A sense of shame…

I sometimes think about my life before I had children and how different I was at that time. I was so very definite about everything. Everything was so very black and white. I knew what was right, what was wrong. Who was right. Who was wrong. I knew everything. I always felt so strong.

Then I had children. And that is the most humbling experience in the world. Because what you thought you knew – you realise that you don’t. The world that was once black and white, had changed to innumerable shades of grey. The world that I had been so very much in control of, had changed beyond belief. Dangers lurked everywhere. Even a simple activity – a shopping trip, became something that had to be conducted at the exact precise time, with military precision. In between a nap, feed and nappy change. Woe betide you if you tried to be a maverick and attempted anything at a different time. Of course, you couldn’t just park anywhere. You had to park in a space that was wide enough for you to open your passenger door to its fullest, and take your baby, nested carefully in her car seat, that slotted into your pushchair, which you had assemble carefully, ensuring all the locks were in place. But of course, at the shops, all of those spaces were taken. Sometimes by gits who didn’t even have children.

Once you’re out and in the shops, of course a third of your attention is on what you need, a third of your attention is making sure that your child or children are ok and the final third is ensuring (a bit like Cinderella), that you’re not taking longer than the allocated time and you’re not encroaching on the nap/feed/nappy change time. Babies, I quickly realised, are incredibly inflexible and unreasonable beings. They want what they want – and they will scream until you give in. Which is obviously why God designed them to have big eyes, tiny noses and tiny, edible fingers and toes. You wouldn’t tolerate that relentless, unreasonable shit from just anyone who wasn’t incredibly cute.

Everyday is pretty much the same. Each day revolves around feeding, sleep, nappy changes and did you wind the child correctly? Any problems with the baby? The baby is crying for an unknown reason – did you wind her?

Yes.

Properly?

Yes.

Are you sure?

Yes.

Give her to me, I’ll do it properly!!

Top tip! Never ever say to a new mother, ‘Give your child to me, you haven’t done x, y or z properly!’

Trust me. Just don’t. It’s offensive and hurtful. The mother is feeling like shit as it is. This is new and scary and they are just doing their best. Often feeling like their failing….

So this tiny bundle, changes your entire life. And you have no control.

And people expect you to be able to cook and have a tidy house and be presentable and attend social engagements.

People forget over time, how hard the beginning is. I won’t. Not ever. They forget how much help they got from others, from family members who were around a lot and could give even half an hour of respite.

I remember when my mum would pop around after work to see how I was getting on and I would almost cry with relief. Without a word, or passing any judgement, she’d discretely start to tidy up around me, or she’d make me a cup of tea and say, I want to hold her, you go and have a shower. Or, she would just let me have a nap, whilst she quietly took over.

I hope I can be there for my daughters in a similar vein when they are older. I hope I will know just what to say and just what to do, to give them some respite and let them know, it’s ok to need help. You’re not failing, you’re a human and babies are hard.

But the title of my blog, is ‘A sense of shame…’ And it’s called this for a reason. My blogs are generally about female empowerment and how women can do anything in the world. Bringing up babies made me feel completely overwhelmed.

I’ve written about this many times before, but everything would have been bearable if my babies would sleep through the night. But they just didn’t. They didn’t take huge naps through the day. And they would keep waking through the night. For me this was an impossible situation because I had been a baby, a child and an adult who needed to sleep. My tiny girls didn’t need to – especially my eldest. Even now, her mind is so active she doesn’t want to sleep. Sleep is for wimps. Unlike her mother. Who needs to sleep.

But babies are unreasonable. If they need to wake up in the night – they just do. It doesn’t matter how tired you are as a parent. They don’t care. So, my husband would help me. He was never annoyed. He would pace around for what seemed like hours, holding his daughter to his chest so she would feel warm and safe, listening to the regular beat of his heart, gently soothing her. Never once did he complain. Never once did he say how hard this all was. Never once, did he make me feel inadequate…

I would listen to other women, who were doing it all. Feeding, nappy changes, naps, cleaning, cooking, managing to exercise, doing the night feeds, all on their own. Their husbands wouldn’t help. Wouldn’t even dream of helping. But there they were, these superwomen, doing it all, on their own.

I felt a sense of shame because I couldn’t.

I couldn’t do it all on my own. I physically wasn’t able to. And I was incredibly blessed to have people around me who helped me to stay afloat because I know I would have drowned.

It’s funny how resentful I felt of others. I resented hearing about how other people’s babies slept through the night. I resented hearing about other people’s babies having long naps during the day. I resented hearing how other mums had the energy to exercise and meet other mums and keep a household going with their pristine houses and delicious home cooked food. I kept wondering, ‘What was wrong with me? Why did I need so much help? Why couldn’t I get things done like other mothers?’

What I learnt years later, now that my children are slightly older – everyone is putting on a front. Everyone feels like their not coping with something. But it’s just not done to say, ‘This is really hard. Harder than I could ever have imagined!’

I certainly felt a huge sense of shame knowing that I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was – and that actually my husband was incredibly strong and had a source of patience and energy that I simply did not possess. There were times when I thought, he’s going to be furious with me today. The house is a mess. Nothing’s been done. Today is the day he’s going to tell me how useless I am. But he didn’t. He just knew – the fact that I’d got through the day. Our girls were healthy, clean, fed, extremely loved and happy – nothing was more important.

Thank god he saw things that way. Thank god he helped the way he did – and still does to this day. Never once making me feel like I was a failure.

I see my mother, and see how millions of women like her, and many of my friends, just manage motherhood on their own. These incredibly strong, brilliant women, who do everything on their own. I admire them and am in awe of them.

There remains within me, a deep sense of shame that I was not as strong as some of the inspirational women I know. All I know is that the incredible support that I was and still am blessed to receive, I will pay it forward and help my loved ones when they need it.

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The best of times…the worst of times.

You’ve probably heard of that famous line, written by Charles Dickens, in ‘The Tale of Two Cities’ – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’

One of my most favourite lines in literature, ever. That, and the way that Cleopatra is described by Shakespeare in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’. Enorbarbus, a general in Antony’s army, debates with another soldier, who thinks that Cleopatra is no more than a whore. He describes her in the words that follow:

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety. Other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry….

I read ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ as a 17 year old, for A-Level literature, and I was blessed to have a passionate, intelligent, sensitive English teacher, who was the head of department and a massive feminist. She opened my eyes and talked about how many men throughout time had dismissed Cleopatra as nothing more than a weak woman who was only able to stay in power because she slept with the right men. If we dig a bit deeper, then we realise that Cleopatra was a smart, intelligent politician. A queen. She ruled in a time when it was virtually unheard of and impossible for women to rule. How successful she was as a queen, I haven’t researched. But what inspired me, was Shakespeare’s words about her.

The fact that her age would never destroy her, and that she was so extraordinary, where other women satisfied the appetites of men, she only left them wondering what more she was capable of, and what she would do next.

As a 17 year old I studied those words. I learnt that quote off by heart to use in my written exams, and I was determined, no matter what the context, I would shoehorn that incredible quote in. I can’t recall if I did use the quote in my exams, all I know is that those words never left me. Every time I see or read about incredible women, I am reminded of Shakespeare’s words.

I’m going to go back to Dickens’ words, about it being both the best and worst of times. In my life, this quote reminds me of my late 20’s being both the best and worst of times. I suppose at that time of my life, I was the most confident. I was confident in most aspects of my life, my career, my ambitions, my opinions. The world was mine, everything was black and white, I had no commitments, I could do anything I wanted. I had overcome many struggles in life, proven a lot of people wrong, shattered many gender stereotypes, and proven to myself – I could do anything. I had incredibly strong, fierce and loyal friends, we would put the world to rights all the time and feel bamboozled with others who would make foolish decisions and make life worse for themselves.

However, it was also the worst of times because I wanted to meet ‘the one’ and it just didn’t seem to be happening. People around me seemed to be in stable relationships, having children, living the dream and it just wasn’t happening for me. This would make me feel down, insecure, doubts would begin to creep in, but my incredible friends were always there for me to snap me back to myself.

Now, I’m not in my twenties.

Now I do have the things that I once longed for – but I wish I had savoured and valued being younger for longer. I wish I had valued my skin and how I looked, and how easy it was to lose weight. I wish I had valued how easy it was to make a simple decision about whether or not I was going to go out – without there being 50 other things to consider.

I am also aware of another massive thing – if I am lucky enough to grow older – then I should be valuing what I have now, instead of lamenting over my weight gain, older skin, restricted decision making. I should be valuing how my daughters still hang on my every word. How they seek me out for a cuddle because that makes their worries go away. How they watch me do my makeup with awe. How my youngest enjoys writing stories because she feels like she is blogging, like Mummy does. How ‘movie night’ and family holidays brings a huge buzz to their lives. How going shopping is still quite exciting because they are ‘helping’.

Yes, I have lots to appreciate and savour for now.

I know that when I am 60, I will look back on photos of myself from now and think that I was an idiot for being so hard on myself and not appreciating the positives.

I want to, I desperately want to be that Cleopatra-esque woman, who knows the right thing to say, at the right time. Who makes smart decisions. Who oozes confidence and inspires awe in all who she meets. Who people say – that age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety……

Simply amazing!

However, I do remember that Cleopatra also got into a huge fix and had to commit suicide by being poisoned by an asp!!!

So, perhaps me being me, at times brave and confident, at times incredibly insecure. At times wise and insightful; at times losing my shit with my daughters because of the mess they make. Perhaps, I am who I am and that’s ok?

The best of times, the worst of times – it’s always happening now. It’s the present moment. Where we are now is the best, and at times, the worst. However we should savour and love each moment of this crazy, insane, frustrating, painful, incredibly beautiful journey that we call life.

Whenever and wherever you’re reading this – love and appreciate each moment now. This moment right now, you are the smartest, wisest, most beautiful that you’ve ever been. Stop giving yourself a hard time. Don’t put yourself down. Relax. You’ll never get this time back ever again….

Superhumans.

This blog is dedicated to a superhuman group of people out there. Single parents. Anyone who is bringing up children on their own – honestly – there are no words to describe how phenomenal you are.

Whilst I was growing up, I knew first hand how challenging it was for my mum. She was incredibly young when she had me, so as I grew up, so did she. My father died when I was 11, my sister was even younger, and my brother was a tiny baby who hadn’t even started eating solid foods yet. Sometimes, when I feel that I’ve had a challenging day, I close my eyes and think about what my mum went through – and to this day, I don’t know how she did it. How did she bring up 3 children all on her own? How did she work full time, keep a house, make sure we were fed, clothed, clean and educated? How did she do that?

We didn’t always make her life easy either. We would challenge her. Disagree with her. Not be helpful. I see that now. And I marvel. How did she do it?

The truth is, how does any single parent do it? Sometimes, my husband has to travel with his job and it’s up to me to hold the fort whilst he is away. Normally, we are a team. But when he’s away – first of all the girls miss him incredibly – the absent parent is the hero and the one who is there all the time, is the dogsbody – so there is that to contend with. That’s actually bearable because you can remember feeling that way yourself when you were little. The most challenging part is when all the jobs have to be completed by you. All of them. There is no let up. And of course, you are dealing with children, so one simple job can multiply into a thousand more jobs within a blink of an eye – and you’re tired. More tired than you can ever imagine – tired. Normally, I can stay awake until quite late and it’s fine. When he’s away, I find myself wanting to go to bed at the same time as my daughters and lamenting about all the jobs that need to be done before I can rest my head.

But I can’t complain. Although my girls can have their moments and they are the messiest children I have ever seen – they’re good girls. I won’t complain. And of course I have the support of my extended family, which I value and cherish more than you can ever know. I can’t complain.

But what about those people who are alone, with no support? No extended family? No backing of any sort? How do they cope?

This is why I say to you, single parents are incredible.

Although I believed at the time that I was growing up, that I knew what my mum was going through – I realise that I didn’t have a clue. Every time we spoke about how much we missed our dad – that must have felt like a thousand stab wounds in the heart. Every time we got frustrated with her because of something she had forgotten – we never thanked her for all the millions of other jobs that she had done, and other problems that she had averted with her foresight. I never appreciated how tired she was. I never understood how frightened she was – frightened of all the decisions being hers and hoping that she was doing the right things – because there no one else who could take the flack for it. I never understood how much she fought for us – to instil us with values, for us to be educated, for us to want to better ourselves, not fall in with the wrong crowd, to be mentally and physically equipped to take the world on ourselves. I never understood any of this.

Never.

It’s only when you have your own children that you realise what a huge responsibility being a parent is. And when, for whatever reason, you end up doing it on your own…the responsibility feels even bigger.

Let me tell you though – when your children are older, they will look back and see what you did and they will understand. Huge kudos to the one who stayed. The one who did the daily grind. The one who was not viewed as the special one, because they were always there, enforcing punishments, doing the homework, attending parents evening, listening to them read, taking them to clubs.

Honestly, to those of you, who are doing this parenting malarkey on your own – you are phenomenal. You truly are. You are unsung heroes who do the job of two people and it goes by unnoticed and unrecognised by all.

One day your children will thank you. One day your children will acknowledge what you did. One day they too will understand how hard you worked and the sacrifices that you made.

Here’s to all the parents who are on their own – and do the job of two people. God bless.

Compromise?

A few years ago, I applied for a promotion. Long story short – I didn’t get it. It stung a bit. In reality not that much. When I spoke to my brother about it – he’s good at breaking work situations into tiny chunks and analysing them correctly, he asked me where I thought it had possibly gone wrong…

I knew. I was working part time at that time, my eldest was 3 years old and my youngest was 9 months. There was a point when someone on the panel asked me if I would work full time when I got the role. I replied no.

My brother nodded sagely and his simple assessment was this – you didn’t get the job because you didn’t want it badly enough. You weren’t prepared to give them what they wanted – all consuming commitment! He was right. He must have only been about 25 at the time. But he was right.

You see, after I had children I knew that they had to come first. Work is important and fortunately I am lucky enough to do a job I love, but whilst my children are young – they need a mother more. A functioning, happy mother, who is not bogged down with feeling that she is failing in all areas in life. So, I had to make some life choices – which was more important for me at this particular point of life? Career progression or spending time with my children – time in their most formative years, time that I would never get back? For me it was a no-brainer. Family first.

And you see, I learnt a few valuable lessons from not receiving that promotion. But the biggest lesson I learnt was that when you know what your ‘drivers’ are in life, when you know what is the most important thing, the element that drives you in life – you have so much freedom. A freedom that lifts a huge weight off your spirit. Those people who only liked and respected me because of my professional position in life, I soon discovered who they were and they quickly drifted away from me – some people I already knew were like that, others were slightly surprising. But what was great was that a lot of insincerity and toxicity was removed from my life.

Then of course, what I realised for the first time in my life, I was able to manage my time more effectively so that work time was work time – and weekends and holiday times were mine. So my decision meant that I can go on holiday and not worry about much work is still pending when I get back. Or, worse still, trying to have a wonderful time, but secretly thinking, if I wasn’t doing this – then I could have been getting on with my work. Believe me, there were times in my life that I couldn’t enjoy anything because of how much work I had to do. I can now spend time with my family at the weekends and not have a worry worm, drilling a hole in the back of my mind, reminding me of how much work I still have to do.

That’s all good and great – wonderful and fantastic…but there is one other thing I want to discuss in further detail – and it’s something that my brother spoke about in our post-interview analysis.

His words: ‘you didn’t want it badly enough, that’s why you didn’t get it. If you really wanted that role, you would have agreed to anything they said, to get it.’

I want you to think about that too – think about situations that you’ve been through in life, perhaps in your career, perhaps in a relationship where things didn’t work out. Was there a point when you were asked to do something that you just weren’t prepared to do? Perhaps you felt that it would affect your integrity? Or perhaps you thought it was disrespectful or degrading? But there does come a time when someone draws a line for you, and you have to decide – will I cross this line, or not? Sometimes it’s a decision to do with morals, other times it’s to do with one simple question. If I cross this line, for this person, or this situation – will it be worth it? Or will I regret that decision for the rest of my life, or at the very least, not feel good about myself, afterwards?

You can get advice from people, of course, everyone will have their own point of view based on their own life experiences. But the only person who can decide if anything is worth anything….is you.

The problem with many people in society is that you are expected to live according to other people’s timeframes and other people’s values. You should have completed your education by this age; found a partner by that age; bought your own place by another age, started to have children by that age; of course you should also be in a highly successful job; earning lots of money – all before the age of 35!

You only live this life once. Once. Whether you believe in reincarnation or in an afterlife elsewhere, or whether you believe there is nothing else after this… this life, we get once. So live it according to your values. Live it according to what drives you and what you hold dear. Trust your self, trust your instincts – don’t compromise on things that you know will do you more harm than good.

I will admit, that with my own children, I strive for them to work hard at school, become educated – as education will open doors and give them choices in life. I teach them to respect their bodies and respect themselves – as self-respect is the biggest gift a child can have. I want them to have a hunger and desire to succeed in life – just as my mother ensured my siblings and I did. But the rest – is up to them. I will be here to support them always – and if not me, then my blogs.

Failure is only temporary; success is all relative. What matters is that you live a life that you love. And a life that makes you happy.

I wish…

In Hindi, there is a famous quote that people often say, “Choron ko saare nazar aate hain chor”.  Which translates to, ‘Thieves always think that other people are thieves too.”

It’s a commentary on your world view really. If you are a good person, then you will see the best in others, but the opposite is also true. If you are capable of dubious behaviour, the likelihood is that you will you suspect others of the same.

It’s not always the case, I know. Sometimes life can beat the positivity out of you, perhaps you’ve been hurt by people one too many times, and that’s it – try as hard as you might, you are no longer able to find the good in others. You build walls to keep others out and view even the good that people do, with suspicion.

The thing is, you can’t give up on people. You can’t live your life believing that there is no good in the world. It’s not a way to live. It will make your life unbearable. Granted, there are people who do not wish you any happiness. There are those who wish to see you falter and fail in endeavours. However, there are also those who are truly good and positive. Who you can share both your problems and your successes with equally, and they won’t treat you any differently.

All too often, people will not share their problems with anyone. There are so many reasons for this. Sometimes people have an image to maintain – a glossy image of success – pride will never let them share with others that anything in their life is less than perfect. Sometimes people just don’t know who they can trust. They have been bitten in the past by people who betrayed them – and that experience was enough, they can’t confide in anyone, so they internalise their troubles, keeping them tightly locked in.

We’re constantly told aren’t we? Talk to people. Don’t keep your problems to yourself. A problem shared, is a problem halved – etc, etc, etc.

However, I’m going to ask you a question. Be honest! When someone has admitted to you that they are finding a situation in their life hard…does your opinion of that person change? Do you suddenly feel that they are not as capable as you once thought? Do you feel that they are not as valuable or useful to you as you once thought?

The reason that I ask these questions is simply this – over the years, being the people watcher that I am, I have watched people receive temporary relief by confiding their troubles, and speaking to others…but then…I’ve also seen the aftermath. Those people who have admitted that they are finding life tricky – they are suddenly treated like pariahs. People want nothing to do with them. It’s almost as though admitting that you have a problem with something in life – has made you a failure.

You will disagree with me, I’m sure. Berate me even. Why the heck am I writing things like this, when it could discourage people from talking about their problems, instead of speaking out and seeking help.

I’m definitely not saying that. Honestly. I am a huge advocate of people talking about their problems, and letting that toxic stress out of their bodies. But there are some conditions. If you’re experiencing problems in your life, only confide in those who are truly genuine people. You will know who they are – they would be there for you anytime – regardless. You don’t need to impress them. There are no conditions in their love and affection for you. They are there. Always. However, not everyone has somebody like that in their life. If you do not have anyone in your life that you trust to this extent – then do not bother to speak to just any old person. Go straight to a professional. A doctor. A therapist. A counsellor.

You see, confiding in the wrong person, or people, can make things worse in the long run. Life is a strange type of line graph. We experience ups and downs in our life – and speaking to people who are not mature or wise enough to understand that – who, once you have spoken to them, you have tarred yourself with the brush of failure – instead of ridding yourself of toxicity – you are unwittingly inviting even more of it into your life.

The title of my blog is ‘I wish…’. There is a reason for this – I wish that we lived in a world where although people pay lip service to the fact that we should speak about their problems – that people were actually able to say that they were struggling without there being any judgement or negative repercussions. The fact of the matter is that any worries or problems are temporary. They will not last forever. The problems or difficulties that you may be having now, they don’t define you. You aren’t weak because you are finding life tricky. But sadly, not everyone understands this. Not everyone appreciates this.

So, my message is – speak. If life is feeling tough – speak. If something is feeling hard – speak. But speak to the right people. Life is a learning curve, so sometimes you only find the right people, by speaking to the wrong people first. But do speak.

Power

While I was living in London, I had a really good friend who was male. I absolutely adored him, and he adored me. He was gay and we shared a comfort that was rare to find between a man and woman. He was my brother, best friend, staunch defender, biggest critic all in one. What I loved about him was that he ‘got me’. He understood me. He would build me up if I was feeling sad, but wasn’t afraid to challenge me when I was wrong about things.

Once, we were out, chatting as friends do about anything and everything. As long as I had known him, I knew he was gay, but I was always curious about whether he had ever had a relationship with a woman. He divulged that he had, but it had always felt wrong. The girl he was with was lovely – but he was just ‘going through the motions’, he knew it was never going to work. So I asked him what his first gay experience was like…

He explained that whilst he was at university, he had a part time job at a bar. The bar manager was not particularly good looking, but there was something about him, and he realised quite quickly, though my friend had not ‘come out of the closet’, that he was gay. A mild flirtation began. My friend wasn’t particularly interested in his manager, but he enjoyed and took part in the flirtation all the same…

One night, the bar closed late and my friend had missed the last bus home and didn’t have enough money for a cab. His manager offered to drive him back home – which my friend gratefully accepted. When they arrived at my friend’s flat, his manager asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to invite me to your flat?’ My friend shrugged and invited him upstairs…

The next part is unpleasant. If you are sensitive, please stop reading now.

They went into the flat, and somehow my friend and his manager started kissing. Let me rephrase – the manager started kissing my friend… Let me explain, my friend was at least 6 feet tall, he was a big, strong man – but he found himself taken aback, whilst the other man, very experienced, knew exactly what he was doing, started kissing him. Before he knew it, before he could object or even really knew what was happening, his manager raped him.

My friend didn’t use the word rape. But that’s what it was.

I was horrified. My poor friend. My poor, lovely friend, who wouldn’t have hurt anyone. Who was always kind and gentle to others. Who always did whatever he could do to help, talented, bright, smart. His first experience as a gay man, was rape.

In a court of law, what would they have said? They would have scoffed in disbelief that my friend, a man who looked like a Viking, at least 6 ft tall, strong and muscular – he had been raped? He didn’t turn around and wallop the guy? He clearly wanted it, why else invite someone up to your flat? Let’s face it, even some of you reading this will be feeling the same doubts that I have just outlined.

I knew he wasn’t lying. There was no need to lie to me. I saw it in his eyes. He saw the look of horror in mine, and tried to shrug it off and change the subject – which ordinarily I wouldn’t have let him do, but in this instance respected. He followed the story up with, neither he, nor the manager ever referred to that incident ever again, and soon after my friend got a new job and moved elsewhere.

Why am I writing this blog? The week that has just past, my husband and I watched the first two episodes of the documentary about R Kelly. To be honest, we had a frank discussion and decided that we couldn’t continue watching any more of the 6 part documentary. We couldn’t take it anymore. Hearing the accounts of the young girls, who were no more than 12, 13, 14 at the time when he began preying on them – I just couldn’t listen to anymore of his monstrous behaviour. The outrage that we both felt – that a multitude of people knew that he was abusing young girls, yet did nothing – we just couldn’t stomach it.

The thing is – this type of predatory behaviour is more rife than you think. If you asked every woman you know, and some men – everyone would be able to recount an experience where they were either molested, assaulted, or escaped by the grace of God. Many, many experiences that women go through, would have been before the age of 16.

One experience that I will share with you, most of you will think that I was pathetic to even be bothered by it. When I was at secondary school, I would have to catch the bus to and from school. I never really minded it, it was absolutely fine. However, when I was 14 years old, I would dread catching the bus home. Everyday, on the 3.57pm bus, it would be the same creepy driver, who would do his best to make me feel uncomfortable. I would do my best not to look at him, but he would refuse to issue my ticket until I did. He would then smile at me, with the air that he had won, then make a pouting kissing gesture as I would walk away.

Everyday, I would feel sick to my stomach, I would try to catch the later bus, but that meant that it would be darker, fewer people would be around at the bus stop, and once I had tried that very thing – and as luck would have it, he was driving the later bus. If I was with friends, he would do it more discreetly, let his eyes linger on me for longer. He didn’t do it to them. Just me. So I felt vulnerable – my friends never saw it happen, so they didn’t really believe me. Even though he never did anything. He never said anything. The menace, the threat was there. He must have been in his 40’s. Grinning away, enjoying making a 14 year old, in school uniform, feel extremely uncomfortable. And he was successful at it, because I was terrified.

Eventually, I’d had enough. One night, my mum and her friend were talking at night, and I felt really distressed, I just didn’t know how I could solve this situation. I spoke to them and they were both outraged. My mum’s friend just said, ‘When you see him again, and if he does anything like again, you shout at him, and tell him to stop doing things like that, or you’ll tell the police. Don’t be scared of him. Don’t show you are scared – shout at him!’

She was right. Her talk made me feel empowered. Instead of being scared, and letting my fear and discomfort show, I snarled at the driver, told him to leave me alone otherwise I was telling the police. Honestly, from that day on, he didn’t dare to look at me as I paid for my ticket, he simply stared ahead, and within a few weeks, he stopped driving that particular bus at that time, as I never saw him again.

I learnt a valuable lesson. Do not let people intimidate you. There are sick people out there who enjoy and get a kick out of having power over others. I am completely aware that my bus incident is a complete non-story to many of you. But to me, it was massive. I felt helpless and frightened everyday on my journey home from school. No child should have to feel that way.

My friend, who I wrote about earlier – he was overpowered by someone who had the intention of raping him, it wasn’t about attraction, it was somebody abusing their position and taking advantage of somebody who was vulnerable. R Kelly allegedly groomed girls, made them feel like he was going to help them further their careers – and then controlled them and abused them without any consequences for years.

And although the incident that I shared was so small – it was again about power. The ability of a man to make a young girl feel frightened and visibly distressed – and enjoying it.

One thing I do want to highlight before I wrap this up, is one of the reasons that I didn’t speak to anyone earlier when I was younger was because I felt a sense of shame. He wasn’t doing it to my other friends – he was only behaving like that with me – and I felt that I would be blamed somehow, for his behaviour. We just need to be really careful with children – so many children don’t say anything about feeling uncomfortable about people or situations because their feelings are so easily dismissed, or rubbished.

The next time a child tries to tell you that they are not feeling comfortable about something, or is worried about something – please listen to them. Get them into the habit of being able to talk to you without judgement – it could be the most important thing that you do in your life – you never know what they might end up telling you. I’m glad that my mum has been there for me on more than one occasion. Be there for the ones you love.


My way!

One of the most famous, perhaps over-played, yet poignant songs in the world has to be, “My Way”, by the legendary Frank Sinatra. Whenever it’s played, wherever it’s played, you can guarantee that there will be men (of a certain age), who will grab anything in the vicinity that vaguely resembles a microphone, suddenly adopt a confident swagger, their voices drop several octaves lower than normal – and the crooning begins…

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain

I’ll be observing, at first with an embarrassed smirk on my face – feeling embarrassed for the singer – not for myself. But as the lyrics start (and this happens every time), the smirk changes…and I find myself adopting an expression of thoughtfulness and sadness. The reason why this song endures and touches people even though they may have heard it over a million times – it’s because if we are lucky enough to live a full life, and live to an old age – we want to be able to look back on our existence and think, ‘Yes, I lived the life that I wanted. I did the things I wanted. I accomplished what I wanted. My life was mine and I’m proud of it.’

That’s the dream isn’t it? To live to see a ripe old age. Have your health and all your other faculties functioning properly. Grow old disgracefully. And know – you lived a life that made you happy and you were true to yourself. Looking back at the lyrics of the song – one part that really resonates with me, is this part:

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention

That is something that I try really hard to live my life by. I don’t want to live a life of regret. I refuse to look back on sections of my life and think ‘if only…’ Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a single part of me that wants to anything crazy like bungee jump, or skydive or anything thrilling in the least. My FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) anxieties relate to people. My own father died when I was 11. From that moment on, the remaining members of my family became the most important people to me. As the years have rolled on, my family has expanded and there are more and more people that I love and care about, friends who are like family, and loving family who are there for you at a drop of a hat, whenever you need them. I don’t want to ever look back and regret not being there for the ones that I love.

But the other thing that I never want to regret is passing good thoughts onto those around me. Let me give you an example – someone is wearing something nice – I tell them. Someone is doing a good job at something. I tell them. Somebody has made tasty food. I tell them. Somebody did something kind for me. I tell them.

The thing I believe is that life at times, is so full of negativity – people so often spot what others are doing wrong. You didn’t do this…you didn’t do that….My regret would be not mentioning to someone when they are doing something right. When someone tells you that you have done something well – how does that make you feel? Imagine passing that feeling on to at least 5 people a day? Think about how much good and positivity you would be gifting to our world – that can be a tough place quite often.

Whether I’m right, or whether you think I’m wrong, that isn’t the point of today’s blog. I’m just sharing what I believe – and I hope that when my time comes, I can look back and think – hopefully I managed to do some good in my life, I hope I made others feel encouraged and good about themselves, I hope that I managed to spread some positivity in this tough world of ours.