Saturday, 22 June 2019

Moving in the breeze

My absolute favourite times are those when I wake early, creep downstairs without waking my youngest (my shadow) and have some quiet time alone, waking up my mind, my joints, my bones. This is when I finally read. The delicious kind of reading. Uninterrupted. Read in full, with time to research and reflect on what you've read, kind of reading. The heart full, soul fed kind. If I can squeeze in some housekeeping into that 'me time' then all the better. Sometimes, when life has been 'drive you crazy' busy, two loads of washing and a clean toilet before 7am is so very welcome that it makes you glassy eyed. And then, back door wide open, a real coffee freshly made and in hand and the slowness, the realness, of watching the clothes you hung on the line all before 7am moving gently in the breeze, it stirs those glassy eyes once more. The subtle back and forth of the tide in view with the scent of freshly hung washing is mesmerising. Water almost spills from my eyes as I watch the sun dancing on that washing line, casting shadows on the patchy lawn withered by the fun and gusto of my two offspring who frequently disperse their energy out here. The sunshine makes me think of my other half - my fatherland. How I miss him so, like a lump in the throat that will not shift. I hope he misses me as much I do him, I hope? The colder breeze harshly reminds me that the Gold Coast is far from here, the coldness seeping into my bones under bare feet, another tell-tell sign. Once again, the familiar restless is stirring, keeping on waking me suddenly, for weeks now. Less hours slept means less hours needed and so the restlessness grows and grows in strength, metastasising cruelly. The cure? To write. To find alone time. To rest - quietly. To strip back to the simplest of ways. To watch life moving in the breeze, surrendering to the tide. Sometimes, all of this requires silence, abscence, the need to disappear, to disengage. Even if it is just for a short time. I have finally come to understand this as a service to self, 'getting the engine checked' if you will. I hear the whispers, 'Check your engine!' and the whispers prosper and quickly I hear further words ... 'before the internal damage is irreparable'. Irreparable. Broken. Damaged. Hurt. Unworkable. Spent. Before any of this, before the deadline is reached, there is the gasp for breath. So there is quiet, there is stillness and there is writing. This. This. This. And I am greedy for more. Phone calls and messages and texts and demands and reprimands come at me naggingly, like a naughty puppy biting at my heels. Today there is stillness and breathing. In and out. in and out. Swaying, slowly swaying and moving in the breeze.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Lost and Ongoing

Beginning from the start or where one left off feels impossible. Continuing as you once did feels equally implausible. The numbness of heart that comes in waves from not 'doing' anything at all hurts like a medical condition as yet undiagnosed, the sort that leaves you silent and unable to sleep, the one that cripples you with worry but scares you into stillness and absolute silence. The silence. The quiet. Not of the good kind. There is so much and so little to say all at once. Much of what I want to say relates to those offspring of mine whom I speak little of here now that they are older. The not saying works me up into a tight ball because I know that the not saying means not remembering. Others have said 'not so' but I know me and I am all too aware of my inability to retain information. In years to come will I remember the date that my eldest took his first GCSE exam yesterday? Will I remember that it was in the afternoon and that I prayed for him whilst sitting on the toilet at work? Will I remember that I spent the half term holiday preceeding said exam revising with him? Will I remember that I learned all about the melody and accompaniment textures of Baroque, Classical, Traditional Indian and Greek music amongst others? Will I recall that it was during this same half term break that I finally took him to the hairdressers and that we cut off half of his afro, possibly the shortest his hair has been since birth?

Bench marks and rights of passage and the passing on or passing down of traditions and 'the way I like things done', all of these are being talked about a lot in our household of late. Like right now for example, whilst I tap the keys and try and remember how to gather and write down my thoughts, I can hear above me the loud bangs and thwacks of my ten year old changing his own bedding upstairs, which happens very infrequently and normally with me alongside for support and encouragement. Tonight, by hook or by crook, I will write I say over and over again in my head. I look at the time, 6.10pm and I am knee deep in me time. This is strange. But I have factored this into my routine. One load of washing. Done. Dinner complete. It's 'Burger Wednesday' so it was straight forward. 'What's 'Burger Wednesday' I hear you say?' Burger Wednesday was inspired by 'Sandwich Night' taken from one of my favourite films from my teens: About Last Night. So Debbie says 'Two nights a week I cook, two nights a week Dan cooks, two nights a week we go out and then ... there's sandwich night.' So around six weeks ago, feeling the mid week inertia about cooking I decided to give the household a cause for celebration and 'Burger Wednesday' was born. It won't be around forever, perhaps another couple of weeks or so. I'm already thinking of replacing it with 'Wednesday Afrique'. Pause.

(Scurries off to investigate loud bangs and thuds up above)

I had to leave to help said child remove himself from the layer of duvet cover that he had climbed into in a bid to change bedding. Now the husband wants to work out, it's also Date Night and I still have jobs to do and this fluid post I long to write is not going to happen. I guess all of this is to say that life is full and busy right now. There isn't much time in the week for anything and all we want to do is spend quality time together and the more we get, the more we want and that's no bad thing. Our week-ends are meaningful and we work hard at that, all of us. I have pictures, lots of them to remind me of the places we go and the things we liked. Hundreds of them, mostly on my phone which angrily reminds me that it had zero storage. It too, is too full. The youngest is as I type trying to show me a lego helicopter/ shuttle thingy he has recently made in his return to lego phase since his Rubix cube broke last week. he peers over my shoulder and shouts triumphantly: 'You're blogging again, you've said for ages you're going to do that! Yay!'.

Yay! Indeed. 

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Birth Day Lament

Each year, as the month of March makes her appearance, as my birth date rolls around once more, I think about the dreaded question - 'What are you doing to celebrate your birthday?'. I say 'dreaded question' because for a time my birthday became synonymous with a lack of control. I carried out ideas suggested by others, like an actor performing from a director's script. Carrying out my duties to others because I was incapable of saying 'No' to suggestion that I did not favour. This, of course, was a situation of my own making. Like the coach described (at some training I attended recently) I was caught in the victim role of Karpman's drama triangle. I recognise this now and I oscillate somewhere between bemusement and amusement when I ponder these experiences. I feel a slight swell of pride in knowing, like Oprah says, that 'I've done the work!'.

The last few years I have enjoyed my birthdays. They have been simple, spent with those I love and hold dear. All drama absent. Developing the ability to say no has been ground breaking. It has fractured some relationships but typically the ones that have been impacted are the very ones that were in need of re-examining. Ones which weren't in the best of shape, ones that were exhausting, destructive and in need of change. Much like my poor judgement in letting go of junk in my home: in my cupboards, clothing rack, book shelves, video collection, cassette tape collection, 7 inch vinyl collection, boxes of letters and keepsake boxes and that table piled high with this, that and the other, I struggle too, to let go of the emotional junk in my life. My tendency leans heavily towards keeping it 'just in case'. But here is what I have found interesting of late - I have changed. 

I am finding it much easier to have those difficult conversations. I am able to stand back (over time of course) and identify my own shortcomings and to some degree, able to stand in someone else's shoes. It isn't always a quick revelation, nor comfortable but I can say that as my forty fourth birthday approaches, I feel proud of myself for putting in the work. Most lessons in life have not come easily to me. I am not a quick thinker or a fast learner but I am a grafter. After forty four years, I understand that one of the greatest gifts I have is the ability to knuckle down and work hard. I have spent many years feeling cursed by my mother's words - 'You'll get there in the end!' which she uses normally when I am facing challenges or difficulty of some kind. 

These words have followed me since girlhood, like a pesky stray dog. I despise these words which she did use, has used, does use and will use (all without a second thought, all without meaning malice). I feel the hackles on my back sharply rise, my body stiffens, I want to snap, I want to bark, bite and show my teeth. She means well but these words are powerfully reductive. Instead, I do the work and I graft, reframing years of habitual pigeon holing. Negative words used as encouragement are like wolves in sheep clothing and I do not believe in fairytale endings. So here it is, the difficult and the testing, reframed from the position of victim to a position of my own making, a position hopefully outside of any drama, any triangle. What is this position? Well, it is this: I am nowhere in sight of the whisperers or callers, I have taken flight and cannot be found for these words to take hold. Alright, I admit that at times I may open a cupboard full of junk and the debris begins to spill but I know now. As soon as the junk begins to make a mess, I grab it all and throw it straight out. No sifting, no indecision, no guilt. Nothing. It's trash. It stinks and out it must go and straight away too. Job finished. The fine work of an experienced grafter. 

NB The writer published these words at least a week after they were written, unable to decide whether to post the entry or not. Said birth day has now been and gone. No one was injured in the passing of this week or so leading up to the post forty birth day.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

That second goodbye

Each morning, I see my teenager to the front door to send him on his way to school. Each time, we pray and embrace. Sometimes we resolve the conflicts that arise from the early morning rush, at other times there may be a last minute exchange about the details and timings of the day and at what time we will reconvene, occasionally there's a last minute prank or a little banter but each and every time, I stand by the door and I wait. 

I wait for his head to glance up, I wait for our eyes to lock and for his hand to rise to wave me farewell. I watch as he looks ahead, there's a pause and then it comes again; that second wave. The one that signifies a final goodbye before I close the door and disappear behind it. Each time (of late at least) it feels like the snip of the umbilical cord where one becomes two in a final act. This boy-man of mine, neither man, neither boy but still my little one. I will carry that second goodbye with me always, in a pocket near my heart just like a good luck charm (if I were to believe in such things), I will tuck his cockeyed half smile up my sleeve for safe keeping in case of needing to draw close to it later on, whilst smiling my own half smile thinking of the many times I have watched my own mother tuck a hanky up her left hand wrist. His purposeful stride, that mirrors his fathers and his fathers before, I will note down hurriedly in the notebook of my mind so that I will come upon words that describe it in detail in the days and weeks and months that are to come.  

Like a super eight film, I see flashes of colour and pop up events that inform of his thirteen years alongside me thus far. I glimpse that first morning feed at the newborn phase, the toddler years curled up with his arms ajar because of the chicken pox in his armpits, where only Winnie the Pooh on repeat would bring comfort, I snatch at the little boy with a raspberry on the end of each finger that devours four, five six ... nine and ten one after another and bares the crimson evidence all across his delighted face. I look over the fence at the child who finds the nookiest of nooks and reads and reads and reads only to forget about the love of reading and then to discover it again and again and forget it. And remember it once more. I cross the road and I see the boy that motions for me, eager to tell me his news, what he likes to eat, what he likes to watch, what he likes to listen to, what he believes strongly in, what makes him laugh, what makes him sad. He calls, then shouts, them whispers, then speaks and tells me softly, openly: 'I don't always want you to cross over the road without me. I can cross alone but we're both headed home so let us walk together.' I squeeze his hand in mine (recalling that it was once smaller than mine) and I whisper to him, 'Let us walk together, let us walk together, let us walk together.' Just then, I hear the clunk of the front door closing, I feel the weight of it on the palm of my hand and I realise all at once, that his life and mine, all of it flashed before my eyes in just a few seconds. In that window between the second goodbye and the close of the door, right there, like a dream. Like that moment between dream and reality, where you're undecided to which world you belong. Like a super eight, super sweet, super fly story of him and I, captured without us ever knowing.  

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

The Art of War

My heart is heavy, it feels like it's wrapped in chains - bound and padlocked - weighted to sink to the bottom of the ocean. With each beat, I'm sure it skips the next natural one, my rhythm off kilter. This season is not for me, however much I  try. It literally makes my heart skip a beat and in all the wrong ways. I feel giddy, panicked, awake, alert, in fight or flight mode.

At times, I experience a real sadness for my children. In anticipation of the future, and on their behalf, I mourn the lack of 'magic' that myself and their father fail to give to them. We can't, it's not in either of us. The gifts, the build up, the excitement, the expense, the waste, the overindulgence. It all sits heavy, right in the centre of my pulsating chest. I find myself not writing a letter to Santa but one to myself. It's a compilation of my failings for the year, for example; not managing to connect with a bereaved friend, feeling increasingly distanced and isolated from people whom I shouldn't, not modelling self care or self discipline to my children, not knowing what I want next - either for a meal, job, or in life generally - falling for the melancholy end of year drama every frickin' year.

Happiness is knowing that in just two days, my love and I will have two whole days alone, to rest, to process, to release, relent, to celebrate and surrender. It's all that my eyes are fixed on as I write at five a.m on Christmas morning, quietly tap tapping on my phone half hidden under bed covers so as not to wake my husband. Melancholy squeezes me tight as I think of leaving my boys, and I get caught up in a kind of dramatic 'we're gonna die in a car crash whilst we're away and I've been such a beast to them recently and they'll never know how much I love them and how they complete me' kind of vibe, you know? This season is not my season. I just ... can't. And the more I tell myself I should, the more I realise I not only cannot but I defiantly will not, neither mentally nor in spirit. It is a fight. I lose no teeth but the cuts keep bleeding and each time I look in the mirror, I see them pumping out blood to the rhythm of my heart attack, heart beat. I can taste the iron and it is a love/hate affair. 'Isn't it just?' I say aloud and with that, I watch myself post fight bidding the crowd farewell. I'm amazed at my strength, I lift my arms up in the air and proudly show my belt. I did it. I'm still the champion and my heart continues pumping it's heart attack bass line. I did it. I held onto my title. 'Going in one more round when you don't think you can, that's what makes all the difference in your life.' Always, Roc, you know it.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

To and Fro

Sometimes it is a hum. A quiet, constant droning hum - always there - always, unstoppable. It is a comfort and a hindrance depending on the message it echoes, depending on the unconscious voice being familiar or being that of a stranger. It is I and We all at once, just like the days of childhood spent with siblings, where there was no I but always we, no singular only plural. Sometimes I crave the We of times past when it did not occur to me that there would ever be days of I. The We of siblings is like no other We, love or hate the We. Sibling We is irreplaceable. It is tender and savage. Bitter and sweet. Hard and soft. Full of laughter and tears. Forever changing. My mind thinks mostly in the I now. It shifted with time and tragedy and let downs and disappointments. It gave up. Surrender came begrudgingly at first and then the I began to stand and bellowed for independence until I gave in. I wanted peace and goodwill. I sometimes feels alone even when surrounded by the most exceptional love of the creatures you have found and chosen and the ones you have given life to. I sometimes just wants the closeness that comes from late nights spent in the bed of your kin, talking about what you'll do 'when you grow up', 'where you'll live', 'whose house you'll spend the most time at'. It would be cruel, pessimistic and unfair to say that We lied and told untruths. It would be an even greater lie, if I said that they weren't dissatisfied with the reality of a grown up We. Growing up is a painful, succumbing, prickly affair. It is also full of shades of sunshine, sprinklings of gold dust and the cultivation and gathering of the sweetest memories. It is a mixed bag. Figuring out whether to ask We to leave forever is as hard as choosing only I which quite frankly would just be boring and tedious. What remains is a little of each, a little of everything which means a mix of the bitter and the sweet and everything in between and in constant oscillation. This is the to and fro, the swaying and the swayed, the to-ing and the fro-ing, the to-ing and the fro-ing ...

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Unknowingly, I told a lie

God's plans are not my plans, no Sir, no Mam. I learn this more and more over time. Just a few days ago, I wrote a post titled: 'On having a dirty house and why I won't clean up the crumbs, no matter who is visiting.' So there, right there in the title, I lied. And yet, just a few days ago I sincerely meant each and every word I wrote. It's what's so temperamental about me and perhaps you, perhaps all of us? So much is about 'that' very moment, the present, the now. On Friday, I returned home from work to find two brothers (my sons) fighting. It was unclear if fists had been raised or if just words had been thrown like punches but the younger of the two was on the floor sobbing. I immediately set to work, like Columbo, trying to find the trail to solve the crime. I had my most serious 'mum voice' on when I heard the key opening the door and my husband tentatively shouting, 'Hi, I've got Harry with me.' My first thought 'Oh no, not again! The last time we saw Harry, the kids had to be told off!' Then my next thought was, 'But it's Friday!' - the house is at its dirtiest on Friday because I clean at the weekend. So, I swallowed my pride thinking how proud I was and am of the new me that refuses to get bogged down in futile, petty details. Our home is 'homely' I said to myself and continued on with life. Then, later that night, I got a message from my husband just before midnight saying that our friend (who he was out with) had missed his last train home and would be heading back home with him and would be sleeping over. Already tucked up in bed and slowly drifting off, I leapt out of bed and began 'the clean'. I cleaned the bathroom, made a makeshift bed on our not very recently vacuumed sitting room floor, changed pillow cases and found extra blankets and returned to bed, smelling of cleaning products and feeling ever so slightly like a fraud. Well, crumbs are annoying and no one wants to willingly revel in crumbs surely?

One thing that I did learn is this: Friendship and kinship and relationship does genuinely surpass the embarrassment of crumbs. Watching my sons engaging with Harry (a close friend of their fathers) a man full of rich experience, a gifted musician and educator, an actor and teller of great stories. The boys deeply entranced by his knowledge and his sharing of facts, by his charm and their not quite knowing what are truths or half truths, just about able to keep up with his quick wit and cleverness with words. The morning after brought more delight in the form of conversations over teas and coffees, the thirteen year old playing guitar for a seasoned pro and receiving feedback that I can only imagine, will stay with him forever. Later in the day, before lunch, we all piled into the car and drove Harry back home to Leamington. He entertained us the whole journey and even when traffic slowed us, his running commentary on the pedestrian carrying an umbrella and walking just ahead of our car, kept us giggling for a good while and again later on when we spoke of it once more. When we arrived at Harry's home, he nervously invited us in. I was delighted. I am not alone. Others worry about their crumbs too. Harry's home was perfect. Spectacular. Filled with all of the vibrancy and range and brilliance and precision and extrovertedness that is Harry. 'Your flat describes you, without you having to' I told him. It reminded me of one of my favourite books 'Paris Interiors' that featured the homes of many creatives. It the home I dream of for myself when I think of the self without a husband or children. I think I made my husband a little sad when I described this but it isn't meaning to be so. Just that idea of a place to be that inspires and nurtured, surrounded by books and music and plants and photographs and vinyl and candles and more books. A haven. A place to be. It is a wonderful thing to have friends to share with your children. It is a privilege for them to learn from the experience of others, others that are other than their parents too. It was a delight to watch Harry doing what Harry does, with all the flair and nuance and cleverness with just a dash of cheekiness, just like a musician. My youngest wants to play trumpet now, 'just like Harry'. Don't we all. Don't we all.