Connection

The password to my laptop is my mother’s name.

Not for sentimental reasons, but because she was staying here when I was due to give birth and she needed to use my laptop, and my old password was a complicated jumble of capitals, characters and numbers.

It’s been six months since she used it, but I have not changed the password back to what it was.

I don’t know if I will, either. Maybe that is sentimental of me.

I can’t tell my mother that I love her.

I tell my husband every single day. I tell my babies, multiple times a day. I say I love them with every breath I take. I can feel the love oozing out of my eyeballs when I gaze at them as they do their daily life living. As my two year old explores the world and tells himself things and jumps and climbs and experiments. As my five month old kicks the air and laughs to herself and turns her bright, sparkly, star-shine eyes towards me, her face exploding into that special smile she has, her dimples winking in and out on her gloriously chubby cheeks.

But I can’t tell my mother I love her.

I don’t remember my mother telling me she loves me either. I remember going to my aunt’s house, and having her come into the room at bedtime and kiss my cousins and kiss me and say, ‘I love you, I’ll see you in the morning.’ I remember thinking how nice and warm that felt, and wondering why we didn’t do that in our family.

I know my mother loves me. She always listened to what i had to say, about other people. Not about when I fought with my sister or when I felt wronged by her. But she listened to tales about my friends at school and my teachers. Everyday I would come home and tell her, twisting how I said things to say them in a way that I knew would appeal to her humour and make her laugh. And she would laugh, and I would feel triumphant and clever and extremely witty. I know she loves me because it is in the food she makes for me, in the love she shows my babies, in the home as we grew up, in the tales she tells me throughout my life of how loved I was…. by others.

I have had horrible fights with my mother. Things that even now are not resolved and they rear their ugly heads sometimes in our interactions, so I have to change the subject or ignore her until she stops making me feel like smashing my head against the wall. She goes on and on and on and picks at me until I want to scream.

So now when I talk to her I try to connect with her in a way that I know will be peaceful. In a way I know she won’t attack me or accuse me or make me feel like… something bad.

I love my mother to pieces. I appreciate her and everything she did for me. I know she loves me. I KNOW she loves me.

But I am twenty seven now and I can see she is a human. I can see she is trying her best but she has not healed. And so when she goes on at me and my throat becomes tight and restricted and I feel trapped into a corner and can’t wait to escape, I stay silent. I barricade. I feel heavy. I wait. Then I call her some days later and talk to her as though nothing happened.

When I open a conversation with her about how I feel she gets defensive. She cries. She becomes the victim and then I feel horrible. So I stop. I just exist as her daughter. She is my mother. I love her.

And I look at my children and love them fiercely and wonder, in deep horror, if I will end up like that too. If they will hide their truths from me because I can’t handle it. If I will put my feelings before theirs. If I will take what they say so personally that they will be afraid to open up to me.

And I wonder, too, if they will give me grace and try to understand me, and realise that I too am human.

So every day I try my hardest to swallow my own emotions when they are expressing theirs. Suppressing my anger at their feelings. Trying to explore how and why and what and where their brains are doing what they are doing. Trying to connect, always, despite the tantrums and tempers and worries. Hoping that when we all emerge as adults, the connection will have triumphed over everything.

Because I love my mother fiercely, but I am not connected to her.

And I don’t think I will change the password on my computer.

Can you say no?

Can you decline a wedding invitation, a request to go dancing, an enquiry about your ballet shoes?

Can you say no to the girl who asked you to watch her sister while she spends some time with her boyfriend?

Can you say no to the woman who wants to go cycling with you… but you really want to be alone?

Can you say no… when someone says they will pay you £2.50 an hour to teach their son another language?

Can you?

I couldn’t.

I couldn’t say no and I was told all the time.. SAY NO. Say NO. No.

No, I said, to those telling me to say no. No, I can’t say no.

Even though I just did.

Say no to the man who says ‘come and see me, be brave.’

Alarm bells clanging and mouth dry and heart wringing in fear.

Say no, Lenora, please.

Say no.

Just say no.

But I did not say no.

Sometimes I think I have healed but then I wake up dripping in sweat, heart palpitating, from a dream in which I am saying yes to all the things I do not want to do. I am frantic and anxious and running away but I cannot escape him, he has his sharp claws dug deep into my back.

It’s been eight years.

I said yes for two years and then one day I said no and it took all my strength to do it.

And it took me seven months to stop hyperventilating everytime my phone rang.

Took eight months for the severe stomach pains to go away.

It’s been eight years since I said that final no, and I still dream I can’t say no.

So please say no.

Let your children say no when they’re little, so that when they’re big and need to say no, they should be able to.

Say no.

To the right people.

It’s okay.

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!

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.

Pranks

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 eighth post.

Sometimes you think someone is playing a prank on you. Someone very close to you.

But then reality creeps in. Rears its ugly, ugly head. And five years of relative bliss flood down a slimy drainpipe.

Because no. It is not a prank.

It is very real.

People surprise you everyday. Don’t trust anybody but yourself.

October Pledge

It’s Friday again. Hello Friday, how do you do? And how do you do?

In England, shops already have their Christmas decorations out. My mind is numb to it, because just a blink of an eye ago it was summer.

Oh, how I have lagged behind, folks.

Life is very difficult, and there are a lot of bends and twists along the way. Some are happy, and lots are bleak.

I have some big plans, though. Let us see if they come into fruition!

One of my large plans is to knuckle down for real this year and do NaNoWrimo like it’s meant to be done. I want to finish this novel once and for all, even if it is a shoddy mess by the time it is done.

SO, I pledge to write 30,000 words this November. The maths is very easy. That’s 1000 words a day. I think I can do it. I will also be taking off around 5 days of work this month, to focus solely on writing and planning and creating things that have been put on hold for way too long.

I have drafts of blog posts from FEBRUARY, that were meant to be published. I just didn’t have time! Life hit me like a tonne of bricks, and work is just an all-consuming, all-encompassing presence. It is stressing me out. Commuting for 2-3 hours a day, plus running my house, plus keeping mentally sane and maintaining relationships without being a selfish, paranoid arse, pardon my French, is making me fat, miserable, lonely and inadequate.

SOMETHING has got to give.

So this November, I am promising to make a new start. If my novel is finished properly by the end of December, I will have lived up to this new standard. But, first, 30,000 words in November.

Can I do this??

How have you been, fellow bloggers? Do let me know in the comments below!

 

You Made My Day

You made my day, I said.

I laughed.

To show

how happy she had made me.

And my cheeks hurt, because they were being forced to do what they would normally have done spontaneously.

Only this time,

My brain had ordered them to stretch,

against their will.

You made my day, I said, honestly.

And she smiled, because she made someone’s day.

You

made

my

day,

I lied through my teeth,

through my smile

which began to feel

stale

On my face.

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Image credit: River Darling

Don’t Cry

You’re so noisy.

Don’t speak, don’t breathe.

Heavily behind me.

Through your nose.

Long toes. nails. Harsh.

Scratchy voice, cackling.

And heat under an old green coat.

You’re so noisy.

Don’t tell me I’m wrong.

Don’t fake your beliefs, to make me happy, and then curse what I believe, when you’re tired of the lies.

Don’t swear

don’t SHOUT

Don’t breathe, just stop. Stop breathing. Just sleep.

Don’t blame, don’t bemoan, don’t lament. I am not your beacon of happiness.

I am not made to suffer your fury, your happiness, your pain.

I am human.

And when I leave, don’t cry.

You’re so noisy.

I want out.

But

I’m scared to go

Because you think you’re entitled to me.

You’re so noisy

So ill

so broken.

When i LEAVE

Fix your bones

don’t smoke.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t cry.

Don’t cry.

Those hacking sobs

those tears

not of pain

but of bitter selfishness.

 

N.B. this was real. not is. a v long time ago. thank goodness.

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Image credit: Carmen Renn

Love Letters #45

She didn’t.

ever.

doubt

that she wouldn’t have,

their support,

their endless love,

Their silent encouragement,

despite her constant irritation with them,

and theirs with her.

But every day,

she was gripped by the

hopeless

despairing

certainty

terror

That she

would eventually

lose them all,

to the cruel,

yet inevitable

Cycle of life.

Joined to her every nerve ending

Spread so far around the globe.

Close to her heart and soul

Voices crackling over miles of choppy ocean,

Lump in her throat

Smile through happy tears

Oh to see that darling face again,

So swift, so soon, so long

and then it’s goodbye

Until next year.

Sore, aching heart,

Her family.

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Image Credit: Katie M Berggren

Written because in the past year, I have only seen my father over a series of sporadic occasions which amount to no more than 15 days. And this breaks my heart, because he is getting older, and so am I, and so are we.