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?

Sylvester (Part 1)

I could describe a single meeting in a thousand pages, and a hundred years in two lines.

It’s all relative to perception, I think. 

The year I met Sylvester was the year I also broke both my legs in a terrible cycling accident. I never wanted to go into the details of it all, but it was ominous. I was happy and carefree sailing down the hill, the wind rushing through my hair and over my face, the sky was brilliant because the clouds were flushed with peaches and pinks, the last hurrah of a setting sun, and my legs had never worked so well, and they never would work as well as in that blissful, euphoric moment. I don’t care to think of what happened next, it doesn’t do me any favours and makes me wallow.

A girl is never any good at anything if she is an experienced wallower.

I suppose I would not have met Sylvester if I hadn’t broken both my legs. As it happened, I was lying in bed mostly for six months straight, unable to walk anywhere. The first three months were a living nightmare, and I was in a hospital bed for most of the time because the doctors weren’t sure about my spine.

I shared a room with six other women and girls, but it was interchangeable. They came and went, and nobody stayed as long as I did. During my sixth week, I lay with both my legs in a cast, staring at the ceiling until a tear rolled out of the corner of my eye and slid down the side of my head and burrowed into my hair. It was a tear of complete boredom. I wasn’t sad at all, I was just idle, listless; yawning but not tired.

That must be what it means to be bored to tears,’ I thought.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I had plenty of visitors. My friends from school came around every weekend, and we had a little party by my bedside. Eventually the bulk of them stopped coming but Tommy Hill came without fail, chattering about everybody and everything and keeping me up to date on classroom and playground politics. Samantha Briggs brought me my homework, and sometimes sat with me to do hers and explain what I had missed. I got tired of that quickly, though. It was kind of her but I just wished she would let up on all the studious talk. Her large blue eyes would blink blankly at me if I dared to ask what her plans were for the weekend.

‘Well, there is that Chemistry pop quiz we have on Tuesday, and Mondays are always bulky bag days so probably homework?! Why?! Is there a test I am missing?!’

I would roll my eyes and shake my head, letting her carry on, her monotonous voice drifting above my head and over up to the ceiling, her words jumbling together and mixing up, forming mountains and tumbling down, crashing like waves on a shore of slick, black rocks.

Then, Sylvester.

I was sitting up that day. My toast was ready on the table by my bed, and I was stirring a mug of tea whilst absently staring at the small monitor on the wall opposite, where an old rerun of a staticky sitcom buzzed and twitched its way through a dreary episode, every few sentences interrupted by shrieking laughter.

‘Oh, I like this episode,’ a voice said from the doorway. I turned to look. Peculiar boy, he was. A shock of silver hair over a shadowy face. He wore a terrifically baggy T shirt, almost like a dress, and the baggiest shorts you ever did see. They hung below his knees, and his shins were scraped something terrible. He had two dimples and he wasn’t even smiling, and his eyes were piercing and black. Blacker than the longest night in December.

He was wild and brown, an exclamation mark of a human.

Pushing a trolley into the room, he said cheerfully,

‘Snacks, sweets, magazines anybody?!’

Sarah in the bay opposite sat up and said, ‘Do you have the Guardian newspaper, love?’

‘Why, yes we do,’ he swooped down and lifted the newspaper from the bottom shelf of the trolley, waving it above his head in triumph. Like he had won a gold medal.

‘Here you go, sweetheart. That’ll be £2.50’

Then he winked at me.

I turned away, back to the sitcom, and took a sip of my tea. ‘Rude boy’, I thought. He had no business winking at me.

‘This is the episode where they jump off that cliff, isn’t it?’

I looked up at him again and saw him leaning backwards to see the screen. He glanced at me so I knew he was speaking to me.

‘I don’t know,’ I said, curtly.

Image Credit

On 7 Years

Happy WordPress-i-versary to me!

It’s been 7 years since I started a blog on WordPress.

This was my first ever post.

This was my second ever post.

I was a little old 19 year old back then, I had a very messy bedroom and fancied myself quite… well I don’t know. I remember feeling happy and comfortable in my skin and rather excited about life – I think it was because I had just met my husband-to-be and that was a Very Exciting Time.

It was better than being 18 and being manipulated by a psychopath but that’s another story.

I am now 26, and look back on those times wistfully. They were simpler times. I am glad to have lived them.

In seven years I have moved 5 times, got married, had a baby with another on the way, had six jobs, travelled 10 times, lost a lot of friends, gained some very special friends, and jolly well grew up.

I did not write a book, although do have three or four in various stages of being written.

I still love this blog, and blogging, and I don’t anticipate that I will stop blogging for a while.

It’s not a long time, 7 years, but a lot can happen in 7 years.

How long have you been blogging for?

A Secret Thought

Folks, I was exceptionally greedy today, and had two helpings of chocolate cake with custard after dinner. Dessert is not a normal occurrence in our household, mainly because I don’t make any, and my husband cannot cook. Scratch that, he has NO INTEREST in cooking and therefore cannot make anything remotely edible. Much like me when I am forced to watch old Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson boxing matches. Yawn.

The custard came out of a tin costing 75p, and started its life in powdered form. The old me would have lovingly made it from scratch out of egg yolks, which would have resulted in a ridiculously creamy, warm, homey concoction. The new me does things by halves, and so I ate chemical-tasting custard and I damn well enjoyed it because custard is not a regular occurrence in my household. My son is allergic to eggs.

This time last year my son was 2 days old, and I was cloudy with hormones and recovering from a c-section. I thought he was the most beautiful thing on earth (I still do think that), and my feet were swollen like balloons. I don’t like to think about the immediate aftermath of the birth, to be honest. My mother stayed with me for a week and in my horrible, swollen, post-surgery, post-labour hormonal self, I was a total bitch to her. I did not trust anybody with my baby and could not sleep a wink for over a week; every time my eyes closed my dreams would rise up, cluttered and clustered and mountainous, full of events and sweat, and when I awoke I felt as though I had run a marathon. I was crying, uneasy, anxious and altogether rather horrid. This lasted, gradually fading, for a year. I am still suffering the repercussions of it and while I adore and cherish my son more than anything, I can’t help but have clouded thoughts.

I know this ought to be about him, because it is HIS birthday, and why am I so bloody negative when millions of women have births and c-sections and still manage to make the day about their kids. Don’t get me wrong, I never breathed a word about these feelings to anybody. I genuinely showed everybody sincere happiness, and I danced with my boy and told him how he was one that day, and how special he was to me and his dad, and he relished it all with big smiles and mild chatter. I was all laughs and smiles, folks. But as I walked home from the park, the winter sun shining, spring so clearly on its way, my boy nodding off in his pram, I couldn’t help thinking of the events of last year, and my personality change, and how horrible I was and how awful I felt.

When I got into the house, I put the pram away and rocked my son to sleep, tidied up and washed the dishes and out on a load of washing. I went outside and swept the garden of all the weeds I’d pulled up, I cleaned the tiny hand prints off the window, the table, the fireplace edges, I mopped the floors, I peeled and chopped some onions and put some pasta on to boil… and I just thought about it all and my heart sank.

That is how I can explain it. Mind you, this is all deep within the most secret crevices of my heart. I will never let my son know how I feel.. maybe when he is much much older and time has erased the rawness of it all. Or I will never tell him because there is no way his birth is the reason for this. I can’t have him thinking it is his fault because it most certainly is not. I can’t even describe it. It’s like a lump on my chest, that I can smother with life, but it does rear its head, and it is always there. I am always aware of it. It’s a fact of life, folks, that sometimes, a woman’s mind and body just are never the same after they have had a child.

You can say, well Lenora, get on with it. Well. I do get on with it. I do. I am happy, as everybody around me will attest to. I am full of cheer and joy. Just here, in this nook of the internet, I sometimes release these little feelings like gentle moths.

 

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!

Can a blog be hacked?

I think my WordPress account has been hacked or something. All my newest posts have vanished, and replaced with a sentence which contains a link. When you click on the link an odd document immediately gets downloaded onto the desktop!

It’s really weird. Has anybody else experienced this?

I am going to have to investigate the matter. How annoying!

Write in Good Times and Bad

Some people do their best writing while they are depressed. And others write beautifully when they are happy, their emotions lending wings to their minds and their fingers. It’s all down to emotion at the end of the day, and how one perceives feelings, and reacts to them.

I’ve learned that people react so differently to the same emotions and situations, which is why you can never win at situations no matter how hard you try. If you can’t get through to someone, you can’t get through to them.

In my previous life I have managed to write the best during my times of depression, but now that I am 25 and feeling a way I have never felt before in my life, I find that words somehow escape me.

I don’t know why this is. I thought that if I let my emotions out in stories they would somehow live a life on paper that they couldn’t live inside my mind. But it doesn’t work. On paper they seem mundane and mismatched. They teeter and totter on the edge of a cliff and fall off. They are the missing planks in a swaying wooden bridge, and you just fall right on through when you try to follow the track.

They just do not do the truth any justice, and it leaves me feeling frustrated and sad.

So I have come to the conclusion that my best writing happens when I am marginally sad, but not overwhelmingly so. When I see hope shining like a beacon at the end of a time period. Now time appears to stretch endlessly before me and hope is dragging her heels behind. Why, Hope, WHY? Well, she replies, I really don’t think that time has anything for me at the end of her path. I feel like time is shaving pieces off me as each of her seconds drip off her chain, like desolate, worthless diamonds.

Did you know that diamond rings are worthless if you want to resell them? Jewellers will only charge you for the price of the band, whatever metal it was made from. A fascinating piece of knowledge I got from my husband’s friend’s wife, who is a jeweller. I’d always wanted a diamond ring but now I am glad I don’t have one. But I digress.

You see my sadness cannot be fixed with time, or so the naive youth in me bemoans. It knows it will have to go through a harrowingly narrow tunnel before anything changes. Or it could get solemnly worse and I will just end up old and regretful and the vicious cycle continues.

So there. I am an in-between writer. I can’t write well when I am happy and I can’t write well when I am desolate, but there is a good in-between niche that hits the spot just fine.

Apparently L M Montgomery wrote her later Anne novels when she was in depression. Perhaps that is why the Anne voice we know and love recedes massively in her later novels.

Some people can write when they are both happy and depressed. Others can channel their particular emotions while writing and produce work that is representative of it, challenging themselves marvellously and being just ridiculously talented at making terrific use of their mental state, whatever it may be, to produce written work.

What kind of writer are you? Do you write best when you are happy, or sad? Or both? Or do your emotions not feature in your creativity at all?

Also, secret question, are all men afraid of conflict? Is it an inherent trait of a man? Is that why they don’t communicate with their wives/partners?

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!

Conscience

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 sixteenth post – a day late!

 

When you see a group of teenage boys legging it out of a grocery superstore as though there were jets on their heels, you just know they are up to no good.

‘Where’d you park the car, Mark?!’, one of them yelled, while the rest guffawed, their trainers hitting the road with barely a sound as they whooshed past little old ladies tottering out with their trolleys. I could hear the rustling of the bags of sweets and whatnot in their hands, as two more dashed out the supermarket and sped across the carpark like they were being chased. Loud laughs and shouts and whoops as they leaped into their car and it took off with a swerve, shooting out that carpark sharpish.

The world was quiet again after they’d gone. No security guard came rushing out after them. Nothing.

I guess large chain supermarkets account for small thefts like this?

I couldn’t help staring at those kids as they were running. The excitement and adrenaline was plain for all to see. Togetherness, teenage fun. It certainly isn’t moral but it is memories being made, so does that cancel out the crime?

I confess, I stole once too. I must have been about seven. It was a packet of chewits and I ate them in the supermarket as I trailed behind my parents, without them noticing. When my mum found out she gave me such a telling off. She made me pay for it out of my pocket money and apologise to the manager. Never had I been so mortified. But she did it all in such a way that, out of pure ethical reasons, not fear, I never stole again. I was tempted a few times but I kept remembering the things she told me about being upstanding and having good character and I didn’t do it. She gave me a conscience.

But if I was a teen and my friends pressured me into it, would I have given in? I like to think not but you never know unless you’re actually in that situation.

Did you ever steal something when you were younger?

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