though, the people who make this content also post a lot about their personal lives, so you’re subjected to that too.

And it’s just so much of it, so monotonous, so tedious.

Yet I still scroll.

There is a science behind it, why you keep scrolling even though you don’t want to. They’ve researched it thoroughly and have programmed their apps to hit your dopamine right on target.

So anyway. I deleted instagram again for a month, ending 25th August. During that time I read three books, bought and made a start on a planner (very colourful and I thoroughly enjoyed decorating it with stickers and whatnot), went out a lot with my babies, hosted family over for three weeks…

Not to say I wouldn’t have done those things if I had instagram on my phone readily available to me.. I WOULD have still hosted and gone out and read things…

I don’t really know how to describe it to you.

There is a word in arabic and it’s ‘ikti’aab’. It literally means depression. But in your bones. Deep exhaustion.

Not tired.

It’s like the monochrome videos everybody makes now. They’re all doing something with their fists, some kind of weird dance, and words pop up on the screen as they fist pump and wriggle around like worms on camera. It’s the same thing, just done by different people. Eagerly eyeing the like button. Faces filtered beyond recognition.

It felt weird opening instagram again after this hiatus.

It felt like peering into a world of narcissistic aliens, and they all harp on about not being narcissistic and being ‘real’ but their ‘real’ footage is scripted, because they look so perfect and are angling their cameras just so… just so their boobs are looking their best… just so their hair is at the perfect angle… just so their faces are tilted just right….

Being raw and vulnerable …

All the comments… ‘you’re so brave! you’re so strong! you’re so raw! omg!’

And I look out of that fakery into my reality and realise with a painful thump that this curated world I am peering into is an illusion.

I still feel shitty about myself though. My parenting. My ability to school my kids. What I feed them. What they wear. How our house looks.

And so. One of these days. I am deleting social media for good.

How (not) to Disappear

I was browsing through Goodreads when I came across a title called ‘How Not to Disappear’, about a road trip across the UK. It looked really interesting. Aunt with dementia, pregnant teen, family secrets.

So I went to get it as an ebook.

When I bought and downloaded it and began to read, I realised the book I was reading was not about a road trip. It was about a teen girl who witnessed a murder.

Huh?

It was based in the UK and so I carried on thinking, ok, maybe she will get pregnant later and travel across the UK with her aunt Gloria.

Only that never happened.

There was no aunt called Gloria.

And the description on the front of the book said ‘bestselling thriller’.

Is travelling across the UK supposed to be thrilling? If so can one teach me how to make it so because so far I’ve only ever had very mundane road trips!

Anyway, halfway through this thriller – and I was really beginning to thoroughly enjoy it – I checked the cover of the book and smacked my forehead.

It was called ‘How to Disappear’

Not ‘How NOT to disappear’.

Still, it’s a fantastic book and keeping me on the edge of my seat.

Have you ever read one book thinking you were reading another?